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Books without bindings were littered over
it ; bundles of blue-books and ottoman-like
piles of newspapers rose above it.

' Evenin', Perkins,' said Mr Jones,
1 I've brought a clergyman to see you.'

' Then you may take him away again,'
was the polite reply. ' I've nothing to
give, and if I had, I wouldn't.'

1 But he's come to give you something,
Snap. I told him you was sadly in want
of some good advice.'

'Like your impudence, then (to me)
when I'm in want of a parson's advice, sir,
I'll send out and order it, but I don't think
I should send to you, if I ever did want
anything in your line and that ain't
likely to happen whilst I've got my senses.'

' Come, Snap,' said Mr Jones, chuckling
over his success in drawing his new ac-
quaintance out, ' you mustn't be rude,
Snap. Mr B is a great friend of mine.'

1 That don't say much in his favour.'



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 169'

' Doesn't it, Snap ? Why, you're a great
friend of mine too.'

* Am I ? I wasn't aware of it.'

The old waste-dealer began to look so
vicious, in spite of his having had the best
in this passage of words, that I thought it
advisable to put an end to the old men's
chaffing. I apologized to Mr Perkins for
my intrusion, and asked permission to enter
his store to get a nearer view of his curious
stock.

1 Yes, you may come in,' he growled.
' There's nothing to steal that you could
make any use of except some old ser-
mons ; and I'll sell them to you, if you like,
at three-halfpence a pound, because they're
a bit mouldy. There's some divinity
books, but they've got the backs off. I'll
let you have them at trade price. I
wouldn't charge a parson more than I
would a porkman why should I ? Yes, I
would, though if that's what you've come



1 70 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

for, if you think you're going to get bar-
gains, I ain't your man you go and buy
fair of the second-hand book-shops. I ain't
going to undersell 'em. There's some
Greek and Latin books, and French, and
that, but p'r'aps you can't read 'em, though
you are a parson. I know 'em when I see
'em, and it's as likely as not that's about
all you'd know about 'em. Yes, you may
come in if you like.'

It was rather difficult to keep one's
temper in conversation with Mr Perkins,
but, at the same time, it would have been
very absurd to seem ruffled by ' old Snap '
on whose Englishman's castle, after all,
I had intruded. Mr Jones, who had been
amused at first, had become indignant at
his new crony's gratuitous insolence, since
he had been my introducer, and was going
to take up conversational cudgels in my
defence ; but I managed to quiet him.

1 Come in, if you're coming the both



MR JONES'!* FRIEND. 171

of ye,' old Snap very snappishly exclaimed.
' Stop a bit, can't ye ? ' he still more snap-
pishly added, when we were about to ac-
cept his invitation. ' If there's nothing
for you to steal, there's things you can
spoil with your muddy boots. Jones
needn't look as if he'd bite my head off
I didn't ask either of you to come inter-
rupting me in what I was about, you'll
please to remember.'

With legs and arms, whilst he thus
spoke, he ploughed and splashed a cutting
through the paper-drift for us to walk in.
' There's a seat for you,' he said to Jones,
pointing to one new T spaper-ottoman, and
you can sit down there, sir if I must call
you sir,' he said to me, pointing to an-
other. Snap seated himself on a pile of
blue-books, and took rapid puffs at his
pipe, as if anxious to compose himself.
His shrewd bright glancing eyes, coupled
with his unfortunate deformity, gave him



i;2 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

a ludicrous resemblance to a grotesque
caricature of a squirrel smoking, with its
bushy tail showing over its shoulders.

1 And now what is it you've come for?'
Mr Perkins inquired abruptly.

Picking up a copy with the covers off
which lay upon the ground, I asked him if
many Bibles were offered him for sale.

1 Lots,' he answered. i Them and
Testaments, and Prayer-Books, and Hymn-
books, are about the commonest things I
get. Shows how the people value them.
I've read that they used to have to keep
the Bible chained to the desk in churches,
that the folks mightn't prig it. That
seems a queer way of showing you're fond
o' the Bible prigging. Anyhow, Bibles
weren't sold for waste in them days. But
nowadays, when you can get a Bible for
next to nothing, folks think no more of 'em
than they do of a pin. There's sure to be



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 173

a pin lying about somewhere handy, and
so there is a Bible.'

'Well, Snap, ain't that all the better?
You can't have too much of a good thing,'
remarked Mr Jones.

