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´╗┐Title: Oliver Twist
Author: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Oliver Twist" ***

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OLIVER TWIST

OR

THE PARISH BOY'S PROGRESS


BY

CHARLES DICKENS



CONTENTS

       I  TREATS OF THE PLACE WHERE OLIVER TWIST WAS BORN AND OF THE
          CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING HIS BIRTH
      II  TREATS OF OLIVER TWIST'S GROWTH, EDUCATION, AND BOARD
     III  RELATES HOW OLIVER TWIST WAS VERY NEAR GETTING A PLACE WHICH
          WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A SINECURE
      IV  OLIVER, BEING OFFERED ANOTHER PLACE, MAKES HIS FIRST ENTRY INTO
          PUBLIC LIFE
       V  OLIVER MINGLES WITH NEW ASSOCIATES.  GOING TO A FUNERAL FOR THE
          FIRST TIME, HE FORMS AN UNFAVOURABLE NOTION OF HIS MASTER'S
          BUSINESS
      VI  OLIVER, BEING GOADED BY THE TAUNTS OF NOAH, ROUSES INTO ACTION,
          AND RATHER ASTONISHES HIM
     VII  OLIVER CONTINUES REFRACTORY
    VIII  OLIVER WALKS TO LONDON.  HE ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD A STRANGE
          SORT OF YOUNG GENTLEMAN
      IX  CONTAINING FURTHER PARTICULARS CONCERNING THE PLEASANT OLD
          GENTLEMAN, AND HIS HOPEFUL PUPILS
       X  OLIVER BECOMES BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THE CHARACTERS OF HIS NEW
          ASSOCIATES; AND PURCHASES EXPERIENCE AT A HIGH PRICE. BEING A
          SHORT, BUT VERY IMPORTANT CHAPTER, IN THIS HISTORY
      XI  TREATS OF MR. FANG THE POLICE MAGISTRATE; AND FURNISHES A
          SLIGHT SPECIMEN OF HIS MODE OF ADMINISTERING JUSTICE
     XII  IN WHICH OLIVER IS TAKEN BETTER CARE OF THAN HE EVER WAS
          BEFORE.  AND IN WHICH THE NARRATIVE REVERTS TO THE MERRY OLD
          GENTLEMAN AND HIS YOUTHFUL FRIENDS.
    XIII  SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES ARE INTRODUCED TO THE INTELLIGENT READER,
          CONNECTED WITH WHOM VARIOUS PLEASANT MATTERS ARE RELATED,
          APPERTAINING TO THIS HISTORY
     XIV  COMPRISING FURTHER PARTICULARS OF OLIVER'S STAY AT MR.
          BROWNLOW'S, WITH THE REMARKABLE PREDICTION WHICH ONE MR. GRIMWIG
          UTTERED CONCERNING HIM, WHEN HE WENT OUT ON AN ERRAND
      XV  SHOWING HOW VERY FOND OF OLIVER TWIST, THE MERRY OLD JEW AND
          MISS NANCY WERE
     XVI  RELATES WHAT BECAME OF OLIVER TWIST, AFTER HE HAD BEEN CLAIMED
          BY NANCY
    XVII  OLIVER'S DESTINY CONTINUING UNPROPITIOUS, BRINGS A GREAT MAN TO
          LONDON TO INJURE HIS REPUTATION
   XVIII  HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY OF HIS
          REPUTABLE FRIENDS
     XIX  IN WHICH A NOTABLE PLAN IS DISCUSSED AND DETERMINED ON
      XX  WHEREIN OLIVER IS DELIVERED OVER TO MR. WILLIAM SIKES
     XXI  THE EXPEDITION
    XXII  THE BURGLARY
   XXIII  WHICH CONTAINS THE SUBSTANCE OF A PLEASANT CONVERSATION BETWEEN
          MR. BUMBLE AND A LADY; AND SHOWS THAT EVEN A BEADLE MAY BE
          SUSCEPTIBLE ON SOME POINTS
    XXIV  TREATS ON A VERY POOR SUBJECT.  BUT IS A SHORT ONE, AND MAY BE
          FOUND OF IMPORTANCE IN THIS HISTORY
     XXV  WHEREIN THIS HISTORY REVERTS TO MR. FAGIN AND COMPANY
    XXVI  IN WHICH A MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER APPEARS UPON THE SCENE; AND MANY
          THINGS, INSEPARABLE FROM THIS HISTORY, ARE DONE AND PERFORMED
   XXVII  ATONES FOR THE UNPOLITENESS OF A FORMER CHAPTER; WHICH DESERTED
          A LADY, MOST UNCEREMONIOUSLY
  XXVIII  LOOKS AFTER OLIVER, AND PROCEEDS WITH HIS ADVENTURES
    XXIX  HAS AN INTRODUCTORY ACCOUNT OF THE INMATES OF THE HOUSE, TO
          WHICH OLIVER RESORTED
     XXX  RELATES WHAT OLIVER'S NEW VISITORS THOUGHT OF HIM
    XXXI  INVOLVES A CRITICAL POSITION
   XXXII  OF THE HAPPY LIFE OLIVER BEGAN TO LEAD WITH HIS KIND FRIENDS
  XXXIII  WHEREIN THE HAPPINESS OF OLIVER AND HIS FRIENDS, EXPERIENCES A
          SUDDEN CHECK
   XXXIV  CONTAINS SOME INTRODUCTORY PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO A YOUNG
          GENTLEMAN WHO NOW ARRIVES UPON THE SCENE; AND A NEW ADVENTURE
          WHICH HAPPENED TO OLIVER
    XXXV  CONTAINING THE UNSATISFACTORY RESULT OF OLIVER'S ADVENTURE; AND
          A CONVERSATION OF SOME IMPORTANCE BETWEEN HARRY MAYLIE AND ROSE
   XXXVI  IS A VERY SHORT ONE, AND MAY APPEAR OF NO GREAT IMPORTANCE IN
          ITS PLACE, BUT IT SHOULD BE READ NOTWITHSTANDING, AS A SEQUEL
          TO THE LAST, AND A KEY TO ONE THAT WILL FOLLOW WHEN ITS TIME
          ARRIVES
  XXXVII  IN WHICH THE READER MAY PERCEIVE A CONTRAST, NOT UNCOMMON IN
          MATRIMONIAL CASES
 XXXVIII  CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED BETWEEN MR. AND MRS.
          BUMBLE, AND MR. MONKS, AT THEIR NOCTURNAL INTERVIEW
   XXXIX  INTRODUCES SOME RESPECTABLE CHARACTERS WITH WHOM THE READER IS
          ALREADY ACQUAINTED, AND SHOWS HOW MONKS AND THE JEW LAID THEIR
          WORTHY HEADS TOGETHER
      XL  A STRANGE INTERVIEW, WHICH IS A SEQUEL TO THE LAST CHAMBER
     XLI  CONTAINING FRESH DISCOVERIES, AND SHOWING THAT SUPRISES, LIKE
          MISFORTUNES, SELDOM COME ALONE
    XLII  AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE OF OLIVER'S, EXHIBITING DECIDED MARKS OF
          GENIUS, BECOMES A PUBLIC CHARACTER IN THE METROPOLIS
   XLIII  WHEREIN IS SHOWN HOW THE ARTFUL DODGER GOT INTO TROUBLE
    XLIV  THE TIME ARRIVES FOR NANCY TO REDEEM HER PLEDGE TO ROSE MAYLIE.
          SHE FAILS.
     XLV  NOAH CLAYPOLE IS EMPLOYED BY FAGIN ON A SECRET MISSION
    XLVI  THE APPOINTMENT KEPT
   XLVII  FATAL CONSEQUENCES
  XLVIII  THE FLIGHT OF SIKES
    XLIX  MONKS AND MR. BROWNLOW AT LENGTH MEET.  THEIR CONVERSATION,
          AND THE INTELLIGENCE THAT INTERRUPTS IT
       L  THE PURSUIT AND ESCAPE
      LI  AFFORDING AN EXPLANATION OF MORE MYSTERIES THAN ONE, AND
          COMPREHENDING A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE WITH NO WORD OF SETTLEMENT
          OR PIN-MONEY
     LII  FAGIN'S LAST NIGHT ALIVE
    LIII  AND LAST



CHAPTER I

TREATS OF THE PLACE WHERE OLIVER TWIST WAS BORN AND OF THE
CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING HIS BIRTH

Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons
it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will
assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns,
great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on
a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as
it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of
the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is
prefixed to the head of this chapter.

For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and
trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable
doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all; in which
case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs would never
have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of
pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the
most concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the
literature of any age or country.

Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a
workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance
that can possibly befall a human being, I do mean to say that in this
particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist that could
by possibility have occurred.  The fact is, that there was considerable
difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of
respiration,--a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered
necessary to our easy existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a
little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this world and
the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter.  Now,
if, during this brief period, Oliver had been surrounded by careful
grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses, and doctors of
profound wisdom, he would most inevitably and indubitably have been
killed in no time.  There being nobody by, however, but a pauper old
woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer;
and a parish surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and
Nature fought out the point between them.  The result was, that, after
a few struggles, Oliver breathed, sneezed, and proceeded to advertise
to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden having been
imposed  upon the parish, by setting up as loud a cry as could
reasonably have been expected from a male infant who had not been
possessed of that very useful appendage, a voice, for a much longer
space of time than three minutes and a quarter.

As Oliver gave this first proof of the free and proper action of his
lungs, the patchwork coverlet which was carelessly flung over the iron
bedstead, rustled; the pale face of a young woman was raised feebly
from the pillow; and a faint voice imperfectly articulated the words,
'Let me see the child, and die.'

The surgeon had been sitting with his face turned towards the fire:
giving the palms of his hands a warm and a rub alternately.  As the
young woman spoke, he rose, and advancing to the bed's head, said, with
more kindness than might have been expected of him:

'Oh, you must not talk about dying yet.'

'Lor bless her dear heart, no!' interposed the nurse, hastily
depositing in her pocket a green glass bottle, the contents of which
she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction.

'Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir,
and had thirteen children of her own, and all on 'em dead except two,
and them in the wurkus with me, she'll know better than to take on in
that way, bless her dear heart!  Think what it is to be a mother,
there's a dear young lamb do.'

Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother's prospects failed
in producing its due effect.  The patient shook her head, and stretched
out her hand towards the child.

The surgeon deposited it in her arms.  She imprinted her cold white
lips passionately on its forehead; passed her hands over her face;
gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back--and died. They chafed her
breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped forever.  They
talked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long.

'It's all over, Mrs. Thingummy!' said the surgeon at last.

'Ah, poor dear, so it is!' said the nurse, picking up the cork of the
green bottle, which had fallen out on the pillow, as she stooped to
take up the child.  'Poor dear!'

'You needn't mind sending up to me, if the child cries, nurse,' said
the surgeon, putting on his gloves with great deliberation. 'It's very
likely it _will_ be troublesome. Give it a little gruel if it is.'  He
put on his hat, and, pausing by the bed-side on his way to the door,
added, 'She was a good-looking girl, too; where did she come from?'

'She was brought here last night,' replied the old woman, 'by the
overseer's order.  She was found lying in the street.  She had walked
some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came
from, or where she was going to, nobody knows.'

The surgeon leaned over the body, and raised the left hand.  'The old
story,' he said, shaking his head: 'no wedding-ring, I see. Ah!
Good-night!'

The medical gentleman walked away to dinner; and the nurse, having once
more applied herself to the green bottle, sat down on a low chair
before the fire, and proceeded to dress the infant.

What an excellent example of the power of dress, young Oliver Twist
was!  Wrapped in the blanket which had hitherto formed his only
covering, he might have been the child of a nobleman or a beggar; it
would have been hard for the haughtiest stranger to have assigned him
his proper station in society.  But now that he was enveloped in the
old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service, he was
badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once--a parish
child--the orphan of a workhouse--the humble, half-starved drudge--to
be cuffed and buffeted through the world--despised by all, and pitied
by none.

Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was an orphan,
left to the tender mercies of church-wardens and overseers, perhaps he
would have cried the louder.



CHAPTER II

TREATS OF OLIVER TWIST'S GROWTH, EDUCATION, AND BOARD

For the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic
course of treachery and deception.  He was brought up by hand.  The
hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported
by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities.  The parish
authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether
there was no female then domiciled in 'the house' who was in a
situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of
which he stood in need.  The workhouse authorities replied with
humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish authorities
magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be 'farmed,'
or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse
some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders
against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the
inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental
superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and
for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week.
Sevenpence-halfpenny's worth per week is a good round diet for a child;
a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to
overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was
a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children;
and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself.
So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own
use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter
allowance than was originally provided for them.  Thereby finding in
the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great
experimental philosopher.

Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a
great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who
demonstrated it so well, that he had got his own horse down to a straw
a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and
rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died,
four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable
bait of air.  Unfortunately for, the experimental philosophy of the
female to whose protecting care Oliver Twist was delivered over, a
similar result usually attended the operation of _her_ system; for at
the very moment when the child had contrived to exist upon the smallest
possible portion of the weakest possible food, it did perversely happen
in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want
and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by
accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was
usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers
it had never known in this.

Occasionally, when there was some more than usually interesting inquest
upon a parish child who had been overlooked in turning up a bedstead,
or inadvertently scalded to death when there happened to be a
washing--though the latter accident was very scarce, anything
approaching to a washing being of rare occurrence in the farm--the jury
would take it into their heads to ask troublesome questions, or the
parishioners would rebelliously affix their signatures to a
remonstrance.  But these impertinences were speedily checked by the
evidence of the surgeon, and the testimony of the beadle; the former of
whom had always opened the body and found nothing inside (which was
very probable indeed), and the latter of whom invariably swore whatever
the parish wanted; which was very self-devotional.  Besides, the board
made periodical pilgrimages to the farm, and always sent the beadle the
day before, to say they were going.  The children were neat and clean
to behold, when _they_ went; and what more would the people have!

It cannot be expected that this system of farming would produce any
very extraordinary or luxuriant crop.  Oliver Twist's ninth birthday
found him a pale thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and
decidedly small in circumference.  But nature or inheritance had
implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver's breast.  It had had plenty
of room to expand, thanks to the spare diet of the establishment; and
perhaps to this circumstance may be attributed his having any ninth
birth-day at all.  Be this as it may, however, it was his ninth
birthday; and he was keeping it in the coal-cellar with a select party
of two other young gentleman, who, after participating with him in a
sound thrashing, had been locked up for atrociously presuming to be
hungry, when Mrs. Mann, the good lady of the house, was unexpectedly
startled by the apparition of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, striving to undo
the wicket of the garden-gate.

'Goodness gracious!  Is that you, Mr. Bumble, sir?' said Mrs. Mann,
thrusting her head out of the window in well-affected ecstasies of joy.
'(Susan, take Oliver and them two brats upstairs, and wash 'em
directly.)--My heart alive!  Mr. Bumble, how glad I am to see you,
sure-ly!'

Now, Mr. Bumble was a fat man, and a choleric; so, instead of
responding to this open-hearted salutation in a kindred spirit, he gave
the little wicket a tremendous shake, and then bestowed upon it a kick
which could have emanated from no leg but a beadle's.

'Lor, only think,' said Mrs. Mann, running out,--for the three boys had
been removed by this time,--'only think of that!  That I should have
forgotten that the gate was bolted on the inside, on account of them
dear children!  Walk in sir; walk in, pray, Mr. Bumble, do, sir.'

Although this invitation was accompanied with a curtsey that might have
softened the heart of a church-warden, it by no means mollified the
beadle.

'Do you think this respectful or proper conduct, Mrs. Mann,' inquired
Mr. Bumble, grasping his cane, 'to keep the parish officers a waiting
at your garden-gate, when they come here upon porochial business with
the porochial orphans?  Are you aweer, Mrs. Mann, that you are, as I
may say, a porochial delegate, and a stipendiary?'

'I'm sure Mr. Bumble, that I was only a telling one or two of the dear
children as is so fond of you, that it was you a coming,' replied Mrs.
Mann with great humility.

Mr. Bumble had a great idea of his oratorical powers and his
importance.  He had displayed the one, and vindicated the other. He
relaxed.

'Well, well, Mrs. Mann,' he replied in a calmer tone; 'it may be as you
say; it may be.  Lead the way in, Mrs. Mann, for I come on business,
and have something to say.'

Mrs. Mann ushered the beadle into a small parlour with a brick floor;
placed a seat for him; and officiously deposited his cocked hat and
cane on the table before him.  Mr. Bumble wiped from his forehead the
perspiration which his walk had engendered, glanced complacently at the
cocked hat, and smiled.  Yes, he smiled.  Beadles are but men: and Mr.
Bumble smiled.

'Now don't you be offended at what I'm a going to say,' observed Mrs.
Mann, with captivating sweetness.  'You've had a long walk, you know,
or I wouldn't mention it.  Now, will you take a little drop of
somethink, Mr. Bumble?'

'Not a drop.  Nor a drop,' said Mr. Bumble, waving his right hand in a
dignified, but placid manner.

'I think you will,' said Mrs. Mann, who had noticed the tone of the
refusal, and the gesture that had accompanied it.  'Just a leetle drop,
with a little cold water, and a lump of sugar.'

Mr. Bumble coughed.

'Now, just a leetle drop,' said Mrs. Mann persuasively.

'What is it?' inquired the beadle.

'Why, it's what I'm obliged to keep a little of in the house, to put
into the blessed infants' Daffy, when they ain't well, Mr. Bumble,'
replied Mrs. Mann as she opened a corner cupboard, and took down a
bottle and glass.  'It's gin.  I'll not deceive you, Mr. B.  It's gin.'

'Do you give the children Daffy, Mrs. Mann?' inquired Bumble, following
with his eyes the interesting process of mixing.

'Ah, bless 'em, that I do, dear as it is,' replied the nurse. 'I
couldn't see 'em suffer before my very eyes, you know sir.'

'No'; said Mr. Bumble approvingly; 'no, you could not.  You are a
humane woman, Mrs. Mann.'  (Here she set down the glass.)  'I shall
take a early opportunity of mentioning it to the board, Mrs. Mann.'
(He drew it towards him.)  'You feel as a mother, Mrs. Mann.'  (He
stirred the gin-and-water.) 'I--I drink your health with cheerfulness,
Mrs. Mann'; and he swallowed half of it.

'And now about business,' said the beadle, taking out a leathern
pocket-book.  'The child that was half-baptized Oliver Twist, is nine
year old to-day.'

'Bless him!' interposed Mrs. Mann, inflaming her left eye with the
corner of her apron.

'And notwithstanding a offered reward of ten pound, which was
afterwards increased to twenty pound.  Notwithstanding the most
superlative, and, I may say, supernat'ral exertions on the part of this
parish,' said Bumble, 'we have never been able to discover who is his
father, or what was his mother's settlement, name, or condition.'

Mrs. Mann raised her hands in astonishment; but added, after a moment's
reflection, 'How comes he to have any name at all, then?'

The beadle drew himself up with great pride, and said, 'I inwented it.'

'You, Mr. Bumble!'

'I, Mrs. Mann.  We name our fondlings in alphabetical order. The last
was a S,--Swubble, I named him. This was a T,--Twist, I named _him_.
The next one comes will be Unwin, and the next Vilkins.  I have got
names ready made to the end of the alphabet, and all the way through it
again, when we come to Z.'

'Why, you're quite a literary character, sir!' said Mrs. Mann.

'Well, well,' said the beadle, evidently gratified with the compliment;
'perhaps I may be.  Perhaps I may be, Mrs. Mann.' He finished the
gin-and-water, and added, 'Oliver being now too old to remain here, the
board have determined to have him back into the house.  I have come out
myself to take him there.  So let me see him at once.'

'I'll fetch him directly,' said Mrs. Mann, leaving the room for that
purpose.  Oliver, having had by this time as much of the outer coat of
dirt which encrusted his face and hands, removed, as could be scrubbed
off in one washing, was led into the room by his benevolent protectress.

'Make a bow to the gentleman, Oliver,' said Mrs. Mann.

Oliver made a bow, which was divided between the beadle on the chair,
and the cocked hat on the table.

'Will you go along with me, Oliver?' said Mr. Bumble, in a majestic
voice.

Oliver was about to say that he would go along with anybody with great
readiness, when, glancing upward, he caught sight of Mrs. Mann, who had
got behind the beadle's chair, and was shaking her fist at him with a
furious countenance.  He took the hint at once, for the fist had been
too often impressed upon his body not to be deeply impressed upon his
recollection.

'Will she go with me?' inquired poor Oliver.

'No, she can't,' replied Mr. Bumble.  'But she'll come and see you
sometimes.'

This was no very great consolation to the child.  Young as he was,
however, he had sense enough to make a feint of feeling great regret at
going away.  It was no very difficult matter for the boy to call tears
into his eyes.  Hunger and recent ill-usage are great assistants if you
want to cry; and Oliver cried very naturally indeed.  Mrs. Mann gave
him a thousand embraces, and what Oliver wanted a great deal more, a
piece of bread and butter, less he should seem too hungry when he got
to the workhouse. With the slice of bread in his hand, and the little
brown-cloth parish cap on his head, Oliver was then led away by Mr.
Bumble from the wretched home where one kind word or look had never
lighted the gloom of his infant years.  And yet he burst into an agony
of childish grief, as the cottage-gate closed after him.  Wretched as
were the little companions in misery he was leaving behind, they were
the only friends he had ever known; and a sense of his loneliness in
the great wide world, sank into the child's heart for the first time.

Mr. Bumble walked on with long strides; little Oliver, firmly grasping
his gold-laced cuff, trotted beside him, inquiring at the end of every
quarter of a mile whether they were 'nearly there.' To these
interrogations Mr. Bumble returned very brief and snappish replies; for
the temporary blandness which gin-and-water awakens in some bosoms had
by this time evaporated; and he was once again a beadle.

Oliver had not been within the walls of the workhouse a quarter of an
hour, and had scarcely completed the demolition of a second slice of
bread, when Mr. Bumble, who had handed him over to the care of an old
woman, returned; and, telling him it was a board night, informed him
that the board had said he was to appear before it forthwith.

Not having a very clearly defined notion of what a live board was,
Oliver was rather astounded by this intelligence, and was not quite
certain whether he ought to laugh or cry.  He had no time to think
about the matter, however; for Mr. Bumble gave him a tap on the head,
with his cane, to wake him up: and another on the back to make him
lively: and bidding him to follow, conducted him into a large
white-washed room, where eight or ten fat gentlemen were sitting round
a table.  At the top of the table, seated in an arm-chair rather higher
than the rest, was a particularly fat gentleman with a very round, red
face.

'Bow to the board,' said Bumble.  Oliver brushed away two or three
tears that were lingering in his eyes; and seeing no board but the
table, fortunately bowed to that.

'What's your name, boy?' said the gentleman in the high chair.

Oliver was frightened at the sight of so many gentlemen, which made him
tremble: and the beadle gave him another tap behind, which made him
cry.  These two causes made him answer in a very low and hesitating
voice; whereupon a gentleman in a white waistcoat said he was a fool.
Which was a capital way of raising his spirits, and putting him quite
at his ease.

'Boy,' said the gentleman in the high chair, 'listen to me. You know
you're an orphan, I suppose?'

'What's that, sir?' inquired poor Oliver.

'The boy _is_ a fool--I thought he was,' said the gentleman in the
white waistcoat.

'Hush!' said the gentleman who had spoken first.  'You know you've got
no father or mother, and that you were brought up by the parish, don't
you?'

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver, weeping bitterly.

'What are you crying for?' inquired the gentleman in the white
waistcoat.  And to be sure it was very extraordinary.  What _could_ the
boy be crying for?

'I hope you say your prayers every night,' said another gentleman in a
gruff voice; 'and pray for the people who feed you, and take care of
you--like a Christian.'

'Yes, sir,' stammered the boy.  The gentleman who spoke last was
unconsciously right.  It would have been very like a Christian, and a
marvellously good Christian too, if Oliver had prayed for the people
who fed and took care of _him_. But he hadn't, because nobody had
taught him.

'Well!  You have come here to be educated, and taught a useful trade,'
said the red-faced gentleman in the high chair.

'So you'll begin to pick oakum to-morrow morning at six o'clock,' added
the surly one in the white waistcoat.

For the combination of both these blessings in the one simple process
of picking oakum, Oliver bowed low by the direction of the beadle, and
was then hurried away to a large ward; where, on a rough, hard bed, he
sobbed himself to sleep.  What a novel illustration of the tender laws
of England!  They let the paupers go to sleep!

Poor Oliver!  He little thought, as he lay sleeping in happy
unconsciousness of all around him, that the board had that very day
arrived at a decision which would exercise the most material influence
over all his future fortunes.  But they had.  And this was it:

The members of this board were very sage, deep, philosophical men; and
when they came to turn their attention to the workhouse, they found out
at once, what ordinary folks would never have discovered--the poor
people liked it!  It was a regular place of public entertainment for
the poorer classes; a tavern where there was nothing to pay; a public
breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper all the year round; a brick and
mortar elysium, where it was all play and no work.  'Oho!' said the
board, looking very knowing; 'we are the fellows to set this to rights;
we'll stop it all, in no time.'  So, they established the rule, that
all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel
nobody, not they), of being starved by a gradual process in the house,
or by a quick one out of it.  With this view, they contracted with the
water-works to lay on an unlimited supply of water; and with a
corn-factor to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal; and
issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and
half a roll of Sundays.  They made a great many other wise and humane
regulations, having reference to the ladies, which it is not necessary
to repeat; kindly undertook to divorce poor married people, in
consequence of the great expense of a suit in Doctors' Commons; and,
instead of compelling a man to support his family, as they had
theretofore done, took his family away from him, and made him a
bachelor!  There is no saying how many applicants for relief, under
these last two heads, might have started up in all classes of society,
if it had not been coupled with the workhouse; but the board were
long-headed men, and had provided for this difficulty.  The relief was
inseparable from the workhouse and the gruel; and that frightened
people.

For the first six months after Oliver Twist was removed, the system was
in full operation.  It was rather expensive at first, in consequence of
the increase in the undertaker's bill, and the necessity of taking in
the clothes of all the paupers, which fluttered loosely on their
wasted, shrunken forms, after a week or two's gruel.  But the number of
workhouse inmates got thin as well as the paupers; and the board were
in ecstasies.

The room in which the boys were fed, was a large stone hall, with a
copper at one end: out of which the master, dressed in an apron for the
purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel at
mealtimes.  Of this festive composition each boy had one porringer, and
no more--except on occasions of great public rejoicing, when he had two
ounces and a quarter of bread besides.

The bowls never wanted washing.  The boys polished them with their
spoons till they shone again; and when they had performed this
operation (which never took very long, the spoons being nearly as large
as the bowls), they would sit staring at the copper, with such eager
eyes, as if they could have devoured the very bricks of which it was
composed; employing themselves, meanwhile, in sucking their fingers
most assiduously, with the view of catching up any stray splashes of
gruel that might have been cast thereon.  Boys have generally excellent
appetites. Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of
slow starvation for three months: at last they got so voracious and
wild with hunger, that one boy, who was tall for his age, and hadn't
been used to that sort of thing (for his father had kept a small
cook-shop), hinted darkly to his companions, that unless he had another
basin of gruel per diem, he was afraid he might some night happen to
eat the boy who slept next him, who happened to be a weakly youth of
tender age.  He had a wild, hungry eye; and they implicitly believed
him. A council was held; lots were cast who should walk up to the
master after supper that evening, and ask for more; and it fell to
Oliver Twist.

The evening arrived; the boys took their places.  The master, in his
cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants
ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long
grace was said over the short commons.  The gruel disappeared; the boys
whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbors
nudged him.  Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and
reckless with misery.  He rose from the table; and advancing to the
master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own
temerity:

'Please, sir, I want some more.'

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in
stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then
clung for support to the copper.  The assistants were paralysed with
wonder; the boys with fear.

'What!' said the master at length, in a faint voice.

'Please, sir,' replied Oliver, 'I want some more.'

The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him
in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr. Bumble rushed into
the room in great excitement, and addressing the gentleman in the high
chair, said,

'Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir!  Oliver Twist has asked for
more!'

There was a general start.  Horror was depicted on every countenance.

'For _more_!' said Mr. Limbkins.  'Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer
me distinctly.  Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had
eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?'

'He did, sir,' replied Bumble.

'That boy will be hung,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.  'I
know that boy will be hung.'

Nobody controverted the prophetic gentleman's opinion.  An animated
discussion took place.  Oliver was ordered into instant confinement;
and a bill was next morning pasted on the outside of the gate, offering
a reward of five pounds to anybody who would take Oliver Twist off the
hands of the parish.  In other words, five pounds and Oliver Twist were
offered to any man or woman who wanted an apprentice to any trade,
business, or calling.

'I never was more convinced of anything in my life,' said the gentleman
in the white waistcoat, as he knocked at the gate and read the bill
next morning: 'I never was more convinced of anything in my life, than
I am that that boy will come to be hung.'

As I purpose to show in the sequel whether the white waistcoated
gentleman was right or not, I should perhaps mar the interest of this
narrative (supposing it to possess any at all), if I ventured to hint
just yet, whether the life of Oliver Twist had this violent termination
or no.



CHAPTER III

RELATES HOW OLIVER TWIST WAS VERY NEAR GETTING A PLACE WHICH WOULD NOT
HAVE BEEN A SINECURE

For a week after the commission of the impious and profane offence of
asking for more, Oliver remained a close prisoner in the dark and
solitary room to which he had been consigned by the wisdom and mercy of
the board.  It appears, at first sight not unreasonable to suppose,
that, if he had entertained a becoming feeling of respect for the
prediction of the gentleman in the white waistcoat, he would have
established that sage individual's prophetic character, once and for
ever, by tying one end of his pocket-handkerchief to a hook in the
wall, and attaching himself to the other.  To the performance of this
feat, however, there was one obstacle: namely, that
pocket-handkerchiefs being decided articles of luxury, had been, for
all future times and ages, removed from the noses of paupers by the
express order of the board, in council assembled: solemnly given and
pronounced under their hands and seals.  There was a still greater
obstacle in Oliver's youth and childishness.  He only cried bitterly
all day; and, when the long, dismal night came on, spread his little
hands before his eyes to shut out the darkness, and crouching in the
corner, tried to sleep: ever and anon waking with a start and tremble,
and drawing himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even
its cold hard surface were a protection in the gloom and loneliness
which surrounded him.

Let it not be supposed by the enemies of 'the system,' that, during the
period of his solitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of
exercise, the pleasure of society, or the advantages of religious
consolation.  As for exercise, it was nice cold weather, and he was
allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a
stone yard, in the presence of Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching
cold, and caused a tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated
applications of the cane.  As for society, he was carried every other
day into the hall where the boys dined, and there sociably flogged as a
public warning and example.  And so far from being denied the
advantages of religious consolation, he was kicked into the same
apartment every evening at prayer-time, and there permitted to listen
to, and console his mind with, a general supplication of the boys,
containing a special clause, therein inserted by authority of the
board, in which they entreated to be made good, virtuous, contented,
and obedient, and to be guarded from the sins and vices of Oliver
Twist: whom the supplication distinctly set forth to be under the
exclusive patronage and protection of the powers of wickedness, and an
article direct from the manufactory of the very Devil himself.

It chanced one morning, while Oliver's affairs were in this auspicious
and comfortable state, that Mr. Gamfield, chimney-sweep, went his way
down the High Street, deeply cogitating in his mind his ways and means
of paying certain arrears of rent, for which his landlord had become
rather pressing.  Mr. Gamfield's most sanguine estimate of his finances
could not raise them within full five pounds of the desired amount;
and, in a species of arithmetical desperation, he was alternately
cudgelling his brains and his donkey, when passing the workhouse, his
eyes encountered the bill on the gate.

'Wo--o!' said Mr. Gamfield to the donkey.

The donkey was in a state of profound abstraction: wondering, probably,
whether he was destined to be regaled with a cabbage-stalk or two when
he had disposed of the two sacks of soot with which the little cart was
laden; so, without noticing the word of command, he jogged onward.

Mr. Gamfield growled a fierce imprecation on the donkey generally, but
more particularly on his eyes; and, running after him, bestowed a blow
on his head, which would inevitably have beaten in any skull but a
donkey's.  Then, catching hold of the bridle, he gave his jaw a sharp
wrench, by way of gentle reminder that he was not his own master; and
by these means turned him round.  He then gave him another blow on the
head, just to stun him till he came back again.  Having completed these
arrangements, he walked up to the gate, to read the bill.

The gentleman with the white waistcoat was standing at the gate with
his hands behind him, after having delivered himself of some profound
sentiments in the board-room.  Having witnessed the little dispute
between Mr. Gamfield and the donkey, he smiled joyously when that
person came up to read the bill, for he saw at once that Mr. Gamfield
was exactly the sort of master Oliver Twist wanted.  Mr. Gamfield
smiled, too, as he perused the document; for five pounds was just the
sum he had been wishing for; and, as to the boy with which it was
encumbered, Mr. Gamfield, knowing what the dietary of the workhouse
was, well knew he would be a nice small pattern, just the very thing
for register stoves.  So, he spelt the bill through again, from
beginning to end; and then, touching his fur cap in token of humility,
accosted the gentleman in the white waistcoat.

'This here boy, sir, wot the parish wants to 'prentis,' said Mr.
Gamfield.

'Ay, my man,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat, with a
condescending smile.  'What of him?'

'If the parish vould like him to learn a right pleasant trade, in a
good 'spectable chimbley-sweepin' bisness,' said Mr. Gamfield, 'I wants
a 'prentis, and I am ready to take him.'

'Walk in,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.  Mr. Gamfield
having lingered behind, to give the donkey another blow on the head,
and another wrench of the jaw, as a caution not to run away in his
absence, followed the gentleman with the white waistcoat into the room
where Oliver had first seen him.

'It's a nasty trade,' said Mr. Limbkins, when Gamfield had again stated
his wish.

'Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now,' said another
gentleman.

'That's acause they damped the straw afore they lit it in the chimbley
to make 'em come down again,' said Gamfield; 'that's all smoke, and no
blaze; vereas smoke ain't o' no use at all in making a boy come down,
for it only sinds him to sleep, and that's wot he likes.  Boys is wery
obstinit, and wery lazy, Gen'l'men, and there's nothink like a good hot
blaze to make 'em come down vith a run.  It's humane too, gen'l'men,
acause, even if they've stuck in the chimbley, roasting their feet
makes 'em struggle to hextricate theirselves.'

The gentleman in the white waistcoat appeared very much amused by this
explanation; but his mirth was speedily checked by a look from Mr.
Limbkins.  The board then proceeded to converse among themselves for a
few minutes, but in so low a tone, that the words 'saving of
expenditure,' 'looked well in the accounts,' 'have a printed report
published,' were alone audible.  These only chanced to be heard,
indeed, or account of their being very frequently repeated with great
emphasis.

At length the whispering ceased; and the members of the board, having
resumed their seats and their solemnity, Mr. Limbkins said:

'We have considered your proposition, and we don't approve of it.'

'Not at all,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.

'Decidedly not,' added the other members.

As Mr. Gamfield did happen to labour under the slight imputation of
having bruised three or four boys to death already, it occurred to him
that the board had, perhaps, in some unaccountable freak, taken it into
their heads that this extraneous circumstance ought to influence their
proceedings. It was very unlike their general mode of doing business,
if they had; but still, as he had no particular wish to revive the
rumour, he twisted his cap in his hands, and walked slowly from the
table.

'So you won't let me have him, gen'l'men?' said Mr. Gamfield, pausing
near the door.

'No,' replied Mr. Limbkins; 'at least, as it's a nasty business, we
think you ought to take something less than the premium we offered.'

Mr. Gamfield's countenance brightened, as, with a quick step, he
returned to the table, and said,

'What'll you give, gen'l'men?  Come!  Don't be too hard on a poor man.
What'll you give?'

'I should say, three pound ten was plenty,' said Mr. Limbkins.

'Ten shillings too much,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.

'Come!' said Gamfield; 'say four pound, gen'l'men.  Say four pound, and
you've got rid of him for good and all.  There!'

'Three pound ten,' repeated Mr. Limbkins, firmly.

'Come!  I'll split the diff'erence, gen'l'men,' urged Gamfield. 'Three
pound fifteen.'

'Not a farthing more,' was the firm reply of Mr. Limbkins.

'You're desperate hard upon me, gen'l'men,' said Gamfield, wavering.

'Pooh!  pooh!  nonsense!' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
'He'd be cheap with nothing at all, as a premium. Take him, you silly
fellow!  He's just the boy for you.  He wants the stick, now and then:
it'll do him good; and his board needn't come very expensive, for he
hasn't been overfed since he was born.  Ha!  ha!  ha!'

Mr. Gamfield gave an arch look at the faces round the table, and,
observing a smile on all of them, gradually broke into a smile himself.
The bargain was made.  Mr. Bumble, was at once instructed that Oliver
Twist and his indentures were to be conveyed before the magistrate, for
signature and approval, that very afternoon.

In pursuance of this determination, little Oliver, to his excessive
astonishment, was released from bondage, and ordered to put himself
into a clean shirt.  He had hardly achieved this very unusual gymnastic
performance, when Mr. Bumble brought him, with his own hands, a basin
of gruel, and the holiday allowance of two ounces and a quarter of
bread. At this tremendous sight, Oliver began to cry very piteously:
thinking, not unnaturally, that the board must have determined to kill
him for some useful purpose, or they never would have begun to fatten
him up in that way.

'Don't make your eyes red, Oliver, but eat your food and be thankful,'
said Mr. Bumble, in a tone of impressive pomposity. 'You're a going to
be made a 'prentice of, Oliver.'

'A prentice, sir!' said the child, trembling.

'Yes, Oliver,' said Mr. Bumble.  'The kind and blessed gentleman which
is so many parents to you, Oliver, when you have none of your own: are
a going to 'prentice' you: and to set you up in life, and make a man of
you: although the expense to the parish is three pound ten!--three
pound ten, Oliver!--seventy shillins--one hundred and forty
sixpences!--and all for a naughty orphan which nobody can't love.'

As Mr. Bumble paused to take breath, after delivering this address in
an awful voice, the tears rolled down the poor child's face, and he
sobbed bitterly.

'Come,' said Mr. Bumble, somewhat less pompously, for it was gratifying
to his feelings to observe the effect his eloquence had produced;
'Come, Oliver!  Wipe your eyes with the cuffs of your jacket, and don't
cry into your gruel; that's a very foolish action, Oliver.'  It
certainly was, for there was quite enough water in it already.

On their way to the magistrate, Mr. Bumble instructed Oliver that all
he would have to do, would be to look very happy, and say, when the
gentleman asked him if he wanted to be apprenticed, that he should like
it very much indeed; both of which injunctions Oliver promised to obey:
the rather as Mr. Bumble threw in a gentle hint, that if he failed in
either particular, there was no telling what would be done to him. When
they arrived at the office, he was shut up in a little room by himself,
and admonished by Mr. Bumble to stay there, until he came back to fetch
him.

There the boy remained, with a palpitating heart, for half an hour.  At
the expiration of which time Mr. Bumble thrust in his head, unadorned
with the cocked hat, and said aloud:

'Now, Oliver, my dear, come to the gentleman.'  As Mr. Bumble said
this, he put on a grim and threatening look, and added, in a low voice,
'Mind what I told you, you young rascal!'

Oliver stared innocently in Mr. Bumble's face at this somewhat
contradictory style of address; but that gentleman prevented his
offering any remark thereupon, by leading him at once into an adjoining
room: the door of which was open. It was a large room, with a great
window.  Behind a desk, sat two old gentleman with powdered heads: one
of whom was reading the newspaper; while the other was perusing, with
the aid of a pair of tortoise-shell spectacles, a small piece of
parchment which lay before him.  Mr. Limbkins was standing in front of
the desk on one side; and Mr. Gamfield, with a partially washed face,
on the other; while two or three bluff-looking men, in top-boots, were
lounging about.

The old gentleman with the spectacles gradually dozed off, over the
little bit of parchment; and there was a short pause, after Oliver had
been stationed by Mr. Bumble in front of the desk.

'This is the boy, your worship,' said Mr. Bumble.

The old gentleman who was reading the newspaper raised his head for a
moment, and pulled the other old gentleman by the sleeve; whereupon,
the last-mentioned old gentleman woke up.

'Oh, is this the boy?' said the old gentleman.

'This is him, sir,' replied Mr. Bumble.  'Bow to the magistrate, my
dear.'

Oliver roused himself, and made his best obeisance.  He had been
wondering, with his eyes fixed on the magistrates' powder, whether all
boards were born with that white stuff on their heads, and were boards
from thenceforth on that account.

'Well,' said the old gentleman, 'I suppose he's fond of
chimney-sweeping?'

'He doats on it, your worship,' replied Bumble; giving Oliver a sly
pinch, to intimate that he had better not say he didn't.

'And he _will_ be a sweep, will he?' inquired the old gentleman.

'If we was to bind him to any other trade to-morrow, he'd run away
simultaneous, your worship,' replied Bumble.

'And this man that's to be his master--you, sir--you'll treat him well,
and feed him, and do all that sort of thing, will you?' said the old
gentleman.

'When I says I will, I means I will,' replied Mr. Gamfield doggedly.

'You're a rough speaker, my friend, but you look an honest,
open-hearted man,' said the old gentleman: turning his spectacles in
the direction of the candidate for Oliver's premium, whose villainous
countenance was a regular stamped receipt for cruelty.  But the
magistrate was half blind and half childish, so he couldn't reasonably
be expected to discern what other people did.

'I hope I am, sir,' said Mr. Gamfield, with an ugly leer.

'I have no doubt you are, my friend,' replied the old gentleman: fixing
his spectacles more firmly on his nose, and looking about him for the
inkstand.

It was the critical moment of Oliver's fate.  If the inkstand had been
where the old gentleman thought it was, he would have dipped his pen
into it, and signed the indentures, and Oliver would have been
straightway hurried off.  But, as it chanced to be immediately under
his nose, it followed, as a matter of course, that he looked all over
his desk for it, without finding it; and happening in the course of his
search to look straight before him, his gaze encountered the pale and
terrified face of Oliver Twist: who, despite all the admonitory looks
and pinches of Bumble, was regarding the repulsive countenance of his
future master, with a mingled expression of horror and fear, too
palpable to be mistaken, even by a half-blind magistrate.

The old gentleman stopped, laid down his pen, and looked from Oliver to
Mr. Limbkins; who attempted to take snuff with a cheerful and
unconcerned aspect.

'My boy!' said the old gentleman, 'you look pale and alarmed. What is
the matter?'

'Stand a little away from him, Beadle,' said the other magistrate:
laying aside the paper, and leaning forward with an expression of
interest.  'Now, boy, tell us what's the matter: don't be afraid.'

Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayed that
they would order him back to the dark room--that they would starve
him--beat him--kill him if they pleased--rather than send him away with
that dreadful man.

'Well!' said Mr. Bumble, raising his hands and eyes with most
impressive solemnity.  'Well! of all the artful and designing orphans
that ever I see, Oliver, you are one of the most bare-facedest.'

'Hold your tongue, Beadle,' said the second old gentleman, when Mr.
Bumble had given vent to this compound adjective.

'I beg your worship's pardon,' said Mr. Bumble, incredulous of having
heard aright.  'Did your worship speak to me?'

'Yes.  Hold your tongue.'

Mr. Bumble was stupefied with astonishment.  A beadle ordered to hold
his tongue!  A moral revolution!

The old gentleman in the tortoise-shell spectacles looked at his
companion, he nodded significantly.

'We refuse to sanction these indentures,' said the old gentleman:
tossing aside the piece of parchment as he spoke.

'I hope,' stammered Mr. Limbkins:  'I hope the magistrates will not
form the opinion that the authorities have been guilty of any improper
conduct, on the unsupported testimony of a child.'

'The magistrates are not called upon to pronounce any opinion on the
matter,' said the second old gentleman sharply.  'Take the boy back to
the workhouse, and treat him kindly.  He seems to want it.'

That same evening, the gentleman in the white waistcoat most positively
and decidedly affirmed, not only that Oliver would be hung, but that he
would be drawn and quartered into the bargain. Mr. Bumble shook his
head with gloomy mystery, and said he wished he might come to good;
whereunto Mr. Gamfield replied, that he wished he might come to him;
which, although he agreed with the beadle in most matters, would seem
to be a wish of a totally opposite description.

The next morning, the public were once informed that Oliver Twist was
again To Let, and that five pounds would be paid to anybody who would
take possession of him.



CHAPTER IV

OLIVER, BEING OFFERED ANOTHER PLACE, MAKES HIS FIRST ENTRY INTO PUBLIC
LIFE

In great families, when an advantageous place cannot be obtained,
either in possession, reversion, remainder, or expectancy, for the
young man who is growing up, it is a very general custom to send him to
sea.  The board, in imitation of so wise and salutary an example, took
counsel together on the expediency of shipping off Oliver Twist, in
some small trading vessel bound to a good unhealthy port.  This
suggested itself as the very best thing that could possibly be done
with him: the probability being, that the skipper would flog him to
death, in a playful mood, some day after dinner, or would knock his
brains out with an iron bar; both pastimes being, as is pretty
generally known, very favourite and common recreations among gentleman
of that class.  The more the case presented itself to the board, in
this point of view, the more manifold the advantages of the step
appeared; so, they came to the conclusion that the only way of
providing for Oliver effectually, was to send him to sea without delay.

Mr. Bumble had been despatched to make various preliminary inquiries,
with the view of finding out some captain or other who wanted a
cabin-boy without any friends; and was returning to the workhouse to
communicate the result of his mission; when he encountered at the gate,
no less a person than Mr. Sowerberry, the parochial undertaker.

Mr. Sowerberry was a tall gaunt, large-jointed man, attired in a suit
of threadbare black, with darned cotton stockings of the same colour,
and shoes to answer.  His features were not naturally intended to wear
a smiling aspect, but he was in general rather given to professional
jocosity.  His step was elastic, and his face betokened inward
pleasantry, as he advanced to Mr. Bumble, and shook him cordially by
the hand.

'I have taken the measure of the two women that died last night, Mr.
Bumble,' said the undertaker.

'You'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,' said the beadle, as he
thrust his thumb and forefinger into the proffered snuff-box of the
undertaker: which was an ingenious little model of a patent coffin.  'I
say you'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,' repeated Mr. Bumble,
tapping the undertaker on the shoulder, in a friendly manner, with his
cane.

'Think so?' said the undertaker in a tone which half admitted and half
disputed the probability of the event.  'The prices allowed by the
board are very small, Mr. Bumble.'

'So are the coffins,' replied the beadle: with precisely as near an
approach to a laugh as a great official ought to indulge in.

Mr. Sowerberry was much tickled at this: as of course he ought to be;
and laughed a long time without cessation.  'Well, well, Mr. Bumble,'
he said at length, 'there's no denying that, since the new system of
feeding has come in, the coffins are something narrower and more
shallow than they used to be; but we must have some profit, Mr. Bumble.
Well-seasoned timber is an expensive article, sir; and all the iron
handles come, by canal, from Birmingham.'

'Well, well,' said Mr. Bumble, 'every trade has its drawbacks. A fair
profit is, of course, allowable.'

'Of course, of course,' replied the undertaker; 'and if I don't get a
profit upon this or that particular article, why, I make it up in the
long-run, you see--he! he! he!'

'Just so,' said Mr. Bumble.

'Though I must say,' continued the undertaker, resuming the current of
observations which the beadle had interrupted: 'though I must say, Mr.
Bumble, that I have to contend against one very great disadvantage:
which is, that all the stout people go off the quickest.  The people
who have been better off, and have paid rates for many years, are the
first to sink when they come into the house; and let me tell you, Mr.
Bumble, that three or four inches over one's calculation makes a great
hole in one's profits: especially when one has a family to provide for,
sir.'

As Mr. Sowerberry said this, with the becoming indignation of an
ill-used man; and as Mr. Bumble felt that it rather tended to convey a
reflection on the honour of the parish; the latter gentleman thought it
advisable to change the subject.  Oliver Twist being uppermost in his
mind, he made him his theme.

'By the bye,' said Mr. Bumble, 'you don't know anybody who wants a boy,
do you?  A porochial 'prentis, who is at present a dead-weight; a
millstone, as I may say, round the porochial throat?  Liberal terms,
Mr. Sowerberry, liberal terms?'  As Mr. Bumble spoke, he raised his
cane to the bill above him, and gave three distinct raps upon the words
'five pounds':  which were printed thereon in Roman capitals of
gigantic size.

'Gadso!' said the undertaker: taking Mr. Bumble by the gilt-edged
lappel of his official coat; 'that's just the very thing I wanted to
speak to you about.  You know--dear me, what a very elegant button this
is, Mr. Bumble!  I never noticed it before.'

'Yes, I think it rather pretty,' said the beadle, glancing proudly
downwards at the large brass buttons which embellished his coat. 'The
die is the same as the porochial seal--the Good Samaritan healing the
sick and bruised man. The board presented it to me on Newyear's
morning, Mr. Sowerberry.  I put it on, I remember, for the first time,
to attend the inquest on that reduced tradesman, who died in a doorway
at midnight.'

'I recollect,' said the undertaker. 'The jury brought it in, "Died from
exposure to the cold, and want of the common necessaries of life,"
didn't they?'

Mr. Bumble nodded.

'And they made it a special verdict, I think,' said the undertaker, 'by
adding some words to the effect, that if the relieving officer had--'

'Tush!  Foolery!' interposed the beadle.  'If the board attended to all
the nonsense that ignorant jurymen talk, they'd have enough to do.'

'Very true,' said the undertaker; 'they would indeed.'

'Juries,' said Mr. Bumble, grasping his cane tightly, as was his wont
when working into a passion: 'juries is ineddicated, vulgar, grovelling
wretches.'

'So they are,' said the undertaker.

'They haven't no more philosophy nor political economy about 'em than
that,' said the beadle, snapping his fingers contemptuously.

'No more they have,' acquiesced the undertaker.

'I despise 'em,' said the beadle, growing very red in the face.

'So do I,' rejoined the undertaker.

'And I only wish we'd a jury of the independent sort, in the house for
a week or two,' said the beadle; 'the rules and regulations of the
board would soon bring their spirit down for 'em.'

'Let 'em alone for that,' replied the undertaker.  So saying, he
smiled, approvingly: to calm the rising wrath of the indignant parish
officer.

Mr Bumble lifted off his cocked hat; took a handkerchief from the
inside of the crown; wiped from his forehead the perspiration which his
rage had engendered; fixed the cocked hat on again; and, turning to the
undertaker, said in a calmer voice:

'Well; what about the boy?'

'Oh!' replied the undertaker; 'why, you know, Mr. Bumble, I pay a good
deal towards the poor's rates.'

'Hem!' said Mr. Bumble.  'Well?'

'Well,' replied the undertaker, 'I was thinking that if I pay so much
towards 'em, I've a right to get as much out of 'em as I can, Mr.
Bumble; and so--I think I'll take the boy myself.'

Mr. Bumble grasped the undertaker by the arm, and led him into the
building.  Mr. Sowerberry was closeted with the board for five minutes;
and it was arranged that Oliver should go to him that evening 'upon
liking'--a phrase which means, in the case of a parish apprentice, that
if the master find, upon a short trial, that he can get enough work out
of a boy without putting too much food into him, he shall have him for
a term of years, to do what he likes with.

When little Oliver was taken before 'the gentlemen' that evening; and
informed that he was to go, that night, as general house-lad to a
coffin-maker's; and that if he complained of his situation, or ever
came back to the parish again, he would be sent to sea, there to be
drowned, or knocked on the head, as the case might be, he evinced so
little emotion, that they by common consent pronounced him a hardened
young rascal, and ordered Mr. Bumble to remove him forthwith.

Now, although it was very natural that the board, of all people in the
world, should feel in a great state of virtuous astonishment and horror
at the smallest tokens of want of feeling on the part of anybody, they
were rather out, in this particular instance.  The simple fact was,
that Oliver, instead of possessing too little feeling, possessed rather
too much; and was in a fair way of being reduced, for life, to a state
of brutal stupidity and sullenness by the ill usage he had received.
He heard the news of his destination, in perfect silence; and, having
had his luggage put into his hand--which was not very difficult to
carry, inasmuch as it was all comprised within the limits of a brown
paper parcel, about half a foot square by three inches deep--he pulled
his cap over his eyes; and once more attaching himself to Mr. Bumble's
coat cuff, was led away by that dignitary to a new scene of suffering.

For some time, Mr. Bumble drew Oliver along, without notice or remark;
for the beadle carried his head very erect, as a beadle always should:
and, it being a windy day, little Oliver was completely enshrouded by
the skirts of Mr. Bumble's coat as they blew open, and disclosed to
great advantage his flapped waistcoat and drab plush knee-breeches.  As
they drew near to their destination, however, Mr. Bumble thought it
expedient to look down, and see that the boy was in good order for
inspection by his new master: which he accordingly did, with a fit and
becoming air of gracious patronage.

'Oliver!'  said Mr. Bumble.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver, in a low, tremulous voice.

'Pull that cap off your eyes, and hold up your head, sir.'

Although Oliver did as he was desired, at once; and passed the back of
his unoccupied hand briskly across his eyes, he left a tear in them
when he looked up at his conductor.  As Mr. Bumble gazed sternly upon
him, it rolled down his cheek. It was followed by another, and another.
The child made a strong effort, but it was an unsuccessful one.
Withdrawing his other hand from Mr. Bumble's he covered his face with
both; and wept until the tears sprung out from between his chin and
bony fingers.

'Well!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, stopping short, and darting at his little
charge a look of intense malignity.  'Well!  Of _all_ the
ungratefullest, and worst-disposed boys as ever I see, Oliver, you are
the--'

'No, no, sir,' sobbed Oliver, clinging to the hand which held the
well-known cane; 'no, no, sir; I will be good indeed; indeed, indeed I
will, sir!  I am a very little boy, sir; and it is so--so--'

'So what?' inquired Mr. Bumble in amazement.

'So lonely, sir!  So very lonely!' cried the child.  'Everybody hates
me.  Oh! sir, don't, don't pray be cross to me!'  The child beat his
hand upon his heart; and looked in his companion's face, with tears of
real agony.

Mr. Bumble regarded Oliver's piteous and helpless look, with some
astonishment, for a few seconds; hemmed three or four times in a husky
manner; and after muttering something about 'that troublesome cough,'
bade Oliver dry his eyes and be a good boy. Then once more taking his
hand, he walked on with him in silence.

The undertaker, who had just put up the shutters of his shop, was
making some entries in his day-book by the light of a most appropriate
dismal candle, when Mr. Bumble entered.

'Aha!' said the undertaker; looking up from the book, and pausing in
the middle of a word; 'is that you, Bumble?'

'No one else, Mr. Sowerberry,' replied the beadle.  'Here! I've brought
the boy.'  Oliver made a bow.

'Oh! that's the boy, is it?' said the undertaker:  raising the candle
above his head, to get a better view of Oliver. 'Mrs. Sowerberry, will
you have the goodness to come here a moment, my dear?'

Mrs. Sowerberry emerged from a little room behind the shop, and
presented the form of a short, then, squeezed-up woman, with a vixenish
countenance.

'My dear,' said Mr. Sowerberry, deferentially, 'this is the boy from
the workhouse that I told you of.'  Oliver bowed again.

'Dear me!' said the undertaker's wife, 'he's very small.'

'Why, he _is_ rather small,' replied Mr. Bumble: looking at Oliver as
if it were his fault that he was no bigger; 'he is small. There's no
denying it.  But he'll grow, Mrs. Sowerberry--he'll grow.'

'Ah!  I dare say he will,' replied the lady pettishly, 'on our victuals
and our drink.  I see no saving in parish children, not I; for they
always cost more to keep, than they're worth. However, men always think
they know best. There!  Get downstairs, little bag o' bones.'  With
this, the undertaker's wife opened a side door, and pushed Oliver down
a steep flight of stairs into a stone cell, damp and dark: forming the
ante-room to the coal-cellar, and denominated 'kitchen'; wherein sat a
slatternly girl, in shoes down at heel, and blue worsted stockings very
much out of repair.

'Here, Charlotte,' said Mr. Sowerberry, who had followed Oliver down,
'give this boy some of the cold bits that were put by for Trip.  He
hasn't come home since the morning, so he may go without 'em.  I dare
say the boy isn't too dainty to eat 'em--are you, boy?'

Oliver, whose eyes had glistened at the mention of meat, and who was
trembling with eagerness to devour it, replied in the negative; and a
plateful of coarse broken victuals was set before him.

I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose meat and drink turn to gall
within him; whose blood is ice, whose heart is iron; could have seen
Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands that the dog had neglected.
I wish he could have witnessed the horrible avidity with which Oliver
tore the bits asunder with all the ferocity of famine.  There is only
one thing I should like better; and that would be to see the
Philosopher making the same sort of meal himself, with the same relish.

'Well,' said the undertaker's wife, when Oliver had finished his
supper: which she had regarded in silent horror, and with fearful
auguries of his future appetite: 'have you done?'

There being nothing eatable within his reach, Oliver replied in the
affirmative.

'Then come with me,' said Mrs. Sowerberry: taking up a dim and dirty
lamp, and leading the way upstairs; 'your bed's under the counter.  You
don't mind sleeping among the coffins, I suppose? But it doesn't much
matter whether you do or don't, for you can't sleep anywhere else.
Come; don't keep me here all night!'

Oliver lingered no longer, but meekly followed his new mistress.



CHAPTER V

OLIVER MINGLES WITH NEW ASSOCIATES.  GOING TO A FUNERAL FOR THE FIRST
TIME, HE FORMS AN UNFAVOURABLE NOTION OF HIS MASTER'S BUSINESS

Oliver, being left to himself in the undertaker's shop, set the lamp
down on a workman's bench, and gazed timidly about him with a feeling
of awe and dread, which many people a good deal older than he will be
at no loss to understand.  An unfinished coffin on black tressels,
which stood in the middle of the shop, looked so gloomy and death-like
that a cold tremble came over him, every time his eyes wandered in the
direction of the dismal object: from which he almost expected to see
some frightful form slowly rear its head, to drive him mad with terror.
Against the wall were ranged, in regular array, a long row of elm
boards cut in the same shape: looking in the dim light, like
high-shouldered ghosts with their hands in their breeches pockets.
Coffin-plates, elm-chips, bright-headed nails, and shreds of black
cloth, lay scattered on the floor; and the wall behind the counter was
ornamented with a lively representation of two mutes in very stiff
neckcloths, on duty at a large private door, with a hearse drawn by
four black steeds, approaching in the distance. The shop was close and
hot.  The atmosphere seemed tainted with the smell of coffins.  The
recess beneath the counter in which his flock mattress was thrust,
looked like a grave.

Nor were these the only dismal feelings which depressed Oliver. He was
alone in a strange place; and we all know how chilled and desolate the
best of us will sometimes feel in such a situation. The boy had no
friends to care for, or to care for him.  The regret of no recent
separation was fresh in his mind; the absence of no loved and
well-remembered face sank heavily into his heart.

But his heart was heavy, notwithstanding; and he wished, as he crept
into his narrow bed, that that were his coffin, and that he could be
lain in a calm and lasting sleep in the churchyard ground, with the
tall grass waving gently above his head, and the sound of the old deep
bell to soothe him in his sleep.

Oliver was awakened in the morning, by a loud kicking at the outside of
the shop-door: which, before he could huddle on his clothes, was
repeated, in an angry and impetuous manner, about twenty-five times.
When he began to undo the chain, the legs desisted, and a voice began.

'Open the door, will yer?' cried the voice which belonged to the legs
which had kicked at the door.

'I will, directly, sir,' replied Oliver: undoing the chain, and turning
the key.

'I suppose yer the new boy, ain't yer?' said the voice through the
key-hole.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'How old are yer?' inquired the voice.

'Ten, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Then I'll whop yer when I get in,' said the voice; 'you just see if I
don't, that's all, my work'us brat!' and having made this obliging
promise, the voice began to whistle.

Oliver had been too often subjected to the process to which the very
expressive monosyllable just recorded bears reference, to entertain the
smallest doubt that the owner of the voice, whoever he might be, would
redeem his pledge, most honourably. He drew back the bolts with a
trembling hand, and opened the door.

For a second or two, Oliver glanced up the street, and down the street,
and over the way: impressed with the belief that the unknown, who had
addressed him through the key-hole, had walked a few paces off, to warm
himself; for nobody did he see but a big charity-boy, sitting on a post
in front of the house, eating a slice of bread and butter: which he cut
into wedges, the size of his mouth, with a clasp-knife, and then
consumed with great dexterity.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Oliver at length: seeing that no other
visitor made his appearance; 'did you knock?'

'I kicked,' replied the charity-boy.

'Did you want a coffin, sir?' inquired Oliver, innocently.

At this, the charity-boy looked monstrous fierce; and said that Oliver
would want one before long, if he cut jokes with his superiors in that
way.

'Yer don't know who I am, I suppose, Work'us?' said the charity-boy, in
continuation: descending from the top of the post, meanwhile, with
edifying gravity.

'No, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'I'm Mister Noah Claypole,' said the charity-boy, 'and you're under me.
Take down the shutters, yer idle young ruffian!' With this, Mr.
Claypole administered a kick to Oliver, and entered the shop with a
dignified air, which did him great credit.  It is difficult for a
large-headed, small-eyed youth, of lumbering make and heavy
countenance, to look dignified under any circumstances; but it is more
especially so, when superadded to these personal attractions are a red
nose and yellow smalls.

Oliver, having taken down the shutters, and broken a pane of glass in
his effort to stagger away beneath the weight of the first one to a
small court at the side of the house in which they were kept during the
day, was graciously assisted by Noah: who having consoled him with the
assurance that 'he'd catch it,' condescended to help him.  Mr.
Sowerberry came down soon after. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Sowerberry
appeared.  Oliver having 'caught it,' in fulfilment of Noah's
prediction, followed that young gentleman down the stairs to breakfast.

'Come near the fire, Noah,' said Charlotte.  'I saved a nice little bit
of bacon for you from master's breakfast.  Oliver, shut that door at
Mister Noah's back, and take them bits that I've put out on the cover
of the bread-pan.  There's your tea; take it away to that box, and
drink it there, and make haste, for they'll want you to mind the shop.
D'ye hear?'

'D'ye hear, Work'us?' said Noah Claypole.

'Lor, Noah!' said Charlotte, 'what a rum creature you are!  Why don't
you let the boy alone?'

'Let him alone!' said Noah.  'Why everybody lets him alone enough, for
the matter of that.  Neither his father nor his mother will ever
interfere with him.  All his relations let him have his own way pretty
well.  Eh, Charlotte?  He! he! he!'

'Oh, you queer soul!' said Charlotte, bursting into a hearty laugh, in
which she was joined by Noah; after which they both looked scornfully
at poor Oliver Twist, as he sat shivering on the box in the coldest
corner of the room, and ate the stale pieces which had been specially
reserved for him.

Noah was a charity-boy, but not a workhouse orphan.  No chance-child
was he, for he could trace his genealogy all the way back to his
parents, who lived hard by; his mother being a washerwoman, and his
father a drunken soldier, discharged with a wooden leg, and a diurnal
pension of twopence-halfpenny and an unstateable fraction.  The
shop-boys in the neighbourhood had long been in the habit of branding
Noah in the public streets, with the ignominious epithets of
'leathers,' 'charity,' and the like; and Noah had bourne them without
reply.  But, now that fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphan, at
whom even the meanest could point the finger of scorn, he retorted on
him with interest.  This affords charming food for contemplation.  It
shows us what a beautiful thing human nature may be made to be; and how
impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lord
and the dirtiest charity-boy.

Oliver had been sojourning at the undertaker's some three weeks or a
month.  Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry--the shop being shut up--were taking
their supper in the little back-parlour, when Mr. Sowerberry, after
several deferential glances at his wife, said,

'My dear--'  He was going to say more; but, Mrs. Sowerberry looking up,
with a peculiarly unpropitious aspect, he stopped short.

'Well,' said Mrs. Sowerberry, sharply.

'Nothing, my dear, nothing,' said Mr. Sowerberry.

'Ugh, you brute!' said Mrs. Sowerberry.

'Not at all, my dear,' said Mr. Sowerberry humbly.  'I thought you
didn't want to hear, my dear.  I was only going to say--'

'Oh, don't tell me what you were going to say,' interposed Mrs.
Sowerberry.  'I am nobody; don't consult me, pray.  _I_ don't want to
intrude upon your secrets.'  As Mrs. Sowerberry said this, she gave an
hysterical laugh, which threatened violent consequences.

'But, my dear,' said Sowerberry, 'I want to ask your advice.'

'No, no, don't ask mine,' replied Mrs. Sowerberry, in an affecting
manner: 'ask somebody else's.'  Here, there was another hysterical
laugh, which frightened Mr. Sowerberry very much.  This is a very
common and much-approved matrimonial course of treatment, which is
often very effective. It at once reduced Mr. Sowerberry to begging, as
a special favour, to be allowed to say what Mrs. Sowerberry was most
curious to hear.  After a short duration, the permission was most
graciously conceded.

'It's only about young Twist, my dear,' said Mr. Sowerberry. 'A very
good-looking boy, that, my dear.'

'He need be, for he eats enough,' observed the lady.

'There's an expression of melancholy in his face, my dear,' resumed Mr.
Sowerberry, 'which is very interesting.  He would make a delightful
mute, my love.'

Mrs. Sowerberry looked up with an expression of considerable
wonderment.  Mr. Sowerberry remarked it and, without allowing time for
any observation on the good lady's part, proceeded.

'I don't mean a regular mute to attend grown-up people, my dear, but
only for children's practice.  It would be very new to have a mute in
proportion, my dear.  You may depend upon it, it would have a superb
effect.'

Mrs. Sowerberry, who had a good deal of taste in the undertaking way,
was much struck by the novelty of this idea; but, as it would have been
compromising her dignity to have said so, under existing circumstances,
she merely inquired, with much sharpness, why such an obvious
suggestion had not presented itself to her husband's mind before?  Mr.
Sowerberry rightly construed this, as an acquiescence in his
proposition; it was speedily determined, therefore, that Oliver should
be at once initiated into the mysteries of the trade; and, with this
view, that he should accompany his master on the very next occasion of
his services being required.

The occasion was not long in coming.  Half an hour after breakfast next
morning, Mr. Bumble entered the shop; and supporting his cane against
the counter, drew forth his large leathern pocket-book: from which he
selected a small scrap of paper, which he handed over to Sowerberry.

'Aha!' said the undertaker, glancing over it with a lively countenance;
'an order for a coffin, eh?'

'For a coffin first, and a porochial funeral afterwards,' replied Mr.
Bumble, fastening the strap of the leathern pocket-book: which, like
himself, was very corpulent.

'Bayton,' said the undertaker, looking from the scrap of paper to Mr.
Bumble.  'I never heard the name before.'

Bumble shook his head, as he replied, 'Obstinate people, Mr.
Sowerberry; very obstinate.  Proud, too, I'm afraid, sir.'

'Proud, eh?' exclaimed Mr. Sowerberry with a sneer.  'Come, that's too
much.'

'Oh, it's sickening,' replied the beadle.  'Antimonial, Mr. Sowerberry!'

'So it is,' acquiesced the undertaker.

'We only heard of the family the night before last,' said the beadle;
'and we shouldn't have known anything about them, then, only a woman
who lodges in the same house made an application to the porochial
committee for them to send the porochial surgeon to see a woman as was
very bad.  He had gone out to dinner; but his 'prentice (which is a
very clever lad) sent 'em some medicine in a blacking-bottle, offhand.'

'Ah, there's promptness,' said the undertaker.

'Promptness, indeed!' replied the beadle.  'But what's the consequence;
what's the ungrateful behaviour of these rebels, sir?  Why, the husband
sends back word that the medicine won't suit his wife's complaint, and
so she shan't take it--says she shan't take it, sir!  Good, strong,
wholesome medicine, as was given with great success to two Irish
labourers and a coal-heaver, only a week before--sent 'em for nothing,
with a blackin'-bottle in,--and he sends back word that she shan't take
it, sir!'

As the atrocity presented itself to Mr. Bumble's mind in full force, he
struck the counter sharply with his cane, and became flushed with
indignation.

'Well,' said the undertaker, 'I ne--ver--did--'

'Never did, sir!' ejaculated the beadle.  'No, nor nobody never did;
but now she's dead, we've got to bury her; and that's the direction;
and the sooner it's done, the better.'

Thus saying, Mr. Bumble put on his cocked hat wrong side first, in a
fever of parochial excitement; and flounced out of the shop.

'Why, he was so angry, Oliver, that he forgot even to ask after you!'
said Mr. Sowerberry, looking after the beadle as he strode down the
street.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver, who had carefully kept himself out of
sight, during the interview; and who was shaking from head to foot at
the mere recollection of the sound of Mr. Bumble's voice.

He needn't haven taken the trouble to shrink from Mr. Bumble's glance,
however; for that functionary, on whom the prediction of the gentleman
in the white waistcoat had made a very strong impression, thought that
now the undertaker had got Oliver upon trial the subject was better
avoided, until such time as he should be firmly bound for seven years,
and all danger of his being returned upon the hands of the parish
should be thus effectually and legally overcome.

'Well,' said Mr. Sowerberry, taking up his hat, 'the sooner this job is
done, the better.  Noah, look after the shop. Oliver, put on your cap,
and come with me.'  Oliver obeyed, and followed his master on his
professional mission.

They walked on, for some time, through the most crowded and densely
inhabited part of the town; and then, striking down a narrow street
more dirty and miserable than any they had yet passed through, paused
to look for the house which was the object of their search.  The houses
on either side were high and large, but very old, and tenanted by
people of the poorest class: as their neglected appearance would have
sufficiently denoted, without the concurrent testimony afforded by the
squalid looks of the few men and women who, with folded arms and bodies
half doubled, occasionally skulked along.  A great many of the
tenements had shop-fronts; but these were fast closed, and mouldering
away; only the upper rooms being inhabited.  Some houses which had
become insecure from age and decay, were prevented from falling into
the street, by huge beams of wood reared against the walls, and firmly
planted in the road; but even these crazy dens seemed to have been
selected as the nightly haunts of some houseless wretches, for many of
the rough boards which supplied the place of door and window, were
wrenched from their positions, to afford an aperture wide enough for
the passage of a human body.  The kennel was stagnant and filthy. The
very rats, which here and there lay putrefying in its rottenness, were
hideous with famine.

There was neither knocker nor bell-handle at the open door where Oliver
and his master stopped; so, groping his way cautiously through the dark
passage, and bidding Oliver keep close to him and not be afraid the
undertaker mounted to the top of the first flight of stairs.  Stumbling
against a door on the landing, he rapped at it with his knuckles.

It was opened by a young girl of thirteen or fourteen.  The undertaker
at once saw enough of what the room contained, to know it was the
apartment to which he had been directed.  He stepped in; Oliver
followed him.

There was no fire in the room; but a man was crouching, mechanically,
over the empty stove.  An old woman, too, had drawn a low stool to the
cold hearth, and was sitting beside him. There were some ragged
children in another corner; and in a small recess, opposite the door,
there lay upon the ground, something covered with an old blanket.
Oliver shuddered as he cast his eyes toward the place, and crept
involuntarily closer to his master; for though it was covered up, the
boy felt that it was a corpse.

The man's face was thin and very pale; his hair and beard were grizzly;
his eyes were bloodshot.  The old woman's face was wrinkled; her two
remaining teeth protruded over her under lip; and her eyes were bright
and piercing.  Oliver was afraid to look at either her or the man.
They seemed so like the rats he had seen outside.

'Nobody shall go near her,' said the man, starting fiercely up, as the
undertaker approached the recess. 'Keep back! Damn you, keep back, if
you've a life to lose!'

'Nonsense, my good man,' said the undertaker, who was pretty well used
to misery in all its shapes.  'Nonsense!'

'I tell you,' said the man:  clenching his hands, and stamping
furiously on the floor,--'I tell you I won't have her put into the
ground.  She couldn't rest there.  The worms would worry her--not eat
her--she is so worn away.'

The undertaker offered no reply to this raving; but producing a tape
from his pocket, knelt down for a moment by the side of the body.

'Ah!' said the man: bursting into tears, and sinking on his knees at
the feet of the dead woman; 'kneel down, kneel down--kneel round her,
every one of you, and mark my words!  I say she was starved to death.
I never knew how bad she was, till the fever came upon her; and then
her bones were starting through the skin.  There was neither fire nor
candle; she died in the dark--in the dark!  She couldn't even see her
children's faces, though we heard her gasping out their names. I begged
for her in the streets: and they sent me to prison. When I came back,
she was dying; and all the blood in my heart has dried up, for they
starved her to death.  I swear it before the God that saw it! They
starved her!'  He twined his hands in his hair; and, with a loud
scream, rolled grovelling upon the floor: his eyes fixed, and the foam
covering his lips.

The terrified children cried bitterly; but the old woman, who had
hitherto remained as quiet as if she had been wholly deaf to all that
passed, menaced them into silence.  Having unloosened the cravat of the
man who still remained extended on the ground, she tottered towards the
undertaker.

'She was my daughter,' said the old woman, nodding her head in the
direction of the corpse; and speaking with an idiotic leer, more
ghastly than even the presence of death in such a place. 'Lord, Lord!
Well, it _is_ strange that I who gave birth to her, and was a woman
then, should be alive and merry now, and she lying there: so cold and
stiff!  Lord, Lord!--to think of it; it's as good as a play--as good as
a play!'

As the wretched creature mumbled and chuckled in her hideous merriment,
the undertaker turned to go away.

'Stop, stop!' said the old woman in a loud whisper.  'Will she be
buried to-morrow, or next day, or to-night?  I laid her out; and I must
walk, you know.  Send me a large cloak: a good warm one: for it is
bitter cold.  We should have cake and wine, too, before we go!  Never
mind; send some bread--only a loaf of bread and a cup of water.  Shall
we have some bread, dear?' she said eagerly: catching at the
undertaker's coat, as he once more moved towards the door.

'Yes, yes,' said the undertaker,'of course.  Anything you like!' He
disengaged himself from the old woman's grasp; and, drawing Oliver
after him, hurried away.

The next day, (the family having been meanwhile relieved with a
half-quartern loaf and a piece of cheese, left with them by Mr. Bumble
himself,) Oliver and his master returned to the miserable abode; where
Mr. Bumble had already arrived, accompanied by four men from the
workhouse, who were to act as bearers.  An old black cloak had been
thrown over the rags of the old woman and the man; and the bare coffin
having been screwed down, was hoisted on the shoulders of the bearers,
and carried into the street.

'Now, you must put your best leg foremost, old lady!' whispered
Sowerberry in the old woman's ear; 'we are rather late; and it won't
do, to keep the clergyman waiting.  Move on, my men,--as quick as you
like!'

Thus directed, the bearers trotted on under their light burden; and the
two mourners kept as near them, as they could.  Mr. Bumble and
Sowerberry walked at a good smart pace in front; and Oliver, whose legs
were not so long as his master's, ran by the side.

There was not so great a necessity for hurrying as Mr. Sowerberry had
anticipated, however; for when they reached the obscure corner of the
churchyard in which the nettles grew, and where the parish graves were
made, the clergyman had not arrived; and the clerk, who was sitting by
the vestry-room fire, seemed to think it by no means improbable that it
might be an hour or so, before he came.  So, they put the bier on the
brink of the grave; and the two mourners waited patiently in the damp
clay, with a cold rain drizzling down, while the ragged boys whom the
spectacle had attracted into the churchyard played a noisy game at
hide-and-seek among the tombstones, or varied their amusements by
jumping backwards and forwards over the coffin.  Mr. Sowerberry and
Bumble, being personal friends of the clerk, sat by the fire with him,
and read the paper.

At length, after a lapse of something more than an hour, Mr. Bumble,
and Sowerberry, and the clerk, were seen running towards the grave.
Immediately afterwards, the clergyman appeared: putting on his surplice
as he came along.  Mr. Bumble then thrashed a boy or two, to keep up
appearances; and the reverend gentleman, having read as much of the
burial service as could be compressed into four minutes, gave his
surplice to the clerk, and walked away again.

'Now, Bill!' said Sowerberry to the grave-digger. 'Fill up!'

It was no very difficult task, for the grave was so full, that the
uppermost coffin was within a few feet of the surface.  The
grave-digger shovelled in the earth; stamped it loosely down with his
feet: shouldered his spade; and walked off, followed by the boys, who
murmured very loud complaints at the fun being over so soon.

'Come, my good fellow!' said Bumble, tapping the man on the back. 'They
want to shut up the yard.'

The man who had never once moved, since he had taken his station by the
grave side, started, raised his head, stared at the person who had
addressed him, walked forward for a few paces; and fell down in a
swoon.  The crazy old woman was too much occupied in bewailing the loss
of her cloak (which the undertaker had taken off), to pay him any
attention; so they threw a can of cold water over him; and when he came
to, saw him safely out of the churchyard, locked the gate, and departed
on their different ways.

'Well, Oliver,' said Sowerberry, as they walked home, 'how do you like
it?'

'Pretty well, thank you, sir' replied Oliver, with considerable
hesitation.  'Not very much, sir.'

'Ah, you'll get used to it in time, Oliver,' said Sowerberry. 'Nothing
when you _are_ used to it, my boy.'

Oliver wondered, in his own mind, whether it had taken a very long time
to get Mr. Sowerberry used to it.  But he thought it better not to ask
the question; and walked back to the shop: thinking over all he had
seen and heard.



CHAPTER VI

OLIVER, BEING GOADED BY THE TAUNTS OF NOAH, ROUSES INTO ACTION, AND
RATHER ASTONISHES HIM

The month's trial over, Oliver was formally apprenticed.  It was a nice
sickly season just at this time.  In commercial phrase, coffins were
looking up; and, in the course of a few weeks, Oliver acquired a great
deal of experience.  The success of Mr. Sowerberry's ingenious
speculation, exceeded even his most sanguine hopes.  The oldest
inhabitants recollected no period at which measles had been so
prevalent, or so fatal to infant existence; and many were the mournful
processions which little Oliver headed, in a hat-band reaching down to
his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the
mothers in the town.  As Oliver accompanied his master in most of his
adult expeditions too, in order that he might acquire that equanimity
of demeanour and full command of nerve which was essential to a
finished undertaker, he had many opportunities of observing the
beautiful resignation and fortitude with which some strong-minded
people bear their trials and losses.

For instance; when Sowerberry had an order for the burial of some rich
old lady or gentleman, who was surrounded by a great number of nephews
and nieces, who had been perfectly inconsolable during the previous
illness, and whose grief had been wholly irrepressible even on the most
public occasions, they would be as happy among themselves as need
be--quite cheerful and contented--conversing together with as much
freedom and gaiety, as if nothing whatever had happened to disturb
them.  Husbands, too, bore the loss of their wives with the most heroic
calmness. Wives, again, put on weeds for their husbands, as if, so far
from grieving in the garb of sorrow, they had made up their minds to
render it as becoming and attractive as possible.  It was observable,
too, that ladies and gentlemen who were in passions of anguish during
the ceremony of interment, recovered almost as soon as they reached
home, and became quite composed before the tea-drinking was over.  All
this was very pleasant and improving to see; and Oliver beheld it with
great admiration.

That Oliver Twist was moved to resignation by the example of these good
people, I cannot, although I am his biographer, undertake to affirm
with any degree of confidence; but I can most distinctly say, that for
many months he continued meekly to submit to the domination and
ill-treatment of Noah Claypole: who used him far worse than before, now
that his jealousy was roused by seeing the new boy promoted to the
black stick and hatband, while he, the old one, remained stationary in
the muffin-cap and leathers.  Charlotte treated him ill, because Noah
did; and Mrs. Sowerberry was his decided enemy, because Mr. Sowerberry
was disposed to be his friend; so, between these three on one side, and
a glut of funerals on the other, Oliver was not altogether as
comfortable as the hungry pig was, when he was shut up, by mistake, in
the grain department of a brewery.

And now, I come to a very important passage in Oliver's history; for I
have to record an act, slight and unimportant perhaps in appearance,
but which indirectly produced a material change in all his future
prospects and proceedings.

One day, Oliver and Noah had descended into the kitchen at the usual
dinner-hour, to banquet upon a small joint of mutton--a pound and a
half of the worst end of the neck--when Charlotte being called out of
the way, there ensued a brief interval of time, which Noah Claypole,
being hungry and vicious, considered he could not possibly devote to a
worthier purpose than aggravating and tantalising young Oliver Twist.

Intent upon this innocent amusement, Noah put his feet on the
table-cloth; and pulled Oliver's hair; and twitched his ears; and
expressed his opinion that he was a 'sneak'; and furthermore announced
his intention of coming to see him hanged, whenever that desirable
event should take place; and entered upon various topics of petty
annoyance, like a malicious and ill-conditioned charity-boy as he was.
But, making Oliver cry, Noah attempted to be more facetious still; and
in his attempt, did what many sometimes do to this day, when they want
to be funny.  He got rather personal.

'Work'us,' said Noah, 'how's your mother?'

'She's dead,' replied Oliver; 'don't you say anything about her to me!'

Oliver's colour rose as he said this; he breathed quickly; and there
was a curious working of the mouth and nostrils, which Mr. Claypole
thought must be the immediate precursor of a violent fit of crying.
Under this impression he returned to the charge.

'What did she die of, Work'us?' said Noah.

'Of a broken heart, some of our old nurses told me,' replied Oliver:
more as if he were talking to himself, than answering Noah. 'I think I
know what it must be to die of that!'

'Tol de rol lol lol, right fol lairy, Work'us,' said Noah, as a tear
rolled down Oliver's cheek.  'What's set you a snivelling now?'

'Not _you_,' replied Oliver, sharply. 'There; that's enough. Don't say
anything more to me about her; you'd better not!'

'Better not!' exclaimed Noah. 'Well!  Better not!  Work'us, don't be
impudent.  _Your_ mother, too!  She was a nice 'un she was.  Oh, Lor!'
And here, Noah nodded his head expressively; and curled up as much of
his small red nose as muscular action could collect together, for the
occasion.

'Yer know, Work'us,' continued Noah, emboldened by Oliver's silence,
and speaking in a jeering tone of affected pity: of all tones the most
annoying: 'Yer know, Work'us, it can't be helped now; and of course yer
couldn't help it then; and I am very sorry for it; and I'm sure we all
are, and pity yer very much.  But yer must know, Work'us, yer mother
was a regular right-down bad 'un.'

'What did you say?' inquired Oliver, looking up very quickly.

'A regular right-down bad 'un, Work'us,' replied Noah, coolly. 'And
it's a great deal better, Work'us, that she died when she did, or else
she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung;
which is more likely than either, isn't it?'

Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair and table;
seized Noah by the throat; shook him, in the violence of his rage, till
his teeth chattered in his head; and collecting his whole force into
one heavy blow, felled him to the ground.

A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected
creature that harsh treatment had made him.  But his spirit was roused
at last; the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire.
His breast heaved; his attitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid;
his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly
tormentor who now lay crouching at his feet; and defied him with an
energy he had never known before.

'He'll murder me!' blubbered Noah.  'Charlotte!  missis!  Here's the
new boy a murdering of me!  Help! help!  Oliver's gone mad!
Char--lotte!'

Noah's shouts were responded to, by a loud scream from Charlotte, and a
louder from Mrs. Sowerberry; the former of whom rushed into the kitchen
by a side-door, while the latter paused on the staircase till she was
quite certain that it was consistent with the preservation of human
life, to come further down.

'Oh, you little wretch!' screamed Charlotte: seizing Oliver with her
utmost force, which was about equal to that of a moderately strong man
in particularly good training.  'Oh, you little un-grate-ful,
mur-de-rous, hor-rid villain!'  And between every syllable, Charlotte
gave Oliver a blow with all her might: accompanying it with a scream,
for the benefit of society.

Charlotte's fist was by no means a light one; but, lest it should not
be effectual in calming Oliver's wrath, Mrs. Sowerberry plunged into
the kitchen, and assisted to hold him with one hand, while she
scratched his face with the other. In this favourable position of
affairs, Noah rose from the ground, and pommelled him behind.

This was rather too violent exercise to last long.  When they were all
wearied out, and could tear and beat no longer, they dragged Oliver,
struggling and shouting, but nothing daunted, into the dust-cellar, and
there locked him up.  This being done, Mrs. Sowerberry sunk into a
chair, and burst into tears.

'Bless her, she's going off!' said Charlotte.  'A glass of water, Noah,
dear.  Make haste!'

'Oh!  Charlotte,' said Mrs. Sowerberry:  speaking as well as she could,
through a deficiency of breath, and a sufficiency of cold water, which
Noah had poured over her head and shoulders.  'Oh! Charlotte, what a
mercy we have not all been murdered in our beds!'

'Ah! mercy indeed, ma'am,' was the reply.  I only hope this'll teach
master not to have any more of these dreadful creatures, that are born
to be murderers and robbers from their very cradle. Poor Noah!  He was
all but killed, ma'am, when I come in.'

'Poor fellow!' said Mrs. Sowerberry: looking piteously on the
charity-boy.

Noah, whose top waistcoat-button might have been somewhere on a level
with the crown of Oliver's head, rubbed his eyes with the inside of his
wrists while this commiseration was bestowed upon him, and performed
some affecting tears and sniffs.

'What's to be done!' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.  'Your master's not at
home; there's not a man in the house, and he'll kick that door down in
ten minutes.'  Oliver's vigorous plunges against the bit of timber in
question, rendered this occurance highly probable.

'Dear, dear!  I don't know, ma'am,' said Charlotte, 'unless we send for
the police-officers.'

'Or the millingtary,' suggested Mr. Claypole.

'No, no,' said Mrs. Sowerberry: bethinking herself of Oliver's old
friend.  'Run to Mr. Bumble, Noah, and tell him to come here directly,
and not to lose a minute; never mind your cap!  Make haste!  You can
hold a knife to that black eye, as you run along. It'll keep the
swelling down.'

Noah stopped to make no reply, but started off at his fullest speed;
and very much it astonished the people who were out walking, to see a
charity-boy tearing through the streets pell-mell, with no cap on his
head, and a clasp-knife at his eye.



CHAPTER VII

OLIVER CONTINUES REFRACTORY

Noah Claypole ran along the streets at his swiftest pace, and paused
not once for breath, until he reached the workhouse-gate. Having rested
here, for a minute or so, to collect a good burst of sobs and an
imposing show of tears and terror, he knocked loudly at the wicket; and
presented such a rueful face to the aged pauper who opened it, that
even he, who saw nothing but rueful faces about him at the best of
times, started back in astonishment.

'Why, what's the matter with the boy!' said the old pauper.

'Mr. Bumble!  Mr. Bumble!' cried Noah, with well-affected dismay: and
in tones so loud and agitated, that they not only caught the ear of Mr.
Bumble himself, who happened to be hard by, but alarmed him so much
that he rushed into the yard without his cocked hat,--which is a very
curious and remarkable circumstance: as showing that even a beadle,
acted upon a sudden and powerful impulse, may be afflicted with a
momentary visitation of loss of self-possession, and forgetfulness of
personal dignity.

'Oh, Mr. Bumble, sir!' said Noah:  'Oliver, sir,--Oliver has--'

'What?  What?' interposed Mr. Bumble: with a gleam of pleasure in his
metallic eyes. 'Not run away; he hasn't run away, has he, Noah?'

'No, sir, no.  Not run away, sir, but he's turned wicious,' replied
Noah. 'He tried to murder me, sir; and then he tried to murder
Charlotte; and then missis.  Oh! what dreadful pain it is!

Such agony, please, sir!'  And here, Noah writhed and twisted his body
into an extensive variety of eel-like positions; thereby giving Mr.
Bumble to understand that, from the violent and sanguinary onset of
Oliver Twist, he had sustained severe internal injury and damage, from
which he was at that moment suffering the acutest torture.

When Noah saw that the intelligence he communicated perfectly paralysed
Mr. Bumble, he imparted additional effect thereunto, by bewailing his
dreadful wounds ten times louder than before; and when he observed a
gentleman in a white waistcoat crossing the yard, he was more tragic in
his lamentations than ever: rightly conceiving it highly expedient to
attract the notice, and rouse the indignation, of the gentleman
aforesaid.

The gentleman's notice was very soon attracted; for he had not walked
three paces, when he turned angrily round, and inquired what that young
cur was howling for, and why Mr. Bumble did not favour him with
something which would render the series of vocular exclamations so
designated, an involuntary process?

'It's a poor boy from the free-school, sir,' replied Mr. Bumble, 'who
has been nearly murdered--all but murdered, sir,--by young Twist.'

'By Jove!' exclaimed the gentleman in the white waistcoat, stopping
short.  'I knew it!  I felt a strange presentiment from the very first,
that that audacious young savage would come to be hung!'

'He has likewise attempted, sir, to murder the female servant,' said
Mr. Bumble, with a face of ashy paleness.

'And his missis,' interposed Mr. Claypole.

'And his master, too, I think you said, Noah?' added Mr. Bumble.

'No! he's out, or he would have murdered him,' replied Noah. 'He said
he wanted to.'

'Ah!  Said he wanted to, did he, my boy?' inquired the gentleman in the
white waistcoat.

'Yes, sir,' replied Noah.  'And please, sir, missis wants to know
whether Mr. Bumble can spare time to step up there, directly, and flog
him--'cause master's out.'

'Certainly, my boy; certainly,' said the gentleman in the white
waistcoat: smiling benignly, and patting Noah's head, which was about
three inches higher than his own.  'You're a good boy--a very good boy.
Here's a penny for you.  Bumble, just step up to Sowerberry's with your
cane, and see what's best to be done. Don't spare him, Bumble.'

'No, I will not, sir,' replied the beadle.  And the cocked hat and cane
having been, by this time, adjusted to their owner's satisfaction, Mr.
Bumble and Noah Claypole betook themselves with all speed to the
undertaker's shop.

Here the position of affairs had not at all improved.  Sowerberry had
not yet returned, and Oliver continued to kick, with undiminished
vigour, at the cellar-door.  The accounts of his ferocity as related by
Mrs. Sowerberry and Charlotte, were of so startling a nature, that Mr.
Bumble judged it prudent to parley, before opening the door.  With this
view he gave a kick at the outside, by way of prelude; and, then,
applying his mouth to the keyhole, said, in a deep and impressive tone:

'Oliver!'

'Come; you let me out!' replied Oliver, from the inside.

'Do you know this here voice, Oliver?' said Mr. Bumble.

'Yes,' replied Oliver.

'Ain't you afraid of it, sir?  Ain't you a-trembling while I speak,
sir?' said Mr. Bumble.

'No!' replied Oliver, boldly.

An answer so different from the one he had expected to elicit, and was
in the habit of receiving, staggered Mr. Bumble not a little.  He
stepped back from the keyhole; drew himself up to his full height; and
looked from one to another of the three bystanders, in mute
astonishment.

'Oh, you know, Mr. Bumble, he must be mad,' said Mrs. Sowerberry.

'No boy in half his senses could venture to speak so to you.'

'It's not Madness, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble, after a few moments of
deep meditation.  'It's Meat.'

'What?' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.

'Meat, ma'am, meat,' replied Bumble, with stern emphasis. 'You've
over-fed him, ma'am.  You've raised a artificial soul and spirit in
him, ma'am unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs.
Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you.  What have
paupers to do with soul or spirit?  It's quite enough that we let 'em
have live bodies.  If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma'am, this would
never have happened.'

'Dear, dear!' ejaculated Mrs. Sowerberry, piously raising her eyes to
the kitchen ceiling: 'this comes of being liberal!'

The liberality of Mrs. Sowerberry to Oliver, had consisted of a profuse
bestowal upon him of all the dirty odds and ends which nobody else
would eat; so there was a great deal of meekness and self-devotion in
her voluntarily remaining under Mr. Bumble's heavy accusation.  Of
which, to do her justice, she was wholly innocent, in thought, word, or
deed.

'Ah!' said Mr. Bumble, when the lady brought her eyes down to earth
again; 'the only thing that can be done now, that I know of, is to
leave him in the cellar for a day or so, till he's a little starved
down; and then to take him out, and keep him on gruel all through the
apprenticeship.  He comes of a bad family. Excitable natures, Mrs.
Sowerberry!  Both the nurse and doctor said, that that mother of his
made her way here, against difficulties and pain that would have killed
any well-disposed woman, weeks before.'

At this point of Mr. Bumble's discourse, Oliver, just hearing enough to
know that some allusion was being made to his mother, recommenced
kicking, with a violence that rendered every other sound inaudible.
Sowerberry returned at this juncture.  Oliver's offence having been
explained to him, with such exaggerations as the ladies thought best
calculated to rouse his ire, he unlocked the cellar-door in a
twinkling, and dragged his rebellious apprentice out, by the collar.

Oliver's clothes had been torn in the beating he had received; his face
was bruised and scratched; and his hair scattered over his forehead.
The angry flush had not disappeared, however; and when he was pulled
out of his prison, he scowled boldly on Noah, and looked quite
undismayed.

'Now, you are a nice young fellow, ain't you?' said Sowerberry; giving
Oliver a shake, and a box on the ear.

'He called my mother names,' replied Oliver.

'Well, and what if he did, you little ungrateful wretch?' said Mrs.
Sowerberry.  'She deserved what he said, and worse.'

'She didn't' said Oliver.

'She did,' said Mrs. Sowerberry.

'It's a lie!' said Oliver.

Mrs. Sowerberry burst into a flood of tears.

This flood of tears left Mr. Sowerberry no alternative.  If he had
hesitated for one instant to punish Oliver most severely, it must be
quite clear to every experienced reader that he would have been,
according to all precedents in disputes of matrimony established, a
brute, an unnatural husband, an insulting creature, a base imitation of
a man, and various other agreeable characters too numerous for recital
within the limits of this chapter.  To do him justice, he was, as far
as his power went--it was not very extensive--kindly disposed towards
the boy; perhaps, because it was his interest to be so; perhaps,
because his wife disliked him. The flood of tears, however, left him no
resource; so he at once gave him a drubbing, which satisfied even Mrs.
Sowerberry herself, and rendered Mr. Bumble's subsequent application of
the parochial cane, rather unnecessary.  For the rest of the day, he
was shut up in the back kitchen, in company with a pump and a slice of
bread; and at night, Mrs. Sowerberry, after making various remarks
outside the door, by no means complimentary to the memory of his
mother, looked into the room, and, amidst the jeers and pointings of
Noah and Charlotte, ordered him upstairs to his dismal bed.

It was not until he was left alone in the silence and stillness of the
gloomy workshop of the undertaker, that Oliver gave way to the feelings
which the day's treatment may be supposed likely to have awakened in a
mere child.  He had listened to their taunts with a look of contempt;
he had borne the lash without a cry: for he felt that pride swelling in
his heart which would have kept down a shriek to the last, though they
had roasted him alive.  But now, when there were none to see or hear
him, he fell upon his knees on the floor; and, hiding his face in his
hands, wept such tears as, God send for the credit of our nature, few
so young may ever have cause to pour out before him!

For a long time, Oliver remained motionless in this attitude. The
candle was burning low in the socket when he rose to his feet. Having
gazed cautiously round him, and listened intently, he gently undid the
fastenings of the door, and looked abroad.

It was a cold, dark night.  The stars seemed, to the boy's eyes,
farther from the earth than he had ever seen them before; there was no
wind; and the sombre shadows thrown by the trees upon the ground,
looked sepulchral and death-like, from being so still. He softly
reclosed the door.  Having availed himself of the expiring light of the
candle to tie up in a handkerchief the few articles of wearing apparel
he had, sat himself down upon a bench, to wait for morning.

With the first ray of light that struggled through the crevices in the
shutters, Oliver arose, and again unbarred the door.  One timid look
around--one moment's pause of hesitation--he had closed it behind him,
and was in the open street.

He looked to the right and to the left, uncertain whither to fly.

He remembered to have seen the waggons, as they went out, toiling up
the hill.  He took the same route; and arriving at a footpath across
the fields: which he knew, after some distance, led out again into the
road; struck into it, and walked quickly on.

