BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
6. Chapter Vi - Sleary's Horsemanship (continued)
They heard the doors of rooms above, opening and shutting as Sissy
went from one to another in quest of her father; and presently they
heard voices expressing surprise. She came bounding down again in
a great hurry, opened a battered and mangy old hair trunk, found it
empty, and looked round with her hands clasped and her face full of
'Father must have gone down to the Booth, sir. I don't know why he
should go there, but he must be there; I'll bring him in a minute!'
She was gone directly, without her bonnet; with her long, dark,
childish hair streaming behind her.
'What does she mean!' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Back in a minute? It's
more than a mile off.'
Before Mr. Bounderby could reply, a young man appeared at the door,
and introducing himself with the words, 'By your leaves,
gentlemen!' walked in with his hands in his pockets. His face,
close-shaven, thin, and sallow, was shaded by a great quantity of
dark hair, brushed into a roll all round his head, and parted up
the centre. His legs were very robust, but shorter than legs of
good proportions should have been. His chest and back were as much
too broad, as his legs were too short. He was dressed in a
Newmarket coat and tight-fitting trousers; wore a shawl round his
neck; smelt of lamp-oil, straw, orange-peel, horses' provender, and
sawdust; and looked a most remarkable sort of Centaur, compounded
of the stable and the play-house. Where the one began, and the
other ended, nobody could have told with any precision. This
gentleman was mentioned in the bills of the day as Mr. E. W. B.
Childers, so justly celebrated for his daring vaulting act as the
Wild Huntsman of the North American Prairies; in which popular
performance, a diminutive boy with an old face, who now accompanied
him, assisted as his infant son: being carried upside down over
his father's shoulder, by one foot, and held by the crown of his
head, heels upwards, in the palm of his father's hand, according to
the violent paternal manner in which wild huntsmen may be observed
to fondle their offspring. Made up with curls, wreaths, wings,
white bismuth, and carmine, this hopeful young person soared into
so pleasing a Cupid as to constitute the chief delight of the
maternal part of the spectators; but in private, where his
characteristics were a precocious cutaway coat and an extremely
gruff voice, he became of the Turf, turfy.