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out a little. Let me just lift up the corner ; just the lit-tle ti-ny corner, you know,' said Meg, suiting the action to the word with the utmost gentleness, and speaking very softly, as if she were afraid of being overheard by something inside the basket; “there. Now. What's that ?'
• Toby took the shortest possible sniff at the edge of the basket, and cried out in a rapture :
"- Why, it's hot!'
• It 's burning hot! cried Meg. Ha, ha, ha! It's scalding hot.'
• Ha, ha, ha!' roared Toby, with a sort of kick. It's scalding hot.'
• But what is it, father ?" said Meg. Come! You haven't guessed what it is. And you must guess what it is. I can't think of taking it out, till you guess what it is. Don't be in such a hurry! Wait a minute ! A little bit more of the cover. Now guess!
Meg was in a perfect fright lest he should guess right too soon ; shrinking away, as she held the basket towards him; curling up her pretty shoulders ; stopping her ear with her hand, as if by so doing she could keep the right word out of Toby's lips, and laughing softly the whole time.
Meanwhile Toby, putting a hand on each knee, bent down his nose to the basket, and took a long inspiration at the lid; the grin upon his withered face expanding in the process, as if he were inhaling laughing gas.
Ah! It's very nice,' said Toby. “It an't-I suppose it an't Polonies?'
"No, no, no!' cried Meg, delighted. Nothing like Polonies !''
"No,' said Toby, after another sniff. • It's—it's mellower than Polonies. It's very nice. It improves every moment. It's too decided for Trotters. An't it?'
• Meg was in an ecstacy. He could not have gone wider of the mark than Trotters-except Polonies.
"Liver ?' said Toby, communing with himself. No. There's a mildness about it that don't answer to liver. Pettitoes ? No. It an't faint enough for pettitoes. It wants the stringiness of Cock's heads. And I know it an't sausages. I'll tell you what it is. It's chitterlings !''
“No, it an't !' cried Meg, in a burst of delight. No, it an't !'
• • Why, what am I a thinking of !' said Toby, suddenly recovering a position as near the perpendicular as it was possible for him to assume. • I shall forget my own name next. It's tripe !
• Tripe it was; and Meg, in high joy, protested he should say, in half a minute more, it was the best tripe ever stewed.
"And so,' said Meg, busying herself exultingly with the basket, • I'll lay the cloth at once, father ; for I have brought the tripe in a basin, and tied the basin up in a pocket handkerchief; and if I like to be proud for once, and spread that for a cloth, and call it a cloth, there's no law to prevent me ; is there, father?'
• “Not that I know of, my dear,' said Toby. But they 're always a bringing up some new law or other.'
"And according to what I was reading you in the paper the other day, father ; what the Judge said, you know; we poor people are supposed to know them all. Ha, ha! What a mistake! My goodness me, how clever they think us !
“Yes, my dear,'cried Trotty ; ' and they'd be very fond of any one of us that did know 'em all. He'd grow fat upon the work he'd get, that man, and be popular with the gentlefolks in his neighbourhood. Very much so !'
"He'd eat his dinner with an appetite, whoever he was, if it smelt like this,' said Meg, cheerfully. Make haste, for there's a hot potatoe besides, and half a pint of fresh-drawn beer in a bottle. Where will you dine, father? On the post, or on the steps ? Dear, dear, how grand we are. Two places to choose from !
• The steps to-day, my Pet,' said Trotty. •Steps in dry weather. Post in wet. There's a greater conveniency in the steps at all times, because of the sitting down ; but they're rheumatic in the damp.'.
• Then here,' said Meg, clapping her hands, after a moment's bustle; · here it is, all ready! And beautiful it looks! Come, father. Come!'
Since his discovery of the contents of the basket, Trotty had been standing looking at her—and had been speaking too—in an abstracted manner, which showed that though she was the object of his thoughts and eyes, to the exclusion even of tripe, he neither saw nor thought about her as she was at that moment, but had before him some imaginary rough sketch or drama of her future life. Roused, now, by her cheerful summons, he shook off a melancholy shake of the head which was just coming upon him, and trotted to her side. As he was stooping to sit down, the Chimes rang.
