Monday, November 5, 2007



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.
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 experimenal 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 occurance 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 decidely 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
'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 can 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 this 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
'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 con--dition.'
Mrs Mann raised her hands in astonishment; but added, after a
moment's reflection, 'How comes he to have any name at all,
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 nver 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 neighbours 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 stupified 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
'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
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.
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 for 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 confortable 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 arthimetical 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.
'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 procedded 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
'We have considered your proposition, and we don't approve of
'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
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
'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,
'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 unaturally, 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 amny 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 noboday 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
'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
'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 though 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 solemnite. 'Well! of all the artful and designing
orphans that ever I see, Oliver, you are one of the most
'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 totaly
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.
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 proferred 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
'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
'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
'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 orered 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 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 putup 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
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
'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
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.
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
'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
'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
'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.
'So it is,' asquiesced 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, ony 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 excietment; 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 dentoed,
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
The man's face was thin and very pale; his hair and beard were
grizzly; his eyes were blookshot. 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 afriad 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
'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 ther: 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
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
'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
'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.
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
'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
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!
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
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
'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
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
'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.
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
'Why, what's the matter with the boy!' said the old pauper.
'Mr. Bumble! Mr. Bumble!' cried Noah, wit 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,
'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
'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
'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 seed 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:
'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
'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
'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.
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 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 gently 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 ultimated 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
Oliver mildly replied, that he had always heard a bird's mouth
described by the term in question.
'My eyes, how green!' exclaimed the young gentleman. 'Why, a
beak's a madgst'rate; and when you walk by a beak's order, it's
not straight forerd, but always agoing up, and niver a coming
down agin. Was you never on the mill?'
'What mill?' inquired Oliver.
'What mill! Why, THE mill--the mill as takes up so little room
that it'll work inside a Stone Jug; and always goes better when
the wind's low with people, than when it's high; acos then they
can't get workmen. But come,' said the young gentleman; 'you
want grub, and you shall have it. I'm at low-water-mark
myself--only one bob and a magpie; but, as far as it goes, I'll
fork out and stump. Up with you on your pins. There! Now then!
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.
'Got any lodgings?'
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 gentelman 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
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
'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
'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
'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
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 handkerchiefsl 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
'This is him, Fagin,' said Jack Dawkins; 'my friend Oliver
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
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 satistified
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 satisfiying 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,
bracelet, 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
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,
'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
'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 gentlmen
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 lighty 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.
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
'The old gentleman over the way?' said Oliver. 'Yes, I see him.'
'He'll do,' said the Doger.
'A prime plant,' observed Master Charley Bates.
Oliver looked from one to the other, with the greatest surprise;
but he was not permitted to make any inquiries; for the two boys
walked stealthily across the road, and slunk close behind the old
gentleman towards whom his attention had been directed. Oliver
walked a few paces after them; and, not knowing whether to
advance or retire, stood looking on in silent amazement.
The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with
a powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a
bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar; wore white
trousers; and carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had
taken up a book from the stall, and there he stood, reading away,
as hard as if he were in his elbow-chair, in his own study. It
is very possible that he fancied himself there, indeed; for it
was plain, from his abstraction, that he saw not the book-stall,
nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short, anything but the
book itself: which he was reading straight through: turning
over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at
the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the
greatest interest and eagerness.
What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces off,
looking on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly
go, to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's
pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the
same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both running
away round the corner at full speed!
In an instant the whole mystery of the hankerchiefs, and the
watches, and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind.
He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all
his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning
fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and,
not knowing what he did, made off as fast as he could lay his
feet to the ground.
This was all done in a minute's space. In the very instant when
Oliver began to run, the old gentleman, putting his hand to his
pocket, and missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round. Seeing
the boy scudding away at such a rapid pace, he very naturally
concluded him to be the depredator; and shouting 'Stop thief!'
with all his might, made off after him, book in hand.
But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the
hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract
public attention by running down the open street, had merely
retured 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;
agaony in his eyes; large drops of perspiration streaming down
his face; strains every nerve to make head upon his pursuers; and
as they follow on his track, and gain upon him every instant,
they hail his decreasing strength with joy. 'Stop thief!' Ay,
stop him for God's sake, were it only in mercy!
