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    Chapter 8

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    Chapter 8
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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
    best softeners of a hard bed that ingenuity can devise. Perhaps it
    is even a sweetener 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 happy kind. He was making his fortune
    very fast indeed, when the faint glimmer of an expiring candle shone
    before his eyes, and a voice he had no difficulty in recognising as
    part and parcel of Mr Squeers, admonished him that it was time to
    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
    proceeded to dress himself by the light of the taper, which Mr
    Squeers carried in his hand.

    '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 with giving yourself a dry polish till we break the ice in
    the well, and can get a bucketful out for the boys. Don't stand
    staring at me, but do look sharp, will you?'

    Offering no further observation, Nicholas huddled on his clothes.
    Squeers, meanwhile, opened the shutters and blew the candle out;
    when the voice of his amiable 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 had displayed the symmetry of her figure on the previous
    night, and further ornamented with a beaver bonnet of some
    antiquity, which she wore, with much ease and lightness, on the top
    of the nightcap before mentioned.

    'Drat the things,' said the lady, opening the cupboard; 'I can't
    find the school spoon anywhere.'

    'Never mind it, my dear,' observed Squeers in a soothing manner;
    'it's of no consequence.'

    'No consequence, why how you talk!' retorted Mrs Squeers sharply;
    'isn't it brimstone morning?'

    'I forgot, my dear,' rejoined Squeers; 'yes, it certainly is. We
    purify the boys' bloods now and then, Nickleby.'

    'Purify fiddlesticks' ends,' said his lady. 'Don't think, young
    man, that we go 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 find yourself 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 teacher here, let him understand, at once, that we don't want any
    foolery about the boys. They have the brimstone and treacle, partly
    because if they hadn't something or other in the way of medicine
    they'd be always ailing and giving a world of trouble, and partly
    because it spoils their appetites and comes cheaper than breakfast
    and dinner. So, it does them good and us good at the same time, and
    that's fair enough I'm sure.'

    Having given this explanation, Mrs Squeers put her head into the
    closet and instituted a stricter search after the spoon, in which Mr
    Squeers assisted. A few words passed between them while they were
    thus engaged, but as their voices were partially stifled by the
    cupboard, all that Nicholas could distinguish was, that Mr Squeers
    said what Mrs Squeers had said, was injudicious, and that Mrs
    Squeers said what Mr Squeers said, was 'stuff.'

    A vast deal of searching and rummaging ensued, and it proving
    fruitless, Smike was called in, and pushed by Mrs Squeers, and boxed
    by Mr Squeers; which course of treatment brightening his intellects,
    enabled him to suggest that possibly Mrs Squeers might have the
    spoon in her pocket, as indeed turned out to be the case. As Mrs
    Squeers had previously protested, however, that she was quite
    certain she had not got it, Smike received another box on the ear
    for presuming to contradict his mistress, together with a promise of
    a sound thrashing if he were not more respectful in future; so that
    he took nothing very advantageous by his motion.

    'A most invaluable woman, that, Nickleby,' said Squeers when his
    consort had hurried 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, saving creetur that you see her now.'

    Nicholas sighed involuntarily at the thought of the agreeable
    domestic prospect thus opened to him; but Squeers was, fortunately,
    too much occupied with his own reflections to perceive it.

    'It's my way to say, when I am up in London,' continued Squeers,
    'that to them boys 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 mothers going, 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 light of their proper and natural enemies; or, in other words,
    they held and considered that their business and profession was to
    get as much from every boy as could by possibility be screwed out of
    him. On this point they were both agreed, and behaved in unison
    accordingly. The only difference between them 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 his habitual
    deceit; as if he really had a notion of someday or other being able
    to 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 this effect in the mind of his usher, 'let's go to the
    schoolroom; and lend me a hand with my school-coat, will you?'

    Nicholas assisted his master to put on an old fustian shooting-
    jacket, which he took down from a peg in the passage; and Squeers,
    arming himself with his cane, 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
    attract attention, that, at first, Nicholas stared about him, really
    without seeing anything at all. By degrees, however, the place
    resolved itself into a bare and dirty room, with a couple of
    windows, whereof a tenth part might be of glass, the remainder being
    stopped up with old copy-books and paper. There were a couple of
    long old rickety desks, cut and notched, and inked, and damaged, in
    every possible way; two or three forms; a detached desk for Squeers;
    and another for his assistant. The ceiling was supported, like that
    of a barn, by cross-beams and rafters; and the walls were so stained
    and discoloured, that it was impossible to tell whether they had
    ever been touched with paint or whitewash.

