BLTC Press Titles

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Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Tom Gillies, the knots he tied and untied

by mrs. George Gladstone


Mother Crampton was diminutive in stature, but neat and trim in person. She wore a dress of coarse material, and a dark

brown woollen apron. Sometimes both dress and apron were patched in many places, and not always with the same-coloured stuff; but the stitches were so small, and the turnings so even, they but served to show how thrifty she was, and what her still nimble fingers were able to perform. They moved quickly, too, when the old dame knitted her black stockings. How she managed to walk about in her heavy, thick leather boots was a question that she decided by many ominous shakes of the head, and a long explanation about the needs-be of women so far advanced in life as she was trying to keep clear of rheumatism.

Though Mother Crampton's face was wrinkled, and the lines in it deep-set, she was pleasant-looking and intelligent, with a placid expression which denoted a mind at rest. She was very peaceful and contented, because she trusted in God, and had found the joy of believing in Jesus for many a long year; nor was she ashamed to confess her Saviour before men.

We have said that Mother Crampton rented two rooms. That on the groundfloor was her shop and parlour, overhead was her bedroom, which was somewhat encumbered by a full-sized four-post bed, covered with a patchwork quilt, sewn by herself.

The lower room had a curious medley of furniture of all sorts in it. The kitchen fireplace was let into a recess. The three shelves over it were filled with pans, irons, candlesticks, and a great variety of cooking utensils. Near to this recess there was a small wooden cupboard, in which four dozen cups and saucers, six earthenware teapots, and as many small jugs and sugarbasins, were kept.

Opposite to it stood a chest of drawers, which held the good dame's Sunday clothes, and all the linen and wearing apparel she possessed, except her black silk bonnet, which was carefully pinned up in a pockethandkerchief and deposited in a square box under her bed. A great variety of articles were displayed on the top of the chest of drawers, which was protected from scratches by a green baize cloth. Among them was an old Bible, full of quaint pictures, and a shell-house which served for a barometer. It contained two wooden figures fastened together by catgut. "Let my old woman appear," said Mother Crampton, "and I'm sure the weather will be fine; and the rain will fall if her husband shows himself."

A small, round, wooden table was placed next to the drawers. On it were piled, one above the other, four boxes filled with shells, which were carefully wrapped in paper to protect them from the dust. By their side stood a large pair of scales. A corner cupboard, the door of which always remained open, was fixed close to the Window, and contained a reserve stock of goods and eatables of various sorts. A second wooden table was placed in the window, which was kept tolerably clear in the morning, so that the boxes of shells might be displayed to customers, or the scales stand on it while some article was weighed out. Every afternoon it was covered with cups and saucers, for many tired fishwomen had tea ere they returned to their homes, which in some instances were several miles distant from Dixtown, and involved a longer row than to Norton Island. Mother Crampton earned many halfpence by entertaining these prawnsellers She provided the crockery, hot water, and milk, for which they paid one penny per head. Usually each visitor brought her own tea and sugar.

Three shelves extended across the shopwindow. The highest held two widenecked bottles, one filled with starch, and the other with pepper. A paper which covered the centre pane of glass announced that blacking might be purchased within; while a second notice invited strangers to inspect the boxes of shells.

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