Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Part 6 out of 21

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

never come again.'

'Well, then, Johnny shall have more time to think of it,' returned
Mrs Boffin; 'the pretty child shall have time to get used to it. And
you'll get him more used to it, if you think well of it; won't you?'

Betty undertook that, cheerfully and readily.

'Lor,' cried Mrs Boffin, looking radiantly about her, 'we want to
make everybody happy, not dismal!--And perhaps you wouldn't
mind letting me know how used to it you begin to get, and how it
all goes on?'

'I'll send Sloppy,' said Mrs Higden.

'And this gentleman who has come with me will pay him for his
trouble,' said Mrs Boffin. 'And Mr Sloppy, whenever you come to
my house, be sure you never go away without having had a good
dinner of meat, beer, vegetables, and pudding.'

This still further brightened the face of affairs; for, the highly
sympathetic Sloppy, first broadly staring and grinning, and then
roaring with laughter, Toddles and Poddles followed suit, and
Johnny trumped the trick. T and P considering these favourable
circumstances for the resumption of that dramatic descent upon
Johnny, again came across-country hand-in-hand upon a
buccaneermg expedition; and this having been fought out in the
chimney corner behind Mrs Higden's chair, with great valour on
both sides, those desperate pirates returned hand-in-hand to their
stools, across the dry bed of a mountain torrent.

'You must tell me what I can do for you, Betty my friend,' said Mrs
Boffin confidentially, 'if not to-day, next time.'

'Thank you all the same, ma'am, but I want nothing for myself. I
can work. I'm strong. I can walk twenty mile if I'm put to it.' Old
Betty was proud, and said it with a sparkle in her bright eyes.

'Yes, but there are some little comforts that you wouldn't be the
worse for,' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Bless ye, I wasn't born a lady any
more than you.'

'It seems to me,' said Betty, smiling, 'that you were born a lady,
and a true one, or there never was a lady born. But I couldn't take
anything from you, my dear. I never did take anything from any
one. It ain't that I'm not grateful, but I love to earn it better.'

'Well, well!' returned Mrs Boffin. 'I only spoke of little things, or I
wouldn't have taken the liberty.'

Betty put her visitor's hand to her lips, in acknowledgment of the
delicate answer. Wonderfully upright her figure was, and
wonderfully self-reliant her look, as, standing facing her visitor,
she explained herself further.

'If I could have kept the dear child, without the dread that's always
upon me of his coming to that fate I have spoken of, I could never
have parted with him, even to you. For I love him, I love him, I
love him! I love my husband long dead and gone, in him; I love
my children dead and gone, in him; I love my young and hopeful
days dead and gone, in him. I couldn't sell that love, and look you
in your bright kind face. It's a free gift. I am in want of nothing.
When my strength fails me, if I can but die out quick and quiet, I
shall be quite content. I have stood between my dead and that
shame I have spoken of; and it has been kept off from every one of
them. Sewed into my gown,' with her hand upon her breast, 'is just
enough to lay me in the grave. Only see that it's rightly spent, so
as I may rest free to the last from that cruelty and disgrace, and
you'll have done much more than a little thing for me, and all that
in this present world my heart is set upon.'

Mrs Betty Higden's visitor pressed her hand. There was no more
breaking up of the strong old face into weakness. My Lords and
Gentlemen and Honourable Boards, it really was as composed as
our own faces, and almost as dignified.

And now, Johnny was to be inveigled into occupying a temporary
position on Mrs Boffin's lap. It was not until he had been piqued
into competition with the two diminutive Minders, by seeing them
successively raised to that post and retire from it without injury,
that he could be by any means induced to leave Mrs Betty Higden's
skirts; towards which he exhibited, even when in Mrs Boffin's
embrace, strong yearnings, spiritual and bodily; the former
expressed in a very gloomy visage, the latter in extended arms.
However, a general description of the toy-wonders lurking in Mr
Boffin's house, so far conciliated this worldly-minded orphan as to
induce him to stare at her frowningly, with a fist in his mouth, and
even at length to chuckle when a richly-caparisoned horse on
wheels, with a miraculous gift of cantering to cake-shops, was
mentioned. This sound being taken up by the Minders, swelled
into a rapturous trio which gave general satisfaction.

So, the interview was considered very successful, and Mrs Boffin
was pleased, and all were satisfied. Not least of all, Sloppy, who
undertook to conduct the visitors back by the best way to the Three
Magpies, and whom the hammer-headed young man much

This piece of business thus put in train, the Secretary drove Mrs
Boffin back to the Bower, and found employment for himself at the
new house until evening. Whether, when evening came, he took a
way to his lodgings that led through fields, with any design of
finding Miss Bella Wilfer in those fields, is not so certain as that
she regularly walked there at that hour.

And, moreover, it is certain that there she was.

No longer in mourning, Miss Bella was dressed in as pretty
colours as she could muster. There is no denying that she was as
pretty as they, and that she and the colours went very prettily
together. She was reading as she walked, and of course it is to be
inferred, from her showing no knowledge of Mr Rokesmith's
approach, that she did not know he was approaching.

'Eh?' said Miss Bella, raising her eyes from her book, when he
stopped before her. 'Oh! It's you.'

'Only I. A fine evening!'

'Is it?' said Bella, looking coldly round. 'I suppose it is, now you
mention it. I have not been thinking of the evening.'

'So intent upon your book?'

'Ye-e-es,' replied Bella, with a drawl of indifference.

'A love story, Miss Wilfer?'

'Oh dear no, or I shouldn't be reading it. It's more about money
than anything else.'

'And does it say that money is better than anything?'

'Upon my word,' returned Bella, 'I forget what it says, but you can
find out for yourself if you like, Mr Rokesmith. I don't want it any

The Secretary took the book--she had fluttered the leaves as if it
were a fan--and walked beside her.

'I am charged with a message for you, Miss Wilfer.'

'Impossible, I think!' said Bella, with another drawl.

'From Mrs Boffin. She desired me to assure you of the pleasure
she has in finding that she will be ready to receive you in another
week or two at furthest.'

Bella turned her head towards him, with her prettily-insolent
eyebrows raised, and her eyelids drooping. As much as to say,
'How did YOU come by the message, pray?'

'I have been waiting for an opportunity of telling you that I am Mr
Boffin's Secretary.'

'I am as wise as ever,' said Miss Bella, loftily, 'for I don't know
what a Secretary is. Not that it signifies.'

'Not at all.'

A covert glance at her face, as he walked beside her, showed him
that she had not expected his ready assent to that proposition.

'Then are you going to be always there, Mr Rokesmith?' she
inquired, as if that would be a drawback.

'Always? No. Very much there? Yes.'

'Dear me!' drawled Bella, in a tone of mortification.

'But my position there as Secretary, will be very different from
yours as guest. You will know little or nothing about me. I shall
transact the business: you will transact the pleasure. I shall have
my salary to earn; you will have nothing to do but to enjoy and

'Attract, sir?' said Bella, again with her eyebrows raised, and her
eyelids drooping. 'I don't understand you.'

Without replying on this point, Mr Rokesmith went on.

'Excuse me; when I first saw you in your black dress--'

('There!' was Miss Bella's mental exclamation. 'What did I say to
them at home? Everybody noticed that ridiculous mourning.')

'When I first saw you in your black dress, I was at a loss to account
for that distinction between yourself and your family. I hope it was
not impertinent to speculate upon it?'

'I hope not, I am sure,' said Miss Bella, haughtily. 'But you ought
to know best how you speculated upon it.'

Mr Rokesmith inclined his head in a deprecatory manner, and
went on.

'Since I have been entrusted with Mr Boffin's affairs, I have
necessarily come to understand the little mystery. I venture to
remark that I feel persuaded that much of your loss may be
repaired. I speak, of course, merely of wealth, Miss Wilfer. The
loss of a perfect stranger, whose worth, or worthlessness, I cannot
estimate--nor you either--is beside the question. But this excellent
gentleman and lady are so full of simplicity, so full of generosity,
so inclined towards you, and so desirous to--how shall I express
it?--to make amends for their good fortune, that you have only to

As he watched her with another covert look, he saw a certain
ambitious triumph in her face which no assumed coldness could

'As we have been brought under one roof by an accidental
combination of circumstances, which oddly extends itself to the
new relations before us, I have taken the liberty of saying these few
words. You don't consider them intrusive I hope?' said the
Secretary with deference.

'Really, Mr Rokesmith, I can't say what I consider them,' returned
the young lady. 'They are perfectly new to me, and may be founded
altogether on your own imagination.'

'You will see.'

These same fields were opposite the Wilfer premises. The discreet
Mrs Wilfer now looking out of window and beholding her
daughter in conference with her lodger, instantly tied up her head
and came out for a casual walk.

'I have been telling Miss Wilfer,' said John Rokesmith, as the
majestic lady came stalking up, 'that I have become, by a curious
chance, Mr Boffin's Secretary or man of business.'

'I have not,' returned Mrs Wilfer, waving her gloves in her chronic
state of dignity, and vague ill-usage, 'the honour of any intimate
acquaintance with Mr Boffin, and it is not for me to congratulate
that gentleman on the acquisition he has made.'

'A poor one enough,' said Rokesmith.

'Pardon me,' returned Mrs Wilfer, 'the merits of Mr Boffin may be
highly distinguished--may be more distinguished than the
countenance of Mrs Boffin would imply--but it were the insanity of
humility to deem him worthy of a better assistant.'

'You are very good. I have also been telling Miss Wilfer that she is
expected very shortly at the new residence in town.'

