Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend [From OCLC: First edition: 20 numbers (in 19) issued monthly, from May, 1864, to November, 1865, in illustrated green paper covers; t.p., contents and list of plates for v. 1 at end of no. 10, for v. 2 at end of no. 19-20; plates at beginning of each number. Preliminary advertising section in each issue titled: Our mutual friend advertiser.
‘So I should have thought of you!’ said Mr Boffin, admiringly. ‘No, sir. I never did ‘aggle and I never will ‘aggle. Consequently I meet you at once, free and fair, with—Done, for double the money!’
Mr Boffin seemed a little unprepared for this conclusion, but assented, with the remark, ‘You know better what it ought to be than I do, Wegg,’ and again shook hands with him upon it.
‘Could you begin to night, Wegg?’ he then demanded.
‘Yes, sir,’ said Mr Wegg, careful to leave all the eagerness to him. ‘I see no difficulty if you wish it. You are provided with the needful implement—a book, sir?’
‘Bought him at a sale,’ said Mr Boffin. ‘Eight wollumes. Red and gold. Purple ribbon in every wollume, to keep the place where you leave off. Do you know him?’
‘The book’s name, sir?’ inquired Silas.
‘I thought you might have know’d him without it,’ said Mr Boffin slightly disappointed. ‘His name is Decline-And-Fall-Off-The-Rooshan-Empire.’ (Mr Boffin went over these stones slowly and with much caution.)
‘Ay indeed!’ said Mr Wegg, nodding his head with an air of friendly recognition.
‘You know him, Wegg?’
‘I haven’t been not to say right slap through him, very lately,’ Mr Wegg made answer, ‘having been otherways employed, Mr Boffin. But know him? Old familiar declining and falling off the Rooshan? Rather, sir! Ever since I was not so high as your stick. Ever since my eldest brother left our cottage to enlist into the army. On which occasion, as the ballad that was made about it describes:
‘Beside that cottage door, Mr Boffin,
A girl was on her knees;
She held aloft a snowy scarf, Sir,
Which (my eldest brother noticed) fluttered in the breeze.
She breathed a prayer for him, Mr Boffin;
A prayer he coold not hear.
And my eldest brother lean’d upon his sword, Mr Boffin,
And wiped away a tear.’
Much impressed by this family circumstance, and also by the friendly disposition of Mr Wegg, as exemplified in his so soon dropping into poetry, Mr Boffin again shook hands with that ligneous sharper, and besought him to name his hour. Mr Wegg named eight.
‘Where I live,’ said Mr Boffin, ‘is called The Bower. Boffin’s Bower is the name Mrs Boffin christened it when we come into it as a property. If you should meet with anybody that don’t know it by that name (which hardly anybody does), when you’ve got nigh upon about a odd mile, or say and a quarter if you like, up Maiden Lane, Battle Bridge, ask for Harmony Jail, and you’ll be put right. I shall expect you, Wegg,’ said Mr Boffin, clapping him on the shoulder with the greatest enthusiasm, ‘most joyfully. I shall have no peace or patience till you come. Print is now opening ahead of me. This night, a literary man—with a wooden leg—’ he bestowed an admiring look upon that decoration, as if it greatly enhanced the relish of Mr Wegg’s attainments—‘will begin to lead me a new life! My fist again, Wegg. Morning, morning, morning!’
Left alone at his stall as the other ambled off, Mr Wegg subsided into his screen, produced a small pocket-handkerchief of a penitentially-scrubbing character, and took himself by the nose with a thoughtful aspect. Also, while he still grasped that feature, he directed several thoughtful looks down the street, after the retiring figure of Mr Boffin. But, profound gravity sat enthroned on Wegg’s countenance. For, while he considered within himself that this was an old fellow of rare simplicity, that this was an opportunity to be improved, and that here might be money to be got beyond present calculation, still he compromised himself by no admission that his new engagement was at all out of his way, or involved the least element of the ridiculous. Mr Wegg would even have picked a handsome quarrel with any one who should have challenged his deep acquaintance with those aforesaid eight volumes of Decline and Fall.