Two New Servants

MR and Mrs Boffin sat after breakfast, in the Bower, a prey to prosperity. Mr Boffin’s face denoted Care and Complication. Many disordered papers were before him, and he looked at them about as hopefully as an innocent civilian might look at a crowd of troops whom he was required at five minutes’ notice to manœuvre and review. He had been engaged in some attempts to make notes of these papers; but being troubled (as men of his stamp often are) with an exceedingly distrustful and corrective thumb, that busy member had so often interposed to smear his notes, that they were little more legible than the various impressions of itself, which blurred his nose and forehead. It is curious to consider, in such a case as Mr Boffin’s, what a cheap article ink is, and how far it may be made to go. As a grain of musk will scent a drawer for many years, and still lose nothing appreciable of its original weight, so a halfpenny-worth of ink would blot Mr Boffin to the roots of his hair and the calves of his legs, without inscribing a line on the paper before him, or appearing to diminish in the inkstand.

Mr Boffin was in such severe literary difficulties that his eyes were prominent and fixed, and his breathing was stertorous, when, to the great relief of Mrs Boffin, who observed these symptoms with alarm, the yard bell rang.

“Who’s that, I wonder!” said Mrs Boffin.

Mr Boffin drew a long breath, laid down his pen, looked at his notes as doubting whether he had the pleasure of their acquaintance, and appeared, on a second perusal of their countenances, to be confirmed in his impression that he had not, when there was announced by the hammer-headed young man:

“Mr Rokesmith.”

“Oh!” said Mr Boffin. “Oh indeed! Our and the Wilfers’ Mutual Friend, my dear. Yes. Ask him to come in.”

Mr Rokesmith appeared.

“Sit down, sir,” said Mr Boffin, shaking hands with him. “Mrs Boffin you’re already acquainted with. Well, sir, I am rather unprepared to see you, for, to tell you the truth, I’ve been so busy with one thing and another, that I’ve not had time to turn your offer over.”

“That’s apology for both of us: for Mr Boffin, and for me as well,” said the smiling Mrs Boffin. “But Lor! we can talk it over now; can’t us?”

Mr Rokesmith bowed, thanked her, and said he hoped so.

“Let me see then,” resumed Mr Boffin, with his hand to his chin. “It was Secretary that you named; wasn’t it?”

“I said Secretary,” assented Mr Rokesmith.

“It rather puzzled me at the time,” said Mr Boffin, “and it rather puzzled me and Mrs Boffin when we spoke of it afterwards, because (not to make a mystery of our belief) we have always believed a Secretary to be a piece of furniture, mostly of mahogany, lined with green baize or leather, with a lot of little drawers in it. Now, you won’t think I take a liberty when I mention that you certainly ain’t that.”

Certainly not, said Mr Rokesmith. But he had used the word in the sense of Steward.

“Why, as to Steward, you see,” returned Mr Boffin, with his hand still to his chin, “the odds are that Mrs Boffin and me may never go upon the water. Being both bad sailors, we should want a Steward if we did; but there’s generally one provided.”

Mr Rokesmith again explained; defining the duties he sought to undertake, as those of general superintendent, or manager, or over-looker, or man of business.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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