Along this same footpath, Oliver well-remembered he had trotted beside
Mr. Bumble, when he first carried him to the workhouse from the farm.
His way lay directly in front of the cottage. His heart beat quickly
when he bethought himself of this; and he half resolved to turn back.
He had come a long way though, and should lose a great deal of time by
doing so.  Besides, it was so early that there was very little fear of
his being seen; so he walked on.

He reached the house.  There was no appearance of its inmates stirring
at that early hour.  Oliver stopped, and peeped into the garden.  A
child was weeding one of the little beds; as he stopped, he raised his
pale face and disclosed the features of one of his former companions.
Oliver felt glad to see him, before he went; for, though younger than
himself, he had been his little friend and playmate.  They had been
beaten, and starved, and shut up together, many and many a time.

'Hush, Dick!' said Oliver, as the boy ran to the gate, and thrust his
thin arm between the rails to greet him.  'Is any one up?'

'Nobody but me,' replied the child.

'You musn't say you saw me, Dick,' said Oliver.  'I am running away.
They beat and ill-use me, Dick; and I am going to seek my fortune, some
long way off.  I don't know where.  How pale you are!'

'I heard the doctor tell them I was dying,' replied the child with a
faint smile.  'I am very glad to see you, dear; but don't stop, don't
stop!'

'Yes, yes, I will, to say good-b'ye to you,' replied Oliver. 'I shall
see you again, Dick.  I know I shall!  You will be well and happy!'

'I hope so,' replied the child.  'After I am dead, but not before.  I
know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of
Heaven, and Angels, and kind faces that I never see when I am awake.
Kiss me,' said the child,  climbing up the low gate, and flinging his
little arms round Oliver's neck. 'Good-b'ye, dear!  God bless you!'

The blessing was from a young child's lips, but it was the first that
Oliver had ever heard invoked upon his head; and through the struggles
and sufferings, and troubles and changes, of his after life, he never
once forgot it.



CHAPTER VIII

OLIVER WALKS TO LONDON.  HE ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD A STRANGE SORT OF
YOUNG GENTLEMAN

Oliver reached the stile at which the by-path terminated; and once more
gained the high-road.  It was eight o'clock now. Though he was nearly
five miles away from the town, he ran, and hid behind the hedges, by
turns, till noon: fearing that he might be pursued and overtaken.  Then
he sat down to rest by the side of the milestone, and began to think,
for the first time, where he had better go and try to live.

The stone by which he was seated, bore, in large characters, an
intimation that it was just seventy miles from that spot to London. The
name awakened a new train of ideas in the boy's mind.

London!--that great place!--nobody--not even Mr. Bumble--could ever
find him there!  He had often heard the old men in the workhouse, too,
say that no lad of spirit need want in London; and that there were ways
of living in that vast city, which those who had been bred up in
country parts had no idea of.  It was the very place for a homeless
boy, who must die in the streets unless some one helped him. As these
things passed through his thoughts, he jumped upon his feet, and again
walked forward.

He had diminished the distance between himself and London by full four
miles more, before he recollected how much he must undergo ere he could
hope to reach his place of destination. As this consideration forced
itself upon him, he slackened his pace a little, and meditated upon his
means of getting there.  He had a crust of bread, a coarse shirt, and
two pairs of stockings, in his bundle.  He had a penny too--a gift of
Sowerberry's after some funeral in which he had acquitted himself more
than ordinarily well--in his pocket. 'A clean shirt,' thought Oliver,
'is a very comfortable thing; and so are two pairs of darned stockings;
and so is a penny; but they are small helps to a sixty-five miles' walk
in winter time.'  But Oliver's thoughts, like those of most other
people, although they were extremely ready and active to point out his
difficulties, were wholly at a loss to suggest any feasible mode of
surmounting them; so, after a good deal of thinking to no particular
purpose, he changed his little bundle over to the other shoulder, and
trudged on.

Oliver walked twenty miles that day; and all that time tasted nothing
but the crust of dry bread, and a few draughts of water, which he
begged at the cottage-doors by the road-side.  When the night came, he
turned into a meadow; and, creeping close under a hay-rick, determined
to lie there, till morning.  He felt frightened at first, for the wind
moaned dismally over the empty fields: and he was cold and hungry, and
more alone than he had ever felt before.  Being very tired with his
walk, however, he soon fell asleep and forgot his troubles.

He felt cold and stiff, when he got up next morning, and so hungry that
he was obliged to exchange the penny for a small loaf, in the very
first village through which he passed.  He had walked no more than
twelve miles, when night closed in again. His feet were sore, and his
legs so weak that they trembled beneath him.  Another night passed in
the bleak damp air, made him worse; when he set forward on his journey
next morning he could hardly crawl along.

He waited at the bottom of a steep hill till a stage-coach came up, and
then begged of the outside passengers; but there were very few who took
any notice of him: and even those told him to wait till they got to the
top of the hill, and then let them see how far he could run for a
halfpenny.  Poor Oliver tried to keep up with the coach a little way,
but was unable to do it, by reason of his fatigue and sore feet.  When
the outsides saw this, they put their halfpence back into their pockets
again, declaring that he was an idle young dog, and didn't deserve
anything; and the coach rattled away and left only a cloud of dust
behind.

In some villages, large painted boards were fixed up: warning all
persons who begged within the district, that they would be sent to
jail.  This frightened Oliver very much, and made him glad to get out
of those villages with all possible expedition.  In others, he would
stand about the inn-yards, and look mournfully at every one who passed:
a proceeding which generally terminated in the landlady's ordering one
of the post-boys who were lounging about, to drive that strange boy out
of the place, for she was sure he had come to steal something.  If he
begged at a farmer's house, ten to one but they threatened to set the
dog on him; and when he showed his nose in a shop, they talked about
the beadle--which brought Oliver's heart into his mouth,--very often
the only thing he had there, for many hours together.

In fact, if it had not been for a good-hearted turnpike-man, and a
benevolent old lady, Oliver's troubles would have been shortened by the
very same process which had put an end to his mother's; in other words,
he would most assuredly have fallen dead upon the king's highway.  But
the turnpike-man gave him a meal of bread and cheese; and the old lady,
who had a shipwrecked grandson wandering barefoot in some distant part
of the earth, took pity upon the poor orphan, and gave him what little
she could afford--and more--with such kind and gentle words, and such
tears of sympathy and compassion, that they sank deeper into Oliver's
soul, than all the sufferings he had ever undergone.

Early on the seventh morning after he had left his native place, Oliver
limped slowly into the little town of Barnet. The window-shutters were
closed; the street was empty; not a soul had awakened to the business
of the day.  The sun was rising in all its splendid beauty; but the
light only served to show the boy his own lonesomeness and desolation,
as he sat, with bleeding feet and covered with dust, upon a door-step.

By degrees, the shutters were opened; the window-blinds were drawn up;
and people began passing to and fro.  Some few stopped to gaze at
Oliver for a moment or two, or turned round to stare at him as they
hurried by; but none relieved him, or troubled themselves to inquire
how he came there. He had no heart to beg. And there he sat.

He had been crouching on the step for some time: wondering at the great
number of public-houses (every other house in Barnet was a tavern,
large or small), gazing listlessly at the coaches as they passed
through, and thinking how strange it seemed that they could do, with
ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage and
determination beyond his years to accomplish: when he was roused by
observing that a boy, who had passed him carelessly some minutes
before, had returned, and was now surveying him most earnestly from the
opposite side of the way.  He took little heed of this at first; but
the boy remained in the same attitude of close observation so long,
that Oliver raised his head, and returned his steady look.  Upon this,
the boy crossed over; and walking close up to Oliver, said,

'Hullo, my covey!  What's the row?'

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his
own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had even
seen.  He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and
as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all
the airs and manners of a man.  He was short of his age: with rather
bow-legs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes.  His hat was stuck on the top
of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every
moment--and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a
knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which
brought it back to its old place again.  He wore a man's coat, which
reached nearly to his heels.  He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up
his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the
ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy
trousers; for there he kept them.  He was, altogether, as roystering
and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or
something less, in the bluchers.

'Hullo, my covey!  What's the row?' said this strange young gentleman
to Oliver.

'I am very hungry and tired,' replied Oliver: the tears standing in his
eyes as he spoke. 'I have walked a long way.  I have been walking these
seven days.'

'Walking for sivin days!' said the young gentleman.  'Oh, I see. Beak's
order, eh?  But,' he added, noticing Oliver's look of surprise, 'I
suppose you don't know what a beak is, my flash com-pan-i-on.'

Oliver mildly replied, that he had always heard a bird's mouth
described by the term in question.

'My eyes, how green!' exclaimed the young gentleman. 'Why, a beak's a
madgst'rate; and when you walk by a beak's order, it's not straight
forerd, but always agoing up, and niver a coming down agin.  Was you
never on the mill?'

'What mill?' inquired Oliver.

'What mill!  Why, _the_ mill--the mill as takes up so little room that
it'll work inside a Stone Jug; and always goes better when the wind's
low with people, than when it's high; acos then they can't get workmen.
But come,' said the young gentleman; 'you want grub, and you shall have
it.  I'm at low-water-mark myself--only one bob and a magpie; but, as
far as it goes, I'll fork out and stump.  Up with you on your pins.
There!  Now then! 'Morrice!'

Assisting Oliver to rise, the young gentleman took him to an adjacent
chandler's shop, where he purchased a sufficiency of ready-dressed ham
and a half-quartern loaf, or, as he himself expressed it, 'a fourpenny
bran!' the ham being kept clean and preserved from dust, by the
ingenious expedient of making a hole in the loaf by pulling out a
portion of the crumb, and stuffing it therein.  Taking the bread under
his arm, the young gentlman turned into a small public-house, and led
the way to a tap-room in the rear of the premises. Here, a pot of beer
was brought in, by direction of the mysterious youth; and Oliver,
falling to, at his new friend's bidding, made a long and hearty meal,
during the progress of which the strange boy eyed him from time to time
with great attention.

'Going to London?' said the strange boy, when Oliver had at length
concluded.

'Yes.'

'Got any lodgings?'

'No.'

'Money?'

'No.'

The strange boy whistled; and put his arms into his pockets, as far as
the big coat-sleeves would let them go.

'Do you live in London?' inquired Oliver.

'Yes. I do, when I'm at home,' replied the boy. 'I suppose you want
some place to sleep in to-night, don't you?'

'I do, indeed,' answered Oliver. 'I have not slept under a roof since I
left the country.'

'Don't fret your eyelids on that score,' said the young gentleman.
'I've got to be in London to-night; and I know a 'spectable old
gentleman as lives there, wot'll give you lodgings for nothink, and
never ask for the change--that is, if any genelman he knows interduces
you. And don't he know me?  Oh, no! Not in the least!  By no means.
Certainly not!'

The young gentleman smiled, as if to intimate that the latter fragments
of discourse were playfully ironical; and finished the beer as he did
so.

This unexpected offer of shelter was too tempting to be resisted;
especially as it was immediately followed up, by the assurance that the
old gentleman referred to, would doubtless provide Oliver with a
comfortable place, without loss of time.  This led to a more friendly
and confidential dialogue; from which Oliver discovered that his
friend's name was Jack Dawkins, and that he was a peculiar pet and
protege of the elderly gentleman before mentioned.

Mr. Dawkin's appearance did not say a vast deal in favour of the
comforts which his patron's interest obtained for those whom he took
under his protection; but, as he had a rather flightly and dissolute
mode of conversing, and furthermore avowed that among his intimate
friends he was better known by the sobriquet of 'The Artful Dodger,'
Oliver concluded that, being of a dissipated and careless turn, the
moral precepts of his benefactor had hitherto been thrown away upon
him.  Under this impression, he secretly resolved to cultivate the good
opinion of the old gentleman as quickly as possible; and, if he found
the Dodger incorrigible, as he more than half suspected he should, to
decline the honour of his farther acquaintance.

As John Dawkins objected to their entering London before nightfall, it
was nearly eleven o'clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington.
They crossed from the Angel into St. John's Road; struck down the small
street which terminates at Sadler's Wells Theatre; through Exmouth
Street and Coppice Row; down the little court by the side of the
workhouse; across the classic ground which once bore the name of
Hockley-in-the-Hole; thence into Little Saffron Hill; and so into
Saffron Hill the Great: along which the Dodger scudded at a rapid pace,
directing Oliver to follow close at his heels.

Although Oliver had enough to occupy his attention in keeping sight of
his leader, he could not help bestowing a few hasty glances on either
side of the way, as he passed along.  A dirtier or more wretched place
he had never seen.  The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air
was impregnated with filthy odours.

There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade
appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were
crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside.  The
sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the
place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish
were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here
and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of
houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth;
and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were
cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed
or harmless errands.

Oliver was just considering whether he hadn't better run away, when
they reached the bottom of the hill.  His conductor, catching him by
the arm, pushed open the door of a house near Field Lane; and drawing
him into the passage, closed it behind them.

'Now, then!' cried a voice from below, in reply to a whistle from the
Dodger.

'Plummy and slam!' was the reply.

This seemed to be some watchword or signal that all was right; for the
light of a feeble candle gleamed on the wall at the remote end of the
passage; and a man's face peeped out, from where a balustrade of the
old kitchen staircase had been broken away.

'There's two on you,' said the man, thrusting the candle farther out,
and shielding his eyes with his hand.  'Who's the t'other one?'

'A new pal,' replied Jack Dawkins, pulling Oliver forward.

'Where did he come from?'

'Greenland. Is Fagin upstairs?'

'Yes, he's a sortin' the wipes.  Up with you!'  The candle was drawn
back, and the face disappeared.

Oliver, groping his way with one hand, and having the other firmly
grasped by his companion, ascended with much difficulty the dark and
broken stairs: which his conductor mounted with an ease and expedition
that showed he was well acquainted with them.

He threw open the door of a back-room, and drew Oliver in after him.

The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age and
dirt.  There was a deal table before the fire: upon which were a
candle, stuck in a ginger-beer bottle, two or three pewter pots, a loaf
and butter, and a plate.  In a frying-pan, which was on the fire, and
which was secured to the mantelshelf by a string, some sausages were
cooking; and standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was
a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face
was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a
greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare; and seemed to be dividing
his attention between the frying-pan and the clothes-horse, over which
a great number of silk handkerchiefs were hanging.  Several rough beds
made of old sacks, were huddled side by side on the floor. Seated round
the table were four or five boys, none older than the Dodger, smoking
long clay pipes, and drinking spirits with the air of middle-aged men.
These all crowded about their associate as he whispered a few words to
the Jew; and then turned round and grinned at Oliver.  So did the Jew
himself, toasting-fork in hand.

'This is him, Fagin,' said Jack Dawkins;'my friend Oliver Twist.'

The Jew grinned; and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him by the
hand, and hoped he should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance.
Upon this, the young gentleman with the pipes came round him, and shook
both his hands very hard--especially the one in which he held his
little bundle.  One young gentleman was very anxious to hang up his cap
for him; and another was so obliging as to put his hands in his
pockets, in order that, as he was very tired, he might not have the
trouble of emptying them, himself, when he went to bed.  These
civilities would probably be extended much farther, but for a liberal
exercise of the Jew's toasting-fork on the heads and shoulders of the
affectionate youths who offered them.

'We are very glad to see you, Oliver, very,' said the Jew. 'Dodger,
take off the sausages; and draw a tub near the fire for Oliver.  Ah,
you're a-staring at the pocket-handkerchiefs! eh, my dear. There are a
good many of 'em, ain't there? We've just looked 'em out, ready for the
wash; that's all, Oliver; that's all. Ha! ha! ha!'

The latter part of this speech, was hailed by a boisterous shout from
all the hopeful pupils of the merry old gentleman. In the midst of
which they went to supper.

Oliver ate his share, and the Jew then mixed him a glass of hot
gin-and-water: telling him he must drink it off directly, because
another gentleman wanted the tumbler. Oliver did as he was desired.
Immediately afterwards he felt himself gently lifted on to one of the
sacks; and then he sunk into a deep sleep.



CHAPTER IX

CONTAINING FURTHER PARTICULARS CONCERNING THE PLEASANT OLD GENTLEMAN,
AND HIS HOPEFUL PUPILS

It was late next morning when Oliver awoke, from a sound, long sleep.
There was no other person in the room but the old Jew, who was boiling
some coffee in a saucepan for breakfast, and whistling softly to
himself as he stirred it round and round, with an iron spoon. He would
stop every now and then to listen when there was the least noise below:
and when he had satisfied himself, he would go on whistling and
stirring again, as before.

Although Oliver had roused himself from sleep, he was not thoroughly
awake. There is a drowsy state, between sleeping and waking, when you
dream more in five minutes with your eyes half open, and yourself half
conscious of everything that is passing around you, than you would in
five nights with your eyes fast closed, and your senses wrapt in
perfect unconsciousness. At such time, a mortal knows just enough of
what his mind is doing, to form some glimmering conception of its
mighty powers, its bounding from earth and spurning time and space,
when freed from the restraint of its corporeal associate.

Oliver was precisely in this condition. He saw the Jew with his
half-closed eyes; heard his low whistling; and recognised the sound of
the spoon grating against the saucepan's sides: and yet the self-same
senses were mentally engaged, at the same time, in busy action with
almost everybody he had ever known.

When the coffee was done, the Jew drew the saucepan to the hob.
Standing, then in an irresolute attitude for a few minutes, as if he
did not well know how to employ himself, he turned round and looked at
Oliver, and called him by his name. He did not answer, and was to all
appearances asleep.

After satisfying himself upon this head, the Jew stepped gently to the
door: which he fastened. He then drew forth: as it seemed to Oliver,
from some trap in the floor: a small box, which he placed carefully on
the table. His eyes glistened as he raised the lid, and looked in.
Dragging an old chair to the table, he sat down; and took from it a
magnificent gold watch, sparkling with jewels.

'Aha!' said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting every
feature with a hideous grin. 'Clever dogs! Clever dogs! Staunch to the
last! Never told the old parson where they were. Never poached upon old
Fagin! And why should they? It wouldn't have loosened the knot, or kept
the drop up, a minute longer. No, no, no! Fine fellows! Fine fellows!'

With these, and other muttered reflections of the like nature, the Jew
once more deposited the watch in its place of safety. At least half a
dozen more were severally drawn forth from the same box, and surveyed
with equal pleasure; besides rings, brooches, bracelets, and other
articles of jewellery, of such magnificent materials, and costly
workmanship, that Oliver had no idea, even of their names.

Having replaced these trinkets, the Jew took out another: so small that
it lay in the palm of his hand. There seemed to be some very minute
inscription on it; for the Jew laid it flat upon the table, and shading
it with his hand, pored over it, long and earnestly. At length he put
it down, as if despairing of success; and, leaning back in his chair,
muttered:

'What a fine thing capital punishment is! Dead men never repent; dead
men never bring awkward stories to light. Ah, it's a fine thing for the
trade! Five of 'em strung up in a row, and none left to play booty, or
turn white-livered!'

As the Jew uttered these words, his bright dark eyes, which had been
staring vacantly before him, fell on Oliver's face; the boy's eyes were
fixed on his in mute curiousity; and although the recognition was only
for an instant--for the briefest space of time that can possibly be
conceived--it was enough to show the old man that he had been observed.

He closed the lid of the box with a loud crash; and, laying his hand on
a bread knife which was on the table, started furiously up. He trembled
very much though; for, even in his terror, Oliver could see that the
knife quivered in the air.

'What's that?' said the Jew. 'What do you watch me for? Why are you
awake? What have you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick--quick! for your life.

'I wasn't able to sleep any longer, sir,' replied Oliver, meekly. 'I am
very sorry if I have disturbed you, sir.'

'You were not awake an hour ago?' said the Jew, scowling fiercely on
the boy.

'No! No, indeed!' replied Oliver.

'Are you sure?' cried the Jew: with a still fiercer look than before:
and a threatening attitude.

'Upon my word I was not, sir,' replied Oliver, earnestly. 'I was not,
indeed, sir.'

'Tush, tush, my dear!' said the Jew, abruptly resuming his old manner,
and playing with the knife a little, before he laid it down; as if to
induce the belief that he had caught it up, in mere sport. 'Of course I
know that, my dear. I only tried to frighten you. You're a brave boy.
Ha! ha! you're a brave boy, Oliver.' The Jew rubbed his hands with a
chuckle, but glanced uneasily at the box, notwithstanding.

'Did you see any of these pretty things, my dear?' said the Jew, laying
his hand upon it after a short pause.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Ah!' said the Jew, turning rather pale. 'They--they're mine, Oliver;
my little property. All I have to live upon, in my old age. The folks
call me a miser, my dear. Only a miser; that's all.'

Oliver thought the old gentleman must be a decided miser to live in
such a dirty place, with so many watches; but, thinking that perhaps
his fondness for the Dodger and the other boys, cost him a good deal of
money, he only cast a deferential look at the Jew, and asked if he
might get up.

'Certainly, my dear, certainly,' replied the old gentleman. 'Stay.
There's a pitcher of water in the corner by the door. Bring it here;
and I'll give you a basin to wash in, my dear.'

Oliver got up; walked across the room; and stooped for an instant to
raise the pitcher.  When he turned his head, the box was gone.

He had scarcely washed himself, and made everything tidy, by emptying
the basin out of the window, agreeably to the Jew's directions, when
the Dodger returned: accompanied by a very sprightly young friend, whom
Oliver had seen smoking on the previous night, and who was now formally
introduced to him as Charley Bates. The four sat down, to breakfast, on
the coffee, and some hot rolls and ham which the Dodger had brought
home in the crown of his hat.

'Well,' said the Jew, glancing slyly at Oliver, and addressing himself
to the Dodger, 'I hope you've been at work this morning, my dears?'

'Hard,' replied the Dodger.

'As nails,' added Charley Bates.

'Good boys, good boys!' said the Jew. 'What have you got, Dodger?'

'A couple of pocket-books,' replied that young gentlman.

'Lined?' inquired the Jew, with eagerness.

'Pretty well,' replied the Dodger, producing two pocket-books; one
green, and the other red.

'Not so heavy as they might be,' said the Jew, after looking at the
insides carefully; 'but very neat and nicely made.  Ingenious workman,
ain't he, Oliver?'

'Very indeed, sir,' said Oliver. At which Mr. Charles Bates laughed
uproariously; very much to the amazement of Oliver, who saw nothing to
laugh at, in anything that had passed.

'And what have you got, my dear?' said Fagin to Charley Bates.

'Wipes,' replied Master Bates; at the same time producing four
pocket-handkerchiefs.

'Well,' said the Jew, inspecting them closely; 'they're very good ones,
very. You haven't marked them well, though, Charley; so the marks shall
be picked out with a needle, and we'll teach Oliver how to do it. Shall
us, Oliver, eh? Ha! ha! ha!'

'If you please, sir,' said Oliver.

'You'd like to be able to make pocket-handkerchiefs as easy as Charley
Bates, wouldn't you, my dear?' said the Jew.

'Very much, indeed, if you'll teach me, sir,' replied Oliver.

Master Bates saw something so exquisitely ludicrous in this reply, that
he burst into another laugh; which laugh, meeting the coffee he was
drinking, and carrying it down some wrong channel, very nearly
terminated in his premature suffocation.

'He is so jolly green!' said Charley when he recovered, as an apology
to the company for his unpolite behaviour.

The Dodger said nothing, but he smoothed Oliver's hair over his eyes,
and said he'd know better, by and by; upon which the old gentleman,
observing Oliver's colour mounting, changed the subject by asking
whether there had been much of a crowd at the execution that morning?
This made him wonder more and more; for it was plain from the replies
of the two boys that they had both been there; and Oliver naturally
wondered how they could possibly have found time to be so very
industrious.

When the breakfast was cleared away; the merry old gentlman and the two
boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which was performed in
this way. The merry old gentleman, placing a snuff-box in one pocket of
his trousers, a note-case in the other, and a watch in his waistcoat
pocket, with a guard-chain round his neck, and sticking a mock diamond
pin in his shirt: buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his
spectacle-case and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the
room with a stick, in imitation of the manner in which old gentlemen
walk about the streets any hour in the day.  Sometimes he stopped at
the fire-place, and sometimes at the door, making believe that he was
staring with all his might into shop-windows.  At such times, he would
look constantly round him, for fear of thieves, and would keep slapping
all his pockets in turn, to see that he hadn't lost anything, in such a
very funny and natural manner, that Oliver laughed till the tears ran
down his face.  All this time, the two boys followed him closely about:
getting out of his sight, so nimbly, every time he turned round, that
it was impossible to follow their motions. At last, the Dodger trod
upon his toes, or ran upon his boot accidently, while Charley Bates
stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they took from
him, with the most extraordinary rapidity, snuff-box, note-case,
watch-guard, chain, shirt-pin, pocket-handkerchief, even the
spectacle-case.  If the old gentlman felt a hand in any one of his
pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game began all over
again.

When this game had been played a great many times, a couple of young
ladies called to see the young gentleman; one of whom was named Bet,
and the other Nancy.  They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly
turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings.
They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of
colour in their faces, and looked quite stout and hearty.  Being
remarkably free and agreeable in their manners, Oliver thought them
very nice girls indeed.  As there is no doubt they were.

The visitors stopped a long time. Spirits were produced, in consequence
of one of the young ladies complaining of a coldness in her inside; and
the conversation took a very convivial and improving turn. At length,
Charley Bates expressed his opinion that it was time to pad the hoof.
This, it occurred to Oliver, must be French for going out; for directly
afterwards, the Dodger, and Charley, and the two young ladies, went
away together, having been kindly furnished by the amiable old Jew with
money to spend.

'There, my dear,' said Fagin. 'That's a pleasant life, isn't it? They
have gone out for the day.'

'Have they done work, sir?' inquired Oliver.

'Yes,' said the Jew; 'that is, unless they should unexpectedly come
across any, when they are out; and they won't neglect it, if they do,
my dear, depend upon it.  Make 'em your models, my dear. Make 'em your
models,' tapping the fire-shovel on the hearth to add force to his
words; 'do everything they bid you, and take their advice in all
matters--especially the Dodger's, my dear. He'll be a great man
himself, and will make you one too, if you take pattern by him.--Is my
handkerchief hanging out of my pocket, my dear?' said the Jew, stopping
short.

'Yes, sir,' said Oliver.

'See if you can take it out, without my feeling it; as you saw them do,
when we were at play this morning.'

Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one hand, as he had seen
the Dodger hold it, and drew the handkerchief lightly out of it with
the other.

'Is it gone?' cried the Jew.

'Here it is, sir,' said Oliver, showing it in his hand.

'You're a clever boy, my dear,' said the playful old gentleman, patting
Oliver on the head approvingly. 'I never saw a sharper lad. Here's a
shilling for you. If you go on, in this way, you'll be the greatest man
of the time. And now come here, and I'll show you how to take the marks
out of the handkerchiefs.'

Oliver wondered what picking the old gentleman's pocket in play, had to
do with his chances of being a great man.  But, thinking that the Jew,
being so much his senior, must know best, he followed him quietly to
the table, and was soon deeply involved in his new study.



CHAPTER X

OLIVER BECOMES BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THE CHARACTERS OF HIS NEW
ASSOCIATES; AND PURCHASES EXPERIENCE AT A HIGH PRICE. BEING A SHORT,
BUT VERY IMPORTANT CHAPTER, IN THIS HISTORY

For many days, Oliver remained in the Jew's room, picking the marks out
of the pocket-handkerchief, (of which a great number were brought
home,) and sometimes taking part in the game already described: which
the two boys and the Jew played, regularly, every morning. At length,
he began to languish for fresh air, and took many occasions of
earnestly entreating the old gentleman to allow him to go out to work
with his two companions.

Oliver was rendered the more anxious to be actively employed, by what
he had seen of the stern morality of the old gentleman's character.
Whenever the Dodger or Charley Bates came home at night, empty-handed,
he would expatiate with great vehemence on the misery of idle and lazy
habits; and would enforce upon them the necessity of an active life, by
sending them supperless to bed. On one occasion, indeed, he even went
so far as to knock them both down a flight of stairs; but this was
carrying out his virtuous precepts to an unusual extent.

At length, one morning, Oliver obtained the permission he had so
eagerly sought. There had been no handkerchiefs to work upon, for two
or three days, and the dinners had been rather meagre. Perhaps these
were reasons for the old gentleman's giving his assent; but, whether
they were or no, he told Oliver he might go, and placed him under the
joint guardianship of Charley Bates, and his friend the Dodger.

The three boys sallied out; the Dodger with his coat-sleeves tucked up,
and his hat cocked, as usual; Master Bates sauntering along with his
hands in his pockets; and Oliver between them, wondering where they
were going, and what branch of manufacture he would be instructed in,
first.

The pace at which they went, was such a very lazy, ill-looking saunter,
that Oliver soon began to think his companions were going to deceive
the old gentleman, by not going to work at all. The Dodger had a
vicious propensity, too, of pulling the caps from the heads of small
boys and tossing them down areas; while Charley Bates exhibited some
very loose notions concerning the rights of property, by pilfering
divers apples and onions from the stalls at the kennel sides, and
thrusting them into pockets which were so surprisingly capacious, that
they seemed to undermine his whole suit of clothes in every direction.
These things looked so bad, that Oliver was on the point of declaring
his intention of seeking his way back, in the best way he could; when
his thoughts were suddenly directed into another channel, by a very
mysterious change of behaviour on the part of the Dodger.

They were just emerging from a narrow court not far from the open
square in Clerkenwell, which is yet called, by some strange perversion
of terms, 'The Green': when the Dodger made a sudden stop; and, laying
his finger on his lip, drew his companions back again, with the
greatest caution and circumspection.

'What's the matter?' demanded Oliver.

'Hush!' replied the Dodger. 'Do you see that old cove at the
book-stall?'

'The old gentleman over the way?' said Oliver. 'Yes, I see him.'

'He'll do,' said the Doger.

'A prime plant,' observed Master Charley Bates.

Oliver looked from one to the other, with the greatest surprise; but he
was not permitted to make any inquiries; for the two boys walked
stealthily across the road, and slunk close behind the old gentleman
towards whom his attention had been directed. Oliver walked a few paces
after them; and, not knowing whether to advance or retire, stood
looking on in silent amazement.

The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with a
powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a bottle-green
coat with a black velvet collar; wore white trousers; and carried a
smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had taken up a book from the stall,
and there he stood, reading away, as hard as if he were in his
elbow-chair, in his own study. It is very possible that he fancied
himself there, indeed; for it was plain, from his abstraction, that he
saw not the book-stall, nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short,
anything but the book itself: which he was reading straight through:
turning over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at
the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the greatest
interest and eagerness.

What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces off, looking
on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly go, to see the
Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's pocket, and draw from
thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the same to Charley Bates; and
finally to behold them, both running away round the corner at full
speed!

In an instant the whole mystery of the hankerchiefs, and the watches,
and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind.

He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all his
veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then,
confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and, not knowing what he
did, made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground.

This was all done in a minute's space. In the very instant when Oliver
began to run, the old gentleman, putting his hand to his pocket, and
missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round. Seeing the boy scudding
away at such a rapid pace, he very naturally concluded him to be the
depredator; and shouting 'Stop thief!' with all his might, made off
after him, book in hand.

But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the
hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract public
attention by running down the open street, had merely retired into the
very first doorway round the corner. They no sooner heard the cry, and
saw Oliver running, than, guessing exactly how the matter stood, they
issued forth with great promptitude; and, shouting 'Stop thief!' too,
joined in the pursuit like good citizens.

Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophers, he was not
theoretically acquainted with the beautiful axiom that
self-preservation is the first law of nature. If he had been, perhaps
he would have been prepared for this. Not being prepared, however, it
alarmed him the more; so away he went like the wind, with the old
gentleman and the two boys roaring and shouting behind him.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a magic in the sound. The tradesman
leaves his counter, and the car-man his waggon; the butcher throws down
his tray; the baker his basket; the milkman his pail; the errand-boy
his parcels; the school-boy his marbles; the paviour his pickaxe; the
child his battledore. Away they run, pell-mell, helter-skelter,
slap-dash: tearing, yelling, screaming, knocking down the passengers as
they turn the corners, rousing up the dogs, and astonishing the fowls:
and streets, squares, and courts, re-echo with the sound.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' The cry is taken up by a hundred voices, and
the crowd accumulate at every turning. Away they fly, splashing through
the mud, and rattling along the pavements: up go the windows, out run
the people, onward bear the mob, a whole audience desert Punch in the
very thickest of the plot, and, joining the rushing throng, swell the
shout, and lend fresh vigour to the cry, 'Stop thief! Stop thief!'

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a passion FOR _hunting_ _something_
deeply implanted in the human breast.  One wretched breathless child,
panting with exhaustion; terror in his looks; agony in his eyes; large
drops of perspiration streaming down his face; strains every nerve to
make head upon his pursuers; and as they follow on his track, and gain
upon him every instant, they hail his decreasing strength with joy.
'Stop thief!'  Ay, stop him for God's sake, were it only in mercy!

Stopped at last!  A clever blow.  He is down upon the pavement; and the
crowd eagerly gather round him:  each new comer, jostling and
struggling with the others to catch a glimpse.  'Stand aside!'  'Give
him a little air!'  'Nonsense! he don't deserve it.'  'Where's the
gentleman?'  'Here his is, coming down the street.'  'Make room there
for the gentleman!' 'Is this the boy, sir!'  'Yes.'

Oliver lay, covered with mud and dust, and bleeding from the mouth,
looking wildly round upon the heap of faces that surrounded him, when
the old gentleman was officiously dragged and pushed into the circle by
the foremost of the pursuers.

'Yes,' said the gentleman, 'I am afraid it is the boy.'

'Afraid!' murmured the crowd.  'That's a good 'un!'

'Poor fellow!' said the gentleman, 'he has hurt himself.'

'_I_ did that, sir,' said a great lubberly fellow, stepping forward;
'and preciously I cut my knuckle agin' his mouth.  I stopped him, sir.'

The follow touched his hat with a grin, expecting something for his
pains; but, the old gentleman, eyeing him with an expression of
dislike, look anxiously round, as if he contemplated running away
himself:  which it is very possible he might have attempted to do, and
thus have afforded another chase, had not a police officer (who is
generally the last person to arrive in such cases) at that moment made
his way through the crowd, and seized Oliver by the collar.

'Come, get up,' said the man, roughly.

'It wasn't me indeed, sir.  Indeed, indeed, it was two other boys,'
said Oliver, clasping his hands passionately, and looking round.  'They
are here somewhere.'

'Oh no, they ain't,' said the officer.  He meant this to be ironical,
but it was true besides; for the Dodger and Charley Bates had filed off
down the first convenient court they came to.

'Come, get up!'

'Don't hurt him,' said the old gentleman, compassionately.

'Oh no, I won't hurt him,' replied the officer, tearing his jacket half
off his back, in proof thereof.  'Come, I know you; it won't do.  Will
you stand upon your legs, you young devil?'

Oliver, who could hardly stand, made a shift to raise himself on his
feet, and was at once lugged along the streets by the jacket-collar, at
a rapid pace.  The gentleman walked on with them by the officer's side;
and as many of the crowd as could achieve the feat, got a little ahead,
and stared back at Oliver from time to time.  The boys shouted in
triumph; and on they went.



CHAPTER XI

TREATS OF MR. FANG THE POLICE MAGISTRATE; AND FURNISHES A SLIGHT
SPECIMEN OF HIS MODE OF ADMINISTERING JUSTICE

The offence had been committed within the district, and indeed in the
immediate neighborhood of, a very notorious metropolitan police office.
The crowd had only the satisfaction of accompanying Oliver through two
or three streets, and down a place called Mutton Hill, when he was led
beneath a low archway, and up a dirty court, into this dispensary of
summary justice, by the back way.  It was a small paved yard into which
they turned; and here they encountered a stout man with a bunch of
whiskers on his face, and a bunch of keys in his hand.

'What's the matter now?' said the man carelessly.

'A young fogle-hunter,' replied the man who had Oliver in charge.

'Are you the party that's been robbed, sir?' inquired the man with the
keys.

'Yes, I am,' replied the old gentleman; 'but I am not sure that this
boy actually took the handkerchief.  I--I would rather not press the
case.'

'Must go before the magistrate now, sir,' replied the man. 'His worship
will be disengaged in half a minute.  Now, young gallows!'

This was an invitation for Oliver to enter through a door which he
unlocked as he spoke, and which led into a stone cell.  Here he was
searched; and nothing being found upon him, locked up.

This cell was in shape and size something like an area cellar, only not
so light.  It was most intolerably dirty; for it was Monday morning;
and it had been tenanted by six drunken people, who had been locked up,
elsewhere, since Saturday night.  But this is little.  In our
station-houses, men and women are every night confined on the most
trivial charges--the word is worth noting--in dungeons, compared with
which, those in Newgate, occupied by the most atrocious felons, tried,
found guilty, and under sentence of death, are palaces. Let any one who
doubts this, compare the two.

The old gentleman looked almost as rueful as Oliver when the key grated
in the lock.  He turned with a sigh to the book, which had been the
innocent cause of all this disturbance.

'There is something in that boy's face,' said the old gentleman to
himself as he walked slowly away, tapping his chin with the cover of
the book, in a thoughtful manner; 'something that touches and interests
me.  _Can_ he be innocent?  He looked like--Bye the bye,' exclaimed the
old gentleman, halting very abruptly, and staring up into the sky,
'Bless my soul!--where have I seen something like that look before?'

After musing for some minutes, the old gentleman walked, with the same
meditative face, into a back anteroom opening from the yard; and there,
retiring into a corner, called up before his mind's eye a vast
amphitheatre of faces over which a dusky curtain had hung for many
years.  'No,' said the old gentleman, shaking his head; 'it must be
imagination.

He wandered over them again.  He had called them into view, and it was
not easy to replace the shroud that had so long concealed them.  There
were the faces of friends, and foes, and of many that had been almost
strangers peering intrusively from the crowd; there were the faces of
young and blooming girls that were now old women; there were faces that
the grave had changed and closed upon, but which the mind, superior to
its power, still dressed in their old freshness and beauty, calling
back the lustre of the eyes, the brightness of the smile, the beaming
of the soul through its mask of clay, and whispering of beauty beyond
the tomb, changed but to be heightened, and taken from earth only to be
set up as a light, to shed a soft and gentle glow upon the path to
Heaven.

But the old gentleman could recall no one countenance of which Oliver's
features bore a trace.  So, he heaved a sigh over the recollections he
awakened; and being, happily for himself, an absent old gentleman,
buried them again in the pages of the musty book.

He was roused by a touch on the shoulder, and a request from the man
with the keys to follow him into the office.  He closed his book
hastily; and was at once ushered into the imposing presence of the
renowned Mr. Fang.

The office was a front parlour, with a panelled wall.  Mr. Fang sat
behind a bar, at the upper end; and on one side the door was a sort of
wooden pen in which poor little Oliver was already deposited; trembling
very much at the awfulness of the scene.

Mr. Fang was a lean, long-backed, stiff-necked, middle-sized man, with
no great quantity of hair, and what he had, growing on the back and
sides of his head.  His face was stern, and much flushed.  If he were
really not in the habit of drinking rather more than was exactly good
for him, he might have brought action against his countenance for
libel, and have recovered heavy damages.

The old gentleman bowed respectfully; and advancing to the magistrate's
desk, said, suiting the action to the word, 'That is my name and
address, sir.'  He then withdrew a pace or two; and, with another
polite and gentlemanly inclination of the head, waited to be questioned.

Now, it so happened that Mr. Fang was at that moment perusing a leading
article in a newspaper of the morning, adverting to some recent
decision of his, and commending him, for the three hundred and fiftieth
time, to the special and particular notice of the Secretary of State
for the Home Department.  He was out of temper; and he looked up with
an angry scowl.

'Who are you?' said Mr. Fang.

The old gentleman pointed, with some surprise, to his card.

'Officer!' said Mr. Fang, tossing the card contemptuously away with the
newspaper.  'Who is this fellow?'

'My name, sir,' said the old gentleman, speaking _like_ a gentleman,
'my name, sir, is Brownlow.  Permit me to inquire the name of the
magistrate who offers a gratuitous and unprovoked insult to a
respectable person, under the protection of the bench.'  Saying this,
Mr. Brownlow looked around the office as if in search of some person
who would afford him the required information.

'Officer!' said Mr. Fang, throwing the paper on one side, 'what's this
fellow charged with?'

'He's not charged at all, your worship,' replied the officer. 'He
appears against this boy, your worship.'

His worship knew this perfectly well; but it was a good annoyance, and
a safe one.

'Appears against the boy, does he?' said Mr. Fang, surveying Mr.
Brownlow contemptuously from head to foot.  'Swear him!'

'Before I am sworn, I must beg to say one word,' said Mr. Brownlow;
'and that is, that I really never, without actual experience, could
have believed--'

'Hold your tongue, sir!' said Mr. Fang, peremptorily.

'I will not, sir!' replied the old gentleman.

'Hold your tongue this instant, or I'll have you turned out of the
office!' said Mr. Fang.  'You're an insolent impertinent fellow.  How
dare you bully a magistrate!'

'What!' exclaimed the old gentleman, reddening.

'Swear this person!' said Fang to the clerk.  'I'll not hear another
word.  Swear him.'

Mr. Brownlow's indignation was greatly roused; but reflecting perhaps,
that he might only injure the boy by giving vent to it, he suppressed
his feelings and submitted to be sworn at once.

'Now,' said Fang, 'what's the charge against this boy?  What have you
got to say, sir?'

'I was standing at a bookstall--' Mr. Brownlow began.

'Hold your tongue, sir,' said Mr. Fang.  'Policeman!  Where's the
policeman?  Here, swear this policeman.  Now, policeman, what is this?'

The policeman, with becoming humility, related how he had taken the
charge; how he had searched Oliver, and found nothing on his person;
and how that was all he knew about it.

'Are there any witnesses?' inquired Mr. Fang.

'None, your worship,' replied the policeman.

Mr. Fang sat silent for some minutes, and then, turning round to the
prosecutor, said in a towering passion.

'Do you mean to state what your complaint against this boy is, man, or
do you not?  You have been sworn.  Now, if you stand there, refusing to
give evidence, I'll punish you for disrespect to the bench; I will,
by--'

By what, or by whom, nobody knows, for the clerk and jailor coughed
very loud, just at the right moment; and the former dropped a heavy
book upon the floor, thus preventing the word from being
heard--accidently, of course.

With many interruptions, and repeated insults, Mr. Brownlow contrived
to state his case;  observing that, in the surprise of the moment, he
had run after the boy because he had saw him running away; and
expressing his hope that, if the magistrate should believe him,
although not actually the thief, to be connected with the thieves, he
would deal as leniently with him as justice would allow.

'He has been hurt already,' said the old gentleman in conclusion. 'And
I fear,' he added, with great energy, looking towards the bar, 'I
really fear that he is ill.'

'Oh! yes, I dare say!' said Mr. Fang, with a sneer.  'Come, none of
your tricks here, you young vagabond; they won't do. What's your name?'

Oliver tried to reply but his tongue failed him.  He was deadly pale;
and the whole place seemed turning round and round.

'What's your name, you hardened scoundrel?' demanded Mr. Fang.
'Officer, what's his name?'

This was addressed to a bluff old fellow, in a striped waistcoat, who
was standing by the bar.  He bent over Oliver, and repeated the
inquiry; but finding him really incapable of understanding the
question; and knowing that his not replying would only infuriate the
magistrate the more, and add to the severity of his sentence; he
hazarded a guess.

'He says his name's Tom White, your worship,' said the kind-hearted
thief-taker.

'Oh, he won't speak out, won't he?' said Fang.  'Very well, very well.
Where does he live?'

'Where he can, your worship,' replied the officer; again pretending to
receive Oliver's answer.

'Has he any parents?' inquired Mr. Fang.

'He says they died in his infancy, your worship,' replied the officer:
hazarding the usual reply.

At this point of the inquiry, Oliver raised his head; and, looking
round with imploring eyes, murmured a feeble prayer for a draught of
water.

'Stuff and nonsense!' said Mr. Fang:  'don't try to make a fool of me.'

'I think he really is ill, your worship,' remonstrated the officer.

'I know better,' said Mr. Fang.

'Take care of him, officer,' said the old gentleman, raising his hands
instinctively; 'he'll fall down.'

'Stand away, officer,' cried Fang;  'let him, if he likes.'

Oliver availed himself of the kind permission, and fell to the floor in
a fainting fit.  The men in the office looked at each other, but no one
dared to stir.

'I knew he was shamming,' said Fang, as if this were incontestable
proof of the fact.  'Let him lie there; he'll soon be tired of that.'

'How do you propose to deal with the case, sir?'  inquired the clerk in
a low voice.

'Summarily,' replied Mr. Fang.  'He stands committed for three
months--hard labour of course.  Clear the office.'

The door was opened for this purpose, and a couple of men were
preparing to carry the insensible boy to his cell; when an elderly man
of decent but poor appearance, clad in an old suit of black, rushed
hastily into the office, and advanced towards the bench.

'Stop, stop!  don't take him away!  For Heaven's sake stop a moment!'
cried the new comer, breathless with haste.

Although the presiding Genii in such an office as this, exercise a
summary and arbitrary power over the liberties, the good name, the
character, almost the lives, of Her Majesty's subjects, expecially of
the poorer class; and although, within such walls, enough fantastic
tricks are daily played to make the angels blind with weeping; they are
closed to the public, save through the medium of the daily
press.[Footnote:  Or were virtually, then.] Mr. Fang was consequently
not a little indignant to see an unbidden guest enter in such
irreverent disorder.

'What is this?  Who is this?  Turn this man out.  Clear the office!'
cried Mr. Fang.

'I _will_ speak,' cried the man; 'I will not be turned out.  I saw it
all.  I keep the book-stall.  I demand to be sworn. I will not be put
down.  Mr. Fang, you must hear me.  You must not refuse, sir.'

The man was right.  His manner was determined; and the matter was
growing rather too serious to be hushed up.

'Swear the man,' growled Mr. Fang, with a very ill grace. 'Now, man,
what have you got to say?'

'This,' said the man:  'I saw three boys:  two others and the prisoner
here:  loitering on the opposite side of the way, when this gentleman
was reading.  The robbery was committed by another boy.  I saw it done;
and I saw that this boy was perfectly amazed and stupified by it.'
Having by this time recovered a little breath, the worthy book-stall
keeper proceeded to relate, in a more coherent manner the exact
circumstances of the robbery.

'Why didn't you come here before?' said Fang, after a pause.

'I hadn't a soul to mind the shop,' replied the man.  'Everybody who
could have helped me, had joined in the pursuit.  I could get nobody
till five minutes ago; and I've run here all the way.'

'The prosecutor was reading, was he?' inquired Fang, after another
pause.

'Yes,' replied the man.  'The very book he has in his hand.'

'Oh, that book, eh?' said Fang.  'Is it paid for?'

'No, it is not,' replied the man, with a smile.

'Dear me, I forgot all about it!' exclaimed the absent old gentleman,
innocently.

'A nice person to prefer a charge against a poor boy!' said Fang, with
a comical effort to look humane.  'I consider, sir, that you have
obtained possession of that book, under very suspicious and
disreputable circumstances; and you may think yourself very fortunate
that the owner of the property declines to prosecute. Let this be a
lesson to you, my man, or the law will overtake you yet.  The boy is
discharged.  Clear the office!'

'D--n me!' cried the old gentleman, bursting out with the rage he had
kept down so long, 'd--n me!   I'll--'

'Clear the office!' said the magistrate.  'Officers, do you hear? Clear
the office!'

The mandate was obeyed; and the indignant Mr. Brownlow was conveyed
out, with the book in one hand, and the bamboo cane in the other:  in a
perfect phrenzy of rage and defiance.  He reached the yard; and his
passion vanished in a moment.  Little Oliver Twist lay on his back on
the pavement, with his shirt unbuttoned, and his temples bathed with
water; his face a deadly white; and a cold tremble convulsing his whole
frame.

'Poor boy, poor boy!' said Mr. Brownlow, bending over him. 'Call a
coach, somebody, pray.  Directly!'

A coach was obtained, and Oliver having been carefully laid on the
seat, the old gentleman got in and sat himself on the other.

'May I accompany you?' said the book-stall keeper, looking in.

'Bless me, yes, my dear sir,' said Mr. Brownlow quickly.  'I forgot
you.  Dear, dear!  I have this unhappy book still! Jump in.  Poor
fellow!  There's no time to lose.'

The book-stall keeper got into the coach; and away they drove.



CHAPTER XII

IN WHICH OLIVER IS TAKEN BETTER CARE OF THAN HE EVER WAS BEFORE. AND IN
WHICH THE NARRATIVE REVERTS TO THE MERRY OLD GENTLEMAN AND HIS YOUTHFUL
FRIENDS.

The coach rattled away, over nearly the same ground as that which
Oliver had traversed when he first entered London in company with the
Dodger; and, turning a different way when it reached the Angel at
Islington, stopped at length before a neat house, in a quiet shady
street near Pentonville.  Here, a bed was prepared, without loss of
time, in which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge carefully and
comfortably deposited; and here, he was tended with a kindness and
solicitude that knew no bounds.

But, for many days, Oliver remained insensible to all the goodness of
his new friends.  The sun rose and sank, and rose and sank again, and
many times after that; and still the boy lay stretched on his uneasy
bed, dwindling away beneath the dry and wasting heat of fever.  The
worm does not work more surely on the dead body, than does this slow
creeping fire upon the living frame.

Weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke at last from what seemed to have
been a long and troubled dream.  Feebly raising himself in the bed,
with his head resting on his trembling arm, he looked anxiously around.

'What room is this?  Where have I been brought to?' said Oliver. 'This
is not the place I went to sleep in.'

He uttered these words in a feeble voice, being very faint and weak;
but they were overheard at once.  The curtain at the bed's head was
hastily drawn back, and a motherly old lady, very neatly and precisely
dressed, rose as she undrew it, from an arm-chair close by, in which
she had been sitting at needle-work.

'Hush, my dear,' said the old lady softly.  'You must be very quiet, or
you will be ill again; and you have been very bad,--as bad as bad could
be, pretty nigh.  Lie down again; there's a dear!'  With those words,
the old lady very gently placed Oliver's head upon the pillow; and,
smoothing back his hair from his forehead, looked so kindly and loving
in his face, that he could not help placing his little withered hand in
hers, and drawing it round his neck.

'Save us!' said the old lady, with tears in her eyes.  'What a grateful
little dear it is.  Pretty creetur!  What would his mother feel if she
had sat by him as I have, and could see him now!'

'Perhaps she does see me,' whispered Oliver, folding his hands
together; 'perhaps she has sat by me.  I almost feel as if she had.'

'That was the fever, my dear,' said the old lady mildly.

'I suppose it was,' replied Oliver, 'because heaven is a long way off;
and they are too happy there, to come down to the bedside of a poor
boy.  But if she knew I was ill, she must have pitied me, even there;
for she was very ill herself before she died.  She can't know anything
about me though,' added Oliver after a moment's silence.  'If she had
seen me hurt, it would have made her sorrowful; and her face has always
looked sweet and happy, when I have dreamed of her.'

The old lady made no reply to this; but wiping her eyes first, and her
spectacles, which lay on the counterpane, afterwards, as if they were
part and parcel of those features, brought some cool stuff for Oliver
to drink; and then, patting him on the cheek, told him he must lie very
quiet, or he would be ill again.

So, Oliver kept very still; partly because he was anxious to obey the
kind old lady in all things; and partly, to tell the truth, because he
was completely exhausted with what he had already said.  He soon fell
into a gentle doze, from which he was awakened by the light of a
candle:  which, being brought near the bed, showed him a gentleman with
a very large and loud-ticking gold watch in his hand, who felt his
pulse, and said he was a great deal better.

'You _are_ a great deal better, are you not, my dear?' said the
gentleman.

'Yes, thank you, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Yes,  I know you are,' said the gentleman:  'You're hungry too, an't
you?'

'No, sir,' answered Oliver.

'Hem!' said the gentleman.  'No, I know you're not.  He is not hungry,
Mrs. Bedwin,' said the gentleman:  looking very wise.

The old lady made a respectful inclination of the head, which seemed to
say that she thought the doctor was a very clever man. The doctor
appeared much of the same opinion himself.

'You feel sleepy, don't you, my dear?' said the doctor.

'No, sir,' replied Oliver.

'No,' said the doctor, with a very shrewd and satisfied look. 'You're
not sleepy.  Nor thirsty.  Are you?'

'Yes, sir, rather thirsty,' answered Oliver.

'Just as I expected, Mrs. Bedwin,' said the doctor.  'It's very natural
that he should be thirsty.  You may give him a little tea, ma'am, and
some dry toast without any butter.  Don't keep him too warm, ma'am; but
be careful that you don't let him be too cold; will you have the
goodness?'

The old lady dropped a curtsey.  The doctor, after tasting the cool
stuff, and expressing a qualified approval of it, hurried away:  his
boots creaking in a very important and wealthy manner as he went
downstairs.

Oliver dozed off again, soon after this; when he awoke, it was nearly
twelve o'clock.  The old lady tenderly bade him good-night shortly
afterwards, and left him in charge of a fat old woman who had just
come:  bringing with her, in a little bundle, a small Prayer Book and a
large nightcap. Putting the latter on her head and the former on the
table, the old woman, after telling Oliver that she had come to sit up
with him, drew her chair close to the fire and went off into a series
of short naps, chequered at frequent intervals with sundry tumblings
forward, and divers moans and chokings. These, however, had no worse
effect than causing her to rub her nose very hard, and then fall asleep
again.

And thus the night crept slowly on.  Oliver lay awake for some time,
counting the little circles of light which the reflection of the
rushlight-shade threw upon the ceiling; or tracing with his languid
eyes the intricate pattern of the paper on the wall. The darkness and
the deep stillness of the room were very solemn; as they brought into
the boy's mind the thought that death had been hovering there, for many
days and nights, and might yet fill it with the gloom and dread of his
awful presence, he turned his face upon the pillow, and fervently
prayed to Heaven.

Gradually, he fell into that deep tranquil sleep which ease from recent
suffering alone imparts; that calm and peaceful rest which it is pain
to wake from.  Who, if this were death, would be roused again to all
the struggles and turmoils of life; to all its cares for the present;
its anxieties for the future; more than all, its weary recollections of
the past!

It had been bright day, for hours, when Oliver opened his eyes; he felt
cheerful and happy.  The crisis of the disease was safely past.  He
belonged to the world again.

In three days' time he was able to sit in an easy-chair, well propped
up with pillows; and, as he was still too weak to walk, Mrs. Bedwin had
him carried downstairs into the little housekeeper's room, which
belonged to her.  Having him set, here, by the fire-side, the good old
lady sat herself down too; and, being in a state of considerable
delight at seeing him so much better, forthwith began to cry most
violently.

'Never mind me, my dear,' said the old lady; 'I'm only having a regular
good cry.  There; it's all over now; and I'm quite comfortable.'

'You're very, very kind to me, ma'am,' said Oliver.

'Well, never you mind that, my dear,' said the old lady; 'that's got
nothing to do with your broth; and it's full time you had it; for the
doctor says Mr. Brownlow may come in to see you this morning; and we
must get up our best looks, because the better we look, the more he'll
be pleased.'  And with this, the old lady applied herself to warming
up, in a little saucepan, a basin full of broth:  strong enough, Oliver
thought, to furnish an ample dinner, when reduced to the regulation
strength, for three hundred and fifty paupers, at the lowest
computation.

'Are you fond of pictures, dear?' inquired the old lady, seeing that
Oliver had fixed his eyes, most intently, on a portrait which hung
against the wall; just opposite his chair.

'I don't quite know, ma'am,' said Oliver, without taking his eyes from
the canvas; 'I have seen so few that I hardly know.  What a beautiful,
mild face that lady's is!'

'Ah!' said the old lady, 'painters always make ladies out prettier than
they are, or they wouldn't get any custom, child. The man that invented
the machine for taking likenesses might have known that would never
succeed; it's a deal too honest.  A deal,' said the old lady, laughing
very heartily at her own acuteness.

'Is--is that a likeness, ma'am?' said Oliver.

'Yes,' said the old lady, looking up for a moment from the broth;
'that's a portrait.'

'Whose, ma'am?' asked Oliver.

'Why, really, my dear, I don't know,' answered the old lady in a
good-humoured manner.  'It's not a likeness of anybody that you or I
know, I expect.  It seems to strike your fancy, dear.'

'It is so pretty,' replied Oliver.

'Why, sure you're not afraid of it?' said the old lady: observing in
great surprise, the look of awe with which the child regarded the
painting.

'Oh no, no,' returned Oliver quickly; 'but the eyes look so sorrowful;
and where I sit, they seem fixed upon me.  It makes my heart beat,'
added Oliver in a low voice, 'as if it was alive, and wanted to speak
to me, but couldn't.'

'Lord save us!' exclaimed the old lady, starting; 'don't talk in that
way, child.  You're weak and nervous after your illness. Let me wheel
your chair round to the other side; and then you won't see it.  There!'
said the old lady, suiting the action to the word; 'you don't see it
now, at all events.'

Oliver _did_ see it in his mind's eye as distinctly as if he had not
altered his position; but he thought it better not to worry the kind
old lady; so he smiled gently when she looked at him; and Mrs. Bedwin,
satisfied that he felt more comfortable, salted and broke bits of
toasted bread into the broth, with all the bustle befitting so solemn a
preparation. Oliver got through it with extraordinary expedition.  He
had scarcely swallowed the last spoonful, when there came a soft rap at
the door.  'Come in,' said the old lady; and in walked Mr. Brownlow.

Now, the old gentleman came in as brisk as need be; but, he had no
sooner raised his spectacles on his forehead, and thrust his hands
behind the skirts of his dressing-gown to take a good long look at
Oliver, than his countenance underwent a very great variety of odd
contortions.  Oliver looked very worn and shadowy from sickness, and
made an ineffectual attempt to stand up, out of respect to his
benefactor, which terminated in his sinking back into the chair again;
and the fact is, if the truth must be told, that Mr. Brownlow's heart,
being large enough for any six ordinary old gentlemen of humane
disposition, forced a supply of tears into his eyes, by some hydraulic
process which we are not sufficiently philosophical to be in a
condition to explain.

'Poor boy, poor boy!' said Mr. Brownlow, clearing his throat. 'I'm
rather hoarse this morning, Mrs. Bedwin.  I'm afraid I have caught
cold.'

'I hope not, sir,' said Mrs. Bedwin.  'Everything you have had, has
been well aired, sir.'

'I don't know, Bedwin.  I don't know,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'I rather
think I had a damp napkin at dinner-time yesterday; but never mind
that.  How do you feel, my dear?'

'Very happy, sir,' replied Oliver.  'And very grateful indeed, sir, for
your goodness to me.'

'Good by,' said Mr. Brownlow, stoutly.  'Have you given him any
nourishment, Bedwin?  Any slops, eh?'

'He has just had a basin of beautiful strong broth, sir,' replied Mrs.
Bedwin:  drawing herself up slightly, and laying strong emphasis on the
last word:  to intimate that between slops, and broth will compounded,
there existed no affinity or connection whatsoever.

'Ugh!' said Mr. Brownlow, with a slight shudder; 'a couple of glasses
of port wine would have done him a great deal more good. Wouldn't they,
Tom White, eh?'

'My name is Oliver, sir,' replied the little invalid:  with a look of
great astonishment.

'Oliver,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'Oliver what?  Oliver White, eh?'

'No, sir, Twist, Oliver Twist.'

'Queer name!' said the old gentleman.  'What made you tell the
magistrate your name was White?'

'I never told him so, sir,' returned Oliver in amazement.

This sounded so like a falsehood, that the old gentleman looked
somewhat sternly in Oliver's face.  It was impossible to doubt him;
there was truth in every one of its thin and sharpened lineaments.

'Some mistake,' said Mr. Brownlow.  But, although his motive for
looking steadily at Oliver no longer existed, the old idea of the
resemblance between his features and some familiar face came upon him
so strongly, that he could not withdraw his gaze.

'I hope you are not angry with me, sir?' said Oliver, raising his eyes
beseechingly.

'No, no,' replied the old gentleman.  'Why! what's this?  Bedwin, look
there!'

As he spoke, he pointed hastily to the picture over Oliver's head, and
then to the boy's face.  There was its living copy. The eyes, the head,
the mouth; every feature was the same. The expression was, for the
instant, so precisely alike, that the minutest line seemed copied with
startling accuracy!

Oliver knew not the cause of this sudden exclamation; for, not being
strong enough to bear the start it gave him, he fainted away.  A
weakness on his part, which affords the narrative an opportunity of
relieving the reader from suspense, in behalf of the two young pupils
of the Merry Old Gentleman; and of recording--

That when the Dodger, and his accomplished friend Master Bates, joined
in the hue-and-cry which was raised at Oliver's heels, in consequence
of their executing an illegal conveyance of Mr. Brownlow's personal
property, as has been already described, they were actuated by a very
laudable and becoming regard for themselves; and forasmuch as the
freedom of the subject and the liberty of the individual are among the
first and proudest boasts of a true-hearted Englishman, so, I need
hardly beg the reader to observe, that this action should tend to exalt
them in the opinion of all public and patriotic men, in almost as great
a degree as this strong proof of their anxiety for their own
preservation and safety goes to corroborate and confirm the little code
of laws which certain profound and sound-judging philosophers have laid
down as the main-springs of all Nature's deeds and actions:  the said
philosophers very wisely reducing the good lady's proceedings to
matters of maxim and theory:  and, by a very neat and pretty compliment
to her exalted wisdom and understanding, putting entirely out of sight
any considerations of heart, or generous impulse and feeling. For,
these are matters totally beneath a female who is acknowledged by
universal admission to be far above the numerous little foibles and
weaknesses of her sex.

If I wanted any further proof of the strictly philosophical nature of
the conduct of these young gentlemen in their very delicate
predicament, I should at once find it in the fact (also recorded in a
foregoing part of this narrative), of their quitting the pursuit, when
the general attention was fixed upon Oliver; and making immediately for
their home by the shortest possible cut.  Although I do not mean to
assert that it is usually the practice of renowned and learned sages,
to shorten the road to any great conclusion (their course indeed being
rather to lengthen the distance, by various circumlocutions and
discursive staggerings, like unto those in which drunken men under the
pressure of a too mighty flow of ideas, are prone to indulge); still, I
do mean to say, and do say distinctly, that it is the invariable
practice of many mighty philosophers, in carrying out their theories,
to evince great wisdom and foresight in providing against every
possible contingency which can be supposed at all likely to affect
themselves.  Thus, to do a great right, you may do a little wrong; and
you may take any means which the end to be attained, will justify; the
amount of the right, or the amount of the wrong, or indeed the
distinction between the two, being left entirely to the philosopher
concerned, to be settled and determined by his clear, comprehensive,
and impartial view of his own particular case.

It was not until the two boys had scoured, with great rapidity, through
a most intricate maze of narrow streets and courts, that they ventured
to halt beneath a low and dark archway.  Having remained silent here,
just long enough to recover breath to speak, Master Bates uttered an
exclamation of amusement and delight; and, bursting into an
uncontrollable fit of laughter, flung himself upon a doorstep, and
rolled thereon in a transport of mirth.

'What's the matter?' inquired the Dodger.

'Ha! ha! ha!' roared Charley Bates.

'Hold your noise,' remonstrated the Dodger, looking cautiously round.
'Do you want to be grabbed, stupid?'

'I can't help it,' said Charley, 'I can't help it!  To see him
splitting away at that pace, and cutting round the corners, and
knocking up again' the posts, and starting on again as if he was made
of iron as well as them, and me with the wipe in my pocket, singing out
arter him--oh, my eye!' The vivid imagination of Master Bates presented
the scene before him in too strong colours.  As he arrived at this
apostrophe, he again rolled upon the door-step, and laughed louder than
before.

'What'll Fagin say?' inquired the Dodger; taking advantage of the next
interval of breathlessness on the part of his friend to propound the
question.

'What?' repeated Charley Bates.

'Ah, what?' said the Dodger.

'Why, what should he say?' inquired Charley:  stopping rather suddenly
in his merriment; for the Dodger's manner was impressive.  'What should
he say?'

Mr. Dawkins whistled for a couple of minutes; then, taking off his hat,
scratched his head, and nodded thrice.

'What do you mean?' said Charley.

'Toor rul lol loo, gammon and spinnage, the frog he wouldn't, and high
cockolorum,' said the Dodger:  with a slight sneer on his intellectual
countenance.

This was explanatory, but not satisfactory.  Master Bates felt it so;
and again said, 'What do you mean?'

The Dodger made no reply; but putting his hat on again, and gathering
the skirts of his long-tailed coat under his arm, thrust his tongue
into his cheek, slapped the bridge of his nose some half-dozen times in
a familiar but expressive manner, and turning on his heel, slunk down
the court.  Master Bates followed, with a thoughtful countenance.

The noise of footsteps on the creaking stairs, a few minutes after the
occurrence of this conversation, roused the merry old gentleman as he
sat over the fire with a saveloy and a small loaf in his hand; a
pocket-knife in his right; and a pewter pot on the trivet.  There was a
rascally smile on his white face as he turned round, and looking
sharply out from under his thick red eyebrows, bent his ear towards the
door, and listened.

'Why, how's this?' muttered the Jew:  changing countenance; 'only two
of 'em?  Where's the third?  They can't have got into trouble.  Hark!'

The footsteps approached nearer; they reached the landing. The door was
slowly opened; and the Dodger and Charley Bates entered, closing it
behind them.



CHAPTER XIII

SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES ARE INTRODUCED TO THE INTELLIGENT READER,
CONNECTED WITH WHOM VARIOUS PLEASANT MATTERS ARE RELATED, APPERTAINING
TO THIS HISTORY

'Where's Oliver?' said the Jew, rising with a menacing look. 'Where's
the boy?'

The young thieves eyed their preceptor as if they were alarmed at his
violence; and looked uneasily at each other.  But they made no reply.

'What's become of the boy?' said the Jew, seizing the Dodger tightly by
the collar, and threatening him with horrid imprecations.  'Speak out,
or I'll throttle you!'

Mr. Fagin looked so very much in earnest, that Charley Bates, who
deemed it prudent in all cases to be on the safe side, and who
conceived it by no means improbable that it might be his turn to be
throttled second, dropped upon his knees, and raised a loud,
well-sustained, and continuous roar--something between a mad bull and a
speaking trumpet.

'Will you speak?' thundered the Jew:  shaking the Dodger so much that
his keeping in the big coat at all, seemed perfectly miraculous.

'Why, the traps have got him, and that's all about it,' said the
Dodger, sullenly.  'Come, let go o' me, will you!'  And, swinging
himself, at one jerk, clean out of the big coat, which he left in the
Jew's hands, the Dodger snatched up the toasting fork, and made a pass
at the merry old gentleman's waistcoat; which, if it had taken effect,
would have let a little more merriment out than could have been easily
replaced.

The Jew stepped back in this emergency, with more agility than could
have been anticipated in a man of his apparent decrepitude; and,
seizing up the pot, prepared to hurl it at his assailant's head.  But
Charley Bates, at this moment, calling his attention by a perfectly
terrific howl, he suddenly altered its destination, and flung it full
at that young gentleman.

'Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!' growled a deep voice. 'Who
pitched that 'ere at me?  It's well it's the beer, and not the pot, as
hit me, or I'd have settled somebody.  I might have know'd, as nobody
but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew could afford to
throw away any drink but water--and not that, unless he done the River
Company every quarter.  Wot's it all about, Fagin?  D--me, if my
neck-handkercher an't lined with beer!  Come in, you sneaking warmint;
wot are you stopping outside for, as if you was ashamed of your master!
Come in!'

The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of
about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab
breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which inclosed
a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves;--the kind of legs,
which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete
state without a set of fetters to garnish them.  He had a brown hat on
his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck:  with the
long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he
spoke.  He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance
with a beard of three days' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which
displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently
damaged by a blow.

'Come in, d'ye hear?' growled this engaging ruffian.

A white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty
different places, skulked into the room.

'Why didn't you come in afore?' said the man.  'You're getting too
proud to own me afore company, are you?  Lie down!'

This command was accompanied with a kick, which sent the animal to the
other end of the room.  He appeared well used to it, however; for he
coiled himself up in a corner very quietly, without uttering a sound,
and winking his very ill-looking eyes twenty times in a minute,
appeared to occupy himself in taking a survey of the apartment.

'What are you up to?  Ill-treating the boys, you covetous, avaricious,
in-sa-ti-a-ble old fence?' said the man, seating himself deliberately.
'I wonder they don't murder you!  I would if I was them.  If I'd been
your 'prentice, I'd have done it long ago, and--no, I couldn't have
sold you afterwards, for you're fit for nothing but keeping as a
curiousity of ugliness in a glass bottle, and I suppose they don't blow
glass bottles large enough.'

'Hush! hush! Mr. Sikes,' said the Jew, trembling; 'don't speak so loud!'

'None of your mistering,' replied the ruffian; 'you always mean
mischief when you come that.  You know my name:  out with it!  I shan't
disgrace it when the time comes.'

'Well, well, then--Bill Sikes,' said the Jew, with abject humility.
'You seem out of humour, Bill.'

'Perhaps I am,' replied Sikes; 'I should think you was rather out of
sorts too, unless you mean as little harm when you throw pewter pots
about, as you do when you blab and--'

'Are you mad?' said the Jew, catching the man by the sleeve, and
pointing towards the boys.

Mr. Sikes contented himself with tying an imaginary knot under his left
ear, and jerking his head over on the right shoulder; a piece of dumb
show which the Jew appeared to understand perfectly.  He then, in cant
terms, with which his whole conversation was plentifully besprinkled,
but which would be quite unintelligible if they were recorded here,
demanded a glass of liquor.

'And mind you don't poison it,' said Mr. Sikes, laying his hat upon the
table.

This was said in jest; but if the speaker could have seen the evil leer
with which the Jew bit his pale lip as he turned round to the cupboard,
he might have thought the caution not wholly unnecessary, or the wish
(at all events) to improve upon the distiller's ingenuity not very far
from the old gentleman's merry heart.

After swallowing two of three glasses of spirits, Mr. Sikes
condescended to take some notice of the young gentlemen; which gracious
act led to a conversation, in which the cause and manner of Oliver's
capture were circumstantially detailed, with such alterations and
improvements on the truth, as to the Dodger appeared most advisable
under the circumstances.

'I'm afraid,' said the Jew, 'that he may say something which will get
us into trouble.'

'That's very likely,' returned Sikes with a malicious grin. 'You're
blowed upon, Fagin.'

'And I'm afraid, you see,' added the Jew, speaking as if he had not
noticed the interruption; and regarding the other closely as he did
so,--'I'm afraid that, if the game was up with us, it might be up with
a good many more, and that it would come out rather worse for you than
it would for me, my dear.'

The man started, and turned round upon the Jew.  But the old
gentleman's shoulders were shrugged up to his ears; and his eyes were
vacantly staring on the opposite wall.

There was a long pause. Every member of the respectable coterie
appeared plunged in his own reflections; not excepting the dog, who by
a certain malicious licking of his lips seemed to be meditating an
attack upon the legs of the first gentleman or lady he might encounter
in the streets when he went out.

'Somebody must find out wot's been done at the office,' said Mr. Sikes
in a much lower tone than he had taken since he came in.

The Jew nodded assent.

'If he hasn't peached, and is committed, there's no fear till he comes
out again,' said Mr. Sikes, 'and then he must be taken care on.  You
must get hold of him somehow.'

Again the Jew nodded.

The prudence of this line of action, indeed, was obvious; but,
unfortunately, there was one very strong objection to its being
adopted.  This was, that the Dodger, and Charley Bates, and Fagin, and
Mr. William Sikes, happened, one and all, to entertain a violent and
deeply-rooted antipathy to going near a police-office on any ground or
pretext whatever.

How long they might have sat and looked at each other, in a state of
uncertainty not the most pleasant of its kind, it is difficult to
guess.  It is not necessary to make any guesses on the subject,
however; for the sudden entrance of the two young ladies whom Oliver
had seen on a former occasion, caused the conversation to flow afresh.

'The very thing!' said the Jew.  'Bet will go; won't you, my dear?'

'Wheres?' inquired the young lady.

'Only just up to the office, my dear,' said the Jew coaxingly.

It is due to the young lady to say that she did not positively affirm
that she would not, but that she merely expressed an emphatic and
earnest desire to be 'blessed' if she would; a polite and delicate
evasion of the request, which shows the young lady to have been
possessed of that natural good breeding which cannot bear to inflict
upon a fellow-creature, the pain of a direct and pointed refusal.

The Jew's countenance fell.  He turned from this young lady, who was
gaily, not to say gorgeously attired, in a red gown, green boots, and
yellow curl-papers, to the other female.

'Nancy, my dear,' said the Jew in a soothing manner, 'what do YOU say?'

'That it won't do; so it's no use a-trying it on, Fagin,' replied Nancy.

'What do you mean by that?' said Mr. Sikes, looking up in a surly
manner.

'What I say, Bill,' replied the lady collectedly.

'Why, you're just the very person for it,' reasoned Mr. Sikes: 'nobody
about here knows anything of you.'

'And as I don't want 'em to, neither,' replied Nancy in the same
composed manner, 'it's rather more no than yes with me, Bill.'

'She'll go, Fagin,' said Sikes.

'No, she won't, Fagin,' said Nancy.

'Yes, she will, Fagin,' said Sikes.

And Mr. Sikes was right.  By dint of alternate threats, promises, and
bribes, the lady in question was ultimately prevailed upon to undertake
the commission.  She was not, indeed, withheld by the same
considerations as her agreeable friend; for, having recently removed
into the neighborhood of Field Lane from the remote but genteel suburb
of Ratcliffe, she was not under the same apprehension of being
recognised by any of her numerous acquaintances.

Accordingly, with a clean white apron tied over her gown, and her
curl-papers tucked up under a straw bonnet,--both articles of dress
being provided from the Jew's inexhaustible stock,--Miss Nancy prepared
to issue forth on her errand.

'Stop a minute, my dear,' said the Jew, producing, a little covered
basket.  'Carry that in one hand.  It looks more respectable, my dear.'

'Give her a door-key to carry in her t'other one, Fagin,' said Sikes;
'it looks real and genivine like.'

'Yes, yes, my dear, so it does,' said the Jew, hanging a large
street-door key on the forefinger of the young lady's right hand.

'There; very good!  Very good indeed, my dear!' said the Jew, rubbing
his hands.

'Oh, my brother!  My poor, dear, sweet, innocent little brother!'
exclaimed Nancy, bursting into tears, and wringing the little basket
and the street-door key in an agony of distress.  'What has become of
him!  Where have they taken him to!  Oh, do have pity, and tell me
what's been done with the dear boy, gentlemen; do, gentlemen, if you
please, gentlemen!'

Having uttered those words in a most lamentable and heart-broken tone:
to the immeasurable delight of her hearers:  Miss Nancy paused, winked
to the company, nodded smilingly round, and disappeared.

'Ah, she's a clever girl, my dears,' said the Jew, turning round to his
young friends, and shaking his head gravely, as if in mute admonition
to them to follow the bright example they had just beheld.

'She's a honour to her sex,' said Mr. Sikes, filling his glass, and
smiting the table with his enormous fist.  'Here's her health, and
wishing they was all like her!'

While these, and many other encomiums, were being passed on the
accomplished Nancy, that young lady made the best of her way to the
police-office; whither, notwithstanding a little natural timidity
consequent upon walking through the streets alone and unprotected, she
arrived in perfect safety shortly afterwards.

Entering by the back way, she tapped softly with the key at one of the
cell-doors, and listened.  There was no sound within:  so she coughed
and listened again.  Still there was no reply:  so she spoke.

'Nolly, dear?' murmured Nancy in a gentle voice; 'Nolly?'

There was nobody inside but a miserable shoeless criminal, who had been
taken up for playing the flute, and who, the offence against society
having been clearly proved, had been very properly committed by Mr.
Fang to the House of Correction for one month; with the appropriate and
amusing remark that since he had so much breath to spare, it would be
more wholesomely expended on the treadmill than in a musical
instrument.  He made no answer: being occupied mentally bewailing the
loss of the flute, which had been confiscated for the use of the
county:  so Nancy passed on to the next cell, and knocked there.

'Well!' cried a faint and feeble voice.

'Is there a little boy here?' inquired Nancy, with a preliminary sob.

'No,' replied the voice; 'God forbid.'

This was a vagrant of sixty-five, who was going to prison for _not_
playing the flute; or, in other words, for begging in the streets, and
doing nothing for his livelihood.  In the next cell was another man,
who was going to the same prison for hawking tin saucepans without
license; thereby doing something for his living, in defiance of the
Stamp-office.

But, as neither of these criminals answered to the name of Oliver, or
knew anything about him, Nancy made straight up to the bluff officer in
the striped waistcoat; and with the most piteous wailings and
lamentations, rendered more piteous by a prompt and efficient use of
the street-door key and the little basket, demanded her own dear
brother.

'I haven't got him, my dear,' said the old man.

'Where is he?' screamed Nancy, in a distracted manner.

'Why, the gentleman's got him,' replied the officer.

'What gentleman!  Oh, gracious heavens!  What gentleman?' exclaimed
Nancy.

In reply to this incoherent questioning, the old man informed the
deeply affected sister that Oliver had been taken ill in the office,
and discharged in consequence of a witness having proved the robbery to
have been committed by another boy, not in custody; and that the
prosecutor had carried him away, in an insensible condition, to his own
residence:  of and concerning which, all the informant knew was, that
it was somewhere in Pentonville, he having heard that word mentioned in
the directions to the coachman.

In a dreadful state of doubt and uncertainty, the agonised young woman
staggered to the gate, and then, exchanging her faltering walk for a
swift run, returned by the most devious and complicated route she could
think of, to the domicile of the Jew.

Mr. Bill Sikes no sooner heard the account of the expedition delivered,
than he very hastily called up the white dog, and, putting on his hat,
expeditiously departed:  without devoting any time to the formality of
wishing the company good-morning.

'We must know where he is, my dears; he must be found,' said the Jew
greatly excited.  'Charley, do nothing but skulk about, till you bring
home some news of him!  Nancy, my dear, I must have him found.  I trust
to you, my dear,--to you and the Artful for everything!  Stay, stay,'
added the Jew, unlocking a drawer with a shaking hand; 'there's money,
my dears.  I shall shut up this shop to-night.  You'll know where to
find me!  Don't stop here a minute.  Not an instant, my dears!'

With these words, he pushed them from the room:  and carefully
double-locking and barring the door behind them, drew from its place of
concealment the box which he had unintentionally disclosed to Oliver.
Then, he hastily proceeded to dispose the watches and jewellery beneath
his clothing.

A rap at the door startled him in this occupation.  'Who's there?' he
cried in a shrill tone.

'Me!' replied the voice of the Dodger, through the key-hole.

'What now?' cried the Jew impatiently.

'Is he to be kidnapped to the other ken, Nancy says?' inquired the
Dodger.

'Yes,' replied the Jew, 'wherever she lays hands on him.  Find him,
find him out, that's all.  I shall know what to do next; never fear.'

The boy murmured a reply of intelligence:  and hurried downstairs after
his companions.

'He has not peached so far,' said the Jew as he pursued his occupation.
'If he means to blab us among his new friends, we may stop his mouth
yet.'



CHAPTER XIV

COMPRISING FURTHER PARTICULARS OF OLIVER'S STAY AT MR. BROWNLOW'S, WITH
THE REMARKABLE PREDICTION WHICH ONE MR. GRIMWIG UTTERED CONCERNING HIM,
WHEN HE WENT OUT ON AN ERRAND

Oliver soon recovering from the fainting-fit into which Mr. Brownlow's
abrupt exclamation had thrown him, the subject of the picture was
carefully avoided, both by the old gentleman and Mrs. Bedwin, in the
conversation that ensued:  which indeed bore no reference to Oliver's
history or prospects, but was confined to such topics as might amuse
without exciting him.  He was still too weak to get up to breakfast;
but, when he came down into the housekeeper's room next day, his first
act was to cast an eager glance at the wall, in the hope of again
looking on the face of the beautiful lady.  His expectations were
disappointed, however, for the picture had been removed.

'Ah!' said the housekeeper, watching the direction of Oliver's eyes.
'It is gone, you see.'

'I see it is ma'am,' replied Oliver.  'Why have they taken it away?'

'It has been taken down, child, because Mr. Brownlow said, that as it
seemed to worry you, perhaps it might prevent your getting well, you
know,' rejoined the old lady.

'Oh, no, indeed.  It didn't worry me, ma'am,' said Oliver. 'I liked to
see it.  I quite loved it.'

'Well, well!' said the old lady, good-humouredly; 'you get well as fast
as ever you can, dear, and it shall be hung up again. There!  I promise
you that!  Now, let us talk about something else.'

This was all the information Oliver could obtain about the picture at
that time.  As the old lady had been so kind to him in his illness, he
endeavoured to think no more of the subject just then; so he listened
attentively to a great many stories she told him, about an amiable and
handsome daughter of hers, who was married to an amiable and handsome
man, and lived in the country; and about a son, who was clerk to a
merchant in the West Indies; and who was, also, such a good young man,
and wrote such dutiful letters home four times a-year, that it brought
the tears into her eyes to talk about them.  When the old lady had
expatiated, a long time, on the excellences of her children, and the
merits of her kind good husband besides, who had been dead and gone,
poor dear soul! just six-and-twenty years, it was time to have tea.
After tea she began to teach Oliver cribbage: which he learnt as
quickly as she could teach:  and at which game they played, with great
interest and gravity, until it was time for the invalid to have some
warm wine and water, with a slice of dry toast, and then to go cosily
to bed.

They were happy days, those of Oliver's recovery.  Everything was so
quiet, and neat, and orderly; everybody so kind and gentle; that after
the noise and turbulence in the midst of which he had always lived, it
seemed like Heaven itself.  He was no sooner strong enough to put his
clothes on, properly, than Mr. Brownlow caused a complete new suit, and
a new cap, and a new pair of shoes, to be provided for him.  As Oliver
was told that he might do what he liked with the old clothes, he gave
them to a servant who had been very kind to him, and asked her to sell
them to a Jew, and keep the money for herself.  This she very readily
did; and, as Oliver looked out of the parlour window, and saw the Jew
roll them up in his bag and walk away, he felt quite delighted to think
that they were safely gone, and that there was now no possible danger
of his ever being able to wear them again.  They were sad rags, to tell
the truth; and Oliver had never had a new suit before.

One evening, about a week after the affair of the picture, as he was
sitting talking to Mrs. Bedwin, there came a message down from Mr.
Brownlow, that if Oliver Twist felt pretty well, he should like to see
him in his study, and talk to him a little while.

'Bless us, and save us!  Wash your hands, and let me part your hair
nicely for you, child,' said Mrs. Bedwin.  'Dear heart alive!  If we
had known he would have asked for you, we would have put you a clean
collar on, and made you as smart as sixpence!'

Oliver did as the old lady bade him; and, although she lamented
grievously, meanwhile, that there was not even time to crimp the little
frill that bordered his shirt-collar; he looked so delicate and
handsome, despite that important personal advantage, that she went so
far as to say:  looking at him with great complacency from head to
foot, that she really didn't think it would have been possible, on the
longest notice, to have made much difference in him for the better.

Thus encouraged, Oliver tapped at the study door.  On Mr. Brownlow
calling to him to come in, he found himself in a little back room,
quite full of books, with a window, looking into some pleasant little
gardens.  There was a table drawn up before the window, at which Mr.
Brownlow was seated reading.  When he saw Oliver, he pushed the book
away from him, and told him to come near the table, and sit down.
Oliver complied; marvelling where the people could be found to read
such a great number of books as seemed to be written to make the world
wiser.  Which is still a marvel to more experienced people than Oliver
Twist, every day of their lives.

'There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?' said Mr.
Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the
shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling.

'A great number, sir,' replied Oliver.  'I never saw so many.'

'You shall read them, if you behave well,' said the old gentleman
kindly; 'and you will like that, better than looking at the
outsides,--that is, some cases; because there are books of which the
backs and covers are by far the best parts.'

'I suppose they are those heavy ones, sir,' said Oliver, pointing to
some large quartos, with a good deal of gilding about the binding.

'Not always those,' said the old gentleman, patting Oliver on the head,
and smiling as he did so; 'there are other equally heavy ones, though
of a much smaller size.  How should you like to grow up a clever man,
and write books, eh?'

'I think I would rather read them, sir,' replied Oliver.

'What! wouldn't you like to be a book-writer?' said the old gentleman.

Oliver considered a little while; and at last said, he should think it
would be a much better thing to be a book-seller; upon which the old
gentleman laughed heartily, and declared he had said a very good thing.
Which Oliver felt glad to have done, though he by no means knew what it
was.

'Well, well,' said the old gentleman, composing his features. 'Don't be
afraid!  We won't make an author of you, while there's an honest trade
to be learnt, or brick-making to turn to.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Oliver.  At the earnest manner of his reply, the
old gentleman laughed again; and said something about a curious
instinct, which Oliver, not understanding, paid no very great attention
to.

'Now,' said Mr. Brownlow, speaking if possible in a kinder, but at the
same time in a much more serious manner, than Oliver had ever known him
assume yet, 'I want you to pay great attention, my boy, to what I am
going to say.  I shall talk to you without any reserve; because I am
sure you are well able to understand me, as many older persons would
be.'

'Oh, don't tell you are going to send me away, sir, pray!' exclaimed
Oliver, alarmed at the serious tone of the old gentleman's
commencement!  'Don't turn me out of doors to wander in the streets
again.  Let me stay here, and be a servant.  Don't send me back to the
wretched place I came from.  Have mercy upon a poor boy, sir!'

'My dear child,' said the old gentleman, moved by the warmth of
Oliver's sudden appeal; 'you need not be afraid of my deserting you,
unless you give me cause.'

'I never, never will, sir,' interposed Oliver.

'I hope not,' rejoined the old gentleman.  'I do not think you ever
will.  I have been deceived, before, in the objects whom I have
endeavoured to benefit; but I feel strongly disposed to trust you,
nevertheless; and I am more interested in your behalf than I can well
account for, even to myself.  The persons on whom I have bestowed my
dearest love, lie deep in their graves; but, although the happiness and
delight of my life lie buried there too, I have not made a coffin of my
heart, and sealed it up, forever, on my best affections.  Deep
affliction has but strengthened and refined them.'

As the old gentleman said this in a low voice:  more to himself than to
his companion:  and as he remained silent for a short time afterwards:
Oliver sat quite still.

'Well, well!' said the old gentleman at length, in a more cheerful
tone, 'I only say this, because you have a young heart; and knowing
that I have suffered great pain and sorrow, you will be more careful,
perhaps, not to wound me again.  You say you are an orphan, without a
friend in the world; all the inquiries I have been able to make,
confirm the statement.  Let me hear your story; where you come from;
who brought you up; and how you got into the company in which I found
you.  Speak the truth, and you shall not be friendless while I live.'

Oliver's sobs checked his utterance for some minutes; when he was on
the point of beginning to relate how he had been brought up at the
farm, and carried to the workhouse by Mr. Bumble, a peculiarly
impatient little double-knock was heard at the street-door:  and the
servant, running upstairs, announced Mr. Grimwig.

'Is he coming up?' inquired Mr. Brownlow.

'Yes, sir,' replied the servant.  'He asked if there were any muffins
in the house; and, when I told him yes, he said he had come to tea.'

Mr. Brownlow smiled; and, turning to Oliver, said that Mr. Grimwig was
an old friend of his, and he must not mind his being a little rough in
his manners; for he was a worthy creature at bottom, as he had reason
to know.

'Shall I go downstairs, sir?' inquired Oliver.

'No,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'I would rather you remained here.'

At this moment, there walked into the room:  supporting himself by a
thick stick:  a stout old gentleman, rather lame in one leg, who was
dressed in a blue coat, striped waistcoat, nankeen breeches and
gaiters, and a broad-brimmed white hat, with the sides turned up with
green.  A very small-plaited shirt frill stuck out from his waistcoat;
and a very long steel watch-chain, with nothing but a key at the end,
dangled loosely below it.  The ends of his white neckerchief were
twisted into a ball about the size of an orange; the variety of shapes
into which his countenance was twisted, defy description.  He had a
manner of screwing his head on one side when he spoke; and of looking
out of the corners of his eyes at the same time:  which irresistibly
reminded the beholder of a parrot.  In this attitude, he fixed himself,
the moment he made his appearance; and, holding out a small piece of
orange-peel at arm's length, exclaimed, in a growling, discontented
voice.

'Look here! do you see this!  Isn't it a most wonderful and
extraordinary thing that I can't call at a man's house but I find a
piece of this poor surgeon's friend on the staircase? I've been lamed
with orange-peel once, and I know orange-peel will be my death, or I'll
be content to eat my own head, sir!'

This was the handsome offer with which Mr. Grimwig backed and confirmed
nearly every assertion he made; and it was the more singular in his
case, because, even admitting for the sake of argument, the possibility
of scientific improvements being brought to that pass which will enable
a gentleman to eat his own head in the event of his being so disposed,
Mr. Grimwig's head was such a particularly large one, that the most
sanguine man alive could hardly entertain a hope of being able to get
through it at a sitting--to put entirely out of the question, a very
thick coating of powder.

'I'll eat my head, sir,' repeated Mr. Grimwig, striking his stick upon
the ground.  'Hallo! what's that!' looking at Oliver, and retreating a
pace or two.

'This is young Oliver Twist, whom we were speaking about,' said Mr.
Brownlow.

Oliver bowed.

'You don't mean to say that's the boy who had the fever, I hope?' said
Mr. Grimwig, recoiling a little more.  'Wait a minute! Don't speak!
Stop--' continued Mr. Grimwig, abruptly, losing all dread of the fever
in his triumph at the discovery; 'that's the boy who had the orange!
If that's not the boy, sir, who had the orange, and threw this bit of
peel upon the staircase, I'll eat my head, and his too.'

'No, no, he has not had one,' said Mr. Brownlow, laughing. 'Come!  Put
down your hat; and speak to my young friend.'

'I feel strongly on this subject, sir,' said the irritable old
gentleman, drawing off his gloves.  'There's always more or less
orange-peel on the pavement in our street; and I _know_ it's put there
by the surgeon's boy at the corner.  A young woman stumbled over a bit
last night, and fell against my garden-railings; directly she got up I
saw her look towards his infernal red lamp with the pantomime-light.
"Don't go to him," I called out of the window, "he's an assassin!  A
man-trap!"  So he is.  If he is not--'  Here the irascible old
gentleman gave a great knock on the ground with his stick; which was
always understood, by his friends, to imply the customary offer,
whenever it was not expressed in words. Then, still keeping his stick
in his hand, he sat down; and, opening a double eye-glass, which he
wore attached to a broad black riband, took a view of Oliver:  who,
seeing that he was the object of inspection, coloured, and bowed again.

'That's the boy, is it?' said Mr. Grimwig, at length.

'That's the boy,' replied Mr. Brownlow.

'How are you, boy?' said Mr. Grimwig.

'A great deal better, thank you, sir,' replied Oliver.

Mr. Brownlow, seeming to apprehend that his singular friend was about
to say something disagreeable, asked Oliver to step downstairs and tell
Mrs. Bedwin they were ready for tea; which, as he did not half like the
visitor's manner, he was very happy to do.

'He is a nice-looking boy, is he not?' inquired Mr. Brownlow.

'I don't know,' replied Mr. Grimwig, pettishly.

'Don't know?'

'No.  I don't know.  I never see any difference in boys.  I only knew
two sort of boys.  Mealy boys, and beef-faced boys.'

'And which is Oliver?'

'Mealy.  I know a friend who has a beef-faced boy; a fine boy, they
call him; with a round head, and red cheeks, and glaring eyes; a horrid
boy; with a body and limbs that appear to be swelling out of the seams
of his blue clothes; with the voice of a pilot, and the appetite of a
wolf.  I know him!  The wretch!'

'Come,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'these are not the characteristics of young
Oliver Twist; so he needn't excite your wrath.'

'They are not,' replied Mr. Grimwig.  'He may have worse.'

Here, Mr. Brownlow coughed impatiently; which appeared to afford Mr.
Grimwig the most exquisite delight.

'He may have worse, I say,' repeated Mr. Grimwig.  'Where does he come
from!  Who is he?  What is he?  He has had a fever.  What of that?
Fevers are not peculiar to good people; are they?  Bad people have
fevers sometimes; haven't they, eh?  I knew a man who was hung in
Jamaica for murdering his master.  He had had a fever six times; he
wasn't recommended to mercy on that account.  Pooh! nonsense!'

Now, the fact was, that in the inmost recesses of his own heart, Mr.
Grimwig was strongly disposed to admit that Oliver's appearance and
manner were unusually prepossessing; but he had a strong appetite for
contradiction, sharpened on this occasion by the finding of the
orange-peel; and, inwardly determining that no man should dictate to
him whether a boy was well-looking or not, he had resolved, from the
first, to oppose his friend.  When Mr. Brownlow admitted that on no one
point of inquiry could he yet return a satisfactory answer; and that he
had postponed any investigation into Oliver's previous history until he
thought the boy was strong enough to hear it; Mr. Grimwig chuckled
maliciously.  And he demanded, with a sneer, whether the housekeeper
was in the habit of counting the plate at night; because if she didn't
find a table-spoon or two missing some sunshiny morning, why, he would
be content to--and so forth.

All this, Mr. Brownlow, although himself somewhat of an impetuous
gentleman:  knowing his friend's peculiarities, bore with great good
humour; as Mr. Grimwig, at tea, was graciously pleased to express his
entire approval of the muffins, matters went on very smoothly; and
Oliver, who made one of the party, began to feel more at his ease than
he had yet done in the fierce old gentleman's presence.

'And when are you going to hear a full, true, and particular account of
the life and adventures of Oliver Twist?' asked Grimwig of Mr.
Brownlow, at the conclusion of the meal; looking sideways at Oliver, as
he resumed his subject.

'To-morrow morning,' replied Mr. Brownlow.  'I would rather he was
alone with me at the time.  Come up to me to-morrow morning at ten
o'clock, my dear.'

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.  He answered with some hesitation, because
he was confused by Mr. Grimwig's looking so hard at him.

'I'll tell you what,' whispered that gentleman to Mr. Brownlow; 'he
won't come up to you to-morrow morning.  I saw him hesitate. He is
deceiving you, my good friend.'

'I'll swear he is not,' replied Mr. Brownlow, warmly.

'If he is not,' said Mr. Grimwig, 'I'll--' and down went the stick.

'I'll answer for that boy's truth with my life!' said Mr. Brownlow,
knocking the table.

'And I for his falsehood with my head!' rejoined Mr. Grimwig, knocking
the table also.

'We shall see,' said Mr. Brownlow, checking his rising anger.

'We will,' replied Mr. Grimwig, with a provoking smile;  'we will.'

As fate would have it, Mrs. Bedwin chanced to bring in, at this moment,
a small parcel of books, which Mr. Brownlow had that morning purchased
of the identical bookstall-keeper, who has already figured in this
history; having laid them on the table, she prepared to leave the room.

'Stop the boy, Mrs. Bedwin!' said Mr. Brownlow; 'there is something to
go back.'

'He has gone, sir,' replied Mrs. Bedwin.

'Call after him,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'it's particular.  He is a poor
man, and they are not paid for.  There are some books to be taken back,
too.'

The street-door was opened.  Oliver ran one way; and the girl ran
another; and Mrs. Bedwin stood on the step and screamed for the boy;
but there was no boy in sight.  Oliver and the girl returned, in a
breathless state, to report that there were no tidings of him.

'Dear me, I am very sorry for that,' exclaimed Mr. Brownlow; 'I
particularly wished those books to be returned to-night.'

'Send Oliver with them,' said Mr. Grimwig, with an ironical smile; 'he
will be sure to deliver them safely, you know.'

