BOOK THE THIRD: A LONG LANE
Chapter 16: 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
day's 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 hour's 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 chemist's 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 o'clock 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!'