Part 1 out of 4
TEN GIRLS FROM DICKENS
KATE DICKINSON SWEETSER
"TEN BOYS FROM DICKENS" "TEN GREAT ADVENTURERS"
"BOOK OF INDIAN BRAVES" ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE ALFRED WILLIAMS
[Illustration: LITTLE NELL AND HER GRANDFATHER]
As a companion volume to Ten Boys from Dickens, this book of girl-life,
portrayed by the great author, is offered.
The sketches have the same underlying motive as those of boy-life, and
have been compiled in the same manner, with the same purpose in view.
Among them will be found several of the most popular of the creations of
Dickens, notably, The Marchioness, Little Nell, Jenny Wren, and Florence
Dombey, and it is hoped that in this presentation as simple stories of
girlhood, their classic form and beauty may arouse in the young people
of our day a new interest in the novels from which they are taken.
This volume and its companion will have accomplished their purpose when
they have won fresh laurels and a wider audience for the famous writer
to whom they are indebted for their existence.
K.D.S. _April, 1902_.
THE INFANT PHENOMENON.
[Illustration: THE MARCHIONESS AND DICK SWIVELLER]
The Marchioness was a small servant employed by Sampson Brass and his
sister Sally, as general house-worker and drudge, in which capacity she
was discovered by Mr. Richard Swiveller, upon the very first day of his
entering the Brass establishment as clerk.
The Brasses' house was a small one in Bevis Marks, London, having upon
its door a plate, "Brass, Solicitor," and a bill tied to the knocker,
"First floor to let to a single gentleman," and served not only as
habitation, but likewise as office for Sampson Brass,--of none too good
legal repute,--and his sister; a gaunt, bony copy of her red-haired
brother, who was his housekeeper, as well as his business partner.
When the Brasses decided to keep a clerk, Richard Swiveller was chosen
to fill the place; and be it known to whom it may concern, that the said
Richard was the merriest, laziest, weakest, most kind-hearted fellow who
ever sowed a large crop of wild oats, and by a sudden stroke of
good-luck found himself raised to a salaried position.
Clad in a blue jacket with a double row of gilt buttons, bought for
acquatic expeditions, but now dedicated to office purposes, Richard
entered upon his new duties, and during that first afternoon, while Mr.
Brass and his sister were temporarily absent from the office, he began a
minute examination of its contents.
Then, after assuaging his thirst with a pint of mild porter, and
receiving and dismissing three or four small boys who dropped in on
legal errands from other attorneys, with about as correct an
understanding of their business as would have been shown by a clown in a
pantomime under similar circumstances, he tried his hand at a
pen-and-ink caricature of Miss Brass, in which work he was busily
engaged, when there came a rapping at the office-door.
"Come in!" said Dick. "Don't stand on ceremony. The business will get
rather complicated if I have many more customers. Come in!"
"Oh, please," said a little voice very low down in the doorway, "will
you come and show the lodgings?"
Dick leaned over the table, and descried a small slipshod girl in a
dirty coarse apron and bib, which left nothing of her visible but her
face and feet. She might as well have been dressed in a violin case.
"Why, who are you?" said Dick.
To which the only reply was, "Oh, please, will you come and show the
There never was such an old-fashioned child in her looks and manner. She
must have been at work from her cradle. She seemed as much afraid of
Dick, as Dick was amazed at her.
"I haven't got anything to do with the lodgings," said Dick. "Tell 'em
to call again."
"Oh, but please will you come and show the lodgings?" returned the girl;
"it's eighteen shillings a week, and us finding plate and linen. Boots
and clothes is extra, and fires in winter-time is eightpence a day."
"Why don't you show 'em yourself? You seem to know all about 'em," said
"Miss Sally said I wasn't to, because people wouldn't believe the
attendance was good if they saw how small I was, first."
"Well, but they'll see how small you are afterwards, won't they?" said
"Ah! but then they'll have taken 'em for a fortnight certain," replied
the child, with a shrewd look; "and people don't like moving when
they're once settled."
"This is a queer sort of thing," muttered Dick, rising. "What do you
mean to say you are--the cook?"
"Yes; I do plain cooking," replied the child. "I'm housemaid too. I do
all the work of the house."
Just then certain sounds on the passage and staircase seemed to denote
the applicant's impatience. Richard Swiveller, therefore, hurried out to
meet and treat with the single gentleman.
He was a little surprised to perceive that the sounds were occasioned by
the progress upstairs of a trunk, which the single gentleman and his
coachman were endeavoring to convey up the steep ascent. Mr. Swiveller
followed slowly behind, entering a new protest on every stair against
the house of Mr. Sampson Brass being thus taken by storm.
To these remonstrances the single gentleman answered not a word, but
when the trunk was at last got into the bedroom, sat down upon it, and
wiped his bald head with his handkerchief. He then announced abruptly
that he would take the room for two years, whereupon, handing a
ten-pound note to the astonished Mr. Swiveller, he began to make ready
to retire, as if it were night instead of day, and Mr. Swiveller walked
downstairs into the office again, filled with wonderment concerning both
the strange new lodger and the small servant who had appeared to
answer the bell.
After that day, one circumstance troubled Mr. Swiveller's mind very
much, and that was, that the small servant always remained somewhere in
the bowels of the earth under Bevis Marks, and never came to the surface
unless a bell rang, when she would answer it, and immediately disappear
again. She never went out, or came into the office, or had a clean face,
or took off the coarse apron, or looked out of any of the windows, or
stood at the street door for a breath of air, or had any rest or
enjoyment whatever. Nobody ever came to see her, nobody spoke of her,
nobody cared about her.
"Now," said Dick, one day, walking up and down with his hands in his
pockets; "I'd give something--if I had it--to know how they use that
child, and where they keep her. I _should_ like to know how they
At that moment he caught a glimpse of Miss Brass flitting down the
kitchen stairs. "And, by Jove!" thought Dick, "She's going to feed the
small servant. Now or never!"
First peeping over the handrail, he groped his way down, and arrived at
the kitchen door immediately after Miss Brass had entered the same,
bearing in her hand a cold leg of mutton.
It was a very dark, miserable place, very low and very damp; the walls
disfigured by a thousand rents and blotches. The water was trickling out
of a leaky butt, and a most wretched cat was lapping up the drops with
the sickly eagerness of starvation. The grate was screwed up so tight as
to hold no more than a thin sandwich of fire. Everything was locked up;
the coal-cellar, the candle-box, the salt-box, the meat-safe, were all
padlocked. There was nothing that a beetle could have lunched on.
The small servant stood with humility in presence of Miss Sally, and
hung her head.
"Are you there?" said Miss Sally.
"Yes ma'am," was the answer, in a weak voice.
"Go further away from the leg of mutton, or you'll be picking it, I
know," said Miss Sally.
The girl withdrew into a corner, while Miss Brass opened the safe, and
brought from it a dreary waste of cold potatoes, looking as eatable as
Stonehenge. This she placed before the small servant, and then, taking
up a great carving-knife, made a mighty show of sharpening it.
"Do you see this?" she said, slicing off about two square inches of cold
mutton, and holding it out on the point of a fork.
The small servant looked hard enough at it with her hungry eyes to see
every shred of it and answered, "Yes."
"Then don't you ever go and say," retorted Miss Sally, "that you hadn't
meat here. There, eat it up."
This was soon done.
"Now, do you want any more?" said Miss Sally.
The hungry creature answered with a faint "No." They were evidently
going through an established form.
"You've been helped once to meat," said Miss Brass, summing up the
facts; "you have had as much as you can eat: you're asked if you want
any more, and you answer 'No.' Then don't you ever go and say you were
With those words, Miss Sally put the meat away, locked the meat-safe,
and then overlooked the small servant while she finished the potatoes.
After that, without the smallest cause, she rapped the child with the
blade of the knife, now on her hand, now on her head, and now on her
back. Then, after walking slowly backward towards the door, she darted
suddenly forward, and falling on the small servant again, gave her some
hard blows with her clenched fists. The victim cried, but in a subdued
manner, as if she feared to raise her voice; and Miss Sally ascended the
stairs just as Richard had safely reached the office, fairly beside
himself with anger over the poor child's misery and ill-treatment.
During the following weeks, when he had become accustomed to the routine
of work which he was expected to accomplish, and being often left alone
in the office, Richard Swiveller began to find time hang heavy on his
hands. For the better preservation of his cheerfulness, therefore, he
accustomed himself to play at cribbage with a dummy. While he was
silently conducting one of these games Mr. Swiveller began to think that
he heard a kind of hard breathing sound, in the direction of the door,
which it occurred to him, after some reflection, must proceed from the
small servant, who always had a cold from damp living. Looking intently
that way, he plainly distinguished an eye gleaming and glistening at the
keyhole; and having now no doubt that his suspicions were correct he
stole softly to the door, and pounced upon her before she was aware of
"Oh! I didn't mean any harm, indeed, upon my word I didn't," cried the
small servant; "it's so very dull downstairs. Please don't you tell upon
me, please don't."
"Tell upon you!" said Dick. "Do you mean to say you were looking through
the keyhole for company?"
"Yes, upon my word I was," replied the small servant.
"How long have you been cooling your eye there?" said Dick.
"Oh, ever since you first began to play them cards, and long before."
"Well--come in," said Mr. Swiveller, after a little consideration.
"Here--sit down, and I'll teach you how to play."
"Oh! I durstn't do it," rejoined the small servant; "Miss Sally 'ud kill
me if she knowed I come up here."
"Have you got a fire downstairs?" said Dick.
"A very little one," replied the small servant.
"Miss Sally couldn't kill me if she knowed I went down there, so I'll
come," said Richard, putting the cards into his pocket. "Why, how thin
you are! What do you mean by it?"
"It an't my fault."
"Could you eat any bread and meat?" said Dick, taking down his hat "Yes?
Ah! I thought so. Did you ever taste beer?"
"I had a sip of it once," said the small servant.
"Here's a state of things!" cried Mr. Swiveller, raising his eyes to the
ceiling. "She never tasted it--it can't be tasted in a sip! Why, how
old are you?"
"I don't know."
Mr. Swiveller opened his eyes very wide, and appeared thoughtful for a
moment; then, bidding the child mind the door until he came back,
Presently he returned, followed by a boy from the public-house, who bore
a plate of bread and beef, and a great pot filled with choice purl.
