Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 31

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I lifted my veil and spoke to the woman.  She said to me in a low voice, "Don't mind him, ma'am.  He'll soon come back to his head," and said to him, "Jo, Jo, what's the matter?"

"I know wot she's come for!" cried the boy.


"The lady there.  She's come to get me to go along with her to the berryin ground.  I won't go to the berryin ground.  I don't like the name on it.  She might go a-berryin ME."  His shivering came on again, and as he leaned against the wall, he shook the hovel.

"He has been talking off and on about such like all day, ma'am," said Jenny softly.  "Why, how you stare!  This is MY lady, Jo."

"Is it?" returned the boy doubtfully, and surveying me with his arm held out above his burning eyes.  "She looks to me the t'other one.  It ain't the bonnet, nor yet it ain't the gownd, but she looks to me the t'other one."

My little Charley, with her premature experience of illness and trouble, had pulled off her bonnet and shawl and now went quietly up to him with a chair and sat him down in it like an old sick nurse.  Except that no such attendant could have shown him Charley's youthful face, which seemed to engage his confidence.

"I say!" said the boy.  "YOU tell me.  Ain't the lady the t'other lady?"

Charley shook her head as she methodically drew his rags about him and made him as warm as she could.

"Oh!" the boy muttered.  "Then I s'pose she ain't."

"I came to see if I could do you any good," said I.  "What is the matter with you?"

"I'm a-being froze," returned the boy hoarsely, with his haggard gaze wandering about me, "and then burnt up, and then froze, and then burnt up, ever so many times in a hour.  And my head's all sleepy, and all a-going mad-like—and I'm so dry—and my bones isn't half so much bones as pain.

"When did he come here?" I asked the woman.

"This morning, ma'am, I found him at the corner of the town.  I had known him up in London yonder.  Hadn't I, Jo?"

"Tom-all-Alone's," the boy replied.

Whenever he fixed his attention or his eyes, it was only for a very little while.  He soon began to droop his head again, and roll it heavily, and speak as if he were half awake.

"When did he come from London?" I asked.

"I come from London yes'day," said the boy himself, now flushed and hot.  "I'm a-going somewheres."

"Where is he going?" I asked.

"Somewheres," repeated the boy in a louder tone.  "I have been moved on, and moved on, more nor ever I was afore, since the t'other one give me the sov'ring.  Mrs. Snagsby, she's always a-watching, and a-driving of me—what have I done to her?—and they're all a-watching and a-driving of me.  Every one of 'em's doing of it, from the time when I don't get up, to the time when I don't go to bed.  And I'm a-going somewheres.  That's where I'm a-going.  She told me, down in Tom-all-Alone's, as she came from Stolbuns, and so I took the Stolbuns Road.  It's as good as another."