'Yes; do let me take them, if you please, sir,' said Oliver. 'I'll run
all the way, sir.'

The old gentleman was just going to say that Oliver should not go out
on any account; when a most malicious cough from Mr. Grimwig determined
him that he should; and that, by his prompt discharge of the
commission, he should prove to him the injustice of his suspicions:  on
this head at least:  at once.

'You _shall_ go, my dear,' said the old gentleman.  'The books are on a
chair by my table.  Fetch them down.'

Oliver, delighted to be of use, brought down the books under his arm in
a great bustle; and waited, cap in hand, to hear what message he was to
take.

'You are to say,' said Mr. Brownlow, glancing steadily at Grimwig; 'you
are to say that you have brought those books back; and that you have
come to pay the four pound ten I owe him.  This is a five-pound note,
so you will have to bring me back, ten shillings change.'

'I won't be ten minutes, sir,' said Oliver, eagerly.  Having buttoned
up the bank-note in his jacket pocket, and placed the books carefully
under his arm, he made a respectful bow, and left the room.  Mrs.
Bedwin followed him to the street-door, giving him many directions
about the nearest way, and the name of the bookseller, and the name of
the street:  all of which Oliver said he clearly understood.  Having
superadded many injunctions to be sure and not take cold, the old lady
at length permitted him to depart.

'Bless his sweet face!' said the old lady, looking after him. 'I can't
bear, somehow, to let him go out of my sight.'

At this moment, Oliver looked gaily round, and nodded before he turned
the corner.  The old lady smilingly returned his salutation, and,
closing the door, went back to her own room.

'Let me see; he'll be back in twenty minutes, at the longest,' said Mr.
Brownlow, pulling out his watch, and placing it on the table.  'It will
be dark by that time.'

'Oh! you really expect him to come back, do you?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.

'Don't you?' asked Mr. Brownlow, smiling.

The spirit of contradiction was strong in Mr. Grimwig's breast, at the
moment; and it was rendered stronger by his friend's confident smile.

'No,' he said, smiting the table with his fist, 'I do not. The boy has
a new suit of clothes on his back, a set of valuable books under his
arm, and a five-pound note in his pocket.  He'll join his old friends
the thieves, and laugh at you.  If ever that boy returns to this house,
sir, I'll eat my head.'

With these words he drew his chair closer to the table; and there the
two friends sat, in silent expectation, with the watch between them.

It is worthy of remark, as illustrating the importance we attach to our
own judgments, and the pride with which we put forth our most rash and
hasty conclusions, that, although Mr. Grimwig was not by any means a
bad-hearted man, and though he would have been unfeignedly sorry to see
his respected friend duped and deceived, he really did most earnestly
and strongly hope at that moment, that Oliver Twist might not come back.

It grew so dark, that the figures on the dial-plate were scarcely
discernible; but there the two old gentlemen continued to sit, in
silence, with the watch between them.



CHAPTER XV

SHOWING HOW VERY FOND OF OLIVER TWIST, THE MERRY OLD JEW AND MISS NANCY
WERE

In the obscure parlour of a low public-house, in the filthiest part of
Little Saffron Hill; a dark and gloomy den, where a flaring gas-light
burnt all day in the winter-time; and where no ray of sun ever shone in
the summer:  there sat, brooding over a little pewter measure and a
small glass, strongly impregnated with the smell of liquor, a man in a
velveteen coat, drab shorts, half-boots and stockings, whom even by
that dim light no experienced agent of the police would have hesitated
to recognise as Mr. William Sikes.  At his feet, sat a white-coated,
red-eyed dog; who occupied himself, alternately, in winking at his
master with both eyes at the same time; and in licking a large, fresh
cut on one side of his mouth, which appeared to be the result of some
recent conflict.

'Keep quiet, you warmint!  Keep quiet!' said Mr. Sikes, suddenly
breaking silence.  Whether his meditations were so intense as to be
disturbed by the dog's winking, or whether his feelings were so wrought
upon by his reflections that they required all the relief derivable
from kicking an unoffending animal to allay them, is matter for
argument and consideration.  Whatever was the cause, the effect was a
kick and a curse, bestowed upon the dog simultaneously.

Dogs are not generally apt to revenge injuries inflicted upon them by
their masters; but Mr. Sikes's dog, having faults of temper in common
with his owner, and labouring, perhaps, at this moment, under a
powerful sense of injury, made no more ado but at once fixed his teeth
in one of the half-boots.  Having given in a hearty shake, he retired,
growling, under a form; just escaping the pewter measure which Mr.
Sikes levelled at his head.

'You would, would you?' said Sikes, seizing the poker in one hand, and
deliberately opening with the other a large clasp-knife, which he drew
from his pocket.  'Come here, you born devil!  Come here!  D'ye hear?'

The dog no doubt heard; because Mr. Sikes spoke in the very harshest
key of a very harsh voice; but, appearing to entertain some
unaccountable objection to having his throat cut, he remained where he
was, and growled more fiercely than before:  at the same time grasping
the end of the poker between his teeth, and biting at it like a wild
beast.

This resistance only infuriated Mr. Sikes the more; who, dropping on
his knees, began to assail the animal most furiously.  The dog jumped
from right to left, and from left to right; snapping, growling, and
barking; the man thrust and swore, and struck and blasphemed; and the
struggle was reaching a most critical point for one or other; when, the
door suddenly opening, the dog darted out:  leaving Bill Sikes with the
poker and the clasp-knife in his hands.

There must always be two parties to a quarrel, says the old adage.  Mr.
Sikes, being disappointed of the dog's participation, at once
transferred his share in the quarrel to the new comer.

'What the devil do you come in between me and my dog for?' said Sikes,
with a fierce gesture.

'I didn't know, my dear, I didn't know,' replied Fagin, humbly; for the
Jew was the new comer.

'Didn't know, you white-livered thief!' growled Sikes. 'Couldn't you
hear the noise?'

'Not a sound of it, as I'm a living man, Bill,' replied the Jew.

'Oh no!  You hear nothing, you don't,' retorted Sikes with a fierce
sneer.  'Sneaking in and out, so as nobody hears how you come or go!  I
wish you had been the dog, Fagin, half a minute ago.'

'Why?' inquired the Jew with a forced smile.

'Cause the government, as cares for the lives of such men as you, as
haven't half the pluck of curs, lets a man kill a dog how he likes,'
replied Sikes, shutting up the knife with a very expressive look;
'that's why.'

The Jew rubbed his hands; and, sitting down at the table, affected to
laugh at the pleasantry of his friend.  He was obviously very ill at
ease, however.

'Grin away,' said Sikes, replacing the poker, and surveying him with
savage contempt; 'grin away.  You'll never have the laugh at me,
though, unless it's behind a nightcap.  I've got the upper hand over
you, Fagin; and, d--me, I'll keep it.  There!  If I go, you go; so take
care of me.'

'Well, well, my dear,' said the Jew, 'I know all that; we--we--have a
mutual interest, Bill,--a mutual interest.'

'Humph,' said Sikes, as if he thought the interest lay rather more on
the Jew's side than on his.  'Well, what have you got to say to me?'

'It's all passed safe through the melting-pot,' replied Fagin, 'and
this is your share.  It's rather more than it ought to be, my dear; but
as I know you'll do me a good turn another time, and--'

'Stow that gammon,' interposed the robber, impatiently. 'Where is it?
Hand over!'

'Yes, yes, Bill; give me time, give me time,' replied the Jew,
soothingly.  'Here it is!  All safe!'  As he spoke, he drew forth an
old cotton handkerchief from his breast; and untying a large knot in
one corner, produced a small brown-paper packet.  Sikes, snatching it
from him, hastily opened it; and proceeded to count the sovereigns it
contained.

'This is all, is it?' inquired Sikes.

'All,' replied the Jew.

'You haven't opened the parcel and swallowed one or two as you come
along, have you?' inquired Sikes, suspiciously. 'Don't put on an
injured look at the question; you've done it many a time. Jerk the
tinkler.'

These words, in plain English, conveyed an injunction to ring the bell.
It was answered by another Jew:  younger than Fagin, but nearly as vile
and repulsive in appearance.

Bill Sikes merely pointed to the empty measure.  The Jew, perfectly
understanding the hint, retired to fill it:  previously exchanging a
remarkable look with Fagin, who raised his eyes for an instant, as if
in expectation of it, and shook his head in reply; so slightly that the
action would have been almost imperceptible to an observant third
person.  It was lost upon Sikes, who was stooping at the moment to tie
the boot-lace which the dog had torn.  Possibly, if he had observed the
brief interchange of signals, he might have thought that it boded no
good to him.

'Is anybody here, Barney?' inquired Fagin; speaking, now that that
Sikes was looking on, without raising his eyes from the ground.

'Dot a shoul,' replied Barney; whose words:  whether they came from the
heart or not:  made their way through the nose.

'Nobody?' inquired Fagin, in a tone of surprise:  which perhaps might
mean that Barney was at liberty to tell the truth.

'Dobody but Biss Dadsy,' replied Barney.

'Nancy!' exclaimed Sikes.  'Where?  Strike me blind, if I don't honour
that 'ere girl, for her native talents.'

'She's bid havid a plate of boiled beef id the bar,' replied Barney.

'Send her here,' said Sikes, pouring out a glass of liquor. 'Send her
here.'

Barney looked timidly at Fagin, as if for permission; the Jew remaining
silent, and not lifting his eyes from the ground, he retired; and
presently returned, ushering in Nancy; who was decorated with the
bonnet, apron, basket, and street-door key, complete.

'You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?' inquired Sikes, proffering the
glass.

'Yes, I am, Bill,' replied the young lady, disposing of its contents;
'and tired enough of it I am, too.  The young brat's been ill and
confined to the crib; and--'

'Ah, Nancy, dear!' said Fagin, looking up.

Now, whether a peculiar contraction of the Jew's red eye-brows, and a
half closing of his deeply-set eyes, warned Miss Nancy that she was
disposed to be too communicative, is not a matter of much importance.
The fact is all we need care for here; and the fact is, that she
suddenly checked herself, and with several gracious smiles upon Mr.
Sikes, turned the conversation to other matters. In about ten minutes'
time, Mr. Fagin was seized with a fit of coughing; upon which Nancy
pulled her shawl over her shoulders, and declared it was time to go.
Mr. Sikes, finding that he was walking a short part of her way himself,
expressed his intention of accompanying her; they went away together,
followed, at a little distant, by the dog, who slunk out of a back-yard
as soon as his master was out of sight.

The Jew thrust his head out of the room door when Sikes had left it;
looked after him as we walked up the dark passage; shook his clenched
fist; muttered a deep curse; and then, with a horrible grin, reseated
himself at the table; where he was soon deeply absorbed in the
interesting pages of the Hue-and-Cry.

Meanwhile, Oliver Twist, little dreaming that he was within so very
short a distance of the merry old gentleman, was on his way to the
book-stall.  When he got into Clerkenwell, he accidently turned down a
by-street which was not exactly in his way; but not discovering his
mistake until he had got half-way down it, and knowing it must lead in
the right direction, he did not think it worth while to turn back; and
so marched on, as quickly as he could, with the books under his arm.

He was walking along, thinking how happy and contented he ought to
feel; and how much he would give for only one look at poor little Dick,
who, starved and beaten, might be weeping bitterly at that very moment;
when he was startled by a young woman screaming out very loud.  'Oh, my
dear brother!'  And he had hardly looked up, to see what the matter
was, when he was stopped by having a pair of arms thrown tight round
his neck.

'Don't,' cried Oliver, struggling.  'Let go of me.  Who is it? What are
you stopping me for?'

The only reply to this, was a great number of loud lamentations from
the young woman who had embraced him; and who had a little basket and a
street-door key in her hand.

'Oh my gracious!' said the young woman, 'I have found him!  Oh! Oliver!
Oliver!  Oh you naughty boy, to make me suffer such distress on your
account!  Come home, dear, come.  Oh, I've found him.  Thank gracious
goodness heavins, I've found him!'  With these incoherent exclamations,
the young woman burst into another fit of crying, and got so dreadfully
hysterical, that a couple of women who came up at the moment asked a
butcher's boy with a shiny head of hair anointed with suet, who was
also looking on, whether he didn't think he had better run for the
doctor.  To which, the butcher's boy:  who appeared of a lounging, not
to say indolent disposition:  replied, that he thought not.

'Oh, no, no, never mind,' said the young woman, grasping Oliver's hand;
'I'm better now.  Come home directly, you cruel boy! Come!'

'Oh, ma'am,' replied the young woman, 'he ran away, near a month ago,
from his parents, who are hard-working and respectable people; and went
and joined a set of thieves and bad characters; and almost broke his
mother's heart.'

'Young wretch!' said one woman.

'Go home, do, you little brute,' said the other.

'I am not,' replied Oliver, greatly alarmed.  'I don't know her. I
haven't any sister, or father and mother either.  I'm an orphan; I live
at Pentonville.'

'Only hear him, how he braves it out!' cried the young woman.

'Why, it's Nancy!' exclaimed Oliver; who now saw her face for the first
time; and started back, in irrepressible astonishment.

'You see he knows me!' cried Nancy, appealing to the bystanders. 'He
can't help himself.  Make him come home, there's good people, or he'll
kill his dear mother and father, and break my heart!'

'What the devil's this?' said a man, bursting out of a beer-shop, with
a white dog at his heels; 'young Oliver! Come home to your poor mother,
you young dog!  Come home directly.'

'I don't belong to them.  I don't know them.  Help! help!' cried
Oliver, struggling in the man's powerful grasp.

'Help!' repeated the man.  'Yes; I'll help you, you young rascal!

What books are these?  You've been a stealing 'em, have you? Give 'em
here.'  With these words, the man tore the volumes from his grasp, and
struck him on the head.

'That's right!' cried a looker-on, from a garret-window. 'That's the
only way of bringing him to his senses!'

'To be sure!' cried a sleepy-faced carpenter, casting an approving look
at the garret-window.

'It'll do him good!' said the two women.

'And he shall have it, too!' rejoined the man, administering another
blow, and seizing Oliver by the collar.  'Come on, you young villain!
Here, Bull's-eye, mind him, boy!  Mind him!'

Weak with recent illness; stupified by the blows and the suddenness of
the attack; terrified by the fierce growling of the dog, and the
brutality of the man; overpowered by the conviction of the bystanders
that he really was the hardened little wretch he was described to be;
what could one poor child do!  Darkness had set in; it was a low
neighborhood; no help was near; resistance was useless.  In another
moment he was dragged into a labyrinth of dark narrow courts, and was
forced along them at a pace which rendered the few cries he dared to
give utterance to, unintelligible.  It was of little moment, indeed,
whether they were intelligible or no; for there was nobody to care for
them, had they been ever so plain.


      *      *      *      *      *

The gas-lamps were lighted; Mrs. Bedwin was waiting anxiously at the
open door; the servant had run up the street twenty times to see if
there were any traces of Oliver; and still the two old gentlemen sat,
perseveringly, in the dark parlour, with the watch between them.



CHAPTER XVI

RELATES WHAT BECAME OF OLIVER TWIST, AFTER HE HAD BEEN CLAIMED BY NANCY

The narrow streets and courts, at length, terminated in a large open
space; scattered about which, were pens for beasts, and other
indications of a cattle-market.  Sikes slackened his pace when they
reached this spot:  the girl being quite unable to support any longer,
the rapid rate at which they had hitherto walked.  Turning to Oliver,
he roughly commanded him to take hold of Nancy's hand.

'Do you hear?' growled Sikes, as Oliver hesitated, and looked round.

They were in a dark corner, quite out of the track of passengers.

Oliver saw, but too plainly, that resistance would be of no avail.  He
held out his hand, which Nancy clasped tight in hers.

'Give me the other,' said Sikes, seizing Oliver's unoccupied hand.
'Here, Bull's-Eye!'

The dog looked up, and growled.

'See here, boy!' said Sikes, putting his other hand to Oliver's throat;
'if he speaks ever so soft a word, hold him!  D'ye mind!'

The dog growled again; and licking his lips, eyed Oliver as if he were
anxious to attach himself to his windpipe without delay.

'He's as willing as a Christian, strike me blind if he isn't!' said
Sikes, regarding the animal with a kind of grim and ferocious approval.
'Now, you know what you've got to expect, master, so call away as quick
as you like; the dog will soon stop that game.  Get on, young'un!'

Bull's-eye wagged his tail in acknowledgment of this unusually
endearing form of speech; and, giving vent to another admonitory growl
for the benefit of Oliver, led the way onward.

It was Smithfield that they were crossing, although it might have been
Grosvenor Square, for anything Oliver knew to the contrary. The night
was dark and foggy.  The lights in the shops could scarecely struggle
through the heavy mist, which thickened every moment and shrouded the
streets and houses in gloom; rendering the strange place still stranger
in Oliver's eyes; and making his uncertainty the more dismal and
depressing.

They had hurried on a few paces, when a deep church-bell struck the
hour.  With its first stroke, his two conductors stopped, and turned
their heads in the direction whence the sound proceeded.

'Eight o' clock, Bill,' said Nancy, when the bell ceased.

'What's the good of telling me that; I can hear it, can't I!' replied
Sikes.

'I wonder whether THEY can hear it,' said Nancy.

'Of course they can,' replied Sikes.  'It was Bartlemy time when I was
shopped; and there warn't a penny trumpet in the fair, as I couldn't
hear the squeaking on.  Arter I was locked up for the night, the row
and din outside made the thundering old jail so silent, that I could
almost have beat my brains out against the iron plates of the door.'

'Poor fellow!' said Nancy, who still had her face turned towards the
quarter in which the bell had sounded.  'Oh, Bill, such fine young
chaps as them!'

'Yes; that's all you women think of,' answered Sikes.  'Fine young
chaps!  Well, they're as good as dead, so it don't much matter.'

With this consolation, Mr. Sikes appeared to repress a rising tendency
to jealousy, and, clasping Oliver's wrist more firmly, told him to step
out again.

'Wait a minute!' said the girl:  'I wouldn't hurry by, if it was you
that was coming out to be hung, the next time eight o'clock struck,
Bill.  I'd walk round and round the place till I dropped, if the snow
was on the ground, and I hadn't a shawl to cover me.'

'And what good would that do?' inquired the unsentimental Mr. Sikes.
'Unless you could pitch over a file and twenty yards of good stout
rope, you might as well be walking fifty mile off, or not walking at
all, for all the good it would do me.  Come on, and don't stand
preaching there.'

The girl burst into a laugh; drew her shawl more closely round her; and
they walked away.  But Oliver felt her hand tremble, and, looking up in
her face as they passed a gas-lamp, saw that it had turned a deadly
white.

They walked on, by little-frequented and dirty ways, for a full
half-hour:  meeting very few people, and those appearing from their
looks to hold much the same position in society as Mr. Sikes himself.
At length they turned into a very filthy narrow street, nearly full of
old-clothes shops; the dog running forward, as if conscious that there
was no further occasion for his keeping on guard, stopped before the
door of a shop that was closed and apparently untenanted; the house was
in a ruinous condition, and on the door was nailed a board, intimating
that it was to let:  which looked as if it had hung there for many
years.

'All right,' cried Sikes, glancing cautiously about.

Nancy stooped below the shutters, and Oliver heard the sound of a bell.
They crossed to the opposite side of the street, and stood for a few
moments under a lamp.  A noise, as if a sash window were gently raised,
was heard; and soon afterwards the door softly opened.  Mr. Sikes then
seized the terrified boy by the collar with very little ceremony; and
all three were quickly inside the house.

The passage was perfectly dark.  They waited, while the person who had
let them in, chained and barred the door.

'Anybody here?' inquired Sikes.

'No,' replied a voice, which Oliver thought he had heard before.

'Is the old 'un here?' asked the robber.

'Yes,' replied the voice, 'and precious down in the mouth he has been.
Won't he be glad to see you?  Oh, no!'

The style of this reply, as well as the voice which delivered it,
seemed familiar to Oliver's ears:  but it was impossible to distinguish
even the form of the speaker in the darkness.

'Let's have a glim,' said Sikes, 'or we shall go breaking our necks, or
treading on the dog.  Look after your legs if you do!'

'Stand still a moment, and I'll get you one,' replied the voice. The
receding footsteps of the speaker were heard; and, in another minute,
the form of Mr. John Dawkins, otherwise the Artful Dodger, appeared.
He bore in his right hand a tallow candle stuck in the end of a cleft
stick.

The young gentleman did not stop to bestow any other mark of
recognition upon Oliver than a humourous grin; but, turning away,
beckoned the visitors to follow him down a flight of stairs. They
crossed an empty kitchen; and, opening the door of a low
earthy-smelling room, which seemed to have been built in a small
back-yard, were received with a shout of laughter.

'Oh, my wig, my wig!' cried Master Charles Bates, from whose lungs the
laughter had proceeded:  'here he is! oh, cry, here he is!  Oh, Fagin,
look at him!  Fagin, do look at him! I can't bear it; it is such a
jolly game, I cant' bear it.  Hold me, somebody, while I laugh it out.'

With this irrepressible ebullition of mirth, Master Bates laid himself
flat on the floor: and kicked convulsively for five minutes, in an
ectasy of facetious joy.  Then jumping to his feet, he snatched the
cleft stick from the Dodger; and, advancing to Oliver, viewed him round
and round; while the Jew, taking off his nightcap, made a great number
of low bows to the bewildered boy.  The Artful, meantime, who was of a
rather saturnine disposition, and seldom gave way to merriment when it
interfered with business, rifled Oliver's pockets with steady assiduity.

'Look at his togs, Fagin!' said Charley, putting the light so close to
his new jacket as nearly to set him on fire.  'Look at his togs!
Superfine cloth, and the heavy swell cut!  Oh, my eye, what a game!
And his books, too!  Nothing but a gentleman, Fagin!'

'Delighted to see you looking so well, my dear,' said the Jew, bowing
with mock humility.  'The Artful shall give you another suit, my dear,
for fear you should spoil that Sunday one.  Why didn't you write, my
dear, and say you were coming?  We'd have got something warm for
supper.'

At his, Master Bates roared again: so loud, that Fagin himself relaxed,
and even the Dodger smiled; but as the Artful drew forth the five-pound
note at that instant, it is doubtful whether the sally of the discovery
awakened his merriment.

'Hallo, what's that?' inquired Sikes, stepping forward as the Jew
seized the note.  'That's mine, Fagin.'

'No, no, my dear,' said the Jew.  'Mine, Bill, mine.  You shall have
the books.'

'If that ain't mine!' said Bill Sikes, putting on his hat with a
determined air; 'mine and Nancy's that is; I'll take the boy back
again.'

The Jew started.  Oliver started too, though from a very different
cause; for he hoped that the dispute might really end in his being
taken back.

'Come!  Hand over, will you?' said Sikes.

'This is hardly fair, Bill; hardly fair, is it, Nancy?' inquired the
Jew.

'Fair, or not fair,' retorted Sikes, 'hand over, I tell you! Do you
think Nancy and me has got nothing else to do with our precious time
but to spend it in scouting arter, and kidnapping, every young boy as
gets grabbed through you?  Give it here, you avaricious old skeleton,
give it here!'

With this gentle remonstrance, Mr. Sikes plucked the note from between
the Jew's finger and thumb; and looking the old man coolly in the face,
folded it up small, and tied it in his neckerchief.

'That's for our share of the trouble,' said Sikes; 'and not half
enough, neither.  You may keep the books, if you're fond of reading.
If you ain't, sell 'em.'

'They're very pretty,' said Charley Bates: who, with sundry grimaces,
had been affecting to read one of the volumes in question; 'beautiful
writing, isn't is, Oliver?'  At sight of the dismayed look with which
Oliver regarded his tormentors, Master Bates, who was blessed with a
lively sense of the ludicrous, fell into another ectasy, more
boisterous than the first.

'They belong to the old gentleman,' said Oliver, wringing his hands;
'to the good, kind, old gentleman who took me into his house, and had
me nursed, when I was near dying of the fever. Oh, pray send them back;
send him back the books and money.  Keep me here all my life long; but
pray, pray send them back.  He'll think I stole them; the old lady:
all of them who were so kind to me: will think I stole them.  Oh, do
have mercy upon me, and send them back!'

With these words, which were uttered with all the energy of passionate
grief, Oliver fell upon his knees at the Jew's feet; and beat his hands
together, in perfect desperation.

'The boy's right,' remarked Fagin, looking covertly round, and knitting
his shaggy eyebrows into a hard knot.  'You're right, Oliver, you're
right; they WILL think you have stolen 'em.  Ha! ha!' chuckled the Jew,
rubbing his hands, 'it couldn't have happened better, if we had chosen
our time!'

'Of course it couldn't,' replied Sikes; 'I know'd that, directly I see
him coming through Clerkenwell, with the books under his arm.  It's all
right enough.  They're soft-hearted psalm-singers, or they wouldn't
have taken him in at all; and they'll ask no questions after him, fear
they should be obliged to prosecute, and so get him lagged.  He's safe
enough.'

Oliver had looked from one to the other, while these words were being
spoken, as if he were bewildered, and could scarecely understand what
passed; but when Bill Sikes concluded, he jumped suddenly to his feet,
and tore wildly from the room:  uttering shrieks for help, which made
the bare old house echo to the roof.

'Keep back the dog, Bill!' cried Nancy, springing before the door, and
closing it, as the Jew and his two pupils darted out in pursuit.  'Keep
back the dog; he'll tear the boy to pieces.'

'Serve him right!' cried Sikes, struggling to disengage himself from
the girl's grasp.  'Stand off from me, or I'll split your head against
the wall.'

'I don't care for that, Bill, I don't care for that,' screamed the
girl, struggling violently with the man, 'the child shan't be torn down
by the dog, unless you kill me first.'

'Shan't he!' said Sikes, setting his teeth.  'I'll soon do that, if you
don't keep off.'

The housebreaker flung the girl from him to the further end of the
room, just as the Jew and the two boys returned, dragging Oliver among
them.

'What's the matter here!' said Fagin, looking round.

'The girl's gone mad, I think,' replied Sikes, savagely.

'No, she hasn't,' said Nancy, pale and breathless from the scuffle;
'no, she hasn't, Fagin; don't think it.'

'Then keep quiet, will you?' said the Jew, with a threatening look.

'No, I won't do that, neither,' replied Nancy, speaking very loud.
'Come!  What do you think of that?'

Mr. Fagin was sufficiently well acquainted with the manners and customs
of that particular species of humanity to which Nancy belonged, to feel
tolerably certain that it would be rather unsafe to prolong any
conversation with her, at present.  With the view of diverting the
attention of the company, he turned to Oliver.

'So you wanted to get away, my dear, did you?' said the Jew, taking up
a jagged and knotted club which law in a corner of the fireplace; 'eh?'

Oliver made no reply.  But he watched the Jew's motions, and breathed
quickly.

'Wanted to get assistance; called for the police; did you?' sneered the
Jew, catching the boy by the arm.  'We'll cure you of that, my young
master.'

The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the club; and
was raising it for a second, when the girl, rushing forward, wrested it
from his hand.  She flung it into the fire, with a force that brought
some of the glowing coals whirling out into the room.

'I won't stand by and see it done, Fagin,' cried the girl. 'You've got
the boy, and what more would you have?--Let him be--let him be--or I
shall put that mark on some of you, that will bring me to the gallows
before my time.'

The girl stamped her foot violently on the floor as she vented this
threat; and with her lips compressed, and her hands clenched, looked
alternately at the Jew and the other robber: her face quite colourless
from the passion of rage into which she had gradually worked herself.

'Why, Nancy!' said the Jew, in a soothing tone; after a pause, during
which he and Mr. Sikes had stared at one another in a disconcerted
manner; 'you,--you're more clever than ever to-night.  Ha! ha! my dear,
you are acting beautifully.'

'Am I!' said the girl.  'Take care I don't overdo it.  You will be the
worse for it, Fagin, if I do; and so I tell you in good time to keep
clear of me.'

There is something about a roused woman: especially if she add to all
her other strong passions, the fierce impulses of recklessness and
despair; which few men like to provoke. The Jew saw that it would be
hopeless to affect any further mistake regarding the reality of Miss
Nancy's rage; and, shrinking involuntarily back a few paces, cast a
glance, half imploring and half cowardly, at Sikes: as if to hint that
he was the fittest person to pursue the dialogue.

Mr. Sikes, thus mutely appealed to; and possibly feeling his personal
pride and influence interested in the immediate reduction of Miss Nancy
to reason; gave utterance to about a couple of score of curses and
threats, the rapid production of which reflected great credit on the
fertility of his invention. As they produced no visible effect on the
object against whom they were discharged, however, he resorted to more
tangible arguments.

'What do you mean by this?' said Sikes; backing the inquiry with a very
common imprecation concerning the most beautiful of human features:
which, if it were heard above, only once out of every fifty thousand
times that it is uttered below, would render blindness as common a
disorder as measles: 'what do you mean by it?  Burn my body!  Do you
know who you are, and what you are?'

'Oh, yes, I know all about it,' replied the girl, laughing
hysterically; and shaking her head from side to side, with a poor
assumption of indifference.

'Well, then, keep quiet,' rejoined Sikes, with a growl like that he was
accustomed to use when addressing his dog, 'or I'll quiet you for a
good long time to come.'

The girl laughed again: even less composedly than before; and, darting
a hasty look at Sikes, turned her face aside, and bit her lip till the
blood came.

'You're a nice one,' added Sikes, as he surveyed her with a
contemptuous air, 'to take up the humane and gen--teel side!  A pretty
subject for the child, as you call him, to make a friend of!'

'God Almighty help me, I am!' cried the girl passionately; 'and I wish
I had been struck dead in the street, or had changed places with them
we passed so near to-night, before I had lent a hand in bringing him
here.  He's a thief, a liar, a devil, all that's bad, from this night
forth.  Isn't that enough for the old wretch, without blows?'

'Come, come, Sikes,' said the Jew appealing to him in a remonstratory
tone, and motioning towards the boys, who were eagerly attentive to all
that passed; 'we must have civil words; civil words, Bill.'

'Civil words!' cried the girl, whose passion was frightful to see.
'Civil words, you villain!  Yes, you deserve 'em from me. I thieved for
you when I was a child not half as old as this!' pointing to Oliver.
'I have been in the same trade, and in the same service, for twelve
years since.  Don't you know it?  Speak out!  Don't you know it?'

'Well, well,' replied the Jew, with an attempt at pacification; 'and,
if you have, it's your living!'

'Aye, it is!' returned the girl; not speaking, but pouring out the
words in one continuous and vehement scream.  'It is my living; and the
cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; and you're the wretch that drove
me to them long ago, and that'll keep me there, day and night, day and
night, till I die!'

'I shall do you a mischief!' interposed the Jew, goaded by these
reproaches; 'a mischief worse than that, if you say much more!'

The girl said nothing more; but, tearing her hair and dress in a
transport of passion, made such a rush at the Jew as would probably
have left signal marks of her revenge upon him, had not her wrists been
seized by Sikes at the right moment; upon which, she made a few
ineffectual struggles, and fainted.

'She's all right now,' said Sikes, laying her down in a corner. 'She's
uncommon strong in the arms, when she's up in this way.'

The Jew wiped his forehead: and smiled, as if it were a relief to have
the disturbance over; but neither he, nor Sikes, nor the dog, nor the
boys, seemed to consider it in any other light than a common occurance
incidental to business.

'It's the worst of having to do with women,' said the Jew, replacing
his club; 'but they're clever, and we can't get on, in our line,
without 'em.  Charley, show Oliver to bed.'

'I suppose he'd better not wear his best clothes tomorrow, Fagin, had
he?' inquired Charley Bates.

'Certainly not,' replied the Jew, reciprocating the grin with which
Charley put the question.

Master Bates, apparently much delighted with his commission, took the
cleft stick: and led Oliver into an adjacent kitchen, where there were
two or three of the beds on which he had slept before; and here, with
many uncontrollable bursts of laughter, he produced the identical old
suit of clothes which Oliver had so much congratulated himself upon
leaving off at Mr. Brownlow's; and the accidental display of which, to
Fagin, by the Jew who purchased them, had been the very first clue
received, of his whereabout.

'Put off the smart ones,' said Charley, 'and I'll give 'em to Fagin to
take care of.  What fun it is!'

Poor Oliver unwillingly complied.  Master Bates rolling up the new
clothes under his arm, departed from the room, leaving Oliver in the
dark, and locking the door behind him.

The noise of Charley's laughter, and the voice of Miss Betsy, who
opportunely arrived to throw water over her friend, and perform other
feminine offices for the promotion of her recovery, might have kept
many people awake under more happy circumstances than those in which
Oliver was placed.  But he was sick and weary; and he soon fell sound
asleep.



CHAPTER XVII

OLIVER'S DESTINY CONTINUING UNPROPITIOUS, BRINGS A GREAT MAN TO LONDON
TO INJURE HIS REPUTATION

It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas, to
present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as
the layers of red and white in a side of streaky bacon.  The hero sinks
upon his straw bed, weighed down by fetters and misfortunes; in the
next scene, his faithful but unconscious squire regales the audience
with a comic song.  We behold, with throbbing bosoms, the heroine in
the grasp of a proud and ruthless baron: her virtue and her life alike
in danger, drawing forth her dagger to preserve the one at the cost of
the other; and just as our expectations are wrought up to the highest
pitch, a whistle is heard, and we are straightway transported to the
great hall of the castle; where a grey-headed seneschal sings a funny
chorus with a funnier body of vassals, who are free of all sorts of
places, from church vaults to palaces, and roam about in company,
carolling perpetually.

Such changes appear absurd; but they are not so unnatural as they would
seem at first sight.  The transitions in real life from well-spread
boards to death-beds, and from mourning-weeds to holiday garments, are
not a whit less startling; only, there, we are busy actors, instead of
passive lookers-on, which makes a vast difference.  The actors in the
mimic life of the theatre, are blind to violent transitions and abrupt
impulses of passion or feeling, which, presented before the eyes of
mere spectators, are at once condemned as outrageous and preposterous.

As sudden shiftings of the scene, and rapid changes of time and place,
are not only sanctioned in books by long usage, but are by many
considered as the great art of authorship: an author's skill in his
craft being, by such critics, chiefly estimated with relation to the
dilemmas in which he leaves his characters at the end of every chapter:
this brief introduction to the present one may perhaps be deemed
unnecessary.  If so, let it be considered a delicate intimation on the
part of the historian that he is going back to the town in which Oliver
Twist was born; the reader taking it for granted that there are good
and substantial reasons for making the journey, or he would not be
invited to proceed upon such an expedition.

Mr. Bumble emerged at early morning from the workhouse-gate, and walked
with portly carriage and commanding steps, up the High Street.  He was
in the full bloom and pride of beadlehood; his cocked hat and coat were
dazzling in the morning sun; he clutched his cane with the vigorous
tenacity of health and power.  Mr. Bumble always carried his head high;
but this morning it was higher than usual.  There was an abstraction in
his eye, an elevation in his air, which might have warned an observant
stranger that thoughts were passing in the beadle's mind, too great for
utterance.

Mr. Bumble stopped not to converse with the small shopkeepers and
others who spoke to him, deferentially, as he passed along.  He merely
returned their salutations with a wave of his hand, and relaxed not in
his dignified pace, until he reached the farm where Mrs. Mann tended
the infant paupers with parochial care.

'Drat that beadle!' said Mrs. Mann, hearing the well-known shaking at
the garden-gate.  'If it isn't him at this time in the morning!  Lauk,
Mr. Bumble, only think of its being you!  Well, dear me, it IS a
pleasure, this is!  Come into the parlour, sir, please.'

The first sentence was addressed to Susan; and the exclamations of
delight were uttered to Mr. Bumble: as the good lady unlocked the
garden-gate: and showed him, with great attention and respect, into the
house.

'Mrs. Mann,' said Mr. Bumble; not sitting upon, or dropping himself
into a seat, as any common jackanapes would: but letting himself
gradually and slowly down into a chair; 'Mrs. Mann, ma'am, good
morning.'

'Well, and good morning to _you_, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann, with many
smiles; 'and hoping you find yourself well, sir!'

'So-so, Mrs. Mann,' replied the beadle.  'A porochial life is not a bed
of roses, Mrs. Mann.'

'Ah, that it isn't indeed, Mr. Bumble,' rejoined the lady. And all the
infant paupers might have chorussed the rejoinder with great propriety,
if they had heard it.

'A porochial life, ma'am,' continued Mr. Bumble, striking the table
with his cane, 'is a life of worrit, and vexation, and hardihood; but
all public characters, as I may say, must suffer prosecution.'

Mrs. Mann, not very well knowing what the beadle meant, raised her
hands with a look of sympathy, and sighed.

'Ah!  You may well sigh, Mrs. Mann!' said the beadle.

Finding she had done right, Mrs. Mann sighed again:  evidently to the
satisfaction of the public character:  who, repressing a complacent
smile by looking sternly at his cocked hat, said,

'Mrs. Mann, I am going to London.'

'Lauk, Mr. Bumble!' cried Mrs. Mann, starting back.

'To London, ma'am,' resumed the inflexible beadle, 'by coach.  I and
two paupers, Mrs. Mann!  A legal action is a coming on, about a
settlement; and the board has appointed me--me, Mrs. Mann--to dispose
to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell.

And I very much question,' added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up,
'whether the Clerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the wrong
box before they have done with me.'

'Oh! you mustn't be too hard upon them, sir,' said Mrs. Mann, coaxingly.

'The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves, ma'am,'
replied Mr. Bumble; 'and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find that they
come off rather worse than they expected, the Clerkinwell Sessions have
only themselves to thank.'

There was so much determination and depth of purpose about the menacing
manner in which Mr. Bumble delivered himself of these words, that Mrs.
Mann appeared quite awed by them. At length she said,

'You're going by coach, sir?  I thought it was always usual to send
them paupers in carts.'

'That's when they're ill, Mrs. Mann,' said the beadle.  'We put the
sick paupers into open carts in the rainy weather, to prevent their
taking cold.'

'Oh!' said Mrs. Mann.

'The opposition coach contracts for these two; and takes them cheap,'
said Mr. Bumble.  'They are both in a very low state, and we find it
would come two pound cheaper to move 'em than to bury 'em--that is, if
we can throw 'em upon another parish, which I think we shall be able to
do, if they don't die upon the road to spite us.  Ha! ha! ha!'

When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little while, his eyes again encountered
the cocked hat; and he became grave.

'We are forgetting business, ma'am,' said the beadle; 'here is your
porochial stipend for the month.'

Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paper, from his
pocket-book; and requested a receipt:  which Mrs. Mann wrote.

'It's very much blotted, sir,' said the farmer of infants; 'but it's
formal enough, I dare say.  Thank you, Mr. Bumble, sir, I am very much
obliged to you, I'm sure.'

Mr. Bumble nodded, blandly, in acknowledgment of Mrs. Mann's curtsey;
and inquired how the children were.

'Bless their dear little hearts!' said Mrs. Mann with emotion, 'they're
as well as can be, the dears!  Of course, except the two that died last
week.  And little Dick.'

'Isn't that boy no better?' inquired Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Mann shook her head.

'He's a ill-conditioned, wicious, bad-disposed porochial child that,'
said Mr. Bumble angrily.  'Where is he?'

'I'll bring him to you in one minute, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann. 'Here,
you Dick!'

After some calling, Dick was discovered.  Having had his face put under
the pump, and dried upon Mrs. Mann's gown, he was led into the awful
presence of Mr. Bumble, the beadle.

The child was pale and thin; his cheeks were sunken; and his eyes large
and bright.  The scanty parish dress, the livery of his misery, hung
loosely on his feeble body; and his young limbs had wasted away, like
those of an old man.

Such was the little being who stood trembling beneath Mr. Bumble's
glance; not daring to lift his eyes from the floor; and dreading even
to hear the beadle's voice.

'Can't you look at the gentleman, you obstinate boy?' said Mrs. Mann.

The child meekly raised his eyes, and encountered those of Mr. Bumble.

'What's the matter with you, porochial Dick?' inquired Mr. Bumble, with
well-timed jocularity.

'Nothing, sir,' replied the child faintly.

'I should think not,' said Mrs. Mann, who had of course laughed very
much at Mr. Bumble's humour.

'You want for nothing, I'm sure.'

'I should like--' faltered the child.

'Hey-day!' interposed Mr. Mann, 'I suppose you're going to say that you
DO want for something, now?  Why, you little wretch--'

'Stop, Mrs. Mann, stop!' said the beadle, raising his hand with a show
of authority.  'Like what, sir, eh?'

'I should like,' faltered the child, 'if somebody that can write, would
put a few words down for me on a piece of paper, and fold it up and
seal it, and keep it for me, after I am laid in the ground.'

'Why, what does the boy mean?' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, on whom the
earnest manner and wan aspect of the child had made some impression:
accustomed as he was to such things.  'What do you mean, sir?'

'I should like,' said the child, 'to leave my dear love to poor Oliver
Twist; and to let him know how often I have sat by myself and cried to
think of his wandering about in the dark nights with nobody to help
him.  And I should like to tell him,' said the child pressing his small
hands together, and speaking with great fervour, 'that I was glad to
die when I was very young; for, perhaps, if I had lived to be a man,
and had grown old, my little sister who is in Heaven, might forget me,
or be unlike me; and it would be so much happier if we were both
children there together.'

Mr. Bumble surveyed the little speaker, from head to foot, with
indescribable astonishment; and, turning to his companion, said,
'They're all in one story, Mrs. Mann.  That out-dacious Oliver had
demogalized them all!'

'I couldn't have believed it, sir' said Mrs Mann, holding up her hands,
and looking malignantly at Dick.  'I never see such a hardened little
wretch!'

'Take him away, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble imperiously.  'This must be
stated to the board, Mrs. Mann.

'I hope the gentleman will understand that it isn't my fault, sir?'
said Mrs. Mann, whimpering pathetically.

'They shall understand that, ma'am; they shall be acquainted with the
true state of the case,' said Mr. Bumble.  'There; take him away, I
can't bear the sight on him.'

Dick was immediately taken away, and locked up in the coal-cellar.  Mr.
Bumble shortly afterwards took himself off, to prepare for his journey.

At six o'clock next morning, Mr. Bumble:  having exchanged his cocked
hat for a round one, and encased his person in a blue great-coat with a
cape to it:  took his place on the outside of the coach, accompanied by
the criminals whose settlement was disputed; with whom, in due course
of time, he arrived in London.

He experienced no other crosses on the way, than those which originated
in the perverse behaviour of the two paupers, who persisted in
shivering, and complaining of the cold, in a manner which, Mr. Bumble
declared, caused his teeth to chatter in his head, and made him feel
quite uncomfortable; although he had a great-coat on.

Having disposed of these evil-minded persons for the night, Mr. Bumble
sat himself down in the house at which the coach stopped; and took a
temperate dinner of steaks, oyster sauce, and porter. Putting a glass
of hot gin-and-water on the chimney-piece, he drew his chair to the
fire; and, with sundry moral reflections on the too-prevalent sin of
discontent and complaining, composed himself to read the paper.

The very first paragraph upon which Mr. Bumble's eye rested, was the
following advertisement.

                 'FIVE GUINEAS REWARD

'Whereas a young boy, named Oliver Twist, absconded, or was enticed, on
Thursday evening last, from his home, at Pentonville; and has not since
been heard of.  The above reward will be paid to any person who will
give such information as will lead to the discovery of the said Oliver
Twist, or tend to throw any light upon his previous history, in which
the advertiser is, for many reasons, warmly interested.'

And then followed a full description of Oliver's dress, person,
appearance, and disappearance:  with the name and address of Mr.
Brownlow at full length.

Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisement, slowly and
carefully, three several times; and in something more than five minutes
was on his way to Pentonville: having actually, in his excitement, left
the glass of hot gin-and-water, untasted.

'Is Mr. Brownlow at home?' inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who opened
the door.

To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommon, but rather evasive
reply of 'I don't know; where do you come from?'

Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver's name, in explanation of his
errand, than Mrs. Bedwin, who had been listening at the parlour door,
hastened into the passage in a breathless state.

'Come in, come in,' said the old lady: 'I knew we should hear of him.
Poor dear!  I knew we should!  I was certain of it.  Bless his heart!
I said so all along.'

Having heard this, the worthy old lady hurried back into the parlour
again; and seating herself on a sofa, burst into tears. The girl, who
was not quite so susceptible, had run upstairs meanwhile; and now
returned with a request that Mr. Bumble would follow her immediately:
which he did.

He was shown into the little back study, where sat Mr. Brownlow and his
friend Mr. Grimwig, with decanters and glasses before them.  The latter
gentleman at once burst into the exclamation:

'A beadle.  A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head.'

'Pray don't interrupt just now,' said Mr. Brownlow.  'Take a seat, will
you?'

Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of Mr.
Grimwig's manner.  Mr. Brownlow moved the lamp, so as to obtain an
uninterrupted view of the beadle's countenance; and said, with a little
impatience,

'Now, sir, you come in consequence of having seen the advertisement?'

'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Bumble.

'And you ARE a beadle, are you not?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.

'I am a porochial beadle, gentlemen,' rejoined Mr. Bumble proudly.

'Of course,' observed Mr. Grimwig aside to his friend, 'I knew he was.
A beadle all over!'

Mr. Brownlow gently shook his head to impose silence on his friend, and
resumed:

'Do you know where this poor boy is now?'

'No more than nobody,' replied Mr. Bumble.

'Well, what DO you know of him?' inquired the old gentleman. 'Speak
out, my friend, if you have anything to say.  What DO you know of him?'

'You don't happen to know any good of him, do you?' said Mr. Grimwig,
caustically; after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble's features.

Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head with
portentous solemnity.

'You see?' said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr. Brownlow.

Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble's pursed-up
countenance; and requested him to communicate what he knew regarding
Oliver, in as few words as possible.

Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his arms;
inclined his head in a retrospective manner; and, after a few moments'
reflection, commenced his story.

It would be tedious if given in the beadle's words:  occupying, as it
did, some twenty minutes in the telling; but the sum and substance of
it was, that Oliver was a foundling, born of low and vicious parents.
That he had, from his birth, displayed no better qualities than
treachery, ingratitude, and malice.  That he had terminated his brief
career in the place of his birth, by making a sanguinary and cowardly
attack on an unoffending lad, and running away in the night-time from
his master's house.  In proof of his really being the person he
represented himself, Mr. Bumble laid upon the table the papers he had
brought to town. Folding his arms again, he then awaited Mr. Brownlow's
observations.

'I fear it is all too true,' said the old gentleman sorrowfully, after
looking over the papers.  'This is not much for your intelligence; but
I would gladly have given you treble the money, if it had been
favourable to the boy.'

It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of this
information at an earlier period of the interview, he might have
imparted a very different colouring to his little history. It was too
late to do it now, however; so he shook his head gravely, and,
pocketing the five guineas, withdrew.

Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes; evidently so
much disturbed by the beadle's tale, that even Mr. Grimwig forbore to
vex him further.

At length he stopped, and rang the bell violently.

'Mrs. Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, when the housekeeper appeared; 'that
boy, Oliver, is an imposter.'

'It can't be, sir.  It cannot be,' said the old lady energetically.

'I tell you he is,' retorted the old gentleman.  'What do you mean by
can't be?  We have just heard a full account of him from his birth; and
he has been a thorough-paced little villain, all his life.'

'I never will believe it, sir,' replied the old lady, firmly. 'Never!'

'You old women never believe anything but quack-doctors, and lying
story-books,' growled Mr. Grimwig.  'I knew it all along. Why didn't
you take my advise in the beginning; you would if he hadn't had a
fever, I suppose, eh?  He was interesting, wasn't he?  Interesting!
Bah!'  And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a flourish.

'He was a dear, grateful, gentle child, sir,' retorted Mrs. Bedwin,
indignantly.  'I know what children are, sir; and have done these forty
years; and people who can't say the same, shouldn't say anything about
them.  That's my opinion!'

This was a hard hit at Mr. Grimwig, who was a bachelor.  As it extorted
nothing from that gentleman but a smile, the old lady tossed her head,
and smoothed down her apron preparatory to another speech, when she was
stopped by Mr. Brownlow.

'Silence!' said the old gentleman, feigning an anger he was far from
feeling.  'Never let me hear the boy's name again.  I rang to tell you
that.  Never.  Never, on any pretence, mind!  You may leave the room,
Mrs. Bedwin.  Remember!  I am in earnest.'

There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow's that night.

Oliver's heart sank within him, when he thought of his good friends; it
was well for him that he could not know what they had heard, or it
might have broken outright.



CHAPTER XVIII

HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY OF HIS REPUTABLE
FRIENDS

About noon next day, when the Dodger and Master Bates had gone out to
pursue their customary avocations, Mr. Fagin took the opportunity of
reading Oliver a long lecture on the crying sin of ingratitude; of
which he clearly demonstrated he had been guilty, to no ordinary
extent, in wilfully absenting himself from the society of his anxious
friends; and, still more, in endeavouring to escape from them after so
much trouble and expense had been incurred in his recovery. Mr. Fagin
laid great stress on the fact of his having taken Oliver in, and
cherished him, when, without his timely aid, he might have perished
with hunger; and he related the dismal and affecting history of a young
lad whom, in his philanthropy, he had succoured under parallel
circumstances, but who, proving unworthy of his confidence and evincing
a desire to communicate with the police, had unfortunately come to be
hanged at the Old Bailey one morning.  Mr. Fagin did not seek to
conceal his share in the catastrophe, but lamented with tears in his
eyes that the wrong-headed and treacherous behaviour of the young
person in question, had rendered it necessary that he should become the
victim of certain evidence for the crown: which, if it were not
precisely true, was indispensably necessary for the safety of him (Mr.
Fagin) and a few select friends.  Mr. Fagin concluded by drawing a
rather disagreeable picture of the discomforts of hanging; and, with
great friendliness and politeness of manner, expressed his anxious
hopes that he might never be obliged to submit Oliver Twist to that
unpleasant operation.

Little Oliver's blood ran cold, as he listened to the Jew's words, and
imperfectly comprehended the dark threats conveyed in them.  That it
was possible even for justice itself to confound the innocent with the
guilty when they were in accidental companionship, he knew already; and
that deeply-laid plans for the destruction of inconveniently knowing or
over-communicative persons, had been really devised and carried out by
the Jew on more occasions than one, he thought by no means unlikely,
when he recollected the general nature of the altercations between that
gentleman and Mr. Sikes: which seemed to bear reference to some
foregone conspiracy of the kind.  As he glanced timidly up, and met the
Jew's searching look, he felt that his pale face and trembling limbs
were neither unnoticed nor unrelished by that wary old gentleman.

The Jew, smiling hideously, patted Oliver on the head, and said, that
if he kept himself quiet, and applied himself to business, he saw they
would be very good friends yet.  Then, taking his hat, and covering
himself with an old patched great-coat, he went out, and locked the
room-door behind him.

And so Oliver remained all that day, and for the greater part of many
subsequent days, seeing nobody, between early morning and midnight, and
left during the long hours to commune with his own thoughts.  Which,
never failing to revert to his kind friends, and the opinion they must
long ago have formed of him, were sad indeed.

After the lapse of a week or so, the Jew left the room-door unlocked;
and he was at liberty to wander about the house.

It was a very dirty place.  The rooms upstairs had great high wooden
chimney-pieces and large doors, with panelled walls and cornices to the
ceiling; which, although they were black with neglect and dust, were
ornamented in various ways.  From all of these tokens Oliver concluded
that a long time ago, before the old Jew was born, it had belonged to
better people, and had perhaps been quite gay and handsome:  dismal and
dreary as it looked now.

Spiders had built their webs in the angles of the walls and ceilings;
and sometimes, when Oliver walked softly into a room, the mice would
scamper across the floor, and run back terrified to their holes.  With
these exceptions, there was neither sight nor sound of any living
thing; and often, when it grew dark, and he was tired of wandering from
room to room, he would crouch in the corner of the passage by the
street-door, to be as near living people as he could; and would remain
there, listening and counting the hours, until the Jew or the boys
returned.

In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed:  the bars
which held them were screwed tight into the wood; the only light which
was admitted, stealing its way through round holes at the top: which
made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with strange shadows.
There was a back-garret window with rusty bars outside, which had no
shutter; and out of this, Oliver often gazed with a melancholy face for
hours together; but nothing was to be descried from it but a confused
and crowded mass of housetops, blackened chimneys, and gable-ends.
Sometimes, indeed, a grizzly head might be seen, peering over the
parapet-wall of a distant house; but it was quickly withdrawn again;
and as the window of Oliver's observatory was nailed down, and dimmed
with the rain and smoke of years, it was as much as he could do to make
out the forms of the different objects beyond, without making any
attempt to be seen or heard,--which he had as much chance of being, as
if he had lived inside the ball of St. Paul's Cathedral.

One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that
evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to
evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do him
justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him); and, with
this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver to assist him in
his toilet, straightway.

Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have some
faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate those
about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any objection in the
way of this proposal.  So he at once expressed his readiness; and,
kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat upon the table so that he
could take his foot in his laps, he applied himself to a process which
Mr. Dawkins designated as 'japanning his trotter-cases.'  The phrase,
rendered into plain English, signifieth, cleaning his boots.

Whether it was the sense of freedom and independence which a rational
animal may be supposed to feel when he sits on a table in an easy
attitude smoking a pipe, swinging one leg carelessly to and fro, and
having his boots cleaned all the time, without even the past trouble of
having taken them off, or the prospective misery of putting them on, to
disturb his reflections; or whether it was the goodness of the tobacco
that soothed the feelings of the Dodger, or the mildness of the beer
that mollified his thoughts; he was evidently tinctured, for the nonce,
with a spice of romance and enthusiasm, foreign to his general nature.
He looked down on Oliver, with a thoughtful countenance, for a brief
space; and then, raising his head, and heaving a gentle sign, said,
half in abstraction, and half to Master Bates:

'What a pity it is he isn't a prig!'

'Ah!' said Master Charles Bates; 'he don't know what's good for him.'

The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley Bates.
They both smoked, for some seconds, in silence.

'I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?' said the Dodger
mournfully.

'I think I know that,' replied Oliver, looking up.  'It's a the--;
you're one, are you not?' inquired Oliver, checking himself.

'I am,' replied the Doger.  'I'd scorn to be anything else.'  Mr.
Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cock, after delivering this sentiment,
and looked at Master Bates, as if to denote that he would feel obliged
by his saying anything to the contrary.

'I am,' repeated the Dodger.  'So's Charley.  So's Fagin. So's Sikes.
So's Nancy.  So's Bet.  So we all are, down to the dog. And he's the
downiest one of the lot!'

'And the least given to peaching,' added Charley Bates.

'He wouldn't so much as bark in a witness-box, for fear of committing
himself; no, not if you tied him up in one, and left him there without
wittles for a fortnight,' said the Dodger.

'Not a bit of it,' observed Charley.

'He's a rum dog.  Don't he look fierce at any strange cove that laughs
or sings when he's in company!' pursued the Dodger. 'Won't he growl at
all, when he hears a fiddle playing!  And don't he hate other dogs as
ain't of his breed!  Oh, no!'

'He's an out-and-out Christian,' said Charley.

This was merely intended as a tribute to the animal's abilities, but it
was an appropriate remark in another sense, if Master Bates had only
known it; for there are a good many ladies and gentlemen, claiming to
be out-and-out Christians, between whom, and Mr. Sikes' dog, there
exist strong and singular points of resemblance.

'Well, well,' said the Dodger, recurring to the point from which they
had strayed: with that mindfulness of his profession which influenced
all his proceedings.  'This hasn't go anything to do with young Green
here.'

'No more it has,' said Charley.  'Why don't you put yourself under
Fagin, Oliver?'

'And make your fortun' out of hand?' added the Dodger, with a grin.

'And so be able to retire on your property, and do the gen-teel: as I
mean to, in the very next leap-year but four that ever comes, and the
forty-second Tuesday in Trinity-week,' said Charley Bates.

'I don't like it,' rejoined Oliver, timidly; 'I wish they would let me
go.  I--I--would rather go.'

'And Fagin would RATHER not!' rejoined Charley.

Oliver knew this too well; but thinking it might be dangerous to
express his feelings more openly, he only sighed, and went on with his
boot-cleaning.

'Go!' exclaimed the Dodger.  'Why, where's your spirit?' Don't you take
any pride out of yourself?  Would you go and be dependent on your
friends?'

'Oh, blow that!' said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk
handkerchiefs from his pocket, and tossing them into a cupboard,
'that's too mean; that is.'

'_I_ couldn't do it,' said the Dodger, with an air of haughty disgust.

'You can leave your friends, though,' said Oliver with a half smile;
'and let them be punished for what you did.'

'That,' rejoined the Dodger, with a wave of his pipe, 'That was all out
of consideration for Fagin, 'cause the traps know that we work
together, and he might have got into trouble if we hadn't made our
lucky; that was the move, wasn't it, Charley?'

Master Bates nodded assent, and would have spoken, but the recollection
of Oliver's flight came so suddenly upon him, that the smoke he was
inhaling got entangled with a laugh, and went up into his head, and
down into his throat: and brought on a fit of coughing and stamping,
about five minutes long.

'Look here!' said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and
halfpence. 'Here's a jolly life!  What's the odds where it comes from?
Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where they were took from.  You
won't, won't you?  Oh, you precious flat!'

'It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?' inquired Charley Bates. 'He'll come
to be scragged, won't he?'

'I don't know what that means,' replied Oliver.

'Something in this way, old feller,' said Charly.  As he said it,
Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it erect
in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a curious
sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively pantomimic
representation, that scragging and hanging were one and the same thing.

'That's what it means,' said Charley.  'Look how he stares, Jack!

I never did see such prime company as that 'ere boy; he'll be the death
of me, I know he will.'  Master Charley Bates, having laughed heartily
again, resumed his pipe with tears in his eyes.

'You've been brought up bad,' said the Dodger, surveying his boots with
much satisfaction when Oliver had polished them. 'Fagin will make
something of you, though, or you'll be the first he ever had that
turned out unprofitable.  You'd better begin at once; for you'll come
to the trade long before you think of it; and you're only losing time,
Oliver.'

Master Bates backed this advice with sundry moral admonitions of his
own:  which, being exhausted, he and his friend Mr. Dawkins launched
into a glowing description of the numerous pleasures incidental to the
life they led, interspersed with a variety of hints to Oliver that the
best thing he could do, would be to secure Fagin's favour without more
delay, by the means which they themselves had employed to gain it.

'And always put this in your pipe, Nolly,' said the Dodger, as the Jew
was heard unlocking the door above, 'if you don't take fogels and
tickers--'

'What's the good of talking in that way?' interposed Master Bates; 'he
don't know what you mean.'

'If you don't take pocket-handkechers and watches,' said the Dodger,
reducing his conversation to the level of Oliver's capacity, 'some
other cove will; so that the coves that lose 'em will be all the worse,
and you'll be all the worse, too, and nobody half a ha'p'orth the
better, except the chaps wot gets them--and you've just as good a right
to them as they have.'

'To be sure, to be sure!' said the Jew, who had entered unseen by
Oliver.  'It all lies in a nutshell my dear; in a nutshell, take the
Dodger's word for it.  Ha! ha! ha!  He understands the catechism of his
trade.'

The old man rubbed his hands gleefully together, as he corroborated the
Dodger's reasoning in these terms; and chuckled with delight at his
pupil's proficiency.

The conversation proceeded no farther at this time, for the Jew had
returned home accompanied by Miss Betsy, and a gentleman whom Oliver
had never seen before, but who was accosted by the Dodger as Tom
Chitling; and who, having lingered on the stairs to exchange a few
gallantries with the lady, now made his appearance.

Mr. Chitling was older in years than the Dodger: having perhaps
numbered eighteen winters; but there was a degree of deference in his
deportment towards that young gentleman which seemed to indicate that
he felt himself conscious of a slight inferiority in point of genius
and professional aquirements.  He had small twinkling eyes, and a
pock-marked face; wore a fur cap, a dark corduroy jacket, greasy
fustian trousers, and an apron.  His wardrobe was, in truth, rather out
of repair; but he excused himself to the company by stating that his
'time' was only out an hour before; and that, in consequence of having
worn the regimentals for six weeks past, he had not been able to bestow
any attention on his private clothes.  Mr. Chitling added, with strong
marks of irritation, that the new way of fumigating clothes up yonder
was infernal unconstitutional, for it burnt holes in them, and there
was no remedy against the County.  The same remark he considered to
apply to the regulation mode of cutting the hair: which he held to be
decidedly unlawful.  Mr. Chitling wound up his observations by stating
that he had not touched a drop of anything for forty-two moral long
hard-working days; and that he 'wished he might be busted if he warn't
as dry as a lime-basket.'

'Where do you think the gentleman has come from, Oliver?' inquired the
Jew, with a grin, as the other boys put a bottle of spirits on the
table.

'I--I--don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Who's that?' inquired Tom Chitling, casting a contemptuous look at
Oliver.

'A young friend of mine, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'He's in luck, then,' said the young man, with a meaning look at Fagin.
'Never mind where I came from, young 'un; you'll find your way there,
soon enough, I'll bet a crown!'

At this sally, the boys laughed.  After some more jokes on the same
subject, they exchanged a few short whispers with Fagin; and withdrew.

After some words apart between the last comer and Fagin, they drew
their chairs towards the fire; and the Jew, telling Oliver to come and
sit by him, led the conversation to the topics most calculated to
interest his hearers.  These were, the great advantages of the trade,
the proficiency of the Dodger, the amiability of Charley Bates, and the
liberality of the Jew himself.  At length these subjects displayed
signs of being thoroughly exhausted; and Mr. Chitling did the same:
for the house of correction becomes fatiguing after a week or two.
Miss Betsy accordingly withdrew; and left the party to their repose.

From this day, Oliver was seldom left alone; but was placed in almost
constant communication with the two boys, who played the old game with
the Jew every day: whether for their own improvement or Oliver's, Mr.
Fagin best knew.  At other times the old man would tell them stories of
robberies he had committed in his younger days:  mixed up with so much
that was droll and curious, that Oliver could not help laughing
heartily, and showing that he was amused in spite of all his better
feelings.

In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils.  Having prepared
his mind, by solitude and gloom, to prefer any society to the
companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary place, he was
now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would
blacken it, and change its hue for ever.



CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH A NOTABLE PLAN IS DISCUSSED AND DETERMINED ON

It was a chill, damp, windy night, when the Jew: buttoning his
great-coat tight round his shrivelled body, and pulling the collar up
over his ears so as completely to obscure the lower part of his face:
emerged from his den.  He paused on the step as the door was locked and
chained behind him; and having listened while the boys made all secure,
and until their retreating footsteps were no longer audible, slunk down
the street as quickly as he could.

The house to which Oliver had been conveyed, was in the neighborhood of
Whitechapel.  The Jew stopped for an instant at the corner of the
street; and, glancing suspiciously round, crossed the road, and struck
off in the direction of the Spitalfields.

The mud lay thick upon the stones, and a black mist hung over the
streets; the rain fell sluggishly down, and everything felt cold and
clammy to the touch.  It seemed just the night when it befitted such a
being as the Jew to be abroad.  As he glided stealthily along, creeping
beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man
seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and
darkness through which he moved: crawling forth, by night, in search of
some rich offal for a meal.

He kept on his course, through many winding and narrow ways, until he
reached Bethnal Green; then, turning suddenly off to the left, he soon
became involved in a maze of the mean and dirty streets which abound in
that close and densely-populated quarter.

The Jew was evidently too familiar with the ground he traversed to be
at all bewildered, either by the darkness of the night, or the
intricacies of the way.  He hurried through several alleys and streets,
and at length turned into one, lighted only by a single lamp at the
farther end.  At the door of a house in this street, he knocked; having
exchanged a few muttered words with the person who opened it, he walked
upstairs.

A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room-door; and a man's
voice demanded who was there.

'Only me, Bill; only me, my dear,' said the Jew looking in.

'Bring in your body then,' said Sikes.  'Lie down, you stupid brute!
Don't you know the devil when he's got a great-coat on?'

Apparently, the dog had been somewhat deceived by Mr. Fagin's outer
garment; for as the Jew unbuttoned it, and threw it over the back of a
chair, he retired to the corner from which he had risen:  wagging his
tail as he went, to show that he was as well satisfied as it was in his
nature to be.

'Well!' said Sikes.

'Well, my dear,' replied the Jew.--'Ah! Nancy.'

The latter recognition was uttered with just enough of embarrassment to
imply a doubt of its reception; for Mr. Fagin and his young friend had
not met, since she had interfered in behalf of Oliver.  All doubts upon
the subject, if he had any, were speedily removed by the young lady's
behaviour.  She took her feet off the fender, pushed back her chair,
and bade Fagin draw up his, without saying more about it:  for it was a
cold night, and no mistake.

'It is cold, Nancy dear,' said the Jew, as he warmed his skinny hands
over the fire.  'It seems to go right through one,' added the old man,
touching his side.

'It must be a piercer, if it finds its way through your heart,' said
Mr. Sikes.  'Give him something to drink, Nancy.  Burn my body, make
haste!  It's enough to turn a man ill, to see his lean old carcase
shivering in that way, like a ugly ghost just rose from the grave.'

Nancy quickly brought a bottle from a cupboard, in which there were
many:  which, to judge from the diversity of their appearance, were
filled with several kinds of liquids.  Sikes pouring out a glass of
brandy, bade the Jew drink it off.

'Quite enough, quite, thankye, Bill,' replied the Jew, putting down the
glass after just setting his lips to it.

'What!  You're afraid of our getting the better of you, are you?'
inquired Sikes, fixing his eyes on the Jew.  'Ugh!'

With a hoarse grunt of contempt, Mr. Sikes seized the glass, and threw
the remainder of its contents into the ashes: as a preparatory ceremony
to filling it again for himself:  which he did at once.

The Jew glanced round the room, as his companion tossed down the second
glassful; not in curiousity, for he had seen it often before; but in a
restless and suspicious manner habitual to him. It was a meanly
furnished apartment, with nothing but the contents of the closet to
induce the belief that its occupier was anything but a working man; and
with no more suspicious articles displayed to view than two or three
heavy bludgeons which stood in a corner, and a 'life-preserver' that
hung over the chimney-piece.

'There,' said Sikes, smacking his lips. 'Now I'm ready.'

'For business?' inquired the Jew.

'For business,' replied Sikes; 'so say what you've got to say.'

'About the crib at Chertsey, Bill?' said the Jew, drawing his chair
forward, and speaking in a very low voice.

'Yes.  Wot about it?' inquired Sikes.

'Ah! you know what I mean, my dear,' said the Jew.  'He knows what I
mean, Nancy; don't he?'

'No, he don't,' sneered Mr. Sikes.  'Or he won't, and that's the same
thing.  Speak out, and call things by their right names; don't sit
there, winking and blinking, and talking to me in hints, as if you
warn't the very first that thought about the robbery.  Wot d'ye mean?'

'Hush, Bill, hush!' said the Jew, who had in vain attempted to stop
this burst of indignation; 'somebody will hear us, my dear. Somebody
will hear us.'

'Let 'em hear!' said Sikes; 'I don't care.'  But as Mr. Sikes DID care,
on reflection, he dropped his voice as he said the words, and grew
calmer.

'There, there,' said the Jew, coaxingly.  'It was only my caution,
nothing more.  Now, my dear, about that crib at Chertsey; when is it to
be done, Bill, eh?  When is it to be done?  Such plate, my dear, such
plate!' said the Jew:  rubbing his hands, and elevating his eyebrows in
a rapture of anticipation.

'Not at all,' replied Sikes coldly.

'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jew, leaning back in his chair.

'No, not at all,' rejoined Sikes.  'At least it can't be a put-up job,
as we expected.'

'Then it hasn't been properly gone about,' said the Jew, turning pale
with anger.  'Don't tell me!'

'But I will tell you,' retorted Sikes.  'Who are you that's not to be
told?  I tell you that Toby Crackit has been hanging about the place
for a fortnight, and he can't get one of the servants in line.'

'Do you mean to tell me, Bill,' said the Jew: softening as the other
grew heated:  'that neither of the two men in the house can be got
over?'

'Yes, I do mean to tell you so,' replied Sikes.  'The old lady has had
'em these twenty years; and if you were to give 'em five hundred pound,
they wouldn't be in it.'

'But do you mean to say, my dear,' remonstrated the Jew, 'that the
women can't be got over?'

'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes.

'Not by flash Toby Crackit?' said the Jew incredulously. 'Think what
women are, Bill,'

'No; not even by flash Toby Crackit,' replied Sikes.  'He says he's
worn sham whiskers, and a canary waistcoat, the whole blessed time he's
been loitering down there, and it's all of no use.'

'He should have tried mustachios and a pair of military trousers, my
dear,' said the Jew.

'So he did,' rejoined Sikes, 'and they warn't of no more use than the
other plant.'

The Jew looked blank at this information.  After ruminating for some
minutes with his chin sunk on his breast, he raised his head and said,
with a deep sigh, that if flash Toby Crackit reported aright, he feared
the game was up.

'And yet,' said the old man, dropping his hands on his knees, 'it's a
sad thing, my dear, to lose so much when we had set our hearts upon it.'

'So it is,' said Mr. Sikes.  'Worse luck!'

A long silence ensued; during which the Jew was plunged in deep
thought, with his face wrinkled into an expression of villainy
perfectly demoniacal.  Sikes eyed him furtively from time to time.
Nancy, apparently fearful of irritating the housebreaker, sat with her
eyes fixed upon the fire, as if she had been deaf to all that passed.

'Fagin,' said Sikes, abruptly breaking the stillness that prevailed;
'is it worth fifty shiners extra, if it's safely done from the outside?'

'Yes,' said the Jew, as suddenly rousing himself.

'Is it a bargain?' inquired Sikes.

'Yes, my dear, yes,' rejoined the Jew; his eyes glistening, and every
muscle in his face working, with the excitement that the inquiry had
awakened.

'Then,' said Sikes, thrusting aside the Jew's hand, with some disdain,
'let it come off as soon as you like.  Toby and me were over the
garden-wall the night afore last, sounding the panels of the door and
shutters.  The crib's barred up at night like a jail; but there's one
part we can crack, safe and softly.'

'Which is that, Bill?' asked the Jew eagerly.

'Why,' whispered Sikes, 'as you cross the lawn--'

'Yes?' said the Jew, bending his head forward, with his eyes almost
starting out of it.

'Umph!' cried Sikes, stopping short, as the girl, scarcely moving her
head, looked suddenly round, and pointed for an instant to the Jew's
face.  'Never mind which part it is. You can't do it without me, I
know; but it's best to be on the safe side when one deals with you.'

'As you like, my dear, as you like' replied the Jew.  'Is there no help
wanted, but yours and Toby's?'

'None,' said Sikes.  'Cept a centre-bit and a boy.  The first we've
both got; the second you must find us.'

'A boy!' exclaimed the Jew.  'Oh! then it's a panel, eh?'

'Never mind wot it is!' replied Sikes.  'I want a boy, and he musn't be
a big 'un.  Lord!' said Mr. Sikes, reflectively, 'if I'd only got that
young boy of Ned, the chimbley-sweeper's!  He kept him small on
purpose, and let him out by the job.  But the father gets lagged; and
then the Juvenile Delinquent Society comes, and takes the boy away from
a trade where he was earning money, teaches him to read and write, and
in time makes a 'prentice of him.  And so they go on,' said Mr. Sikes,
his wrath rising with the recollection of his wrongs, 'so they go on;
and, if they'd got money enough (which it's a Providence they haven't,)
we shouldn't have half a dozen boys left in the whole trade, in a year
or two.'

'No more we should,' acquiesced the Jew, who had been considering
during this speech, and had only caught the last sentence. 'Bill!'

'What now?' inquired Sikes.

The Jew nodded his head towards Nancy, who was still gazing at the
fire; and intimated, by a sign, that he would have her told to leave
the room.  Sikes shrugged his shoulders impatiently, as if he thought
the precaution unnecessary; but complied, nevertheless, by requesting
Miss Nancy to fetch him a jug of beer.

'You don't want any beer,' said Nancy, folding her arms, and retaining
her seat very composedly.

'I tell you I do!' replied Sikes.

'Nonsense,' rejoined the girl coolly, 'Go on, Fagin.  I know what he's
going to say, Bill; he needn't mind me.'

The Jew still hesitated.  Sikes looked from one to the other in some
surprise.

'Why, you don't mind the old girl, do you, Fagin?' he asked at length.
'You've known her long enough to trust her, or the Devil's in it.  She
ain't one to blab.  Are you Nancy?'

'_I_ should think not!' replied the young lady:  drawing her chair up
to the table, and putting her elbows upon it.

'No, no, my dear, I know you're not,' said the Jew; 'but--' and again
the old man paused.

'But wot?' inquired Sikes.

'I didn't know whether she mightn't p'r'aps be out of sorts, you know,
my dear, as she was the other night,' replied the Jew.

At this confession, Miss Nancy burst into a loud laugh; and, swallowing
a glass of brandy, shook her head with an air of defiance, and burst
into sundry exclamations of 'Keep the game a-going!'  'Never say die!'
and the like.  These seemed to have the effect of re-assuring both
gentlemen; for the Jew nodded his head with a satisfied air, and
resumed his seat: as did Mr. Sikes likewise.

'Now, Fagin,' said Nancy with a laugh.  'Tell Bill at once, about
Oliver!'

'Ha! you're a clever one, my dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!' said
the Jew, patting her on the neck.  'It WAS about Oliver I was going to
speak, sure enough.  Ha! ha! ha!'

'What about him?' demanded Sikes.

'He's the boy for you, my dear,' replied the Jew in a hoarse whisper;
laying his finger on the side of his nose, and grinning frightfully.

'He!' exclaimed. Sikes.

'Have him, Bill!' said Nancy.  'I would, if I was in your place. He
mayn't be so much up, as any of the others; but that's not what you
want, if he's only to open a door for you.  Depend upon it he's a safe
one, Bill.'

'I know he is,' rejoined Fagin.  'He's been in good training these last
few weeks, and it's time he began to work for his bread.  Besides, the
others are all too big.'

'Well, he is just the size I want,' said Mr. Sikes, ruminating.

'And will do everything you want, Bill, my dear,' interposed the Jew;
'he can't help himself.  That is, if you frighten him enough.'

'Frighten him!' echoed Sikes.  'It'll be no sham frightening, mind you.
If there's anything queer about him when we once get into the work; in
for a penny, in for a pound.  You won't see him alive again, Fagin.
Think of that, before you send him.  Mark my words!' said the robber,
poising a crowbar, which he had drawn from under the bedstead.

'I've thought of it all,' said the Jew with energy. 'I've--I've had my
eye upon him, my dears, close--close. Once let him feel that he is one
of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he has been a thief; and
he's ours!  Ours for his life.  Oho!  It couldn't have come about
better!  The old man crossed his arms upon his breast; and, drawing his
head and shoulders into a heap, literally hugged himself for joy.

'Ours!' said Sikes.  'Yours, you mean.'

'Perhaps I do, my dear,' said the Jew, with a shrill chuckle. 'Mine, if
you like, Bill.'

'And wot,' said Sikes, scowling fiercely on his agreeable friend, 'wot
makes you take so much pains about one chalk-faced kid, when you know
there are fifty boys snoozing about Common Garden every night, as you
might pick and choose from?'

'Because they're of no use to me, my dear,' replied the Jew, with some
confusion, 'not worth the taking.  Their looks convict 'em when they
get into trouble, and I lose 'em all.  With this boy, properly managed,
my dears, I could do what I couldn't with twenty of them.  Besides,'
said the Jew, recovering his self-possession, 'he has us now if he
could only give us leg-bail again; and he must be in the same boat with
us.  Never mind how he came there; it's quite enough for my power over
him that he was in a robbery; that's all I want.  Now, how much better
this is, than being obliged to put the poor leetle boy out of the
way--which would be dangerous, and we should lose by it besides.'

'When is it to be done?' asked Nancy, stopping some turbulent
exclamation on the part of Mr. Sikes, expressive of the disgust with
which he received Fagin's affectation of humanity.

'Ah, to be sure,' said the Jew; 'when is it to be done, Bill?'

'I planned with Toby, the night arter to-morrow,' rejoined Sikes in a
surly voice, 'if he heerd nothing from me to the contrairy.'

'Good,' said the Jew; 'there's no moon.'

'No,' rejoined Sikes.

'It's all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?' asked the Jew.

Sikes nodded.

'And about--'

'Oh, ah, it's all planned,' rejoined Sikes, interrupting him. 'Never
mind particulars.  You'd better bring the boy here to-morrow night.  I
shall get off the stone an hour arter daybreak.  Then you hold your
tongue, and keep the melting-pot ready, and that's all you'll have to
do.'

After some discussion, in which all three took an active part, it was
decided that Nancy should repair to the Jew's next evening when the
night had set in, and bring Oliver away with her; Fagin craftily
observing, that, if he evinced any disinclination to the task, he would
be more willing to accompany the girl who had so recently interfered in
his behalf, than anybody else.  It was also solemnly arranged that poor
Oliver should, for the purposes of the contemplated expedition, be
unreservedly consigned to the care and custody of Mr. William Sikes;
and further, that the said Sikes should deal with him as he thought
fit; and should not be held responsible by the Jew for any mischance or
evil that might be necessary to visit him: it being understood that, to
render the compact in this respect binding, any representations made by
Mr. Sikes on his return should be required to be confirmed and
corroborated, in all important particulars, by the testimony of flash
Toby Crackit.

These preliminaries adjusted, Mr. Sikes proceeded to drink brandy at a
furious rate, and to flourish the crowbar in an alarming manner;
yelling forth, at the same time, most unmusical snatches of song,
mingled with wild execrations.  At length, in a fit of professional
enthusiasm, he insisted upon producing his box of housebreaking tools:
which he had no sooner stumbled in with, and opened for the purpose of
explaining the nature and properties of the various implements it
contained, and the peculiar beauties of their construction, than he
fell over the box upon the floor, and went to sleep where he fell.

'Good-night, Nancy,' said the Jew, muffling himself up as before.

'Good-night.'

Their eyes met, and the Jew scrutinised her, narrowly.  There was no
flinching about the girl.  She was as true and earnest in the matter as
Toby Crackit himself could be.

The Jew again bade her good-night, and, bestowing a sly kick upon the
prostrate form of Mr. Sikes while her back was turned, groped
downstairs.

'Always the way!' muttered the Jew to himself as he turned homeward.
'The worst of these women is, that a very little thing serves to call
up some long-forgotten feeling; and, the best of them is, that it never
lasts.  Ha! ha!  The man against the child, for a bag of gold!'

Beguiling the time with these pleasant reflections, Mr. Fagin wended
his way, through mud and mire, to his gloomy abode:  where the Dodger
was sitting up, impatiently awaiting his return.

'Is Oliver a-bed?  I want to speak to him,' was his first remark as
they descended the stairs.

'Hours ago,' replied the Dodger, throwing open a door.  'Here he is!'

The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so pale
with anxiety, and sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he
looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and coffin, but in
the guise it wears when life has just departed; when a young and gentle
spirit has, but an instant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of the
world has not had time to breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.

'Not now,' said the Jew, turning softly away.  'To-morrow. To-morrow.'



CHAPTER XX

WHEREIN OLIVER IS DELIVERED OVER TO MR. WILLIAM SIKES

When Oliver awoke in the morning, he was a good deal surprised to find
that a new pair of shoes, with strong thick soles, had been placed at
his bedside; and that his old shoes had been removed. At first, he was
pleased with the discovery: hoping that it might be the forerunner of
his release; but such thoughts were quickly dispelled, on his sitting
down to breakfast along with the Jew, who told him, in a tone and
manner which increased his alarm, that he was to be taken to the
residence of Bill Sikes that night.

'To--to--stop there, sir?' asked Oliver, anxiously.

'No, no, my dear.  Not to stop there,' replied the Jew.  'We shouldn't
like to lose you.  Don't be afraid, Oliver, you shall come back to us
again.  Ha! ha! ha!  We won't be so cruel as to send you away, my dear.
Oh no, no!'

The old man, who was stooping over the fire toasting a piece of bread,
looked round as he bantered Oliver thus; and chuckled as if to show
that he knew he would still be very glad to get away if he could.

'I suppose,' said the Jew, fixing his eyes on Oliver, 'you want to know
what you're going to Bill's for---eh, my dear?'

Oliver coloured, involuntarily, to find that the old thief had been
reading his thoughts; but boldly said, Yes, he did want to know.

'Why, do you think?' inquired Fagin, parrying the question.

'Indeed I don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Bah!' said the Jew, turning away with a disappointed countenance from
a close perusal of the boy's face.  'Wait till Bill tells you, then.'

The Jew seemed much vexed by Oliver's not expressing any greater
curiosity on the subject; but the truth is, that, although Oliver felt
very anxious, he was too much confused by the earnest cunning of
Fagin's looks, and his own speculations, to make any further inquiries
just then.  He had no other opportunity:  for the Jew remained very
surly and silent till night:  when he prepared to go abroad.

'You may burn a candle,' said the Jew, putting one upon the table.
'And here's a book for you to read, till they come to fetch you.
Good-night!'

'Good-night!' replied Oliver, softly.

The Jew walked to the door: looking over his shoulder at the boy as he
went.  Suddenly stopping, he called him by his name.

Oliver looked up; the Jew, pointing to the candle, motioned him to
light it.  He did so; and, as he placed the candlestick upon the table,
saw that the Jew was gazing fixedly at him, with lowering and
contracted brows, from the dark end of the room.

'Take heed, Oliver! take heed!' said the old man, shaking his right
hand before him in a warning manner.  'He's a rough man, and thinks
nothing of blood when his own is up. Whatever falls out, say nothing;
and do what he bids you.  Mind!'  Placing a strong emphasis on the last
word, he suffered his features gradually to resolve themselves into a
ghastly grin, and, nodding his head, left the room.

Oliver leaned his head upon his hand when the old man disappeared, and
pondered, with a trembling heart, on the words he had just heard.  The
more he thought of the Jew's admonition, the more he was at a loss to
divine its real purpose and meaning.

He could think of no bad object to be attained by sending him to Sikes,
which would not be equally well answered by his remaining with Fagin;
and after meditating for a long time, concluded that he had been
selected to perform some ordinary menial offices for the housebreaker,
until another boy, better suited for his purpose could be engaged.  He
was too well accustomed to suffering, and had suffered too much where
he was, to bewail the prospect of change very severely.  He remained
lost in thought for some minutes; and then, with a heavy sigh, snuffed
the candle, and, taking up the book which the Jew had left with him,
began to read.

He turned over the leaves.  Carelessly at first; but, lighting on a
passage which attracted his attention, he soon became intent upon the
volume.  It was a history of the lives and trials of great criminals;
and the pages were soiled and thumbed with use. Here, he read of
dreadful crimes that made the blood run cold; of secret murders that
had been committed by the lonely wayside; of bodies hidden from the eye
of man in deep pits and wells: which would not keep them down, deep as
they were, but had yielded them up at last, after many years, and so
maddened the murderers with the sight, that in their horror they had
confessed their guilt, and yelled for the gibbet to end their agony.
Here, too, he read of men who, lying in their beds at dead of night,
had been tempted (so they said) and led on, by their own bad thoughts,
to such dreadful bloodshed as it made the flesh creep, and the limbs
quail, to think of.  The terrible descriptions were so real and vivid,
that the sallow pages seemed to turn red with gore; and the words upon
them, to be sounded in his ears, as if they were whispered, in hollow
murmurs, by the spirits of the dead.

In a paroxysm of fear, the boy closed the book, and thrust it from him.
Then, falling upon his knees, he prayed Heaven to spare him from such
deeds; and rather to will that he should die at once, than be reserved
for crimes, so fearful and appalling. By degrees, he grew more calm,
and besought, in a low and broken voice, that he might be rescued from
his present dangers; and that if any aid were to be raised up for a
poor outcast boy who had never known the love of friends or kindred, it
might come to him now, when, desolate and deserted, he stood alone in
the midst of wickedness and guilt.

He had concluded his prayer, but still remained with his head buried in
his hands, when a rustling noise aroused him.

'What's that!' he cried, starting up, and catching sight of a figure
standing by the door.  'Who's there?'

'Me.  Only me,' replied a tremulous voice.

Oliver raised the candle above his head: and looked towards the door.
It was Nancy.

'Put down the light,' said the girl, turning away her head. 'It hurts
my eyes.'

Oliver saw that she was very pale, and gently inquired if she were ill.
The girl threw herself into a chair, with her back towards him:  and
wrung her hands; but made no reply.

'God forgive me!' she cried after a while, 'I never thought of this.'

'Has anything happened?' asked Oliver.  'Can I help you?  I will if I
can.  I will, indeed.'

She rocked herself to and fro; caught her throat; and, uttering a
gurgling sound, gasped for breath.

'Nancy!' cried Oliver, 'What is it?'

The girl beat her hands upon her knees, and her feet upon the ground;
and, suddenly stopping, drew her shawl close round her: and shivered
with cold.

Oliver stirred the fire.  Drawing her chair close to it, she sat there,
for a little time, without speaking; but at length she raised her head,
and looked round.

'I don't know what comes over me sometimes,' said she, affecting to
busy herself in arranging her dress; 'it's this damp dirty room, I
think.  Now, Nolly, dear, are you ready?'

'Am I to go with you?' asked Oliver.

'Yes.  I have come from Bill,' replied the girl.  'You are to go with
me.'

'What for?' asked Oliver, recoiling.

'What for?' echoed the girl, raising her eyes, and averting them again,
the moment they encountered the boy's face.  'Oh!  For no harm.'

'I don't believe it,' said Oliver:  who had watched her closely.

'Have it your own way,' rejoined the girl, affecting to laugh. 'For no
good, then.'

Oliver could see that he had some power over the girl's better
feelings, and, for an instant, thought of appealing to her compassion
for his helpless state.  But, then, the thought darted across his mind
that it was barely eleven o'clock; and that many people were still in
the streets:  of whom surely some might be found to give credence to
his tale.  As the reflection occured to him, he stepped forward:  and
said, somewhat hastily, that he was ready.

Neither his brief consideration, nor its purport, was lost on his
companion.  She eyed him narrowly, while he spoke; and cast upon him a
look of intelligence which sufficiently showed that she guessed what
had been passing in his thoughts.

'Hush!' said the girl, stooping over him, and pointing to the door as
she looked cautiously round.  'You can't help yourself. I have tried
hard for you, but all to no purpose.  You are hedged round and round.
If ever you are to get loose from here, this is not the time.'

Struck by the energy of her manner, Oliver looked up in her face with
great surprise.  She seemed to speak the truth; her countenance was
white and agitated; and she trembled with very earnestness.

'I have saved you from being ill-used once, and I will again, and I do
now,' continued the girl aloud; 'for those who would have fetched you,
if I had not, would have been far more rough than me.  I have promised
for your being quiet and silent; if you are not, you will only do harm
to yourself and me too, and perhaps be my death.  See here!  I have
borne all this for you already, as true as God sees me show it.'

She pointed, hastily, to some livid bruises on her neck and arms; and
continued, with great rapidity:

'Remember this!  And don't let me suffer more for you, just now. If I
could help you, I would; but I have not the power.  They don't mean to
harm you; whatever they make you do, is no fault of yours.  Hush!
Every word from you is a blow for me.  Give me your hand.  Make haste!
Your hand!'

She caught the hand which Oliver instinctively placed in hers, and,
blowing out the light, drew him after her up the stairs. The door was
opened, quickly, by some one shrouded in the darkness, and was as
quickly closed, when they had passed out.  A hackney-cabriolet was in
waiting; with the same vehemence which she had exhibited in addressing
Oliver, the girl pulled him in with her, and drew the curtains close.
The driver wanted no directions, but lashed his horse into full speed,
without the delay of an instant.

The girl still held Oliver fast by the hand, and continued to pour into
his ear, the warnings and assurances she had already imparted.  All was
so quick and hurried, that he had scarcely time to recollect where he
was, or how he came there, when the carriage stopped at the house to
which the Jew's steps had been directed on the previous evening.

For one brief moment, Oliver cast a hurried glance along the empty
street, and a cry for help hung upon his lips.  But the girl's voice
was in his ear, beseeching him in such tones of agony to remember her,
that he had not the heart to utter it. While he hesitated, the
opportunity was gone; he was already in the house, and the door was
shut.

'This way,' said the girl, releasing her hold for the first time.
'Bill!'

'Hallo!' replied Sikes: appearing at the head of the stairs, with a
candle.  'Oh!  That's the time of day.  Come on!'

This was a very strong expression of approbation, an uncommonly hearty
welcome, from a person of Mr. Sikes' temperament.  Nancy, appearing
much gratified thereby, saluted him cordially.

'Bull's-eye's gone home with Tom,' observed Sikes, as he lighted them
up.  'He'd have been in the way.'

'That's right,' rejoined Nancy.

'So you've got the kid,' said Sikes when they had all reached the room:
closing the door as he spoke.

'Yes, here he is,' replied Nancy.

'Did he come quiet?' inquired Sikes.

'Like a lamb,' rejoined Nancy.

'I'm glad to hear it,' said Sikes, looking grimly at Oliver; 'for the
sake of his young carcase:  as would otherways have suffered for it.
Come here, young 'un; and let me read you a lectur', which is as well
got over at once.'

Thus addressing his new pupil, Mr. Sikes pulled off Oliver's cap and
threw it into a corner; and then, taking him by the shoulder, sat
himself down by the table, and stood the boy in front of him.

'Now, first:  do you know wot this is?' inquired Sikes, taking up a
pocket-pistol which lay on the table.

Oliver replied in the affirmative.

'Well, then, look here,' continued Sikes.  'This is powder; that 'ere's
a bullet; and this is a little bit of a old hat for waddin'.'

Oliver murmured his comprehension of the different bodies referred to;
and Mr. Sikes proceeded to load the pistol, with great nicety and
deliberation.

'Now it's loaded,' said Mr. Sikes, when he had finished.

'Yes, I see it is, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Well,' said the robber, grasping Oliver's wrist, and putting the
barrel so close to his temple that they touched; at which moment the
boy could not repress a start; 'if you speak a word when you're out
o'doors with me, except when I speak to you, that loading will be in
your head without notice.  So, if you _do_ make up your mind to speak
without leave, say your prayers first.'

Having bestowed a scowl upon the object of this warning, to increase
its effect, Mr. Sikes continued.

'As near as I know, there isn't anybody as would be asking very
partickler arter you, if you _was_ disposed of; so I needn't take this
devil-and-all of trouble to explain matters to you, if it warn't for
your own good.  D'ye hear me?'

'The short and the long of what you mean,' said Nancy:  speaking very
emphatically, and slightly frowning at Oliver as if to bespeak his
serious attention to her words:  'is, that if you're crossed by him in
this job you have on hand, you'll prevent his ever telling tales
afterwards, by shooting him through the head, and will take your chance
of swinging for it, as you do for a great many other things in the way
of business, every month of your life.'

'That's it!' observed Mr. Sikes, approvingly; 'women can always put
things in fewest words.--Except when it's blowing up; and then they
lengthens it out.  And now that he's thoroughly up to it, let's have
some supper, and get a snooze before starting.'

In pursuance of this request, Nancy quickly laid the cloth;
disappearing for a few minutes, she presently returned with a pot of
porter and a dish of sheep's heads: which gave occasion to several
pleasant witticisms on the part of Mr. Sikes, founded upon the singular
coincidence of 'jemmies' being a can name, common to them, and also to
an ingenious implement much used in his profession.  Indeed, the worthy
gentleman, stimulated perhaps by the immediate prospect of being on
active service, was in great spirits and good humour; in proof whereof,
it may be here remarked, that he humourously drank all the beer at a
draught, and did not utter, on a rough calculation, more than
four-score oaths during the whole progress of the meal.

Supper being ended--it may be easily conceived that Oliver had no great
appetite for it--Mr. Sikes disposed of a couple of glasses of spirits
and water, and threw himself on the bed; ordering Nancy, with many
imprecations in case of failure, to call him at five precisely.  Oliver
stretched himself in his clothes, by command of the same authority, on
a mattress upon the floor; and the girl, mending the fire, sat before
it, in readiness to rouse them at the appointed time.

For a long time Oliver lay awake, thinking it not impossible that Nancy
might seek that opportunity of whispering some further advice; but the
girl sat brooding over the fire, without moving, save now and then to
trim the light.  Weary with watching and anxiety, he at length fell
asleep.

When he awoke, the table was covered with tea-things, and Sikes was
thrusting various articles into the pockets of his great-coat, which
hung over the back of a chair.  Nancy was busily engaged in preparing
breakfast.  It was not yet daylight; for the candle was still burning,
and it was quite dark outside. A sharp rain, too, was beating against
the window-panes; and the sky looked black and cloudy.

'Now, then!' growled Sikes, as Oliver started up; 'half-past five!
Look sharp, or you'll get no breakfast; for it's late as it is.'

Oliver was not long in making his toilet; having taken some breakfast,
he replied to a surly inquiry from Sikes, by saying that he was quite
ready.

Nancy, scarcely looking at the boy, threw him a handkerchief to tie
round his throat; Sikes gave him a large rough cape to button over his
shoulders.  Thus attired, he gave his hand to the robber, who, merely
pausing to show him with a menacing gesture that he had that same
pistol in a side-pocket of his great-coat, clasped it firmly in his,
and, exchanging a farewell with Nancy, led him away.

Oliver turned, for an instant, when they reached the door, in the hope
of meeting a look from the girl.  But she had resumed her old seat in
front of the fire, and sat, perfectly motionless before it.



CHAPTER XXI

THE EXPEDITION

It was a cheerless morning when they got into the street; blowing and
raining hard; and the clouds looking dull and stormy.  The night had
been very wet: large pools of water had collected in the road: and the
kennels were overflowing.  There was a faint glimmering of the coming
day in the sky; but it rather aggravated than relieved the gloom of the
scene:  the sombre light only serving to pale that which the street
lamps afforded, without shedding any warmer or brighter tints upon the
wet house-tops, and dreary streets.  There appeared to be nobody
stirring in that quarter of the town; the windows of the houses were
all closely shut; and the streets through which they passed, were
noiseless and empty.

By the time they had turned into the Bethnal Green Road, the day had
fairly begun to break.  Many of the lamps were already extinguished; a
few country waggons were slowly toiling on, towards London; now and
then, a stage-coach, covered with mud, rattled briskly by: the driver
bestowing, as he passed, an admonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner
who, by keeping on the wrong side of the road, had endangered his
arriving at the office, a quarter of a minute after his time.  The
public-houses, with gas-lights burning inside, were already open.  By
degrees, other shops began to be unclosed, and a few scattered people
were met with.  Then, came straggling groups of labourers going to
their work; then, men and women with fish-baskets on their heads;
donkey-carts laden with vegetables; chaise-carts filled with live-stock
or whole carcasses of meat; milk-women with pails; an unbroken
concourse of people, trudging out with various supplies to the eastern
suburbs of the town.  As they approached the City, the noise and
traffic gradually increased; when they threaded the streets between
Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled into a roar of sound and
bustle.  It was as light as it was likely to be, till night came on
again, and the busy morning of half the London population had begun.

Turning down Sun Street and Crown Street, and crossing Finsbury square,
Mr. Sikes struck, by way of Chiswell Street, into Barbican: thence into
Long Lane, and so into Smithfield; from which latter place arose a
tumult of discordant sounds that filled Oliver Twist with amazement.

It was market-morning.  The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with
filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking
bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest
upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above.  All the pens in the centre
of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into
the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the
gutter side were long lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep.
Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and
vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; the
whistling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of
the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs,
the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides;
the ringing of bells and roar of voices, that issued from every
public-house; the crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and
yelling; the hideous and discordant dim that resounded from every
corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty
figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the
throng; rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite
confounded the senses.

Mr. Sikes, dragging Oliver after him, elbowed his way through the
thickest of the crowd, and bestowed very little attention on the
numerous sights and sounds, which so astonished the boy.  He nodded,
twice or thrice, to a passing friend; and, resisting as many
invitations to take a morning dram, pressed steadily onward, until they
were clear of the turmoil, and had made their way through Hosier Lane
into Holborn.

