writer: CHARLES DICKENS
Jo was a crossing-sweeper; every day he swept up the mud, and begged for
pennies from the people who passed. Poor Jo wasn't pretty and he wasn't
clean. His clothes were only a few poor rags that hardly protected him
from the cold and the rain. He had never been to school, and he could
neither write nor read--could not even spell his own name.
Poor Jo! He was ugly and dirty and ignorant; but he knew one thing, that
it was wicked to tell a lie, and knowing this, he always told the truth.
One other thing poor Jo knew too well, and that was what being hungry
means. For little Jo was very poor. He lived in Tom-all-Alones, one of
the most horrible places in all London. The people who live in this
dreadful den are the poorest of London poor. All miserably clad, all
dirty, all very hungry. They know and like Jo, for he is always willing
to go on errands for them, and does them many little acts of kindness.
No one in Tom-all-Alones is spoken of by his name. Thus it is that if
you inquired there for a boy named Jo, you would be asked whether you
meant Carrots, or the Colonel, or Gallows, or young Chisel, or Terrier
Tip, or Lanky, or the Brick.
Jo was generally called Toughy, although a few superior persons who
affected a dignified style of speaking called him "the tough subject."
Jo used to say he had never had but one friend.
It was one cold Winter night, when he was shivering in a door-way near
his crossing, that a dark-haired, rough-bearded man turned to look at
him, and then came back and began to talk to him.
"Have you a friend, boy?" he asked presently.
"No, never 'ad none."
"Neither have I. Not one. Take this, and Good-night," and so saying the
man, who looked very poor and shabby, put into Jo's hand the price of a
supper and a night's lodging.
Often afterwards the stranger would stop to talk with Jo, and give him
money, Jo firmly believed, whenever he had any to give. When he had
none, he would merely say, "I am as poor as you are to-day, Jo," and
One day, Jo was fetched away from his crossing to a public-house, where
the Coroner was holding an Inquest--an "Inkwich" Jo called it.
"Did the boy know the deceased?" asked the Coroner.
Indeed Jo had known him; it was his only friend who was dead.
"He was very good to me, he was," was all poor Jo could say.
The next day they buried the dead man in the churchyard hard by.
But that night there came a slouching figure through the court to the
iron gate. It stood looking in for a little while, then with an old
broom it softly swept the step and made the archway clean. It was poor
Jo; and as he went away, he softly said to himself, "He was very good to
me, he was."
Now, there happened to be at the Inquest a kind-hearted little man named
Snagsby, and he pitied Jo so much that he gave him half-a-crown.
Jo was very sad after the death of his one friend. The more so as his
friend had died in great poverty and misery, with no one near him to
care whether he lived or not.
A few days after the funeral, while Jo was still living on Mr. Snagsby's
half-crown, he was standing at his crossing as the day closed in, when a
lady, closely veiled and plainly dressed, came up to him.
"Are you the boy Jo who was examined at the Inquest?" she asked.
"That's me," said Jo.
"Come farther up the court, I want to speak to you."
"Wot, about him as was dead? Did you know him?"
"How dare you ask me if I knew him?"
"No offence, my lady," said Jo humbly.
"Listen and hold your tongue. Show me the place where he lived, then
where he died, then where they buried him. Go in front of me, don't look
back once, and I'll pay you well."
Jo takes her to each of the places she wants to see. Then she draws off
her glove, and Jo sees that she has sparkling rings on her fingers. She
drops a coin into his hand and is gone. Jo holds the coin to the light
and sees to his joy that it is a golden sovereign.
But people in Jo's position in life find it hard to change a sovereign,
for who will believe that they can come by it honestly? So poor little
Jo didn't get much of the sovereign for himself, for, as he afterwards
told Mr. Snagsby--
"I had to pay five bob down in Tom-all-Alones before they'd square it
for to give me change, and then a young man he thieved another five
while I was asleep, and a boy he thieved ninepence, and the landlord he
stood drains round with a lot more of it."
