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Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter I.
Five Years Later
Tellson's Bank by Temple Bar was an old-
fashioned place, even in the year one
thousand seven hundred and eighty.
It was very small, very dark, very ugly,
very incommodious.
It was an old-fashioned place, moreover, in
the moral attribute that the partners in
the House were proud of its smallness,
proud of its darkness, proud of its
ugliness, proud of its incommodiousness.
They were even boastful of its eminence in
those particulars, and were fired by an
express conviction that, if it were less
objectionable, it would be less
respectable.
This was no passive belief, but an active
weapon which they flashed at more
convenient places of business.
Tellson's (they said) wanted no elbow-room,
Tellson's wanted no light, Tellson's wanted
no embellishment.
Noakes and Co.'s might, or Snooks Brothers'
might; but Tellson's, thank Heaven--!
Any one of these partners would have
disinherited his son on the question of
rebuilding Tellson's.
In this respect the House was much on a par
with the Country; which did very often
disinherit its sons for suggesting
improvements in laws and customs that had
long been highly objectionable, but were
only the more respectable.
Thus it had come to pass, that Tellson's
was the triumphant perfection of
inconvenience.
After bursting open a door of idiotic
obstinacy with a weak rattle in its throat,
you fell into Tellson's down two steps, and
came to your senses in a miserable little
shop, with two little counters, where the
oldest of men made your cheque shake as if
the wind rustled it, while they examined
the signature by the dingiest of windows,
which were always under a shower-bath of
mud from Fleet-street, and which were made
the dingier by their own iron bars proper,
and the heavy shadow of Temple Bar.
If your business necessitated your seeing
"the House," you were put into a species of
Condemned Hold at the back, where you
meditated on a misspent life, until the
House came with its hands in its pockets,
and you could hardly blink at it in the
dismal twilight.
Your money came out of, or went into, wormy
old wooden drawers, particles of which flew
up your nose and down your throat when they
were opened and shut.
Your bank-notes had a musty odour, as if
they were fast decomposing into rags again.
Your plate was stowed away among the
neighbouring cesspools, and evil
communications corrupted its good polish in
a day or two.
Your deeds got into extemporised strong-
rooms made of kitchens and sculleries, and
fretted all the fat out of their parchments
into the banking-house air.
Your lighter boxes of family papers went
up-stairs into a Barmecide room, that
always had a great dining-table in it and
never had a dinner, and where, even in the
year one thousand seven hundred and eighty,
the first letters written to you by your
old love, or by your little children, were
but newly released from the horror of being
ogled through the windows, by the heads
exposed on Temple Bar with an insensate
brutality and ferocity worthy of Abyssinia
or Ashantee.
But indeed, at that time, putting to death
was a recipe much in vogue with all trades
and professions, and not least of all with
Tellson's.
Death is Nature's remedy for all things,
and why not Legislation's?
Accordingly, the forger was put to Death;
the utterer of a bad note was put to Death;
the unlawful opener of a letter was put to
Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and
sixpence was put to Death; the holder of a
horse at Tellson's door, who made off with
it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad
shilling was put to Death; the sounders of
three-fourths of the notes in the whole
gamut of Crime, were put to Death.
Not that it did the least good in the way
of prevention--it might almost have been
worth remarking that the fact was exactly
the reverse--but, it cleared off (as to
this world) the trouble of each particular
case, and left nothing else connected with
it to be looked after.
Thus, Tellson's, in its day, like greater
places of business, its contemporaries, had
taken so many lives, that, if the heads
laid low before it had been ranged on
Temple Bar instead of being privately
disposed of, they would probably have
excluded what little light the ground floor
had, in a rather significant manner.
Cramped in all kinds of dim cupboards and
hutches at Tellson's, the oldest of men
carried on 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's--never by any means in
it, unless called in--was 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 Hounsditch, 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 abed 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 the 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 counter-prayed and
countermined and religiously circumwented
into the worst of luck.
B-u-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 husband and child,
would you?
Not you!" and throwing off other sarcastic
sparks from the whirling grindstone of his
indignation, Mr. Cruncher betook himself to
his boot-cleaning and his general
preparation for business.
In the meantime, his son, whose head was
garnished with tenderer spikes, and whose
young eyes stood close by one another, as
his father's did, kept the required watch
upon his mother.
He greatly disturbed that poor woman at
intervals, by darting out of his sleeping
closet, where he made his toilet, with a
suppressed cry of "You are going to flop,
mother.
--Halloa, father!" and, after raising this
fictitious alarm, darting in again with an
undutiful grin.
Mr. Cruncher's temper was not at all
improved when he came to his breakfast.
He resented Mrs. Cruncher's saying grace
with particular animosity.
"Now, Aggerawayter!
What are you up to?
At it again?"
His wife explained that she had merely
"asked a blessing."
"Don't do it!" said Mr. Crunches looking
about, as if he rather expected to see the
loaf disappear under the efficacy of his
wife's petitions.
"I ain't a going to be blest out of house
and home.
I won't have my wittles blest off my table.
Keep still!"
Exceedingly red-eyed and grim, as if he had
been up all night at a party which had
taken anything but a convivial turn, Jerry
Cruncher worried his breakfast rather than
ate it, growling over it like any four-
footed inmate of a menagerie.
Towards nine o'clock he smoothed his
ruffled aspect, and, presenting as
respectable and business-like an exterior
as he could overlay his natural self with,
issued forth to the occupation of the day.
It could scarcely be called a trade, in
spite of his favourite description of
himself as "a honest tradesman."
His stock consisted of a wooden stool, made
out of a broken-backed chair cut down,
which stool, young Jerry, walking at his
father's side, carried every morning to
beneath the banking-house window that was
nearest Temple Bar: where, with the
addition of the first handful of straw that
could be gleaned from any passing vehicle
to keep the cold and wet from the odd-job-
man's feet, it formed the encampment for
the day.
On this post of his, Mr. Cruncher was as
well known to Fleet-street and the Temple,
as the Bar itself,--and was almost as in-
looking.
Encamped at a quarter before nine, in good
time to touch his three-cornered hat to the
oldest of men as they passed in to
Tellson's, Jerry took up his station on
this windy March morning, with young Jerry
standing by him, when not engaged in making
forays through the Bar, to inflict bodily
and mental injuries of an acute description
on passing boys who were small enough for
his amiable purpose.
Father and son, extremely like each other,
looking silently on at the morning traffic
in Fleet-street, with their two heads as
near to one another as the two eyes of each
were, bore a considerable resemblance to a
pair of monkeys.
The resemblance was not lessened by the
accidental circumstance, that the mature
Jerry bit and spat out straw, while the
twinkling eyes of the youthful Jerry were
as restlessly watchful of him as of
everything else in Fleet-street.
The head of one of the regular indoor
messengers attached to Tellson's
establishment was put through the door, and
the word was given:
"Porter wanted!"
"Hooray, father!
Here's an early job to begin with!"
Having thus given his parent God speed,
young Jerry seated himself on the stool,
entered on his reversionary interest in the
straw his father had been chewing, and
cogitated.
"Al-ways rusty!
His fingers is al-ways rusty!" muttered
young Jerry.
"Where does my father get all that iron
rust from?
He don't get no iron rust here!"
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二都物語ーチャールズ・ディケンズ (Book 02 - Chapter 01 - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

27974 タグ追加 保存
Anbe2623 2013 年 8 月 25 日 に公開
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