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OLIVER TWIST OR THE PARISH BOY'S PROGRESS
BY
CHARLES DICKENS

CHAPTER I

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

Among other public buildings in a certain townwhich for many
reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioningand to
which I will assign no fictitious namethere is one anciently
common to most townsgreat or small: to wita workhouse; and
in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not
trouble myself to repeatinasmuch as it can be of no possible
consequence to the readerin 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 troubleby the parish surgeonit 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; orif they hadthat
being comprised within a couple of pagesthey would have
possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and
faithful specimen of biographyextant in the literature of any
age or country.

Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a
workhouseis in itself the most fortunate and enviable
circumstance that can possibly befall a human beingI do mean to
say that in this particular instanceit was the best thing for
Oliver Twist that could by possibility have occurred. The fact
isthat there was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to
take upon himself the office of respiration--a troublesome
practicebut one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy
existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a little flock
mattressrather unequally poised between this world and the
next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter. Now
ifduring this brief periodOliver had been surrounded by
careful grandmothersanxious auntsexperienced nursesand
doctors of profound wisdomhe would most inevitably and
indubitably have been killed in no time. There being nobody by
howeverbut a pauper old womanwho 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 wasthatafter a few struggles
Oliver breathedsneezedand proceeded to advertise to the
inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden having been
imposed upon the parishby 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 appendagea voicefor 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 lungsthe patchwork coverlet which was carelessly flung over
the iron bedsteadrustled; 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 childand 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 spokehe roseand advancing to
the bed's headsaidwith more kindness than might have been
expected of him:

'Ohyou must not talk about dying yet.'

'Lor bless her dear heartno!' interposed the nursehastily
depositing in her pocket a green glass bottlethe contents of
which she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction.

'Lor bless her dear heartwhen she has lived as long as I have
sirand had thirteen children of her ownand all on 'em dead
except twoand them in the wurkus with meshe'll know better
than to take on in that waybless her dear heart! Think what it
is to be a motherthere'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 breasthandsand temples; but the blood had
stopped forever. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been
strangers too long.

'It's all overMrs. Thingummy!' said the surgeon at last.

'Ahpoor dearso it is!' said the nursepicking up the cork of
the green bottlewhich had fallen out on the pillowas she
stooped to take up the child. 'Poor dear!'

'You needn't mind sending up to meif the child criesnurse'
said the surgeonputting 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 hatandpausing by the bed-side on
his way to the dooradded'She was a good-looking girltoo;
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 distancefor her shoes were worn to pieces; but
where she came fromor where she was going tonobody knows.'

The surgeon leaned over the bodyand raised the left hand. 'The
old story' he saidshaking his head: 'no wedding-ringI see.
Ah! Good-night!'

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

What an excellent example of the power of dressyoung Oliver
Twist was! Wrapped in the blanket which had hitherto formed his
only coveringhe 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 servicehe was badged and ticketedand fell into his
place at once--a parish child--the orphan of a workhouse--the
humblehalf-starved drudge--to be cuffed and buffeted through
the world--despised by alland pitied by none.

Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was an
orphanleft to the tender mercies of church-wardens and
overseersperhaps he would have cried the louder.

CHAPTER II

TREATS OF OLIVER TWIST'S GROWTHEDUCATIONAND BOARD

For the next eight or ten monthsOliver 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 authoritieswhether 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 humilitythat there was not.
Upon thisthe parish authorities magnanimously and humanely
resolvedthat Oliver should be 'farmed' orin other words
that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three
miles offwhere twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders
against the poor-lawsrolled about the floor all daywithout
the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothingunder
the parental superintendence of an elderly femalewho 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-halfpennyquite enough to overload its stomachand
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. Soshe
appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own
useand 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
eatingand who demonstrated it so wellthat he had got his own
horse down to a straw a dayand would unquestionably have
rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at
allif he had not diedfour-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 overa 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 foodit did perversely happen in
eight and a half cases out of teneither that it sickened from
want and coldor fell into the fire from neglector got
half-smothered by accident; in any one of which casesthe
miserable little being was usually summoned into another world


and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this.

