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'You didn't mention her name, sir, I think?' observed Wegg, pensively. 'No, you didn't mention her name that night.'
'In--deed!' cried Wegg. 'Pleasant Riderhood. There's something moving in the name. Pleasant. Dear me! Seems to express what she might have been, if she hadn't made that unpleasant remark-- and what she ain't, in consequence of having made it. Would it at all pour balm into your wounds, Mr Venus, to inquire how you came acquainted with her?'
'I was down at the water-side,' said Venus, taking another gulp of tea and mournfully winking at the fire--'looking for parrots'--taking another gulp and stopping.
Mr Wegg hinted, to jog his attention: 'You could hardly have been out parrot-shooting, in the British climate, sir?'
'No, no, no,' said Venus fretfully. 'I was down at the water-side, looking for parrots brought home by sailors, to buy for stuffing.'
'Ay, ay, ay, sir!'
'--And looking for a nice pair of rattlesnakes, to articulate for a Museum--when I was doomed to fall in with her and deal with her. It was just at the time of that discovery in the river. Her father had seen the discovery being towed in the river. I made the popularity of the subject a reason for going back to improve the acquaintance, and I have never since been the man I was. My very bones is rendered flabby by brooding over it. If they could be brought to me loose, to sort, I should hardly have the face to claim 'em as mine. To such an extent have I fallen off under it.'
Mr Wegg, less interested than he had been, glanced at one particular shelf in the dark.
'Why I remember, Mr Venus,' he said in a tone of friendly commiseration '(for I remember every word that falls from you, sir), I remember that you said that night, you had got up there--and then your words was, "Never mind."'
'--The parrot that I bought of her,' said Venus, with a despondent rise and fall of his eyes. 'Yes; there it lies on its side, dried up; except for its plumage, very like myself. I've never had the heart to prepare it, and I never shall have now.'
With a disappointed face, Silas mentally consigned this parrot to regions more than tropical, and, seeming for the time to have lost his power of assuming an interest in the woes of Mr Venus, fell to tightening his wooden leg as a preparation for departure: its gymnastic performances of that evening having severely tried its constitution.
After Silas had left the shop, hat-box in hand, and had left Mr Venus to lower himself to oblivion-point with the requisite weight of tea, it greatly preyed on his ingenuous mind that he had taken this artist into partnership at all. He bitterly felt that he had overreached himself in the beginning, by grasping at Mr Venus's mere straws of hints, now shown to be worthless for his purpose. Casting about for ways and means of dissolving the connexion without loss of money, reproaching himself for having been betrayed into an avowal of his secret, and complimenting himself beyond measure on his purely accidental good luck, he beguiled the distance between Clerkenwell and the mansion of the Golden Dustman.
For, Silas Wegg felt it to be quite out of the question that he could lay his head upon his pillow in peace, without first hovering over Mr Boffin's house in the superior character of its Evil Genius. Power (unless it be the power of intellect or virtue) has ever the greatest attraction for the lowest natures; and the mere defiance of the unconscious house-front, with his power to strip the roof off the inhabiting family like the roof of a house of cards, was a treat which had a charm for Silas Wegg.
As he hovered on the opposite side of the street, exulting, the carriage drove up.
'There'll shortly be an end of YOU,' said Wegg, threatening it with the hat-box. 'YOUR varnish is fading.'
Mrs Boffin descended and went in.
'Look out for a fall, my Lady Dustwoman,' said Wegg.
Bella lightly descended, and ran in after her.
'How brisk we are!' said Wegg. 'You won't run so gaily to your old shabby home, my girl. You'll have to go there, though.'
A little while, and the Secretary came out.
'I was passed over for you,' said Wegg. 'But you had better provide yourself with another situation, young man.'
Mr Boffin's shadow passed upon the blinds of three large windows as he trotted down the room, and passed again as he went back.
'Yoop!'cried Wegg. 'You're there, are you? Where's the bottle? You would give your bottle for my box, Dustman!'
Having now composed his mind for slumber, he turned homeward. Such was the greed of the fellow, that his mind had shot beyond halves, two-thirds, three-fourths, and gone straight to spoliation of the whole. 'Though that wouldn't quite do,' he considered, growing cooler as he got away. 'That's what would happen to him if he didn't buy us up. We should get nothing by that.'
We so judge others by ourselves, that it had never come into his head before, that he might not buy us up, and might prove honest, and prefer to be poor. It caused him a slight tremor as it passed; but a very slight one, for the idle thought was gone directly.
'He's grown too fond of money for that,' said Wegg; 'he's grown too fond of money.' The burden fell into a strain or tune as he stumped along the pavements. All the way home he stumped it out of the rattling streets, PIANO with his own foot, and FORTE with his wooden leg, 'He's GROWN too FOND of MONEY for THAT, he's GROWN too FOND of MONEY.'
Even next day Silas soothed himself with this melodious strain, when he was called out of bed at daybreak, to set open the yard- gate and admit the train of carts and horses that came to carry off the little Mound. And all day long, as he kept unwinking watch on the slow process which promised to protract itself through many days and weeks, whenever (to save himself from being choked with dust) he patrolled a little cinderous beat he established for the purpose, without taking his eyes from the diggers, he still stumped to the tune: He's GROWN too FOND of MONEY for THAT, he's GROWN too FOND of MONEY.'
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Our Mutual Friend -- by Charles Dickens