Mr Boffin in Consultation
WHOSOEVER had gone out of Fleet Street into the Temple at the date of this history, and had wandered disconsolate about the Temple until he stumbled on a dismal churchyard, and had looked up at the dismal windows commanding that churchyard until at the most dismal window of them all he saw a dismal boy, would in him have beheld, at one grand comprehensive swoop of the eye, the managing clerk, junior clerk, common-law clerk, conveyancing clerk, chancery clerk, every refinement and department of clerk, of Mr Mortimer Lightwood, erewhile called in the newspapers eminent solicitor.
Mr Boffin having been several times in communication with this clerkly essence, both on its own ground and at the Bower, had no difficulty in identifying it when he saw it up in its dusty eyrie. To the second floor on which the window was situated, he ascended, much pre-occupied in mind by the uncertainties besetting the Roman Empire, and much regretting the death of the amiable Pertinax: who only last night had left the Imperial affairs in a state of great confusion, by falling a victim to the fury of the prætorian guards.
Morning, morning, morning! said Mr Boffin, with a wave of his hand, as the office door was opened by the dismal boy, whose appropriate name was Blight. Governor in?
Mr Lightwood gave you an appointment, sir, I think?
I dont want him to give it, you know, returned Mr Boffin; Ill pay my way, my boy.
No doubt, sir. Would you walk in? Mr Lightwood aint in at the present moment, but I expect him back very shortly. Would you take a seat in Mr Lightwoods room, sir, while I look over our Appointment Book? Young Blight made a great show of fetching from his desk a long thin manuscript volume with a brown paper cover, and running his finger down the days appointments, murmuring, Mr Aggs, Mr Baggs, Mr Caggs, Mr Daggs, Mr Faggs, Mr Gaggs, Mr Boffin. Yes, sir; quite right. You are a little before your time, sir. Mr Lightwood will be in directly.
Im not in a hurry, said Mr Boffin
Thank you, sir. Ill take the opportunity, if you please, of entering your name in our Callers Book for the day. Young Blight made another great show of changing the volume, taking up a pen, sucking it, dipping it, and running over previous entries before he wrote. As, Mr Alley, Mr Balley, Mr Calley, Mr Dalley, Mr Falley, Mr Galley, Mr Halley, Mr Lalley, Mr Malley. And Mr Boffin.
Strict system here; eh, my lad? said Mr Boffin, as he was booked.
Yes, sir, returned the boy. I couldnt get on without it.
By which he probably meant that his mind would have been shattered to pieces without this fiction of an occupation. Wearing in his solitary confinement no fetters that he could polish, and being provided with no drinking-cup that he could carve, he had fallen on the device of ringing alphabetical changes into the two volumes in question, or of entering vast numbers of persons out of the Directory as transacting business with Mr Lightwood. It was the more necessary for his spirits, because, being of a sensitive temperament, he was apt to consider it personally disgraceful to himself that his master had no clients.
How long have you been in the law, now? asked Mr Boffin, with a pounce, in his usual inquisitive way.
Ive been in the law, now, sir, about three years.
Must have been as good as born in it! said Mr Boffin, with admiration. Do you like it?
I dont mind it much, returned Young Blight, heaving a sigh, as if its bitterness were past.
What wages do you get?
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