1 That's begging the question, Jones, if
you can understand what I mean. I didn't
say that I thought the Bible a good thing,
or that I didn't. But good or bad, what I
mean to say is, that it would be thought a
deal more on if it wasn't so common. A
herring to my taste is every bit as nice as
salmon what's the reason salmon costs
such a sight more? Because it ain't so



common.'



'"Well, sunlight's common, if salmon
ain't ; and don't we value that ? My birds
do, I know.'

1 I'm riot aware that sunlight is so very
common in this part of the world, except
now and then for a spell, and then folks get



174 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE,

not to think about it, and where there's
always sunshine, I've heard, the folks get
tired of it.'

I asked Mr Perkins what other books
found their way to his warehouse. ' Oh,'
he answered, i there's all sorts, as I was tell-
ing you more than you could read. Reams
of printed stuff I've bought that nobody
ever read except the printers and the feller
that wrote it. Whole lots of poetry that
could never get even a binding on it. Why
will people keep on writing poetry? What's
the good of it ? It don't tell you anything.
And if there was any good in it, wasn't
there enough of it in the world ever so
long ago to satisfy even them that like it ?
You may choke a dog with pudding. My
place I know is sometimes half choked
with poetry books and play books. When
I go to clear out a place, and see there's
poetry in the lot, I tell the folks they
ought to let mo have it a halfpenny a



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 175

pound cheaper than the rest, because
rhymes is such a drug. Of course, that's
my joke, because the paper the poetry's
printed on is about the best I get. It's
mostly thick and looks extra clean because
it hasn't been read, and such a precious
little bit of print goes to the page. It
makes me think of them dumpy wax
candles with the mites of wicks only
there's no light to be got out of the poetry,
you see.'

1 But don't you read any of the books
you git hold of, Snap ? ' said Mr Jones.
'I thought you was a sensibler sort of



a man.'



1 What you thought wouldn't make
much difference, one way or the other,
Jones. I shouldn't have much sense if I
took to reading them poetry books, and
what I'd got would be gone long before
I'd finished. Yes, I do read some of the
books doctors' books and such. There's



176 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

nicish reading in them. I like travels,
too, a bit, and now and then I get hold of
an interesting Life, but mostly they're
about people that nobody ever knew any-
thing about till they was dead, and then
somebody makes 'em out to be the wonder-
fullest people that ever lived.'

1 Do you like history, Mr Perkins ? ' I
inquired.

c No, I don't; though it's often I've to
buy a Goldsmith. I bought a big hist'ry
book once Rollin, or some such name it
was called and I thought I'd read it
through before I sold it. But it was so
precious dry I was choked off before I got
to the end of the first vol. What do I care
about what people did ever so long ago ?
None of 'em ever left me any money.'

1 If we did not know what some one did
ever so long ago, it would be a poor look-
out for you and me and everybody, Mr
Perkins. You will find that you have had



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 177

a legacy left you, if you will but read His
will.'

1 What d'ye mean ? '

I picked up one of the coverless New
Testaments.

* Oh, it's preaching you're after. You
can keep that for Jones ; he likes it, or
shams to. / was talking about hist'ry.
Who's to know that it ain't all a make-up ?
I'd almost as lief read one of them trashy
novels. They do beat me. Why don't
government take up the chaps that writes
'em ? If a cove's paid for telling a pack
of lies in a court, he's took up when he's
found out ; but a feller's paid to tell a pack
of lies in a book, and puts his name to 'em,
as proud as a peacock.'

' You don't think much of authors, do
you, Snap ? ' said grinning Mr Jones.

1 Authors ! They're a precious lot. I
knew one once. He was writing a story
for the Firefly, and gave himself the airs of

VOL. n. 12



1 78 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

a 'toxicated cockrobin. He was going to
be famous, he said, and fame brings for-
tune, the young donkey used to tell me.
He wouldn't have his hair cut, because
he'd seen pictures of chaps in his line with
a lot of hair p'r'aps they couldn't pay the
barber. But the Firefly stopped before it
was half a year old, and he never got a
penny for his rubbishing story. Lots of
periodicals like that I've bought, and great
bundles of half-crown ones too, that are
going on still. If the chaps that write in
them, and the newspaper fellers, too, and
the rest of them authors, could see them-
selves when I've got hold of 'em, p'r'aps
they wouldn't be quite so bumptious. I
sell ? em into captivity, and they're use-
fuller then than they ever were before.
One of 'em wraps up a penn'orth of sugar-
stick, or half a ounce of shag ; and another
a bit of liver, or a pound of eights, or some-
thing of that sort. / oughtn't to grumble



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 179



at authors, they're a good help to me.
The worst book that ever was writ is
worth twopence a pound to me.'

