Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Episodes in an Obscure Life, by Richard Rowe, 1871 - XXIX - My Greengrocer

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[-349-]

XXIX.

MY GREENGROCER.

SOME people write and talk as if the mere fact of a man's having to work hard made him an object of pity. I have no sympathy with such maudlin laziness. There is scarcely any one in any rank of life, really worth calling a man, who has not to work hard. A navvy works hard, a puddler works hard, but I doubt whether, even in the matter of physical endurance, they work as hard as a successful lawyer or a conscientious Cabinet minister with the settlement of the Irish Question on his mind. All four like their work, according to their various fashions. They are proud of their power of working, and enjoy its remuneration in the shape of superior wages, huge retaining fees and refreshers, professional reputation, social honour, historical fame achieved before the winner has had the chance of learning from his own experience how hollow a delight historical renown may possibly be to [-350-] those of its possessors already, in the literal, dead-and-buried sense, historical; &c., &c. Men highly-paid, in any sense, for their piece-work, very probably, get far less pleasure out of life than they might, if they were not quite so eager to tax their powers to the uttermost; but that is their own look-out. Very possibly, too, such pleasure as they do get, after the first delicious taste of it, may not seem half as delicious as they fancied it would be, when they first girded up their loins, literally or metaphorically, for their various struggles; but highly-paid, successful skilled workers are not the only people in the world doomed to find that, however hard they may work, realized facts do not correspond with Fancy's dreams about such facts. It is when men, women, and children - a great many of them manifestly too weak for the work they have undertaken (humble enough though it may be) - have, nevertheless, to toil on at that work (unless they would become grudgingly-fed paupers, or at once consent to die,-after all, at the parish's expense), without any hope of a brighter earthly morrow, and for present pay that cannot secure them the sufficient food, drink, clothing, and shelter of which the lower, the lowest, animals are generally sure until their death comes it is under such circumstances that hard work becomes a proper object for pity. Work, per se, is a blessing rather than a curse for man. How miserable people who have nothing to do, which they feel they must do, generally are Upper-class triflers, I fancy, submit to what seem to outsiders like myself Society's' frequently idiotically labour-exacting requirements, because they find some [-351-] comfort, in their lack of anything real to do, in trying to believe that they are under a moral obligation to obey those labour-exacting requirements. The retired shopkeeper grows weary of his retirement, and goes back, under the excuse of its being a busy time for the new corner, to the shop whose 'overwhelming custom' was the reason why he disposed of it - takes off his coat, borrows an apron, and serves 'for love' behind the counter. If the thousands of poor in whose midst I live, and have lived for years,- some of them, doubtless, lazy enough, but the majority of them hard-workers at 'starvation-wages,' or, worse still, seekers-in-vain for work that would win such wages - if these poor creatures could only obtain work that would give them something like decent support, coupled with a hope of being able to improve the conditions of life for themselves and their children, in however modest a progression, I would not care how hard they worked - within bounds of reason. It is the hopelessness of East End labour - the typical bulk of it - that makes it so depressing a spectacle. The East End, of course, houses many honest earners of high wages, and also dishonest winners of precarious but occasionally very considerable gains - the latter kind of exceptional pecuniosity, it is almost needless to say, only makes the general spectacle the more depressing. But the people I am referring to constitute the bulk of the population of many a district in the East End - the ill-fed, ill-clad, ill-housed men, women, and children who try, according to their lights, to earn an 'honest living' by fingers, limbs, backs, and voices, and, after all their trouble, get only enough to en-[-352-]able them to work again next day for their sorry, charm less, temper-souring 'livelihood,' whilst some of them look upon even such a livelihood as 'easy circumstances' beyond their reach.
    Theoretically, of course, the son of the poorest man in England can be raised to the House of Lords, as Lord Chancellor or Archbishop of Canterbury - if only he has wit enough, and can get the other necessary preliminary qualifications. The theory is indisputable, and, often as it has been laughed at, is still occasionally aired at Charity Dinners, with great complacency, by genuinely excellent old and middle-aged gentlemen breathing forth universal benevolence, and hope for everybody, from comfortable, well-fed, decorously wine-scented lips.
    But I do not think that any East End clergyman - anxious to convince his poor that they had a chance in this life as well as the next - ever used that theory as an argument. If he did, I can imagine the apathetic disregard, or the fierce disdain, which his prophecy of smooth things met with.