Stopped at last! A clever blow. He is down upon the pavement;
and the crowd eagerly gather round him: each new comer, jostling
and struggling with the others to catch a glimpse. 'Stand
aside!' 'Give him a little air!' 'Nonsense! he don't deserve
it.' 'Where's the gentleman?' 'Here his is, coming down the
street.' 'Make room there for the gentleman!' 'Is this the boy,
sir!' 'Yes.'
Oliver lay, covered with mud and dust, and bleeding from the
mouth, looking wildly round upon the heap of faces that
surrounded him, when the old gentleman was officiously dragged
and pushed into the circle by the foremost of the pursuers.
'Yes,' said the gentleman, 'I am afraid it is the boy.'
'Afraid!' murmured the crowd. 'That's a good 'un!'
'Poor fellow!' said the gentleman, 'he has hurt himself.'
'_I_ did that, sir,' said a great lubberly fellow, stepping
forward; 'and preciously I cut my knuckle agin' his mouth. I
stopped him, sir.'
The follow touched his hat with a grin, expecting something for
his pains; but, the old gentleman, eyeing him with an expression
of dislike, look anxiously round, as if he contemplated running
away himself: which it is very possible he might have attempted
to do, and thus have afforded another chase, had not a police
officer (who is generally the last person to arrive in such
cases) at that moment made his way through the crowd, and seized
Oliver by the collar.
'Come, get up,' said the man, roughly.
'It wasn't me indeed, sir. Indeed, indeed, it was two other
boys,' said Oliver, clasping his hands passionately, and looking
round. 'They are here somewhere.'
'Oh no, they ain't,' said the officer. He meant this to be
ironical, but it was true besides; for the Dodger and Charley
Bates had filed off down the first convenient court they came to.
'Come, get up!'
'Don't hurt him,' said the old gentleman, compassionately.
'Oh no, I won't hurt him,' replied the officer, tearing his
jacket half off his back, in proof thereof. 'Come, I know you;
it won't do. Will you stand upon your legs, you young devil?'
Oliver, who could hardly stand, made a shift to raise himself on
his feet, and was at once lugged along the streets by the
jacket-collar, at a rapid pace. The gentleman walked on with
them by the officer's side; and as many of the crowd as could
achieve the feat, got a little ahead, and stared back at Oliver
from time to time. The boys shouted in triumph; and on they
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
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 intolably 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
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
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
'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 worshp 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 indignaton 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
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
'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
'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,
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.
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
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
'Perhaps she does see me,' whispered Oliver, folding his hands
together; 'perhaps she has sat by me. I almost feel as if she
'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
here 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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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 circumlocations 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.
'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
'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
'Hush! hush! Mr. Sikes,' said the Jew, trembling; 'don't speak so
'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
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
'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
'That it won't do; so it's no use a-trying it on, Fagin,' replied
'What do you mean by that?' said Mr. Sikes, looking up in a surly
'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
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
'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
'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
'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.'
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
'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
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
'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
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
'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
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.
'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 peope; 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!
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 at 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
'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
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
'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.
'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.
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
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
'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 though 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,
'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
'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
'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
reamining 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,
'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!
'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.
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
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
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,
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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.
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,
The first sentence was addressed to Susan; and the exclamations
of delight were uttered to Mr. Bumble: as the good lady unlocked
the garden-gate: and showed him, with great attention and
respect, into the house.
'Mrs. Mann,' said Mr. Bumble; not sitting upon, or dropping
himself into a seat, as any common jackanapes would: but letting
himself gradually and slowly down into a chair; 'Mrs. Mann,
ma'am, good morning.'
'Well, and good morning to YOU, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann, with
many smiles; 'and hoping you find yourself well, sir!'
'So-so, Mrs. Mann,' replied the beadle. 'A porochial life is not
a bed of roses, Mrs. Mann.'
'Ah, that it isn't indeed, Mr. Bumble,' rejoined the lady. And
all the infant paupers might have chorussed the rejoinder with
great propriety, if they had heard it.
