"Show us a picture," said the boy. "Tell us where to look." (p. 16). — James Mahoney's fourth Illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.4 cm high x 13.4 cm wide. For Book One, Chapter 3, "Another Man," p. 16 in the Chapman and Hall Edition, London.

Passage Realised

"Yes. Then as I sit a-looking at the fire, I seem to see in the burning coal — like where that glow is now —"

"That's gas, that is," said the boy, "coming out of a bit of a forest that's been under the mud that was under the water in the days of Noah's Ark. Look here! When I take the poker — so — and give it a dig —"

"Don't disturb it, Charley, or it'll be all in a blaze. It's that dull glow near it, coming and going, that I mean. When I look at it of an evening, it comes like pictures to me, Charley."

"Show us a picture, said the boy. Tell us where to look."

"Ah! It wants my eyes, Charley."

"Cut away then, and tell us what your eyes make of it."

"Why, there are you and me, Charley, when you were quite a baby that never knew a mother —

"Don't go saying I never knew a mother," interposed the boy, "for I knew a little sister that was sister and mother both."

The girl laughed delightedly, and here eyes filled with pleasant tears, as he put both his arms round her waist and so held her.

"There are you and me, Charley, when father was away at work and locked us out, for fear we should set ourselves afire or fall out of window, sitting on the door-sill, sitting on other door-steps, sitting on the bank of the river, wandering about to get through the time. You are rather heavy to carry, Charley, and I am often obliged to rest. 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." — Book One, "The Cup and the Lip," Chapter 3, "Another Man," p. 14 in the Chapman and Hall edition.


The passage illustrated, with Lizzie Hexam showing her younger brother, Charley, the pictures in the fire recalls similar scenes elsewhere in Dickens, notably in The Haunted Man (1848). The passage occurs in Chapter 3, "Another Man," page 14 in Harper and Brothers edition, positioned near the passage dealing with the older sister as surrogate mother and the motherless boy close; the picture is positioned in the Chapman and Hall edition in the following chapter ("The R. Wilfer Family," p. 16).

The brazier in this scene, throwing the sideboards and plates into shadowy dimness, is identical to the one in the title-page vignette, and therefore provides visual continuity between the two scenes. Symbolically, it is the working-class equivalent of the middle-class hearth, the centre of the family's communal activity. Mahoney uses the working class family's mutual tenderness and concern to foil the next scene, in which the money-focussed, middle-class Bella signs her father's rental agreement as a witness, a legal document that opens the middle-class home to a total stranger, albeit one of respectable social status, the enigmatic John Rokesmith.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]


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Last modified 19 January 2016