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“You are going out to-night?” asked his decent wife, when he took
another bite.

“Yes, I am.” “May I go with you, father?” asked his son, briskly.
“No, you mayn’t. I’m a going-as your mother knows-a fishing.
That’s where I’m going to. Going a fishing.” “Your fishing-rod gets
rayther rusty; don’t it, father?” “Never you mind.” “Shall you
bring any fish home, father?” “If I don’t, you’ll have short
commons, to-morrow,” returned that gentleman, shaking his head;
“that’s questions enough for you; I ain’t a going out, till you’ve
been long abed.”

He devoted himself during the remainder of the evening to
keeping a most vigilant watch on Mrs. Cruncher, and sullenly
holding her in conversation that she might be prevented from
meditating any petitions to his disadvantage. With this view, he
urged his son to hold her in conversation also, and led the
unfortunate woman a hard life by dwelling on any causes of
complaint he could bring against her, rather than he would leave
her for a moment to her own reflections.

The devoutest person could have rendered no greater homage to
the efficacy of an honest prayer than he did in this distrust of his
wife. It was as if a professed unbeliever in ghosts should be
frightened by a ghost story.

“And mind you!” said Mr. Cruncher. “No games to-morrow! If I,
as a honest tradesman, succeed in providing a jinte of meat or two,
none of your not touching of it, and sticking to bread. If I, as a
honest tradesman, am able to provide a little beer, none of your
declaring on water. When you go to Rome, do as Rome does.
Rome will be a ugly customer to you, if you don’t. I’m your Rome,
you know.” Then he began grumbling again: “With your flying
into the face of your own wittles and drink! I don’t know how
scarce you mayn’t make the wittles and drink here, by your
flopping tricks and your unfeeling conduct. Look at your boy: he is
your’n, ain’t he? He’s as thin as a lath. Do you call yourself a
mother, and not know that a mother’s first duty is to blow her boy
out?” This touched Young Jerry on a tender place; who adjured his
mother to perform her first duty, and, whatever else she did or
neglected, above all things to lay especial stress on the discharge of
that maternal function so affectingly and delicately indicated by his
other parent.

Thus the evening wore away with the Cruncher family, until
Young Jerry was ordered to bed, and his mother, laid under
similar injunctions, obeyed them. Mr. Cruncher beguiled the
earlier watches of the night with solitary pipes, and did not start
upon his excursion until nearly one o’clock. Towards that small
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