    But the pupils--the young noblemen! How the last faint traces of
    hope, the remotest 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 and haggard faces, lank and bony figures,
    children with the countenances of old men, deformities with irons
    upon their limbs, boys of stunted growth, and others whose long
    meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies, all crowded on
    the view together; there were the bleared eye, the hare-lip, the
    crooked foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of
    unnatural aversion conceived by parents for their offspring, or of
    young lives which, from the earliest dawn of infancy, had been one
    horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. There were little faces
    which should have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen,
    dogged suffering; there was childhood with the light of its eye
    quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining;
    there were vicious-faced boys, brooding, with leaden eyes, like
    malefactors in a jail; and there were young creatures on whom the
    sins of their frail parents had descended, weeping even for the
    mercenary nurses they had known, and lonesome even in their
    loneliness. With every kindly sympathy and affection blasted in its
    birth, with every young and healthy feeling flogged and starved
    down, with every revengeful passion that can fester in swollen
    hearts, eating its evil way to their core in silence, what an
    incipient Hell was breeding here!

    And yet this scene, painful as it was, had its grotesque features,
    which, in a less interested observer than Nicholas, might have
    provoked a smile. Mrs Squeers stood at one of the desks, presiding
    over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle, of which delicious
    compound she administered a large instalment to each boy in
    succession: using for the purpose a common wooden spoon, which might
    have been originally manufactured for some gigantic top, and which
    widened every young gentleman's mouth considerably: they being all
    obliged, under heavy corporal penalties, to take in the whole of the
    bowl at a gasp. In another corner, huddled together for
    companionship, were the little boys who had arrived on the preceding
    night, three of them in very large leather breeches, and two in old
    trousers, a something tighter fit than drawers are usually worn; at
    no great distance from these was seated the juvenile 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 pair of
    new boots that bore a most suspicious resemblance to those which the
    least of the little boys had worn on the journey down--as the little
    boy himself seemed to think, for he was regarding the appropriation
    with a look of most rueful amazement. Besides these, there was a
    long row of boys waiting, with countenances of no pleasant
    anticipation, to be treacled; and another file, who had just escaped
    from the infliction, making a variety of wry mouths indicative of
    anything but satisfaction. The whole were attired in such motley,
    ill-assorted, extraordinary garments, as would have been
    irresistibly ridiculous, but for the foul appearance of dirt,
    disorder, and disease, with which they were associated.

    'Now,' said Squeers, giving the desk a great rap with his cane,
    which made half the little boys nearly jump out of their boots, 'is
    that physicking over?'

    'Just over,' said Mrs Squeers, choking the last boy in her hurry,
    and tapping the 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 little boy with a curly head, and wiped her hands upon it, hurried
    out after him into a 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 a board.

    Into these bowls, Mrs Squeers, assisted by the hungry servant,
    poured a brown composition, which looked like diluted pincushions
    without the covers, and was called porridge. A minute wedge of
    brown bread was inserted in each bowl, and when they had eaten their
    porridge by means of the bread, the boys ate the bread itself, and
    had finished their breakfast; whereupon Mr Squeers said, in a solemn
    voice, 'For what we have received, may the Lord make us truly
    thankful!'--and went away to his own.

    Nicholas distended his stomach with a bowl of porridge, for much the
    same reason which induces some savages to swallow earth--lest they
    should be inconveniently hungry when there is nothing to eat.
    Having further disposed of a slice of bread and butter, allotted to
    him in virtue of his office, he sat himself down, to wait for
    school-time.

    He could not but observe how silent and sad the boys all seemed to
    be. There was none of the noise and clamour of a schoolroom; none
    of its boisterous play, or hearty mirth. The children sat crouching
    and shivering together, and seemed to lack the spirit to move about.
    The only pupil who evinced the slightest tendency towards locomotion
    or playfulness was Master Squeers, and as his chief amusement was to
    tread upon the other boys' toes in his new boots, his flow of
    spirits was rather disagreeable than otherwise.

    After some half-hour's delay, Mr Squeers reappeared, and the boys
    took their places and their books, of which latter commodity the
    average might be about one to eight learners. A few minutes having
    elapsed, during which Mr Squeers looked very profound, as if he had
    a perfect apprehension of what was inside all the books, and could
    say every word of their contents by heart if he only chose to take
    the trouble, that gentleman called up the first class.

    Obedient to this summons there ranged themselves in front of the
    schoolmaster's desk, half-a-dozen scarecrows, out at knees and
    elbows, one of whom placed a torn and filthy book beneath his
    learned eye.

    'This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy,
    Nickleby,' said Squeers, 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 head of the philosophical class.

    'So he is, to be sure,' rejoined 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, 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 same principle 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 of plants. When he has learned that
    bottinney means a knowledge of plants, he goes 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, and
    quadruped's Latin for beast, as everybody that's gone through the
    grammar knows, 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 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 tomorrow, and they want
    the coppers filled.'

