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Sketches by Boz. Charles Dickens

Chance threw the man in our way a short time since. We were, in the first instance, attracted by his prepossessing impudence at the election; we were not surprised, on further acquaintance, to find him a shrewd, knowing fellow, with no inconsiderable power of observation; and, after conversing with him a little, were somewhat struck (as we dare say our readers have frequently been in other cases) with the power some men seem to have, not only of sympathising with, but to all appearance of understanding feelings to which they themselves are entire strangers. We had been expressing to the new functionary our surprise that he should ever have served in the capacity to which we have just adverted, when we gradually led him into one or two professional anecdotes. As we are induced to think, on reflection, that they will tell better in nearly his own words, than with any attempted embellishments of ours, we will at once entitle them.


′It′s very true, as you say, sir,′ Mr. Bung commenced, ′that a broker′s man′s is not a life to be envied; and in course you know as well as I do, though you don′t say it, that people hate and scout ′em because they′re the ministers of wretchedness, like, to poor people. But what could I do, sir? The thing was no worse because I did it, instead of somebody else; and if putting me in possession of a house would put me in possession of three and sixpence a day, and levying a distress on another man′s goods would relieve my distress and that of my family, it can′t be expected but what I′d take the job and go through with it. I never liked it, God knows; I always looked out for something else, and the moment I got other work to do, I left it. If there is anything wrong in being the agent in such matters—not the principal, mind you—I′m sure the business, to a beginner like I was, at all events, carries its own punishment along with it. I wished again and again that the people would only blow me up, or pitch into me—that I wouldn′t have minded, it′s all in my way; but it′s the being shut up by yourself in one room for five days, without so much as an old newspaper to look at, or anything to see out o′ the winder but the roofs and chimneys at the back of the house, or anything to listen to, but the ticking, perhaps, of an old Dutch clock, the sobbing of the missis, now and then, the low talking of friends in the next room, who speak in whispers, lest "the man" should overhear them, or perhaps the occasional opening of the door, as a child peeps in to look at you, and then runs half-frightened away—it′s all this, that makes you feel sneaking somehow, and ashamed of yourself; and then, if it′s wintertime, they just give you fire enough to make you think you′d like more, and bring in your grub as if they wished it ′ud choke you—as I dare say they do, for the matter of that, most heartily. If they′re very civil, they make you up a bed in the room at night, and if they don′t, your master sends one in for you; but there you are, without being washed or shaved all the time, shunned by everybody, and spoken to by no one, unless some one comes in at dinner-time, and asks you whether you want any more, in a tone as much to say, "I hope you don′t," or, in the evening, to inquire whether you wouldn′t rather have a candle, after you′ve been sitting in the dark half the night.

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