“Now, for instance — come!” said Mr Boffin, in his pouncing way. “If you entered my employment what would you do?”

“I would keep exact accounts of all the expenditure you sanctioned, Mr Boffin. I would write your letters, under your direction. I would transact your business with people in your pay or employment. I would,” with a glance and a half-smile at the table, “arrange your papers —”

Mr Boffin rubbed his inky ear, and looked at his wife.

“— And so arrange them as to have them always in order for immediate reference, with a note of the contents of each outside it.”

“I tell you what,” said Mr Boffin, slowly crumpling his own blotted note in his hand; “if you’ll turn to at these present papers, and see what you can make of ’em, I shall know better what I can make of you.”

No sooner said than done. Relinquishing his hat and gloves, Mr Rokesmith sat down quietly at the table, arranged the open papers into an orderly heap, cast his eyes over each in succession, folded it, docketed it on the outside, laid it in a second heap, and, when that second heap was complete and the first gone, took from his pocket a piece of string and tied it together with a remarkably dexterous hand at a running curve and a loop.

“Good!” said Mr Boffin. “Very good! Now let us hear what they’re all about; will you be so good?”

John Rokesmith read his abstracts aloud. They were all about the new house. Decorator’s estimate, so much. Furniture estimate, so much. Estimate for furniture of offices, so much. Coach-maker’s estimate, so much. Horse-dealer’s estimate, so much. Harness-maker’s estimate so much. Goldsmith’s estimate, so much. Total, so very much. Then came correspondence. Acceptance of Mr Boffin’s offer of such a date, and to such an effect. Rejection of Mr Boffin’s proposal of such a date and to such an effect. Concerning Mr Boffin’s scheme of such another date to such another effect. All compact and methodical.

“Apple-pie order!” said Mr Boffin, after checking off each inscription with his hand, like a man beating time. “And whatever you do with your ink, I can’t think, for you’re as clean as a whistle after it. Now, as to a letter. Let’s,” said Mr Boffin, rubbing his hands in his pleasantly childish admiration, “let’s try a letter next.”

“To whom shall it be addressed, Mr Boffin?”

“Anyone. Yourself.”

Mr Rokesmith quickly wrote, and then read aloud:

“‘Mr Boffin presents his compliments to Mr John Rokesmith, and begs to say that he has decided on giving Mr John Rokesmith a trial in the capacity he desires to fill. Mr Boffin takes Mr John Rokesmith at his word, in postponing to some indefinite period, the consideration of salary. It is quite understood that Mr Boffin is in no way committed on that point. Mr Boffin has merely to add, that he relies on Mr John Rokesmith’s assurance that he will be faithful and serviceable. Mr John Rokesmith will please enter on his duties immediately.”’

“Well! Now, Noddy!” cried Mrs Boffin, clapping her hands, “That is a good one!”

Mr Boffin was no less delighted; indeed, in his own bosom, he regarded both the composition itself and the device that had given birth to it, as a very remarkable monument of human ingenuity.

“And I tell you, my deary,” said Mrs Boffin, “that if you don’t close with Mr Rokesmith now at once, and if you ever go a muddling yourself again with things never meant nor made for you, you’ll have an apoplexy — besides iron-moulding your linen — and you’ll break my heart.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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