    Under these circumstances it is a great relief to stumble now and then on an East End struggler who has honestly worked his way to competence.
    My greengrocer is now a well-to-do man, who could buy his clergyman up a dozen times over. He is a churchwarden, keeps his horse and chaise, and on Sundays wears a 'chimney-pot' hat, a suit of glossy black broadcloth, enlivened in summer with a spotless white waistcoat, and a handsome gold watch and chain. He is often spoken of deferentially as Mr Mixon, but I re-[-353-]member him when he was only known as Civil Sam, and was too poor even to keep a donkey. He is as civil and as right-principled now as he was then, and, therefore, it has been a pleasure to watch him expanding into his present portly proportions, commercial and personal.
    When but a mere boy, Sam, who was then very small as well as young, found himself under the necessity of picking up a living as best he could in London streets. Paved with gold, according to the old childish belief, they certainly prove, in a secondary sense, to some lucky adventurers; but the bits of orange-peel with which they are littered are the nearest approach to gold which those who have to make London pavements their place of business generally find upon them.
    However, there was nothing very particular in Sam's having to turn out to get his living in London streets - hundreds of children have to do the like. What was exceptional in his case was that the parents whose death had sent him adrift, had never soured his naturally sunny disposition by ill-usage, and if they had done little else for him, they had taught him that dishonesty in word or deed was a despicable thing.
    Sam soon had his principles put to the test. When the young vagrants who prowl in London streets see another lad as friendless as themselves, wandering about like them, shyly creeping into their night-resting-places, but yet not otherwise adopting their mode of life, they are very anxious to make him altogether just such a one as themselves. This feeling may, perhaps, partly spring from the spirit of proselytism that prevails in all grades of [-354-] life - the desire people of all kinds have that all whom they come in contact with shall adopt their views, and tar themselves, whether for better or worse, with their brush. But the young Arabs, I fancy, are partly actuated by a less selfish feeling than this. In their ignorance, for which they are not responsible, they think that it would be a kind thing to teach the novice to steal. They pity him in their rough way because he has to share with them the 'hard lines' of street life, without enjoying any of the alleviations which they can make it yield. Sam went with his new friends - glad enough at first of their company-in their slinking rambles about the markets and the shops that displayed small easily-portable portions of bacon, &c., on slabs outside. The Arabs were not altogether disinterested in their kindness. They wished to utilize Sam's innocent face, and soon informed him that they would not continue to give him grub, if he was ungrateful enough not to employ his natural advantages for the purpose of slipping up unsuspected and carrying off the articles which they directed him how to appropriate. Sam was grateful for the grub, but still he would not obey his young tutors' instructions. He said that it wasn't honest to steal-father and mother had told him so; and then his new instructors derided him in chorus as a 'b— flat.' That was a hard imputation for a boy to bear, but Sam still stuck to his principles. But when his comrades went on to taunt him as a coward, Sam at last lost his temper. Such behaviour, he thought, cancelled the obligation under which he lay for grub. 'I couldn't 'elp pitchin' into one on 'em, sir,' Sam long afterwards  [-355-] told me, 'and I licked him, though he were 'alf a 'ead taller than me. I didn't want 'em to think that I worn't game to do a thing, if it was only right to do it.'
    After that pugilistic vindication of the principles of honesty, Sam's tempters regarded him with a surly kind of respect; but they parted company with him, and he was very lonely.
    One bleak November day, Sam was wandering along the bleak Whitechapel Road, wondering how he was to earn a penny, when he saw an old gentleman on horseback, who was looking about as . if he wanted somebody to hold his horse. Sam ran up to him just as he stopped before a door, and, touching his tattered cap, proffered his services.
    'You don't look as if you could be trusted,' said the old gentleman, when he had dismounted.
    'Yes, sir, I can,' answered Sam, sturdily.
    'Well, take hold of the bridle, then, and just walk him up and down; but mind, there'll be somebody looking out of the window at you all the time.'
    In about a quarter of an hour, the old gentleman came out of the house again, in a very bad temper.
    'Oh, you haven't run aw-ay, then,' he said, when Sam brought the horse up to the pavement for him-speaking almost as if he felt aggrieved at the non-justification of his suspicions. 'There's sixpence for you.'
