Part 2 out of 4
and streamers, and the Brigand placed therein, Nell sat beside him,
decorated with artificial flowers, and rode slowly through the town
every morning, dispersing hand-bills from a basket to the sound of drum
and trumpet. The beauty of the child, coupled with her gentle and timid
bearing, produced quite a sensation in the little country place: the
Brigand, became a mere secondary consideration, and important only as
part of the show of which she was the chief attraction, Grown-up folks
began to be interested in the bright-eyed girl, and some score of little
boys fell desperately in love, and constantly left inclosures of nuts
and apples at the wax-work door.
This desirable impression was not lost on Mrs. Jarley, who, lest Nell
should become too cheap, sent the Brigand out alone again, and kept her
in the exhibition room, where she described the figures every half-hour,
to the great satisfaction of admiring audiences.
Although her duties were sufficiently laborious, Nell found the lady of
the caravan a very kind and considerate person indeed. As her popularity
procured her various little fees from the visitors, on which her
patroness never demanded any toll, and as her grandfather too was
well-treated and useful, Nell had no cause for anxiety until one holiday
evening, when they went out together for a walk. They had been closely
confined for some days, and the weather being warm, had strolled a long
distance, when they were caught in a most terrific thunder-shower, from
which they sought refuge in a roadside tavern, where some men sat
playing cards with a pile of silver money between them. When the old
man's eye lighted upon them, the child saw with alarm that his whole
appearance underwent a complete change. His face was flushed and eager,
his breath came short and quick, and the hand he laid upon her arm
trembled so violently, that she shook beneath its grasp. To his frenzied
appeal for money, Nell repeated a firm refusal, but he was insistent.
"Give me the money," he exclaimed--"I must have it. There there--that's
my dear Nell. I'll right thee one day, child, never fear!"
She took from her pocket a little purse. He seized it, and hastened to
the other side of the screen where the two men were playing. Almost
immediately they invited him to join their game, whereupon, throwing
Nell's purse down upon the table, he gathered up the cards as a miser
would clutch at gold. The child sat by and watched the game in a perfect
agony of fear, regardless of the run of luck; and mindful only of the
desperate passion which had its hold upon her grandfather, losses and
gains were to her alike.
The storm had raged for full three hours, when at length the play came
to an end. Nell's little purse lay empty, and still the old man sat
poring over the cards until the child laid her arm upon his shoulder,
telling him that it was near midnight.
Now Nell had still the piece of gold, and considering the lateness of
the hour, and into what a state of consternation they would throw Mrs.
Jarley by knocking her up at that hour, proposed to her grandfather that
they stay where they were for the night. As they would leave very early
in the morning, the child was anxious to pay for their entertainment
before they retired, but as she felt the necessity of concealing her
little hoard from her grandfather, and had to change the piece of gold,
she took it out secretly, and following the landlord into the bar,
tendered it to him there. She was returning, when she fancied she saw a
figure gliding in at the door. There was only a dark passage between
this door and the place where she had changed the money, and being very
certain that no person had passed in or out while she stood there, she
felt that she had been watched. She was still thinking of this, when a
girl came to light her to bed.
It was a great gloomy house, which the flaring candles seemed to make
yet more gloomy, and the child did not feel comfortable when she was
left alone. She could not help thinking of the figure stealing through
the passage downstairs. At last a broken and fitful sleep stole upon
her. A deeper slumber followed this--and then--What! That figure in the
room! A figure was there, it crouched and slunk along, stealing round
the bed. She had no voice to cry for help, no power to move,--on it
came--silently and stealthily to the bed's head. There it remained,
motionless as she. At length, it busied its hands in something, and she
heard the chink of money. Then it dropped upon its hands and knees, and
crawled away. It reached the door at last, the steps creaked beneath its
noiseless tread, and it was gone.
The first impulse of the child was not to be alone--and with no
consciousness of having moved, she gained the door. Once in her
grandfather's room, she would be safe. An idea flashed suddenly upon
her--what if the figure should enter there, and have a design upon the
old man's life? She turned faint and sick. She saw it creeping in front
of her. It went in. Not knowing what she meant to do, but meaning to
preserve him, or be killed herself, she staggered forward and looked in.
What sight was that which met her view?
The bed was smooth and empty. And at a table sat the old man
himself--the only living creature there--his white face pinched and
sharpened by the greediness which made his eyes unnaturally
bright--counting the money of which his hands had robbed her.
With steps more unsteady than those with which she had approached the
room, the child groped her way back into her own chamber. The terror
which she had lately felt was nothing compared with that which now
oppressed her. The grey-haired old man, gliding like a ghost into her
room, and acting the thief, while he supposed her fast asleep, then
bearing off his prize, and hanging over it with the ghastly exultation
she had witnessed, was far more dreadful than anything her wildest fancy
could have suggested. The feeling which beset her was one of uncertain
horror. She had no fear of the dear old grandfather, but the man she had
seen that night seemed like another creature in his shape. She could
scarcely connect her own affectionate companion, save by his loss, with
this old man, so like yet so unlike him. She had wept to see him dull
and quiet. How much greater cause she had for weeping now!
She sat thinking of these things, until she felt it would be a relief to
hear his voice, or if he were asleep, even to see him, and so she stole
down the passage again. Looking into the room, she saw him lying calmly
on his bed, fast asleep. She had no fear as she looked upon his
slumbering features, but she had a deep and weighty sorrow, and it found
its relief in tears.
"God bless him," said the child, softly kissing his placid cheek. "I see
too well now that they would indeed part us if they found us out, and
shut him up from the light of the sun and sky. He has only me. God
bless us both!"
Lighting her candle, she retreated as silently as she had come, and
gaining her own room once more, sat up during the remainder of that
long, long miserable night. Upon searching her pocket on the following
morning she found her money was all gone--not a sixpence remained.
"Grandfather," she said in a tremulous voice, after they had walked
about a mile on their road in silence, "Do you think they are honest
people at the house yonder? I ask because I lost some money last
night--out of my bedroom, I am sure. Unless it was taken by some one in
jest--only in jest, dear grandfather, which would make me laugh heartily
if I could but know it--"
"Who would take money in jest?" returned the old man in a hurried
manner. "Those who take money, take it to keep. Don't talk of jest."
"Then it was stolen out of my room, dear," said the child, whose last
hope was destroyed by the manner of this reply.
"But is there no more, Nell," said the old man--"no more anywhere? Was
it all taken--was there nothing left?"
"Nothing," replied the child.
"We must get more," said the old man, "we must earn it, Nell--hoard it
up, scrape it together, come by it somehow. Never mind this loss. Tell
nobody of it, and perhaps we may regain it. Don't ask how--we may regain
it, and a great deal more, but tell nobody, or trouble may come of it.
And so they took it out of thy room, when thou wert asleep!" He added in
a compassionate tone, very different from the secret, cunning way in
which he had spoken until now. "Poor Nell, poor little Nell!"
The child hung down her head and wept. It was not the lightest part of
her sorrow that this was done for her.
"Let me persuade you, dear grandfather," she said earnestly, "Oh, do let
me persuade you to think no more of gains or losses, and to try no
fortune but the fortune we pursue together. Only remember what we have
been since that bright morning when we turned our backs upon that
unhappy house for the last time," continued Nell. "Think what beautiful
things we have seen, and how contented we have felt, and why was this
He stopped her with a motion of his hand, and bade her talk to him no
more just then, for he was busy. After a time he kissed her cheek, and
walked on, looking as if he were painfully trying to collect his
thoughts. Once she saw tears in his eyes. When they had gone on thus for
some time, he took her hand in his, as he was accustomed to do, with
nothing of the violence or animation of his late manner; and by degrees
settled down into his usual quiet way, and suffered her to lead him
where she would.
As Nell had anticipated, they found Mrs. Jarley was not yet out of bed,
and that although she had suffered some uneasiness on their account, she
had felt sure that being overtaken by the storm, they had sought the
nearest shelter for the night. And as they sat down to breakfast, she
requested Nell to go that morning to Miss Monflather's Boarding and Day
School to present its principal with a parcel of new bills, as her
establishment had yet sent but half-a-dozen representatives to see the
stupendous wax-work collection. Nell's expedition met with no success,
to Mrs. Jarley's great indignation, and Nell would have been
disappointed herself at its failure, had she not had anxieties of a
deeper kind to occupy her thoughts.
That evening, as she had dreaded, her grandfather stole away, and did
not come back until the night was far spent. Worn out as she was, she
sat up alone until he returned--penniless, broken spirited, and
wretched, but still hotly bent upon his infatuation.
"Give me money," he said wildly, "I must have money, Nell. It shall be
paid thee back with gallant interest one day, but all the money which
comes into thy hands must be mine--not for myself, but to use for thee.
Remember, Nell, to use for thee!"
What could the child do, with the knowledge she had, but give him every
penny that came into her hands, lest he should be tempted on to rob
their benefactress? If she told the truth (so thought the child) he
would be treated as a madman; if she did not supply him with money, he
would supply himself; supplying him, she fed the fire that burned him,
and put him perhaps beyond recovery. Distracted by these thoughts,
tortured by a crowd of apprehensions whenever he was absent, and
dreading alike his stay and his return, the color forsook her cheek, her
eyes grew dim, and her heart was oppressed and heavy.
One evening, wandering alone not far from home, the child came suddenly
upon a gypsy camp, and looking at the group of men around the fire saw
to her horror and dismay that one was her grandfather. The others she
recognized as the card-players at the public-house on the eventful night
of the storm. Drawing near, where she could listen unseen, she heard
their conversation; heard them obtain her grandfather's promise to rob
Mrs. Jarley of the tin box in which she kept her savings--and to play a
game of cards with them, with its contents for stakes.
"God be merciful to us!" cried the child, "and help us in this trying
hour! What shall I do to save him?"
The remainder of the conversation related merely to the execution of
their project, after which the old man shook hands with his tempters,
and withdrew. Then Nell crept away, fled home as quickly as she could,
and threw herself upon her bed, distracted. The first idea that flashed
upon her mind was instant flight. Then she remembered that the crime was
not to be committed until next night, and there was time for resolving
what to do. Then she was distracted with a horrible fear that he might
be committing it at that moment. She stole to the room where the money
was, and looked in. God be praised! he was not there, and Mrs. Jarley
was sleeping soundly. She went back to her own room, and tried to
prepare herself for bed, but who could sleep--sleep! distracted by such
terrors? They came upon her more and more strongly yet. Half-undressed,
and with her hair in wild disorder, she flew to the old man's bedside,
and roused him from his sleep.
"What's this?" he cried, starting up in bed, and fixing his eyes upon
her spectral face.
