The Golden Dustman Sinks Again

THE evening of that day being one of the reading evenings at the Bower, Mr. Boffin kissed Mrs. Boffin after a five o’clock dinner, and trotted out, nursing his big stick in both arms, so that, as of old, it seemed to be whispering in his ear. He carried so very attentive an expression on his countenance that it appeared as if the confidential discourse of the big stick required to be followed closely. Mr. Boffin’s face was like the face of a thoughtful listener to an intricate communication, and, in trotting along, he occasionally glanced at that companion with the look of a man who was interposing the remark: “You don’t mean it!”

Mr. Boffin and his stick went on alone together, until they arrived at certain cross-ways where they would be likely to fall in with any one coming, at about the same time, from Clerkenwell to the Bower. Here they stopped, and Mr. Boffin consulted his watch.

“It wants five minutes, good, to Venus’s appointment,” said he. “I’m rather early.”

But Venus was a punctual man, and, even as Mr. Boffin replaced his watch in its pocket, was to be descried coming towards him. He quickened his pace on seeing Mr. Boffin already at the place of meeting, and was soon at his side.

“Thank’ee, Venus,” said Mr. Boffin. “Thank’ee, thank’ee, thank’ee!”

It would not have been very evident why he thanked the anatomist, but for his furnishing the explanation in what he went on to say.

“All right, Venus, all right. Now, that you’ve been to see me, and have consented to keep up the appearance before Wegg of remaining in it for a time, I have got a sort of a backer. All right, Venus. Thank’ee, Venus. Thank’ee, thank’ee, thank’ee!”

Mr. Venus shook the proffered hand with a modest air, and they pursued the direction of the Bower.

“Do you think Wegg is likely to drop down upon me to-night, Venus?” inquired Mr. Boffin, wistfully, as they went along.

“I think he is, sir.”

“Have you any particular reason for thinking so, Venus?”

“Well, sir,” returned that personage, “the fact is, he has given me another look-in, to make sure of what he calls our stock-in-trade being correct, and he has mentioned his intention that he was not to be put off beginning with you the very next time you should come. And this,” hinted Mr. Venus, delicately, “being the very next time, you know, sir—”

— ’Why, therefore you suppose he’ll turn to at the grindstone, eh, Wegg?” said Mr. Boffin.

“Just so, sir.”

Mr. Boffin took his nose in his hand, as if it were already excoriated, and the sparks were beginning to fly out of that feature. “He’s a terrible fellow, Venus; he’s an awful fellow. I don’t know how ever I shall go through with it. You must stand by me, Venus like a good man and true. You’ll do all you can to stand by me, Venus; won’t you?”

Mr. Venus replied with the assurance that he would; and Mr. Boffin, looking anxious and dispirited, pursued the way in silence until they rang at the Bower gate. The stumping approach of Wegg was soon heard behind it, and as it turned upon its hinges he became visible with his hand on the lock.

“Mr. Boffin, sir?” he remarked. “You’re quite a stranger!”

“Yes. I’ve been otherwise occupied, Wegg.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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