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Chapter 8 Of the Internal Economy of Dotheboys Hall

  • A ride of two hundred and odd miles in severe weather, is one of the bes_ofteners of a hard bed that ingenuity can devise. Perhaps it is even _weetener of dreams, for those which hovered over the rough couch of Nicholas, and whispered their airy nothings in his ear, were of an agreeable and happ_ind. He was making his fortune very fast indeed, when the faint glimmer of a_xpiring candle shone before his eyes, and a voice he had no difficulty i_ecognising as part and parcel of Mr Squeers, admonished him that it was tim_o rise.
  • 'Past seven, Nickleby,' said Mr Squeers.
  • 'Has morning come already?' asked Nicholas, sitting up in bed.
  • 'Ah! that has it,' replied Squeers, 'and ready iced too. Now, Nickleby, come; tumble up, will you?'
  • Nicholas needed no further admonition, but 'tumbled up' at once, and proceede_o dress himself by the light of the taper, which Mr Squeers carried in hi_and.
  • 'Here's a pretty go,' said that gentleman; 'the pump's froze.'
  • 'Indeed!' said Nicholas, not much interested in the intelligence.
  • 'Yes,' replied Squeers. 'You can't wash yourself this morning.'
  • 'Not wash myself!' exclaimed Nicholas.
  • 'No, not a bit of it,' rejoined Squeers tartly. 'So you must be content wit_iving yourself a dry polish till we break the ice in the well, and can get _ucketful out for the boys. Don't stand staring at me, but do look sharp, wil_ou?'
  • Offering no further observation, Nicholas huddled on his clothes. Squeers, meanwhile, opened the shutters and blew the candle out; when the voice of hi_miable consort was heard in the passage, demanding admittance.
  • 'Come in, my love,' said Squeers.
  • Mrs Squeers came in, still habited in the primitive night-jacket which ha_isplayed the symmetry of her figure on the previous night, and furthe_rnamented with a beaver bonnet of some antiquity, which she wore, with muc_ase and lightness, on the top of the nightcap before mentioned.
  • 'Drat the things,' said the lady, opening the cupboard; 'I can't find th_chool spoon anywhere.'
  • 'Never mind it, my dear,' observed Squeers in a soothing manner; 'it's of n_onsequence.'
  • 'No consequence, why how you talk!' retorted Mrs Squeers sharply; 'isn't i_rimstone morning?'
  • 'I forgot, my dear,' rejoined Squeers; 'yes, it certainly is. We purify th_oys' bloods now and then, Nickleby.'
  • 'Purify fiddlesticks' ends,' said his lady. 'Don't think, young man, that w_o to the expense of flower of brimstone and molasses, just to purify them; because if you think we carry on the business in that way, you'll fin_ourself mistaken, and so I tell you plainly.'
  • 'My dear,' said Squeers frowning. 'Hem!'
  • 'Oh! nonsense,' rejoined Mrs Squeers. 'If the young man comes to be a teache_ere, let him understand, at once, that we don't want any foolery about th_oys. They have the brimstone and treacle, partly because if they hadn'_omething or other in the way of medicine they'd be always ailing and giving _orld of trouble, and partly because it spoils their appetites and come_heaper than breakfast and dinner. So, it does them good and us good at th_ame time, and that's fair enough I'm sure.'
  • Having given this explanation, Mrs Squeers put her head into the closet an_nstituted a stricter search after the spoon, in which Mr Squeers assisted. _ew words passed between them while they were thus engaged, but as thei_oices were partially stifled by the cupboard, all that Nicholas coul_istinguish was, that Mr Squeers said what Mrs Squeers had said, wa_njudicious, and that Mrs Squeers said what Mr Squeers said, was 'stuff.'
  • A vast deal of searching and rummaging ensued, and it proving fruitless, Smik_as called in, and pushed by Mrs Squeers, and boxed by Mr Squeers; whic_ourse of treatment brightening his intellects, enabled him to suggest tha_ossibly Mrs Squeers might have the spoon in her pocket, as indeed turned ou_o be the case. As Mrs Squeers had previously protested, however, that she wa_uite certain she had not got it, Smike received another box on the ear fo_resuming to contradict his mistress, together with a promise of a soun_hrashing if he were not more respectful in future; so that he took nothin_ery advantageous by his motion.
  • 'A most invaluable woman, that, Nickleby,' said Squeers when his consort ha_urried away, pushing the drudge before her.
  • 'Indeed, sir!' observed Nicholas.
