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The World's Greatest Books, Vol III
by Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton, Eds.
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He advanced, with outstretched arms, to take the old man's hand; but he had not seen how the hand clasped and clutched the stick within its grasp. As he came smiling on, and got within his reach, old Martin, burning with indignation, rose up and struck him to the ground.

"Drag him away! Take him out of my reach!" said Martin. And Mr. Tapley actually did drag him away, and struck him upon the floor with his back against the opposite wall.

"Hear me, rascal!" said Mr. Chuzzlewit. "I have summoned you here to witness your own work. Come hither, my dear Martin! Why did we ever part? How could we ever part? How could you fly from me to him? The fault was mine no less than yours. Mark has told me so, and I have known it long. Mary, my love, come here."

She trembled, and was very pale; but he sat her in his own chair, and stood beside it holding her hand, Martin standing by him.

"The curse of our house," said the old man, looking kindly down upon her, "has been the love of self—has ever been the love of self." He drew one hand through Martin's arm, and standing so, between them, proceeded, "What's this? Her hand is trembling strangely. See if you can hold it."

Hold it! If he clasped it half as tightly as he did her waist—well, well!

But it was good in him that even then, in high fortune and happiness, he had still a hand left to stretch out to Tom Pinch.

* * * * *



Nicholas Nickleby

Writing in 1848, Charles Dickens declared that when "Nicholas Nickleby" was begun in 1838 "there were then a good many-cheap Yorkshire schools in existence. There are very few now." In the preface to the completed book the author mentioned that more than one Yorkshire schoolmaster laid claim to be the original of Squeers, and he had reason to believe "one worthy has actually consulted authorities learned in the law as to his having good grounds on which to rest an action for libel." But Squeers, as Dickens insisted, was the representative of a class, and not an individual. The Brothers Cheeryble were "no creations of the author's brain" Dickens also wrote; and in consequence of this statement "hundreds upon hundreds of letters from all sorts of people" poured in upon him to be forwarded "to the originals of the Brothers Cheeryble." They were the Brothers Grant, cotton-spinners, near Manchester. "Nicholas Nickleby" was completed in October, 1839.

I.—A Yorkshire Schoolmaster

Mr. Nickleby, a country gentleman of small estate, having endeavoured to increase his scanty fortune by speculation, found himself ruined; he took to his bed (apparently resolved to keep that, at all events), and, after embracing his wife and children, very soon departed this life. So Mrs. Nickleby went to London to wait upon her brother-in-law, Mr. Ralph Nickleby, and with her two children, Nicholas, then nineteen, and Kate, a year or two younger, took lodgings in the Strand.

It was to these apartments that Ralph Nickleby, a hard, unscrupulous, cunning money-lender, came on receipt of the widow's note.

"Are you willing to work, sir?" said Ralph, frowning at his nephew.

"Of course I am," replied Nicholas haughtily.

"Then see here," said his uncle. "This caught my eyes this morning, and you may thank your stars for it."

With that Mr. Ralph Nickleby took a newspaper from his pocket and read the following advertisement.

"Education.—At Mr. Wackford Squeers' Academy, Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful village of Dotheboys, in Yorkshire, youths are boarded, clothed, booked, furnished with pocket-money, instructed in all languages living or dead, mathematics, orthography, geometry, trigonometry, the use of the globes, algebra, single-stick (if required), writing, arithmetic, fortification, and every other branch of classic literature. Terms, twenty guineas per annum. No extras, no vacations, and diet unparalleled. Mr. Squeers is in town, and attends daily from one till four, at the Saracen's Head, Snow Hill. N.B.—An able assistant wanted. Annual salary, L5, A Master of Arts would be preferred."

"There!" said Ralph, folding the paper again. "Let him get that situation and his fortune's made. If he don't like that, let him get one for himself."

"I am ready to do anything you wish me," said Nicholas, starting gaily up. "Let us try our fortune with Mr. Squeers at once; he can but refuse."

"He won't do that," said Ralph. "He will be glad to have you on my recommendation. Make yourself of use to him, and you'll rise to be a partner in the establishment in no time."

Nicholas, having taken down the address of Mr. Wackford Squeers, the uncle and nephew at once went forth in quest of that accomplished gentleman.

"Perhaps you recollect me?" said Ralph, looking narrowly at the schoolmaster, as the Saracen's Head.

"You paid me a small account at each of my half-yearly visits to town for some years, I think, sir," replied Squeers, "for the parents of a boy who, unfortunately——"

"Unfortunately died at Dotheboys Hall," said Ralph, finishing the sentence. "And now let us come to business. You have advertised for an assistant. Do you really want one?"

"Certainly," answered Squeers.

"Here he is!" said Ralph. "My nephew Nicholas, hot from school, is just the man you want."

"I am afraid," said Squeers, perplexed with such an application from a youth of Nicholas's figure—"I am afraid the young man won't suit me."

"I fear, sir," said Nicholas, "that you object to my youth, and to not being a Master of Arts?"

"The absence of the college degree is an objection." replied Squeers, considerably puzzled by the contrast between the simplicity of the nephew and the shrewdness of the uncle.

"Let me have two words with you," said Ralph. The two words were had apart; in a couple of minutes Mr. Wackford Squeers' announced that Mr. Nicholas Nickleby was from that moment installed in the office of first assistant master at Dotheboys Hall.

"At eight o'clock to-morrow morning, Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers, "the coach starts. You must be here at a quarter before, as we take some boys with us."

"And your fare down I have paid," growled Ralph. "So you'll have nothing to do but keep yourself warm."

II.—At Dotheboys Hall

"Past seven, Nickleby," said Mr. Squeers on the first morning after the arrival at Dotheboys Hall. "Come, tumble up. Here's a pretty go, the pump's froze. You can't wash yourself this morning, so you must be content with giving yourself a dry polish till we break the ice in the well, and can get a bucketful out for the boys."

Nicholas huddled on his clothes and followed Squeers across a yard to the school-room.

"There," said the schoolmaster, as they stepped in together, "this is our shop."

It was a bare and dirty room, the windows mostly stopped up with old copybooks and paper, and Nicholas looked with dismay at the old rickety desks and forms.

But the pupils!

Pale and haggard faces, lank and bony figures, boys of stunted growth, and others whose long and meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies. Faces that told of young lives which from infancy had been one horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. Little faces that should have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering. And yet, painful as the scene was, it had its grotesque features.

Mrs. Squeers, wearing a beaver bonnet of some antiquity on the top of a nightcap, stood at the desk, presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle. This compound she administered to each boy in succession, using an enormous wooden spoon for the purpose.

"We purify the boys' blood now and then, Nickleby," said Squeers, when the operation was over.

A meagre breakfast followed; and then Mr. Squeers made his way to his desk, and called up the first class.

"This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy, Nickleby," said Squeers, beckoning Nicholas to stand beside him. "Now then, where's the first boy?"

"Please, sir, he's cleaning the back parlour window."

"So he is, to be sure," replied Squeers. "We go upon the practical mode of teaching, Nickleby; the regular education system. C-l-e-a-n, clean, verb active, to make bright. W-i-n, win; d-e-r, winder, a casement. When the boy knows this out of a book, he goes and does it. Where's the second boy?"

"Please, sir, he's weeding the garden."

"So he is," said Squeers. B-o-t, bot; t-i-n, bottin; n-e-y, ney, bottiney, noun substantive, a knowledge of plants. When he has learned that bottiney means a knowledge of plants, he goes and knows 'em. That's our system, Nickleby. Third boy, what's a horse?"

"A beast, sir," replied the boy.

"So it is," said Squeers. "A horse is a quadruped, and quadruped's Latin for beast, as everybody that's gone through the grammar knows. As you're perfect in that, go and look after my horse, and rub him down well, or I'll rub you down. The rest of the class go and draw water up, till somebody tells you to leave off, for it's washing day to-morrow, and they want the coppers filled."

The deficiencies of Mr. Squeers' scholastic methods were made up by lavish punishments, and Nicholas was compelled to stand by every day and see the unfortunate pupils of Dotheboys Hall beaten without mercy, and know that he could do nothing to alleviate their misery.

In particular the plight of one poor boy, older than the rest, called Smike, a drudge whom starvation and ill-treatment had rendered dull and slow-witted, aroused all Nicholas's pity.

It was Smike who was the cause of Nicholas leaving Yorkshire.

Nicholas could endure the coarse and brutal language of Squeers, the displeasure of Mrs. Squeers (who decided that the new usher was "a proud, haughty, consequential, turned-up-nosed peacock," and that "she'd bring his pride down"), and the petty indignities this lady could inflict upon him. He bore with the bad food, dirty lodging, and daily round of squalid misery in the school.

But there came a day when Smike, unable to face his tormentors any longer, ran away. He was taken within four-and-twenty hours, and brought back, bedabbled with mud and rain, haggard and worn—to all appearance more dead than alive.

The work this unhappy drudge performed would have cost the establishment some ten or twelve shillings a week in the way of wages, and Squeers, who, as a matter of policy, made severe examples of all runaways from Dotheboys Hall, prepared to take full vengeance on Smike.

At the first blow Smike uttered a shriek of pain, and Nicholas Nickleby started up from his desk, and cried "Stop!" in a furious voice.

"Touch that boy at your peril. I will not stand by and see it done."

He had scarcely spoken, when Squeers, in a violent outbreak of wrath, spat upon him, and struck him across the face with his cane.

All Nicholas's feelings of rage, scorn, and indignation were concentrated into that moment, and, smarting at the blow, he sprang upon the schoolmaster, wrested the weapon from him, and, pinning him by the throat, beat the ruffian until he roared for mercy.