    So having said, he put half a sovereign into Sam's hand, mounted, and ambled off. When Sam found that he had got gold in his hand, he felt sure that a mistake had been made, and rushed after the old gentleman,  [-356-] shouting, 'Hi, sir! Stop, sir!' But the old gentleman had been ruffled by his visit, and so merely turning round to shake his whip, and growl, 'You saucy young rascal! Sixpence was a deal too much,' he put his heels into his horse's sides, and urged him into a trot. But Sam put on extra steam, seized the old gentleman's off-leg, and holding up the half-sovereign, panted out- 'You guv me this, sir!'
    The old gentleman reined up when he saw the gleam of gold.
    'Hey, hey,' he said  - 'don't believe I did. Never made a mistake about money in my life. Yet I must, or how could you have got it? No, I didn't. I'm up to your tricks. It's brass, and you want to be paid for shamming honest. No, it isn't,' the old man added, when he had examined the coin, and, to make assurance doubly sure, had found that a half-sovereign was lacking in the pinch of change he took out of his waistcoat-pocket. 'Well, there's sixpence for you now - and, after all, it's more than you've earned. I suppose, though, you'll expect me to give you something extra; so - give me back the sixpence - here's a shilling for you.'
    'Thankee, sir. I'm wery much obliged,' said Sam, touching his cap again, and turning away.
    'Hi, boy, stop! What do you mean by going away like that? I suppose I must let you have the sixpence too. If you'd kept the half-sovereign, you'd have had nine and sixpence that you'd no kind of right to, and a bad conscience; now you've a shilling that you've really no right to, and an easy mind -and that must be worth a good   [-357-] bit more than the other eight shillings. It's a bad plan - a very bad plan - paying people to be honest in that fashion. People ought to do what's right without a premium. However, you must keep it now that you have got it. Good-bye, boy. Be honest next time without thinking you'll get paid for it;' and the old gentleman trotted off, leaving the possessor of an 'easy mind' also in delighted possession of a capital of eighteenpence.
    'The old gent were a bit of a screw, I fancy,' was Sam's comment on this story; 'and he won't fair, besides, because I didn't want him to give me nuffink; but I see there was sense in what he said. Father and mother used to say jest the same - on'y they said it in a nicer sort o' way.' 
    At the lodging-house, at which Sam slept that night, he heard some of his fellow-lodgers talking about what they had made by 'working sprats.'
    'Sprats was jest in, you see, sir,' Sam explained to me. 'They comes in with the Lord Mayor. Some says that it ain't lawful to eat 'em till he's 'ad fust feed off 'em at his feast. That's nonsense, in course; but he might go furder and fare wuss. Fried sprats of a cold night is as tasty and as fillin' a meal as a man 'ad need to 'ave. Folks says it's wulgar to eat 'em; but I don't care about that. I'm wulgar myself though, thank God, I can keep a banker now-a-days. And where'll you see a prettier fish than them plump little silver things? Them as turns up their noses at 'em when they're sprats, becos they're so common that down in Essex they uses 'em for muck, relishes the sprats, I've heard, when they're turned into [-358-] anchovies and sardines. It's queer that folks can't believe their own mouths, but must wait for other folks to tell 'em what it's proper to say a thing tastes like.'
    On the morning after that night's sojourn in the lodging-house, Sam invested part of his capital in a basket, and another in a joint-purchase at Billingsgate of a 'chuck' of sprats; and on sprats he managed to make a living until the season was over.
    Afterwards he engaged himself to a costermonger as 'barker;' and the costermonger, I have no doubt, was very glad to get so shrill-voiced, sharp-eyed, industrious, civil, a little barker. He had no objection either to Sam's honesty, when he reaped the benefit of it. Sam could be trusted not to take a penny more than his fair 'bunse,' when left to sell off his master's remnant stock; but he could not anyhow be got to tell his master's customers what he knew to be lies. He unconsciously meted and weighed out to them many a lie in fruit and vegetables, before he was initiated into the mystery of 'slang' weights and measures - half-pound weights beaten out to look like pound-weights, quart-measures with bottoms so thick as only to hold a pint and a half, &c. When he was initiated, Sam set up his back. 'Why, you young gonoph,' reasoned his master, 'the shopkeepers does it, and charges full prices; and hain't we a right to, when we sells thinx cheap at people's wery doors? They charges ye more for the slangs than they does for the t'others, so, ye see, the slangs is the superior article, Sam,' added the master, hoping to muddle and muzzle his barker with his joke; but Sam was not to be muddled or muzzled. If shop-[-359-]keepers did what was mean, that was no reason why he should have a hand in doing what was mean too.
