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CHAPTER 27 (continued)
'Why, bless you, child, what are you thinking of? How could such a collection be here, where you see everything except the inside of one little cupboard and a few boxes? It's gone on in the other wans to the assembly-rooms, and there it'll be exhibited the day after to-morrow. You are going to the same town, and you'll see it I dare say. It's natural to expect that you'll see it, and I've no doubt you will. I suppose you couldn't stop away if you was to try ever so much.'
'I shall not be in the town, I think, ma'am,' said the child.
'Not there!' cried Mrs Jarley. 'Then where will you be?'
'I--I--don't quite know. I am not certain.'
'You don't mean to say that you're travelling about the country without knowing where you're going to?' said the lady of the caravan. 'What curious people you are! What line are you in? You looked to me at the races, child, as if you were quite out of your element, and had got there by accident.'
'We were there quite by accident,' returned Nell, confused by this abrupt questioning. 'We are poor people, ma'am, and are only wandering about. We have nothing to do;--I wish we had.'
'You amaze me more and more,' said Mrs Jarley, after remaining for some time as mute as one of her own figures. 'Why, what do you call yourselves? Not beggars?'
'Indeed, ma'am, I don't know what else we are,' returned the child.
'Lord bless me,' said the lady of the caravan. 'I never heard of such a thing. Who'd have thought it!'
She remained so long silent after this exclamation, that Nell feared she felt her having been induced to bestow her protection and conversation upon one so poor, to be an outrage upon her dignity that nothing could repair. This persuasion was rather confirmed than otherwise by the tone in which she at length broke silence and said,
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