"I have had a dreadful dream," said the child. "A dreadful, horrible
dream! I have had it once before. It is a dream of gray-haired men like
you, in darkened rooms by night, robbing the sleepers of their gold. Up,
up!" The old man shook in every joint, and folded his hands like one
"Not to me," said the child, "Not to me--to heaven, to save us from such
deeds! This dream is too real. I cannot sleep--I cannot stay here--I
cannot leave you alone under the roof where such dreams come. We must
fly. There is no time to lose;" said the child. "Up! and away with me!"
"To-night?" murmured the old man.
"Yes, to-night," replied the child. "To-morrow night will be too late.
Nothing but flight can save us. Up!"
The old man arose, his forehead bedewed with the cold sweat of fear, and
bending before the child, as if she had been an angel messenger sent to
lead him where she would, made ready to follow her. She took him by the
hand and led him on. She took him to her own chamber, and, still holding
him by the hand, as if she feared to lose him for an instant, gathered
together the little stock she had, and hung her basket on her arm. The
old man took his wallet from her hands, his staff too, and then she led
Through the streets their trembling feet passed quickly, and at last the
child looked back upon the sleeping town, on the far-off river, on the
distant hills; and as she did so, she clasped the hand she held less
firmly, and bursting into tears, fell upon the old man's neck. Her
momentary weakness passed, she again summoned the resolution to keep
steadily in view the one idea that they were flying from disgrace and
crime, and that her grandfather's preservation depended solely on her
firmness. While he, subdued and abashed, seemed to shrink and cower down
before her, the child herself was sensible of a new feeling within her
which elevated her nature, and inspired her with an energy and
confidence she had never known. "I have saved him," she thought, "in all
distresses and dangers I will remember that."
At any other time the recollection of having deserted the friend who had
shown them so much homely kindness, without a word of justification,
would have filled her with sorrow and regret. But now, all other
considerations were lost in the new uncertainties and anxieties, and in
the desperation of their condition.
In the pale moonlight, which lent a wanness of its own to the delicate
face where thoughtful care already mingled with a winning grace and
loveliness of youth, the too bright eye, the spiritual head, the lips
that pressed each other with such high resolve and courage of the heart,
the slight figure, firm in its bearing, and yet so very weak, told their
silent tale; but told it only to the wind that rustled by. The night
crept on apace, the moon went down and when the sun had climbed into the
sky, and there was warmth in its cheerful beams, they laid them down to
sleep upon a bank hard by some water.
But Nell retained her grasp upon the old man's arm, and long after he
was slumbering soundly, watched him with untiring eyes. Fatigue stole
over her at last; her grasp relaxed, and they slept side by side. A
confusion of voices, mingling with her dreams, awoke her, and she
discovered a man of rough appearance standing over her, while his
companions were looking on from a canal-boat which had come close to the
bank while she was sleeping. The man spoke to Nell, asking what was the
matter, and where she and her grandfather were going. Nell faltered,
pointing at hazard toward the west--and upon the man inquiring if she
meant a certain town which he named, Nell, to avoid more questioning,
said "Yes, that was the place." After asking some other questions, he
mounted one of the horses towing the boat, which at once went on.
Presently it stopped again, and the man beckoned to Nell: "You may go
with us if you like," he said. "We're going to the same place."
The child hesitated for one moment. Thinking that the men whom she had
seen with her grandfather might perhaps in their eagerness for the
booty, follow them, and regain their influence over him, and that if
they went on the canal-boat all traces of them must be surely
lost--accepted the offer. Before she had any more time for
consideration, she and her grandfather were on board, gliding smoothly
down the canal, through the bright water.
They did not reach their destination until the following morning, and
Nell was glad indeed when the trip was ended, for the noisy rugged
fellows on the boat were rough enough to make her heart palpitate for
fear, but though they quarrelled among themselves, they were civil
enough to their two passengers; and at length the boat floated into its
destination. The men were occupied directly, and the child and her
grandfather, after waiting in vain to thank them, or ask whither they
should go, passed out into a crowded noisy street of a manufacturing
village, and stood, in the pouring rain, distressed and confused.
Evening came on. They were still wandering up and down, bewildered by
the hurry they beheld, but had no part in. Shivering with the cold and
damp, ill in body, and sick to death at heart, the child needed her
utmost resolution to creep along. No prospect of relief appearing, they
retraced their steps to the wharf, hoping to be allowed to sleep on
board the boat that night. But here again they were disappointed, for
the gate was closed.
"Why did you bring me here?" asked the old man fiercely, "I cannot bear
these close eternal streets. We came from a quiet part. Why did you
force me to leave it?"
"Because I must have that dream I told you of, no more," said the child,
"and we must live among poor people or it will come again. Dear
grandfather, you are old and weak, I know; but look at me. I never will
complain if you will not, but I have some suffering indeed."
"Ah! Poor, houseless, wandering, motherless child!" cried the old man,
gazing as if for the first time upon her anxious face, her
travel-stained dress, and bruised and swollen feet. "Has all my agony of
care brought her to this at last? Was I a happy man once, and have I
lost happiness and all I had, for this?"
Wandering on, they took shelter in an old doorway from which the figure
of a man came forth, who, touched with the misery of their situation,
and with Nell's drenched condition, offered them such lodging as he had
at his command, in the great foundry where he was employed. He led them
through the bewildering sights and deafening sounds of the huge
building, to his furnace, and there spread Nell's little cloak upon a
heap of ashes, and showing her where to hang her outer clothes to dry,
signed to her and the old man to lie down and sleep. The warmth of her
bed, combined with her great fatigue, caused the tumult of the place to
lull the child to sleep, and the old man was stretched beside her, as
she lay and dreamed. On the following morning her friend shared his
breakfast with the child and her grandfather, and parting with them left
in Nell's hand two battered smoke-encrusted penny pieces. Who knows but
they shone as brightly in the eyes of angels as golden gifts that have
been chronicled on tombs?
With an intense longing for pure air and open country, they toiled
slowly on, the child walking with extreme difficulty, for the pains that
racked her joints were of no common severity, and every exertion
increased them. But they wrung from her no complaint, as the two
proceeded slowly on, clearing the town in course of time. They slept
that night with nothing between them and the sky, amid the horrors of a
manufacturing suburb, and who shall tell the terrors of that night to
the young wandering child.
And yet she had no fear for herself, for she was past it, but put up a
prayer for the old man. A penny loaf was all that they had had that day.
It was very little, but even hunger was forgotten in the strange
tranquillity that crept over her senses. So very weak and spent she felt
as she lay down, so very calm and unresisting, that she had no thought
of any wants of her own, but prayed that God would raise up some friend
for him. Morning came--much weaker, yet the child made no complaint--she
felt a hopelessness of their ever being extricated together from that
forlorn place; a dull conviction that she was very ill, perhaps dying;
but no fear or anxiety. Objects appeared more dim, the noise less, the
path more uneven, for sometimes she stumbled, and became roused, as it
were, in the effort to prevent herself from falling. Poor child! The
cause was in her tottering feet.
They were dragging themselves along toward evening and the child felt
that the time was close at hand when she could bear no more. Before them
she saw a traveller reading from a book which he carried.
It was not an easy matter to come up with him, and beseech his aid, for
he walked fast. At length he stopped, to look more attentively at some
passage in his book. Animated with a ray of hope, the child shot on
before her grandfather, and going close to the stranger without rousing
him by the sound of her footsteps, began faintly to implore his help.
He turned his head. Nell clapped her hands together, uttered a wild
shriek, and fell senseless at his feet. It was no other than the poor
schoolmaster. Scarcely less moved and surprised than the child herself,
he stood for a moment, silent and confounded by the unexpected
apparition, without even presence of mind to raise her from the ground.
But, quickly recovering his self-possession, and dropping on one knee
beside her, he endeavored to restore her to herself.
"She is quite exhausted," he said, glancing upward into the old man's
face. "You have taxed her powers too far, friend."
"She is perishing of want," rejoined the old man. "I never thought how
weak and ill she was, till now."
Casting a look upon him, half-reproachful and half-compassionate, the
schoolmaster took the child in his arms, and bore her away at his utmost
speed to a small inn within sight.
The landlady came running in, with hot brandy and water, with which and
other restoratives, the child was so far recovered as to be able to
thank them in a faint voice. Without suffering her to speak another
word, the woman carried her off to bed, and after having been made warm
and comfortable, she had a visit from the doctor himself, who ordered
rest and nourishment. As Nell evinced extraordinary uneasiness on being
apart from her grandfather, he took his supper with her. Finding her
still restless on this head, they made him up a bed in an inner room, to
which he presently retired. The key of this chamber happening to be on
that side of the door which was in Nell's room; she turned it on him,
when the landlady had withdrawn, and crept to bed again with a
In the morning the child was better, but so weak that she would at least
require a day's rest and careful nursing before she could proceed upon
her journey. The schoolmaster decided to remain also, and that evening
visited Nell in her room. His frank kindness, and the affectionate
earnestness of his speech and manner, gave the child a confidence in
him. She told him all--that they had no friend or relative--and that she
sought a home in some remote place, where the temptation before which
her grandfather had fallen would never enter, and her late sorrows and
distresses could have no place.
The schoolmaster heard her with astonishment, and with admiration for
the heroism and patience of one so young. He then told her that he had
been appointed clerk and schoolmaster to a village a long way off, at
five-and-thirty pounds a year, and that he was on his way there now. He
concluded by saying that she and her grandfather must accompany him, and
that he would endeavor to find them some occupation by which they
Accordingly next evening they travelled on, with Nell comfortably
bestowed in a stage-wagon among the softer packages, her grandfather and
the schoolmaster walking on beside the driver, and the landlady and all
the good folks of the inn screaming out their good wishes and farewells.
It was a fine clear autumn morning, when they came upon the village of
their destination, and every bit of scenery, and stick and stone looked
beautiful to the child who had passed through such scenes of poverty and
horror. Leaving Nell and her grandfather upon the church porch, the
schoolmaster hurried off to present a letter, and to make inquiries
concerning his new position. After a long time he appeared, jingling a
bundle of rusty keys, and quite breathless with pleasure and haste. As a
result of his exertions on their behalf, Nell and her grandfather were
to occupy a small house next to the one apportioned to him. Having
disburdened himself of this great surprise, the schoolmaster then told
Nell that the house which was henceforth to be hers, had been occupied
by an old person who kept the keys of the church, opened and closed it
for the services, and showed it to strangers; that she had died not many
weeks ago, and nobody having yet been found to fill the office, he had
made bold to ask for it for her and her grandfather. As a result of his
testimony to their ability and honesty, they were already appointed to
the vacant post.
"There's a small allowance of money," said the schoolmaster. "It is not
much, but enough to live upon in this retired spot. By clubbing our
funds together, we shall do bravely; no fear of that."
"Heaven bless and prosper you!" sobbed the child.
"Amen, my dear," returned her friend cheerfully, "and all of us, as it
will, and has, in leading us through sorrow and trouble, to this
tranquil life. But we must look at my house now. Come!"