Occasionallywhen there was some more than usually interesting
inquest upon a parish child who had been overlooked in turning up
a bedsteador 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
questionsor the parishioners would rebelliously affix their
signatures to a remonstrance. But these impertinences were
speedily checked by the evidence of the surgeonand 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. Besidesthe board made
periodical pilgrimages to the farmand always sent the beadle
the day beforeto say they were going. The children were neat
and clean to beholdwhen 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 childsomewhat diminutive in
statureand 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 expandthanks 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 mayhoweverit was his ninth birthday; and he was keeping it
in the coal-cellar with a select party of two other young
gentlemanwhoafter participating with him in a sound
thrashinghad been locked up for atrociously presuming to be
hungrywhen Mrs. Mannthe good lady of the housewas
unexpectedly startled by the apparition of Mr. Bumblethe
beadlestriving to undo the wicket of the garden-gate.

'Goodness gracious! Is that youMr. Bumblesir?' said Mrs.
Mannthrusting her head out of the window in well-affected
ecstasies of joy. '(Susantake Oliver and them two brats
upstairsand wash 'em directly.)--My heart alive! Mr. Bumble
how glad I am to see yousure-ly!'

NowMr. Bumble was a fat manand a choleric; soinstead of
responding to this open-hearted salutation in a kindred spirit
he gave the little wicket a tremendous shakeand then bestowed
upon it a kick which could have emanated from no leg but a
beadle's.

'Loronly think' said Mrs. Mannrunning 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 insideon
account of them dear children! Walk in sir; walk inprayMr.
Bumbledosir.'

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

'Do you think this respectful or proper conductMrs. Mann'
inquired Mr. Bumblegrasping his cane'to keep the parish
officers a waiting at your garden-gatewhen they come here upon
porochial business with the porochial orphans? Are you aweer
Mrs. Mannthat you areas I may saya porochial delegateand
a stipendiary?'


'I'm sure Mr. Bumblethat I was only a telling one or two of the
dear children as is so fond of youthat 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 oneand vindicated the other.
He relaxed.

'WellwellMrs. Mann' he replied in a calmer tone; 'it may be
as you say; it may be. Lead the way inMrs. Mannfor I come on
businessand 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 hatand smiled. Yeshe
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. Mannwith captivating sweetness. 'You've had a long walk
you knowor I wouldn't mention it. Nowwill you take a little
drop of somethinkMr. Bumble?'

'Not a drop. Nor a drop' said Mr. Bumblewaving his right hand
in a dignifiedbut placid manner.

'I think you will' said Mrs. Mannwho had noticed the tone of
the refusaland the gesture that had accompanied it. 'Just a
leetle dropwith a little cold waterand a lump of sugar.'

Mr. Bumble coughed.

'Nowjust a leetle drop' said Mrs. Mann persuasively.

'What is it?' inquired the beadle.

'Whyit's what I'm obliged to keep a little of in the houseto
put into the blessed infants' Daffywhen they ain't wellMr.
Bumble' replied Mrs. Mann as she opened a corner cupboardand
took down a bottle and glass. 'It's gin. I'll not deceive you
Mr. B. It's gin.'

'Do you give the children DaffyMrs. Mann?' inquired Bumble
following with this eyes the interesting process of mixing.

'Ahbless 'emthat I dodear as it is' replied the nurse. 'I
couldn't see 'em suffer before my very eyesyou know sir.'

'No'; said Mr. Bumble approvingly; 'noyou could not. You are a
humane womanMrs. 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 cheerfulnessMrs. Mann'; and he swallowed half of
it.

'And now about business' said the beadletaking out a leathern
pocket-book. 'The child that was half-baptized Oliver Twistis
nine year old to-day.;

'Bless him!' interposed Mrs. Manninflaming her left eye with
the corner of her apron.


'And notwithstanding a offered reward of ten poundwhich was
afterwards increased to twenty pound. Notwithstanding the most
superlativeandI may saysupernat'ral exertions on the part
of this parish' said Bumble'we have never been able to
discover who is his fatheror what was his mother's settlement
nameor con--dition.'