'Having tacitly consented,' said Mrs Wilfer, with a grand shrug of
her shoulders, and another wave of her gloves, 'to my child's
acceptance of the proffered attentions of Mrs Boffin, I interpose no

Here Miss Bella offered the remonstrance: 'Don't talk nonsense,
ma, please.'

'Peace!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'No, ma, I am not going to be made so absurd. Interposing

'I say,' repeated Mrs Wilfer, with a vast access of grandeur, 'that I
am NOT going to interpose objections. If Mrs Boffin (to whose
countenance no disciple of Lavater could possibly for a single
moment subscribe),' with a shiver, 'seeks to illuminate her new
residence in town with the attractions of a child of mine, I am
content that she should be favoured by the company of a child of

'You use the word, ma'am, I have myself used,' said Rokesmith,
with a glance at Bella, 'when you speak of Miss Wilfer's attractions

'Pardon me,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with dreadful solemnity, 'but I
had not finished.'

'Pray excuse me.'

'I was about to say,' pursued Mrs Wilfer, who clearly had not had
the faintest idea of saying anything more: 'that when I use the term
attractions, I do so with the qualification that I do not mean it in
any way whatever.'

The excellent lady delivered this luminous elucidation of her views
with an air of greatly obliging her hearers, and greatly
distinguishing herself. Whereat Miss Bella laughed a scornful
little laugh and said:

'Quite enough about this, I am sure, on all sides. Have the
goodness, Mr Rokesmith, to give my love to Mrs Boffin--'

'Pardon me!' cried Mrs Wilfer. 'Compliments.'

'Love!' repeated Bella, with a little stamp of her foot.

'No!' said Mrs Wilfer, monotonously. 'Compliments.'

('Say Miss Wilfer's love, and Mrs Wilfer's compliments,' the
Secretary proposed, as a compromise.)

'And I shall be very glad to come when she is ready for me. The
sooner, the better.'

'One last word, Bella,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'before descending to the
family apartment. I trust that as a child of mine you will ever be
sensible that it will be graceful in you, when associating with Mr
and Mrs Boffin upon equal terms, to remember that the Secretary,
Mr Rokesmith, as your father's lodger, has a claim on your good

The condescension with which Mrs Wilfer delivered this
proclamation of patronage, was as wonderful as the swiftness with
which the lodger had lost caste in the Secretary. He smiled as the
mother retired down stairs; but his face fell, as the daughter

'So insolent, so trivial, so capricious, so mercenary, so careless, so
hard to touch, so hard to turn!' he said, bitterly.

And added as he went upstairs. 'And yet so pretty, so pretty!'

And added presently, as he walked to and fro in his room. 'And if
she knew!'

She knew that he was shaking the house by his walking to and fro;
and she declared it another of the miseries of being poor, that you
couldn't get rid of a haunting Secretary, stump--stump--stumping
overhead in the dark, like a Ghost.

Chapter 17


And now, in the blooming summer days, behold Mr and Mrs
Boffin established in the eminently aristocratic family mansion,
and behold all manner of crawling, creeping, fluttering, and
buzzing creatures, attracted by the gold dust of the Golden

Foremost among those leaving cards at the eminently aristocratic
door before it is quite painted, are the Veneerings: out of breath,
one might imagine, from the impetuosity of their rush to the
eminently aristocratic steps. One copper-plate Mrs Veneering,
two copper-plate Mr Veneerings, and a connubial copper-plate Mr
and Mrs Veneering, requesting the honour of Mr and Mrs Boffin's
company at dinner with the utmost Analytical solemnities. The
enchanting Lady Tippins leaves a card. Twemlow leaves cards. A
tall custard-coloured phaeton tooling up in a solemn manner leaves
four cards, to wit, a couple of Mr Podsnaps, a Mrs Podsnap, and a
Miss Podsnap. All the world and his wife and daughter leave
cards. Sometimes the world's wife has so many daughters, that her
card reads rather like a Miscellaneous Lot at an Auction;
comprising Mrs Tapkins, Miss Tapkins, Miss Frederica Tapkins,
Miss Antonina Tapkins, Miss Malvina Tapkins, and Miss
Euphemia Tapkins; at the same time, the same lady leaves the card
of Mrs Henry George Alfred Swoshle, NEE Tapkins; also, a card,
Mrs Tapkins at Home, Wednesdays, Music, Portland Place.

Miss Bella Wilfer becomes an inmate, for an indefinite period, of
the eminently aristocratic dwelling. Mrs Boffin bears Miss Bella
away to her Milliner's and Dressmaker's, and she gets beautifully
dressed. The Veneerings find with swift remorse that they have
omitted to invite Miss Bella Wilfer. One Mrs Veneering and one
Mr and Mrs Veneering requesting that additional honour, instantly
do penance in white cardboard on the hall table. Mrs Tapkins
likewise discovers her omission, and with promptitude repairs it;
for herself; for Miss Tapkins, for Miss Frederica Tapkins, for Miss
Antonina Tapkins, for Miss Malvina Tapkins, and for Miss
Euphemia Tapkins. Likewise, for Mrs Henry George Alfred
Swoshle NEE Tapkins. Likewise, for Mrs Tapkins at Home,
Wednesdays, Music, Portland Place.

Tradesmen's books hunger, and tradesmen's mouths water, for the
gold dust of the Golden Dustman. As Mrs Boffin and Miss Wilfer
drive out, or as Mr Boffin walks out at his jog-trot pace, the
fishmonger pulls off his hat with an air of reverence founded on
conviction. His men cleanse their fingers on their woollen aprons
before presuming to touch their foreheads to Mr Boffin or Lady.
The gaping salmon and the golden mullet lying on the slab seem to
turn up their eyes sideways, as they would turn up their hands if
they had any, in worshipping admiration. The butcher, though a
portly and a prosperous man, doesn't know what to do with
himself; so anxious is he to express humility when discovered by
the passing Boffins taking the air in a mutton grove. Presents are
made to the Boffin servants, and bland strangers with business-
cards meeting said servants in the street, offer hypothetical
corruption. As, 'Supposing I was to be favoured with an order
from Mr Boffin, my dear friend, it would be worth my while'--to do
a certain thing that I hope might not prove wholly disagreeable to
your feelings.

But no one knows so well as the Secretary, who opens and reads
the letters, what a set is made at the man marked by a stroke of
notoriety. Oh the varieties of dust for ocular use, offered in
exchange for the gold dust of the Golden Dustman! Fifty-seven
churches to be erected with half-crowns, forty-two parsonage
houses to be repaired with shillings, seven-and-twenty organs to be
built with halfpence, twelve hundred children to be brought up on
postage stamps. Not that a half-crown, shilling, halfpenny, or
postage stamp, would be particularly acceptable from Mr Boffin,
but that it is so obvious he is the man to make up the deficiency.
And then the charities, my Christian brother! And mostly in
difficulties, yet mostly lavish, too, in the expensive articles of print
and paper. Large fat private double letter, sealed with ducal
coronet. 'Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire. My Dear Sir,--Having
consented to preside at the forthcoming Annual Dinner of the
Family Party Fund, and feeling deeply impressed with the
immense usefulness of that noble Institution and the great
importance of its being supported by a List of Stewards that shall
prove to the public the interest taken in it by popular and
distinguished men, I have undertaken to ask you to become a
Steward on that occasion. Soliciting your favourable reply before
the 14th instant, I am, My Dear Sir, Your faithful Servant,
LINSEED. P.S. The Steward's fee is limited to three Guineas.'
Friendly this, on the part of the Duke of Linseed (and thoughtful in
the postscript), only lithographed by the hundred and presenting
but a pale individuality of an address to Nicodemus Boffin,
Esquire, in quite another hand. It takes two noble Earls and a
Viscount, combined, to inform Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, in an
equally flattering manner, that an estimable lady in the West of
England has offered to present a purse containing twenty pounds,
to the Society for Granting Annuities to Unassuming Members of
the Middle Classes, if twenty individuals will previously present
purses of one hundred pounds each. And those benevolent
noblemen very kindly point out that if Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire,
should wish to present two or more purses, it will not be
inconsistent with the design of the estimable lady in the West of
England, provided each purse be coupled with the name of some
member of his honoured and respected family.

