Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens' Children Stories



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"My own boy, cannot you see your poor father?" said Mr. Dombey, bending over him.

"Oh yes, but don't be so sorry, dear papa. I am so happy, – good-bye, dear papa." Presently he opened his eyes again, and said, "Floy, mamma is like you, I can see her. Come close to me, Floy, and tell them," whispered the dying boy, "that the face of the picture of Christ on the staircase at school is not divine enough; the light from it is shining on me now, and the water is shining too, and rippling so fast, so fast."

The evening light shone into the room, but little Paul's spirit had gone out on the rippling water, and the Divine Face was shining on him from the farther shore.

THE RUNAWAY COUPLE

"SUPPOSING a young gentleman not eight years old was to run away with a fine young woman of seven, would you consider that a queer start? That there is a start as I – the boots at the Holly-Tree Inn – have seen with my own eyes; and I cleaned the shoes they ran away in, and they was so little that I couldn't get my hand into 'em.

"Master Harry Walmers's father, he lived at the Elms, away by Shooter's Hill, six or seven miles from London. He was uncommon proud of Master Harry, as was his only child; but he didn't spoil him neither. He was a gentleman that had a will of his own, and an eye of his own, and that would be minded. Consequently, though he made quite a companion of the fine bright boy, still he kept the command over him, and the child was a child. I was under gardener there at that time I and one morning Master Harry, he comes to me and says —

"'Cobbs, how should you spell Norah, if you were asked?' and he took out his little knife and began cutting that name in print all over the fence. The next day as it might be, he stops, along with Miss Norah, where I was hoeing weeds in the gravel, and says, speaking up —

"'Cobbs, I like you! Why do I like you do you think, Cobbs? Because Norah likes you.'

"'Indeed, sir,' says I. 'That's very gratifying.'

"'Gratifying, Cobbs?' says Master Harry. 'It's better than a million of the brightest diamonds, to be liked by Norah. You're going away ain't you, Cobbs? Then you shall be our head gardener when we're married.' And he tucks her, in her little sky-blue mantle, under his arm, and walks away.

"I was the boots at this identical Holly-Tree Inn when one summer afternoon the coach drives up, and out of the coach gets these two children. The young gentleman gets out; hands his lady out; gives the guard something for himself; says to my governor, the landlord: 'We're to stop here to-night, please. Sitting room and two bed-rooms will be required. Mutton chops and cherry pudding for two!' and tucks her under his arm, and walks into the house, much bolder than brass.

"I had seen 'em without their seeing me, and I gave the governor my views of the expedition they was upon. 'Cobbs,' says the governor, 'if this is so, I must set off myself and quiet their friends' minds.

In which case you must keep your eye upon 'em, and humor 'em, until I come back. But before I take these measures, Cobbs, I should wish you to find out from themselves whether your opinion is correct.'

"So I goes upstairs, and there I finds Master Harry on an e-nor-mous sofa a-drying the eyes of Miss Norah with his pocket handkercher. Their little legs was entirely off the ground, of course, and it really is not possible to express how small them children looked. 'It's Cobbs! it's Cobbs!' cries Master Harry, and he comes a-runing to me, and catching hold of my hand. Miss Norah, she comes running to me on t'other side, and catching hold of my t'other hand, and they both jump for joy. And what I had took to be the case was the case.

"'We're going to be married, Cobbs, at Gretna Green,' says the boy. 'We've run away on purpose. Norah has been in rather low spirits, Cobbs; but she'll be happy now we have found you to be our friend.'

"I give you my word and honor upon it that, by way of luggage the lady had got a parasol, a smelling-bottle, a round and a half of cold buttered toast, eight peppermint drops, and a doll's hair-brush. The gentleman had got about a dozen yards of string, a knife, three or four sheets of writing-paper folded up surprisingly small, a orange, and a chaney mug with his name on it.

"'What may be the exact nature of your plans, sir?' says I.

"'To go on,' replies the boy, 'in the morning, and be married to-morrow.'

"'Just so, sir. Well, sir, if you will excuse my having the freedom to give an opinion, what I should recommend would be this. I'm acquainted with a pony, sir, which would take you and Mrs. Harry Walmers junior to the end of your journey in a very short space of time. I am not altogether sure, sir, that the pony will be at liberty to-morrow, but even if you had to wait for him it might be worth your while.'

"They clapped their hands and jumped for joy, and called me 'Good Cobbs!' and 'Dear Cobbs!' and says I, 'Is there anything you want at present, sir?'

"'We should like some cakes after dinner,' answers Mr. Harry, 'and two apples – and jam. With dinner we should like to have toast and water. But Norah has always been accustomed to half a glass of currant wine at dessert, and so have I.'

