Sometimes we are sleepy and fall asleep together in a corner, sometimes we are very hungry, sometimes we are a little frightened, but what is oftenest hard upon us is the cold. You remember, Charley?'
'I remember,' said the boy, pressing her to him twice or thrice, 'that I snuggled under a little shawl, and it was warm there.'
'Sometimes it rains, and we creep under a boat or the like of that: sometimes it's dark, and we get among the gaslights, sitting watching the people as they go along the streets. At last, up comes father and takes us home. And home seems such a shelter after out of doors! And father pulls my shoes off, and dries my feet at the fire, and has me to sit by him while he smokes his pipe long after you are abed, and I notice that father's is a large hand but never a heavy one when it touches me, and that father's is a rough voice but never an angry one when it speaks to me. So, I grow up, and little by little father trusts me, and makes me his companion, and, let him be put out as he may, never once strikes me.'
The listening boy gave a grunt here, as much as to say 'But he strikes ME though!'
'Those are some of the pictures of what is past, Charley.'
'Cut away again,' said the boy, 'and give us a fortune-telling one; a future one.'
'Well! There am I, continuing with father and holding to father, because father loves me and I love father. I can't so much as read a book, because, if I had learned, father would have thought I was deserting him, and I should have lost my influence. I have not the influence I want to have, I cannot stop some dreadful things I try to stop, but I go on in the hope and trust that the time will come. In the meanwhile I know that I am in some things a stay to father, and that if I was not faithful to him he would--in revenge-like, or in disappointment, or both--go wild and bad.'
'Give us a touch of the fortune-telling pictures about me.'
'I was passing on to them, Charley,' said the girl, who had not changed her attitude since she began, and who now mournfully shook her head; 'the others were all leading up. There are you--'
'Where am I, Liz?'
'Still in the hollow down by the flare.'
'There seems to be the deuce-and-all in the hollow down by the flare,' said the boy, glancing from her eyes to the brazier, which had a grisly skeleton look on its long thin legs.
'There are you, Charley, working your way, in secret from father, at the school; and you get prizes; and you go on better and better; and you come to be a--what was it you called it when you told me about that?'
'Ha, ha! Fortune-telling not know the name!' cried the boy, seeming to be rather relieved by this default on the part of the hollow down by the flare. 'Pupil-teacher.'
'You come to be a pupil-teacher, and you still go on better and better, and you rise to be a master full of learning and respect. But the secret has come to father's knowledge long before, and it has divided you from father, and from me.'
'No it hasn't!'
'Yes it has, Charley. I see, as plain as plain can be, that your way is not ours, and that even if father could be got to forgive your taking it (which he never could be), that way of yours would be darkened by our way. But I see too, Charley--'
'Still as plain as plain can be, Liz?' asked the boy playfully.
'Ah! Still. That it is a great work to have cut you away from father's life, and to have made a new and good beginning. So there am I, Charley, left alone with father, keeping him as straight as I can, watching for more influence than I have, and hoping that through some fortunate chance, or when he is ill, or when--I don't know what--I may turn him to wish to do better things.'
'You said you couldn't read a book, Lizzie. Your library of books is the hollow down by the flare, I think.'
'I should be very glad to be able to read real books. I feel my want of learning very much, Charley. But I should feel it much more, if I didn't know it to be a tie between me and father.--Hark! Father's tread!'
It being now past midnight, the bird of prey went straight to roost. At mid-day following he reappeared at the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, in the character, not new to him, of a witness before a Coroner's Jury.