Relieving the boy of his burden, and charging his little companion to
fasten the door to prevent surprise, Mr. Swiveller followed her into
"There!" said Richard, putting the plate before her. "First of all,
clear that off, and then you'll see what's next."
The small servant needed no second bidding, and the plate was soon
"Next," said Dick, handing the purl, "take a pull at that, but moderate
your transports, for you're not used to it. Well, is it good?"
"Oh, _isn't_ it!" said the small servant.
Mr. Swiveller appeared immensely gratified over her enjoyment, and when
she had satisfied her hunger, applied himself to teaching her the game,
which she soon learned tolerably well, being both sharp-witted
"Now," said Mr. Swiveller, "to make it seem more real and pleasant, I
shall call you the Marchioness, do you hear?"
The small servant nodded.
"Then, Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller, "fire away!"
The Marchioness, holding her cards very tight in both hands, considered
which to play, and Mr. Swiveller, assuming the gay and fashionable air
which such society required, waited for her lead.
They had played several rubbers, when the striking of ten o'clock
rendered Mr. Swiveller mindful of the flight of time, and of the
expediency of withdrawing before Mr. Sampson and Miss Sally
"With which object in view, Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller gravely. "I
shall ask your ladyship's permission to put the board in my pocket, and
to retire. The Baron Sampsono Brasso and his fair sister are, you tell
me, at the Play?" added Mr. Swiveller, leaning his left arm heavily upon
the table, and raising his voice and his right leg after the manner of a
The Marchioness nodded.
"Ha!" said Mr. Swiveller, with a portentous frown. "'Tis well.
Marchioness!--but no matter. Some wine there, ho! Marchioness,
The small servant, who was not so well acquainted with theatrical
conventionalities as Mr. Swiveller, was rather alarmed by his manner,
and showed it so plainly that he felt it necessary to discharge his
brigand bearing for one more suitable to private life.
"I suppose," said Dick, "that they consult together a good deal, and
talk about a great many people--about me, for instance, sometimes, eh,
The Marchioness nodded amazingly.
"Complimentary?" asked Mr. Swiveller.
The Marchioness shook her head violently.
"H'm!" Dick muttered. "Would it be any breach of confidence,
Marchioness, to relate what they say of the humble individual who has
now the honor to--?"
"Miss Sally says you are a funny chap," replied his friend.
"Well, Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller, "that's not uncomplimentary.
Merriment, Marchioness, is not a bad of a degrading quality. Old King
Cole was himself a merry old soul, if we may put any faith in the pages
"But she says," pursued his companion, "that you aren't to be trusted."
"Why, really, Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller thoughtfully, "it's a
popular prejudice, and yet I'm sure I don't know why, for I've been
trusted in my time to a considerable amount, and I can safely say that I
never forsook my trust, until it deserted me--never. Mr. Brass is of the
same opinion, I suppose?"
His friend nodded again, adding imploringly, "But don't you ever tell
upon me, or I shall be beat to death."
"Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller, rising, "the word of a gentleman is
as good as his bond--sometimes better, as in the present case, where his
bond might prove but a doubtful sort of security. I'm your friend, and I
hope we shall play many more rubbers together. But, Marchioness," added
Richard, "it occurs to me that you must be in the constant habit of
airing your eye at keyholes to know this."
"I only wanted," replied the trembling Marchioness, "to know where the
key of the meat-safe was hid--that was all; and I wouldn't have taken
much if I had found it--only enough to squench my hunger."
"You didn't find it, then?" said Dick, "but, of course, you didn't, or
of course you'd be plumper. Good-night, Marchioness, fare thee well, and
if forever, then forever fare thee well. And put up the chain,
Marchioness, in case of accidents!"
Upon repairing to Bevis Marks on the following morning, he found Miss
Brass much agitated over the disappearance from the office of several
small articles, as well as three half crowns, and Richard felt much
troubled over the matter, saying to himself, "Then, by Jove, I'm afraid
the Marchioness is done for!"
The more he discussed the subject in his thoughts, the more probable it
appeared to Dick that the miserable little servant was the culprit. When
he considered on what a spare allowance of food she lived, how neglected
and untaught she was, and how her natural cunning had been sharpened by
necessity and privation, he scarcely doubted it. And yet he pitied her
so much, and felt so unwilling to have a matter of such gravity
disturbing the oddity of their acquaintance, that he thought, rather
than receive fifty pounds down, he would have the Marchioness
While the subject of the thefts was under discussion, Kit Nubbles, a lad
in the employ of a Mr. Garland, passed through the office, on his way
upstairs to the room of the Brasses' lodger, the single gentleman, who
was an intimate friend of Kit's employer. The single gentleman having
been confined to his room for some time by a slight illness, it had
become Kit's daily custom to convey to him messages and notes from Mr.
Garland, and not infrequently Sampson Brass would detain the lad in the
office for a few words of pleasant conversation.
Having discharged his errand, Kit came downstairs again, finding no one
in the office except Mr. Brass, who, after greeting him affably,
requested him to mind the office for one minute while he ran upstairs.
Mr. Brass returned almost immediately, Mr. Swiveller came in too, at the
same instant, likewise Miss Sally, and Kit, released, at once set off on
a run towards home, eager to make up for lost time. As he was running,
he was suddenly arrested and held in restraint, by no less a person than
Sampson Brass himself, accompanied by Mr. Swiveller.
A five-pound note was missing from the office. Kit had been alone there
for some minutes. Who could have taken it but Kit?
Pleased to have suspicion diverted from the Marchioness, but loath to
help in so unpleasant an affair, Mr. Swiveller reluctantly assisted in
bearing the captive back to the office, Kit protesting his innocence at
every step. They searched him, and there under the lining of his hat was
the missing bank-note!
Still protesting his innocence, and completely stunned by the calamity
which had come upon him, the lad was borne off to prison, where, after
eleven weary days had dragged away, he was brought to trial. Richard
Swiveller was called as a witness against Kit, and told his tale with
reluctance, and an evident desire to make the best of it, for the lad's
sake. His kind heart was also touched with pity for Kit's poor widowed
mother, who sobbed out again and again, that she had never had cause to
doubt her son's honesty, and she never would.
When the trial was ended, and Kit found guilty, Richard bore the lad's
fainting mother swiftly off in a coach he had ready for the purpose,
and on the way comforted her in his own peculiar fashion, perpetrating
the most astounding absurdities of quotation from song and poem that
ever were heard. Reaching her home, he stayed till she was recovered;
then returned to Bevis Marks, where Mr. Brass met him with the news that
his services would be no longer required in the establishment.
Feeling sure that this verdict was in consequence of his defence of Kit,
Mr. Swiveller took his dismissal in profound silence, and turned his
back upon Bevis Marks, big with designs for the comforting of Kit's
mother, and the aid of Kit himself. His only regret in regard to the
matter was in having to leave the Marchioness alone and unprotected in
the hands of the Brasses, and little did he dream that to the small
servant herself, to the Marchioness, rather than to him, Kit and his
mother were to owe their heaviest debt of gratitude--but it was so
That very night Mr. Richard was seized with an alarming illness, and in
twenty-four hours was stricken with a raging fever, and lay tossing upon
his hot, uneasy bed, unconscious of anything but weariness and worry and
pain, until at length he sank into a deep sleep. He awoke, and with a
sensation of blissful rest better than sleep itself, began to dimly
remember, and to think what a long night it had been, and to wonder
whether he had not been delirious once or twice. Still, he felt
indifferent and happy, and having no curiosity to pursue the subject,
remained in a waking slumber until his attention was attracted by a
cough. This made him doubt whether he had locked his door last night,
and feel a little surprised at having a companion in the room. But he
lacked energy to follow up this train of thought, and in a luxury of
repose, lay staring at some green stripes on the bed furniture, and
associating them strangely, with patches of fresh turf, while the
yellow ground between made gravel walks, and so helped out a long
perspective of trim gardens.
He was rambling in imagination on these terraces, when he heard the
cough once more. Raising himself a little in the bed, he looked
The same room, certainly, but with what unbounded astonishment did he
see bottles, and basins, and articles of linen airing by the fire--all
very clean and neat, but quite different from anything he had left there
when he went to bed! The atmosphere too filled with a cool smell of
herbs and vinegar; the floor newly sprinkled; the--the what?--the
Yes; playing cribbage with herself at the table. There she sat, intent
upon her game, coughing now and then in a subdued manner, as if she
feared to disturb him, going through all the mysteries of cribbage as if
she had been in full practice from her cradle!
Mr. Swiveller contemplated these things for a short time, then laid his
head on the pillow again.
"I'm dreaming," thought Richard, "that's clear. When I went to bed my
hands were not made of egg-shells, and now I can almost see through 'em.
If this is not a dream, I have woke up, by mistake, in an Arabian Night
instead of a London one. But I have no doubt I'm asleep. Not the least."
Here the small servant had another cough.
"Very remarkable!" thought Mr. Swiveller. "I never dreamed such a real
cough as that before. There's another--and another--I say!--I'm dreaming
"It's an Arabian Night; that's what it is," said Richard. "I'm in
Damascus or Grand Cairo. The Marchioness is a Genie and having had a
wager with another Genie about who is the handsomest young man alive,
and the worthiest to be the husband of the Princess of China, has
brought me away, room and all, to compare us together."
Not feeling quite satisfied with this explanation, Mr. Swiveller
determined to take the first opportunity of addressing his companion. An
occasion soon presented itself. The Marchioness dealt, turned up a
knave, and omitted to take the usual advantage, upon which Mr. Swiveller
called out as loud as he could--"Two for his heels!"
The Marchioness jumped up quickly, and clapped her hands.
"Arabian Night certainly," thought Mr. Swiveller; "they always clap
their hands, instead of ringing the bell. Now for the two thousand black
slaves with jars and jewels on their heads!"
It appeared however, that she had only clapped her hands for joy, as
directly afterward she began to laugh, and then to cry, declaring, not
in choice Arabic, but in familiar English, that she was "so glad she
didn't know what to do."
"Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller, "will you have the goodness to inform
me where I shall find my voice; and what has become of my flesh?"
The Marchioness only shook her head mournfully, and cried again,
whereupon Mr. Swiveller (being very weak) felt his own eyes
"I begin to infer, Marchioness," said Richard, after a pause, "that I
have been ill."
"You just have!" replied the small servant, wiping her eyes. "Haven't
you been a-talking nonsense!"