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

The beadle drew himself up with great prideand said'I
inwented it.'

'YouMr. Bumble!'

'IMrs. Mann. We name our fondlings in alphabetical order. The
last was a S--SwubbleI named him. This was a T--TwistI
named HIM. The next one comes will be Unwinand the next
Vilkins. I have got names ready made to the end of the alphabet
and all the way through it againwhen we come to Z.'

'Whyyou're quite a literary charactersir!' said Mrs. Mann.

'Wellwell' said the beadleevidently gratified with the
compliment; 'perhaps I may be. Perhaps I may beMrs. Mann.' He
finished the gin-and-waterand added'Oliver being now too old
to remain herethe 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. Mannleaving the room for
that purpose. Oliverhaving had by this time as much of the
outer coat of dirt which encrusted his face and handsremoved
as could be scrubbed off in one washingwas led into the room by
his benevolent protectress.

'Make a bow to the gentlemanOliver' said Mrs. Mann.

Oliver made a bowwhich was divided between the beadle on the
chairand the cocked hat on the table.

'Will you go along with meOliver?' said Mr. Bumblein a
majestic voice.

Oliver was about to say that he would go along with anybody with
great readinesswhenglancing upwardhe caught sight of Mrs.
Mannwho had got behind the beadle's chairand was shaking her
fist at him with a furious countenance. He took the hint at
oncefor 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.

'Noshe 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
washoweverhe 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 embracesand


what Oliver wanted a great deal morea piece of bread and
butterless he should seem too hungry when he got to the
workhouse. With the slice of bread in his handand the little
brown-cloth parish cap on his headOliver 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 griefas the cottage-gate closed after
him. Wretched as were the little companions in misery he was
leaving behindthey were the only friends he had ever known; and
a sense of his loneliness in the great wide worldsank into the
child's heart for the first time.

Mr. Bumble walked on with long strides; little Oliverfirmly
grasping his gold-laced cufftrotted beside himinquiring 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 hourand had scarcely completed the demolition of a second
slice of breadwhen Mr. Bumblewho had handed him over to the
care of an old womanreturned; andtelling him it was a board
nightinformed 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
wasOliver was rather astounded by this intelligenceand was
not quite certain whether he ought to laugh or cry. He had no
time to think about the matterhowever; for Mr. Bumble gave him
a tap on the headwith his caneto wake him up: and another on
the back to make him lively: and bidding him to follow
conducted him into a large white-washed roomwhere eight or ten
fat gentlemen were sitting round a table. At the top of the
tableseated in an arm-chair rather higher than the restwas a
particularly fat gentleman with a very roundred 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 tablefortunately bowed to that.

'What's your nameboy?' said the gentleman in the high chair.

Oliver was frightened at the sight of so many gentlemenwhich
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 spiritsand putting him quite at his ease.

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

'What's thatsir?' 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 motherand that you were brought up by
the parishdon't you?'

'Yessir' replied Oliverweeping 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 youand take
care of you--like a Christian.'

'Yessir' stammered the boy. The gentleman who spoke last was
unconsciously right. It would have been very like a Christian
and a marvellously good Christian tooif Oliver had prayed for
the people who fed and took care of HIM. But he hadn'tbecause
nobody had taught him.

'Well! You have come here to be educatedand 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 oakumOliver bowed low by the direction of
the beadleand was then hurried away to a large ward; whereon
a roughhard bedhe 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 thoughtas he lay sleeping in happy
unconsciousness of all around himthat 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 sagedeepphilosophical
men; and when they came to turn their attention to the workhouse
they found out at oncewhat 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 breakfastdinnerteaand supper
all the year round; a brick and mortar elysiumwhere it was all
play and no work. 'Oho!' said the boardlooking very knowing;
'we are the fellows to set this to rights; we'll stop it allin
no time.' Sothey established the rulethat all poor people
should have the alternative (for they would compel nobodynot
they)of being starved by a gradual process in the houseor by
a quick one out of it. With this viewthey 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 daywith an onion twice a
weekand half a roll of Sundays. They made a great many other
wise and humane regulationshaving reference to the ladies
which it is not necessary to repeat; kindly undertook to divorce
poor married peoplein consequence of the great expense of a
suit in Doctors' Commons; andinstead of compelling a man to
support his familyas they had theretofore donetook his family
away from himand made him a bachelor! There is no saying how
many applicants for reliefunder these last two headsmight
have started up in all classes of societyif 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 removedthe