'Now, young 'un!' said Sikes, looking up at the clock of St. Andrew's
Church, 'hard upon seven! you must step out.  Come, don't lag behind
already, Lazy-legs!'

Mr. Sikes accompanied this speech with a jerk at his little companion's
wrist; Oliver, quickening his pace into a kind of trot between a fast
walk and a run, kept up with the rapid strides of the house-breaker as
well as he could.

They held their course at this rate, until they had passed Hyde Park
corner, and were on their way to Kensington:  when Sikes relaxed his
pace, until an empty cart which was at some little distance behind,
came up.  Seeing 'Hounslow' written on it, he asked the driver with as
much civility as he could assume, if he would give them a lift as far
as Isleworth.

'Jump up,' said the man.  'Is that your boy?'

'Yes; he's my boy,' replied Sikes, looking hard at Oliver, and putting
his hand abstractedly into the pocket where the pistol was.

'Your father walks rather too quick for you, don't he, my man?'
inquired the driver: seeing that Oliver was out of breath.

'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes, interposing.  'He's used to it.

Here, take hold of my hand, Ned.  In with you!'

Thus addressing Oliver, he helped him into the cart; and the driver,
pointing to a heap of sacks, told him to lie down there, and rest
himself.

As they passed the different mile-stones, Oliver wondered, more and
more, where his companion meant to take him.  Kensington, Hammersmith,
Chiswick, Kew Bridge, Brentford, were all passed; and yet they went on
as steadily as if they had only just begun their journey.  At length,
they came to a public-house called the Coach and Horses; a little way
beyond which, another road appeared to run off.  And here, the cart
stopped.

Sikes dismounted with great precipitation, holding Oliver by the hand
all the while; and lifting him down directly, bestowed a furious look
upon him, and rapped the side-pocket with his fist, in a significant
manner.

'Good-bye, boy,' said the man.

'He's sulky,' replied Sikes, giving him a shake; 'he's sulky.  A young
dog!  Don't mind him.'

'Not I!' rejoined the other, getting into his cart.  'It's a fine day,
after all.'  And he drove away.

Sikes waited until he had fairly gone; and then, telling Oliver he
might look about him if he wanted, once again led him onward on his
journey.

They turned round to the left, a short way past the public-house; and
then, taking a right-hand road, walked on for a long time: passing many
large gardens and gentlemen's houses on both sides of the way, and
stopping for nothing but a little beer, until they reached a town.
Here against the wall of a house, Oliver saw written up in pretty large
letters, 'Hampton.'  They lingered about, in the fields, for some
hours.  At length they came back into the town; and, turning into an
old public-house with a defaced sign-board, ordered some dinner by the
kitchen fire.

The kitchen was an old, low-roofed room; with a great beam across the
middle of the ceiling, and benches, with high backs to them, by the
fire; on which were seated several rough men in smock-frocks, drinking
and smoking.  They took no notice of Oliver; and very little of Sikes;
and, as Sikes took very little notice of them, he and his young comrade
sat in a corner by themselves, without being much troubled by their
company.

They had some cold meat for dinner, and sat so long after it, while Mr.
Sikes indulged himself with three or four pipes, that Oliver began to
feel quite certain they were not going any further.  Being much tired
with the walk, and getting up so early, he dozed a little at first;
then, quite overpowered by fatigue and the fumes of the tobacco, fell
asleep.

It was quite dark when he was awakened by a push from Sikes. Rousing
himself sufficiently to sit up and look about him, he found that worthy
in close fellowship and communication with a labouring man, over a pint
of ale.

'So, you're going on to Lower Halliford, are you?' inquired Sikes.

'Yes, I am,' replied the man, who seemed a little the worse--or better,
as the case might be--for drinking; 'and not slow about it neither.  My
horse hasn't got a load behind him going back, as he had coming up in
the mornin'; and he won't be long a-doing of it.  Here's luck to him.
Ecod! he's a good 'un!'

'Could you give my boy and me a lift as far as there?' demanded Sikes,
pushing the ale towards his new friend.

'If you're going directly, I can,' replied the man, looking out of the
pot.  'Are you going to Halliford?'

'Going on to Shepperton,' replied Sikes.

'I'm your man, as far as I go,' replied the other.  'Is all paid,
Becky?'

'Yes, the other gentleman's paid,' replied the girl.

'I say!' said the man, with tipsy gravity; 'that won't do, you know.'

'Why not?' rejoined Sikes.  'You're a-going to accommodate us, and
wot's to prevent my standing treat for a pint or so, in return?'

The stranger reflected upon this argument, with a very profound face;
having done so, he seized Sikes by the hand:  and declared he was a
real good fellow.  To which Mr. Sikes replied, he was joking; as, if he
had been sober, there would have been strong reason to suppose he was.

After the exchange of a few more compliments, they bade the company
good-night, and went out; the girl gathering up the pots and glasses as
they did so, and lounging out to the door, with her hands full, to see
the party start.

The horse, whose health had been drunk in his absence, was standing
outside:  ready harnessed to the cart.  Oliver and Sikes got in without
any further ceremony; and the man to whom he belonged, having lingered
for a minute or two 'to bear him up,' and to defy the hostler and the
world to produce his equal, mounted also.  Then, the hostler was told
to give the horse his head; and, his head being given him, he made a
very unpleasant use of it:  tossing it into the air with great disdain,
and running into the parlour windows over the way; after performing
those feats, and supporting himself for a short time on his hind-legs,
he started off at great speed, and rattled out of the town right
gallantly.

The night was very dark.  A damp mist rose from the river, and the
marshy ground about; and spread itself over the dreary fields.  It was
piercing cold, too; all was gloomy and black. Not a word was spoken;
for the driver had grown sleepy; and Sikes was in no mood to lead him
into conversation.  Oliver sat huddled together, in a corner of the
cart; bewildered with alarm and apprehension; and figuring strange
objects in the gaunt trees, whose branches waved grimly to and fro, as
if in some fantastic joy at the desolation of the scene.

As they passed Sunbury Church, the clock struck seven.  There was a
light in the ferry-house window opposite:  which streamed across the
road, and threw into more sombre shadow a dark yew-tree with graves
beneath it.  There was a dull sound of falling water not far off; and
the leaves of the old tree stirred gently in the night wind.  It seemed
like quiet music for the repose of the dead.

Sunbury was passed through, and they came again into the lonely road.
Two or three miles more, and the cart stopped.  Sikes alighted, took
Oliver by the hand, and they once again walked on.

They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had expected;
but still kept walking on, in mud and darkness, through gloomy lanes
and over cold open wastes, until they came within sight of the lights
of a town at no great distance.  On looking intently forward, Oliver
saw that the water was just below them, and that they were coming to
the foot of a bridge.

Sikes kept straight on, until they were close upon the bridge; then
turned suddenly down a bank upon the left.

'The water!' thought Oliver, turning sick with fear.  'He has brought
me to this lonely place to murder me!'

He was about to throw himself on the ground, and make one struggle for
his young life, when he saw that they stood before a solitary house:
all ruinous and decayed.  There was a window on each side of the
dilapidated entrance; and one story above; but no light was visible.
The house was dark, dismantled: and the all appearance, uninhabited.

Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low
porch, and raised the latch.  The door yielded to the pressure, and
they passed in together.



CHAPTER XXII

THE BURGLARY

'Hallo!' cried a loud, hoarse voice, as soon as they set foot in the
passage.

'Don't make such a row,' said Sikes, bolting the door.  'Show a glim,
Toby.'

'Aha! my pal!' cried the same voice.  'A glim, Barney, a glim! Show the
gentleman in, Barney; wake up first, if convenient.'

The speaker appeared to throw a boot-jack, or some such article, at the
person he addressed, to rouse him from his slumbers:  for the noise of
a wooden body, falling violently, was heard; and then an indistinct
muttering, as of a man between sleep and awake.

'Do you hear?' cried the same voice.  'There's Bill Sikes in the
passage with nobody to do the civil to him; and you sleeping there, as
if you took laudanum with your meals, and nothing stronger.  Are you
any fresher now, or do you want the iron candlestick to wake you
thoroughly?'

A pair of slipshod feet shuffled, hastily, across the bare floor of the
room, as this interrogatory was put; and there issued, from a door on
the right hand; first, a feeble candle:  and next, the form of the same
individual who has been heretofore described as labouring under the
infirmity of speaking through his nose, and officiating as waiter at
the public-house on Saffron Hill.

'Bister Sikes!' exclaimed Barney, with real or counterfeit joy; 'cub
id, sir; cub id.'

'Here! you get on first,' said Sikes, putting Oliver in front of him.
'Quicker! or I shall tread upon your heels.'

Muttering a curse upon his tardiness, Sikes pushed Oliver before him;
and they entered a low dark room with a smoky fire, two or three broken
chairs, a table, and a very old couch:  on which, with his legs much
higher than his head, a man was reposing at full length, smoking a long
clay pipe.  He was dressed in a smartly-cut snuff-coloured coat, with
large brass buttons; an orange neckerchief; a coarse, staring,
shawl-pattern waistcoat; and drab breeches.  Mr. Crackit (for he it
was) had no very great quantity of hair, either upon his head or face;
but what he had, was of a reddish dye, and tortured into long corkscrew
curls, through which he occasionally thrust some very dirty fingers,
ornamented with large common rings.  He was a trifle above the middle
size, and apparently rather weak in the legs; but this circumstance by
no means detracted from his own admiration of his top-boots, which he
contemplated, in their elevated situation, with lively satisfaction.

'Bill, my boy!' said this figure, turning his head towards the door,
'I'm glad to see you.  I was almost afraid you'd given it up:  in which
case I should have made a personal wentur.  Hallo!'

Uttering this exclamation in a tone of great surprise, as his eyes
rested on Oliver, Mr. Toby Crackit brought himself into a sitting
posture, and demanded who that was.

'The boy.  Only the boy!' replied Sikes, drawing a chair towards the
fire.

'Wud of Bister Fagid's lads,' exclaimed Barney, with a grin.

'Fagin's, eh!' exclaimed Toby, looking at Oliver.  'Wot an inwalable
boy that'll make, for the old ladies' pockets in chapels!  His mug is a
fortin' to him.'

'There--there's enough of that,' interposed Sikes, impatiently; and
stooping over his recumbant friend, he whispered a few words in his
ear:  at which Mr. Crackit laughed immensely, and honoured Oliver with
a long stare of astonishment.

'Now,' said Sikes, as he resumed his seat, 'if you'll give us something
to eat and drink while we're waiting, you'll put some heart in us; or
in me, at all events.  Sit down by the fire, younker, and rest
yourself; for you'll have to go out with us again to-night, though not
very far off.'

Oliver looked at Sikes, in mute and timid wonder; and drawing a stool
to the fire, sat with his aching head upon his hands, scarecely knowing
where he was, or what was passing around him.

'Here,' said Toby, as the young Jew placed some fragments of food, and
a bottle upon the table,  'Success to the crack!'  He rose to honour
the toast; and, carefully depositing his empty pipe in a corner,
advanced to the table, filled a glass with spirits, and drank off its
contents.  Mr. Sikes did the same.

'A drain for the boy,' said Toby, half-filling a wine-glass. 'Down with
it, innocence.'

'Indeed,' said Oliver, looking piteously up into the man's face;
'indeed, I--'

'Down with it!' echoed Toby.  'Do you think I don't know what's good
for you?  Tell him to drink it, Bill.'

'He had better!' said Sikes clapping his hand upon his pocket. 'Burn my
body, if he isn't more trouble than a whole family of Dodgers.  Drink
it, you perwerse imp; drink it!'

Frightened by the menacing gestures of the two men, Oliver hastily
swallowed the contents of the glass, and immediately fell into a
violent fit of coughing:  which delighted Toby Crackit and Barney, and
even drew a smile from the surly Mr. Sikes.

This done, and Sikes having satisfied his appetite (Oliver could eat
nothing but a small crust of bread which they made him swallow), the
two men laid themselves down on chairs for a short nap.  Oliver
retained his stool by the fire; Barney wrapped in a blanket, stretched
himself on the floor:  close outside the fender.

They slept, or appeared to sleep, for some time; nobody stirring but
Barney, who rose once or twice to throw coals on the fire. Oliver fell
into a heavy doze:  imagining himself straying along the gloomy lanes,
or wandering about the dark churchyard, or retracing some one or other
of the scenes of the past day:  when he was roused by Toby Crackit
jumping up and declaring it was half-past one.

In an instant, the other two were on their legs, and all were actively
engaged in busy preparation.  Sikes and his companion enveloped their
necks and chins in large dark shawls, and drew on their great-coats;
Barney, opening a cupboard, brought forth several articles, which he
hastily crammed into the pockets.

'Barkers for me, Barney,' said Toby Crackit.

'Here they are,' replied Barney, producing a pair of pistols. 'You
loaded them yourself.'

'All right!' replied Toby, stowing them away.  'The persuaders?'

'I've got 'em,' replied Sikes.

'Crape, keys, centre-bits, darkies--nothing forgotten?' inquired Toby:
fastening a small crowbar to a loop inside the skirt of his coat.

'All right,' rejoined his companion.  'Bring them bits of timber,
Barney.  That's the time of day.'

With these words, he took a thick stick from Barney's hands, who,
having delivered another to Toby, busied himself in fastening on
Oliver's cape.

'Now then!' said Sikes, holding out his hand.

Oliver:  who was completely stupified by the unwonted exercise, and the
air, and the drink which had been forced upon him:  put his hand
mechanically into that which Sikes extended for the purpose.

'Take his other hand, Toby,' said Sikes.  'Look out, Barney.'

The man went to the door, and returned to announce that all was quiet.
The two robbers issued forth with Oliver between them. Barney, having
made all fast, rolled himself up as before, and was soon asleep again.

It was now intensely dark.  The fog was much heavier than it had been
in the early part of the night; and the atmosphere was so damp, that,
although no rain fell, Oliver's hair and eyebrows, within a few minutes
after leaving the house, had become stiff with the half-frozen moisture
that was floating about.  They crossed the bridge, and kept on towards
the lights which he had seen before.  They were at no great distance
off; and, as they walked pretty briskly, they soon arrived at Chertsey.

'Slap through the town,' whispered Sikes; 'there'll be nobody in the
way, to-night, to see us.'

Toby acquiesced; and they hurried through the main street of the little
town, which at that late hour was wholly deserted.  A dim light shone
at intervals from some bed-room window; and the hoarse barking of dogs
occasionally broke the silence of the night.  But there was nobody
abroad.  They had cleared the town, as the church-bell struck two.

Quickening their pace, they turned up a road upon the left hand. After
walking about a quarter of a mile, they stopped before a detached house
surrounded by a wall:  to the top of which, Toby Crackit, scarcely
pausing to take breath, climbed in a twinkling.

'The boy next,' said Toby.  'Hoist him up; I'll catch hold of him.'

Before Oliver had time to look round, Sikes had caught him under the
arms; and in three or four seconds he and Toby were lying on the grass
on the other side.  Sikes followed directly.  And they stole cautiously
towards the house.

And now, for the first time, Oliver, well-nigh mad with grief and
terror, saw that housebreaking and robbery, if not murder, were the
objects of the expedition.  He clasped his hands together, and
involuntarily uttered a subdued exclamation of horror.  A mist came
before his eyes; the cold sweat stood upon his ashy face; his limbs
failed him; and he sank upon his knees.

'Get up!' murmured Sikes, trembling with rage, and drawing the pistol
from his pocket; 'Get up, or I'll strew your brains upon the grass.'

'Oh! for God's sake let me go!' cried Oliver; 'let me run away and die
in the fields.  I will never come near London; never, never!  Oh! pray
have mercy on me, and do not make me steal.  For the love of all the
bright Angels that rest in Heaven, have mercy upon me!'

The man to whom this appeal was made, swore a dreadful oath, and had
cocked the pistol, when Toby, striking it from his grasp, placed his
hand upon the boy's mouth, and dragged him to the house.

'Hush!' cried the man; 'it won't answer here.  Say another word, and
I'll do your business myself with a crack on the head.  That makes no
noise, and is quite as certain, and more genteel.  Here, Bill, wrench
the shutter open.  He's game enough now, I'll engage.  I've seen older
hands of his age took the same way, for a minute or two, on a cold
night.'

Sikes, invoking terrific imprecations upon Fagin's head for sending
Oliver on such an errand, plied the crowbar vigorously, but with little
noise.  After some delay, and some assistance from Toby, the shutter to
which he had referred, swung open on its hinges.

It was a little lattice window, about five feet and a half above the
ground, at the back of the house:  which belonged to a scullery, or
small brewing-place, at the end of the passage.  The aperture was so
small, that the inmates had probably not thought it worth while to
defend it more securely; but it was large enough to admit a boy of
Oliver's size, nevertheless.  A very brief exercise of Mr. Sike's art,
sufficed to overcome the fastening of the lattice; and it soon stood
wide open also.

'Now listen, you young limb,' whispered Sikes, drawing a dark lantern
from his pocket, and throwing the glare full on Oliver's face; 'I'm a
going to put you through there.  Take this light; go softly up the
steps straight afore you, and along the little hall, to the street
door; unfasten it, and let us in.'

'There's a bolt at the top, you won't be able to reach,' interposed
Toby. 'Stand upon one of the hall chairs.  There are three there, Bill,
with a jolly large blue unicorn and gold pitchfork on 'em:  which is
the old lady's arms.'

'Keep quiet, can't you?' replied Sikes, with a threatening look. 'The
room-door is open, is it?'

'Wide,' replied Toby, after peeping in to satisfy himself. 'The game of
that is, that they always leave it open with a catch, so that the dog,
who's got a bed in here, may walk up and down the passage when he feels
wakeful.  Ha! ha! Barney 'ticed him away to-night.  So neat!'

Although Mr. Crackit spoke in a scarcely audible whisper, and laughed
without noise, Sikes imperiously commanded him to be silent, and to get
to work.  Toby complied, by first producing his lantern, and placing it
on the ground; then by planting himself firmly with his head against
the wall beneath the window, and his hands upon his knees, so as to
make a step of his back. This was no sooner done, than Sikes, mounting
upon him, put Oliver gently through the window with his feet first;
and, without leaving hold of his collar, planted him safely on the
floor inside.

'Take this lantern,' said Sikes, looking into the room.  'You see the
stairs afore you?'

Oliver, more dead than alive, gasped out, 'Yes.'  Sikes, pointing to
the street-door with the pistol-barrel, briefly advised him to take
notice that he was within shot all the way; and that if he faltered, he
would fall dead that instant.

'It's done in a minute,' said Sikes, in the same low whisper. 'Directly
I leave go of you, do your work.  Hark!'

'What's that?' whispered the other man.

They listened intently.

'Nothing,' said Sikes, releasing his hold of Oliver.  'Now!'

In the short time he had had to collect his senses, the boy had firmly
resolved that, whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one
effort to dart upstairs from the hall, and alarm the family.  Filled
with this idea, he advanced at once, but stealthily.

'Come back!' suddenly cried Sikes aloud.  'Back! back!'

Scared by the sudden breaking of the dead stillness of the place, and
by a loud cry which followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall, and knew
not whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated--a light appeared--a vision of two terrified
half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes--a
flash--a loud noise--a smoke--a crash somewhere, but where he knew
not,--and he staggered back.

Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and had him
by the collar before the smoke had cleared away.  He fired his own
pistol after the men, who were already retreating; and dragged the boy
up.

'Clasp your arm tighter,' said Sikes, as he drew him through the
window.  'Give me a shawl here.  They've hit him.  Quick!  How the boy
bleeds!'

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of
fire-arms, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried
over uneven ground at a rapid pace.  And then, the noises grew confused
in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept over the boy's heart;
and he saw or heard no more.



CHAPTER XXIII

WHICH CONTAINS THE SUBSTANCE OF A PLEASANT CONVERSATION BETWEEN MR.
BUMBLE AND A LADY; AND SHOWS THAT EVEN A BEADLE MAY BE SUSCEPTIBLE ON
SOME POINTS

The night was bitter cold.  The snow lay on the ground, frozen into a
hard thick crust, so that only the heaps that had drifted into byways
and corners were affected by the sharp wind that howled abroad:  which,
as if expending increased fury on such prey as it found, caught it
savagely up in clouds, and, whirling it into a thousand misty eddies,
scattered it in air.  Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night
for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire and thank God
they were at home; and for the homeless, starving wretch to lay him
down and die.  Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare
streets, at such times, who, let their crimes have been what they may,
can hardly open them in a more bitter world.

Such was the aspect of out-of-doors affairs, when Mrs. Corney, the
matron of the workhouse to which our readers have been already
introduced as the birthplace of Oliver Twist, sat herself down before a
cheerful fire in her own little room, and glanced, with no small degree
of complacency, at a small round table:  on which stood a tray of
corresponding size, furnished with all necessary materials for the most
grateful meal that matrons enjoy.  In fact, Mrs. Corney was about to
solace herself with a cup of tea. As she glanced from the table to the
fireplace, where the smallest of all possible kettles was singing a
small song in a small voice, her inward satisfaction evidently
increased,--so much so, indeed, that Mrs. Corney smiled.

'Well!' said the matron, leaning her elbow on the table, and looking
reflectively at the fire; 'I'm sure we have all on us a great deal to
be grateful for!  A great deal, if we did but know it.  Ah!'

Mrs. Corney shook her head mournfully, as if deploring the mental
blindness of those paupers who did not know it; and thrusting a silver
spoon (private property) into the inmost recesses of a two-ounce tin
tea-caddy, proceeded to make the tea.

How slight a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail minds!  The
black teapot, being very small and easily filled, ran over while Mrs.
Corney was moralising; and the water slightly scalded Mrs. Corney's
hand.

'Drat the pot!' said the worthy matron, setting it down very hastily on
the hob; 'a little stupid thing, that only holds a couple of cups!
What use is it of, to anybody!  Except,' said Mrs. Corney, pausing,
'except to a poor desolate creature like me.  Oh dear!'

With these words, the matron dropped into her chair, and, once more
resting her elbow on the table, thought of her solitary fate.  The
small teapot, and the single cup, had awakened in her mind sad
recollections of Mr. Corney (who had not been dead more than
five-and-twenty years); and she was overpowered.

'I shall never get another!' said Mrs. Corney, pettishly; 'I shall
never get another--like him.'

Whether this remark bore reference to the husband, or the teapot, is
uncertain.  It might have been the latter; for Mrs. Corney looked at it
as she spoke; and took it up afterwards.  She had just tasted her first
cup, when she was disturbed by a soft tap at the room-door.

'Oh, come in with you!' said Mrs. Corney, sharply.  'Some of the old
women dying, I suppose.  They always die when I'm at meals. Don't stand
there, letting the cold air in, don't.  What's amiss now, eh?'

'Nothing, ma'am, nothing,' replied a man's voice.

'Dear me!' exclaimed the matron, in a much sweeter tone, 'is that Mr.
Bumble?'

'At your service, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble, who had been stopping
outside to rub his shoes clean, and to shake the snow off his coat; and
who now made his appearance, bearing the cocked hat in one hand and a
bundle in the other.  'Shall I shut the door, ma'am?'

The lady modestly hesitated to reply, lest there should be any
impropriety in holding an interview with Mr. Bumble, with closed doors.
Mr. Bumble taking advantage of the hesitation, and being very cold
himself, shut it without permission.

'Hard weather, Mr. Bumble,' said the matron.

'Hard, indeed, ma'am,' replied the beadle.  'Anti-porochial weather
this, ma'am.  We have given away, Mrs. Corney, we have given away a
matter of twenty quartern loaves and a cheese and a half, this very
blessed afternoon; and yet them paupers are not contented.'

'Of course not.  When would they be, Mr. Bumble?' said the matron,
sipping her tea.

'When, indeed, ma'am!' rejoined Mr. Bumble.  'Why here's one man that,
in consideration of his wife and large family, has a quartern loaf and
a good pound of cheese, full weight.  Is he grateful, ma'am?  Is he
grateful?  Not a copper farthing's worth of it!  What does he do,
ma'am, but ask for a few coals; if it's only a pocket handkerchief
full, he says!  Coals! What would he do with coals?  Toast his cheese
with 'em and then come back for more.  That's the way with these
people, ma'am; give 'em a apron full of coals to-day, and they'll come
back for another, the day after to-morrow, as brazen as alabaster.'

The matron expressed her entire concurrence in this intelligible
simile; and the beadle went on.

'I never,' said Mr. Bumble, 'see anything like the pitch it's got to.
The day afore yesterday, a man--you have been a married woman, ma'am,
and I may mention it to you--a man, with hardly a rag upon his back
(here Mrs. Corney looked at the floor), goes to our overseer's door
when he has got company coming to dinner; and says, he must be
relieved, Mrs. Corney.  As he wouldn't go away, and shocked the company
very much, our overseer sent him out a pound of potatoes and half a
pint of oatmeal.  "My heart!" says the ungrateful villain, "what's the
use of _this_ to me?  You might as well give me a pair of iron
spectacles!"  "Very good," says our overseer, taking 'em away again,
"you won't get anything else here."  "Then I'll die in the streets!"
says the vagrant.  "Oh no, you won't," says our overseer.'

'Ha! ha!  That was very good!  So like Mr. Grannett, wasn't it?'
interposed the matron.  'Well, Mr. Bumble?'

'Well, ma'am,' rejoined the beadle, 'he went away; and he _did_ die in
the streets.  There's a obstinate pauper for you!'

'It beats anything I could have believed,' observed the matron
emphatically.  'But don't you think out-of-door relief a very bad
thing, any way, Mr. Bumble?  You're a gentleman of experience, and
ought to know.  Come.'

'Mrs. Corney,' said the beadle, smiling as men smile who are conscious
of superior information, 'out-of-door relief, properly managed:
properly managed, ma'am: is the porochial safeguard.  The great
principle of out-of-door relief is, to give the paupers exactly what
they don't want; and then they get tired of coming.'

'Dear me!' exclaimed Mrs. Corney.  'Well, that is a good one, too!'

'Yes.  Betwixt you and me, ma'am,' returned Mr. Bumble, 'that's the
great principle; and that's the reason why, if you look at any cases
that get into them owdacious newspapers, you'll always observe that
sick families have been relieved with slices of cheese.  That's the
rule now, Mrs. Corney, all over the country. But, however,' said the
beadle, stopping to unpack his bundle, 'these are official secrets,
ma'am; not to be spoken of; except, as I may say, among the porochial
officers, such as ourselves. This is the port wine, ma'am, that the
board ordered for the infirmary; real, fresh, genuine port wine; only
out of the cask this forenoon; clear as a bell, and no sediment!'

Having held the first bottle up to the light, and shaken it well to
test its excellence, Mr. Bumble placed them both on top of a chest of
drawers; folded the handkerchief in which they had been wrapped; put it
carefully in his pocket; and took up his hat, as if to go.

'You'll have a very cold walk, Mr. Bumble,' said the matron.

'It blows, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble, turning up his coat-collar,
'enough to cut one's ears off.'

The matron looked, from the little kettle, to the beadle, who was
moving towards the door; and as the beadle coughed, preparatory to
bidding her good-night, bashfully inquired whether--whether he wouldn't
take a cup of tea?

Mr. Bumble instantaneously turned back his collar again; laid his hat
and stick upon a chair; and drew another chair up to the table.  As he
slowly seated himself, he looked at the lady.  She fixed her eyes upon
the little teapot.  Mr. Bumble coughed again, and slightly smiled.

Mrs. Corney rose to get another cup and saucer from the closet. As she
sat down, her eyes once again encountered those of the gallant beadle;
she coloured, and applied herself to the task of making his tea.  Again
Mr. Bumble coughed--louder this time than he had coughed yet.

'Sweet?  Mr. Bumble?' inquired the matron, taking up the sugar-basin.

'Very sweet, indeed, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble.  He fixed his eyes on
Mrs. Corney as he said this; and if ever a beadle looked tender, Mr.
Bumble was that beadle at that moment.

The tea was made, and handed in silence.  Mr. Bumble, having spread a
handkerchief over his knees to prevent the crumbs from sullying the
splendour of his shorts, began to eat and drink; varying these
amusements, occasionally, by fetching a deep sigh; which, however, had
no injurious effect upon his appetite, but, on the contrary, rather
seemed to facilitate his operations in the tea and toast department.

'You have a cat, ma'am, I see,' said Mr. Bumble, glancing at one who,
in the centre of her family, was basking before the fire; 'and kittens
too, I declare!'

'I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble, you can't think,' replied the
matron.  'They're _so_ happy, _so_ frolicsome, and _so_ cheerful, that
they are quite companions for me.'

'Very nice animals, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble, approvingly; 'so very
domestic.'

'Oh, yes!' rejoined the matron with enthusiasm; 'so fond of their home
too, that it's quite a pleasure, I'm sure.'

'Mrs. Corney, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble, slowly, and marking the time
with his teaspoon, 'I mean to say this, ma'am; that any cat, or kitten,
that could live with you, ma'am, and _not_ be fond of its home, must be
a ass, ma'am.'

'Oh, Mr. Bumble!' remonstrated Mrs. Corney.

'It's of no use disguising facts, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble, slowly
flourishing the teaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which made him
doubly impressive; 'I would drown it myself, with pleasure.'

'Then you're a cruel man,' said the matron vivaciously, as she held out
her hand for the beadle's cup; 'and a very hard-hearted man besides.'

'Hard-hearted, ma'am?' said Mr. Bumble.  'Hard?'  Mr. Bumble resigned
his cup without another word; squeezed Mrs. Corney's little finger as
she took it; and inflicting two open-handed slaps upon his laced
waistcoat, gave a mighty sigh, and hitched his chair a very little
morsel farther from the fire.

It was a round table; and as Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble had been
sitting opposite each other, with no great space between them, and
fronting the fire, it will be seen that Mr. Bumble, in receding from
the fire, and still keeping at the table, increased the distance
between himself and Mrs. Corney; which proceeding, some prudent readers
will doubtless be disposed to admire, and to consider an act of great
heroism on Mr. Bumble's part:  he being in some sort tempted by time,
place, and opportunity, to give utterance to certain soft nothings,
which however well they may become the lips of the light and
thoughtless, do seem immeasurably beneath the dignity of judges of the
land, members of parliament, ministers of state, lord mayors, and other
great public functionaries, but more particularly beneath the
stateliness and gravity of a beadle:  who (as is well known) should be
the sternest and most inflexible among them all.

Whatever were Mr. Bumble's intentions, however (and no doubt they were
of the best): it unfortunately happened, as has been twice before
remarked, that the table was a round one; consequently Mr. Bumble,
moving his chair by little and little, soon began to diminish the
distance between himself and the matron; and, continuing to travel
round the outer edge of the circle, brought his chair, in time, close
to that in which the matron was seated.

Indeed, the two chairs touched; and when they did so, Mr. Bumble
stopped.

Now, if the matron had moved her chair to the right, she would have
been scorched by the fire; and if to the left, she must have fallen
into Mr. Bumble's arms; so (being a discreet matron, and no doubt
foreseeing these consequences at a glance) she remained where she was,
and handed Mr. Bumble another cup of tea.

'Hard-hearted, Mrs. Corney?' said Mr. Bumble, stirring his tea, and
looking up into the matron's face; 'are _you_ hard-hearted, Mrs.
Corney?'

'Dear me!' exclaimed the matron, 'what a very curious question from a
single man.  What can you want to know for, Mr. Bumble?'

The beadle drank his tea to the last drop; finished a piece of toast;
whisked the crumbs off his knees; wiped his lips; and deliberately
kissed the matron.

'Mr. Bumble!' cried that discreet lady in a whisper; for the fright was
so great, that she had quite lost her voice, 'Mr. Bumble, I shall
scream!'  Mr. Bumble made no reply; but in a slow and dignified manner,
put his arm round the matron's waist.

As the lady had stated her intention of screaming, of course she would
have screamed at this additional boldness, but that the exertion was
rendered unnecessary by a hasty knocking at the door:  which was no
sooner heard, than Mr. Bumble darted, with much agility, to the wine
bottles, and began dusting them with great violence:  while the matron
sharply demanded who was there.

It is worthy of remark, as a curious physical instance of the efficacy
of a sudden surprise in counteracting the effects of extreme fear, that
her voice had quite recovered all its official asperity.

'If you please, mistress,' said a withered old female pauper, hideously
ugly:  putting her head in at the door, 'Old Sally is a-going fast.'

'Well, what's that to me?' angrily demanded the matron.  'I can't keep
her alive, can I?'

'No, no, mistress,' replied the old woman, 'nobody can; she's far
beyond the reach of help.  I've seen a many people die; little babes
and great strong men; and I know when death's a-coming, well enough.
But she's troubled in her mind: and when the fits are not on her,--and
that's not often, for she is dying very hard,--she says she has got
something to tell, which you must hear.  She'll never die quiet till
you come, mistress.'

At this intelligence, the worthy Mrs. Corney muttered a variety of
invectives against old women who couldn't even die without purposely
annoying their betters; and, muffling herself in a thick shawl which
she hastily caught up, briefly requested Mr. Bumble to stay till she
came back, lest anything particular should occur.  Bidding the
messenger walk fast, and not be all night hobbling up the stairs, she
followed her from the room with a very ill grace, scolding all the way.

Mr. Bumble's conduct on being left to himself, was rather inexplicable.
He opened the closet, counted the teaspoons, weighed the sugar-tongs,
closely inspected a silver milk-pot to ascertain that it was of the
genuine metal, and, having satisfied his curiosity on these points, put
on his cocked hat corner-wise, and danced with much gravity four
distinct times round the table.

Having gone through this very extraordinary performance, he took off
the cocked hat again, and, spreading himself before the fire with his
back towards it, seemed to be mentally engaged in taking an exact
inventory of the furniture.



CHAPTER XXIV

TREATS ON A VERY POOR SUBJECT.  BUT IS A SHORT ONE, AND MAY BE FOUND OF
IMPORTANCE IN THIS HISTORY

It was no unfit messenger of death, who had disturbed the quiet of the
matron's room.  Her body was bent by age; her limbs trembled with
palsy; her face, distorted into a mumbling leer, resembled more the
grotesque shaping of some wild pencil, than the work of Nature's hand.

Alas!  How few of Nature's faces are left alone to gladden us with
their beauty!  The cares, and sorrows, and hungerings, of the world,
change them as they change hearts; and it is only when those passions
sleep, and have lost their hold for ever, that the troubled clouds pass
off, and leave Heaven's surface clear.  It is a common thing for the
countenances of the dead, even in that fixed and rigid state, to
subside into the long-forgotten expression of sleeping infancy, and
settle into the very look of early life; so calm, so peaceful, do they
grow again, that those who knew them in their happy childhood, kneel by
the coffin's side in awe, and see the Angel even upon earth.

The old crone tottered along the passages, and up the stairs, muttering
some indistinct answers to the chidings of her companion; being at
length compelled to pause for breath, she gave the light into her hand,
and remained behind to follow as she might: while the more nimble
superior made her way to the room where the sick woman lay.

It was a bare garret-room, with a dim light burning at the farther end.
There was another old woman watching by the bed; the parish
apothecary's apprentice was standing by the fire, making a toothpick
out of a quill.

'Cold night, Mrs. Corney,' said this young gentleman, as the matron
entered.

'Very cold, indeed, sir,' replied the mistress, in her most civil
tones, and dropping a curtsey as she spoke.

'You should get better coals out of your contractors,' said the
apothecary's deputy, breaking a lump on the top of the fire with the
rusty poker; 'these are not at all the sort of thing for a cold night.'

'They're the board's choosing, sir,' returned the matron. 'The least
they could do, would be to keep us pretty warm:  for our places are
hard enough.'

The conversation was here interrupted by a moan from the sick woman.

'Oh!' said the young mag, turning his face towards the bed, as if he
had previously quite forgotten the patient, 'it's all U.P. there, Mrs.
Corney.'

'It is, is it, sir?' asked the matron.

'If she lasts a couple of hours, I shall be surprised,' said the
apothecary's apprentice, intent upon the toothpick's point. 'It's a
break-up of the system altogether.  Is she dozing, old lady?'

The attendant stooped over the bed, to ascertain; and nodded in the
affirmative.

'Then perhaps she'll go off in that way, if you don't make a row,' said
the young man.  'Put the light on the floor.  She won't see it there.'

The attendant did as she was told:  shaking her head meanwhile, to
intimate that the woman would not die so easily; having done so, she
resumed her seat by the side of the other nurse, who had by this time
returned.  The mistress, with an expression of impatience, wrapped
herself in her shawl, and sat at the foot of the bed.

The apothecary's apprentice, having completed the manufacture of the
toothpick, planted himself in front of the fire and made good use of it
for ten minutes or so:  when apparently growing rather dull, he wished
Mrs. Corney joy of her job, and took himself off on tiptoe.

When they had sat in silence for some time, the two old women rose from
the bed, and crouching over the fire, held out their withered hands to
catch the heat.  The flame threw a ghastly light on their shrivelled
faces, and made their ugliness appear terrible, as, in this position,
they began to converse in a low voice.

'Did she say any more, Anny dear, while I was gone?' inquired the
messenger.

'Not a word,' replied the other.  'She plucked and tore at her arms for
a little time; but I held her hands, and she soon dropped off.  She
hasn't much strength in her, so I easily kept her quiet.  I ain't so
weak for an old woman, although I am on parish allowance; no, no!'

'Did she drink the hot wine the doctor said she was to have?' demanded
the first.

'I tried to get it down,' rejoined the other.  'But her teeth were
tight set, and she clenched the mug so hard that it was as much as I
could do to get it back again.  So I drank it; and it did me good!'

Looking cautiously round, to ascertain that they were not overheard,
the two hags cowered nearer to the fire, and chuckled heartily.

'I mind the time,' said the first speaker, 'when she would have done
the same, and made rare fun of it afterwards.'

'Ay, that she would,' rejoined the other; 'she had a merry heart. 'A
many, many, beautiful corpses she laid out, as nice and neat as
waxwork.  My old eyes have seen them--ay, and those old hands touched
them too; for I have helped her, scores of times.'

Stretching forth her trembling fingers as she spoke, the old creature
shook them exultingly before her face, and fumbling in her pocket,
brought out an old time-discoloured tin snuff-box, from which she shook
a few grains into the outstretched palm of her companion, and a few
more into her own.  While they were thus employed, the matron, who had
been impatiently watching until the dying woman should awaken from her
stupor, joined them by the fire, and sharply asked how long she was to
wait?

'Not long, mistress,' replied the second woman, looking up into her
face.  'We have none of us long to wait for Death.  Patience, patience!
He'll be here soon enough for us all.'

'Hold your tongue, you doting idiot!' said the matron sternly. 'You,
Martha, tell me; has she been in this way before?'

'Often,' answered the first woman.

'But will never be again,' added the second one; 'that is, she'll never
wake again but once--and mind, mistress, that won't be for long!'

'Long or short,' said the matron, snappishly, 'she won't find me here
when she does wake; take care, both of you, how you worry me again for
nothing.  It's no part of my duty to see all the old women in the house
die, and I won't--that's more. Mind that, you impudent old harridans.
If you make a fool of me again, I'll soon cure you, I warrant you!'

She was bouncing away, when a cry from the two women, who had turned
towards the bed, caused her to look round.  The patient had raised
herself upright, and was stretching her arms towards them.

'Who's that?' she cried, in a hollow voice.

'Hush, hush!' said one of the women, stooping over her.  'Lie down, lie
down!'

'I'll never lie down again alive!' said the woman, struggling. 'I
_will_ tell her!  Come here!  Nearer!  Let me whisper in your ear.'

She clutched the matron by the arm, and forcing her into a chair by the
bedside, was about to speak, when looking round, she caught sight of
the two old women bending forward in the attitude of eager listeners.

'Turn them away,' said the woman, drowsily; 'make haste! make haste!'

The two old crones, chiming in together, began pouring out many piteous
lamentations that the poor dear was too far gone to know her best
friends; and were uttering sundry protestations that they would never
leave her, when the superior pushed them from the room, closed the
door, and returned to the bedside.  On being excluded, the old ladies
changed their tone, and cried through the keyhole that old Sally was
drunk; which, indeed, was not unlikely; since, in addition to a
moderate dose of opium prescribed by the apothecary, she was labouring
under the effects of a final taste of gin-and-water which had been
privily administered, in the openness of their hearts, by the worthy
old ladies themselves.

'Now listen to me,' said the dying woman aloud, as if making a great
effort to revive one latent spark of energy.  'In this very room--in
this very bed--I once nursed a pretty young creetur', that was brought
into the house with her feet cut and bruised with walking, and all
soiled with dust and blood.  She gave birth to a boy, and died.  Let me
think--what was the year again!'

'Never mind the year,' said the impatient auditor; 'what about her?'

'Ay,' murmured the sick woman, relapsing into her former drowsy state,
'what about her?--what about--I know!' she cried, jumping fiercely up:
her face flushed, and her eyes starting from her head--'I robbed her,
so I did!  She wasn't cold--I tell you she wasn't cold, when I stole
it!'

'Stole what, for God's sake?' cried the matron, with a gesture as if
she would call for help.

'_It_!' replied the woman, laying her hand over the other's mouth. 'The
only thing she had.  She wanted clothes to keep her warm, and food to
eat; but she had kept it safe, and had it in her bosom.  It was gold, I
tell you!  Rich gold, that might have saved her life!'

'Gold!' echoed the matron, bending eagerly over the woman as she fell
back.  'Go on, go on--yes--what of it?  Who was the mother? When was
it?'

'She charge me to keep it safe,' replied the woman with a groan, 'and
trusted me as the only woman about her.  I stole it in my heart when
she first showed it me hanging round her neck; and the child's death,
perhaps, is on me besides!  They would have treated him better, if they
had known it all!'

'Known what?' asked the other.  'Speak!'

'The boy grew so like his mother,' said the woman, rambling on, and not
heeding the question, 'that I could never forget it when I saw his
face.  Poor girl! poor girl!  She was so young, too! Such a gentle
lamb!  Wait; there's more to tell.  I have not told you all, have I?'

'No, no,' replied the matron, inclining her head to catch the words, as
they came more faintly from the dying woman.  'Be quick, or it may be
too late!'

'The mother,' said the woman, making a more violent effort than before;
'the mother, when the pains of death first came upon her, whispered in
my ear that if her baby was born alive, and thrived, the day might come
when it would not feel so much disgraced to hear its poor young mother
named. "And oh, kind Heaven!" she said, folding her thin hands
together, "whether it be boy or girl, raise up some friends for it in
this troubled world, and take pity upon a lonely desolate child,
abandoned to its mercy!"'

'The boy's name?' demanded the matron.

'They _called_ him Oliver,' replied the woman, feebly.  'The gold I
stole was--'

'Yes, yes--what?' cried the other.

She was bending eagerly over the woman to hear her reply; but drew
back, instinctively, as she once again rose, slowly and stiffly, into a
sitting posture; then, clutching the coverlid with both hands, muttered
some indistinct sounds in her throat, and fell lifeless on the bed.

      *      *      *      *      *

'Stone dead!' said one of the old women, hurrying in as soon as the
door was opened.

'And nothing to tell, after all,' rejoined the matron, walking
carelessly away.

The two crones, to all appearance, too busily occupied in the
preparations for their dreadful duties to make any reply, were left
alone, hovering about the body.



CHAPTER XXV

WHEREIN THIS HISTORY REVERTS TO MR. FAGIN AND COMPANY

While these things were passing in the country workhouse, Mr. Fagin sat
in the old den--the same from which Oliver had been removed by the
girl--brooding over a dull, smoky fire.  He held a pair of bellows upon
his knee, with which he had apparently been endeavouring to rouse it
into more cheerful action; but he had fallen into deep thought; and
with his arms folded on them, and his chin resting on his thumbs, fixed
his eyes, abstractedly, on the rusty bars.

At a table behind him sat the Artful Dodger, Master Charles Bates, and
Mr. Chitling: all intent upon a game of whist; the Artful taking dummy
against Master Bates and Mr. Chitling.  The countenance of the
first-named gentleman, peculiarly intelligent at all times, acquired
great additional interest from his close observance of the game, and
his attentive perusal of Mr. Chitling's hand; upon which, from time to
time, as occasion served, he bestowed a variety of earnest glances:
wisely regulating his own play by the result of his observations upon
his neighbour's cards.  It being a cold night, the Dodger wore his hat,
as, indeed, was often his custom within doors.  He also sustained a
clay pipe between his teeth, which he only removed for a brief space
when he deemed it necessary to apply for refreshment to a quart pot
upon the table, which stood ready filled with gin-and-water for the
accommodation of the company.

Master Bates was also attentive to the play; but being of a more
excitable nature than his accomplished friend, it was observable that
he more frequently applied himself to the gin-and-water, and moreover
indulged in many jests and irrelevant remarks, all highly unbecoming a
scientific rubber.  Indeed, the Artful, presuming upon their close
attachment, more than once took occasion to reason gravely with his
companion upon these improprieties; all of which remonstrances, Master
Bates received in extremely good part; merely requesting his friend to
be 'blowed,' or to insert his head in a sack, or replying with some
other neatly-turned witticism of a similar kind, the happy application
of which, excited considerable admiration in the mind of Mr. Chitling.
It was remarkable that the latter gentleman and his partner invariably
lost; and that the circumstance, so far from angering Master Bates,
appeared to afford him the highest amusement, inasmuch as he laughed
most uproariously at the end of every deal, and protested that he had
never seen such a jolly game in all his born days.

'That's two doubles and the rub,' said Mr. Chitling, with a very long
face, as he drew half-a-crown from his waistcoat-pocket.  'I never see
such a feller as you, Jack; you win everything.  Even when we've good
cards, Charley and I can't make nothing of 'em.'

Either the master or the manner of this remark, which was made very
ruefully, delighted Charley Bates so much, that his consequent shout of
laughter roused the Jew from his reverie, and induced him to inquire
what was the matter.

'Matter, Fagin!' cried Charley.  'I wish you had watched the play.
Tommy Chitling hasn't won a point; and I went partners with him against
the Artfull and dumb.'

'Ay, ay!' said the Jew, with a grin, which sufficiently demonstrated
that he was at no loss to understand the reason. 'Try 'em again, Tom;
try 'em again.'

'No more of it for me, thank 'ee, Fagin,' replied Mr. Chitling; 'I've
had enough.  That 'ere Dodger has such a run of luck that there's no
standing again' him.'

'Ha! ha! my dear,' replied the Jew, 'you must get up very early in the
morning, to win against the Dodger.'

'Morning!' said Charley Bates; 'you must put your boots on over-night,
and have a telescope at each eye, and a opera-glass between your
shoulders, if you want to come over him.'

Mr. Dawkins received these handsome compliments with much philosophy,
and offered to cut any gentleman in company, for the first
picture-card, at a shilling at a time.  Nobody accepting the challenge,
and his pipe being by this time smoked out, he proceeded to amuse
himself by sketching a ground-plan of Newgate on the table with the
piece of chalk which had served him in lieu of counters; whistling,
meantime, with peculiar shrillness.

'How precious dull you are, Tommy!' said the Dodger, stopping short
when there had been a long silence; and addressing Mr. Chitling.  'What
do you think he's thinking of, Fagin?'

'How should I know, my dear?' replied the Jew, looking round as he
plied the bellows.  'About his losses, maybe; or the little retirement
in the country that he's just left, eh?  Ha! ha!  Is that it, my dear?'

'Not a bit of it,' replied the Dodger, stopping the subject of
discourse as Mr. Chitling was about to reply.  'What do _you_ say,
Charley?'

'_I_ should say,' replied Master Bates, with a grin, 'that he was
uncommon sweet upon Betsy.  See how he's a-blushing!  Oh, my eye!
here's a merry-go-rounder!  Tommy Chitling's in love!  Oh, Fagin,
Fagin! what a spree!'

Thoroughly overpowered with the notion of Mr. Chitling being the victim
of the tender passion, Master Bates threw himself back in his chair
with such violence, that he lost his balance, and pitched over upon the
floor; where (the accident abating nothing of his merriment) he lay at
full length until his laugh was over, when he resumed his former
position, and began another laugh.

'Never mind him, my dear,' said the Jew, winking at Mr. Dawkins, and
giving Master Bates a reproving tap with the nozzle of the bellows.
'Betsy's a fine girl.  Stick up to her, Tom.  Stick up to her.'

'What I mean to say, Fagin,' replied Mr. Chitling, very red in the
face, 'is, that that isn't anything to anybody here.'

'No more it is,' replied the Jew; 'Charley will talk.  Don't mind him,
my dear; don't mind him.  Betsy's a fine girl.  Do as she bids you,
Tom, and you will make your fortune.'

'So I _do_ do as she bids me,' replied Mr. Chitling; 'I shouldn't have
been milled, if it hadn't been for her advice.  But it turned out a
good job for you; didn't it, Fagin!  And what's six weeks of it?  It
must come, some time or another, and why not in the winter time when
you don't want to go out a-walking so much; eh, Fagin?'

'Ah, to be sure, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'You wouldn't mind it again, Tom, would you,' asked the Dodger, winking
upon Charley and the Jew, 'if Bet was all right?'

'I mean to say that I shouldn't,' replied Tom, angrily. 'There, now.
Ah!  Who'll say as much as that, I should like to know; eh, Fagin?'

'Nobody, my dear,' replied the Jew; 'not a soul, Tom.  I don't know one
of 'em that would do it besides you; not one of 'em, my dear.'

'I might have got clear off, if I'd split upon her; mightn't I, Fagin?'
angrily pursued the poor half-witted dupe.  'A word from me would have
done it; wouldn't it, Fagin?'

'To be sure it would, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'But I didn't blab it; did I, Fagin?' demanded Tom, pouring question
upon question with great volubility.

'No, no, to be sure,' replied the Jew; 'you were too stout-hearted for
that.  A deal too stout, my dear!'

'Perhaps I was,' rejoined Tom, looking round; 'and if I was, what's to
laugh at, in that; eh, Fagin?'

The Jew, perceiving that Mr. Chitling was considerably roused, hastened
to assure him that nobody was laughing; and to prove the gravity of the
company, appealed to Master Bates, the principal offender.  But,
unfortunately, Charley, in opening his mouth to reply that he was never
more serious in his life, was unable to prevent the escape of such a
violent roar, that the abused Mr. Chitling, without any preliminary
ceremonies, rushed across the room and aimed a blow at the offender;
who, being skilful in evading pursuit, ducked to avoid it, and chose
his time so well that it lighted on the chest of the merry old
gentleman, and caused him to stagger to the wall, where he stood
panting for breath, while Mr. Chitling looked on in intense dismay.

'Hark!' cried the Dodger at this moment, 'I heard the tinkler.'
Catching up the light, he crept softly upstairs.

The bell was rung again, with some impatience, while the party were in
darkness.  After a short pause, the Dodger reappeared, and whispered
Fagin mysteriously.

'What!' cried the Jew, 'alone?'

The Dodger nodded in the affirmative, and, shading the flame of the
candle with his hand, gave Charley Bates a private intimation, in dumb
show, that he had better not be funny just then.  Having performed this
friendly office, he fixed his eyes on the Jew's face, and awaited his
directions.

The old man bit his yellow fingers, and meditated for some seconds; his
face working with agitation the while, as if he dreaded something, and
feared to know the worst.  At length he raised his head.

'Where is he?' he asked.

The Dodger pointed to the floor above, and made a gesture, as if to
leave the room.

'Yes,' said the Jew, answering the mute inquiry; 'bring him down. Hush!
Quiet, Charley!  Gently, Tom!  Scarce, scarce!'

This brief direction to Charley Bates, and his recent antagonist, was
softly and immediately obeyed.  There was no sound of their whereabout,
when the Dodger descended the stairs, bearing the light in his hand,
and followed by a man in a coarse smock-frock; who, after casting a
hurried glance round the room, pulled off a large wrapper which had
concealed the lower portion of his face, and disclosed: all haggard,
unwashed, and unshorn: the features of flash Toby Crackit.

'How are you, Faguey?' said this worthy, nodding to the Jew. 'Pop that
shawl away in my castor, Dodger, so that I may know where to find it
when I cut; that's the time of day!  You'll be a fine young cracksman
afore the old file now.'

With these words he pulled up the smock-frock; and, winding it round
his middle, drew a chair to the fire, and placed his feet upon the hob.

'See there, Faguey,' he said, pointing disconsolately to his top boots;
'not a drop of Day and Martin since you know when; not a bubble of
blacking, by Jove!   But don't look at me in that way, man.  All in
good time.  I can't talk about business till I've eat and drank; so
produce the sustainance, and let's have a quiet fill-out for the first
time these three days!'

The Jew motioned to the Dodger to place what eatables there were, upon
the table; and, seating himself opposite the housebreaker, waited his
leisure.

To judge from appearances, Toby was by no means in a hurry to open the
conversation.  At first, the Jew contented himself with patiently
watching his countenance, as if to gain from its expression some clue
to the intelligence he brought; but in vain.

He looked tired and worn, but there was the same complacent repose upon
his features that they always wore:  and through dirt, and beard, and
whisker, there still shone, unimpaired, the self-satisfied smirk of
flash Toby Crackit. Then the Jew, in an agony of impatience, watched
every morsel he put into his mouth; pacing up and down the room,
meanwhile, in irrepressible excitement.  It was all of no use.  Toby
continued to eat with the utmost outward indifference, until he could
eat no more; then, ordering the Dodger out, he closed the door, mixed a
glass of spirits and water, and composed himself for talking.

'First and foremost, Faguey,' said Toby.

'Yes, yes!' interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to
declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet against the
low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots to about the level of his
eye, he quietly resumed.

'First and foremost, Faguey,' said the housebreaker, 'how's Bill?'

'What!' screamed the Jew, starting from his seat.

'Why, you don't mean to say--' began Toby, turning pale.

'Mean!' cried the Jew, stamping furiously on the ground. 'Where are
they?  Sikes and the boy!  Where are they?  Where have they been?
Where are they hiding?  Why have they not been here?'

'The crack failed,' said Toby faintly.

'I know it,' replied the Jew, tearing a newspaper from his pocket and
pointing to it.  'What more?'

'They fired and hit the boy.  We cut over the fields at the back, with
him between us--straight as the crow flies--through hedge and ditch.
They gave chase.  Damme! the whole country was awake, and the dogs upon
us.'

'The boy!'

'Bill had him on his back, and scudded like the wind.  We stopped to
take him between us; his head hung down, and he was cold. They were
close upon our heels; every man for himself, and each from the gallows!
We parted company, and left the youngster lying in a ditch.  Alive or
dead, that's all I know about him.'

The Jew stopped to hear no more; but uttering a loud yell, and twining
his hands in his hair, rushed from the room, and from the house.



CHAPTER XXVI

IN WHICH A MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER APPEARS UPON THE SCENE; AND MANY
THINGS, INSEPARABLE FROM THIS HISTORY, ARE DONE AND PERFORMED

The old man had gained the street corner, before he began to recover
the effect of Toby Crackit's intelligence.  He had relaxed nothing of
his unusual speed; but was still pressing onward, in the same wild and
disordered manner, when the sudden dashing past of a carriage: and a
boisterous cry from the foot passengers, who saw his danger:  drove him
back upon the pavement.  Avoiding, as much as was possible, all the
main streets, and skulking only through the by-ways and alleys, he at
length emerged on Snow Hill.  Here he walked even faster than before;
nor did he linger until he had again turned into a court; when, as if
conscious that he was now in his proper element, he fell into his usual
shuffling pace, and seemed to breathe more freely.

Near to the spot on which Snow Hill and Holborn Hill meet, opens, upon
the right hand as you come out of the City, a narrow and dismal alley,
leading to Saffron Hill.  In its filthy shops are exposed for sale huge
bunches of second-hand silk handkerchiefs, of all sizes and patterns;
for here reside the traders who purchase them from pick-pockets.
Hundreds of these handkerchiefs hang dangling from pegs outside the
windows or flaunting from the door-posts; and the shelves, within, are
piled with them. Confined as the limits of Field Lane are, it has its
barber, its coffee-shop, its beer-shop, and its fried-fish warehouse.
It is a commercial colony of itself:  the emporium of petty larceny:
visited at early morning, and setting-in of dusk, by silent merchants,
who traffic in dark back-parlours, and who go as strangely as they
come.  Here, the clothesman, the shoe-vamper, and the rag-merchant,
display their goods, as sign-boards to the petty thief; here, stores of
old iron and bones, and heaps of mildewy fragments of woollen-stuff and
linen, rust and rot in the grimy cellars.

It was into this place that the Jew turned.  He was well known to the
sallow denizens of the lane; for such of them as were on the look-out
to buy or sell, nodded, familiarly, as he passed along. He replied to
their salutations in the same way; but bestowed no closer recognition
until he reached the further end of the alley; when he stopped, to
address a salesman of small stature, who had squeezed as much of his
person into a child's chair as the chair would hold, and was smoking a
pipe at his warehouse door.

'Why, the sight of you, Mr. Fagin, would cure the hoptalmy!' said this
respectable trader, in acknowledgment of the Jew's inquiry after his
health.

'The neighbourhood was a little too hot, Lively,' said Fagin, elevating
his eyebrows, and crossing his hands upon his shoulders.

'Well, I've heerd that complaint of it, once or twice before,' replied
the trader; 'but it soon cools down again; don't you find it so?'

Fagin nodded in the affirmative.  Pointing in the direction of Saffron
Hill, he inquired whether any one was up yonder to-night.

'At the Cripples?' inquired the man.

The Jew nodded.

'Let me see,' pursued the merchant, reflecting.

'Yes, there's some half-dozen of 'em gone in, that I knows. I don't
think your friend's there.'

'Sikes is not, I suppose?' inquired the Jew, with a disappointed
countenance.

'_Non istwentus_, as the lawyers say,' replied the little man, shaking
his head, and looking amazingly sly.  'Have you got anything in my line
to-night?'

'Nothing to-night,' said the Jew, turning away.

'Are you going up to the Cripples, Fagin?' cried the little man,
calling after him.  'Stop!  I don't mind if I have a drop there with
you!'

But as the Jew, looking back, waved his hand to intimate that he
preferred being alone; and, moreover, as the little man could not very
easily disengage himself from the chair; the sign of the Cripples was,
for a time, bereft of the advantage of Mr. Lively's presence.  By the
time he had got upon his legs, the Jew had disappeared; so Mr. Lively,
after ineffectually standing on tiptoe, in the hope of catching sight
of him, again forced himself into the little chair, and, exchanging a
shake of the head with a lady in the opposite shop, in which doubt and
mistrust were plainly mingled, resumed his pipe with a grave demeanour.

The Three Cripples, or rather the Cripples; which was the sign by which
the establishment was familiarly known to its patrons:  was the
public-house in which Mr. Sikes and his dog have already figured.
Merely making a sign to a man at the bar, Fagin walked straight
upstairs, and opening the door of a room, and softly insinuating
himself into the chamber, looked anxiously about: shading his eyes with
his hand, as if in search of some particular person.

The room was illuminated by two gas-lights; the glare of which was
prevented by the barred shutters, and closely-drawn curtains of faded
red, from being visible outside.  The ceiling was blackened, to prevent
its colour from being injured by the flaring of the lamps; and the
place was so full of dense tobacco smoke, that at first it was scarcely
possible to discern anything more.  By degrees, however, as some of it
cleared away through the open door, an assemblage of heads, as confused
as the noises that greeted the ear, might be made out; and as the eye
grew more accustomed to the scene, the spectator gradually became aware
of the presence of a numerous company, male and female, crowded round a
long table: at the upper end of which, sat a chairman with a hammer of
office in his hand; while a professional gentleman with a bluish nose,
and his face tied up for the benefit of a toothache, presided at a
jingling piano in a remote corner.

As Fagin stepped softly in, the professional gentleman, running over
the keys by way of prelude, occasioned a general cry of order for a
song; which having subsided, a young lady proceeded to entertain the
company with a ballad in four verses, between each of which the
accompanyist played the melody all through, as loud as he could.  When
this was over, the chairman gave a sentiment, after which, the
professional gentleman on the chairman's right and left volunteered a
duet, and sang it, with great applause.

It was curious to observe some faces which stood out prominently from
among the group.  There was the chairman himself, (the landlord of the
house,) a coarse, rough, heavy built fellow, who, while the songs were
proceeding, rolled his eyes hither and thither, and, seeming to give
himself up to joviality, had an eye for everything that was done, and
an ear for everything that was said--and sharp ones, too.  Near him
were the singers: receiving, with professional indifference, the
compliments of the company, and applying themselves, in turn, to a
dozen proffered glasses of spirits and water, tendered by their more
boisterous admirers; whose countenances, expressive of almost every
vice in almost every grade, irresistibly attracted the attention, by
their very repulsiveness.  Cunning, ferocity, and drunkeness in all its
stages, were there, in their strongest aspect; and women: some with the
last lingering tinge of their early freshness almost fading as you
looked:  others with every mark and stamp of their sex utterly beaten
out, and presenting but one loathsome blank of profligacy and crime;
some mere girls, others but young women, and none past the prime of
life; formed the darkest and saddest portion of this dreary picture.

Fagin, troubled by no grave emotions, looked eagerly from face to face
while these proceedings were in progress; but apparently without
meeting that of which he was in search. Succeeding, at length, in
catching the eye of the man who occupied the chair, he beckoned to him
slightly, and left the room, as quietly as he had entered it.

'What can I do for you, Mr. Fagin?' inquired the man, as he followed
him out to the landing.  'Won't you join us?  They'll be delighted,
every one of 'em.'

The Jew shook his head impatiently, and said in a whisper, 'Is _he_
here?'

'No,' replied the man.

'And no news of Barney?' inquired Fagin.

'None,' replied the landlord of the Cripples; for it was he. 'He won't
stir till it's all safe.  Depend on it, they're on the scent down
there; and that if he moved, he'd blow upon the thing at once.  He's
all right enough, Barney is, else I should have heard of him.  I'll
pound it, that Barney's managing properly. Let him alone for that.'

'Will _he_ be here to-night?' asked the Jew, laying the same emphasis
on the pronoun as before.

'Monks, do you mean?' inquired the landlord, hesitating.

'Hush!' said the Jew.  'Yes.'

'Certain,' replied the man, drawing a gold watch from his fob; 'I
expected him here before now.  If you'll wait ten minutes, he'll be--'

'No, no,' said the Jew, hastily; as though, however desirous he might
be to see the person in question, he was nevertheless relieved by his
absence.  'Tell him I came here to see him; and that he must come to me
to-night.  No, say to-morrow.  As he is not here, to-morrow will be
time enough.'

'Good!' said the man.  'Nothing more?'

'Not a word now,' said the Jew, descending the stairs.

'I say,' said the other, looking over the rails, and speaking in a
hoarse whisper; 'what a time this would be for a sell!  I've got Phil
Barker here: so drunk, that a boy might take him!'

'Ah!  But it's not Phil Barker's time,' said the Jew, looking up.

'Phil has something more to do, before we can afford to part with him;
so go back to the company, my dear, and tell them to lead merry
lives--_while they last_.  Ha! ha! ha!'

The landlord reciprocated the old man's laugh; and returned to his
guests.  The Jew was no sooner alone, than his countenance resumed its
former expression of anxiety and thought.  After a brief reflection, he
called a hack-cabriolet, and bade the man drive towards Bethnal Green.
He dismissed him within some quarter of a mile of Mr. Sikes's
residence, and performed the short remainder of the distance, on foot.

'Now,' muttered the Jew, as he knocked at the door, 'if there is any
deep play here, I shall have it out of you, my girl, cunning as you
are.'

She was in her room, the woman said.  Fagin crept softly upstairs, and
entered it without any previous ceremony.  The girl was alone; lying
with her head upon the table, and her hair straggling over it.

'She has been drinking,' thought the Jew, cooly, 'or perhaps she is
only miserable.'

The old man turned to close the door, as he made this reflection; the
noise thus occasioned, roused the girl.  She eyed his crafty face
narrowly, as she inquired to his recital of Toby Crackit's story.  When
it was concluded, she sank into her former attitude, but spoke not a
word.  She pushed the candle impatiently away; and once or twice as she
feverishly changed her position, shuffled her feet upon the ground; but
this was all.

During the silence, the Jew looked restlessly about the room, as if to
assure himself that there were no appearances of Sikes having covertly
returned.  Apparently satisfied with his inspection, he coughed twice
or thrice, and made as many efforts to open a conversation; but the
girl heeded him no more than if he had been made of stone.  At length
he made another attempt; and rubbing his hands together, said, in his
most conciliatory tone,

'And where should you think Bill was now, my dear?'

The girl moaned out some half intelligible reply, that she could not
tell; and seemed, from the smothered noise that escaped her, to be
crying.

'And the boy, too,' said the Jew, straining his eyes to catch a glimpse
of her face.  'Poor leetle child!  Left in a ditch, Nance; only think!'

'The child,' said the girl, suddenly looking up, 'is better where he
is, than among us; and if no harm comes to Bill from it, I hope he lies
dead in the ditch and that his young bones may rot there.'

'What!' cried the Jew, in amazement.

'Ay, I do,' returned the girl, meeting his gaze.  'I shall be glad to
have him away from my eyes, and to know that the worst is over.  I
can't bear to have him about me.  The sight of him turns me against
myself, and all of you.'

'Pooh!' said the Jew, scornfully.  'You're drunk.'

'Am I?' cried the girl bitterly.  'It's no fault of yours, if I am not!
You'd never have me anything else, if you had your will, except
now;--the humour doesn't suit you, doesn't it?'

'No!' rejoined the Jew, furiously.  'It does not.'

'Change it, then!' responded the girl, with a laugh.

'Change it!' exclaimed the Jew, exasperated beyond all bounds by his
companion's unexpected obstinacy, and the vexation of the night, 'I
_will_ change it!  Listen to me, you drab.  Listen to me, who with six
words, can strangle Sikes as surely as if I had his bull's throat
between my fingers now.  If he comes back, and leaves the boy behind
him; if he gets off free, and dead or alive, fails to restore him to
me; murder him yourself if you would have him escape Jack Ketch.  And
do it the moment he sets foot in this room, or mind me, it will be too
late!'

'What is all this?' cried the girl involuntarily.

'What is it?' pursued Fagin, mad with rage.  'When the boy's worth
hundreds of pounds to me, am I to lose what chance threw me in the way
of getting safely, through the whims of a drunken gang that I could
whistle away the lives of!  And me bound, too, to a born devil that
only wants the will, and has the power to, to--'

Panting for breath, the old man stammered for a word; and in that
instant checked the torrent of his wrath, and changed his whole
demeanour.  A moment before, his clenched hands had grasped the air;
his eyes had dilated; and his face grown livid with passion; but now,
he shrunk into a chair, and, cowering together, trembled with the
apprehension of having himself disclosed some hidden villainy.  After a
short silence, he ventured to look round at his companion.  He appeared
somewhat reassured, on beholding her in the same listless attitude from
which he had first roused her.

'Nancy, dear!' croaked the Jew, in his usual voice.  'Did you mind me,
dear?'

'Don't worry me now, Fagin!' replied the girl, raising her head
languidly.  'If Bill has not done it this time, he will another. He has
done many a good job for you, and will do many more when he can; and
when he can't he won't; so no more about that.'

'Regarding this boy, my dear?' said the Jew, rubbing the palms of his
hands nervously together.

'The boy must take his chance with the rest,' interrupted Nancy,
hastily; 'and I say again, I hope he is dead, and out of harm's way,
and out of yours,--that is, if Bill comes to no harm.  And if Toby got
clear off, Bill's pretty sure to be safe; for Bill's worth two of Toby
any time.'

'And about what I was saying, my dear?' observed the Jew, keeping his
glistening eye steadily upon her.

'Your must say it all over again, if it's anything you want me to do,'
rejoined Nancy; 'and if it is, you had better wait till to-morrow.  You
put me up for a minute; but now I'm stupid again.'

Fagin put several other questions: all with the same drift of
ascertaining whether the girl had profited by his unguarded hints; but,
she answered them so readily, and was withal so utterly unmoved by his
searching looks, that his original impression of her being more than a
trifle in liquor, was confirmed.  Nancy, indeed, was not exempt from a
failing which was very common among the Jew's female pupils; and in
which, in their tenderer years, they were rather encouraged than
checked. Her disordered appearance, and a wholesale perfume of Geneva
which pervaded the apartment, afforded strong confirmatory evidence of
the justice of the Jew's supposition; and when, after indulging in the
temporary display of violence above described, she subsided, first into
dullness, and afterwards into a compound of feelings: under the
influence of which she shed tears one minute, and in the next gave
utterance to various exclamations of 'Never say die!' and divers
calculations as to what might be the amount of the odds so long as a
lady or gentleman was happy, Mr. Fagin, who had had considerable
experience of such matters in his time, saw, with great satisfaction,
that she was very far gone indeed.

Having eased his mind by this discovery; and having accomplished his
twofold object of imparting to the girl what he had, that night, heard,
and of ascertaining, with his own eyes, that Sikes had not returned,
Mr. Fagin again turned his face homeward: leaving his young friend
asleep, with her head upon the table.

It was within an hour of midnight.  The weather being dark, and
piercing cold, he had no great temptation to loiter.  The sharp wind
that scoured the streets, seemed to have cleared them of passengers, as
of dust and mud, for few people were abroad, and they were to all
appearance hastening fast home. It blew from the right quarter for the
Jew, however, and straight before it he went: trembling, and shivering,
as every fresh gust drove him rudely on his way.

He had reached the corner of his own street, and was already fumbling
in his pocket for the door-key, when a dark figure emerged from a
projecting entrance which lay in deep shadow, and, crossing the road,
glided up to him unperceived.

'Fagin!' whispered a voice close to his ear.

'Ah!' said the Jew, turning quickly round, 'is that--'

'Yes!' interrupted the stranger.  'I have been lingering here these two
hours.  Where the devil have you been?'

'On your business, my dear,' replied the Jew, glancing uneasily at his
companion, and slackening his pace as he spoke.  'On your business all
night.'

'Oh, of course!' said the stranger, with a sneer.  'Well; and what's
come of it?'

'Nothing good,' said the Jew.

'Nothing bad, I hope?' said the stranger, stopping short, and turning a
startled look on his companion.

The Jew shook his head, and was about to reply, when the stranger,
interrupting him, motioned to the house, before which they had by this
time arrived:  remarking, that he had better say what he had got to
say, under cover:  for his blood was chilled with standing about so
long, and the wind blew through him.

Fagin looked as if he could have willingly excused himself from taking
home a visitor at that unseasonable hour; and, indeed, muttered
something about having no fire; but his companion repeating his request
in a peremptory manner, he unlocked the door, and requested him to
close it softly, while he got a light.

'It's as dark as the grave,' said the man, groping forward a few steps.
'Make haste!'

'Shut the door,' whispered Fagin from the end of the passage. As he
spoke, it closed with a loud noise.

'That wasn't my doing,' said the other man, feeling his way. 'The wind
blew it to, or it shut of its own accord: one or the other. Look sharp
with the light, or I shall knock my brains out against something in
this confounded hole.'

Fagin stealthily descended the kitchen stairs.  After a short absence,
he returned with a lighted candle, and the intelligence that Toby
Crackit was asleep in the back room below, and that the boys were in
the front one.  Beckoning the man to follow him, he led the way
upstairs.

'We can say the few words we've got to say in here, my dear,' said the
Jew, throwing open a door on the first floor; 'and as there are holes
in the shutters, and we never show lights to our neighbours, we'll set
the candle on the stairs.  There!'

With those words, the Jew, stooping down, placed the candle on an upper
flight of stairs, exactly opposite to the room door.  This done, he led
the way into the apartment; which was destitute of all movables save a
broken arm-chair, and an old couch or sofa without covering, which
stood behind the door.  Upon this piece of furniture, the stranger sat
himself with the air of a weary man; and the Jew, drawing up the
arm-chair opposite, they sat face to face.  It was not quite dark; the
door was partially open; and the candle outside, threw a feeble
reflection on the opposite wall.

They conversed for some time in whispers.  Though nothing of the
conversation was distinguishable beyond a few disjointed words here and
there, a listener might easily have perceived that Fagin appeared to be
defending himself against some remarks of the stranger; and that the
latter was in a state of considerable irritation.  They might have been
talking, thus, for a quarter of an hour or more, when Monks--by which
name the Jew had designated the strange man several times in the course
of their colloquy--said, raising his voice a little,

'I tell you again, it was badly planned.  Why not have kept him here
among the rest, and made a sneaking, snivelling pickpocket of him at
once?'

'Only hear him!' exclaimed the Jew, shrugging his shoulders.

'Why, do you mean to say you couldn't have done it, if you had chosen?'
demanded Monks, sternly.  'Haven't you done it, with other boys, scores
of times?  If you had had patience for a twelvemonth, at most, couldn't
you have got him convicted, and sent safely out of the kingdom; perhaps
for life?'

'Whose turn would that have served, my dear?' inquired the Jew humbly.

'Mine,' replied Monks.

'But not mine,' said the Jew, submissively.  'He might have become of
use to me.  When there are two parties to a bargain, it is only
reasonable that the interests of both should be consulted; is it, my
good friend?'

'What then?' demanded Monks.

'I saw it was not easy to train him to the business,' replied the Jew;
'he was not like other boys in the same circumstances.'

'Curse him, no!' muttered the man, 'or he would have been a thief, long
ago.'

'I had no hold upon him to make him worse,' pursued the Jew, anxiously
watching the countenance of his companion.  'His hand was not in.  I
had nothing to frighten him with; which we always must have in the
beginning, or we labour in vain.  What could I do?  Send him out with
the Dodger and Charley?  We had enough of that, at first, my dear; I
trembled for us all.'

'_That_ was not my doing,' observed Monks.

'No, no, my dear!' renewed the Jew.  'And I don't quarrel with it now;
because, if it had never happened, you might never have clapped eyes on
the boy to notice him, and so led to the discovery that it was him you
were looking for.  Well!  I got him back for you by means of the girl;
and then _she_ begins to favour him.'

'Throttle the girl!' said Monks, impatiently.

'Why, we can't afford to do that just now, my dear,' replied the Jew,
smiling; 'and, besides, that sort of thing is not in our way; or, one
of these days, I might be glad to have it done.  I know what these
girls are, Monks, well.  As soon as the boy begins to harden, she'll
care no more for him, than for a block of wood.  You want him made a
thief.  If he is alive, I can make him one from this time; and,
if--if--' said the Jew, drawing nearer to the other,--'it's not likely,
mind,--but if the worst comes to the worst, and he is dead--'

'It's no fault of mine if he is!' interposed the other man, with a look
of terror, and clasping the Jew's arm with trembling hands.  'Mind
that.  Fagin!  I had no hand in it.  Anything but his death, I told you
from the first.  I won't shed blood; it's always found out, and haunts
a man besides.  If they shot him dead, I was not the cause; do you hear
me?  Fire this infernal den!  What's that?'

'What!' cried the Jew, grasping the coward round the body, with both
arms, as he sprung to his feet.  'Where?'

'Yonder! replied the man, glaring at the opposite wall.  'The shadow!
I saw the shadow of a woman, in a cloak and bonnet, pass along the
wainscot like a breath!'

The Jew released his hold, and they rushed tumultuously from the room.
The candle, wasted by the draught, was standing where it had been
placed.  It showed them only the empty staircase, and their own white
faces.  They listened intently:  a profound silence reigned throughout
the house.

'It's your fancy,' said the Jew, taking up the light and turning to his
companion.

'I'll swear I saw it!' replied Monks, trembling.  'It was bending
forward when I saw it first; and when I spoke, it darted away.'

The Jew glanced contemptuously at the pale face of his associate, and,
telling him he could follow, if he pleased, ascended the stairs.  They
looked into all the rooms; they were cold, bare, and empty.  They
descended into the passage, and thence into the cellars below.  The
green damp hung upon the low walls; the tracks of the snail and slug
glistened in the light of the candle; but all was still as death.

'What do you think now?' said the Jew, when they had regained the
passage.  'Besides ourselves, there's not a creature in the house
except Toby and the boys; and they're safe enough. See here!'

As a proof of the fact, the Jew drew forth two keys from his pocket;
and explained, that when he first went downstairs, he had locked them
in, to prevent any intrusion on the conference.

This accumulated testimony effectually staggered Mr. Monks. His
protestations had gradually become less and less vehement as they
proceeded in their search without making any discovery; and, now, he
gave vent to several very grim laughs, and confessed it could only have
been his excited imagination.  He declined any renewal of the
conversation, however, for that night:  suddenly remembering that it
was past one o'clock.  And so the amiable couple parted.



CHAPTER XXVII

ATONES FOR THE UNPOLITENESS OF A FORMER CHAPTER; WHICH DESERTED A LADY,
MOST UNCEREMONIOUSLY

As it would be, by no means, seemly in a humble author to keep so
mighty a personage as a beadle waiting, with his back to the fire, and
the skirts of his coat gathered up under his arms, until such time as
it might suit his pleasure to relieve him; and as it would still less
become his station, or his gallantry to involve in the same neglect a
lady on whom that beadle had looked with an eye of tenderness and
affection, and in whose ear he had whispered sweet words, which, coming
from such a quarter, might well thrill the bosom of maid or matron of
whatsoever degree; the historian whose pen traces these words--trusting
that he knows his place, and that he entertains a becoming reverence
for those upon earth to whom high and important authority is
delegated--hastens to pay them that respect which their position
demands, and to treat them with all that duteous ceremony which their
exalted rank, and (by consequence) great virtues, imperatively claim at
his hands.  Towards this end, indeed, he had purposed to introduce, in
this place, a dissertation touching the divine right of beadles, and
elucidative of the position, that a beadle can do no wrong:  which
could not fail to have been both pleasurable and profitable to the
right-minded reader but which he is unfortunately compelled, by want of
time and space, to postpone to some more convenient and fitting
opportunity; on the arrival of which, he will be prepared to show, that
a beadle properly constituted:  that is to say, a parochial beadle,
attached to a parochial workhouse, and attending in his official
capacity the parochial church:  is, in right and virtue of his office,
possessed of all the excellences and best qualities of humanity; and
that to none of those excellences, can mere companies' beadles, or
court-of-law beadles, or even chapel-of-ease beadles (save the last,
and they in a very lowly and inferior degree), lay the remotest
sustainable claim.

Mr. Bumble had re-counted the teaspoons, re-weighed the sugar-tongs,
made a closer inspection of the milk-pot, and ascertained to a nicety
the exact condition of the furniture, down to the very horse-hair seats
of the chairs; and had repeated each process full half a dozen times;
before he began to think that it was time for Mrs. Corney to return.
Thinking begets thinking; as there were no sounds of Mrs. Corney's
approach, it occured to Mr. Bumble that it would be an innocent and
virtuous way of spending the time, if he were further to allay his
curiousity by a cursory glance at the interior of Mrs. Corney's chest
of drawers.

Having listened at the keyhole, to assure himself that nobody was
approaching the chamber, Mr. Bumble, beginning at the bottom, proceeded
to make himself acquainted with the contents of the three long drawers:
which, being filled with various garments of good fashion and texture,
carefully preserved between two layers of old newspapers, speckled with
dried lavender: seemed to yield him exceeding satisfaction.  Arriving,
in course of time, at the right-hand corner drawer (in which was the
key), and beholding therein a small padlocked box, which, being shaken,
gave forth a pleasant sound, as of the chinking of coin, Mr. Bumble
returned with a stately walk to the fireplace; and, resuming his old
attitude, said, with a grave and determined air, 'I'll do it!' He
followed up this remarkable declaration, by shaking his head in a
waggish manner for ten minutes, as though he were remonstrating with
himself for being such a pleasant dog; and then, he took a view of his
legs in profile, with much seeming pleasure and interest.

He was still placidly engaged in this latter survey, when Mrs. Corney,
hurrying into the room, threw herself, in a breathless state, on a
chair by the fireside, and covering her eyes with one hand, placed the
other over her heart, and gasped for breath.

'Mrs. Corney,' said Mr. Bumble, stooping over the matron, 'what is
this, ma'am?  Has anything happened, ma'am?  Pray answer me: I'm
on--on--' Mr. Bumble, in his alarm, could not immediately think of the
word 'tenterhooks,' so he said 'broken bottles.'

'Oh, Mr. Bumble!' cried the lady, 'I have been so dreadfully put out!'

'Put out, ma'am!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble; 'who has dared to--?  I know!'
said Mr. Bumble, checking himself, with native majesty, 'this is them
wicious paupers!'

'It's dreadful to think of!' said the lady, shuddering.

'Then _don't_ think of it, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

'I can't help it,' whimpered the lady.

'Then take something, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble soothingly.  'A little of
the wine?'

'Not for the world!' replied Mrs. Corney.  'I couldn't,--oh!  The top
shelf in the right-hand corner--oh!'  Uttering these words, the good
lady pointed, distractedly, to the cupboard, and underwent a convulsion
from internal spasms.  Mr. Bumble rushed to the closet; and, snatching
a pint green-glass bottle from the shelf thus incoherently indicated,
filled a tea-cup with its contents, and held it to the lady's lips.

'I'm better now,' said Mrs. Corney, falling back, after drinking half
of it.

Mr. Bumble raised his eyes piously to the ceiling in thankfulness; and,
bringing them down again to the brim of the cup, lifted it to his nose.

'Peppermint,' exclaimed Mrs. Corney, in a faint voice, smiling gently
on the beadle as she spoke.  'Try it!  There's a little--a little
something else in it.'

Mr. Bumble tasted the medicine with a doubtful look; smacked his lips;
took another taste; and put the cup down empty.

'It's very comforting,' said Mrs. Corney.

'Very much so indeed, ma'am,' said the beadle.  As he spoke, he drew a
chair beside the matron, and tenderly inquired what had happened to
distress her.

'Nothing,' replied Mrs. Corney.  'I am a foolish, excitable, weak
creetur.'

'Not weak, ma'am,' retorted Mr. Bumble, drawing his chair a little
closer.  'Are you a weak creetur, Mrs. Corney?'

'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mrs. Corney, laying down a general
principle.

'So we are,' said the beadle.

Nothing was said on either side, for a minute or two afterwards. By the
expiration of that time, Mr. Bumble had illustrated the position by
removing his left arm from the back of Mrs. Corney's chair, where it
had previously rested, to Mrs. Corney's apron-string, round which it
gradually became entwined.

'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Corney sighed.

'Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney,' said Mr. Bumble.

'I can't help it,' said Mrs. Corney.  And she sighed again.

'This is a very comfortable room, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble looking
round.  'Another room, and this, ma'am, would be a complete thing.'

'It would be too much for one,' murmured the lady.

'But not for two, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, in soft accents. 'Eh,
Mrs. Corney?'

Mrs. Corney drooped her head, when the beadle said this; the beadle
drooped his, to get a view of Mrs. Corney's face.  Mrs. Corney, with
great propriety, turned her head away, and released her hand to get at
her pocket-handkerchief; but insensibly replaced it in that of Mr.
Bumble.

'The board allows you coals, don't they, Mrs. Corney?' inquired the
beadle, affectionately pressing her hand.

'And candles,' replied Mrs. Corney, slightly returning the pressure.

'Coals, candles, and house-rent free,' said Mr. Bumble.  'Oh, Mrs.
Corney, what an Angel you are!'

The lady was not proof against this burst of feeling.  She sank into
Mr. Bumble's arms; and that gentleman in his agitation, imprinted a
passionate kiss upon her chaste nose.

'Such porochial perfection!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, rapturously. 'You
know that Mr. Slout is worse to-night, my fascinator?'

'Yes,' replied Mrs. Corney, bashfully.

'He can't live a week, the doctor says,' pursued Mr. Bumble. 'He is the
master of this establishment; his death will cause a wacancy; that
wacancy must be filled up.  Oh, Mrs. Corney, what a prospect this
opens!  What a opportunity for a jining of hearts and housekeepings!'

Mrs. Corney sobbed.

'The little word?' said Mr. Bumble, bending over the bashful beauty.
'The one little, little, little word, my blessed Corney?'

'Ye--ye--yes!' sighed out the matron.

'One more,' pursued the beadle; 'compose your darling feelings for only
one more.  When is it to come off?'

Mrs. Corney twice essayed to speak:  and twice failed.  At length
summoning up courage, she threw her arms around Mr. Bumble's neck, and
said, it might be as soon as ever he pleased, and that he was 'a
irresistible duck.'

Matters being thus amicably and satisfactorily arranged, the contract
was solemnly ratified in another teacupful of the peppermint mixture;
which was rendered the more necessary, by the flutter and agitation of
the lady's spirits.  While it was being disposed of, she acquainted Mr.
Bumble with the old woman's decease.

'Very good,' said that gentleman, sipping his peppermint; 'I'll call at
Sowerberry's as I go home, and tell him to send to-morrow morning.  Was
it that as frightened you, love?'

'It wasn't anything particular, dear,' said the lady evasively.

'It must have been something, love,' urged Mr. Bumble. 'Won't you tell
your own B.?'

'Not now,' rejoined the lady; 'one of these days.  After we're married,
dear.'

'After we're married!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble.  'It wasn't any impudence
from any of them male paupers as--'

'No, no, love!' interposed the lady, hastily.

'If I thought it was,' continued Mr. Bumble; 'if I thought as any one
of 'em had dared to lift his wulgar eyes to that lovely countenance--'

'They wouldn't have dared to do it, love,' responded the lady.

'They had better not!' said Mr. Bumble, clenching his fist. 'Let me see
any man, porochial or extra-porochial, as would presume to do it; and I
can tell him that he wouldn't do it a second time!'

Unembellished by any violence of gesticulation, this might have seemed
no very high compliment to the lady's charms; but, as Mr. Bumble
accompanied the threat with many warlike gestures, she was much touched
with this proof of his devotion, and protested, with great admiration,
that he was indeed a dove.

The dove then turned up his coat-collar, and put on his cocked hat;
and, having exchanged a long and affectionate embrace with his future
partner, once again braved the cold wind of the night: merely pausing,
for a few minutes, in the male paupers' ward, to abuse them a little,
with the view of satisfying himself that he could fill the office of
workhouse-master with needful acerbity. Assured of his qualifications,
Mr. Bumble left the building with a light heart, and bright visions of
his future promotion:  which served to occupy his mind until he reached
the shop of the undertaker.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry having gone out to tea and supper: and
Noah Claypole not being at any time disposed to take upon himself a
greater amount of physical exertion than is necessary to a convenient
performance of the two functions of eating and drinking, the shop was
not closed, although it was past the usual hour of shutting-up.  Mr.
Bumble tapped with his cane on the counter several times; but,
attracting no attention, and beholding a light shining through the
glass-window of the little parlour at the back of the shop, he made
bold to peep in and see what was going forward; and when he saw what
was going forward, he was not a little surprised.

The cloth was laid for supper; the table was covered with bread and
butter, plates and glasses; a porter-pot and a wine-bottle. At the
upper end of the table, Mr. Noah Claypole lolled negligently in an
easy-chair, with his legs thrown over one of the arms: an open
clasp-knife in one hand, and a mass of buttered bread in the other.
Close beside him stood Charlotte, opening oysters from a barrel: which
Mr. Claypole condescended to swallow, with remarkable avidity.  A more
than ordinary redness in the region of the young gentleman's nose, and
a kind of fixed wink in his right eye, denoted that he was in a slight
degree intoxicated; these symptoms were confirmed by the intense relish
with which he took his oysters, for which nothing but a strong
appreciation of their cooling properties, in cases of internal fever,
could have sufficiently accounted.

'Here's a delicious fat one, Noah, dear!' said Charlotte; 'try him, do;
only this one.'

'What a delicious thing is a oyster!' remarked Mr. Claypole, after he
had swallowed it.  'What a pity it is, a number of 'em should ever make
you feel uncomfortable; isn't it, Charlotte?'

'It's quite a cruelty,' said Charlotte.

'So it is,' acquiesced Mr. Claypole. 'An't yer fond of oysters?'

'Not overmuch,' replied Charlotte.  'I like to see you eat 'em, Noah
dear, better than eating 'em myself.'

'Lor!' said Noah, reflectively; 'how queer!'

'Have another,' said Charlotte.  'Here's one with such a beautiful,
delicate beard!'

'I can't manage any more,' said Noah.  'I'm very sorry.  Come here,
Charlotte, and I'll kiss yer.'

'What!' said Mr. Bumble, bursting into the room.  'Say that again, sir.'

Charlotte uttered a scream, and hid her face in her apron.  Mr.
Claypole, without making any further change in his position than
suffering his legs to reach the ground, gazed at the beadle in drunken
terror.

'Say it again, you wile, owdacious fellow!' said Mr. Bumble. 'How dare
you mention such a thing, sir?  And how dare you encourage him, you
insolent minx?  Kiss her!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, in strong indignation.
'Faugh!'

'I didn't mean to do it!' said Noah, blubbering.  'She's always
a-kissing of me, whether I like it, or not.'

'Oh, Noah,' cried Charlotte, reproachfully.

'Yer are; yer know yer are!' retorted Noah.  'She's always a-doin' of
it, Mr. Bumble, sir; she chucks me under the chin, please, sir; and
makes all manner of love!'

'Silence!' cried Mr. Bumble, sternly.  'Take yourself downstairs,
ma'am.  Noah, you shut up the shop; say another word till your master
comes home, at your peril; and, when he does come home, tell him that
Mr. Bumble said he was to send a old woman's shell after breakfast
to-morrow morning.  Do you hear sir?  Kissing!' cried Mr. Bumble,
holding up his hands.  'The sin and wickedness of the lower orders in
this porochial district is frightful!  If Parliament don't take their
abominable courses under consideration, this country's ruined, and the
character of the peasantry gone for ever!'  With these words, the
beadle strode, with a lofty and gloomy air, from the undertaker's
premises.

And now that we have accompanied him so far on his road home, and have
made all necessary preparations for the old woman's funeral, let us set
on foot a few inquires after young Oliver Twist, and ascertain whether
he be still lying in the ditch where Toby Crackit left him.



CHAPTER XXVIII

LOOKS AFTER OLIVER, AND PROCEEDS WITH HIS ADVENTURES

'Wolves tear your throats!' muttered Sikes, grinding his teeth. 'I wish
I was among some of you; you'd howl the hoarser for it.'

As Sikes growled forth this imprecation, with the most desperate
ferocity that his desperate nature was capable of, he rested the body
of the wounded boy across his bended knee; and turned his head, for an
instant, to look back at his pursuers.

There was little to be made out, in the mist and darkness; but the loud
shouting of men vibrated through the air, and the barking of the
neighbouring dogs, roused by the sound of the alarm bell, resounded in
every direction.

'Stop, you white-livered hound!' cried the robber, shouting after Toby
Crackit, who, making the best use of his long legs, was already ahead.
'Stop!'

The repetition of the word, brought Toby to a dead stand-still. For he
was not quite satisfied that he was beyond the range of pistol-shot;
and Sikes was in no mood to be played with.

'Bear a hand with the boy,' cried Sikes, beckoning furiously to his
confederate.  'Come back!'

Toby made a show of returning; but ventured, in a low voice, broken for
want of breath, to intimate considerable reluctance as he came slowly
along.

'Quicker!' cried Sikes, laying the boy in a dry ditch at his feet, and
drawing a pistol from his pocket.  'Don't play booty with me.'

At this moment the noise grew louder.  Sikes, again looking round,
could discern that the men who had given chase were already climbing
the gate of the field in which he stood; and that a couple of dogs were
some paces in advance of them.

'It's all up, Bill!' cried Toby; 'drop the kid, and show 'em your
heels.'  With this parting advice, Mr. Crackit, preferring the chance
of being shot by his friend, to the certainty of being taken by his
enemies, fairly turned tail, and darted off at full speed.  Sikes
clenched his teeth; took one look around; threw over the prostrate form
of Oliver, the cape in which he had been hurriedly muffled; ran along
the front of the hedge, as if to distract the attention of those
behind, from the spot where the boy lay; paused, for a second, before
another hedge which met it at right angles; and whirling his pistol
high into the air, cleared it at a bound, and was gone.

'Ho, ho, there!' cried a tremulous voice in the rear. 'Pincher!
Neptune!  Come here, come here!'

The dogs, who, in common with their masters, seemed to have no
particular relish for the sport in which they were engaged, readily
answered to the command.  Three men, who had by this time advanced some
distance into the field, stopped to take counsel together.

'My advice, or, leastways, I should say, my _orders_, is,' said the
fattest man of the party, 'that we 'mediately go home again.'

'I am agreeable to anything which is agreeable to Mr. Giles,' said a
shorter man; who was by no means of a slim figure, and who was very
pale in the face, and very polite: as frightened men frequently are.

'I shouldn't wish to appear ill-mannered, gentlemen,' said the third,
who had called the dogs back, 'Mr. Giles ought to know.'

'Certainly,' replied the shorter man; 'and whatever Mr. Giles says, it
isn't our place to contradict him.  No, no, I know my sitiwation!
Thank my stars, I know my sitiwation.'  To tell the truth, the little
man _did_ seem to know his situation, and to know perfectly well that
it was by no means a desirable one; for his teeth chattered in his head
as he spoke.

'You are afraid, Brittles,' said Mr. Giles.

'I an't,' said Brittles.

'You are,' said Giles.

'You're a falsehood, Mr. Giles,' said Brittles.

'You're a lie, Brittles,' said Mr. Giles.

Now, these four retorts arose from Mr. Giles's taunt; and Mr. Giles's
taunt had arisen from his indignation at having the responsibility of
going home again, imposed upon himself under cover of a compliment.
The third man brought the dispute to a close, most philosophically.

'I'll tell you what it is, gentlemen,' said he, 'we're all afraid.'

'Speak for yourself, sir,' said Mr. Giles, who was the palest of the
party.

'So I do,' replied the man.  'It's natural and proper to be afraid,
under such circumstances.  I am.'

'So am I,' said Brittles; 'only there's no call to tell a man he is, so
bounceably.'

These frank admissions softened Mr. Giles, who at once owned that _he_
was afraid; upon which, they all three faced about, and ran back again
with the completest unanimity, until Mr. Giles (who had the shortest
wind of the party, as was encumbered with a pitchfork) most handsomely
insisted on stopping, to make an apology for his hastiness of speech.

'But it's wonderful,' said Mr. Giles, when he had explained, 'what a
man will do, when his blood is up.  I should have committed murder--I
know I should--if we'd caught one of them rascals.'

As the other two were impressed with a similar presentiment; and as
their blood, like his, had all gone down again; some speculation ensued
upon the cause of this sudden change in their temperament.

'I know what it was,' said Mr. Giles; 'it was the gate.'

'I shouldn't wonder if it was,' exclaimed Brittles, catching at the
idea.

'You may depend upon it,' said Giles, 'that that gate stopped the flow
of the excitement.  I felt all mine suddenly going away, as I was
climbing over it.'

By a remarkable coincidence, the other two had been visited with the
same unpleasant sensation at that precise moment.  It was quite
obvious, therefore, that it was the gate; especially as there was no
doubt regarding the time at which the change had taken place, because
all three remembered that they had come in sight of the robbers at the
instant of its occurance.

This dialogue was held between the two men who had surprised the
burglars, and a travelling tinker who had been sleeping in an outhouse,
and who had been roused, together with his two mongrel curs, to join in
the pursuit.  Mr. Giles acted in the double capacity of butler and
steward to the old lady of the mansion; Brittles was a lad of all-work:
who, having entered her service a mere child, was treated as a
promising young boy still, though he was something past thirty.

Encouraging each other with such converse as this; but, keeping very
close together, notwithstanding, and looking apprehensively round,
whenever a fresh gust rattled through the boughs; the three men hurried
back to a tree, behind which they had left their lantern, lest its
light should inform the thieves in what direction to fire.  Catching up
the light, they made the best of their way home, at a good round trot;
and long after their dusky forms had ceased to be discernible, the
light might have been seen twinkling and dancing in the distance, like
some exhalation of the damp and gloomy atmosphere through which it was
swiftly borne.

The air grew colder, as day came slowly on; and the mist rolled along
the ground like a dense cloud of smoke.  The grass was wet; the
pathways, and low places, were all mire and water; the damp breath of
an unwholesome wind went languidly by, with a hollow moaning.  Still,
Oliver lay motionless and insensible on the spot where Sikes had left
him.