Mrs. Squeers, with many shrieks for aid, hung on to the tail of her partner's coat, and tried to drag him from his infuriated adversary. With the result that when Nicholas, having thrown all his remaining strength into a half dozen finishing cuts, flung the schoolmaster from him with all the force he could muster, Mrs. Squeers was precipitated over an adjacent form; and Squeers, striking his head against it in his descent, lay at full length on the ground, stunned and motionless.

Nicholas, assured that Squeers was only stunned, and not dead, left the room, packed up his few clothes in a small leathern valise, marched boldly out by the front door, and struck into the road for London.

III.—Brighter Days for Nicholas

After many adventures in the quest of fortune, Nicholas, who had spurned all further connection with his uncle, stood one day outside a registry office in London. And as he stood there looking at the various placards in the window, an old gentleman, a sturdy old fellow in broad-skirted blue coat, happened to stop too.

Nicholas caught the old gentleman's eye, and began to wonder whether the stranger could by any possibility be looking for a clerk or secretary.

As the old gentleman moved away he noticed that Nicholas was about to speak, and good-naturedly stood still.

"I was only going to say," said Nicholas, "that I hoped you had some object in consulting those advertisements in the window."

"Ay, ay; what object now?" returned the old gentleman. "Did you think I wanted a situation now, eh? I thought the same of you, at first, upon my word I did."

"If you had thought so at last, too, sir, you would not have been far from the truth," rejoined Nicholas. "The kindness of your face and manner—both so unlike any I have ever seen—tempt me to speak in a way I should never dream of doing to a stranger in this wilderness of London."

"Wilderness! Yes, it is; it is. It was a wilderness to me once. I came here barefoot—I have never forgotten it. What's the matter, how did it all come about?" said the old man, laying his hand on the shoulder of Nicholas, and walking him up the street. "In mourning, too, eh?" laying his finger on the sleeve of his black coat.

"My father," replied Nicholas.

"Bad thing for a young man to lose his father. Widowed mother, perhaps?"

Nicholas nodded.

"Brothers and sisters, too, eh?"

"One sister."

"Poor thing, poor thing! You're a scholar too, I dare say. Education's a great thing. I never had any. I admire it the more in others. A very fine thing. Tell me more of your history, all of it. No impertinent curiosity—no, no!"

There was something so earnest and guileless in the way this was said that Nicholas could not resist it. So he told his story, and, at the end, the old gentleman carried him straight off to the City, where they emerged in a quiet, shady square. The old gentleman led the way into some business premises, which had the inscription, "Cheeryble Brothers," on the doorpost, and stopped to speak to an elderly, large-faced clerk in the counting-house.

"Is my brother in his room, Tim?" said Mr. Cheeryble.

"Yes, he is, sir," said the clerk.

What was the amazement of Nicholas when his conductor took him into a room and presented him to another old gentleman, the very type and model of himself—the same face and figure, the same clothes. Nobody could have doubted their being twin brothers.

"Brother Ned," said Nicholas's friend, "here is a young friend of mine that we must assist." Then brother Charles related what Nicholas had told him. And, after that, and some conversation between the brothers, Tim Linkinwater was called in, and brother Ned whispered a few words in his ear.

"Tim," said brother Charles, "you understand that we have an intention of taking this young gentleman into the counting-house."

Brother Ned remarked that Tim quite approved of it, and Tim, having nodded, said, with resolution, "But I'm not coming an hour later in the morning, you know. I'm not going to the country either. It's forty-four years since I first kept the books of Cheeryble Brothers. I've opened the safe all that time every morning at nine, and I've never slept out of the back attic one single night. This ain't the first time you've talked about superannuating me, Mr. Edwin and Mr. Charles; but, if you please, we'll make it the last, and drop the subject for evermore."

With which words Tim Linkinwater stalked out, with the air of a man who was thoroughly resolved not to be put down.

The brothers coughed.

"He must be done something with, brother Ned. We must, disregard his scruples; he must be made a partner."

"Quite right, quite right, brother Charles. If he won't listen to reason, we must do it against his will. But, in the meantime, we are keeping our young friend, and the poor lady and her daughter will be anxious for his return. So let us say good-bye for the present." And at that the brothers hurried Nicholas out of the office, shaking hands with him all the way.

That was the beginning of brighter days for Nicholas and for Mrs. Nickleby and Kate. The brothers Cheeryble not only took Nicholas into their office, but a small cottage at Bow, then quite out in the country, was found for the widow and her children.

There never was such a week of discoveries and surprises as the first week at that cottage. Every night when Nicholas came home, something new had been found. One day it was a grape-vine, and another day it was a boiler, and another day it was the key of the front parlour cupboard at the bottom of the water-butt, and so on through a hundred items.

As for Nicholas's work in the counting-house, Tim Linkinwater was satisfied with the young man the very first day.

Tim turned pale and stood watching with breathless anxiety when Nicholas made his first entry in the books of Cheeryble Brothers, while the two brothers looked on with smiling faces.

Presently the old clerk nodded his head, signifying "He'll do." But when Nicholas stopped to refer to some other page, Tim Linkinwater, unable to restrain his satisfaction any longer, descended from his stool, and caught him rapturously by the hand.

"He has done it!" said Tim, looking round triumphantly at his employers. "His capital 'B's' and 'D's' are exactly like mine; he dots his small 'i's' and crosses every 't.' There ain't such a young man in all London. The City can't produce his equal. I challenge the City to do it!"

IV.—The Brothers Cheeryble

In course of time the brothers Cheeryble, in their frequent visits to the cottage at Bow, often took with them their nephew Frank; and it also happened that Miss Madeline Bray, a ward of the brothers, was taken to the cottage to recover from a serious illness.

Nicholas, from the first time he had seen Madeline in the office of Cheeryble Brothers, had fallen in love with her; but he decided that as an honourable man no word of love must pass his lips. While Kate Nickleby had been equally firm in declining to listen to any proposal from Frank.

It was some time after Madeline had left the cottage, and Nicholas and Kate had begun to try in good earnest to stifle their own regrets, and to live for each other and for their mother, when there came one evening, per Mr. Linkinwater, an invitation from the brothers to dinner on the next day but one.

"You may depend on it that this means something besides dinner," said Mrs. Nickleby solemnly.

When the great day arrived who should be there at the house of the brothers but Frank and Madeline.

"Young men," said brother Charles, "shake hands."

"I need no bidding to do that," said Nicholas.

"Nor I," rejoined Frank, and the two young men clasped hands heartily.

The old gentleman took them aside.

"I wish to see you friends—close and firm friends. Frank, look here! Mrs. Nickleby, will you come on the other side? This is a copy of the will of Madeline's grandfather, bequeathing her the sum of L12,000. Now, Frank, you were largely instrumental in recovering this document. The fortune is but a small one, but we love Madeline. Will you become a suitor for her hand?"

"No, sir. I interested myself in the recovery of that instrument, believing that her hand was already pledged elsewhere. In this, it seems, I judged hastily."

"As you always do, sir!" cried brother Charles. "How dare you think, Frank, that we could have you marry for money? How dare you go and make love to Mr. Nickleby's sister without telling us first, and letting us speak for you. Mr. Nickleby, sir, Frank judged hastily, but he judged, for once, correctly. Madeline's heart is occupied—give me your hand—it is occupied by you and worthily. She chooses you, Mr. Nickleby, as we, her dearest friends, would have her choose. Frank chooses as we would have him choose. He should have your sister's little hand, sir, if she had refused it a score of times—ay, he should, and he shall! What? You are the children of a worthy gentleman. The time was, sir, when my brother Ned and I were two poor, simple-hearted boys, wandering almost barefoot to seek bur fortunes. Oh, Ned, Ned, Ned, what a happy day this is for you and me! If our poor mother had only lived to see us now, Ned, how proud it would have made her dear heart at last!"

So Madeline gave her heart and fortune to Nicholas, and on the same day, and at the same time, Kate became Mrs. Frank Cheeryble. Madeline's money was invested in the firm of Cheeryble Brothers, in which Nicholas had become a partner, and before many years elapsed the business was carried on in the names of "Cheeryble and Nickleby."

Tim Linkinwater condescended, after much entreating and brow-beating, to accept a share in the house; but he could never be prevailed upon to suffer the publication of his name as partner, and always persisted in the punctual and regular discharge of his clerkly duties.

The twin brothers retired. Who needs to be told that they were happy?

The first act of Nicholas, when he became a rich and prosperous merchant, was to buy his father's old house. As time crept on, and there came gradually about him a group of lovely children, it was altered and enlarged; but no tree was rooted up, nothing with which there was any association of bygone times was ever removed or changed. Mr. Squeers, having come within the meshes of the law over some nefarious scheme of Ralph Nickleby's, suffered transportation beyond the seas, and with his disappearance Dotheboys Hall was broken up for good.

* * * * *



Oliver Twist

"The Adventures of Oliver Twist," published serially in "Bentley's Miscellany," 1837-39, and in book form in 1838, was the second of Dickens's novels. It lacks the exuberance of "Pickwick," and is more limited in its scenes and characters than any other novel he wrote, excepting "Hard Times" and "Great Expectations." But the description of the workhouse, its inmates and governors, is done in Dickens's best style, and was a frontal attack on the Poor Law administration of the time. Bumble, indeed, has passed into common use as the typical workhouse official of the least satisfactory sort. No less powerful than the picture of Oliver's wretched childhood is the description of the thieves' kitchen, presided over by Fagin. Bill Sikes and the Artful Dodger are household words for criminals, and the character of Fagin is drawn with wonderful skill in this terrible view of the underworld of London.

I.—The Parish Boy

Oliver was born in the workhouse, and his mother died the same night. Not even a promised reward of L10 could produce any information as to the boy's father or the mother's name. The woman was young, frail, and delicate—a stranger to the parish.

"How comes he to have any name at all, then?" said Mrs. Mann (who was responsible for the early bringing up of the workhouse children) to Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle.