Low as was Mr Perkins's estimate of
literature, he still, like literature-loving
Elia, made biblia abiblia distinctions. Under
the quoted head he included Parliamentary
Papers, missionary notices, and reports of
all kinds. i Oh, I don't count these books,'
he growled, kicking the pile of "blue-books
on which he sat, when I had made some
inquiry about them. ' Presented to both
Houses of Parliament, by command of
Her Majesty I wonder if Parliament says
Thankee! Who reads 'em? But we've
got to pay for the printing. I'd sooner
read Rollin than them. It's like eating
sawdust and putty. And yet, if you'll be-
lieve me, I once found a fairy story in a
blue-book. If I'd found a fairy in it I
couldn't have been startleder.'

Although the cynical conceit of the



i8o EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

old man had amused me, I had been for
some time anxious to give our conversa-
tion a more l edifying ' turn, and fancied
that his last remark afforded me an oppor-
tunity.

' You see, Mr Perkins,' I said, ' it is
possible even for you to form a false
estimate of things. You thought, from
ignorance, that nothing in a blue-book
could possibly interest you. I fear that
from an infinitely more deplorable ignor-
ance, you have formed a similar opinion
in reference to an infinitely more import-
ant book one that you buy and sell for
waste-paper, but never read for your soul's
good.'

I had made a false move, and old Snap
was instantly down upon me.

' Who said the fairy-story pleased me ?
I thought it silly nonsense. And who are
you, to talk about my deplorable ignor-
ance ? I expect I make pretty nigh as



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 181

much a week as you do more, p'r'aps,
when trade is brisk. And I work for my
living, and use my wits. You change
places with me, and see if you'd make as
much as I do. Now I could do your work
to-morrow, if I could only put on a solemn
face. I could read the prayers, and I've
got a lot of old sermons. I ain't sure
though that I could poke myself into places
where I wasn't asked, and talk as if I was
a saint, and know all the time I wasn't.'
Here he paused, but before I could say
anything he went on again :

' I may have my own opinions, but
they ain't any concern of yours ; and yours
ain't any concern of mine, I'd have you
know. It's a free country, they say. I
don't know so much about that, but, at any
rate, men as thinks for themselves, and
tries hard to earn a honest living, ain't
going to have opinions poked down their
throats like pills, by lazy parsons. You



1 82 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE,

ain't spriest. There's some sense in them
Kornan fellers riding the high horse, be-
cause they believe, or make believe to
believe, that they've got hold of what's the
Truth, and no mistake about it ; but you
English parsons talk about the right of
private judgment, and I'm a-going to ex-
ercise it.'

The old man was so wrathful in his
rudeness, that I thought any argument-
ative reply just then would be merely
adding fuel to flames.

' I am afraid, Mr Perkins,' I said, i that
I have intruded on you when you were
busy. May I call again when you have
more leisure, and hear something more
about your trade ? '

Mr Jones, however, struck in, in a
very different key.

' You ought to be ashamed of yourself,
Snap. But that's always the way with
you. Git you up in a corner, and you fly



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 1 83

at a body as wicious as a rat. The fact is,
Snap, you're afraid of argeyment, and
when anybody begins it when you're in
your own house, you bully because it is
your own house. It ain't such a palace
that it's a punishment to be druv out of it.'

It was rather droll to hear this speech
from the whilom l argeyment '-shying Mr
Jones ; but it took instant effect upon Mr
Perkins.

' I ain't driving anybody out of niy
house,' he said. ' I didn't ask you to come,
nor your parson either, but you're both of
ye welcome to stay as long as you like. I
ain't put in any corner, so far as / see.'

'Ah, now you're quieting down I've
got a tame rat at home, you know, Snap,'
said mischievous Mr Jones.

'You're a rat yourself,' was old
Snap's spiteful retort. l You didn't use to
be a saint, I've heard, but now you want
to creep up the parson's sleeve.'



1 84 EPISODES /A AN OBSCURE LIFE.

To put a stop once more to the old
men's sparring, I thought the most sensible
thing for us to do would be to retire ; but
Mr Jones would not consent to this.

1 Don't you go, sir,' he said ; ' if you
do, Snap will brag for a week that he druv
me and the parson away because we
couldn't answer him. Don't you stir, sir.'

1 But suppose I say you shall go,'
growled Mr Perkins. 1 1 pay my own rent,
and so I've a right to my own rooms, and
I owe no rent, and so if you was bum-
bailiffs, I could order you off.'

