Book the Third - The Track of a Storm
7. VII. A Knock at the Door
In the universal fear and distrust that darkened the time, all the
usual harmless ways of life were changed. In the Doctor's little
household, as in very many others, the articles of daily consumption
that were wanted were purchased every evening, in small quantities
and at various small shops. To avoid attracting notice, and to give
as little occasion as possible for talk and envy, was the general desire.
For some months past, Miss Pross and Mr. Cruncher had discharged the
office of purveyors; the former carrying the money; the latter, the
basket. Every afternoon at about the time when the public lamps were
lighted, they fared forth on this duty, and made and brought home
such purchases as were needful. Although Miss Pross, through her
long association with a French family, might have known as much of
their language as of her own, if she had had a mind, she had no mind
in that direction; consequently she knew no more of that "nonsense"
(as she was pleased to call it) than Mr. Cruncher did. So her
manner of marketing was to plump a noun-substantive at the head of a
shopkeeper without any introduction in the nature of an article, and,
if it happened not to be the name of the thing she wanted, to look
round for that thing, lay hold of it, and hold on by it until the
bargain was concluded. She always made a bargain for it, by holding
up, as a statement of its just price, one finger less than the merchant
held up, whatever his number might be.
"Now, Mr. Cruncher," said Miss Pross, whose eyes were red with
felicity; "if you are ready, I am."
Jerry hoarsely professed himself at Miss Pross's service. He had worn
all his rust off long ago, but nothing would file his spiky head down.
"There's all manner of things wanted," said Miss Pross, "and we shall
have a precious time of it. We want wine, among the rest.
Nice toasts these Redheads will be drinking, wherever we buy it."
"It will be much the same to your knowledge, miss, I should think,"
retorted Jerry, "whether they drink your health or the Old Un's."
"Who's he?" said Miss Pross.