Dickens /Minor /Boots at the Holly Tree Inn

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Boots at the Holly Tree Inn – 1858 – a short story

Dickens had this published by Bradbury & Evans in 1858
Boots, whose real name was Cobb, is challenged to describe the most curious event, from the many he had withnessed.

He told of when he was and, under-gardener at the Walmers, as such he overheard and saw much of the Walmers.

The son was little Harry, but he was a strong character who would confront any situation with courage and wisdom, he had spirit and fire..

Harry one day told Boots that he liked him, Boots acknowledged he was pleased to hear it. He liked him because Norah liked him. Boots nodded again.

He asked him if he would like a new situation? Boots said yes, if it was a good one. Harry said, ”Then you shall be our head gardener’, when Norah and he set up their home.

Boots thought these two children with their bright curly hair were a picture. He saw them sitting together reading their fairy tales. One day he came across them by the pond and Harry said ‘Adorable Norah, kiss me, and say you love me to distraction, or I’ll jump in head foremost,’ and he meant it.

One day he told Boots he was going to visit his grandmother and that she gave him, on each visit, a five pound note. Boots said this was a lot of money. Harry agreed that a person could do a lot with that sum of money.

Harry explained he was going with Norah, he confessed that at her house there was some unfair jesting about their being engaged, herpeople thought it a joke.

Boots gave notice at this time to Mr Walmer, who asked if he had been wronged in any manner, but Boots said no, it was that he was young and off to seek his fortune.

Harry visited his grandmother who would have given that child the teeth out of her head (if she had had any). But then Harry set off on an expedition from there to Gretna Green, to get married to Norah.

Boots had stopped at the Holly-tree inn and was surprised to see a coach arrive and the two children get out. Harry says to the Governor, the innkeeper, that ‘We’re to stop here to-night, please. Sitting-room and two bedrooms will be required.
Chops and cherry-pudding for two!’ and walks into the house much bolder than Brass. Boots admired his pluck.

Boots tells the Governor of what he assumed was Harry’s plan. Boots goes to find out if he is right. He finds them looking tiny upon a sofa. Harry runs to him and confirms the plan, he says Norah has been in low spirits, but she will recover now Boots is there.

Boots checks and find them with no baggage just a few sundry items. He offers to go with them, and Harry agrees. He suggests that he has a pony, and a phaeton he can borrow, that would help them complete their journey, but they might have to wait while he arranged this.
He went to the Governor and told him what was happening and the Governor travelled to York to tell Harry’s relatives. All of the women at the Inn had been moved by Harry’s story and were charmed by the couple.

Boots accompanied them to their rooms and quietly locked them in. Boots felt guilty at his story of the pony. In the morning he told them that he was only half clipped and it would take until the next day to complete the task.

During the morning Harry suggested a local walk and Boots suggested Love Lane. Harry liked the idea of that. On the walk they told Boots they were going to pay him two thosand guineas a year as their head gardener. This just made his deception feel worse.

Harry tried to get a water-lily for Norah and would have drowned himself in the effort. Boots marvelled at his determination. But now the children grew tired and fell asleep on a bank of daisies.

When they woke Norah’s temper had changed, she chided Harry for his advances and said she wanted to go home. Harry was still determined, but later they went to bed early again.

About eleven o’clock that night the Governor returned with Mr Walmer and an old lady. Boots was worried and asked the father whether he was going to be angry with Harry, because he was a fine boy.

But Mr Walmer simply kissed the sleeping child and shook him gently awake. Harry dressed but asks if he may kiss Norah. They accompany him to the room and Mr Walmer lifts him so that can kiss his sleeping ‘wife’. The watching chambermaids say it is a shame to part them.

Harry left with his father, Norah with the old lady.

Boots says they never married, he heard that she married a Captain and died in India.

Boots attached two moral messages to the tale. One that few couples going to be married would have possessed half of the innocence of these two, the other that it would be a good thing if couples were stopped on the way to being married, and brought back separately.


Cobbs (Boots)
Governor, the innkeeper
Walmer. Harry
Walmer, Mr

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