BY CHARLES DICKENS.
IT was a rimy morning, and very damp. I
had seen the damp lying on the outside of my
little window, as if some goblin had been crying
there all night, and using the window for a
pocket-handkerchief. Now, I saw the damp
lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a
coarser sort of spiders' webs; hanging itself
from twig to twig and blade to blade. On
every rail and gate, wet lay clammy; and the
marsh-mist was so thick, that the wooden finger
on the post directing people to our village—a
direction which they never accepted, for they
never came there—was invisible to me until I
was quite close under it. Then, as I looked up
at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed
conscience like a phantom devoting me to the
The mist was heavier yet when I got out
upon the marshes, so that instead of my running
at everything, everything seemed to run at me.
This was very disagreeable to a guilty mind.
The gates and dykes and banks came bursting at
me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly as
could be, "A boy with Somebody-else's pork pie!
Stop him!" The cattle came upon me with like
suddenness, staring out of their eyes, and steaming
out of their nostrils, " Halloa, young thief!"
One black ox, with a white cravat on—who
even had to my awakened conscience something
of a clerical air—fixed me so obstinately with
his eyes, and moved his blunt head round in such
an accusatory manner as I moved round, that I
blubbered out to him, "I couldn't help it, sir!
It wasn't for myself I took it!" Upon which he
put down his head, blew a cloud of smoke out
of his nose, and vanished with a kick-up of his
hind-legs and a flourish of his tail.
All this time, I was getting on towards the
river; but however fast I went, I couldn't
warm my feet, to which the damp cold seemed
riveted, as the iron was riveted to the leg of
the man I was running to meet. I knew my
way to the Battery, pretty straight, for I had
been down there on a Sunday with Joe, and Joe,
sitting on an old gun, had told me that when I
was 'prentice to him regularly bound, we would
have such Larks there! However, in the confusion
of the mist, I found myself at last too
far to the right, and consequently had to try
back along the river-side, on the bank of loose
stones above the mud and the stakes that staked
the tide out. Making my way along here with
all despatch, I had just crossed a ditch which I
knew to be very near the Battery, and had just
scrambled up the mound beyond the ditch, when
I saw the man sitting before me. His back was
towards me, and he had his arms folded, and was
nodding forward, heavy with sleep.
I thought he would be more glad if I came
upon him with his breakfast, in that unexpected
manner, so I went forward softly and touched
him on the shoulder. He instantly jumped up,
and it was not the same man, but another man!
And yet this man was dressed in coarse grey,
too, and had a great iron on his leg, and was lame,
and hoarse, and cold, and was everything that
the other man was; except that he had not the
same face, and had a flat broad-brimmed low-
crowned felt hat on. All this, I saw in a
moment, for I had only a moment to see it in;
he swore an oath at me, made a hit at me—it
was a round weak blow that missed me and
almost knocked himself down, for it made him
stumble—and then he ran into the mist, stumbling
twice as he went, and I lost him.
"It's the young man!" I thought, feeling my
heart shoot as I identified him. I dare say I
should have felt a pain in my liver, too, if I had
known where it was.
I was soon at the Battery, after that, and there
was the right man—hugging himself and limping
to and fro, as if he had never all night left off
hugging and limping—waiting for me. He was
awfully cold, to be sure. I half expected to see him
drop down before my face and die of deadly cold.
His eyes looked so awfully hungry, too, that
when I handed him the file, it occurred to me he
would have tried to eat it, if he had not seen my
bundle. He did not turn me upside down, this
time, to get at what I had, but left me right side
upwards while I opened the bundle and emptied
"What's in the bottle, boy?" said he.
"Brandy," said I.
He was already handing mincemeat down his
throat in the most curious manner—more like a
man who was putting it away somewhere in a violent
hurry, than a man who was eating it—but he
left off to take some of the liquor. He shivered
all the while, so violently, that it was quite as
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