Charles Dickens

I'm sure a cove might think,' said Mr Toodle Junior, with a burst of penitence, 'that singing birds was innocent company, but nobody knows what harm is in them little creeturs and what they brings you down to.'

They seemed to have brought him down to a velveteen jacket and trousers very much the worse for wear, a particularly small red waistcoat like a gorget, an interval of blue check, and the hat before mentioned.

'I ain't been home twenty times since them birds got their will of me,' said Rob, 'and that's ten months. How can I go home when everybody's miserable to see me! I wonder,' said Biler, blubbering outright, and smearing his eyes with his coat-cuff, 'that I haven't been and drownded myself over and over again.'

All of which, including his expression of surprise at not having achieved this last scarce performance, the boy said, just as if the teeth of Mr Carker drew it out ofhim, and he had no power of concealing anything with that battery of attraction in full play.

'You're a nice young gentleman!' said Mr Carker, shaking his head at him. 'There's hemp-seed sown for you, my fine fellow!'

'I'm sure, Sir,' returned the wretched Biler, blubbering again, and again having recourse to his coat-cuff: 'I shouldn't care, sometimes, if it was growed too. My misfortunes all began in wagging, Sir; but what could I do, exceptin' wag?'

'Excepting what?' said Mr Carker.

'Wag, Sir. Wagging from school.'

'Do you mean pretending to go there, and not going?' said Mr Carker.

'Yes, Sir, that's wagging, Sir,' returned the quondam Grinder, much affected. 'I was chivied through the streets, Sir, when I went there, and pounded when I got there. So I wagged, and hid myself, and that began it.'

'And you mean to tell me,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the throat again, holding him out at arm's-length, and surveying him in silence for some moments, 'that you want a place, do you?'

'I should be thankful to be tried, Sir,' returned Toodle Junior, faintly.

Mr Carker the Manager pushed him backward into a corner - the boy submitting quietly, hardly venturing to breathe, and never once removing his eyes from his face - and rang the bell.

'Tell Mr Gills to come here.'

Mr Perch was too deferential to express surprise or recognition of the figure in the corner: and Uncle Sol appeared immediately.

'Mr Gills!' said Carker, with a smile, 'sit down. How do you do? You continue to enjoy your health, I hope?'

'Thank you, Sir,' returned Uncle Sol, taking out his pocket-book, and handing over some notes as he spoke. 'Nothing ails me in body but old age. Twenty-five, Sir.'

'You are as punctual and exact, Mr Gills,' replied the smiling Manager, taking a paper from one of his many drawers, and making an endorsement on it, while Uncle Sol looked over him, 'as one of your own chronometers. Quite right.'

'The Son and Heir has not been spoken, I find by the list, Sir,' said Uncle Sol, with a slight addition to the usual tremor in his voice.

'The Son and Heir has not been spoken,' returned Carker. 'There seems to have been tempestuous weather, Mr Gills, and she has probably been driven out of her course.'

'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' said old Sol.

'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' assented Mr Carker in that voiceless manner of his: which made the observant young Toodle trernble again. 'Mr Gills,' he added aloud, throwing himself back in his chair, 'you must miss your nephew very much?'

Uncle Sol, standing by him, shook his head and heaved a deep sigh.

'Mr Gills,' said Carker, with his soft hand playing round his mouth, and looking up into the Instrument-maker's face, 'it would be company to you to have a young fellow in your shop just now, and it would be obliging me if you would give one house-room for the present. No, to be sure,' he added quickly, in anticipation of what the old man was going to say, 'there's not much business doing there, I know; but you can make him clean the place out, polish up the instruments; drudge, Mr Gills. That's the lad!'

Sol Gills pulled down his spectacles from his forehead to his eyes, and looked at Toodle Junior standing upright in the corner: his head presenting the appearance (which it always did) of having been newly drawn out of a bucket of cold water; his small waistcoat rising and falling quickly in the play of his emotions; and his eyes intently fixed on Mr Carker, without the least reference to his proposed master.