These are the corporate beggars. But there are, besides, the
individual beggars; and how does the heart of the Secretary fail
him when he has to cope with THEM! And they must be coped
with to some extent, because they all enclose documents (they call
their scraps documents; but they are, as to papers deserving the
name, what minced veal is to a calf), the non-return of which
would be their ruin. That is say, they are utterly ruined now, but
they would be more utterly ruined then. Among these
correspondents are several daughters of general officers, long
accustomed to every luxury of life (except spelling), who little
thought, when their gallant fathers waged war in the Peninsula,
that they would ever have to appeal to those whom Providence, in
its inscrutable wisdom, has blessed with untold gold, and from
among whom they select the name of Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire,
for a maiden effort in this wise, understanding that he has such a
heart as never was. The Secretary learns, too, that confidence
between man and wife would seem to obtain but rarely when virtue
is in distress, so numerous are the wives who take up their pens to
ask Mr Boffin for money without the knowledge of their devoted
husbands, who would never permit it; while, on the other hand, so
numerous are the husbands who take up their pens to ask Mr
Boffin for money without the knowledge of their devoted wives,
who would instantly go out of their senses if they had the least
suspicion of the circumstance. There are the inspired beggars, too.
These were sitting, only yesterday evening, musing over a fragment
of candle which must soon go out and leave them in the dark for
the rest of their nights, when surely some Angel whispered the
name of Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, to their souls, imparting rays
of hope, nay confidence, to which they had long been strangers!
Akin to these are the suggestively-befriended beggars. They were
partaking of a cold potato and water by the flickering and gloomy
light of a lucifer-match, in their lodgings (rent considerably in
arrear, and heartless landlady threatening expulsion 'like a dog'
into the streets), when a gifted friend happening to look in, said,
'Write immediately to Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire,' and would take
no denial. There are the nobly independent beggars too. These, in
the days of their abundance, ever regarded gold as dross, and have
not yet got over that only impediment in the way of their amassing
wealth, but they want no dross from Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire;
No, Mr Boffin; the world may term it pride, paltry pride if you will,
but they wouldn't take it if you offered it; a loan, sir--for fourteen
weeks to the day, interest calculated at the rate of five per cent per
annum, to be bestowed upon any charitable institution you may
name--is all they want of you, and if you have the meanness to
refuse it, count on being despised by these great spirits. There are
the beggars of punctual business-habits too. These will make an
end of themselves at a quarter to one P.M. on Tuesday, if no Post-
office order is in the interim received from Nicodemus Boffin,
Esquire; arriving after a quarter to one P.M. on Tuesday, it need
not be sent, as they will then (having made an exact memorandum
of the heartless circumstances) be 'cold in death.' There are the
beggars on horseback too, in another sense from the sense of the
proverb. These are mounted and ready to start on the highway to
affluence. The goal is before them, the road is in the best
condition, their spurs are on, the steed is willing, but, at the last
moment, for want of some special thing--a clock, a violin, an
astronomical telescope, an electrifying machine--they must
dismount for ever, unless they receive its equivalent in money from
Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire. Less given to detail are the beggars
who make sporting ventures. These, usually to be addressed in
reply under initials at a country post-office, inquire in feminine
hands, Dare one who cannot disclose herself to Nicodemus Boffin,
Esquire, but whose name might startle him were it revealed, solicit
the immediate advance of two hundred pounds from unexpected
riches exercising their noblest privilege in the trust of a common

In such a Dismal Swamp does the new house stand, and through it
does the Secretary daily struggle breast-high. Not to mention all
the people alive who have made inventions that won't act, and all
the jobbers who job in all the jobberies jobbed; though these may
be regarded as the Alligators of the Dismal Swamp, and are
always lying by to drag the Golden Dustman under.

But the old house. There are no designs against the Golden
Dustman there? There are no fish of the shark tribe in the Bower
waters? Perhaps not. Still, Wegg is established there, and would
seem, judged by his secret proceedings, to cherish a notion of
making a discovery. For, when a man with a wooden leg lies
prone on his stomach to peep under bedsteads; and hops up
ladders, like some extinct bird, to survey the tops of presses and
cupboards; and provides himself an iron rod which he is always
poking and prodding into dust-mounds; the probability is that he
expects to find something.



Chapter 1


The school at which young Charley Hexam had first learned from
a book--the streets being, for pupils of his degree, the great
Preparatory Establishment in which very much that is never
unlearned is learned without and before book--was a miserable
loft in an unsavoury yard. Its atmosphere was oppressive and
disagreeable; it was crowded, noisy, and confusing; half the pupils
dropped asleep, or fell into a state of waking stupefaction; the
other half kept them in either condition by maintaining a
monotonous droning noise, as if they were performing, out of time
and tune, on a ruder sort of bagpipe. The teachers, animated
solely by good intentions, had no idea of execution, and a
lamentable jumble was the upshot of their kind endeavours.

It was a school for all ages, and for both sexes. The latter were
kept apart, and the former were partitioned off into square
assortments. But, all the place was pervaded by a grimly
ludicrous pretence that every pupil was childish and innocent.
This pretence, much favoured by the lady-visitors, led to the
ghastliest absurdities. Young women old in the vices of the
commonest and worst life, were expected to profess themselves
enthralled by the good child's book, the Adventures of Little
Margery, who resided in the village cottage by the mill; severely
reproved and morally squashed the miller, when she was five and
he was fifty; divided her porridge with singing birds; denied
herself a new nankeen bonnet, on the ground that the turnips did
not wear nankeen bonnets, neither did the sheep who ate them;
who plaited straw and delivered the dreariest orations to all
comers, at all sorts of unseasonable times. So, unwieldy young
dredgers and hulking mudlarks were referred to the experiences of
Thomas Twopence, who, having resolved not to rob (under
circumstances of uncommon atrocity) his particular friend and
benefactor, of eighteenpence, presently came into supernatural
possession of three and sixpence, and lived a shining light ever
afterwards. (Note, that the benefactor came to no good.) Several
swaggering sinners had written their own biographies in the same
strain; it always appearing from the lessons of those very boastful
persons, that you were to do good, not because it WAS good, but
because you were to make a good thing of it. Contrariwise, the
adult pupils were taught to read (if they could learn) out of the
New Testament; and by dint of stumbling over the syllables and
keeping their bewildered eyes on the particular syllables coming
round to their turn, were as absolutely ignorant of the sublime
history, as if they had never seen or heard of it. An exceedingly
and confoundingly perplexing jumble of a school, in fact, where
black spirits and grey, red spirits and white, jumbled jumbled
jumbled jumbled, jumbled every night. And particularly every
Sunday night. For then, an inclined plane of unfortunate infants
would be handed over to the prosiest and worst of all the teachers
with good intentions, whom nobody older would endure. Who,
taking his stand on the floor before them as chief executioner,
would be attended by a conventional volunteer boy as
executioner's assistant. When and where it first became the
conventional system that a weary or inattentive infant in a class
must have its face smoothed downward with a hot hand, or when
and where the conventional volunteer boy first beheld such
system in operation, and became inflamed with a sacred zeal to
administer it, matters not. It was the function of the chief
executioner to hold forth, and it was the function of the acolyte to
dart at sleeping infants, yawning infants, restless infants,
whimpering infants, and smooth their wretched faces; sometimes
with one hand, as if he were anointing them for a whisker;
sometimes with both hands, applied after the fashion of blinkers.
And so the jumble would be in action in this department for a
mortal hour; the exponent drawling on to My Dearert
Childerrenerr, let us say, for example, about the beautiful coming
to the Sepulchre; and repeating the word Sepulchre (commonly
used among infants) five hundred times, and never once hinting
what it meant; the conventional boy smoothing away right and
left, as an infallible commentary; the whole hot-bed of flushed and
exhausted infants exchanging measles, rashes, whooping-cough,
fever, and stomach disorders, as if they were assembled in High
Market for the purpose.

Even in this temple of good intentions, an exceptionally sharp boy
exceptionally determined to learn, could learn something, and,
having learned it, could impart it much better than the teachers; as
being more knowing than they, and not at the disadvantage in
which they stood towards the shrewder pupils. In this way it had
come about that Charley Hexam had risen in the jumble, taught in
the jumble, and been received from the jumble into a better

'So you want to go and see your sister, Hexam?'

'If you please, Mr Headstone.'

'I have half a mind to go with you. Where does your sister live?'

'Why, she is not settled yet, Mr Headstone. I'd rather you didn't
see her till she is settled, if it was all the same to you.'

'Look here, Hexam.' Mr Bradley Headstone, highly certificated
stipendiary schoolmaster, drew his right forefinger through one of
the buttonholes of the boy's coat, and looked at it attentively. 'I
hope your sister may be good company for you?'

'Why do you doubt it, Mr Headstone?'

'I did not say I doubted it.'

'No, sir; you didn't say so.'

Bradley Headstone looked at his finger again, took it out of the
buttonhole and looked at it closer, bit the side of it and looked at it

'You see, Hexam, you will be one of us. In good time you are sure
to pass a creditable examination and become one of us. Then the
question is--'

The boy waited so long for the question, while the schoolmaster
looked at a new side of his finger, and bit it, and looked at it again,
that at length the boy repeated:

'The question is, sir--?'

'Whether you had not better leave well alone.'

'Is it well to leave my sister alone, Mr Headstone?'

'I do not say so, because I do not know. I put it to you. I ask you
to think of it. I want you to consider. You know how well you
are doing here.'

'After all, she got me here,' said the boy, with a struggle.

'Perceiving the necessity of it,' acquiesced the schoolmaster, 'and
making up her mind fully to the separation. Yes.'

The boy, with a return of that former reluctance or struggle or
whatever it was, seemed to debate with himself. At length he
said, raising his eyes to the master's face:

'I wish you'd come with me and see her, Mr Headstone, though
she is not settled. I wish you'd come with me, and take her in the
rough, and judge her for yourself.'

'You are sure you would not like,' asked the schoolmaster, 'to
prepare her?'

'My sister Lizzie,' said the boy, proudly, 'wants no preparing, Mr
Headstone. What she is, she is, and shows herself to be. There's
no pretending about my sister.'

His confidence in her, sat more easily upon him than the
indecision with which he had twice contended. It was his better
nature to be true to her, if it were his worse nature to be wholly
selfish. And as yet the better nature had the stronger hold.

'Well, I can spare the evening,' said the schoolmaster. 'I am ready
to walk with you.'

'Thank you, Mr Headstone. And I am ready to go.'

