‘That will never do,’ said I, ’more especially as I should be sure to be caught, not having made taking of things my trade; but I’ll tell you what I’ll do—try and exchange this book of yours for a Bible; who knows for what great things this same book of yours may serve?’
‘Well, dear,’ said the old woman, ’do as you please; I should like to see the—what do you call it?—Bible, and to read it, as you seem to think it true.’
‘Yes,’ said I, ’seem; that is the way to express yourself in this maze of doubt—I seem to think—these apples and pears seem to be—and here seems to be a gentleman who wants to purchase either one or the other.’
A person had stopped before the apple-woman’s stall, and was glancing now at the fruit, now at the old woman and myself; he wore a blue mantle, and had a kind of fur cap on his head; he was somewhat above the middle stature; his features were keen, but rather hard; there was a slight obliquity in his vision. Selecting a small apple, he gave the old woman a penny; then, after looking at me scrutinisingly for a moment, he moved from the booth in the direction of Southwark.
‘Do you know who that man is?’ said I to the old woman.
‘No,’ said she, ’except that he is one of my best customers: he frequently stops, takes an apple, and gives me a penny; his is the only piece of money I have taken this blessed day. I don’t know him, but he has once or twice sat down in the booth with two strange-looking men—Mulattos, or Lascars, I think they call them.’
Bought and exchanged—Quite empty—A new firm—Bibles—Countenance of a lion—Clap of thunder—A truce with this—I have lost it—Clearly a right—Goddess of the Mint.
In pursuance of my promise to the old woman, I set about procuring her a Bible with all convenient speed, placing the book which she had intrusted to me for the purpose of exchange in my pocket. I went to several shops, and asked if Bibles were to be had: I found that there were plenty. When, however, I informed the people that I came to barter, they looked blank, and declined treating with me; saying that they did not do business in that way. At last I went into a shop over the window of which I saw written, ‘Books bought and exchanged’: there was a smartish young fellow in the shop, with black hair and whiskers; ‘You exchange?’ said I. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘sometimes, but we prefer selling; what book do you want?’ ’A Bible,’ said I. ‘Ah,’ said he, ’there’s a great demand for Bibles just now; all kinds of people are become very pious of late,’ he added, grinning at me; ’I am afraid I can’t do business with you, more especially as the master is not at home. What book have you brought?’ Taking the book out of my pocket, I placed it on the counter: the young fellow opened the book, and inspecting the title-page, burst into a loud laugh. ‘What do you