'A porochial life, ma'am,' continued Mr. Bumble, striking the
table with his cane, 'is a life of worrit, and vexation, and
hardihood; but all public characters, as I may say, must suffer
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,
'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
'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.
The child meekly raised his eyes, and encountered those of Mr.
'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,' 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
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.
'Whereas a young boy, named Oliver Twist, absconded, or was
enticed, on Thursday evening last, from his home, at Pentonville;
and has not since been heard of. The above reward will be paid
to any person who will give such information as will lead to the
discovery of the said Oliver Twist, or tend to throw any light
upon his previous history, in which the advertiser is, for many
reasons, warmly interested.'
And then followed a full description of Oliver's dress, person,
appearance, and disappearance: with the name and address of Mr.
Brownlow at full length.
Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisement, slowly and
carefully, three several times; and in something more than five
minutes was on his way to Pentonville: having actually, in his
excitement, left the glass of hot gin-and-water, untasted.
'Is Mr. Brownlow at home?' inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who
opened the door.
To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommon, but rather
evasive reply of 'I don't know; where do you come from?'
Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver's name, in explanation of his
errand, than Mrs. Bedwin, who had been listening at the parlour
door, hastened into the passage in a breathless state.
'Come in, come in,' said the old lady: 'I knew we should hear of
him. Poor dear! I knew we should! I was certain of it. Bless
his heart! I said so all along.'
Having heard this, the worthy old lady hurried back into the
parlour again; and seating herself on a sofa, burst into tears.
The girl, who was not quite so susceptible, had run upstairs
meanwhile; and now returned with a request that Mr. Bumble would
follow her immediately: which he did.
He was shown into the little back study, where sat Mr. Brownlow
and his friend Mr. Grimwig, with decanters and glasses before
them. The latter gentleman at once burst into the exclamation:
'A beadle. A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head.'
'Pray don't interrupt just now,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Take a
seat, will you?'
Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of
Mr. Grimwig's manner. Mr. Brownlow moved the lamp, so as to
obtain an uninterrupted view of the beadle's countenance; and
said, with a little impatience,
'Now, sir, you come in consequence of having seen the
'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
'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
Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head
with portentous solemnity.
'You see?' said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr.
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
'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
'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.
'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
'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.
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
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
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
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
'I think I know that,' replied Oliver, looking up. 'It's a
the--; you're one, are you not?' inquired Oliver, checking
'I am,' replied the Doger. 'I'd scorn to be anything else.' Mr.
Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cock, after delivering this
sentiment, and looked at Master Bates, as if to denote that he
would feel obliged by his saying anything to the contrary.
'I am,' repeated the Dodger. 'So's Charley. So's Fagin. So's
Sikes. So's Nancy. So's Bet. So we all are, down to the dog.
And he's the downiest one of the lot!'
'And the least given to peaching,' added Charley Bates.
'He wouldn't so much as bark in a witness-box, for fear of
committing himself; no, not if you tied him up in one, and left
him there without wittles for a fortnight,' said the Dodger.
'Not a bit of it,' observed Charley.
'He's a rum dog. Don't he look fierce at any strange cove that
laughs or sings when he's in company!' pursued the Dodger.
'Won't he growl at all, when he hears a fiddle playing! And
don't he hate other dogs as ain't of his breed! Oh, no!'
'He's an out-and-out Christian,' said Charley.
This was merely intended as a tribute to the animal's abilities,
but it was an appropriate remark in another sense, if Master
Bates had only known it; for there are a good many ladies and
gentlemen, claiming to be out-and-out Christians, between whom,
and Mr. Sikes' dog, there exist strong and singular points of
'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
'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
'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 entagled 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
'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
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
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.
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
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
He kept on his course, through many winding and narrow ways,
until he reached Bethnal Green; then, turning suddenly off to the
left, he soon became involved in a maze of the mean and dirty
streets which abound in that close and densely-populated quarter.
