Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke is set in 19th century London. Four of the main characters, Sally, Fred, Rosa, and Trembler, are running a small photographic studio. They are not particularly well-off, and they do a lot of household chores on their own. However, at some point they host a small celebration, and Pullman uses the following phrasing (end of chapter eight):

Once that was settled, Sally felt a glow of happiness; and to celebrate their agreement, Frederick sent out for a hot meat-pie from the chop-house around the corner. 

Apparently, since Pullman says "sent out", none of the main characters went to the chop-house on their own, as I would expect. Who did they send to get a meat-pie for them? Were there street urchins running small errands for the homeowners?

  • Well Scrooge was able to send a random boy on errands on Christmas morning, so it seems plausible given that Dickens was writing contemporaneously and presumably with experience of getting errands run.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 27, 2019 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


Frederick sent out for a hot meat-pie from the chop-house around the corner.

This could well mean that he went around the corner to place an order to be delivered. Or, as you suggest, it could mean that he offered a kid on the street some money to walk the order to the chop shop.

But even poor households in the nineteenth century would typically have had a "maid of all work," someone who worked part time to do chores, including running errands.

There are multiple possibilities, then.

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