Our Mutual Friend
8. In Which An Innocent Elopement Occurs
The minion of fortune and the worm of the hour, or in less cutting language,
Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, the Golden Dustman, had become as much at home
in his eminently aristocratic family mansion as he was likely ever to be. He could
not but feel that, like an eminently aristocratic family cheese, it was much too
large for his wants, and bred an infinite amount of parasites; but he was content
to regard this drawback on his property as a sort of perpetual Legacy Duty. He
felt the more resigned to it, forasmuch as Mrs Boffin enjoyed herself completely,
and Miss Bella was delighted.
That young lady was, no doubt, and acquisition to the Boffins. She was far too
pretty to be unattractive anywhere, and far too quick of perception to be below
the tone of her new career. Whether it improved her heart might be a matter of
taste that was open to question; but as touching another matter of taste, its
improvement of her appearance and manner, there could be no question
And thus it soon came about that Miss Bella began to set Mrs Boffin right; and
even further, that Miss Bella began to feel ill at ease, and as it were responsible,
when she saw Mrs Boffin going wrong. Not that so sweet a disposition and so
sound a nature could ever go very wrong even among the great visiting
authorities who agreed that the Boffins were 'charmingly vulgar' (which for certain
was not their own case in saying so), but that when she made a slip on the social
ice on which all the children of Podsnappery, with genteel souls to be saved, are
required to skate in circles, or to slide in long rows, she inevitably tripped Miss
Bella up (so that young lady felt), and caused her to experience great confusion
under the glances of the more skilful performers engaged in those ice-exercises.
At Miss Bella's time of life it was not to be expected that she should examine
herself very closely on the congruity or stability of her position in Mr Boffin's
house. And as she had never been sparing of complaints of her old home when
she had no other to compare it with, so there was no novelty of ingratitude or
disdain in her very much preferring her new one.
'An invaluable man is Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin, after some two or three months.
'But I can't quite make him out.'
Neither could Bella, so she found the subject rather interesting.
'He takes more care of my affairs, morning, noon, and night,' said Mr Boffin, 'than
fifty other men put together either could or would; and yet he has ways of his own
that are like tying a scaffolding-pole right across the road, and bringing me up
short when I am almost a-walking arm in arm with him.'