To make their dwellings habitable, and as full of comfort as they
could, was now their pleasant care, and in a short time each had a
cheerful fire crackling on the hearth. Nell, busily plying her needle,
repaired the tattered window-hangings, and made them whole and decent.
The schoolmaster swept the ground before the door, trimmed the long
grass, trained the ivy and creeping plants, and gave to the outer walls
a cheery air of home. The old man lent his aid to both, went here and
there on little patient services and was happy. Neighbors too, proffered
their help, or sent their children with such small presents or loans as
the strangers needed most. It was a busy day, and night came on all
They took their supper together, and when they had finished it, drew
round the fire and discussed their future plans. Before they separated,
the schoolmaster read some prayers aloud; and then, full of gratitude
and happiness, they parted for the night.
When every sound was hushed, and her grandfather sleeping, the child
lingered before the dying embers, and thought of her past fortunes as if
they had been a dream, and the deep and thoughtful feelings which
absorbed her, gave her no sensation of terror or alarm. A change had
been gradually stealing over her, in the time of her loneliness and
sorrow. With failing strength and heightened resolution, there had
sprung up a purified and altered mind; there had grown in her bosom
those blessed hopes and thoughts which are the portion of few but the
weak and drooping. There were none to see the frail figure as it glided
from the fire and leaned pensively at the casement; none but the stars
to look into the upturned face and read its history.
It was long before the child closed the window, and approached her
bed--but when she did--it was to sink into a sleep filled with sweet and
With the morning came the renewal of yesterday's labors, the revival of
its pleasant thoughts, the restoration of its energies, cheerfulness and
hope. They worked gayly until noon, and then visited the clergyman, who
received them kindly, and at once showed an interest in Nell. The
schoolmaster had already told her story. They had no other friends or
home to leave, he said, and had come to share his fortunes. He loved the
child as though she were his own.
"Well, well," said the clergyman. "Let it be as you desire, she is very
"Old in adversity and trial, sir," replied the schoolmaster.
"God help her. Let her rest and forget them," said the old gentleman.
"But an old church is a gloomy place for one so young as you, my child."
"Oh no, sir," returned Nell, "I have no such thoughts, indeed."
"I would rather see her dancing on the green at night," said the old
gentleman, laying his hand upon her head, "than have her sitting in the
shadow of our mouldering arches. You must look to this, and see that her
heart does not grow heavy among the solemn ruins."
After more kind words, they withdrew, and from that time Nell's heart
was filled with a serene and peaceful joy, and she occupied herself with
such light tasks as were hers to accomplish, and the peace of the simple
village moved her deeply, while more and more she grew to love the old
and silent chapel.
She sat down one day in this old and silent place, among the stark
figures on the tombs and gazing round with a feeling of awe tempered
with calm delight, felt that now she was happy and at rest. She took a
Bible and read; then laying it down, thought of the summer days and
bright springtime that would come--of the rays of sun that would fall in
aslant upon the sleeping forms--of the song of birds, and growth of buds
and blossoms out of doors--What if the spot awakened thoughts of death?
Die who would, these sights and sounds would still go on, as happily as
ever. It would be no pain to sleep amidst them.
She left the chapel, and climbed to its turret-top. Oh! the glory of the
sudden burst of light; the freshness of the fields and woods, meeting
the bright blue sky; everything so beautiful and happy! It was like
passing from death to life; it was drawing nearer heaven. And yet the
dim old chapel had for her a depth of fascination which the outer world
did not possess. Again that day, twice, she stole back to the chapel,
and read from the same book, or indulged in the same quiet train of
thought. Even when night fell, she sat like one rooted to the spot until
they found her there and took her home. She looked pale but very happy,
but as the schoolmaster stooped down to kiss her cheek, he thought he
felt a tear upon his face.
From a village bachelor, who took great interest in the beautiful child,
Nell soon learned the histories connected with every tomb and
gravestone, with every gallery, wall, and crypt in the dim old church.
These she treasured in her mind, dwelling on them often in her thoughts
and repeating them to those sightseers who cared to hear them. Her
duties were not arduous, but she did not regain her strength, and in her
grandfather's mind sprang up a solicitude about her which never left
him. From the time of his awakening to her weakness, never did he have
any care for himself, any thought of his own comfort, which could
distract his attention from the gentle object of his love and care, He
would follow her up and down, waiting till she should tire, and lean
upon his arm--he would sit opposite to her, content to watch and look,
until she raised her head and smiled upon him as of old--he would
discharge by stealth those household duties which tasked her powers too
heavily--he would rise in the night to listen to her breathing in her
sleep. He who knows all, can only know what hopes and fears and thoughts
of deep affection were in that one disordered brain, and what a change
had fallen upon the poor old man.
Weeks crept on--sometimes the child, exhausted, would pass whole
evenings on a couch beside the fire. At such times, the schoolmaster
would read aloud to her, and seldom an evening passed but the bachelor
came in and took his turn at reading. During the daytime the child was
mostly out of doors, and all the strangers who came to see the church,
praised the child's beauty and sense, and all the neighbors, and all the
villagers, and the very schoolboys grew to have a fondness for
Meanwhile, in that busy world which Nell and her grandfather had left
behind them so many months before, there had appeared a stranger, who
gave up all his time and energy to endeavoring to trace the wanderers.
He was Nell's grandfather's younger brother, who had for many years been
a traveller in distant lands, with almost no information of his brother.
His thoughts began to revert constantly to the days when they were boys
together, and obeying the impulse which impelled him, he hastened home,
arriving one evening at his brother's door, only to find the
By dint of ceaseless watchfulness and vigilance, at last he gained a
clue to their retreat, and lost no time in following it up, taking with
him Kit Nubbles, the errand-boy at the Shop in old days, who, though
now in the employ of kind Mr. Garland, was still loyal to the memory of
his beloved Miss Nelly--and only too grateful to be allowed to go in
search of her, with the stranger whom she would not recognize. So
together they journeyed to the peaceful village, where Nell and her
grandfather were hidden, Kit carrying with him Nell's bird in his own
cage. She would be glad to see it, he knew, but alas for Kit--they found
sweet Nell in the sleep that knows no waking on this our earth.
There, upon her little bed, she lay at rest. The solemn stillness was no
She was dead. No sleep so beautiful and calm, so free from trace of
pain, so fair to look upon. She seemed a creature fresh from the hand of
God, and waiting for the breath of life; not one who had lived and
Her couch was dressed with here and there some winter berries and green
leaves, gathered in a spot she had been used to favor. "When I die, put
near me something that has loved the light, and had the sky above it
always." Those were her words.
She was dead. Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead. Her little
bird--a poor slight thing the pressure of a finger would have
crushed--was stirring nimbly in its cage; and the strong heart of its
child-mistress was mute and motionless forever.
Where were the traces of her early cares, her sufferings, and fatigues?
All gone. Sorrow was dead indeed in her, but peace and perfect happiness
were born--imaged in her tranquil beauty and profound repose.
And still her former self lay there, unaltered in this change. Yes. The
old fireside had smiled upon that same sweet face; it had passed, like a
dream, through haunts of misery and care; at the door of the poor
schoolmaster on the summer evening, before the furnace fire upon the
cold wet night, there had been the same mild lovely look. So shall we
know the angels in their majesty, after death.
The old man had the small hand tight folded to his breast for warmth. It
was the hand she had stretched out to him with her last smile--the hand
that had led him on through all their wanderings. Ever and anon he
pressed it to his lips; then hugged it to his breast again, murmuring
that it was warmer now; and as he said it, he looked in agony to those
who stood around, as if imploring them to help her.
She was dead, and past all help, or need of it The ancient rooms she had
seemed to fill with life, even while her own was waning fast--the garden
she had tended--the eyes she had gladdened--the paths she had trodden,
as it were, but yesterday--could know her never more.
She had been dead two days. She died soon after daybreak. They had read
and talked to her in the earlier portion of the night, but as the hours
crept on she sunk to sleep. They could tell, by what she faintly uttered
in her dreams, that they were of her journeyings with the old man; they
were of no painful scenes but of people who had helped and used them
kindly, for she often said, "God bless you!" with great fervor. Waking,
she never wandered in her mind but once, and that was of beautiful music
which she said was in the air. God knows. It may have been.
Opening her eyes at last, from a very quiet sleep, she begged that they
would kiss her once again. That done, she turned to the old man with a
lovely smile upon her face--such, they said, as they had never seen, and
never could forget--and clung with both arms about his neck. They did
not know that she was dead, at first.
She would like to see poor Kit, she had often said of late. She wished
there was somebody to take her love to Kit. And even then, she never
thought or spoke about him but with something of her old clear
For the rest, she had never murmured or complained, but with a quiet
mind, and manner quite unaltered--save that she every day became more
earnest and more grateful to them--faded like the light upon a
They carried her to an old nook, where she had many and many a time sat
musing, and laid their burden softly on the pavement. The light streamed
on it through the colored window--a window where the boughs of trees
were ever rustling in the summer, and where the birds sang sweetly all
day long. With every breath of air that stirred among those branches in
the sunshine, some trembling changing light would fall upon her grave.
One called to mind how he had seen her sitting on that very spot, and
how her book had fallen on her lap, and she was gazing with a pensive
face upon the sky. Another told how she had loved to linger in the
church when all was quiet, and even to climb the tower stair with no
more light than that of the moon's rays stealing through the loopholes
in the thick old wall. A whisper went about among the oldest that she
had seen and talked with angels. Then, when the dusk of evening had come
on, with tranquil and submissive hearts they turned away, and left the
child with God.
Oh, it is hard to take to heart the lesson that such deaths will teach;
but let no man reject it, for it is a mighty, universal Truth. When
Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from
which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes
of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world, and bless it. Of every
tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves some good is born,
some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer's steps there spring up
bright creations to defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of
light to heaven.
THE INFANT PHENOMENON
[Illustration: THE INFANT PHENOMENON]
THE INFANT PHENOMENON
Mr. Vincent Crummles was manager of a theatrical company, and also the
head of a most remarkable family indeed, each member of which was gifted
with an extraordinary combination of talent and attractiveness, and most
remarkable of all the family was the Infant Phenomenon.
After Nicholas Nickleby, teacher at Dotheboys Hall, quitted that
wretched institution in disgrace, because he had resented injuries
inflicted upon the scholars in general, and upon the poor half-starved,
ill-used drudge, Smike, in particular, Smike stole away from the place
where he had been so cruelly used, to follow his defender, and the two
journeyed on together towards Portsmouth, resting for the night at a
roadside inn some miles from their destination. At the inn they met Mr.
Crummles who, upon discovering them to be destitute of money, and
desirous of obtaining employment as soon as possible, offered them both
engagements in his company, which offer, after a brief deliberation,
Nicholas decided to accept, until something more to his liking should be
Accordingly they journeyed to Portsmouth, together with Mr. Crummles and
the master Crummleses, and accompanied the manager through the town on
his way to the theatre.
