A Short Story from the July 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard
It has come to our notice that whilst researching through the effects of an unknown derelict in a London workhouse a completely unreliable socialist has come across the following two part dialogue purporting to be the work of an unsuccessful legal clerk.
F: WELL, young gentleman an’ ‘ow are we this mornin’?
O: Very well, sir. Thank you sir.
F: Ooh! We are quite the gentleman. Ain’t we, Oliver. Not rough and ready like my other young gentlemen. No not at all. Quite the gentleman.
O: When will I be going to work, Sir? Like Dodger and the others.
F: Ah work, Oliver. Perhaps you is too great the gentleman to be working with the likes of us, my boy.
O: Oh no, sir. I’ll work, sir. They taught me at the workhouse that work is an honourable thing, sir.
F: I don’t doubt it , my boy. They are the great ones the workhouse for feeding you on platitudes. And very little else by the looks of you. Taught you ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’, did they, Oliver?
O: Oh yes, sir.
F: Hee ... Hee... ‘Blessed be the poor’.
O: Oh yes, sir.
F: Taught you the parable about the rich man and the camel entering the eye of a needle, did they, Oliver?
O: Oh yes, sir. I remember that one.
F: Hee ... Hee ... That’s a good ‘un. That’s one of their finest. How does it go, young Oliver? The parable. Tell me that one. That’s a good un. No mistake. First class that one.
O: Well, sir if I recall correctly.
F: Recall? Yes that’s the fine talking. Well recall, recall, my boy.
O: Well, sir. It will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of an needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
F: Capital. That’s capital. Really, Oliver. And what do you make of that parable?
O: Well sir. I’m not sure. What is a parable?
F: Oh, it’s all parables in the workhouse, my boy. The widders mite, bread on the waters, the good samaritan, the prodigal son. Oh, yes very strong on parables .... and corporal punishment and hard labour...... very, very strong.
O: Excuse me, sir. What is a parable?
F: Well let me see, Oliver. Parable is a story. Usually a very far fetched one. Usually the opposite of the real world. Cast your bread on the waters and they return tenfold. That’s a good un .... Hee ...Hee ... Cast your bread on the waters and all you get is soggy bread. But, no. Not in parables. Everything is the opposite in parables. Parables are stories. Religious stories. I suppose parables are religious fairy tales. But the camel and the needle. What does yir make of that un? Eh, Oliver, my boy.
O: I think, sir. It means rich men would find it difficult to get into heaven because a camel would be too large to get through the eye of an needle.
F: Sharp, Oliver. Very sharp indeed, my boy. You’re a clever un, and no mistake. But, Oliver what would a camel be doing wanting through the eye of an needle? Having no acquaintance with that creature I would not know its desires ... but all parables strike me as strange. A thread through the eye of an needle. Yes that is useful. But a camel. What would you sew with that?
O: A camel-haired coat.
F: A camel-haired coat?
O: I meant it as a joke, Mr Fagin.
F: A joke? Of course a joke. And a very good un too, Oliver my boy. My aren’t you the sharp one. You should be making your fortunes on the halls. A camel-haired coat. First class.
Unfortunately the unreliable socialist informs us that the unknown law clerk’s belongings have produced no more literary gems as yet.