a corrective sniff or two, is musty, leathery, feathery, cellary, gluey, gummy, and, with another sniff, as it might be, strong of old pairs of bellows.
My tea is drawing, and my muffin is on the hob, Mr Wegg; will you partake?
It being one of Mr Weggs guiding rules in life always to partake, he says he will. But, the little shop is so excessively dark, is stuck so full of black shelves and brackets and nooks and corners, that he sees Mr Venuss cup and saucer only because it is close under the candle, and does not see from what mysterious recess Mr Venus produces another for himself, until it is under his nose. Concurrently, Wegg perceives a pretty little dead bird lying on the counter, with its head drooping on one side against the rim of Mr Venuss saucer, and a long stiff wire piercing its breast. As if it were Cock Robin, the hero of the ballad, and Mr Venus were the sparrow with his bow and arrow, and Mr Wegg were the fly with his little eye.
Mr Venus dives, and produces another muffin, yet untoasted; taking the arrow out of the breast of Cock Robin, he proceeds to toast it on the end of that cruel instrument. When it is brown, he dives again and produces butter, with which he completes his work.
Mr Wegg, as an artful man who is sure of his supper by-and-bye, presses muffin on his host to soothe him into a compliant state of mind, or, as one might say, to grease his works. As the muffins disappear, little by little, the black shelves and nooks and corners begin to appear, and Mr Wegg gradually acquires an imperfect notion that over against him on the chimney-piece is a Hindoo baby in a bottle, curved up with his big head tucked under him, as though he would instantly throw a summersault if the bottle were large enough.
When he deems Mr Venuss wheels sufficiently lubricated, Mr Wegg approaches his object by asking, as he lightly taps his hands together, to express an undesigning frame of mind:
And how have I been going on, this long time, Mr Venus?
Very bad, says Mr Venus, uncompromisingly.
What? Am I still at home? asks Wegg, with an air of surprise.
Always at home.
This would seem to be secretly agreeable to Wegg, but he veils his feelings, and observes, Strange. To what do you attribute it?
I dont know, replies Venus, who is a haggard melancholy man, speaking in a weak voice of querulous complaint, to what to attribute it, Mr Wegg. I cant work you into a miscellaneous one, nohow. Do what I will, you cant be got to fit. Anybody with a passable knowledge would pick you out at a look, and say, No go! Dont match!
Well, but hang it, Mr Venus, Wegg expostulates with some little irritation, that cant be personal and peculiar in me. It must often happen with miscellaneous ones.
With ribs (I grant you) always. But not else. When I prepare a miscellaneous one, I know beforehand that I cant keep to nature, and be miscellaneous with ribs, because every man has his own ribs, and no other mans will go with them; but elseways I can be miscellaneous. I have just sent home a Beauty a perfect Beauty to a school of art. One leg Belgian, one leg English, and the pickings of eight other people in it. Talk of not being qualified to be miscellaneous! By rights you ought to be, Mr Wegg.
Silas looks as hard at his one leg as he can in the dim light, and after a pause sulkily opines that it must be the fault of the other people. Or how do you mean to say it comes about? he demands impatiently.
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