They passed a great many bills pasted against the wall, and displayed
in windows, wherein the names of Mr. Vincent Crummles, Mrs. Vincent
Crummles, Master Crummles, Master Peter Crummles, and Miss Crummles,
were printed in large letters, and everything else in very small
letters; and turning at length into an entry in which was a strong smell
of orange-peel and lamp-oil, with an under-current of saw-dust, groping
their way through a dark passage, and descending a step or two, emerged
upon the stage of the Portsmouth theatre.
It was not very light, and as Nicholas looked about him, ceiling, pit,
boxes, gallery, orchestra, fittings, and decorations of every kind,--all
looked coarse, cold, gloomy and wretched.
"Is this a theatre?" whispered Smike, in amazement; "I thought it was a
blaze of light and finery."
"Why, so it is," replied Nicholas, hardly less surprised; "But not by
day, Smike,--not by day."
At this moment the manager's voice was heard, introducing the
new-comers, under the stage names of Johnson and Digby, to Mrs.
Crummles, a portly lady in a tarnished silk cloak, with her bonnet
dangling by the strings, and with a quantity of hair braided in a large
festoon over each temple; who greeted them with great cordiality.
While they were chatting with her, there suddenly bounded on to the
stage from some mysterious inlet, a little girl in a dirty white frock,
with tucks up to the knees, short trousers, sandalled shoes, white
spencer, pink gauze bonnet, green veil and curl papers, who turned a
pirouette, then looking off in the opposite wing, shrieked, bounded
forward to within six inches of the footlights, and fell into a
beautiful attitude of terror, as a shabby gentleman in an old pair of
buff slippers came in at one powerful slide, and chattering his teeth
fiercely, brandished a walking-stick.
"They are going through, 'The Indian Savage and the Maiden,'" said Mrs.
"Oh!" said the manager, "the little ballet interlude. Very good. Go on.
A little this way, if you please, Mr. Johnson. That'll do. Now!"
The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed, and the Savage,
becoming ferocious, made a slide towards the Maiden; but the Maiden
avoided him in six twirls, and came down, at the end of the last one,
upon the very points of her toes. This seemed to make some impression
upon the Savage, for after a little more ferocity and chasing of the
Maiden into corners, he began to relent, and stroked his face several
times with his right thumb and forefingers, thereby intimating that he
was struck with admiration of the Maiden's beauty. Acting upon the
impulse of this passion, he began to hit himself severe thumps in the
chest, and to exhibit other indications of being desperately in love,
which, being rather a prosy proceeding, was very likely the cause of the
Maiden's falling asleep; whether it was or no, asleep she did fall,
sound as a church, on a sloping bank, and the Savage, perceiving it,
leant his left ear on his left hand, and nodded sideways, to intimate to
all whom it might concern that she _was_ asleep, and no shamming. Being
left to himself, the Savage had a dance all alone. Just as he left off,
the Maiden woke up, rubbed her eyes, got off the bank, and had a dance
all alone too--such a dance that the Savage looked on in ecstacy all the
while, and when it was done, plucked from a neighboring tree some
botanical curiosity, resembling a small pickled cabbage, and offered it
to the Maiden, who at first wouldn't have it, but on the Savage shedding
tears, relented. Then the Savage jumped for joy; then the Maiden jumped
for rapture at the sweet smell of the pickled cabbage; then the Savage
and the Maiden danced violently together, and finally the Savage
dropped down on one knee, and the Maiden stood on one leg upon his other
knee; thus concluding the ballet, and leaving the spectators in a state
of pleasing uncertainty whether she would ultimately marry the Savage,
or return to her friends.
"Bravo!" cried Nicholas, resolved to make the best of everything.
"This, sir," said Mr. Vincent Crummles, bringing the Maiden forward,
"This is the Infant Phenomenon--Miss Ninetta Crummles."
"Your daughter?" inquired Nicholas.
"My daughter--my daughter," replied Mr. Crummles; "the idol of every
place we go into, sir. We have had complimentary letters about this
girl, sir, from the nobility and gentry of almost every town
"I am not surprised at that," said Nicholas; "she must be quite a
"Quite a--!" Mr. Crummles stopped: language was not powerful enough to
describe the Infant Phenomenon. "I'll tell you what, sir," he said; "the
talent of this child is not to be imagined. She must be seen,
sir--seen--to be ever so faintly appreciated. There; go to your
mother, my dear."
"May I ask how old she is?" inquired Nicholas.
"You may, sir," replied Mr. Crummles, "She is ten years of age, sir,"
"Not a day."
"Dear me," said Nicholas, "it's extraordinary."
It was; for the Infant Phenomenon certainly looked older, and had
moreover, been precisely the same age for certainly five years. But she
had been kept up late every night, and put upon an unlimited allowance
of gin and water from infancy, to prevent her growing tall, and perhaps
this system of training had produced in the Infant Phenomenon these
When this dialogue was concluded, another member of the company, Mr.
Folair, joined Nicholas, and confided to him the contempt of the entire
troupe for the Infant Phenomenon. "Infant Humbug sir!" he said. "There
isn't a female child of common sharpness in a charity school that
couldn't do better than that. She may thank her stars she was born a
"You seem to take it to heart," observed Nicholas with a smile.
"Yes, by Jove, and well I may," said Mr. Folair testily "isn't it enough
to make a man crusty, to see the little sprawler put up in the best
business every night, and actually keeping money out of the house by
being forced down the people's throats while other people are passed
over? Why, I know of fifteen-and-sixpence that came to Southampton last
month to see me dance the Highland Fling, and what's the consequence?
I've never been put up at it since--never once--while the 'Infant
Phenomenon' has been grinning through artificial flowers at five people
and a baby in the pit, and two boys in the gallery, every night."
From these bitter remarks, it may be inferred that there were two ways
of looking at the performances of the Infant Phenomenon, but as jealousy
is well known to be unjust in its criticism, and as the Infant was too
highly praised by her own band of admirers to be much affected by such
remarks, if any of them reached her ears, there is no evidence that her
joy was diminished by reason of the complaints of captious
At the first evening performance which Nicholas witnessed, he found the
various members of the company very much changed; by reason of false
hair, false color, false calves, false muscles, they had become
different beings; the stage also was set in the most elaborate
fashion,--in short everything was on a scale of the utmost splendor and
Nicholas was standing contemplating the first scene when the manager
"Been in front to-night?" said Mr. Crummles.
"No," replied Nicholas, "not yet. I am going to see the play."
"We've had a pretty good Let," said Mr. Crummles. "Four front places in
the centre, and the whole of the stage box."
"Oh, indeed!" said Nicholas; "a family, I suppose?"
"Yes," replied Mr. Crummles. "It's an affecting thing. There are six
children, and they never come unless the Phenomenon plays."
It would have been difficult for any party to have visited the theatre
on a night when the Phenomenon did _not_ play, inasmuch as she always
sustained one, and not uncommonly two or three characters, every night;
but Nicholas, sympathizing with the feelings of a father, refrained from
hinting at this trifling circumstance, and Mr. Crummies continued:
"Six,--pa and ma eight,--aunt nine,--governess ten,--grandfather and
grandmother, twelve. Then, there's the footman who stands outside with a
bag of oranges and a jug of toast-and-water, and sees the play for
nothing through the little pane of glass in the box-door--it's cheap at
a guinea; they gain by taking a box."
"I wonder you allow so many," observed Nicholas.
"There's no help for it," replied Mr. Crummles; "it's always expected
in the country. If there are six children, six people come to hold them
in their laps. Ring in the orchestra, Grudden!"
It was Mr. Crummles' habit to give a benefit performance, commonly
called a "bespeak," to any member of his company fortunate enough to
have either a birthday or any other anniversary of sufficient importance
to challenge attention on the posters, and not long after Nicholas
entered the company, this honor fell to the lot of one of the prominent
actresses, Miss Snevellicci. Mr. Crummles then informed Nicholas that
there was some work for him to do before that event took place.
"There's a little canvassing takes place on these occasions," said Mr.
Crummles, "among the patrons, and the fact is, Snevellicci has had so
many bespeaks in this place that she wants an attraction. She had one
when her stepmother died, and when her uncle died; and Mrs. Crummles and
myself have had them on the anniversary of the Phenomenon's birthday,
and our wedding-day, and occasions of that description; so that, in
fact, it is hard to get a good one. Now, won't you help this poor girl,
Mr. Johnson, by calling with her to-morrow morning upon one or two of
the principal people?"--asked the manager in a persuasive tone, adding,
"The Infant will accompany her. There will not be the smallest
impropriety, sir. It would be of material service--the gentleman from
London--author of the new piece--actor in the new piece--first
appearance on any boards--it would lead to a great bespeak,
The idea was extremely distasteful to Nicholas; but out of kindness to
Miss Snevellicci, he reluctantly consented to be one of the canvassing
party, and accordingly the next morning, sallied forth with Miss
Snevellicci and the Infant Phenomenon.
The Phenomenon was rather a troublesome companion, for first the right
sandal came down, and then the left, and these mischances being
repaired, one leg of the little white trousers was discovered to be
longer than the other; then the little green parasol with a broad fringe
border and no handle, which she bore in her hand, was dropped down an
iron grating, and only fished up again by dint of much exertion.
However, it was impossible to scold her, as she was the manager's
daughter, so Nicholas took it all in perfect good humor and walked on,
with Miss Snevellicci, arm in arm, on one side, and the offending infant
on the other.
At the first house they visited, after having a long conversation
concerning the stage, and its relation to life, they at length disposed
of two boxes, and retired, glad that the conference was at an end.
At the next house they were in great glory, for there resided the six
children who had been enraptured with the Phenomenon, and who, being
called down from the nursery to be treated with a private view of that
young lady, proceeded to poke their fingers into her eyes, and tread
upon her toes, and show her many other little attentions peculiar to
their time of life.
"I shall certainly persuade Mr. Borum to take a private box," said the
lady of the house, after a most gracious reception; "Augustus, you
naughty boy, leave the little girl alone." This was addressed to a young
gentleman who was pinching the Phenomenon from behind, apparently with a
view to ascertaining whether she was real.
"I am sure you must be very tired," said the mamma, turning to Miss
Snevellicci. "I cannot think of allowing you to go without first taking
a glass of wine. Fie, Charlotte, I am ashamed of you: Miss Lane, my
dear, pray see to the children."
