Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Book 1, Part 5, Chapter 16

By Charles Dickens

Book 1, Part 5, Chapter 16

Minders and Reminders

  • It doesn't take long for Mr. Rokesmith to make Mr. Boffin's life a whole lot easier. A more suspicious man might not trust Rokesmith so much, since the guy will settle for nothing less than a full understanding of Boffin's whole life. But Boffin isn't a suspicious man.
  • One weird thing about Rokesmith is that he never wants to deliver any messages to Mortimer Lightwood—or even be in the guy's presence. Boffin thinks it's strange but lets it go because Rokesmith is so valuable to him.
  • Meanwhile, Mortimer Lightwood has been frantically looking for Julius Handford since the death of Gaffer Hexam. If you recall, Julius Handford was the stranger who showed up asking strange questions on the night John Harmon's body was found.
  • As you might also recall, Mr. Rokesmith is Julius Handford… so it makes sense that he wouldn't want to run into Mortimer Lightwood (who would remember him from the police station).
  • At one point, Mr. Boffin asks Mr. Rokesmith to write a public letter asking for Julius Handford (his alter ego) to come forward to offer testimony in the John Harmon case.
  • Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Boffin keep looking for an orphan to name John and raise as their own.
  • One day, the Boffins and Mr. Rokesmith go to the home of an old woman named Betty Higden, who has a young orphan that might be a good fit for the Boffins. When they get there, they meet a young man named Sloppy (seriously, his name is Sloppy) who works as a sort of servant for Miss Higden. The orphan she has isn't really an orphan at all, but her grandson.
  • She's worried about what'll happen to the baby when she dies, since she's very old. She has two other children living in her house because she wants to keep them out of the poor house. According to her, there is no worse place in the world than the poor house, where they punish you for being poor and make you work like a slave.
  • At first, Betty Higden gets kinda violent at the thought of anyone taking away her perfect little grandson. But once she realizes what a good life the Boffins will provide for her little Johnny, she agrees.
  • When this is all done, Mr. Rokesmith heads home for the day. When he gets there, he sees Bella Wilfer reading a book and asks her if it's a love story. It's kind of a come-on line.
  • Bella answers that the book isn't any good and tells Rokesmith he can have it if he wants.
  • When Mrs. Wilfer looks out the window and sees Bella talking with Mr. Rokesmith, she decides to head outside for a " random" walk. But we all know she's just keeping tabs on her daughter.
  • Mr. Rokesmith goes back inside and Bella can hear him pacing in his room. She resents the fact that her family is too poor to have their own house all to themselves.