The beadle drew himself up with great pride, and said, "I invented it. We name our foundings in alphabetical order. The last was a S; Swubble I named him. This was a T; Twist I named him. I have got names ready made to the end of the alphabet, and all the way through it again, when we come to Z."

"Why, you're quite a literary character, sir," said Mrs. Mann.

Oliver, being now nine years old, was removed from the tender mercies of Mrs. Mann, in whose wretched home not one kind word or look had ever lighted the gloom of his infant years, and was taken into the workhouse.

Now the members of the board, who were long-headed men, had just established the rule that all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they) of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it. All relief was inseparable from the workhouse, and the thin gruel issued three times a day to its inmates.

The system was in full operation for the first six months after Oliver Twist's admission, and boys having generally excellent appetites, Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of slow starvation. Each boy had one porringer of gruel, and no more. At last the boys got so voracious and wild with hunger, that one, who was tall for his age and hadn't been used to that sort of thing (for his father had kept a small cook's shop), hinted darkly to his companions that unless he had another basin of gruel per diem he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy who slept next him, a weakly youth of tender age. He had a wild, hungry eye, and they implicitly believed him. A council was held, lots were cast who should walk up to the master after supper that evening and ask for more, and it fell to Oliver Twist.

The evening arrived, the boys took their places. The master, in his cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper to ladle out the gruel; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him, the gruel was served out, and a long grace was said over the short commons.

The gruel disappeared, the boys whispered to each other, and winked at Oliver, while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table, and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity, "Please, sir, I want some more."

The master was a fat, healthy man, but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then said, "What!"

"Please, sir," replied Oliver, "I want some more."

The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms, and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

The board were sitting in solemn conclave when Mr. Bumble rushed into the room in great excitement, and addressing a gentleman in a high chair, said, "Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more!"

There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance.

"For more?" said the chairman. "Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?"

"He did, sir," replied Bumble.

"That boy will be hung," said a gentleman in a white waistcoat. "I know that boy will be hung."

Nobody disputed the opinion. Oliver was ordered into instant confinement, and a bill was next morning pasted on the outside of the workhouse gate, offering a reward of five pounds to anybody who would take Oliver Twist off their hands. In other words, five pounds and Oliver Twist were offered to any man or woman who wanted an apprentice to any trade, business, or calling.

Mr. Gamfield, the chimney sweep, was the first to respond to this offer.

"It's a nasty trade," said the chairman of the board.

"Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now," said another member.

"That's because they damped the straw afore they lit it in the chimbley to make 'em come down again," said Gamfield. "That's all smoke, and no blaze; vereas smoke only sinds him to sleep, and that ain't no use in making a boy come down. Boys is wery obstinite and wery lazy, gen'l'men, and there's nothink like a good hot blaze to make 'em come down with a run. It's humane, too, gen'l'men, acause, even if they've stuck in the chimbley, roasting their feet makes 'em struggle to hextricate theirselves."

The board consented to hand over Oliver to the chimney-sweep (the premium being reduced to L3 10s.), but the magistrates declined to sanction the indentures, and it was Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker, who finally relieved the board of their responsibility.

Mrs. Sowerberry's ill-treatment drove Oliver to flight. He left the house in the early morning before anyone was stirring, struck across fields, and gained the high road outside the town. A milestone intimated that it was seventy miles to London. In London he would be beyond the reach of Mr. Bumble; to London he would trudge.

II.—The Artful Dodger

It was on the seventh morning after he had left his native place that Oliver limped slowly into the town of Barnet. Tired and hungry he sat down on a doorstep, and presently was roused by the question "Hallo, my covey, what's the row?"

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer was about his own age, but one of the queerest-looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was short for his age, and dirty, and he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He wore a man's coat which reached nearly to his heels, and he had turned the cuffs back half-way up his arm to get his hands out of the sleeves. Altogether he was as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six in his bluchers.

"You want grub," said this strange boy, helping Oliver to rise; "and you shall have it. I'm at low-watermark myself, only one bob and a magpie; but as far as it goes, I'll fork out and stump."

"Going to London?" said the strange boy, while they sat and finished a meal in a small public-house.

"Yes."

"Got any lodgings?"

"No."

"Money?"

"No."

The strange boy whistled.

"I suppose you want some place to sleep in to-night, don't you? Well, I've got to be in London to-night, and I know a 'spectable old genelman as lives there, wot'll give you lodgings for nothink, and never ask for the change—that is, if any genelman he knows interduces you."

This unexpected offer of shelter was too tempting to be resisted, and on the way to London, where they arrived at nightfall, Oliver learnt that his friend's name was Jack Dawkins, but that he was known among his intimates as "The Artful Dodger."

In Field Lane, in the slums of Saffron Hill, the Dodger pushed open the door of a house, and drew Oliver within.

"Now, then," cried a voice, in reply to his whistle.

"Plummy and slam," said the Dodger.

This seemed to be a watchword, for a man at once appeared with a candle.

"There's two on you," said the man. "Who's the t'other one, and where does he come from?"

"A new pal from Greenland," replied Jack Dawkins. "Is Fagin upstairs?"

"Yes, he's sortin the wipes. Up with you."

The room that Oliver was taken into was black with age and dirt. Several rough beds, made of old sacks, were huddled side by side on the floor. Seated round the table were four or five boys, none older than the Dodger, smoking long clay pipes, and drinking spirits with the air of middle-aged men. An old shrivelled Jew, of repulsive face, was standing over the fire, dividing his attention between a frying-pan and a clothes-horse full of silk handkerchiefs.

The Dodger whispered a few words to the Jew, and then said aloud, "This is him, Fagin, my friend Oliver Twist."

The Jew grinned. "We are very glad to see you, Oliver—very."

A good supper Oliver had that night, and a heavy sleep, and a hearty breakfast next morning.

When the breakfast was cleared away, Fagin, who was quite a merry old gentleman, and the Dodger and another boy named Charley Bates, played at a very curious game. The merry old gentleman, placing a snuffbox in one pocket of his trousers, a note-book in the other, and a watch in his waistcoat, and sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt, and spectacle-case and handkerchief in his coat-pocket, trotted up and down the room in imitation of the manner in which old gentlemen walk about the streets; while the Dodger and Charley Bates had to get all these things out of his pockets without being observed. It was so very funny that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face.

A few days later, and he understood the full meaning of the game.

The Dodger and Charley Bates had taken Oliver out for a walk, and after sauntering along, they suddenly pulled up short on Clerkenwell Green, at the sight of an old gentleman reading at a bookstall. So intent was he over his book that he might have been sitting in an easy chair in his study.

To Oliver's horror, the Dodger plunged his hand into the gentleman's pocket, drew out a handkerchief, and handed it to Bates. Then both boys ran away round the corner at full speed. Oliver, frightened at what he had seen, ran off, too; the old gentleman, at the same moment missing his handkerchief, and seeing Oliver scudding off, concluded he was the thief, and gave chase, still holding his book in his hand.

The cry of "Stop thief!" was raised. Oliver was knocked down, captured, and taken to the police-station by a constable.

The magistrate was still sitting, and Oliver would have been convicted there and then but for the arrival of the bookseller.

"Stop, stop! Don't take him away! I saw it all! I keep the bookstall," cried the man. "I saw three boys, two others, and the prisoner here. The robbery was committed by another boy. I saw that this one was amazed by it."

Oliver was acquitted. But he had fainted. Mr. Brownlow, for that was the name of the old gentleman, shocked and moved at the boy's deathly whiteness, straightway carried the boy off in a cab to his own house in a quiet, shady street near Pentonville.

III.—Back in Fagin's Den

For many days Oliver remained insensible to the goodness of his new friends. But all that careful nursing could do was done, and he slowly and surely recovered. Mr. Brownlow, a kind-hearted old bachelor, took the greatest interest in his protege, and Oliver implored him not to turn him out of doors to wander in the streets.

"My dear child," said the old gentleman, moved by the warmth of Oliver's appeal, "you need not be afraid of my deserting you. I have been deceived before in people I have endeavored to benefit, but I feel strongly disposed to trust you, nevertheless; and I am more interested in your behalf than I can well account for. Let me hear your story; speak the truth to me, and you shall not be friendless while I am alive."

A certain unmistakable likeness in Oliver to a lady's portrait that was on the wall of the room struck Mr. Brownlow. What connection could there be between the original of the portrait, and this poor child?

But before Mr. Brownlow had heard Oliver's story he had lost the boy. For Fagin, horribly uneasy lest Oliver should be the means of betraying his late companions, resolved to get him back as quickly as possible. To accomplish his evil purpose, Nancy, a young woman who belonged to Fagin's gang, and who had seen Oliver, was prevailed upon to undertake the commission.

Now, the very evening before Oliver was to tell his story to Mr. Brownlow, the boy, anxious to prove his honesty, had set out with some books on an errand to the bookseller at Clerkenwell Green.

"You are to say," said Mr. Brownlow, "that you have brought these books back, and that you have come to pay the four pound ten I owe him. This is a five-pound note, so you will have to bring me back ten shillings change."

"I won't be ten minutes, sir," replied Oliver eagerly.

He was walking briskly along, thinking how happy and contented he ought to feel, when he was startled by a young woman screaming out very loud, "Oh, my dear brother!" He had hardly looked up when he was stopped by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.

"Don't!" cried Oliver, struggling. "Let go of me. Who is it? What are you stopping me for?"

The only reply to this was a great number of loud lamentations from the young woman who had embraced him.

"I've found him! Oh, Oliver, Oliver! Oh, you naughty boy to make me suffer such distress on your account! Come home, dear, come. Oh, I've found him! Thank gracious goodness heavens, I've found him!"

The young woman burst out crying, and a couple of women standing by asked what was the matter.

"Oh, ma'am," replied the young woman, "he ran away from his parents, and went and joined a set of thieves and bad characters, and almost broke his mother's heart."

"Young wretch!" said one woman.

"Go home, do, you little brute," said the other.