This entreaty addressed to the governess, was rendered necessary by the
behavior of the youngest Miss Borum, who, having filched the
Phenomenon's little green parasol, was now carrying it bodily off, while
the distracted Infant looked helplessly on, and presently the poor child
was really in a fair way to be torn limb from limb, for two strong
little boys, one holding on by each of her hands, were dragging her in
different directions as a trial of strength. However, at this juncture
Miss Lane rescued the unhappy victim, who was presently taken away,
after sustaining no more serious damage than a flattening of the pink
gauze bonnet, and a rather extensive creasing of the white frock and
trousers. Her companions were thankful not only when the call was ended,
but when the whole trying morning, with its series of visits, was over.
The benefit performance was a great success, and the new actor made such
a decided hit on that night and the succeeding ones, that Mr. Crummies
prolonged his stay in Portsmouth for a fortnight beyond the days
allotted to it, during which time Nicholas attracted so many people to
the theatre that the manager finally decided upon giving him a benefit,
calculating that it would be a promising speculation. From it Nicholas
realized no less a sum than twenty pounds, which, added to what he had
earned before, made him feel quite rich and comfortable.
At that time he received a letter containing news of his sister in
London, and a danger that menaced her, which made him prepare to leave
Portsmouth without an hour's delay, if he should be summoned.
Accordingly he decided to acquaint his manager with the possibility of
his withdrawal from the company, and hastened to the green-room for that
purpose, where he found Mrs. Crummies in full regal costume, with the
Phenomenon as the Maiden, in her maternal arms. He broke the news to
the group as gently as possible, but it was received with great dismay,
and there were both protestations and tears, while the Phenomenon, being
of an affectionate nature and moreover excitable, raised a loud cry, and
was soothed with extreme difficulty, showing that the child's heart was
in the right place, notwithstanding the constant strain upon her
emotions from being so often obliged to simulate unnatural ones.
Mr. Crummles was no sooner acquainted with the news than he evinced many
tokens of grief, but finding Nicholas determined in his purpose, at once
suggested a grand farewell performance, to be advertised as a brilliant
display of fireworks.
"That would be rather expensive," suggested Nicholas dryly.
"Eighteen-pence would do it," said Mr. Crummles; "You on the top of a
pair of steps with the Phenomenon in an attitude; 'FAREWELL,' on a
transparency behind; and nine people at the wings with a squib in each
hand--all the dozen and a half going off at once--it would be very
grand--awful from the front, quite awful."
As Nicholas appeared by no means impressed with the idea, but laughed
heartily at it, Mr. Crummles abandoned the project, and gloomily
observed that they must make up the best bill they could, with combats
and hornpipes, and so stick to the legitimate drama.
Next day the posters appeared, and the public were informed that Mr.
Johnson would have the honor of making his last appearance that evening,
and that an early application for places was requested, in consequence
of the extraordinary overflow attendant on his performances.
Upon entering the theatre that night, Nicholas found all the company in
a state of extreme excitement, and Mr. Crummles at once informed him in
an agitated voice that there was a London manager in one of the boxes.
"It's the Phenomenon, depend upon it, sir," said Crummies. "I have not
the smallest doubt it's the fame of the Phenomenon. She shall have ten
pound a week, Johnson; she shall not appear on the London boards for a
farthing less. They shan't engage her either, unless they engage Mrs.
Crummles too; twenty pound a week for the pair, or I'll throw in myself
and the two boys, and they shall have the family for thirty. Thirty
pound a week. It's too cheap, Johnson. It's dirt cheap."
Every individual member of the company had in the same manner decided
that it was his or her attractions that had drawn the great man's
attention to the Portsmouth theatre, and each one secretly decided upon
the amount of inducement necessary to persuade him or her to make a new
engagement. Everybody played to the stranger, everybody sang to him,
everything was done for his exclusive benefit, and it was a cruel blow
to the general expectations when he was discovered to be asleep, and
shortly after that he woke up and went away: in consequence of which,
the feelings of the company, collectively and severally, underwent a
severe reaction. Nicholas alone, had no feeling whatsoever on the
subject, except of amusement. He went through his part as briskly as he
could, then took Smike's arm and walked home to bed.
With the post next morning came the letter he had been expecting,
calling him instantly to London, and he at once hurried off to say
farewell to Mr. Crummles. His news was received with keen regret by that
gentleman, who, always mindful of theatrical effects followed Nicholas
even to the coach itself. As that vehicle stood in the open street,
ready to start, and Nicholas was about to enter it, he was not a little
astonished to find himself suddenly clutched in a violent embrace which
nearly took him off his legs; while Mr. Crummles' voice exclaimed, "It
is he--my friend, my friend!"
"Bless my heart," cried Nicholas, struggling in the manager's arms,
"What are you about?"
The manager made no reply, but strained him to his breast again,
exclaiming, "Farewell, my noble, my lion-hearted boy!"
In fact Mr. Crummles, who could never lose any opportunity for
professional display, had turned out for the express purpose of taking a
public farewell of Nicholas, and to render it the more imposing, the
elder Master Crummles was going through a similar ceremony with Smike;
while Master Percy Crummles, with a second-hand cloak worn theatrically
over his left shoulder, stood by, in attitude of an attendant officer
waiting to convey two victims to the scaffold.
The lookers-on laughed very heartily, and as it was well to put a good
face upon the matter, Nicholas laughed too, when he had succeeded in
disengaging himself; and rescuing the astonished Smike, climbed up to
the coach-roof after him, waving farewell, as they rolled away.
Some years later, when Nicholas was residing in London, under very
different circumstances from those of his Portsmouth experience, and
with a very different occupation; walking home one evening, he stood
outside a minor theatre which he had to pass, and found himself poring
over a huge play-bill which announced in large letters;
_Positively the last appearance of Mr. Vincent Crummles, of Provincial
"Nonsense!" said Nicholas, preparing to resume his walk, then turning
back again, "It can't be,"--but adding on second thoughts--"Surely it
_must_ be the same man. There can't be two Vincent Crummleses."
The better to settle the question he referred to the bill again, and
finding there was a Baron in the first piece, whose son was enacted by
one Master Crummles, and his nephew by one Master Percy Crummles, and
that, incidental to the piece was a castanet _pas seul_ by the Infant
Phenomenon, he no longer entertained any doubt; and presenting himself
at the stage door at once, sent in a scrap of paper with "Mr. Johnson"
written thereon in pencil, and was presently conducted into the presence
of his former manager.
Mr. Crummles was unfeignedly glad to see him, and in the course of a
long conversation informed Nicholas that the next morning he and his
were to sail for America, that he had made up his mind to settle there
permanently, in the hope of acquiring some land of his own, which would
support them in their old age, and which they could afterward bequeath
to their children. Nicholas, having highly commended this resolution,
Mr. Crummles imparted such further intelligence relative to their mutual
friends as he thought might prove interesting, and added a hearty
invitation to Nicholas to attend that night a farewell supper, to be
given in their honor at a neighboring tavern.
This invitation Nicholas instantly accepted, promising to return at the
conclusion of the performances, and availed himself of this interval to
go out and buy a silver snuff-box as a token of remembrance for Mr.
Crummles, also a pair of ear-rings for Mrs. Crummles, a necklace for the
Phenomenon, and a flaming shirt-pin for each of the young gentlemen,
after making which purchases he returned to the theatre, and repaired to
the tavern with Mr. Crummles.
He was received with great cordiality by those of the party whom he
knew, and with particular joy by Mrs. Crummles, who at once said: "Here
is one whom you know,"--thrusting forward the Phenomenon, in a blue
gauze frock, extensively flounced, and trousers of the same.
Nicholas stooped down to salute the Phenomenon, and then, supper being
on table, Mrs. Crummles gave her hand to Nicholas and repaired with a
stately step to the repast, followed by the other guests.
The board being at length cleared of food; and punch, wine, and spirits
being placed upon it, and handed about, speeches were made, and health
drunk to Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Crummles and the young Crummleses, after
which ceremony, with many adieus and embraces, the company dispersed.
Nicholas waited until he was alone with the family, to give his little
presents, and then with honest warmth of feeling said farewell to Mr.
and Mrs. Crummles, the Master Crummleses, and the Infant
Phenomenon,--and history has not chronicled their further career, nor
recorded to what greater heights of popularity the Infant Phenomenon has
[Illustration: JENNY WREN]
Her real name was Fanny Cleaver, but she had long ago dropped it, and
chosen to bestow upon herself the fanciful appellation of Miss Jenny
Wren, by which title she was known to the entire circle of her friends
and business acquaintances.
Miss Wren's home was in a certain little street called Church Street,
running out from a certain square called Smith Square, at Millbank, and
there the little lady plied her trade, early and late, having for
companions her father and a lodger, Lizzie Hexam. Her father had once
been a good workman at his own trade, but unfortunately for poor little
Jenny Wren, was so weak in character and so confirmed in bad habits that
she could place no trust in him, and had come to consider herself the
head of the family, and to speak of him as "my child," or "my bad boy,"
ordering him about as if he were in truth, a child.
When Lizzie Hexam's brother and a friend, Bradley Headstone, paid their
first visit to the house on Church Street, they knocked at the door,
which promptly opened and disclosed a child--a dwarf, a girl--sitting on
a little, low, old-fashioned arm-chair, which had a kind of little
working-bench before it.
"I can't get up," said the child, "because my back's bad and my legs are
queer. But I'm the person of the house."
"Who else is at home?" asked Charley Hexam, staring?
"Nobody's at home at present," returned the child, with a glib
assertion of her dignity, "except the person of the house."
The queer little figure, and the queer, but not ugly little face, with
its bright grey eyes, was so sharp that the sharpness of the manner
The person of the house continued the conversation: "Your sister will be
in," she said, "in about a quarter of an hour. I'm very fond of your
sister. Take a seat. And would you please to shut the street door first?
I can't very well do it myself, because my back's so bad and my legs are
They complied, and the little figure went on with its work of gumming or
gluing together pieces of cardboard and thin wood, cut into various
shapes. The scissors and knives upon the bench, showed that the child
herself had cut them; and the bright scraps of velvet and silk and
ribbon also strewn upon the bench showed that when duly stuffed, she was
to cover them smartly. The dexterity of her nimble fingers was
remarkable, and as she brought two thin edges accurately together by
giving them a little bite, she would glance at the visitors out of the
corners of her grey eyes with a look that out-sharpened all her other
"You can't tell me the name of my trade, I'll be bound," she said.
"You make pincushions," said Charley.
"What else do I make?"
"Penwipers," said his friend.
"Ha, ha! What else do I make?"
"You do something," he returned, pointing to a corner of the little
bench, "with straw; but I don't know what."
"Well done, you!" cried the person of the house. "I only make
pincushions and penwipers, to use up my waste. But my straw really does
belong to my business. Try again. What do I make with my straw?"
"Dinner-mats! I'll give you a clue to my trade in a game of forfeits. I
love my love with a B because she's beautiful; I hate my love with a B
because she is brazen; I took her to the sign of the Blue Boar; and I
treated her with Bonnets; her name's Bouncer and she lives in
Bedlam--now, what do I make with my straw?"
