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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!