"Oh!", said Dick. "Very ill, Marchioness, have I been?"
"Dead, all but," replied the small servant. "I never thought you'd get
Mr. Swiveller was silent for a long period. By and by he inquired how
long he had been there.
"Three weeks to-morrow." replied the small servant, "three long slow
The bare thought of having been in such extremity caused Richard to fall
into another silence. The Marchioness, having arranged the bedclothes
more comfortably, and felt that his hands and forehead were quite cool,
cried a little more, and then applied herself to getting tea ready, and
making some thin dry toast.
While she was thus engaged Mr. Swiveller looked on with a grateful
heart, very much astonished to see how thoroughly at home she made
herself. She propped him up with pillows, and looked on with unutterable
satisfaction, while he took his poor meal with a relish which the
greatest dainties of the earth might have failed to provoke. Having
cleared away, and disposed everything comfortably about him again, she
sat down to take her own tea.
"Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller, "have you seen Sally lately?"
"Seen her!" cried the small servant. "Bless you, I've run away!"
Mr. Swiveller immediately laid himself down again, and so remained for
about five minutes. After that lapse of time he resumed his sitting
posture, and inquired,--
"And where do you live, Marchioness?"
"Live!" cried the small servant. "Here!"
"Oh!" said Mr. Swiveller.
With that he fell down flat again, as suddenly as if he had been shot.
Thus he remained until she had finished her meal, when being propped up
again he opened a further conversation.
"And so," said Dick, "you have run away?"
"Yes," said the Marchioness; "and they've been a 'tising of me."
"Been--I beg your pardon," said Dick. "What have they been doing?"
"Been a 'tising of me--'tising, you know, in the newspapers," rejoined
"Aye, aye," said Dick, "Advertising?"
The small servant nodded and winked.
"Tell me," continued Richard, "how it was that you thought of coming
"Why, you see," returned the Marchioness, "when you was gone, I hadn't
any friend at all, and I didn't know where you was to be found, you
know. But one morning, when I was near the office keyhole I heard
somebody saying that she lived here, and was the lady whose house you
lodged at, and that you was took very bad, and wouldn't nobody come and
take care of you. Mr. Brass, he says, 'It's no business of mine,' he
says; and Miss Sally she says, 'He's a funny chap, but it's no business
of mine;' and the lady went away. So I run away that night, and come
here, and told 'em you was my brother, and I've been here ever since."
"This poor little Marchioness has been wearing herself to death!" cried
"No, I haven't," she replied, "not a bit of it. Don't you mind about me.
I like sitting up, and I've often had a sleep, bless you, in one of them
chairs. But if you could have seen how you tried to jump out o' winder,
and if you could have heard how you used to keep on singing and making
speeches, you wouldn't have believed it--I'm so glad you're better,
"Liverer, indeed!" said Dick thoughtfully. "It's well I am a liverer. I
strongly suspect I should have died, Marchioness, but for you."
At this point, Mr. Swiveller took the small servant's hand in his,
struggling to express his thanks, but she quickly changed the theme,
urging him to shut his eyes and take a little rest. Being indeed
fatigued, he needed but little urging, and fell into a slumber, from
which he waked in about half an hour, after which his small friend
helped him to sit up again.
"Marchioness," said Richard suddenly, "What has become of Kit?"
"He has been sentenced to transportation for a great many years," she
"Has he gone?" asked Dick, "His mother, what has become of her?"
His nurse shook her head, and answered that she knew nothing about them.
"But if I thought," said she presently, "that you'd not put yourself
into another fever, I could tell you something--but I won't, now. Wait
till you're better, then I'll tell you."
Dick looked very earnestly at his little friend, and urged her to tell
him the worst at once.
Unable to resist his fervent adjurations, the Marchioness spoke thus:
"Well! Before I run away, I used to sleep in the kitchen. Miss Sally
used to keep the key of the door in her pocket, and she always come down
at night to take away the candle and rake out the fire. Then she left me
to go to bed in the dark, locked the door on the outside, and kept me
locked up till she came down in the morning and let me out. I was
terrible afraid of being kept like this, because if there was a fire, I
thought they might forget me, you know. So, whenever I see an old key, I
picked it up and tried if it would fit the door, and at last I found a
key that did fit it. They kept me very short," said the small servant,
"so I used to come out at night after they'd gone to bed, and feel
about in the dark, for bits of biscuit, or sangwitches, or even pieces
of orange-peel to put into cold water, and make believe it was wine. If
you make believe very much, it's quite nice," continued the small
servant; "but if you don't, you know, it seems as if it would bear a
little more seasoning! Well, one or two nights before the young man was
took, I come upstairs while Mr. Brass and Miss Sally was a-sittin by the
office fire and talking softly together. They whispered and laughed for
a long time, about there being no danger if it was well done; that they
must do what their best client, Quilp, desired, and that for his own
reasons, he hated Kit, and wanted to have his reputation ruined. Then
Mr. Brass pulls out his pocket-book, and says, 'Well, here it
is--Quilp's own five-pound note. Kit is coming to-morrow morning, I
know. I'll hold him in conversation, and put this property in his hat,
and then convict him of theft. And if that don't get Kit out of Mr.
Quilp's way, and satisfy his grudge against the lad,' he said, 'the
devil's in it,' Then they seemed to be moving away, and I was afraid to
stop any longer. There!"
The small servant was so much agitated herself that she made no effort
to restrain Mr. Swiveller when he sat up in bed, and hastily demanded
whether this story had been told to anybody.
"How could it be?" replied his nurse. "When I heard 'em say that you was
gone, and so was the lodger, and ever since I come here, you've been out
of your senses, so what would have been the good of telling you then?"
"Marchioness," said Mr. Swiveller, "if you'll do me the favor to retire
for a few minutes, and see what sort of a night it is, I'll get up,"
"You mustn't think of such a thing," cried his nurse.
"I must indeed," said the patient. "Whereabouts are my clothes?"
"Oh, I'm so glad--you haven't got any," replied the Marchioness.
"Ma'am!" said Mr. Swiveller, in great astonishment.
"I've been obliged to sell them, every one, to get the things that was
ordered for you. But don't take on about that," urged the Marchioness,
as Dick fell back upon his pillow, "you're too weak to stand indeed."
"I'm afraid," said Richard dolefully, "that you're right. Now, what is
to be done?"
It occurred to him, on very little reflection, that the first step to
take would be to communicate with Kit's employer, Mr. Garland, or with
his son Mr. Abel, at once. It was possible that Mr. Abel had not yet
left his office. In as little time as it takes to tell it, the small
servant had the address on a piece of paper, and a description of father
and son, which would enable her to recognize either without difficulty.
Armed with these slender powers, she hurried away, commissioned to bring
either Mr. Garland or Mr. Abel bodily to Mr. Swiveller's apartment.
"I suppose," said Dick, as she closed the door slowly, and peeped into
the room again, to make sure that he was comfortable, "I suppose there's
nothing left--not so much as a waistcoat?"
"Its embarrassing," said Mr. Swiveller, "in case of fire--even an
umbrella would be something--but you did quite right, dear Marchioness.
I should have died without you."
The small servant went swiftly on her way, towards the office of the
Notary, Mr. Witherden, where Mr. Garland was to be found. She had no
bonnet, only a great cap on her head, which in some old time had been
worn by Sally Brass;--and her shoes being extremely large and slipshod,
flew off every now and then, and were difficult to find. Indeed the poor
little creature experienced so much trouble and delay from having to
grope for them in the mud, and suffered so much jostling, pushing, and
squeezing in these researches, that between it, and her fear of being
recognized by some one, and carried back by force to the Brasses, when
she at last reached the Notary's office, she was fairly worn out, and
could not refrain from tears. But to have got there was a comfort, and
she found Mr. Abel in the act of entering his pony-chaise and driving
away. There was nothing for her to do but to run after the chaise and
call to Mr. Abel to stop. Being out of breath, she was unable to make
him hear. The case was desperate, for the pony was quickening his pace.
The Marchioness hung on behind for a few moments, and feeling she could
go no farther, clambered by a vigorous effort into the hinder seat,
where she remained in silence, until she had to some degree recovered
her breath, and become accustomed to the novelty of her position, when
she uttered close into Mr. Abel's ear the words,--
"I say, sir."
He turned his head quickly enough then, and stopping the pony, cried
with some trepidation, "God bless me! what is this?"
"Don't be frightened, sir," replied the still panting messenger. "Oh,
I've run such a way after you!"
"What do you want with me?" said Mr. Abel. "How did you come here?"
"I got in behind," replied the Marchioness. "Oh, please drive on,
sir--don't stop--and go towards the City, will you? and oh--do please
make haste, because it is of consequence. There's somebody wants to see
you there. He sent me to say, would you come directly, and that he
knows all about Kit, and could save him yet, and prove his innocence."
"What do you tell me, child?"
"The truth, upon my word and honor, I do. But please to drive on--quick,
please! I've been such a time gone, he'll think I'm lost"
Mr. Abel urged the pony forward, and at last they arrived at the door of
Mr. Swiveller's lodgings.
"See! It's that room up there," said the Marchioness, pointing to one
where there was a faint light. "Come!"
Mr. Abel who was naturally timid, hesitated; for he had heard of people
being decoyed into strange places, to be robbed and murdered, under
circumstances very like the present, by guides very like the
Marchioness. His regard for Kit, however, overcame every other
consideration. So he suffered his companion to lead him up the dark and
narrow stair, into a dimly lighted sick-chamber, where a man was lying
tranquilly in bed, in whose wasted face he recognized the features of
"Why, how is this?" said Mr. Abel, kindly, "You have been ill?"
"Very," replied Dick, "Nearly dead. You might have chanced to hear of
your Richard on his bier, but for the friend I sent to fetch you.
Another shake of the hand, Marchioness, if you please. Sit down, sir."
Mr. Abel seemed rather astonished to hear of the quality of his guide,
and took a chair by the bedside.
"I have sent for you, sir," said Dick--"but she told you on what
"She did. I am quite bewildered by all this. I really don't know what to
say or think," replied Mr. Abel.