    'I was sorry to leave old Ted,' Mr Mixon informed me. 'I was gittin' used to him, and him and his old woman had treated me uncommon well, and he'd put me up to thinx in the way o' business that was of use to me, and said he'd make a man of me. The costers and the costers' women is often wery kind to their boys. It's their hinterest in course, but, let alone that, I'd taken a likin' to old Ted. But I worn't goin' to do what I knew was wrong. 'Tworn't much I knew about right and wrong in them days, but I knew this much, that it couldn't be right to take the money for a pound o' taties, an' on'y give 'alf a pound. "Well," says Ted, "well, Sam," says he, "if you won't stay, I can't make ye, and there's lots o' boys I can 'ave my pick out on. But some 'ow I'd rather you'd stayed on - you've a way with ye the women like. You're a flat, Sam, for all you seem so sharp sometimes. If you think you're a-goin' to make a livin' on the square, I wish you may git it, my tulip! 'Tain't to be done, Sam. I don't doubt you'll sell, an' you'll be sold, too ;- them as buys of you will think ye b— perlitefui, an' then they'll laugh at ye, Sam. But I don't bear malice, Sam. If you wants to start on your own hook - that's what it comes to, I s'pose - I'll lend ye a trifle for stockmoney. I don't doubt you'll pay me back, though I can't tumble to your barrikin. I wish your old father and mother 'ad been furder. Much good they got by keepin' on the square. I'd a' made a man on ye, Sam. '
    Accordingly, Sam did start as a costermonger on his [-360-] 'own hook'  - and he was only a little younger than many a coster-lad who does the same. When still children, so far as years go, the young male costers take lodgings and female helpmates, and the young couples labour for the common living with a persistent, often cheerful, industry, that makes a feeling of half-respect temper one's shuddering regret that they should have been united so early, and in such a heathenish way. The poor girls claim the larger amount of our pity. They are generally true to their unfaithful little tyrants, who, nevertheless, are brutally jealous. The girls work even harder than the boys, but the small 'master of the house' spends the lion's share of the common earnings on smart Sunday dress, drink, gambling, 'sport,' and 'twopenny hops,' and threepenny theatre-galleries, to which the soon despised mistress is often only taken as a special favour.
    Acute after a fashion, as pugilistic as game-cocks, law- defying, hard-working, often very cruel, very ignorant, and yet, in spite of their frequent brutality - of course I am describing a class in broad lines that do not admit of delicate shading - grateful for kindness, generally staunch friends to their fellows when in distress, and kind to the ponies and donkeys they drive, although sometimes they punch the heads of the women they live with; blurting out, moreover, in their dealings with the non-costermonger world, startling opinions as to the 'rights of things' - take 'em all round, the costermongers seem to me an independently peculiar people, piquantly inviting to those who need a peculiar people to stimulate their desire - to make their fellow-creatures zealous of good works. Civil [-361-] Sam was, however, an exceptional costermonger. He had taken to the business quite young enough to become an expert buyer and salesman; but still he had not been brought up in the traditions of the fraternity, and continued civil and honest after he had become a costermonger.
    'Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem
    Testa diu.'
At first it seemed as if old Ted's prediction in reference to the impossibility of making a living 'on the square' would be fulfilled in Sam's case. He had to borrow capital at an interest of more than a thousand per cent. per annum. Before he could save money enough to buy a barrow, he had to pay a good deal more than its cost for the use of the one he hired. He would not palm off stinking fish on drunken people, half-fill a strawberry pottle with crushed leaves, mix bad apples and cherries with good, and then sell them as if all good; prick his oranges, boil his oranges and plums; or use a weight or measure that could not have stood the periodical inspection, which made a good many of the shopkeepers - who looked down upon Sam as a low character - tremble. His fellow costers could not make him out. He did not care for beer, or boxing, or running, or skittles, or cards, or tossing, or 'hops,' or dog-fighting, or rat-killing, or pigeon~fancying, or assisting as an outsider at the Red House and Hornsey Wood pigeon-matches. Sam sometimes went, on business, to the metropolitan racecourses; occasionally he recreated himself in his sober fashion, at [-362-] the theatre; like most costermongers, he abstained from work and dressed smart on Sundays. But then Sam went to church! and Sam never swore! He never preached, except in the way of example; but his mates, nevertheless, called him the Parson. He was a mystery to them. Some said that he was a 'gallus soft,' and some that he was a sneaking spy. Sam would have been sent to Coventry by his mates, had it not been for the sour kind of respect which they could not help feeling for him, in spite of the opprobrious terms in which they characterized him behind his back; for Sam, though honest and inoffensive, was keen, and an 'ugly customer' when any one attempted to ride rough-shod over him, and likewise for the hearty way in which he not only joined them in the 'raffles,' &c., got up for distressed members of the brotherhood, but also - when he had begun to save money, diminished his earnings, without any chance of personal benefit - for costers who had 'come to grief.' Precarious gains and improvident habits make such cases of distress very common amongst London street-sellers. It is said that three continuous days of downpouring rain in London will bring ten thousand times as many street-sellers very near to the verge of starvation.