  • 'I don't know her equal,' said Squeers; 'I do not know her equal. That woman, Nickleby, is always the same—always the same bustling, lively, active, savin_reetur that you see her now.'
  • Nicholas sighed involuntarily at the thought of the agreeable domesti_rospect thus opened to him; but Squeers was, fortunately, too much occupie_ith his own reflections to perceive it.
  • 'It's my way to say, when I am up in London,' continued Squeers, 'that to the_oys she is a mother. But she is more than a mother to them; ten times more.
  • She does things for them boys, Nickleby, that I don't believe half the mother_oing, would do for their own sons.'
  • 'I should think they would not, sir,' answered Nicholas.
  • Now, the fact was, that both Mr and Mrs Squeers viewed the boys in the ligh_f their proper and natural enemies; or, in other words, they held an_onsidered that their business and profession was to get as much from ever_oy as could by possibility be screwed out of him. On this point they wer_oth agreed, and behaved in unison accordingly. The only difference betwee_hem was, that Mrs Squeers waged war against the enemy openly and fearlessly, and that Squeers covered his rascality, even at home, with a spice of hi_abitual deceit; as if he really had a notion of someday or other being abl_o take himself in, and persuade his own mind that he was a very good fellow.
  • 'But come,' said Squeers, interrupting the progress of some thoughts to thi_ffect in the mind of his usher, 'let's go to the schoolroom; and lend me _and with my school-coat, will you?'
  • Nicholas assisted his master to put on an old fustian shooting- jacket, whic_e took down from a peg in the passage; and Squeers, arming himself with hi_ane, led the way across a yard, to a door in the rear of the house.
  • 'There,' said the schoolmaster as they stepped in together; 'this is our shop, Nickleby!'
  • It was such a crowded scene, and there were so many objects to attrac_ttention, that, at first, Nicholas stared about him, really without seein_nything at all. By degrees, however, the place resolved itself into a bar_nd dirty room, with a couple of windows, whereof a tenth part might be o_lass, the remainder being stopped up with old copy-books and paper. Ther_ere a couple of long old rickety desks, cut and notched, and inked, an_amaged, in every possible way; two or three forms; a detached desk fo_queers; and another for his assistant. The ceiling was supported, like tha_f a barn, by cross-beams and rafters; and the walls were so stained an_iscoloured, that it was impossible to tell whether they had ever been touche_ith paint or whitewash.
  • But the pupils—the young noblemen! How the last faint traces of hope, th_emotest glimmering of any good to be derived from his efforts in this den, faded from the mind of Nicholas as he looked in dismay around! Pale an_aggard faces, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances of ol_en, deformities with irons upon their limbs, boys of stunted growth, an_thers whose long meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies, al_rowded on the view together; there were the bleared eye, the hare-lip, th_rooked foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural aversio_onceived by parents for their offspring, or of young lives which, from th_arliest dawn of infancy, had been one horrible endurance of cruelty an_eglect. There were little faces which should have been handsome, darkene_ith the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering; there was childhood with the ligh_f its eye quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining; there were vicious-faced boys, brooding, with leaden eyes, like malefactors i_ jail; and there were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parent_ad descended, weeping even for the mercenary nurses they had known, an_onesome even in their loneliness. With every kindly sympathy and affectio_lasted in its birth, with every young and healthy feeling flogged and starve_own, with every revengeful passion that can fester in swollen hearts, eatin_ts evil way to their core in silence, what an incipient Hell was breedin_ere!
  • And yet this scene, painful as it was, had its grotesque features, which, in _ess interested observer than Nicholas, might have provoked a smile. Mr_queers stood at one of the desks, presiding over an immense basin o_rimstone and treacle, of which delicious compound she administered a larg_nstalment to each boy in succession: using for the purpose a common woode_poon, which might have been originally manufactured for some gigantic top, and which widened every young gentleman's mouth considerably: they being al_bliged, under heavy corporal penalties, to take in the whole of the bowl at _asp. In another corner, huddled together for companionship, were the littl_oys who had arrived on the preceding night, three of them in very larg_eather breeches, and two in old trousers, a something tighter fit tha_rawers are usually worn; at no great distance from these was seated th_uvenile son and heir of Mr Squeers—a striking likeness of his father—kicking, with great vigour, under the hands of Smike, who was fitting upon him a pai_f new boots that bore a most suspicious resemblance to those which the leas_f the little boys had worn on the journey down—as the little boy himsel_eemed to think, for he was regarding the appropriation with a look of mos_ueful amazement. Besides these, there was a long row of boys waiting, wit_ountenances of no pleasant anticipation, to be treacled; and another file, who had just escaped from the infliction, making a variety of wry mouth_ndicative of anything but satisfaction. The whole were attired in suc_otley, ill-assorted, extraordinary garments, as would have been irresistibl_idiculous, but for the foul appearance of dirt, disorder, and disease, wit_hich they were associated.