" Amen !' said Trotty, pulling off his hat and looking up towards them.
"Amen to the Bells, father?' cried Meg. "They broke in like a grace, my dear,' said Trotty, taking his seat.
• They'd say a good one, I am sure, if they could. Many's the kind thing they say to me.'
"The Bells do, father!' laughed Meg, as she set the basin, and a knife and fork before him. Well!'
"Seem to, my Pet,' said Trotty, falling to with great vigour. • And where's the difference? If I hear'em, what does it matter whether they speak it or not? Why bless you, my dear,' said Toby, pointing at the tower with his fork, and becoming more animated under the influence of dinner, 'how often have I heard them bells say, 'Toby Veck, Toby Veck, keep a good heart Toby! Toby Veck, Toby Veck, keep a good heart Toby! A million times ? More !'
"Well, I never !' cried Meg.
• She had, though-over and over again. For it was Toby's constant topic.
" When things is very bad,' said Trotty; ‘very bad indeed, I mean ; almost at the worst; then it's · Toby Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby! Toby Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby! that way.'
'' And it comes--at last, father,' said Meg, with a touch of sadness in her pleasant voice. : " Always,' answered the unconscious Toby. “Never fails.'
• While this discourse was holding, Trotty made no pause in his attack upon the savoury meat before him, but cut and ate, and cut and drank, and cut and chewed,and dodged about, from tripe to hot potatoe, and from hot potatoe back again to tripe, with an unctuous and unflagging relish. But happening now to look all round the street - in case anybody should be beckoning from any door or window, for a porterhis eyes, in coming back again, encountered Meg: sitting opposite to him, with her arms folded : and only busy in watching his progress with a smile of happiness.
"Why, Lord forgive me !' said Trotty, dropping his knife and fork. My dove! Meg! why didn't you tell me what a beast I was ?' • Father?'
“Sitting here,' said Trotty, in penitent explanation, 'cramming, and stuffing, and gorging myself; and you before me there, never so much as breaking your precious fast, nor wanting to, when'
"But I have broken it, father,' interposed his daughter, laughing, * all to bits. I have had my dinner.'
«Nonsense,' said Trotty. • Two dinners in one day! It an't possible! You might as well tell me that two New Year's Days will come together, or that I have had a gold head all my life, and never changed
"I have had my dinner, father, for all that,' said Meg, coming nearer to him. And if you'll go on with yours, l'll tell you how and where; and how your dinner came to be brought; and—and something else besides.'
• Toby still appeared incredulous; but she looked into his face with her clear eyes, and laying her hand upon his shoulder, motioned him to go on while the meat was hot. So Trotty took up his knife and fork again, and went to work. But much more slowly than before, and shaking his head, as if he were not at all pleased with himself.
“I had my dinner, father,' said Meg, after a little hesitation, with —with Richard. His dinner-time was early; and as he brought his dinner with him when he came to see me, we-we had it together, father.'
• Trotty took a little beer, and smacked his lips. Then he said, • Oh!'-because she waited.
"And Richard says, father-'Meg resumed. Then stopped.'
• He says then, father,' Meg continued, lifting up her eyes at last, and speaking in a tremble, but quite plainly ; ' another year is nearly gone, and where is the use of waiting on from year to year, when it is so unlikely we shall ever be better off than we are now? He says we are poor now, father, and we shall be poor then ; but we are young now, and years will make us old before we know it. He says that if we wait : people in our condition ; until we see our way quite clearly, the
way will be a narrow one indeed—the common way—the Grave, father.'
"A bolder man than Trotty Veck must needs have drawn upon his boldness largely to deny it. Trotty held his peace.
"And how hard, father, to grow old, and die, and think we might have cheered and helped each other! How hard in all our lives to love each other; and to grieve, apart, to see each other working, changing, growing old and grey. Even if I got the better of it, and forgot him (which I never could), oh father dear, how hard to have a heart so full as mine is now, and live to have it slowly drained out every drop, without the recollection of one happy moment of a woman's life, to stay behind and comfort me, and make me better !!
