+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error




THE name of the public house was the
Pegasus's Arms. The Pegasus's legs might
have been more to the purpose; but, underneath
the winged horse upon the sign-board,
the Pegasus's Arms was inscribed in Roman
letters. Beneath that inscription again, in
a flowing scroll, the painter had touched off
the lines:

     Good malt makes good beer,
     Walk in, and they'll draw it here,
     Good wine makes good brandy,
     Give us a call, and you'll find it handy.

Framed and glazed upon the wall behind
the dingy little bar, was another Pegasusa
theatrical onewith real gauze let in for his
wings, golden stars stuck on all over him, and
his ethereal harness made of red silk.

As it had grown too dusky without, to see
the sign, and as it had not grown light enough
within to see the picture, Mr. Gradgrind and
Mr. Bounderby received no offence from these
idealities. They followed the girl up some
steep corner-stairs without meeting any one,
and stopped in the dark while she went on
for a candle. They expected every moment
to hear Merrylegs give tongue, but the highly-
trained performing dog had not barked when
the girl and the candle appeared together.

"Father is not in our room, sir," she said,
with a face of great surprise. " If you
wouldn't mind walking in, I'll find him

They walked in; and Sissy, having set two
chairs for them, sped away with a quick light
step. It was a mean, shabbily-furnished
room, with a bed in it. The white nightcap,
embellished with two peacock's feathers and
a pigtail bolt upright, in which Signor Jupe
had that very afternoon enlivened the varied
performances with his chaste Shaksperian
quips and retorts, hung upon a nail; but no
other portion of his wardrobe, or other token
of himself or his pursuits, was to be seen
anywhere. As to Merrylegs, that respectable
ancestor of the highly-trained animal who
went aboard the ark, might have been
accidentally shut out of it, for any sign of a dog
that was manifest to eye or ear in the Pegasus's

They heard the doors of rooms above,
opening and shutting as Sissy went from one
to another in quest of her father; and presently
they heard voices expressing surprise. She
came bounding down again in a great hurry,
opened a battered and mangey old hair-trunk,
found it empty, and looked round with her
hands clasped and her face full of terror.

" Father must have gone down to the Booth,
sir. I don't know why he should go there,
but he must be there ; I'll bring him in a
minute !" She was gone directly, without her
bonnet ; with her long, dark, childish hair
streaming behind her.

" What does she mean! " said Mr.
Gradgrind. " Back in a minute ? It's more than a
mile off."

Before Mr. Bounderby could reply, a young
man appeared at the door, and introducing
himself with the words, By your leaves,
gentlemen! " walked in with his hands in his
pockets. His face, close-shaven, thin, and
sallow, was shaded by a great quantity of
dark hair brushed into a roll all round his
head, and parted up the centre. His legs
were very robust, but shorter than legs of
good proportions should have been. His
chest and back were as much too broad, as
his legs were too short. He was dressed in a
Newmarket coat and tight-fitting trousers;
wore a shawl round his neck; smelt of lamp-
oil, straw, orange-peel, horses' provender, and
sawdust; and looked a most remarkable sort
of Centaur, compounded of the stable and the
play-house. Where the one began, and the other
ended, nobody could have told with any precision.
This gentleman was mentioned in the bills
of the day as Mr. E. W. B. Childers, so justly
celebrated for his daring vaulting act as the
Wild Huntsman of the North American
Prairies; in which popular performance, a
diminutive boy with an old face, who now
accompanied him, assisted as his infant
son: being carried upside down over his
father's shoulder, by one foot, and held by
the crown of his head, heels upwards, in
the palm of his father's hand, according
to the violent paternal manner in which
wild huntsmen may be observed to
fondle their offspring. Made up with curls,
wreaths, wings, white bismuth, and carmine,