Bradley Headstone, in his decent black coat and waistcoat, and
decent white shirt, and decent formal black tie, and decent
pantaloons of pepper and salt, with his decent silver watch in his
pocket and its decent hair-guard round his neck, looked a
thoroughly decent young man of six-and-twenty. He was never
seen in any other dress, and yet there was a certain stiffness in his
manner of wearing this, as if there were a want of adaptation
between him and it, recalling some mechanics in their holiday
clothes. He had acquired mechanically a great store of teacher's
knowledge. He could do mental arithmetic mechanically, sing at
sight mechanically, blow various wind instruments mechanically,
even play the great church organ mechanically. From his early
childhood up, his mind had been a place of mechanical stowage.
The arrangement of his wholesale warehouse, so that it might be
always ready to meet the demands of retail dealers history here,
geography there, astronomy to the right, political economy to the
left--natural history, the physical sciences, figures, music, the
lower mathematics, and what not, all in their several places--this
care had imparted to his countenance a look of care; while the
habit of questioning and being questioned had given him a
suspicious manner, or a manner that would be better described as
one of lying in wait. There was a kind of settled trouble in the
face. It was the face belonging to a naturally slow or inattentive
intellect that had toiled hard to get what it had won, and that had
to hold it now that it was gotten. He always seemed to be uneasy
lest anything should be missing from his mental warehouse, and
taking stock to assure himself.

Suppression of so much to make room for so much, had given him
a constrained manner, over and above. Yet there was enough of
what was animal, and of what was fiery (though smouldering), still
visible in him, to suggest that if young Bradley Headstone, when a
pauper lad, had chanced to be told off for the sea, he would not
have been the last man in a ship's crew. Regarding that origin of
his, he was proud, moody, and sullen, desiring it to be forgotten.
And few people knew of it.

In some visits to the Jumble his attention had been attracted to this
boy Hexam. An undeniable boy for a pupil-teacher; an
undeniable boy to do credit to the master who should bring him
on. Combined with this consideration, there may have been some
thought of the pauper lad now never to be mentioned. Be that
how it might, he had with pains gradually worked the boy into his
own school, and procured him some offices to discharge there,
which were repaid with food and lodging. Such were the
circumstances that had brought together, Bradley Headstone and
young Charley Hexam that autumn evening. Autumn, because
full half a year had come and gone since the bird of prey lay dead
upon the river-shore.

The schools--for they were twofold, as the sexes--were down in
that district of the flat country tending to the Thames, where Kent
and Surrey meet, and where the railways still bestride the market-
gardens that will soon die under them. The schools were newly
built, and there were so many like them all over the country, that
one might have thought the whole were but one restless edifice
with the locomotive gift of Aladdin's palace. They were in a
neighbourhood which looked like a toy neighbourhood taken in
blocks out of a box by a child of particularly incoherent mind, and
set up anyhow; here, one side of a new street; there, a large
solitary public-house facing nowhere; here, another unfinished
street already in ruins; there, a church; here, an immense new
warehouse; there, a dilapidated old country villa; then, a medley
of black ditch, sparkling cucumber-frame, rank field, richly
cultivated kitchen-garden, brick viaduct, arch-spanned canal, and
disorder of frowziness and fog. As if the child had given the table
a kick, and gone to sleep.

But, even among school-buildings, school-teachers, and school-
pupils, all according to pattern and all engendered in the light of
the latest Gospel according to Monotony, the older pattern into
which so many fortunes have been shaped for good and evil,
comes out. It came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress,
watering her flowers, as Mr Bradley Headstone walked forth. It
came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress, watering the flowers
in the little dusty bit of garden attached to her small official
residence, with little windows like the eyes in needles, and little
doors like the covers of school-books.

Small, shining, neat, methodical, and buxom was Miss Peecher;
cherry-cheeked and tuneful of voice. A little pincushion, a little
housewife, a little book, a little workbox, a little set of tables and
weights and measures, and a little woman, all in one. She could
write a little essay on any subject, exactly a slate long, beginning
at the left-hand top of one side and ending at the right-hand
bottom of the other, and the essay should be strictly according to
rule. If Mr Bradley Headstone had addressed a written proposal
of marriage to her, she would probably have replied in a complete
little essay on the theme exactly a slate long, but would certainly
have replied Yes. For she loved him. The decent hair-guard that
went round his neck and took care of his decent silver watch was
an object of envy to her. So would Miss Peecher have gone round
his neck and taken care of him. Of him, insensible. Because he
did not love Miss Peecher.

Miss Peecher's favourite pupil, who assisted her in her little
household, was in attendance with a can of water to replenish her
little watering-pot, and sufficiently divined the state of Miss
Peecher's affections to feel it necessary that she herself should
love young Charley Hexam. So, there was a double palpitation
among the double stocks and double wall-flowers, when the
master and the boy looked over the little gate.

'A fine evening, Miss Peecher,' said the Master.

'A very fine evening, Mr Headstone,' said Miss Peecher. 'Are you
taking a walk?'

'Hexam and I are going to take a long walk.'

'Charming weather,' remarked Miss Peecher, FOR a long walk.'

'Ours is rather on business than mere pleasure,' said the Master.
Miss Peecher inverting her watering-pot, and very carefully
shaking out the few last drops over a flower, as if there were some
special virtue in them which would make it a Jack's beanstalk
before morning, called for replenishment to her pupil, who had
been speaking to the boy.

'Good-night, Miss Peecher,' said the Master.

'Good-night, Mr Headstone,' said the Mistress.

The pupil had been, in her state of pupilage, so imbued with the
class-custom of stretching out an arm, as if to hail a cab or
omnibus, whenever she found she had an observation on hand to
offer to Miss Peecher, that she often did it in their domestic
relations; and she did it now.

'Well, Mary Anne?' said Miss Peecher.

'If you please, ma'am, Hexam said they were going to see his

'But that can't be, I think,' returned Miss Peecher: 'because Mr
Headstone can have no business with HER.'

Mary Anne again hailed.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'If you please, ma'am, perhaps it's Hexam's business?'

'That may be,' said Miss Peecher. 'I didn't think of that. Not that
it matters at all.'

Mary Anne again hailed.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'They say she's very handsome.'

'Oh, Mary Anne, Mary Anne!' returned Miss Peecher, slightly
colouring and shaking her head, a little out of humour; 'how often
have I told you not to use that vague expression, not to speak in
that general way? When you say THEY say, what do you mean?
Part of speech They?'

Mary Anne hooked her right arm behind her in her left hand, as
being under examination, and replied:

'Personal pronoun.'

'Person, They?'

'Third person.'

'Number, They?'

'Plural number.'

'Then how many do you mean, Mary Anne? Two? Or more?'

'I beg your pardon, ma'am,' said Mary Anne, disconcerted now she
came to think of it; 'but I don't know that I mean more than her
brother himself.' As she said it, she unhooked her arm.

'I felt convinced of it,' returned Miss Peecher, smiling again. 'Now
pray, Mary Anne, be careful another time. He says is very
different from they say, remember. Difference between he says
and they say? Give it me.'

Mary Anne immediately hooked her right arm behind her in her
left hand--an attitude absolutely necessary to the situation--and
replied: 'One is indicative mood, present tense, third person
singular, verb active to say. Other is indicative mood, present
tense, third person plural, verb active to say.'

'Why verb active, Mary Anne?'

'Because it takes a pronoun after it in the objective case, Miss

'Very good indeed,' remarked Miss Peecher, with encouragement.
'In fact, could not be better. Don't forget to apply it, another time,
Mary Anne.' This said, Miss Peecher finished the watering of her
flowers, and went into her little official residence, and took a
refresher of the principal rivers and mountains of the world, their
breadths, depths, and heights, before settling the measurements of
the body of a dress for her own personal occupation.

Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam duly got to the Surrey
side of Westminster Bridge, and crossed the bridge, and made
along the Middlesex shore towards Millbank. In this region are a
certain little street called Church Street, and a certain little blind
square, called Smith Square, in the centre of which last retreat is a
very hideous church with four towers at the four corners,
generally resembling some petrified monster, frightful and
gigantic, on its back with its legs in the air. They found a tree near
by in a corner, and a blacksmith's forge, and a timber yard, and a
dealer's in old iron. What a rusty portion of a boiler and a great
iron wheel or so meant by lying half-buried in the dealer's fore-
court, nobody seemed to know or to want to know. Like the
Miller of questionable jollity in the song, They cared for Nobody,
no not they, and Nobody cared for them.

After making the round of this place, and noting that there was a
deadly kind of repose on it, more as though it had taken laudanum
than fallen into a natural rest, they stopped at the point where the
street and the square joined, and where there were some little
quiet houses in a row. To these Charley Hexam finally led the
way, and at one of these stopped.

'This must be where my sister lives, sir. This is where she came
for a temporary lodging, soon after father's death.'

'How often have you seen her since?'

'Why, only twice, sir,' returned the boy, with his former
reluctance; 'but that's as much her doing as mine.'

'How does she support herself?'

'She was always a fair needlewoman, and she keeps the stockroom
of a seaman's outfitter.'

'Does she ever work at her own lodging here?'

'Sometimes; but her regular hours and regular occupation are at
their place of business, I believe, sir. This is the number.'

The boy knocked at a door, and the door promptly opened with a
spring and a click. A parlour door within a small entry stood
open, and disclosed a child--a dwarf--a girl--a something--sitting
on a little low old-fashioned arm-chair, which had a kind of little
working bench before it.

'I can't get up,' said the child, 'because my back's bad, and my legs
are queer. But I'm the person of the house.'

'Who else is at home?' asked Charley Hexam, staring.

'Nobody's at home at present,' returned the child, with a glib
assertion of her dignity, 'except the person of the house. What did
you want, young man?'

'I wanted to see my sister.'

'Many young men have sisters,' returned the child. 'Give me your
name, young man?'

The queer little figure, and the queer but not ugly little face, with
its bright grey eyes, were so sharp, that the sharpness of the
manner seemed unavoidable. As if, being turned out of that
mould, it must be sharp.

