"I understand," replied the mercer, winking; "private cellar, ah! Perfectly right, Jacob. Private larder, too, I'll be sworn. You couldn't live on Miser Starve's—I mean, Mr. Scarve's—allowance. Impossible, Jacob; impossible. Take a glass, Jacob. Your master must be very rich, eh?"
"I don't know," replied Jacob, after tossing off the glass; "he doesn't live like a rich man."
"There I differ from you, Jacob," returned the mercer; "he lives like a miser, and misers are always rich."
"Maybe," replied Jacob, turning away.
"Stop, stop," cried the ironmonger, "you must finish this jug before you go. Are you the only servant in the house?"
"The only man-servant," replied Jacob, looking as if he did not relish the question; "but there's sometimes a cheerwoman, and the two ladies do for themselves."
"Do for themselves!" ejaculated Mrs. Deacle. "How dreadful!"
"Dreadful! indeed," echoed Thomasine, with an expression of ineffable disgust, theatrically fine in its effect.
"Well, I should like to see the inside of your master's house, Jacob, I confess," pursued Mrs. Deacle.
"You wouldn't wish to repeat the visit, ma'am, if you had once been there," he answered drily.
"I hope the miser doesn't ill-treat his daughter," said Thomasine. "Poor thing! how I pity her. Such a sweet creature, and such a tyrant of a father!"
"She's not ill-treated, miss," rejoined Jacob, gruffly; "and she's not so much to be pitied as you suppose; nor is master a tyrant by no means, miss."
"Don't be offended, Jacob," interposed the mercer, pouring out a glass, and handing it to him. "Women always fancy themselves ill-treated either by their fathers, husbands, or brothers—all except their lovers, eh, Jacob?"
"I'm sure, my love, nobody can say I complain," said Mrs. Deacle.
"Nor I, father," added Thomasine; "as to lovers, I know nothing about them, and don't desire to know."
"Bless me! how you take one up," rejoined Mr. Deacle, sharply. "Nobody does say that either of you complains. Surely, Jacob, the old lady whom I always see with your master's daughter can't be her mother?"
"No, she's her aunt," replied Jacob.
"On the father's side?"
"I thought as much; and her name is—?"
Jacob looked as though he would have said, "What's that to you?" but he answered, "Mrs. Clinton."
"You'll think me rather curious, Jacob," pursued the mercer, "but I should like to know the name of your master's daughter. What is it, eh?"
"Hilda," replied Jacob.
"Hilda! dear me, a very singular name," cried Mrs. Deacle.
"Singular, indeed! but sweetly pretty," sighed Thomasine.
"Probably a family name," remarked the mercer. "Well, Miss Hilda's a charming creature, Jacob,—charming."
"She is charming," repeated Jacob, emphatically.
"Not very well dressed though," muttered the mercer, as if speaking to himself; and then he added aloud—" She'll be a great catch, Jacob— a great catch; any engagement,—any one in view—any lover, eh?"
"No one," replied Jacob. "Unless," he added, bursting into a hoarse laugh, "it's your next door neighbour, Peter Pokerich, the barber."