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house to house, like milk, does any reflecting
man suppose that our workhouses, our
prisons, and our lunatic asylums would be
overrun with paupers, thieves, and madmen
more than they are now? When men
resort to those very convenient and unmolested
dens of vice, whose outward shell of
apparent virtue consists of a teapot, a French
roll, two stale eggs, and the word Coffee
written in prominent letters upon the shop-
window-blind; they find a strange charm in
drinking the forbidden fire-water in a teacup,
long after midnight, purely because they are
engaged in something which the law, in its
wisdom, has thought proper to prohibit.
When the night-cabman goes over to the
very early breakfast-stall, and behind the
friendly shelter of the bacon, the coffee-cups,
and the quartern loaves, asks the guileless
proprietor, with a wink, for a drop of
"physic," he does so, in many cases, for no
other reason than because the "physic" is a
little more difficult to get at than coffee.
When once the great intoxicating drink-
selling monopoly is broken up, and the trade
is not confined to a number of metropolitan
licensed palaces, dram-drinking, divested of
all its meretricious and alluring adjuncts, is
likely to decrease in proportion as it descends
to the common-place level of the oyster-stall
and the baked potato-can.

So much for trade restrictions; now for
certain branches of commerce that are more
free than welcome.

Why do I find stall-keepers limited, and
heterodox shoeblacks forbidden under the
pretext that they interfere with the street
traffic, when I cannot walk down, any large
trading thoroughfare without being compelled
to pass under groves of cabbages,
groves of carpet brooms, groves of blucher
boots, and groves of legs of mutton? Why
should I be edged into the gutter because
little Reels, the haberdasher, has once,
during a long trading career, received
an enormous truss full of some stuff or
another from the country, and he likes to
keep it on the pathway in front of his shop
the whole day long, that his neighbours may
see what a gigantic trade he is doing, and
that his rival over the way may be driven
mad with envy? Why should I be edged
into the gutter because old Yoicks, the
saddler, or young Strawbottom, the
upholsterer, has positively packed up ten wooden
cases, the size of egg-chests, which he places
across the pavement for several days, that
the public may see they are directed to no
less a person than "His Excellency the Right
Honourable Lord Peppercraft, Ramihumbug,
East Indies?"

Why am I, in the heat of a summer's day,
condemned to walk under long avenues of
meat; sirloins of beef far from fresh, melting
loins of mutton, and sheep slung up by their
legs, with their bleeding noses and cracked
crowns dangling at my feet, because a little
knot of butchers have found it profitable and
convenient to extend their trade from the
narrow limits of their shops, under awnings
carried across the pathway, flush with the
gutter? Why am I hustled under the
unwelcome shade by greasy bullies, who ask
me in stentorian tones, to buy, intimidating me
all the while with knives of fearful aspect?

Why am I brought to a dead stand under a
similar awning, because an enterprising greengrocer
has blocked up the way with greens
and carrots, four or five sacks of coals, and
half-a-dozen large baskets of potatoes?

Why am I compelled to wend my weary
way under large tin baths and warming-pans,
gents' Wellingtons at seven-and-six, firkins
of butter, and second-hand perambulators,
intermixed with easy chairs and fenders?

If the policeman is to be left the sole arbiter
of the destinies of trade, I do not think he
should be allowed to compound for undue
leniency to a compact phalanx of encroaching
shopkeepers, by excessive severity to a
body of weak, poor, disunited, struggling,
houseless traders.

If law-making is to be anything but an
inflated sham, it will be well for our legislators
to see that they do not put down
names, but realities.

If we are to guide ourselves by the great
principle of free trade, let us carry it into the
very smallest nooks and crevices of
commerce. There is no reason why we should
have a penny fixed arbitrarily as the price
for boot-cleaning, when a halfpenny might
suffice; and there is certainly no reason
why a lad should be subject to an examination
in one of the two great schools of theological
doctrine, before he is considered worthy
to be entrusted with a blacking-bottle.

Now Ready, Price Threepence, or stamped Fourpence,
                                 THE PERILS
                        AND THEIR TREASURE
                   THE CHRISTMAS NUMBER
Of HOUSEHOLD WORDS; and containing Thirty-six
pages, or the amount of One regular Number and a Half.
Household Words Office, No. 16, Wellington Street
North, Strand. Sold by all Booksellers, and at all Railway

Also ready, price Five Shillings and Sixpence, neatly
bound in cloth,
                        THE SIXTEENTH VOLUME
                              HOUSEHOLD WORDS,
Containing the Numbers issued between the Fourth of
July and the Twelfth of December, Eighteen Hundred
                            and Fifty-Seven.