'Hexam is my name.'

'Ah, indeed?' said the person of the house. 'I thought it might be.
Your sister will be in, in about a quarter of an hour. I am very
fond of your sister. She's my particular friend. Take a seat. And
this gentleman's name?'

'Mr Headstone, my schoolmaster.'

'Take a seat. And would you please to shut the street door first? I
can't very well do it myself; because my back's so bad, and my
legs are so queer.'

They complied in silence, and the little figure went on with its
work of gumming or gluing together with a camel's-hair brush
certain pieces of cardboard and thin wood, previously cut into
various shapes. The scissors and knives upon the bench showed
that the child herself had cut them; and the bright scraps of velvet
and silk and ribbon also strewn upon the bench showed that when
duly stuffed (and stuffing too was there), she was to cover them
smartly. The dexterity of her nimble fingers was remarkable, and,
as she brought two thin edges accurately together by giving them a
little bite, she would glance at the visitors out of the corners of her
grey eyes with a look that out-sharpened all her other sharpness.

'You can't tell me the name of my trade, I'll be bound,' she said,
after taking several of these observations.

'You make pincushions,' said Charley.

'What else do I make?'

'Pen-wipers,' said Bradley Headstone.

'Ha! ha! What else do I make? You're a schoolmaster, but you
can't tell me.'

'You do something,' he returned, pointing to a corner of the little
bench, 'with straw; but I don't know what.'

'Well done you!' cried the person of the house. 'I only make
pincushions and pen-wipers, to use up my waste. But my straw
really does belong to my business. Try again. What do I make
with my straw?'


'A schoolmaster, and says dinner-mats! I'll give you a clue to my
trade, in a game of forfeits. I love my love with a B because she's
Beautiful; I hate my love with a B because she is Brazen; I took
her to the sign of the Blue Boar, and I treated her with Bonnets;
her name's Bouncer, and she lives in Bedlam.--Now, what do I
make with my straw?'

'Ladies' bonnets?'

'Fine ladies',' said the person of the house, nodding assent. 'Dolls'.
I'm a Doll's Dressmaker.'

'I hope it's a good business?'

The person of the house shrugged her shoulders and shook her
head. 'No. Poorly paid. And I'm often so pressed for time! I had
a doll married, last week, and was obliged to work all night. And
it's not good for me, on account of my back being so bad and my
legs so queer.'

They looked at the little creature with a wonder that did not
diminish, and the schoolmaster said: 'I am sorry your fine ladies
are so inconsiderate.'

'It's the way with them,' said the person of the house, shrugging
her shoulders again. 'And they take no care of their clothes, and
they never keep to the same fashions a month. I work for a doll
with three daughters. Bless you, she's enough to ruin her
husband!' The person of the house gave a weird little laugh here,
and gave them another look out of the corners of her eyes. She
had an elfin chin that was capable of great expression; and
whenever she gave this look, she hitched this chin up. As if her
eyes and her chin worked together on the same wires.

'Are you always as busy as you are now?'

'Busier. I'm slack just now. I finished a large mourning order the
day before yesterday. Doll I work for, lost a canary-bird.' The
person of the house gave another little laugh, and then nodded her
head several times, as who should moralize, 'Oh this world, this

'Are you alone all day?' asked Bradley Headstone. 'Don't any of
the neighbouring children--?'

'Ah, lud!' cried the person of the house, with a little scream, as if
the word had pricked her. 'Don't talk of children. I can't bear
children. I know their tricks and their manners.' She said this with
an angry little shake of her tight fist close before her eyes.

Perhaps it scarcely required the teacher-habit, to perceive that the
doll's dressmaker was inclined to be bitter on the difference
between herself and other children. But both master and pupil
understood it so.

'Always running about and screeching, always playing and
fighting, always skip-skip-skipping on the pavement and chalking
it for their games! Oh! I know their tricks and their manners!'
Shaking the little fist as before. 'And that's not all. Ever so often
calling names in through a person's keyhole, and imitating a
person's back and legs. Oh! I know their tricks and their manners.
And I'll tell you what I'd do, to punish 'em. There's doors under
the church in the Square--black doors, leading into black vaults.
Well! I'd open one of those doors, and I'd cram 'em all in, and
then I'd lock the door and through the keyhole I'd blow in pepper.'

'What would be the good of blowing in pepper?' asked Charley

'To set 'em sneezing,' said the person of the house, 'and make their
eyes water. And when they were all sneezing and inflamed, I'd
mock 'em through the keyhole. Just as they, with their tricks and
their manners, mock a person through a person's keyhole!'

An uncommonly emphatic shake of her little fist close before her
eyes, seemed to ease the mind of the person of the house; for she
added with recovered composure, 'No, no, no. No children for
me. Give me grown-ups.'

It was difficult to guess the age of this strange creature, for her
poor figure furnished no clue to it, and her face was at once so
young and so old. Twelve, or at the most thirteen, might be near
the mark.

'I always did like grown-ups,' she went on, 'and always kept
company with them. So sensible. Sit so quiet. Don't go prancing
and capering about! And I mean always to keep among none but
grown-ups till I marry. I suppose I must make up my mind to
marry, one of these days.'

She listened to a step outside that caught her ear, and there was a
soft knock at the door. Pulling at a handle within her reach, she
said, with a pleased laugh: 'Now here, for instance, is a grown-up
that's my particular friend!' and Lizzie Hexam in a black dress
entered the room.

'Charley! You!'

Taking him to her arms in the old way--of which he seemed a little
ashamed--she saw no one else.

'There, there, there, Liz, all right my dear. See! Here's Mr
Headstone come with me.'

Her eyes met those of the schoolmaster, who had evidently
expected to see a very different sort of person, and a murmured
word or two of salutation passed between them. She was a little
flurried by the unexpected visit, and the schoolmaster was not at
his ease. But he never was, quite.

'I told Mr Headstone you were not settled, Liz, but he was so kind
as to take an interest in coming, and so I brought him. How well
you look!'

Bradley seemed to think so.

'Ah! Don't she, don't she?' cried the person of the house, resuming
her occupation, though the twilight was falling fast. 'I believe you
she does! But go on with your chat, one and all:

You one two three,
My com-pa-nie,
And don't mind me.'

--pointing this impromptu rhyme with three points of her thin fore-

'I didn't expect a visit from you, Charley,' said his sister. 'I
supposed that if you wanted to see me you would have sent to me,
appointing me to come somewhere near the school, as I did last
time. I saw my brother near the school, sir,' to Bradley
Headstone, 'because it's easier for me to go there, than for him to
come here. I work about midway between the two places.'

'You don't see much of one another,' said Bradley, not improving
in respect of ease.

'No.' With a rather sad shake of her head. 'Charley always does
well, Mr Headstone?'

'He could not do better. I regard his course as quite plain before

'I hoped so. I am so thankful. So well done of you, Charley dear!
It is better for me not to come (except when he wants me)
between him and his prospects. You think so, Mr Headstone?'

Conscious that his pupil-teacher was looking for his answer, that
he himself had suggested the boy's keeping aloof from this sister,
now seen for the first time face to face, Bradley Headstone

'Your brother is very much occupied, you know. He has to work
hard. One cannot but say that the less his attention is diverted
from his work, the better for his future. When he shall have
established himself, why then--it will be another thing then.'

Lizzie shook her head again, and returned, with a quiet smile: 'I
always advised him as you advise him. Did I not, Charley?'

'Well, never mind that now,' said the boy. 'How are you getting

'Very well, Charley. I want for nothing.'

'You have your own room here?'

'Oh yes. Upstairs. And it's quiet, and pleasant, and airy.'

'And she always has the use of this room for visitors,' said the
person of the house, screwing up one of her little bony fists, like
an opera-glass, and looking through it, with her eyes and her chin
in that quaint accordance. 'Always this room for visitors; haven't
you, Lizzie dear?'

It happened that Bradley Headstone noticed a very slight action of
Lizzie Hexam's hand, as though it checked the doll's dressmaker.
And it happened that the latter noticed him in the same instant; for
she made a double eyeglass of her two hands, looked at him
through it, and cried, with a waggish shake of her head: 'Aha!
Caught you spying, did I?'

It might have fallen out so, any way; but Bradley Headstone also
noticed that immediately after this, Lizzie, who had not taken off
her bonnet, rather hurriedly proposed that as the room was getting
dark they should go out into the air. They went out; the visitors
saying good-night to the doll's dressmaker, whom they left, leaning
back in her chair with her arms crossed, singing to herself in a
sweet thoughtful little voice.

'I'll saunter on by the river,' said Bradley. 'You will be glad to talk

As his uneasy figure went on before them among the evening
shadows, the boy said to his sister, petulantly:

'When are you going to settle yourself in some Christian sort of
place, Liz? I thought you were going to do it before now.'

'I am very well where I am, Charley.'

'Very well where you are! I am ashamed to have brought Mr
Headstone with me. How came you to get into such company as
that little witch's?'

'By chance at first, as it seemed, Charley. But I think it must have
been by something more than chance, for that child--You
remember the bills upon the walls at home?'

'Confound the bills upon the walls at home! I want to forget the
bills upon the walls at home, and it would be better for you to do
the same,' grumbled the boy. 'Well; what of them?'

'This child is the grandchild of the old man.'

'What old man?'

'The terrible drunken old man, in the list slippers and the night-

The boy asked, rubbing his nose in a manner that half expressed
vexation at hearing so much, and half curiosity to hear more: 'How
came you to make that out? What a girl you are!'

