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Sketches by Boz. Charles Dickens

It doesn′t matter where it was exactly: indeed, I′d rather not say, but it was the same sort o′ job. I went with Fixem in the usual way—there was a year′s rent in arrear; a very small servant-girl opened the door, and three or four fine-looking little children was in the front parlour we were shown into, which was very clean, but very scantily furnished, much like the children themselves. "Bung," says Fixem to me, in a low voice, when we were left alone for a minute, "I know something about this here family, and my opinion is, it′s no go." "Do you think they can′t settle?" says I, quite anxiously; for I liked the looks of them children. Fixem shook his head, and was just about to reply, when the door opened, and in come a lady, as white as ever I see any one in my days, except about the eyes, which were red with crying. She walked in, as firm as I could have done; shut the door carefully after her, and sat herself down with a face as composed as if it was made of stone. "What is the matter, gentlemen?" says she, in a surprisin′ steady voice. "IS this an execution?" "It is, mum," says Fixem. The lady looked at him as steady as ever: she didn′t seem to have understood him. "It is, mum," says Fixem again; "this is my warrant of distress, mum," says he, handing it over as polite as if it was a newspaper which had been bespoke arter the next gentleman.

′The lady′s lip trembled as she took the printed paper. She cast her eye over it, and old Fixem began to explain the form, but saw she wasn′t reading it, plain enough, poor thing. "Oh, my God!" says she, suddenly a-bursting out crying, letting the warrant fall, and hiding her face in her hands. "Oh, my God! what will become of us!" The noise she made, brought in a young lady of about nineteen or twenty, who, I suppose, had been a-listening at the door, and who had got a little boy in her arms: she sat him down in the lady′s lap, without speaking, and she hugged the poor little fellow to her bosom, and cried over him, till even old Fixem put on his blue spectacles to hide the two tears, that was a-trickling down, one on each side of his dirty face. "Now, dear ma," says the young lady, "you know how much you have borne. For all our sakes—for pa′s sake," says she, "don′t give way to this!"—"No, no, I won′t!" says the lady, gathering herself up, hastily, and drying her eyes; "I am very foolish, but I′m better now—much better." And then she roused herself up, went with us into every room while we took the inventory, opened all the drawers of her own accord, sorted the children′s little clothes to make the work easier; and, except doing everything in a strange sort of hurry, seemed as calm and composed as if nothing had happened. When we came down-stairs again, she hesitated a minute or two, and at last says, "Gentlemen," says she, "I am afraid I have done wrong, and perhaps it may bring you into trouble. I secreted just now," she says, "the only trinket I have left in the world—here it is." So she lays down on the table a little miniature mounted in gold. "It′s a miniature," she says, "of my poor dear father! I little thought once, that I should ever thank God for depriving me of the original, but I do, and have done for years back, most fervently. Take it away, sir," she says, "it′s a face that never turned from me in sickness and distress, and I can hardly bear to turn from it now, when, God knows, I suffer both in no ordinary degree.

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Overall 325 pages


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