"I'm not," replied Oliver, greatly alarmed. "I don't know her. I haven't any sister or father or mother. I'm an orphan; I live at Pentonville."

"Oh, only hear him, how he braves it out," cried the young woman. "Make him come home, or he'll kill his dear mother and father, and break my heart!"

"What the devil's this?" said a man, bursting out of a beer-shop, with a white dog at his heels. "Young Oliver! Come home to your poor mother, you young dog!"

"I don't belong to them. I don't know them! Help, help!" cried Oliver, struggling in the man's powerful grasp.

"Help!" repeated the man. "Yes, I'll help you, you young rascal! What books are these? You've been a-stealin' 'em, have you? Give 'em here!"

With these words the man tore the volumes from his grasp, and struck him on the head.

Weak with recent illness, stupefied by the blows and the suddenness of the attack, terrified by the brutality of the man—who was none other than Bill Sikes, the roughest of all Fagin's pupils—what could one poor child do? Darkness had set in; it was a low neighbourhood; resistance was useless. Sikes and Nancy hurried the boy on between them through courts and alleys till, once more, he was within the dreadful house where the Dodger had first brought him. Long after the gas-lamps were lighted, Mr. Brownlow sat waiting in his parlour. The servant had run up the street twenty times to see if there were any traces of Oliver. The housekeeper had waited anxiously at the open door. But no Oliver returned.

IV.—Oliver Falls among Friends

Mr. Bill Sikes having an important house-breaking engagement with his fellow-robber, Mr. Toby Crackit, at Shepperton, decided that Oliver must accompany him.

It was a detached house, and the night was dark as pitch when Sikes and Crackit, dragging Oliver along, climbed the wall and approached a narrow, shuttered window. In vain Oliver implored them to let him go.

"Listen, you young limb," whispered Sikes, when a crowbar had overcome the shutter, and the lattice had been opened. "I'm going to put you through there." Drawing a dark lantern from his pocket, he added, "Take this light; go softly up the steps straight afore you, and along the hall to the street door; unfasten it, and let us in."

The boy was put through the window, and Sikes, pointing to the door with his pistol, told him if he faltered he would shoot him.

Hardly had Oliver advanced a few yards before Sikes called out, "Back! back!"

Startled, the boy dropped the lantern, uncertain whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated—a light appeared—a vision of two terrified, half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes—a flash—a loud noise—and he staggered back.

Sikes got him out of the window before the smoke cleared away, and fired his pistol after the men, who were already in retreat.

"Clasp your arm tighter," said Sikes. "Give me a shawl here. They've hit him. Quick! The boy is bleeding."

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And then the noises grew confused in the distance, and Oliver saw and heard no more.

Sikes, finding the chase too hot, was compelled to leave Oliver in a ditch and make his escape with his friend Crackit.

It was morning when Oliver awoke. His left arm was rudely bandaged in a shawl, and the bandage was saturated with blood. Weak and dizzy, he yet felt that if he remained where he was he would surely die, and so he staggered to his feet. The only house in sight was the one he had entered a few hours earlier, and he bent his steps towards it. He pushed against the garden-gate—it was unlocked. He tottered across the lawn, climbed the steps, knocked faintly at the door, and, his whole strength failing him, sank down against the little portico.

Mr. Giles, the butler and general steward of the house, who had fired the shot and led the pursuit, was just explaining the exciting events of the night to his fellow-servants of the kitchen when Oliver's knock was heard. With considerable reluctance the door was opened, and then the group, peeping timorously over each other's shoulders, beheld no more formidable object than poor little Oliver Twist, speechless and exhausted.

"Here he is!" bawled Giles. "Here's one of the, thieves, ma'am! Wounded, miss! I shot him!"

They lugged the fainting boy into the hall, and then in the midst of all the noise and commotion, there was heard a sweet and gentle voice, which quelled it in an instant.

"Giles!" whispered the voice from the stairhead. "Hush! You frighten my aunt as much as the thieves did. Is the poor creature much hurt?"

"Wounded desperate, miss," replied Giles.

After a hasty consultation with her aunt, the same gentle speaker bade them carry the wounded person upstairs, and send to Chertsey at all speed for a constable and a doctor. The latter arrived when the young lady and her aunt, Mrs. Maylie, were at breakfast, and his visit to the sick-room changed the state of affairs. On his return he begged Mrs. Maylie and her niece to accompany him upstairs.

In lieu of the dogged, black-visaged ruffian they had expected to see, there lay a mere child, sunk in a deep sleep.

The ladies could not believe this delicate boy was a criminal, and when, on waking up, he told them his simple history, they were determined to prevent his arrest.

The doctor undertook to save the boy, and to that end entered the kitchen where Mr. Giles, Brittles, his assistant, and the constable were regaling themselves with ale.

"How is the patient, sir?" asked Giles.

"So-so," returned the doctor. "I'm afraid you've got yourself into a scrape there, Mr. Giles. Are you a Protestant? And what are you?" turning sharply on Brittles.

"Yes, sir; I hope so," faltered Mr. Giles, turning very pale, for the doctor spoke with strange severity.

"I'm the same as Mr. Giles, sir," said Brittles, starting violently.

"Then tell me this, both of you," said the doctor. "Are you going to take upon yourselves to swear that that boy upstairs is the boy that was put through the little window last night? Come, out with it! Pay attention to the reply, constable. Here's a house broken into, and a couple of men catch a moment's glimpse of a boy in the midst of gunpowder-smoke, and in all the distraction of alarm and darkness. Here's a boy comes to that very same house next morning, and because he happens to have his arm tied up, these men lay violent hands upon him, place his life in danger, and swear he is the thief. I ask you again," thundered the doctor, "are you, on your solemn oaths, able to identify that boy?"

Of course, under these circumstances, as Mr. Giles and Brittles couldn't identify the boy, the constable retired, and the attempted robbery was followed by no arrests.

Oliver Twist grew up in the peaceful and happy home of Mrs. Maylie, under the tender affection of two good women. Later on, Mr. Brownlow was found, and Oliver's character restored. It was proved, too, that the portrait Mr. Brownlow possessed was that of Oliver's mother, whom its owner had once esteemed dearly. Betrayed by fate, the unhappy woman had sought refuge in the workhouse, only to die in giving birth to her son.

In that same workhouse, where his authority had formerly been so considerable, Mr. Bumble came—as a pauper—to die.

Tragic was the fate of poor Nancy. Suspected by Fagin of plotting against her accomplices, the Jew so worked on Sikes that the savage housebreaker murdered her.

But neither Fagin nor Sikes escaped.

For the Jew was taken and condemned to death, and in the condemned cell came the recollection to him of all the men he had known who had died upon the scaffold, some of them through his means.

Sikes, when the news of Nancy's murder got abroad, was hunted by a furious crowd. He had taken refuge in an old, disreputable uninhabited house, known to his accomplices, which stood right over the Thames, in Jacob's Island, not far from Dockhead; but the pursuit was hot, and the only chance of safety lay in getting to the river.

At the very moment when the crowd was forcing its way into the house, Sikes made a running noose to slip beneath his arm-pits, and so lower himself to a ditch beneath. He was out on the roof, and then, when the loop was over his head, the face of the murdered girl seemed to stare at him.

"The eyes again!" he cried, in an unearthly screech, and threw up his arms in horror.

Staggering, as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his weight, tight as a bowstring. He fell for five-and-thirty feet, and then, after a sudden jerk, and a terrible convulsion of the limbs, swung lifeless against the wall.

* * * * *



Old Curiosity Shop

"The Old Curiosity Shop" was begun by Dickens in his new weekly publication called "Master Humphrey's Clock," in 1840, and its early chapters were written in the first person. But its author soon got rid of the impediments that pertained to "Master Humphrey," and "when the story was finished," Dickens wrote, "I caused the few sheets of 'Master Humphrey's Clock,' which had been printed in connection with it, to be cancelled." "The Old Curiosity Shop" won a host of friends for the author; A.C. Swinburne even declared Little Nell equal to any character in fiction. The lonely figure of the child with grotesque and wild, but not impossible, companions, took the hearts of all readers by storm, and the death of Little Nell moved thousands to tears. While the story was appearing, Tom Hood, then unknown to Dickens, wrote an essay "tenderly appreciative" of Little Nell, "and of all her shadowy kith and kin." The immense and deserved popularity of the book is shown by the universal acquaintance with Mrs. Jarley, and the common use of the phrase "Codlin's the friend—not Short."

I.—Little Nell and Her Grandfather

The shop was one of those receptacles for old and curious things which seem to crouch in odd corners of London. There were suits of mail standing like ghosts in armour, rusty weapons of various kinds, tapestry, and strange furniture that might have been designed in dreams.

The haggard aspect of a little old man, with long grey hair, who stood within, was wonderfully suited to the place. Nothing in the whole collection looked older or more worn than he.

Confronting the old man was a young man of dissipated appearance, and high words were taking place.

"I tell you again I want to see my sister," said the younger man. "You can't change the relationship, you know. If you could, you'd have done it long ago. But as I may have to wait some time I'll call in a friend of mine, with your leave."

At this he brought in a companion of even more dissolute appearance than himself.

"There, it's Dick Swiveller," said the young fellow, pushing him in.

"But is the old min agreeable?" said Mr. Swiveller in an undertone. "What is the odds so long as the fire of soul is kindled at the taper of conviviality, and the wing of friendship never moults a feather! But, only one little whisper, Fred—is the old min friendly?"

Mr. Swiveller then leaned back in his chair and relapsed into silence; only to break it by observing, "Gentlemen, how does the case stand? Here is a jolly old grandfather, and here is a wild young grandson. The jolly old grandfather says to the wild young grandson, 'I have brought you up and educated you, Fred; you have bolted a little out of the course, and you shall never have another chance.' The wild young grandson makes answer, 'You're as rich as can be, why can't you stand a trifle for your grown up relation?' Then the plain question is, ain't it a pity this state of things should continue, and how much better it would be for the old gentleman to hand over a reasonable amount of tin, and make it all right and comfortable?"

