Charles Dickens' Children Stories
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"Do with him?" answered Mr. Dick. Then, after some consideration, and looking at David, he said, "Well, if I was you, I would wash him!"
David knelt down to say his prayers that night in a pleasant room facing the sea, and as he lay in the clean, snow-white bed, he prayed he might never be homeless again, and might never forget the homeless.
The next morning his aunt told him she had written to Mr. Murdstone, and at last Mr. and Miss Murdstone arrived.
Mr. Murdstone told Miss Betsy that David was a very bad, stubborn, violent-tempered boy, whom he had tried to improve, but could not succeed. If Miss Trotwood chose to protect and encourage him now, she must do it always, for he had come to fetch him away.
"Are you ready to go, David?" asked his aunt.
But David answered no, and begged and prayed her for his father's sake to befriend and protect him, for neither Mr. nor Miss Murdstone had ever liked him or been kind to him.
"Mr. Dick," said Miss Trotwood, "what shall I do with this child?"
Mr. Dick considered. "Have him measured for a suit of clothes directly."
"Mr. Dick," said Miss Trotwood, "your common sense is invaluable."
Then she pulled David towards her, and said to Mr. Murdstone, "You can go when you like. I'll take my chance with the boy. If he's all you say he is I can at least do as much for him as you have done. But I don't believe a word of it."
Some clothes were bought for him that same day and marked "Trotwood Copperfield," for his aunt wished to call him by her name.
Now David felt his troubles were over, and he began quite a new life, well cared for and kindly treated. He was sent to a very nice school in Canterbury, where his aunt left him with these words, which David never forgot.
"Trot, be a credit to yourself, to me, and Mr. Dick, and Heaven be with you. Never be mean in anything, never be false, never be cruel. Avoid these three vices, Trot, and I shall always be hopeful of you."
David did his best to show his gratitude to his dear aunt by studying hard, and trying to be all she could wish.
When you are older you can read how he grew up to be a good, clever man, and met again all his old friends, and made many new ones.
ONE day, a great many years ago, a gentleman ran up the steps of a tall house in the neighborhood of St. Mary Axe.
The gentleman knocked and rang several times before any one came, but at last an old man opened the door. "What were you up to that you did not hear me?" said Mr. Fledgeby irritably.
"I was taking the air at the top of the house, sir," said the old man meekly, "it being a holiday. What might you please to want, sir?"
"Humph! Holiday indeed," grumbled his master, who was a toy merchant amongst other things. He then seated himself and gave the old man – a Jew and Riah by name – directions about the dressing of some dolls, and, as he rose to go, exclaimed —
"By the bye, how do you take the air? Do you stick your head out of a chimney-pot?"
"No, sir, I have made a little garden on the roof."
"Let's look at it," said Mr.Fledgeby.
"Sir, I have company there," returned Riah hesitating, "but will you please come up and see them?"
Mr. Fledgeby nodded, and the old man led the way up flight after flight of stairs, till they arrived at the house-top. Seated on a carpet, and leaning against a chimney-stack, were two girls bending over books. Some creepers were trained round the chimney-pots, and evergreens were placed round the roof, and a few more books, a basket of gaily colored scraps, and bits of tinsel, lay near. One of the girls rose on seeing that Riah had brought a visitor, but the other remarked, "I'm the person of the house downstairs, but I can't get up, whoever you are, because my back is bad, and my legs are queer."
"This is my master," said Riah speaking to the two girls, "and this," he added, turning to Mr. Fledgeby, "is Miss Jenny Wren; she lives in this house, and is a clever little dressmaker for little people. Her friend Lizzie," continued Riah, introducing the second girl. "They are good girls, both, and as busy as they are good; in spare moments they come up here, and take to book learning."
"Humph!" said Mr. Fledgeby, looking round, "Humph!" He was so much surprised that apparently he couldn't get beyond that word.
Lizzie, the elder of these two girls, was strong and handsome, but the little Jenny Wren, whom she so loved and protected, was small, and deformed, though she had a beautiful little face, and the longest and loveliest golden hair in the world, which fell about her like a cloak of shining curls, as though to hide the poor little misshapen figure.