"You'll say that presently," retorted Dick. "Marchioness, take a seat
on the bed, will you? Now, tell this gentleman all that you told me, and
The story was repeated, without any deviation or omission, after which
Richard Swiveller took the word again;
"You have heard it all," said Richard. "I'm too giddy and queer to
suggest anything, but you and your friends will know what to do. After
this long delay, every minute is an age. Don't stop to say one word to
me, but go! If you lose another minute in looking at me, sir, I'll never
Mr. Abel needed no more persuasion. To Dick's unbounded delight he was
gone in an instant, and Mr. Swiveller, exhausted by the interview, was
soon asleep, murmuring 'Strew, then, oh strew a bed of rushes. Here will
we stay till morning blushes.' "Good-night, Marchioness!"
On awaking in the morning, he became conscious of whispering voices in
his room, and espied Mr. Garland, Mr. Abel, and two other gentlemen
talking earnestly with the Marchioness. Upon perceiving the invalid to
be awake, Mr. Garland stretched out his hand, and inquired how Mr.
Swiveller felt; adding
"And what can we do for you?"
"If you could make the Marchioness yonder, a Marchioness in real, sober
earnest," returned Dick, "I'd thank you to get it done offhand. But as
you can't, the question is, what is it best to do for Kit?"
Gathering around Mr. Swiveller's bedside, the group of gentlemen then
proceeded to discuss in detail all the evidence against Sampson Brass,
as contained in the confession of the Marchioness, and what course was
wisest to pursue in the matter. After which the gentlemen took their
leaves for a time, or Richard Swiveller must assuredly have been driven
into another fever, in consequence of having entered into such an
Mr. Abel alone remained behind, very often looking at his watch and the
room-door, until the reason of his watchfulness was disclosed when Mr.
Swiveller was roused from a short nap by the delivery at his door of a
mighty hamper, which, being opened, disgorged such treasures of tea, and
coffee, and wine, and rusk, and oranges, and grapes, and fowls, and
calvesfoot jelly, and other delicate restoratives, that the small
servant stood rooted to the spot, with her mouth and eyes watering in
unison, and her power of speech quite gone. With the hamper appeared
also a nice old lady, who bustled about on tiptoe, began to make
chicken-broth, and peel oranges for the sick man, and to ply the small
servant with glasses of wine, and choice bits of everything. The whole
of which was so bewildering that Mr. Swiveller, when he had taken two
oranges and a little jelly, was fain to lie down and fall asleep again,
from sheer inability to entertain such wonders in his mind.
Meanwhile the other gentlemen, who had left Richard Swiveller's room,
had retired to a coffee-house near by, from whence they sent a
peremptory and mysterious summons to Miss Sally Brass to favor them with
her company there as soon as possible. To this she replied by an almost
immediate appearance, whereupon, without any loss of time, she was
confronted with the tale of the small servant. While it was being
related for her benefit, Sampson Brass himself suddenly opened the door
of the coffee-house and joined the astonished group. Hearing the certain
proofs of his guilt so clearly related, he saw that evasion was useless,
and made a full confession of the scheme whereby Kit was to have been
doomed, but laying the entire blame, however, upon the rich little
dwarf, Quilp, saying that he could not afford to lose his rich client,
nor the large bribe he offered for the arrest of the lad, Kit.
Having secured the desired confession, the gentlemen hastened back to
Mr. Swiveller's room with the glad tidings, adding that it would now be
possible to accomplish the lad's immediate release, after making which
joyful statement, they took their departure for the night, leaving the
invalid with the small servant and one of their number, Mr. Witherden,
the notary, who remained behind to be the bearer of good news to
"I have been making some inquiries about you," said Mr. Witherden,
"little thinking that I should find you under such circumstances as
those which have brought us together. You are the nephew of Rebecca
Swiveller, spinster, deceased, of Cheselbourne, in Dorsetshire."
"Deceased!" cried Dick.
"Deceased. And by the terms of her will, you have fallen into an annuity
of one hundred and fifty pounds a year; I think I may congratulate you
"Sir," said Dick, sobbing and laughing together, "you may. For, please
God, we'll make a scholar of the poor Marchioness yet. And she shall
walk in silk attire, and siller have to spare, or may I never rise from
this bed again!"
Mr. Swiveller, recovering very slowly from his illness, even with the
strong tonic of his good fortune, and entering into the receipt of his
annuity, bought for the Marchioness a handsome stock of clothes, and put
her to school forthwith, in redemption of the vow he had made upon his
After casting about for some time for a name which should be worthy of
her, he decided in favor of Sophronia Sphynx, as being euphonious and
genteel, and, furthermore, indicative of mystery. Under this title the
Marchioness repaired in tears to the school of his selection, from
which, as she soon distanced all competitors, she was removed before the
lapse of many quarters to one of a higher grade. It is but bare justice
to Mr. Swiveller to say that although the expense of her education kept
him in straightened circumstances for half-a-dozen years, he never
slackened in his zeal, and always held himself sufficiently repaid by
the accounts he heard of her advancement.
In a word, Mr. Swiveller kept the Marchioness at this establishment
until she was, at a moderate guess, full nineteen years of age, at which
time, thanks to her earliest friend and most loyal champion, Richard
Swiveller, the shadows of a bitter past had been chased from her memory
by a happy present, and she was as good-looking, clever, and
good-humored a young woman as ever a real Marchioness might have been.
[Illustration: THE KENWIGSES]
The family who went by the designation of "The Kenwigses" were the wife
and olive branches of one Mr. Kenwigs, a turner in ivory, who was looked
upon as a person of some consideration where he lodged, inasmuch as he
occupied the whole of the first floor, comprising a suite of two rooms.
Mrs. Kenwigs too, was quite a lady in her manners, and of a very genteel
family, having an uncle, Mr. Lillyvick, who collected a water-rate, and
who she fondly hoped, would make her children his heirs. Besides which
distinction, the two eldest of her little girls went twice a week to a
dancing-school in the neighborhood, and had flaxen hair tied with blue
ribbons, hanging in luxuriant pigtails down their backs, and wore little
white trousers with frills round the ankles;--for all of which reasons
Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs, and the four olive Kenwigses, and the baby, were
considered quite important persons to know.
Upon the eighth anniversary of Mrs. Kenwigs' marriage to Mr. Kenwigs,
they entertained a select party of friends, and on that occasion, after
supper had been served, the group gathered by the fireside; Mr.
Lillyvick being stationed in a large arm-chair, and the four little
Kenwigses disposed on a small form in front of the company, with their
flaxen tails towards them, and their faces to the fire; an arrangement
which was no sooner perfected than Mrs. Kenwigs was overpowered by the
feelings of a mother, and fell upon Mr. Kenwigs' shoulder, dissolved
"They are so beautiful!" she said, sobbing. "I can--not help it, and it
don't signify! Oh, they're too beautiful to live--much too beautiful!"
On hearing this alarming presentiment of their early death, all four
little girls raised a hideous cry, and, burying their faces in their
mother's lap simultaneously, screamed until the eight flaxen tails
vibrated; Mrs. Kenwigs meanwhile clasping them alternately to her bosom,
with attitudes expressive of distraction.
At length, however, she permitted herself to be soothed, and the little
Kenwigses were distributed among the company, to prevent the possibility
of Mrs. Kenwigs being again overcome by the blaze of their united
beauty, after which, Morleena, the eldest olive branch--whose name had
been composed by Mrs. Kenwigs herself for the especial benefit of her
daughter--danced a dance. It was a very beautiful figure, comprising a
great deal of work for the arms, and was received with unbounded
applause, as were the various accomplishments displayed by others of the
party. The affair was proceeding most successfully when Mr. Lillyvick
took offence at a remark made by Mr. Kenwigs, and sat swelling and
fuming in offended dignity for some minutes, then burst out in words of
indignation. Here was an untoward event! The great man,--the rich
relation--who had it in his power to make Morleena an heiress, and the
very baby a legatee--was offended. Gracious powers, where would
"I am very sorry, sir," said Mr. Kenwigs humbly, but the apology was not
accepted, and Mr. Lillyvick continued to repeat; "Morleena, child, my
hat! Morleena, my hat!" until Mrs. Kenwigs sunk back in her chair,
overcome with grief, while the four little girls (privately instructed
to that effect) clasped their uncle's drab shorts in their arms, and
prayed him to remain.
"Mr. Lillyvick," said Kenwigs, "I hope for the sake of your niece that
you won't object to being reconciled."
The collector's face relaxed, as the company added their entreaties to
those of their host. He gave up his hat and held out his hand.
"There, Kenwigs," he said. "And let me tell you at the same time, to
show you how much out of temper I was, that if I had gone away without
another word, it would have made no difference respecting that pound or
two which I shall leave among your children when I die."
"Morleena Kenwigs," cried her mother, in a torrent of affection; "go
down upon your knees to your dear uncle and beg him to love you all his
life through, for he's more an angel than a man, and I've always
Miss Morleena, approaching to do homage, was summarily caught up and
kissed by Mr. Lillyvick, and thereupon Mrs. Kenwigs herself darted
forward and kissed the collector, and all was forgiven and forgotten.
No further wave of trouble ruffled the feelings of the party until
suddenly there came shrill and piercing screams from an upper room in
which the infant Kenwigs was enshrined, guarded by a small girl hired
for the purpose. Rushing to the door, Mrs. Kenwigs began to wring her
hands and shriek dismally, amid which cries, and the wails of the four
little girls, a stranger ran downstairs with the baby in his arms,
explaining hastily that, visiting a friend in a room above, he had heard
the cries, and found the baby's guardian asleep with her hair on fire.
This explanation over, the baby, who was unhurt, and who rejoiced in the
name of Lillyvick Kenwigs, was instantly almost suffocated under the
caresses of the audience, and squeezed to his mother's bosom until he
roared again. Then, after drinking the health of the child's preserver,
the company made the discovery that it was nigh two o'clock, whereat
they took their leave, with flattering expressions of the pleasure they
had enjoyed, to which Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs replied by thanking them, and
hoping they had enjoyed themselves only half as well as they said
The young man, Nicholas Nickleby by name, who had rescued the baby, made
such an impression upon Mrs. Kenwigs that she felt impelled to propose
through the friend whom he had been visiting, that he should instruct
the four little Kenwigses in the French language at the weekly stipend
of five shillings; being at the rate of one shilling per week, per each
Miss Kenwigs, and one shilling over until such time as the baby might be
able to take it out in grammar.
