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incident enables us to understand why for
the perfecting of the Predatory Art so much
pains have been taken among the English.


SUFFER me, Mr. Conductor of Household
Words, to put a questionor a case. I
wish to ask what I am to do for the abatement
of a certain nuisance to which I am
much exposed. The question is one of those
which, I feel sure, that nobody on earth can
answer, for which reason I am the more deeply
impressed with the necessity of putting it.

Mine is the case of A. B., a single man,
who says he is not likely to marry. His
age he refuses to state with precision; but
admits that it is not under fifty-nine: is
not a wealthy man; thinks that, if living
in England, he should be considered poor.
To make the most of his income, he has
resided in Neufchâtel for the last thirteen
years, as an independent gentleman. During
the period before said, A. B. has been in
the habit of seeking recreation, as often as
his income would permit, in little excursions
to Paris and London in the first
instance, and perhaps, on the way home, to
Vienna and Berlin. He may have been in
the habit of making such excursions once
every two years; or sometimes he might
stay at home for three years. Is quite sure
that he never went on any such journey
without being loaded with Commissions.
Cannot be deceived in his recollection on
that subject. Said commissions have on
several occasions broken his peace, and
deprived him of the liberty of action to which
he considers himself by law entitled. They are
the nuisances of which he seeks abatement.

He thinks it may be true that, as a general
rule, a little commission, taken singly, is a
trifle; but that little commissions become
onerous by reason of their multitude and their
variety. He doubts whether a man going
on a journey be not an ass, when he stands
still and permits his panniers to be laden to
his own discomfort. His particular misery
is, that he himself knows not how to avoid
being such an ass, unless he be content that
all his friends should regard him as a
good-for-nothing, disobliging curmudgeon.
He has thought of quitting Neufchâtel for
ever; he has also thought of never quitting
Neufchâtel for half-an-hour; but he has
been unable to resolve upon the solution of
his difficulty in either of these ways.

The origin of A. B.'s grievance is to be
found, perhaps, in his possession of a certain
reputation for the scrupulous exactness,
which is not uncommon in old bachelors, and
for good-nature, as well as a conscientious
desire to discharge himself honestly of any
trust reposed in him. He has known young
friends to keep a commission in reserve three
or six months, in order that it might be his
felicity to execute it.

To quit Neufchâtel without a formal leavetaking
is not permitted by the customs of
the country. A. B. made, therefore, before his
last departure, a list of the houses at which it
was his duty to call, and proceeded to make
all his calls in their due order, beginning
with the most distant; that of the most
distant friend was Madame Verdier Potts.
Potts is the lady's maiden name, as commonly
used in Switzerland to distinguish different
members of one family. After the ascent of
a steep and not undefiled staircase, the
deponent states that he knocked at the door of
Madame Verdier, which was inscribed with
her name on a brass plate. After a sufficient
number of courtesies had passed, deponent
made allusion to the journey he was
contemplating, upon which there ensued, as nearly
as he can remember, this conversation:

Madame Verdier: "O, my dear Mr. A. B.,
you have no idea how anxious I have been
you should set out. You know the state my
poor little Hofer is in. His second teeth, I
may say, are all breaking out in a mob over
the roof of his mouth, instead of coming up in
file out of his gums. You know Mr. Tugwell,
in Paris?"

A. B.: "The American dentist?"

Madame Verdier: "O yes. You know
every one. I have been told that if I were to
take a model of my Hofer's mouth in wax,
and send it to him, he can have an instrument
made, which, when worn, will restore
the teeth to order. I have already taken the
model, and it will carry very nicely in this
little tin box. How long do you remain in

A. B.: "I think about a week."

Madame Verdier: "I am sure if you tell
him that, he will have the machine made in
time for you to bring it."

A. B.: "But I shall be three or four
months absent."

Madame Verdier: "No matter. You
always execute commissions so well that
I have nobody else to depend upon. I wish
Hofer were here that you could look into his
mouth, and then you would know how to
explain the state of it exactly. I dare say
Tugwell will make it in less than a week; but,
if there should be a delay of a day or so
longer, I am sure you will not mind."

Deponent further states that, having parted
from this lady with a promise to fulfil her
wish, and with the model of the mouth of
Hofer in his pocket, he called next upon
Lady Fanfare. The Lady Fanfare is not in
the peerage or the knightage; gossips
asserting that her husband's knighthood was
bestowed on him in India by a governor-
general with whom he bore the brunt of an
attack of after-dinner hiccups. Deponent
wishes in this place to observe, that he
piques himself upon his sound pronunciation
of the English language, and insists that the
English of the present day has become a
jargon of strange tongues. He is always firm