His Uncle sat looking at him for some time in silence. When their eyes at last met, he began at once to pursue the theme that had occupied his thoughts, aloud, as if he had been speaking all the time. 'You see, Walter,' he said, 'in truth this business is merely a habit with me. I am so accustomed to the habit that I could hardly live if I relinquished it: but there's nothing doing, nothing doing. When that uniform was worn,' pointing out towards the little Midshipman, 'then indeed, fortunes were to be made, and were made. But competition, competition--new invention, new invention--alteration, alteration--the world's gone past me. I hardly know where I am myself, much less where my customers are. 'Never mind 'em, Uncle!' 'Since you came home from weekly boarding-school at Peckham, for instance--and that's ten days,' said Solomon, 'I don't remember more than one person that has come into the shop.' 'Two, Uncle, don't you recollect? There was the man who came to ask for change for a sovereign--' 'That's the one,' said Solomon. 'Why Uncle! don't you call the woman anybody, who came to ask the way to Mile-End Turnpike?' 'Oh! it's true,' said Solomon, 'I forgot her. Two persons.' 'To be sure, they didn't buy anything,' cried the boy. 'No. They didn't buy anything,' said Solomon, quietly. 'Nor want anything,' cried the boy. 'No. If they had, they'd gone to another shop,' said Solomon, in the same tone. 'But there were two of 'em, Uncle,' cried the boy, as if that were a great triumph. 'You said only one.' 'Well, Wally,' resumed the old man, after a short pause: 'not being like the Savages who came on Robinson Crusoe's Island, we can't live on a man who asks for change for a sovereign, and a woman who inquires the way to Mile-End Turnpike. As I said just now, the world has gone past me. I don't blame it; but I no longer understand it. Tradesmen are not the same as they used to be, apprentices are not the same, business is not the same, business commodities are not the same. Seven-eighths of my stock is old-fashioned. I am an old-fashioned man in an old-fashioned shop, in a street that is not the same as I remember it. I have fallen behind the time, and am too old to catch it again. Even the noise it makes a long way ahead, confuses me.' Walter was going to speak, but his Uncle held up his hand. '
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