Charles Dickens

Then, she put on her gloves again, and we

drew round the fire, and Wemmick said, "Now Aged Parent, tip us the


Wemmick explained to me while the Aged got his spectacles out, that

this was according to custom, and that it gave the old gentleman

infinite satisfaction to read the news aloud. "I won't offer an

apology," said Wemmick, "for he isn't capable of many pleasures -

are you, Aged P.?"

"All right, John, all right," returned the old man, seeing himself

spoken to.

"Only tip him a nod every now and then when he looks off his

paper," said Wemmick, "and he'll be as happy as a king. We are all

attention, Aged One."

"All right, John, all right!" returned the cheerful old man: so

busy and so pleased, that it really was quite charming.

The Aged's reading reminded me of the classes at Mr. Wopsle's

great-aunt's, with the pleasanter peculiarity that it seemed to

come through a keyhole. As he wanted the candles close to him, and

as he was always on the verge of putting either his head or the

newspaper into them, he required as much watching as a powder-mill.

But Wemmick was equally untiring and gentle in his vigilance, and

the Aged read on, quite unconscious of his many rescues. Whenever

he looked at us, we all expressed the greatest interest and

amazement, and nodded until he resumed again.

As Wemmick and Miss Skiffins sat side by side, and as I sat in a

shadowy corner, I observed a slow and gradual elongation of Mr.

Wemmick's mouth, powerfully suggestive of his slowly and gradually

stealing his arm round Miss Skiffins's waist. In course of time I

saw his hand appear on the other side of Miss Skiffins; but at that

moment Miss Skiffins neatly stopped him with the green glove,

unwound his arm again as if it were an article of dress, and with

the greatest deliberation laid it on the table before her. Miss

Skiffins's composure while she did this was one of the most

remarkable sights I have ever seen, and if I could have thought the

act consistent with abstraction of mind, I should have deemed that

Miss Skiffins performed it mechanically.

By-and-by, I noticed Wemmick's arm beginning to disappear again,

and gradually fading out of view. Shortly afterwards, his mouth

began to widen again. After an interval of suspense on my part that

was quite enthralling and almost painful, I saw his hand appear on

the other side of Miss Skiffins. Instantly, Miss Skiffins stopped

it with the neatness of a placid boxer, took off that girdle or

cestus as before, and laid it on the table. Taking the table to

represent the path of virtue, I am justified in stating that during

the whole time of the Aged's reading, Wemmick's arm was straying

from the path of virtue and being recalled to it by Miss Skiffins.

At last, the Aged read himself into a light slumber. This was the

time for Wemmick to produce a little kettle, a tray of glasses, and

a black bottle with a porcelain-topped cork, representing some

clerical dignitary of a rubicund and social aspect. With the aid of

these appliances we all had something warm to drink: including the

Aged, who was soon awake again. Miss Skiffins mixed, and I observed

that she and Wemmick drank out of one glass. Of course I knew

better than to offer to see Miss Skiffins home, and under the

circumstances I thought I had best go first: which I did, taking a

cordial leave of the Aged, and having passed a pleasant evening.

Before a week was out, I received a note from Wemmick, dated

Walworth, stating that he hoped he had made some advance in that

matter appertaining to our private and personal capacities, and

that he would be glad if I could come and see him again upon it.

So, I went out to Walworth again, and yet again, and yet again, and

I saw him by appointment in the City several times, but never held

any communication with him on the subject in or near Little

Britain. The upshot was, that we found a worthy young merchant or

shipping-broker, not long established in business, who wanted

intelligent help, and who wanted capital, and who in due course of

time and receipt would want a partner.