"Fine ladies'," said the person of the house, nodding assent. "Dolls'.
I'm a Doll's dressmaker."
"I hope it's a good business?"
The person of the house shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. "No.
Poorly paid. And I'm often so pressed for time. I had a doll married
last week, and was obliged to work all night. And they take no care of
their clothes, and they never keep to the same fashions a month. I work
for a doll with three daughters. Bless you, she's enough to ruin her
husband!" The person of the house gave a weird little laugh, and gave
them another look but of the corners of her eyes. She had an elfin chin
that was capable of great expression; and whenever she gave this look,
she hitched this chin up, as if her eyes and her chin worked together on
the same wires.
"Are you always as busy as you are now?"
"Busier. I'm slack just now. I finished a large mourning order the day
before yesterday. Doll I work for lost a canary bird."
"Are you alone all day?" asked Bradley Headstone. "Don't any of the
"Ah," cried the person of the house, with a little scream as if the word
had pricked her. "Don't talk of children. I can't bear children. I know
their tricks and their manners!" She said this with an angry little
shake of her right fist, adding:
"Always running about and screeching, always playing and fighting,
always skip--skip--skipping on the pavement, and chalking it for their
games! Oh--I know their tricks and their manners!" Shaking the little
fist as before. "And that's not all. Ever so often calling names in
through a person's keyhole, and imitating a person's back and legs. Oh!
_I_ know their tricks and their manners. And I tell you what I'd do to
punish 'em. There's doors under the church in the Square--black doors
leading into black vaults. Well! I'd open one of those doors, and I'd
cram 'em all in, and then I'd lock the door and through the keyhole I'd
blow in pepper."
"What would be the good of blowing in pepper?" asked Charley Hexam.
"To set 'em sneezing," said the person of the house, "and make their
eyes water. And when they were all sneezing and inflamed, I'd mock 'em
through the keyhole. Just as they, with their tricks and their manners,
mock a person through a person's keyhole!"
An emphatic shake of her little fist, seemed to ease the mind of the
person of the house; for she added with recovered composure, "No, no,
no. No children for me. Give me grown-ups."
It was difficult to guess the age of this strange creature, for her poor
figure furnished no clue to it, and her face was at once so young and so
old. Twelve, or at the most thirteen, might be near the mark.
"I always did like grown-ups," she went on, "and always kept company
with them. So sensible. Sit so quiet. Don't go prancing and capering
about! And I mean always to keep among none but grown-ups till I marry.
I suppose I must make up my mind to marry, one of these days!"
At that moment Lizzie Hexam entered, and the visitors after saying
farewell to the dolls' dressmaker, took Lizzie out with them for a
The person of the house, dolls' dressmaker, and manufacturer of
ornamental pincushions and penwipers, sat in her quaint little low
arm-chair, singing in the dark, until Lizzie came back.
"Well, Lizzie--Mizzie--Wizzie," said she, breaking off in her song.
"What's the news out of doors?"
"What's the news indoors?" returned Lizzie playfully, smoothing the
bright long fair hair, which grew very luxuriant and beautiful on the
head of the dolls' dressmaker. It being Lizzie's regular occupation when
they were alone of an evening to brush out and smooth the long fair
hair, she unfastened a ribbon that kept it back while the little
creature was at work, and it fell in a beautiful shower over the poor
shoulders that were much in need of such adorning rain.
Lizzie then lighted a candle, put the room door and the house door open,
and turned the little low chair and its occupant toward the outer air.
It was a sultry night, and this was a fine weather arrangement when the
day's work was done. To complete it, she seated herself by the side of
the little chair, and protectingly drew under her arm the spare hand
that crept up to her.
"This is what your loving Jenny Wren calls the best time of the day and
night," said the person of the house; adding, "I have been thinking
to-day what a thing it would be, if I should be able to have your
company till I am married, or at least courted. Because when I'm
courted, I shall make _him_ do some of the things that you do for me. He
couldn't brush my hair like you do, or help me up and downstairs like
you do, and he couldn't do anything like you do; but he could take my
work home, and he could call for orders in his clumsy way. And he shall
too. _I'll_ trot him about, I can tell him!"
Jenny Wren had her personal vanities--happily for her--and no intentions
were stronger in her breast than the various trials and torments that
were, in the fulness of time, to be inflicted upon "him."
"Wherever he may happen to be just at present, or whoever he may happen
to be," said Miss Wren, "_I_ know his tricks and his manners, and I give
him warning to look out."
"Don't you think you're rather hard upon him?" asked her friend smiling,
and smoothing her hair.
"Not a bit," replied the sage Miss Wren, with an air of vast experience.
"My dear, they don't care for you, those fellows, if you're not hard
In such light and playful conversation, which was the dear delight of
Jenny Wren, they continued until interrupted by Mr. Wrayburn, a friend
of Lizzie's, who fell to talking playfully with Jenny Wren.
"I think of setting up a doll, Miss Jenny," he said.
"You had better not," replied the dressmaker.
"You are sure to break it. All you children do."
"But that makes good for trade, you know, Miss Wren," he returned.
"I don't know about that," Miss Wren retorted; "but you'd better by half
set up a pen-wiper, and turn industrious, and use it."
"Why, if we were all as industrious as you, little Busy Body, we should
begin to work as soon as we could crawl, and there would be a
"Do you mean," returned the little creature with a flush suffusing her
face, "bad for your backs and your legs?"
"No, no," said the visitor, shocked at the thought of trifling with her
infirmity. "Bad for business. If we all set to work as soon as we could
use our hands, it would be all over with the dolls' dressmakers.
"There's something in that," replied Miss Wren, "you have a sort of an
idea in your noddle sometimes!" Then, resting one arm upon the elbow of
her chair, resting her chin upon that hand, and looking vacantly before
her, she said in a changed tone: "Talking of ideas, my Lizzie, I wonder
how it happens that when I am working here all alone in the summer-time,
I smell flowers. This is not a flowery neighborhood. It's anything but
that. And yet as I sit at work, I smell miles of flowers; I smell
rose-leaves till I think I see the rose-leaves lying in heaps, bushels,
on the floor; I smell fallen leaves, till I put down my hand--so--and
expect to make them rustle; I smell the white and the pink May in the
hedges, and all sorts of flowers that I never was among. For I have seen
very few flowers indeed in my life."
"Pleasant fancies to have, Jenny dear!" said her friend with a glance
toward their visitor, as if she would have asked him whether they were
given the child in compensation for her losses.
"So I think, Lizzie, when they come to me. And the birds I hear! Oh!"
cried the little creature, holding out her hand and looking upward, "How
There was something in the face and action for the moment quite inspired
and beautiful. Then the chin dropped musingly upon the hand again.
"I dare say my birds sing better than other birds, and my flowers smell
better than other flowers. For when I was a little child," in a tone as
though it were ages ago, "the children that I used to see early in the
morning were very different from any others I ever saw. They were not
like me; they were not chilled, anxious, ragged, or beaten; they were
never in pain. They were not like the children of the neighbors; they
never made me tremble all over, by setting up shrill noises; and they
never mocked me. Such numbers of them too! All in white dresses, and
with something shining on the borders, and on their heads, that I have
never been able to imitate with my work, though I know it so well. They
used to come down in long, bright, slanting rows, and say all together,
'Who is this in pain! Who is this in pain!' When I told them who it was,
they answered, 'Come and play with us!' When I said 'I never play! I
can't play,' they swept about me and took me up, and made me light. Then
it was all delicious ease and rest till they laid me down, and said all
together, 'Have patience, and we will come again.' Whenever they came
back, I used to know they were coming before I saw the long bright rows,
by hearing them ask, all together a long way off, 'Who is this in pain!
Who is this in pain!' And I used to cry out, 'Oh my blessed children,
it's poor me. Have pity on me. Take me up and make me light!'"
By degrees as she progressed in this remembrance, the hand was raised,
the last ecstatic look returned, and she became quite beautiful again.
Having so paused for a moment, silent, with a listening smile upon her
face, she looked round and recalled herself.
"What poor fun you think me, don't you," she said to the visitor. "You
may well look tired of me. But it's Saturday night, and I won't
"That is to say, Miss Wren," observed the visitor, rather weary of the
person of the house, and quite ready to profit by her hint, "you wish
me to go?"
"Well, it's Saturday night," she returned, "and my child's coming home.
And my child is a troublesome, bad child, and costs me a world of
scolding. I would rather you didn't see my child."
"A doll?" said the visitor, not understanding, and looking for an
But Lizzie, with her lips only, shaping the two words, "_Her father_,"
he took his leave immediately, and presently the weak and shambling
figure of the child's father stumbled in, to be expostulated with, and
scolded, and treated as the person of the house always treated him, when
he came home in such a pitiable condition.
While they ate their supper, Lizzie tried to bring the child round again
to that prettier and better state. But the charm was broken. The dolls'
dressmaker had become a little quaint shrew, of the world, worldly; of
the earth, earthy.
Poor dolls' dressmaker! How often so dragged down by hands that should
have raised her up; how often so misdirected when losing her way on the
eternal road and asking guidance! Poor, poor little dolls' dressmaker.
One of Miss Jenny's firmest friends was an aged Jew, Mr. Riah, by name;
of venerable aspect, and a generous and noble nature. He was supposedly
the head of the firm of Pubsey and Co., at Saint-Mary-Axe, but really
only the agent of one Mr. Fledgeby, a miserly young dandy who directed
all the aged Jew's transactions, and forced him into sharp, unfair
dealings with those whom Mr. Riah himself would gladly have befriended;
shielding his own meanness and dishonesty behind the venerable figure of
the Jew, and keeping his own connection with the firm a profound secret.
Mr. Riah suffered himself to remain in such a position only because once
when he had had sickness and misfortune, and owed Mr. Fledgeby's father
both principal and interest, the son inheriting, had been merciful and
placed him there; and little did the guileless old man realize that he
had long since, richly repaid the debt; his age and serene
respectability, added to the characteristics ascribed to his race,
making a valuable screen to hide his employer's misdeeds.
The aged Jew often befriended the dolls' dressmaker, and she called him,
in her fanciful way, "godmother."
On his roof-top garden, Jenny Wren and her friend Lizzie were sitting
one day, together, when Mr. Fledgeby came up and joined the party,
interrupting their conversation. For the girls, perhaps with some old
instinct of his race, the gentle Jew had spread a carpet. Seated on it,
against no more romantic object than a blackened chimney-stack, over
which some humble creeper had been trained, they both pored over one
book, while a basket of common fruit, and another basket of strings of
beads and tinsel scraps were lying near.
"This, sir," explained the old Jew, "is a little dressmaker for little
people. Explain to the master, Jenny."
