The Feast of the Three Hobgoblins
THE City looked unpromising enough, as Bella made her way along its gritty streets. Most of its money- mills were slackening sail, or had left off grinding for the day. The master-millers had already departed, and the journeymen were departing. There was a jaded aspect on the business lanes and courts, and the very pavements had a weary appearance, confused by the tread of a million of feet. There must be hours of night to temper down the days distraction of so feverish a place. As yet the worry of the newly- stopped whirling and grinding on the part of the money-mills seemed to linger in the air, and the quiet was more like the prostration of a spent giant than the repose of one who was renewing his strength.
If Bella thought, as she glanced at the mighty Bank, how agreeable it would be to have an hours gardening there, with a bright copper shovel, among the money, still she was not in an avaricious vein. Much improved in that respect, and with certain half-formed images which had little gold in their composition, dancing before her bright eyes, she arrived in the drug-flavoured region of Mincing Lane, with the sensation of having just opened a drawer in a chemists shop.
The counting-house of Chicksey, Veneering, and Stobbles was pointed out by an elderly female accustomed to the care of offices, who dropped upon Bella out of a public-house, wiping her mouth, and accounted for its humidity on natural principles well known to the physical sciences, by explaining that she had looked in at the door to see what oclock it was. The counting-house was a wall-eyed ground floor by a dark gateway, and Bella was considering, as she approached it, could there be any precedent in the City for her going in and asking for R. Wilfer, when whom should she see, sitting at one of the windows with the plate-glass sash raised, but R. Wilfer himself, preparing to take a slight refection.
On approaching nearer, Bella discerned that the refection had the appearance of a small cottage-loaf and a pennyworth of milk. Simultaneously with this discovery on her part, her father discovered her, and invoked the echoes of Mincing Lane to exclaim My gracious me!
He then came cherubically flying out without a hat, and embraced her, and handed her in. For its after hours and I am all alone, my dear, he explained, and am having as I sometimes do when they are all gone a quiet tea.
Looking round the office, as if her father were a captive and this his cell, Bella hugged him and choked him to her hearts content.
I never was so surprised, my dear! said her father. I couldnt believe my eyes. Upon my life, I thought they had taken to lying! The idea of your coming down the Lane yourself! Why didnt you send the footman down the Lane, my dear?
I have brought no footman with me, Pa.
Oh indeed! But you have brought the elegant turn-out, my love?
You never can have walked, my dear?
Yes, I have, Pa.
He looked so very much astonished, that Bella could not make up her mind to break it to him just yet.
The consequence is, Pa, that your lovely woman feels a little faint, and would very much like to share your tea.
The cottage loaf and the pennyworth of milk had been set forth on a sheet of paper on the window- seat. The cherubic pocket-knife, with the first bit of the loaf still on its point, lay beside them where it had been hastily thrown down. Bella took the bit off, and put it in her mouth. My dear child, said her
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