BOOK THE THIRD: A LONG LANE
Chapter 5: The Golden Dustman Falls Into Bad Company
Were Bella Wilfer's bright and ready little wits at fault, or was the
Golden Dustman passing through the furnace of proof and coming
out dross? Ill news travels fast. We shall know full soon.
On that very night of her return from the Happy Return, something
chanced which Bella closely followed with her eyes and ears.
There was an apartment at the side of the Boffin mansion, known
as Mr Boffin's room. Far less grand than the rest of the house, it
was far more comfortable, being pervaded by a certain air of
homely snugness, which upholstering despotism had banished to
that spot when it inexorably set its face against Mr Boffin's appeals
for mercy in behalf of any other chamber. Thus, although a room
of modest situation--for its windows gave on Silas Wegg's old
corner--and of no pretensions to velvet, satin, or gilding, it had got
itself established in a domestic position analogous to that of an
easy dressing-gown or pair of slippers; and whenever the family
wanted to enjoy a particularly pleasant fireside evening, they
enjoyed it, as an institution that must be, in Mr Boffin's room.
Mr and Mrs Boffin were reported sitting in this room, when Bella
got back. Entering it, she found the Secretary there too; in official
attendance it would appear, for he was standing with some papers
in his hand by a table with shaded candles on it, at which Mr
Boffin was seated thrown back in his easy chair.
'You are busy, sir,' said Bella, hesitating at the door.
'Not at all, my dear, not at all. You're one of ourselves. We never
make company of you. Come in, come in. Here's the old lady in
her usual place.'
Mrs Boffin adding her nod and smile of welcome to Mr Boffin's
words, Bella took her book to a chair in the fireside corner, by Mrs
Boffin's work-table. Mr Boffin's station was on the opposite side.
'Now, Rokesmith,' said the Golden Dustman, so sharply rapping
the table to bespeak his attention as Bella turned the leaves of her
book, that she started; 'where were we?'