Well, Dickon had no mother, and this place was cream, except for the lessons and the baths. But lame old Longbottom was getting the letters into Dickon's head and they were staying, and while he had no use for reading, he guessed it would do no harm. And the baths - well, he wouldn't tell no one, especially Mr William Douglas, but being clean was not half so bad, either.
That was Mr William now, creeping along the four posters. Dickon could see the glow of his wand through his bedcurtains, and hear the ones by Davy's bed move.
"It's all right, Davylad. I know you miss your mother. She misses you, too."
"I don't want to be here, Mr William. Please let me go back home." Oh, and now he was crying like the baby he was.
"Don't cry, lad. You have to be here for a little while. It's not forever - I see my mother and father all the time, now, and they're Muggles just like yours. You'll see."
Soft, that's what the boy was. Dickon lived all by himself in London, and by his wits, too. No need to let men touch him or pretend to be crippled to make a farthing - he did little jobs all day long and no one bothered him, and sometimes there was enough to find space someplace inside in winter, and summer was no problem at all. No one bothered him, he remembered, because things happened then. Those who tried to hurt him got hurt themselves or Dickon found himself someplace else.
Hot summer day it was, and he was watching Widow Hopkin's fruit and flower cart while she dropped into the pub so she could drink her lunch. He'd be paid in what he could eat, and that was fine because the plums were ripe and sweet. And then this man, who looked so fine and talked so fine, but Dickon could hear the London in his words.
"I have something for you, Dickon." And he held out a piece of fine, fine leather. "This." Dickon took the thing and turned it around. It had writing on it. "What's it say?"
"It says, lad, that you're going to school."
"I'm NOT. I'm not getting shut into some orphanage and get preached at all day." He looked around for a chance to run - Widow Hopkins and her plums be damned. But something happened and he couldn't run.
"That's the truth, you're not. You're going to a place where you'll get three meals a day of all you can eat. Good food, too - meat and sweets for pudding. And you'll sleep warm and dry under a roof and get all new clothes."
"And what price will I pay, then? Because no one's touching me or any part of me if I don't want them to." He'd heard of boys being kept like that, until they were worn out and soft, and died when they went back on the streets, or found someone worse to keep them.
He expected the man to leer or to look shocked, but he did neither. "I know how things are, but not here. I went there, Dickon. I learned to read and I learned even more, and so will you. Do you wonder how I hold you here?" Dickon nodded. He took a stick out of his coat and held it up. "It's called a wand. And I said a charm and you're held fast. And it's real, not what the street magicians do." And then he asked about things happening to people around him, and Dickon had to say the truth.
So the man told him he was a wizard and Dickon would be, too. And Dickon thought about what it would mean if he could do what the man did.
He didn't tell Dickon about the baths, though.