system was in full operation. It was rather expensive at first
in consequence of the increase in the undertaker's billand the
necessity of taking in the clothes of all the pauperswhich
fluttered loosely on their wastedshrunken formsafter 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 fedwas a large stone hallwith
a copper at one end: out of which the masterdressed in an
apron for the purposeand assisted by one or two womenladled
the gruel at mealtimes. Of this festive composition each boy had
one porringerand no more--except on occasions of great public
rejoicingwhen 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 longthe spoons being
nearly as large as the bowls)they would sit staring at the
copperwith such eager eyesas if they could have devoured the
very bricks of which it was composed; employing themselves
meanwhilein sucking their fingers most assiduouslywith 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 hungerthat one boywho was tall for his ageand
hadn't been used to that sort of thing (for his father had kept a
small cook-shop)hinted darkly to his companionsthat unless he
had another basin of gruel per diemhe was afraid he might some
night happen to eat the boy who slept next himwho happened to
be a weakly youth of tender age. He had a wildhungry eye; and
they implicitly believed him. A council was held; lots were cast
who should walk up to the master after supper that eveningand
ask for more; and it fell to Oliver Twist.

The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The masterin
his cook's uniformstationed 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 otherand winked at Oliver;
while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he washe was
desperate with hungerand reckless with misery. He rose from
the table; and advancing to the masterbasin and spoon in hand
said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

'PleasesirI want some more.'

The master was a fathealthy man; but he turned very pale. He
gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some
secondsand then clung for support to the copper. The
assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

'What!' said the master at lengthin a faint voice.

'Pleasesir' 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 conclavewhen Mr. Bumble rushed
into the room in great excitementand addressing the gentleman
in the high chairsaid

'Mr. LimbkinsI beg your pardonsir! Oliver Twist has asked


for more!'

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

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

'He didsir' 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 gateoffering 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 tradebusinessor calling.

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

As I purpose to show in the sequel whether the white waistcoated
gentleman was right or notI should perhaps mar the interest of
this narrative (supposing it to possess any at all)if I
ventured to hint just yetwhether the life of Oliver Twist had
this violent termination or no.

CHAPTER III

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

For a week after the commission of the impious and profane
offence of asking for moreOliver 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 appearsat first sight not
unreasonable to supposethatif he had entertained a becoming
feeling of respect for the prediction of the gentleman in the
white waistcoathe would have established that sage individual's
prophetic characteronce and for everby tying one end of his
pocket-handkerchief to a hook in the walland attaching himself
to the other. To the performance of this feathoweverthere
was one obstacle: namelythat pocket-handkerchiefs being
decided articles of luxuryhad beenfor all future times and
agesremoved from the noses of paupers by the express order of
the boardin 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; andwhen the longdismal night came onspread his little
hands before his eyes to shut out the darknessand crouching in
the cornertried to sleep: ever and anon waking with a start
and trembleand 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 incarcerationOliver was
denied the benefit of exercisethe pleasure of societyor the
advantages of religious consolation. As for exerciseit was
nice cold weatherand he was allowed to perform his ablutions
every morning under the pumpin a stone yardin the presence of
Mr. Bumblewho prevented his catching coldand caused a
tingling sensation to pervade his frameby repeated applications
of the cane. As for societyhe was carried every other day into
the hall where the boys dinedand there sociably flogged as a
public warning and example. And so for from being denied the
advantages of religious consolationhe was kicked into the same
apartment every evening at prayer-timeand there permitted to
listen toand console his mind witha general supplication of
the boyscontaining a special clausetherein inserted by
authority of the boardin which they entreated to be made good
virtuouscontentedand obedientand 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 wickednessand an article direct from the
manufactory of the very Devil himself.

