Rachael, Will You Tell Him?

"Rachael, Will You Tell Him -- For You Know How, Without Offense -- That This Is Freely His, To Help Him on His Way?" by Charles S. Reinhart. 1870. 13.1 cm wide by 10.1 cm high (horizontally mounted, with text above and below on a page 24 cm high by 16.2 cm wide). This plate illustrates Book Two, Chapter Six, "Fading Away," in Charles Dickens's Hard Times, which appeared in American Household Edition, 1870. Page 180.

In Stephen's rooms, the sacramental teatable (the identical, three-legged model shown and described in the earlier scene in that room) is spread for a disconsolate Rachael and an enquiring Louisa, purse in hand, offering her charity to the alienated Stephen, and a melancholy, detachted Tom sitting on the bed which was the location of a life-and-death drama in plate 5. For the first time in her life, Dickens comments, Louisa finds herself in the home of one of the thousands of Coketown hands (whose labour has made her father and her husband rich), even though she has walked among them all her life. Shortly (in fact, at the bottom of page 179 and the top of the very page on which the illustration of the earlier moment occurs), Tom is to take advantage of Stephen's being rejected by both men and masters to frame him for the impending "robbery."

As in the text, Stephen has lit the candle and "set out his little tea-board" with teapot, bread, sugar, butter, and only two cups, for "so large a party necessitated the borrowing of a cup" for the first guest, Mrs. Pegler, who has felt compelled to hide in a corner (perhaps, upper-right in Reinhart's plate) when her daughter-in-law arrives. Rachael, as in the text, stands apart, holding both her shawl and bonnet. In contrast to Rachael's homely skirt and blouse, Louisa wears a multi-layered skirt with a bustle-back. Reinhart depicts Stephen as Dickens describes him only minutes before the dialogue in the caption: "Stephen had remained quietly attentive in his usual thoughtful attitude, with his chin in his hand" (the other remains on the table, "doubled" as it was on the previous page). Although the caption indicates she is talking to Rachael, Rachael is turned away, and Stephen directs his thoughtful gaze at the tea-table. Tom is still on the bed, swinging one leg listlessly, "and sucking his walking-stick with sufficient unconcern" (179) -- in fact, in three of Reinhart's four representations of him Tom is sucking on something (a straw, a cigar, or his cane), subtly suggesting his infantile self-absorption.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Last modified 22 September 2002