  • 'Now,' said Squeers, giving the desk a great rap with his cane, which mad_alf the little boys nearly jump out of their boots, 'is that physickin_ver?'
  • 'Just over,' said Mrs Squeers, choking the last boy in her hurry, and tappin_he crown of his head with the wooden spoon to restore him. 'Here, you Smike; take away now. Look sharp!'
  • Smike shuffled out with the basin, and Mrs Squeers having called up a littl_oy with a curly head, and wiped her hands upon it, hurried out after him int_ species of wash-house, where there was a small fire and a large kettle, together with a number of little wooden bowls which were arranged upon _oard.
  • Into these bowls, Mrs Squeers, assisted by the hungry servant, poured a brow_omposition, which looked like diluted pincushions without the covers, and wa_alled porridge. A minute wedge of brown bread was inserted in each bowl, an_hen they had eaten their porridge by means of the bread, the boys ate th_read itself, and had finished their breakfast; whereupon Mr Squeers said, i_ solemn voice, 'For what we have received, may the Lord make us trul_hankful!'—and went away to his own.
  • Nicholas distended his stomach with a bowl of porridge, for much the sam_eason which induces some savages to swallow earth—lest they should b_nconveniently hungry when there is nothing to eat. Having further disposed o_ slice of bread and butter, allotted to him in virtue of his office, he sa_imself down, to wait for school-time.
  • He could not but observe how silent and sad the boys all seemed to be. Ther_as none of the noise and clamour of a schoolroom; none of its boisterou_lay, or hearty mirth. The children sat crouching and shivering together, an_eemed to lack the spirit to move about. The only pupil who evinced th_lightest tendency towards locomotion or playfulness was Master Squeers, an_s his chief amusement was to tread upon the other boys' toes in his ne_oots, his flow of spirits was rather disagreeable than otherwise.
  • After some half-hour's delay, Mr Squeers reappeared, and the boys took thei_laces and their books, of which latter commodity the average might be abou_ne to eight learners. A few minutes having elapsed, during which Mr Squeer_ooked very profound, as if he had a perfect apprehension of what was insid_ll the books, and could say every word of their contents by heart if he onl_hose to take the trouble, that gentleman called up the first class.
  • Obedient to this summons there ranged themselves in front of th_choolmaster's desk, half-a-dozen scarecrows, out at knees and elbows, one o_hom placed a torn and filthy book beneath his learned eye.
  • 'This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy, Nickleby,' sai_queers, beckoning Nicholas to stand beside him. 'We'll get up a Latin one, and hand that over to you. Now, then, where's the first boy?'
  • 'Please, sir, he's cleaning the back-parlour window,' said the temporary hea_f the philosophical class.
  • 'So he is, to be sure,' rejoined Squeers. 'We go upon the practical mode o_eaching, Nickleby; the regular education system. C-l-e-a- n, clean, ver_ctive, to make bright, to scour. W-i-n, win, d-e-r, der, winder, a casement.
  • When the boy knows this out of book, he goes and does it. It's just the sam_rinciple as the use of the globes. Where's the second boy?'
  • 'Please, sir, he's weeding the garden,' replied a small voice.
  • 'To be sure,' said Squeers, by no means disconcerted. 'So he is. B-o-t, bot, t-i-n, tin, bottin, n-e-y, ney, bottinney, noun substantive, a knowledge o_lants. When he has learned that bottinney means a knowledge of plants, h_oes and knows 'em. That's our system, Nickleby: what do you think of it?'
  • 'It's very useful one, at any rate,' answered Nicholas.
  • 'I believe you,' rejoined Squeers, not remarking the emphasis of his usher.
  • 'Third boy, what's horse?'
  • 'A beast, sir,' replied the boy.
  • 'So it is,' said Squeers. 'Ain't it, Nickleby?'
  • 'I believe there is no doubt of that, sir,' answered Nicholas.
  • 'Of course there isn't,' said Squeers. 'A horse is a quadruped, an_uadruped's Latin for beast, as everybody that's gone through the gramma_nows, or else where's the use of having grammars at all?'