The Jew Riah, as well as Lizzie, was always kind and gentle to Jenny Wren, who called him godfather. She had a father, who shared her poor little rooms, whom she called her child, for he was a bad, drunken, disreputable old man, and the poor girl had to care for him, and earn money to keep them both. Sometimes the two girls, Jenny helping herself along with a crutch, would go and walk about the fashionable streets. As they walked along, Jenny would tell her friend of the fancies she had when sitting alone at her work. "I imagine birds till I can hear them sing," she said one day, "and flowers till I can smell them. And oh! the beautiful children that come to me, in the early mornings! They are quite different to other children, not like me, never cold, or anxious, or tired, or hungry, never any pain; they come in numbers, in long bright slanting rows, all dressed in white, with shiny heads. 'Who is this in pain?' they say, and they sweep around and about me, take me up in their arms, and I feel so light, and all the pain goes. I know they are coming a long way off, by hearing them say, 'Who is this in pain?' and I answer, 'Oh my blessed children, it's poor me! have pity on me, and take me up and then the pain will go.'"
Lizzie sat stroking and brushing the beautiful hair, when they were at home again, and as she kissed her good-night, a miserable old man stumbled into the room. "How's my Jenny Wren, best of children?" he mumbled, as he shuffled unsteadily towards her, but Jenny pointed her small finger towards him exclaiming – "Go along with you, you bad, wicked, old child, you troublesome, wicked, old thing, I know where you have been; ain't you ashamed of yourself, you disgraceful boy?" "Yes; my dear, yes," stammered the tipsy old father, tumbling into a corner. One day when Jenny was on her way home with Riah, they came on a small crowd of people. A tipsy man had been knocked down and badly hurt – "Let us see what it is!" said Jennie. The next moment she exclaimed – "Oh, gentlemen – gentlemen, he is my child, he belongs to me, my poor, bad, old child!"
"Your child – belongs to you – " repeated the man who was about to lift the helpless figure on to a stretcher. "Aye, it's old Dolls – tipsy old Dolls – " cried some one in the crowd, for it was by this name that they knew the old man.
"He's her father, sir," said Riah in a low tone to the doctor who was now bending over the stretcher.
"So much the worse," answered the doctor, "for the man is dead."
Yes, "Mr. Dolls" was dead, and many were the dresses which the weary fingers of the sorrowful little worker must make in order to pay for his humble funeral, and buy a black frock for herself. Often the tears rolled down on to her work. "My poor child," she said to Riah, "my poor old child, and to think I scolded him so."
"You were always a good, brave, patient girl," returned Riah, "always good and patient, however tired."
And so the poor little "person of the house" was left alone but for the faithful affection of the kind Jew, and her friend Lizzie. Her room grew pretty comfortable, for she was in great request in her "profession" as she called it, and there was now no one to spend and waste her earnings. But nothing could make her life otherwise than a suffering one till the happy morning, when her child-angels visited her for the last time and carried her away to the land where all such pain as hers is healed for evermore.
ALL that little Philip Pirrip, usually called Pip, knew about his father and mother, and five little brothers, was from seeing their tombstones in the churchyard. He was taken care of by his sister, who was twenty years older than himself. She had married a blacksmith, named Joe Gargery, a kind, good man, while she, unfortunately, was a hard, stern woman, and treated her little brother and her amiable husband with great harshness. They lived in a marshy part of the country, about twenty miles from the sea.
One cold raw day towards evening, when Pip was about six years old, he wandered into the churchyard, and trying to make out what he could of the inscriptions on his family tombstones, and the darkness coming on, he felt very lonely and frightened, and began to cry.
"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, and a man started up from among the graves close to him. "Keep still, you little imp, or I'll cut your throat!"
He was a dreadful looking man, dressed in coarse grey cloth, with a great iron on his leg. Wet, muddy and miserable, his teeth chattered in his head, as he seized Pip by the chin.
"Oh! don't cut my throat, sir," cried Pip, in terror.
"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"
"Once more," said the man, staring at him. "Give it mouth."
"Pip. Pip, sir."
"Show us where you live," said the man. "Point out the place."
Pip showed him the village, about a mile or more from the church.
The man looked at him for a moment, and then turned him upside down and emptied his pockets. He found nothing in them but a piece of bread, which he ate ravenously.
"Now lookee here," said the man. "Where's your mother?"
"There, sir," said Pip.
At this the man started to run away, but stopped and looked over his shoulder.
"There, sir," explained Pip, showing him the tombstone.
"Oh, and is that your father along of your mother?"
"Yes, sir," said Pip.
"Ha!" muttered the man, "then who d'ye live with – supposin' you're kindly let to live, which I han't made up my mind about?"
"My sister, sir, Mrs. Joe Gargery, wife of Joe Gargery, the blacksmith, sir."