"Why do you persecute me?" said the old man, turning to his grandson. "Why do you bring your profligate companions here? I am poor. You have chosen your own path, follow it. Leave Nell and me to toil and work."

"Nell will be a woman soon," returned the other; "She'll forget her brother unless he shows himself sometimes."

The door opened, and the child herself appeared, followed by an elderly man so low in stature as to be quite a dwarf, though his head and face were large enough for the body of a giant.

Mr. Swiveller turned to the dwarf and, stooping down, whispered audibly in his ear. "The watchword to the old min is—fork."

"Is what?" demanded Quilp, for that—Daniel Quilp—was the dwarf's name.

"Is fork, sir, fork," replied Mr. Swiveller, slapping his pocket. "You are awake, sir?"

The dwarf nodded; the grandson, having announced his intention of repeating his visit, left the house accompanied by his friend.

"So much for dear relations," said Quilp, with a sour look. He put his hand into his breast, and pulled out a bag. "Here, I brought it myself, as, being in gold, it was too large and heavy for Nell to carry. I would I knew in what good investment all these supplies are sunk. But you are a deep man, and keep your secret close."

"My secret!" said the old man, with a haggard look. "Yes, you're right—I keep it close—very close."

He said no more, but, taking the money, locked it in an iron safe.

That night, as on many a night previous, Nell's grandfather went out, leaving the child in the strange house alone, to return in the early morning.

Quilp, to whom the old man had again applied for money, learnt of these nocturnal expeditions, and sent no answer, but came in person to the old curiosity shop.

The old man was feverish and excited as he impatiently addressed the dwarf.

"Have you brought me any money?"

"No," returned Quilp.

"Then," said the old man, clenching his hands, "the child and I are lost. No recompense for the time and money lost!"

"Neighbour," said Quilp, "you have no secret from me now. I know that all those sums of money you have had from me have found their way to the gamingtable."

"I never played for gain of mine, or love of play," cried the old man fiercely. "My winnings would have been bestowed to the last farthing on a young sinless child, whose life they would have sweetened and made happy. But I never won."

"Dear me!" said Quilp. "The last advance was L70, and it went in one night. And so it comes to pass that I hold every security you could scrape together, and a bill of sale upon the stock and property."

So saying, he nodded, deaf to all entreaties for further loans, and took his leave.

The house was no longer theirs. Mr. Quilp encamped on the premises, and the goods were sold. A day was fixed for their removal.

"Grandfather, let us begone from this place," said little Nell; "let us wander barefoot through the world, rather than linger here."

"We will," answered the old man. "We will travel afoot through the fields and woods, and by the side of rivers and trust ourselves to God. Thou and I together, Nell, may be cheerful and happy yet, and learn to forget this time, as if it had never been."

II.—Messrs. Codlin and Short

The sun was setting when little Nell and her grandfather, who had been wandering many days, reached the wicket gate of a country churchyard.

Two men were seated in easy attitudes on the grass by the church—two men of the class of itinerant showmen, exhibitors of the freaks of Punch—and they had come there to make needful repairs in the stage arrangements, for one was engaged in binding together a small gallows with thread, while the other was fixing a new black wig upon the head of a puppet.

"Are you going to show 'em to-night? Are you?" said the old man.

"That's the intention, governor, and unless I'm much mistaken, my partner, Tommy Codlin, is a-calculating at this minute what we've lost through your coming upon us. Cheer up, Tommy, it can't be much."

To this Mr. Codlin replied in a surly, grumbling manner, "I don't care if we haven't lost a farden, but you're too free. If you stood in front of the curtain, and see the public's faces as I do, you'd know human natur' better."

"Ah! it's been the spoiling of you, Tommy, your taking to that branch," rejoined his companion. "When you played the ghost in the reg'lar drama in the fairs, you believed in everything—except ghosts. But now you're a universal mistruster."

"Never mind," said Mr. Codlin, with the air of a discontented philosopher; "I know better now; p'r'aps I'm sorry for it. Look here, here's all this Judy's clothes falling to pieces again."

The child, seeing they were at a loss for a needle and thread, timidly proposed to mend it for them, and even Mr. Codlin had nothing to urge against a proposal so reasonable.

"If you're wanting a place to stop at," said Short, "I should advise you to take up at the same house with us. That's it, the long, low, white house there. It's very cheap."

The public-house was kept by a fat old landlord and landlady, who made no objection to receiving their new guests, but praised Nelly's beauty, and were at once prepossessed in her behalf.

"We're going on to the races," said Short next morning to the travellers. "If that's your way, and you'd like to have us for company, let us go together. If you prefer going alone, only say the word, and we shan't trouble you."

"We'll go with you," said the old man. "Nell—with them, with them."

They stopped that night at an ancient roadside inn called the Jolly Sandboys, and supper being in preparation, Nelly and her grandfather had not long taken their seats by the kitchen fire before they fell asleep.

"Who are they?" whispered the landlord.

"No-good, I suppose," said Mr. Codlin.

"They're no harm," said Short, "depend upon that. It's very plain, besides, that they're not used to this way of life. Don't tell me that handsome child has been in the habit of prowling about as she's done these last two or three days. I know better. The old man ain't in his right mind. Haven't you noticed how anxious he is always to get on—furder away—furder away? Mind what I say, he has given his friends the slip, and persuaded this delicate young creatur all along of her fondness for him to be his guide—where to, he knows no more than the man in the moon. I'm not a-going to stand that!"

"You're not a-going to stand that!" cried Mr. Codlin, glancing at the clock, and counting the minutes to supper time.

"I," repeated Short, emphatically and slowly, "am not a-going to stand it. I am not a-going to see this fair young child a-falling into bad hands. Therefore, when they develop an intention of parting company from us, I shall take measures for detaining of 'em, and restoring 'em to their friends, who, I dare say, have had their disconsolation pasted up on every wall in London by this time."

"Short," said Mr. Codlin, looking up with eager eyes, "it's possible there may be uncommon good sense in what you've said. If there should be a reward, Short, remember that we're partners in everything!"

Before Nell retired to rest in her poor garret she was a little startled by the appearance of Mr. Thomas Codlin at her door.

"Nothing's the matter, my dear; only I'm your friend. Perhaps you haven't thought so, but it's me that's your friend—not him. I'm the real, open-hearted man. Short's very well, and seems kind, but he overdoes it. Now, I don't."

The child was puzzled, and could not tell what to say.

"Take my advice; as long as you travel with us, keep as near me as you can. Recollect the friend. Codlin's the friend, not Short. Short's very well as far as he goes, but the real friend is Codlin—not Short."

III.—Jarley's Waxwork

Codlin and Short stuck so close to Nell and her grandfather that the child grew frightened, especially at the unwonted attentions of Mr. Thomas Codlin. The bustle of the racecourse enabled them to escape, and once more the travellers were alone.

It was a few days later when, as the afternoon was wearing away, they came upon a caravan drawn up by the roadside. It was a smart little house upon wheels, not a gipsy caravan, for at the open door sat a Christian lady, stout and comfortable, taking her tea upon a drum covered with a white napkin.

"Hey!" cried the lady of the caravan, seeing the old man and the child walking slowly by. "Yes, to be sure I saw you there with my own eyes! And very sorry I was to see you in company with a Punch; a low, practical, wulgar wretch that people should scorn to look at."

"I was not there by choice," returned the child. "We don't know our way, and the two men were very kind to us, and let us travel with them. Do you know them, ma'am?"

"Know 'em, child! Know them! But you're young and inexperienced. Do I look as if I knowed 'em? Does the caravan look as if it knowed 'em?"

"No, ma'am, no. I beg your pardon."

It was granted immediately. And then the lady of the caravan, finding the travellers were hungry, handed them a tea-tray with bread-and-butter and a knuckle of ham; and finding they were tired, took them into the caravan, which was bound for the nearest town, some eight miles off.

As the caravan moved slowly along, its owner began to talk to Nell, and presently pulled out a large roll of canvas. "There child," she said, "read that!"

Nell read aloud the inscription, "Jarley's Waxwork."

"That's me," said the lady complacently.

"I never saw any waxwork, ma'am," said Nell. "Is it funnier than Punch?"

"Funnier!" said Mrs. Jarley, in a shrill voice. "It is not funny at all. It's calm and—what's that word again—critical? No—classical, that's it—it's calm and classical."

In the course of the journey Mrs. Jarley was so taken with the child that she proposed to engage her, and as Nell would not be separated from her grandfather, he was included in the agreement.

"What I want your granddaughter for," said Mrs. Jarley, "is to point 'em out to the company, for she has a way with her that people wouldn't think unpleasant. It's not a common offer, bear in mind; it's Jarley's Waxwork. The duty's very light and genteel, the exhibition takes place in assembly rooms or town halls. There is none of your open-air wagrancy at Jarley's, remember. And the price of admission is only sixpence."

"We are very much obliged to you, ma'am," said Nell, speaking for her grandfather, "and thankfully accept your offer."

"And you'll never be sorry for it," returned Mrs. Jarley. "So, as that's all settled, let us have a bit of supper."

The next morning, the caravan having arrived at the town, and the waxworks having been unpacked in the town hall, Mrs. Jarley sat down in an armchair in the centre of the room, and began to instruct Nell in her duty.

"That," said Mrs. Jarley in her exhibition tone, "is an unfortunate maid of honour in the time of Queen Elizabeth, who died from pricking her finger in consequence of working on a Sunday. Observe the blood which is trickling from her finger, also the gold-eyed needle of the period, with which she is at work."

Nell found in the lady of the caravan a kind and considerate person, who had not only a peculiar relish for being comfortable herself, but for making everybody about her comfortable also.