"Dolls; that's all," said Jenny shortly. "Very difficult to fit too,
because their figures are so uncertain. You never know where to expect
"I made acquaintance with my guests, sir," pursued the old Jew, with an
evident purpose of drawing out the dressmaker, "through their coming
here to buy our damage and waste for Miss Jenny's millinery. They wear
it in their hair, and on their ball-dresses, and even (so she tells me)
are presented at court with it."
"Ah!" said Fledgeby, "she's been buying that basketful to-day, I
"I suppose she has," Miss Jenny interposed, "and paying for it too, most
likely," adding, "we are thankful to come up here for rest, sir; for
the quiet and the air, and because it's so high. And you see the clouds
rushing on above the narrow streets, not minding them, and you see the
golden arrows pointing at the mountains in the sky, from which the wind
comes, and, you feel as if you were dead."
"How do you feel when you are dead?" asked the practical Mr. Fledgeby,
"Oh so tranquil!" cried the little creature smiling. "Oh so peaceful and
so thankful! And you hear the people, who are alive, crying and working
and calling to one another in the close dark streets and you seem to
pity them so! And such a chain has fallen from you, and such a strange,
good, sorrowful happiness comes upon you!"
Her eyes fell upon the old man, who, with his hands folded, quietly
"Why, it was only just now," said the little creature, pointing at him,
"that I fancied I saw him come out of his grave! He toiled out at that
low door, so bent and worn, and then he took his breath, and stood
upright and looked all around him at the sky, and the wind blew upon
him, and his life down in the dark was over!--Till he was called back to
life," she added, looking round at Fledgeby with that lower look of
sharpness, "Why did you call him back? But you are not dead, you know,"
said Jenny Wren. "Get down to life!"
Mr. Fledgeby seemed to think it a rather good suggestion, and with a nod
turned round and took his leave. As Mr. Riah followed him down the
stairs, the little creature called out to the Jew in a silvery tone,
"Don't be gone long. Come back and be dead!" And still as they went
down, they heard the little sweet voice, more and more faintly, half
calling and half singing, "Come back and be dead. Come back and be
dead!" And as the old man again mounted, the call or song began to
sound in his ears again, and looking above, he saw the face of the
little creature looking down out of the glory of her long, bright,
radiant hair, and musically repeating to him like a vision:
"Come up and be dead! Come up and be dead!"
Not long after this, there came a heavy trial to the dolls' dressmaker
in the loss from her home of her friend and lodger, Lizzie Hexam.
Lizzie, having disagreed with her brother upon a subject of vital
interest to herself, and having an intense desire to escape from persons
whom she knew would pursue her so long as she remained in London, felt
it wisest to quietly disappear from the city, leaving no trace of her
whereabouts. With the help of Mr. Riah she accomplished this, and found
occupation in a paper-mill in the country, leaving poor Jenny Wren with
only the slight consolation of her letters, and with the aged Jew for
her sole counsellor and friend. He was frequently with Jenny Wren, often
escorting her upon her necessary trips, in returning her fine ladies to
their homes in various parts of the city, and sometimes the little
creature accompanied him upon his own business trips, as well.
One foggy evening as usual, he set out for Church Street, and, wading
through the fog, waded to the doorstep of the dolls' dressmaker.
Miss Wren expected him. He could see her through the window, by the
light of her low fire--carefully banked up with damp cinders, that it
might last the longer, and waste the less when she went out--sitting
waiting for him, in her bonnet. His tap at the glass roused her from the
musing solitude in which she sat, and she opened the door, aiding her
steps with a little crutch-stick.
"Good evening, godmother!" said Miss Jenny Wren.
The old man laughed, and gave her his arm to lean on. "Won't you come
in and warm yourself, godmother?" she asked.
"Not if you are ready, Cinderella, my dear."
"Well!" exclaimed Miss Wren, delighted. "Now you ARE a clever old boy!
If we only gave prizes at this establishment you should have the first
silver medal for taking me up so quick." As she spake thus, Miss Wren
removed the key of the house-door from the keyhole, and put it in her
pocket. Satisfied that her dwelling was safe, she drew one hand through
the old man's arm, and prepared to ply her crutch-stick with the other.
But the key was of such gigantic proportions that before they started,
Riah proposed to carry it.
"No, no, no! I'll carry it myself," returned Miss Wren. "I'm awfully
lop-sided, you know, and stowed down in my pocket, it'll trim the ship.
To let you into a secret, godmother, I wear my pocket on my high side
With that they began their plodding through the fog.
"Yes, it was truly sharp of you, godmother," returned Miss Wren, with
great approbation, "to understand me. But, you see, you _are_ so like
the fairy godmother in the bright little books! You look so unlike the
rest of the people, and so much as if you had changed yourself into that
shape, just this moment, with some benevolent object. Bah!" cried Miss
Jenny, putting her face close to the old man's, "I can see your
features, godmother, behind the beard."
"Does the fancy go to my changing other objects, too, Jenny?"
"Ah! That it does! If you'd only borrow my stick, and tap this piece of
pavement, it would start up a coach and six. I say,--Let's believe so!"
"With all my heart," replied the good old man.
"And I'll tell you what I must ask you to do, godmother. I must ask you
to be so kind as to give my child a tap, and change him altogether. Oh,
my child has been such a bad, bad child of late! It worries me almost
out of my wits. Not done a stroke of work these ten days."
"What shall be changed after him?" asked Riah, in a compassionately
"Upon my word, godmother, I am afraid I must be selfish next, and get
you to set me right in the back and legs. It's a little thing to you
with your power, godmother, but it's a great deal to poor, weak,
There was no querulous complaining in the words, but they were not the
less touching for that.
"Yes, and then--_you_ know, godmother. Well both jump into the coach and
six, and go to Lizzie. This reminds me, godmother, to ask you a serious
question. You are as wise as wise can be (having been brought up by the
fairies), and you can tell me this,--Is it better to have had a good
thing and lost it, or never to have had it?"
"I feel so much more solitary and helpless without Lizzie now than I
used to feel before I knew her." (Tears were in her eyes as she
"Some beloved companionship fades out of most lives, my dear," said the
Jew, "that of a wife, and a fair daughter, and a son of promise, has
faded out of my own life--but the happiness _was_"
"Ah!" said Miss Wren thoughtfully, by no means convinced. "Then I tell
you what change I think you had better begin with, godmother. You had
better change Is into Was, and Was into Is, and keep them so."
"Would that suit your case? Would you not be always in pain then?" asked
the old man tenderly.
"Right!" exclaimed Miss Wren. "You have changed me wiser, godmother.
Not," she added, with a quaint hitch of her chin and eyes, "that you
need to be a very wonderful godmother to do that, indeed!"
Thus conversing, they pursued their way over London Bridge, and struck
down the river, and held their still foggier course that way. As they
were going along, Jennie twisted her venerable friend aside to a
brilliantly lighted toy-shop window, and said: "Now, look at 'em! All
This referred to a dazzling semicircle of dolls in all the colors of the
rainbow, who were dressed for all the gay events of life.
"Pretty, pretty, pretty!" said the old man with a clap of his hands.
"Most elegant taste!"
"Glad you like 'em," returned Miss Wren loftily. "But the fun is,
godmother, how I make the great ladies try my dresses on. Though it's
the hardest part of my business, and would be, even if my back were not
bad and my legs queer."
He looked at her as not understanding what she said.
"Bless you, godmother," said Miss Wren, "I have to scud about town at
all hours. If it was only sitting at my bench, cutting out and sewing,
it would be comparatively easy work; but it's the trying-on by the great
ladies that takes it out of me."
"How the trying-on?" asked Riah.
"What a moony godmother you are, after all!" returned Miss Wren. "Look
here. There's a Drawing-room, or a grand day in the Park, or a show or a
fete, or what you like. Very well. I squeeze among the crowd, and I look
about me. When I see a great lady very suitable for my business, I say,
'You'll do, my dear!' and I take particular notice of her again, and
run home and cut her out, and baste her. Then another day I come
scudding back again to try on. Sometimes she plainly seems to say, 'How
that little creature _is_ staring!' All the time I am only saying to
myself, 'I must hollow out a bit here; I must slope away there'; and I
am making a perfect slave of her, making her try on my doll's dress.
Evening parties are severer work for me, because there's only a doorway
for full view, and what with hobbling among the wheels of the carriages
and the legs of the horses, I fully expect to be run over some night.
Whenever they go bobbing into the hall from the carriage, and catch a
glimpse of my little physiognomy poked out from behind a policeman's
cape in the rain, I daresay they think I am wondering and admiring with
all my eyes and heart, but they little think they're only working for my
dolls! There was Lady Belinda Whitrose. I said one night when she came
out of the carriage. 'You'll do, my dear!' and I ran straight home, and
cut her out, and basted her. Back I came again, and waited behind the
men that called the carriages. Very bad night too. At last, 'Lady
Belinda's Whitrose's carriage!' Lady Belinda Whitrose coming down! And I
made her try on--oh! and take pains about it too--before she got seated.
That's Lady Belinda hanging up by the waist, much too near the gas-light
for a wax one, with her toes turned in."
When they had plodded on for some time, they reached a certain tavern,
where Mr. Riah had some business to transact with its proprietress, Miss
Abbey Potterson, to whom he presented himself, and was about to
introduce his young companion when Miss Wren interrupted him:
"Stop a bit," she said, "I'll give the lady my card." She produced it
from her pocket with an air, and Miss Abbey took the diminutive
document, and found it to run thus:
Miss JENNY WREN.
_Dolls attended at their own residences_.
So great were her amusement and astonishment, and so interested was she
in the odd little creature that she at once asked:
"Did you ever taste shrub, child?"
Miss Wren shook her head.
"Should you like to?"
"Should if it's good," returned Miss Wren.
"You shall try. Put your little feet on the fender. It's a cold, cold
night, and the fog clings so." As Miss Abbey helped her to turn her
chair, her loosened bonnet fell on the floor. "Why, what lovely hair!"
cried Miss Abbey. "And enough to make wigs: for all the dolls in the
world. What a quantity!"
"Call _that_ a quantity?" returned Miss Wren. "_Poof_! What do you say
to the rest of it?" As she spoke, she untied a band, and the golden
stream fell over herself, and over the chair, and flowed down to the
ground. Miss Abbey's admiration seemed to increase her perplexity. She
beckoned the Jew towards her, and whispered:
"Child or woman?"
"Child in years," was the answer; "woman in self-reliance and trial."
"You are talking about me, good people," thought Miss Jenny, sitting in
her golden bower, warming her feet. "I can't hear what you say, but I
know your tricks and your manners!"
The shrub, mixed by Miss Potterson's skilful hands, was perfectly
satisfactory to Miss Jenny's palate, and she sat and sipped it leisurely
while the interview between Mr. Riah and Miss Potterson proceeded,
keenly regretting when the bottom of the glass was reached, and the
interview at an end.