This proposition was accepted with alacrity by Nicholas, who betook
himself to the Kenwigs' apartment with all speed. Here he found the four
Miss Kenwigses on their form of audience, and the baby in a dwarf
porter's chair, with a deal tray before it, amusing himself with a toy
horse, while Mrs. Kenwigs spoke to the little girls of the superior
advantages they enjoyed above other children. "But I hope," she said,
"that that will not make them proud; but that they will bless their own
good fortune which has born them superior to common people's children.
And when you go out in the streets, or elsewhere, I desire that you
don't boast of it to the other children," continued Mrs. Kenwigs, "and
that if you must say anything about it, you don't say no more than
'we've got a private master comes to teach us at home, but we ain't
proud, because Ma says its sinful,' Do you hear, Morleena?"
Upon the eldest Miss Kenwigs replying meekly that she did, permission
was conceded for the lesson to commence, and accordingly the four Miss
Kenwigses again arranged themselves upon their form, in a row, with
their tails all one way, while Nicholas Nickleby began his preliminary
Some months after this, the Kenwigses were thrown into a fever of rage
and disappointment, by receiving the cruel news of their Uncle
Lillyvick's marriage, which blow was a terrible one to Mrs. Kenwigs,
blighting her hopes for her children's future. After weeping and wailing
in the most agonized fashion, Mrs. Kenwigs drew herself up in proud
defiance, and denounced her uncle in terms direct and plain, stating
that he should never again darken her doors. In this terrible state of
affairs, it remained for Morleena of the flaxen tails, to bring about a
family re-union, and in this way:
It had come to pass that she had received an invitation to repair next
day, per steamer from Westminster bridge, unto the Eel-Pie Island at
Twickenham, there to make merry upon a cold collation, and to dance in
the open air to the music of a locomotive band; the steamer having been
engaged by a dancing-master for his numerous pupils, one of whom had
extended an invitation to Miss Morleena, and Mrs. Kenwigs rightly deemed
the honor of the family was involved in her daughter making the most
splendid appearance possible. Now, between the Italian-ironing of
frills, the flouncing of trousers, the trimming of frocks, the faintings
from overwork and the comings-to again, incidental to the occasion, Mrs.
Kenwigs had been so entirely occupied, that she had not observed, until
within half an hour before, that the flaxen tails of Miss Morleena were
in a manner, run to seed; and that unless she were put under the hands
of a skilful hairdresser she never could achieve that signal triumph
over the daughters of all other people, anything less than which would
be tantamount to defeat. This discovery drove Mrs. Kenwigs to despair,
for the hairdresser lived three streets and eight dangerous crossings
off, and there was nobody to take her. So Mrs. Kenwigs first slapped
Miss Kenwigs for being the cause of her vexation, and then shed tears.
"I can't help it, ma," replied Morleena, also in tears, "my hair _will_
grow!" While they were both still bemoaning and weeping, a fellow lodger
in the house came upon them, and hearing of their difficulty, offered to
escort Miss Morleena to the barber-shop, and at once led her in safety
to that establishment. The proprietor, knowing she had three sisters,
each with two flaxen tails, and all good for sixpence apiece a month at
least, promptly deserted an old gentleman whom he had just lathered for
shaving, and waited on the young lady himself. The old gentleman raising
his head, Miss Kenwigs noticed his face and uttered a shrill little
scream,--it was her Uncle Lillyvick!
Hearing his name pronounced, Mr. Lillyvick groaned, then coughed to hide
it, and consigning himself to the hands of an assistant, commenced a
colloquy with Miss Morleena's escort, rather striving to escape the
notice of Miss Morleena herself, and so remarkable did this behavior
seem to her, that at the imminent hazard of having her ear sliced off,
she could not forbear looking round at him some score of times.
The cutting and curling being at last concluded, the old gentleman, who
had been finished some time, and simply waiting, rose to go also, and
walked out of the establishment with Miss Morleena and her escort,
proceeding with them, in profound silence until they had nearly reached
Miss Morleena's home, when he asked if her family had been very much
overpowered by the news of his marriage.
"It made ma cry when she knew it," answered Miss Morleena, "and pa was
very low in his spirits, but he is better now, and I was very ill, but I
am better too."
"Would you give your great-uncle Lillyvick a kiss, if he was to ask you,
Morleena?" said the collector, with some hesitation.
"Yes, Uncle Lillyvick, I would," returned Miss Morleena with no
hesitation whatsoever, whereupon Mr. Lillyvick caught her in his arms
and kissed her, and being by this time at the door of the house, he
walked straight up into the Kenwigses' sitting-room and put her down in
their midst. The surprise and delight that reigned in the bosom of the
Kenwigses at the unexpected sight, was only heightened by the joyful
intelligence that their uncle's married life had been both brief and
unsatisfactory, and by his further statement:
"Out of regard for you, Susan and Kenwigs, I shall to-morrow morning
settle upon your children, and make payable to their survivors when they
come of age, or marry, that money which I once meant to leave 'em in my
will. The deed shall be executed to-morrow!"
Overcome by this noble and generous offer, and by their emotion, Mr.
Kenwigs, Mrs. Kenwigs, and Miss Morleena Kenwigs all began to sob
together, and the noise communicating itself to the next room where the
other children lay a-bed, and causing them to cry too, Mr. Kenwigs
rushed wildly in, and bringing them out in his arms, by two and two,
tumbled them down in their night-caps and gowns at the feet of Mr.
Lillyvick, and called upon them to thank and bless him.
And this wonderful domestic scene,--this family reconciliation was
brought about by Miss Morleena, eldest of the four little Kenwigses,
with the flaxen tails!
[Illustration: LITTLE NELL AND HER GRANDFATHER]
There was once an old man, whose daughter dying, left in his care two
orphan children, a son twelve years old, and little Nell, a younger
girl. The grandfather was now an old and feeble man, but gathering
himself together as best he could, he began to trade;--in pictures
first--and then in curious ancient things, and from the Old Curiosity
Shop, as it was called, he was able to obtain a slender income.
The boy grew into a wayward youth, and soon quitted his grandfather's
home for companions more suited to his taste, but sweet little Nell
remained, and grew so like her mother, that when the old man had her on
his knee, and looked into her mild blue eyes, he felt as if his daughter
had come back, a child again.
The old man and little Nell dwelt alone,--he loving her with a
passionate devotion, and haunted with a fearful dread lest she should be
left to a life of poverty and want, when he should be called to leave
her. This fear so overmastered him that it led him to the gaming-table,
and--for her sake--he became a professional gambler, hoping to lay by a
vast fortune for her future use. But he lost heavily and constantly,
until his slender resources were exhausted, and he was obliged to borrow
money from the rich little dwarf money-lender, Quilp, pledging his stock
as security for the loans.
But of all this Little Nell knew nothing, or she would have implored
him to give up the dangerous practice. She only knew that, after her
monotonous days, uncheckered by variety and uncheered by pleasant
companionship, the old man, who seemed always agitated by some hidden
care, and weak and wandering in his mind, taking his cloak and hat and
stick, would pass from the house, leaving her alone through the dreary
evenings and long solitary nights.
It was not the absence of such pleasures as make young hearts beat high,
that brought tears to Nell's eyes. It was the sight of the old man's
feeble state of mind and body, and the fear that some night he should
fail to come home, having been overtaken by illness or sudden death.
Such fears as these drove the roses from her smooth young cheeks, and
stilled the songs which before had rung through the dim old shop, while
the gay, lightsome step passed among the dusty treasures. Now she seldom
smiled or sang, and among the few bits of comedy in her sad days, were
the visits of Kit Nubbles, her grandfather's errand boy, a shock-headed,
shambling, comical lad, whose devotion to the beautiful child verged on
worship. Appreciating Nell's loneliness, Kit visited the shop as often
as possible, and the exquisite oddity and awkwardness of his manner so
amused her that at sight of him she would give way to genuine merriment.
Kit himself, being always flattered by the sensation he produced, would
often burst into a loud roar, and stand with his mouth wide open, and
his eyes nearly shut, laughing violently.
Twice every week Nell gave the lad a writing lesson, to the great mirth
and enjoyment of them both, and each time Kit tucked up his sleeves,
squared his elbows, and put his face very close to the copy-book,
squinting horribly at the lines, fairly wallowing in blots, and daubing
himself with ink up to the roots of his hair,--and if he did by accident
form a letter properly, he immediately smeared it out again with his
arm--and at every fresh mistake there was a fresh burst of merriment
from the child and from poor Kit himself.
But of such happy times sweet Nell had few, and she became more anxious
about her grandfather's health, as he became daily more worried over the
secret which he would not share with her, and which preyed upon his mind
and body with increasing ravages.
Fortune did not favor his ventures, and Quilp, having discovered for
what purpose he borrowed such large sums, refused him further loans. In
an agony of apprehension for the future, the old man told Nell that he
had had heavy losses, that they would soon be beggars.
"What if we are?" said the child boldly. "Let us be beggars, and be
"Beggars--and happy!" said the old man. "Poor child!"
"Dear grandfather," cried the girl, with an energy which shone in her
flushed face, trembling voice, and impassioned, gestures, "O, hear me
pray that we may beg, or work in open roads or fields, to earn a scanty
living, rather than live as we do now."
"Nelly!" said the old man.
"Yes, yes, rather than live as we do now," the child repeated, "do not
let me see such change in you, and not know why, or I shall break my
heart and die. Dear grandfather, let us leave this sad place to-morrow,
and beg our way from door to door."
The old man covered his face with his hands, as the child added, "Let us
be beggars. I have no fear but we shall have enough: I'm sure we shall.
Let us walk through country places, and never think of money again, or
anything that can make you sad, but rest at nights, and have the sun
and wind on our faces in the day, and thank God together! Let us never
set foot in dark rooms or melancholy houses any more, but wander up and
down wherever we like to go, and when you are tired, you shall stop to
rest in the pleasantest places we can find, and I will go and beg
The child's voice was lost in sobs as she dropped upon the old man's
neck; nor did she weep alone.
That very day news came that the Old Curiosity Shop and its contents
would at once pass into Quilp's hands, in payment of the old man's
debts. In vain he pleaded for one more chance to redeem himself--for one
more loan--Quilp was firm in his refusal of further help, and little
Nell found the old man, overcome by the news, lying upon the floor of
his room, alarmingly ill. For weeks he lay raving in the delirium of
fever, little Nell alone beside him, nursing him with a single-hearted
devotion. The house was no longer theirs; even the sick chamber they
retained by special favor until such time as the old man could be
removed. Meanwhile, Mr. Quilp had taken formal possession of the
premises, and to make sure that no more business was transacted in the
shop, was encamped in the back parlor. So keen was Nell's dread of even
the sound of the dwarfs voice, that she lived in continual apprehension
of meeting him on the stairs, or in the passage, and seldom stirred from
her grandfather's room.