The Jew was evidently too familiar with the ground he traversed
to be at all bewildered, either by the darkness of the night, or
the intricacies of the way. He hurried through several alleys
and streets, and at length turned into one, lighted only by a
single lamp at the farther end. At the door of a house in this
street, he knocked; having exchanged a few muttered words with
the person who opened it, he walked upstairs.
A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room-door; and a
man's voice demanded who was there.
'Only me, Bill; only me, my dear,' said the Jew looking in.
'Bring in your body then,' said Sikes. 'Lie down, you stupid
brute! Don't you know the devil when he's got a great-coat on?'
Apparently, the dog had been somewhat deceived by Mr. Fagin's
outer garment; for as the Jew unbuttoned it, and threw it over
the back of a chair, he retired to the corner from which he had
risen: wagging his tail as he went, to show that he was as well
satisfied as it was in his nature to be.
'Well!' said Sikes.
'Well, my dear,' replied the Jew.--'Ah! Nancy.'
The latter recognition was uttered with just enough of
embarrassment to imply a doubt of its reception; for Mr. Fagin
and his young friend had not met, since she had interfered in
behalf of Oliver. All doubts upon the subject, if he had any,
were speedily removed by the young lady's behaviour. She took
her feet off the fender, pushed back her chair, and bade Fagin
draw up his, without saying more about it: for it was a cold
night, and no mistake.
'It is cold, Nancy dear,' said the Jew, as he warmed his skinny
hands over the fire. 'It seems to go right through one,' added
the old man, touching his side.
'It must be a piercer, if it finds its way through your heart,'
said Mr. Sikes. 'Give him something to drink, Nancy. Burn my
body, make haste! It's enough to turn a man ill, to see his lean
old carcase shivering in that way, like a ugly ghost just rose
from the grave.'
Nancy quickly brought a bottle from a cupboard, in which there
were many: which, to judge from the diversity of their
appearance, were filled with several kinds of liquids. Sikes
pouring out a glass of brandy, bade the Jew drink it off.
'Quite enough, quite, thankye, Bill,' replied the Jew, putting
down the glass after just setting his lips to it.
'What! You're afraid of our getting the better of you, are you?'
inquired Sikes, fixing his eyes on the Jew. 'Ugh!'
With a hoarse grunt of contempt, Mr. Sikes seized the glass, and
threw the remainder of its contents into the ashes: as a
preparatory ceremony to filling it again for himself: which he
did at once.
The Jew glanced round the room, as his companion tossed down the
second glassful; not in curiousity, for he had seen it often
before; but in a restless and suspicious manner habitual to him.
It was a meanly furnished apartment, with nothing but the
contents of the closet to induce the belief that its occupier was
anything but a working man; and with no more suspicious articles
displayed to view than two or three heavy bludgeons which stood
in a corner, and a 'life-preserver' that hung over the
'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
'Not at all,' replied Sikes coldly.
'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jew, leaning back in his
'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
'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 arning
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,' acquiesed the Jew, who had been considering
during this speech, and had only caught the last sentence.
'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
'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
'Now, Fagin,' said Nancy with a laugh. 'Tell Bill at once, about
'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
'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
'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
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.
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
'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
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.
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
'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
'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. W hatever 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 murmers, 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 appaling.
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
'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
'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
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
'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 to
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.
'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
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 you 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.
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 aggrevated
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, and
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 seemd 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 figues 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
'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 the, 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
'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,
'Yes, the other gentleman's paid,' replied the girl.
'I say!' said the man, with tipsy gravity; 'that won't do, you
'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
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.
'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
'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
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
'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
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
'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,' repied 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 Oiver
gently through the window with his feet first; and, without
leaving hold of his collar, planted him safely on the floor
'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
'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.
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 Mr. 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,
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
'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 consideraton 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, 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,
'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
'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
'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
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
'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.
It was no unfit messanger 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 alone 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
'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
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
'Did she say any more, Anny dear, while I was gone?' inquired the
'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
'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 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
'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
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
'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--yest--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.
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,
'_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,
'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
'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
'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
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
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 hoptalymy!'
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
'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
'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
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
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
'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
'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 concilitory
'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
'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
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 stong 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
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
'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
'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.