  • 'Where, indeed!' said Nicholas abstractedly.
  • 'As you're perfect in that,' resumed Squeers, turning to the boy, 'go and loo_fter MY horse, and rub him down well, or I'll rub you down. The rest of th_lass go and draw water up, till somebody tells you to leave off, for it'_ashing-day tomorrow, and they want the coppers filled.'
  • So saying, he dismissed the first class to their experiments in practica_hilosophy, and eyed Nicholas with a look, half cunning and half doubtful, a_f he were not altogether certain what he might think of him by this time.
  • 'That's the way we do it, Nickleby,' he said, after a pause.
  • Nicholas shrugged his shoulders in a manner that was scarcely perceptible, an_aid he saw it was.
  • 'And a very good way it is, too,' said Squeers. 'Now, just take them fourtee_ittle boys and hear them some reading, because, you know, you must begin t_e useful. Idling about here won't do.'
  • Mr Squeers said this, as if it had suddenly occurred to him, either that h_ust not say too much to his assistant, or that his assistant did not sa_nough to him in praise of the establishment. The children were arranged in _emicircle round the new master, and he was soon listening to their dull, drawling, hesitating recital of those stories of engrossing interest which ar_o be found in the more antiquated spelling-books.
  • In this exciting occupation, the morning lagged heavily on. At one o'clock, the boys, having previously had their appetites thoroughly taken away by stir- about and potatoes, sat down in the kitchen to some hard salt beef, of whic_icholas was graciously permitted to take his portion to his own solitar_esk, to eat it there in peace. After this, there was another hour o_rouching in the schoolroom and shivering with cold, and then school bega_gain.
  • It was Mr Squeer's custom to call the boys together, and make a sort o_eport, after every half-yearly visit to the metropolis, regarding th_elations and friends he had seen, the news he had heard, the letters he ha_rought down, the bills which had been paid, the accounts which had been lef_npaid, and so forth. This solemn proceeding always took place in th_fternoon of the day succeeding his return; perhaps, because the boys acquire_trength of mind from the suspense of the morning, or, possibly, because M_queers himself acquired greater sternness and inflexibility from certain war_otations in which he was wont to indulge after his early dinner. Be this a_t may, the boys were recalled from house- window, garden, stable, and cow- yard, and the school were assembled in full conclave, when Mr Squeers, with _mall bundle of papers in his hand, and Mrs S. following with a pair of canes, entered the room and proclaimed silence.
  • 'Let any boy speak a word without leave,' said Mr Squeers mildly, 'and I'l_ake the skin off his back.'
  • This special proclamation had the desired effect, and a deathlike silenc_mmediately prevailed, in the midst of which Mr Squeers went on to say:
  • 'Boys, I've been to London, and have returned to my family and you, as stron_nd well as ever.'
  • According to half-yearly custom, the boys gave three feeble cheers at thi_efreshing intelligence. Such cheers! Sights of extra strength with the chil_n.
  • 'I have seen the parents of some boys,' continued Squeers, turning over hi_apers, 'and they're so glad to hear how their sons are getting on, tha_here's no prospect at all of their going away, which of course is a ver_leasant thing to reflect upon, for all parties.'
  • Two or three hands went to two or three eyes when Squeers said this, but th_reater part of the young gentlemen having no particular parents to speak of, were wholly uninterested in the thing one way or other.
  • 'I have had diappointments to contend against,' said Squeers, looking ver_rim; 'Bolder's father was two pound ten short. Where is Bolder?'
  • 'Here he is, please sir,' rejoined twenty officious voices. Boys are very lik_en to be sure.
  • 'Come here, Bolder,' said Squeers.
  • An unhealthy-looking boy, with warts all over his hands, stepped from hi_lace to the master's desk, and raised his eyes imploringly to Squeers's face; his own, quite white from the rapid beating of his heart.
  • 'Bolder,' said Squeers, speaking very slowly, for he was considering, as th_aying goes, where to have him. 'Bolder, if you father thinks tha_ecause—why, what's this, sir?'
  • As Squeers spoke, he caught up the boy's hand by the cuff of his jacket, an_urveyed it with an edifying aspect of horror and disgust.
  • 'What do you call this, sir?' demanded the schoolmaster, administering a cu_ith the cane to expedite the reply.
  • 'I can't help it, indeed, sir,' rejoined the boy, crying. 'They will come; it's the dirty work I think, sir—at least I don't know what it is, sir, bu_t's not my fault.'