• Trotty sat quite still. Meg dried her eyes, and said more gaily ; that is to say, with here a laugh, and there a sob, and here a laugh and sob together :
So Richard says, father; as his work was yesterday made certain for some time to come, and as I love him and have loved him full three years -ah! longer than that, if he knew it !—will I marry him on New Year's Day; the best and happiest day, he says, in the whole year, and one that is almost sure to bring good fortune with it. It's a short notice, father-isn't it?-but I haven't my fortune to be settled, or my wedding dresses to be made, like the great ladies, father—have I? And he said so much, and said it in his way ; so strong and earnest, and all the time so kind and gentle ; that I said I'd come and talk to you, father. And as they paid the money for that work of mine this morning (unexpectedly, I am sure !), and as you have fared very poorly for a whole week, and as I couldn't help wishing there should be something to make this day a sort of holiday to you as well as a dear and happy day to me, father, I made a little treat and brought it to surprise you.'
"And see how he leaves it cooling on the step!' said another voice.
• It was the voice of this same Richard, who had come upon them unobserved, and stood before the father and daughter : looking down upon them with a face as glowing as the iron on which his stout sledgehammer daily rung. A handsome, well made, powerful youngster he was; with eyes that sparkled like the red-hot droppings from a furnace fire ; black hair that curled about his swarthy temples rarely; and a smile—a smile that bore out Meg's eulogium on his style of conversation.'—pp 16—29.
The conversation is here interrupted by the opening of the house-door, and the appearance of Alderman Cute,-evidently intended for a well-known city functionary,—and two other gentlemen. What ensues has a material influence on the course of the story, and is adapted to excite strong indignation against those who, under pretence of benefitting the poor, are their worst oppressors.
Toby is despatched by Alderman Cute with a letter to Sir Joseph Bowley, the type of a class who mistake professions of kindness for its reality, and the payment of debts for the sum of human virtue. This letter, which was read in Toby's hearing, was to inform Sir Joseph, that one Will. Fern had come to London in search of employment; and to ask, whether it was his pleasure that the poor man should be detained as a vagabond. An affirmative reply was returned by the messenger, which, having been delivered at the house of Alderman Cute, Toby was returning home when he ran against some one, and was sent staggering into the street. What followed, is touchingly beautiful, and affords more than a glimpse of the virtues and sufferings of the poor.
"I beg your pardon, I'm sure !' said Trotty, pulling up his hat in great confusion, and between the hat and the torn lining, fixing his head into a kind of bee-hive, 'I hope I havn't hurt you.'
As to hurting anybody, Toby was not such an absolute Samson, but that he was much more likely to be hurt himself: and indeed, he had flown out into the road like a shuttlecock. He had such an opinion of his own strength, however, that he was in real concern for the other party : and said again,
" I hope I haven't hurt you ?'
• The man against whom he had run; a sun-browned, sinewy, country looking man, with grizzled hair, and a rough chin; stared at him for a moment as if he suspected him to be in jest. But satisfied of his good faith, he answered:
• No friend. You have not hurt me.'
• As he said so, he glanced at a little girl he carried in his arms, asleep; and shading her face with the long end of the poor handkerchief he wore about his throat, went slowly on.
· The tone in which he said. I thank you kindly,' penetrated Trotty's heart. He was so jaded and foot-sore, and so soiled with travel, and looked about him so forlorn and strange, that it was a comfort to him to be able to thank any one : no matter for how little. Toby stood gazing after him as he plodded wearily away; with the child's arm clinging round his neck.
• At the figure in the worn shoes-now the very shade and ghost of shoes-rough leather leggings, common frock, and broad slouched hat, Trotty stood gazing: blind to the whole street. And at the child's arm, clinging round its neck.
• Before he merged into the darkness, the traveller stopped ; and looking round, and seeing Trotty standing there yet, seemed undecided whether to return or go on. After doing first the one and then the other, he came back; and Trotty went half way to meet him.
"You can tell me, perhaps,' said the man with a faint smile,' and if you can I am sure you will, and I'd rather ask you than anotherwhere Alderman Cute lives.'
• Close at hand,' replied Toby. “I'll show you his house with pleasure.'