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the business gravely. When they took a young
man into Tellson's London house, they hid him
somewhere till he was old. They kept him in a
dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full
Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him. Then
only was he permitted to be seen, spectacularly
poring over large books, and casting his breeches
and gaiters into the general weight of the
establishment.

Outside Tellson'snever by any means in it,
unless called inwas an odd-job-man, an
occasional porter and messenger, who served as the
live sign of the house. He was never absent
during business hours, unless upon an errand,
and then he was represented by his son: a grisly
urchin of twelve, who was his express image.
People understood that Tellson's, in a stately
way, tolerated the odd-job-man. The house had
always tolerated some person in that capacity,
and time and tide had drifted this person
to the post. His surname was Cruncher, and
on the youthful occasion of his renouncing by
proxy the works of darkness, in the easterly
parish church of Houndsditch, he had received
the added appellation of Jerry.

The scene, was Mr. Cruncher's private lodging
in Hanging-sword-alley, Whitefriars; the time,
half-past seven of the clock on a windy March
morning, Anno Domini seventeen hundred and
eighty. (Mr. Cruncher himself always spoke
of the year of our Lord as Anna Dominoes:
apparently under the impression that the
Christian era dated from the invention of a
popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her
name upon it.)

Mr. Cruncher's apartments were not in a
savoury neighbourhood, and were but two in
number, even if a closet with a single pane of
glass in it might be counted as one. But, they
were very decently kept. Early as it was, on the
windy March morning, the room in which he
lay a-bed was already scrubbed throughout; and
between the cups and saucers arranged for breakfast,
and the lumbering deal table, a very clean
white cloth was spread.

Mr. Cruncher reposed under a patchwork
counterpane, like a Harlequin at home. At
first, he slept heavily, but, by degrees, began
to roll and surge in bed, until he rose above
the surface, with his spiky hair looking as if
it must tear the sheets to ribbons. At which
juncture, he exclaimed, in a voice of dire
exasperation:

"Bust me, if she ain't at it agin!"

A woman of orderly and industrious appearance
rose from her knees in a corner, with sufficient
haste and trepidation to show that she was
the person referred to.

"What!" said Mr. Cruncher, looking out
of bed for a boot. "You're at it agin, are
you?"

After hailing the morn with this second
salutation, he threw a boot at the woman as a
third. It was a very muddy boot, and may
introduce the odd circumstance connected with
Mr. Cruncher's domestic economy, that, whereas
he often came home after banking hours with
clean boots, he often got up next morning to find
he same boots covered with clay.

"What," said Mr. Cruncher, varying his
apostrophe after missing his mark—"what are
you up to, Aggerawayter?"

"I was only saying my prayers."

"Saying your prayers. You're a nice woman!
What do you mean by flopping yourself down and
praying agin me?"

"I was not praying against you; I was praying
for you."

"You weren't. And if you were, I won't be
took the liberty with. Here! your mother's
a nice woman, young Jerry, going a praying
agin your father's prosperity. You've got a dutiful
mother, you have, my son. You've got a
religious mother, you have, my boy: going and
flopping herself down, and praying that the
bread-and-butter may be snatched out of the
mouth of her only child!"

Master Cruncher (who was in his shirt) took
this very ill, and, turning to his mother, strongly
deprecated any praying away of his personal
board.

"And what do you suppose, you conceited
female," said Mr. Cruncher, with unconscious
inconsistency, "that the worth of your prayers
may be? Name the price that you put your
prayers at!"

"They only come from the heart, Jerry. They
are worth no more than that."

"Worth no more than that," repeated Mr.
Cruncher. "They ain't worth much, then.
Whether or no, I won't be prayed agin, I tell
you. I can't afford it. I'm not a going to be
made unlucky by your sneaking. If you must
go flopping yourself down, flop in favour of your
husband and child, and not in opposition to 'em.
If I had had any but a unnat'ral wife, and this
poor boy had had any but a unnat'ral mother,
I might have made some money last week,
instead of being counterprayed and countermined
and religiously circumwented into the worst of
luck. Bu-u-ust me!" said Mr. Cruncher, who all
this time had been putting on his clothes, "if I
ain't, what with piety and one blowed thing
and another, been choused this last week into
as bad luck as ever a poor devil of a honest
tradesman met with! Young Jerry, dress yourself,
my boy, and while I clean my boots keep a
eye upon your mother now and then, and if you
see any signs of more flopping, give me a call.
For, I tell you," here he addressed his wife once
more, "I won't be gone agin, in this manner. I
am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I'm as
sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that
degree that I shouldn't know, if it wasn't for the
pain in 'em, which was me and which
somebody else, yet I'm none the better for it in
pocket; and it's my suspicion that you've been at
it from morning to night to prevent me from
being the better for it in pocket, and I won't put
up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say
now!"

Growling, in addition, such phrases as "Ah!
yes! You're religious, too. You wouldn't put
yourself in opposition to the interests of your

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