  • 'Bolder,' said Squeers, tucking up his wristbands, and moistening the palm o_is right hand to get a good grip of the cane, 'you're an incorrigible youn_coundrel, and as the last thrashing did you no good, we must see what anothe_ill do towards beating it out of you.'
  • With this, and wholly disregarding a piteous cry for mercy, Mr Squeers fel_pon the boy and caned him soundly: not leaving off, indeed, until his arm wa_ired out.
  • 'There,' said Squeers, when he had quite done; 'rub away as hard as you like, you won't rub that off in a hurry. Oh! you won't hold that noise, won't you?
  • Put him out, Smike.'
  • The drudge knew better from long experience, than to hesitate about obeying, so he bundled the victim out by a side-door, and Mr Squeers perched himsel_gain on his own stool, supported by Mrs Squeers, who occupied another at hi_ide.
  • 'Now let us see,' said Squeers. 'A letter for Cobbey. Stand up, Cobbey.'
  • Another boy stood up, and eyed the letter very hard while Squeers made _ental abstract of the same.
  • 'Oh!' said Squeers: 'Cobbey's grandmother is dead, and his uncle John has too_o drinking, which is all the news his sister sends, except eighteenpence, which will just pay for that broken square of glass. Mrs Squeers, my dear, will you take the money?'
  • The worthy lady pocketed the eighteenpence with a most business-like air, an_queers passed on to the next boy, as coolly as possible.
  • 'Graymarsh,' said Squeers, 'he's the next. Stand up, Graymarsh.'
  • Another boy stood up, and the schoolmaster looked over the letter as before.
  • 'Graymarsh's maternal aunt,' said Squeers, when he had possessed himself o_he contents, 'is very glad to hear he's so well and happy, and sends he_espectful compliments to Mrs Squeers, and thinks she must be an angel. Sh_ikewise thinks Mr Squeers is too good for this world; but hopes he may lon_e spared to carry on the business. Would have sent the two pair of stocking_s desired, but is short of money, so forwards a tract instead, and hope_raymarsh will put his trust in Providence. Hopes, above all, that he wil_tudy in everything to please Mr and Mrs Squeers, and look upon them as hi_nly friends; and that he will love Master Squeers; and not object to sleepin_ive in a bed, which no Christian should. Ah!' said Squeers, folding it up, '_elightful letter. Very affecting indeed.'
  • It was affecting in one sense, for Graymarsh's maternal aunt was strongl_upposed, by her more intimate friends, to be no other than his materna_arent; Squeers, however, without alluding to this part of the story (whic_ould have sounded immoral before boys), proceeded with the business b_alling out 'Mobbs,' whereupon another boy rose, and Graymarsh resumed hi_eat.
  • 'Mobbs's step-mother,' said Squeers, 'took to her bed on hearing that h_ouldn't eat fat, and has been very ill ever since. She wishes to know, by a_arly post, where he expects to go to, if he quarrels with his vittles; an_ith what feelings he could turn up his nose at the cow's-liver broth, afte_is good master had asked a blessing on it. This was told her in the Londo_ewspapers—not by Mr Squeers, for he is too kind and too good to set anybod_gainst anybody—and it has vexed her so much, Mobbs can't think. She is sorr_o find he is discontented, which is sinful and horrid, and hopes Mr Squeer_ill flog him into a happier state of mind; with which view, she has als_topped his halfpenny a week pocket-money, and given a double-bladed knif_ith a corkscrew in it to the Missionaries, which she had bought on purpos_or him.'
  • 'A sulky state of feeling,' said Squeers, after a terrible pause, during whic_e had moistened the palm of his right hand again, 'won't do. Cheerfulness an_ontentment must be kept up. Mobbs, come to me!'
  • Mobbs moved slowly towards the desk, rubbing his eyes in anticipation of goo_ause for doing so; and he soon afterwards retired by the side-door, with a_ood cause as a boy need have.
  • Mr Squeers then proceeded to open a miscellaneous collection of letters; som_nclosing money, which Mrs Squeers 'took care of;' and others referring t_mall articles of apparel, as caps and so forth, all of which the same lad_tated to be too large, or too small, and calculated for nobody but youn_queers, who would appear indeed to have had most accommodating limbs, sinc_verything that came into the school fitted him to a nicety. His head, i_articular, must have been singularly elastic, for hats and caps of al_imensions were alike to him.
  • This business dispatched, a few slovenly lessons were performed, and Squeer_etired to his fireside, leaving Nicholas to take care of the boys in th_chool-room, which was very cold, and where a meal of bread and cheese wa_erved out shortly after dark.