    So saying, he dismissed the first class to their experiments in
    practical philosophy, and eyed Nicholas with a look, half cunning
    and half doubtful, as if 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, and said he saw it was.

    'And a very good way it is, too,' said Squeers. 'Now, just take
    them fourteen little boys and hear them some reading, because, you
    know, you must begin to be useful. Idling about here won't do.'

    Mr Squeers said this, as if it had suddenly occurred to him, either
    that he must not say too much to his assistant, or that his
    assistant did not say enough to him in praise of the establishment.
    The children were arranged in a semicircle round the new master, and
    he was soon listening to their dull, drawling, hesitating recital of
    those stories of engrossing interest which are to 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 which Nicholas was graciously permitted to
    take his portion to his own solitary desk, to eat it there in peace.
    After this, there was another hour of crouching in the schoolroom
    and shivering with cold, and then school began again.

    It was Mr Squeer's custom to call the boys together, and make a sort
    of report, after every half-yearly visit to the metropolis,
    regarding the relations and friends he had seen, the news he had
    heard, the letters he had brought down, the bills which had been
    paid, the accounts which had been left unpaid, and so forth. This
    solemn proceeding always took place in the afternoon of the day
    succeeding his return; perhaps, because the boys acquired strength
    of mind from the suspense of the morning, or, possibly, because Mr
    Squeers himself acquired greater sternness and inflexibility from
    certain warm potations in which he was wont to indulge after his
    early dinner. Be this as it 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 a small 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'll take the skin off his back.'

    This special proclamation had the desired effect, and a deathlike
    silence immediately 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 strong and well as ever.'

    According to half-yearly custom, the boys gave three feeble cheers
    at this refreshing intelligence. Such cheers! Sights of extra
    strength with the chill on.

    'I have seen the parents of some boys,' continued Squeers, turning
    over his papers, 'and they're so glad to hear how their sons are
    getting on, that there's no prospect at all of their going away,
    which of course is a very pleasant thing to reflect upon, for all
    parties.'

    Two or three hands went to two or three eyes when Squeers said this,
    but the greater 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 very grim; 'Bolder's father was two pound ten short. Where
    is Bolder?'

    'Here he is, please sir,' rejoined twenty officious voices. Boys
    are very like men to be sure.

    'Come here, Bolder,' said Squeers.

    An unhealthy-looking boy, with warts all over his hands, stepped
    from his place 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 the saying goes, where to have him. 'Bolder, if you
    father thinks that because--why, what's this, sir?'

    As Squeers spoke, he caught up the boy's hand by the cuff of his
    jacket, and surveyed it with an edifying aspect of horror and
    disgust.

    'What do you call this, sir?' demanded the schoolmaster,
    administering a cut with 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, but it's not my fault.'

    'Bolder,' said Squeers, tucking up his wristbands, and moistening
    the palm of his right hand to get a good grip of the cane, 'you're
    an incorrigible young scoundrel, and as the last thrashing did you
    no good, we must see what another will do towards beating it out of
    you.'

    With this, and wholly disregarding a piteous cry for mercy, Mr
    Squeers fell upon the boy and caned him soundly: not leaving off,
    indeed, until his arm was tired 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 himself again on his own stool, supported by Mrs Squeers,
    who occupied another at his side.

    '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 a mental abstract of the same.

    'Oh!' said Squeers: 'Cobbey's grandmother is dead, and his uncle
    John has took to 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, and Squeers 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 of the contents, 'is very glad to hear he's so well and
    happy, and sends her respectful compliments to Mrs Squeers, and
    thinks she must be an angel. She likewise thinks Mr Squeers is too
    good for this world; but hopes he may long be spared to carry on the
    business. Would have sent the two pair of stockings as desired, but
    is short of money, so forwards a tract instead, and hopes Graymarsh
    will put his trust in Providence. Hopes, above all, that he will
    study in everything to please Mr and Mrs Squeers, and look upon them
    as his only friends; and that he will love Master Squeers; and not
    object to sleeping five in a bed, which no Christian should. Ah!'
    said Squeers, folding it up, 'a delightful letter. Very affecting
    indeed.'

    It was affecting in one sense, for Graymarsh's maternal aunt was
    strongly supposed, by her more intimate friends, to be no other than
    his maternal parent; Squeers, however, without alluding to this part
    of the story (which would have sounded immoral before boys),
    proceeded with the business by calling out 'Mobbs,' whereupon
    another boy rose, and Graymarsh resumed his seat.

