BOOK THE FIRST: THE CUP AND THE LIP
Chapter 5: Boffin's Bower (continued)
'It is Rooshan; ain't it, Wegg?'
'No, sir. Roman. Roman.'
'What's the difference, Wegg?'
'The difference, sir?' Mr Wegg was faltering and in danger of
breaking down, when a bright thought flashed upon him. 'The
difference, sir? There you place me in a difficulty, Mr Boffin.
Suffice it to observe, that the difference is best postponed to some
other occasion when Mrs Boffin does not honour us with her
company. In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop it.'
Mr Wegg thus came out of his disadvantage with quite a
chivalrous air, and not only that, but by dint of repeating with a
manly delicacy, 'In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop
it!' turned the disadvantage on Boffin, who felt that he had
committed himself in a very painful manner.
Then, Mr Wegg, in a dry unflinching way, entered on his task;
going straight across country at everything that came before him;
taking all the hard words, biographical and geographical; getting
rather shaken by Hadrian, Trajan, and the Antonines; stumbling at
Polybius (pronounced Polly Beeious, and supposed by Mr Boffin to
be a Roman virgin, and by Mrs Boffin to be responsible for that
necessity of dropping it); heavily unseated by Titus Antoninus
Pius; up again and galloping smoothly with Augustus; finally,
getting over the ground well with Commodus: who, under the
appellation of Commodious, was held by Mr Boffin to have been
quite unworthy of his English origin, and 'not to have acted up to
his name' in his government of the Roman people. With the death
of this personage, Mr Wegg terminated his first reading; long
before which consummation several total eclipses of Mrs Boffin's
candle behind her black velvet disc, would have been very
alarming, but for being regularly accompanied by a potent smell of
burnt pens when her feathers took fire, which acted as a restorative
and woke her. Mr Wegg, having read on by rote and attached as
few ideas as possible to the text, came out of the encounter fresh;
but, Mr Boffin, who had soon laid down his unfinished pipe, and
had ever since sat intently staring with his eyes and mind at the
confounding enormities of the Romans, was so severely punished
that he could hardly wish his literary friend Good-night, and