At length the old man began to mend--he was patient and quiet, easily
amused, and made no complaint, but his mind was forever weakened, and he
seemed to have only a dazed recollection of what had happened. Even when
Quilp told him that in two days he must be moved out of the shop, he
seemed not to take it to heart, wandering around the house, a very child
in act and thought. But a change came over him on the second evening; as
he and little Nell sat silently together. He was moved--shed
tears--begged Nell's forgiveness for what he had made her suffer--seemed
like one coming out of a dream--and urged her to help him in acting upon
what they had talked of doing long before.
"We will not stop here another day," he said, "we will go far away from
here. We will travel afoot through the fields and woods, and by the side
of rivers, and trust ourselves to God in the places where He dwells. It
is far better to lie down at night beneath an open sky than to rest in
close rooms, which are always full of care and weary dreams. Thou and I
together, Nell, may be cheerful and happy yet, and learn to forget this
time, as if it had never been."
"We will be happy," cried the child. "We never can be, here!"
"No, we never can again--never again--that's truly said," rejoined the
old man. "Let us steal away to-morrow morning, early and softly, that we
may not be seen or heard--and leave no trace or track for them to follow
by. Poor Nell! Thy cheek is pale, and thy eyes are heavy with watching
and weeping for me; but thou wilt be well again, and merry too, when we
are far away. To-morrow morning, dear, we will turn our faces from this
scene of sorrow, and be as free and happy as the birds."
The child's heart beat high with hope and confidence. She had no thought
of hunger or cold, or thirst, or suffering. She saw in this a relief
from the gloomy solitude in which she had lived, an escape from the
heartless people by whom she had been surrounded in her late time of
trial, the restoration of the old man's health and peace, and a life of
tranquil happiness. Sun, and stream, and meadow, and summer days shone
brightly in her view, and there was no dark tint in all the
The old man had slept for some hours soundly, and she was yet busily
engaged in preparing for their flight. There were a few articles of
clothing for herself to carry, and a few for him, and a staff to support
his feeble steps. But this was not all her task, for now she must say
farewell to her own little room, where she had so often knelt down and
prayed at night--prayed for the time which she hoped was dawning now!
There were some trifles there, which she would have liked to take away,
but that was impossible. She wept bitterly to leave her poor bird
behind, until the idea occurred to her that it might fall into the hands
of Kit, who would keep and cherish it for her sake. She was calmed and
comforted by this thought, and went to rest with a lighter heart.
At length the day began to glimmer, when she arose and dressed herself
for the journey, and with the old man, trod lightly down the stairs. At
last they reached the ground-floor, got the door open without noise, and
passing into the street, stood still.
"Which way?" said the child.
The old man looked irresolutely and helplessly to the right and left,
then at her, and shook his head. It was plain that she was henceforth
his guide and leader. The child felt it, but had no doubts or
misgivings, and putting her hand in his, led him gently away.
It was the beginning of a day in June; the deep blue sky unsullied by a
cloud, and teeming with brilliant light. The streets were as yet free of
passengers, the houses and shops were closed, and the healthy air of
morning fell like breath from angels on the sleeping town.
The old man and the child passed on through the glad silence, elate with
hope and pleasure. Every object was bright and fresh; nothing reminded
them, otherwise than by contrast, of the monotony and restraint they
had left behind.
Forth from the city, while it yet slumbered, went the two poor
adventurers, wandering they knew not whither, often pressing each
other's hands, or exchanging a smile, as they pursued their way through
the city streets, through the haunts of traffic and great commerce,
where business was already rife. The old man looked about him with a
bewildered gaze, for these were places that he hoped to shun, nor did he
seem at ease until at last they felt that they were clear of London, and
sat down to rest, and eat their frugal breakfast from little
The freshness of the day, the singing of the birds, the beauty of the
waving grass, the wild flowers, and the thousand exquisite scents and
sounds that floated in the air, sunk into their breasts, and made them
very glad. The child had repeated her artless prayers once that morning,
more earnestly, perhaps, than she had ever done in her life; but as she
felt all this, they rose to her lips again. The old man took off his
hat--he had no memory for the words--but he said Amen, and that they
were very good.
"Are you tired?" asked the child. "Are you sure you don't feel ill from
this long walk?"
"I shall never feel ill again, now that we are once away," was his
reply. "Let us be stirring, Nell. We are too near to stop and be at
They were now in the open country, through which they walked all day,
and slept that night at a cottage where beds were let to travellers.
Next morning they were afoot again, and still kept on until nearly five
o'clock in the afternoon, when they stopped at a laborer's hut, asking
permission to rest awhile and buy a draught of milk. The request was
granted, and after having some refreshments and rest, Nell yielded to
the old man's fretful demand to travel on again, and they trudged
forward for another mile, thankful for a lift given them by a kindly
driver going their way, for they could scarcely crawl along. To them the
jolting cart was a luxurious carriage, and the ride the most delicious
in the world. Nell had scarcely settled herself in one corner of the
cart when she fell fast asleep, and was only awakened by its stopping
when their ways parted. The driver pointing out the town in the near
distance, directed them to take the path leading through the churchyard.
Accordingly, to this spot they directed their weary steps, and presently
came upon two men who were seated upon the grass. It was not difficult
to divine that they were itinerant showmen--exhibitors of the freaks of
Punch--for, perched cross-legged upon a tombstone behind them, was a
figure of that hero himself, his nose and chin as hooked, and his face
as beaming as usual; while scattered upon the ground, and jumbled
together in a long box, were the other persons of the drama. The hero's
wife and one child, the hobby-horse, the doctor, the foreign gentleman,
the executioner, and the devil, all were here. Their owners had
evidently come to that spot to make some needful repairs in their stock,
for one of them was engaged in binding together a small gallows with
thread, while the other was intent upon fixing a new black wig.
They greeted the strangers with a nod, and the old man sitting down
beside them, and looking at the figures with extreme delight, began to
talk. While they chatted, Mr. Short, a little merry, red-faced man with
twinkling eyes, turning over the figures in the box, drew one forth,
saying ruefully to his companion, Codlin by name: "Look here, here's all
this Judy's clothes falling to pieces again. You haven't got needle and
thread, I suppose?"
The little man shook his head, and seeing that they were at a loss,
Nell said timidly:
"I have a needle, sir, in my basket, and thread too. Will you let me try
to mend it for you? I think I could do it neater than you could."
As Mr. Codlin had nothing to urge against a proposal so seasonable,
Nelly was soon busily engaged in her task, and accomplishing it to a
miracle. While she was thus engaged, the merry little man looked at her
with an interest which did not appear to be diminished when he glanced
at her helpless companion. When she had finished her work, he thanked
her, and inquired whither they were travelling.
"N-no further to-night, I think," said the child, looking toward her
"If you're wanting a place to stop at," the man remarked, "I should
advise you to take up at the same house with us. The long, low, white
house there. It's very cheap."
The old man, who would have remained in the churchyard all night if his
new acquaintances had stayed there too, yielded to this suggestion a
ready and rapturous assent, and they all rose and walked away together
to the public house, where, after witnessing an exhibition of the show,
they had a good supper, but Nell was too tired to eat, and was grateful
when they retired to the loft where they were to rest. The old man was
uneasy when he had lain down, and begged that Nell would come and sit at
his bedside as she had done for so many nights. She sat there till he
slept, then went to her own room and sat thinking of the life that was
She had a little money, but it was very little, and when that was gone,
they must begin to beg. There was one piece of gold among it, and an
emergency might come when its worth to them might be increased a
hundredfold. It would be best to hide this coin, and never produce it
unless their case was absolutely desperate. Her resolution taken, she
sewed the piece of gold into her dress, and going to bed with a lighter
heart, sunk into a deep slumber.
On the following morning, Mr. Short asked Nell, "And where are you going
"Indeed I hardly know," replied the child.
"We're going on to the races," said the little man. "If you'd like to
have us for company, let us travel together."
"Well go with you," said the old man eagerly. "Nell--with them, with
The child considered for a moment, and reflecting that she must soon
beg, and could scarcely do so at a better place, thanked the little man
for his offer, and said they would accompany him.
Presently they started off and made a long day's journey, and were yet
upon the road when night came on. Threatening clouds soon gave place to
a heavy rain, and the party took refuge for the night in a roadside inn,
where they found a mighty fire blazing upon the hearth, and savory
smells coming from iron pots.
Furnished with slippers and dry garments, and overpowered by the warmth
and comfort of the room and the fatigue they had undergone, Nelly and
the old man had not long taken seats in the warm chimney-corner when
they fell asleep.
"Who are they?" whispered the landlord.
Short and Codlin shook their heads. "They're no harm," said Short.
"Depend upon that I tell you what--it's plain that the old man aren't in
his right mind--I believe that he's given his friends the slip and
persuaded this delicate young creature, all along of her fondness for
him, to be his guide and travelling companion--where to, he knows no
more than the man in the moon. Now I'm not a-goin' to stand that. I'm
not a-goin' to see this fair young child a-falling into bad hands, and
getting among people that she's no more fit for, than they are to get
among angels as their ordinary chums. Therefore when they dewelop an
intention of parting company from us, I shall take measures for
detainin' of 'em and restoring them to their friends, who, I dare say,
have had their disconsolation pasted up on every wall in London by
"Short," said Mr. Codlin, "it's possible there may be uncommon good
sense in what you've said. If there is, and there should be a reward,
Short, remember that we are partners in everything!"
His companion had only time to nod a brief assent to this proposition,
for the child awoke at the instant, as strange footsteps were heard
without, and fresh company entered.
These were no other than four very dismal dogs, who came pattering in,
headed by an old bandy dog, who erected himself upon his hind legs, and
looked around at his companions, who immediately stood upon their hind
legs in a grave and melancholy row. These dogs each wore a kind of
little coat of some gaudy color, trimmed with tarnished spangles, and
one of them had a cap upon his head, tied under his chin, which had
fallen down upon his nose, and completely obscured one eye. Add to this,
that the gaudy coats were all wet through with rain, and that the
wearers were all splashed and dirty, and some idea may be formed of the
unusual appearance of the new visitors to the inn. Jerry, the manager of
these dancing dogs, disencumbering himself of a barrel-organ, and
retaining in his hand a small whip, came up to the fire and entered into
conversation. The landlord then busied himself in laying the cloth for
supper, which, being at length ready to serve, little Nell ventured to
say grace, and supper began.