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 gallentry 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 parochail 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
'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
'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
aprong-string, round which is 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
'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
'Coals, candles, and house-rent free,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Oh,
Mrs. Corney, what an Angel you are!'
The lady was not proof against this burst of feeling. She sank
into Mr. Bumble's arms; and that gentleman in his agitation,
imprinted a passionate kiss upon her chaste nose.
'Such porochial perfection!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, rapturously.
'You know that Mr. Slout is worse to-night, my fascinator?'
'Yes,' replied Mrs. Corney, bashfully.
'He can't live a week, the doctor says,' pursued Mr. Bumble. 'He
is the master of this establishment; his death will cause a
wacancy; that wacancy must be filled up. Oh, Mrs. Corney, what a
prospect this opens! What a opportunity for a jining of hearts
and housekeepings!'
Mrs. Corney sobbed.
'The little word?' said Mr. Bumble, bending over the bashful
beauty. 'The one little, little, little word, my blessed
'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
'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
'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
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.
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
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 from 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 conscious 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
'It was about half-past tow,' 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
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
'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
'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
'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 capitualated 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
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 timourously 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
'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.
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
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,
'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
'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?'
'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
'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!'
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 him; 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
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
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
'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
'You are as great a boy as poor Brittles himself,' returned Rose,
'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
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
'And what are YOU, boy?' said the doctor, turning sharply upon
'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 recling indolently in the
'It's a simple question of identity, you will observe,' said the
'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
'It's the runners!' cried Brittles, to all appearance much
'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.
'Who's that?' inquired Brittles, opening the door a little way,
with the chain up, and peeping out, shading the candle with his
'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,
'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: contradiction 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
'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
'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
way 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! whyddid 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,
'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
'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
'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
intellectural 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 bedrrom 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
'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
'Think it's the same boy, Stupid-head?' rejoined Blathers,
'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 begain 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.
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
a 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 if 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
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 the 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 enought 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
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 generousity 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.
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
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 know how
Oliver was surprised to see that as Mrs. Maylie said these words,
she checked her lamentations as though by one effort; and drawing
herself up as she spoke, became composed and firm. He was still
more astonished to find that this firmness lasted; and that,
under all the care and watching which ensued, Mrs. Maylie was
every ready and collected: performing all the duties which had
devolved upon her, steadily, and, to all external appearances,
even cheerfully. But he was young, and did not know what strong
minds are capable of, under trying circumstances. How should he,
when their possessors so seldom know themselves?
An anxious night ensued. When morning came, Mrs. Maylie's
predictions were but too well verified. Rose was in the first
stage of a high and dangerous fever.
'We must be active, Oliver, and not give way to useless grief,'
said Mrs. Maylie, laying her finger on her lip, as she looked
steadily into his face; 'this letter must be sent, with all
possible expedition, to Mr. Losberne. It must be carried to the
market-town: which is not more than four miles off, by the
footpath across the field: and thence dispatched, by an express
on horseback, straight to Chertsey. The people at the inn will
undertake to do this: and I can trust to you to see it done, I
Oliver could make no reply, but looked his anxiety to be gone at
'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
'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
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
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
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
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 sand 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
'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
'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.
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
nitecap, 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
'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 abundently 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
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
'I did,' replied Mrs. Maylie; 'but, on reflection, I determined
to keep back the letter until I had heard Mr. Losberne's
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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,
'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
'Have you shot anything particular, lately, Giles?' inquired the
doctor, when he had concluded.
'Nothing particular, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, colouring up to the
'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 depost,
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 occurence.
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 it 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 indcidental 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
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.
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
'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 fell 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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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.
'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
'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 is 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
'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 flyng 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.
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
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
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. Bumle 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!' 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
'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
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 threreat, 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.
'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, please 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
stronly 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
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 Mr. 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
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
'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;
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
'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; and 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,
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 mothing,
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.'
'And the time, night.'
'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,
'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
'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
'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.
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: w ho
opened a small door, near which they stood, and beckoned them
'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 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
'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
'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
'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
'He is right in saying that you were with this hag the night she
died; and that she told you something--'

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?