“Have you indeed, sir?” returned the literary gentleman, with a threatening sneer. “Hah! I’ve been looking for you, sir, rather what I may call specially.”

“You don’t say so, Wegg?”

“Yes, I do say so, sir. And if you hadn’t come round to me to-night, dash my wig if I wouldn’t have come round to you to-morrow. Now! I tell you!”

“Nothing wrong, I hope, Wegg?”

“Oh no, Mr. Boffin,” was the ironical answer. “Nothing wrong! What should be wrong in Boffinses Bower! Step in, sir.

‘If you’ll come to the Bower I’ve shaded for you,
 Your bed shan’t be roses all spangled with doo:
 Will you, will you, will you, will you, come to the Bower?
 Oh, won’t you, won’t you, won’t you, won’t you, come to the Bower?’ ”

An unholy glare of contradiction and offence shone in the eyes of Mr. Wegg, as he turned the key on his patron, after ushering him into the yard with this vocal quotation. Mr. Boffin’s air was crest-fallen and submissive. Whispered Wegg to Venus, as they crossed the yard behind him: “Look at the worm and minion; he’s down in the mouth already.” Whispered Venus to Wegg: “That’s because I’ve told him. I’ve prepared the way for you.”

Mr. Boffin, entering the usual chamber, laid his stick upon the settle usually reserved for him, thrust his hands into his pockets, and, with his shoulders raised and his hat drooping back upon them, looking disconsolately at Wegg. “My friend and partner, Mr. Venus, gives me to understand,” remarked that man of might, addressing him, “that you are aware of our power over you. Now, when you have took your hat off, we’ll go into that pint.”

Mr. Boffin shook it off with one shake, so that it dropped on the floor behind him, and remained in his former attitude with his former rueful look upon him.

“First of all, I’m a-going to call you Boffin, for short,” said Wegg. “If you don’t like it, it’s open to you to lump it.”

“I don’t mind it, Wegg,” Mr. Boffin replied.

“That’s lucky for you, Boffin. Now, do you want to be read to?”

“I don’t particularly care about it to-night, Wegg.”

“Because if you did want to,” pursued Mr. Wegg, the brilliancy of whose point was dimmed by his having been unexpectedly answered: “you wouldn’t be. I’ve been your slave long enough. I’m not to be trampled under-foot by a dustman any more. With the single exception of the salary, I renounce the whole and total sitiwation.”

“Since you say it is to be so, Wegg,” returned Mr. Boffin, with folded hands, “I suppose it must be.”

I suppose it must be,” Wegg retorted. “Next (to clear the ground before coming to business), you’ve placed in this yard a skulking, a sneaking, and a sniffing, menial.”

“He hadn’t a cold in his head when I sent him here,” said Mr. Boffin.

“Boffin!” retorted Wegg, “I warn you not to attempt a joke with me!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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