"'They shall be ordered, sir,' I answered, and away I went; and the way in which all the women in the house went on about that boy and his bold spirit was a thing to see. They climbed up all sorts of places to get a look at him, and they peeped, seven deep, through the keyhole.

"In the evening, after the governor had set off for the Elms, I went into the room to see how the run-away couple was getting on. The gentleman was on the window seat, supporting the lady in his arms. She had tears upon her face, and was lying very tired and half asleep, with her head upon his shoulder.

"'Mrs. Harry Walmers junior fatigued, sir?'

"'Yes, she's tired, Cobbs; she's been in low spirits again; she isn't used to being in a strange place, you see. Could you bring a Norfolk biffin, Cobbs? I think that would do her good.'

"Well, I fetched the biffin, and Master Harry fed her with a spoon; but the lady being heavy with sleep and rather cross, I suggested bed, and called a chambermaid, but Master Harry must needs escort her himself, and carry the candle for her. After embracing her at her own door he retired to his room, where I softly locked him in.

"They consulted me at breakfast (they had ordered sweet milk and water, and toast and currant jelly, over night) about the pony, and I told 'em that it did unfortunately happen that the pony was half clipped, but that he'd be finished clipping in the course of the day, and that to-morrow morning at eight o'clock he would be ready. My own opinion is that Mrs. Harry Walmers junior was beginning to give in. She hadn't had her hair curled when she went to bed, and she didn't seem quite up to brushing it herself, and it getting into her eyes put her out. But nothing put out Mr. Harry. He sat behind his breakfast cup tearing away at the jelly, as if he'd been his own father.

"In the course of the morning, Master Harry rung the bell, – it was surprising how that there boy did carry on, – and said in a sprightly way, 'Cobbs, is there any good walks in the neighborhood?'

"'Yes, sir, there's Love Lane.'

"'Get out with you, Cobbs!' – that was that there mite's expression – 'you're joking.'

"'Begging your pardon, sir, there really is a Love Lane, and a pleasant walk it is; and proud shall I be to show it to yourself and Mrs. Harry Walmers junior.'

"Well, I took him down Love Lane to the water meadows, and there Master Harry would have drowned himself in another minute a getting out a water-lily for her. But they was tired out. All being so new and strange to them, they were as tired as tired could be. And they laid down on a bank of daisies and fell asleep.

"They woke up at last, and then one thing was getting pretty clear to me, namely, that Mrs. Harry Walmers junior's temper was on the move. When Master Harry took her round the waist, she said he 'teased her so'; and when he says, 'Norah, my young May moon, your Harry tease you?' she tells him, 'Yes, and I want to go home.'

"A boiled fowl, and baked bread and butter pudding, brought Mrs. Walmers up a little; but I could have wished, I must privately own, to have seen her more sensible to the voice of love and less abandoning herself to the currants in the pudding. However, Master Harry, he kep' up, and his noble heart was as fond as ever. Mrs. Walmers turned very sleepy about dusk, and began to cry. Therefore, Mrs. Walmers went off to bed as per yesterday; and Master Harry ditto repeated.

"About eleven at night comes back the governor in a chaise, along of Master Harry's father and a elderly lady. And Master Harry's door being unlocked by me, Master Harry's father goes in, goes up to the bedside, bends gently down, and kisses the little sleeping face. Then he stands looking at it for a moment, looking wonderfully like it; and then he gently shakes the little shoulder. 'Harry, my dear boy! Harry!'

"Master Harry starts up and looks at his pa. Such is the honor of that mite, that he looks at me, too, to see whether he has brought me into trouble.

"'I am not angry, my child. I only want you to dress yourself and come home.'

"'Yes, Pa.' Master Harry dresses himself quick.

"'Please may I – please, dear pa – may I – kiss Norah before I go?'

"Master Harry's father he takes Master Harry in his hand, and I leads the way with the candle to that other bedroom where the elderly lady is seated by the bed, and poor little Mrs. Harry Walmers junior is fast asleep. There the father lifts the boy up to the pillow, and he lays his little face down for an instant by the little warm face of poor little Mrs. Harry Walmers junior, and gently draws it to him.

"And that's all about it. Master Harry's father drove away in the chaise having hold of Master Harry's hand. The elderly lady Mrs. Harry Walmers junior that was never to be (she married a captain long after and went to India) went off next day."

POOR JO!

JO was a crossing-sweeper; every day he swept up the mud, and begged for pennies from the people who passed. Poor Jo wasn't pretty and he wasn't clean. His clothes were only a few poor rags that hardly protected him from the cold and the rain. He had never been to school, and he could neither write nor read – could not even spell his own name.