But the child noticed that her grandfather grew more and more listless and vacant, and soon a greater sorrow was to come. The passion for gambling revived in the old man one evening, when he and Nell, out walking in the country, took passing shelter from a storm in a small public-house. He saw men playing cards, and, allowed to join them, lost. The next night he went off alone, and Nell, finding him gone, followed. Her grandfather was with the card-players near an encampment of gypsies, and, to her horror, he promised to bring more money.

Flight was now the only thing possible, before her grandfather should steal. How else could he get the money?

IV.—Beyond the Pale

Flight by water! For two days they travelled on a barge, Nell sitting with her grandfather in the boat. Rugged and noisy fellows were the bargemen, and quite brutal among themselves, though civil enough to their passengers. The barge floated into the wharf to which it belonged, and now came flight by land through a strange, unfriendly town. The travellers were penniless, and at nightfall took refuge in a deep doorway.

A man, miserably clad and begrimed with smoke, found them here, and, learning they were homeless, promised them shelter by the fire of a great furnace.

A dark and blackened region was this they were in. On every side tall chimneys poured out their plague of smoke, and at night the smoke was changed to fire, and chimneys spurted flame. Struggling vegetation sickened and sank under the hot breath of kiln and furnace. The people—men, women, and children—wan in their looks and ragged in their attire, tended the engines, or scowled, half naked, from the doorless houses.

That night Nell and her grandfather lay down with nothing between them and the sky. A penny loaf was all they had had that day, and very weak and spent the child felt.

With morning she was weaker still, and a loathing of food prevented her sharing the loaf bought with their last penny. Still she dragged her weary feet on, and only at the very end of the town fell senseless to the ground.

Once in their earlier wanderings they had made friends with a village schoolmaster, and now, when all hope seemed gone, it was this schoolmaster who brought the travellers into a peaceful haven. For it was he who passed along when little Nell fell fainting to the ground, and it was he who carried her into a small inn hard by. A day's rest brought some recovery to the child, and in the evening she was able to sit up.

"I have made my fortune since I saw you last," said the schoolmaster. "I have been appointed clerk and schoolmaster to a village a long way from here at five-and-thirty pounds a year."

Then the schoolmaster insisted they must come with him, and make the journey by waggons, and that when they reached the village some occupation should be found by which they could subsist.

They agreed to go, and when the village was reached the efforts of the good schoolmaster procured a post for Nell. Someone was wanted to keep the keys of the church and show it to strangers, and the old clergyman yielded to the schoolmaster's petition.

"But an old church is a dull and gloomy place for one so young as you, my child," said the old clergyman, laying his hand upon her head and smiling sadly, "I would rather see her dancing on the green at nights than have her sitting in the shadow of our mouldering arches."

It was very peaceful in the old church, and the village children soon grew to love little Nell. At last Nell and her grandfather were beyond the need of flight.

But the child's strength was failing, and in the winter came her death. Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead. The traces of her early cares, her sufferings, and fatigues were gone. She had died with her arms round her grandfather's neck and "God bless you!" on her lips.

The old man never realised that she was dead. "She is asleep," he said. "She will come to-morrow."

And thenceforth every day, and all day long he waited at her grave. And people would hear him whisper, "Lord, let her come to-morrow."

The last time was on a genial day in spring. He did not return at the usual hour, and they went to seek him, and found him lying dead upon the stone.

They laid by the side of her whom he had loved so well; and in the church where they had often lingered hand in hand the child and the old man slept together.

* * * * *



Our Mutual Friend

"Our Mutual Friend" was the last long complete novel Dickens wrote, and, like all his books, it first appeared in monthly parts. It was so published in 1864-65. After three numbers had appeared, the author wrote: "I have grown hard to satisfy, and write very slowly. Although I have not been wanting in industry, I have been wanting in imagination." In his "Postscript in Lieu of Preface," the author points out—in answer to those who had disputed the probability of Harmon's will—"that there are hundreds of will cases far more remarkable than that fancied in this book." In this same postscript Dickens also renewed his attack on Poor Law administration, begun in "Oliver Twist." Though "Our Mutual Friend" is not one of the greatest or most famous of Dickens's works, for it is somewhat loosely constructed as a story, and shows signs of laboured composition, it abounds in scenes of real Dickensian character, and is not without touches of the genius which had made its author the foremost novelist of his time, and one of the greatest writers of all ages.

I.—The Man from Somewhere

It was at a dinner-party that Mortimer Lightwood, solicitor, at the request of Lady Tippins, told the story of the Man from Somewhere.

"Upon my life," says Mortimer languidly, "I can't fix him with a local habitation; but he comes from the place, the name of which escapes me, where they make the wine.

"The man," Mortimer goes on, "whose name is Harmon, was the only son of a tremendous old rascal, who made his money by dust, as a dust contractor. This venerable parent, displeased with his son, turns him out of doors. The boy takes flight, gets aboard ship, turns up on dry land among the Cape wine; small proprietor, farmer, grower—whatever you like to call it. Venerable parent dies. His will is found. It leaves the lowest of a range of dust mountains, with a dwelling-house, to an old servant, who is sole executor. And that's all, except that the son's inheritance is made conditional on his marrying a girl, at the date of the will a child four or five years old, who is now a marriageable young woman. Advertisement and inquiry discovered the son in the Man from Somewhere, and he is now on his way home, after fourteen years' absence, to succeed to a very large fortune, and to take a wife."

Mortimer, being asked what would become of the fortune in the event of the marriage condition not being fulfilled, replies that by a clause in the will it would then go to the old servant above-mentioned, passing over and excluding the son; also, that if the son had not been living, the same old servant would have been sole residuary legatee.

It is just when the ladies are retiring that Mortimer receives a note from the butler.

"This really arrives in an extraordinarily opportune manner," says Mortimer, after reading the paper presented to him. "This is the conclusion of the story of the identical man. Man's drowned!"

The dinner being over, Mortimer Lightwood and his friend Eugene Wrayburn interviewed the boy who had brought the note, and then set out in a cab to the riverside quarter of Wapping.

The cab dismissed, a little winding through some muddy alleys brings then to the bright lamp of a police-station, where they find the night-inspector. He takes a bull's-eye, and Mortimer and Eugene follow him to a cool grot at the end of the yard. They quickly come out again.

"No clue, gentlemen," says the inspector, "as to how the body came into river. Very often no clue. Steward of ship, in which gentleman came home passenger, had been round to view, and could swear to identity. Likewise could swear to clothes. Inquest to-morrow, and no doubt open verdict."

A stranger who had entered the station with Lightwood and Wrayburn attracts Mr. Inspector's attention.

"Turned you faint, sir? You expected to identify?"

"It's a horrible sight," says the stranger. "No, I can't identify."

"You missed a friend, you know; or you missed a foe, or you wouldn't have come here, you know. Well, then, ain't it reasonable to ask, who was it?" Thus Mr. Inspector. "At least, you won't object to write down your name and address?"

The stranger took the pen and wrote down, "Mr. Julius Handford, Exchequer Coffee House, Palace Yard, Westminster."

At the coroner's inquest next day, Mr. Mortimer Lightwood watched the proceedings on behalf of the representatives of the deceased; and Mr. Julius Handford having given his right address, had no summons to appear.

Upon the evidence before them, the jury found that Mr. John Harmon had come by his death under suspicious circumstances, though by whose act there was no evidence to show. Within eight-and-forty hours a reward of one hundred pounds was proclaimed by the Home Office, and for a time public interest in the Harmon Murder, as it came to be called, ran high.

II.—The Golden Dustman

Mr. Boffin, a broad, round-shouldered, one-sided old fellow in mourning, dressed in a pea overcoat, and wearing thick leather gaiters, and gloves like a hedger's, came ambling towards the street corner where Silas Wegg sat at his stall. A few small lots of fruits and sweets, and a choice collection of halfpenny ballads, comprised Mr. Wegg's stock, and assuredly it was the hardest little stall of all the sterile little stalls in London.

"Morning, morning!" said the old fellow.

"Good-morning to you, sir!" said Mr. Wegg.

The old fellow paused, and then startled Mr. Wegg with the question, "How did you get your wooden leg?"

"In an accident."

"Do you like it?"

"Well, I haven't got to keep it warm," Mr. Wegg answered desperately.

"Did you ever hear of the name of Boffin? And do you like it?"

"Why, no," said Mr. Wegg, growing restive; "I can't say that I do."

"My name's Boffin," said the old fellow, smiling. "But there's another chance for you. Do you like the name of Nicodemus? Think it over. Nick or Noddy. Noddy Boffin, that's my name."

"It is not, sir," said Mr. Wegg, in a tone of resignation, "a name as I could wish anyone to call me by, but there may be persons that would not view it with the same objections. Silas Wegg is my name. I don't know why Silas, and I don't know why Wegg."

"Now, Wegg," said Mr. Boffin, "I came by here one morning and heard you reading through your ballads to a butcher-boy. I thought to myself, 'Here's a literary man with a wooden leg, and all print is open to him! And here am I without a wooden leg, and all print is shut to me.'"

"I believe you couldn't show me the piece of English print that I wouldn't be equal to collaring and throwing," Mr. Wegg admitted modestly.

"Now I want some reading, and I must pay a man so much an hour to come and do it for me. Say two hours a night at twopence-halfpenny. Half-a- crown a week. What do you think of the terms, Wegg?"

"Mr. Boffin, I never did 'aggle, and I never will 'aggle. I meet you at once, free and fair, with——Done, for double the money!"

From that night Silas Wegg came to read at Boffin's Bower—or Harmony Jail, as the house was formerly called—and he soon learnt that his employer was no other than the inheritor of old Harmon's property, and that he was known as the Golden Dustman.