'The child's father is employed by the house that employs me;
that's how I came to know it, Charley. The father is like his own
father, a weak wretched trembling creature, falling to pieces,
never sober. But a good workman too, at the work he does. The
mother is dead. This poor ailing little creature has come to be
what she is, surrounded by drunken people from her cradle--if she
ever had one, Charley.'

'I don't see what you have to do with her, for all that,' said the boy.

'Don't you, Charley?'

The boy looked doggedly at the river. They were at Millbank, and
the river rolled on their left. His sister gently touched him on the
shoulder, and pointed to it.

'Any compensation--restitution--never mind the word, you know
my meaning. Father's grave.'

But he did not respond with any tenderness. After a moody
silence he broke out in an ill-used tone:

'It'll be a very hard thing, Liz, if, when I am trying my best to get
up in the world, you pull me back.'

'I, Charley?'

'Yes, you, Liz. Why can't you let bygones be bygones? Why can't
you, as Mr Headstone said to me this very evening about another
matter, leave well alone? What we have got to do, is, to turn our
faces full in our new direction, and keep straight on.'

'And never look back? Not even to try to make some amends?'

'You are such a dreamer,' said the boy, with his former petulance.
'It was all very well when we sat before the fire--when we looked
into the hollow down by the flare--but we are looking into the real
world, now.'

'Ah, we were looking into the real world then, Charley!'

'I understand what you mean by that, but you are not justified in
it. I don't want, as I raise myself to shake you off, Liz. I want to
carry you up with me. That's what I want to do, and mean to do.
I know what I owe you. I said to Mr Headstone this very evening,
"After all, my sister got me here." Well, then. Don't pull me
back, and hold me down. That's all I ask, and surely that's not

She had kept a steadfast look upon him, and she answered with

'I am not here selfishly, Charley. To please myself I could not be
too far from that river.'

'Nor could you be too far from it to please me. Let us get quit of it
equally. Why should you linger about it any more than I? I give it
a wide berth.'

'I can't get away from it, I think,' said Lizzie, passing her hand
across her forehead. 'It's no purpose of mine that I live by it still.'

'There you go, Liz! Dreaming again! You lodge yourself of your
own accord in a house with a drunken--tailor, I suppose--or
something of the sort, and a little crooked antic of a child, or old
person, or whatever it is, and then you talk as if you were drawn
or driven there. Now, do be more practical.'

She had been practical enough with him, in suffering and striving
for him; but she only laid her hand upon his shoulder--not
reproachfully--and tapped it twice or thrice. She had been used to
do so, to soothe him when she carried him about, a child as heavy
as herself. Tears started to his eyes.

'Upon my word, Liz,' drawing the back of his hand across them, 'I
mean to be a good brother to you, and to prove that I know what I
owe you. All I say is, that I hope you'll control your fancies a
little, on my account. I'll get a school, and then you must come
and live with me, and you'll have to control your fancies then, so
why not now? Now, say I haven't vexed you.'

'You haven't, Charley, you haven't.'

'And say I haven't hurt you.'

'You haven't, Charley.' But this answer was less ready.

'Say you are sure I didn't mean to. Come! There's Mr Headstone
stopping and looking over the wall at the tide, to hint that it's time
to go. Kiss me, and tell me that you know I didn't mean to hurt

She told him so, and they embraced, and walked on and came up
with the schoolmaster.

'But we go your sister's way,' he remarked, when the boy told him
he was ready. And with his cumbrous and uneasy action he stiffly
offered her his arm. Her hand was just within it, when she drew it
back. He looked round with a start, as if he thought she had
detected something that repelled her, in the momentary touch.

'I will not go in just yet,' said Lizzie. 'And you have a distance
before you, and will walk faster without me.'

Being by this time close to Vauxhall Bridge, they resolved, in
consequence, to take that way over the Thames, and they left her;
Bradley Headstone giving her his hand at parting, and she
thanking him for his care of her brother.

The master and the pupil walked on, rapidly and silently. They
had nearly crossed the bridge, when a gentleman came coolly
sauntering towards them, with a cigar in his mouth, his coat
thrown back, and his hands behind him. Something in the careless
manner of this person, and in a certain lazily arrogant air with
which he approached, holding possession of twice as much
pavement as another would have claimed, instantly caught the
boy's attention. As the gentleman passed the boy looked at him
narrowly, and then stood still, looking after him.

'Who is it that you stare after?' asked Bradley.

'Why!' said the boy, with a confused and pondering frown upon
his face, 'It IS that Wrayburn one!'

Bradley Headstone scrutinized the boy as closely as the boy had
scrutinized the gentleman.

'I beg your pardon, Mr Headstone, but I couldn't help wondering
what in the world brought HIM here!'

Though he said it as if his wonder were past--at the same time
resuming the walk--it was not lost upon the master that he looked
over his shoulder after speaking, and that the same perplexed and
pondering frown was heavy on his face.

'You don't appear to like your friend, Hexam?'

'I DON'T like him,' said the boy.

'Why not?'

'He took hold of me by the chin in a precious impertinent way, the
first time I ever saw him,' said the boy.

'Again, why?'

'For nothing. Or--it's much the same--because something I
happened to say about my sister didn't happen to please him.'

'Then he knows your sister?'

'He didn't at that time,' said the boy, still moodily pondering.

'Does now?'

The boy had so lost himself that he looked at Mr Bradley
Headstone as they walked on side by side, without attempting to
reply until the question had been repeated; then he nodded and
answered, 'Yes, sir.'

'Going to see her, I dare say.'

'It can't be!' said the boy, quickly. 'He doesn't know her well
enough. I should like to catch him at it!'

When they had walked on for a time, more rapidly than before,
the master said, clasping the pupil's arm between the elbow and
the shoulder with his hand:

'You were going to tell me something about that person. What did
you say his name was?'

'Wrayburn. Mr Eugene Wrayburn. He is what they call a
barrister, with nothing to do. The first time be came to our old
place was when my father was alive. He came on business; not
that it was HIS business--HE never had any business--he was
brought by a friend of his.'

'And the other times?'

'There was only one other time that I know of. When my father
was killed by accident, he chanced to be one of the finders. He
was mooning about, I suppose, taking liberties with people's chins;
but there he was, somehow. He brought the news home to my
sister early in the morning, and brought Miss Abbey Potterson, a
neighbour, to help break it to her. He was mooning about the
house when I was fetched home in the afternoon--they didn't
know where to find me till my sister could be brought round
sufficiently to tell them--and then he mooned away.'

'And is that all?'

'That's all, sir.'

Bradley Headstone gradually released the boy's arm, as if he were
thoughtful, and they walked on side by side as before. After a
long silence between them, Bradley resumed the talk.

'I suppose--your sister--' with a curious break both before and
after the words, 'has received hardly any teaching, Hexam?'

'Hardly any, sir.'

'Sacrificed, no doubt, to her father's objections. I remember them
in your case. Yet--your sister--scarcely looks or speaks like an
ignorant person.'

'Lizzie has as much thought as the best, Mr Headstone. Too
much, perhaps, without teaching. I used to call the fire at home,
her books, for she was always full of fancies--sometimes quite
wise fancies, considering--when she sat looking at it.'

'I don't like that,' said Bradley Headstone.

His pupil was a little surprised by this striking in with so sudden
and decided and emotional an objection, but took it as a proof of
the master's interest in himself. It emboldened him to say:

'I have never brought myself to mention it openly to you, Mr
Headstone, and you're my witness that I couldn't even make up
my mind to take it from you before we came out to-night; but it's a
painful thing to think that if I get on as well as you hope, I shall
be--I won't say disgraced, because I don't mean disgracedbut--
rather put to the blush if it was known--by a sister who has been
very good to me.'

'Yes,' said Bradley Headstone in a slurring way, for his mind
scarcely seemed to touch that point, so smoothly did it glide to
another, 'and there is this possibility to consider. Some man who
had worked his way might come to admire--your sister--and might
even in time bring himself to think of marrying--your sister--and it
would be a sad drawback and a heavy penalty upon him, if;
overcoming in his mind other inequalities of condition and other
considerations against it, this inequality and this consideration
remained in full force.'

'That's much my own meaning, sir.'

'Ay, ay,' said Bradley Headstone, 'but you spoke of a mere
brother. Now, the case I have supposed would be a much stronger
case; because an admirer, a husband, would form the connexion
voluntarily, besides being obliged to proclaim it: which a brother is
not. After all, you know, it must be said of you that you couldn't
help yourself: while it would be said of him, with equal reason,
that he could.'

'That's true, sir. Sometimes since Lizzie was left free by father's
death, I have thought that such a young woman might soon
acquire more than enough to pass muster. And sometimes I have
even thought that perhaps Miss Peecher--'

'For the purpose, I would advise Not Miss Peecher,' Bradley
Headstone struck in with a recurrence of his late decision of

'Would you be so kind as to think of it for me, Mr Headstone?'

'Yes, Hexam, yes. I'll think of it. I'll think maturely of it. I'll think
well of it.'

Their walk was almost a silent one afterwards, until it ended at the
school-house. There, one of neat Miss Peecher's little windows,
like the eyes in needles, was illuminated, and in a corner near it
sat Mary Anne watching, while Miss Peecher at the table stitched
at the neat little body she was making up by brown paper pattern
for her own wearing. N.B. Miss Peecher and Miss Peecher's
pupils were not much encouraged in the unscholastic art of
needlework, by Government.

Mary Anne with her face to the window, held her arm up.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'Mr Headstone coming home, ma'am.'