Poor Jo! He was ugly and dirty and ignorant; but he knew one thing, that it was wicked to tell a lie, and knowing this, he always told the truth. One other thing poor Jo knew too well, and that was what being hungry means. For little Jo was very poor. He lived in Tom-all-Alones, one of the most horrible places in all London. The people who live in this dreadful den are the poorest of London poor. All miserably clad, all dirty, all very hungry. They know and like Jo, for he is always willing to go on errands for them, and does them many little acts of kindness.

No one in Tom-all-Alones is spoken of by his name. Thus it is that if you inquired there for a boy named Jo, you would be asked whether you meant Carrots, or the Colonel, or Gallows, or young Chisel, or Terrier Tip, or Lanky, or the Brick.

Jo was generally called Toughy, although a few superior persons who affected a dignified style of speaking called him "the tough subject."

Jo used to say he had never had but one friend.

It was one cold Winter night, when he was shivering in a door-way near his crossing, that a dark-haired, rough-bearded man turned to look at him, and then came back and began to talk to him.

"Have you a friend, boy?" he asked presently.

"No, never 'ad none."

"Neither have I. Not one. Take this, and Good-night," and so saying the man, who looked very poor and shabby, put into Jo's hand the price of a supper and a night's lodging.

Often afterwards the stranger would stop to talk with Jo, and give him money, Jo firmly believed, whenever he had any to give. When he had none, he would merely say, "I am as poor as you are to-day, Jo," and pass on.

One day, Jo was fetched away from his crossing to a public-house, where the Coroner was holding an Inquest – an "Inkwich" Jo called it.

"Did the boy know the deceased?" asked the Coroner.

Indeed Jo had known him; it was his only friend who was dead.

"He was very good to me, he was," was all poor Jo could say.

The next day they buried the dead man in the churchyard hard by.

But that night there came a slouching figure through the court to the iron gate. It stood looking in for a little while, then with an old broom it softly swept the step and made the archway clean. It was poor Jo; and as he went away, he softly said to himself, "He was very good to me, he was."

Now, there happened to be at the Inquest a kind-hearted little man named Snagsby, and he pitied Jo so much that he gave him half-a-crown.

Jo was very sad after the death of his one friend. The more so as his friend had died in great poverty and misery, with no one near him to care whether he lived or not.

A few days after the funeral, while Jo was still living on Mr. Snagsby's half-crown, he was standing at his crossing as the day closed in, when a lady, closely veiled and plainly dressed, came up to him.

"Are you the boy Jo who was examined at the Inquest?" she asked.

"That's me," said Jo.

"Come farther up the court, I want to speak to you."

"Wot, about him as was dead? Did you know him?"

"How dare you ask me if I knew him?"

"No offence, my lady," said Jo humbly.

"Listen and hold your tongue. Show me the place where he lived, then where he died, then where they buried him. Go in front of me, don't look back once, and I'll pay you well."

Jo takes her to each of the places she wants to see. Then she draws off her glove, and Jo sees that she has sparkling rings on her fingers. She drops a coin into his hand and is gone. Jo holds the coin to the light and sees to his joy that it is a golden sovereign.

But people in Jo's position in life find it hard to change a sovereign, for who will believe that they can come by it honestly? So poor little Jo didn't get much of the sovereign for himself, for, as he afterwards told Mr. Snagsby —

"I had to pay five bob down in Tom-all-Alones before they'd square it for to give me change, and then a young man he thieved another five while I was asleep, and a boy he thieved ninepence, and the landlord he stood drains round with a lot more of it."

As time went on Jo's troubles began in earnest. The police turned him away from his crossing, and wheresoever they met him ordered him "to move on."

Once a policeman, angry to find that Jo hadn't moved on, seized him by the arm and dragged him down to Mr. Snagsby's.

"What's the matter, constable?" asked Mr. Snagsby.

"This boy's as obstinate a young gonoph as I know: although repeatedly told to, he won't move on."

"I'm always amoving on," cried Jo. "Oh, my eye, where am I to move to?"

"My instructions don't go to that," the constable answered; "my instructions are that you're to keep moving on. Now the simple question is, sir," turning to Mr. Snagsby, "whether you know him. He says you do."

"Yes, I know him."

"Very well, I leave him here; but mind you keep moving on."

The constable then moved on himself, leaving Jo at Mr. Snagsby's. There was a little tea-party there that evening, and when Jo was at last allowed to go, Mr. Snagsby followed him to the door and filled his hands with the remains of the little feast they had had upstairs.

And now Jo began to find life harder and rougher than ever. He lost his crossing altogether, and spent day after day in moving on. He remembered a poor woman he had once done a kindness to, who had told him she lived at St. Albans, and that a lady there had been very good to her. "Perhaps she'll be good to me," thought Jo, and he started off to go to St. Albans.

One Saturday night Jo reached that town very tired and very ill. Happily for him the woman met him and took him into her cottage. While he was resting there a lady came in and asked him very kindly what was the matter.

