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Our Mutual Friend

16. Minders And Re-Minders
The Secretary lost no time in getting to work, and his vigilance and method soon
set their mark on the Golden Dustman's affairs. His earnestness in determining to
understand the length and breadth and depth of every piece of work submitted to
him by his employer, was as special as his despatch in transacting it. He
accepted no information or explanation at second hand, but made himself the
master of everything confided to him.
One part of the Secretary's conduct, underlying all the rest, might have been
mistrusted by a man with a better knowledge of men than the Golden Dustman
had. The Secretary was as far from being inquisitive or intrusive as Secretary
could be, but nothing less than a complete understanding of the whole of the
affairs would content him. It soon became apparent (from the knowledge with
which he set out) that he must have been to the office where the Harmon will was
registered, and must have read the will. He anticipated Mr Boffin's consideration
whether he should be advised with on this or that topic, by showing that he
already knew of it and understood it. He did this with no attempt at concealment,
seeming to be satisfied that it was part of his duty to have prepared himself at all
attainable points for its utmost discharge.
This might--let it be repeated--have awakened some little vague mistrust in a
man more worldly-wise than the Golden Dustman. On the other hand, the
Secretary was discerning, discreet, and silent, though as zealous as if the affairs
had been his own. He showed no love of patronage or the command of money,
but distinctly preferred resigning both to Mr Boffin. If, in his limited sphere, he
sought power, it was the power of knowledge; the power derivable from a perfect
comprehension of his business.
As on the Secretary's face there was a nameless cloud, so on his manner there
was a shadow equally indefinable. It was not that he was embarrassed, as on
that first night with the Wilfer family; he was habitually unembarrassed now, and
yet the something remained. It was not that his manner was bad, as on that
occasion; it was now very good, as being modest, gracious, and ready. Yet the
something never left it. It has been written of men who have undergone a cruel
captivity, or who have passed through a terrible strait, or who in self-preservation
have killed a defenceless fellow- creature, that the record thereof has never
faded from their countenances until they died. Was there any such record here?
He established a temporary office for himself in the new house, and all went well
under his hand, with one singular exception. He manifestly objected to
communicate with Mr Boffin's solicitor. Two or three times, when there was some
slight occasion for his doing so, he transferred the task to Mr Boffin; and his
 
 
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