In about a minute, Mary Anne again hailed.

'Yes, Mary Anne?'

'Gone in and locked his door, ma'am.'

Miss Peecher repressed a sigh as she gathered her work together
for bed, and transfixed that part of her dress where her heart
would have been if she had had the dress on, with a sharp, sharp

Chapter 2


The person of the house, doll's dressmaker and manufacturer of
ornamental pincushions and pen-wipers, sat in her quaint little low
arm-chair, singing in the dark, until Lizzie came back. The person
of the house had attained that dignity while yet of very tender
years indeed, through being the only trustworthy person IN the

'Well Lizzie-Mizzie-Wizzie,' said she, breaking off in her song.
'what's the news out of doors?'

'What's the news in doors?' returned Lizzie, playfully smoothing
the bright long fair hair which grew very luxuriant and beautiful
on the head of the doll's dressmaker.

'Let me see, said the blind man. Why the last news is, that I don't
mean to marry your brother.'


'No-o,' shaking her head and her chin. 'Don't like the boy.'

'What do you say to his master?'

'I say that I think he's bespoke.'

Lizzie finished putting the hair carefully back over the misshapen
shoulders, and then lighted a candle. It showed the little parlour
to be dingy, but orderly and clean. She stood it on the
mantelshelf, remote from the dressmaker's eyes, and then put the
room door open, and the house door open, and turned the little
low chair and its occupant towards the outer air. It was a sultry
night, and this was a fine-weather arrangement when the day's
work was done. To complete it, she seated herself in a chair by
the side of the little chair, and protectingly drew under her arm the
spare hand that crept up to her.

'This is what your loving Jenny Wren calls the best time in the day
and night,' said the person of the house. Her real name was Fanny
Cleaver; but she had long ago chosen to bestow upon herself the
appellation of Miss Jenny Wren.

'I have been thinking,' Jenny went on, 'as I sat at work to-day,
what a thing it would be, if I should be able to have your company
till I am married, or at least courted. Because when I am courted,
I shall make Him do some of the things that you do for me. He
couldn't brush my hair like you do, or help me up and down stairs
like you do, and he couldn't do anything like you do; but he could
take my work home, and he could call for orders in his clumsy
way. And he shall too. I'LL trot him about, I can tell him!'

Jenny Wren had her personal vanities--happily for her--and no
intentions were stronger in her breast than the various trials and
torments that were, in the fulness of time, to be inflicted upon

'Wherever he may happen to be just at present, or whoever he
may happen to be,' said Miss Wren, 'I know his tricks and his
manners, and I give him warning to look out.'

'Don't you think you are rather hard upon him?' asked her friend,
smiling, and smoothing her hair.

'Not a bit,' replied the sage Miss Wren, with an air of vast
experience. 'My dear, they don't care for you, those fellows, if
you're NOT hard upon 'em. But I was saying If I should be able to
have your company. Ah! What a large If! Ain't it?'

'I have no intention of parting company, Jenny.'

'Don't say that, or you'll go directly.'

'Am I so little to be relied upon?'

'You're more to be relied upon than silver and gold.' As she said
it, Miss Wren suddenly broke off, screwed up her eyes and her
chin, and looked prodigiously knowing. 'Aha!

Who comes here?
A Grenadier.
What does he want?
A pot of beer.

And nothing else in the world, my dear!'

A man's figure paused on the pavement at the outer door. 'Mr
Eugene Wrayburn, ain't it?' said Miss Wren.

'So I am told,' was the answer.

'You may come in, if you're good.'

'I am not good,' said Eugene, 'but I'll come in.'

He gave his hand to Jenny Wren, and he gave his hand to Lizzie,
and he stood leaning by the door at Lizzie's side. He had been
strolling with his cigar, he said, (it was smoked out and gone by
this time,) and he had strolled round to return in that direction that
he might look in as he passed. Had she not seen her brother to-

'Yes,' said Lizzie, whose manner was a little troubled.

Gracious condescension on our brother's part! Mr Eugene
Wrayburn thought he had passed my young gentleman on the
bridge yonder. Who was his friend with him?

'The schoolmaster.'

'To be sure. Looked like it.'

Lizzie sat so still, that one could not have said wherein the fact of
her manner being troubled was expressed; and yet one could not
have doubted it. Eugene was as easy as ever; but perhaps, as she
sat with her eyes cast down, it might have been rather more
perceptible that his attention was concentrated upon her for
certain moments, than its concentration upon any subject for any
short time ever was, elsewhere.

'I have nothing to report, Lizzie,' said Eugene. 'But, having
promised you that an eye should be always kept on Mr Riderhood
through my friend Lightwood, I like occasionally to renew my
assurance that I keep my promise, and keep my friend up to the

'I should not have doubted it, sir.'

'Generally, I confess myself a man to be doubted,' returned
Eugene, coolly, 'for all that.'

'Why are you?' asked the sharp Miss Wren.

'Because, my dear,' said the airy Eugene, 'I am a bad idle dog.'

'Then why don't you reform and be a good dog?' inquired Miss

'Because, my dear,' returned Eugene, 'there's nobody who makes it
worth my while. Have you considered my suggestion, Lizzie?'
This in a lower voice, but only as if it were a graver matter; not at
all to the exclusion of the person of the house.

'I have thought of it, Mr Wrayburn, but I have not been able to
make up my mind to accept it.'

'False pride!' said Eugene.

'I think not, Mr Wrayburn. I hope not.'

'False pride!' repeated Eugene. 'Why, what else is it? The thing is
worth nothing in itself. The thing is worth nothing to me. What
can it be worth to me? You know the most I make of it. I propose
to be of some use to somebody--which I never was in this world,
and never shall be on any other occasion--by paying some
qualified person of your own sex and age, so many (or rather so
few) contemptible shillings, to come here, certain nights in the
week, and give you certain instruction which you wouldn't want if
you hadn't been a self-denying daughter and sister. You know
that it's good to have it, or you would never have so devoted
yourself to your brother's having it. Then why not have it:
especially when our friend Miss Jenny here would profit by it too?
If I proposed to be the teacher, or to attend the lessons--obviously
incongruous!--but as to that, I might as well be on the other side of
the globe, or not on the globe at all. False pride, Lizzie. Because
true pride wouldn't shame, or be shamed by, your thankless
brother. True pride wouldn't have schoolmasters brought here,
like doctors, to look at a bad case. True pride would go to work
and do it. You know that, well enough, for you know that your
own true pride would do it to-morrow, if you had the ways and
means which false pride won't let me supply. Very well. I add no
more than this. Your false pride does wrong to yourself and does
wrong to your dead father.'

'How to my father, Mr Wrayburn?' she asked, with an anxious

'How to your father? Can you ask! By perpetuating the
consequences of his ignorant and blind obstinacy. By resolving
not to set right the wrong he did you. By determining that the
deprivation to which he condemned you, and which he forced
upon you, shall always rest upon his head.'

It chanced to be a subtle string to sound, in her who had so spoken
to her brother within the hour. It sounded far more forcibly,
because of the change in the speaker for the moment; the passing
appearance of earnestness, complete conviction, injured
resentment of suspicion, generous and unselfish interest. All these
qualities, in him usually so light and careless, she felt to be
inseparable from some touch of their opposites in her own breast.
She thought, had she, so far below him and so different, rejected
this disinterestedness, because of some vain misgiving that he
sought her out, or heeded any personal attractions that he might
descry in her? The poor girl, pure of heart and purpose, could not
bear to think it. Sinking before her own eyes, as she suspected
herself of it, she drooped her head as though she had done him
some wicked and grievous injury, and broke into silent tears.

'Don't be distressed,' said Eugene, very, very kindly. 'I hope it is
not I who have distressed you. I meant no more than to put the
matter in its true light before you; though I acknowledge I did it
selfishly enough, for I am disappointed.'

Disappointed of doing her a service. How else COULD he be

'It won't break my heart,' laughed Eugene; 'it won't stay by me
eight-and-forty hours; but I am genuinely disappointed. I had set
my fancy on doing this little thing for you and for our friend Miss
Jenny. The novelty of my doing anything in the least useful, had
its charms. I see, now, that I might have managed it better. I
might have affected to do it wholly for our friend Miss J. I might
have got myself up, morally, as Sir Eugene Bountiful. But upon
my soul I can't make flourishes, and I would rather be
disappointed than try.'

If he meant to follow home what was in Lizzie's thoughts, it was
skilfully done. If he followed it by mere fortuitous coincidence, it
was done by an evil chance.

'It opened out so naturally before me,' said Eugene. 'The ball
seemed so thrown into my hands by accident! I happen to be
originally brought into contact with you, Lizzie, on those two
occasions that you know of. I happen to be able to promise you
that a watch shall be kept upon that false accuser, Riderhood. I
happen to be able to give you some little consolation in the
darkest hour of your distress, by assuring you that I don't believe
him. On the same occasion I tell you that I am the idlest and least
of lawyers, but that I am better than none, in a case I have noted
down with my own hand, and that you may be always sure of my
best help, and incidentally of Lightwood's too, in your efforts to
clear your father. So, it gradually takes my fancy that I may help
you--so easily!--to clear your father of that other blame which I
mentioned a few minutes ago, and which is a just and real one. I
hope I have explained myself; for I am heartily sorry to have
distressed you. I hate to claim to mean well, but I really did mean
honestly and simply well, and I want you to know it.'

'I have never doubted that, Mr Wrayburn,' said Lizzie; the more
repentant, the less he claimed.

'I am very glad to hear it. Though if you had quite understood my
whole meaning at first, I think you would not have refused. Do
you think you would?'