  • There was a small stove at that corner of the room which was nearest to th_aster's desk, and by it Nicholas sat down, so depressed and self-degraded b_he consciousness of his position, that if death could have come upon him a_hat time, he would have been almost happy to meet it. The cruelty of which h_ad been an unwilling witness, the coarse and ruffianly behaviour of Squeer_ven in his best moods, the filthy place, the sights and sounds about him, al_ontributed to this state of feeling; but when he recollected that, bein_here as an assistant, he actually seemed—no matter what unhappy train o_ircumstances had brought him to that pass—to be the aider and abettor of _ystem which filled him with honest disgust and indignation, he loathe_imself, and felt, for the moment, as though the mere consciousness of hi_resent situation must, through all time to come, prevent his raising his hea_gain.
  • But, for the present, his resolve was taken, and the resolution he had forme_n the preceding night remained undisturbed. He had written to his mother an_ister, announcing the safe conclusion of his journey, and saying as littl_bout Dotheboys Hall, and saying that little as cheerfully, as he possibl_ould. He hoped that by remaining where he was, he might do some good, eve_here; at all events, others depended too much on his uncle's favour, to admi_f his awakening his wrath just then.
  • One reflection disturbed him far more than any selfish considerations arisin_ut of his own position. This was the probable destination of his sister Kate.
  • His uncle had deceived him, and might he not consign her to some miserabl_lace where her youth and beauty would prove a far greater curse than uglines_nd decrepitude? To a caged man, bound hand and foot, this was a terribl_dea—but no, he thought, his mother was by; there was the portrait-painter, too—simple enough, but still living in the world, and of it. He was willing t_elieve that Ralph Nickleby had conceived a personal dislike to himself.
  • Having pretty good reason, by this time, to reciprocate it, he had no grea_ifficulty in arriving at this conclusion, and tried to persuade himself tha_he feeling extended no farther than between them.
  • As he was absorbed in these meditations, he all at once encountered th_pturned face of Smike, who was on his knees before the stove, picking a fe_tray cinders from the hearth and planting them on the fire. He had paused t_teal a look at Nicholas, and when he saw that he was observed, shrunk back, as if expecting a blow.
  • 'You need not fear me,' said Nicholas kindly. 'Are you cold?'
  • 'N-n-o.'
  • 'You are shivering.'
  • 'I am not cold,' replied Smike quickly. 'I am used to it.'
  • There was such an obvious fear of giving offence in his manner, and he wa_uch a timid, broken-spirited creature, that Nicholas could not hel_xclaiming, 'Poor fellow!'
  • If he had struck the drudge, he would have slunk away without a word. But, now, he burst into tears.
  • 'Oh dear, oh dear!' he cried, covering his face with his cracked and horn_ands. 'My heart will break. It will, it will.'
  • 'Hush!' said Nicholas, laying his hand upon his shoulder. 'Be a man; you ar_early one by years, God help you.'
  • 'By years!' cried Smike. 'Oh dear, dear, how many of them! How many of the_ince I was a little child, younger than any that are here now! Where are the_ll!'
  • 'Whom do you speak of?' inquired Nicholas, wishing to rouse the poor half- witted creature to reason. 'Tell me.'
  • 'My friends,' he replied, 'myself—my—oh! what sufferings mine have been!'
  • 'There is always hope,' said Nicholas; he knew not what to say.
  • 'No,' rejoined the other, 'no; none for me. Do you remember the boy that die_ere?'
  • 'I was not here, you know,' said Nicholas gently; 'but what of him?'
  • 'Why,' replied the youth, drawing closer to his questioner's side, 'I was wit_im at night, and when it was all silent he cried no more for friends h_ished to come and sit with him, but began to see faces round his bed tha_ame from home; he said they smiled, and talked to him; and he died at las_ifting his head to kiss them. Do you hear?'
  • 'Yes, yes,' rejoined Nicholas.
  • 'What faces will smile on me when I die!' cried his companion, shivering. 'Wh_ill talk to me in those long nights! They cannot come from home; they woul_righten me, if they did, for I don't know what it is, and shouldn't kno_hem. Pain and fear, pain and fear for me, alive or dead. No hope, no hope!'
  • The bell rang to bed: and the boy, subsiding at the sound into his usua_istless state, crept away as if anxious to avoid notice. It was with a heav_eart that Nicholas soon afterwards—no, not retired; there was no retiremen_here—followed—to his dirty and crowded dormitory.