The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain HTML version
CHAPTER II - The Gift Diffused
A SMALL man sat in a small parlour, partitioned off from a small shop by a small
screen, pasted all over with small scraps of newspapers. In company with the small man,
was almost any amount of small children you may please to name - at least it seemed so;
they made, in that very limited sphere of action, such an imposing effect, in point of
Of these small fry, two had, by some strong machinery, been got into bed in a corner,
where they might have reposed snugly enough in the sleep of innocence, but for a
constitutional propensity to keep awake, and also to scuffle in and out of bed. The
immediate occasion of these predatory dashes at the waking world, was the construction
of an oyster-shell wall in a corner, by two other youths of tender age; on which
fortification the two in bed made harassing descents (like those accursed Picts and Scots
who beleaguer the early historical studies of most young Britons), and then withdrew to
their own territory.
In addition to the stir attendant on these inroads, and the retorts of the invaded, who
pursued hotly, and made lunges at the bed- clothes under which the marauders took
refuge, another little boy, in another little bed, contributed his mite of confusion to the
family stock, by casting his boots upon the waters; in other words, by launching these and
several small objects, inoffensive in themselves, though of a hard substance considered as
missiles, at the disturbers of his repose, - who were not slow to return these compliments.
Besides which, another little boy - the biggest there, but still little - was tottering to and
fro, bent on one side, and considerably affected in his knees by the weight of a large
baby, which he was supposed by a fiction that obtains sometimes in sanguine families, to
be hushing to sleep. But oh! the inexhaustible regions of contemplation and watchfulness
into which this baby's eyes were then only beginning to compose themselves to stare,
over his unconscious shoulder!
It was a very Moloch of a baby, on whose insatiate altar the whole existence of this
particular young brother was offered up a daily sacrifice. Its personality may be said to
have consisted in its never being quiet, in any one place, for five consecutive minutes,
and never going to sleep when required. "Tetterby's baby" was as well known in the
neighbourhood as the postman or the pot-boy. It roved from door-step to door-step, in the
arms of little Johnny Tetterby, and lagged heavily at the rear of troops of juveniles who
followed the Tumblers or the Monkey, and came up, all on one side, a little too late for
everything that was attractive, from Monday morning until Saturday night. Wherever
childhood congregated to play, there was little Moloch making Johnny fag and toil.
Wherever Johnny desired to stay, little Moloch became fractious, and would not remain.
Whenever Johnny wanted to go out, Moloch was asleep, and must be watched. Whenever
Johnny wanted to stay at home, Moloch was awake, and must be taken out. Yet Johnny