It chanced one morningwhile Oliver's affairs were in this
auspicious and confortable statethat Mr. Gamfield
chimney-sweepwent his way down the High Streetdeeply
cogitating in his mind his ways and means of paying certain
arrears of rentfor 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; andin a species of arthimetical desperationhe was
alternately cudgelling his brains and his donkeywhen passing
the workhousehis 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
probablywhether 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; sowithout noticing
the word of commandhe jogged onward.

Mr. Gamfield growled a fierce imprecation on the donkey
generallybut more particularly on his eyes; andrunning after
himbestowed a blow on his headwhich would inevitably have
beaten in any skull but a donkey's. Thencatching hold of the
bridlehe gave his jaw a sharp wrenchby 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 headjust to stun
him till he came back again. Having completed these
arrangementshe walked up to the gateto read the bill.

The gentleman with the white waistcoat was standing at the gate
with his hands behind himafter having delivered himself of some
profound sentiments in the board-room. Having witnessed the
little dispute between Mr. Gamfield and the donkeyhe smiled
joyously when that person came up to read the billfor he saw at
once that Mr. Gamfield was exactly the sort of master Oliver
Twist wanted. Mr. Gamfield smiledtooas he perused the
document; for five pounds was just the sum he had been wishing
for; andas to the boy with which it was encumberedMr.
Gamfieldknowing what the dietary of the workhouse waswell
knew he would be a nice small patternjust the very thing for
register stoves. Sohe spelt the bill through againfrom


beginning to end; and thentouching his fur cap in token of
humilityaccosted the gentleman in the white waistcoat.

'This here boysirwot the parish wants to 'prentis' said Mr.
Gamfield.

'Aymy man' said the gentleman in the white waistcoatwith a
condescending smile. 'What of him?'

'If the parish vould like him to learn a right pleasant tradein
a good 'spectable chimbley-sweepin' bisness' said Mr. Gamfield
'I wants a 'prentisand I am ready to take him.'

'Walk in' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. Mr.
Gamfield having lingered behindto give the donkey another blow
on the headand another wrench of the jawas a caution not to
run away in his absencefollowed the gentleman with the white
waistcoat into the room where Oliver had first seen him.

'It's a nasty trade' said Mr. Limbkinswhen 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
smokeand no blaze; vereas smoke ain't o' no use at all in
making a boy come downfor it only sinds him to sleepand
that's wot he likes. Boys is wery obstinitand wery lazy
Gen'l'menand there's nothink like a good hot blaze to make 'em
come down vith a run. It's humane toogen'l'menacauseeven
if they've stuck in the chimbleyroasting 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 minutesbut in so low a tonethat the
words 'saving of expenditure' 'looked well in the accounts'
'have a printed report published' were alone audible. These
only chanced to be heardindeedor 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 solemnityMr. Limbkins
said:

'We have considered your propositionand we don't approve of
it.'

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

'Decidedly not' added the other members.

As Mr. Gamfield did happen to labour under the slight imputation
of having bruised three or four boys to death alreadyit
occurred to him that the board hadperhapsin some
unaccountable freaktaken it into their heads that this
extraneous circumstance ought to influence their proceedings. It
was very unlike their general mode of doing businessif they
had; but stillas he had no particular wish to revive the
rumourhe twisted his cap in his handsand walked slowly from
the table.


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

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

Mr. Gamfield's countenance brightenedaswith a quick stephe
returned to the tableand said

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

'I should saythree pound ten was plenty' said Mr. Limbkins.

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

'Come!' said Gamfield; 'say four poundgen'l'men. Say four
poundand you've got rid of him for good and all. There!'
'Three pound ten' repeated Mr. Limbkinsfirmly.

'Come! I'll split the diff'erencegen'l'menurged Gamfield.
'Three pound fifteen.'

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

'You're desperate hard upon megen'l'mensaid Gamfield
wavering.

