Mr Wegg Prepares a Grindstone for Mr Boffin's Nose

HAVING assisted at a few more expositions of the lives of Misers, Mr Venus became almost indispensable to the evenings at the Bower. The circumstance of having another listener to the wonders unfolded by Wegg, or, as it were, another calculator to cast up the guineas found in teapots, chimneys, racks and mangers, and other such banks of deposit, seemed greatly to heighten Mr Boffin’s enjoyment; while Silas Wegg, for his part, though of a jealous temperament which might under ordinary circumstances have resented the anatomist’s getting into favour, was so very anxious to keep his eye on that gentleman — lest, being too much left to himself, he should be tempted to play any tricks with the precious document in his keeping — that he never lost an opportunity of commending him to Mr Boffin’s notice as a third party whose company was much to be desired. Another friendly demonstration towards him Mr Wegg now regularly gratified. After each sitting was over, and the patron had departed, Mr. Wegg invariably saw Mr Venus home. To be sure, he as invariably requested to be refreshed with a sight of the paper in which he was a joint proprietor;but he never failed to remark that it was the great pleasure he derived from Mr. Venus’s improving society which had insensibly lured him round to Clerkenwell again, and that, finding himself once more attracted to the spot by the social powers of Mr. V., he would beg leave to go through that little incidental procedure, as a matter of form. “For well I know, sir,” Mr. Wegg would add, “that a man of your delicate mind would wish to be checked off whenever the opportunity arises, and it is not for me to baulk your feelings.”

A certain rustiness in Mr. Venus, which never became so lubricated by the oil of Mr. Wegg but that he turned under the screw in a creaking and stiff manner, was very noticeable at about this period. While assisting at the literary evenings, he even went so far, on two or three occasions, as to correct Mr. Wegg when he grossly mispronounced a word, or made nonsense of a passage; insomuch that Mr. Wegg took to surveying his course in the day, and to making arrangements for getting round rocks at night instead of running straight upon them. Of the slightest anatomical reference he became particularly shy, and, if he saw a bone ahead, would go any distance out of his way rather than mention it by name.

The adverse destinies ordained that one evening Mr. Wegg’s labouring bark became beset by polysyllables, and embarrassed among a perfect archipelago of hard words. It being necessary to take soundings every minute, and to feel the way with the greatest caution, Mr. Wegg’s attention was fully employed. Advantage was taken of this dilemma by Mr. Venus, to pass a scrap of paper into Mr. Boffin’s hand, and lay his finger on his own lip.

When Mr. Boffin got home at night he found that the paper contained Mr. Venus’s card and these words: “Should be glad to be honored with a call respecting business of your own, about dusk on an early evening.”

The very next evening saw Mr. Boffin peeping in at the preserved frogs in Mr. Venus’s shop-window, and saw Mr. Venus espying Mr. Boffin with the readiness of one on the alert, and beckoning that gentleman into his interior. Responding, Mr. Boffin was invited to seat himself on the box of human miscellanies before the fire, and did so, looking round the place with admiring eyes. The fire being low and fitful, and the dusk gloomy, the whole stock seemed to be winking and blinking with both eyes, as Mr. Venus did. The French gentleman, though he had no eyes, was not at all behind-hand, but appeared, as the flame rose and fell, to open and shut his no eyes, with the regularity of the glass-eyed dogs and ducks and birds. The big-headed babies were equally obliging in lending their grotesque aid to the general effect.

“You see, Mr. Venus, I’ve lost no time,” said Mr. Boffin. “Here I am.”

“Here you are, sir,” assented Mr. Venus.

“I don’t like secrecy,” pursued Mr. Boffin—“at least, not in a general way I don’t—but I dare say you’ll show me good reason for being secret so far.’

“I think I shall, sir,” returned Venus.

“Good,” said Mr. Boffin. “You don’t expect Wegg, I take it for granted?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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