Morning drew on apace.  The air become more sharp and piercing, as its
first dull hue--the death of night, rather than the birth of
day--glimmered faintly in the sky.  The objects which had looked dim
and terrible in the darkness, grew more and more defined, and gradually
resolved into their familiar shapes.  The rain came down, thick and
fast, and pattered noisily among the leafless bushes.  But, Oliver felt
it not, as it beat against him; for he still lay stretched, helpless
and unconscious, on his bed of clay.

At length, a low cry of pain broke the stillness that prevailed; and
uttering it, the boy awoke.  His left arm, rudely bandaged in a shawl,
hung heavy and useless at his side; the bandage was saturated with
blood.  He was so weak, that he could scarcely raise himself into a
sitting posture; when he had done so, he looked feebly round for help,
and groaned with pain.  Trembling in every joint, from cold and
exhaustion, he made an effort to stand upright; but, shuddering from
head to foot, fell prostrate on the ground.

After a short return of the stupor in which he had been so long
plunged, Oliver:  urged by a creeping sickness at his heart, which
seemed to warn him that if he lay there, he must surely die:  got upon
his feet, and essayed to walk. His head was dizzy, and he staggered to
and fro like a drunken man.  But he kept up, nevertheless, and, with
his head drooping languidly on his breast, went stumbling onward, he
knew not whither.

And now, hosts of bewildering and confused ideas came crowding on his
mind.  He seemed to be still walking between Sikes and Crackit, who
were angrily disputing--for the very words they said, sounded in his
ears; and when he caught his own attention, as it were, by making some
violent effort to save himself from falling, he found that he was
talking to them. Then, he was alone with Sikes, plodding on as on the
previous day; and as shadowy people passed them, he felt the robber's
grasp upon his wrist. Suddenly, he started back at the report of
firearms; there rose into the air, loud cries and shouts; lights
gleamed before his eyes; all was noise and tumult, as some unseen hand
bore him hurriedly away.  Through all these rapid visions, there ran an
undefined, uneasy consciousness of pain, which wearied and tormented
him incessantly.

Thus he staggered on, creeping, almost mechanically, between the bars
of gates, or through hedge-gaps as they came in his way, until he
reached a road.  Here the rain began to fall so heavily, that it roused
him.

He looked about, and saw that at no great distance there was a house,
which perhaps he could reach.  Pitying his condition, they might have
compassion on him; and if they did not, it would be better, he thought,
to die near human beings, than in the lonely open fields.  He summoned
up all his strength for one last trial, and bent his faltering steps
towards it.

As he drew nearer to this house, a feeling come over him that he had
seen it before.  He remembered nothing of its details; but the shape
and aspect of the building seemed familiar to him.

That garden wall!  On the grass inside, he had fallen on his knees last
night, and prayed the two men's mercy.  It was the very house they had
attempted to rob.

Oliver felt such fear come over him when he recognised the place, that,
for the instant, he forgot the agony of his wound, and thought only of
flight.  Flight!  He could scarcely stand:  and if he were in full
possession of all the best powers of his slight and youthful frame,
whither could he fly?  He pushed against the garden-gate; it was
unlocked, and swung open on its hinges.  He tottered across the lawn;
climbed the steps; knocked faintly at the door; and, his whole strength
failing him, sunk down against one of the pillars of the little portico.

It happened that about this time, Mr. Giles, Brittles, and the tinker,
were recruiting themselves, after the fatigues and terrors of the
night, with tea and sundries, in the kitchen.  Not that it was Mr.
Giles's habit to admit to too great familiarity the humbler servants:
towards whom it was rather his wont to deport himself with a lofty
affability, which, while it gratified, could not fail to remind them of
his superior position in society.  But, death, fires, and burglary,
make all men equals; so Mr. Giles sat with his legs stretched out
before the kitchen fender, leaning his left arm on the table, while,
with his right, he illustrated a circumstantial and minute account of
the robbery, to which his bearers (but especially the cook and
housemaid, who were of the party) listened with breathless interest.

'It was about half-past two,' said Mr. Giles, 'or I wouldn't swear that
it mightn't have been a little nearer three, when I woke up, and,
turning round in my bed, as it might be so, (here Mr. Giles turned
round in his chair, and pulled the corner of the table-cloth over him
to imitate bed-clothes,) I fancied I heerd a noise.'

At this point of the narrative the cook turned pale, and asked the
housemaid to shut the door: who asked Brittles, who asked the tinker,
who pretended not to hear.

'--Heerd a noise,' continued Mr. Giles.  'I says, at first, "This is
illusion"; and was composing myself off to sleep, when I heerd the
noise again, distinct.'

'What sort of a noise?' asked the cook.

'A kind of a busting noise,' replied Mr. Giles, looking round him.

'More like the noise of powdering a iron bar on a nutmeg-grater,'
suggested Brittles.

'It was, when _you_ heerd it, sir,' rejoined Mr. Giles; 'but, at this
time, it had a busting sound.  I turned down the clothes'; continued
Giles, rolling back the table-cloth, 'sat up in bed; and listened.'

The cook and housemaid simultaneously ejaculated 'Lor!' and drew their
chairs closer together.

'I heerd it now, quite apparent,' resumed Mr. Giles. '"Somebody," I
says, "is forcing of a door, or window; what's to be done? I'll call up
that poor lad, Brittles, and save him from being murdered in his bed;
or his throat," I says, "may be cut from his right ear to his left,
without his ever knowing it."'

Here, all eyes were turned upon Brittles, who fixed his upon the
speaker, and stared at him, with his mouth wide open, and his face
expressive of the most unmitigated horror.

'I tossed off the clothes,' said Giles, throwing away the table-cloth,
and looking very hard at the cook and housemaid, 'got softly out of
bed; drew on a pair of--'

'Ladies present, Mr. Giles,' murmured the tinker.

'--Of _shoes_, sir,' said Giles, turning upon him, and laying great
emphasis on the word; 'seized the loaded pistol that always goes
upstairs with the plate-basket; and walked on tiptoes to his room.
"Brittles," I says, when I had woke him, "don't be frightened!"'

'So you did,' observed Brittles, in a low voice.

'"We're dead men, I think, Brittles," I says,' continued Giles; '"but
don't be frightened."'

'_Was_ he frightened?' asked the cook.

'Not a bit of it,' replied Mr. Giles.  'He was as firm--ah! pretty near
as firm as I was.'

'I should have died at once, I'm sure, if it had been me,' observed the
housemaid.

'You're a woman,' retorted Brittles, plucking up a little.

'Brittles is right,' said Mr. Giles, nodding his head, approvingly;
'from a woman, nothing else was to be expected. We, being men, took a
dark lantern that was standing on Brittle's hob, and groped our way
downstairs in the pitch dark,--as it might be so.'

Mr. Giles had risen from his seat, and taken two steps with his eyes
shut, to accompany his description with appropriate action, when he
started violently, in common with the rest of the company, and hurried
back to his chair.  The cook and housemaid screamed.

'It was a knock,' said Mr. Giles, assuming perfect serenity. 'Open the
door, somebody.'

Nobody moved.

'It seems a strange sort of a thing, a knock coming at such a time in
the morning,' said Mr. Giles, surveying the pale faces which surrounded
him, and looking very blank himself; 'but the door must be opened.  Do
you hear, somebody?'

Mr. Giles, as he spoke, looked at Brittles; but that young man, being
naturally modest, probably considered himself nobody, and so held that
the inquiry could not have any application to him; at all events, he
tendered no reply. Mr. Giles directed an appealing glance at the
tinker; but he had suddenly fallen asleep.  The women were out of the
question.

'If Brittles would rather open the door, in the presence of witnesses,'
said Mr. Giles, after a short silence, 'I am ready to make one.'

'So am I,' said the tinker, waking up, as suddenly as he had fallen
asleep.

Brittles capitulated on these terms; and the party being somewhat
re-assured by the discovery (made on throwing open the shutters) that
it was now broad day, took their way upstairs; with the dogs in front.
The two women, who were afraid to stay below, brought up the rear.  By
the advice of Mr. Giles, they all talked very loud, to warn any
evil-disposed person outside, that they were strong in numbers; and by
a master-stoke of policy, originating in the brain of the same
ingenious gentleman, the dogs' tails were well pinched, in the hall, to
make them bark savagely.

These precautions having been taken, Mr. Giles held on fast by the
tinker's arm (to prevent his running away, as he pleasantly said), and
gave the word of command to open the door.  Brittles obeyed; the group,
peeping timorously over each other's shoulders, beheld no more
formidable object than poor little Oliver Twist, speechless and
exhausted, who raised his heavy eyes, and mutely solicited their
compassion.

'A boy!' exclaimed Mr. Giles, valiantly, pushing the tinker into the
background.  'What's the matter with the--eh?--Why--Brittles--look
here--don't you know?'

Brittles, who had got behind the door to open it, no sooner saw Oliver,
than he uttered a loud cry.  Mr. Giles, seizing the boy by one leg and
one arm (fortunately not the broken limb) lugged him straight into the
hall, and deposited him at full length on the floor thereof.

'Here he is!' bawled Giles, calling in a state of great excitement, up
the staircase; 'here's one of the thieves, ma'am! Here's a thief, miss!
Wounded, miss!  I shot him, miss; and Brittles held the light.'

'--In a lantern, miss,' cried Brittles, applying one hand to the side
of his mouth, so that his voice might travel the better.

The two women-servants ran upstairs to carry the intelligence that Mr.
Giles had captured a robber; and the tinker busied himself in
endeavouring to restore Oliver, lest he should die before he could be
hanged.  In the midst of all this noise and commotion, there was heard
a sweet female voice, which quelled it in an instant.

'Giles!' whispered the voice from the stair-head.

'I'm here, miss,' replied Mr. Giles.  'Don't be frightened, miss; I
ain't much injured.  He didn't make a very desperate resistance, miss!
I was soon too many for him.'

'Hush!' replied the young lady; 'you frighten my aunt as much as the
thieves did.  Is the poor creature much hurt?'

'Wounded desperate, miss,' replied Giles, with indescribable
complacency.

'He looks as if he was a-going, miss,' bawled Brittles, in the same
manner as before.  'Wouldn't you like to come and look at him, miss, in
case he should?'

'Hush, pray; there's a good man!' rejoined the lady.  'Wait quietly
only one instant, while I speak to aunt.'

With a footstep as soft and gentle as the voice, the speaker tripped
away.  She soon returned, with the direction that the wounded person
was to be carried, carefully, upstairs to Mr. Giles's room; and that
Brittles was to saddle the pony and betake himself instantly to
Chertsey:  from which place, he was to despatch, with all speed, a
constable and doctor.

'But won't you take one look at him, first, miss?' asked Mr. Giles,
with as much pride as if Oliver were some bird of rare plumage, that he
had skilfully brought down.  'Not one little peep, miss?'

'Not now, for the world,' replied the young lady.  'Poor fellow! Oh!
treat him kindly, Giles for my sake!'

The old servant looked up at the speaker, as she turned away, with a
glance as proud and admiring as if she had been his own child.  Then,
bending over Oliver, he helped to carry him upstairs, with the care and
solicitude of a woman.



CHAPTER XXIX

HAS AN INTRODUCTORY ACCOUNT OF THE INMATES OF THE HOUSE, TO WHICH
OLIVER RESORTED

In a handsome room:  though its furniture had rather the air of
old-fashioned comfort, than of modern elegance:  there sat two ladies
at a well-spread breakfast-table.  Mr. Giles, dressed with scrupulous
care in a full suit of black, was in attendance upon them.  He had
taken his station some half-way between the side-board and the
breakfast-table; and, with his body drawn up to its full height, his
head thrown back, and inclined the merest trifle on one side, his left
leg advanced, and his right hand thrust into his waist-coat, while his
left hung down by his side, grasping a waiter, looked like one who
laboured under a very agreeable sense of his own merits and importance.

Of the two ladies, one was well advanced in years; but the high-backed
oaken chair in which she sat, was not more upright than she.  Dressed
with the utmost nicety and precision, in a quaint mixture of by-gone
costume, with some slight concessions to the prevailing taste, which
rather served to point the old style pleasantly than to impair its
effect, she sat, in a stately manner, with her hands folded on the
table before her.  Her eyes (and age had dimmed but little of their
brightness) were attentively upon her young companion.

The younger lady was in the lovely bloom and spring-time of womanhood;
at that age, when, if ever angels be for God's good purposes enthroned
in mortal forms, they may be, without impiety, supposed to abide in
such as hers.

She was not past seventeen.  Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould;
so mild and gentle; so pure and beautiful; that earth seemed not her
element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions.  The very
intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye, and was stamped upon her
noble head, seemed scarcely of her age, or of the world; and yet the
changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights
that played about the face, and left no shadow there; above all, the
smile, the cheerful, happy smile, were made for Home, and fireside
peace and happiness.

She was busily engaged in the little offices of the table. Chancing to
raise her eyes as the elder lady was regarding her, she playfully put
back her hair, which was simply braided on her forehead; and threw into
her beaming look, such an expression of affection and artless
loveliness, that blessed spirits might have smiled to look upon her.

'And Brittles has been gone upwards of an hour, has he?' asked the old
lady, after a pause.

'An hour and twelve minutes, ma'am,' replied Mr. Giles, referring to a
silver watch, which he drew forth by a black ribbon.

'He is always slow,' remarked the old lady.

'Brittles always was a slow boy, ma'am,' replied the attendant. And
seeing, by the bye, that Brittles had been a slow boy for upwards of
thirty years, there appeared no great probability of his ever being a
fast one.

'He gets worse instead of better, I think,' said the elder lady.

'It is very inexcusable in him if he stops to play with any other
boys,' said the young lady, smiling.

Mr. Giles was apparently considering the propriety of indulging in a
respectful smile himself, when a gig drove up to the garden-gate: out
of which there jumped a fat gentleman, who ran straight up to the door:
and who, getting quickly into the house by some mysterious process,
burst into the room, and nearly overturned Mr. Giles and the
breakfast-table together.

'I never heard of such a thing!' exclaimed the fat gentleman. 'My dear
Mrs. Maylie--bless my soul--in the silence of the night, too--I _never_
heard of such a thing!'

With these expressions of condolence, the fat gentleman shook hands
with both ladies, and drawing up a chair, inquired how they found
themselves.

'You ought to be dead; positively dead with the fright,' said the fat
gentleman.  'Why didn't you send?  Bless me, my man should have come in
a minute; and so would I; and my assistant would have been delighted;
or anybody, I'm sure, under such circumstances.  Dear, dear!  So
unexpected!  In the silence of the night, too!'

The doctor seemed expecially troubled by the fact of the robbery having
been unexpected, and attempted in the night-time; as if it were the
established custom of gentlemen in the housebreaking way to transact
business at noon, and to make an appointment, by post, a day or two
previous.

'And you, Miss Rose,' said the doctor, turning to the young lady, 'I--'

'Oh! very much so, indeed,' said Rose, interrupting him; 'but there is
a poor creature upstairs, whom aunt wishes you to see.'

'Ah! to be sure,' replied the doctor, 'so there is.  That was your
handiwork, Giles, I understand.'

Mr. Giles, who had been feverishly putting the tea-cups to rights,
blushed very red, and said that he had had that honour.

'Honour, eh?' said the doctor; 'well, I don't know; perhaps it's as
honourable to hit a thief in a back kitchen, as to hit your man at
twelve paces.  Fancy that he fired in the air, and you've fought a
duel, Giles.'

Mr. Giles, who thought this light treatment of the matter an unjust
attempt at diminishing his glory, answered respectfully, that it was
not for the like of him to judge about that; but he rather thought it
was no joke to the opposite party.

'Gad, that's true!' said the doctor.  'Where is he?  Show me the way.
I'll look in again, as I come down, Mrs. Maylie.  That's the little
window that he got in at, eh?  Well, I couldn't have believed it!'

Talking all the way, he followed Mr. Giles upstairs; and while he is
going upstairs, the reader may be informed, that Mr. Losberne, a
surgeon in the neighbourhood, known through a circuit of ten miles
round as 'the doctor,' had grown fat, more from good-humour than from
good living:  and was as kind and hearty, and withal as eccentric an
old bachelor, as will be found in five times that space, by any
explorer alive.

The doctor was absent, much longer than either he or the ladies had
anticipated.  A large flat box was fetched out of the gig; and a
bedroom bell was rung very often; and the servants ran up and down
stairs perpetually; from which tokens it was justly concluded that
something important was going on above.  At length he returned; and in
reply to an anxious inquiry after his patient; looked very mysterious,
and closed the door, carefully.

'This is a very extraordinary thing, Mrs. Maylie,' said the doctor,
standing with his back to the door, as if to keep it shut.

'He is not in danger, I hope?' said the old lady.

'Why, that would _not_ be an extraordinary thing, under the
circumstances,' replied the doctor; 'though I don't think he is. Have
you seen the thief?'

'No,' rejoined the old lady.

'Nor heard anything about him?'

'No.'

'I beg your pardon, ma'am, interposed Mr. Giles; 'but I was going to
tell you about him when Doctor Losberne came in.'

The fact was, that Mr. Giles had not, at first, been able to bring his
mind to the avowal, that he had only shot a boy.  Such commendations
had been bestowed upon his bravery, that he could not, for the life of
him, help postponing the explanation for a few delicious minutes;
during which he had flourished, in the very zenith of a brief
reputation for undaunted courage.

'Rose wished to see the man,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'but I wouldn't hear of
it.'

'Humph!' rejoined the doctor.  'There is nothing very alarming in his
appearance.  Have you any objection to see him in my presence?'

'If it be necessary,' replied the old lady, 'certainly not.'

'Then I think it is necessary,' said the doctor; 'at all events, I am
quite sure that you would deeply regret not having done so, if you
postponed it.  He is perfectly quiet and comfortable now. Allow
me--Miss Rose, will you permit me?  Not the slightest fear, I pledge
you my honour!'



CHAPTER XXX

RELATES WHAT OLIVER'S NEW VISITORS THOUGHT OF HIM

With many loquacious assurances that they would be agreeably surprised
in the aspect of the criminal, the doctor drew the young lady's arm
through one of his; and offering his disengaged hand to Mrs. Maylie,
led them, with much ceremony and stateliness, upstairs.

'Now,' said the doctor, in a whisper, as he softly turned the handle of
a bedroom-door, 'let us hear what you think of him.  He has not been
shaved very recently, but he don't look at all ferocious
notwithstanding.  Stop, though!  Let me first see that he is in
visiting order.'

Stepping before them, he looked into the room.  Motioning them to
advance, he closed the door when they had entered; and gently drew back
the curtains of the bed.  Upon it, in lieu of the dogged, black-visaged
ruffian they had expected to behold, there lay a mere child:  worn with
pain and exhaustion, and sunk into a deep sleep.  His wounded arm,
bound and splintered up, was crossed upon his breast; his head reclined
upon the other arm, which was half hidden by his long hair, as it
streamed over the pillow.

The honest gentleman held the curtain in his hand, and looked on, for a
minute or so, in silence.  Whilst he was watching the patient thus, the
younger lady glided softly past, and seating herself in a chair by the
bedside, gathered Oliver's hair from his face.  As she stooped over
him, her tears fell upon his forehead.

The boy stirred, and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity
and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection
he had never known.  Thus, a strain of gentle music, or the rippling of
water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower, or the mention of a
familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes
that never were, in this life; which vanish like a breath; which some
brief memory of a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have
awakened; which no voluntary exertion of the mind can ever recall.

'What can this mean?' exclaimed the elder lady.  'This poor child can
never have been the pupil of robbers!'

'Vice,' said the surgeon, replacing the curtain, 'takes up her abode in
many temples; and who can say that a fair outside shell not enshrine
her?'

'But at so early an age!' urged Rose.

'My dear young lady,' rejoined the surgeon, mournfully shaking his
head; 'crime, like death, is not confined to the old and withered
alone.  The youngest and fairest are too often its chosen victims.'

'But, can you--oh! can you really believe that this delicate boy has
been the voluntary associate of the worst outcasts of society?' said
Rose.

The surgeon shook his head, in a manner which intimated that he feared
it was very possible; and observing that they might disturb the
patient, led the way into an adjoining apartment.

'But even if he has been wicked,' pursued Rose, 'think how young he is;
think that he may never have known a mother's love, or the comfort of a
home; that ill-usage and blows, or the want of bread, may have driven
him to herd with men who have forced him to guilt.  Aunt, dear aunt,
for mercy's sake, think of this, before you let them drag this sick
child to a prison, which in any case must be the grave of all his
chances of amendment.  Oh! as you love me, and know that I have never
felt the want of parents in your goodness and affection, but that I
might have done so, and might have been equally helpless and
unprotected with this poor child, have pity upon him before it is too
late!'

'My dear love,' said the elder lady, as she folded the weeping girl to
her bosom, 'do you think I would harm a hair of his head?'

'Oh, no!' replied Rose, eagerly.

'No, surely,' said the old lady; 'my days are drawing to their close:
and may mercy be shown to me as I show it to others! What can I do to
save him, sir?'

'Let me think, ma'am,' said the doctor; 'let me think.'

Mr. Losberne thrust his hands into his pockets, and took several turns
up and down the room; often stopping, and balancing himself on his
toes, and frowning frightfully.  After various exclamations of 'I've
got it now' and 'no, I haven't,' and as many renewals of the walking
and frowning, he at length made a dead halt, and spoke as follows:

'I think if you give me a full and unlimited commission to bully Giles,
and that little boy, Brittles, I can manage it.  Giles is a faithful
fellow and an old servant, I know; but you can make it up to him in a
thousand ways, and reward him for being such a good shot besides.  You
don't object to that?'

'Unless there is some other way of preserving the child,' replied Mrs.
Maylie.

'There is no other,' said the doctor.  'No other, take my word for it.'

'Then my aunt invests you with full power,' said Rose, smiling through
her tears; 'but pray don't be harder upon the poor fellows than is
indispensably necessary.'

'You seem to think,' retorted the doctor, 'that everybody is disposed
to be hard-hearted to-day, except yourself, Miss Rose. I only hope, for
the sake of the rising male sex generally, that you may be found in as
vulnerable and soft-hearted a mood by the first eligible young fellow
who appeals to your compassion; and I wish I were a young fellow, that
I might avail myself, on the spot, of such a favourable opportunity for
doing so, as the present.'

'You are as great a boy as poor Brittles himself,' returned Rose,
blushing.

'Well,' said the doctor, laughing heartily, 'that is no very difficult
matter.  But to return to this boy.  The great point of our agreement
is yet to come.  He will wake in an hour or so, I dare say; and
although I have told that thick-headed constable-fellow downstairs that
he musn't be moved or spoken to, on peril of his life, I think we may
converse with him without danger.  Now I make this stipulation--that I
shall examine him in your presence, and that, if, from what he says, we
judge, and I can show to the satisfaction of your cool reason, that he
is a real and thorough bad one (which is more than possible), he shall
be left to his fate, without any farther interference on my part, at
all events.'

'Oh no, aunt!' entreated Rose.

'Oh yes, aunt!' said the doctor.  'Is is a bargain?'

'He cannot be hardened in vice,' said Rose; 'It is impossible.'

'Very good,' retorted the doctor; 'then so much the more reason for
acceding to my proposition.'

Finally the treaty was entered into; and the parties thereunto sat down
to wait, with some impatience, until Oliver should awake.

The patience of the two ladies was destined to undergo a longer trial
than Mr. Losberne had led them to expect; for hour after hour passed
on, and still Oliver slumbered heavily.  It was evening, indeed, before
the kind-hearted doctor brought them the intelligence, that he was at
length sufficiently restored to be spoken to.  The boy was very ill, he
said, and weak from the loss of blood; but his mind was so troubled
with anxiety to disclose something, that he deemed it better to give
him the opportunity, than to insist upon his remaining quiet until next
morning: which he should otherwise have done.

The conference was a long one.  Oliver told them all his simple
history, and was often compelled to stop, by pain and want of strength.
It was a solemn thing, to hear, in the darkened room, the feeble voice
of the sick child recounting a weary catalogue of evils and calamities
which hard men had brought upon him.  Oh! if when we oppress and grind
our fellow-creatures, we bestowed but one thought on the dark evidences
of human error, which, like dense and heavy clouds, are rising, slowly
it is true, but not less surely, to Heaven, to pour their
after-vengeance on our heads; if we heard but one instant, in
imagination, the deep testimony of dead men's voices, which no power
can stifle, and no pride shut out; where would be the injury and
injustice, the suffering, misery, cruelty, and wrong, that each day's
life brings with it!

Oliver's pillow was smoothed by gentle hands that night; and loveliness
and virtue watched him as he slept.  He felt calm and happy, and could
have died without a murmur.

The momentous interview was no sooner concluded, and Oliver composed to
rest again, than the doctor, after wiping his eyes, and condemning them
for being weak all at once, betook himself downstairs to open upon Mr.
Giles.  And finding nobody about the parlours, it occurred to him, that
he could perhaps originate the proceedings with better effect in the
kitchen; so into the kitchen he went.

There were assembled, in that lower house of the domestic parliament,
the women-servants, Mr. Brittles, Mr. Giles, the tinker (who had
received a special invitation to regale himself for the remainder of
the day, in consideration of his services), and the constable.  The
latter gentleman had a large staff, a large head, large features, and
large half-boots; and he looked as if he had been taking a
proportionate allowance of ale--as indeed he had.

The adventures of the previous night were still under discussion; for
Mr. Giles was expatiating upon his presence of mind, when the doctor
entered; Mr. Brittles, with a mug of ale in his hand, was corroborating
everything, before his superior said it.

'Sit still!' said the doctor, waving his hand.

'Thank you, sir, said Mr. Giles.  'Misses wished some ale to be given
out, sir; and as I felt no ways inclined for my own little room, sir,
and was disposed for company, I am taking mine among 'em here.'

Brittles headed a low murmur, by which the ladies and gentlemen
generally were understood to express the gratification they derived
from Mr. Giles's condescension.  Mr. Giles looked round with a
patronising air, as much as to say that so long as they behaved
properly, he would never desert them.

'How is the patient to-night, sir?' asked Giles.

'So-so'; returned the doctor.  'I am afraid you have got yourself into
a scrape there, Mr. Giles.'

'I hope you don't mean to say, sir,' said Mr. Giles, trembling, 'that
he's going to die.  If I thought it, I should never be happy again.  I
wouldn't cut a boy off:  no, not even Brittles here; not for all the
plate in the county, sir.'

'That's not the point,' said the doctor, mysteriously.  'Mr. Giles, are
you a Protestant?'

'Yes, sir, I hope so,' faltered Mr. Giles, who had turned very pale.

'And what are _you_, boy?' said the doctor, turning sharply upon
Brittles.

'Lord bless me, sir!' replied Brittles, starting violently; 'I'm the
same as Mr. Giles, sir.'

'Then tell me this,' said the doctor, 'both of you, both of you! Are
you going to take upon yourselves to swear, that that boy upstairs is
the boy that was put through the little window last night?  Out with
it!  Come!  We are prepared for you!'

The doctor, who was universally considered one of the best-tempered
creatures on earth, made this demand in such a dreadful tone of anger,
that Giles and Brittles, who were considerably muddled by ale and
excitement, stared at each other in a state of stupefaction.

'Pay attention to the reply, constable, will you?' said the doctor,
shaking his forefinger with great solemnity of manner, and tapping the
bridge of his nose with it, to bespeak the exercise of that worthy's
utmost acuteness. 'Something may come of this before long.'

The constable looked as wise as he could, and took up his staff of
office: which had been reclining indolently in the chimney-corner.

'It's a simple question of identity, you will observe,' said the doctor.

'That's what it is, sir,' replied the constable, coughing with great
violence; for he had finished his ale in a hurry, and some of it had
gone the wrong way.

'Here's the house broken into,' said the doctor, 'and a couple of men
catch one moment's glimpse of a boy, in the midst of gunpowder smoke,
and in all the distraction of alarm and darkness.  Here's a boy comes
to that very same house, next morning, and because he happens to have
his arm tied up, these men lay violent hands upon him--by doing which,
they place his life in great danger--and swear he is the thief.  Now,
the question is, whether these men are justified by the fact; if not,
in what situation do they place themselves?'

The constable nodded profoundly.  He said, if that wasn't law, he would
be glad to know what was.

'I ask you again,' thundered the doctor, 'are you, on your solemn
oaths, able to identify that boy?'

Brittles looked doubtfully at Mr. Giles; Mr. Giles looked doubtfully at
Brittles; the constable put his hand behind his ear, to catch the
reply; the two women and the tinker leaned forward to listen; the
doctor glanced keenly round; when a ring was heard at the gate, and at
the same moment, the sound of wheels.

'It's the runners!' cried Brittles, to all appearance much relieved.

'The what?' exclaimed the doctor, aghast in his turn.

'The Bow Street officers, sir,' replied Brittles, taking up a candle;
'me and Mr. Giles sent for 'em this morning.'

'What?' cried the doctor.

'Yes,' replied Brittles; 'I sent a message up by the coachman, and I
only wonder they weren't here before, sir.'

'You did, did you?  Then confound your--slow coaches down here; that's
all,' said the doctor, walking away.



CHAPTER XXXI

INVOLVES A CRITICAL POSITION

'Who's that?' inquired Brittles, opening the door a little way, with
the chain up, and peeping out, shading the candle with his hand.

'Open the door,' replied a man outside; 'it's the officers from Bow
Street, as was sent to to-day.'

Much comforted by this assurance, Brittles opened the door to its full
width, and confronted a portly man in a great-coat; who walked in,
without saying anything more, and wiped his shoes on the mat, as coolly
as if he lived there.

'Just send somebody out to relieve my mate, will you, young man?' said
the officer; 'he's in the gig, a-minding the prad.  Have you got a
coach 'us here, that you could put it up in, for five or ten minutes?'

Brittles replying in the affirmative, and pointing out the building,
the portly man stepped back to the garden-gate, and helped his
companion to put up the gig:  while Brittles lighted them, in a state
of great admiration.  This done, they returned to the house, and, being
shown into a parlour, took off their great-coats and hats, and showed
like what they were.

The man who had knocked at the door, was a stout personage of middle
height, aged about fifty: with shiny black hair, cropped pretty close;
half-whiskers, a round face, and sharp eyes.  The other was a
red-headed, bony man, in top-boots; with a rather ill-favoured
countenance, and a turned-up sinister-looking nose.

'Tell your governor that Blathers and Duff is here, will you?' said the
stouter man, smoothing down his hair, and laying a pair of handcuffs on
the table.  'Oh!  Good-evening, master.  Can I have a word or two with
you in private, if you please?'

This was addressed to Mr. Losberne, who now made his appearance; that
gentleman, motioning Brittles to retire, brought in the two ladies, and
shut the door.

'This is the lady of the house,' said Mr. Losberne, motioning towards
Mrs. Maylie.

Mr. Blathers made a bow.  Being desired to sit down, he put his hat on
the floor, and taking a chair, motioned to Duff to do the same.  The
latter gentleman, who did not appear quite so much accustomed to good
society, or quite so much at his ease in it--one of the two--seated
himself, after undergoing several muscular affections of the limbs, and
the head of his stick into his mouth, with some embarrassment.

'Now, with regard to this here robbery, master,' said Blathers. 'What
are the circumstances?'

Mr. Losberne, who appeared desirous of gaining time, recounted them at
great length, and with much circumlocution.  Messrs. Blathers and Duff
looked very knowing meanwhile, and occasionally exchanged a nod.

'I can't say, for certain, till I see the work, of course,' said
Blathers; 'but my opinion at once is,--I don't mind committing myself
to that extent,--that this wasn't done by a yokel; eh, Duff?'

'Certainly not,' replied Duff.

'And, translating the word yokel for the benefit of the ladies, I
apprehend your meaning to be, that this attempt was not made by a
countryman?' said Mr. Losberne, with a smile.

'That's it, master,' replied Blathers.  'This is all about the robbery,
is it?'

'All,' replied the doctor.

'Now, what is this, about this here boy that the servants are a-talking
on?' said Blathers.

'Nothing at all,' replied the doctor.  'One of the frightened servants
chose to take it into his head, that he had something to do with this
attempt to break into the house; but it's nonsense: sheer absurdity.'

'Wery easy disposed of, if it is,' remarked Duff.

'What he says is quite correct,' observed Blathers, nodding his head in
a confirmatory way, and playing carelessly with the handcuffs, as if
they were a pair of castanets.  'Who is the boy? What account does he
give of himself?  Where did he come from? He didn't drop out of the
clouds, did he, master?'

'Of course not,' replied the doctor, with a nervous glance at the two
ladies.  'I know his whole history: but we can talk about that
presently.  You would like, first, to see the place where the thieves
made their attempt, I suppose?'

'Certainly,' rejoined Mr. Blathers.  'We had better inspect the
premises first, and examine the servants afterwards. That's the usual
way of doing business.'

Lights were then procured; and Messrs. Blathers and Duff, attended by
the native constable, Brittles, Giles, and everybody else in short,
went into the little room at the end of the passage and looked out at
the window; and afterwards went round by way of the lawn, and looked in
at the window; and after that, had a candle handed out to inspect the
shutter with; and after that, a lantern to trace the footsteps with;
and after that, a pitchfork to poke the bushes with.  This done, amidst
the breathless interest of all beholders, they came in again; and Mr.
Giles and Brittles were put through a melodramatic representation of
their share in the previous night's adventures: which they performed
some six times over: contradicting each other, in not more than one
important respect, the first time, and in not more than a dozen the
last.  This consummation being arrived at, Blathers and Duff cleared
the room, and held a long council together, compared with which, for
secrecy and solemnity, a consultation of great doctors on the knottiest
point in medicine, would be mere child's play.

Meanwhile, the doctor walked up and down the next room in a very uneasy
state; and Mrs. Maylie and Rose looked on, with anxious faces.

'Upon my word,' he said, making a halt, after a great number of very
rapid turns, 'I hardly know what to do.'

'Surely,' said Rose, 'the poor child's story, faithfully repeated to
these men, will be sufficient to exonerate him.'

'I doubt it, my dear young lady,' said the doctor, shaking his head.
'I don't think it would exonerate him, either with them, or with legal
functionaries of a higher grade.  What is he, after all, they would
say?  A runaway.  Judged by mere worldly considerations and
probabilities, his story is a very doubtful one.'

'You believe it, surely?' interrupted Rose.

'_I_ believe it, strange as it is; and perhaps I may be an old fool for
doing so,' rejoined the doctor; 'but I don't think it is exactly the
tale for a practical police-officer, nevertheless.'

'Why not?' demanded Rose.

'Because, my pretty cross-examiner,' replied the doctor: 'because,
viewed with their eyes, there are many ugly points about it; he can
only prove the parts that look ill, and none of those that look well.
Confound the fellows, they _will_ have the why and the wherefore, and
will take nothing for granted.  On his own showing, you see, he has
been the companion of thieves for some time past; he has been carried
to a police-officer, on a charge of picking a gentleman's pocket; he
has been taken away, forcibly, from that gentleman's house, to a place
which he cannot describe or point out, and of the situation of which he
has not the remotest idea.  He is brought down to Chertsey, by men who
seem to have taken a violent fancy to him, whether he will or no; and
is put through a window to rob a house; and then, just at the very
moment when he is going to alarm the inmates, and so do the very thing
that would set him all to rights, there rushes into the way, a
blundering dog of a half-bred butler, and shoots him! As if on purpose
to prevent his doing any good for himself! Don't you see all this?'

'I see it, of course,' replied Rose, smiling at the doctor's
impetuosity; 'but still I do not see anything in it, to criminate the
poor child.'

'No,' replied the doctor; 'of course not!  Bless the bright eyes of
your sex!  They never see, whether for good or bad, more than one side
of any question; and that is, always, the one which first presents
itself to them.'

Having given vent to this result of experience, the doctor put his
hands into his pockets, and walked up and down the room with even
greater rapidity than before.

'The more I think of it,' said the doctor, 'the more I see that it will
occasion endless trouble and difficulty if we put these men in
possession of the boy's real story.  I am certain it will not be
believed; and even if they can do nothing to him in the end, still the
dragging it forward, and giving publicity to all the doubts that will
be cast upon it, must interfere, materially, with your benevolent plan
of rescuing him from misery.'

'Oh! what is to be done?' cried Rose.  'Dear, dear! why did they send
for these people?'

'Why, indeed!' exclaimed Mrs. Maylie.  'I would not have had them here,
for the world.'

'All I know is,' said Mr. Losberne, at last:  sitting down with a kind
of desperate calmness, 'that we must try and carry it off with a bold
face.  The object is a good one, and that must be our excuse.  The boy
has strong symptoms of fever upon him, and is in no condition to be
talked to any more; that's one comfort.  We must make the best of it;
and if bad be the best, it is no fault of ours.  Come in!'

'Well, master,' said Blathers, entering the room followed by his
colleague, and making the door fast, before he said any more. 'This
warn't a put-up thing.'

'And what the devil's a put-up thing?' demanded the doctor, impatiently.

'We call it a put-up robbery, ladies,' said Blathers, turning to them,
as if he pitied their ignorance, but had a contempt for the doctor's,
'when the servants is in it.'

'Nobody suspected them, in this case,' said Mrs. Maylie.

'Wery likely not, ma'am,' replied Blathers; 'but they might have been
in it, for all that.'

'More likely on that wery account,' said Duff.

'We find it was a town hand,' said Blathers, continuing his report;
'for the style of work is first-rate.'

'Wery pretty indeed it is,' remarked Duff, in an undertone.

'There was two of 'em in it,' continued Blathers; 'and they had a boy
with 'em; that's plain from the size of the window.  That's all to be
said at present.  We'll see this lad that you've got upstairs at once,
if you please.'

'Perhaps they will take something to drink first, Mrs. Maylie?' said
the doctor: his face brightening, as if some new thought had occurred
to him.

'Oh! to be sure!' exclaimed Rose, eagerly.  'You shall have it
immediately, if you will.'

'Why, thank you, miss!' said Blathers, drawing his coat-sleeve across
his mouth; 'it's dry work, this sort of duty.  Anythink that's handy,
miss; don't put yourself out of the way, on our accounts.'

'What shall it be?' asked the doctor, following the young lady to the
sideboard.

'A little drop of spirits, master, if it's all the same,' replied
Blathers.  'It's a cold ride from London, ma'am; and I always find that
spirits comes home warmer to the feelings.'

This interesting communication was addressed to Mrs. Maylie, who
received it very graciously.  While it was being conveyed to her, the
doctor slipped out of the room.

'Ah!' said Mr. Blathers:  not holding his wine-glass by the stem, but
grasping the bottom between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand:
and placing it in front of his chest; 'I have seen a good many pieces
of business like this, in my time, ladies.'

'That crack down in the back lane at Edmonton, Blathers,' said Mr.
Duff, assisting his colleague's memory.

'That was something in this way, warn't it?' rejoined Mr. Blathers;
'that was done by Conkey Chickweed, that was.'

'You always gave that to him' replied Duff.  'It was the Family Pet, I
tell you.  Conkey hadn't any more to do with it than I had.'

'Get out!' retorted Mr. Blathers; 'I know better.  Do you mind that
time when Conkey was robbed of his money, though?  What a start that
was!  Better than any novel-book _I_ ever see!'

'What was that?' inquired Rose:  anxious to encourage any symptoms of
good-humour in the unwelcome visitors.

'It was a robbery, miss, that hardly anybody would have been down
upon,' said Blathers.  'This here Conkey Chickweed--'

'Conkey means Nosey, ma'am,' interposed Duff.

'Of course the lady knows that, don't she?' demanded Mr. Blathers.
'Always interrupting, you are, partner!  This here Conkey Chickweed,
miss, kept a public-house over Battlebridge way, and he had a cellar,
where a good many young lords went to see cock-fighting, and
badger-drawing, and that; and a wery intellectual manner the sports was
conducted in, for I've seen 'em off'en.  He warn't one of the family,
at that time; and one night he was robbed of three hundred and
twenty-seven guineas in a canvas bag, that was stole out of his bedroom
in the dead of night, by a tall man with a black patch over his eye,
who had concealed himself under the bed, and after committing the
robbery, jumped slap out of window:  which was only a story high. He
was wery quick about it.  But Conkey was quick, too; for he fired a
blunderbuss arter him, and roused the neighbourhood. They set up a
hue-and-cry, directly, and when they came to look about 'em, found that
Conkey had hit the robber; for there was traces of blood, all the way
to some palings a good distance off; and there they lost 'em.  However,
he had made off with the blunt; and, consequently, the name of Mr.
Chickweed, licensed witler, appeared in the Gazette among the other
bankrupts; and all manner of benefits and subscriptions, and I don't
know what all, was got up for the poor man, who was in a wery low state
of mind about his loss, and went up and down the streets, for three or
four days, a pulling his hair off in such a desperate manner that many
people was afraid he might be going to make away with himself. One day
he came up to the office, all in a hurry, and had a private interview
with the magistrate, who, after a deal of talk, rings the bell, and
orders Jem Spyers in (Jem was a active officer), and tells him to go
and assist Mr. Chickweed in apprehending the man as robbed his house.
"I see him, Spyers," said Chickweed, "pass my house yesterday morning,"
"Why didn't you up, and collar him!" says Spyers.  "I was so struck all
of a heap, that you might have fractured my skull with a toothpick,"
says the poor man; "but we're sure to have him; for between ten and
eleven o'clock at night he passed again."  Spyers no sooner heard this,
than he put some clean linen and a comb, in his pocket, in case he
should have to stop a day or two; and away he goes, and sets himself
down at one of the public-house windows behind the little red curtain,
with his hat on, all ready to bolt out, at a moment's notice. He was
smoking his pipe here, late at night, when all of a sudden Chickweed
roars out, "Here he is! Stop thief!  Murder!"  Jem Spyers dashes out;
and there he sees Chickweed, a-tearing down the street full cry.  Away
goes Spyers; on goes Chickweed; round turns the people; everybody roars
out, "Thieves!" and Chickweed himself keeps on shouting, all the time,
like mad.  Spyers loses sight of him a minute as he turns a corner;
shoots round; sees a little crowd; dives in; "Which is the man?"
"D--me!" says Chickweed, "I've lost him again!"  It was a remarkable
occurrence, but he warn't to be seen nowhere, so they went back to the
public-house. Next morning, Spyers took his old place, and looked out,
from behind the curtain, for a tall man with a black patch over his
eye, till his own two eyes ached again.  At last, he couldn't help
shutting 'em, to ease 'em a minute; and the very moment he did so, he
hears Chickweed a-roaring out, "Here he is!"  Off he starts once more,
with Chickweed half-way down the street ahead of him; and after twice
as long a run as the yesterday's one, the man's lost again!  This was
done, once or twice more, till one-half the neighbours gave out that
Mr. Chickweed had been robbed by the devil, who was playing tricks with
him arterwards; and the other half, that poor Mr. Chickweed had gone
mad with grief.'

'What did Jem Spyers say?' inquired the doctor; who had returned to the
room shortly after the commencement of the story.

'Jem Spyers,' resumed the officer, 'for a long time said nothing at
all, and listened to everything without seeming to, which showed he
understood his business.  But, one morning, he walked into the bar, and
taking out his snuffbox, says "Chickweed, I've found out who done this
here robbery."  "Have you?" said Chickweed.  "Oh, my dear Spyers, only
let me have wengeance, and I shall die contented!  Oh, my dear Spyers,
where is the villain!"  "Come!" said Spyers, offering him a pinch of
snuff, "none of that gammon!  You did it yourself."  So he had; and a
good bit of money he had made by it, too; and nobody would never have
found it out, if he hadn't been so precious anxious to keep up
appearances!' said Mr. Blathers, putting down his wine-glass, and
clinking the handcuffs together.

'Very curious, indeed,' observed the doctor.  'Now, if you please, you
can walk upstairs.'

'If _you_ please, sir,' returned Mr. Blathers.  Closely following Mr.
Losberne, the two officers ascended to Oliver's bedroom; Mr. Giles
preceding the party, with a lighted candle.

Oliver had been dozing; but looked worse, and was more feverish than he
had appeared yet.  Being assisted by the doctor, he managed to sit up
in bed for a minute or so; and looked at the strangers without at all
understanding what was going forward--in fact, without seeming to
recollect where he was, or what had been passing.

'This,' said Mr. Losberne, speaking softly, but with great vehemence
notwithstanding, 'this is the lad, who, being accidently wounded by a
spring-gun in some boyish trespass on Mr. What-d' ye-call-him's
grounds, at the back here, comes to the house for assistance this
morning, and is immediately laid hold of and maltreated, by that
ingenious gentleman with the candle in his hand:  who has placed his
life in considerable danger, as I can professionally certify.'

Messrs. Blathers and Duff looked at Mr. Giles, as he was thus
recommended to their notice.  The bewildered butler gazed from them
towards Oliver, and from Oliver towards Mr. Losberne, with a most
ludicrous mixture of fear and perplexity.

'You don't mean to deny that, I suppose?' said the doctor, laying
Oliver gently down again.

'It was all done for the--for the best, sir,' answered Giles. 'I am
sure I thought it was the boy, or I wouldn't have meddled with him.  I
am not of an inhuman disposition, sir.'

'Thought it was what boy?' inquired the senior officer.

'The housebreaker's boy, sir!' replied Giles.  'They--they certainly
had a boy.'

'Well?  Do you think so now?' inquired Blathers.

'Think what, now?' replied Giles, looking vacantly at his questioner.

'Think it's the same boy, Stupid-head?' rejoined Blathers, impatiently.

'I don't know; I really don't know,' said Giles, with a rueful
countenance.  'I couldn't swear to him.'

'What do you think?' asked Mr. Blathers.

'I don't know what to think,' replied poor Giles.  'I don't think it is
the boy; indeed, I'm almost certain that it isn't.  You know it can't
be.'

'Has this man been a-drinking, sir?' inquired Blathers, turning to the
doctor.

'What a precious muddle-headed chap you are!' said Duff, addressing Mr.
Giles, with supreme contempt.

Mr. Losberne had been feeling the patient's pulse during this short
dialogue; but he now rose from the chair by the bedside, and remarked,
that if the officers had any doubts upon the subject, they would
perhaps like to step into the next room, and have Brittles before them.

Acting upon this suggestion, they adjourned to a neighbouring
apartment, where Mr. Brittles, being called in, involved himself and
his respected superior in such a wonderful maze of fresh contradictions
and impossibilities, as tended to throw no particular light on
anything, but the fact of his own strong mystification; except, indeed,
his declarations that he shouldn't know the real boy, if he were put
before him that instant; that he had only taken Oliver to be he,
because Mr. Giles had said he was; and that Mr. Giles had, five minutes
previously, admitted in the kitchen, that he began to be very much
afraid he had been a little too hasty.

Among other ingenious surmises, the question was then raised, whether
Mr. Giles had really hit anybody; and upon examination of the fellow
pistol to that which he had fired, it turned out to have no more
destructive loading than gunpowder and brown paper: a discovery which
made a considerable impression on everybody but the doctor, who had
drawn the ball about ten minutes before. Upon no one, however, did it
make a greater impression than on Mr. Giles himself; who, after
labouring, for some hours, under the fear of having mortally wounded a
fellow-creature, eagerly caught at this new idea, and favoured it to
the utmost.  Finally, the officers, without troubling themselves very
much about Oliver, left the Chertsey constable in the house, and took
up their rest for that night in the town; promising to return the next
morning.

With the next morning, there came a rumour, that two men and a boy were
in the cage at Kingston, who had been apprehended over night under
suspicious circumstances; and to Kingston Messrs. Blathers and Duff
journeyed accordingly. The suspicious circumstances, however, resolving
themselves, on investigation, into the one fact, that they had been
discovered sleeping under a haystack; which, although a great crime, is
only punishable by imprisonment, and is, in the merciful eye of the
English law, and its comprehensive love of all the King's subjects,
held to be no satisfactory proof, in the absence of all other evidence,
that the sleeper, or sleepers, have committed burglary accompanied with
violence, and have therefore rendered themselves liable to the
punishment of death; Messrs. Blathers and Duff came back again, as wise
as they went.

In short, after some more examination, and a great deal more
conversation, a neighbouring magistrate was readily induced to take the
joint bail of Mrs. Maylie and Mr. Losberne for Oliver's appearance if
he should ever be called upon; and Blathers and Duff, being rewarded
with a couple of guineas, returned to town with divided opinions on the
subject of their expedition: the latter gentleman on a mature
consideration of all the circumstances, inclining to the belief that
the burglarious attempt had originated with the Family Pet; and the
former being equally disposed to concede the full merit of it to the
great Mr. Conkey Chickweed.

Meanwhile, Oliver gradually throve and prospered under the united care
of Mrs. Maylie, Rose, and the kind-hearted Mr. Losberne.  If fervent
prayers, gushing from hearts overcharged with gratitude, be heard in
heaven--and if they be not, what prayers are!--the blessings which the
orphan child called down upon them, sunk into their souls, diffusing
peace and happiness.



CHAPTER XXXII

OF THE HAPPY LIFE OLIVER BEGAN TO LEAD WITH HIS KIND FRIENDS

Oliver's ailings were neither slight nor few.  In addition to the pain
and delay attendant on a broken limb, his exposure to the wet and cold
had brought on fever and ague:  which hung about him for many weeks,
and reduced him sadly. But, at length, he began, by slow degrees, to
get better, and to be able to say sometimes, in a few tearful words,
how deeply he felt the goodness of the two sweet ladies, and how
ardently he hoped that when he grew strong and well again, he could do
something to show his gratitude; only something, which would let them
see the love and duty with which his breast was full; something,
however slight, which would prove to them that their gentle kindness
had not been cast away; but that the poor boy whom their charity had
rescued from misery, or death, was eager to serve them with his whole
heart and soul.

'Poor fellow!' said Rose, when Oliver had been one day feebly
endeavouring to utter the words of thankfulness that rose to his pale
lips; 'you shall have many opportunities of serving us, if you will.
We are going into the country, and my aunt intends that you shall
accompany us.  The quiet place, the pure air, and all the pleasure and
beauties of spring, will restore you in a few days.  We will employ you
in a hundred ways, when you can bear the trouble.'

'The trouble!' cried Oliver.  'Oh! dear lady, if I could but work for
you; if I could only give you pleasure by watering your flowers, or
watching your birds, or running up and down the whole day long, to make
you happy; what would I give to do it!'

'You shall give nothing at all,' said Miss Maylie, smiling; 'for, as I
told you before, we shall employ you in a hundred ways; and if you only
take half the trouble to please us, that you promise now, you will make
me very happy indeed.'

'Happy, ma'am!' cried Oliver; 'how kind of you to say so!'

'You will make me happier than I can tell you,' replied the young lady.
'To think that my dear good aunt should have been the means of rescuing
any one from such sad misery as you have described to us, would be an
unspeakable pleasure to me; but to know that the object of her goodness
and compassion was sincerely grateful and attached, in consequence,
would delight me, more than you can well imagine.  Do you understand
me?' she inquired, watching Oliver's thoughtful face.

'Oh yes, ma'am, yes!' replied Oliver eagerly; 'but I was thinking that
I am ungrateful now.'

'To whom?' inquired the young lady.

'To the kind gentleman, and the dear old nurse, who took so much care
of me before,' rejoined Oliver.  'If they knew how happy I am, they
would be pleased, I am sure.'

'I am sure they would,' rejoined Oliver's benefactress; 'and Mr.
Losberne has already been kind enough to promise that when you are well
enough to bear the journey, he will carry you to see them.'

'Has he, ma'am?' cried Oliver, his face brightening with pleasure.  'I
don't know what I shall do for joy when I see their kind faces once
again!'

In a short time Oliver was sufficiently recovered to undergo the
fatigue of this expedition.  One morning he and Mr. Losberne set out,
accordingly, in a little carriage which belonged to Mrs. Maylie.  When
they came to Chertsey Bridge, Oliver turned very pale, and uttered a
loud exclamation.

'What's the matter with the boy?' cried the doctor, as usual, all in a
bustle.  'Do you see anything--hear anything--feel anything--eh?'

'That, sir,' cried Oliver, pointing out of the carriage window. 'That
house!'

'Yes; well, what of it?  Stop coachman.  Pull up here,' cried the
doctor.  'What of the house, my man; eh?'

'The thieves--the house they took me to!' whispered Oliver.

'The devil it is!' cried the doctor.  'Hallo, there! let me out!'

But, before the coachman could dismount from his box, he had tumbled
out of the coach, by some means or other; and, running down to the
deserted tenement, began kicking at the door like a madman.

'Halloa?' said a little ugly hump-backed man:  opening the door so
suddenly, that the doctor, from the very impetus of his last kick,
nearly fell forward into the passage. 'What's the matter here?'

'Matter!' exclaimed the other, collaring him, without a moment's
reflection.  'A good deal.  Robbery is the matter.'

'There'll be Murder the matter, too,' replied the hump-backed man,
coolly, 'if you don't take your hands off.  Do you hear me?'

'I hear you,' said the doctor, giving his captive a hearty shake.

'Where's--confound the fellow, what's his rascally name--Sikes; that's
it.  Where's Sikes, you thief?'

The hump-backed man stared, as if in excess of amazement and
indignation; then, twisting himself, dexterously, from the doctor's
grasp, growled forth a volley of horrid oaths, and retired into the
house.  Before he could shut the door, however, the doctor had passed
into the parlour, without a word of parley.

He looked anxiously round; not an article of furniture; not a vestige
of anything, animate or inanimate; not even the position of the
cupboards; answered Oliver's description!

'Now!' said the hump-backed man, who had watched him keenly, 'what do
you mean by coming into my house, in this violent way? Do you want to
rob me, or to murder me?  Which is it?'

'Did you ever know a man come out to do either, in a chariot and pair,
you ridiculous old vampire?' said the irritable doctor.

'What do you want, then?' demanded the hunchback.  'Will you take
yourself off, before I do you a mischief?  Curse you!'

'As soon as I think proper,' said Mr. Losberne, looking into the other
parlour; which, like the first, bore no resemblance whatever to
Oliver's account of it.  'I shall find you out, some day, my friend.'

'Will you?' sneered the ill-favoured cripple.  'If you ever want me,
I'm here.  I haven't lived here mad and all alone, for five-and-twenty
years, to be scared by you.  You shall pay for this; you shall pay for
this.'  And so saying, the mis-shapen little demon set up a yell, and
danced upon the ground, as if wild with rage.

'Stupid enough, this,' muttered the doctor to himself; 'the boy must
have made a mistake.  Here!  Put that in your pocket, and shut yourself
up again.'  With these words he flung the hunchback a piece of money,
and returned to the carriage.

The man followed to the chariot door, uttering the wildest imprecations
and curses all the way; but as Mr. Losberne turned to speak to the
driver, he looked into the carriage, and eyed Oliver for an instant
with a glance so sharp and fierce and at the same time so furious and
vindictive, that, waking or sleeping, he could not forget it for months
afterwards.  He continued to utter the most fearful imprecations, until
the driver had resumed his seat; and when they were once more on their
way, they could see him some distance behind: beating his feet upon the
ground, and tearing his hair, in transports of real or pretended rage.

'I am an ass!' said the doctor, after a long silence.  'Did you know
that before, Oliver?'

'No, sir.'

'Then don't forget it another time.'

'An ass,' said the doctor again, after a further silence of some
minutes.  'Even if it had been the right place, and the right fellows
had been there, what could I have done, single-handed? And if I had had
assistance, I see no good that I should have done, except leading to my
own exposure, and an unavoidable statement of the manner in which I
have hushed up this business. That would have served me right, though.
I am always involving myself in some scrape or other, by acting on
impulse.  It might have done me good.'

Now, the fact was that the excellent doctor had never acted upon
anything but impulse all through his life, and it was no bad compliment
to the nature of the impulses which governed him, that so far from
being involved in any peculiar troubles or misfortunes, he had the
warmest respect and esteem of all who knew him.  If the truth must be
told, he was a little out of temper, for a minute or two, at being
disappointed in procuring corroborative evidence of Oliver's story on
the very first occasion on which he had a chance of obtaining any.  He
soon came round again, however; and finding that Oliver's replies to
his questions, were still as straightforward and consistent, and still
delivered with as much apparent sincerity and truth, as they had ever
been, he made up his mind to attach full credence to them, from that
time forth.

As Oliver knew the name of the street in which Mr. Brownlow resided,
they were enabled to drive straight thither.  When the coach turned
into it, his heart beat so violently, that he could scarcely draw his
breath.

'Now, my boy, which house is it?' inquired Mr. Losberne.

'That!  That!' replied Oliver, pointing eagerly out of the window.
'The white house.  Oh! make haste!  Pray make haste! I feel as if I
should die: it makes me tremble so.'

'Come, come!' said the good doctor, patting him on the shoulder. 'You
will see them directly, and they will be overjoyed to find you safe and
well.'

'Oh!  I hope so!' cried Oliver.  'They were so good to me; so very,
very good to me.'

The coach rolled on.  It stopped.  No; that was the wrong house; the
next door.  It went on a few paces, and stopped again. Oliver looked up
at the windows, with tears of happy expectation coursing down his face.

Alas! the white house was empty, and there was a bill in the window.
'To Let.'

'Knock at the next door,' cried Mr. Losberne, taking Oliver's arm in
his.  'What has become of Mr. Brownlow, who used to live in the
adjoining house, do you know?'

The servant did not know; but would go and inquire.  She presently
returned, and said, that Mr. Brownlow had sold off his goods, and gone
to the West Indies, six weeks before.  Oliver clasped his hands, and
sank feebly backward.

'Has his housekeeper gone too?' inquired Mr. Losberne, after a moment's
pause.

'Yes, sir'; replied the servant.  'The old gentleman, the housekeeper,
and a gentleman who was a friend of Mr. Brownlow's, all went together.'

'Then turn towards home again,' said Mr. Losberne to the driver; 'and
don't stop to bait the horses, till you get out of this confounded
London!'

'The book-stall keeper, sir?' said Oliver.  'I know the way there.  See
him, pray, sir!  Do see him!'

'My poor boy, this is disappointment enough for one day,' said the
doctor.  'Quite enough for both of us.  If we go to the book-stall
keeper's, we shall certainly find that he is dead, or has set his house
on fire, or run away.  No; home again straight!'  And in obedience to
the doctor's impulse, home they went.

This bitter disappointment caused Oliver much sorrow and grief, even in
the midst of his happiness; for he had pleased himself, many times
during his illness, with thinking of all that Mr. Brownlow and Mrs.
Bedwin would say to him: and what delight it would be to tell them how
many long days and nights he had passed in reflecting on what they had
done for him, and in bewailing his cruel separation from them. The hope
of eventually clearing himself with them, too, and explaining how he
had been forced away, had buoyed him up, and sustained him, under many
of his recent trials; and now, the idea that they should have gone so
far, and carried with them the belief that he was an impostor and a
robber--a belief which might remain uncontradicted to his dying
day--was almost more than he could bear.

The circumstance occasioned no alteration, however, in the behaviour of
his benefactors.  After another fortnight, when the fine warm weather
had fairly begun, and every tree and flower was putting forth its young
leaves and rich blossoms, they made preparations for quitting the house
at Chertsey, for some months.

Sending the plate, which had so excited Fagin's cupidity, to the
banker's; and leaving Giles and another servant in care of the house,
they departed to a cottage at some distance in the country, and took
Oliver with them.

Who can describe the pleasure and delight, the peace of mind and soft
tranquillity, the sickly boy felt in the balmy air, and among the green
hills and rich woods, of an inland village!  Who can tell how scenes of
peace and quietude sink into the minds of pain-worn dwellers in close
and noisy places, and carry their own freshness, deep into their jaded
hearts!  Men who have lived in crowded, pent-up streets, through lives
of toil, and who have never wished for change; men, to whom custom has
indeed been second nature, and who have come almost to love each brick
and stone that formed the narrow boundaries of their daily walks; even
they, with the hand of death upon them, have been known to yearn at
last for one short glimpse of Nature's face; and, carried far from the
scenes of their old pains and pleasures, have seemed to pass at once
into a new state of being.  Crawling forth, from day to day, to some
green sunny spot, they have had such memories wakened up within them by
the sight of the sky, and hill and plain, and glistening water, that a
foretaste of heaven itself has soothed their quick decline, and they
have sunk into their tombs, as peacefully as the sun whose setting they
watched from their lonely chamber window but a few hours before, faded
from their dim and feeble sight!  The memories which peaceful country
scenes call up, are not of this world, nor of its thoughts and hopes.
Their gentle influence may teach us how to weave fresh garlands for the
graves of those we loved:  may purify our thoughts, and bear down
before it old enmity and hatred; but beneath all this, there lingers,
in the least reflective mind, a vague and half-formed consciousness of
having held such feelings long before, in some remote and distant time,
which calls up solemn thoughts of distant times to come, and bends down
pride and worldliness beneath it.

It was a lovely spot to which they repaired.  Oliver, whose days had
been spent among squalid crowds, and in the midst of noise and
brawling, seemed to enter on a new existence there.  The rose and
honeysuckle clung to the cottage walls; the ivy crept round the trunks
of the trees; and the garden-flowers perfumed the air with delicious
odours.  Hard by, was a little churchyard; not crowded with tall
unsightly gravestones, but full of humble mounds, covered with fresh
turf and moss: beneath which, the old people of the village lay at
rest.  Oliver often wandered here; and, thinking of the wretched grave
in which his mother lay, would sometimes sit him down and sob unseen;
but, when he raised his eyes to the deep sky overhead, he would cease
to think of her as lying in the ground, and would weep for her, sadly,
but without pain.

It was a happy time.  The days were peaceful and serene; the nights
brought with them neither fear nor care; no languishing in a wretched
prison, or associating with wretched men; nothing but pleasant and
happy thoughts.  Every morning he went to a white-headed old gentleman,
who lived near the little church: who taught him to read better, and to
write:  and who spoke so kindly, and took such pains, that Oliver could
never try enough to please him.  Then, he would walk with Mrs. Maylie
and Rose, and hear them talk of books; or perhaps sit near them, in
some shady place, and listen whilst the young lady read: which he could
have done, until it grew too dark to see the letters. Then, he had his
own lesson for the next day to prepare; and at this, he would work
hard, in a little room which looked into the garden, till evening came
slowly on, when the ladies would walk out again, and he with them:
listening with such pleasure to all they said:  and so happy if they
wanted a flower that he could climb to reach, or had forgotten anything
he could run to fetch: that he could never be quick enough about it.
When it became quite dark, and they returned home, the young lady would
sit down to the piano, and play some pleasant air, or sing, in a low
and gentle voice, some old song which it pleased her aunt to hear.
There would be no candles lighted at such times as these; and Oliver
would sit by one of the windows, listening to the sweet music, in a
perfect rapture.

And when Sunday came, how differently the day was spent, from any way
in which he had ever spent it yet! and how happily too; like all the
other days in that most happy time!  There was the little church, in
the morning, with the green leaves fluttering at the windows:  the
birds singing without:  and the sweet-smelling air stealing in at the
low porch, and filling the homely building with its fragrance. The poor
people were so neat and clean, and knelt so reverently in prayer, that
it seemed a pleasure, not a tedious duty, their assembling there
together; and though the singing might be rude, it was real, and
sounded more musical (to Oliver's ears at least) than any he had ever
heard in church before.  Then, there were the walks as usual, and many
calls at the clean houses of the labouring men; and at night, Oliver
read a chapter or two from the Bible, which he had been studying all
the week, and in the performance of which duty he felt more proud and
pleased, than if he had been the clergyman himself.

In the morning, Oliver would be a-foot by six o'clock, roaming the
fields, and plundering the hedges, far and wide, for nosegays of wild
flowers, with which he would return laden, home; and which it took
great care and consideration to arrange, to the best advantage, for the
embellishment of the breakfast-table. There was fresh groundsel, too,
for Miss Maylie's birds, with which Oliver, who had been studying the
subject under the able tuition of the village clerk, would decorate the
cages, in the most approved taste. When the birds were made all spruce
and smart for the day, there was usually some little commission of
charity to execute in the village; or, failing that, there was rare
cricket-playing, sometimes, on the green; or, failing that, there was
always something to do in the garden, or about the plants, to which
Oliver (who had studied this science also, under the same master, who
was a gardener by trade,) applied himself with hearty good-will, until
Miss Rose made her appearance:  when there were a thousand
commendations to be bestowed on all he had done.

So three months glided away; three months which, in the life of the
most blessed and favoured of mortals, might have been unmingled
happiness, and which, in Oliver's were true felicity. With the purest
and most amiable generosity on one side; and the truest, warmest,
soul-felt gratitude on the other; it is no wonder that, by the end of
that short time, Oliver Twist had become completely domesticated with
the old lady and her niece, and that the fervent attachment of his
young and sensitive heart, was repaid by their pride in, and attachment
to, himself.



CHAPTER XXXIII

WHEREIN THE HAPPINESS OF OLIVER AND HIS FRIENDS, EXPERIENCES A SUDDEN
CHECK

Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came.  If the village had been
beautiful at first it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its
richness.  The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the
earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and
stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted
open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant
shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine,
which lay stretched beyond.  The earth had donned her mantle of
brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad.  It was the
prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.

Still, the same quiet life went on at the little cottage, and the same
cheerful serenity prevailed among its inmates.  Oliver had long since
grown stout and healthy; but health or sickness made no difference in
his warm feelings of a great many people.  He was still the same
gentle, attached, affectionate creature that he had been when pain and
suffering had wasted his strength, and when he was dependent for every
slight attention, and comfort on those who tended him.

One beautiful night, when they had taken a longer walk than was
customary with them:  for the day had been unusually warm, and there
was a brilliant moon, and a light wind had sprung up, which was
unusually refreshing.  Rose had been in high spirits, too, and they had
walked on, in merry conversation, until they had far exceeded their
ordinary bounds.  Mrs. Maylie being fatigued, they returned more slowly
home.  The young lady merely throwing off her simple bonnet, sat down
to the piano as usual.  After running abstractedly over the keys for a
few minutes, she fell into a low and very solemn air; and as she played
it, they heard a sound as if she were weeping.

'Rose, my dear!' said the elder lady.

Rose made no reply, but played a little quicker, as though the words
had roused her from some painful thoughts.

'Rose, my love!' cried Mrs. Maylie, rising hastily, and bending over
her.  'What is this?  In tears!  My dear child, what distresses you?'

'Nothing, aunt; nothing,' replied the young lady.  'I don't know what
it is; I can't describe it; but I feel--'

'Not ill, my love?' interposed Mrs. Maylie.

'No, no!  Oh, not ill!' replied Rose: shuddering as though some deadly
chillness were passing over her, while she spoke; 'I shall be better
presently.  Close the window, pray!'

Oliver hastened to comply with her request.  The young lady, making an
effort to recover her cheerfulness, strove to play some livelier tune;
but her fingers dropped powerless over the keys. Covering her face with
her hands, she sank upon a sofa, and gave vent to the tears which she
was now unable to repress.

'My child!' said the elderly lady, folding her arms about her, 'I never
saw you so before.'

'I would not alarm you if I could avoid it,' rejoined Rose; 'but indeed
I have tried very hard, and cannot help this. I fear I _am_ ill, aunt.'

She was, indeed; for, when candles were brought, they saw that in the
very short time which had elapsed since their return home, the hue of
her countenance had changed to a marble whiteness. Its expression had
lost nothing of its beauty; but it was changed; and there was an
anxious haggard look about the gentle face, which it had never worn
before.  Another minute, and it was suffused with a crimson flush:  and
a heavy wildness came over the soft blue eye.  Again this disappeared,
like the shadow thrown by a passing cloud; and she was once more deadly
pale.

Oliver, who watched the old lady anxiously, observed that she was
alarmed by these appearances; and so in truth, was he; but seeing that
she affected to make light of them, he endeavoured to do the same, and
they so far succeeded, that when Rose was persuaded by her aunt to
retire for the night, she was in better spirits; and appeared even in
better health:  assuring them that she felt certain she should rise in
the morning, quite well.

'I hope,' said Oliver, when Mrs. Maylie returned, 'that nothing is the
matter?  She don't look well to-night, but--'

The old lady motioned to him not to speak; and sitting herself down in
a dark corner of the room, remained silent for some time. At length,
she said, in a trembling voice:

'I hope not, Oliver.  I have been very happy with her for some years:
too happy, perhaps.  It may be time that I should meet with some
misfortune; but I hope it is not this.'

'What?' inquired Oliver.

'The heavy blow,' said the old lady, 'of losing the dear girl who has
so long been my comfort and happiness.'

'Oh!  God forbid!' exclaimed Oliver, hastily.

'Amen to that, my child!' said the old lady, wringing her hands.

'Surely there is no danger of anything so dreadful?' said Oliver. 'Two
hours ago, she was quite well.'

'She is very ill now,' rejoined Mrs. Maylies; 'and will be worse, I am
sure.  My dear, dear Rose!  Oh, what shall I do without her!'

She gave way to such great grief, that Oliver, suppressing his own
emotion, ventured to remonstrate with her; and to beg, earnestly, that,
for the sake of the dear young lady herself, she would be more calm.

'And consider, ma'am,' said Oliver, as the tears forced themselves into
his eyes, despite of his efforts to the contrary. 'Oh! consider how
young and good she is, and what pleasure and comfort she gives to all
about her.  I am sure--certain--quite certain--that, for your sake, who
are so good yourself; and for her own; and for the sake of all she
makes so happy; she will not die.  Heaven will never let her die so
young.'

'Hush!' said Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand on Oliver's head. 'You think
like a child, poor boy.  But you teach me my duty, notwithstanding.  I
had forgotten it for a moment, Oliver, but I hope I may be pardoned,
for I am old, and have seen enough of illness and death to know the
agony of separation from the objects of our love.  I have seen enough,
too, to know that it is not always the youngest and best who are spared
to those that love them; but this should give us comfort in our sorrow;
for Heaven is just; and such things teach us, impressively, that there
is a brighter world than this; and that the passage to it is speedy.
God's will be done!  I love her; and He knows how well!'

Oliver was surprised to see that as Mrs. Maylie said these words, she
checked her lamentations as though by one effort; and drawing herself
up as she spoke, became composed and firm.  He was still more
astonished to find that this firmness lasted; and that, under all the
care and watching which ensued, Mrs. Maylie was every ready and
collected: performing all the duties which had devolved upon her,
steadily, and, to all external appearances, even cheerfully.  But he
was young, and did not know what strong minds are capable of, under
trying circumstances.  How should he, when their possessors so seldom
know themselves?

An anxious night ensued.  When morning came, Mrs. Maylie's predictions
were but too well verified.  Rose was in the first stage of a high and
dangerous fever.

'We must be active, Oliver, and not give way to useless grief,' said
Mrs. Maylie, laying her finger on her lip, as she looked steadily into
his face; 'this letter must be sent, with all possible expedition, to
Mr. Losberne.  It must be carried to the market-town: which is not more
than four miles off, by the footpath across the field:  and thence
dispatched, by an express on horseback, straight to Chertsey. The
people at the inn will undertake to do this: and I can trust to you to
see it done, I know.'

Oliver could make no reply, but looked his anxiety to be gone at once.

'Here is another letter,' said Mrs. Maylie, pausing to reflect; 'but
whether to send it now, or wait until I see how Rose goes on, I
scarcely know.  I would not forward it, unless I feared the worst.'

'Is it for Chertsey, too, ma'am?' inquired Oliver; impatient to execute
his commission, and holding out his trembling hand for the letter.

'No,' replied the old lady, giving it to him mechanically. Oliver
glanced at it, and saw that it was directed to Harry Maylie, Esquire,
at some great lord's house in the country; where, he could not make out.

'Shall it go, ma'am?' asked Oliver, looking up, impatiently.

'I think not,' replied Mrs. Maylie, taking it back.  'I will wait until
to-morrow.'

With these words, she gave Oliver her purse, and he started off,
without more delay, at the greatest speed he could muster.

Swiftly he ran across the fields, and down the little lanes which
sometimes divided them: now almost hidden by the high corn on either
side, and now emerging on an open field, where the mowers and haymakers
were busy at their work:  nor did he stop once, save now and then, for
a few seconds, to recover breath, until he came, in a great heat, and
covered with dust, on the little market-place of the market-town.

Here he paused, and looked about for the inn.  There were a white bank,
and a red brewery, and a yellow town-hall; and in one corner there was
a large house, with all the wood about it painted green:  before which
was the sign of 'The George.'  To this he hastened, as soon as it
caught his eye.

He spoke to a postboy who was dozing under the gateway; and who, after
hearing what he wanted, referred him to the ostler; who after hearing
all he had to say again, referred him to the landlord; who was a tall
gentleman in a blue neckcloth, a white hat, drab breeches, and boots
with tops to match, leaning against a pump by the stable-door, picking
his teeth with a silver toothpick.

This gentleman walked with much deliberation into the bar to make out
the bill:  which took a long time making out:  and after it was ready,
and paid, a horse had to be saddled, and a man to be dressed, which
took up ten good minutes more.  Meanwhile Oliver was in such a
desperate state of impatience and anxiety, that he felt as if he could
have jumped upon the horse himself, and galloped away, full tear, to
the next stage.  At length, all was ready; and the little parcel having
been handed up, with many injunctions and entreaties for its speedy
delivery, the man set spurs to his horse, and rattling over the uneven
paving of the market-place, was out of the town, and galloping along
the turnpike-road, in a couple of minutes.

As it was something to feel certain that assistance was sent for, and
that no time had been lost, Oliver hurried up the inn-yard, with a
somewhat lighter heart.  He was turning out of the gateway when he
accidently stumbled against a tall man wrapped in a cloak, who was at
that moment coming out of the inn door.

'Hah!' cried the man, fixing his eyes on Oliver, and suddenly
recoiling.  'What the devil's this?'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Oliver; 'I was in a great hurry to get
home, and didn't see you were coming.'

'Death!' muttered the man to himself, glaring at the boy with his large
dark eyes.  'Who would have thought it! Grind him to ashes! He'd start
up from a stone coffin, to come in my way!'

'I am sorry,' stammered Oliver, confused by the strange man's wild
look.  'I hope I have not hurt you!'

'Rot you!' murmured the man, in a horrible passion; between his
clenched teeth; 'if I had only had the courage to say the word, I might
have been free of you in a night.  Curses on your head, and black death
on your heart, you imp!  What are you doing here?'

The man shook his fist, as he uttered these words incoherently. He
advanced towards Oliver, as if with the intention of aiming a blow at
him, but fell violently on the ground:  writhing and foaming, in a fit.

Oliver gazed, for a moment, at the struggles of the madman (for such he
supposed him to be); and then darted into the house for help.  Having
seen him safely carried into the hotel, he turned his face homewards,
running as fast as he could, to make up for lost time:  and recalling
with a great deal of astonishment and some fear, the extraordinary
behaviour of the person from whom he had just parted.

The circumstance did not dwell in his recollection long, however: for
when he reached the cottage, there was enough to occupy his mind, and
to drive all considerations of self completely from his memory.

Rose Maylie had rapidly grown worse; before mid-night she was
delirious.  A medical practitioner, who resided on the spot, was in
constant attendance upon her; and after first seeing the patient, he
had taken Mrs. Maylie aside, and pronounced her disorder to be one of a
most alarming nature. 'In fact,' he said, 'it would be little short of
a miracle, if she recovered.'

How often did Oliver start from his bed that night, and stealing out,
with noiseless footstep, to the staircase, listen for the slightest
sound from the sick chamber!  How often did a tremble shake his frame,
and cold drops of terror start upon his brow, when a sudden trampling
of feet caused him to fear that something too dreadful to think of, had
even then occurred!  And what had been the fervency of all the prayers
he had ever muttered, compared with those he poured forth, now, in the
agony and passion of his supplication for the life and health of the
gentle creature, who was tottering on the deep grave's verge!

Oh! the suspense, the fearful, acute suspense, of standing idly by
while the life of one we dearly love, is trembling in the balance!  Oh!
the racking thoughts that crowd upon the mind, and make the heart beat
violently, and the breath come thick, by the force of the images they
conjure up before it; the desperate anxiety _to be doing something_ to
relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to
alleviate; the sinking of soul and spirit, which the sad remembrance of
our helplessness produces; what tortures can equal these; what
reflections or endeavours can, in the full tide and fever of the time,
allay them!

Morning came; and the little cottage was lonely and still. People spoke
in whispers; anxious faces appeared at the gate, from time to time;
women and children went away in tears. All the livelong day, and for
hours after it had grown dark, Oliver paced softly up and down the
garden, raising his eyes every instant to the sick chamber, and
shuddering to see the darkened window, looking as if death lay
stretched inside.  Late that night, Mr. Losberne arrived.  'It is
hard,' said the good doctor, turning away as he spoke; 'so young; so
much beloved; but there is very little hope.'

Another morning.  The sun shone brightly; as brightly as if it looked
upon no misery or care; and, with every leaf and flower in full bloom
about her; with life, and health, and sounds and sights of joy,
surrounding her on every side: the fair young creature lay, wasting
fast.  Oliver crept away to the old churchyard, and sitting down on one
of the green mounds, wept and prayed for her, in silence.

There was such peace and beauty in the scene; so much of brightness and
mirth in the sunny landscape; such blithesome music in the songs of the
summer birds; such freedom in the rapid flight of the rook, careering
overhead; so much of life and joyousness in all; that, when the boy
raised his aching eyes, and looked about, the thought instinctively
occurred to him, that this was not a time for death; that Rose could
surely never die when humbler things were all so glad and gay; that
graves were for cold and cheerless winter:  not for sunlight and
fragrance. He almost thought that shrouds were for the old and
shrunken; and that they never wrapped the young and graceful form in
their ghastly folds.

A knell from the church bell broke harshly on these youthful thoughts.
Another!  Again!  It was tolling for the funeral service.  A group of
humble mourners entered the gate: wearing white favours; for the corpse
was young.  They stood uncovered by a grave; and there was a mother--a
mother once--among the weeping train.  But the sun shone brightly, and
the birds sang on.

Oliver turned homeward, thinking on the many kindnesses he had received
from the young lady, and wishing that the time could come again, that
he might never cease showing her how grateful and attached he was.  He
had no cause for self-reproach on the score of neglect, or want of
thought, for he had been devoted to her service; and yet a hundred
little occasions rose up before him, on which he fancied he might have
been more zealous, and more earnest, and wished he had been.  We need
be careful how we deal with those about us, when every death carries to
some small circle of survivors, thoughts of so much omitted, and so
little done--of so many things forgotten, and so many more which might
have been repaired!  There is no remorse so deep as that which is
unavailing; if we would be spared its tortures, let us remember this,
in time.

When he reached home Mrs. Maylie was sitting in the little parlour.
Oliver's heart sank at sight of her; for she had never left the bedside
of her niece; and he trembled to think what change could have driven
her away.  He learnt that she had fallen into a deep sleep, from which
she would waken, either to recovery and life, or to bid them farewell,
and die.

They sat, listening, and afraid to speak, for hours.  The untasted meal
was removed, with looks which showed that their thoughts were
elsewhere, they watched the sun as he sank lower and lower, and, at
length, cast over sky and earth those brilliant hues which herald his
departure.  Their quick ears caught the sound of an approaching
footstep.  They both involuntarily darted to the door, as Mr. Losberne
entered.

'What of Rose?' cried the old lady.  'Tell me at once!  I can bear it;
anything but suspense!  Oh, tell me! in the name of Heaven!'

'You must compose yourself,' said the doctor supporting her. 'Be calm,
my dear ma'am, pray.'

'Let me go, in God's name!  My dear child!  She is dead! She is dying!'

'No!' cried the doctor, passionately.  'As He is good and merciful, she
will live to bless us all, for years to come.'

The lady fell upon her knees, and tried to fold her hands together; but
the energy which had supported her so long, fled up to Heaven with her
first thanksgiving; and she sank into the friendly arms which were
extended to receive her.



CHAPTER XXXIV

CONTAINS SOME INTRODUCTORY PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO A YOUNG GENTLEMAN
WHO NOW ARRIVES UPON THE SCENE; AND A NEW ADVENTURE WHICH HAPPENED TO
OLIVER

It was almost too much happiness to bear.  Oliver felt stunned and
stupefied by the unexpected intelligence; he could not weep, or speak,
or rest.  He had scarcely the power of understanding anything that had
passed, until, after a long ramble in the quiet evening air, a burst of
tears came to his relief, and he seemed to awaken, all at once, to a
full sense of the joyful change that had occurred, and the almost
insupportable load of anguish which had been taken from his breast.

The night was fast closing in, when he returned homeward:  laden with
flowers which he had culled, with peculiar care, for the adornment of
the sick chamber.  As he walked briskly along the road, he heard behind
him, the noise of some vehicle, approaching at a furious pace.  Looking
round, he saw that it was a post-chaise, driven at great speed; and as
the horses were galloping, and the road was narrow, he stood leaning
against a gate until it should have passed him.

As it dashed on, Oliver caught a glimpse of a man in a white nightcap,
whose face seemed familiar to him, although his view was so brief that
he could not identify the person.  In another second or two, the
nightcap was thrust out of the chaise-window, and a stentorian voice
bellowed to the driver to stop:  which he did, as soon as he could pull
up his horses.  Then, the nightcap once again appeared: and the same
voice called Oliver by his name.

'Here!' cried the voice.  'Oliver, what's the news?  Miss Rose! Master
O-li-ver!'

'Is is you, Giles?' cried Oliver, running up to the chaise-door.

Giles popped out his nightcap again, preparatory to making some reply,
when he was suddenly pulled back by a young gentleman who occupied the
other corner of the chaise, and who eagerly demanded what was the news.

'In a word!' cried the gentleman, 'Better or worse?'

'Better--much better!' replied Oliver, hastily.

'Thank Heaven!' exclaimed the gentleman.  'You are sure?'

'Quite, sir,' replied Oliver.  'The change took place only a few hours
ago; and Mr. Losberne says, that all danger is at an end.'

The gentleman said not another word, but, opening the chaise-door,
leaped out, and taking Oliver hurriedly by the arm, led him aside.

'You are quite certain?  There is no possibility of any mistake on your
part, my boy, is there?' demanded the gentleman in a tremulous voice.
'Do not deceive me, by awakening hopes that are not to be fulfilled.'

'I would not for the world, sir,' replied Oliver.  'Indeed you may
believe me.  Mr. Losberne's words were, that she would live to bless us
all for many years to come.  I heard him say so.'

The tears stood in Oliver's eyes as he recalled the scene which was the
beginning of so much happiness; and the gentleman turned his face away,
and remained silent, for some minutes.  Oliver thought he heard him
sob, more than once; but he feared to interrupt him by any fresh
remark--for he could well guess what his feelings were--and so stood
apart, feigning to be occupied with his nosegay.

All this time, Mr. Giles, with the white nightcap on, had been sitting
on the steps of the chaise, supporting an elbow on each knee, and
wiping his eyes with a blue cotton pocket-handkerchief dotted with
white spots.  That the honest fellow had not been feigning emotion, was
abundantly demonstrated by the very red eyes with which he regarded the
young gentleman, when he turned round and addressed him.

'I think you had better go on to my mother's in the chaise, Giles,'
said he.  'I would rather walk slowly on, so as to gain a little time
before I see her.  You can say I am coming.'

'I beg your pardon, Mr. Harry,' said Giles:  giving a final polish to
his ruffled countenance with the handkerchief; 'but if you would leave
the postboy to say that, I should be very much obliged to you.  It
wouldn't be proper for the maids to see me in this state, sir; I should
never have any more authority with them if they did.'

'Well,' rejoined Harry Maylie, smiling, 'you can do as you like. Let
him go on with the luggage, if you wish it, and do you follow with us.
Only first exchange that nightcap for some more appropriate covering,
or we shall be taken for madmen.'

Mr. Giles, reminded of his unbecoming costume, snatched off and
pocketed his nightcap; and substituted a hat, of grave and sober shape,
which he took out of the chaise.  This done, the postboy drove off;
Giles, Mr. Maylie, and Oliver, followed at their leisure.

As they walked along, Oliver glanced from time to time with much
interest and curiosity at the new comer.  He seemed about
five-and-twenty years of age, and was of the middle height; his
countenance was frank and handsome; and his demeanor easy and
prepossessing.  Notwithstanding the difference between youth and age,
he bore so strong a likeness to the old lady, that Oliver would have
had no great difficulty in imagining their relationship, if he had not
already spoken of her as his mother.

Mrs. Maylie was anxiously waiting to receive her son when he reached
the cottage.  The meeting did not take place without great emotion on
both sides.

'Mother!' whispered the young man; 'why did you not write before?'

'I did,' replied Mrs. Maylie; 'but, on reflection, I determined to keep
back the letter until I had heard Mr. Losberne's opinion.'

'But why,' said the young man, 'why run the chance of that occurring
which so nearly happened?  If Rose had--I cannot utter that word
now--if this illness had terminated differently, how could you ever
have forgiven yourself!  How could I ever have know happiness again!'

'If that _had_ been the case, Harry,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'I fear your
happiness would have been effectually blighted, and that your arrival
here, a day sooner or a day later, would have been of very, very little
import.'

'And who can wonder if it be so, mother?' rejoined the young man; 'or
why should I say, _if_?--It is--it is--you know it, mother--you must
know it!'

'I know that she deserves the best and purest love the heart of man can
offer,' said Mrs. Maylie; 'I know that the devotion and affection of
her nature require no ordinary return, but one that shall be deep and
lasting.  If I did not feel this, and know, besides, that a changed
behaviour in one she loved would break her heart, I should not feel my
task so difficult of performance, or have to encounter so many
struggles in my own bosom, when I take what seems to me to be the
strict line of duty.'

'This is unkind, mother,' said Harry.  'Do you still suppose that I am
a boy ignorant of my own mind, and mistaking the impulses of my own
soul?'

'I think, my dear son,' returned Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand upon his
shoulder, 'that youth has many generous impulses which do not last; and
that among them are some, which, being gratified, become only the more
fleeting.  Above all, I think' said the lady, fixing her eyes on her
son's face, 'that if an enthusiastic, ardent, and ambitious man marry a
wife on whose name there is a stain, which, though it originate in no
fault of hers, may be visited by cold and sordid people upon her, and
upon his children also: and, in exact proportion to his success in the
world, be cast in his teeth, and made the subject of sneers against
him:  he may, no matter how generous and good his nature, one day
repent of the connection he formed in early life.  And she may have the
pain of knowing that he does so.'

'Mother,' said the young man, impatiently, 'he would be a selfish
brute, unworthy alike of the name of man and of the woman you describe,
who acted thus.'

'You think so now, Harry,' replied his mother.

'And ever will!' said the young man.  'The mental agony I have
suffered, during the last two days, wrings from me the avowal to you of
a passion which, as you well know, is not one of yesterday, nor one I
have lightly formed.  On Rose, sweet, gentle girl! my heart is set, as
firmly as ever heart of man was set on woman.  I have no thought, no
view, no hope in life, beyond her; and if you oppose me in this great
stake, you take my peace and happiness in your hands, and cast them to
the wind.  Mother, think better of this, and of me, and do not
disregard the happiness of which you seem to think so little.'

'Harry,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'it is because I think so much of warm and
sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded. But we
have said enough, and more than enough, on this matter, just now.'

'Let it rest with Rose, then,' interposed Harry.  'You will not press
these overstrained opinions of yours, so far, as to throw any obstacle
in my way?'

'I will not,' rejoined Mrs. Maylie; 'but I would have you consider--'

'I _have_ considered!' was the impatient reply; 'Mother, I have
considered, years and years.  I have considered, ever since I have been
capable of serious reflection.  My feelings remain unchanged, as they
ever will; and why should I suffer the pain of a delay in giving them
vent, which can be productive of no earthly good?  No!  Before I leave
this place, Rose shall hear me.'

'She shall,' said Mrs. Maylie.

'There is something in your manner, which would almost imply that she
will hear me coldly, mother,' said the young man.

'Not coldly,' rejoined the old lady; 'far from it.'

'How then?' urged the young man.  'She has formed no other attachment?'

'No, indeed,' replied his mother; 'you have, or I mistake, too strong a
hold on her affections already.  What I would say,' resumed the old
lady, stopping her son as he was about to speak, 'is this.  Before you
stake your all on this chance; before you suffer yourself to be carried
to the highest point of hope; reflect for a few moments, my dear child,
on Rose's history, and consider what effect the knowledge of her
doubtful birth may have on her decision:  devoted as she is to us, with
all the intensity of her noble mind, and with that perfect sacrifice of
self which, in all matters, great or trifling, has always been her
characteristic.'

'What do you mean?'

'That I leave you to discover,' replied Mrs. Maylie.  'I must go back
to her.  God bless you!'

'I shall see you again to-night?' said the young man, eagerly.

'By and by,' replied the lady; 'when I leave Rose.'

'You will tell her I am here?' said Harry.

'Of course,' replied Mrs. Maylie.

'And say how anxious I have been, and how much I have suffered, and how
I long to see her.  You will not refuse to do this, mother?'

'No,' said the old lady; 'I will tell her all.'  And pressing her son's
hand, affectionately, she hastened from the room.

Mr. Losberne and Oliver had remained at another end of the apartment
while this hurried conversation was proceeding.  The former now held
out his hand to Harry Maylie; and hearty salutations were exchanged
between them.  The doctor then communicated, in reply to multifarious
questions from his young friend, a precise account of his patient's
situation; which was quite as consolatory and full of promise, as
Oliver's statement had encouraged him to hope; and to the whole of
which, Mr. Giles, who affected to be busy about the luggage, listened
with greedy ears.

'Have you shot anything particular, lately, Giles?' inquired the
doctor, when he had concluded.

'Nothing particular, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, colouring up to the eyes.

'Nor catching any thieves, nor identifying any house-breakers?' said
the doctor.

'None at all, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, with much gravity.

'Well,' said the doctor, 'I am sorry to hear it, because you do that
sort of thing admirably.  Pray, how is Brittles?'

'The boy is very well, sir,' said Mr. Giles, recovering his usual tone
of patronage; 'and sends his respectful duty, sir.'

'That's well,' said the doctor.  'Seeing you here, reminds me, Mr.
Giles, that on the day before that on which I was called away so
hurriedly, I executed, at the request of your good mistress, a small
commission in your favour.  Just step into this corner a moment, will
you?'

Mr. Giles walked into the corner with much importance, and some wonder,
and was honoured with a short whispering conference with the doctor, on
the termination of which, he made a great many bows, and retired with
steps of unusual stateliness.  The subject matter of this conference
was not disclosed in the parlour, but the kitchen was speedily
enlightened concerning it; for Mr. Giles walked straight thither, and
having called for a mug of ale, announced, with an air of majesty,
which was highly effective, that it had pleased his mistress, in
consideration of his gallant behaviour on the occasion of that
attempted robbery, to deposit, in the local savings-bank, the sum of
five-and-twenty pounds, for his sole use and benefit.  At this, the two
women-servants lifted up their hands and eyes, and supposed that Mr.
Giles, pulling out his shirt-frill, replied, 'No, no'; and that if they
observed that he was at all haughty to his inferiors, he would thank
them to tell him so.  And then he made a great many other remarks, no
less illustrative of his humility, which were received with equal
favour and applause, and were, withal, as original and as much to the
purpose, as the remarks of great men commonly are.

Above stairs, the remainder of the evening passed cheerfully away; for
the doctor was in high spirits; and however fatigued or thoughtful
Harry Maylie might have been at first, he was not proof against the
worthy gentleman's good humour, which displayed itself in a great
variety of sallies and professional recollections, and an abundance of
small jokes, which struck Oliver as being the drollest things he had
ever heard, and caused him to laugh proportionately; to the evident
satisfaction of the doctor, who laughed immoderately at himself, and
made Harry laugh almost as heartily, by the very force of sympathy.
So, they were as pleasant a party as, under the circumstances, they
could well have been; and it was late before they retired, with light
and thankful hearts, to take that rest of which, after the doubt and
suspense they had recently undergone, they stood much in need.

Oliver rose next morning, in better heart, and went about his usual
occupations, with more hope and pleasure than he had known for many
days.  The birds were once more hung out, to sing, in their old places;
and the sweetest wild flowers that could be found, were once more
gathered to gladden Rose with their beauty. The melancholy which had
seemed to the sad eyes of the anxious boy to hang, for days past, over
every object, beautiful as all were, was dispelled by magic.  The dew
seemed to sparkle more brightly on the green leaves; the air to rustle
among them with a sweeter music; and the sky itself to look more blue
and bright. Such is the influence which the condition of our own
thoughts, exercise, even over the appearance of external objects.  Men
who look on nature, and their fellow-men, and cry that all is dark and
gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are reflections from
their own jaundiced eyes and hearts.  The real hues are delicate, and
need a clearer vision.

It is worthy of remark, and Oliver did not fail to note it at the time,
that his morning expeditions were no longer made alone. Harry Maylie,
after the very first morning when he met Oliver coming laden home, was
seized with such a passion for flowers, and displayed such a taste in
their arrangement, as left his young companion far behind.  If Oliver
were behindhand in these respects, he knew where the best were to be
found; and morning after morning they scoured the country together, and
brought home the fairest that blossomed.  The window of the young
lady's chamber was opened now; for she loved to feel the rich summer
air stream in, and revive her with its freshness; but there always
stood in water, just inside the lattice, one particular little bunch,
which was made up with great care, every morning.  Oliver could not
help noticing that the withered flowers were never thrown away,
although the little vase was regularly replenished; nor, could he help
observing, that whenever the doctor came into the garden, he invariably
cast his eyes up to that particular corner, and nodded his head most
expressively, as he set forth on his morning's walk.  Pending these
observations, the days were flying by; and Rose was rapidly recovering.

Nor did Oliver's time hang heavy on his hands, although the young lady
had not yet left her chamber, and there were no evening walks, save now
and then, for a short distance, with Mrs. Maylie. He applied himself,
with redoubled assiduity, to the instructions of the white-headed old
gentleman, and laboured so hard that his quick progress surprised even
himself.  It was while he was engaged in this pursuit, that he was
greatly startled and distressed by a most unexpected occurrence.

The little room in which he was accustomed to sit, when busy at his
books, was on the ground-floor, at the back of the house.  It was quite
a cottage-room, with a lattice-window: around which were clusters of
jessamine and honeysuckle, that crept over the casement, and filled the
place with their delicious perfume.  It looked into a garden, whence a
wicket-gate opened into a small paddock; all beyond, was fine
meadow-land and wood.  There was no other dwelling near, in that
direction; and the prospect it commanded was very extensive.

One beautiful evening, when the first shades of twilight were beginning
to settle upon the earth, Oliver sat at this window, intent upon his
books.  He had been poring over them for some time; and, as the day had
been uncommonly sultry, and he had exerted himself a great deal, it is
no disparagement to the authors, whoever they may have been, to say,
that gradually and by slow degrees, he fell asleep.

There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes, which, while it
holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things
about it, and enable it to ramble at its pleasure.  So far as an
overpowering heaviness, a prostration of strength, and an utter
inability to control our thoughts or power of motion, can be called
sleep, this is it; and yet, we have a consciousness of all that is
going on about us, and, if we dream at such a time, words which are
really spoken, or sounds which really exist at the moment, accommodate
themselves with surprising readiness to our visions, until reality and
imagination become so strangely blended that it is afterwards almost
matter of impossibility to separate the two.  Nor is this, the most
striking phenomenon incidental to such a state.  It is an undoubted
fact, that although our senses of touch and sight be for the time dead,
yet our sleeping thoughts, and the visionary scenes that pass before
us, will be influenced and materially influenced, by the _mere silent
presence_ of some external object; which may not have been near us when
we closed our eyes:  and of whose vicinity we have had no waking
consciousness.

Oliver knew, perfectly well, that he was in his own little room; that
his books were lying on the table before him; that the sweet air was
stirring among the creeping plants outside.  And yet he was asleep.
Suddenly, the scene changed; the air became close and confined; and he
thought, with a glow of terror, that he was in the Jew's house again.
There sat the hideous old man, in his accustomed corner, pointing at
him, and whispering to another man, with his face averted, who sat
beside him.

