'I think,' said Mr Milvey, 'that you have never had a child of your own, Mr and Mrs Boffin?'
'But, like the Kings and Queens in the Fairy Tales, I suppose you have wished for one?'
In a general way, yes.
Mr Milvey smiled again, as he remarked to himself 'Those kings and queens were always wishing for children.' It occurring to him, perhaps, that if they had been Curates, their wishes might have tended in the opposite direction.
'I think,' he pursued, 'we had better take Mrs Milvey into our Council. She is indispensable to me. If you please, I'll call her.'
So, Mr Milvey called, 'Margaretta, my dear!' and Mrs Milvey came down. A pretty, bright little woman, something worn by anxiety, who had repressed many pretty tastes and bright fancies, and substituted in their stead, schools, soup, flannel, coals, and all the week-day cares and Sunday coughs of a large population, young and old. As gallantly had Mr Milvey repressed much in himself that naturally belonged to his old studies and old fellow-students, and taken up among the poor and their children with the hard crumbs of life.
'Mr and Mrs Boffin, my dear, whose good fortune you have heard of.'
Mrs Milvey, with the most unaffected grace in the world, congratulated them, and was glad to see them. Yet her engaging face, being an open as well as a perceptive one, was not without her husband's latent smile.
'Mrs Boffin wishes to adopt a little boy, my dear.'
Mrs Milvey, looking rather alarmed, her husband added:
'An orphan, my dear.'
'Oh!' said Mrs Milvey, reassured for her own little boys.
'And I was thinking, Margaretta, that perhaps old Mrs Goody's grandchild might answer the purpose.
'Oh my DEAR Frank! I DON'T think that would do!'
The smiling Mrs Boffin, feeling it incumbent on her to take part in the conversation, and being charmed with the emphatic little wife and her ready interest, here offered her acknowledgments and inquired what there was against him?
'I DON'T think,' said Mrs Milvey, glancing at the Reverend Frank' --and I believe my husband will agree with me when he considers it again--that you could possibly keep that orphan clean from snuff. Because his grandmother takes so MANY ounces, and drops it over him.'
'But he would not be living with his grandmother then, Margaretta,' said Mr Milvey.
'No, Frank, but it would be impossible to keep her from Mrs Boffin's house; and the MORE there was to eat and drink there, the oftener she would go. And she IS an inconvenient woman. I HOPE it's not uncharitable to remember that last Christmas Eve she drank eleven cups of tea, and grumbled all the time. And she is NOT a grateful woman, Frank. You recollect her addressing a crowd outside this house, about her wrongs, when, one night after we had gone to bed, she brought back the petticoat of new flannel that had been given her, because it was too short.'
'That's true,' said Mr Milvey. 'I don't think that would do. Would little Harrison--'
'Oh, FRANK! ' remonstrated his emphatic wife.
'He has no grandmother, my dear.'
'No, but I DON'T think Mrs Boffin would like an orphan who squints so MUCH.'
'That's true again,' said Mr Milvey, becoming haggard with perplexity. 'If a little girl would do--'
'But, my DEAR Frank, Mrs Boffin wants a boy.'
'That's true again,' said Mr Milvey. 'Tom Bocker is a nice boy' (thoughtfully).
'But I DOUBT, Frank,' Mrs Milvey hinted, after a little hesitation, 'if Mrs Boffin wants an orphan QUITE nineteen, who drives a cart and waters the roads.'
Mr Milvey referred the point to Mrs Boffin in a look; on that smiling lady's shaking her black velvet bonnet and bows, he remarked, in lower spirits, 'that's true again.'
'I am sure,' said Mrs Boffin, concerned at giving so much trouble, 'that if I had known you would have taken so much pains, sir--and you too, ma' am--I don't think I would have come.'
'PRAY don't say that!' urged Mrs Milvey.
'No, don't say that,' assented Mr Milvey, 'because we are so much obliged to you for giving us the preference.' Which Mrs Milvey confirmed; and really the kind, conscientious couple spoke, as if they kept some profitable orphan warehouse and were personally patronized.