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Nicholas, and when he saw that he was observed, shrunk back, as
if expecting a blow.
‘You need not fear me,’ said Nicholas kindly. ‘Are you cold?’
‘You are shivering.’
‘I am not cold,’ replied Smike quickly. ‘I am used to it.’
There was such an obvious fear of giving offence in his manner,
and he was such a timid, broken-spirited creature, that Nicholas
could not help exclaiming, ‘Poor fellow!’
If he had struck the drudge, he would have slunk away without
a word. But, now, he burst into tears.
‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ he cried, covering his face with his cracked
and horny hands. ‘My heart will break. It will, it will.’
‘Hush!’ said Nicholas, laying his hand upon his shoulder. ‘Be a
man; you are nearly one by years, God help you.’
‘By years!’ cried Smike. ‘Oh dear, dear, how many of them!
How many of them since I was a little child, younger than any that
are here now! Where are they all!’
‘Whom do you speak of?’ inquired Nicholas, wishing to rouse
the poor half-witted creature to reason. ‘Tell me.’
‘My friends,’ he replied, ‘myself--my--oh! what sufferings mine
‘There is always hope,’ said Nicholas; he knew not what to say.
‘No,’ rejoined the other, ‘no; none for me. Do you remember the
boy that died here?’
‘I was not here, you know,’ said Nicholas gently; ‘but what of
‘Why,’ replied the youth, drawing closer to his questioner’s side,
‘I was with him at night, and when it was all silent he cried no