' Of course, Mr Perkins,' I put in,
1 we've no right to stay, if you wish us to
go ; but I should like to part good friends,
and I want to hear a little more about your
business, if you've no objection.'

1 Well, you know how to behave your-
self better than Jones though that ain't
saying much. I've no objection to your
staying a bit longer you ain't so much in



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 185

the way ; for I've nothing particular to do
to-night. What is it more you want to
hear ? '

1 1 think you said something about the
stories that might be made out of the law-
yers' briefs you buy I suppose you fall in
with other papers that have histories in
them.'

( Yes, some comical hist'ries I've come
across in my time, but then the people are
all dead years ago, or gone across the sea
nobody knows where, and so it don't
matter who reads about them. Old account
books I buy, and they tell tales: Ladies,
nor gentlemen either, wouldn't like every-
body to know the things they get booked
to them. And what good have they done
them at last ? They're rotting in their
graves, with the worms crawling in and
out of their eye-holes, for all the stuff they
bought to make fools think them pretty.
The bad debts, too, I've found out ! What



1 86 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

I've give for the books is all the money
that was ever got out of a good many of
the accounts in 'em. I'm fond of reading
them account-books, though it did all hap-
pen so long ago. It's improving reading
it opens a man's eyes. Though to be sure,
a rnan must be a born fool himself if the
light of natur' didn't teach him that most
folks is either rogues or fools, and the rest
of 'em a little of both.'

' Some folks, p'r'aps, is a good bit of
both, Snap,' was Mr Jones's satirical com-
ment.

' Well, you ought to know about that,
Jones,' was Mr Perkins's courteous retort.

' Anyhow,' rejoined Mr Jones, ' I don't
believe in that kind of talk now. When
I hear a man makin' out that everybody
else is a rogue or a fool, my belief is that
he's measuring his neighbours' corn with
his own two bushels.'

* I wasn't talking to you, Jones I was



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 187

talking to the parson. Speak when you're
spoken to. Jones may say what he likes,
but if there's no rogues nor fools in the
world, who writes the letters I get hold of
sometimes, and who reads 'em ? Now
here's a comical collection.'

So speaking, he took up a packet of
lankily oblong epistles of the pre-penny
postage time many of them densely
crossed. Some of them were splashed with
sealing-wax l kisses.'

' If there'd been more of 'em,' he said,
as he scornfully turned the letters over with
his pipe-stem, ' I'd have had the seals off
before I bought them, for the wax weighs
heavier than the paper, I should say ; but
they was only thrown in just to make up a
lot I bought at a lawyer's. I suppose it
was some breach of promise case. There's
letters from the silly young girl, and from
the chap that was spoony on her. He
was tremendous spoony at first, but he



1 88 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

gets sharp enough when he's had his will,
and the silly young woman keeps on writ-
ing to him as if there wasn't such another
lover in the world. " Only put a little more
love into your letters," says she. " I know
it is in your heart, and it is such a comfort
to me, Arnold, to get kind words from you
the only kind words I care about now
for I am very lonely, and should be very
sad if I did not look forward to our living
together soon, oh, so happily ! Be sure I
will never injure you with your parents,
my precious pet, but they don't see your
letters, so please make them more as you
used to talk, my own sweet Arnold.' My
precious pet, my own sweet Arnold ! and yet
Jones says there ain't rogues and fools in
the world. There's letters from the silly
young woman's mother, and the chap's
parents and relations, and all sorts of peo-
ple. It's a queer kettle o' fish to be all
put together in one bundle. I should like



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 189

to know what the girl thinks of her chap
now if they're both of 'em alive. If she's
got good damages and she'daright to 'em,
I suppose I'll be bound she didn't break
her heart about her sweet Arnold. It's
humbug all through, is life, whatever Jones
may say sometimes you humbugs, and
sometimes you're humbugged.'

' And you think God created us for
that ? '

' I said nothing about being created, or
what we was created for, what I say is
that everything's humbug, more or less,
and if it wasn't not exactly comfortable
to think of what may happen to you when
you tumble into the next world, if there is
one, I often feel so sick of this that I
should be glad to be out of it.'

