In which an Innocent Elopement Occurs

THE minion of fortune and the worm of the hour, or in less cutting language, Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, the Golden Dustman, had become as much at home in his eminently aristocratic family mansion as he was likely ever to be. He could not but feel that, like an eminently aristocratic family cheese, it was much too large for his wants, and bred an infinite amount of parasites; but he was content to regard this drawback on his property as a sort of perpetual Legacy Duty. He felt the more resigned to it, forasmuch as Mrs Boffin enjoyed herself completely, and Miss Bella was delighted.

That young lady was, no doubt, and acquisition to the Boffins. She was far too pretty to be unattractive anywhere, and far too quick of perception to be below the tone of her new career. Whether it improved her heart might be a matter of taste that was open to question; but as touching another matter of taste, its improvement of her appearance and manner, there could be no question whatever.

And thus it soon came about that Miss Bella began to set Mrs Boffin right; and even further, that Miss Bella began to feel ill at ease, and as it were responsible, when she saw Mrs Boffin going wrong. Not that so sweet a disposition and so sound a nature could ever go very wrong even among the great visiting authorities who agreed that the Boffins were “charmingly vulgar” (which for certain was not their own case in saying so), but that when she made a slip on the social ice on which all the children of Podsnappery, with genteel souls to be saved, are required to skate in circles, or to slide in long rows, she inevitably tripped Miss Bella up (so that young lady felt), and caused her to experience great confusion under the glances of the more skilful performers engaged in those ice-exercises.

At Miss Bella’s time of life it was not to be expected that she should examine herself very closely on the congruity or stability of her position in Mr Boffin’s house. And as she had never been sparing of complaints of her old home when she had no other to compare it with, so there was no novelty of ingratitude or disdain in her very much preferring her new one.

“An invaluable man is Rokesmith,” said Mr Boffin, after some two or three months. “But I can’t quite make him out.”

Neither could Bella, so she found the subject rather interesting.

“He takes more care of my affairs, morning, noon, and night,” said Mr Boffin, “than fifty other men put together either could or would; and yet he has ways of his own that are like tying a scaffolding-pole right across the road, and bringing me up short when I am almost a-walking arm in arm with him.”

“May I ask how so, sir?” inquired Bella.

“Well, my dear,” said Mr Boffin, “he won’t meet any company here, but you. When we have visitors, I should wish him to have his regular place at the table like ourselves; but no, he won’t take it.”

“If he considers himself above it,” said Miss Bella, with an airy toss of her head, “I should leave him alone.”

“It ain’t that, my dear,” replied Mr Boffin, thinking it over. “He don’t consider himself above it.”

“Perhaps he considers himself beneath it,” suggested Bella. “If so, he ought to know best.”

“No, my dear; nor it ain’t that, neither. No,” repeated Mr Boffin, with a shake of his head, after again thinking it over; “Rokesmith’s a modest man, but he don’t consider himself beneath it.”

“Then what does he consider, sir?” asked Bella.

“Dashed if I know!” said Mr Boffin. “It seemed at first as if it was only Lightwood that he objected to meet. And now it seems to be everybody, except you.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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