I'm working with a book by J.R.R. Tolkien and encountered an expression which I don't quite understand. I'll cite the sentence in which it appears so that you can help me more easily.
"Not every old man with ragged trousers ia a bad old man: some are bone-and-bottle men, and have little dogs of their own..."
I don't know what "bone-and-bottle" means.
I appreciate in advance your help.
"Bone and bottle men" is an old fashioned term for those who went around collecting bones and bottles and rags and scraps. Nowadays, they would be collecting bottles and cans to take back for the deposit, or for recyling.
They were not beggers; it was an honourable profession. I think the reference to the dogs is that they actually owned the dog, rather than its being simply a stray that might follow a begger. Bone and bottle men could afford to feed their little dogs.
It's a beautiful piece of prose, isn't it. Very poetic. It's from Roverandam:
Once upon a time there was a little dog, and his name was Rover. He was very small, and very young, or he would have known better; and he was very happy playing in the garden in the sunshine with a yellow ball, or he would never have done what he did.
Not every old man with ragged trousers is a bad old man: some are bone-and-bottle men, and have little dogs of their own; and some are gardeners; and a few, a very few, are wizards prowling round on a holiday looking for something to do.