As time went on Jo's troubles began in earnest. The police turned him
away from his crossing, and wheresoever they met him ordered him "to
Once a policeman, angry to find that Jo hadn't moved on, seized him by
the arm and dragged him down to Mr. Snagsby's.
"What's the matter, constable?" asked Mr. Snagsby.
"This boy's as obstinate a young gonoph as I know: although repeatedly
told to, he won't move on."
"I'm always amoving on," cried Jo. "Oh, my eye, where am I to move to?"
"My instructions don't go to that," the constable answered; "my
instructions are that you're to keep moving on. Now the simple question
is, sir," turning to Mr. Snagsby, "whether you know him. He says you
"Yes, I know him."
"Very well, I leave him here; but mind you keep moving on."
The constable then moved on himself, leaving Jo at Mr. Snagsby's. There
was a little tea-party there that evening, and when Jo was at last
allowed to go, Mr. Snagsby followed him to the door and filled his hands
with the remains of the little feast they had had upstairs.
And now Jo began to find life harder and rougher than ever. He lost his
crossing altogether, and spent day after day in moving on. He remembered
a poor woman he had once done a kindness to, who had told him she lived
at St. Albans, and that a lady there had been very good to her. "Perhaps
she'll be good to me," thought Jo, and he started off to go to St.
One Saturday night Jo reached that town very tired and very ill. Happily
for him the woman met him and took him into her cottage. While he was
resting there a lady came in and asked him very kindly what was the
"I'm abeing froze and then burnt up, and then froze and burnt up again,
ever so many times over in an hour. And my head's all sleepy, and all
agoing round like, and I'm so dry, and my bones is nothing half so much
bones as pain."
"Where are you going?"
"Somewheres," replied Jo, "I'm a-being moved on, I am."
"Well, to-night you must come with me, and I'll make you comfortable."
So Jo went with the lady to a great house not far off, and there they
made a bed for him, and brought him tempting wholesome food. Everyone
was very kind to him, but something frightened Jo, and he felt he could
not stay there, and he ran out into the cold night air. Where he went he
could never remember, for when he next came to his senses he found
himself in a hospital. He stayed there for some weeks, and was then
discharged, though still weak and ill. He was very thin, and when he
drew a breath his chest was very painful. "It draws," said Jo, "as heavy
as a cart."
Now, a certain young doctor who was very kind to poor people, was
walking through Tom-all-Alones one morning, when he saw a ragged figure
coming along, crouching close to the dirty wall. It was Jo. The young
doctor took pity on Jo. "Come with me," he said, "and I will find you a
better place than this to stay in," for he saw that the lad was very,
very ill. So Jo was taken to a clean little room, and bathed, and had
clean clothes, and good food, and kind people about him once more, but
he was too ill now, far too ill, for anything to do him any good.
"Let me lie here quiet," said poor Jo, "and be so kind anyone as is
passin' nigh where I used to sweep, as to say to Mr. Snagsby as Jo, wot
he knew once, is amoving on."
One day the young doctor was sitting by him, when suddenly Jo made a
strong effort to get out of bed.
"Stay, Jo--where now?"
"It's time for me to go to that there burying-ground."
"What burying-ground, Jo?"
"Where they laid him as was very good to me, very good to me indeed he
was. It's time for me to go down to that there burying-ground, sir, and
ask to be put along of him. I wants to go there and be buried. Will you
promise to have me took there and laid along with him?"
"I will indeed."
"Thankee, sir. There's a step there as I used to sweep with my broom.
It's turned very dark, sir, is there any light coming?"
"It's coming fast, Jo."
Then silence for a while.
"Jo, my poor fellow----!"
"I can hear you, sir, in the dark."
"Jo, can you say what I say?"
"I'll say anything you say, sir, for I knows it's good."
"Our Father--yes, that's very good, sir."
"Which art in Heaven."
"Art in Heaven. Is the light a-coming, sir?"
"It's close at hand. Hallowed be Thy name."
"Hallowed be Thy"--
The light had come. Oh yes! the light had come, for Jo was dead.