At this juncture the poor dogs were standing upon their hind legs quite
surprisingly. The child, having pity on them, was about to cast some
morsels of food to them before she tasted it herself, hungry though she
was, when their master interposed.
"No, my dear, no, not an atom from anybody's hand but mine, please. That
dog," said Jerry, pointing out the old leader of the troop, and speaking
in a terrible voice, "lost a half-penny to-day. He goes without
The unfortunate creature dropped upon his forelegs directly, wagged his
tail, and looked imploringly at his master.
"You must be more careful, sir," said Jerry, walking coolly to the chair
where he had placed the organ, and setting the stop. "Come here. Now,
sir, you play away at that while we have supper, and leave off if
The dog immediately began to grind most mournful music. His master,
having shown him the whip, called up the others, who, at his directions,
formed in a row, standing upright as a file of soldiers.
"Now, gentlemen," said Jerry, looking at them attentively, "the dog
whose name is called, eats. Carlo!"
The lucky individual whose name was called, snapped up the morsel thrown
towards him, but none of the others moved a muscle. Meanwhile the dog in
disgrace ground hard at the organ, sometimes in quick time, sometimes in
slow, but never leaving off for an instant. When the knives and forks
rattled very much, or any of his fellows got an unusually large piece of
fat, he accompanied the music with a short howl; but he immediately
checked it on his master looking around, and applied himself with
increased diligence to the Old Hundredth.
That night, from various conversations in which Codlin and Short took
pains to engage her, little Nell began to have misgivings concerning
their protestations of friendship, and to suspect their motives. These
misgivings made the child anxious and uneasy, as the party travelled on
towards the town where the races were to begin next day.
It was dark when they reached the town, and there all was tumult and
confusion. The streets were filled with throngs of people, the
church-bells rang out their noisy peals, and flags streamed from windows
and house-tops, while shrill flageolets and deafening drums added to
Through this delirious scene, the child, frightened and repelled by all
she saw, led on her bewildered charge, clinging close to her conductor,
and trembling lest she should be separated from him, and left to find
her way alone. Quickening their steps they made for the racecourse,
which was upon an open heath. There were many people here, none of the
best-favored or best clad, busily erecting tents, but the child felt it
an escape from the town, and drew her breath more freely. After a scanty
supper, she and the old man lay down to rest in a corner of a tent, and
slept, despite the busy preparations that were going on around them all
And now they had come to the time when they must beg their bread. Soon
after sunrise in the morning Nell stole out, and plucked a few wild
roses and such humble flowers, to make into little nosegays and offer to
the ladies in the carriages when the company arrived. Her thoughts were
not idle while she was thus employed. When she returned and was seated
beside the old man, tying her flowers together, while Codlin and Short
lay dozing in another corner, she said in a low voice:
"Grandfather, don't look at those I talk of, and don't seem as if I
spoke of anything but what I'm about. What was that you told me before
we left the old house?--that if they knew what we were going to do, they
would say that you were mad, and part us?"
The old man turned to her with an aspect of wild terror; but she checked
him by a look, adding, "Grandfather, these men suspect that we have
secretly left our friends, and mean to carry us before some gentlemen,
and have us taken care of, and sent back. If you let your hand tremble
so, we can never get away from them, but if you're only quiet now, we
shall do so easily."
"How?" muttered the old man. "Dear Nelly, how? They will shut me up in a
stone room, dark and cold, and chain me to the wall, Nell--flog me with
whips, and never let me see thee more!"
"You're trembling again!" said the child. "Keep close to me all day. I
shall find a time when we can steal away. When I do, mind you come with
me, and do not stop or speak a word. Hush! that's all."
"Halloa! what are you up to, my dear?" said Mr. Codlin, raising his head
"Making some nosegays," the child replied; "I'm going to try to sell
some. Will you have one?--as a present, I mean." Mr. Codlin stuck it in
his buttonhole with an air of ineffable complacency, and laid himself
As the morning wore on, the tents assumed a more brilliant appearance.
Men, who had lounged about in smock frocks and leather leggings, came
out in silken vests and hats and plumes, as jugglers or mountebanks.
Black-eyed gypsy girls, hooded in showy handkerchiefs, sallied forth to
tell fortunes. The dancing dogs, the stilts, the little lady and the
tall man and all the other attractions, with organs out of number, and
bands innumerable, emerged from the corners in which they had passed the
night, and flourished boldly in the sun.
Along the uncleared course, Short led his party, sounding the brazen
trumpet, and at his heels went Thomas Codlin, bearing the show, and
keeping his eyes on Nelly and her grandfather, as they rather lingered
in the rear. The child bore upon her arm the little basket with her
flowers, and sometimes stopped, with timid looks, to offer them at some
gay carriage, but, alas! there were many bolder beggars there, adepts at
their trade, and although some ladies smiled gently as they shook their
heads, and others cried: "See, what a pretty face!" they let the pretty
face pass on, and never thought that it looked tired or hungry, and
among all that gay throng, there was but one lady, who, taking her
flowers, put money in the child's trembling hand.
At length, late in the day, Mr. Codlin pitched the show in a convenient
spot, and the spectators were soon in the very triumph of the scene. The
child, sitting down with the old man close behind it, was roused from
her meditation by a loud laugh at some witticism of Mr. Short.
If they were ever to get away unseen, that was the very moment. Short
and Codlin were absorbed in giving the show, and in coaxing sixpences
from the people's pockets, and the spectators were looking on with
laughing faces. That was the moment for escape. They seized it and fled.
They made a path through booths, and carriages, and throngs of people,
and never once stopped to look behind, but creeping under the brow of
the hill at a quick pace, made for the open fields, and not until they
were quite exhausted ventured to sit down to rest upon the borders of a
little wood, and some time elapsed before the child could reassure her
trembling companion, or restore him to a state of moderate
tranquillity. His terrors affected her. Separation from her grandfather
was the greatest evil she could dread; and feeling for the time, as
though, go where they would, they were to be hunted down, and could
never be safe in hiding, her heart failed her, and her courage drooped.
Then, remembering how weak her companion was, and how destitute and
helpless he would be if she failed him, she was animated with new
strength and fortitude, and assured him that they had nothing to fear.
Luring him onward through the woods with happy looks and smiles, the
serenity which she had at first assumed, stole into her breast in
earnest. The old man cast no longer fearful looks behind, but felt at
ease and cheerful, for the further they passed into the deep green shade
of the woods, the more they felt that the tranquil mind of God was
there, and shed its peace on them.
At length the path brought them to a public road which to their great
joy at last led into the centre of a small village. Uncertain where to
seek a lodging, they approached an old man sitting in a garden before
his cottage. He was the schoolmaster, and had "School" written over his
window in black letters. He was a pale, simple-looking man, and sat
among his flowers and beehives, taking no notice of the travellers,
until Nell approached him, dropping a curtsey, and asking if he could
direct them anywhere to obtain a shelter for the night.
"You have been walking a long way?" said the schoolmaster.
"A long way, sir," the child replied.
"You're a young traveller, my child," he said, laying his hand gently on
her head. "Your grandchild, friend?"
"Aye, sir," cried the old man, "and the stay and comfort of my life."
"Come in," said the schoolmaster.
Without further preface, he conducted them into his little schoolroom,
which was parlor and kitchen likewise, and told them they were welcome
to remain till morning. Before they had done thanking him, he spread the
table, and besought them to eat and drink.
After a sound night's rest in the little cottage, Nell rose early, and
was attempting to make the room in which she had supped last night neat
and comfortable, when their kind host came in. She asked leave to
prepare breakfast, and the three soon partook of it together. While the
meal was in progress, their host remarked that the old man stood in need
of rest, and that he should be glad of their company for another night.
It required no great persuasion to induce the child to answer that they
would remain. She was happy to show her gratitude to the kind
schoolmaster by performing such household duties as his little cottage
stood in need of. When these were done, she took some needlework from
her basket, and sat down beside the lattice, where the honeysuckle and
woodbine filled the room with their delicious breath. Her grandfather
was basking in the sun outside, breathing the perfume of the flowers,
and idly watching the clouds as they floated on before the light summer
wind. Presently the schoolmaster took his seat behind his desk, and as
he seemed pleased to have little Nell beside him, she busied herself
with her work, entering into conversation with the schoolmaster while
the scholars conned their lessons, and watching the boys with eager and
Upon the following morning there remained for the travellers only to
take leave of the poor schoolmaster, and wander forth once more. With a
trembling and reluctant hand, the child held out to their kind host the
money which the lady had given her at the races for her flowers,
faltering in her thanks, and blushing as she offered it. But he bade her
put it up, and kissing her cheek, wished her good fortune and happiness,
adding, "If you ever pass this way again, you will not forget the little
"We shall never forget it, sir," rejoined Nell, "nor ever forget to be
grateful to you for your kindness to us."
They bade him farewell very many times, often looking back, until they
could see him no more. They trudged onward now at a quicker pace,
resolving to keep the main road, and go wherever it might lead them. The
afternoon had worn away into a beautiful evening when the road struck
across a common. On the border of this common, a caravan was drawn up
It was not a shabby, dingy cart, but a smart little house upon wheels,
with white dimity curtains festooning the windows, and window-shutters
of green picked out with panels of a staring red. Neither was it a poor
caravan drawn by a single donkey or emaciated horse, for a pair of
horses in pretty good condition were released from the shafts, and
grazing upon the frowzy grass. Neither was it a gypsy caravan, for at
the open door (graced with a bright brass knocker) sat a Christian lady,
stout and comfortable to look upon, who wore a large bonnet, trembling
with bows. And that it was not an unprovided or destitute caravan, was
clear from this lady's occupation, which was the very refreshing one of
drinking tea. The tea things were set forth upon a drum covered with a
napkin; and there sat this roving lady, taking her tea and enjoying the
prospect. As she was in the act of setting down her cup, she beheld an
old man and a young child walking slowly by, and glancing at her
proceedings with eyes of modest but hungry admiration.
"Hey!" cried the lady of the caravan, "Yes, to be sure--Who won the
"Won what, ma'am?" asked Nell.