'Hush, my dear!' he thought he heard the Jew say; 'it is he, sure
enough.  Come away.'

'He!' the other man seemed to answer; 'could I mistake him, think you?
If a crowd of ghosts were to put themselves into his exact shape, and
he stood amongst them, there is something that would tell me how to
point him out.  If you buried him fifty feet deep, and took me across
his grave, I fancy I should know, if there wasn't a mark above it, that
he lay buried there?'

The man seemed to say this, with such dreadful hatred, that Oliver
awoke with the fear, and started up.

Good Heaven!  what was that, which sent the blood tingling to his
heart, and deprived him of his voice, and of power to move!
There--there--at the window--close before him--so close, that he could
have almost touched him before he started back:  with his eyes peering
into the room, and meeting his:  there stood the Jew!  And beside him,
white with rage or fear, or both, were the scowling features of the man
who had accosted him in the inn-yard.

It was but an instant, a glance, a flash, before his eyes; and they
were gone.  But they had recognised him, and he them; and their look
was as firmly impressed upon his memory, as if it had been deeply
carved in stone, and set before him from his birth. He stood transfixed
for a moment; then, leaping from the window into the garden, called
loudly for help.



CHAPTER XXXV

CONTAINING THE UNSATISFACTORY RESULT OF OLIVER'S ADVENTURE; AND A
CONVERSATION OF SOME IMPORTANCE BETWEEN HARRY MAYLIE AND ROSE

When the inmates of the house, attracted by Oliver's cries, hurried to
the spot from which they proceeded, they found him, pale and agitated,
pointing in the direction of the meadows behind the house, and scarcely
able to articulate the words, 'The Jew! the Jew!'

Mr. Giles was at a loss to comprehend what this outcry meant; but Harry
Maylie, whose perceptions were something quicker, and who had heard
Oliver's history from his mother, understood it at once.

'What direction did he take?' he asked, catching up a heavy stick which
was standing in a corner.

'That,' replied Oliver, pointing out the course the man had taken; 'I
missed them in an instant.'

'Then, they are in the ditch!' said Harry.  'Follow!  And keep as near
me, as you can.' So saying, he sprang over the hedge, and darted off
with a speed which rendered it matter of exceeding difficulty for the
others to keep near him.

Giles followed as well as he could; and Oliver followed too; and in the
course of a minute or two, Mr. Losberne, who had been out walking, and
just then returned, tumbled over the hedge after them, and picking
himself up with more agility than he could have been supposed to
possess, struck into the same course at no contemptible speed, shouting
all the while, most prodigiously, to know what was the matter.

On they all went; nor stopped they once to breathe, until the leader,
striking off into an angle of the field indicated by Oliver, began to
search, narrowly, the ditch and hedge adjoining; which afforded time
for the remainder of the party to come up; and for Oliver to
communicate to Mr. Losberne the circumstances that had led to so
vigorous a pursuit.

The search was all in vain.  There were not even the traces of recent
footsteps, to be seen.  They stood now, on the summit of a little hill,
commanding the open fields in every direction for three or four miles.
There was the village in the hollow on the left; but, in order to gain
that, after pursuing the track Oliver had pointed out, the men must
have made a circuit of open ground, which it was impossible they could
have accomplished in so short a time.  A thick wood skirted the
meadow-land in another direction; but they could not have gained that
covert for the same reason.

'It must have been a dream, Oliver,' said Harry Maylie.

'Oh no, indeed, sir,' replied Oliver, shuddering at the very
recollection of the old wretch's countenance; 'I saw him too plainly
for that.  I saw them both, as plainly as I see you now.'

'Who was the other?' inquired Harry and Mr. Losberne, together.

'The very same man I told you of, who came so suddenly upon me at the
inn,' said Oliver.  'We had our eyes fixed full upon each other; and I
could swear to him.'

'They took this way?' demanded Harry:  'are you sure?'

'As I am that the men were at the window,' replied Oliver, pointing
down, as he spoke, to the hedge which divided the cottage-garden from
the meadow.  'The tall man leaped over, just there; and the Jew,
running a few paces to the right, crept through that gap.'

The two gentlemen watched Oliver's earnest face, as he spoke, and
looking from him to each other, seemed to feel satisfied of the
accuracy of what he said.  Still, in no direction were there any
appearances of the trampling of men in hurried flight.  The grass was
long; but it was trodden down nowhere, save where their own feet had
crushed it.  The sides and brinks of the ditches were of damp clay; but
in no one place could they discern the print of men's shoes, or the
slightest mark which would indicate that any feet had pressed the
ground for hours before.

'This is strange!' said Harry.

'Strange?' echoed the doctor.  'Blathers and Duff, themselves, could
make nothing of it.'

Notwithstanding the evidently useless nature of their search, they did
not desist until the coming on of night rendered its further
prosecution hopeless; and even then, they gave it up with reluctance.
Giles was dispatched to the different ale-houses in the village,
furnished with the best description Oliver could give of the appearance
and dress of the strangers.  Of these, the Jew was, at all events,
sufficiently remarkable to be remembered, supposing he had been seen
drinking, or loitering about; but Giles returned without any
intelligence, calculated to dispel or lessen the mystery.

On the next day, fresh search was made, and the inquiries renewed; but
with no better success.  On the day following, Oliver and Mr. Maylie
repaired to the market-town, in the hope of seeing or hearing something
of the men there; but this effort was equally fruitless.  After a few
days, the affair began to be forgotten, as most affairs are, when
wonder, having no fresh food to support it, dies away of itself.

Meanwhile, Rose was rapidly recovering.  She had left her room: was
able to go out; and mixing once more with the family, carried joy into
the hearts of all.

But, although this happy change had a visible effect on the little
circle; and although cheerful voices and merry laughter were once more
heard in the cottage; there was at times, an unwonted restraint upon
some there:  even upon Rose herself: which Oliver could not fail to
remark.  Mrs. Maylie and her son were often closeted together for a
long time; and more than once Rose appeared with traces of tears upon
her face.  After Mr. Losberne had fixed a day for his departure to
Chertsey, these symptoms increased; and it became evident that
something was in progress which affected the peace of the young lady,
and of somebody else besides.

At length, one morning, when Rose was alone in the breakfast-parlour,
Harry Maylie entered; and, with some hesitation, begged permission to
speak with her for a few moments.

'A few--a very few--will suffice, Rose,' said the young man, drawing
his chair towards her.  'What I shall have to say, has already
presented itself to your mind; the most cherished hopes of my heart are
not unknown to you, though from my lips you have not heard them stated.'

Rose had been very pale from the moment of his entrance; but that might
have been the effect of her recent illness.  She merely bowed; and
bending over some plants that stood near, waited in silence for him to
proceed.

'I--I--ought to have left here, before,' said Harry.

'You should, indeed,' replied Rose.  'Forgive me for saying so, but I
wish you had.'

'I was brought here, by the most dreadful and agonising of all
apprehensions,' said the young man; 'the fear of losing the one dear
being on whom my every wish and hope are fixed.  You had been dying;
trembling between earth and heaven.  We know that when the young, the
beautiful, and good, are visited with sickness, their pure spirits
insensibly turn towards their bright home of lasting rest; we know,
Heaven help us! that the best and fairest of our kind, too often fade
in blooming.'

There were tears in the eyes of the gentle girl, as these words were
spoken; and when one fell upon the flower over which she bent, and
glistened brightly in its cup, making it more beautiful, it seemed as
though the outpouring of her fresh young heart, claimed kindred
naturally, with the loveliest things in nature.

'A creature,' continued the young man, passionately, 'a creature as
fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels, fluttered
between life and death.  Oh! who could hope, when the distant world to
which she was akin, half opened to her view, that she would return to
the sorrow and calamity of this!  Rose, Rose, to know that you were
passing away like some soft shadow, which a light from above, casts
upon the earth; to have no hope that you would be spared to those who
linger here; hardly to know a reason why you should be; to feel that
you belonged to that bright sphere whither so many of the fairest and
the best have winged their early flight; and yet to pray, amid all
these consolations, that you might be restored to those who loved
you--these were distractions almost too great to bear. They were mine,
by day and night; and with them, came such a rushing torrent of fears,
and apprehensions, and selfish regrets, lest you should die, and never
know how devotedly I loved you, as almost bore down sense and reason in
its course.  You recovered. Day by day, and almost hour by hour, some
drop of health came back, and mingling with the spent and feeble stream
of life which circulated languidly within you, swelled it again to a
high and rushing tide.  I have watched you change almost from death, to
life, with eyes that turned blind with their eagerness and deep
affection. Do not tell me that you wish I had lost this; for it has
softened my heart to all mankind.'

'I did not mean that,' said Rose, weeping; 'I only wish you had left
here, that you might have turned to high and noble pursuits again; to
pursuits well worthy of you.'

'There is no pursuit more worthy of me:  more worthy of the highest
nature that exists:  than the struggle to win such a heart as yours,'
said the young man, taking her hand. 'Rose, my own dear Rose!  For
years--for years--I have loved you; hoping to win my way to fame, and
then come proudly home and tell you it had been pursued only for you to
share; thinking, in my daydreams, how I would remind you, in that happy
moment, of the many silent tokens I had given of a boy's attachment,
and claim your hand, as in redemption of some old mute contract that
had been sealed between us!  That time has not arrived; but here, with
not fame won, and no young vision realised, I offer you the heart so
long your own, and stake my all upon the words with which you greet the
offer.'

'Your behaviour has ever been kind and noble.' said Rose, mastering the
emotions by which she was agitated.  'As you believe that I am not
insensible or ungrateful, so hear my answer.'

'It is, that I may endeavour to deserve you; it is, dear Rose?'

'It is,' replied Rose, 'that you must endeavour to forget me; not as
your old and dearly-attached companion, for that would wound me deeply;
but, as the object of your love.  Look into the world; think how many
hearts you would be proud to gain, are there. Confide some other
passion to me, if you will; I will be the truest, warmest, and most
faithful friend you have.'

There was a pause, during which, Rose, who had covered her face with
one hand, gave free vent to her tears.  Harry still retained the other.

'And your reasons, Rose,' he said, at length, in a low voice; 'your
reasons for this decision?'

'You have a right to know them,' rejoined Rose.  'You can say nothing
to alter my resolution.  It is a duty that I must perform.  I owe it,
alike to others, and to myself.'

'To yourself?'

'Yes, Harry.  I owe it to myself, that I, a friendless, portionless,
girl, with a blight upon my name, should not give your friends reason
to suspect that I had sordidly yielded to your first passion, and
fastened myself, a clog, on all your hopes and projects.  I owe it to
you and yours, to prevent you from opposing, in the warmth of your
generous nature, this great obstacle to your progress in the world.'

'If your inclinations chime with your sense of duty--' Harry began.

'They do not,' replied Rose, colouring deeply.

'Then you return my love?' said Harry.  'Say but that, dear Rose; say
but that; and soften the bitterness of this hard disappointment!'

'If I could have done so, without doing heavy wrong to him I loved,'
rejoined Rose, 'I could have--'

'Have received this declaration very differently?' said Harry. 'Do not
conceal that from me, at least, Rose.'

'I could,' said Rose.  'Stay!' she added, disengaging her hand, 'why
should we prolong this painful interview?  Most painful to me, and yet
productive of lasting happiness, notwithstanding; for it _will_ be
happiness to know that I once held the high place in your regard which
I now occupy, and every triumph you achieve in life will animate me
with new fortitude and firmness.  Farewell, Harry!  As we have met
to-day, we meet no more; but in other relations than those in which
this conversation have placed us, we may be long and happily entwined;
and may every blessing that the prayers of a true and earnest heart can
call down from the source of all truth and sincerity, cheer and prosper
you!'

'Another word, Rose,' said Harry.  'Your reason in your own words.
From your own lips, let me hear it!'

'The prospect before you,' answered Rose, firmly, 'is a brilliant one.
All the honours to which great talents and powerful connections can
help men in public life, are in store for you. But those connections
are proud; and I will neither mingle with such as may hold in scorn the
mother who gave me life; nor bring disgrace or failure on the son of
her who has so well supplied that mother's place.  In a word,' said the
young lady, turning away, as her temporary firmness forsook her, 'there
is a stain upon my name, which the world visits on innocent heads.  I
will carry it into no blood but my own; and the reproach shall rest
alone on me.'

'One word more, Rose.  Dearest Rose! one more!' cried Harry, throwing
himself before her.  'If I had been less--less fortunate, the world
would call it--if some obscure and peaceful life had been my
destiny--if I had been poor, sick, helpless--would you have turned from
me then?  Or has my probable advancement to riches and honour, given
this scruple birth?'

'Do not press me to reply,' answered Rose.  'The question does not
arise, and never will.  It is unfair, almost unkind, to urge it.'

'If your answer be what I almost dare to hope it is,' retorted Harry,
'it will shed a gleam of happiness upon my lonely way, and light the
path before me.  It is not an idle thing to do so much, by the
utterance of a few brief words, for one who loves you beyond all else.
Oh, Rose: in the name of my ardent and enduring attachment; in the name
of all I have suffered for you, and all you doom me to undergo; answer
me this one question!'

'Then, if your lot had been differently cast,' rejoined Rose; 'if you
had been even a little, but not so far, above me; if I could have been
a help and comfort to you in any humble scene of peace and retirement,
and not a blot and drawback in ambitious and distinguished crowds; I
should have been spared this trial.  I have every reason to be happy,
very happy, now; but then, Harry, I own I should have been happier.'

Busy recollections of old hopes, cherished as a girl, long ago, crowded
into the mind of Rose, while making this avowal; but they brought tears
with them, as old hopes will when they come back withered; and they
relieved her.

'I cannot help this weakness, and it makes my purpose stronger,' said
Rose, extending her hand.  'I must leave you now, indeed.'

'I ask one promise,' said Harry.  'Once, and only once more,--say
within a year, but it may be much sooner,--I may speak to you again on
this subject, for the last time.'

'Not to press me to alter my right determination,' replied Rose, with a
melancholy smile; 'it will be useless.'

'No,' said Harry; 'to hear you repeat it, if you will--finally repeat
it!  I will lay at your feet, whatever of station of fortune I may
possess; and if you still adhere to your present resolution, will not
seek, by word or act, to change it.'

'Then let it be so,' rejoined Rose; 'it is but one pang the more, and
by that time I may be enabled to bear it better.'

She extended her hand again.  But the young man caught her to his
bosom; and imprinting one kiss on her beautiful forehead, hurried from
the room.



CHAPTER XXXVI

IS A VERY SHORT ONE, AND MAY APPEAR OF NO GREAT IMPORTANCE IN ITS
PLACE, BUT IT SHOULD BE READ NOTWITHSTANDING, AS A SEQUEL TO THE LAST,
AND A KEY TO ONE THAT WILL FOLLOW WHEN ITS TIME ARRIVES

'And so you are resolved to be my travelling companion this morning;
eh?' said the doctor, as Harry Maylie joined him and Oliver at the
breakfast-table.  'Why, you are not in the same mind or intention two
half-hours together!'

'You will tell me a different tale one of these days,' said Harry,
colouring without any perceptible reason.

'I hope I may have good cause to do so,' replied Mr. Losberne; 'though
I confess I don't think I shall.  But yesterday morning you had made up
your mind, in a great hurry, to stay here, and to accompany your
mother, like a dutiful son, to the sea-side. Before noon, you announce
that you are going to do me the honour of accompanying me as far as I
go, on your road to London.  And at night, you urge me, with great
mystery, to start before the ladies are stirring; the consequence of
which is, that young Oliver here is pinned down to his breakfast when
he ought to be ranging the meadows after botanical phenomena of all
kinds. Too bad, isn't it, Oliver?'

'I should have been very sorry not to have been at home when you and
Mr. Maylie went away, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'That's a fine fellow,' said the doctor; 'you shall come and see me
when you return.  But, to speak seriously, Harry; has any communication
from the great nobs produced this sudden anxiety on your part to be
gone?'

'The great nobs,' replied Harry, 'under which designation, I presume,
you include my most stately uncle, have not communicated with me at
all, since I have been here; nor, at this time of the year, is it
likely that anything would occur to render necessary my immediate
attendance among them.'

'Well,' said the doctor, 'you are a queer fellow.  But of course they
will get you into parliament at the election before Christmas, and
these sudden shiftings and changes are no bad preparation for political
life.  There's something in that.  Good training is always desirable,
whether the race be for place, cup, or sweepstakes.'

Harry Maylie looked as if he could have followed up this short dialogue
by one or two remarks that would have staggered the doctor not a
little; but he contented himself with saying, 'We shall see,' and
pursued the subject no farther.  The post-chaise drove up to the door
shortly afterwards; and Giles coming in for the luggage, the good
doctor bustled out, to see it packed.

'Oliver,' said Harry Maylie, in a low voice, 'let me speak a word with
you.'

Oliver walked into the window-recess to which Mr. Maylie beckoned him;
much surprised at the mixture of sadness and boisterous spirits, which
his whole behaviour displayed.

'You can write well now?' said Harry, laying his hand upon his arm.

'I hope so, sir,' replied Oliver.

'I shall not be at home again, perhaps for some time; I wish you would
write to me--say once a fort-night:  every alternate Monday: to the
General Post Office in London.  Will you?'

'Oh! certainly, sir; I shall be proud to do it,' exclaimed Oliver,
greatly delighted with the commission.

'I should like to know how--how my mother and Miss Maylie are,' said
the young man; 'and you can fill up a sheet by telling me what walks
you take, and what you talk about, and whether she--they, I mean--seem
happy and quite well. You understand me?'

'Oh! quite, sir, quite,' replied Oliver.

'I would rather you did not mention it to them,' said Harry, hurrying
over his words; 'because it might make my mother anxious to write to me
oftener, and it is a trouble and worry to her. Let it be a secret
between you and me; and mind you tell me everything!  I depend upon
you.'

Oliver, quite elated and honoured by a sense of his importance,
faithfully promised to be secret and explicit in his communications.
Mr. Maylie took leave of him, with many assurances of his regard and
protection.

The doctor was in the chaise; Giles (who, it had been arranged, should
be left behind) held the door open in his hand; and the women-servants
were in the garden, looking on.  Harry cast one slight glance at the
latticed window, and jumped into the carriage.

'Drive on!' he cried, 'hard, fast, full gallop!  Nothing short of
flying will keep pace with me, to-day.'

'Halloa!' cried the doctor, letting down the front glass in a great
hurry, and shouting to the postillion; 'something very short of flying
will keep pace with _me_.  Do you hear?'

Jingling and clattering, till distance rendered its noise inaudible,
and its rapid progress only perceptible to the eye, the vehicle wound
its way along the road, almost hidden in a cloud of dust: now wholly
disappearing, and now becoming visible again, as intervening objects,
or the intricacies of the way, permitted.  It was not until even the
dusty cloud was no longer to be seen, that the gazers dispersed.

And there was one looker-on, who remained with eyes fixed upon the spot
where the carriage had disappeared, long after it was many miles away;
for, behind the white curtain which had shrouded her from view when
Harry raised his eyes towards the window, sat Rose herself.

'He seems in high spirits and happy,' she said, at length. 'I feared
for a time he might be otherwise.  I was mistaken.  I am very, very
glad.'

Tears are signs of gladness as well as grief; but those which coursed
down Rose's face, as she sat pensively at the window, still gazing in
the same direction, seemed to tell more of sorrow than of joy.



CHAPTER XXXVII

IN WHICH THE READER MAY PERCEIVE A CONTRAST, NOT UNCOMMON IN
MATRIMONIAL CASES

Mr. Bumble sat in the workhouse parlour, with his eyes moodily fixed on
the cheerless grate, whence, as it was summer time, no brighter gleam
proceeded, than the reflection of certain sickly rays of the sun, which
were sent back from its cold and shining surface.  A paper fly-cage
dangled from the ceiling, to which he occasionally raised his eyes in
gloomy thought; and, as the heedless insects hovered round the gaudy
net-work, Mr. Bumble would heave a deep sigh, while a more gloomy
shadow overspread his countenance.  Mr. Bumble was meditating; it might
be that the insects brought to mind, some painful passage in his own
past life.

Nor was Mr. Bumble's gloom the only thing calculated to awaken a
pleasing melancholy in the bosom of a spectator. There were not wanting
other appearances, and those closely connected with his own person,
which announced that a great change had taken place in the position of
his affairs.  The laced coat, and the cocked hat; where were they?  He
still wore knee-breeches, and dark cotton stockings on his nether
limbs; but they were not _the_ breeches.  The coat was wide-skirted;
and in that respect like _the_ coat, but, oh how different!  The mighty
cocked hat was replaced by a modest round one.  Mr. Bumble was no
longer a beadle.

There are some promotions in life, which, independent of the more
substantial rewards they offer, require peculiar value and dignity from
the coats and waistcoats connected with them.  A field-marshal has his
uniform; a bishop his silk apron; a counsellor his silk gown; a beadle
his cocked hat.  Strip the bishop of his apron, or the beadle of his
hat and lace; what are they?  Men.  Mere men.  Dignity, and even
holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than
some people imagine.

Mr. Bumble had married Mrs. Corney, and was master of the workhouse.
Another beadle had come into power.  On him the cocked hat, gold-laced
coat, and staff, had all three descended.

'And to-morrow two months it was done!' said Mr. Bumble, with a sigh.
'It seems a age.'

Mr. Bumble might have meant that he had concentrated a whole existence
of happiness into the short space of eight weeks; but the sigh--there
was a vast deal of meaning in the sigh.

'I sold myself,' said Mr. Bumble, pursuing the same train of relection,
'for six teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a milk-pot; with a small
quantity of second-hand furniture, and twenty pound in money.  I went
very reasonable.  Cheap, dirt cheap!'

'Cheap!' cried a shrill voice in Mr. Bumble's ear: 'you would have been
dear at any price; and dear enough I paid for you, Lord above knows
that!'

Mr. Bumble turned, and encountered the face of his interesting consort,
who, imperfectly comprehending the few words she had overheard of his
complaint, had hazarded the foregoing remark at a venture.

'Mrs. Bumble, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble, with a sentimental sternness.

'Well!' cried the lady.

'Have the goodness to look at me,' said Mr. Bumble, fixing his eyes
upon her.  (If she stands such a eye as that,' said Mr. Bumble to
himself, 'she can stand anything.  It is a eye I never knew to fail
with paupers.  If it fails with her, my power is gone.')

Whether an exceedingly small expansion of eye be sufficient to quell
paupers, who, being lightly fed, are in no very high condition; or
whether the late Mrs. Corney was particularly proof against eagle
glances; are matters of opinion.  The matter of fact, is, that the
matron was in no way overpowered by Mr. Bumble's scowl, but, on the
contrary, treated it with great disdain, and even raised a laugh
thereat, which sounded as though it were genuine.

On hearing this most unexpected sound, Mr. Bumble looked, first
incredulous, and afterwards amazed.  He then relapsed into his former
state; nor did he rouse himself until his attention was again awakened
by the voice of his partner.

'Are you going to sit snoring there, all day?' inquired Mrs. Bumble.

'I am going to sit here, as long as I think proper, ma'am,' rejoined
Mr. Bumble; 'and although I was _not_ snoring, I shall snore, gape,
sneeze, laugh, or cry, as the humour strikes me; such being my
prerogative.'

'_Your_ prerogative!' sneered Mrs. Bumble, with ineffable contempt.

'I said the word, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble.  'The prerogative of a man
is to command.'

'And what's the prerogative of a woman, in the name of Goodness?' cried
the relict of Mr. Corney deceased.

'To obey, ma'am,' thundered Mr. Bumble.  'Your late unfortunate husband
should have taught it you; and then, perhaps, he might have been alive
now.  I wish he was, poor man!'

Mrs. Bumble, seeing at a glance, that the decisive moment had now
arrived, and that a blow struck for the mastership on one side or
other, must necessarily be final and conclusive, no sooner heard this
allusion to the dead and gone, than she dropped into a chair, and with
a loud scream that Mr. Bumble was a hard-hearted brute, fell into a
paroxysm of tears.

But, tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble's soul;
his heart was waterproof.  Like washable beaver hats that improve with
rain, his nerves were rendered stouter and more vigorous, by showers of
tears, which, being tokens of weakness, and so far tacit admissions of
his own power, pleased and exalted him.  He eyed his good lady with
looks of great satisfaction, and begged, in an encouraging manner, that
she should cry her hardest:  the exercise being looked upon, by the
faculty, as strongly conducive to health.

'It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and
softens down the temper,' said Mr. Bumble.  'So cry away.'

As he discharged himself of this pleasantry, Mr. Bumble took his hat
from a peg, and putting it on, rather rakishly, on one side, as a man
might, who felt he had asserted his superiority in a becoming manner,
thrust his hands into his pockets, and sauntered towards the door, with
much ease and waggishness depicted in his whole appearance.

Now, Mrs. Corney that was, had tried the tears, because they were less
troublesome than a manual assault; but, she was quite prepared to make
trial of the latter mode of proceeding, as Mr. Bumble was not long in
discovering.

The first proof he experienced of the fact, was conveyed in a hollow
sound, immediately succeeded by the sudden flying off of his hat to the
opposite end of the room.  This preliminary proceeding laying bare his
head, the expert lady, clasping him tightly round the throat with one
hand, inflicted a shower of blows (dealt with singular vigour and
dexterity) upon it with the other.  This done, she created a little
variety by scratching his face, and tearing his hair; and, having, by
this time, inflicted as much punishment as she deemed necessary for the
offence, she pushed him over a chair, which was luckily well situated
for the purpose:  and defied him to talk about his prerogative again,
if he dared.

'Get up!' said Mrs. Bumble, in a voice of command.  'And take yourself
away from here, unless you want me to do something desperate.'

Mr. Bumble rose with a very rueful countenance:  wondering much what
something desperate might be.  Picking up his hat, he looked towards
the door.

'Are you going?' demanded Mrs. Bumble.

'Certainly, my dear, certainly,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, making a quicker
motion towards the door.  'I didn't intend to--I'm going, my dear!  You
are so very violent, that really I--'

At this instant, Mrs. Bumble stepped hastily forward to replace the
carpet, which had been kicked up in the scuffle.  Mr. Bumble
immediately darted out of the room, without bestowing another thought
on his unfinished sentence:  leaving the late Mrs. Corney in full
possession of the field.

Mr. Bumble was fairly taken by surprise, and fairly beaten.  He had a
decided propensity for bullying:  derived no inconsiderable pleasure
from the exercise of petty cruelty; and, consequently, was (it is
needless to say) a coward.  This is by no means a disparagement to his
character; for many official personages, who are held in high respect
and admiration, are the victims of similar infirmities.  The remark is
made, indeed, rather in his favour than otherwise, and with a view of
impressing the reader with a just sense of his qualifications for
office.

But, the measure of his degradation was not yet full.  After making a
tour of the house, and thinking, for the first time, that the poor-laws
really were too hard on people; and that men who ran away from their
wives, leaving them chargeable to the parish, ought, in justice to be
visited with no punishment at all, but rather rewarded as meritorious
individuals who had suffered much; Mr. Bumble came to a room where some
of the female paupers were usually employed in washing the parish
linen:  when the sound of voices in conversation, now proceeded.

'Hem!' said Mr. Bumble, summoning up all his native dignity. 'These
women at least shall continue to respect the prerogative. Hallo! hallo
there!  What do you mean by this noise, you hussies?'

With these words, Mr. Bumble opened the door, and walked in with a very
fierce and angry manner:  which was at once exchanged for a most
humiliated and cowering air, as his eyes unexpectedly rested on the
form of his lady wife.

'My dear,' said Mr. Bumble, 'I didn't know you were here.'

'Didn't know I was here!' repeated Mrs. Bumble.  'What do _you_ do
here?'

'I thought they were talking rather too much to be doing their work
properly, my dear,' replied Mr. Bumble:  glancing distractedly at a
couple of old women at the wash-tub, who were comparing notes of
admiration at the workhouse-master's humility.

'_You_ thought they were talking too much?' said Mrs. Bumble. 'What
business is it of yours?'

'Why, my dear--' urged Mr. Bumble submissively.

'What business is it of yours?' demanded Mrs. Bumble, again.

'It's very true, you're matron here, my dear,' submitted Mr. Bumble;
'but I thought you mightn't be in the way just then.'

'I'll tell you what, Mr. Bumble,' returned his lady.  'We don't want
any of your interference.  You're a great deal too fond of poking your
nose into things that don't concern you, making everybody in the house
laugh, the moment your back is turned, and making yourself look like a
fool every hour in the day.  Be off; come!'

Mr. Bumble, seeing with excruciating feelings, the delight of the two
old paupers, who were tittering together most rapturously, hesitated
for an instant.  Mrs. Bumble, whose patience brooked no delay, caught
up a bowl of soap-suds, and motioning him towards the door, ordered him
instantly to depart, on pain of receiving the contents upon his portly
person.

What could Mr. Bumble do?  He looked dejectedly round, and slunk away;
and, as he reached the door, the titterings of the paupers broke into a
shrill chuckle of irrepressible delight.  It wanted but this.  He was
degraded in their eyes; he had lost caste and station before the very
paupers; he had fallen from all the height and pomp of beadleship, to
the lowest depth of the most snubbed hen-peckery.

'All in two months!' said Mr. Bumble, filled with dismal thoughts.
'Two months!  No more than two months ago, I was not only my own
master, but everybody else's, so far as the porochial workhouse was
concerned, and now!--'

It was too much.  Mr. Bumble boxed the ears of the boy who opened the
gate for him (for he had reached the portal in his reverie); and
walked, distractedly, into the street.

He walked up one street, and down another, until exercise had abated
the first passion of his grief; and then the revulsion of feeling made
him thirsty.  He passed a great many public-houses; but, at length
paused before one in a by-way, whose parlour, as he gathered from a
hasty peep over the blinds, was deserted, save by one solitary
customer.  It began to rain, heavily, at the moment.  This determined
him.  Mr. Bumble stepped in; and ordering something to drink, as he
passed the bar, entered the apartment into which he had looked from the
street.

The man who was seated there, was tall and dark, and wore a large
cloak.  He had the air of a stranger; and seemed, by a certain
haggardness in his look, as well as by the dusty soils on his dress, to
have travelled some distance.  He eyed Bumble askance, as he entered,
but scarcely deigned to nod his head in acknowledgment of his
salutation.

Mr. Bumble had quite dignity enough for two; supposing even that the
stranger had been more familiar:  so he drank his gin-and-water in
silence, and read the paper with great show of pomp and circumstance.

It so happened, however: as it will happen very often, when men fall
into company under such circumstances:  that Mr. Bumble felt, every now
and then, a powerful inducement, which he could not resist, to steal a
look at the stranger:  and that whenever he did so, he withdrew his
eyes, in some confusion, to find that the stranger was at that moment
stealing a look at him.  Mr. Bumble's awkwardness was enhanced by the
very remarkable expression of the stranger's eye, which was keen and
bright, but shadowed by a scowl of distrust and suspicion, unlike
anything he had ever observed before, and repulsive to behold.

When they had encountered each other's glance several times in this
way, the stranger, in a harsh, deep voice, broke silence.

'Were you looking for me,' he said, 'when you peered in at the window?'

'Not that I am aware of, unless you're Mr.--'  Here Mr. Bumble stopped
short; for he was curious to know the stranger's name, and thought in
his impatience, he might supply the blank.

'I see you were not,' said the stranger; an expression of quiet sarcasm
playing about his mouth; 'or you have known my name.  You don't know
it.  I would recommend you not to ask for it.'

'I meant no harm, young man,' observed Mr. Bumble, majestically.

'And have done none,' said the stranger.

Another silence succeeded this short dialogue:  which was again broken
by the stranger.

'I have seen you before, I think?' said he.  'You were differently
dressed at that time, and I only passed you in the street, but I should
know you again.  You were beadle here, once; were you not?'

'I was,' said Mr. Bumble, in some surprise; 'porochial beadle.'

'Just so,' rejoined the other, nodding his head.  'It was in that
character I saw you.  What are you now?'

'Master of the workhouse,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, slowly and
impressively, to check any undue familiarity the stranger might
otherwise assume.  'Master of the workhouse, young man!'

'You have the same eye to your own interest, that you always had, I
doubt not?' resumed the stranger, looking keenly into Mr. Bumble's
eyes, as he raised them in astonishment at the question.

'Don't scruple to answer freely, man.  I know you pretty well, you see.'

'I suppose, a married man,' replied Mr. Bumble, shading his eyes with
his hand, and surveying the stranger, from head to foot, in evident
perplexity, 'is not more averse to turning an honest penny when he can,
than a single one.  Porochial officers are not so well paid that they
can afford to refuse any little extra fee, when it comes to them in a
civil and proper manner.'

The stranger smiled, and nodded his head again: as much to say, he had
not mistaken his man; then rang the bell.

'Fill this glass again,' he said, handing Mr. Bumble's empty tumbler to
the landlord.  'Let it be strong and hot.  You like it so, I suppose?'

'Not too strong,' replied Mr. Bumble, with a delicate cough.

'You understand what that means, landlord!' said the stranger, drily.

The host smiled, disappeared, and shortly afterwards returned with a
steaming jorum: of which, the first gulp brought the water into Mr.
Bumble's eyes.

'Now listen to me,' said the stranger, after closing the door and
window.  'I came down to this place, to-day, to find you out; and, by
one of those chances which the devil throws in the way of his friends
sometimes, you walked into the very room I was sitting in, while you
were uppermost in my mind.  I want some information from you.  I don't
ask you to give it for nothing, slight as it is.  Put up that, to begin
with.'

As he spoke, he pushed a couple of sovereigns across the table to his
companion, carefully, as though unwilling that the chinking of money
should be heard without.  When Mr. Bumble had scrupulously examined the
coins, to see that they were genuine, and had put them up, with much
satisfaction, in his waistcoat-pocket, he went on:

'Carry your memory back--let me see--twelve years, last winter.'

'It's a long time,' said Mr. Bumble.  'Very good.  I've done it.'

'The scene, the workhouse.'

'Good!'

'And the time, night.'

'Yes.'

'And the place, the crazy hole, wherever it was, in which miserable
drabs brought forth the life and health so often denied to
themselves--gave birth to puling children for the parish to rear; and
hid their shame, rot 'em in the grave!'

'The lying-in room, I suppose?' said Mr. Bumble, not quite following
the stranger's excited description.

'Yes,' said the stranger.  'A boy was born there.'

'A many boys,' observed Mr. Bumble, shaking his head, despondingly.

'A murrain on the young devils!' cried the stranger; 'I speak of one; a
meek-looking, pale-faced boy, who was apprenticed down here, to a
coffin-maker--I wish he had made his coffin, and screwed his body in
it--and who afterwards ran away to London, as it was supposed.

'Why, you mean Oliver!  Young Twist!' said Mr. Bumble; 'I remember him,
of course.  There wasn't a obstinater young rascal--'

'It's not of him I want to hear; I've heard enough of him,' said the
stranger, stopping Mr. Bumble in the outset of a tirade on the subject
of poor Oliver's vices.  'It's of a woman; the hag that nursed his
mother.  Where is she?'

'Where is she?' said Mr. Bumble, whom the gin-and-water had rendered
facetious.  'It would be hard to tell.  There's no midwifery there,
whichever place she's gone to; so I suppose she's out of employment,
anyway.'

'What do you mean?' demanded the stranger, sternly.

'That she died last winter,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

The man looked fixedly at him when he had given this information, and
although he did not withdraw his eyes for some time afterwards, his
gaze gradually became vacant and abstracted, and he seemed lost in
thought.  For some time, he appeared doubtful whether he ought to be
relieved or disappointed by the intelligence; but at length he breathed
more freely; and withdrawing his eyes, observed that it was no great
matter. With that he rose, as if to depart.

But Mr. Bumble was cunning enough; and he at once saw that an
opportunity was opened, for the lucrative disposal of some secret in
the possession of his better half.  He well remembered the night of old
Sally's death, which the occurrences of that day had given him good
reason to recollect, as the occasion on which he had proposed to Mrs.
Corney; and although that lady had never confided to him the disclosure
of which she had been the solitary witness, he had heard enough to know
that it related to something that had occurred in the old woman's
attendance, as workhouse nurse, upon the young mother of Oliver Twist.
Hastily calling this circumstance to mind, he informed the stranger,
with an air of mystery, that one woman had been closeted with the old
harridan shortly before she died; and that she could, as he had reason
to believe, throw some light on the subject of his inquiry.

'How can I find her?' said the stranger, thrown off his guard; and
plainly showing that all his fears (whatever they were) were aroused
afresh by the intelligence.

'Only through me,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

'When?' cried the stranger, hastily.

'To-morrow,' rejoined Bumble.

'At nine in the evening,' said the stranger, producing a scrap of
paper, and writing down upon it, an obscure address by the water-side,
in characters that betrayed his agitation; 'at nine in the evening,
bring her to me there.  I needn't tell you to be secret.  It's your
interest.'

With these words, he led the way to the door, after stopping to pay for
the liquor that had been drunk.  Shortly remarking that their roads
were different, he departed, without more ceremony than an emphatic
repetition of the hour of appointment for the following night.

On glancing at the address, the parochial functionary observed that it
contained no name.  The stranger had not gone far, so he made after him
to ask it.

'What do you want?' cried the man, turning quickly round, as Bumble
touched him on the arm.  'Following me?'

'Only to ask a question,' said the other, pointing to the scrap of
paper.  'What name am I to ask for?'

'Monks!' rejoined the man; and strode hastily, away.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED BETWEEN MR. AND MRS. BUMBLE, AND
MR. MONKS, AT THEIR NOCTURNAL INTERVIEW

It was a dull, close, overcast summer evening.  The clouds, which had
been threatening all day, spread out in a dense and sluggish mass of
vapour, already yielded large drops of rain, and seemed to presage a
violent thunder-storm, when Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, turning out of the
main street of the town, directed their course towards a scattered
little colony of ruinous houses, distant from it some mile and a-half,
or thereabouts, and erected on a low unwholesome swamp, bordering upon
the river.

They were both wrapped in old and shabby outer garments, which might,
perhaps, serve the double purpose of protecting their persons from the
rain, and sheltering them from observation.  The husband carried a
lantern, from which, however, no light yet shone; and trudged on, a few
paces in front, as though--the way being dirty--to give his wife the
benefit of treading in his heavy footprints.  They went on, in profound
silence; every now and then, Mr. Bumble relaxed his pace, and turned
his head as if to make sure that his helpmate was following; then,
discovering that she was close at his heels, he mended his rate of
walking, and proceeded, at a considerable increase of speed, towards
their place of destination.

This was far from being a place of doubtful character; for it had long
been known as the residence of none but low ruffians, who, under
various pretences of living by their labour, subsisted chiefly on
plunder and crime.  It was a collection of mere hovels:  some, hastily
built with loose bricks: others, of old worm-eaten ship-timber: jumbled
together without any attempt at order or arrangement, and planted, for
the most part, within a few feet of the river's bank.  A few leaky
boats drawn up on the mud, and made fast to the dwarf wall which
skirted it:  and here and there an oar or coil of rope:  appeared, at
first, to indicate that the inhabitants of these miserable cottages
pursued some avocation on the river; but a glance at the shattered and
useless condition of the articles thus displayed, would have led a
passer-by, without much difficulty, to the conjecture that they were
disposed there, rather for the preservation of appearances, than with
any view to their being actually employed.

In the heart of this cluster of huts; and skirting the river, which its
upper stories overhung; stood a large building, formerly used as a
manufactory of some kind.  It had, in its day, probably furnished
employment to the inhabitants of the surrounding tenements.  But it had
long since gone to ruin.  The rat, the worm, and the action of the
damp, had weakened and rotted the piles on which it stood; and a
considerable portion of the building had already sunk down into the
water; while the remainder, tottering and bending over the dark stream,
seemed to wait a favourable opportunity of following its old companion,
and involving itself in the same fate.

It was before this ruinous building that the worthy couple paused, as
the first peal of distant thunder reverberated in the air, and the rain
commenced pouring violently down.

'The place should be somewhere here,' said Bumble, consulting a scrap
of paper he held in his hand.

'Halloa there!' cried a voice from above.

Following the sound, Mr. Bumble raised his head and descried a man
looking out of a door, breast-high, on the second story.

'Stand still, a minute,' cried the voice; 'I'll be with you directly.'
With which the head disappeared, and the door closed.

'Is that the man?' asked Mr. Bumble's good lady.

Mr. Bumble nodded in the affirmative.

'Then, mind what I told you,' said the matron: 'and be careful to say
as little as you can, or you'll betray us at once.'

Mr. Bumble, who had eyed the building with very rueful looks, was
apparently about to express some doubts relative to the advisability of
proceeding any further with the enterprise just then, when he was
prevented by the appearance of Monks: who opened a small door, near
which they stood, and beckoned them inwards.

'Come in!' he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the ground.
'Don't keep me here!'

The woman, who had hesitated at first, walked boldly in, without any
other invitation.  Mr. Bumble, who was ashamed or afraid to lag behind,
followed:  obviously very ill at ease and with scarcely any of that
remarkable dignity which was usually his chief characteristic.

'What the devil made you stand lingering there, in the wet?' said
Monks, turning round, and addressing Bumble, after he had bolted the
door behind them.

'We--we were only cooling ourselves,' stammered Bumble, looking
apprehensively about him.

'Cooling yourselves!' retorted Monks.  'Not all the rain that ever
fell, or ever will fall, will put as much of hell's fire out, as a man
can carry about with him.  You won't cool yourself so easily; don't
think it!'

With this agreeable speech, Monks turned short upon the matron, and
bent his gaze upon her, till even she, who was not easily cowed, was
fain to withdraw her eyes, and turn them towards the ground.

'This is the woman, is it?' demanded Monks.

'Hem!  That is the woman,' replied Mr. Bumble, mindful of his wife's
caution.

'You think women never can keep secrets, I suppose?' said the matron,
interposing, and returning, as she spoke, the searching look of Monks.

'I know they will always keep _one_ till it's found out,' said Monks.

'And what may that be?' asked the matron.

'The loss of their own good name,' replied Monks.  'So, by the same
rule, if a woman's a party to a secret that might hang or transport
her, I'm not afraid of her telling it to anybody; not I!  Do you
understand, mistress?'

'No,' rejoined the matron, slightly colouring as she spoke.

'Of course you don't!' said Monks.  'How should you?'

Bestowing something half-way between a smile and a frown upon his two
companions, and again beckoning them to follow him, the man hastened
across the apartment, which was of considerable extent, but low in the
roof.  He was preparing to ascend a steep staircase, or rather ladder,
leading to another floor of warehouses above:  when a bright flash of
lightning streamed down the aperture, and a peal of thunder followed,
which shook the crazy building to its centre.

'Hear it!' he cried, shrinking back.  'Hear it!  Rolling and crashing
on as if it echoed through a thousand caverns where the devils were
hiding from it.  I hate the sound!'

He remained silent for a few moments; and then, removing his hands
suddenly from his face, showed, to the unspeakable discomposure of Mr.
Bumble, that it was much distorted and discoloured.

'These fits come over me, now and then,' said Monks, observing his
alarm; 'and thunder sometimes brings them on. Don't mind me now; it's
all over for this once.'

Thus speaking, he led the way up the ladder; and hastily closing the
window-shutter of the room into which it led, lowered a lantern which
hung at the end of a rope and pulley passed through one of the heavy
beams in the ceiling:  and which cast a dim light upon an old table and
three chairs that were placed beneath it.

'Now,' said Monks, when they had all three seated themselves, 'the
sooner we come to our business, the better for all.  The woman know
what it is, does she?'

The question was addressed to Bumble; but his wife anticipated the
reply, by intimating that she was perfectly acquainted with it.

'He is right in saying that you were with this hag the night she died;
and that she told you something--'

'About the mother of the boy you named,' replied the matron
interrupting him.  'Yes.'

'The first question is, of what nature was her communication?' said
Monks.

'That's the second,' observed the woman with much deliberation. 'The
first is, what may the communication be worth?'

'Who the devil can tell that, without knowing of what kind it is?'
asked Monks.

'Nobody better than you, I am persuaded,' answered Mrs. Bumble: who did
not want for spirit, as her yoke-fellow could abundantly testify.

'Humph!' said Monks significantly, and with a look of eager inquiry;
'there may be money's worth to get, eh?'

'Perhaps there may,' was the composed reply.

'Something that was taken from her,' said Monks.  'Something that she
wore.  Something that--'

'You had better bid,' interrupted Mrs. Bumble.  'I have heard enough,
already, to assure me that you are the man I ought to talk to.'

Mr. Bumble, who had not yet been admitted by his better half into any
greater share of the secret than he had originally possessed, listened
to this dialogue with outstretched neck and distended eyes:  which he
directed towards his wife and Monks, by turns, in undisguised
astonishment; increased, if possible, when the latter sternly demanded,
what sum was required for the disclosure.

'What's it worth to you?' asked the woman, as collectedly as before.

'It may be nothing; it may be twenty pounds,' replied Monks. 'Speak
out, and let me know which.'

'Add five pounds to the sum you have named; give me five-and-twenty
pounds in gold,' said the woman; 'and I'll tell you all I know.  Not
before.'

'Five-and-twenty pounds!' exclaimed Monks, drawing back.

'I spoke as plainly as I could,' replied Mrs. Bumble.  'It's not a
large sum, either.'

'Not a large sum for a paltry secret, that may be nothing when it's
told!' cried Monks impatiently; 'and which has been lying dead for
twelve years past or more!'

'Such matters keep well, and, like good wine, often double their value
in course of time,' answered the matron, still preserving the resolute
indifference she had assumed.  'As to lying dead, there are those who
will lie dead for twelve thousand years to come, or twelve million, for
anything you or I know, who will tell strange tales at last!'

'What if I pay it for nothing?' asked Monks, hesitating.

'You can easily take it away again,' replied the matron. 'I am but a
woman; alone here; and unprotected.'

'Not alone, my dear, nor unprotected, neither,' submitted Mr. Bumble,
in a voice tremulous with fear: '_I_ am here, my dear. And besides,'
said Mr. Bumble, his teeth chattering as he spoke, 'Mr. Monks is too
much of a gentleman to attempt any violence on porochial persons.  Mr.
Monks is aware that I am not a young man, my dear, and also that I am a
little run to seed, as I may say; bu he has heerd:  I say I have no
doubt Mr. Monks has heerd, my dear:  that I am a very determined
officer, with very uncommon strength, if I'm once roused.  I only want
a little rousing; that's all.'

As Mr. Bumble spoke, he made a melancholy feint of grasping his lantern
with fierce determination; and plainly showed, by the alarmed
expression of every feature, that he _did_ want a little rousing, and
not a little, prior to making any very warlike demonstration: unless,
indeed, against paupers, or other person or persons trained down for
the purpose.

'You are a fool,' said Mrs. Bumble, in reply; 'and had better hold your
tongue.'

'He had better have cut it out, before he came, if he can't speak in a
lower tone,' said Monks, grimly.  'So!  He's your husband, eh?'

'He my husband!' tittered the matron, parrying the question.

'I thought as much, when you came in,' rejoined Monks, marking the
angry glance which the lady darted at her spouse as she spoke.  'So
much the better; I have less hesitation in dealing with two people,
when I find that there's only one will between them.  I'm in earnest.
See here!'

He thrust his hand into a side-pocket; and producing a canvas bag, told
out twenty-five sovereigns on the table, and pushed them over to the
woman.

'Now,' he said, 'gather them up; and when this cursed peal of thunder,
which I feel is coming up to break over the house-top, is gone, let's
hear your story.'

The thunder, which seemed in fact much nearer, and to shiver and break
almost over their heads, having subsided, Monks, raising his face from
the table, bent forward to listen to what the woman should say.  The
faces of the three nearly touched, as the two men leant over the small
table in their eagerness to hear, and the woman also leant forward to
render her whisper audible.  The sickly rays of the suspended lantern
falling directly upon them, aggravated the paleness and anxiety of
their countenances: which, encircled by the deepest gloom and darkness,
looked ghastly in the extreme.

'When this woman, that we called old Sally, died,' the matron began,
'she and I were alone.'

'Was there no one by?' asked Monks, in the same hollow whisper; 'No
sick wretch or idiot in some other bed?  No one who could hear, and
might, by possibility, understand?'

'Not a soul,' replied the woman; 'we were alone.  _I_ stood alone
beside the body when death came over it.'

'Good,' said Monks, regarding her attentively.  'Go on.'

'She spoke of a young creature,' resumed the matron, 'who had brought a
child into the world some years before; not merely in the same room,
but in the same bed, in which she then lay dying.'

'Ay?' said Monks, with quivering lip, and glancing over his shoulder,
'Blood!  How things come about!'

'The child was the one you named to him last night,' said the matron,
nodding carelessly towards her husband; 'the mother this nurse had
robbed.'

'In life?' asked Monks.

'In death,' replied the woman, with something like a shudder. 'She
stole from the corpse, when it had hardly turned to one, that which the
dead mother had prayed her, with her last breath, to keep for the
infant's sake.'

'She sold it,' cried Monks, with desperate eagerness; 'did she sell it?
Where?  When?  To whom?  How long before?'

'As she told me, with great difficulty, that she had done this,' said
the matron, 'she fell back and died.'

'Without saying more?' cried Monks, in a voice which, from its very
suppression, seemed only the more furious.  'It's a lie! I'll not be
played with.  She said more.  I'll tear the life out of you both, but
I'll know what it was.'

'She didn't utter another word,' said the woman, to all appearance
unmoved (as Mr. Bumble was very far from being) by the strange man's
violence; 'but she clutched my gown, violently, with one hand, which
was partly closed; and when I saw that she was dead, and so removed the
hand by force, I found it clasped a scrap of dirty paper.'

'Which contained--' interposed Monks, stretching forward.

'Nothing,' replied the woman; 'it was a pawnbroker's duplicate.'

'For what?' demanded Monks.

'In good time I'll tell you.' said the woman.  'I judge that she had
kept the trinket, for some time, in the hope of turning it to better
account; and then had pawned it; and had saved or scraped together
money to pay the pawnbroker's interest year by year, and prevent its
running out; so that if anything came of it, it could still be
redeemed.  Nothing had come of it; and, as I tell you, she died with
the scrap of paper, all worn and tattered, in her hand.  The time was
out in two days; I thought something might one day come of it too; and
so redeemed the pledge.'

'Where is it now?' asked Monks quickly.

'_There_,' replied the woman.  And, as if glad to be relieved of it,
she hastily threw upon the table a small kid bag scarcely large enough
for a French watch, which Monks pouncing upon, tore open with trembling
hands.  It contained a little gold locket: in which were two locks of
hair, and a plain gold wedding-ring.

'It has the word "Agnes" engraved on the inside,' said the woman.

'There is a blank left for the surname; and then follows the date;
which is within a year before the child was born.  I found out that.'

'And this is all?' said Monks, after a close and eager scrutiny of the
contents of the little packet.

'All,' replied the woman.

Mr. Bumble drew a long breath, as if he were glad to find that the
story was over, and no mention made of taking the five-and-twenty
pounds back again; and now he took courage to wipe the perspiration
which had been trickling over his nose, unchecked, during the whole of
the previous dialogue.

'I know nothing of the story, beyond what I can guess at,' said his
wife addressing Monks, after a short silence; 'and I want to know
nothing; for it's safer not.  But I may ask you two questions, may I?'

'You may ask,' said Monks, with some show of surprise; 'but whether I
answer or not is another question.'

'--Which makes three,' observed Mr. Bumble, essaying a stroke of
facetiousness.

'Is that what you expected to get from me?' demanded the matron.

'It is,' replied Monks.  'The other question?'

'What do you propose to do with it?  Can it be used against me?'

'Never,' rejoined Monks; 'nor against me either.  See here!  But don't
move a step forward, or your life is not worth a bulrush.'

With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and pulling an
iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large trap-door which opened
close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused that gentleman to retire several
paces backward, with great precipitation.

'Look down,' said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. 'Don't
fear me.  I could have let you down, quietly enough, when you were
seated over it, if that had been my game.'

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble
himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same. The turbid
water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all
other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashing and eddying against
the green and slimy piles.  There had once been a water-mill beneath;
the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments
of machinery that yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new
impulse, when freed from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted
to stem its headlong course.

'If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to-morrow
morning?' said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well.

'Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides,' replied
Bumble, recoiling at the thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had hurriedly
thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had formed a part of
some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped it into the stream.
It fell straight, and true as a die; clove the water with a scarcely
audible splash; and was gone.

The three looking into each other's faces, seemed to breathe more
freely.

'There!' said Monks, closing the trap-door, which fell heavily back
into its former position.  'If the sea ever gives up its dead, as books
say it will, it will keep its gold and silver to itself, and that trash
among it.  We have nothing more to say, and may break up our pleasant
party.'

'By all means,' observed Mr. Bumble, with great alacrity.

'You'll keep a quiet tongue in your head, will you?' said Monks, with a
threatening look.  'I am not afraid of your wife.'

'You may depend upon me, young man,' answered Mr. Bumble, bowing
himself gradually towards the ladder, with excessive politeness. 'On
everybody's account, young man; on my own, you know, Mr. Monks.'

'I am glad, for your sake, to hear it,' remarked Monks. 'Light your
lantern!  And get away from here as fast as you can.'

It was fortunate that the conversation terminated at this point, or Mr.
Bumble, who had bowed himself to within six inches of the ladder, would
infallibly have pitched headlong into the room below.  He lighted his
lantern from that which Monks had detached from the rope, and now
carried in his hand; and making no effort to prolong the discourse,
descended in silence, followed by his wife.  Monks brought up the rear,
after pausing on the steps to satisfy himself that there were no other
sounds to be heard than the beating of the rain without, and the
rushing of the water.

They traversed the lower room, slowly, and with caution; for Monks
started at every shadow; and Mr. Bumble, holding his lantern a foot
above the ground, walked not only with remarkable care, but with a
marvellously light step for a gentleman of his figure:  looking
nervously about him for hidden trap-doors.  The gate at which they had
entered, was softly unfastened and opened by Monks; merely exchanging a
nod with their mysterious acquaintance, the married couple emerged into
the wet and darkness outside.

They were no sooner gone, than Monks, who appeared to entertain an
invincible repugnance to being left alone, called to a boy who had been
hidden somewhere below. Bidding him go first, and bear the light, he
returned to the chamber he had just quitted.



CHAPTER XXXIX

INTRODUCES SOME RESPECTABLE CHARACTERS WITH WHOM THE READER IS ALREADY
ACQUAINTED, AND SHOWS HOW MONKS AND THE JEW LAID THEIR WORTHY HEADS
TOGETHER

On the evening following that upon which the three worthies mentioned
in the last chapter, disposed of their little matter of business as
therein narrated, Mr. William Sikes, awakening from a nap, drowsily
growled forth an inquiry what time of night it was.

The room in which Mr. Sikes propounded this question, was not one of
those he had tenanted, previous to the Chertsey expedition, although it
was in the same quarter of the town, and was situated at no great
distance from his former lodgings.  It was not, in appearance, so
desirable a habitation as his old quarters:  being a mean and
badly-furnished apartment, of very limited size; lighted only by one
small window in the shelving roof, and abutting on a close and dirty
lane.  Nor were there wanting other indications of the good gentleman's
having gone down in the world of late:  for a great scarcity of
furniture, and total absence of comfort, together with the
disappearance of all such small moveables as spare clothes and linen,
bespoke a state of extreme poverty; while the meagre and attenuated
condition of Mr. Sikes himself would have fully confirmed these
symptoms, if they had stood in any need of corroboration.

The housebreaker was lying on the bed, wrapped in his white great-coat,
by way of dressing-gown, and displaying a set of features in no degree
improved by the cadaverous hue of illness, and the addition of a soiled
nightcap, and a stiff, black beard of a week's growth.  The dog sat at
the bedside:  now eyeing his master with a wistful look, and now
pricking his ears, and uttering a low growl as some noise in the
street, or in the lower part of the house, attracted his attention.
Seated by the window, busily engaged in patching an old waistcoat which
formed a portion of the robber's ordinary dress, was a female:  so pale
and reduced with watching and privation, that there would have been
considerable difficulty in recognising her as the same Nancy who has
already figured in this tale, but for the voice in which she replied to
Mr. Sikes's question.

'Not long gone seven,' said the girl.  'How do you feel to-night, Bill?'

'As weak as water,' replied Mr. Sikes, with an imprecation on his eyes
and limbs.  'Here; lend us a hand, and let me get off this thundering
bed anyhow.'

Illness had not improved Mr. Sikes's temper; for, as the girl raised
him up and led him to a chair, he muttered various curses on her
awkwardness, and struck her.

'Whining are you?' said Sikes.  'Come!  Don't stand snivelling there.
If you can't do anything better than that, cut off altogether.  D'ye
hear me?'

'I hear you,' replied the girl, turning her face aside, and forcing a
laugh.  'What fancy have you got in your head now?'

'Oh! you've thought better of it, have you?' growled Sikes, marking the
tear which trembled in her eye.  'All the better for you, you have.'

'Why, you don't mean to say, you'd be hard upon me to-night, Bill,'
said the girl, laying her hand upon his shoulder.

'No!' cried Mr. Sikes.  'Why not?'

'Such a number of nights,' said the girl, with a touch of woman's
tenderness, which communicated something like sweetness of tone, even
to her voice: 'such a number of nights as I've been patient with you,
nursing and caring for you, as if you had been a child: and this the
first that I've seen you like yourself; you wouldn't have served me as
you did just now, if you'd thought of that, would you?  Come, come; say
you wouldn't.'

'Well, then,' rejoined Mr. Sikes, 'I wouldn't.  Why, damme, now, the
girls's whining again!'

'It's nothing,' said the girl, throwing herself into a chair. 'Don't
you seem to mind me.  It'll soon be over.'

'What'll be over?' demanded Mr. Sikes in a savage voice. 'What foolery
are you up to, now, again?  Get up and bustle about, and don't come
over me with your woman's nonsense.'

At any other time, this remonstrance, and the tone in which it was
delivered, would have had the desired effect; but the girl being really
weak and exhausted, dropped her head over the back of the chair, and
fainted, before Mr. Sikes could get out a few of the appropriate oaths
with which, on similar occasions, he was accustomed to garnish his
threats.  Not knowing, very well, what to do, in this uncommon
emergency; for Miss Nancy's hysterics were usually of that violent kind
which the patient fights and struggles out of, without much assistance;
Mr. Sikes tried a little blasphemy: and finding that mode of treatment
wholly ineffectual, called for assistance.

'What's the matter here, my dear?' said Fagin, looking in.

'Lend a hand to the girl, can't you?' replied Sikes impatiently. 'Don't
stand chattering and grinning at me!'

With an exclamation of surprise, Fagin hastened to the girl's
assistance, while Mr. John Dawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger), who
had followed his venerable friend into the room, hastily deposited on
the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and snatching a bottle from
the grasp of Master Charles Bates who came close at his heels, uncorked
it in a twinkling with his teeth, and poured a portion of its contents
down the patient's throat:  previously taking a taste, himself, to
prevent mistakes.

'Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellows, Charley,' said Mr.
Dawkins; 'and you slap her hands, Fagin, while Bill undoes the
petticuts.'

These united restoratives, administered with great energy: especially
that department consigned to Master Bates, who appeared to consider his
share in the proceedings, a piece of unexampled pleasantry:  were not
long in producing the desired effect.  The girl gradually recovered her
senses; and, staggering to a chair by the bedside, hid her face upon
the pillow:  leaving Mr. Sikes to confront the new comers, in some
astonishment at their unlooked-for appearance.

'Why, what evil wind has blowed you here?' he asked Fagin.

'No evil wind at all, my dear, for evil winds blow nobody any good; and
I've brought something good with me, that you'll be glad to see.
Dodger, my dear, open the bundle; and give Bill the little trifles that
we spent all our money on, this morning.'

In compliance with Mr. Fagin's request, the Artful untied this bundle,
which was of large size, and formed of an old table-cloth; and handed
the articles it contained, one by one, to Charley Bates: who placed
them on the table, with various encomiums on their rarity and
excellence.

'Sitch a rabbit pie, Bill,' exclaimed that young gentleman, disclosing
to view a huge pasty; 'sitch delicate creeturs, with sitch tender
limbs, Bill, that the wery bones melt in your mouth, and there's no
occasion to pick 'em; half a pound of seven and six-penny green, so
precious strong that if you mix it with biling water, it'll go nigh to
blow the lid of the tea-pot off; a pound and a half of moist sugar that
the niggers didn't work at all at, afore they got it up to sitch a
pitch of goodness,--oh no!  Two half-quartern brans; pound of best
fresh; piece of double Glo'ster; and, to wind up all, some of the
richest sort you ever lushed!'

Uttering this last panegyric, Master Bates produced, from one of his
extensive pockets, a full-sized wine-bottle, carefully corked; while
Mr. Dawkins, at the same instant, poured out a wine-glassful of raw
spirits from the bottle he carried:  which the invalid tossed down his
throat without a moment's hesitation.

'Ah!' said Fagin, rubbing his hands with great satisfaction. 'You'll
do, Bill; you'll do now.'

'Do!' exclaimed Mr. Sikes; 'I might have been done for, twenty times
over, afore you'd have done anything to help me.  What do you mean by
leaving a man in this state, three weeks and more, you false-hearted
wagabond?'

'Only hear him, boys!' said Fagin, shrugging his shoulders. 'And us
come to bring him all these beau-ti-ful things.'

'The things is well enough in their way,' observed Mr. Sikes:  a little
soothed as he glanced over the table; 'but what have you got to say for
yourself, why you should leave me here, down in the mouth, health,
blunt, and everything else; and take no more notice of me, all this
mortal time, than if I was that 'ere dog.--Drive him down, Charley!'

'I never see such a jolly dog as that,' cried Master Bates, doing as he
was desired.  'Smelling the grub like a old lady a going to market!
He'd make his fortun' on the stage that dog would, and rewive the
drayma besides.'

'Hold your din,' cried Sikes, as the dog retreated under the bed: still
growling angrily.  'What have you got to say for yourself, you withered
old fence, eh?'

'I was away from London, a week and more, my dear, on a plant,' replied
the Jew.

'And what about the other fortnight?' demanded Sikes.  'What about the
other fortnight that you've left me lying here, like a sick rat in his
hole?'

'I couldn't help it, Bill.  I can't go into a long explanation before
company; but I couldn't help it, upon my honour.'

'Upon your what?' growled Sikes, with excessive disgust. 'Here! Cut me
off a piece of that pie, one of you boys, to take the taste of that out
of my mouth, or it'll choke me dead.'

'Don't be out of temper, my dear,' urged Fagin, submissively. 'I have
never forgot you, Bill; never once.'

'No!  I'll pound it that you han't,' replied Sikes, with a bitter grin.
'You've been scheming and plotting away, every hour that I have laid
shivering and burning here; and Bill was to do this; and Bill was to do
that; and Bill was to do it all, dirt cheap, as soon as he got well:
and was quite poor enough for your work. If it hadn't been for the
girl, I might have died.'

'There now, Bill,' remonstrated Fagin, eagerly catching at the word.
'If it hadn't been for the girl!  Who but poor ould Fagin was the means
of your having such a handy girl about you?'

'He says true enough there!' said Nancy, coming hastily forward. 'Let
him be; let him be.'

Nancy's appearance gave a new turn to the conversation; for the boys,
receiving a sly wink from the wary old Jew, began to ply her with
liquor: of which, however, she took very sparingly; while Fagin,
assuming an unusual flow of spirits, gradually brought Mr. Sikes into a
better temper, by affecting to regard his threats as a little pleasant
banter; and, moreover, by laughing very heartily at one or two rough
jokes, which, after repeated applications to the spirit-bottle, he
condescended to make.

'It's all very well,' said Mr. Sikes; 'but I must have some blunt from
you to-night.'

'I haven't a piece of coin about me,' replied the Jew.

'Then you've got lots at home,' retorted Sikes; 'and I must have some
from there.'

'Lots!' cried Fagin, holding up is hands.  'I haven't so much as
would--'

'I don't know how much you've got, and I dare say you hardly know
yourself, as it would take a pretty long time to count it,' said Sikes;
'but I must have some to-night; and that's flat.'

'Well, well,' said Fagin, with a sigh, 'I'll send the Artful round
presently.'

'You won't do nothing of the kind,' rejoined Mr. Sikes. 'The Artful's a
deal too artful, and would forget to come, or lose his way, or get
dodged by traps and so be perwented, or anything for an excuse, if you
put him up to it.  Nancy shall go to the ken and fetch it, to make all
sure; and I'll lie down and have a snooze while she's gone.'

After a great deal of haggling and squabbling, Fagin beat down the
amount of the required advance from five pounds to three pounds four
and sixpence: protesting with many solemn asseverations that that would
only leave him eighteen-pence to keep house with; Mr. Sikes sullenly
remarking that if he couldn't get any more he must accompany him home;
with the Dodger and Master Bates put the eatables in the cupboard.  The
Jew then, taking leave of his affectionate friend, returned homeward,
attended by Nancy and the boys:  Mr. Sikes, meanwhile, flinging himself
on the bed, and composing himself to sleep away the time until the
young lady's return.

In due course, they arrived at Fagin's abode, where they found Toby
Crackit and Mr. Chitling intent upon their fifteenth game at cribbage,
which it is scarcely necessary to say the latter gentleman lost, and
with it, his fifteenth and last sixpence: much to the amusement of his
young friends.  Mr. Crackit, apparently somewhat ashamed at being found
relaxing himself with a gentleman so much his inferior in station and
mental endowments, yawned, and inquiring after Sikes, took up his hat
to go.

'Has nobody been, Toby?' asked Fagin.

'Not a living leg,' answered Mr. Crackit, pulling up his collar; 'it's
been as dull as swipes.  You ought to stand something handsome, Fagin,
to recompense me for keeping house so long. Damme, I'm as flat as a
juryman; and should have gone to sleep, as fast as Newgate, if I hadn't
had the good natur' to amuse this youngster.  Horrid dull, I'm blessed
if I an't!'

With these and other ejaculations of the same kind, Mr. Toby Crackit
swept up his winnings, and crammed them into his waistcoat pocket with
a haughty air, as though such small pieces of silver were wholly
beneath the consideration of a man of his figure; this done, he
swaggered out of the room, with so much elegance and gentility, that
Mr. Chitling, bestowing numerous admiring glances on his legs and boots
till they were out of sight, assured the company that he considered his
acquaintance cheap at fifteen sixpences an interview, and that he
didn't value his losses the snap of his little finger.

'Wot a rum chap you are, Tom!' said Master Bates, highly amused by this
declaration.

'Not a bit of it,' replied Mr. Chitling.  'Am I, Fagin?'

'A very clever fellow, my dear,' said Fagin, patting him on the
shoulder, and winking to his other pupils.

'And Mr. Crackit is a heavy swell; an't he, Fagin?' asked Tom.

'No doubt at all of that, my dear.'

'And it is a creditable thing to have his acquaintance; an't it,
Fagin?' pursued Tom.

'Very much so, indeed, my dear.  They're only jealous, Tom, because he
won't give it to them.'

'Ah!' cried Tom, triumphantly, 'that's where it is!  He has cleaned me
out.  But I can go and earn some more, when I like; can't I, Fagin?'

'To be sure you can, and the sooner you go the better, Tom; so make up
your loss at once, and don't lose any more time.  Dodger! Charley!
It's time you were on the lay.  Come!  It's near ten, and nothing done
yet.'

In obedience to this hint, the boys, nodding to Nancy, took up their
hats, and left the room; the Dodger and his vivacious friend indulging,
as they went, in many witticisms at the expense of Mr. Chitling; in
whose conduct, it is but justice to say, there was nothing very
conspicuous or peculiar:  inasmuch as there are a great number of
spirited young bloods upon town, who pay a much higher price than Mr.
Chitling for being seen in good society:  and a great number of fine
gentlemen (composing the good society aforesaid) who established their
reputation upon very much the same footing as flash Toby Crackit.

'Now,' said Fagin, when they had left the room, 'I'll go and get you
that cash, Nancy.  This is only the key of a little cupboard where I
keep a few odd things the boys get, my dear.  I never lock up my money,
for I've got none to lock up, my dear--ha! ha! ha!--none to lock up.
It's a poor trade, Nancy, and no thanks; but I'm fond of seeing the
young people about me; and I bear it all, I bear it all.  Hush!' he
said, hastily concealing the key in his breast; 'who's that?  Listen!'

The girl, who was sitting at the table with her arms folded, appeared
in no way interested in the arrival: or to care whether the person,
whoever he was, came or went:  until the murmur of a man's voice
reached her ears.  The instant she caught the sound, she tore off her
bonnet and shawl, with the rapidity of lightning, and thrust them under
the table. The Jew, turning round immediately afterwards, she muttered
a complaint of the heat:  in a tone of languor that contrasted, very
remarkably, with the extreme haste and violence of this action:  which,
however, had been unobserved by Fagin, who had his back towards her at
the time.

'Bah!' he whispered, as though nettled by the interruption; 'it's the
man I expected before; he's coming downstairs.  Not a word about the
money while he's here, Nance.  He won't stop long.  Not ten minutes, my
dear.'

Laying his skinny forefinger upon his lip, the Jew carried a candle to
the door, as a man's step was heard upon the stairs without.  He
reached it, at the same moment as the visitor, who, coming hastily into
the room, was close upon the girl before he observed her.

It was Monks.

'Only one of my young people,' said Fagin, observing that Monks drew
back, on beholding a stranger.  'Don't move, Nancy.'

The girl drew closer to the table, and glancing at Monks with an air of
careless levity, withdrew her eyes; but as he turned towards Fagin, she
stole another look; so keen and searching, and full of purpose, that if
there had been any bystander to observe the change, he could hardly
have believed the two looks to have proceeded from the same person.

'Any news?' inquired Fagin.

'Great.'

'And--and--good?' asked Fagin, hesitating as though he feared to vex
the other man by being too sanguine.

'Not bad, any way,' replied Monks with a smile.  'I have been prompt
enough this time.  Let me have a word with you.'

The girl drew closer to the table, and made no offer to leave the room,
although she could see that Monks was pointing to her.  The Jew:
perhaps fearing she might say something aloud about the money, if he
endeavoured to get rid of her:  pointed upward, and took Monks out of
the room.

'Not that infernal hole we were in before,' she could hear the man say
as they went upstairs.  Fagin laughed; and making some reply which did
not reach her, seemed, by the creaking of the boards, to lead his
companion to the second story.

Before the sound of their footsteps had ceased to echo through the
house, the girl had slipped off her shoes; and drawing her gown loosely
over her head, and muffling her arms in it, stood at the door,
listening with breathless interest.  The moment the noise ceased, she
glided from the room; ascended the stairs with incredible softness and
silence; and was lost in the gloom above.

The room remained deserted for a quarter of an hour or more; the girl
glided back with the same unearthly tread; and, immediately afterwards,
the two men were heard descending.  Monks went at once into the street;
and the Jew crawled upstairs again for the money.  When he returned,
the girl was adjusting her shawl and bonnet, as if preparing to be gone.

'Why, Nance!' exclaimed the Jew, starting back as he put down the
candle, 'how pale you are!'

'Pale!' echoed the girl, shading her eyes with her hands, as if to look
steadily at him.

'Quite horrible.  What have you been doing to yourself?'

'Nothing that I know of, except sitting in this close place for I don't
know how long and all,' replied the girl carelessly. 'Come!  Let me get
back; that's a dear.'

With a sigh for every piece of money, Fagin told the amount into her
hand.  They parted without more conversation, merely interchanging a
'good-night.'

When the girl got into the open street, she sat down upon a doorstep;
and seemed, for a few moments, wholly bewildered and unable to pursue
her way.  Suddenly she arose; and hurrying on, in a direction quite
opposite to that in which Sikes was awaiting her returned, quickened
her pace, until it gradually resolved into a violent run.  After
completely exhausting herself, she stopped to take breath:  and, as if
suddenly recollecting herself, and deploring her inability to do
something she was bent upon, wrung her hands, and burst into tears.

It might be that her tears relieved her, or that she felt the full
hopelessness of her condition; but she turned back; and hurrying with
nearly as great rapidity in the contrary direction; partly to recover
lost time, and partly to keep pace with the violent current of her own
thoughts:  soon reached the dwelling where she had left the
housebreaker.

If she betrayed any agitation, when she presented herself to Mr. Sikes,
he did not observe it; for merely inquiring if she had brought the
money, and receiving a reply in the affirmative, he uttered a growl of
satisfaction, and replacing his head upon the pillow, resumed the
slumbers which her arrival had interrupted.

It was fortunate for her that the possession of money occasioned him so
much employment next day in the way of eating and drinking; and withal
had so beneficial an effect in smoothing down the asperities of his
temper; that he had neither time nor inclination to be very critical
upon her behaviour and deportment.  That she had all the abstracted and
nervous manner of one who is on the eve of some bold and hazardous
step, which it has required no common struggle to resolve upon, would
have been obvious to the lynx-eyed Fagin, who would most probably have
taken the alarm at once; but Mr. Sikes lacking the niceties of
discrimination, and being troubled with no more subtle misgivings than
those which resolve themselves into a dogged roughness of behaviour
towards everybody; and being, furthermore, in an unusually amiable
condition, as has been already observed; saw nothing unusual in her
demeanor, and indeed, troubled himself so little about her, that, had
her agitation been far more perceptible than it was, it would have been
very unlikely to have awakened his suspicions.

As that day closed in, the girl's excitement increased; and, when night
came on, and she sat by, watching until the housebreaker should drink
himself asleep, there was an unusual paleness in her cheek, and a fire
in her eye, that even Sikes observed with astonishment.

Mr. Sikes being weak from the fever, was lying in bed, taking hot water
with his gin to render it less inflammatory; and had pushed his glass
towards Nancy to be replenished for the third or fourth time, when
these symptoms first struck him.

'Why, burn my body!' said the man, raising himself on his hands as he
stared the girl in the face.  'You look like a corpse come to life
again.  What's the matter?'

'Matter!' replied the girl.  'Nothing.  What do you look at me so hard
for?'

'What foolery is this?' demanded Sikes, grasping her by the arm, and
shaking her roughly.  'What is it?  What do you mean?  What are you
thinking of?'

'Of many things, Bill,' replied the girl, shivering, and as she did so,
pressing her hands upon her eyes.  'But, Lord!  What odds in that?'

The tone of forced gaiety in which the last words were spoken, seemed
to produce a deeper impression on Sikes than the wild and rigid look
which had preceded them.

'I tell you wot it is,' said Sikes; 'if you haven't caught the fever,
and got it comin' on, now, there's something more than usual in the
wind, and something dangerous too.  You're not a-going to--.  No,
damme! you wouldn't do that!'

'Do what?' asked the girl.

'There ain't,' said Sikes, fixing his eyes upon her, and muttering the
words to himself; 'there ain't a stauncher-hearted gal going, or I'd
have cut her throat three months ago.  She's got the fever coming on;
that's it.'

Fortifying himself with this assurance, Sikes drained the glass to the
bottom, and then, with many grumbling oaths, called for his physic.
The girl jumped up, with great alacrity; poured it quickly out, but
with her back towards him; and held the vessel to his lips, while he
drank off the contents.

'Now,' said the robber, 'come and sit aside of me, and put on your own
face; or I'll alter it so, that you won't know it agin when you do want
it.'

The girl obeyed.  Sikes, locking her hand in his, fell back upon the
pillow: turning his eyes upon her face.  They closed; opened again;
closed once more; again opened.  He shifted his position restlessly;
and, after dozing again, and again, for two or three minutes, and as
often springing up with a look of terror, and gazing vacantly about
him, was suddenly stricken, as it were, while in the very attitude of
rising, into a deep and heavy sleep.  The grasp of his hand relaxed;
the upraised arm fell languidly by his side; and he lay like one in a
profound trance.

'The laudanum has taken effect at last,' murmured the girl, as she rose
from the bedside.  'I may be too late, even now.'

She hastily dressed herself in her bonnet and shawl:  looking fearfully
round, from time to time, as if, despite the sleeping draught, she
expected every moment to feel the pressure of Sikes's heavy hand upon
her shoulder; then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the
robber's lips; and then opening and closing the room-door with
noiseless touch, hurried from the house.

A watchman was crying half-past nine, down a dark passage through which
she had to pass, in gaining the main thoroughfare.

'Has it long gone the half-hour?' asked the girl.

'It'll strike the hour in another quarter,' said the man: raising his
lantern to her face.

'And I cannot get there in less than an hour or more,' muttered Nancy:
brushing swiftly past him, and gliding rapidly down the street.

Many of the shops were already closing in the back lanes and avenues
through which she tracked her way, in making from Spitalfields towards
the West-End of London.  The clock struck ten, increasing her
impatience.  She tore along the narrow pavement:  elbowing the
passengers from side to side; and darting almost under the horses'
heads, crossed crowded streets, where clusters of persons were eagerly
watching their opportunity to do the like.

'The woman is mad!' said the people, turning to look after her as she
rushed away.

When she reached the more wealthy quarter of the town, the streets were
comparatively deserted; and here her headlong progress excited a still
greater curiosity in the stragglers whom she hurried past.  Some
quickened their pace behind, as though to see whither she was hastening
at such an unusual rate; and a few made head upon her, and looked back,
surprised at her undiminished speed; but they fell off one by one; and
when she neared her place of destination, she was alone.

It was a family hotel in a quiet but handsome street near Hyde Park.
As the brilliant light of the lamp which burnt before its door, guided
her to the spot, the clock struck eleven.  She had loitered for a few
paces as though irresolute, and making up her mind to advance; but the
sound determined her, and she stepped into the hall.  The porter's seat
was vacant.  She looked round with an air of incertitude, and advanced
towards the stairs.

'Now, young woman!' said a smartly-dressed female, looking out from a
door behind her, 'who do you want here?'

'A lady who is stopping in this house,' answered the girl.

'A lady!' was the reply, accompanied with a scornful look. 'What lady?'

'Miss Maylie,' said Nancy.

The young woman, who had by this time, noted her appearance, replied
only by a look of virtuous disdain; and summoned a man to answer her.
To him, Nancy repeated her request.

'What name am I to say?' asked the waiter.

'It's of no use saying any,' replied Nancy.

'Nor business?' said the man.

'No, nor that neither,' rejoined the girl.  'I must see the lady.'

'Come!' said the man, pushing her towards the door.  'None of this.
Take yourself off.'

'I shall be carried out if I go!' said the girl violently; 'and I can
make that a job that two of you won't like to do.  Isn't there anybody
here,' she said, looking round, 'that will see a simple message carried
for a poor wretch like me?'

This appeal produced an effect on a good-tempered-faced man-cook, who
with some of the other servants was looking on, and who stepped forward
to interfere.

'Take it up for her, Joe; can't you?' said this person.

'What's the good?' replied the man.  'You don't suppose the young lady
will see such as her; do you?'

This allusion to Nancy's doubtful character, raised a vast quantity of
chaste wrath in the bosoms of four housemaids, who remarked, with great
fervour, that the creature was a disgrace to her sex; and strongly
advocated her being thrown, ruthlessly, into the kennel.

'Do what you like with me,' said the girl, turning to the men again;
'but do what I ask you first, and I ask you to give this message for
God Almighty's sake.'

The soft-hearted cook added his intercession, and the result was that
the man who had first appeared undertook its delivery.

'What's it to be?' said the man, with one foot on the stairs.

'That a young woman earnestly asks to speak to Miss Maylie alone,' said
Nancy; 'and that if the lady will only hear the first word she has to
say, she will know whether to hear her business, or to have her turned
out of doors as an impostor.'

'I say,' said the man, 'you're coming it strong!'

'You give the message,' said the girl firmly; 'and let me hear the
answer.'

The man ran upstairs.  Nancy remained, pale and almost breathless,
listening with quivering lip to the very audible expressions of scorn,
of which the chaste housemaids were very prolific; and of which they
became still more so, when the man returned, and said the young woman
was to walk upstairs.

'It's no good being proper in this world,' said the first housemaid.

'Brass can do better than the gold what has stood the fire,' said the
second.

The third contented herself with wondering 'what ladies was made of';
and the fourth took the first in a quartette of 'Shameful!' with which
the Dianas concluded.

Regardless of all this: for she had weightier matters at heart: Nancy
followed the man, with trembling limbs, to a small ante-chamber,
lighted by a lamp from the ceiling. Here he left her, and retired.



CHAPTER XL

A STRANGE INTERVIEW, WHICH IS A SEQUEL TO THE LAST CHAMBER

The girl's life had been squandered in the streets, and among the most
noisome of the stews and dens of London, but there was something of the
woman's original nature left in her still; and when she heard a light
step approaching the door opposite to that by which she had entered,
and thought of the wide contrast which the small room would in another
moment contain, she felt burdened with the sense of her own deep shame,
and shrunk as though she could scarcely bear the presence of her with
whom she had sought this interview.

But struggling with these better feelings was pride,--the vice of the
lowest and most debased creatures no less than of the high and
self-assured.  The miserable companion of thieves and ruffians, the
fallen outcast of low haunts, the associate of the scourings of the
jails and hulks, living within the shadow of the gallows itself,--even
this degraded being felt too proud to betray a feeble gleam of the
womanly feeling which she thought a weakness, but which alone connected
her with that humanity, of which her wasting life had obliterated so
many, many traces when a very child.

She raised her eyes sufficiently to observe that the figure which
presented itself was that of a slight and beautiful girl; then, bending
them on the ground, she tossed her head with affected carelessness as
she said:

'It's a hard matter to get to see you, lady.  If I had taken offence,
and gone away, as many would have done, you'd have been sorry for it
one day, and not without reason either.'

'I am very sorry if any one has behaved harshly to you,' replied Rose.
'Do not think of that.  Tell me why you wished to see me. I am the
person you inquired for.'

The kind tone of this answer, the sweet voice, the gentle manner, the
absence of any accent of haughtiness or displeasure, took the girl
completely by surprise, and she burst into tears.

'Oh, lady, lady!' she said, clasping her hands passionately before her
face, 'if there was more like you, there would be fewer like me,--there
would--there would!'

'Sit down,' said Rose, earnestly.  'If you are in poverty or affliction
I shall be truly glad to relieve you if I can,--I shall indeed.  Sit
down.'

'Let me stand, lady,' said the girl, still weeping, 'and do not speak
to me so kindly till you know me better.  It is growing late.
Is--is--that door shut?'

'Yes,' said Rose, recoiling a few steps, as if to be nearer assistance
in case she should require it.  'Why?'

'Because,' said the girl, 'I am about to put my life and the lives of
others in your hands.  I am the girl that dragged little Oliver back to
old Fagin's on the night he went out from the house in Pentonville.'

'You!' said Rose Maylie.

'I, lady!' replied the girl.  'I am the infamous creature you have
heard of, that lives among the thieves, and that never from the first
moment I can recollect my eyes and senses opening on London streets
have known any better life, or kinder words than they have given me, so
help me God!  Do not mind shrinking openly from me, lady.  I am younger
than you would think, to look at me, but I am well used to it. The
poorest women fall back, as I make my way along the crowded pavement.'

'What dreadful things are these!' said Rose, involuntarily falling from
her strange companion.

'Thank Heaven upon your knees, dear lady,' cried the girl, 'that you
had friends to care for and keep you in your childhood, and that you
were never in the midst of cold and hunger, and riot and drunkenness,
and--and--something worse than all--as I have been from my cradle.  I
may use the word, for the alley and the gutter were mine, as they will
be my deathbed.'

'I pity you!' said Rose, in a broken voice.  'It wrings my heart to
hear you!'

'Heaven bless you for your goodness!' rejoined the girl. 'If you knew
what I am sometimes, you would pity me, indeed. But I have stolen away
from those who would surely murder me, if they knew I had been here, to
tell you what I have overheard.  Do you know a man named Monks?'

'No,' said Rose.

'He knows you,' replied the girl; 'and knew you were here, for it was
by hearing him tell the place that I found you out.'

'I never heard the name,' said Rose.

'Then he goes by some other amongst us,' rejoined the girl, 'which I
more than thought before.  Some time ago, and soon after Oliver was put
into your house on the night of the robbery, I--suspecting this
man--listened to a conversation held between him and Fagin in the dark.
I found out, from what I heard, that Monks--the man I asked you about,
you know--'

'Yes,' said Rose, 'I understand.'

'--That Monks,' pursued the girl, 'had seen him accidently with two of
our boys on the day we first lost him, and had known him directly to be
the same child that he was watching for, though I couldn't make out
why.  A bargain was struck with Fagin, that if Oliver was got back he
should have a certain sum; and he was to have more for making him a
thief, which this Monks wanted for some purpose of his own.'

'For what purpose?' asked Rose.

'He caught sight of my shadow on the wall as I listened, in the hope of
finding out,' said the girl; 'and there are not many people besides me
that could have got out of their way in time to escape discovery.  But
I did; and I saw him no more till last night.'

'And what occurred then?'

'I'll tell you, lady.  Last night he came again.  Again they went
upstairs, and I, wrapping myself up so that my shadow would not betray
me, again listened at the door.  The first words I heard Monks say were
these:  "So the only proofs of the boy's identity lie at the bottom of
the river, and the old hag that received them from the mother is
rotting in her coffin."  They laughed, and talked of his success in
doing this; and Monks, talking on about the boy, and getting very wild,
said that though he had got the young devil's money safely now, he'd
rather have had it the other way; for, what a game it would have been
to have brought down the boast of the father's will, by driving him
through every jail in town, and then hauling him up for some capital
felony which Fagin could easily manage, after having made a good profit
of him besides.'

'What is all this!' said Rose.

'The truth, lady, though it comes from my lips,' replied the girl.
'Then, he said, with oaths common enough in my ears, but strange to
yours, that if he could gratify his hatred by taking the boy's life
without bringing his own neck in danger, he would; but, as he couldn't,
he'd be upon the watch to meet him at every turn in life; and if he
took advantage of his birth and history, he might harm him yet. "In
short, Fagin," he says, "Jew as you are, you never laid such snares as
I'll contrive for my young brother, Oliver."'

'His brother!' exclaimed Rose.

'Those were his words,' said Nancy, glancing uneasily round, as she had
scarcely ceased to do, since she began to speak, for a vision of Sikes
haunted her perpetually.  'And more. When he spoke of you and the other
lady, and said it seemed contrived by Heaven, or the devil, against
him, that Oliver should come into your hands, he laughed, and said
there was some comfort in that too, for how many thousands and hundreds
of thousands of pounds would you not give, if you had them, to know who
your two-legged spaniel was.'

'You do not mean,' said Rose, turning very pale, 'to tell me that this
was said in earnest?'

'He spoke in hard and angry earnest, if a man ever did,' replied the
girl, shaking her head.  'He is an earnest man when his hatred is up.
I know many who do worse things; but I'd rather listen to them all a
dozen times, than to that Monks once.  It is growing late, and I have
to reach home without suspicion of having been on such an errand as
this.  I must get back quickly.'

'But what can I do?' said Rose.  'To what use can I turn this
communication without you?  Back!  Why do you wish to return to
companions you paint in such terrible colors?  If you repeat this
information to a gentleman whom I can summon in an instant from the
next room, you can be consigned to some place of safety without half an
hour's delay.'

'I wish to go back,' said the girl.  'I must go back, because--how can
I tell such things to an innocent lady like you?--because among the men
I have told you of, there is one: the most desperate among them all;
that I can't leave:  no, not even to be saved from the life I am
leading now.'

'Your having interfered in this dear boy's behalf before,' said Rose;
'your coming here, at so great a risk, to tell me what you have heard;
your manner, which convinces me of the truth of what you say; your
evident contrition, and sense of shame; all lead me to believe that you
might yet be reclaimed.  Oh!' said the earnest girl, folding her hands
as the tears coursed down her face, 'do not turn a deaf ear to the
entreaties of one of your own sex; the first--the first, I do believe,
who ever appealed to you in the voice of pity and compassion.  Do hear
my words, and let me save you yet, for better things.'

'Lady,' cried the girl, sinking on her knees, 'dear, sweet, angel lady,
you _are_ the first that ever blessed me with such words as these, and
if I had heard them years ago, they might have turned me from a life of
sin and sorrow; but it is too late, it is too late!'

'It is never too late,' said Rose, 'for penitence and atonement.'

'It is,' cried the girl, writhing in agony of her mind; 'I cannot leave
him now!  I could not be his death.'

'Why should you be?' asked Rose.

'Nothing could save him,' cried the girl.  'If I told others what I
have told you, and led to their being taken, he would be sure to die.
He is the boldest, and has been so cruel!'

'Is it possible,' cried Rose, 'that for such a man as this, you can
resign every future hope, and the certainty of immediate rescue?  It is
madness.'

'I don't know what it is,' answered the girl; 'I only know that it is
so, and not with me alone, but with hundreds of others as bad and
wretched as myself.  I must go back.  Whether it is God's wrath for the
wrong I have done, I do not know; but I am drawn back to him through
every suffering and ill usage; and I should be, I believe, if I knew
that I was to die by his hand at last.'

'What am I to do?' said Rose.  'I should not let you depart from me
thus.'

'You should, lady, and I know you will,' rejoined the girl, rising.
'You will not stop my going because I have trusted in your goodness,
and forced no promise from you, as I might have done.'

'Of what use, then, is the communication you have made?' said Rose.
'This mystery must be investigated, or how will its disclosure to me,
benefit Oliver, whom you are anxious to serve?'

'You must have some kind gentleman about you that will hear it as a
secret, and advise you what to do,' rejoined the girl.

'But where can I find you again when it is necessary?' asked Rose.  'I
do not seek to know where these dreadful people live, but where will
you be walking or passing at any settled period from this time?'

'Will you promise me that you will have my secret strictly kept, and
come alone, or with the only other person that knows it; and that I
shall not be watched or followed?' asked the girl.

'I promise you solemnly,' answered Rose.

'Every Sunday night, from eleven until the clock strikes twelve,' said
the girl without hesitation, 'I will walk on London Bridge if I am
alive.'

'Stay another moment,' interposed Rose, as the girl moved hurriedly
towards the door.  'Think once again on your own condition, and the
opportunity you have of escaping from it.  You have a claim on me:  not
only as the voluntary bearer of this intelligence, but as a woman lost
almost beyond redemption.  Will you return to this gang of robbers, and
to this man, when a word can save you?  What fascination is it that can
take you back, and make you cling to wickedness and misery?  Oh! is
there no chord in your heart that I can touch!  Is there nothing left,
to which I can appeal against this terrible infatuation!'

'When ladies as young, and good, and beautiful as you are,' replied the
girl steadily, 'give away your hearts, love will carry you all
lengths--even such as you, who have home, friends, other admirers,
everything, to fill them.  When such as I, who have no certain roof but
the coffinlid, and no friend in sickness or death but the hospital
nurse, set our rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place
that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to
cure us?  Pity us, lady--pity us for having only one feeling of the
woman left, and for having that turned, by a heavy judgment, from a
comfort and a pride, into a new means of violence and suffering.'

'You will,' said Rose, after a pause, 'take some money from me, which
may enable you to live without dishonesty--at all events until we meet
again?'

'Not a penny,' replied the girl, waving her hand.

'Do not close your heart against all my efforts to help you,' said
Rose, stepping gently forward.  'I wish to serve you indeed.'

'You would serve me best, lady,' replied the girl, wringing her hands,
'if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more grief to think
of what I am, to-night, than I ever did before, and it would be
something not to die in the hell in which I have lived.  God bless you,
sweet lady, and send as much happiness on your head as I have brought
shame on mine!'

Thus speaking, and sobbing aloud, the unhappy creature turned away;
while Rose Maylie, overpowered by this extraordinary interview, which
had more the semblance of a rapid dream than an actual occurrence, sank
into a chair, and endeavoured to collect her wandering thoughts.



CHAPTER XLI

CONTAINING FRESH DISCOVERIES, AND SHOWING THAT SUPRISES, LIKE
MISFORTUNES, SELDOM COME ALONE

Her situation was, indeed, one of no common trial and difficulty. While
she felt the most eager and burning desire to penetrate the mystery in
which Oliver's history was enveloped, she could not but hold sacred the
confidence which the miserable woman with whom she had just conversed,
had reposed in her, as a young and guileless girl.  Her words and
manner had touched Rose Maylie's heart; and, mingled with her love for
her young charge, and scarcely less intense in its truth and fervour,
was her fond wish to win the outcast back to repentance and hope.

They purposed remaining in London only three days, prior to departing
for some weeks to a distant part of the coast.  It was now midnight of
the first day.  What course of action could she determine upon, which
could be adopted in eight-and-forty hours? Or how could she postpone
the journey without exciting suspicion?

Mr. Losberne was with them, and would be for the next two days; but
Rose was too well acquainted with the excellent gentleman's
impetuosity, and foresaw too clearly the wrath with which, in the first
explosion of his indignation, he would regard the instrument of
Oliver's recapture, to trust him with the secret, when her
representations in the girl's behalf could be seconded by no
experienced person.  These were all reasons for the greatest caution
and most circumspect behaviour in communicating it to Mrs. Maylie,
whose first impulse would infallibly be to hold a conference with the
worthy doctor on the subject.  As to resorting to any legal adviser,
even if she had known how to do so, it was scarcely to be thought of,
for the same reason.  Once the thought occurred to her of seeking
assistance from Harry; but this awakened the recollection of their last
parting, and it seemed unworthy of her to call him back, when--the
tears rose to her eyes as she pursued this train of reflection--he
might have by this time learnt to forget her, and to be happier away.

Disturbed by these different reflections; inclining now to one course
and then to another, and again recoiling from all, as each successive
consideration presented itself to her mind; Rose passed a sleepless and
anxious night.  After more communing with herself next day, she arrived
at the desperate conclusion of consulting Harry.

'If it be painful to him,' she thought, 'to come back here, how painful
it will be to me!  But perhaps he will not come; he may write, or he
may come himself, and studiously abstain from meeting me--he did when
he went away.  I hardly thought he would; but it was better for us
both.'  And here Rose dropped the pen, and turned away, as though the
very paper which was to be her messenger should not see her weep.

She had taken up the same pen, and laid it down again fifty times, and
had considered and reconsidered the first line of her letter without
writing the first word, when Oliver, who had been walking in the
streets, with Mr. Giles for a body-guard, entered the room in such
breathless haste and violent agitation, as seemed to betoken some new
cause of alarm.

'What makes you look so flurried?' asked Rose, advancing to meet him.

'I hardly know how; I feel as if I should be choked,' replied the boy.
'Oh dear!  To think that I should see him at last, and you should be
able to know that I have told you the truth!'

'I never thought you had told us anything but the truth,' said Rose,
soothing him.  'But what is this?--of whom do you speak?'

'I have seen the gentleman,' replied Oliver, scarcely able to
articulate, 'the gentleman who was so good to me--Mr. Brownlow, that we
have so often talked about.'

'Where?' asked Rose.

'Getting out of a coach,' replied Oliver, shedding tears of delight,
'and going into a house.  I didn't speak to him--I couldn't speak to
him, for he didn't see me, and I trembled so, that I was not able to go
up to him.  But Giles asked, for me, whether he lived there, and they
said he did.  Look here,' said Oliver, opening a scrap of paper, 'here
it is; here's where he lives--I'm going there directly!  Oh, dear me,
dear me!  What shall I do when I come to see him and hear him speak
again!'

With her attention not a little distracted by these and a great many
other incoherent exclamations of joy, Rose read the address, which was
Craven Street, in the Strand.  She very soon determined upon turning
the discovery to account.

'Quick!' she said.  'Tell them to fetch a hackney-coach, and be ready
to go with me.  I will take you there directly, without a minute's loss
of time.  I will only tell my aunt that we are going out for an hour,
and be ready as soon as you are.'

Oliver needed no prompting to despatch, and in little more than five
minutes they were on their way to Craven Street.  When they arrived
there, Rose left Oliver in the coach, under pretence of preparing the
old gentleman to receive him; and sending up her card by the servant,
requested to see Mr. Brownlow on very pressing business.  The servant
soon returned, to beg that she would walk upstairs; and following him
into an upper room, Miss Maylie was presented to an elderly gentleman
of benevolent appearance, in a bottle-green coat.  At no great distance
from whom, was seated another old gentleman, in nankeen breeches and
gaiters; who did not look particularly benevolent, and who was sitting
with his hands clasped on the top of a thick stick, and his chin
propped thereupon.

'Dear me,' said the gentleman, in the bottle-green coat, hastily rising
with great politeness, 'I beg your pardon, young lady--I imagined it
was some importunate person who--I beg you will excuse me.  Be seated,
pray.'

'Mr. Brownlow, I believe, sir?' said Rose, glancing from the other
gentleman to the one who had spoken.

'That is my name,' said the old gentleman.  'This is my friend, Mr.
Grimwig.  Grimwig, will you leave us for a few minutes?'

'I believe,' interposed Miss Maylie, 'that at this period of our
interview, I need not give that gentleman the trouble of going away.
If I am correctly informed, he is cognizant of the business on which I
wish to speak to you.'

Mr. Brownlow inclined his head.  Mr. Grimwig, who had made one very
stiff bow, and risen from his chair, made another very stiff bow, and
dropped into it again.

'I shall surprise you very much, I have no doubt,' said Rose, naturally
embarrassed; 'but you once showed great benevolence and goodness to a
very dear young friend of mine, and I am sure you will take an interest
in hearing of him again.'

'Indeed!' said Mr. Brownlow.

'Oliver Twist you knew him as,' replied Rose.

The words no sooner escaped her lips, than Mr. Grimwig, who had been
affecting to dip into a large book that lay on the table, upset it with
a great crash, and falling back in his chair, discharged from his
features every expression but one of unmitigated wonder, and indulged
in a prolonged and vacant stare; then, as if ashamed of having betrayed
so much emotion, he jerked himself, as it were, by a convulsion into
his former attitude, and looking out straight before him emitted a long
deep whistle, which seemed, at last, not to be discharged on empty air,
but to die away in the innermost recesses of his stomach.

Mr. Browlow was no less surprised, although his astonishment was not
expressed in the same eccentric manner.  He drew his chair nearer to
Miss Maylie's, and said,

'Do me the favour, my dear young lady, to leave entirely out of the
question that goodness and benevolence of which you speak, and of which
nobody else knows anything; and if you have it in your power to produce
any evidence which will alter the unfavourable opinion I was once
induced to entertain of that poor child, in Heaven's name put me in
possession of it.'

'A bad one!  I'll eat my head if he is not a bad one,' growled Mr.
Grimwig, speaking by some ventriloquial power, without moving a muscle
of his face.

'He is a child of a noble nature and a warm heart,' said Rose,
colouring; 'and that Power which has thought fit to try him beyond his
years, has planted in his breast affections and feelings which would do
honour to many who have numbered his days six times over.'

'I'm only sixty-one,' said Mr. Grimwig, with the same rigid face. 'And,
as the devil's in it if this Oliver is not twelve years old at least, I
don't see the application of that remark.'

'Do not heed my friend, Miss Maylie,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'he does not
mean what he says.'

'Yes, he does,' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'No, he does not,' said Mr. Brownlow, obviously rising in wrath as he
spoke.

'He'll eat his head, if he doesn't,' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'He would deserve to have it knocked off, if he does,' said Mr.
Brownlow.

'And he'd uncommonly like to see any man offer to do it,' responded Mr.
Grimwig, knocking his stick upon the floor.

Having gone thus far, the two old gentlemen severally took snuff, and
afterwards shook hands, according to their invariable custom.

'Now, Miss Maylie,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'to return to the subject in
which your humanity is so much interested.  Will you let me know what
intelligence you have of this poor child:  allowing me to promise that
I exhausted every means in my power of discovering him, and that since
I have been absent from this country, my first impression that he had
imposed upon me, and had been persuaded by his former associates to rob
me, has been considerably shaken.'

Rose, who had had time to collect her thoughts, at once related, in a
few natural words, all that had befallen Oliver since he left Mr.
Brownlow's house; reserving Nancy's information for that gentleman's
private ear, and concluding with the assurance that his only sorrow,
for some months past, had been not being able to meet with his former
benefactor and friend.

'Thank God!' said the old gentleman.  'This is great happiness to me,
great happiness.  But you have not told me where he is now, Miss
Maylie.  You must pardon my finding fault with you,--but why not have
brought him?'

'He is waiting in a coach at the door,' replied Rose.

'At this door!' cried the old gentleman.  With which he hurried out of
the room, down the stairs, up the coachsteps, and into the coach,
without another word.

When the room-door closed behind him, Mr. Grimwig lifted up his head,
and converting one of the hind legs of his chair into a pivot,
described three distinct circles with the assistance of his stick and
the table; sitting in it all the time.  After performing this
evolution, he rose and limped as fast as he could up and down the room
at least a dozen times, and then stopping suddenly before Rose, kissed
her without the slightest preface.

'Hush!' he said, as the young lady rose in some alarm at this unusual
proceeding.  'Don't be afraid.  I'm old enough to be your grandfather.
You're a sweet girl.  I like you.  Here they are!'

In fact, as he threw himself at one dexterous dive into his former
seat, Mr. Brownlow returned, accompanied by Oliver, whom Mr. Grimwig
received very graciously; and if the gratification of that moment had
been the only reward for all her anxiety and care in Oliver's behalf,
Rose Maylie would have been well repaid.

'There is somebody else who should not be forgotten, by the bye,' said
Mr. Brownlow, ringing the bell.  'Send Mrs. Bedwin here, if you please.'

The old housekeeper answered the summons with all dispatch; and
dropping a curtsey at the door, waited for orders.

'Why, you get blinder every day, Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, rather
testily.

'Well, that I do, sir,' replied the old lady.  'People's eyes, at my
time of life, don't improve with age, sir.'

'I could have told you that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but put on your
glasses, and see if you can't find out what you were wanted for, will
you?'

The old lady began to rummage in her pocket for her spectacles. But
Oliver's patience was not proof against this new trial; and yielding to
his first impulse, he sprang into her arms.

'God be good to me!' cried the old lady, embracing him; 'it is my
innocent boy!'

'My dear old nurse!' cried Oliver.

'He would come back--I knew he would,' said the old lady, holding him
in her arms.  'How well he looks, and how like a gentleman's son he is
dressed again!  Where have you been, this long, long while?  Ah! the
same sweet face, but not so pale; the same soft eye, but not so sad.  I
have never forgotten them or his quiet smile, but have seen them every
day, side by side with those of my own dear children, dead and gone
since I was a lightsome young creature.'  Running on thus, and now
holding Oliver from her to mark how he had grown, now clasping him to
her and passing her fingers fondly through his hair, the good soul
laughed and wept upon his neck by turns.

Leaving her and Oliver to compare notes at leisure, Mr. Brownlow led
the way into another room; and there, heard from Rose a full narration
of her interview with Nancy, which occasioned him no little surprise
and perplexity.  Rose also explained her reasons for not confiding in
her friend Mr. Losberne in the first instance.  The old gentleman
considered that she had acted prudently, and readily undertook to hold
solemn conference with the worthy doctor himself.  To afford him an
early opportunity for the execution of this design, it was arranged
that he should call at the hotel at eight o'clock that evening, and
that in the meantime Mrs. Maylie should be cautiously informed of all
that had occurred.  These preliminaries adjusted, Rose and Oliver
returned home.

Rose had by no means overrated the measure of the good doctor's wrath.
Nancy's history was no sooner unfolded to him, than he poured forth a
shower of mingled threats and execrations; threatened to make her the
first victim of the combined ingenuity of Messrs. Blathers and Duff;
and actually put on his hat preparatory to sallying forth to obtain the
assistance of those worthies.  And, doubtless, he would, in this first
outbreak, have carried the intention into effect without a moment's
consideration of the consequences, if he had not been restrained, in
part, by corresponding violence on the side of Mr. Brownlow, who was
himself of an irascible temperament, and party by such arguments and
representations as seemed best calculated to dissuade him from his
hotbrained purpose.

'Then what the devil is to be done?' said the impetuous doctor, when
they had rejoined the two ladies.  'Are we to pass a vote of thanks to
all these vagabonds, male and female, and beg them to accept a hundred
pounds, or so, apiece, as a trifling mark of our esteem, and some
slight acknowledgment of their kindness to Oliver?'

'Not exactly that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow, laughing; 'but we must
proceed gently and with great care.'

'Gentleness and care,' exclaimed the doctor.  'I'd send them one and
all to--'

'Never mind where,' interposed Mr. Brownlow.  'But reflect whether
sending them anywhere is likely to attain the object we have in view.'

'What object?' asked the doctor.

'Simply, the discovery of Oliver's parentage, and regaining for him the
inheritance of which, if this story be true, he has been fraudulently
deprived.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Losberne, cooling himself with his pocket-handkerchief;
'I almost forgot that.'

'You see,' pursued Mr. Brownlow; 'placing this poor girl entirely out
of the question, and supposing it were possible to bring these
scoundrels to justice without compromising her safety, what good should
we bring about?'

'Hanging a few of them at least, in all probability,' suggested the
doctor, 'and transporting the rest.'

'Very good,' replied Mr. Brownlow, smiling; 'but no doubt they will
bring that about for themselves in the fulness of time, and if we step
in to forestall them, it seems to me that we shall be performing a very
Quixotic act, in direct opposition to our own interest--or at least to
Oliver's, which is the same thing.'

'How?' inquired the doctor.

'Thus.  It is quite clear that we shall have extreme difficulty in
getting to the bottom of this mystery, unless we can bring this man,
Monks, upon his knees.  That can only be done by stratagem, and by
catching him when he is not surrounded by these people.  For, suppose
he were apprehended, we have no proof against him.  He is not even (so
far as we know, or as the facts appear to us) concerned with the gang
in any of their robberies. If he were not discharged, it is very
unlikely that he could receive any further punishment than being
committed to prison as a rogue and vagabond; and of course ever
afterwards his mouth would be so obstinately closed that he might as
well, for our purposes, be deaf, dumb, blind, and an idiot.'

'Then,' said the doctor impetuously, 'I put it to you again, whether
you think it reasonable that this promise to the girl should be
considered binding; a promise made with the best and kindest
intentions, but really--'

'Do not discuss the point, my dear young lady, pray,' said Mr.
Brownlow, interrupting Rose as she was about to speak. 'The promise
shall be kept.  I don't think it will, in the slightest degree,
interfere with our proceedings.  But, before we can resolve upon any
precise course of action, it will be necessary to see the girl; to
ascertain from her whether she will point out this Monks, on the
understanding that he is to be dealt with by us, and not by the law;
or, if she will not, or cannot do that, to procure from her such an
account of his haunts and description of his person, as will enable us
to identify him.  She cannot be seen until next Sunday night; this is
Tuesday.  I would suggest that in the meantime, we remain perfectly
quiet, and keep these matters secret even from Oliver himself.'

Although Mr. Losberne received with many wry faces a proposal involving
a delay of five whole days, he was fain to admit that no better course
occurred to him just then; and as both Rose and Mrs. Maylie sided very
strongly with Mr. Brownlow, that gentleman's proposition was carried
unanimously.

'I should like,' he said, 'to call in the aid of my friend Grimwig.  He
is a strange creature, but a shrewd one, and might prove of material
assistance to us; I should say that he was bred a lawyer, and quitted
the Bar in disgust because he had only one brief and a motion of
course, in twenty years, though whether that is recommendation or not,
you must determine for yourselves.'

'I have no objection to your calling in your friend if I may call in
mine,' said the doctor.

'We must put it to the vote,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'who may he be?'

'That lady's son, and this young lady's--very old friend,' said the
doctor, motioning towards Mrs. Maylie, and concluding with an
expressive glance at her niece.

Rose blushed deeply, but she did not make any audible objection to this
motion (possibly she felt in a hopeless minority); and Harry Maylie and
Mr. Grimwig were accordingly added to the committee.

'We stay in town, of course,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'while there remains
the slightest prospect of prosecuting this inquiry with a chance of
success.  I will spare neither trouble nor expense in behalf of the
object in which we are all so deeply interested, and I am content to
remain here, if it be for twelve months, so long as you assure me that
any hope remains.'

'Good!' rejoined Mr. Brownlow.  'And as I see on the faces about me, a
disposition to inquire how it happened that I was not in the way to
corroborate Oliver's tale, and had so suddenly left the kingdom, let me
stipulate that I shall be asked no questions until such time as I may
deem it expedient to forestall them by telling my own story.  Believe
me, I make this request with good reason, for I might otherwise excite
hopes destined never to be realised, and only increase difficulties and
disappointments already quite numerous enough.  Come!  Supper has been
announced, and young Oliver, who is all alone in the next room, will
have begun to think, by this time, that we have wearied of his company,
and entered into some dark conspiracy to thrust him forth upon the
world.'

With these words, the old gentleman gave his hand to Mrs. Maylie, and
escorted her into the supper-room.  Mr. Losberne followed, leading
Rose; and the council was, for the present, effectually broken up.



CHAPTER XLII

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE OF OLIVER'S, EXHIBITING DECIDED MARKS OF GENIUS,
BECOMES A PUBLIC CHARACTER IN THE METROPOLIS

Upon the night when Nancy, having lulled Mr. Sikes to sleep, hurried on
her self-imposed mission to Rose Maylie, there advanced towards London,
by the Great North Road, two persons, upon whom it is expedient that
this history should bestow some attention.

They were a man and woman; or perhaps they would be better described as
a male and female:  for the former was one of those long-limbed,
knock-kneed, shambling, bony people, to whom it is difficult to assign
any precise age,--looking as they do, when they are yet boys, like
undergrown men, and when they are almost men, like overgrown boys.  The
woman was young, but of a robust and hardy make, as she need have been
to bear the weight of the heavy bundle which was strapped to her back.
Her companion was not encumbered with much luggage, as there merely
dangled from a stick which he carried over his shoulder, a small parcel
wrapped in a common handkerchief, and apparently light enough.  This
circumstance, added to the length of his legs, which were of unusual
extent, enabled him with much ease to keep some half-dozen paces in
advance of his companion, to whom he occasionally turned with an
impatient jerk of the head:  as if reproaching her tardiness, and
urging her to greater exertion.

Thus, they had toiled along the dusty road, taking little heed of any
object within sight, save when they stepped aside to allow a wider
passage for the mail-coaches which were whirling out of town, until
they passed through Highgate archway; when the foremost traveller
stopped and called impatiently to his companion,

'Come on, can't yer?  What a lazybones yer are, Charlotte.'

'It's a heavy load, I can tell you,' said the female, coming up, almost
breathless with fatigue.

'Heavy!  What are yer talking about?  What are yer made for?' rejoined
the male traveller, changing his own little bundle as he spoke, to the
other shoulder.  'Oh, there yer are, resting again! Well, if yer ain't
enough to tire anybody's patience out, I don't know what is!'

'Is it much farther?' asked the woman, resting herself against a bank,
and looking up with the perspiration streaming from her face.

'Much farther!  Yer as good as there,' said the long-legged tramper,
pointing out before him.  'Look there!  Those are the lights of London.'

'They're a good two mile off, at least,' said the woman despondingly.

'Never mind whether they're two mile off, or twenty,' said Noah
Claypole; for he it was; 'but get up and come on, or I'll kick yer, and
so I give yer notice.'

As Noah's red nose grew redder with anger, and as he crossed the road
while speaking, as if fully prepared to put his threat into execution,
the woman rose without any further remark, and trudged onward by his
side.

'Where do you mean to stop for the night, Noah?' she asked, after they
had walked a few hundred yards.

'How should I know?' replied Noah, whose temper had been considerably
impaired by walking.

'Near, I hope,' said Charlotte.

'No, not near,' replied Mr. Claypole.  'There!  Not near; so don't
think it.'

'Why not?'

'When I tell yer that I don't mean to do a thing, that's enough,
without any why or because either,' replied Mr. Claypole with dignity.

'Well, you needn't be so cross,' said his companion.

'A pretty thing it would be, wouldn't it to go and stop at the very
first public-house outside the town, so that Sowerberry, if he come up
after us, might poke in his old nose, and have us taken back in a cart
with handcuffs on,' said Mr. Claypole in a jeering tone.  'No!  I shall
go and lose myself among the narrowest streets I can find, and not stop
till we come to the very out-of-the-wayest house I can set eyes on.
'Cod, yer may thanks yer stars I've got a head; for if we hadn't gone,
at first, the wrong road a purpose, and come back across country, yer'd
have been locked up hard and fast a week ago, my lady.  And serve yer
right for being a fool.'

'I know I ain't as cunning as you are,' replied Charlotte; 'but don't
put all the blame on me, and say I should have been locked up.  You
would have been if I had been, any way.'

'Yer took the money from the till, yer know yer did,' said Mr. Claypole.

'I took it for you, Noah, dear,' rejoined Charlotte.

'Did I keep it?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'No; you trusted in me, and let me carry it like a dear, and so you
are,' said the lady, chucking him under the chin, and drawing her arm
through his.

This was indeed the case; but as it was not Mr. Claypole's habit to
repose a blind and foolish confidence in anybody, it should be
observed, in justice to that gentleman, that he had trusted Charlotte
to this extent, in order that, if they were pursued, the money might be
found on her:  which would leave him an opportunity of asserting his
innocence of any theft, and would greatly facilitate his chances of
escape.  Of course, he entered at this juncture, into no explanation of
his motives, and they walked on very lovingly together.

In pursuance of this cautious plan, Mr. Claypole went on, without
halting, until he arrived at the Angel at Islington, where he wisely
judged, from the crowd of passengers and numbers of vehicles, that
London began in earnest.  Just pausing to observe which appeared the
most crowded streets, and consequently the most to be avoided, he
crossed into Saint John's Road, and was soon deep in the obscurity of
the intricate and dirty ways, which, lying between Gray's Inn Lane and
Smithfield, render that part of the town one of the lowest and worst
that improvement has left in the midst of London.

Through these streets, Noah Claypole walked, dragging Charlotte after
him; now stepping into the kennel to embrace at a glance the whole
external character of some small public-house; now jogging on again, as
some fancied appearance induced him to believe it too public for his
purpose.  At length, he stopped in front of one, more humble in
appearance and more dirty than any he had yet seen; and, having crossed
over and surveyed it from the opposite pavement, graciously announced
his intention of putting up there, for the night.

'So give us the bundle,' said Noah, unstrapping it from the woman's
shoulders, and slinging it over his own; 'and don't yer speak, except
when yer spoke to.  What's the name of the house--t-h-r--three what?'

'Cripples,' said Charlotte.

'Three Cripples,' repeated Noah, 'and a very good sign too.  Now, then!
Keep close at my heels, and come along.'  With these injunctions, he
pushed the rattling door with his shoulder, and entered the house,
followed by his companion.

There was nobody in the bar but a young Jew, who, with his two elbows
on the counter, was reading a dirty newspaper. He stared very hard at
Noah, and Noah stared very hard at him.

If Noah had been attired in his charity-boy's dress, there might have
been some reason for the Jew opening his eyes so wide; but as he had
discarded the coat and badge, and wore a short smock-frock over his
leathers, there seemed no particular reason for his appearance exciting
so much attention in a public-house.

'Is this the Three Cripples?' asked Noah.

'That is the dabe of this 'ouse,' replied the Jew.

'A gentleman we met on the road, coming up from the country,
recommended us here,' said Noah, nudging Charlotte, perhaps to call her
attention to this most ingenious device for attracting respect, and
perhaps to warn her to betray no surprise.  'We want to sleep here
to-night.'

'I'b dot certaid you cad,' said Barney, who was the attendant sprite;
'but I'll idquire.'

'Show us the tap, and give us a bit of cold meat and a drop of beer
while yer inquiring, will yer?' said Noah.

Barney complied by ushering them into a small back-room, and setting
the required viands before them; having done which, he informed the
travellers that they could be lodged that night, and left the amiable
couple to their refreshment.

Now, this back-room was immediately behind the bar, and some steps
lower, so that any person connected with the house, undrawing a small
curtain which concealed a single pane of glass fixed in the wall of the
last-named apartment, about five feet from its flooring, could not only
look down upon any guests in the back-room without any great hazard of
being observed (the glass being in a dark angle of the wall, between
which and a large upright beam the observer had to thrust himself), but
could, by applying his ear to the partition, ascertain with tolerable
distinctness, their subject of conversation.  The landlord of the house
had not withdrawn his eye from this place of espial for five minutes,
and Barney had only just returned from making the communication above
related, when Fagin, in the course of his evening's business, came into
the bar to inquire after some of his young pupils.

'Hush!' said Barney:  'stradegers id the next roob.'

'Strangers!' repeated the old man in a whisper.

'Ah!  Ad rub uds too,' added Barney.  'Frob the cuttry, but subthig in
your way, or I'b bistaked.'

Fagin appeared to receive this communication with great interest.

Mounting a stool, he cautiously applied his eye to the pane of glass,
from which secret post he could see Mr. Claypole taking cold beef from
the dish, and porter from the pot, and administering homeopathic doses
of both to Charlotte, who sat patiently by, eating and drinking at his
pleasure.

'Aha!' he whispered, looking round to Barney, 'I like that fellow's
looks.  He'd be of use to us; he knows how to train the girl already.
Don't make as much noise as a mouse, my dear, and let me hear 'em
talk--let me hear 'em.'

He again applied his eye to the glass, and turning his ear to the
partition, listened attentively:  with a subtle and eager look upon his
face, that might have appertained to some old goblin.

'So I mean to be a gentleman,' said Mr. Claypole, kicking out his legs,
and continuing a conversation, the commencement of which Fagin had
arrived too late to hear. 'No more jolly old coffins, Charlotte, but a
gentleman's life for me:  and, if yer like, yer shall be a lady.'

'I should like that well enough, dear,' replied Charlotte; 'but tills
ain't to be emptied every day, and people to get clear off after it.'

'Tills be blowed!' said Mr. Claypole; 'there's more things besides
tills to be emptied.'

'What do you mean?' asked his companion.

'Pockets, women's ridicules, houses, mail-coaches, banks!' said Mr.
Claypole, rising with the porter.

'But you can't do all that, dear,' said Charlotte.

'I shall look out to get into company with them as can,' replied Noah.
'They'll be able to make us useful some way or another. Why, you
yourself are worth fifty women; I never see such a precious sly and
deceitful creetur as yer can be when I let yer.'

'Lor, how nice it is to hear yer say so!' exclaimed Charlotte,
imprinting a kiss upon his ugly face.

'There, that'll do:  don't yer be too affectionate, in case I'm cross
with yer,' said Noah, disengaging himself with great gravity.  'I
should like to be the captain of some band, and have the whopping of
'em, and follering 'em about, unbeknown to themselves.  That would suit
me, if there was good profit; and if we could only get in with some
gentleman of this sort, I say it would be cheap at that twenty-pound
note you've got,--especially as we don't very well know how to get rid
of it ourselves.'

After expressing this opinion, Mr. Claypole looked into the porter-pot
with an aspect of deep wisdom; and having well shaken its contents,
nodded condescendingly to Charlotte, and took a draught, wherewith he
appeared greatly refreshed.  He was meditating another, when the sudden
opening of the door, and the appearance of a stranger, interrupted him.

The stranger was Mr. Fagin.  And very amiable he looked, and a very low
bow he made, as he advanced, and setting himself down at the nearest
table, ordered something to drink of the grinning Barney.

'A pleasant night, sir, but cool for the time of year,' said Fagin,
rubbing his hands.  'From the country, I see, sir?'

'How do yer see that?' asked Noah Claypole.

'We have not so much dust as that in London,' replied Fagin, pointing
from Noah's shoes to those of his companion, and from them to the two
bundles.

'Yer a sharp feller,' said Noah.  'Ha! ha! only hear that, Charlotte!'

'Why, one need be sharp in this town, my dear,' replied the Jew,
sinking his voice to a confidential whisper; 'and that's the truth.'

Fagin followed up this remark by striking the side of his nose with his
right forefinger,--a gesture which Noah attempted to imitate, though
not with complete success, in consequence of his own nose not being
large enough for the purpose.  However, Mr. Fagin seemed to interpret
the endeavour as expressing a perfect coincidence with his opinion, and
put about the liquor which Barney reappeared with, in a very friendly
manner.

'Good stuff that,' observed Mr. Claypole, smacking his lips.

'Dear!' said Fagin.  'A man need be always emptying a till, or a
pocket, or a woman's reticule, or a house, or a mail-coach, or a bank,
if he drinks it regularly.'

Mr. Claypole no sooner heard this extract from his own remarks than he
fell back in his chair, and looked from the Jew to Charlotte with a
countenance of ashy paleness and excessive terror.

'Don't mind me, my dear,' said Fagin, drawing his chair closer. 'Ha!
ha! it was lucky it was only me that heard you by chance. It was very
lucky it was only me.'

'I didn't take it,' stammered Noah, no longer stretching out his legs
like an independent gentleman, but coiling them up as well as he could
under his chair; 'it was all her doing; yer've got it now, Charlotte,
yer know yer have.'

'No matter who's got it, or who did it, my dear,' replied Fagin,
glancing, nevertheless, with a hawk's eye at the girl and the two
bundles.  'I'm in that way myself, and I like you for it.'

'In what way?' asked Mr. Claypole, a little recovering.

'In that way of business,' rejoined Fagin; 'and so are the people of
the house.  You've hit the right nail upon the head, and are as safe
here as you could be.  There is not a safer place in all this town than
is the Cripples; that is, when I like to make it so.  And I have taken
a fancy to you and the young woman; so I've said the word, and you may
make your minds easy.'

Noah Claypole's mind might have been at ease after this assurance, but
his body certainly was not; for he shuffled and writhed about, into
various uncouth positions:  eyeing his new friend meanwhile with
mingled fear and suspicion.

'I'll tell you more,' said Fagin, after he had reassured the girl, by
dint of friendly nods and muttered encouragements. 'I have got a friend
that I think can gratify your darling wish, and put you in the right
way, where you can take whatever department of the business you think
will suit you best at first, and be taught all the others.'

'Yer speak as if yer were in earnest,' replied Noah.

'What advantage would it be to me to be anything else?' inquired Fagin,
shrugging his shoulders.  'Here!  Let me have a word with you outside.'

'There's no occasion to trouble ourselves to move,' said Noah, getting
his legs by gradual degrees abroad again. 'She'll take the luggage
upstairs the while.  Charlotte, see to them bundles.'

This mandate, which had been delivered with great majesty, was obeyed
without the slightest demur; and Charlotte made the best of her way off
with the packages while Noah held the door open and watched her out.

'She's kept tolerably well under, ain't she?' he asked as he resumed
his seat:  in the tone of a keeper who had tamed some wild animal.

'Quite perfect,' rejoined Fagin, clapping him on the shoulder. 'You're
a genius, my dear.'

'Why, I suppose if I wasn't, I shouldn't be here,' replied Noah. 'But,
I say, she'll be back if yer lose time.'

'Now, what do you think?' said Fagin.  'If you was to like my friend,
could you do better than join him?'

'Is he in a good way of business; that's where it is!' responded Noah,
winking one of his little eyes.

'The top of the tree; employs a power of hands; has the very best
society in the profession.'

'Regular town-maders?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'Not a countryman among 'em; and I don't think he'd take you, even on
my recommendation, if he didn't run rather short of assistants just
now,' replied Fagin.

'Should I have to hand over?' said Noah, slapping his breeches-pocket.

'It couldn't possibly be done without,' replied Fagin, in a most
decided manner.

'Twenty pound, though--it's a lot of money!'

'Not when it's in a note you can't get rid of,' retorted Fagin. 'Number
and date taken, I suppose?  Payment stopped at the Bank? Ah!  It's not
worth much to him.  It'll have to go abroad, and he couldn't sell it
for a great deal in the market.'

'When could I see him?' asked Noah doubtfully.

'To-morrow morning.'

'Where?'

'Here.'

'Um!' said Noah.  'What's the wages?'

'Live like a gentleman--board and lodging, pipes and spirits free--half
of all you earn, and half of all the young woman earns,' replied Mr.
Fagin.

Whether Noah Claypole, whose rapacity was none of the least
comprehensive, would have acceded even to these glowing terms, had he
been a perfectly free agent, is very doubtful; but as he recollected
that, in the event of his refusal, it was in the power of his new
acquaintance to give him up to justice immediately (and more unlikely
things had come to pass), he gradually relented, and said he thought
that would suit him.

'But, yer see,' observed Noah, 'as she will be able to do a good deal,
I should like to take something very light.'

'A little fancy work?' suggested Fagin.

'Ah! something of that sort,' replied Noah.  'What do you think would
suit me now?  Something not too trying for the strength, and not very
dangerous, you know.  That's the sort of thing!'

'I heard you talk of something in the spy way upon the others, my
dear,' said Fagin.  'My friend wants somebody who would do that well,
very much.'

'Why, I did mention that, and I shouldn't mind turning my hand to it
sometimes,' rejoined Mr. Claypole slowly; 'but it wouldn't pay by
itself, you know.'

'That's true!' observed the Jew, ruminating or pretending to ruminate.
'No, it might not.'

'What do you think, then?' asked Noah, anxiously regarding him.
'Something in the sneaking way, where it was pretty sure work, and not
much more risk than being at home.'

'What do you think of the old ladies?' asked Fagin. 'There's a good
deal of money made in snatching their bags and parcels, and running
round the corner.'

'Don't they holler out a good deal, and scratch sometimes?' asked Noah,
shaking his head.  'I don't think that would answer my purpose.  Ain't
there any other line open?'

'Stop!' said Fagin, laying his hand on Noah's knee.  'The kinchin lay.'

'What's that?' demanded Mr. Claypole.

'The kinchins, my dear,' said Fagin, 'is the young children that's sent
on errands by their mothers, with sixpences and shillings; and the lay
is just to take their money away--they've always got it ready in their
hands,--then knock 'em into the kennel, and walk off very slow, as if
there were nothing else the matter but a child fallen down and hurt
itself.  Ha! ha! ha!'

'Ha! ha!' roared Mr. Claypole, kicking up his legs in an ecstasy.
'Lord, that's the very thing!'

'To be sure it is,' replied Fagin; 'and you can have a few good beats
chalked out in Camden Town, and Battle Bridge, and neighborhoods like
that, where they're always going errands; and you can upset as many
kinchins as you want, any hour in the day. Ha! ha! ha!'

With this, Fagin poked Mr. Claypole in the side, and they joined in a
burst of laughter both long and loud.

'Well, that's all right!' said Noah, when he had recovered himself, and
Charlotte had returned.  'What time to-morrow shall we say?'

'Will ten do?' asked Fagin, adding, as Mr. Claypole nodded assent,
'What name shall I tell my good friend.'

'Mr. Bolter,' replied Noah, who had prepared himself for such
emergency.  'Mr. Morris Bolter.  This is Mrs. Bolter.'

'Mrs. Bolter's humble servant,' said Fagin, bowing with grotesque
politeness.  'I hope I shall know her better very shortly.'

'Do you hear the gentleman, Charlotte?' thundered Mr. Claypole.

'Yes, Noah, dear!' replied Mrs. Bolter, extending her hand.

'She calls me Noah, as a sort of fond way of talking,' said Mr. Morris
Bolter, late Claypole, turning to Fagin.  'You understand?'

'Oh yes, I understand--perfectly,' replied Fagin, telling the truth for
once.  'Good-night!  Good-night!'

With many adieus and good wishes, Mr. Fagin went his way. Noah
Claypole, bespeaking his good lady's attention, proceeded to enlighten
her relative to the arrangement he had made, with all that haughtiness
and air of superiority, becoming, not only a member of the sterner sex,
but a gentleman who appreciated the dignity of a special appointment on
the kinchin lay, in London and its vicinity.



CHAPTER XLIII

WHEREIN IS SHOWN HOW THE ARTFUL DODGER GOT INTO TROUBLE

'And so it was you that was your own friend, was it?' asked Mr.
Claypole, otherwise Bolter, when, by virtue of the compact entered into
between them, he had removed next day to Fagin's house.  ''Cod, I
thought as much last night!'

'Every man's his own friend, my dear,' replied Fagin, with his most
insinuating grin.  'He hasn't as good a one as himself anywhere.'

'Except sometimes,' replied Morris Bolter, assuming the air of a man of
the world.  'Some people are nobody's enemies but their own, yer know.'

'Don't believe that,' said Fagin.  'When a man's his own enemy, it's
only because he's too much his own friend; not because he's careful for
everybody but himself.  Pooh! pooh!  There ain't such a thing in
nature.'

'There oughn't to be, if there is,' replied Mr. Bolter.

'That stands to reason.  Some conjurers say that number three is the
magic number, and some say number seven.  It's neither, my friend,
neither.  It's number one.

'Ha! ha!' cried Mr. Bolter.  'Number one for ever.'

'In a little community like ours, my dear,' said Fagin, who felt it
necessary to qualify this position, 'we have a general number one,
without considering me too as the same, and all the other young people.'

'Oh, the devil!' exclaimed Mr. Bolter.

'You see,' pursued Fagin, affecting to disregard this interruption, 'we
are so mixed up together, and identified in our interests, that it must
be so.  For instance, it's your object to take care of number
one--meaning yourself.'

'Certainly,' replied Mr. Bolter.  'Yer about right there.'

'Well!  You can't take care of yourself, number one, without taking
care of me, number one.'

'Number two, you mean,' said Mr. Bolter, who was largely endowed with
the quality of selfishness.

'No, I don't!' retorted Fagin.  'I'm of the same importance to you, as
you are to yourself.'

'I say,' interrupted Mr. Bolter, 'yer a very nice man, and I'm very
fond of yer; but we ain't quite so thick together, as all that comes
to.'

'Only think,' said Fagin, shrugging his shoulders, and stretching out
his hands; 'only consider.  You've done what's a very pretty thing, and
what I love you for doing; but what at the same time would put the
cravat round your throat, that's so very easily tied and so very
difficult to unloose--in plain English, the halter!'

Mr. Bolter put his hand to his neckerchief, as if he felt it
inconveniently tight; and murmured an assent, qualified in tone but not
in substance.

'The gallows,' continued Fagin, 'the gallows, my dear, is an ugly
finger-post, which points out a very short and sharp turning that has
stopped many a bold fellow's career on the broad highway.  To keep in
the easy road, and keep it at a distance, is object number one with
you.'

'Of course it is,' replied Mr. Bolter.  'What do yer talk about such
things for?'

'Only to show you my meaning clearly,' said the Jew, raising his
eyebrows.  'To be able to do that, you depend upon me. To keep my
little business all snug, I depend upon you. The first is your number
one, the second my number one.  The more you value your number one, the
more careful you must be of mine; so we come at last to what I told you
at first--that a regard for number one holds us all together, and must
do so, unless we would all go to pieces in company.'

'That's true,' rejoined Mr. Bolter, thoughtfully.  'Oh! yer a cunning
old codger!'

Mr. Fagin saw, with delight, that this tribute to his powers was no
mere compliment, but that he had really impressed his recruit with a
sense of his wily genius, which it was most important that he should
entertain in the outset of their acquaintance.  To strengthen an
impression so desirable and useful, he followed up the blow by
acquainting him, in some detail, with the magnitude and extent of his
operations; blending truth and fiction together, as best served his
purpose; and bringing both to bear, with so much art, that Mr. Bolter's
respect visibly increased, and became tempered, at the same time, with
a degree of wholesome fear, which it was highly desirable to awaken.

'It's this mutual trust we have in each other that consoles me under
heavy losses,' said Fagin.  'My best hand was taken from me, yesterday
morning.'

'You don't mean to say he died?' cried Mr. Bolter.

'No, no,' replied Fagin, 'not so bad as that.  Not quite so bad.'

'What, I suppose he was--'

'Wanted,' interposed Fagin.  'Yes, he was wanted.'

'Very particular?' inquired Mr. Bolter.

'No,' replied Fagin, 'not very.  He was charged with attempting to pick
a pocket, and they found a silver snuff-box on him,--his own, my dear,
his own, for he took snuff himself, and was very fond of it.  They
remanded him till to-day, for they thought they knew the owner.  Ah! he
was worth fifty boxes, and I'd give the price of as many to have him
back.  You should have known the Dodger, my dear; you should have known
the Dodger.'

'Well, but I shall know him, I hope; don't yer think so?' said Mr.
Bolter.

'I'm doubtful about it,' replied Fagin, with a sigh.  'If they don't
get any fresh evidence, it'll only be a summary conviction, and we
shall have him back again after six weeks or so; but, if they do, it's
a case of lagging.  They know what a clever lad he is; he'll be a
lifer.  They'll make the Artful nothing less than a lifer.'

'What do you mean by lagging and a lifer?' demanded Mr. Bolter. 'What's
the good of talking in that way to me; why don't yer speak so as I can
understand yer?'

Fagin was about to translate these mysterious expressions into the
vulgar tongue; and, being interpreted, Mr. Bolter would have been
informed that they represented that combination of words,
'transportation for life,' when the dialogue was cut short by the entry
of Master Bates, with his hands in his breeches-pockets, and his face
twisted into a look of semi-comical woe.

'It's all up, Fagin,' said Charley, when he and his new companion had
been made known to each other.

'What do you mean?'

'They've found the gentleman as owns the box; two or three more's a
coming to 'dentify him; and the Artful's booked for a passage out,'
replied Master Bates.  'I must have a full suit of mourning, Fagin, and
a hatband, to wisit him in, afore he sets out upon his travels.  To
think of Jack Dawkins--lummy Jack--the Dodger--the Artful Dodger--going
abroad for a common twopenny-halfpenny sneeze-box!  I never thought
he'd a done it under a gold watch, chain, and seals, at the lowest.
Oh, why didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his walables, and
go out as a gentleman, and not like a common prig, without no honour
nor glory!'

With this expression of feeling for his unfortunate friend, Master
Bates sat himself on the nearest chair with an aspect of chagrin and
despondency.

'What do you talk about his having neither honour nor glory for!'
exclaimed Fagin, darting an angry look at his pupil. 'Wasn't he always
the top-sawyer among you all!  Is there one of you that could touch him
or come near him on any scent!  Eh?'

'Not one,' replied Master Bates, in a voice rendered husky by regret;
'not one.'

'Then what do you talk of?' replied Fagin angrily; 'what are you
blubbering for?'

''Cause it isn't on the rec-ord, is it?' said Charley, chafed into
perfect defiance of his venerable friend by the current of his regrets;
''cause it can't come out in the 'dictment; 'cause nobody will never
know half of what he was.  How will he stand in the Newgate Calendar?
P'raps not be there at all.  Oh, my eye, my eye, wot a blow it is!'

'Ha! ha!' cried Fagin, extending his right hand, and turning to Mr.
Bolter in a fit of chuckling which shook him as though he had the
palsy; 'see what a pride they take in their profession, my dear.  Ain't
it beautiful?'

Mr. Bolter nodded assent, and Fagin, after contemplating the grief of
Charley Bates for some seconds with evident satisfaction, stepped up to
that young gentleman and patted him on the shoulder.

'Never mind, Charley,' said Fagin soothingly; 'it'll come out, it'll be
sure to come out.  They'll all know what a clever fellow he was; he'll
show it himself, and not disgrace his old pals and teachers.  Think how
young he is too!  What a distinction, Charley, to be lagged at his time
of life!'

'Well, it is a honour that is!' said Charley, a little consoled.

'He shall have all he wants,' continued the Jew.  'He shall be kept in
the Stone Jug, Charley, like a gentleman.  Like a gentleman!  With his
beer every day, and money in his pocket to pitch and toss with, if he
can't spend it.'

'No, shall he though?' cried Charley Bates.

'Ay, that he shall,' replied Fagin, 'and we'll have a big-wig, Charley:
one that's got the greatest gift of the gab:  to carry on his defence;
and he shall make a speech for himself too, if he likes; and we'll read
it all in the papers--"Artful Dodger--shrieks of laughter--here the
court was convulsed"--eh, Charley, eh?'

'Ha! ha!' laughed Master Bates, 'what a lark that would be, wouldn't
it, Fagin?  I say, how the Artful would bother 'em wouldn't he?'

'Would!' cried Fagin.  'He shall--he will!'

'Ah, to be sure, so he will,' repeated Charley, rubbing his hands.

'I think I see him now,' cried the Jew, bending his eyes upon his pupil.

'So do I,' cried Charley Bates.  'Ha! ha! ha! so do I.  I see it all
afore me, upon my soul I do, Fagin.  What a game!  What a regular game!
All the big-wigs trying to look solemn, and Jack Dawkins addressing of
'em as intimate and comfortable as if he was the judge's own son making
a speech arter dinner--ha! ha! ha!'

In fact, Mr. Fagin had so well humoured his young friend's eccentric
disposition, that Master Bates, who had at first been disposed to
consider the imprisoned Dodger rather in the light of a victim, now
looked upon him as the chief actor in a scene of most uncommon and
exquisite humour, and felt quite impatient for the arrival of the time
when his old companion should have so favourable an opportunity of
displaying his abilities.

'We must know how he gets on to-day, by some handy means or other,'
said Fagin.  'Let me think.'

'Shall I go?' asked Charley.

'Not for the world,' replied Fagin.  'Are you mad, my dear, stark mad,
that you'd walk into the very place where--No, Charley, no. One is
enough to lose at a time.'

'You don't mean to go yourself, I suppose?' said Charley with a
humorous leer.

'That wouldn't quite fit,' replied Fagin shaking his head.

'Then why don't you send this new cove?' asked Master Bates, laying his
hand on Noah's arm.  'Nobody knows him.'

'Why, if he didn't mind--' observed Fagin.

'Mind!' interposed Charley.  'What should he have to mind?'

'Really nothing, my dear,' said Fagin, turning to Mr. Bolter, 'really
nothing.'

'Oh, I dare say about that, yer know,' observed Noah, backing towards
the door, and shaking his head with a kind of sober alarm.  'No,
no--none of that.  It's not in my department, that ain't.'

'Wot department has he got, Fagin?' inquired Master Bates, surveying
Noah's lank form with much disgust.  'The cutting away when there's
anything wrong, and the eating all the wittles when there's everything
right; is that his branch?'

'Never mind,' retorted Mr. Bolter; 'and don't yer take liberties with
yer superiors, little boy, or yer'll find yerself in the wrong shop.'

Master Bates laughed so vehemently at this magnificent threat, that it
was some time before Fagin could interpose, and represent to Mr. Bolter
that he incurred no possible danger in visiting the police-office;
that, inasmuch as no account of the little affair in which he had
engaged, nor any description of his person, had yet been forwarded to
the metropolis, it was very probable that he was not even suspected of
having resorted to it for shelter; and that, if he were properly
disguised, it would be as safe a spot for him to visit as any in
London, inasmuch as it would be, of all places, the very last, to which
he could be supposed likely to resort of his own free will.

Persuaded, in part, by these representations, but overborne in a much
greater degree by his fear of Fagin, Mr. Bolter at length consented,
with a very bad grace, to undertake the expedition. By Fagin's
directions, he immediately substituted for his own attire, a waggoner's
frock, velveteen breeches, and leather leggings:  all of which articles
the Jew had at hand.  He was likewise furnished with a felt hat well
garnished with turnpike tickets; and a carter's whip.  Thus equipped,
he was to saunter into the office, as some country fellow from Covent
Garden market might be supposed to do for the gratification of his
curiousity; and as he was as awkward, ungainly, and raw-boned a fellow
as need be, Mr. Fagin had no fear but that he would look the part to
perfection.

These arrangements completed, he was informed of the necessary signs
and tokens by which to recognise the Artful Dodger, and was conveyed by
Master Bates through dark and winding ways to within a very short
distance of Bow Street. Having described the precise situation of the
office, and accompanied it with copious directions how he was to walk
straight up the passage, and when he got into the side, and pull off
his hat as he went into the room, Charley Bates bade him hurry on
alone, and promised to bide his return on the spot of their parting.

Noah Claypole, or Morris Bolter as the reader pleases, punctually
followed the directions he had received, which--Master Bates being
pretty well acquainted with the locality--were so exact that he was
enabled to gain the magisterial presence without asking any question,
or meeting with any interruption by the way.

He found himself jostled among a crowd of people, chiefly women, who
were huddled together in a dirty frowsy room, at the upper end of which
was a raised platform railed off from the rest, with a dock for the
prisoners on the left hand against the wall, a box for the witnesses in
the middle, and a desk for the magistrates on the right; the awful
locality last named, being screened off by a partition which concealed
the bench from the common gaze, and left the vulgar to imagine (if they
could) the full majesty of justice.

There were only a couple of women in the dock, who were nodding to
their admiring friends, while the clerk read some depositions to a
couple of policemen and a man in plain clothes who leant over the
table.  A jailer stood reclining against the dock-rail, tapping his
nose listlessly with a large key, except when he repressed an undue
tendency to conversation among the idlers, by proclaiming silence; or
looked sternly up to bid some woman 'Take that baby out,' when the
gravity of justice was disturbed by feeble cries, half-smothered in the
mother's shawl, from some meagre infant.  The room smelt close and
unwholesome; the walls were dirt-discoloured; and the ceiling
blackened.  There was an old smoky bust over the mantel-shelf, and a
dusty clock above the dock--the only thing present, that seemed to go
on as it ought; for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance
with both, had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less
unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inanimate object that
frowned upon it.

Noah looked eagerly about him for the Dodger; but although there were
several women who would have done very well for that distinguished
character's mother or sister, and more than one man who might be
supposed to bear a strong resemblance to his father, nobody at all
answering the description given him of Mr. Dawkins was to be seen.  He
waited in a state of much suspense and uncertainty until the women,
being committed for trial, went flaunting out; and then was quickly
relieved by the appearance of another prisoner who he felt at once
could be no other than the object of his visit.

It was indeed Mr. Dawkins, who, shuffling into the office with the big
coat sleeves tucked up as usual, his left hand in his pocket, and his
hat in his right hand, preceded the jailer, with a rolling gait
altogether indescribable, and, taking his place in the dock, requested
in an audible voice to know what he was placed in that 'ere disgraceful
sitivation for.

'Hold your tongue, will you?' said the jailer.

'I'm an Englishman, ain't I?' rejoined the Dodger.  'Where are my
priwileges?'

'You'll get your privileges soon enough,' retorted the jailer, 'and
pepper with 'em.'

'We'll see wot the Secretary of State for the Home Affairs has got to
say to the beaks, if I don't,' replied Mr. Dawkins.  'Now then!  Wot is
this here business?  I shall thank the madg'strates to dispose of this
here little affair, and not to keep me while they read the paper, for
I've got an appointment with a genelman in the City, and as I am a man
of my word and wery punctual in business matters, he'll go away if I
ain't there to my time, and then pr'aps ther won't be an action for
damage against them as kep me away.  Oh no, certainly not!'

At this point, the Dodger, with a show of being very particular with a
view to proceedings to be had thereafter, desired the jailer to
communicate 'the names of them two files as was on the bench.'  Which
so tickled the spectators, that they laughed almost as heartily as
Master Bates could have done if he had heard the request.

'Silence there!' cried the jailer.

'What is this?' inquired one of the magistrates.

'A pick-pocketing case, your worship.'

'Has the boy ever been here before?'

'He ought to have been, a many times,' replied the jailer. 'He has been
pretty well everywhere else.  _I_ know him well, your worship.'

'Oh! you know me, do you?' cried the Artful, making a note of the
statement.  'Wery good.  That's a case of deformation of character, any
way.'

Here there was another laugh, and another cry of silence.

'Now then, where are the witnesses?' said the clerk.

'Ah! that's right,' added the Dodger.  'Where are they?  I should like
to see 'em.'

This wish was immediately gratified, for a policeman stepped forward
who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an unknown gentleman in
a crowd, and indeed take a handkerchief therefrom, which, being a very
old one, he deliberately put back again, after trying it on his own
countenance.  For this reason, he took the Dodger into custody as soon
as he could get near him, and the said Dodger, being searched, had upon
his person a silver snuff-box, with the owner's name engraved upon the
lid.  This gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court
Guide, and being then and there present, swore that the snuff-box was
his, and that he had missed it on the previous day, the moment he had
disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to.  He had also
remarked a young gentleman in the throng, particularly active in making
his way about, and that young gentleman was the prisoner before him.

'Have you anything to ask this witness, boy?' said the magistrate.

'I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation with
him,' replied the Dodger.

'Have you anything to say at all?'

'Do you hear his worship ask if you've anything to say?' inquired the
jailer, nudging the silent Dodger with his elbow.

'I beg your pardon,' said the Dodger, looking up with an air of
abstraction.  'Did you redress yourself to me, my man?'

'I never see such an out-and-out young wagabond, your worship,'
observed the officer with a grin.  'Do you mean to say anything, you
young shaver?'

'No,' replied the Dodger, 'not here, for this ain't the shop for
justice:  besides which, my attorney is a-breakfasting this morning
with the Wice President of the House of Commons; but I shall have
something to say elsewhere, and so will he, and so will a wery numerous
and 'spectable circle of acquaintance as'll make them beaks wish they'd
never been born, or that they'd got their footmen to hang 'em up to
their own hat-pegs, afore they let 'em come out this morning to try it
on upon me.  I'll--'

'There!  He's fully committed!' interposed the clerk. 'Take him away.'

'Come on,' said the jailer.

'Oh ah!  I'll come on,' replied the Dodger, brushing his hat with the
palm of his hand.  'Ah! (to the Bench) it's no use your looking
frightened; I won't show you no mercy, not a ha'porth of it.  _You'll_
pay for this, my fine fellers.  I wouldn't be you for something!  I
wouldn't go free, now, if you was to fall down on your knees and ask
me.  Here, carry me off to prison!  Take me away!'

With these last words, the Dodger suffered himself to be led off by the
collar; threatening, till he got into the yard, to make a parliamentary
business of it; and then grinning in the officer's face, with great
glee and self-approval.

Having seen him locked up by himself in a little cell, Noah made the
best of his way back to where he had left Master Bates. After waiting
here some time, he was joined by that young gentleman, who had
prudently abstained from showing himself until he had looked carefully
abroad from a snug retreat, and ascertained that his new friend had not
been followed by any impertinent person.

The two hastened back together, to bear to Mr. Fagin the animating news
that the Dodger was doing full justice to his bringing-up, and
establishing for himself a glorious reputation.



CHAPTER XLIV

THE TIME ARRIVES FOR NANCY TO REDEEM HER PLEDGE TO ROSE MAYLIE. SHE
FAILS.

Adept as she was, in all the arts of cunning and dissimulation, the
girl Nancy could not wholly conceal the effect which the knowledge of
the step she had taken, wrought upon her mind.  She remembered that
both the crafty Jew and the brutal Sikes had confided to her schemes,
which had been hidden from all others: in the full confidence that she
was trustworthy and beyond the reach of their suspicion.  Vile as those
schemes were, desperate as were their originators, and bitter as were
her feelings towards Fagin, who had led her, step by step, deeper and
deeper down into an abyss of crime and misery, whence was no escape;
still, there were times when, even towards him, she felt some
relenting, lest her disclosure should bring him within the iron grasp
he had so long eluded, and he should fall at last--richly as he merited
such a fate--by her hand.

But, these were the mere wanderings of a mind unable wholly to detach
itself from old companions and associations, though enabled to fix
itself steadily on one object, and resolved not to be turned aside by
any consideration.  Her fears for Sikes would have been more powerful
inducements to recoil while there was yet time; but she had stipulated
that her secret should be rigidly kept, she had dropped no clue which
could lead to his discovery, she had refused, even for his sake, a
refuge from all the guilt and wretchedness that encompasses her--and
what more could she do! She was resolved.

Though all her mental struggles terminated in this conclusion, they
forced themselves upon her, again and again, and left their traces too.
She grew pale and thin, even within a few days.  At times, she took no
heed of what was passing before her, or no part in conversations where
once, she would have been the loudest.  At other times, she laughed
without merriment, and was noisy without a moment afterwards--she sat
silent and dejected, brooding with her head upon her hands, while the
very effort by which she roused herself, told, more forcibly than even
these indications, that she was ill at ease, and that her thoughts were
occupied with matters very different and distant from those in the
course of discussion by her companions.

It was Sunday night, and the bell of the nearest church struck the
hour.  Sikes and the Jew were talking, but they paused to listen.  The
girl looked up from the low seat on which she crouched, and listened
too.  Eleven.

'An hour this side of midnight,' said Sikes, raising the blind to look
out and returning to his seat.  'Dark and heavy it is too. A good night
for business this.'

'Ah!' replied Fagin.  'What a pity, Bill, my dear, that there's none
quite ready to be done.'

'You're right for once,' replied Sikes gruffly.  'It is a pity, for I'm
in the humour too.'

Fagin sighed, and shook his head despondingly.

'We must make up for lost time when we've got things into a good train.
That's all I know,' said Sikes.

'That's the way to talk, my dear,' replied Fagin, venturing to pat him
on the shoulder.  'It does me good to hear you.'

'Does you good, does it!' cried Sikes.  'Well, so be it.'

'Ha! ha! ha!' laughed Fagin, as if he were relieved by even this
concession.  'You're like yourself to-night, Bill.  Quite like
yourself.'

'I don't feel like myself when you lay that withered old claw on my
shoulder, so take it away,' said Sikes, casting off the Jew's hand.

'It make you nervous, Bill,--reminds you of being nabbed, does it?'
said Fagin, determined not to be offended.

'Reminds me of being nabbed by the devil,' returned Sikes. 'There never
was another man with such a face as yours, unless it was your father,
and I suppose _he_ is singeing his grizzled red beard by this time,
unless you came straight from the old 'un without any father at all
betwixt you; which I shouldn't wonder at, a bit.'

Fagin offered no reply to this compliment:  but, pulling Sikes by the
sleeve, pointed his finger towards Nancy, who had taken advantage of
the foregoing conversation to put on her bonnet, and was now leaving
the room.

'Hallo!' cried Sikes.  'Nance.  Where's the gal going to at this time
of night?'

'Not far.'

'What answer's that?' retorted Sikes.  'Do you hear me?'

'I don't know where,' replied the girl.

'Then I do,' said Sikes, more in the spirit of obstinacy than because
he had any real objection to the girl going where she listed.
'Nowhere.  Sit down.'

'I'm not well.  I told you that before,' rejoined the girl.  'I want a
breath of air.'

'Put your head out of the winder,' replied Sikes.

'There's not enough there,' said the girl.  'I want it in the street.'

'Then you won't have it,' replied Sikes.  With which assurance he rose,
locked the door, took the key out, and pulling her bonnet from her
head, flung it up to the top of an old press.  'There,' said the
robber.  'Now stop quietly where you are, will you?'

'It's not such a matter as a bonnet would keep me,' said the girl
turning very pale.  'What do you mean, Bill?  Do you know what you're
doing?'

'Know what I'm--Oh!' cried Sikes, turning to Fagin, 'she's out of her
senses, you know, or she daren't talk to me in that way.'

'You'll drive me on the something desperate,' muttered the girl placing
both hands upon her breast, as though to keep down by force some
violent outbreak.  'Let me go, will you,--this minute--this instant.'

'No!' said Sikes.

'Tell him to let me go, Fagin.  He had better.  It'll be better for
him.  Do you hear me?' cried Nancy stamping her foot upon the ground.

'Hear you!' repeated Sikes turning round in his chair to confront her.
'Aye!  And if I hear you for half a minute longer, the dog shall have
such a grip on your throat as'll tear some of that screaming voice out.
Wot has come over you, you jade!  Wot is it?'

'Let me go,' said the girl with great earnestness; then sitting herself
down on the floor, before the door, she said, 'Bill, let me go; you
don't know what you are doing. You don't, indeed.  For only one
hour--do--do!'

'Cut my limbs off one by one!' cried Sikes, seizing her roughly by the
arm, 'If I don't think the gal's stark raving mad.  Get up.'

'Not till you let me go--not till you let me go--Never--never!'
screamed the girl.  Sikes looked on, for a minute, watching his
opportunity, and suddenly pinioning her hands dragged her, struggling
and wrestling with him by the way, into a small room adjoining, where
he sat himself on a bench, and thrusting her into a chair, held her
down by force.  She struggled and implored by turns until twelve
o'clock had struck, and then, wearied and exhausted, ceased to contest
the point any further.  With a caution, backed by many oaths, to make
no more efforts to go out that night, Sikes left her to recover at
leisure and rejoined Fagin.

'Whew!' said the housebreaker wiping the perspiration from his face.
'Wot a precious strange gal that is!'

'You may say that, Bill,' replied Fagin thoughtfully.  'You may say
that.'

'Wot did she take it into her head to go out to-night for, do you
think?' asked Sikes.  'Come; you should know her better than me. Wot
does it mean?'

'Obstinacy; woman's obstinacy, I suppose, my dear.'

'Well, I suppose it is,' growled Sikes.  'I thought I had tamed her,
but she's as bad as ever.'

'Worse,' said Fagin thoughtfully.  'I never knew her like this, for
such a little cause.'

'Nor I,' said Sikes.  'I think she's got a touch of that fever in her
blood yet, and it won't come out--eh?'

'Like enough.'

'I'll let her a little blood, without troubling the doctor, if she's
took that way again,' said Sikes.

Fagin nodded an expressive approval of this mode of treatment.

'She was hanging about me all day, and night too, when I was stretched
on my back; and you, like a blackhearted wolf as you are, kept yourself
aloof,' said Sikes.  'We was poor too, all the time, and I think, one
way or other, it's worried and fretted her; and that being shut up here
so long has made her restless--eh?'

'That's it, my dear,' replied the Jew in a whisper.  'Hush!'

As he uttered these words, the girl herself appeared and resumed her
former seat.  Her eyes were swollen and red; she rocked herself to and
fro; tossed her head; and, after a little time, burst out laughing.

'Why, now she's on the other tack!' exclaimed Sikes, turning a look of
excessive surprise on his companion.

Fagin nodded to him to take no further notice just then; and, in a few
minutes, the girl subsided into her accustomed demeanour. Whispering
Sikes that there was no fear of her relapsing, Fagin took up his hat
and bade him good-night.  He paused when he reached the room-door, and
looking round, asked if somebody would light him down the dark stairs.

'Light him down,' said Sikes, who was filling his pipe. 'It's a pity he
should break his neck himself, and disappoint the sight-seers.  Show
him a light.'

Nancy followed the old man downstairs, with a candle.  When they
reached the passage, he laid his finger on his lip, and drawing close
to the girl, said, in a whisper.

'What is it, Nancy, dear?'

'What do you mean?' replied the girl, in the same tone.

'The reason of all this,' replied Fagin.  'If _he_'--he pointed with
his skinny fore-finger up the stairs--'is so hard with you (he's a
brute, Nance, a brute-beast), why don't you--'

'Well?' said the girl, as Fagin paused, with his mouth almost touching
her ear, and his eyes looking into hers.

'No matter just now.  We'll talk of this again.  You have a friend in
me, Nance; a staunch friend.  I have the means at hand, quiet and
close.  If you want revenge on those that treat you like a dog--like a
dog!  worse than his dog, for he humours him sometimes--come to me.  I
say, come to me.  He is the mere hound of a day, but you know me of
old, Nance.'

'I know you well,' replied the girl, without manifesting the least
emotion.  'Good-night.'

She shrank back, as Fagin offered to lay his hand on hers, but said
good-night again, in a steady voice, and, answering his parting look
with a nod of intelligence, closed the door between them.

Fagin walked towards his home, intent upon the thoughts that were
working within his brain.  He had conceived the idea--not from what had
just passed though that had tended to confirm him, but slowly and by
degrees--that Nancy, wearied of the housebreaker's brutality, had
conceived an attachment for some new friend.  Her altered manner, her
repeated absences from home alone, her comparative indifference to the
interests of the gang for which she had once been so zealous, and,
added to these, her desperate impatience to leave home that night at a
particular hour, all favoured the supposition, and rendered it, to him
at least, almost matter of certainty.  The object of this new liking
was not among his myrmidons.  He would be a valuable acquisition with
such an assistant as Nancy, and must (thus Fagin argued) be secured
without delay.

There was another, and a darker object, to be gained.  Sikes knew too
much, and his ruffian taunts had not galled Fagin the less, because the
wounds were hidden.  The girl must know, well, that if she shook him
off, she could never be safe from his fury, and that it would be surely
wreaked--to the maiming of limbs, or perhaps the loss of life--on the
object of her more recent fancy.

'With a little persuasion,' thought Fagin, 'what more likely than that
she would consent to poison him?  Women have done such things, and
worse, to secure the same object before now.  There would be the
dangerous villain:  the man I hate:  gone; another secured in his
place; and my influence over the girl, with a knowledge of this crime
to back it, unlimited.'

These things passed through the mind of Fagin, during the short time he
sat alone, in the housebreaker's room; and with them uppermost in his
thoughts, he had taken the opportunity afterwards afforded him, of
sounding the girl in the broken hints he threw out at parting.  There
was no expression of surprise, no assumption of an inability to
understand his meaning.  The girl clearly comprehended it.  Her glance
at parting showed _that_.

But perhaps she would recoil from a plot to take the life of Sikes, and
that was one of the chief ends to be attained. 'How,' thought Fagin, as
he crept homeward, 'can I increase my influence with her?  What new
power can I acquire?'

Such brains are fertile in expedients.  If, without extracting a
confession from herself, he laid a watch, discovered the object of her
altered regard, and threatened to reveal the whole history to Sikes (of
whom she stood in no common fear) unless she entered into his designs,
could he not secure her compliance?

'I can,' said Fagin, almost aloud.  'She durst not refuse me then.  Not
for her life, not for her life!  I have it all.  The means are ready,
and shall be set to work.  I shall have you yet!'

He cast back a dark look, and a threatening motion of the hand, towards
the spot where he had left the bolder villain; and went on his way:
busying his bony hands in the folds of his tattered garment, which he
wrenched tightly in his grasp, as though there were a hated enemy
crushed with every motion of his fingers.



CHAPTER XLV

NOAH CLAYPOLE IS EMPLOYED BY FAGIN ON A SECRET MISSION

The old man was up, betimes, next morning, and waited impatiently for
the appearance of his new associate, who after a delay that seemed
interminable, at length presented himself, and commenced a voracious
assault on the breakfast.

'Bolter,' said Fagin, drawing up a chair and seating himself opposite
Morris Bolter.

'Well, here I am,' returned Noah.  'What's the matter?  Don't yer ask
me to do anything till I have done eating. That's a great fault in this
place.  Yer never get time enough over yer meals.'

'You can talk as you eat, can't you?' said Fagin, cursing his dear
young friend's greediness from the very bottom of his heart.

'Oh yes, I can talk.  I get on better when I talk,' said Noah, cutting
a monstrous slice of bread.  'Where's Charlotte?'

'Out,' said Fagin.  'I sent her out this morning with the other young
woman, because I wanted us to be alone.'

'Oh!' said Noah.  'I wish yer'd ordered her to make some buttered toast
first.  Well.  Talk away.  Yer won't interrupt me.'

There seemed, indeed, no great fear of anything interrupting him, as he
had evidently sat down with a determination to do a great deal of
business.

'You did well yesterday, my dear,' said Fagin.  'Beautiful!  Six
shillings and ninepence halfpenny on the very first day!  The kinchin
lay will be a fortune to you.'

'Don't you forget to add three pint-pots and a milk-can,' said Mr.
Bolter.

'No, no, my dear.  The pint-pots were great strokes of genius: but the
milk-can was a perfect masterpiece.'

'Pretty well, I think, for a beginner,' remarked Mr. Bolter
complacently.  'The pots I took off airy railings, and the milk-can was
standing by itself outside a public-house.  I thought it might get
rusty with the rain, or catch cold, yer know.  Eh?  Ha! ha! ha!'

Fagin affected to laugh very heartily; and Mr. Bolter having had his
laugh out, took a series of large bites, which finished his first hunk
of bread and butter, and assisted himself to a second.

'I want you, Bolter,' said Fagin, leaning over the table, 'to do a
piece of work for me, my dear, that needs great care and caution.'

'I say,' rejoined Bolter, 'don't yer go shoving me into danger, or
sending me any more o' yer police-offices. That don't suit me, that
don't; and so I tell yer.'

'That's not the smallest danger in it--not the very smallest,' said the
Jew; 'it's only to dodge a woman.'

'An old woman?' demanded Mr. Bolter.

'A young one,' replied Fagin.

'I can do that pretty well, I know,' said Bolter.  'I was a regular
cunning sneak when I was at school.  What am I to dodge her for?  Not
to--'

'Not to do anything, but to tell me where she goes, who she sees, and,
if possible, what she says; to remember the street, if it is a street,
or the house, if it is a house; and to bring me back all the
information you can.'

'What'll yer give me?' asked Noah, setting down his cup, and looking
his employer, eagerly, in the face.

'If you do it well, a pound, my dear.  One pound,' said Fagin, wishing
to interest him in the scent as much as possible.  'And that's what I
never gave yet, for any job of work where there wasn't valuable
consideration to be gained.'

'Who is she?' inquired Noah.

'One of us.'

'Oh Lor!' cried Noah, curling up his nose.  'Yer doubtful of her, are
yer?'

'She has found out some new friends, my dear, and I must know who they
are,' replied Fagin.

'I see,' said Noah.  'Just to have the pleasure of knowing them, if
they're respectable people, eh?  Ha! ha! ha! I'm your man.'

'I knew you would be,' cried Fagin, elated by the success of his
proposal.

'Of course, of course,' replied Noah.  'Where is she? Where am I to
wait for her?  Where am I to go?'

'All that, my dear, you shall hear from me.  I'll point her out at the
proper time,' said Fagin.  'You keep ready, and leave the rest to me.'

That night, and the next, and the next again, the spy sat booted and
equipped in his carter's dress:  ready to turn out at a word from
Fagin.  Six nights passed--six long weary nights--and on each, Fagin
came home with a disappointed face, and briefly intimated that it was
not yet time.  On the seventh, he returned earlier, and with an
exultation he could not conceal.  It was Sunday.

'She goes abroad to-night,' said Fagin, 'and on the right errand, I'm
sure; for she has been alone all day, and the man she is afraid of will
not be back much before daybreak.  Come with me. Quick!'

Noah started up without saying a word; for the Jew was in a state of
such intense excitement that it infected him.  They left the house
stealthily, and hurrying through a labyrinth of streets, arrived at
length before a public-house, which Noah recognised as the same in
which he had slept, on the night of his arrival in London.

It was past eleven o'clock, and the door was closed.  It opened softly
on its hinges as Fagin gave a low whistle. They entered, without noise;
and the door was closed behind them.

Scarcely venturing to whisper, but substituting dumb show for words,
Fagin, and the young Jew who had admitted them, pointed out the pane of
glass to Noah, and signed to him to climb up and observe the person in
the adjoining room.

'Is that the woman?' he asked, scarcely above his breath.

Fagin nodded yes.

'I can't see her face well,' whispered Noah.  'She is looking down, and
the candle is behind her.

'Stay there,' whispered Fagin.  He signed to Barney, who withdrew.  In
an instant, the lad entered the room adjoining, and, under pretence of
snuffing the candle, moved it in the required position, and, speaking
to the girl, caused her to raise her face.

'I see her now,' cried the spy.

'Plainly?'

'I should know her among a thousand.'

He hastily descended, as the room-door opened, and the girl came out.
Fagin drew him behind a small partition which was curtained off, and
they held their breaths as she passed within a few feet of their place
of concealment, and emerged by the door at which they had entered.

'Hist!' cried the lad who held the door.  'Dow.'

Noah exchanged a look with Fagin, and darted out.

'To the left,' whispered the lad; 'take the left had, and keep od the
other side.'

He did so; and, by the light of the lamps, saw the girl's retreating
figure, already at some distance before him.  He advanced as near as he
considered prudent, and kept on the opposite side of the street, the
better to observe her motions. She looked nervously round, twice or
thrice, and once stopped to let two men who were following close behind
her, pass on.  She seemed to gather courage as she advanced, and to
walk with a steadier and firmer step.  The spy preserved the same
relative distance between them, and followed:  with his eye upon her.



CHAPTER XLVI

THE APPOINTMENT KEPT

The church clocks chimed three quarters past eleven, as two figures
emerged on London Bridge.  One, which advanced with a swift and rapid
step, was that of a woman who looked eagerly about her as though in
quest of some expected object; the other figure was that of a man, who
slunk along in the deepest shadow he could find, and, at some distance,
accommodated his pace to hers:  stopping when she stopped:  and as she
moved again, creeping stealthily on:  but never allowing himself, in
the ardour of his pursuit, to gain upon her footsteps.  Thus, they
crossed the bridge, from the Middlesex to the Surrey shore, when the
woman, apparently disappointed in her anxious scrutiny of the
foot-passengers, turned back.  The movement was sudden; but he who
watched her, was not thrown off his guard by it; for, shrinking into
one of the recesses which surmount the piers of the bridge, and leaning
over the parapet the better to conceal his figure, he suffered her to
pass on the opposite pavement. When she was about the same distance in
advance as she had been before, he slipped quietly down, and followed
her again. At nearly the centre of the bridge, she stopped.  The man
stopped too.

It was a very dark night.  The day had been unfavourable, and at that
hour and place there were few people stirring. Such as there were,
hurried quickly past:  very possibly without seeing, but certainly
without noticing, either the woman, or the man who kept her in view.
Their appearance was not calculated to attract the importunate regards
of such of London's destitute population, as chanced to take their way
over the bridge that night in search of some cold arch or doorless
hovel wherein to lay their heads; they stood there in silence:  neither
speaking nor spoken to, by any one who passed.

A mist hung over the river, deepening the red glare of the fires that
burnt upon the small craft moored off the different wharfs, and
rendering darker and more indistinct the murky buildings on the banks.
The old smoke-stained storehouses on either side, rose heavy and dull
from the dense mass of roofs and gables, and frowned sternly upon water
too black to reflect even their lumbering shapes. The tower of old
Saint Saviour's Church, and the spire of Saint Magnus, so long the
giant-warders of the ancient bridge, were visible in the gloom; but the
forest of shipping below bridge, and the thickly scattered spires of
churches above, were nearly all hidden from sight.

The girl had taken a few restless turns to and fro--closely watched
meanwhile by her hidden observer--when the heavy bell of St. Paul's
tolled for the death of another day.  Midnight had come upon the
crowded city.  The palace, the night-cellar, the jail, the madhouse:
the chambers of birth and death, of health and sickness, the rigid face
of the corpse and the calm sleep of the child:  midnight was upon them
all.

The hour had not struck two minutes, when a young lady, accompanied by
a grey-haired gentleman, alighted from a hackney-carriage within a
short distance of the bridge, and, having dismissed the vehicle, walked
straight towards it.  They had scarcely set foot upon its pavement,
when the girl started, and immediately made towards them.

They walked onward, looking about them with the air of persons who
entertained some very slight expectation which had little chance of
being realised, when they were suddenly joined by this new associate.
They halted with an exclamation of surprise, but suppressed it
immediately; for a man in the garments of a countryman came close
up--brushed against them, indeed--at that precise moment.

'Not here,' said Nancy hurriedly, 'I am afraid to speak to you here.
Come away--out of the public road--down the steps yonder!'

As she uttered these words, and indicated, with her hand, the direction
in which she wished them to proceed, the countryman looked round, and
roughly asking what they took up the whole pavement for, passed on.

The steps to which the girl had pointed, were those which, on the
Surrey bank, and on the same side of the bridge as Saint Saviour's
Church, form a landing-stairs from the river.  To this spot, the man
bearing the appearance of a countryman, hastened unobserved; and after
a moment's survey of the place, he began to descend.

These stairs are a part of the bridge; they consist of three flights.
Just below the end of the second, going down, the stone wall on the
left terminates in an ornamental pilaster facing towards the Thames.
At this point the lower steps widen:  so that a person turning that
angle of the wall, is necessarily unseen by any others on the stairs
who chance to be above him, if only a step. The countryman looked
hastily round, when he reached this point; and as there seemed no
better place of concealment, and, the tide being out, there was plenty
of room, he slipped aside, with his back to the pilaster, and there
waited:  pretty certain that they would come no lower, and that even if
he could not hear what was said, he could follow them again, with
safety.

So tardily stole the time in this lonely place, and so eager was the
spy to penetrate the motives of an interview so different from what he
had been led to expect, that he more than once gave the matter up for
lost, and persuaded himself, either that they had stopped far above, or
had resorted to some entirely different spot to hold their mysterious
conversation.  He was on the point of emerging from his hiding-place,
and regaining the road above, when he heard the sound of footsteps, and
directly afterwards of voices almost close at his ear.

He drew himself straight upright against the wall, and, scarcely
breathing, listened attentively.

'This is far enough,' said a voice, which was evidently that of the
gentleman.  'I will not suffer the young lady to go any farther.  Many
people would have distrusted you too much to have come even so far, but
you see I am willing to humour you.'

'To humour me!' cried the voice of the girl whom he had followed.
'You're considerate, indeed, sir.  To humour me!  Well, well, it's no
matter.'

'Why, for what,' said the gentleman in a kinder tone, 'for what purpose
can you have brought us to this strange place?  Why not have let me
speak to you, above there, where it is light, and there is something
stirring, instead of bringing us to this dark and dismal hole?'

'I told you before,' replied Nancy, 'that I was afraid to speak to you
there.  I don't know why it is,' said the girl, shuddering, 'but I have
such a fear and dread upon me to-night that I can hardly stand.'

'A fear of what?' asked the gentleman, who seemed to pity her.

'I scarcely know of what,' replied the girl.  'I wish I did. Horrible
thoughts of death, and shrouds with blood upon them, and a fear that
has made me burn as if I was on fire, have been upon me all day.  I was
reading a book to-night, to wile the time away, and the same things
came into the print.'

'Imagination,' said the gentleman, soothing her.

'No imagination,' replied the girl in a hoarse voice. 'I'll swear I saw
"coffin" written in every page of the book in large black
letters,--aye, and they carried one close to me, in the streets
to-night.'

'There is nothing unusual in that,' said the gentleman. 'They have
passed me often.'

'_Real ones_,' rejoined the girl.  'This was not.'

There was something so uncommon in her manner, that the flesh of the
concealed listener crept as he heard the girl utter these words, and
the blood chilled within him.  He had never experienced a greater
relief than in hearing the sweet voice of the young lady as she begged
her to be calm, and not allow herself to become the prey of such
fearful fancies.

'Speak to her kindly,' said the young lady to her companion. 'Poor
creature!  She seems to need it.'

'Your haughty religious people would have held their heads up to see me
as I am to-night, and preached of flames and vengeance,' cried the
girl.  'Oh, dear lady, why ar'n't those who claim to be God's own folks
as gentle and as kind to us poor wretches as you, who, having youth,
and beauty, and all that they have lost, might be a little proud
instead of so much humbler?'

'Ah!' said the gentleman.  'A Turk turns his face, after washing it
well, to the East, when he says his prayers; these good people, after
giving their faces such a rub against the World as to take the smiles
off, turn with no less regularity, to the darkest side of Heaven.
Between the Mussulman and the Pharisee, commend me to the first!'

These words appeared to be addressed to the young lady, and were
perhaps uttered with the view of affording Nancy time to recover
herself.  The gentleman, shortly afterwards, addressed himself to her.

'You were not here last Sunday night,' he said.

'I couldn't come,' replied Nancy; 'I was kept by force.'

'By whom?'

'Him that I told the young lady of before.'

'You were not suspected of holding any communication with anybody on
the subject which has brought us here to-night, I hope?' asked the old
gentleman.

'No,' replied the girl, shaking her head.  'It's not very easy for me
to leave him unless he knows why; I couldn't give him a drink of
laudanum before I came away.'

'Did he awake before you returned?' inquired the gentleman.

'No; and neither he nor any of them suspect me.'

'Good,' said the gentleman.  'Now listen to me.'

'I am ready,' replied the girl, as he paused for a moment.

'This young lady,' the gentleman began, 'has communicated to me, and to
some other friends who can be safely trusted, what you told her nearly
a fortnight since.  I confess to you that I had doubts, at first,
whether you were to be implicitly relied upon, but now I firmly believe
you are.'

'I am,' said the girl earnestly.

'I repeat that I firmly believe it.  To prove to you that I am disposed
to trust you, I tell you without reserve, that we propose to extort the
secret, whatever it may be, from the fear of this man Monks.  But
if--if--' said the gentleman, 'he cannot be secured, or, if secured,
cannot be acted upon as we wish, you must deliver up the Jew.'

'Fagin,' cried the girl, recoiling.

'That man must be delivered up by you,' said the gentleman.

'I will not do it!  I will never do it!' replied the girl. 'Devil that
he is, and worse than devil as he has been to me, I will never do that.'

'You will not?' said the gentleman, who seemed fully prepared for this
answer.

'Never!' returned the girl.

'Tell me why?'

'For one reason,' rejoined the girl firmly, 'for one reason, that the
lady knows and will stand by me in, I know she will, for I have her
promise:  and for this other reason, besides, that, bad life as he has
led, I have led a bad life too; there are many of us who have kept the
same courses together, and I'll not turn upon them, who might--any of
them--have turned upon me, but didn't, bad as they are.'

'Then,' said the gentleman, quickly, as if this had been the point he
had been aiming to attain; 'put Monks into my hands, and leave him to
me to deal with.'

'What if he turns against the others?'

'I promise you that in that case, if the truth is forced from him,
there the matter will rest; there must be circumstances in Oliver's
little history which it would be painful to drag before the public eye,
and if the truth is once elicited, they shall go scot free.'

'And if it is not?' suggested the girl.

'Then,' pursued the gentleman, 'this Fagin shall not be brought to
justice without your consent.  In such a case I could show you reasons,
I think, which would induce you to yield it.'

'Have I the lady's promise for that?' asked the girl.

'You have,' replied Rose.  'My true and faithful pledge.'

'Monks would never learn how you knew what you do?' said the girl,
after a short pause.

'Never,' replied the gentleman.  'The intelligence should be brought to
bear upon him, that he could never even guess.'

'I have been a liar, and among liars from a little child,' said the
girl after another interval of silence, 'but I will take your words.'

After receiving an assurance from both, that she might safely do so,
she proceeded in a voice so low that it was often difficult for the
listener to discover even the purport of what she said, to describe, by
name and situation, the public-house whence she had been followed that
night.  From the manner in which she occasionally paused, it appeared
as if the gentleman were making some hasty notes of the information she
communicated.  When she had thoroughly explained the localities of the
place, the best position from which to watch it without exciting
observation, and the night and hour on which Monks was most in the
habit of frequenting it, she seemed to consider for a few moments, for
the purpose of recalling his features and appearances more forcibly to
her recollection.

'He is tall,' said the girl, 'and a strongly made man, but not stout;
he has a lurking walk; and as he walks, constantly looks over his
shoulder, first on one side, and then on the other. Don't forget that,
for his eyes are sunk in his head so much deeper than any other man's,
that you might almost tell him by that alone.  His face is dark, like
his hair and eyes; and, although he can't be more than six or eight and
twenty, withered and haggard. His lips are often discoloured and
disfigured with the marks of teeth; for he has desperate fits, and
sometimes even bites his hands and covers them with wounds--why did you
start?' said the girl, stopping suddenly.

The gentleman replied, in a hurried manner, that he was not conscious
of having done so, and begged her to proceed.

'Part of this,' said the girl, 'I have drawn out from other people at
the house I tell you of, for I have only seen him twice, and both times
he was covered up in a large cloak.  I think that's all I can give you
to know him by.  Stay though,' she added.  'Upon his throat:  so high
that you can see a part of it below his neckerchief when he turns his
face:  there is--'

'A broad red mark, like a burn or scald?' cried the gentleman.

'How's this?' said the girl.  'You know him!'

The young lady uttered a cry of surprise, and for a few moments they
were so still that the listener could distinctly hear them breathe.

'I think I do,' said the gentleman, breaking silence.  'I should by
your description.  We shall see.  Many people are singularly like each
other.  It may not be the same.'

As he expressed himself to this effect, with assumed carelessness, he
took a step or two nearer the concealed spy, as the latter could tell
from the distinctness with which he heard him mutter, 'It must be he!'

'Now,' he said, returning:  so it seemed by the sound:  to the spot
where he had stood before, 'you have given us most valuable assistance,
young woman, and I wish you to be the better for it. What can I do to
serve you?'

'Nothing,' replied Nancy.

'You will not persist in saying that,' rejoined the gentleman, with a
voice and emphasis of kindness that might have touched a much harder
and more obdurate heart. 'Think now.  Tell me.'

'Nothing, sir,' rejoined the girl, weeping.  'You can do nothing to
help me.  I am past all hope, indeed.'

'You put yourself beyond its pale,' said the gentleman. 'The past has
been a dreary waste with you, of youthful energies mis-spent, and such
priceless treasures lavished, as the Creator bestows but once and never
grants again, but, for the future, you may hope. I do not say that it
is in our power to offer you peace of heart and mind, for that must
come as you seek it; but a quiet asylum, either in England, or, if you
fear to remain here, in some foreign country, it is not only within the
compass of our ability but our most anxious wish to secure you. Before
the dawn of morning, before this river wakes to the first glimpse of
day-light, you shall be placed as entirely beyond the reach of your
former associates, and leave as utter an absence of all trace behind
you, as if you were to disappear from the earth this moment.  Come!  I
would not have you go back to exchange one word with any old companion,
or take one look at any old haunt, or breathe the very air which is
pestilence and death to you.  Quit them all, while there is time and
opportunity!'

'She will be persuaded now,' cried the young lady.  'She hesitates, I
am sure.'

'I fear not, my dear,' said the gentleman.

'No sir, I do not,' replied the girl, after a short struggle.  'I am
chained to my old life.  I loathe and hate it now, but I cannot leave
it.  I must have gone too far to turn back,--and yet I don't know, for
if you had spoken to me so, some time ago, I should have laughed it
off.  But,' she said, looking hastily round, 'this fear comes over me
again.  I must go home.'

'Home!' repeated the young lady, with great stress upon the word.

'Home, lady,' rejoined the girl.  'To such a home as I have raised for
myself with the work of my whole life.  Let us part. I shall be watched
or seen.  Go!  Go!  If I have done you any service all I ask is, that
you leave me, and let me go my way alone.'

'It is useless,' said the gentleman, with a sigh.  'We compromise her
safety, perhaps, by staying here.  We may have detained her longer than
she expected already.'

'Yes, yes,' urged the girl. 'You have.'

'What,' cried the young lady, 'can be the end of this poor creature's
life!'

'What!' repeated the girl.  'Look before you, lady.  Look at that dark
water.  How many times do you read of such as I who spring into the
tide, and leave no living thing, to care for, or bewail them.  It may
be years hence, or it may be only months, but I shall come to that at
last.'

'Do not speak thus, pray,' returned the young lady, sobbing.

'It will never reach your ears, dear lady, and God forbid such horrors
should!' replied the girl.  'Good-night, good-night!'

The gentleman turned away.

'This purse,' cried the young lady.  'Take it for my sake, that you may
have some resource in an hour of need and trouble.'

'No!' replied the girl.  'I have not done this for money.  Let me have
that to think of.  And yet--give me something that you have worn:  I
should like to have something--no, no, not a ring--your gloves or
handkerchief--anything that I can keep, as having belonged to you,
sweet lady.  There.  Bless you!  God bless you. Good-night, good-night!'

The violent agitation of the girl, and the apprehension of some
discovery which would subject her to ill-usage and violence, seemed to
determine the gentleman to leave her, as she requested.

The sound of retreating footsteps were audible and the voices ceased.

The two figures of the young lady and her companion soon afterwards
appeared upon the bridge.  They stopped at the summit of the stairs.

'Hark!' cried the young lady, listening.  'Did she call!  I thought I
heard her voice.'

'No, my love,' replied Mr. Brownlow, looking sadly back. 'She has not
moved, and will not till we are gone.'

Rose Maylie lingered, but the old gentleman drew her arm through his,
and led her, with gentle force, away.  As they disappeared, the girl
sunk down nearly at her full length upon one of the stone stairs, and
vented the anguish of her heart in bitter tears.

After a time she arose, and with feeble and tottering steps ascended
the street.  The astonished listener remained motionless on his post
for some minutes afterwards, and having ascertained, with many cautious
glances round him, that he was again alone, crept slowly from his
hiding-place, and returned, stealthily and in the shade of the wall, in
the same manner as he had descended.

Peeping out, more than once, when he reached the top, to make sure that
he was unobserved, Noah Claypole darted away at his utmost speed, and
made for the Jew's house as fast as his legs would carry him.



CHAPTER XLVII

FATAL CONSEQUENCES

It was nearly two hours before day-break; that time which in the autumn
of the year, may be truly called the dead of night; when the streets
are silent and deserted; when even sounds appear to slumber, and
profligacy and riot have staggered home to dream; it was at this still
and silent hour, that Fagin sat watching in his old lair, with face so
distorted and pale, and eyes so red and blood-shot, that he looked less
like a man, than like some hideous phantom, moist from the grave, and
worried by an evil spirit.

He sat crouching over a cold hearth, wrapped in an old torn coverlet,
with his face turned towards a wasting candle that stood upon a table
by his side.  His right hand was raised to his lips, and as, absorbed
in thought, he hit his long black nails, he disclosed among his
toothless gums a few such fangs as should have been a dog's or rat's.

Stretched upon a mattress on the floor, lay Noah Claypole, fast asleep.
Towards him the old man sometimes directed his eyes for an instant, and
then brought them back again to the candle; which with a long-burnt
wick drooping almost double, and hot grease falling down in clots upon
the table, plainly showed that his thoughts were busy elsewhere.

Indeed they were.  Mortification at the overthrow of his notable
scheme; hatred of the girl who had dared to palter with strangers; and
utter distrust of the sincerity of her refusal to yield him up; bitter
disappointment at the loss of his revenge on Sikes; the fear of
detection, and ruin, and death; and a fierce and deadly rage kindled by
all; these were the passionate considerations which, following close
upon each other with rapid and ceaseless whirl, shot through the brain
of Fagin, as every evil thought and blackest purpose lay working at his
heart.

He sat without changing his attitude in the least, or appearing to take
the smallest heed of time, until his quick ear seemed to be attracted
by a footstep in the street.

'At last,' he muttered, wiping his dry and fevered mouth. 'At last!'

The bell rang gently as he spoke.  He crept upstairs to the door, and
presently returned accompanied by a man muffled to the chin, who
carried a bundle under one arm. Sitting down and throwing back his
outer coat, the man displayed the burly frame of Sikes.

'There!' he said, laying the bundle on the table.  'Take care of that,
and do the most you can with it.  It's been trouble enough to get; I
thought I should have been here, three hours ago.'

Fagin laid his hand upon the bundle, and locking it in the cupboard,
sat down again without speaking.  But he did not take his eyes off the
robber, for an instant, during this action; and now that they sat over
against each other, face to face, he looked fixedly at him, with his
lips quivering so violently, and his face so altered by the emotions
which had mastered him, that the housebreaker involuntarily drew back
his chair, and surveyed him with a look of real affright.

'Wot now?' cried Sikes.  'Wot do you look at a man so for?'

Fagin raised his right hand, and shook his trembling forefinger in the
air; but his passion was so great, that the power of speech was for the
moment gone.

'Damme!' said Sikes, feeling in his breast with a look of alarm. 'He's
gone mad.  I must look to myself here.'

'No, no,' rejoined Fagin, finding his voice.  'It's not--you're not the
person, Bill.  I've no--no fault to find with you.'

'Oh, you haven't, haven't you?' said Sikes, looking sternly at him, and
ostentatiously passing a pistol into a more convenient pocket.  'That's
lucky--for one of us.  Which one that is, don't matter.'

'I've got that to tell you, Bill,' said Fagin, drawing his chair
nearer, 'will make you worse than me.'

'Aye?' returned the robber with an incredulous air.  'Tell away! Look
sharp, or Nance will think I'm lost.'

'Lost!' cried Fagin.  'She has pretty well settled that, in her own
mind, already.'

Sikes looked with an aspect of great perplexity into the Jew's face,
and reading no satisfactory explanation of the riddle there, clenched
his coat collar in his huge hand and shook him soundly.

'Speak, will you!' he said; 'or if you don't, it shall be for want of
breath.  Open your mouth and say wot you've got to say in plain words.
Out with it, you thundering old cur, out with it!'

'Suppose that lad that's laying there--' Fagin began.

Sikes turned round to where Noah was sleeping, as if he had not
previously observed him.  'Well!' he said, resuming his former position.

'Suppose that lad,' pursued Fagin, 'was to peach--to blow upon us
all--first seeking out the right folks for the purpose, and then having
a meeting with 'em in the street to paint our likenesses, describe
every mark that they might know us by, and the crib where we might be
most easily taken.  Suppose he was to do all this, and besides to blow
upon a plant we've all been in, more or less--of his own fancy; not
grabbed, trapped, tried, earwigged by the parson and brought to it on
bread and water,--but of his own fancy; to please his own taste;
stealing out at nights to find those most interested against us, and
peaching to them.  Do you hear me?' cried the Jew, his eyes flashing
with rage.  'Suppose he did all this, what then?'

'What then!' replied Sikes; with a tremendous oath.  'If he was left
alive till I came, I'd grind his skull under the iron heel of my boot
into as many grains as there are hairs upon his head.'

'What if I did it!' cried Fagin almost in a yell.  'I, that knows so
much, and could hang so many besides myself!'

'I don't know,' replied Sikes, clenching his teeth and turning white at
the mere suggestion.  'I'd do something in the jail that 'ud get me put
in irons; and if I was tried along with you, I'd fall upon you with
them in the open court, and beat your brains out afore the people. I
should have such strength,' muttered the robber, poising his brawny
arm, 'that I could smash your head as if a loaded waggon had gone over
it.'

'You would?'

'Would I!' said the housebreaker.  'Try me.'

'If it was Charley, or the Dodger, or Bet, or--'

'I don't care who,' replied Sikes impatiently.  'Whoever it was, I'd
serve them the same.'

Fagin looked hard at the robber; and, motioning him to be silent,
stooped over the bed upon the floor, and shook the sleeper to rouse
him.  Sikes leant forward in his chair:  looking on with his hands upon
his knees, as if wondering much what all this questioning and
preparation was to end in.

'Bolter, Bolter!  Poor lad!' said Fagin, looking up with an expression
of devilish anticipation, and speaking slowly and with marked emphasis.
'He's tired--tired with watching for her so long,--watching for _her_,
Bill.'

'Wot d'ye mean?' asked Sikes, drawing back.

Fagin made no answer, but bending over the sleeper again, hauled him
into a sitting posture.  When his assumed name had been repeated
several times, Noah rubbed his eyes, and, giving a heavy yawn, looked
sleepily about him.

'Tell me that again--once again, just for him to hear,' said the Jew,
pointing to Sikes as he spoke.

'Tell yer what?' asked the sleepy Noah, shaking himself pettishly.

'That about-- _Nancy_,' said Fagin, clutching Sikes by the wrist, as if
to prevent his leaving the house before he had heard enough. 'You
followed her?'

'Yes.'

'To London Bridge?'

'Yes.'

'Where she met two people.'

'So she did.'

'A gentleman and a lady that she had gone to of her own accord before,
who asked her to give up all her pals, and Monks first, which she
did--and to describe him, which she did--and to tell her what house it
was that we meet at, and go to, which she did--and where it could be
best watched from, which she did--and what time the people went there,
which she did.  She did all this.  She told it all every word without a
threat, without a murmur--she did--did she not?' cried Fagin, half mad
with fury.

'All right,' replied Noah, scratching his head.  'That's just what it
was!'

'What did they say, about last Sunday?'

'About last Sunday!' replied Noah, considering.  'Why I told yer that
before.'

'Again.  Tell it again!' cried Fagin, tightening his grasp on Sikes,
and brandishing his other hand aloft, as the foam flew from his lips.

'They asked her,' said Noah, who, as he grew more wakeful, seemed to
have a dawning perception who Sikes was, 'they asked her why she didn't
come, last Sunday, as she promised.  She said she couldn't.'

'Why--why?  Tell him that.'

'Because she was forcibly kept at home by Bill, the man she had told
them of before,' replied Noah.

'What more of him?' cried Fagin.  'What more of the man she had told
them of before?  Tell him that, tell him that.'

'Why, that she couldn't very easily get out of doors unless he knew
where she was going to,' said Noah; 'and so the first time she went to
see the lady, she--ha! ha! ha! it made me laugh when she said it, that
it did--she gave him a drink of laudanum.'

'Hell's fire!' cried Sikes, breaking fiercely from the Jew.  'Let me
go!'

Flinging the old man from him, he rushed from the room, and darted,
wildly and furiously, up the stairs.

'Bill, Bill!' cried Fagin, following him hastily.  'A word. Only a
word.'

The word would not have been exchanged, but that the housebreaker was
unable to open the door:  on which he was expending fruitless oaths and
violence, when the Jew came panting up.

'Let me out,' said Sikes.  'Don't speak to me; it's not safe. Let me
out, I say!'

'Hear me speak a word,' rejoined Fagin, laying his hand upon the lock.
'You won't be--'

'Well,' replied the other.

'You won't be--too--violent, Bill?'

The day was breaking, and there was light enough for the men to see
each other's faces.  They exchanged one brief glance; there was a fire
in the eyes of both, which could not be mistaken.

'I mean,' said Fagin, showing that he felt all disguise was now
useless, 'not too violent for safety.  Be crafty, Bill, and not too
bold.'

Sikes made no reply; but, pulling open the door, of which Fagin had
turned the lock, dashed into the silent streets.

Without one pause, or moment's consideration; without once turning his
head to the right or left, or raising his eyes to the sky, or lowering
them to the ground, but looking straight before him with savage
resolution:  his teeth so tightly compressed that the strained jaw
seemed starting through his skin; the robber held on his headlong
course, nor muttered a word, nor relaxed a muscle, until he reached his
own door.  He opened it, softly, with a key; strode lightly up the
stairs; and entering his own room, double-locked the door, and lifting
a heavy table against it, drew back the curtain of the bed.

The girl was lying, half-dressed, upon it.  He had roused her from her
sleep, for she raised herself with a hurried and startled look.

'Get up!' said the man.

'It is you, Bill!' said the girl, with an expression of pleasure at his
return.

'It is,' was the reply.  'Get up.'

There was a candle burning, but the man hastily drew it from the
candlestick, and hurled it under the grate.  Seeing the faint light of
early day without, the girl rose to undraw the curtain.

'Let it be,' said Sikes, thrusting his hand before her. 'There's enough
light for wot I've got to do.'

'Bill,' said the girl, in the low voice of alarm, 'why do you look like
that at me!'

The robber sat regarding her, for a few seconds, with dilated nostrils
and heaving breast; and then, grasping her by the head and throat,
dragged her into the middle of the room, and looking once towards the
door, placed his heavy hand upon her mouth.

'Bill, Bill!' gasped the girl, wrestling with the strength of mortal
fear,--'I--I won't scream or cry--not once--hear me--speak to me--tell
me what I have done!'

'You know, you she devil!' returned the robber, suppressing his breath.
'You were watched to-night; every word you said was heard.'

'Then spare my life for the love of Heaven, as I spared yours,'
rejoined the girl, clinging to him.  'Bill, dear Bill, you cannot have
the heart to kill me.  Oh! think of all I have given up, only this one
night, for you.  You _shall_ have time to think, and save yourself this
crime; I will not loose my hold, you cannot throw me off.  Bill, Bill,
for dear God's sake, for your own, for mine, stop before you spill my
blood!  I have been true to you, upon my guilty soul I have!'

The man struggled violently, to release his arms; but those of the girl
were clasped round his, and tear her as he would, he could not tear
them away.

'Bill,' cried the girl, striving to lay her head upon his breast, 'the
gentleman and that dear lady, told me to-night of a home in some
foreign country where I could end my days in solitude and peace.  Let
me see them again, and beg them, on my knees, to show the same mercy
and goodness to you; and let us both leave this dreadful place, and far
apart lead better lives, and forget how we have lived, except in
prayers, and never see each other more. It is never too late to repent.
They told me so--I feel it now--but we must have time--a little, little
time!'

The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The certainty
of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his mind even in the
midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all the force he could
summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.

She staggered and fell:  nearly blinded with the blood that rained down
from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising herself, with difficulty,
on her knees, drew from her bosom a white handkerchief--Rose Maylie's
own--and holding it up, in her folded hands, as high towards Heaven as
her feeble strength would allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her
Maker.

It was a ghastly figure to look upon.  The murderer staggering backward
to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy
club and struck her down.



CHAPTER XLVIII

THE FLIGHT OF SIKES

Of all bad deeds that, under cover of the darkness, had been committed
within wide London's bounds since night hung over it, that was the
worst.  Of all the horrors that rose with an ill scent upon the morning
air, that was the foulest and most cruel.

The sun--the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new
life, and hope, and freshness to man--burst upon the crowded city in
clear and radiant glory.  Through costly-coloured glass and
paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed
its equal ray.  It lighted up the room where the murdered woman lay.
It did.  He tried to shut it out, but it would stream in.  If the sight
had been a ghastly one in the dull morning, what was it, now, in all
that brilliant light!

He had not moved; he had been afraid to stir.  There had been a moan
and motion of the hand; and, with terror added to rage, he had struck
and struck again.  Once he threw a rug over it; but it was worse to
fancy the eyes, and imagine them moving towards him, than to see them
glaring upward, as if watching the reflection of the pool of gore that
quivered and danced in the sunlight on the ceiling.  He had plucked it
off again.  And there was the body--mere flesh and blood, no more--but
such flesh, and so much blood!

He struck a light, kindled a fire, and thrust the club into it. There
was hair upon the end, which blazed and shrunk into a light cinder,
and, caught by the air, whirled up the chimney.  Even that frightened
him, sturdy as he was; but he held the weapon till it broke, and then
piled it on the coals to burn away, and smoulder into ashes.  He washed
himself, and rubbed his clothes; there were spots that would not be
removed, but he cut the pieces out, and burnt them.  How those stains
were dispersed about the room!  The very feet of the dog were bloody.

All this time he had, never once, turned his back upon the corpse; no,
not for a moment.  Such preparations completed, he moved, backward,
towards the door:  dragging the dog with him, lest he should soil his
feet anew and carry out new evidence of the crime into the streets. He
shut the door softly, locked it, took the key, and left the house.

He crossed over, and glanced up at the window, to be sure that nothing
was visible from the outside.  There was the curtain still drawn, which
she would have opened to admit the light she never saw again.  It lay
nearly under there.  _He_ knew that.  God, how the sun poured down upon
the very spot!

The glance was instantaneous.  It was a relief to have got free of the
room.  He whistled on the dog, and walked rapidly away.

He went through Islington; strode up the hill at Highgate on which
stands the stone in honour of Whittington; turned down to Highgate
Hill, unsteady of purpose, and uncertain where to go; struck off to the
right again, almost as soon as he began to descend it; and taking the
foot-path across the fields, skirted Caen Wood, and so came on
Hampstead Heath.  Traversing the hollow by the Vale of Heath, he
mounted the opposite bank, and crossing the road which joins the
villages of Hampstead and Highgate, made along the remaining portion of
the heath to the fields at North End, in one of which he laid himself
down under a hedge, and slept.

Soon he was up again, and away,--not far into the country, but back
towards London by the high-road--then back again--then over another
part of the same ground as he already traversed--then wandering up and
down in fields, and lying on ditches' brinks to rest, and starting up
to make for some other spot, and do the same, and ramble on again.

Where could he go, that was near and not too public, to get some meat
and drink?  Hendon.  That was a good place, not far off, and out of
most people's way.  Thither he directed his steps,--running sometimes,
and sometimes, with a strange perversity, loitering at a snail's pace,
or stopping altogether and idly breaking the hedges with a stick.  But
when he got there, all the people he met--the very children at the
doors--seemed to view him with suspicion.  Back he turned again,
without the courage to purchase bit or drop, though he had tasted no
food for many hours; and once more he lingered on the Heath, uncertain
where to go.

He wandered over miles and miles of ground, and still came back to the
old place.  Morning and noon had passed, and the day was on the wane,
and still he rambled to and fro, and up and down, and round and round,
and still lingered about the same spot.  At last he got away, and
shaped his course for Hatfield.

It was nine o'clock at night, when the man, quite tired out, and the
dog, limping and lame from the unaccustomed exercise, turned down the
hill by the church of the quiet village, and plodding along the little
street, crept into a small public-house, whose scanty light had guided
them to the spot.  There was a fire in the tap-room, and some
country-labourers were drinking before it.

They made room for the stranger, but he sat down in the furthest
corner, and ate and drank alone, or rather with his dog:  to whom he
cast a morsel of food from time to time.

The conversation of the men assembled here, turned upon the
neighbouring land, and farmers; and when those topics were exhausted,
upon the age of some old man who had been buried on the previous
Sunday; the young men present considering him very old, and the old men
present declaring him to have been quite young--not older, one
white-haired grandfather said, than he was--with ten or fifteen year of
life in him at least--if he had taken care; if he had taken care.

There was nothing to attract attention, or excite alarm in this. The
robber, after paying his reckoning, sat silent and unnoticed in his
corner, and had almost dropped asleep, when he was half wakened by the
noisy entrance of a new comer.

This was an antic fellow, half pedlar and half mountebank, who
travelled about the country on foot to vend hones, strops, razors,
washballs, harness-paste, medicine for dogs and horses, cheap
perfumery, cosmetics, and such-like wares, which he carried in a case
slung to his back.  His entrance was the signal for various homely
jokes with the countrymen, which slackened not until he had made his
supper, and opened his box of treasures, when he ingeniously contrived
to unite business with amusement.

'And what be that stoof?  Good to eat, Harry?' asked a grinning
countryman, pointing to some composition-cakes in one corner.

'This,' said the fellow, producing one, 'this is the infallible and
invaluable composition for removing all sorts of stain, rust, dirt,
mildew, spick, speck, spot, or spatter, from silk, satin, linen,
cambric, cloth, crape, stuff, carpet, merino, muslin, bombazeen, or
woollen stuff.  Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains,
paint-stains, pitch-stains, any stains, all come out at one rub with
the infallible and invaluable composition.  If a lady stains her
honour, she has only need to swallow one cake and she's cured at
once--for it's poison.  If a gentleman wants to prove this, he has only
need to bolt one little square, and he has put it beyond question--for
it's quite as satisfactory as a pistol-bullet, and a great deal nastier
in the flavour, consequently the more credit in taking it.  One penny a
square.  With all these virtues, one penny a square!'

There were two buyers directly, and more of the listeners plainly
hesitated.  The vendor observing this, increased in loquacity.

'It's all bought up as fast as it can be made,' said the fellow. 'There
are fourteen water-mills, six steam-engines, and a galvanic battery,
always a-working upon it, and they can't make it fast enough, though
the men work so hard that they die off, and the widows is pensioned
directly, with twenty pound a-year for each of the children, and a
premium of fifty for twins.  One penny a square!  Two half-pence is all
the same, and four farthings is received with joy.  One penny a square!
Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains,
pitch-stains, mud-stains, blood-stains!  Here is a stain upon the hat
of a gentleman in company, that I'll take clean out, before he can
order me a pint of ale.'

'Hah!' cried Sikes starting up.  'Give that back.'

'I'll take it clean out, sir,' replied the man, winking to the company,
'before you can come across the room to get it. Gentlemen all, observe
the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat, no wider than a shilling, but
thicker than a half-crown.  Whether it is a wine-stain, fruit-stain,
beer-stain, water-stain, paint-stain, pitch-stain, mud-stain, or
blood-stain--'

The man got no further, for Sikes with a hideous imprecation overthrew
the table, and tearing the hat from him, burst out of the house.

With the same perversity of feeling and irresolution that had fastened
upon him, despite himself, all day, the murderer, finding that he was
not followed, and that they most probably considered him some drunken
sullen fellow, turned back up the town, and getting out of the glare of
the lamps of a stage-coach that was standing in the street, was walking
past, when he recognised the mail from London, and saw that it was
standing at the little post-office.  He almost knew what was to come;
but he crossed over, and listened.

The guard was standing at the door, waiting for the letter-bag. A man,
dressed like a game-keeper, came up at the moment, and he handed him a
basket which lay ready on the pavement.

'That's for your people,' said the guard.  'Now, look alive in there,
will you.  Damn that 'ere bag, it warn't ready night afore last; this
won't do, you know!'

'Anything new up in town, Ben?' asked the game-keeper, drawing back to
the window-shutters, the better to admire the horses.

'No, nothing that I knows on,' replied the man, pulling on his gloves.
'Corn's up a little.  I heerd talk of a murder, too, down Spitalfields
way, but I don't reckon much upon it.'

'Oh, that's quite true,' said a gentleman inside, who was looking out
of the window.  'And a dreadful murder it was.'

'Was it, sir?' rejoined the guard, touching his hat.  'Man or woman,
pray, sir?'

'A woman,' replied the gentleman.  'It is supposed--'

'Now, Ben,' replied the coachman impatiently.

'Damn that 'ere bag,' said the guard; 'are you gone to sleep in there?'

'Coming!' cried the office keeper, running out.

'Coming,' growled the guard.  'Ah, and so's the young 'ooman of
property that's going to take a fancy to me, but I don't know when.
Here, give hold.  All ri--ight!'

The horn sounded a few cheerful notes, and the coach was gone.

Sikes remained standing in the street, apparently unmoved by what he
had just heard, and agitated by no stronger feeling than a doubt where
to go.  At length he went back again, and took the road which leads
from Hatfield to St. Albans.

He went on doggedly; but as he left the town behind him, and plunged
into the solitude and darkness of the road, he felt a dread and awe
creeping upon him which shook him to the core. Every object before him,
substance or shadow, still or moving, took the semblance of some
fearful thing; but these fears were nothing compared to the sense that
haunted him of that morning's ghastly figure following at his heels.
He could trace its shadow in the gloom, supply the smallest item of the
outline, and note how stiff and solemn it seemed to stalk along.  He
could hear its garments rustling in the leaves, and every breath of
wind came laden with that last low cry.  If he stopped it did the same.
If he ran, it followed--not running too:  that would have been a
relief:  but like a corpse endowed with the mere machinery of life, and
borne on one slow melancholy wind that never rose or fell.

At times, he turned, with desperate determination, resolved to beat
this phantom off, though it should look him dead; but the hair rose on
his head, and his blood stood still, for it had turned with him and was
behind him then.  He had kept it before him that morning, but it was
behind now--always.  He leaned his back against a bank, and felt that
it stood above him, visibly out against the cold night-sky.  He threw
himself upon the road--on his back upon the road.  At his head it
stood, silent, erect, and still--a living grave-stone, with its epitaph
in blood.

Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice, and hint that Providence
must sleep.  There were twenty score of violent deaths in one long
minute of that agony of fear.

There was a shed in a field he passed, that offered shelter for the
night.  Before the door, were three tall poplar trees, which made it
very dark within; and the wind moaned through them with a dismal wail.
He _could not_ walk on, till daylight came again; and here he stretched
himself close to the wall--to undergo new torture.

For now, a vision came before him, as constant and more terrible than
that from which he had escaped.  Those widely staring eyes, so
lustreless and so glassy, that he had better borne to see them than
think upon them, appeared in the midst of the darkness: light in
themselves, but giving light to nothing.  There were but two, but they
were everywhere.  If he shut out the sight, there came the room with
every well-known object--some, indeed, that he would have forgotten, if
he had gone over its contents from memory--each in its accustomed
place.  The body was in _its_ place, and its eyes were as he saw them
when he stole away.  He got up, and rushed into the field without.  The
figure was behind him. He re-entered the shed, and shrunk down once
more.  The eyes were there, before he had laid himself along.

And here he remained in such terror as none but he can know, trembling
in every limb, and the cold sweat starting from every pore, when
suddenly there arose upon the night-wind the noise of distant shouting,
and the roar of voices mingled in alarm and wonder.  Any sound of men
in that lonely place, even though it conveyed a real cause of alarm,
was something to him.  He regained his strength and energy at the
prospect of personal danger; and springing to his feet, rushed into the
open air.

The broad sky seemed on fire.  Rising into the air with showers of
sparks, and rolling one above the other, were sheets of flame, lighting
the atmosphere for miles round, and driving clouds of smoke in the
direction where he stood.  The shouts grew louder as new voices swelled
the roar, and he could hear the cry of Fire! mingled with the ringing
of an alarm-bell, the fall of heavy bodies, and the crackling of flames
as they twined round some new obstacle, and shot aloft as though
refreshed by food.  The noise increased as he looked.  There were
people there--men and women--light, bustle.  It was like new life to
him.  He darted onward--straight, headlong--dashing through brier and
brake, and leaping gate and fence as madly as his dog, who careered
with loud and sounding bark before him.

He came upon the spot.  There were half-dressed figures tearing to and
fro, some endeavouring to drag the frightened horses from the stables,
others driving the cattle from the yard and out-houses, and others
coming laden from the burning pile, amidst a shower of falling sparks,
and the tumbling down of red-hot beams.  The apertures, where doors and
windows stood an hour ago, disclosed a mass of raging fire; walls
rocked and crumbled into the burning well; the molten lead and iron
poured down, white hot, upon the ground.  Women and children shrieked,
and men encouraged each other with noisy shouts and cheers.  The
clanking of the engine-pumps, and the spirting and hissing of the water
as it fell upon the blazing wood, added to the tremendous roar.  He
shouted, too, till he was hoarse; and flying from memory and himself,
plunged into the thickest of the throng.  Hither and thither he dived
that night:  now working at the pumps, and now hurrying through the
smoke and flame, but never ceasing to engage himself wherever noise and
men were thickest.  Up and down the ladders, upon the roofs of
buildings, over floors that quaked and trembled with his weight, under
the lee of falling bricks and stones, in every part of that great fire
was he; but he bore a charmed life, and had neither scratch nor bruise,
nor weariness nor thought, till morning dawned again, and only smoke
and blackened ruins remained.

This mad excitement over, there returned, with ten-fold force, the
dreadful consciousness of his crime.  He looked suspiciously about him,
for the men were conversing in groups, and he feared to be the subject
of their talk.  The dog obeyed the significant beck of his finger, and
they drew off, stealthily, together.  He passed near an engine where
some men were seated, and they called to him to share in their
refreshment.  He took some bread and meat; and as he drank a draught of
beer, heard the firemen, who were from London, talking about the
murder.  'He has gone to Birmingham, they say,' said one:  'but they'll
have him yet, for the scouts are out, and by to-morrow night there'll
be a cry all through the country.'

He hurried off, and walked till he almost dropped upon the ground; then
lay down in a lane, and had a long, but broken and uneasy sleep.  He
wandered on again, irresolute and undecided, and oppressed with the
fear of another solitary night.

Suddenly, he took the desperate resolution to going back to London.

'There's somebody to speak to there, at all event,' he thought. 'A good
hiding-place, too.  They'll never expect to nab me there, after this
country scent.  Why can't I lie by for a week or so, and, forcing blunt
from Fagin, get abroad to France?  Damme, I'll risk it.'

He acted upon this impulse without delay, and choosing the least
frequented roads began his journey back, resolved to lie concealed
within a short distance of the metropolis, and, entering it at dusk by
a circuitous route, to proceed straight to that part of it which he had
fixed on for his destination.

The dog, though.  If any description of him were out, it would not be
forgotten that the dog was missing, and had probably gone with him.
This might lead to his apprehension as he passed along the streets.  He
resolved to drown him, and walked on, looking about for a pond:
picking up a heavy stone and tying it to his handkerchief as he went.

The animal looked up into his master's face while these preparations
were making; whether his instinct apprehended something of their
purpose, or the robber's sidelong look at him was sterner than
ordinary, he skulked a little farther in the rear than usual, and
cowered as he came more slowly along.  When his master halted at the
brink of a pool, and looked round to call him, he stopped outright.

'Do you hear me call?  Come here!' cried Sikes.

The animal came up from the very force of habit; but as Sikes stooped
to attach the handkerchief to his throat, he uttered a low growl and
started back.

'Come back!' said the robber.

The dog wagged his tail, but moved not.  Sikes made a running noose and
called him again.

The dog advanced, retreated, paused an instant, and scoured away at his
hardest speed.

The man whistled again and again, and sat down and waited in the
expectation that he would return.  But no dog appeared, and at length
he resumed his journey.



CHAPTER XLIX

MONKS AND MR. BROWNLOW AT LENGTH MEET.  THEIR CONVERSATION, AND THE
INTELLIGENCE THAT INTERRUPTS IT

 The twilight was beginning to close in, when Mr. Brownlow
alighted from a hackney-coach at his own door, and knocked softly.  The
door being opened, a sturdy man got out of the coach and stationed
himself on one side of the steps, while another man, who had been
seated on the box, dismounted too, and stood upon the other side.  At a
sign from Mr. Brownlow, they helped out a third man, and taking him
between them, hurried him into the house. This man was Monks.

They walked in the same manner up the stairs without speaking, and Mr.
Brownlow, preceding them, led the way into a back-room. At the door of
this apartment, Monks, who had ascended with evident reluctance,
stopped.  The two men looked at the old gentleman as if for
instructions.

'He knows the alternative,' said Mr. Browlow.  'If he hesitates or
moves a finger but as you bid him, drag him into the street, call for
the aid of the police, and impeach him as a felon in my name.'

'How dare you say this of me?' asked Monks.

'How dare you urge me to it, young man?' replied Mr. Brownlow,
confronting him with a steady look.  'Are you mad enough to leave this
house?  Unhand him.  There, sir. You are free to go, and we to follow.
But I warn you, by all I hold most solemn and most sacred, that instant
will have you apprehended on a charge of fraud and robbery.  I am
resolute and immoveable.  If you are determined to be the same, your
blood be upon your own head!'

'By what authority am I kidnapped in the street, and brought here by
these dogs?' asked Monks, looking from one to the other of the men who
stood beside him.

'By mine,' replied Mr. Brownlow.  'Those persons are indemnified by me.
If you complain of being deprived of your liberty--you had power and
opportunity to retrieve it as you came along, but you deemed it
advisable to remain quiet--I say again, throw yourself for protection
on the law.  I will appeal to the law too; but when you have gone too
far to recede, do not sue to me for leniency, when the power will have
passed into other hands; and do not say I plunged you down the gulf
into which you rushed, yourself.'

Monks was plainly disconcerted, and alarmed besides.  He hesitated.

'You will decide quickly,' said Mr. Brownlow, with perfect firmness and
composure.  'If you wish me to prefer my charges publicly, and consign
you to a punishment the extent of which, although I can, with a
shudder, foresee, I cannot control, once more, I say, for you know the
way.  If not, and you appeal to my forbearance, and the mercy of those
you have deeply injured, seat yourself, without a word, in that chair.
It has waited for you two whole days.'

Monks muttered some unintelligible words, but wavered still.

'You will be prompt,' said Mr. Brownlow.  'A word from me, and the
alternative has gone for ever.'

Still the man hesitated.

'I have not the inclination to parley,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'and, as I
advocate the dearest interests of others, I have not the right.'

'Is there--' demanded Monks with a faltering tongue,--'is there--no
middle course?'

'None.'

Monks looked at the old gentleman, with an anxious eye; but, reading in
his countenance nothing but severity and determination, walked into the
room, and, shrugging his shoulders, sat down.

'Lock the door on the outside,' said Mr. Brownlow to the attendants,
'and come when I ring.'

The men obeyed, and the two were left alone together.

'This is pretty treatment, sir,' said Monks, throwing down his hat and
cloak, 'from my father's oldest friend.'

'It is because I was your father's oldest friend, young man,' returned
Mr. Brownlow; 'it is because the hopes and wishes of young and happy
years were bound up with him, and that fair creature of his blood and
kindred who rejoined her God in youth, and left me here a solitary,
lonely man:  it is because he knelt with me beside his only sisters'
death-bed when he was yet a boy, on the morning that would--but Heaven
willed otherwise--have made her my young wife; it is because my seared
heart clung to him, from that time forth, through all his trials and
errors, till he died; it is because old recollections and associations
filled my heart, and even the sight of you brings with it old thoughts
of him; it is because of all these things that I am moved to treat you
gently now--yes, Edward Leeford, even now--and blush for your
unworthiness who bear the name.'

'What has the name to do with it?' asked the other, after
contemplating, half in silence, and half in dogged wonder, the
agitation of his companion.  'What is the name to me?'

'Nothing,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'nothing to you.  But it was _hers_,
and even at this distance of time brings back to me, an old man, the
glow and thrill which I once felt, only to hear it repeated by a
stranger.  I am very glad you have changed it--very--very.'

'This is all mighty fine,' said Monks (to retain his assumed
designation) after a long silence, during which he had jerked himself
in sullen defiance to and fro, and Mr. Brownlow had sat, shading his
face with his hand. 'But what do you want with me?'

'You have a brother,' said Mr. Brownlow, rousing himself:  'a brother,
the whisper of whose name in your ear when I came behind you in the
street, was, in itself, almost enough to make you accompany me hither,
in wonder and alarm.'

'I have no brother,' replied Monks.  'You know I was an only child.
Why do you talk to me of brothers?  You know that, as well as I.'

'Attend to what I do know, and you may not,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'I
shall interest you by and by.  I know that of the wretched marriage,
into which family pride, and the most sordid and narrowest of all
ambition, forced your unhappy father when a mere boy, you were the sole
and most unnatural issue.'

'I don't care for hard names,' interrupted Monks with a jeering laugh.
'You know the fact, and that's enough for me.'

'But I also know,' pursued the old gentleman, 'the misery, the slow
torture, the protracted anguish of that ill-assorted union. I know how
listlessly and wearily each of that wretched pair dragged on their
heavy chain through a world that was poisoned to them both.  I know how
cold formalities were succeeded by open taunts; how indifference gave
place to dislike, dislike to hate, and hate to loathing, until at last
they wrenched the clanking bond asunder, and retiring a wide space
apart, carried each a galling fragment, of which nothing but death
could break the rivets, to hide it in new society beneath the gayest
looks they could assume.  Your mother succeeded; she forgot it soon.
But it rusted and cankered at your father's heart for years.'

'Well, they were separated,' said Monks, 'and what of that?'

'When they had been separated for some time,' returned Mr. Brownlow,
'and your mother, wholly given up to continental frivolities, had
utterly forgotten the young husband ten good years her junior, who,
with prospects blighted, lingered on at home, he fell among new
friends.  This circumstance, at least, you know already.'

'Not I,' said Monks, turning away his eyes and beating his foot upon
the ground, as a man who is determined to deny everything. 'Not I.'

'Your manner, no less than your actions, assures me that you have never
forgotten it, or ceased to think of it with bitterness,' returned Mr.
Brownlow.  'I speak of fifteen years ago, when you were not more than
eleven years old, and your father but one-and-thirty--for he was, I
repeat, a boy, when _his_ father ordered him to marry. Must I go back
to events which cast a shade upon the memory of your parent, or will
you spare it, and disclose to me the truth?'

'I have nothing to disclose,' rejoined Monks.  'You must talk on if you
will.'

'These new friends, then,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'were a naval officer
retired from active service, whose wife had died some half-a-year
before, and left him with two children--there had been more, but, of
all their family, happily but two survived. They were both daughters;
one a beautiful creature of nineteen, and the other a mere child of two
or three years old.'

'What's this to me?' asked Monks.

'They resided,' said Mr. Brownlow, without seeming to hear the
interruption, 'in a part of the country to which your father in his
wandering had repaired, and where he had taken up his abode.
Acquaintance, intimacy, friendship, fast followed on each other. Your
father was gifted as few men are.  He had his sister's soul and person.
As the old officer knew him more and more, he grew to love him.  I
would that it had ended there.  His daughter did the same.'

The old gentleman paused; Monks was biting his lips, with his eyes
fixed upon the floor; seeing this, he immediately resumed:

'The end of a year found him contracted, solemnly contracted, to that
daughter; the object of the first, true, ardent, only passion of a
guileless girl.'

'Your tale is of the longest,' observed Monks, moving restlessly in his
chair.

'It is a true tale of grief and trial, and sorrow, young man,' returned
Mr. Brownlow, 'and such tales usually are; if it were one of unmixed
joy and happiness, it would be very brief.  At length one of those rich
relations to strengthen whose interest and importance your father had
been sacrificed, as others are often--it is no uncommon case--died, and
to repair the misery he had been instrumental in occasioning, left him
his panacea for all griefs--Money.  It was necessary that he should
immediately repair to Rome, whither this man had sped for health, and
where he had died, leaving his affairs in great confusion.  He went;
was seized with mortal illness there; was followed, the moment the
intelligence reached Paris, by your mother who carried you with her; he
died the day after her arrival, leaving no will--_no will_--so that the
whole property fell to her and you.'

At this part of the recital Monks held his breath, and listened with a
face of intense eagerness, though his eyes were not directed towards
the speaker.  As Mr. Brownlow paused, he changed his position with the
air of one who has experienced a sudden relief, and wiped his hot face
and hands.

'Before he went abroad, and as he passed through London on his way,'
said Mr. Brownlow, slowly, and fixing his eyes upon the other's face,
'he came to me.'

'I never heard of that,' interrupted Monks in a tone intended to appear
incredulous, but savouring more of disagreeable surprise.

'He came to me, and left with me, among some other things, a picture--a
portrait painted by himself--a likeness of this poor girl--which he did
not wish to leave behind, and could not carry forward on his hasty
journey.  He was worn by anxiety and remorse almost to a shadow; talked
in a wild, distracted way, of ruin and dishonour worked by himself;
confided to me his intention to convert his whole property, at any
loss, into money, and, having settled on his wife and you a portion of
his recent acquisition, to fly the country--I guessed too well he would
not fly alone--and never see it more.  Even from me, his old and early
friend, whose strong attachment had taken root in the earth that
covered one most dear to both--even from me he withheld any more
particular confession, promising to write and tell me all, and after
that to see me once again, for the last time on earth. Alas!  _That_
was the last time.  I had no letter, and I never saw him more.'

'I went,' said Mr. Brownlow, after a short pause, 'I went, when all was
over, to the scene of his--I will use the term the world would freely
use, for worldly harshness or favour are now alike to him--of his
guilty love, resolved that if my fears were realised that erring child
should find one heart and home to shelter and compassionate her.  The
family had left that part a week before; they had called in such
trifling debts as were outstanding, discharged them, and left the place
by night.  Why, or whither, none can tell.'

Monks drew his breath yet more freely, and looked round with a smile of
triumph.

'When your brother,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing nearer to the other's
chair, 'When your brother:  a feeble, ragged, neglected child:  was
cast in my way by a stronger hand than chance, and rescued by me from a
life of vice and infamy--'

'What?' cried Monks.

'By me,' said Mr. Brownlow.  'I told you I should interest you before
long.  I say by me--I see that your cunning associate suppressed my
name, although for ought he knew, it would be quite strange to your
ears.  When he was rescued by me, then, and lay recovering from
sickness in my house, his strong resemblance to this picture I have
spoken of, struck me with astonishment.  Even when I first saw him in
all his dirt and misery, there was a lingering expression in his face
that came upon me like a glimpse of some old friend flashing on one in
a vivid dream.  I need not tell you he was snared away before I knew
his history--'

'Why not?' asked Monks hastily.

'Because you know it well.'

'I!'

'Denial to me is vain,' replied Mr. Brownlow.  'I shall show you that I
know more than that.'

'You--you--can't prove anything against me,' stammered Monks.  'I defy
you to do it!'

'We shall see,' returned the old gentleman with a searching glance.  'I
lost the boy, and no efforts of mine could recover him.  Your mother
being dead, I knew that you alone could solve the mystery if anybody
could, and as when I had last heard of you you were on your own estate
in the West Indies--whither, as you well know, you retired upon your
mother's death to escape the consequences of vicious courses here--I
made the voyage.  You had left it, months before, and were supposed to
be in London, but no one could tell where.  I returned.  Your agents
had no clue to your residence.  You came and went, they said, as
strangely as you had ever done:  sometimes for days together and
sometimes not for months:  keeping to all appearance the same low
haunts and mingling with the same infamous herd who had been your
associates when a fierce ungovernable boy.  I wearied them with new
applications.  I paced the streets by night and day, but until two
hours ago, all my efforts were fruitless, and I never saw you for an
instant.'

'And now you do see me,' said Monks, rising boldly, 'what then? Fraud
and robbery are high-sounding words--justified, you think, by a fancied
resemblance in some young imp to an idle daub of a dead man's Brother!
You don't even know that a child was born of this maudlin pair; you
don't even know that.'

'I _did not_,' replied Mr. Brownlow, rising too; 'but within the last
fortnight I have learnt it all.  You have a brother; you know it, and
him.  There was a will, which your mother destroyed, leaving the secret
and the gain to you at her own death.  It contained a reference to some
child likely to be the result of this sad connection, which child was
born, and accidentally encountered by you, when your suspicions were
first awakened by his resemblance to your father.  You repaired to the
place of his birth. There existed proofs--proofs long suppressed--of
his birth and parentage.  Those proofs were destroyed by you, and now,
in your own words to your accomplice the Jew, "_the only proofs of the
boy's identity lie at the bottom of the river, and the old hag that
received them from the mother is rotting in her coffin_." Unworthy son,
coward, liar,--you, who hold your councils with thieves and murderers
in dark rooms at night,--you, whose plots and wiles have brought a
violent death upon the head of one worth millions such as you,--you,
who from your cradle were gall and bitterness to your own father's
heart, and in whom all evil passions, vice, and profligacy, festered,
till they found a vent in a hideous disease which had made your face an
index even to your mind--you, Edward Leeford, do you still brave me!'

'No, no, no!' returned the coward, overwhelmed by these accumulated
charges.

'Every word!' cried the gentleman, 'every word that has passed between
you and this detested villain, is known to me.  Shadows on the wall
have caught your whispers, and brought them to my ear; the sight of the
persecuted child has turned vice itself, and given it the courage and
almost the attributes of virtue. Murder has been done, to which you
were morally if not really a party.'

'No, no,' interposed Monks.  'I--I knew nothing of that; I was going to
inquire the truth of the story when you overtook me.  I didn't know the
cause.  I thought it was a common quarrel.'

'It was the partial disclosure of your secrets,' replied Mr. Brownlow.
'Will you disclose the whole?'

'Yes, I will.'

'Set your hand to a statement of truth and facts, and repeat it before
witnesses?'

'That I promise too.'

'Remain quietly here, until such a document is drawn up, and proceed
with me to such a place as I may deem most advisable, for the purpose
of attesting it?'

'If you insist upon that, I'll do that also,' replied Monks.

'You must do more than that,' said Mr. Brownlow.  'Make restitution to
an innocent and unoffending child, for such he is, although the
offspring of a guilty and most miserable love.  You have not forgotten
the provisions of the will.  Carry them into execution so far as your
brother is concerned, and then go where you please.  In this world you
need meet no more.'

While Monks was pacing up and down, meditating with dark and evil looks
on this proposal and the possibilities of evading it:  torn by his
fears on the one hand and his hatred on the other:  the door was
hurriedly unlocked, and a gentleman (Mr. Losberne) entered the room in
violent agitation.

'The man will be taken,' he cried.  'He will be taken to-night!'

'The murderer?' asked Mr. Brownlow.

'Yes, yes,' replied the other.  'His dog has been seen lurking about
some old haunt, and there seems little doubt that his master either is,
or will be, there, under cover of the darkness.  Spies are hovering
about in every direction.  I have spoken to the men who are charged
with his capture, and they tell me he cannot escape.  A reward of a
hundred pounds is proclaimed by Government to-night.'

'I will give fifty more,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'and proclaim it with my
own lips upon the spot, if I can reach it.  Where is Mr. Maylie?'

'Harry?  As soon as he had seen your friend here, safe in a coach with
you, he hurried off to where he heard this,' replied the doctor, 'and
mounting his horse sallied forth to join the first party at some place
in the outskirts agreed upon between them.'

'Fagin,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'what of him?'

'When I last heard, he had not been taken, but he will be, or is, by
this time.  They're sure of him.'

'Have you made up your mind?' asked Mr. Brownlow, in a low voice, of
Monks.

'Yes,' he replied.  'You--you--will be secret with me?'

'I will.  Remain here till I return.  It is your only hope of safety.'

They left the room, and the door was again locked.

'What have you done?' asked the doctor in a whisper.

'All that I could hope to do, and even more.  Coupling the poor girl's
intelligence with my previous knowledge, and the result of our good
friend's inquiries on the spot, I left him no loophole of escape, and
laid bare the whole villainy which by these lights became plain as day.
Write and appoint the evening after to-morrow, at seven, for the
meeting.  We shall be down there, a few hours before, but shall require
rest:  especially the young lady, who _may_ have greater need of
firmness than either you or I can quite foresee just now.  But my blood
boils to avenge this poor murdered creature.  Which way have they
taken?'

'Drive straight to the office and you will be in time,' replied Mr.
Losberne.  'I will remain here.'

The two gentlemen hastily separated; each in a fever of excitement
wholly uncontrollable.



CHAPTER L

THE PURSUIT AND ESCAPE

Near to that part of the Thames on which the church at Rotherhithe
abuts, where the buildings on the banks are dirtiest and the vessels on
the river blackest with the dust of colliers and the smoke of
close-built low-roofed houses, there exists the filthiest, the
strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are
hidden in London, wholly unknown, even by name, to the great mass of
its inhabitants.

To reach this place, the visitor has to penetrate through a maze of
close, narrow, and muddy streets, thronged by the roughest and poorest
of waterside people, and devoted to the traffic they may be supposed to
occasion.  The cheapest and least delicate provisions are heaped in the
shops; the coarsest and commonest articles of wearing apparel dangle at
the salesman's door, and stream from the house-parapet and windows.
Jostling with unemployed labourers of the lowest class,
ballast-heavers, coal-whippers, brazen women, ragged children, and the
raff and refuse of the river, he makes his way with difficulty along,
assailed by offensive sights and smells from the narrow alleys which
branch off on the right and left, and deafened by the clash of
ponderous waggons that bear great piles of merchandise from the stacks
of warehouses that rise from every corner.  Arriving, at length, in
streets remoter and less-frequented than those through which he has
passed, he walks beneath tottering house-fronts projecting over the
pavement, dismantled walls that seem to totter as he passes, chimneys
half crushed half hesitating to fall, windows guarded by rusty iron
bars that time and dirt have almost eaten away, every imaginable sign
of desolation and neglect.

In such a neighborhood, beyond Dockhead in the Borough of Southwark,
stands Jacob's Island, surrounded by a muddy ditch, six or eight feet
deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide is in, once called Mill
Pond, but known in the days of this story as Folly Ditch.  It is a
creek or inlet from the Thames, and can always be filled at high water
by opening the sluices at the Lead Mills from which it took its old
name.  At such times, a stranger, looking from one of the wooden
bridges thrown across it at Mill Lane, will see the inhabitants of the
houses on either side lowering from their back doors and windows,
buckets, pails, domestic utensils of all kinds, in which to haul the
water up; and when his eye is turned from these operations to the
houses themselves, his utmost astonishment will be excited by the scene
before him.  Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a dozen
houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows,
broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on which to dry the linen
that is never there; rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the
air would seem too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they
shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud, and
threatening to fall into it--as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls
and decaying foundations; every repulsive lineament of poverty, every
loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage; all these ornament the
banks of Folly Ditch.

In Jacob's Island, the warehouses are roofless and empty; the walls are
crumbling down; the windows are windows no more; the doors are falling
into the streets; the chimneys are blackened, but they yield no smoke.
Thirty or forty years ago, before losses and chancery suits came upon
it, it was a thriving place; but now it is a desolate island indeed.
The houses have no owners; they are broken open, and entered upon by
those who have the courage; and there they live, and there they die.
They must have powerful motives for a secret residence, or be reduced
to a destitute condition indeed, who seek a refuge in Jacob's Island.

In an upper room of one of these houses--a detached house of fair size,
ruinous in other respects, but strongly defended at door and window:
of which house the back commanded the ditch in manner already
described--there were assembled three men, who, regarding each other
every now and then with looks expressive of perplexity and expectation,
sat for some time in profound and gloomy silence.  One of these was
Toby Crackit, another Mr. Chitling, and the third a robber of fifty
years, whose nose had been almost beaten in, in some old scuffle, and
whose face bore a frightful scar which might probably be traced to the
same occasion.  This man was a returned transport, and his name was
Kags.

'I wish,' said Toby turning to Mr. Chitling, 'that you had picked out
some other crib when the two old ones got too warm, and had not come
here, my fine feller.'

'Why didn't you, blunder-head!' said Kags.

'Well, I thought you'd have been a little more glad to see me than
this,' replied Mr. Chitling, with a melancholy air.

'Why, look'e, young gentleman,' said Toby, 'when a man keeps himself so
very ex-clusive as I have done, and by that means has a snug house over
his head with nobody a prying and smelling about it, it's rather a
startling thing to have the honour of a wisit from a young gentleman
(however respectable and pleasant a person he may be to play cards with
at conweniency) circumstanced as you are.'

'Especially, when the exclusive young man has got a friend stopping
with him, that's arrived sooner than was expected from foreign parts,
and is too modest to want to be presented to the Judges on his return,'
added Mr. Kags.

There was a short silence, after which Toby Crackit, seeming to abandon
as hopeless any further effort to maintain his usual devil-may-care
swagger, turned to Chitling and said,

'When was Fagin took then?'

'Just at dinner-time--two o'clock this afternoon.  Charley and I made
our lucky up the wash-us chimney, and Bolter got into the empty
water-butt, head downwards; but his legs were so precious long that
they stuck out at the top, and so they took him too.'

'And Bet?'

'Poor Bet!  She went to see the Body, to speak to who it was,' replied
Chitling, his countenance falling more and more, 'and went off mad,
screaming and raving, and beating her head against the boards; so they
put a strait-weskut on her and took her to the hospital--and there she
is.'

'Wot's come of young Bates?' demanded Kags.

'He hung about, not to come over here afore dark, but he'll be here
soon,' replied Chitling.  'There's nowhere else to go to now, for the
people at the Cripples are all in custody, and the bar of the ken--I
went up there and see it with my own eyes--is filled with traps.'

'This is a smash,' observed Toby, biting his lips. 'There's more than
one will go with this.'

'The sessions are on,' said Kags:  'if they get the inquest over, and
Bolter turns King's evidence:  as of course he will, from what he's
said already:  they can prove Fagin an accessory before the fact, and
get the trial on on Friday, and he'll swing in six days from this, by
G--!'

'You should have heard the people groan,' said Chitling; 'the officers
fought like devils, or they'd have torn him away.  He was down once,
but they made a ring round him, and fought their way along.  You should
have seen how he looked about him, all muddy and bleeding, and clung to
them as if they were his dearest friends.  I can see 'em now, not able
to stand upright with the pressing of the mob, and draggin him along
amongst 'em; I can see the people jumping up, one behind another, and
snarling with their teeth and making at him; I can see the blood upon
his hair and beard, and hear the cries with which the women worked
themselves into the centre of the crowd at the street corner, and swore
they'd tear his heart out!'

The horror-stricken witness of this scene pressed his hands upon his
ears, and with his eyes closed got up and paced violently to and fro,
like one distracted.

While he was thus engaged, and the two men sat by in silence with their
eyes fixed upon the floor, a pattering noise was heard upon the stairs,
and Sikes's dog bounded into the room.  They ran to the window,
downstairs, and into the street.  The dog had jumped in at an open
window; he made no attempt to follow them, nor was his master to be
seen.

'What's the meaning of this?' said Toby when they had returned. 'He
can't be coming here.  I--I--hope not.'

'If he was coming here, he'd have come with the dog,' said Kags,
stooping down to examine the animal, who lay panting on the floor.
'Here!  Give us some water for him; he has run himself faint.'

'He's drunk it all up, every drop,' said Chitling after watching the
dog some time in silence.  'Covered with mud--lame--half blind--he must
have come a long way.'

'Where can he have come from!' exclaimed Toby.  'He's been to the other
kens of course, and finding them filled with strangers come on here,
where he's been many a time and often.  But where can he have come from
first, and how comes he here alone without the other!'

'He'--(none of them called the murderer by his old name)--'He can't
have made away with himself.  What do you think?' said Chitling.

Toby shook his head.

'If he had,' said Kags, 'the dog 'ud want to lead us away to where he
did it.  No.  I think he's got out of the country, and left the dog
behind.  He must have given him the slip somehow, or he wouldn't be so
easy.'

This solution, appearing the most probable one, was adopted as the
right; the dog, creeping under a chair, coiled himself up to sleep,
without more notice from anybody.

It being now dark, the shutter was closed, and a candle lighted and
placed upon the table.  The terrible events of the last two days had
made a deep impression on all three, increased by the danger and
uncertainty of their own position.  They drew their chairs closer
together, starting at every sound.  They spoke little, and that in
whispers, and were as silent and awe-stricken as if the remains of the
murdered woman lay in the next room.

They had sat thus, some time, when suddenly was heard a hurried
knocking at the door below.

'Young Bates,' said Kags, looking angrily round, to check the fear he
felt himself.

The knocking came again.  No, it wasn't he.  He never knocked like that.

Crackit went to the window, and shaking all over, drew in his head.
There was no need to tell them who it was; his pale face was enough.
The dog too was on the alert in an instant, and ran whining to the door.

'We must let him in,' he said, taking up the candle.

'Isn't there any help for it?' asked the other man in a hoarse voice.

'None.  He _must_ come in.'

'Don't leave us in the dark,' said Kags, taking down a candle from the
chimney-piece, and lighting it, with such a trembling hand that the
knocking was twice repeated before he had finished.

Crackit went down to the door, and returned followed by a man with the
lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and another tied over
his head under his hat.  He drew them slowly off.  Blanched face,
sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three days' growth, wasted flesh,
short thick breath; it was the very ghost of Sikes.

He laid his hand upon a chair which stood in the middle of the room,
but shuddering as he was about to drop into it, and seeming to glance
over his shoulder, dragged it back close to the wall--as close as it
would go--and ground it against it--and sat down.

Not a word had been exchanged.  He looked from one to another in
silence.  If an eye were furtively raised and met his, it was instantly
averted.  When his hollow voice broke silence, they all three started.
They seemed never to have heard its tones before.

'How came that dog here?' he asked.

'Alone.  Three hours ago.'

'To-night's paper says that Fagin's took.  Is it true, or a lie?'

'True.'

They were silent again.

'Damn you all!' said Sikes, passing his hand across his forehead.

'Have you nothing to say to me?'

There was an uneasy movement among them, but nobody spoke.

'You that keep this house,' said Sikes, turning his face to Crackit,
'do you mean to sell me, or to let me lie here till this hunt is over?'

'You may stop here, if you think it safe,' returned the person
addressed, after some hesitation.

Sikes carried his eyes slowly up the wall behind him:  rather trying to
turn his head than actually doing it:  and said, 'Is--it--the body--is
it buried?'

They shook their heads.

'Why isn't it!' he retorted with the same glance behind him. 'Wot do
they keep such ugly things above the ground for?--Who's that knocking?'

Crackit intimated, by a motion of his hand as he left the room, that
there was nothing to fear; and directly came back with Charley Bates
behind him.  Sikes sat opposite the door, so that the moment the boy
entered the room he encountered his figure.

'Toby,' said the boy falling back, as Sikes turned his eyes towards
him, 'why didn't you tell me this, downstairs?'

There had been something so tremendous in the shrinking off of the
three, that the wretched man was willing to propitiate even this lad.
Accordingly he nodded, and made as though he would shake hands with him.

'Let me go into some other room,' said the boy, retreating still
farther.

'Charley!' said Sikes, stepping forward.  'Don't you--don't you know
me?'

'Don't come nearer me,' answered the boy, still retreating, and
looking, with horror in his eyes, upon the murderer's face.  'You
monster!'

The man stopped half-way, and they looked at each other; but Sikes's
eyes sunk gradually to the ground.

'Witness you three,' cried the boy shaking his clenched fist, and
becoming more and more excited as he spoke. 'Witness you three--I'm not
afraid of him--if they come here after him, I'll give him up; I will.
I tell you out at once.  He may kill me for it if he likes, or if he
dares, but if I am here I'll give him up.  I'd give him up if he was to
be boiled alive.  Murder! Help!  If there's the pluck of a man among
you three, you'll help me.  Murder!  Help!  Down with him!'

Pouring out these cries, and accompanying them with violent
gesticulation, the boy actually threw himself, single-handed, upon the
strong man, and in the intensity of his energy and the suddenness of
his surprise, brought him heavily to the ground.

The three spectators seemed quite stupefied.  They offered no
interference, and the boy and man rolled on the ground together; the
former, heedless of the blows that showered upon him, wrenching his
hands tighter and tighter in the garments about the murderer's breast,
and never ceasing to call for help with all his might.

The contest, however, was too unequal to last long.  Sikes had him
down, and his knee was on his throat, when Crackit pulled him back with
a look of alarm, and pointed to the window.  There were lights gleaming
below, voices in loud and earnest conversation, the tramp of hurried
footsteps--endless they seemed in number--crossing the nearest wooden
bridge.  One man on horseback seemed to be among the crowd; for there
was the noise of hoofs rattling on the uneven pavement.  The gleam of
lights increased; the footsteps came more thickly and noisily on.
Then, came a loud knocking at the door, and then a hoarse murmur from
such a multitude of angry voices as would have made the boldest quail.

'Help!' shrieked the boy in a voice that rent the air.

'He's here!  Break down the door!'

'In the King's name,' cried the voices without; and the hoarse cry
arose again, but louder.

'Break down the door!' screamed the boy.  'I tell you they'll never
open it.  Run straight to the room where the light is. Break down the
door!'

Strokes, thick and heavy, rattled upon the door and lower
window-shutters as he ceased to speak, and a loud huzzah burst from the
crowd; giving the listener, for the first time, some adequate idea of
its immense extent.

'Open the door of some place where I can lock this screeching
Hell-babe,' cried Sikes fiercely; running to and fro, and dragging the
boy, now, as easily as if he were an empty sack. 'That door.  Quick!'
He flung him in, bolted it, and turned the key.  'Is the downstairs
door fast?'

'Double-locked and chained,' replied Crackit, who, with the other two
men, still remained quite helpless and bewildered.

'The panels--are they strong?'

'Lined with sheet-iron.'

'And the windows too?'

'Yes, and the windows.'

'Damn you!' cried the desperate ruffian, throwing up the sash and
menacing the crowd.  'Do your worst!  I'll cheat you yet!'

Of all the terrific yells that ever fell on mortal ears, none could
exceed the cry of the infuriated throng.  Some shouted to those who
were nearest to set the house on fire; others roared to the officers to
shoot him dead.  Among them all, none showed such fury as the man on
horseback, who, throwing himself out of the saddle, and bursting
through the crowd as if he were parting water, cried, beneath the
window, in a voice that rose above all others, 'Twenty guineas to the
man who brings a ladder!'

The nearest voices took up the cry, and hundreds echoed it.  Some
called for ladders, some for sledge-hammers; some ran with torches to
and fro as if to seek them, and still came back and roared again; some
spent their breath in impotent curses and execrations; some pressed
forward with the ecstasy of madmen, and thus impeded the progress of
those below; some among the boldest attempted to climb up by the
water-spout and crevices in the wall; and all waved to and fro, in the
darkness beneath, like a field of corn moved by an angry wind:  and
joined from time to time in one loud furious roar.

'The tide,' cried the murderer, as he staggered back into the room, and
shut the faces out, 'the tide was in as I came up. Give me a rope, a
long rope.  They're all in front.  I may drop into the Folly Ditch, and
clear off that way.  Give me a rope, or I shall do three more murders
and kill myself.'

The panic-stricken men pointed to where such articles were kept; the
murderer, hastily selecting the longest and strongest cord, hurried up
to the house-top.

All the window in the rear of the house had been long ago bricked up,
except one small trap in the room where the boy was locked, and that
was too small even for the passage of his body.  But, from this
aperture, he had never ceased to call on those without, to guard the
back; and thus, when the murderer emerged at last on the house-top by
the door in the roof, a loud shout proclaimed the fact to those in
front, who immediately began to pour round, pressing upon each other in
an unbroken stream.

He planted a board, which he had carried up with him for the purpose,
so firmly against the door that it must be matter of great difficulty
to open it from the inside; and creeping over the tiles, looked over
the low parapet.

The water was out, and the ditch a bed of mud.

The crowd had been hushed during these few moments, watching his
motions and doubtful of his purpose, but the instant they perceived it
and knew it was defeated, they raised a cry of triumphant execration to
which all their previous shouting had been whispers.  Again and again
it rose.  Those who were at too great a distance to know its meaning,
took up the sound; it echoed and re-echoed; it seemed as though the
whole city had poured its population out to curse him.

On pressed the people from the front--on, on, on, in a strong
struggling current of angry faces, with here and there a glaring torch
to lighten them up, and show them out in all their wrath and passion.
The houses on the opposite side of the ditch had been entered by the
mob; sashes were thrown up, or torn bodily out; there were tiers and
tiers of faces in every window; cluster upon cluster of people clinging
to every house-top.  Each little bridge (and there were three in sight)
bent beneath the weight of the crowd upon it.  Still the current poured
on to find some nook or hole from which to vent their shouts, and only
for an instant see the wretch.

'They have him now,' cried a man on the nearest bridge. 'Hurrah!'

The crowd grew light with uncovered heads; and again the shout uprose.

'I will give fifty pounds,' cried an old gentleman from the same
quarter, 'to the man who takes him alive.  I will remain here, till he
come to ask me for it.'

There was another roar.  At this moment the word was passed among the
crowd that the door was forced at last, and that he who had first
called for the ladder had mounted into the room.  The stream abruptly
turned, as this intelligence ran from mouth to mouth; and the people at
the windows, seeing those upon the bridges pouring back, quitted their
stations, and running into the street, joined the concourse that now
thronged pell-mell to the spot they had left:  each man crushing and
striving with his neighbor, and all panting with impatience to get near
the door, and look upon the criminal as the officers brought him out.
The cries and shrieks of those who were pressed almost to suffocation,
or trampled down and trodden under foot in the confusion, were
dreadful; the narrow ways were completely blocked up; and at this time,
between the rush of some to regain the space in front of the house, and
the unavailing struggles of others to extricate themselves from the
mass, the immediate attention was distracted from the murderer,
although the universal eagerness for his capture was, if possible,
increased.

The man had shrunk down, thoroughly quelled by the ferocity of the
crowd, and the impossibility of escape; but seeing this sudden change
with no less rapidity than it had occurred, he sprang upon his feet,
determined to make one last effort for his life by dropping into the
ditch, and, at the risk of being stifled, endeavouring to creep away in
the darkness and confusion.

Roused into new strength and energy, and stimulated by the noise within
the house which announced that an entrance had really been effected, he
set his foot against the stack of chimneys, fastened one end of the
rope tightly and firmly round it, and with the other made a strong
running noose by the aid of his hands and teeth almost in a second.  He
could let himself down by the cord to within a less distance of the
ground than his own height, and had his knife ready in his hand to cut
it then and drop.

At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head previous to
slipping it beneath his arm-pits, and when the old gentleman
before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing of the bridge
as to resist the force of the crowd, and retain his position) earnestly
warned those about him that the man was about to lower himself down--at
that very instant the murderer, looking behind him on the roof, threw
his arms above his head, and uttered a yell of terror.

'The eyes again!' he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled
over the parapet.  The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his
weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it speeds.  He
fell for five-and-thirty feet.  There was a sudden jerk, a terrific
convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with the open knife
clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely. The
murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy, thrusting aside
the dangling body which obscured his view, called to the people to come
and take him out, for God's sake.

A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and forwards on
the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting himself for a spring,
jumped for the dead man's shoulders. Missing his aim, he fell into the
ditch, turning completely over as he went; and striking his head
against a stone, dashed out his brains.



CHAPTER LI

AFFORDING AN EXPLANATION OF MORE MYSTERIES THAN ONE, AND COMPREHENDING
A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE WITH NO WORD OF SETTLEMENT OR PIN-MONEY

The events narrated in the last chapter were yet but two days old, when
Oliver found himself, at three o'clock in the afternoon, in a
travelling-carriage rolling fast towards his native town.  Mrs. Maylie,
and Rose, and Mrs. Bedwin, and the good doctor were with him:  and Mr.
Brownlow followed in a post-chaise, accompanied by one other person
whose name had not been mentioned.

They had not talked much upon the way; for Oliver was in a flutter of
agitation and uncertainty which deprived him of the power of collecting
his thoughts, and almost of speech, and appeared to have scarcely less
effect on his companions, who shared it, in at least an equal degree.
He and the two ladies had been very carefully made acquainted by Mr.
Brownlow with the nature of the admissions which had been forced from
Monks; and although they knew that the object of their present journey
was to complete the work which had been so well begun, still the whole
matter was enveloped in enough of doubt and mystery to leave them in
endurance of the most intense suspense.

The same kind friend had, with Mr. Losberne's assistance, cautiously
stopped all channels of communication through which they could receive
intelligence of the dreadful occurrences that so recently taken place.
'It was quite true,' he said, 'that they must know them before long,
but it might be at a better time than the present, and it could not be
at a worse.'  So, they travelled on in silence:  each busied with
reflections on the object which had brought them together:  and no one
disposed to give utterance to the thoughts which crowded upon all.

But if Oliver, under these influences, had remained silent while they
journeyed towards his birth-place by a road he had never seen, how the
whole current of his recollections ran back to old times, and what a
crowd of emotions were wakened up in his breast, when they turned into
that which he had traversed on foot:  a poor houseless, wandering boy,
without a friend to help him, or a roof to shelter his head.

'See there, there!' cried Oliver, eagerly clasping the hand of Rose,
and pointing out at the carriage window; 'that's the stile I came over;
there are the hedges I crept behind, for fear any one should overtake
me and force me back!  Yonder is the path across the fields, leading to
the old house where I was a little child!  Oh Dick, Dick, my dear old
friend, if I could only see you now!'

'You will see him soon,' replied Rose, gently taking his folded hands
between her own.  'You shall tell him how happy you are, and how rich
you have grown, and that in all your happiness you have none so great
as the coming back to make him happy too.'

'Yes, yes,' said Oliver, 'and we'll--we'll take him away from here, and
have him clothed and taught, and send him to some quiet country place
where he may grow strong and well,--shall we?'

Rose nodded 'yes,' for the boy was smiling through such happy tears
that she could not speak.

'You will be kind and good to him, for you are to every one,' said
Oliver.  'It will make you cry, I know, to hear what he can tell; but
never mind, never mind, it will be all over, and you will smile
again--I know that too--to think how changed he is; you did the same
with me.  He said "God bless you" to me when I ran away,' cried the boy
with a burst of affectionate emotion; 'and I will say "God bless you"
now, and show him how I love him for it!'

As they approached the town, and at length drove through its narrow
streets, it became matter of no small difficulty to restrain the boy
within reasonable bounds.  There was Sowerberry's the undertaker's just
as it used to be, only smaller and less imposing in appearance than he
remembered it--there were all the well-known shops and houses, with
almost every one of which he had some slight incident connected--there
was Gamfield's cart, the very cart he used to have, standing at the old
public-house door--there was the workhouse, the dreary prison of his
youthful days, with its dismal windows frowning on the street--there
was the same lean porter standing at the gate, at sight of whom Oliver
involuntarily shrunk back, and then laughed at himself for being so
foolish, then cried, then laughed again--there were scores of faces at
the doors and windows that he knew quite well--there was nearly
everything as if he had left it but yesterday, and all his recent life
had been but a happy dream.

But it was pure, earnest, joyful reality.  They drove straight to the
door of the chief hotel (which Oliver used to stare up at, with awe,
and think a mighty palace, but which had somehow fallen off in grandeur
and size); and here was Mr. Grimwig all ready to receive them, kissing
the young lady, and the old one too, when they got out of the coach, as
if he were the grandfather of the whole party, all smiles and kindness,
and not offering to eat his head--no, not once; not even when he
contradicted a very old postboy about the nearest road to London, and
maintained he knew it best, though he had only come that way once, and
that time fast asleep.  There was dinner prepared, and there were
bedrooms ready, and everything was arranged as if by magic.

Notwithstanding all this, when the hurry of the first half-hour was
over, the same silence and constraint prevailed that had marked their
journey down.  Mr. Brownlow did not join them at dinner, but remained
in a separate room.  The two other gentlemen hurried in and out with
anxious faces, and, during the short intervals when they were present,
conversed apart.  Once, Mrs. Maylie was called away, and after being
absent for nearly an hour, returned with eyes swollen with weeping.
All these things made Rose and Oliver, who were not in any new secrets,
nervous and uncomfortable.  They sat wondering, in silence; or, if they
exchanged a few words, spoke in whispers, as if they were afraid to
hear the sound of their own voices.

At length, when nine o'clock had come, and they began to think they
were to hear no more that night, Mr. Losberne and Mr. Grimwig entered
the room, followed by Mr. Brownlow and a man whom Oliver almost
shrieked with surprise to see; for they told him it was his brother,
and it was the same man he had met at the market-town, and seen looking
in with Fagin at the window of his little room.  Monks cast a look of
hate, which, even then, he could not dissemble, at the astonished boy,
and sat down near the door.  Mr. Brownlow, who had papers in his hand,
walked to a table near which Rose and Oliver were seated.

'This is a painful task,' said he, 'but these declarations, which have
been signed in London before many gentlemen, must be in substance
repeated here.  I would have spared you the degradation, but we must
hear them from your own lips before we part, and you know why.'

'Go on,' said the person addressed, turning away his face. 'Quick.  I
have almost done enough, I think.  Don't keep me here.'

'This child,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing Oliver to him, and laying his
hand upon his head, 'is your half-brother; the illegitimate son of your
father, my dear friend Edwin Leeford, by poor young Agnes Fleming, who
died in giving him birth.'

'Yes,' said Monks, scowling at the trembling boy:  the beating of whose
heart he might have heard.  'That is the bastard child.'

'The term you use,' said Mr. Brownlow, sternly, 'is a reproach to those
long since passed beyond the feeble censure of the world. It reflects
disgrace on no one living, except you who use it. Let that pass.  He
was born in this town.'

'In the workhouse of this town,' was the sullen reply. 'You have the
story there.'  He pointed impatiently to the papers as he spoke.

'I must have it here, too,' said Mr. Brownlow, looking round upon the
listeners.

'Listen then!  You!' returned Monks.  'His father being taken ill at
Rome, was joined by his wife, my mother, from whom he had been long
separated, who went from Paris and took me with her--to look after his
property, for what I know, for she had no great affection for him, nor
he for her.  He knew nothing of us, for his senses were gone, and he
slumbered on till next day, when he died.  Among the papers in his
desk, were two, dated on the night his illness first came on, directed
to yourself'; he addressed himself to Mr. Brownlow; 'and enclosed in a
few short lines to you, with an intimation on the cover of the package
that it was not to be forwarded till after he was dead.  One of these
papers was a letter to this girl Agnes; the other a will.'

'What of the letter?' asked Mr. Brownlow.

'The letter?--A sheet of paper crossed and crossed again, with a
penitent confession, and prayers to God to help her.  He had palmed a
tale on the girl that some secret mystery--to be explained one
day--prevented his marrying her just then; and so she had gone on,
trusting patiently to him, until she trusted too far, and lost what
none could ever give her back.  She was, at that time, within a few
months of her confinement.  He told her all he had meant to do, to hide
her shame, if he had lived, and prayed her, if he died, not to curse
his memory, or think the consequences of their sin would be visited on
her or their young child; for all the guilt was his.  He reminded her
of the day he had given her the little locket and the ring with her
christian name engraved upon it, and a blank left for that which he
hoped one day to have bestowed upon her--prayed her yet to keep it, and
wear it next her heart, as she had done before--and then ran on,
wildly, in the same words, over and over again, as if he had gone
distracted.  I believe he had.'

'The will,' said Mr. Brownlow, as Oliver's tears fell fast.

Monks was silent.

'The will,' said Mr. Brownlow, speaking for him, 'was in the same
spirit as the letter.  He talked of miseries which his wife had brought
upon him; of the rebellious disposition, vice, malice, and premature
bad passions of you his only son, who had been trained to hate him; and
left you, and your mother, each an annuity of eight hundred pounds.
The bulk of his property he divided into two equal portions--one for
Agnes Fleming, and the other for their child, if it should be born
alive, and ever come of age.  If it were a girl, it was to inherit the
money unconditionally; but if a boy, only on the stipulation that in
his minority he should never have stained his name with any public act
of dishonour, meanness, cowardice, or wrong.  He did this, he said, to
mark his confidence in the other, and his conviction--only strengthened
by approaching death--that the child would share her gentle heart, and
noble nature.  If he were disappointed in this expectation, then the
money was to come to you:  for then, and not till then, when both
children were equal, would he recognise your prior claim upon his
purse, who had none upon his heart, but had, from an infant, repulsed
him with coldness and aversion.'

'My mother,' said Monks, in a louder tone, 'did what a woman should
have done.  She burnt this will.  The letter never reached its
destination; but that, and other proofs, she kept, in case they ever
tried to lie away the blot.  The girl's father had the truth from her
with every aggravation that her violent hate--I love her for it
now--could add.  Goaded by shame and dishonour he fled with his
children into a remote corner of Wales, changing his very name that his
friends might never know of his retreat; and here, no great while
afterwards, he was found dead in his bed.  The girl had left her home,
in secret, some weeks before; he had searched for her, on foot, in
every town and village near; it was on the night when he returned home,
assured that she had destroyed herself, to hide her shame and his, that
his old heart broke.'

There was a short silence here, until Mr. Brownlow took up the thread
of the narrative.

'Years after this,' he said, 'this man's--Edward Leeford's--mother came
to me.  He had left her, when only eighteen; robbed her of jewels and
money; gambled, squandered, forged, and fled to London:  where for two
years he had associated with the lowest outcasts.  She was sinking
under a painful and incurable disease, and wished to recover him before
she died.  Inquiries were set on foot, and strict searches made. They
were unavailing for a long time, but ultimately successful; and he went
back with her to France.'

'There she died,' said Monks, 'after a lingering illness; and, on her
death-bed, she bequeathed these secrets to me, together with her
unquenchable and deadly hatred of all whom they involved--though she
need not have left me that, for I had inherited it long before.  She
would not believe that the girl had destroyed herself, and the child
too, but was filled with the impression that a male child had been
born, and was alive.  I swore to her, if ever it crossed my path, to
hunt it down; never to let it rest; to pursue it with the bitterest and
most unrelenting animosity; to vent upon it the hatred that I deeply
felt, and to spit upon the empty vaunt of that insulting will by
draggin it, if I could, to the very gallows-foot.  She was right. He
came in my way at last.  I began well; and, but for babbling drabs, I
would have finished as I began!'

As the villain folded his arms tight together, and muttered curses on
himself in the impotence of baffled malice, Mr. Brownlow turned to the
terrified group beside him, and explained that the Jew, who had been
his old accomplice and confidant, had a large reward for keeping Oliver
ensnared:  of which some part was to be given up, in the event of his
being rescued:  and that a dispute on this head had led to their visit
to the country house for the purpose of identifying him.

'The locket and ring?' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Monks.

'I bought them from the man and woman I told you of, who stole them
from the nurse, who stole them from the corpse,' answered Monks without
raising his eyes.  'You know what became of them.'

Mr. Brownlow merely nodded to Mr. Grimwig, who disappearing with great
alacrity, shortly returned, pushing in Mrs. Bumble, and dragging her
unwilling consort after him.

'Do my hi's deceive me!' cried Mr. Bumble, with ill-feigned enthusiasm,
'or is that little Oliver?  Oh O-li-ver, if you know'd how I've been
a-grieving for you--'

'Hold your tongue, fool,' murmured Mrs. Bumble.

'Isn't natur, natur, Mrs. Bumble?' remonstrated the workhouse master.
'Can't I be supposed to feel--_I_ as brought him up porochially--when I
see him a-setting here among ladies and gentlemen of the very affablest
description!  I always loved that boy as if he'd been my--my--my own
grandfather,' said Mr. Bumble, halting for an appropriate comparison.
'Master Oliver, my dear, you remember the blessed gentleman in the
white waistcoat?  Ah! he went to heaven last week, in a oak coffin with
plated handles, Oliver.'

'Come, sir,' said Mr. Grimwig, tartly; 'suppress your feelings.'

'I will do my endeavours, sir,' replied Mr. Bumble.  'How do you do,
sir?  I hope you are very well.'

This salutation was addressed to Mr. Brownlow, who had stepped up to
within a short distance of the respectable couple.  He inquired, as he
pointed to Monks,

'Do you know that person?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble flatly.

'Perhaps _you_ don't?' said Mr. Brownlow, addressing her spouse.

'I never saw him in all my life,' said Mr. Bumble.

'Nor sold him anything, perhaps?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble.

'You never had, perhaps, a certain gold locket and ring?' said Mr.
Brownlow.

'Certainly not,' replied the matron.  'Why are we brought here to
answer to such nonsense as this?'

Again Mr. Brownlow nodded to Mr. Grimwig; and again that gentleman
limped away with extraordinary readiness.  But not again did he return
with a stout man and wife; for this time, he led in two palsied women,
who shook and tottered as they walked.

'You shut the door the night old Sally died,' said the foremost one,
raising her shrivelled hand, 'but you couldn't shut out the sound, nor
stop the chinks.'

'No, no,' said the other, looking round her and wagging her toothless
jaws.  'No, no, no.'

'We heard her try to tell you what she'd done, and saw you take a paper
from her hand, and watched you too, next day, to the pawnbroker's
shop,' said the first.

'Yes,' added the second, 'and it was a "locket and gold ring." We found
out that, and saw it given you.  We were by.  Oh! we were by.'

'And we know more than that,' resumed the first, 'for she told us
often, long ago, that the young mother had told her that, feeling she
should never get over it, she was on her way, at the time that she was
taken ill, to die near the grave of the father of the child.'

'Would you like to see the pawnbroker himself?' asked Mr. Grimwig with
a motion towards the door.

'No,' replied the woman; 'if he--she pointed to Monks--'has been coward
enough to confess, as I see he has, and you have sounded all these hags
till you have found the right ones, I have nothing more to say.  I
_did_ sell them, and they're where you'll never get them.  What then?'

'Nothing,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'except that it remains for us to take
care that neither of you is employed in a situation of trust again.
You may leave the room.'

'I hope,' said Mr. Bumble, looking about him with great ruefulness, as
Mr. Grimwig disappeared with the two old women: 'I hope that this
unfortunate little circumstance will not deprive me of my porochial
office?'

'Indeed it will,' replied Mr. Brownlow.  'You may make up your mind to
that, and think yourself well off besides.'

'It was all Mrs. Bumble.  She _would_ do it,' urged Mr. Bumble; first
looking round to ascertain that his partner had left the room.

'That is no excuse,' replied Mr. Brownlow.  'You were present on the
occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and indeed are the more
guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that
your wife acts under your direction.'

'If the law supposes that,' said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat
emphatically in both hands, 'the law is a ass--a idiot.  If that's the
eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is,
that his eye may be opened by experience--by experience.'

Laying great stress on the repetition of these two words, Mr. Bumble
fixed his hat on very tight, and putting his hands in his pockets,
followed his helpmate downstairs.

'Young lady,' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Rose, 'give me your hand.
Do not tremble.  You need not fear to hear the few remaining words we
have to say.'

'If they have--I do not know how they can, but if they have--any
reference to me,' said Rose, 'pray let me hear them at some other time.
I have not strength or spirits now.'

'Nay,' returned the old gentlman, drawing her arm through his; 'you
have more fortitude than this, I am sure.  Do you know this young lady,
sir?'

'Yes,' replied Monks.

'I never saw you before,' said Rose faintly.

'I have seen you often,' returned Monks.

'The father of the unhappy Agnes had _two_ daughters,' said Mr.
Brownlow.  'What was the fate of the other--the child?'

'The child,' replied Monks, 'when her father died in a strange place,
in a strange name, without a letter, book, or scrap of paper that
yielded the faintest clue by which his friends or relatives could be
traced--the child was taken by some wretched cottagers, who reared it
as their own.'

'Go on,' said Mr. Brownlow, signing to Mrs. Maylie to approach. 'Go on!'

'You couldn't find the spot to which these people had repaired,' said
Monks, 'but where friendship fails, hatred will often force a way.  My
mother found it, after a year of cunning search--ay, and found the
child.'

'She took it, did she?'

'No.  The people were poor and began to sicken--at least the man
did--of their fine humanity; so she left it with them, giving them a
small present of money which would not last long, and promised more,
which she never meant to send.  She didn't quite rely, however, on
their discontent and poverty for the child's unhappiness, but told the
history of the sister's shame, with such alterations as suited her;
bade them take good heed of the child, for she came of bad blood; and
told them she was illegitimate, and sure to go wrong at one time or
other.  The circumstances countenanced all this; the people believed
it; and there the child dragged on an existence, miserable enough even
to satisfy us, until a widow lady, residing, then, at Chester, saw the
girl by chance, pitied her, and took her home.  There was some cursed
spell, I think, against us; for in spite of all our efforts she
remained there and was happy.  I lost sight of her, two or three years
ago, and saw her no more until a few months back.'

'Do you see her now?'

'Yes.  Leaning on your arm.'

'But not the less my niece,' cried Mrs. Maylie, folding the fainting
girl in her arms; 'not the less my dearest child.  I would not lose her
now, for all the treasures of the world.  My sweet companion, my own
dear girl!'

'The only friend I ever had,' cried Rose, clinging to her. 'The
kindest, best of friends.  My heart will burst.  I cannot bear all
this.'

'You have borne more, and have been, through all, the best and gentlest
creature that ever shed happiness on every one she knew,' said Mrs.
Maylie, embracing her tenderly. 'Come, come, my love, remember who this
is who waits to clasp you in his arms, poor child!  See here--look,
look, my dear!'

'Not aunt,' cried Oliver, throwing his arms about her neck; 'I'll never
call her aunt--sister, my own dear sister, that something taught my
heart to love so dearly from the first!  Rose, dear, darling Rose!'

Let the tears which fell, and the broken words which were exchanged in
the long close embrace between the orphans, be sacred.  A father,
sister, and mother, were gained, and lost, in that one moment.  Joy and
grief were mingled in the cup; but there were no bitter tears:  for
even grief itself arose so softened, and clothed in such sweet and
tender recollections, that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all
character of pain.

They were a long, long time alone.  A soft tap at the door, at length
announced that some one was without.  Oliver opened it, glided away,
and gave place to Harry Maylie.

'I know it all,' he said, taking a seat beside the lovely girl. 'Dear
Rose, I know it all.'

'I am not here by accident,' he added after a lengthened silence; 'nor
have I heard all this to-night, for I knew it yesterday--only
yesterday.  Do you guess that I have come to remind you of a promise?'

'Stay,' said Rose.  'You _do_ know all.'

'All.  You gave me leave, at any time within a year, to renew the
subject of our last discourse.'

'I did.'

'Not to press you to alter your determination,' pursued the young man,
'but to hear you repeat it, if you would. I was to lay whatever of
station or fortune I might possess at your feet, and if you still
adhered to your former determination, I pledged myself, by no word or
act, to seek to change it.'

'The same reasons which influenced me then, will influence me now,'
said Rose firmly.  'If I ever owed a strict and rigid duty to her,
whose goodness saved me from a life of indigence and suffering, when
should I ever feel it, as I should to-night?  It is a struggle,' said
Rose, 'but one I am proud to make; it is a pang, but one my heart shall
bear.'

'The disclosure of to-night,'--Harry began.

'The disclosure of to-night,' replied Rose softly, 'leaves me in the
same position, with reference to you, as that in which I stood before.'

'You harden your heart against me, Rose,' urged her lover.

'Oh Harry, Harry,' said the young lady, bursting into tears; 'I wish I
could, and spare myself this pain.'

'Then why inflict it on yourself?' said Harry, taking her hand. 'Think,
dear Rose, think what you have heard to-night.'

'And what have I heard!  What have I heard!' cried Rose. 'That a sense
of his deep disgrace so worked upon my own father that he shunned
all--there, we have said enough, Harry, we have said enough.'

'Not yet, not yet,' said the young man, detaining her as she rose.  'My
hopes, my wishes, prospects, feeling:  every thought in life except my
love for you:  have undergone a change.  I offer you, now, no
distinction among a bustling crowd; no mingling with a world of malice
and detraction, where the blood is called into honest cheeks by aught
but real disgrace and shame; but a home--a heart and home--yes, dearest
Rose, and those, and those alone, are all I have to offer.'

'What do you mean!' she faltered.

'I mean but this--that when I left you last, I left you with a firm
determination to level all fancied barriers between yourself and me;
resolved that if my world could not be yours, I would make yours mine;
that no pride of birth should curl the lip at you, for I would turn
from it.  This I have done.  Those who have shrunk from me because of
this, have shrunk from you, and proved you so far right.  Such power
and patronage:  such relatives of influence and rank:  as smiled upon
me then, look coldly now; but there are smiling fields and waving trees
in England's richest county; and by one village church--mine, Rose, my
own!--there stands a rustic dwelling which you can make me prouder of,
than all the hopes I have renounced, measured a thousandfold.  This is
my rank and station now, and here I lay it down!'

      *      *      *      *      *

'It's a trying thing waiting supper for lovers,' said Mr. Grimwig,
waking up, and pulling his pocket-handkerchief from over his head.

Truth to tell, the supper had been waiting a most unreasonable time.
Neither Mrs. Maylie, nor Harry, nor Rose (who all came in together),
could offer a word in extenuation.

'I had serious thoughts of eating my head to-night,' said Mr. Grimwig,
'for I began to think I should get nothing else.  I'll take the
liberty, if you'll allow me, of saluting the bride that is to be.'

Mr. Grimwig lost no time in carrying this notice into effect upon the
blushing girl; and the example, being contagious, was followed both by
the doctor and Mr. Brownlow:  some people affirm that Harry Maylie had
been observed to set it, originally, in a dark room adjoining; but the
best authorities consider this downright scandal:  he being young and a
clergyman.

'Oliver, my child,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'where have you been, and why do
you look so sad?  There are tears stealing down your face at this
moment.  What is the matter?'

It is a world of disappointment:  often to the hopes we most cherish,
and hopes that do our nature the greatest honour.

Poor Dick was dead!



CHAPTER LII

FAGIN'S LAST NIGHT ALIVE

The court was paved, from floor to roof, with human faces. Inquisitive
and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. From the rail before
the dock, away into the sharpest angle of the smallest corner in the
galleries, all looks were fixed upon one man--Fagin.  Before him and
behind:  above, below, on the right and on the left:  he seemed to
stand surrounded by a firmament, all bright with gleaming eyes.

He stood there, in all this glare of living light, with one hand
resting on the wooden slab before him, the other held to his ear, and
his head thrust forward to enable him to catch with greater
distinctness every word that fell from the presiding judge, who was
delivering his charge to the jury.  At times, he turned his eyes
sharply upon them to observe the effect of the slightest featherweight
in his favour; and when the points against him were stated with
terrible distinctness, looked towards his counsel, in mute appeal that
he would, even then, urge something in his behalf.  Beyond these
manifestations of anxiety, he stirred not hand or foot.  He had
scarcely moved since the trial began; and now that the judge ceased to
speak, he still remained in the same strained attitude of close
attention, with his gaze bent on him, as though he listened still.

A slight bustle in the court, recalled him to himself.  Looking round,
he saw that the juryman had turned together, to consider their verdict.
As his eyes wandered to the gallery, he could see the people rising
above each other to see his face:  some hastily applying their glasses
to their eyes:  and others whispering their neighbours with looks
expressive of abhorrence.  A few there were, who seemed unmindful of
him, and looked only to the jury, in impatient wonder how they could
delay.  But in no one face--not even among the women, of whom there
were many there--could he read the faintest sympathy with himself, or
any feeling but one of all-absorbing interest that he should be
condemned.

As he saw all this in one bewildered glance, the deathlike stillness
came again, and looking back he saw that the jurymen had turned towards
the judge.  Hush!

They only sought permission to retire.

He looked, wistfully, into their faces, one by one when they passed
out, as though to see which way the greater number leant; but that was
fruitless.  The jailer touched him on the shoulder. He followed
mechanically to the end of the dock, and sat down on a chair.  The man
pointed it out, or he would not have seen it.

He looked up into the gallery again.  Some of the people were eating,
and some fanning themselves with handkerchiefs; for the crowded place
was very hot.  There was one young man sketching his face in a little
note-book.  He wondered whether it was like, and looked on when the
artist broke his pencil-point, and made another with his knife, as any
idle spectator might have done.

In the same way, when he turned his eyes towards the judge, his mind
began to busy itself with the fashion of his dress, and what it cost,
and how he put it on.  There was an old fat gentleman on the bench,
too, who had gone out, some half an hour before, and now come back.  He
wondered within himself whether this man had been to get his dinner,
what he had had, and where he had had it; and pursued this train of
careless thought until some new object caught his eye and roused
another.

Not that, all this time, his mind was, for an instant, free from one
oppressive overwhelming sense of the grave that opened at his feet; it
was ever present to him, but in a vague and general way, and he could
not fix his thoughts upon it.  Thus, even while he trembled, and turned
burning hot at the idea of speedy death, he fell to counting the iron
spikes before him, and wondering how the head of one had been broken
off, and whether they would mend it, or leave it as it was.  Then, he
thought of all the horrors of the gallows and the scaffold--and stopped
to watch a man sprinkling the floor to cool it--and then went on to
think again.

At length there was a cry of silence, and a breathless look from all
towards the door.  The jury returned, and passed him close. He could
glean nothing from their faces; they might as well have been of stone.
Perfect stillness ensued--not a rustle--not a breath--Guilty.

The building rang with a tremendous shout, and another, and another,
and then it echoed loud groans, that gathered strength as they swelled
out, like angry thunder.  It was a peal of joy from the populace
outside, greeting the news that he would die on Monday.

The noise subsided, and he was asked if he had anything to say why
sentence of death should not be passed upon him. He had resumed his
listening attitude, and looked intently at his questioner while the
demand was made; but it was twice repeated before he seemed to hear it,
and then he only muttered that he was an old man--an old man--and so,
dropping into a whisper, was silent again.

The judge assumed the black cap, and the prisoner still stood with the
same air and gesture.  A woman in the gallery, uttered some
exclamation, called forth by this dread solemnity; he looked hastily up
as if angry at the interruption, and bent forward yet more attentively.
The address was solemn and impressive; the sentence fearful to hear.
But he stood, like a marble figure, without the motion of a nerve.  His
haggard face was still thrust forward, his under-jaw hanging down, and
his eyes staring out before him, when the jailer put his hand upon his
arm, and beckoned him away.  He gazed stupidly about him for an
instant, and obeyed.

They led him through a paved room under the court, where some prisoners
were waiting till their turns came, and others were talking to their
friends, who crowded round a grate which looked into the open yard.
There was nobody there to speak to _him_; but, as he passed, the
prisoners fell back to render him more visible to the people who were
clinging to the bars:  and they assailed him with opprobrious names,
and screeched and hissed.  He shook his fist, and would have spat upon
them; but his conductors hurried him on, through a gloomy passage
lighted by a few dim lamps, into the interior of the prison.

Here, he was searched, that he might not have about him the means of
anticipating the law; this ceremony performed, they led him to one of
the condemned cells, and left him there--alone.

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door, which served for seat
and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the ground, tried to
collect his thoughts. After awhile, he began to remember a few
disjointed fragments of what the judge had said: though it had seemed
to him, at the time, that he could not hear a word.  These gradually
fell into their proper places, and by degrees suggested more:  so that
in a little time he had the whole, almost as it was delivered.  To be
hanged by the neck, till he was dead--that was the end.  To be hanged
by the neck till he was dead.

As it came on very dark, he began to think of all the men he had known
who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his means.  They
rose up, in such quick succession, that he could hardly count them.  He
had seen some of them die,--and had joked too, because they died with
prayers upon their lips.  With what a rattling noise the drop went
down; and how suddenly they changed, from strong and vigorous men to
dangling heaps of clothes!

Some of them might have inhabited that very cell--sat upon that very
spot.  It was very dark; why didn't they bring a light?  The cell had
been built for many years.  Scores of men must have passed their last
hours there.  It was like sitting in a vault strewn with dead
bodies--the cap, the noose, the pinioned arms, the faces that he knew,
even beneath that hideous veil.--Light, light!

At length, when his hands were raw with beating against the heavy door
and walls, two men appeared:  one bearing a candle, which he thrust
into an iron candlestick fixed against the wall:  the other dragging in
a mattress on which to pass the night; for the prisoner was to be left
alone no more.

Then came the night--dark, dismal, silent night.  Other watchers are
glad to hear this church-clock strike, for they tell of life and coming
day.  To him they brought despair.  The boom of every iron bell came
laden with the one, deep, hollow sound--Death. What availed the noise
and bustle of cheerful morning, which penetrated even there, to him?
It was another form of knell, with mockery added to the warning.

The day passed off.  Day?  There was no day; it was gone as soon as
come--and night came on again; night so long, and yet so short; long in
its dreadful silence, and short in its fleeting hours.  At one time he
raved and blasphemed; and at another howled and tore his hair.
Venerable men of his own persuasion had come to pray beside him, but he
had driven them away with curses.  They renewed their charitable
efforts, and he beat them off.

Saturday night.  He had only one night more to live.  And as he thought
of this, the day broke--Sunday.

It was not until the night of this last awful day, that a withering
sense of his helpless, desperate state came in its full intensity upon
his blighted soul; not that he had ever held any defined or positive
hope of mercy, but that he had never been able to consider more than
the dim probability of dying so soon. He had spoken little to either of
the two men, who relieved each other in their attendance upon him; and
they, for their parts, made no effort to rouse his attention.  He had
sat there, awake, but dreaming.  Now, he started up, every minute, and
with gasping mouth and burning skin, hurried to and fro, in such a
paroxysm of fear and wrath that even they--used to such
sights--recoiled from him with horror.  He grew so terrible, at last,
in all the tortures of his evil conscience, that one man could not bear
to sit there, eyeing him alone; and so the two kept watch together.

He cowered down upon his stone bed, and thought of the past. He had
been wounded with some missiles from the crowd on the day of his
capture, and his head was bandaged with a linen cloth.  His red hair
hung down upon his bloodless face; his beard was torn, and twisted into
knots; his eyes shone with a terrible light; his unwashed flesh
crackled with the fever that burnt him up. Eight--nine--then.  If it
was not a trick to frighten him, and those were the real hours treading
on each other's heels, where would he be, when they came round again!
Eleven!  Another struck, before the voice of the previous hour had
ceased to vibrate.  At eight, he would be the only mourner in his own
funeral train; at eleven--

Those dreadful walls of Newgate, which have hidden so much misery and
such unspeakable anguish, not only from the eyes, but, too often, and
too long, from the thoughts, of men, never held so dread a spectacle as
that.  The few who lingered as they passed, and wondered what the man
was doing who was to be hanged to-morrow, would have slept but ill that
night, if they could have seen him.

From early in the evening until nearly midnight, little groups of two
and three presented themselves at the lodge-gate, and inquired, with
anxious faces, whether any reprieve had been received.  These being
answered in the negative, communicated the welcome intelligence to
clusters in the street, who pointed out to one another the door from
which he must come out, and showed where the scaffold would be built,
and, walking with unwilling steps away, turned back to conjure up the
scene.  By degrees they fell off, one by one; and, for an hour, in the
dead of night, the street was left to solitude and darkness.

The space before the prison was cleared, and a few strong barriers,
painted black, had been already thrown across the road to break the
pressure of the expected crowd, when Mr. Brownlow and Oliver appeared
at the wicket, and presented an order of admission to the prisoner,
signed by one of the sheriffs.  They were immediately admitted into the
lodge.

'Is the young gentleman to come too, sir?' said the man whose duty it
was to conduct them.  'It's not a sight for children, sir.'

'It is not indeed, my friend,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but my business
with this man is intimately connected with him; and as this child has
seen him in the full career of his success and villainy, I think it as
well--even at the cost of some pain and fear--that he should see him
now.'

These few words had been said apart, so as to be inaudible to Oliver.
The man touched his hat; and glancing at Oliver with some curiousity,
opened another gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and
led them on, through dark and winding ways, towards the cells.

'This,' said the man, stopping in a gloomy passage where a couple of
workmen were making some preparations in profound silence--'this is the
place he passes through.  If you step this way, you can see the door he
goes out at.'

He led them into a stone kitchen, fitted with coppers for dressing the
prison food, and pointed to a door.  There was an open grating above
it, through which came the sound of men's voices, mingled with the
noise of hammering, and the throwing down of boards.  There were
putting up the scaffold.

From this place, they passed through several strong gates, opened by
other turnkeys from the inner side; and, having entered an open yard,
ascended a flight of narrow steps, and came into a passage with a row
of strong doors on the left hand.  Motioning them to remain where they
were, the turnkey knocked at one of these with his bunch of keys. The
two attendants, after a little whispering, came out into the passage,
stretching themselves as if glad of the temporary relief, and motioned
the visitors to follow the jailer into the cell.  They did so.

The condemned criminal was seated on his bed, rocking himself from side
to side, with a countenance more like that of a snared beast than the
face of a man.  His mind was evidently wandering to his old life, for
he continued to mutter, without appearing conscious of their presence
otherwise than as a part of his vision.

'Good boy, Charley--well done--' he mumbled.  'Oliver, too, ha! ha! ha!
Oliver too--quite the gentleman now--quite the--take that boy away to
bed!'

The jailer took the disengaged hand of Oliver; and, whispering him not
to be alarmed, looked on without speaking.

'Take him away to bed!' cried Fagin.  'Do you hear me, some of you?  He
has been the--the--somehow the cause of all this.  It's worth the money
to bring him up to it--Bolter's throat, Bill; never mind the
girl--Bolter's throat as deep as you can cut.  Saw his head off!'

'Fagin,' said the jailer.

'That's me!' cried the Jew, falling instantly, into the attitude of
listening he had assumed upon his trial.  'An old man, my Lord; a very
old, old man!'

'Here,' said the turnkey, laying his hand upon his breast to keep him
down.  'Here's somebody wants to see you, to ask you some questions, I
suppose.  Fagin, Fagin!  Are you a man?'

'I shan't be one long,' he replied, looking up with a face retaining no
human expression but rage and terror.  'Strike them all dead!  What
right have they to butcher me?'

As he spoke he caught sight of Oliver and Mr. Brownlow. Shrinking to
the furthest corner of the seat, he demanded to know what they wanted
there.

'Steady,' said the turnkey, still holding him down.  'Now, sir, tell
him what you want.  Quick, if you please, for he grows worse as the
time gets on.'

'You have some papers,' said Mr. Brownlow advancing, 'which were placed
in your hands, for better security, by a man called Monks.'

'It's all a lie together,' replied Fagin.  'I haven't one--not one.'

'For the love of God,' said Mr. Brownlow solemnly, 'do not say that
now, upon the very verge of death; but tell me where they are.  You
know that Sikes is dead; that Monks has confessed; that there is no
hope of any further gain.  Where are those papers?'

'Oliver,' cried Fagin, beckoning to him.  'Here, here! Let me whisper
to you.'

'I am not afraid,' said Oliver in a low voice, as he relinquished Mr.
Brownlow's hand.

'The papers,' said Fagin, drawing Oliver towards him, 'are in a canvas
bag, in a hole a little way up the chimney in the top front-room.  I
want to talk to you, my dear.  I want to talk to you.'

'Yes, yes,' returned Oliver.  'Let me say a prayer.  Do!  Let me say
one prayer.  Say only one, upon your knees, with me, and we will talk
till morning.'

'Outside, outside,' replied Fagin, pushing the boy before him towards
the door, and looking vacantly over his head. 'Say I've gone to
sleep--they'll believe you.  You can get me out, if you take me so.
Now then, now then!'

'Oh!  God forgive this wretched man!' cried the boy with a burst of
tears.

'That's right, that's right,' said Fagin.  'That'll help us on. This
door first.  If I shake and tremble, as we pass the gallows, don't you
mind, but hurry on.  Now, now, now!'

'Have you nothing else to ask him, sir?' inquired the turnkey.

'No other question,' replied Mr. Brownlow.  'If I hoped we could recall
him to a sense of his position--'

'Nothing will do that, sir,' replied the man, shaking his head. 'You
had better leave him.'

The door of the cell opened, and the attendants returned.

'Press on, press on,' cried Fagin.  'Softly, but not so slow. Faster,
faster!'

The men laid hands upon him, and disengaging Oliver from his grasp,
held him back.  He struggled with the power of desperation, for an
instant; and then sent up cry upon cry that penetrated even those
massive walls, and rang in their ears until they reached the open yard.

It was some time before they left the prison.  Oliver nearly swooned
after this frightful scene, and was so weak that for an hour or more,
he had not the strength to walk.

Day was dawning when they again emerged.  A great multitude had already
assembled; the windows were filled with people, smoking and playing
cards to beguile the time; the crowd were pushing, quarrelling, joking.
Everything told of life and animation, but one dark cluster of objects
in the centre of all--the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and
all the hideous apparatus of death.



CHAPTER LIII

AND LAST

The fortunes of those who have figured in this tale are nearly closed.
The little that remains to their historian to relate, is told in few
and simple words.

Before three months had passed, Rose Fleming and Harry Maylie were
married in the village church which was henceforth to be the scene of
the young clergyman's labours; on the same day they entered into
possession of their new and happy home.

Mrs. Maylie took up her abode with her son and daughter-in-law, to
enjoy, during the tranquil remainder of her days, the greatest felicity
that age and worth can know--the contemplation of the happiness of
those on whom the warmest affections and tenderest cares of a
well-spent life, have been unceasingly bestowed.

It appeared, on full and careful investigation, that if the wreck of
property remaining in the custody of Monks (which had never prospered
either in his hands or in those of his mother) were equally divided
between himself and Oliver, it would yield, to each, little more than
three thousand pounds.  By the provisions of his father's will, Oliver
would have been entitled to the whole; but Mr. Brownlow, unwilling to
deprive the elder son of the opportunity of retrieving his former vices
and pursuing an honest career, proposed this mode of distribution, to
which his young charge joyfully acceded.

Monks, still bearing that assumed name, retired with his portion to a
distant part of the New World; where, having quickly squandered it, he
once more fell into his old courses, and, after undergoing a long
confinement for some fresh act of fraud and knavery, at length sunk
under an attack of his old disorder, and died in prison.  As far from
home, died the chief remaining members of his friend Fagin's gang.

Mr. Brownlow adopted Oliver as his son.  Removing with him and the old
housekeeper to within a mile of the parsonage-house, where his dear
friends resided, he gratified the only remaining wish of Oliver's warm
and earnest heart, and thus linked together a little society, whose
condition approached as nearly to one of perfect happiness as can ever
be known in this changing world.

Soon after the marriage of the young people, the worthy doctor returned
to Chertsey, where, bereft of the presence of his old friends, he would
have been discontented if his temperament had admitted of such a
feeling; and would have turned quite peevish if he had known how.  For
two or three months, he contented himself with hinting that he feared
the air began to disagree with him; then, finding that the place really
no longer was, to him, what it had been, he settled his business on his
assistant, took a bachelor's cottage outside the village of which his
young friend was pastor, and instantaneously recovered.  Here he took
to gardening, planting, fishing, carpentering, and various other
pursuits of a similar kind:  all undertaken with his characteristic
impetuosity.  In each and all he has since become famous throughout the
neighborhood, as a most profound authority.

Before his removal, he had managed to contract a strong friendship for
Mr. Grimwig, which that eccentric gentleman cordially reciprocated.  He
is accordingly visited by Mr. Grimwig a great many times in the course
of the year.  On all such occasions, Mr. Grimwig plants, fishes, and
carpenters, with great ardour; doing everything in a very singular and
unprecedented manner, but always maintaining with his favourite
asseveration, that his mode is the right one.  On Sundays, he never
fails to criticise the sermon to the young clergyman's face:  always
informing Mr. Losberne, in strict confidence afterwards, that he
considers it an excellent performance, but deems it as well not to say
so.  It is a standing and very favourite joke, for Mr. Brownlow to
rally him on his old prophecy concerning Oliver, and to remind him of
the night on which they sat with the watch between them, waiting his
return; but Mr. Grimwig contends that he was right in the main, and, in
proof thereof, remarks that Oliver did not come back after all; which
always calls forth a laugh on his side, and increases his good humour.

Mr. Noah Claypole:  receiving a free pardon from the Crown in
consequence of being admitted approver against Fagin:  and considering
his profession not altogether as safe a one as he could wish:  was, for
some little time, at a loss for the means of a livelihood, not burdened
with too much work.  After some consideration, he went into business as
an Informer, in which calling he realises a genteel subsistence.  His
plan is, to walk out once a week during church time attended by
Charlotte in respectable attire.  The lady faints away at the doors of
charitable publicans, and the gentleman being accommodated with
three-penny worth of brandy to restore her, lays an information next
day, and pockets half the penalty.  Sometimes Mr. Claypole faints
himself, but the result is the same.

Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, deprived of their situations, were gradually
reduced to great indigence and misery, and finally became paupers in
that very same workhouse in which they had once lorded it over others.
Mr. Bumble has been heard to say, that in this reverse and degradation,
he has not even spirits to be thankful for being separated from his
wife.

As to Mr. Giles and Brittles, they still remain in their old posts,
although the former is bald, and the last-named boy quite grey.  They
sleep at the parsonage, but divide their attentions so equally among
its inmates, and Oliver and Mr. Brownlow, and Mr. Losberne, that to
this day the villagers have never been able to discover to which
establishment they properly belong.

Master Charles Bates, appalled by Sikes's crime, fell into a train of
reflection whether an honest life was not, after all, the best.
Arriving at the conclusion that it certainly was, he turned his back
upon the scenes of the past, resolved to amend it in some new sphere of
action.  He struggled hard, and suffered much, for some time; but,
having a contented disposition, and a good purpose, succeeded in the
end; and, from being a farmer's drudge, and a carrier's lad, he is now
the merriest young grazier in all Northamptonshire.

And now, the hand that traces these words, falters, as it approaches
the conclusion of its task; and would weave, for a little longer space,
the thread of these adventures.

I would fain linger yet with a few of those among whom I have so long
moved, and share their happiness by endeavouring to depict it.  I would
show Rose Maylie in all the bloom and grace of early womanhood,
shedding on her secluded path in life soft and gentle light, that fell
on all who trod it with her, and shone into their hearts.  I would
paint her the life and joy of the fire-side circle and the lively
summer group; I would follow her through the sultry fields at noon, and
hear the low tones of her sweet voice in the moonlit evening walk; I
would watch her in all her goodness and charity abroad, and the smiling
untiring discharge of domestic duties at home; I would paint her and
her dead sister's child happy in their love for one another, and
passing whole hours together in picturing the friends whom they had so
sadly lost; I would summon before me, once again, those joyous little
faces that clustered round her knee, and listen to their merry prattle;
I would recall the tones of that clear laugh, and conjure up the
sympathising tear that glistened in the soft blue eye.  These, and a
thousand looks and smiles, and turns of thought and speech--I would
fain recall them every one.

How Mr. Brownlow went on, from day to day, filling the mind of his
adopted child with stores of knowledge, and becoming attached to him,
more and more, as his nature developed itself, and showed the thriving
seeds of all he wished him to become--how he traced in him new traits
of his early friend, that awakened in his own bosom old remembrances,
melancholy and yet sweet and soothing--how the two orphans, tried by
adversity, remembered its lessons in mercy to others, and mutual love,
and fervent thanks to Him who had protected and preserved them--these
are all matters which need not to be told.  I have said that they were
truly happy; and without strong affection and humanity of heart, and
gratitude to that Being whose code is Mercy, and whose great attribute
is Benevolence to all things that breathe, happiness can never be
attained.

Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white marble
tablet, which bears as yet but one word:  'AGNES.'  There is no coffin
in that tomb; and may it be many, many years, before another name is
placed above it!  But, if the spirits of the Dead ever come back to
earth, to visit spots hallowed by the love--the love beyond the
grave--of those whom they knew in life, I believe that the shade of
Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook. I believe it none the
less because that nook is in a Church, and she was weak and erring.





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