    But I am anticipating matters. Sam gradually advanced from the 'prickle' and the 'shallow' and the head-basket to the hired hand-barrow, and so on to the owned barrow - dealing in the strange variety of produce which London markets supply to the versatile commercial genius of London street distributors. Flowers 'all a-blowing, all a-growing;' rhubarb, radishes, potatoes, onions, lettuces, [-363-] green peas, summer cabbages, scarlet runners, French beans, broad beans, colliflow-vers,' 'cow-cumbers,' sweet herbs, Brussels sprouts; the rich variety of English fruits, English cobnuts and walnuts; Turkey filberts, Brazil nuts, Barcelona nuts, cocoa-nuts; almonds and raisins, oranges and lemons, dates, figs, Peninsular grapes purchased, packed in sawdust, from Duke's Place, pines from the West Indies, bananas from Madeira; fish, wet and dry, from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Norway; hearthstone, great slabs of salt - these were some of the articles in which Sam dealt. Whatever was the article, Sam tried to supply his customers with the best specimen of it he could fairly offer at the price he asked, and always gave full weight and measure.
    'A knave is only a fool with a circumbendibus,' says Coleridge; 'honesty, after all, is the best policy,' the old man admitted, who also confessed that he had 'tried both ways.' Sam's pleasant face and civil tongue did something towards securing him a constantly increasing round of regular customers, but his fairness of dealing did more. He sometimes charged a little more than other costermongers charged, and therefore lost some customers amongst those who held the too prevalent, very idiotic belief that mere absolute lowness of price constitutes cheapness; but a good many people soon learnt that both Sam and his goods could be trusted; and his 'connection' widened like a circle in water. Whilst old Ted, who had confidently prophesied Sam's failure, was still painfully propelling a hand-barrow, Sam was able to go to 'Smiffle Races,' - i.e., the cattle market, on Friday after-[-364-]noon, and purchase a smart donkey, and the donkey was soon superseded by a still handsomer little fast-trotting pony. The harness was brass-mounted, and Sam kept the brass so brightly polished, the leather so neatly black, the fast-trotter so sleek and conscientiously groomed, the knowing-looking little cart so clean and gaily painted,- and the driver, moreover, was always so spruce and 'civil spoken,' that Sam was regarded as an 'eligible young man' by the sprucest servants in the shopless streets which constituted the, comparatively, 'genteel' portion of Sam's 'connection.' They would have turned up their noses at most costermongers, even if the costermongers had been disposed to persecute them with matrimonial addresses, but they did not call Sam a costermonger. As soon as he reined up the fast-trotter before their doors, they would run in to their mistresses with a 'Please'm, the general dealer has called - what do we want to-day, mum?' Sam was almost as great a favourite, in a different way, with the mistresses as he was with the maids. He was commissioned to procure geese for Michaelmas Day, turkeys for Christmas Day, fowls for other special occasions, and fruit and fish and vegetables that he did not keep in stock, for invalids; and he always supplied articles both so cheap and so good that the unconscionable mistresses made him a 'general dealer' on their behalf for all kinds of things that were utterly out of his line. 'There was one lady as got me to buy a cradle for her, and another a warming-pan,' said grinning Sam.