'Well, if there ain't a next world,
Snap,' moralized Mr Jones, ( I don't see
that dying would do you much good. If
you was just nothing at all, how could you



190 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

tell that you was better off? And if there
is a next world, according to your way of
talking, you don't seem by any means
sure that you'd get the good part of it,
though you are too good for this world.
It's bosh growling at the world your way.
You try to make it a bit better instead of
growling at it. There's plenty of room for
improvement in it, I don't deny ; but it's
my belief, Snap, if you was to try to do
some of the improvement, you'd find you'd
such a lot to do in your own self that you'd
begin to doubt whether you was quite a
proper judge about other folk's badness.
Put that in your pipe, old boy, and smoke
it. Good-night, Snap ; we'll be going now,
sir, if it's convenient.'

So saying Mr Jones put on his hat and
walked out of the room, and when I had
bidden Mr Perkins good evening, I fol-
lowed.

1 1 think I've given Snap a pill,' said Mr



MR JONES'S FRIEND. 191

Jones when we got into the street, { and I
'ope it'll do him good. You'll excuse
me, sir, but you're a bit too mealy-
mouthed with such as him. I know
you was with me. Such chaps want to
have the conceit knocked out of 'em. If
you're civil to 'em, they think it's becos
they're so mighty clever that you're afraid
to tackle 'em. You should let 'em see that
other folks don't think they've half a quar-
ter of the sense they're so proud on.'



192



IX.

MR JONES'S CUSTOMER.

THROUGH my acquaintance with Mi-
Jones, I became acquainted with a far more
agreeable person to spend an hour with
than Mr Perkins. I was in the bird-seller's
1 Russian Herby ' one evening, chatting
with the old man, whilst Fred gravely got
up his next day's lessons in a chair over
which I had often seen him clambering in
the days of poor Black Pete, when the bell
hung on the shop-door tinkled, and a slim,
sensible-looking man came in and knocked
with his knuckles on the counter. The



MR JONES'S CUSTOMER. 193

bell and the knocking so excited the noisy
portion of Mr Jones's stock that I could
not hear a word of the conversation which
followed between him and his customer.

' That's a very decent feller,' said Mr
Jones, when he came back, l and used to
make a very decent living. He's like most
folks now, though, poor chap 'ard put to
it orfen, and then he's a score and more of
mouths to fill, whether he's got anything
for his own or not.'

1 You don't mean to say that the poor
man has such a family as that ! '

'Yes, I do, sir,' answered Mr Jones,
laughing, l and as well-behaved a family
as you'd wish to see. It's a 'Appy Family
beasts and birds, you know, sir and a
good thing he used to make of it. I've
heard him say that when he first started,
he could clear his 2 or 3 a week easy,
and now sometimes he don't take as much
in a clay as it costs him to feed his things.

VOL. II. 13



194 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

The chap that started them 'Appy Fami-
lies, Crook says, minted money by his at
first, but he was poor enough before he
died. Partly the novelty was wore off,
and then he'd been copied by so many.'

' But isn't it the same all round ? Go
where you will, you find that poor people
haven't the pennies to spare they used to
have.'

1 That's the story everybody I come
acrost tells me ; though, mind you, sir, I
don't believe all I hear about the lots they
used to git. I've noticed that when things
is taper with a chap, he gits a queer kind of
pleasure out of tryin' to make folks believe
that he was uncommon well off ever so
long ago or if he worn't somebody as be-
longed to him was.'

' Are you talking of your friend now ? '

1 No, he's a very worthy feller a real
good feller, I believe and I think you'd,
too, sir, if you knew him, though he ain't



MR JONES'S CUSTOMER. 195

much of a church-goer. There's a verse
he's very fond of quotin' out of a poetry-
book he's got 'old of :

" He prayeth best who loveth best

All things, both great and small ;
For the dear God that loveth us,
He made and loveth all."

He don't quote the lines about himself, but
they fit him to a T. He's as fond of his
things as if they was his own flesh and
blood a deal fonder than some folks is of
their flesh and blood.'

1 But is it only birds and beasts that he
cares for ? '

* No, man, woman, nor child he won't
see put upon, if he can help it, quiet-
spoken though he be. He's a nateral lean-
in' to make friends with them of all sorts
as wants a friend, and most folk's leanin',
I'm afraid, is jest the other way. Friends
is like flies for the most part they go
buzzin' in swarms wherever there's most
to be got.'



196 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

Seeing that I dissented from his sweep-
ing assertion, he went on

'You needn't shake your 'ead at me,
sir. Don't the Bible say, " men will praise
thee, when thou doest well to thyself?"
I should like you to know Crook, sir.'

1 Does he come here often ? '

1 Every now and then he wants some-
thing in my way seed, or a fresh bird, or
so on and so I git a chat with him.


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