'But it is a responsible trust,' added Mr Milvey, 'and difficult to discharge. At the same time, we are naturally very unwilling to lose the chance you so kindly give us, and if you could afford us a day or two to look about us,--you know, Margaretta, we might carefully examine the workhouse, and the Infant School, and your District.'
'To be SURE!' said the emphatic little wife.
'We have orphans, I know,' pursued Mr Milvey, quite with the air as if he might have added, 'in stock,' and quite as anxiously as if there were great competition in the business and he were afraid of losing an order, 'over at the clay-pits; but they are employed by relations or friends, and I am afraid it would come at last to a transaction in the way of barter. And even if you exchanged blankets for the child--or books and firing--it would be impossible to prevent their being turned into liquor.'
Accordingly, it was resolved that Mr and Mrs Milvey should search for an orphan likely to suit, and as free as possible from the foregoing objections, and should communicate again with Mrs Boffin. Then, Mr Boffin took the liberty of mentioning to Mr Milvey that if Mr Milvey would do him the kindness to be perpetually his banker to the extent of 'a twenty-pound note or so,' to be expended without any reference to him, he would be heartily obliged. At this, both Mr Milvey and Mrs Milvey were quite as much pleased as if they had no wants of their own, but only knew what poverty was, in the persons of other people; and so the interview terminated with satisfaction and good opinion on all sides.
'Now, old lady,' said Mr Boffin, as they resumed their seats behind the hammer-headed horse and man: 'having made a very agreeable visit there, we'll try Wilfer's.'
It appeared, on their drawing up at the family gate, that to try Wilfer's was a thing more easily projected than done, on account of the extreme difficulty of getting into that establishment; three pulls at the bell producing no external result; though each was attended by audible sounds of scampering and rushing within. At the fourth tug--vindictively administered by the hammer-headed young man-- Miss Lavinia appeared, emerging from the house in an accidental manner, with a bonnet and parasol, as designing to take a contemplative walk. The young lady was astonished to find visitors at the gate, and expressed her feelings in appropriate action.
'Here's Mr and Mrs Boffin!' growled the hammer-headed young man through the bars of the gate, and at the same time shaking it, as if he were on view in a Menagerie; 'they've been here half an hour.'
'Who did you say?' asked Miss Lavinia.
'Mr and Mrs BOFFIN' returned the young man, rising into a roar.
Miss Lavinia tripped up the steps to the house-door, tripped down the steps with the key, tripped across the little garden, and opened the gate. 'Please to walk in,' said Miss Lavinia, haughtily. 'Our servant is out.'
Mr and Mrs Boffin complying, and pausing in the little hall until Miss Lavinia came up to show them where to go next, perceived three pairs of listening legs upon the stairs above. Mrs Wilfer's legs, Miss Bella's legs, Mr George Sampson's legs.
'Mr and Mrs Boffin, I think?' said Lavinia, in a warning voice. Strained attention on the part of Mrs Wilfer's legs, of Miss Bella's legs, of Mr George Sampson's legs.
'If you'll step this way--down these stairs--I'll let Ma know.' Excited flight of Mrs Wilfer's legs, of Miss Bella's legs, of Mr George Sampson's legs.
After waiting some quarter of an hour alone in the family sitting- room, which presented traces of having been so hastily arranged after a meal, that one might have doubted whether it was made tidy for visitors, or cleared for blindman's buff, Mr and Mrs Boffin became aware of the entrance of Mrs Wilfer, majestically faint, and with a condescending stitch in her side: which was her company manner.
'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer, after the first salutations, and as soon as she had adjusted the handkerchief under her chin, and waved her gloved hands, 'to what am I indebted for this honour?'
'To make short of it, ma'am,' returned Mr Boffin, 'perhaps you may be acquainted with the names of me and Mrs Boffin, as having come into a certain property.'
'I have heard, sir,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with a dignified bend of her head, 'of such being the case.'
'And I dare say, ma'am,' pursued Mr Boffin, while Mrs Boffin added confirmatory nods and smiles, 'you are not very much inclined to take kindly to us?'
'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer.