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The Guilty River

13. The Claret Jug
I perceived but one change in the Lodger's miserable room, since I had seen it last.
A second table was set against one of the walls. Our boiling water for the tea was kept
there, in a silver kettle heated by a spirit-lamp. I next observed a delicate little china vase
which held the tea, and a finely-designed glass claret jug, with a silver cover. Other men,
possessing that beautiful object, would have thought it worthy of the purest Bordeaux
wine which the arts of modern adulteration permit us to drink. This man had filled the
claret jug with water.
"All my valuable property, ostentatiously exposed to view," he said, in his bitterly
facetious manner. "My landlord's property matches it on the big table."
The big table presented a coarse earthenware teapot; cups and saucers with pieces
chipped out of them; a cracked milk jug; a tumbler which served as a sugar basin; and an
old vegetable dish, honored by holding delicate French sweet-meats for the first time
since it had left the shop.
My deaf friend, in boisterously good spirits, pointed backwards and forwards between the
precious and the worthless objects on the two tables, as if he saw a prospect that
delighted him.
"I don't believe the man lives," he said, "who enjoys Contrast as I do.--What do you want
now?"
This question was addressed to Gloody, who had just entered the room. He touched the
earthenware teapot. His master answered: "Let it alone."
"I make the tea at other times," the man persisted, looking at me.
"What does he say? Write it down for me, Mr. Roylake. I beg you will write it down."
There was anger in his eyes as he made that request. I took his book, and wrote the
words--harmless words, surely? He read them, and turned savagely to his unfortunate
servant.
"In the days when you were a ruffian in the prize-ring, did the other men's fists beat all
the brains out of your head? Do you think you can make tea that is fit for Mr. Roylake to
drink?"
He pointed to an open door, communicating with another bedroom. Gloody's eyes rested
steadily on Cristel: she failed to notice him, being occupied at the moment in replacing
the pin of a brooch which had slipped out of her dress. The man withdrew into the second
bedroom, and softly closed the door.
 
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