    Sam married one of the nattiest of the maid-servants, and took her to preside over the coals-and-greens shed of [-365-] which he had become the proprietor. A coals-and-green shed is the ne plus ultra of most costermongers ambition, but it was not to be the limit of Sam's success. At first he left his wife and a boy to manage the business of the shed, whilst he still took his rounds behind the fast-trotting pony; but the business of the shed increased so that Sam had to stay at home, and hire another hand.
    He has quite a handsome greengrocer's shop, with knobbed and polished brass-rails, &c., in a leading East-end thoroughfare now, and keeps three horses; but his prosperity has not spoiled him. Mrs Mixon, perhaps, is a trifle bumptious and grasping; but Sam is as civil, and honest, and kind-hearted as ever. There is no man in the parish, though it contains the business-places of some very wealthy non-residents, who subscribes more liberally and ungrudgingly to all kinds of parish charities than Mr Mixon only he can be appealed to out of hearing of Mrs Mixon, and be got to commit himself to a definite sum before he has had a chance of consulting her. Mrs Nixon, ex-maid of all work, has become, as she thinks, 'aristocratic' in her views, and is of opinion that if people are poor, of course it's their own fault, and so it's a sin, and only 'makes 'em sarcy,' if 'respectable people as 'as al'ays paid their way, an' got ten times the money now some o' them shabby-genteels that thinks theirselves sich swells can bless 'emselves with,' put their hands in their pockets to 'elp sich riff-raff.'
    They didn't arn the money - why should they git it?' says Mrs Mixon.
    Such talk is not pleasing to Mr Mixon, but he stands [-366-] rather in dread of the sharp tongue of Mrs Mixon, who has been a shrewdly-good wife to him: so it is well to get him to put his name down on a subscription list before he has had an opportunity of 'talking the matter over' with his wife. There is a comical mixture of satisfaction and fearful foreboding on his countenance when he has put down his name for a handsome amount. He knows that he will 'catch it,' but he knows also that the thing cannot be undone; and so he returns to the inevitable lecture with a cheerfulness which is not altogether feigned.
    I will merely add one little sample of Mr Mixon's kindness, as I heard it related, by no means in terms of praise, by Mrs Mixon.
    'M's as good a 'usband as a woman need wish to 'ave, 'owever genteel she may 'ave been brought up,' said Mrs M. 'And he knows his business too, I don't deny - so far as buyin' goes; but when it comes to sellin', though you mightn't think it, sir, of me as 'ad never to stand behind a counter afore I married M., the business 'ud go to rack and ruin if I wasn't to keep my eyes about me. He's sharp in a sort o' way, is M., an' yet he's silly too, though he is my 'usband. Why, sir, one day, when we'd the other shop, M. was standin' outside servin', an' there was a lot o' women about pickin' out their pertaturs. There was one draggle-tail as I kept my eye on, as well as I could servin' inside. She looked as if she didn't know the taste o' meat, an' she'd two or three o' her beggar-brats 'angin' on to 'er. She was sich a time, an' she looked so scared when she see me a-lookin' at her, that I felt sure she was [-367-] up to no good. Presen'ly I see her slip a pertatur into her skirts, an' out I shouted. For a wonder M. see her too, and cotched her and, an' pulled out a bag with a good four pounds o' pertaturs in it, that M. 'ad let 'er prig afore his wery nose. Out she busts screechin' an' cryin' for mercy, an' talkin' about the lots o' 'ungry kids she'd got at 'ome. "Send for the pollis, M. - give her in charge this minute, M.," says I. But Mi. wouldn't 'ave it. He gives her a look, and then he gives her a lectur', and pretty strong he pitched it - I'll say that for him, for M. can't abide sich mean ways - but then - could you believe it, sir? - he give her the pertaturs! I never was so disgusted in all my born days, an' so I told him, right out afore all the people in the shop. I felt downright ashamed o' my 'usband - makin' hisself sich a soft afore them as was sure to take adwantage of it. And M. worn't content with that. He must find out where that old 'ussy lived, an' bother his 'ead to git her work. If she 'adn't been sich a old fright - fit a'most to be his mother - I should ha' thought there was more in it than M. was willin' to own to. We've got two of her boys a-workin' for us now. I don't say they don't do their work, an' I hain't caught 'em priggin' yet. They knows I looks after 'em pretty sharp. But we shall see some day who's right. What's bred in the bone, you know, sir, won't come out o' the flesh. It ain't respectable to empty sich wulgar riff-raff in a shop like ourn. Them's my opinions, sir, and I don't care who knows 'em.'