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Title: Oliver Twist, Illustrated - or, The Parish Boy's Progress
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
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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, Illustrated - or, The Parish Boy's Progress" ***

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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 for’erd, 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 Dodger.

‘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 fellow 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 chorused 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
     enticed, on Thursday evening last, from his home, at was
     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 Dodger. ‘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, thankee, 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. Stout 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 ever 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 drama 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 coffin-lid, 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 coach-steps, 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,
wash-balls, 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 spurting 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’ee, young gentleman,’ said Toby, ‘when a man keeps
himself so very exclusive 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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