“Where?” asked Rokesmith.

“Anywhere. Anywhere in Africa, I mean. Pretty well everywhere, I may say; for black kings are cheap — and I think” — said R. W., with an apologetic air, “nasty.”

“I am much of your opinion, Mr Wilfer. You were going to say — ?”

“I was going to say, the king is generally dressed in a London hat only, or a Manchester pair of braces, or one epaulette, or an uniform coat with his legs in the sleeves, or something of that kind.”

“Just so,” said the Secretary.

“In confidence, I assure you, Mr Rokesmith,” observed the cheerful cherub, “that when more of my family were at home and to be provided for, I used to remind myself immensely of that king. You have no idea, as a single man, of the difficulty I have had in wearing more than one good article at a time.”

“I can easily believe it, Mr Wilfer.”

“I only mention it,” said R. W. in the warmth of his heart, “as a proof of the amiable, delicate, and considerate affection of my daughter Bella. If she had been a little spoilt, I couldn’t have thought so very much of it, under the circumstances. But no, not a bit. And she is so very pretty! I hope you agree with me in finding her very pretty, Mr Rokesmith?”

“Certainly I do. Every one must.”

“I hope so,” said the cherub. “Indeed, I have no doubt of it. This is a great advancement for her in life, Mr Rokesmith. A great opening of her prospects?”

“Miss Wilfer could have no better friends than Mr and Mrs Boffin.”

“Impossible!” said the gratified cherub. “Really I begin to think things are very well as they are. If Mr John Harmon had lived— ”

“He is better dead,” said the Secretary.

“No, I won’t go so far as to say that,” urged the cherub, a little remonstrant against the very decisive and unpitying tone; “but he mightn’t have suited Bella, or Bella mightn’t have suited him, or fifty things, whereas now I hope she can choose for herself.”

“Has she — as you place the confidence in me of speaking on the subject, you will excuse my asking — has she — perhaps — chosen?” faltered the Secretary.

“Oh dear no!” returned R. W.

“Young ladies sometimes,” Rokesmith hinted, “choose without mentioning their choice to their fathers.”

“Not in this case, Mr Rokesmith. Between my daughter Bella and me there is a regular league and covenant of confidence. It was ratified only the other day. The ratification dates from — these,” said the cherub, giving a little pull at the lappels of his coat and the pockets of his trousers. “Oh no, she has not chosen. To be sure, young George Sampson, in the days when Mr John Harmon— ”

“Who I wish had never been born!” said the Secretary, with a gloomy brow.

R. W. looked at him with surprise as thinking he had contracted an unaccountable spite against the poor deceased, and continued: “In the days when Mr John Harmon was being sought out, young George Sampson certainly was hovering about Bella, and Bella let him hover. But it never was seriously thought

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