Chapter 45

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 laugh for?’ said I, angrily, and half clenching my fist. ‘Laugh!’ said the young fellow; ‘laugh! who could help laughing?’ ‘I could,’ said I; ‘I see nothing to laugh at; I want to exchange this book for a Bible.’ ‘You do?’ said the young fellow; ‘well, I daresay there are plenty who would be willing to exchange, that is, if they dared. I wish master were at home; but that would never do, either. Master’s a family man, the Bibles are not mine, and master being a family man, is sharp, and knows all his stock; I’d buy it of you, but, to tell you the truth, I am quite empty here,’ said he, pointing to his pocket, ‘so I am afraid we can’t deal.’

Whereupon, looking anxiously at the young man, ‘What am I to do?’ said I; ‘I really want a Bible.’

‘Can’t you buy one?’ said the young man; ‘have you no money?’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘I have some, but I am merely the agent of another; I came to exchange, not to buy; what am I to do?’

‘I don’t know,’ said the young man, thoughtfully laying down the book on the counter; ‘I don’t know what you can do; I think you will find some difficulty in this bartering job, the trade are rather precise.’ All at once he laughed louder than before; suddenly stopping, however, he put on a very grave look. ‘Take my advice,’ said he; ‘there is a firm established in this neighbourhood which scarcely sells any books but Bibles; they are very rich, and pride themselves on selling their books at the lowest possible price; apply to them, who knows but what they will exchange with you?’

Thereupon I demanded with some eagerness of the young man the direction to the place where he thought it possible that I might effect the exchange - which direction the young fellow cheerfully gave me, and, as I turned away, had the civility to wish me success.

I had no difficulty in finding the house to which the young fellow directed me; it was a very large house, situated in a square; and upon the side of the house was written in large letters, ‘Bibles, and other religious books.’

At the door of the house were two or three tumbrils, in the act of being loaded with chests, very much resembling tea-chests; one of the chests falling down, burst, and out flew, not tea, but various books, in a neat, small size, and in neat leather covers; Bibles, said I, - Bibles, doubtless. I was not quite right, nor quite wrong; picking up one of the books, I looked at it for a moment, and found it to be the New Testament. ‘Come, young lad,’ said a man who stood by, in the dress of a porter, ‘put that book down, it is none of yours; if you want a book, go in and deal for one.’

Deal, thought I, deal, - the man seems to know what I am coming about, - and going in, I presently found myself in a very large room. Behind a counter two men stood with their backs to a splendid fire, warming themselves, for the weather was cold.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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