Our Mutual Friend
7. Mr Wegg Looks After Himself
Silas Wegg, being on his road to the Roman Empire, approaches it by way of
Clerkenwell. The time is early in the evening; the weather moist and raw. Mr
Wegg finds leisure to make a little circuit, by reason that he folds his screen
early, now that he combines another source of income with it, and also that he
feels it due to himself to be anxiously expected at the Bower. 'Boffin will get all
the eagerer for waiting a bit,' says Silas, screwing up, as he stumps along, first
his right eye, and then his left. Which is something superfluous in him, for Nature
has already screwed both pretty tight.
'If I get on with him as I expect to get on,' Silas pursues, stumping and
meditating, 'it wouldn't become me to leave it here. It wouldn't he respectable.'
Animated by this reflection, he stumps faster, and looks a long way before him,
as a man with an ambitious project in abeyance often will do.
Aware of a working-jeweller population taking sanctuary about the church in
Clerkenwell, Mr Wegg is conscious of an interest in, and a respect for, the
neighbourhood. But, his sensations in this regard halt as to their strict morality,
as he halts in his gait; for, they suggest the delights of a coat of invisibility in
which to walk off safely with the precious stones and watch-cases, but stop short
of any compunction for the people who would lose the same.
Not, however, towards the 'shops' where cunning artificers work in pearls and
diamonds and gold and silver, making their hands so rich, that the enriched water
in which they wash them is bought for the refiners;--not towards these does Mr
Wegg stump, but towards the poorer shops of small retail traders in commodities
to eat and drink and keep folks warm, and of Italian frame-makers, and of
barbers, and of brokers, and of dealers in dogs and singing-birds. From these, in
a narrow and a dirty street devoted to such callings, Mr Wegg selects one dark
shop-window with a tallow candle dimly burning in it, surrounded by a muddle of
objects vaguely resembling pieces of leather and dry stick, but among which
nothing is resolvable into anything distinct, save the candle itself in its old tin
candlestick, and two preserved frogs fighting a small- sword duel. Stumping with
fresh vigour, he goes in at the dark greasy entry, pushes a little greasy dark
reluctant side-door, and follows the door into the little dark greasy shop. It is so
dark that nothing can be made out in it, over a little counter, but another tallow
candle in another old tin candlestick, close to the face of a man stooping low in a
Mr Wegg nods to the face, 'Good evening.'