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Tommy Traddles
by [?]

Poor Traddles! In a tight sky-blue suit that made his arms and legs like German sausages, or roly-poly puddings, and with his hair standing upright, giving him the expression of a fretful porcupine, he was the merriest and most miserable of all the boys at Mr. Creakle’s school, called Salem House. I never think of him without a strange disposition to laugh, and yet with tears in my eyes.

He was always being caned–I think he was caned every day in the half-year I spent at Salem House, except one holiday Monday when he was only ruler’d on both hands–and was always going to write to his uncle about it, and never did. After laying his head on the desk for a little while, he would cheer up somehow, begin to laugh again, and draw skeletons all over his slate, before his eyes were dry. I used at first to wonder what comfort Traddles found in drawing skeletons; and for some time looked upon him as a sort of a hermit, who reminded himself by those symbols of mortality that caning couldn’t last for ever. But I believe he only did it because they were easy, and didn’t want any features.

He was very honourable, Traddles was; and held it as a solemn duty in the boys to stand by one another. He suffered for this code of honour on several occasions. One evening we had a great spread up in our room after time for lights to be down, and we all got happily out of it but Traddles. He was too unfortunate even to come through a supper like anybody else. He was taken ill in the night–quite prostrate he was–in consequence of Crab; and after being drugged to an extent which Demple (whose father was a doctor) said was enough to undermine a horse’s constitution, received a caning and six chapters of Greek Testament for refusing to confess.

At another time, when Steerforth (who was the only parlour-boarder and the lion of the school) laughed in church, the Beadle, who thought the offender was Traddles, took him out. I see him now, going away in custody, despised by the congregation. He never said who was the real offender, although he smarted for it next day, and was imprisoned so many hours that he came forth with a whole churchyardful of skeletons swarming all over his Latin dictionary. But he had his reward. Steerforth said there was nothing of the sneak in Traddles, and we all felt that to be the highest praise.

On still a third occasion during my half-year at Salem House I have a vivid recollection of Traddles in distress; that time for siding with the down-trodden under-teacher, Mr. Mell, in a heated discussion between that gentleman and Steerforth.

The discussion took place on a Saturday which should have properly been a half-holiday, but as Mr. Creakle was indisposed, and the noise in the playground would have disturbed him; and the weather was not favourable for going out walking, we were ordered into school in the afternoon, and set some lighter tasks than usual; and Mr. Mell, a pale, delicately-built, little man, was detailed to keep us in order, which he tried in vain to accomplish.

Boys started in and out of their places, playing at puss-in-the-corner with other boys; there were laughing boys, singing boys, talking boys, dancing boys, howling boys; boys shuffled with their feet, boys whirled about him, grinning, making faces, mimicking him behind his back and before his eyes: mimicking his poverty, his boots, his coat, his mother, every thing belonging to him that they should have had consideration for.

“Silence!” cried Mr. Mell, suddenly rising up, and striking his desk with the book. “What does this mean! It’s impossible to bear it. It’s maddening. How can you do it to me, boys?”

The boys all stopped, some suddenly surprised, some half afraid, and some sorry perhaps.