"The Helter-Skelter Plate at the races, child. Can't you say who won the
Helter-Skelter Plate when you're asked a question civilly?"
"I don't know, ma'am."
"Don't know!" repeated the lady of the caravan; "Why, you were there. I
saw you with my own eyes."
Nell was not a little alarmed to hear this, supposing that the lady
might be intimately acquainted with the firm of Short and Codlin; but
what followed tended to reassure her.
"And very sorry I was," said the lady of the caravan, "to see you in
company with a Punch--a low practical, wulgar wretch, that people should
scorn to look at."
"I was not there by choice," rejoined the child; "we didn't know our
way, and the two men were very kind to us, and let us travel with them.
Do you--do you know them, ma'am?"
"Know 'em, child!" cried the lady of the caravan in a sort of shriek.
"Know them! But you're young and inexperienced, and that's your excuse
for asking sich a question. Do I look as if I know'd them? Does this
caravan look as if it know'd 'em?"
"No, ma'am, no," said the child, fearing that she had committed some
grievous fault, "I beg your pardon."
It was granted immediately, and the child then explained that they had
left the races on the first day, and were travelling to the next town,
and ventured to inquire how far it was. The stout lady's reply was
rather discouraging, and Nell could scarcely repress a tear at hearing
that it was eight miles off. Her grandfather made no complaint, and the
two were about to pass on, when the lady of the caravan called to the
child to return. Beckoning to her to ascend the steps, she asked,--"Are
"Not very, but we are tired, and it's--it is a long way."
"Well, hungry or not, you had better have some tea," rejoined her new
acquaintance. "I suppose you're agreeable to that, old gentleman?"
The grandfather humbly pulled off his hat, and thanked her, and sitting
down, they made a hearty meal, enjoying it to the utmost.
While they were thus engaged, the lady of the caravan held a short
conversation with her driver, after which she informed Nell that she and
her grandfather were to go forward in the caravan with her, for which
kindness Nell thanked the lady with unaffected earnestness. She helped
with great alacrity to put away the tea-things, and mounted into the
vehicle, followed by her delighted grandfather. Their patroness then
shut the door, and away they went, with a great noise of flapping, and
creaking, and straining, and the bright brass knocker, knocking one
perpetual double knock of its own accord as they jolted heavily along.
When they had travelled slowly forward for some short distance, Nell
looked around the caravan, and observed it more closely. One half of it
was carpeted, with a sleeping place, after the fashion of a berth on
board ship, partitioned off at the farther end, which was shaded with
fair, white curtains, and looked comfortable enough,--though by what
kind of gymnastic exercise the lady of the caravan ever contrived to get
into it,--was an unfathomable mystery. The other half served for a
kitchen, and was fitted up with a stove, whose small chimney passed
through the roof. It held, also, a closet or larder, and the necessary
cooking utensils, which latter necessaries hung upon the walls, which
in the other portion of the establishment were decorated with a number
of well-thumbed musical instruments.
Presently the old man fell asleep, and the lady of the caravan invited
Nell to come and sit beside her.
"Well, child," she said, "how do you like this way of travelling?"
Nell replied that she thought that it was very pleasant indeed. Instead
of speaking again, the lady of the caravan sat looking at the child for
a long time in silence, then getting up, brought out a roll of canvas
about a yard in width, which she laid upon the floor, and spread open
with her foot until it nearly reached from one end of the caravan to
"There, child," she said, "read that."
Nell walked down it, and read aloud, in enormous black letters, the
inscription, "JARLEY'S WAX-WORK."
"Read it again," said the lady complacently.
"Jarley's Wax-Work," repeated Nell.
"That's me," said the lady. "I am Mrs. Jarley."
The lady of the caravan then unfolded another scroll, whereon was the
inscription, "One hundred figures the full size of life," then several
smaller ones with such inscriptions as, "The genuine and only Jarley,"
"Jarley is the delight of the nobility and gentry," "The royal family
are the patrons of Jarley." When she had exhibited these to the
astonished child, she brought forth hand-bills, some of which were
couched in the form of parodies on popular melodies, as, "Believe me, if
all Jarley's Wax-Work so rare," "I saw thy show in youthful prime,"
"Over the water to Jarley." While others were composed with a view to
the lighter and more facetious spirits, as a parody on the favorite air
of "If I had a donkey," beginning:
"If I know'd a donkey what wouldn't go
To see MRS. JARLEY'S wax-work show,
Do you think I'd acknowledge him?
Oh, no, no!
Then run to Jarley's"--
besides other compositions in prose, all having the same moral--namely,
that the reader must make haste to Jarley's, and that children and
servants were admitted at half price, Mrs. Jarley then rolled these
testimonials up, and having put them carefully away, sat down and looked
at the child in triumph.
"I never saw any wax-work, ma'am," said Nell. "Is it funnier than
"Funnier!" said Mrs. Jarley, in a shrill voice. "It is not funny at
"Oh!" said Nell, with all possible humility.
"It isn't funny at all," repeated Mrs. Jarley. "It's calm and classical.
No low beatings and knockings about, no jokings and squeakings, like
your precious Punches, but always the same, with a constantly unchanging
air of coldness and gentility; and so life-like, that if wax-work only
spoke and walked about, you'd hardly know the difference."
"Is it here, ma'am?" asked Nell, whose curiosity was awakened by this
"Is what here, child?"
"The wax-work, ma'am."
"Why, bless you, child, what are you thinking of? How could such a
collection be here? It's gone on in the other wans to the room where
it'll be exhibited the day after to-morrow. You're going to the same
town, and you'll see it, I dare say."
"I shall not be in the town, I think, ma'am," said the child.
This answer appeared to greatly astonish Mrs. Jarley, who asked so many
questions that Nell was led to tell her some of the details concerning
their poverty and wanderings, after which the lady of the caravan
relapsed into a thoughtful silence. At length she shook off her fit of
meditation, and held a long conversation with the driver, which
conference being concluded, she beckoned Nell to approach.
"And the old gentleman, too," said Mrs. Jarley. "I want to have a word
with him. Do you want a good situation for your granddaughter, master?
If you do, I can put her in the way of getting one. What do you say?"
"I can't leave her, ma'am," answered the old man. "What would become of
me without her?"
"I should have thought you were old enough to take care of yourself, if
you ever will be," retorted Mrs. Jarley sharply.
"But he never will be," whispered the child. "Pray do not speak harshly
to him. We are very thankful to you," she added aloud. "But neither of
us could part from the other, if all the wealth of the world were halved
Mrs. Jarley was a little disconcerted by this reception of her proposal,
but presently she addressed the grandfather again:
"If you're really disposed to employ yourself," she said, "you could
help to dust the figures, and take the checks, and so forth. What I want
your granddaughter for is to point 'em out to the company. It's not a
common offer, bear in mind," said the lady. "It's Jarley's wax-work,
remember. The duties very light and genteel, the company particularly
select. There is none of your open-air wagrancy at Jarley's, recollect;
there is no tarpaulin and saw-dust at Jarley's, remember. Every
expectation held out in the hand-bills is realized to the utmost, and
the whole forms an effect of imposing brilliancy hitherto unrivalled in
this kingdom. Remember that the price of admission is only sixpence,
and that this is an opportunity which may never occur again!"
Descending from the sublime to the details of common life, when she had
reached this point, Mrs. Jarley remarked that she could pledge herself
to no specific salary until she had tested Nell's ability, but that she
could promise both good board and lodging for the child and her
grandfather. Her offer was thankfully accepted.
"And you'll never be sorry for it," said Mrs. Jarley. "I'm pretty sure
of that. So, as that's all settled, let us have a bit of supper."
In the mean while the caravan blundered on, and came at last upon a
town, near midnight. As it was too late to repair to the exhibition
rooms, they drew up near to another caravan bearing the great name of
Jarley, which being empty, was assigned to the old man as his
sleeping-place. As for Nell herself, she was to sleep in Mrs. Jarley's
own travelling-carriage as a signal mark of that lady's favor.
On the following morning Nell was put to work at once, helping to unpack
the chests and arrange the draperies in the exhibition rooms. When this
was accomplished, the stupendous collection of figures was uncovered,
standing more or less unsteadily upon their legs, and all their
countenances expressing great surprise. All the gentlemen were very
pigeon-breasted and very blue about the beards, and all the ladies were
miraculous figures; and all the ladies and all the gentlemen were
looking intensely nowhere, and staring with extraordinary earnestness
When Nell had exhausted her first raptures at this glorious sight, Mrs.
Jarley ordered the room to be cleared of all but herself and the child,
and was at great pains to instruct Nell in her duty.
"That," said Mrs. Jarley, in her exhibition tones, as Nell touched a
figure, "is an unfortunate maid-of-honor in the time of Queen Elizabeth,
who died from pricking her finger in consequence of working upon a
Sunday. Observe the blood which is trickling from her finger; also the
gold-eyed needle of the period, with which she is at work."
All this Nell repeated twice or thrice, pointing to the finger and the
needle at the right times, and then passed on to the next.
"That, ladies and gentlemen," said Mrs. Jarley, "is Jasper Packlemerton,
who courted and married fourteen wives, and destroyed them all by
tickling the soles of their feet when they were sleeping in the
consciousness of innocence and virtue. On being brought to the scaffold,
and asked if he was sorry for what he had done, he replied yes, he was
sorry for having let 'em off so easy, and hoped all Christian husbands
would pardon him the offence. Let this be a warning to all young ladies
to be particular in the character of the gentlemen of their choice.
Observe that his fingers are curved, as if in the act of tickling, and
that his face is represented with a wink, as he appeared when committing
his barbarous murders."
When Nell knew all about Mr. Packlemerton, and could say it without
faltering, Mrs. Jarley passed on to the fat man, and then to the thin
man, the tall man, the short man, the old lady who died of dancing at a
hundred and thirty-two, the wild boy of the woods, the woman who
poisoned fourteen families with pickled walnuts, and other historical
characters, and interesting but misguided individuals. So well did Nell
profit by her instructions, that at the end of a couple of hours, she
was in full possession of the history of the whole establishment, and
perfectly competent to the enlightenment of visitors, and Mrs. Jarley
was not slow to express her admiration at this happy result.
In the midst of the various devices used later for attracting visitors
to the exhibition, little Nell was not forgotten. The cart in which the
Brigand usually made his perambulations, being gayly dressed with flags