"I'm abeing froze and then burnt up, and then froze and burnt up again, ever so many times over in an hour. And my head's all sleepy, and all agoing round like, and I'm so dry, and my bones is nothing half so much bones as pain."

"Where are you going?"

"Somewheres," replied Jo, "I'm a-being moved on, I am."

"Well, to-night you must come with me, and I'll make you comfortable." So Jo went with the lady to a great house not far off, and there they made a bed for him, and brought him tempting wholesome food. Everyone was very kind to him, but something frightened Jo, and he felt he could not stay there, and he ran out into the cold night air. Where he went he could never remember, for when he next came to his senses he found himself in a hospital. He stayed there for some weeks, and was then discharged, though still weak and ill. He was very thin, and when he drew a breath his chest was very painful. "It draws," said Jo, "as heavy as a cart."

Now, a certain young doctor who was very kind to poor people, was walking through Tom-all-Alones one morning, when he saw a ragged figure coming along, crouching close to the dirty wall. It was Jo. The young doctor took pity on Jo. "Come with me," he said, "and I will find you a better place than this to stay in," for he saw that the lad was very, very ill. So Jo was taken to a clean little room, and bathed, and had clean clothes, and good food, and kind people about him once more, but he was too ill now, far too ill, for anything to do him any good.

"Let me lie here quiet," said poor Jo, "and be so kind anyone as is passin' nigh where I used to sweep, as to say to Mr. Snagsby as Jo, wot he knew once, is amoving on."

One day the young doctor was sitting by him, when suddenly Jo made a strong effort to get out of bed.

"Stay, Jo – where now?"

"It's time for me to go to that there burying-ground."

"What burying-ground, Jo?"

"Where they laid him as was very good to me, very good to me indeed he was. It's time for me to go down to that there burying-ground, sir, and ask to be put along of him. I wants to go there and be buried. Will you promise to have me took there and laid along with him?"

"I will indeed."

"Thankee, sir. There's a step there as I used to sweep with my broom. It's turned very dark, sir, is there any light coming?"

"It's coming fast, Jo."

Then silence for a while.

"Jo, my poor fellow – !"

"I can hear you, sir, in the dark."

"Jo, can you say what I say?"

"I'll say anything you say, sir, for I knows it's good."

"Our Father."

"Our Father – yes, that's very good, sir."

"Which art in Heaven."

"Art in Heaven. Is the light a-coming, sir?"

"It's close at hand. Hallowed be Thy name."

"Hallowed be Thy" —

The light had come. Oh yes! the light had come, for Jo was dead.

MRS. KENWIGS was the wife of an ivory turner, and though they only had a very humble home of two rooms in a dingy-looking house in a small street, they had great pretensions to being "genteel." The little Miss Kenwigs had their flaxen hair plaited into pig-tails and tied with blue ribbons, and wore little white trousers with frills round their ankles, the highest fashion of that day; besides being dressed with such elegance, the two eldest girls went twice a week to a dancing school. Mrs. Kenwigs, too, had an uncle who collected the water rate, and she was therefore considered a person of great distinction, with quite the manners of a lady. On the eighth anniversary of their wedding day, Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs invited a party of friends to supper to celebrate the occasion. The four eldest children were to be allowed to sit up to supper, and the uncle, Mr. Lillyvick, had promised to come. The baby was put to bed in a little room lent by one of the lady guests, and a little girl hired to watch him. All the company had assembled when a ring was heard, and Morleena, whose name had been invented by Mrs. Kenwigs specially for her, ran down to open the door and lead in her distinguished great-uncle, then the supper was brought in.

The table was cleared; Mr. Lillyvick established in the arm-chair by the fireside; the four little girls arranged on a small form in front of the company with their flaxen tails towards them; Mrs. Kenwigs was suddenly dissolved in tears and sobbed out —

"They are so beautiful!"

"Oh, dear," said all the ladies, "so they are; it's very natural you should feel proud of that; but don't give way, don't."

"I can – not help it, and it don't signify," sobbed Mrs. Kenwigs: "oh! they're too beautiful to live, much too beautiful."

On hearing this dismal prophecy, all four little girls screamed until their light flaxen tails vibrated again, and rushed to bury their heads in their mother's lap.

At length she was soothed, and the children calmed down; while the ladies and gentlemen all said they were sure they would live for many many years, and there was no occasion for their mother's distress: and as the children were not so remarkably lovely, this was quite true.

Then Mr. Lillyvick talked to the company about his niece's marriage, and said graciously that he had always found Mr. Kenwigs a very honest, well-behaved, upright, and respectable sort of man, and shook hands with him, and then Morleena and her sisters kissed their uncle and most of the guests.



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