It was not long after Silas Wegg's appointment that Mr. Boffin was accosted by a strange gentleman, who gave his name as John Rokesmith, and proposed his services as private secretary. Mr. Rokesmith mentioned that he lodged at one Mr. Wilfer's, in Holloway. Mr. Boffin stared.

"Father of Miss Bella Wilfer?"

"My landlord has a daughter named Bella."

"Well, to tell you the truth, I don't know what to say," said Mr. Boffin; "but call at the Bower, though I don't know that I shall ever be in want of a secretary."

So to the Bower came Mr. John Rokesmith, but not before the Boffins had called at the Wilfers' and seen the young lady destined by old Harmon for his son's bride.

"Noddy," said Mrs. Boffin, "I have been thinking early and late of that girl, Bella Wilfer, who was so cruelly disappointed both of her husband and his riches. Don't you think we might do something for her? Have her to live with us? And, Noddy, I tell you what I want—I want society. We have come into a great fortune, and we must act up to it. It's never been acted up to, and consequently no good has come of it."

It was agreed that they should move into a good house in a good neighbourhood, and that a visit should be paid to Mr. Wilfer at once. Mrs. Wilfer received them with a tragic air.

"Mrs. Boffin and me, ma'am," said Mr. Boffin, "are plain people, and we make this call to say we shall be glad to have the honour and pleasure of your daughter's acquaintance, and that we shall be rejoiced if your daughter will come to consider our house in the light of her home equally with this."

"I am much obliged to you—I am sure," said Miss Bella, coldly shaking her curls, "but I doubt if I have the inclination to go out at all."

"Bella," Mrs. Wilfer admonished her solemnly, "you must conquer this!"

"Yes, do what your ma says, and conquer it, my dear," urged Mrs. Boffin, "because we shall be so glad to have you, and because you are much too pretty to keep yourself shut up."

With that Mrs. Boffin gave her a kiss, which Bella frankly returned; and it was settled that Bella should be sent for as soon as they were ready to receive her.

"By the bye, ma'am," said Mr. Boffin, as he was leaving, "you have a lodger?"

"A gentleman," Mrs. Wilfer answered, "undoubtedly occupies our first floor."

"I may call him our mutual friend," said Mr. Boffin. "What sort of fellow is our mutual friend, now? Do you like him?"

"Mr. Rokesmith is very punctual, very quiet—a very eligible inmate."

The Boffins drove away, and Mr. Rokesmith, coming to the Bower, extricated Mr. Boffin from a mass of disordered papers, and gave such satisfaction that his services were accepted, and he took up the secretaryship.

II.—The Golden Dustman Deteriorates

Miss Bella Wilfer was conscious that she was growing mercenary. She admitted as much to her father. There were several other secrets she had to impart beyond her own lack of improvement.

"Mr. Rokesmith has made an offer to me, pa, and I told him I thought it a betrayal of trust on his part, and an affront to me. Mrs. Boffin has herself told me, with her own kind lips, that they wish to see me well married; and that when I marry, with their consent, they will portion me most handsomely. That is another secret. And now there is only one more, and it is very hard to tell it. But Mr. Boffin is being spoilt by prosperity, and is changing for the worse every day. Not to me—he is always the same to me—but to others about him. He grows suspicious, hard, and unjust. If ever a good man were ruined by good fortune, it is my benefactor."

Bella parted from her father, and returned to the Boffins, to find fresh proofs of the deterioration of the Golden Dustman.

"Now, Rokesmith," Mr. Boffin was saying, "it's time to settle about your wages. A man of property like me is bound to consider the market price. If I pay for a sheep, I buy it out and out. Similarly, if I pay for a secretary, I buy him out and out. It's convenient to have you at all times ready on the premises."

The secretary bowed and withdrew. Bella's eyes followed him to the door. She felt that Mrs. Boffin was uncomfortable.

"Noddy," said Mrs. Boffin thoughtfully, "haven't you been a little strict with Mr. Rokesmith to-night? Haven't you been just a little not quite like your own old self?"

"Why, old woman, I hope so," said Mr. Boffin cheerfully. "Our old selves wouldn't do here, old lady. Our old selves would be fit for nothing but to be imposed upon. Our old selves weren't people of fortune. Our new selves are. It's a great difference."

Very uncomfortable was Bella that night, and very uneasy was she as the days went by, for Mr. Boffin made a point of hunting up old books that gave the lives of misers, and the more enjoyment he seemed to get out of this literature, the harder he became to the secretary. Somehow, the worse Mr. Boffin treated his secretary, the more Bella felt drawn to the man whose offer of marriage she had refused. The crisis came one morning when the Golden Dustman's bearing towards Rokesmith was even more arrogant and offensive than it had been before. Mrs. Boffin was seated on a sofa, and Mr. Boffin had Bella on his arm.

"Don't be alarmed, my dear," he said gently. "I'm going to see you righted."

Then he turned to his secretary.

"Now, sir, look at this young lady. How dare you come out of your station to pester this young lady with your impudent addresses? This young lady, who was far above you. This young lady was looking about for money, and you had no money."

Bella hung her head, and Mrs. Boffin broke out crying.

"This Rokesmith is a needy young man," Mr. Boffin went on unmoved. "He gets acquainted with my affairs and gets to know that I mean to settle a sum of money upon this young lady."

"I indignantly deny it!" said the secretary quietly. "But our connection being at an end, it matters little what I say."

"I discharge you," Mr. Boffin retorted. "There's your money."

"Mrs. Boffin," said Rokesmith, "for your unvarying kindness I thank you with the warmest gratitude. Miss Wilfer, good-bye."

"Oh, Mr. Rokesmith," said Bella in her tears, "hear one word from me before you go. I am deeply sorry for the reproaches you have borne on my account. Out of the depths of my heart I beg your pardon."

She gave him her hand, and he put it to his lips and said, "God bless you!"

"There was a time when I deserved to be 'righted,' as Mr. Boffin has done," Bella went on, "but I hope that I shall never deserve it again."

Once more John Rokesmith put her hand to his lips, and then relinquished it, and left the room.

Bella threw her arms round Mrs. Boffin's neck. "He has been most shamefully abused and driven away, and I am the cause of it. I must go home; I am very grateful for all you have done for me, but I can't stay here."

"Now, Bella," said Mr. Boffin, "look before you leap. Go away, and you can never come back. And you mustn't expect that I'm a-going to settle money on you if you leave me like this, because I'm not. Not one brass farthing."

"No power on earth could make me take it now," said Bella haughtily.

Then she broke into sobs over saying good-bye to Mrs. Boffin, said a last word to Mr. Boffin, and ran upstairs. A few minutes later she went out of the house.

"That was well done," said Bella when she was in the street, "and now I'll go and see my dear, darling pa in the city."

IV.—The Runaway Marriage

Bella found her way to her father's office in the city. It was after hours, and the little man was alone, having tea on a small cottage loaf and a pennyworth of milk, for R. Wilfer was but a clerk on a small income. He immediately fetched another loaf and another pennyworth of milk, and then, before she could tell him she had left the Boffins, who should come along but John Rokesmith. And John Rokesmith not only came in, but he caught Bella in his arms, and she was content to leave her head on his breast as if that were her head's chosen and lasting resting place.

"I knew you would come to him, and I followed you," said Rokesmith. "You are mine."

"Yes, I am yours if you think me worth taking," Bella responded.

Then Bella's father had to hear what had happened, and said his daughter had done well.

"To think," said Wilfer, looking round the office, "that anything of a tender nature should come off here is what tickles me."

A few weeks later and Bella and her father went out early one morning and took the steamer to Greenwich. And at Greenwich there was John Rokesmith, and presently in a church John and Bella were joined together in wedlock.

They had been married a year, and lived in a little house at Blackheath. John Rokesmith went up to the city every day, and explained that he was "in a China house." From time to time he would ask her, "Would you like to be rich now, my darling?" and got for answer, "Dear John, am I not rich?"

But for all that a change came in their affairs. For Mortimer Lightwood, who had met Bella at the Boffins', seeing her walking with her husband, recognised him as Julius Handford; and as Mr. Inspector had never discovered what became of Mr. Julius Handford, he must needs pay Mr. Rokesmith a visit. And then it turned out that John Rokesmith was not only Julius Handford, but John Harmon himself, much to Mr. Inspector's astonishment.

More surprises were to follow, for when John came home next day he told Bella that he had left the China house, and was better off.

"We must have our headquarters in London now, my dear, and there's a house ready for us."

And the house which John and Bella visited next day was none other than the Boffins', and when they arrived, there were Mr. and Mrs. Boffin beaming at them. Mrs. Boffin told Bella that John Rokesmith was John Harmon, and how, remembering him as a small boy, she had guessed it quite early. Then Mrs. Boffin admitted that John, despairing of winning Bella's heart, and determined that there should be no question of money in the marriage, he was for going away, and that Noddy said he would prove that she loved him. "We was all of us in it, my beauty," Mrs. Boffin concluded, "and when you was married there was we hid up in the church organ by this husband of yours, for he wouldn't let us out with it then, as was first meant. But it was Noddy who said that he would prove you had a true heart of gold. 'If she was to stand up for you when you was slighted,' he said to John, 'and if she was to do that against her own interest, how would that do?' 'Do?' says John, 'it would raise me to the skies.' 'Then,' says my Noddy, 'get ready for the ascent, John, for up you go. Look out for being slighted and oppressed.' And then he began. And how he did begin, didn't he?"

"It looks as if old Harmon's spirit had found rest at last, and as if his money had turned bright again after a long rust in the dark," said Mrs. Boffin to her husband that night.

"Yes, old lady."

The mystery of the Harmon murder is yet to be explained. John Harmon, going on shore with a fellow passenger, who greatly resembled him, was drugged and robbed of his money in a house near the river by this man. But the robber, who had taken Harmon's clothes, was himself robbed and thrown into the water, and Harmon recovered consciousness and made his escape just at the time when the body of his assailant was recovered. In this state of strange excitement he turned up at the police station, and, unwilling to reveal his identity at the moment, passed himself off as Julius Handford.

