That the house was being watched he did not doubt. In fact,

There is a tie between cricketers far too strong for social distinctions to divide, and, though Alfred muttered peevishly, "Whose cat is dead now?" he obeyed the strange summons.

That the house was being watched he did not doubt. In fact,

The distress was a singular one. Master Absalom, I must premise, was the youngest of two lads in the employ of Mr. Jenner, a benevolent old chemist, a disciple of Malthus. Jenner taught the virtues of drugs and minerals to tender youths, at the expense of the public. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed since a pretty servant girl came into the shop, and laid a paper on the counter, saying, "Please to make that up, young man." Now at fifteen we are gratified by inaccuracies of this kind from ripe female lips: so Master Absalom took the prescription with a complacent grin; his eye glanced over it; it fell to shaking in his hand, chill dismay penetrated his heart; and, to speak with oriental strictness, his liver turned instantly to water. However, he made a feeble clutch at Mercantile Mendacity, and stammered out, "Here's a many ingredients, and the governor's out walking, and he's been and locked the drawer where we keeps our haulhoppy. You couldn't come again in half an hour, Miss, could ye?" She acquiesced readily, for she was not habitually called Miss, and she had a follower, a languid one, living hard by, and belonged to a class which thinks it consistent to come after its followers.

That the house was being watched he did not doubt. In fact,

Dicky saw her safe off, and groaned at his ease. Here was a prescription full of new chemicals, sovereign, no doubt, _i.e.,_ deadly when applied Jennerically; and the very directions for use were in Latin words he had encountered in no prescription before. A year ago Dicky would have counted the prescribed ingredients on his fingers, and then taken down an equal number of little articles, solid or liquid, mixed them, delivered them, and so to cricket, serene; but now, his mind, to apply the universal cant, was "in a transition state." A year's practice had chilled the youthful valour which used to scatter Epsom salts or oxalic acid, magnesia or corrosive sublimate. An experiment or two by himself and his compeers, with comments by the coroner, had enlightened him as to the final result on the human body of potent chemicals fearlessly administered, leaving him dark as to their distinctive qualities applied remedially. What should he do? Run with the prescription to old Taylor in the next street, a chemist of forty years? Alas! at his tender age he had not omitted to chaff that reverend rival persistently and publicly. Humble his establishment before the King Street one? Sooner perish drugs, and come eternal cricket! And after all, why not? Drummer-boys, and powder-monkeys, and other imps of his age that dealt destruction, did not depopulate gratis; Mankind acknowledged their services in cash: but old Jenner, taught by Philosophy through its organ the newspapers that "knowledge is riches," was above diluting with a few shillings a week the wealth a boy acquired behind his counter; so his apprentices got no salary. Then why not shut up the old rogue's shutters, and excite a little sympathy for him, to be followed by a powerful reaction on his return from walking; and go and offer his own services on the cricket-ground to field for the gentlemen by the hour, or bowl at a shilling on their balls?

That the house was being watched he did not doubt. In fact,

"Bowling is the lay for me," said he; "you get money for that, and you only bruise the gents a bit and break their thumbs: you can't put their vital sparks out as you can at this work."

By a striking coincidence the most influential member of the cricket club passed while Dick was in this quandary.

"Oh, Mr. Halfred, you was always very good to me on the ground--you couldn't have me hired by the club, could ye? For I am sick of this trade; I wants to bowl."

"You little duffer!" said Alfred, "cricket is a recreation, not a business. Besides, it only lasts five months. Unless you adjourn to the anitipodes. Stick to the shop like a man, and make your fortune."

"Oh, Mr. Halfred," said Dick sorrowfully, "how can I find fortune here? Jenner don't pay. And the crowner declares he will not have it; and the Barton _Chronicle_ says us young gents ought all to be given a holiday to go and see one of us hanged by lot. But this is what have broke this camel's back at last; here's a dalled thing to come smiling and smirking in with, and put it across a counter in a poor boy's hand. Oh! oh! oh!"

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