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

Mr. Gamfield gave an arch look at the faces round the tableand
observing a smile on all of themgradually broke into a smile
himself. The bargain was made. Mr. Bumblewas at once
instructed that Oliver Twist and his indentures were to be
conveyed before the magistratefor signature and approvalthat
very afternoon.

In pursuance of this determinationlittle Oliverto his
excessive astonishmentwas released from bondageand ordered to
put himself into a clean shirt. He had hardly achieved this very
unusual gymnastic performancewhen Mr. Bumble brought himwith
his own handsa basin of grueland the holiday allowance of two
ounces and a quarter of bread. At this tremendous sightOliver
began to cry very piteously: thinkingnot unaturallythat 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 redOliverbut eat your food and be
thankful' said Mr. Bumblein a tone of impressive pomposity.
'You're a going to be made a 'prentice ofOliver.'

'A prenticesir!' said the childtrembling.

'YesOliver' said Mr. Bumble. 'The kind and blessed gentleman
which is so amny parents to youOliverwhen you have none of


your own: are a going to 'prentice you: and to set you up in
lifeand make a man of you: although the expense to the parish
is three pound ten!--three pound tenOliver!--seventy
shillins--one hundred and forty sixpences!--and all for a naughty
orphan which noboday can't love.'

As Mr. Bumble paused to take breathafter delivering this
address in an awful voicethe tears rolled down the poor child's
faceand he sobbed bitterly.

'Come' said Mr. Bumblesomewhat less pompouslyfor it was
gratifying to his feelings to observe the effect his eloquence
had produced; 'ComeOliver! Wipe your eyes with the cuffs of
your jacketand don't cry into your gruel; that's a very foolish
actionOliver.' It certainly wasfor there was quite enough
water in it already.

On their way to the magistrateMr. Bumble instructed Oliver that
all he would have to dowould be to look very happyand say
when the gentleman asked him if he wanted to be apprenticedthat
he should like it very much indeed; both of which injunctions
Oliver promised to obey: the rather as Mr. Bumble threw in a
gentle hintthat if he failed in either particularthere was no
telling what would be done to him. When they arrived at the
officehe was shut up in a little room by himselfand
admonished by Mr. Bumble to stay thereuntil he came back to
fetch him.

There the boy remainedwith a palpitating heartfor half an
hour. At the expiration of which time Mr. Bumble thrust in his
headunadorned with the cocked hatand said aloud:

'NowOlivermy dearcome to the gentleman.' As Mr. Bumble
said thishe put on a grim and threatening lookand addedin a
low voice'Mind what I told youyou 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 thereuponby 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 desksat two old gentleman with
powdered heads: one of whom was reading the newspaper; while the
other was perusingwith the aid of a pair of tortoise-shell
spectaclesa small piece of parchment which lay before him. Mr.
Limbkins was standing in front of the desk on one side; and Mr.
Gamfieldwith a partially washed faceon the other; while two
or three bluff-looking menin top-bootswere lounging about.

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

'This is the boyyour worship' said Mr. Bumble.

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

'Ohis this the boy?' said the old gentleman.

'This is himsir' replied Mr. Bumble. 'Bow to the magistrate
my dear.'

Oliver roused himselfand made his best obeisance. He had been


wonderingwith his eyes fixed on the magistrates' powder
whether all boards were born with that white stuff on their
headsand were boards from thenceforth on that account.

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

'He doats on ityour worship' replied Bumble; giving Oliver a
sly pinchto intimate that he had better not say he didn't.

'And he WILL be a sweepwill he?' inquired the old gentleman.

'If we was to bind him to any other trade to-morrowhe'd run
away simultaneousyour worship' replied Bumble.

'And this man that's to be his master--yousir--you'll treat him
welland feed himand do all that sort of thingwill you?'
said the old gentleman.

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

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

'I hope I amsir' said Mr. Gamfieldwith an ugly leer.