* * * * *



Pickwick Papers

Dickens first became known to the public through the famous "Sketches by Boz," which appeared in the "Monthly Magazine" in December, 1833, the complete series being collected and published in volume form three years later. This was followed by the immortal "Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club" in 1836, which soon placed Dickens in the front rank of English novelists. Frankly humorous as "Pickwick" is, Dickens, in a preface to a later edition, recorded with satisfaction that "legal reforms had pared the claws of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg," that the laws relating to imprisonment for debt had been altered, and the Fleet Prison pulled down.

I.—Mr. Pickwick Engages Sam Weller

Mr. Pickwick's apartments in Goswell Street were of a very neat and comfortable description, peculiarly adapted for a man of his genius and observation, and importance as General Chairman of the world-famed Pickwick Club.

His landlady, Mrs. Bardell, was a comely woman of bustling manners and agreeable appearance, with a natural gift for cooking. Cleanliness and quiet reigned throughout the house, and in it Mr. Pickwick's will was law.

To anyone acquainted with these things and with Mr. Pickwick's admirably regulated mind, his conduct on the morning previous to his setting out for Eatanswill seemed most mysterious and unaccountable. He paced the room, popped his head out of the window, and constantly referred to his watch. It was evident to Mrs. Bardell, who was dusting the apartment, that something of importance was in contemplation.

"Mrs. Bardell," said Mr. Pickwick at last, "your little boy is a very long time gone."

"Why, it's a good long way to the Borough, sir!" remonstrated Mrs. Bardell.

"Very true; so it is. Mrs. Bardell do you think it's a much greater expense to keep two people than to keep one?"

"La, Mr. Pickwick!" said Mrs. Bardell, colouring, as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger. "La, Mr. Pickwick, what a question!"

"Well, but do you?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"That depends," said Mrs. Bardell, "a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir."

"That's very true," said Mr. Pickwick; "but the person I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities. To tell you the truth, I have made up my mind. You'll think it very strange now that I never consulted you about this matter till I sent your little boy out this morning, eh?"

Mrs. Bardell had long worshipped Mr. Pickwick at a distance, and now she thought he was going to propose. A deliberate plan, too—sent her little boy to the Borough to get him out of the way! How thoughtful! How considerate!

"It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?" said Mr. Pickwick. "And when I am in town you'll always have somebody to sit with you." Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

"I'm sure I ought to be a very happy woman," said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation. "Oh, you kind, good, playful dear!" And, without more ado, she flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick's neck.

"Bless my soul!" cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick. "Mrs. Bardell, my good woman! Dear me, what a situation! Pray consider if anybody should come!"

"Oh, let them come!" exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically. "I'll never leave you, dear, kind soul!" And she clung the tighter.

"Mercy upon me," said Mr. Pickwick, struggling; "I hear somebody coming upstairs! Don't, there's a good creature, don't!" But Mrs. Bardell had fainted in his arms, and before he could gain time to deposit her on a chair, Master Bardell entered the room, followed by Mr. Pickwick's friends Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.

"What is the matter?" said the three Pickwickians.

"I don't know!" replied Mr. Pickwick; while the ever gallant Mr. Tupman led Mrs. Bardell, who said she was better, downstairs. "I cannot conceive what has been the matter with the woman. I merely told her of my intention of keeping a manservant, when she fell into an extraordinary paroxysm. Very remarkable thing."

"Very," said his three friends.

"There's a man in the passage now," said Mr. Tupman.

"It's the man I've sent for from the Borough," said Mr. Pickwick. "Have the goodness to call him up."

Mr. Samuel Weller forthwith presented himself, having previously deposited his old white hat on the landing outside.

"Ta'nt a wery good 'un to look at," said Sam, "but it's an astonishin' 'un to wear. And afore the brim went it was a wery handsome tile."

"Now, with regard to the matter on which I sent for you," said Mr. Pickwick.

"That's the pint, sir; out vith it, as the father said to the child ven he swallowed a farden."

"We want to know, in the first place," said Mr. Pickwick, "whether you are discontented with your present situation?"

"Afore I answers that 'ere question," replied Mr. Weller, "I should like to know whether you're a-goin' to purwide me vith a better."

Mr. Pickwick smiled benevolently as he said: "I have half made up my mind to engage you myself."

"Have you though?" said Sam. "Wages?"

"Twelve pounds a year."

"Clothes?"

"Two suits."

"Work?"

"To attend upon me, and travel about with me and these gentlemen here."

"Take the bill down," said Sam emphatically. "I'm let to a single gentleman, and the terms is agreed upon. If the clothes fit me half as well as the place, they'll do."

II.—Bardell vs. Pickwick

Acting on the advice of Messrs. Dodson & Fogg, solicitors, Mrs. Bardell brought an action for breach of promise of marriage against Mr. Pickwick, and the damages were laid at L1,500. February 14 was the day fixed for the memorable trial.

When Mr. Pickwick and his friends reached the court, and the judge—Mr. Justice Stareleigh—had taken his place, it was found that only ten of the special jury were present, and a greengrocer and a chemist were caught from the common jury to make up the number.

"I beg this court's pardon," said the chemist, "but I hope this court will excuse my attendance. I have no assistant, and I can't afford to hire one."

"Then you ought to be able to afford it," said the judge, a most particularly short man, and so fat that he seemed all face and waistcoat.

"Very well, my lord," replied the chemist, "then there'll be murder before this trial's over, that's all. I've left nobody, but an errand- boy in my shop, and I know that he thinks Epsom salts means oxalic acid, and syrup of senna, laudanum; that's all, my lord."

Mr. Pickwick was regarding the chemist with feelings of the deepest horror when Mrs. Bardell, supported by her friend, Mrs. Cluppins, was led into court.

Then Sergeant Buzfuz opened the case for the plaintiff, and when he had finished Elizabeth Cluppins was called.

"Do you recollect, Mrs. Cluppins," said Sergeant Buzfuz, "do you recollect being in Mrs. Bardell's back room on one particular morning last July, when she was dusting Pickwick's apartment?"

"Yes, my lord and jury, I do," replied Mrs. Cluppins.

"What were you doing in the back room, ma'am?" inquired the little judge.

"My lord and jury," said Mrs. Cluppins, "I will not deceive you."

"You had better not, ma'am," said the little judge.

"I was there," resumed Mrs. Cluppins, "unbeknown to Mrs. Bardell; I had been out with a little basket, gentlemen, to buy three pounds of red kidney pertaties, which was tuppence ha'penny, when I see Mrs. Bardell's street-door on the jar."

"On the what?" exclaimed the little judge.

"Partly open, my lord."

"She said on the jar," said the little judge, with a cunning look.

"I walked in, gentlemen, just to say good mornin', and went in a permiscuous manner upstairs, and into the back room. There was a sound of voices in the front room, very loud, and forced themselves upon my ear."

Mrs. Cluppins then related the conversation we have already heard between Mr. Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell.

The next witness was Mr. Winkle, and after him came Mr. Tupman, and Mr. Snodgrass, all of whom appeared on subpoena by the plaintiff's lawyers.

Sergeant Buzfuz then rose and said, with considerable importance, "Call Samuel Weller."

It was quite unnecessary to call him, for Samuel Weller stepped briskly into the box the instant his name was pronounced.

"What's your name, sir?" inquired the judge.

"Sam Weller, my lord."

"Do you spell it with a 'V or a 'W?" inquired the judge.

"That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my lord," replied Sam, "but I spells it with a 'V.'"

Here a voice in the gallery exclaimed aloud, "Quite right, too, Samuel; quite right. Put it down a we, my lord, put it down a we."

"Who is that that dares to address the court?" said the little judge, looking up.

"I rayther suspect it was my father, my lord," replied Sam.

"Do you see him here now?" said the judge.

"No, I don't my lord," replied Sam, staring right up in the roof of the court.

"If you could have pointed him out, I would have committed him instantly," said the judge.

Sam bowed his acknowledgments.

"Now, Mr. Weller," said Sergeant Buzfuz, "I believe you are in the service of Mr. Pickwick; speak up, if you please."

"I mean to speak up, sir," replied Sam. "I am in the service o' that 'ere gen'l'man, and a wery good service it is."

"Little to do, and plenty to get, I suppose?" said Sergeant Buzfuz.

"Oh, quite enough to get, sir, as the soldier said ven they ordered him three hundred and fifty lashes," replied Sam.

"You must not tell us what the soldier said," interposed the judge, "it's not evidence."

"Wery good, my lord."

"Now, Mr. Weller," said Sergeant Buzfuz, "do you recollect anything particular happening on the morning when you were first engaged by the defendant?"

"Yes, I do, sir. I had a reg'lar new fit-out o' clothes that mornin', and that was a wery partickler and uncommon circumstance vith me in those days."

"Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Weller, that you saw nothing of the fainting of the plaintiff in the arms of the defendant?"

"Certainly not; I was in the passage till they called me up, and then the old lady wasn't there."

"Have you a pair of eyes, Mr. Weller?"

"Yes, that's just it," replied Sam. "If they was a pair o' patent double million magnifyin' gas microscopes of hextra power, p'raps I might be able to see through a flight o' stairs and a deal door, but bein' only eyes, you see, my wision's limited."

"Do you remember going up to Mrs. Bardell's house one night last November? I suppose you went to have a little talk about this trial, eh, Mr. Weller?" said Sergeant Buzfuz, looking knowingly at the jury.

"I went up to pay the rent," said Sam; "but the ladies gets into a wery great state of admiration at the honourable conduct o' Mr. Dodson and Fogg, and said what a wery gen'rous thing it was o' them to have taken up the case on spec., and to have charged nothin' at all for costs, unless they got 'em out of Mr. Pickwick."

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