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Sketches by Boz. Charles Dickens

This gentleman wants an assistant to clean the plate and wait at table to-day, and if you′re not particularly engaged," says old Fixem, grinning like mad, and shoving a couple of suverins into my hand, "he′ll be very glad to avail himself of your services." Well, I laughed: and the gentleman laughed, and we all laughed; and I went home and cleaned myself, leaving Fixem there, and when I went back, Fixem went away, and I polished up the plate, and waited at table, and gammoned the servants, and nobody had the least idea I was in possession, though it very nearly came out after all; for one of the last gentlemen who remained, came down-stairs into the hall where I was sitting pretty late at night, and putting half-a-crown into my hand, says, "Here, my man," says he, "run and get me a coach, will you?" I thought it was a do, to get me out of the house, and was just going to say so, sulkily enough, when the gentleman (who was up to everything) came running down-stairs, as if he was in great anxiety. "Bung," says he, pretending to be in a consuming passion. "Sir," says I. "Why the devil an′t you looking after that plate?"—"I was just going to send him for a coach for me," says the other gentleman. "And I was just a-going to say," says I—"Anybody else, my dear fellow," interrupts the master of the house, pushing me down the passage to get out of the way— "anybody else; but I have put this man in possession of all the plate and valuables, and I cannot allow him on any consideration whatever, to leave the house. Bung, you scoundrel, go and count those forks in the breakfast-parlour instantly." You may be sure I went laughing pretty hearty when I found it was all right. The money was paid next day, with the addition of something else for myself, and that was the best job that I (and I suspect old Fixem too) ever got in that line.

′But this is the bright side of the picture, sir, after all,′ resumed Mr. Bung, laying aside the knowing look and flash air, with which he had repeated the previous anecdote—′and I′m sorry to say, it′s the side one sees very, very seldom, in comparison with the dark one. The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none; and there′s a consolation even in being able to patch up one difficulty, to make way for another, to which very poor people are strangers. I was once put into a house down George′s-yard—that little dirty court at the back of the gas- works; and I never shall forget the misery of them people, dear me! It was a distress for half a year′s rent—two pound ten, I think. There was only two rooms in the house, and as there was no passage, the lodgers up-stairs always went through the room of the people of the house, as they passed in and out; and every time they did so— which, on the average, was about four times every quarter of an hour—they blowed up quite frightful: for their things had been seized too, and included in the inventory. There was a little piece of enclosed dust in front of the house, with a cinder-path leading up to the door, and an open rain-water butt on one side. A dirty striped curtain, on a very slack string, hung in the window, and a little triangular bit of broken looking-glass rested on the sill inside. I suppose it was meant for the people′s use, but their appearance was so wretched, and so miserable, that I′m certain they never could have plucked up courage to look themselves in the face a second time, if they survived the fright of doing so once.

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Overall 325 pages


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