There was at this time much curiosity among Lizzie Hexam's acquaintances
to discover her hiding-place, and many of them paid visits to the dolls'
dressmaker in hopes of obtaining from her the desired address. Among
these was Mr. Wrayburn, whom we find calling upon Miss Wren one evening:
"And so, Miss Jenny," he said, "I cannot persuade you to dress me a
"No," replied Miss Wren snappishly; "If you want one, go and buy it at
"And my charming young goddaughter," said Mr. Wrayburn plaintively,
"down in Hertfordshire--"
("Humbugshire, you mean, I think," interposed Miss Wren)--"is to be put
upon the cold footing of the general public, and is to derive no
advantage from my private acquaintance with the Court dressmaker?"
"If it's any advantage to your charming godchild, and oh, a precious
godfather she has got!" replied Miss Wren, pricking at him in the air
with her needle, "to be informed that the Court dressmaker knows your
tricks and your manners, you may tell her so, by post, with my
Miss Wren was busy with her work, by candlelight, and Mr. Wrayburn, half
amused and half vexed, stood by her bench looking on, while her
troublesome child was in the corner, in deep disgrace on account of his
bad behavior, and as Miss Jenny worked, she rated him severely,
accompanying each reproach with a stamp of her foot.
"Pay five shillings for you indeed!" she exclaimed in response to his
appeal for money. "How many hours do you suppose it costs me to earn
five shillings, you infamous boy? Don't cry like that, or I'll throw a
doll at you. Pay five shillings fine for you, indeed! Fine in more ways
than one, I think! I'd give the dustman five shillings to carry you off
in the dust-cart."
The figure in the corner continuing to whine and whimper, Miss Wren
covered her face with her hand. "There!" she said, "I can't bear to look
at you. Go upstairs and get me my bonnet and shawl. Make yourself useful
in some way, bad boy, and let me have your room instead of your company,
for one half minute."
Obeying her, he shambled out, and Mr. Wrayburn, pitying, saw the tears
exude between the little creature's fingers, as she kept her hand
before her eyes.
"I am going to the Italian Opera to try on," said Miss Wren, taking away
her hand, and laughing satirically to hide that she had been crying.
"But let me first tell you, Mr. Wrayburn, once for all, that it's no use
your paying visits to me. You wouldn't get what you want of me, no, not
if you brought pincers with you to tear it out."
With which statement, and a further admonition to her father, who had
come back, she blew her candles out, and taking her big door-key in her
pocket, and her crutch-stick in her hand, marched off.
Not many months later, one day while Miss Wren was waiting in the office
of Pubsey and Co., for Mr. Riah to come in and sell her the waste she
was accustomed to buy, she overheard a conversation between Mr.
Fledgeby, who had apparently happened in, and a friend who was also
waiting for Mr. Riah.
This conversation led her to infer that her old friend was both a
treacherous and dishonest man, and entirely unworthy to be trusted in
any capacity. Seemingly the conversation was not meant for her ears, but
Mr. Fledgeby had planned that she should hear it, and that it should
have the very effect upon her which it had. This was Mr. Fledgeby's
retort upon Miss Wren for the over-sharpness with which she always
treated him, and also a pleasant instance of his humor as regarded the
old Jew. "He has got a bad name as an old Jew, and he is paid for the
use of it, and I'll have my money's worth out of him." Thus ran Mr.
Fledgeby's reflections on the subject, and Miss Wren sat listening to
the conversation with a fallen countenance, until Mr. Riah came in, when
Mr. Fledgeby led the old man to make statements which seemed further to
emphasize his hard-heartedness and dishonesty.
Then Mr. Riah filled Miss Wren's little basket with such scraps as she
could buy, saying:
"There, my Cinderella dear, the basket's full now. Bless you, and get
"Don't call me your Cinderella dear," returned Miss Wren, "Oh, you cruel
She shook that emphatic little forefinger of hers in his face at
parting, and as he did not attempt to vindicate himself, went on her
way, to return no more to Saint Mary Axe; chance having disclosed to her
(as she supposed) the flinty and hypocritical character of Mr. Riah. She
often moralized over her work on the tricks and the manners of that
venerable cheat, but made her little purchases elsewhere, and lived a
secluded life. But during several interviews which she chanced to have
later with Mr. Fledgeby, the clever little creature made him by his own
words, disclose his system of treachery and trickery, and prove that the
aged Jew had been screening his employer at his own expense. Thereupon
Miss Jenny lost no time in once again proceeding to the place of
business of Pubsey and Co., where she found the old man sitting at his
desk. In less time than it takes to tell it, she had folded her arms
about his neck, and kissed him, imploring his forgiveness for her lack
of faith in him, adding: "It did look bad, now, didn't it?"
"It looked so bad, Jenny," responded the old man with gravity, "that I
was hateful in mine own eyes. I perceived that the obligation was upon
me to leave this service. Whereupon I indited a letter to my master to
that effect, but he held me to certain months of servitude, which were
his lawful term of notice. They expire to-morrow. Upon their
expiration--not before--I had meant to set myself right with my
While they were thus conversing, the aged Jew received an angry
communication from Mr. Fledgeby, releasing Mr. Riah at once from his
service, to the great satisfaction of the old man, who then got his few
goods together in a black bag, closed the shutters, pulled down the
office blind, and issued forth upon the steps. There, while Miss Jenny
held the bag, the old man locked the house door, and handed the key over
to the messenger who had brought the note of dismissal.
"Well, godmother," said Miss Wren, "and so you're thrown upon the
"It would appear so, Jenny, and rather suddenly."
"Where are you going to seek your fortune?" asked Miss Wren. The old man
smiled, but gazed about him with a look of having lost his way in life,
which did not escape the dolls' dressmaker.
"The best thing you can do," said Jenny, "for the time being, at all
events, is to come home with me, godmother. Nobody's there but my bad
child, and Lizzie's lodging stands empty."
The old man, when satisfied that no inconvenience could be entailed on
any one by this move, readily complied, and the singularly assorted
couple once more went through the streets together.
And it was a kindly Providence which placed the child's hand in the aged
Jew's protecting one that night. Before they reached home, they met a
sad party, bearing in their arms an inanimate form, at which the dolls'
dressmaker needed but to take one look.
"Oh gentlemen, gentlemen," she cried, "He belongs to me!" "Belongs to
you!" said the head of the party, stopping;--"Oh yes, dear gentlemen,
he's my child, out without leave. My poor, bad, bad boy! And he don't
know me, he don't know me! Oh, what _shall_ I do?" cried the little
creature, wildly beating her hands together, "when my own child
don't know me!"
The head of the party looked to the old Jew for explanation. He
whispered, as the dolls' dressmaker bent over the still form, and vainly
tried to extract some sign of recognition from it; "It's her
Then the sad party with their lifeless burden went through the streets.
After it, went the dolls' dressmaker, hiding her face in the Jewish
skirts, and clinging to them with one hand, while with the other she
plied her stick, and at last the little home in Church Street
Many flaunting dolls had to be gaily dressed, before the money was in
the dressmaker's pocket to get mourning for her father. As Mr. Riah sat
by, helping her in such small ways as he could, he found it difficult to
make out whether she realized that the deceased had really been
"If my poor boy," she would say, "had been brought up better, he might
have done better. Not that I reproach myself. I hope I have no cause
"None, indeed, Jenny, I am very certain."
"Thank you, godmother. It cheers me to hear you say so. But you see it
is so hard to bring up a child well, when you work, work, work, all day.
When he was out of employment, I couldn't always keep him near me. He
got fractious and nervous, and I was obliged to let him go into the
streets. And he never did well in the streets, he never did well out of
sight. How often it happens with children! How can I say what I might
have turned out myself, but for my back having been so bad and my legs
so queer, when I was young!" the dressmaker would go on. "I had nothing
to do but work, so I worked. I couldn't play. But my poor, unfortunate
child could play, and it turned out worse for him."
"And not for him alone, Jenny."
"Well, I don't know, godmother. He suffered heavily, did my unfortunate
boy. He was very, very ill sometimes. And I called him a quantity of
names;" shaking her head over her work, and dropping tears.
"You are a good girl, you are a patient girl."
"As for patience," she would reply with a shrug, "not much of that,
godmother. If I had been patient, I should never have called him names.
But I hope I did it for his good. And besides, I felt my responsibility
as a mother so much. I tried reasoning, and reasoning failed. I tried
coaxing, and coaxing failed. I tried scolding, and scolding failed. But
I was bound to try everything, with such a charge on my hands. Where
would have been my duty to my poor lost boy, if I had not tried
With such talk, mostly in a cheerful tone on the part of the industrious
little creature, the day work and the night work were beguiled, until
enough of smart dolls had gone forth to bring in the sombre stuff that
the occasion required, and to bring into the house the other sombre
preparations. "And now," said Miss Jenny, "having knocked off my
rosy-cheeked young friends, I'll knock off my white-cheeked self." This
referred to her making her own dress which at last was done, in time for
the simple service, the arrangements for which were of her own planning.
The service ended, and the solitary dressmaker having returned to her
home, she said:
"I must have a very short cry, godmother, before I cheer up for good.
Because after all, a child is a child, you know."
It was a longer cry than might have been expected. Howbeit, it wore
itself out in a shadowy corner, and then the dressmaker came forth, and
washed her face, and made the tea.
"You wouldn't mind my cutting out something while we are at tea, would
you?" she asked with a coaxing air.
"Cinderella, dear child," the old man expostulated. "Will you never
"Oh! It's not work, cutting out a pattern isn't," said Miss Jenny, with
her busy little scissors already snipping at some paper; "The truth is,
godmother, I want to fix it, while I have it correct in my mind."
"Have you seen it to-day, then?" asked Riah.
"Yes, godmother. Saw it just now. It's a surplice, that's what it is.
Thing our clergymen wear, you know," explained Miss Jenny, in
consideration of his professing another faith.
"And what have you to do with that, Jenny?"
"Why, godmother," replied the dressmaker, "you must know that we
professors, who live upon our taste and invention, are obliged to keep
our eyes always open. And you know already that I have many extra
expenses to meet. So it came into my head, while I was weeping at my
poor boy's grave, that something in my way might be done with a
clergyman. Not a funeral, never fear;" said Miss Jenny. "The public
don't like to be made melancholy, I know very well. But a doll
clergyman, my dear,--glossy black curls and whiskers--uniting two of my
young friends in matrimony," said Miss Jenny shaking her forefinger, "is
quite another affair. If you don't see those three at the altar in Bond
Street, in a jiffy, my name's Jack Robinson!"
With her expert little ways in sharp action, she had got a doll into
whitey-brown paper orders, before the meal was over, and displayed it
for the edification of the Jewish mind, and Mr. Riah was lost in
admiration for the brave, resolute little soul, who could so put aside
her sadness to meet and face her pressing need.