In which the Orphan Makes his Will

THE Secretary, working in the Dismal Swamp betimes next morning, was informed that a youth waited in the hall who gave the name of Sloppy. The footman who communicated this intelligence made a decent pause before uttering the name, to express that it was forced on his reluctance by the youth in question, and that if the youth had had the good sense and good taste to inherit some other name it would have spared the feelings of him the bearer.

“Mrs Boffin will be very well pleased,” said the Secretary in a perfectly composed way. “Show him in.”

Mr Sloppy being introduced, remained close to the door: revealing in various parts of his form many surprising, confounding, and incomprehensible buttons.

“I am glad to see you,” said John Rokesmith, in a cheerful tone of welcome. “I have been expecting you.”

Sloppy explained that he had meant to come before, but that the Orphan (of whom he made mention as Our Johnny) had been ailing, and he had waited to report him well.

“Then he is well now?” said the Secretary.

“No he ain’t,” saud Sloppy.

Mr Sloppy having shaken his head to a considerable extent, proceeded to remark that he thought Johnny “must have took ’em from the Minders.” Being asked what he meant, he answered, them that come out upon him and partickler his chest. Being requested to explain himself, he stated that there was some of ’em wot you couldn’t kiver with a sixpence. Pressed to fall back upon a nominative case, he opined that they wos about as red as ever red could be. “But as long as they strikes out’ards, sir,” continued Sloppy, “they ain’t so much. It’s their striking in’ards that’s to be kep off.”

John Rokesmith hoped the child had had medical attendance? Oh yes, said Sloppy, he had been took to the doctor’s shop once. And what did the doctor call it? Rokesmith asked him. After some perplexed reflection, Sloppy answered, brightening, “He called it something as wos very long for spots.” Rokesmith suggested measles. “No,” said Sloppy with confidence, “ever so much longer than them, sir!” (Mr Sloppy was elevated by this fact, and seemed to consider that it reflected credit on the poor little patient.)

“Mrs Boffin will be sorry to hear this,” said Rokesmith.

“Mrs Higden said so, sir, when she kep it from her, hoping as Our Johnny would work round.”

“But I hope he will?” said Rokesmith, with a quick turn upon the messenger.

“I hope so,” answered Sloppy. “It all depends on their striking in’ards.” He then went on to say that whether Johnny had “took ’em” from the Minders, or whether the Minders had “took ’em” from Johnny, the Minders had been sent home and had “got ’em.” Furthermore, that Mrs Higden’s days and nights being devoted to Our Johnny, who was never out of her lap, the whole of the mangling arrangements had devolved upon himself, and he had had “rayther a tight time.” The ungainly piece of honesty beamed and blushed as he said it, quite enraptured with the remembrance of having been serviceable.

“Last night,” said Sloppy, “when I was a-turning at the wheel pretty late, the mangle seemed to go like Our Johnny’s breathing. It begun beautiful, then as it went out it shook a little and got unsteady, then as it took the turn to come home it had a rattle-like and lumbered a bit, then it come smooth, and so it went on till I scarce know’d which was mangle and which was Our Johnny. Nor Our Johnny, he scarce know’d either, for sometimes when the mangle lumbers he says, ‘Me choking, Granny!’ and Mrs Higden holds him up in her lap and says to me ‘Bide a bit, Sloppy,’ and we all stops together. And when Our Johnny gets his breathing again, I turns again, and we all goes on together.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.