'I--don't know that I should, Mr Wrayburn.'

'Well! Then why refuse now you do understand it?'

'It's not easy for me to talk to you,' returned Lizzie, in some
confusion, 'for you see all the consequences of what I say, as soon
as I say it.'

'Take all the consequences,' laughed Eugene, 'and take away my
disappointment. Lizzie Hexam, as I truly respect you, and as I am
your friend and a poor devil of a gentleman, I protest I don't even
now understand why you hesitate.'

There was an appearance of openness, trustfulness, unsuspecting
generosity, in his words and manner, that won the poor girl over;
and not only won her over, but again caused her to feel as though
she had been influenced by the opposite qualities, with vanity at
their head.

'I will not hesitate any longer, Mr Wrayburn. I hope you will not
think the worse of me for having hesitated at all. For myself and
for Jenny--you let me answer for you, Jenny dear?'

The little creature had been leaning back, attentive, with her
elbows resting on the elbows of her chair, and her chin upon her
hands. Without changing her attitude, she answered, 'Yes!' so
suddenly that it rather seemed as if she had chopped the
monosyllable than spoken it.

'For myself and for Jenny, I thankfully accept your kind offer.'

'Agreed! Dismissed!' said Eugene, giving Lizzie his hand before
lightly waving it, as if he waved the whole subject away. 'I hope it
may not be often that so much is made of so little!'

Then he fell to talking playfully with Jenny Wren. 'I think of
setting up a doll, Miss Jenny,' he said.

'You had better not,' replied the dressmaker.

'Why not?'

'You are sure to break it. All you children do.'

'But that makes good for trade, you know, Miss Wren,' returned
Eugene. 'Much as people's breaking promises and contracts and
bargains of all sorts, makes good for MY trade.'

'I don't know about that,' Miss Wren retorted; 'but you had better
by half set up a pen-wiper, and turn industrious, and use it.'

'Why, if we were all as industrious as you, little Busy-Body, we
should begin to work as soon as we could crawl, and there would
be a bad thing!'

'Do you mean,' returned the little creature, with a flush suffusing
her face, 'bad for your backs and your legs?'

'No, no, no,' said Eugene; shocked--to do him justice--at the
thought of trifling with her infirmity. 'Bad for business, bad for
business. If we all set to work as soon as we could use our hands,
it would be all over with the dolls' dressmakers.'

'There's something in that,' replied Miss Wren; 'you have a sort of
an idea in your noddle sometimes.' Then, in a changed tone;
'Talking of ideas, my Lizzie,' they were sitting side by side as they
had sat at first, 'I wonder how it happens that when I am work,
work, working here, all alone in the summer-time, I smell flowers.'

'As a commonplace individual, I should say,' Eugene suggested
languidly--for he was growing weary of the person of the house--
'that you smell flowers because you DO smell flowers.'

'No I don't,' said the little creature, resting one arm upon the elbow
of her chair, resting her chin upon that hand, and looking vacantly
before her; 'this is not a flowery neighbourhood. It's anything but
that. And yet as I sit at work, I smell miles of flowers. I smell
roses, till I think I see the rose-leaves lying in heaps, bushels, on
the floor. I smell fallen leaves, till I put down my hand--so--and
expect to make them rustle. I smell the white and the pink May in
the hedges, and all sorts of flowers that I never was among. For I
have seen very few flowers indeed, in my life.'

'Pleasant fancies to have, Jenny dear!' said her friend: with a
glance towards Eugene as if she would have asked him whether
they were given the child in compensation for her losses.

'So I think, Lizzie, when they come to me. And the birds I hear!
Oh!' cried the little creature, holding out her hand and looking
upward, 'how they sing!'

There was something in the face and action for the moment, quite
inspired and beautiful. Then the chin dropped musingly upon the
hand again.

'I dare say my birds sing better than other birds, and my flowers
smell better than other flowers. For when I was a little child,' in a
tone as though it were ages ago, 'the children that I used to see
early in the morning were very different from any others that I
ever saw. They were not like me; they were not chilled, anxious,
ragged, or beaten; they were never in pain. They were not like the
children of the neighbours; they never made me tremble all over,
by setting up shrill noises, and they never mocked me. Such
numbers of them too! All in white dresses, and with something
shining on the borders, and on their heads, that I have never been
able to imitate with my work, though I know it so well. They used
to come down in long bright slanting rows, and say all together,
"Who is this in pain! Who is this in pain!" When I told them who
it was, they answered, "Come and play with us!" When I said "I
never play! I can't play!" they swept about me and took me up,
and made me light. Then it was all delicious ease and rest till they
laid me down, and said, all together, "Have patience, and we will
come again." Whenever they came back, I used to know they
were coming before I saw the long bright rows, by hearing them
ask, all together a long way off, "Who is this in pain! Who is this
in pain!" And I used to cry out, "O my blessed children, it's poor
me. Have pity on me. Take me up and make me light!"'

By degrees, as she progressed in this remembrance, the hand was
raised, the late ecstatic look returned, and she became quite
beautiful. Having so paused for a moment, silent, with a listening
smile upon her face, she looked round and recalled herself.

'What poor fun you think me; don't you, Mr Wrayburn? You may
well look tired of me. But it's Saturday night, and I won't detain

'That is to say, Miss Wren,' observed Eugene, quite ready to profit
by the hint, 'you wish me to go?'

'Well, it's Saturday night,' she returned, and my child's coming
home. And my child is a troublesome bad child, and costs me a
world of scolding. I would rather you didn't see my child.'

'A doll?' said Eugene, not understanding, and looking for an

But Lizzie, with her lips only, shaping the two words, 'Her father,'
he delayed no longer. He took his leave immediately. At the
corner of the street he stopped to light another cigar, and possibly
to ask himself what he was doing otherwise. If so, the answer was
indefinite and vague. Who knows what he is doing, who is
careless what he does!

A man stumbled against him as he turned away, who mumbled
some maudlin apology. Looking after this man, Eugene saw him
go in at the door by which he himself had just come out.

On the man's stumbling into the room, Lizzie rose to leave it.

'Don't go away, Miss Hexam,' he said in a submissive manner,
speaking thickly and with difficulty. 'Don't fly from unfortunate
man in shattered state of health. Give poor invalid honour of your
company. It ain't--ain't catching.'

Lizzie murmured that she had something to do in her own room,
and went away upstairs.

'How's my Jenny?' said the man, timidly. 'How's my Jenny Wren,
best of children, object dearest affections broken-hearted invalid?'

To which the person of the house, stretching out her arm in an
attitude of command, replied with irresponsive asperity: 'Go along
with you! Go along into your corner! Get into your corner

The wretched spectacle made as if he would have offered some
remonstrance; but not venturing to resist the person of the house,
thought better of it, and went and sat down on a particular chair of

'Oh-h-h!' cried the person of the house, pointing her little finger,
'You bad old boy! Oh-h-h you naughty, wicked creature! WHAT
do you mean by it?'

The shaking figure, unnerved and disjointed from head to foot, put
out its two hands a little way, as making overtures of peace and
reconciliation. Abject tears stood in its eyes, and stained the
blotched red of its cheeks. The swollen lead-coloured under lip
trembled with a shameful whine. The whole indecorous
threadbare ruin, from the broken shoes to the prematurely-grey
scanty hair, grovelled. Not with any sense worthy to be called a
sense, of this dire reversal of the places of parent and child, but in
a pitiful expostulation to be let off from a scolding.

'I know your tricks and your manners,' cried Miss Wren. 'I know
where you've been to!' (which indeed it did not require
discernment to discover). 'Oh, you disgraceful old chap!'

The very breathing of the figure was contemptible, as it laboured
and rattled in that operation, like a blundering clock.

'Slave, slave, slave, from morning to night,' pursued the person of
the house, 'and all for this! WHAT do you mean by it?'

There was something in that emphasized 'What,' which absurdly
frightened the figure. As often as the person of the house worked
her way round to it--even as soon as he saw that it was coming--
he collapsed in an extra degree.

'I wish you had been taken up, and locked up,' said the person of
the house. 'I wish you had been poked into cells and black holes,
and run over by rats and spiders and beetles. I know their tricks
and their manners, and they'd have tickled you nicely. Ain't you
ashamed of yourself?'

'Yes, my dear,' stammered the father.

'Then,' said the person of the house, terrifying him by a grand
muster of her spirits and forces before recurring to the emphatic
word, 'WHAT do you mean by it?'

'Circumstances over which had no control,' was the miserable
creature's plea in extenuation.

'I'LL circumstance you and control you too,' retorted the person of
the house, speaking with vehement sharpness, 'if you talk in that
way. I'll give you in charge to the police, and have you fined five
shillings when you can't pay, and then I won't pay the money for
you, and you'll be transported for life. How should you like to be
transported for life?'

'Shouldn't like it. Poor shattered invalid. Trouble nobody long,'
cried the wretched figure.

'Come, come!' said the person of the house, tapping the table near
her in a business-like manner, and shaking her head and her chin;
'you know what you've got to do. Put down your money this

The obedient figure began to rummage in its pockets.

'Spent a fortune out of your wages, I'll be bound!' said the person
of the house. 'Put it here! All you've got left! Every farthing!'

Such a business as he made of collecting it from his dogs'-eared
pockets; of expecting it in this pocket, and not finding it; of not
expecting it in that pocket, and passing it over; of finding no
pocket where that other pocket ought to be!

'Is this all?' demanded the person of the house, when a confused
heap of pence and shillings lay on the table.

Book of the day: