The Golden Dustman falls into Worse Company

IT had come to pass that Mr. Silas Wegg now rarely attended the minion of fortune and the worm of the hour, at his (the worm’s and minion’s) own house, but lay under general instructions to await him within a certain margin of hours at the Bower. Mr. Wegg took this arrangement in great dudgeon, because the appointed hours were evening hours, and those he considered precious to the progress of the friendly move. But it was quite in character, he bitterly remarked to Mr. Venus, that the upstart who had trampled on those eminent creatures, Miss Elizabeth, Master George, Aunt Jane, and Uncle Parker, should oppress his literary man.

The Roman Empire having worked out its destruction, Mr. Boffin next appeared in a cab with Rollin’s Ancient History, which valuable work being found to possess lethargic properties, broke down, at about the period when the whole of the army of Alexander the Macedonian (at that time about forty thousand strong) burst into tears simultaneously, on his being taken with a shivering fit after bathing. The Wars of the Jews, likewise languishing under Mr. Wegg’s generalship, Mr. Boffin arrived in another cab with Plutarch: whose Lives he found in the sequel extremely entertaining, though he hoped Plutarch might not expect him to believe them all. What to believe, in the course of his reading, was Mr. Boffin’s chief literary difficulty indeed; for some time he was divided in his mind between half, all, or none; at length, when he decided, as a moderate man, to compound with half, the question still remained, which half? And that stumbling-block he never got over.

One evening, when Silas Wegg had grown accustomed to the arrival of his patron in a cab, accompanied by some profane historian charged with unutterable names of incomprehensible peoples, of impossible descent, waging wars any number of years and syllables long, and carrying illimitable hosts and riches about, with the greatest ease, beyond the confines of geography — one evening the usual time passed by, and no patron appeared. After half an hour’s grace, Mr. Wegg proceeded to the outer gate, and there executed a whistle, conveying to Mr. Venus, if perchance within hearing, the tidings of his being at home and disengaged. Forth from the shelter of a neighbouring wall, Mr. Venus then emerged.

“Brother in arms,” said Mr. Wegg, in excellent spirits, “welcome!”

In return, Mr. Venus gave him a rather dry good evening.

“Walk in, brother,” said Silas, clapping him on the shoulder, “and take your seat in my chimley corner; for what says the ballad?

‘No malice to dread, sir,
 And no falsehood to fear,
 But truth to delight me, Mr. Venus,
 And I forgot what to cheer.
 Li toddle dee om dee.
 And something to guide,
 My ain fireside, sir,
 My ain fireside.’ ”

With this quotation (depending for its neatness rather on the spirit than the words), Mr. Wegg conducted his guest to his hearth.

“And you come, brother,” said Mr. Wegg, in a hospitable glow, “you come like I don’t know what — exactly like it — I shouldn’t know you from it — shedding a halo all around you.”

“What kind of halo?” asked Mr. Venus.

“ ’Ope sir,” replied Silas. “That’s your halo.”

Mr. Venus appeared doubtful on the point, and looked rather discontentedly at the fire.

“We’ll devote the evening, brother,” exclaimed Wegg, “to prosecute our friendly move. And arterwards, crushing a flowing wine-cup — which I allude to brewing rum and water — we’ll pledge one another. For what says the Poet?

‘And you needn’t Mr. Venus be your black bottle, For surely I’ll be mine, And we’ll take a glass with a slice of lemon in it to which you’re partial, For auld lang syne.’ ”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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