« PreviousContinue »
the cash-keeper. When money is received, it is taken to him: he is a check on all the shopmen and apprentices.
There is something to be seen in these places ; but when you visit them, take not your wife and daughters with you, unless you have a full purse; for a mercer's shop rivals even that of the miliiner in attracting the attention of the ladies. What pains we take to decorate the poor, perishable body! and how negligent are we of that imperishable guest within us, which is to live for ever in weal or woe!
If the draper's shop possesses many attractions for the fair, the tailor's window is greeted with frequent glances of the manly eye. Let us first notice that large coloured engraving, conspicuously placed to display the fashions of the day. There are sketches of gentlemen riding on horseback, or walking with ladies, or exchanging salutations with each other. How very well dressed, and yet how stiff and passionless! Their faces have no more natural expression than the busts in a hairdresser's shop. That velvet waistcoat, or, as it is now called, “vest,” is fit for a monarch to wear, and yet the printer's apprentice over the way has his eye upon it; in a week or two we shall see if he wears the same waistcoat that he
What heaps of figured silks! what gorgeous patterns! what vivid colours! See, they have
attracted the eye of the dashing young fellow passing by. He gazes, hums a tune, and goes on; they are not exactly to his mind. The tailor himself is behind the counter ; his face is pale, and he looks unhealthy. In spite of his fashionable dress, he cannot conceal certain deformities of figure, a stoop in the shoulder, and a leg bent outward. These distortions have been occasioned by close application at the shop-board during his apprenticeship; he has long since left off work, although, occasionally, he will display his skill in cutting out a coat, to convince his foreman that he has a master who knows the business as well as himself.
How carefully he is examining his ledger !—to some a hateful volume. What long arrears are there! He shuts it up; his countenance seems to have acquired asperity by the perusal. How sharply he speaks to his shopman, who is carelessly folding up some pieces of broad cloth!
There is a confusion in the street ; a wild bullock is running along, driving the people before him. How quickly the tailor fastens his door ! he actually trembles ; his shopman, too, appears alarmed; while the butcher on the other side of the street stands steadily in his doorway, with a firm countenance : let us notice him, for he, too, is worthy of observation.
Well may the butcher live opposite the tailor, for in character they are antipodes.
The countenance of the man is jolly and rubicund, with a display of coarse wit and humour in the eye: nothing like unhappiness is to be read there. The blue dress has been worn by the trade from time immemorial. I do not know why : one would think that red would be the more appropriate colour.
Mark with what precision the strong armed man uses the cleaver. That stroke went through flesh and bone with a crash unpleasing to the
See how adroitly he sheers off that collop with his knife, horridly keen, having just been hastily whetted on the steel at his side. His customer asked for a pound, and he has cut off exactly a pound and a quarter ; his knife errs by system. I dare say he could cut a pound within an ounce, if it suited him.
His boy is scraping the bench with a knife, and cleaning it with a cloth and warm water. A dog has crept in, and is making off with a piece of offal picked up under the bench; he has not escaped the quick eye of the butcher; the hungry brute has been kicked on the side, and is running away, howling with affright and pain.
With what pleasure that old gentleman seems to handle the sirloin there! The lady with her servant bearing a basket, appears quite at home and at ease amongst the joints : but not so the poor woman in the old red cloak, bargaining for a piece of the coarsest meat ; care renders her
uneasy, she is no chooser ; poverty and hunger are not nice; she thinks only of the price, and is not particular about the quality. I know her well, a deserving creature, with a weakly frame and a drunken husband. To her " that is afflicted pity should be showed.”
She has but ninepence ; I saw her count it in her hand, though she well knew what it was before. The butcher is not hard with her. See how cheerfully he throws the piece down on the bench as he turns off to another customer, calling out, “Well, take it along with you, Missis." The poor woman is going away with a brighter countenance. Success attend you, master butcher, and may good orders from the rich repay you for your liberality to the poor !
Perhaps, for the present, I have said enough to convince you that shops, and shop windows, may be made a source of much amusement, and some instruction. You
look at the same windows, again and again, with advantage ; for the articles and commodities exposed for sale are almost endless. I have merely ventured a few remarks on such of them as have struck me in a rapid glance ; you may turn them to a more profitable account.
What a busy world is this ! and how selfishly we spend our time! Whether walking in town, or country, where we meet with one rendering a kindness to another, ten are occupied in serving
themselves; and, on the average, notwithstanding the shortness of life, where two hundred are busily employed in the affairs of time, scarcely will two be found attending to the things of eternity.
Let us put these questions honestly to ourselves. Living in this world, are we looking beyond it? Do we know that this is not our rest ? that heaven is the only cure for earthly troubles ? and that, above all, Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners, is able to save unto the uttermost all them that come unto God by him.
“ Time was, is past; thou canst not it recall ;