'I have no doubt you aremy friend' replied the old gentleman:
fixing his spectacles more firmly on his noseand 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 washe would have dipped
his pen into itand signed the indenturesand Oliver would have
been straightway hurried off. Butas it chanced to be
immediately under his noseit followedas a matter of course
that he looked all over his desk for itwithout finding it; and
happening in the course of his search to look straight before
himhis gaze encountered the pale and terrified face of Oliver
Twist: whodespite all the admonitory looks and pinches of
Bumblewas regarding the repulsive countenance of his future
masterwith a mingled expression of horror and feartoo
palpable to be mistakeneven by a half-blind magistrate.

The old gentleman stoppedlaid down his penand 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 himBeadle' said the other
magistrate: laying aside the paperand leaning forward with an
expression of interest. 'Nowboytell us what's the matter:
don't be afraid.'

Oliver fell on his kneesand clasping his hands togetherprayed
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. Bumbleraising his hands and eyes with most
impressive solemnite. 'Well! of all the artful and designing
orphans that ever I seeOliveryou are one of the most
bare-facedest.'

'Hold your tongueBeadle' said the second old gentlemanwhen
Mr. Bumble had given vent to this compound adjective.

'I beg your worship's pardon' said Mr. Bumbleincredulous 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
companionhe 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 conducton 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 workhouseand treat him kindly. He seems to
want it.'

That same eveningthe gentleman in the white waistcoat most
positively and decidedly affirmednot only that Oliver would be
hungbut that he would be drawn and quartered into the bargain.
Mr. Bumble shook his head with gloomy mysteryand said he wished
he might come to good; whereunto Mr. Gamfield repliedthat he
wished he might come to him; whichalthough he agreed with the
beadle in most matterswould seem to be a wish of a totaly
opposite description.

The next morningthe public were once informed that Oliver Twist
was again To Letand that five pounds would be paid to anybody
who would take possession of him.

CHAPTER IV

OLIVERBEING OFFERED ANOTHER PLACEMAKES HIS FIRST ENTRY INTO
PUBLIC LIFE

In great familieswhen an advantageous place cannot be obtained
either in possessionreversionremainderor expectancyfor
the young man who is growing upit is a very general custom to
send him to sea. The boardin imitation of so wise and salutary
an exampletook counsel together on the expediency of shipping
off Oliver Twistin 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 beingthat
the skipper would flog him to deathin a playful moodsome day


after dinneror would knock his brains out with an iron bar;
both pastimes beingas is pretty generally knownvery favourite
and common recreations among gentleman of that class. The more
the case presented itself to the boardin this point of view
the more manifold the advantages of the step appeared; sothey
came to the conclusion that the only way of providing for Oliver
effectuallywas to send him to sea without delay.

Mr. Bumble had been despatched to make various preliminary
inquirieswith 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 gateno less a person than Mr. Sowerberry
the parochial undertaker.

Mr. Sowerberry was a tall gauntlarge-jointed manattired in a
suit of threadbare blackwith darned cotton stockings of the
same colourand shoes to answer. His features were not
naturally intended to wear a smiling aspectbut he was in
general rather given to professional jocosity. His step was
elasticand his face betokened inward pleasantryas he advanced
to Mr. Bumbleand 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 fortuneMr. Sowerberry' said the beadleas
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 fortuneMr. Sowerberry'
repeated Mr. Bumbletapping the undertaker on the shoulderin a
friendly mannerwith 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 smallMr. 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. 'Wellwell
Mr. Bumble' he said at length'there's no denying thatsince
the new system of feeding has come inthe coffins are something
narrower and more shallow than they used to be; but we must have
some profitMr. Bumble. Well-seasoned timber is an expensive
articlesir; and all the iron handles comeby canalfrom
Birmingham.'

'Wellwell' said Mr. Bumble'every trade has its drawbacks. A
fair profit isof courseallowable.'

'Of courseof course' replied the undertaker; 'and if I don't
get a profit upon this or that particular articlewhyI make it
up in the long-runyou see--he! he! he!'

'Just so' said Mr. Bumble.

