The Observations of Henry eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 103 pages of information about The Observations of Henry.

“There was a youngster I knew in my old coffee-shop days,” continued Henry, “that in the end came to be eaten by cannibals.  At least, so the newspapers said.  Speaking for myself, I never believed the report:  he wasn’t that sort.  If anybody was eaten, it was more likely the cannibal.  But that is neither here nor there.  What I am thinking of is what happened before he and the cannibals ever got nigh to one another.  He was fourteen when I first set eyes on him—­Mile End fourteen, that is; which is the same, I take it, as City eighteen and West End five-and-twenty—­and he was smart for his age into the bargain:  a trifle too smart as a matter of fact.  He always came into the shop at the same time—­half-past two; he always sat in the seat next the window; and three days out of six, he would order the same dinner:  a fourpenny beef-steak pudding—­we called it beef-steak, and, for all practical purposes, it was beef-steak—­a penny plate of potatoes, and a penny slice of roly-poly pudding—­’chest expander’ was the name our customers gave it—­to follow.  That showed sense, I always thought, that dinner alone; a more satisfying menu, at the price, I defy any human being to work out.  He always had a book with him, and he generally read during his meal; which is not a bad plan if you don’t want to think too much about what you are eating.  There was a seedy chap, I remember, used to dine at a cheap restaurant where I once served, just off the Euston Road.  He would stick a book up in front of him—­Eppy something or other—­and read the whole time.  Our four-course shilling table d’hote with Eppy, he would say, was a banquet fit for a prince; without Eppy he was of opinion that a policeman wouldn’t touch it.  But he was one of those men that report things for the newspapers, and was given to exaggeration.

“A coffee-shop becomes a bit of a desert towards three o’clock; and, after a while, young Tidelman, for that was his name, got to putting down his book and chatting to me.  His father was dead; which, judging from what he told me about the old man, must have been a bit of luck for everybody; and his mother, it turned out, had come from my own village in Suffolk; and that constituted a sort of bond between us, seeing I had known all her people pretty intimately.  He was earning good money at a dairy, where his work was scouring milk-cans; and his Christian name—­which was the only thing Christian about him, and that, somehow or another, didn’t seem to fit him—­was Joseph.

“One afternoon he came into the shop looking as if he had lost a shilling and found sixpence, as the saying is; and instead of drinking water as usual, sent the girl out for a pint of ale.  The moment it came he drank off half of it at a gulp, and then sat staring out of the window.

“‘What’s up?’ I says.  ‘Got the shove?’

“‘Yes,’ he answers; ’but, as it happens, it’s a shove up.  I’ve been taken off the yard and put on the walk, with a rise of two bob a week.’  Then he took another pull at the beer and looked more savage than ever.

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The Observations of Henry from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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