"Blacksmith, eh?" said the man, and looked down at his leg. Then he seized the trembling little boy by both arms, and glaring down at him, he said, —
"Now lookee here, the question being whether you're to be let to live – You know what a file is?"
"And you know what wittles is?"
"You get me a file, and you get me wittles – you bring 'em both to me." All this time he was tilting poor Pip backwards till he was dreadfully frightened and giddy.
"You bring me, to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles – You do it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having seen such a person as me, or any person sumever, and you shall be let to live." Then he let him go, saying – "You remember what you've undertook, and you get home."
Pip ran home without stopping. Joe was sitting in the chimney corner, and told him Mrs. Joe had been out to look for him, and taken Tickler with her. Tickler was a cane, and Pip was rather depressed by this piece of news.
Mrs. Joe came in almost directly, and after having given Pip a taste of Tickler, she sat down to prepare the tea, and cutting a huge slice of bread and butter, she gave half of it to Joe and half to Pip. Pip managed, after some time, to slip his down the leg of his trousers, and Joe, thinking he had swallowed it, was dreadfully alarmed and begged him not to bolt his food like that. "Pip, old chap, you'll do yourself a mischief, – it'll stick somewhere, you can't have chewed it, Pip. You know, Pip, you and me is always friends, and I'd be the last to tell upon you at any time, but such a – such a most uncommon bolt as that."
"Been bolting his food, has he?" cried Mrs. Joe.
"You know, old chap," said Joe, "I bolted myself when I was your age – frequent – and as a boy I've been among many bolters; but I never see your bolting equal yet, Pip, and it's a mercy you ain't bolted dead."
Poor Pip passed a wretched night, thinking of the dreadful promise he had made, and as soon as it was beginning to get light outside he got up and crept downstairs.
As quickly as he could he took some bread, some cheese, about half a jar of mince-meat he tied up in a handkerchief, with the slice of bread and butter, some brandy from a stone bottle, a meat bone with very little on it, and a pork pie, which he found on an upper shelf. Then he got a file from among Joe's tools, and ran for the marshes.
Pip found the man waiting for him, half dead with cold and hunger, and he ate the food in such a ravenous way that Pip, in spite of his terror, was quite pitiful over him, and said, "I am glad you enjoy it."
"Thankee, my boy, I do."
Pip watched him trying to file the iron off his leg, and then, being afraid of stopping longer away from home, he ran off.
Pip passed a wretched morning expecting every moment that the disappearance of the pie would be found out. But Mrs. Joe was too much taken up with preparing the dinner, for they were expecting visitors.
Just at the end of the dinner Pip thought his time had come to be found out, for his sister said graciously to her guests —
"You must taste a most delightful and delicious present I have had. It's a pie, a savory pork pie."
Pip could bear it no longer, and ran for the door, and there ran head foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets, one of whom held out a pair of handcuffs to him saying – "Here you are, look sharp, come on." But they had not come for him, they only wanted Joe to mend the handcuffs, for they were on the search for two convicts who had escaped and were somewhere hid in the marshes. This turned the attention of Mrs. Joe from the disappearance of the pie without which she had come back, in great astonishment. When the handcuffs were mended the soldiers went off, accompanied by Joe and one of the visitors, and Joe took Pip and carried him on his back.
Pip whispered, "I hope, Joe, we shan't find them," and Joe answered "I'd give a shilling if they had cut and run, Pip."
But the soldiers soon caught them, and one was Pip's miserable acquaintance, and once when the man looked at Pip, the child shook his head to try and let him know he had said nothing.
But the convict, without looking at anyone, told the Sergeant he wanted to say something to prevent other people being under suspicion, and said he had taken some "wittles" from the blacksmith's. "It was some broken wittles, that's what it was, and a dram of liquor, and a pie."
"Have you happened to miss such an article as a pie, blacksmith?" enquired the Sergeant.
"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in."
"So," said the convict, looking at Joe, "you're the blacksmith, are you? Then I'm sorry to say, I've eat your pie."
"God knows you're welcome to it," said Joe. "We don't know what you have done, but we wouldn't have you starved to death for it, poor miserable fellow creature. Would us, Pip?"
Then the boat came, and the convicts were taken back to prison, and Joe carried Pip home.
Some years after, some mysterious friend sent money for Pip to be educated and brought up as a gentleman, but it was only when Pip was quite grown up that he discovered this mysterious friend was the wretched convict who had frightened him so dreadfully that cold, dark Christmas Eve.
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