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PinkMonkey.com-Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens




216

only to be near him. He would sit beside him for hours, looking
patiently into his face; and a word would brighten up his care-
worn visage, and call into it a passing gleam, even of happiness.
He was an altered being; he had an object now; and that object
was, to show his attachment to the only person--that person a
stranger--who had treated him, not to say with kindness, but like
a human creature.

Upon this poor being, all the spleen and ill-humour that could
not be vented on Nicholas were unceasingly bestowed. Drudgery
would have been nothing--Smike was well used to that. Buffetings
inflicted without cause, would have been equally a matter of
course; for to them also he had served a long and weary
apprenticeship; but it was no sooner observed that he had become
attached to Nicholas, than stripes and blows, stripes and blows,
morning, noon, and night, were his only portion. Squeers was
jealous of the influence which his man had so soon acquired, and
his family hated him, and Smike paid for both. Nicholas saw it,
and ground his teeth at every repetition of the savage and
cowardly attack.

He had arranged a few regular lessons for the boys; and one
night, as he paced up and down the dismal schoolroom, his
swollen heart almost bursting to think that his protection and
countenance should have increased the misery of the wretched
being whose peculiar destitution had awakened his pity, he
paused mechanically in a dark corner where sat the object of his
thoughts.

The poor soul was poring hard over a tattered book, with the
traces of recent tears still upon his face; vainly endeavouring to
master some task which a child of nine years old, possessed of


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