‘The Boots At The Holly-Tree Inn’ by Charles Dickens

The Boots At The Holly-Tree Inn by Charles Dickens, 1855

The magic trick:

Charming characters doing charming things

This is Dickens in full charm mode.

Steel yourself against it, I dare you.

I’d bet any amount you’ll still be charmed. It’s scientifically impossible not to be when he’s writing about a little boy who tries to run away with his little girlfriend to get married. But maybe the most charming part is the way the adults in the story react.

And that’s quite a trick on Dickens’s part.

The selection:

The boy looked on at the watering of the flowers for a little while, and then said, “I shall be very glad indeed to go, Cobbs–Norah’s going.”

“You’ll be all right, then, sir,” says Cobbs, “with your beautiful sweetheart by your side.”

“Cobbs,” returned the boy, flushing, “I never let anybody joke about it when I can prevent them.”

“It wasn’t a joke, sir,” says Cobbs, with humility–“wasn’t so meant.”

“I am glad of that, Cobbs, because I like you, you know, and you’re going to live with us. Cobbs!”


“What do you think my grandmamma gives me when I go down there?”

“I couldn’t so much as make a guess, sir.”

“A Bank-of-England five-pound note, Cobbs.”

“Whew!” says Cobbs, “that’s a spanking sum of money, Master Harry.”

“A person could do a great deal with such a sum of money as that–couldn’t a person, Cobbs?”

“I believe you, sir!”

“Cobbs,” said the boy, “I’ll tell you a secret. At Norah’s house they have been joking her about me, and pretending to laugh at our being engaged–pretending to make game of it, Cobbs!”

“Such, sir,” says Cobbs, “is the depravity of human natur’.”


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