    'Mobbs's step-mother,' said Squeers, 'took to her bed on hearing
    that he wouldn't eat fat, and has been very ill ever since. She
    wishes to know, by an early post, where he expects to go to, if he
    quarrels with his vittles; and with what feelings he could turn up
    his nose at the cow's-liver broth, after his good master had asked a
    blessing on it. This was told her in the London newspapers--not by
    Mr Squeers, for he is too kind and too good to set anybody against
    anybody--and it has vexed her so much, Mobbs can't think. She is
    sorry to find he is discontented, which is sinful and horrid, and
    hopes Mr Squeers will flog him into a happier state of mind; with
    which view, she has also stopped his halfpenny a week pocket-money,
    and given a double-bladed knife with a corkscrew in it to the
    Missionaries, which she had bought on purpose for him.'

    'A sulky state of feeling,' said Squeers, after a terrible pause,
    during which he had moistened the palm of his right hand again,
    'won't do. Cheerfulness and contentment must be kept up. Mobbs,
    come to me!'

    Mobbs moved slowly towards the desk, rubbing his eyes in
    anticipation of good cause for doing so; and he soon afterwards
    retired by the side-door, with as good cause as a boy need have.

    Mr Squeers then proceeded to open a miscellaneous collection of
    letters; some enclosing money, which Mrs Squeers 'took care of;' and
    others referring to small articles of apparel, as caps and so forth,
    all of which the same lady stated to be too large, or too small, and
    calculated for nobody but young Squeers, who would appear indeed to
    have had most accommodating limbs, since everything that came into
    the school fitted him to a nicety. His head, in particular, must
    have been singularly elastic, for hats and caps of all dimensions
    were alike to him.

    This business dispatched, a few slovenly lessons were performed, and
    Squeers retired to his fireside, leaving Nicholas to take care of
    the boys in the school-room, which was very cold, and where a meal of
    bread and cheese was served out shortly after dark.

    There was a small stove at that corner of the room which was nearest
    to the master's desk, and by it Nicholas sat down, so depressed and
    self-degraded by the consciousness of his position, that if death
    could have come upon him at that time, he would have been almost
    happy to meet it. The cruelty of which he had been an unwilling
    witness, the coarse and ruffianly behaviour of Squeers even in his
    best moods, the filthy place, the sights and sounds about him, all
    contributed to this state of feeling; but when he recollected that,
    being there as an assistant, he actually seemed--no matter what
    unhappy train of circumstances had brought him to that pass--to be
    the aider and abettor of a system which filled him with honest
    disgust and indignation, he loathed himself, and felt, for the
    moment, as though the mere consciousness of his present situation
    must, through all time to come, prevent his raising his head again.

    But, for the present, his resolve was taken, and the resolution he
    had formed on the preceding night remained undisturbed. He had
    written to his mother and sister, announcing the safe conclusion of
    his journey, and saying as little about Dotheboys Hall, and saying
    that little as cheerfully, as he possibly could. He hoped that by
    remaining where he was, he might do some good, even there; at all
    events, others depended too much on his uncle's favour, to admit of
    his awakening his wrath just then.

    One reflection disturbed him far more than any selfish
    considerations arising out 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 miserable place where her
    youth and beauty would prove a far greater curse than ugliness and
    decrepitude? To a caged man, bound hand and foot, this was a
    terrible idea--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 to believe that Ralph Nickleby had
    conceived a personal dislike to himself. Having pretty good reason,
    by this time, to reciprocate it, he had no great difficulty in
    arriving at this conclusion, and tried to persuade himself that the
    feeling extended no farther than between them.

    As he was absorbed in these meditations, he all at once encountered
    the upturned face of Smike, who was on his knees before the stove,
    picking a few stray cinders from the hearth and planting them on the
    fire. He had paused to steal 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 was such a timid, broken-spirited creature, that Nicholas could
    not help exclaiming, '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
    horny hands. 'My heart will break. It will, it will.'

    'Hush!' said Nicholas, laying his hand upon his shoulder. 'Be a
    man; you are nearly one by years, God help you.'

    'By years!' cried Smike. 'Oh dear, dear, how many of them! How
    many of them since I was a little child, younger than any that are
    here now! Where are they all!'

    '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 died here?'

    '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 with him at night, and when it was all silent he cried no
    more for friends he wished to come and sit with him, but began to
    see faces round his bed that came from home; he said they smiled,
    and talked to him; and he died at last lifting 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. 'Who will talk to me in those long nights! They cannot
    come from home; they would frighten me, if they did, for I don't
    know what it is, and shouldn't know them. 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
    usual listless state, crept away as if anxious to avoid notice. It
    was with a heavy heart that Nicholas soon afterwards--no, not
    retired; there was no retirement there--followed--to his dirty and
    crowded dormitory.
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