'Though I must say' continued the undertakerresuming the
current of observations which the beadle had interrupted: 'though
I must sayMr. Bumblethat I have to contend against one very
great disadvantage: which isthat all the stout people go off
the quickest. The people who have been better offand have paid
rates for many yearsare the first to sink when they come into


the house; and let me tell youMr. Bumblethat three or four
inches over one's calculation makes a great hole in one's
profits: especially when one has a family to provide forsir.'

As Mr. Sowerberry said thiswith 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 mindhe made him his theme.

'By the bye' said Mr. Bumble'you don't know anybody who wants
a boydo you? A porochial 'prentiswho is at present a
dead-weight; a millstoneas I may sayround the porochial
throat? Liberal termsMr. Sowerberryliberal terms?' As Mr.
Bumble spokehe raised his cane to the bill above himand 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 mewhat a
very elegant button this isMr. Bumble! I never noticed it
before.'

'YesI think it rather pretty' said the beadleglancing
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 morningMr. Sowerberry. I put it onI
rememberfor the first timeto attend the inquest on that
reduced tradesmanwho 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 verdictI think' said the
undertaker'by adding some words to the effectthat if the
relieving officer had--'

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

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

'Juries' said Mr. Bumblegrasping his cane tightlyas was his
wont when working into a passion: 'juries is ineddicated
vulgargrovelling wretches.'

'So they are' said the undertaker.

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

'No more they have' acquiesced the undertaker.

'I despise 'em' said the beadlegrowing very red in the face.

'So do I' rejoined the undertaker.

'And I only wish we'd a jury of the independent sortin the


house for a week or two' said the beadle; 'the rules and
regulations of the board would soon bring their spirit down for
'em.'

'Let 'em alone for that' replied the undertaker. So sayinghe
smiledapprovingly: 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;
andturning to the undertakersaid in a calmer voice:

'Well; what about the boy?'

'Oh!' replied the undertaker; whyyou knowMr. BumbleI 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 'emI've a right to get as much out of 'em as I
canMr. Bumble; and so--I think I'll take the boy myself.'

Mr. Bumble grasped the undertaker by the armand 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 meansin the case of
a parish apprenticethat if the master findupon a short trial
that he can get enough work out of a boy without putting too much
food into himhe shall have him for a term of yearsto do what
he likes with.

When little Oliver was taken before 'the gentlemen' that evening;
and informed that he was to gothat nightas general house-lad
to a coffin-maker's; and that if he complained of his situation
or ever came back to the parish againhe would be sent to sea
there to be drownedor knocked on the headas the case might
behe evinced so little emotionthat they by common consent
pronounced him a hardened young rascaland orered Mr. Bumble to
remove him forthwith.

Nowalthough it was very natural that the boardof all people
in the worldshould feel in a great state of virtuous
astonishment and horror at the smallest tokens of want of feeling
on the part of anybodythey were rather outin this particular
instance. The simple fact wasthat Oliverinstead of
possessing too little feelingpossessed rather too much; and was
in a fair way of being reducedfor lifeto a state of brutal
stupidity and sullenness by the ill usage he had received. He
heard the news of his destinationin perfect silence; and
having had his luggage put into his hand--which was not very
difficult to carryinasmuch as it was all comprised within the
limits of a brown paper parcelabout 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 cuffwas led away by that
dignitary to a new scene of suffering.

For some timeMr. Bumble drew Oliver alongwithout notice or
remark; for the beadle carried his head very erectas a beadle
always should: andit being a windy daylittle Oliver was
completely enshrouded by the skirts of Mr. Bumble's coat as they
blew openand disclosed to great advantage his flapped waistcoat
and drab plush knee-breeches. As they drew near to their


destinationhoweverMr. Bumble thought it expedient to look
downand see that the boy was in good order for inspection by
his new master: which he accordingly didwith a fit and
becoming air of gracious patronage.

'Oliver!' said Mr. Bumble.

'Yessir' replied Oliverin a lowtremulous voice.

'Pull that cap off your eyesand hold up your headsir.'

Although Oliver did as he was desiredat once; and passed the
back of his unoccupied hand briskly across his eyeshe left a
tear in them when he looked up at his conductor. As Mr. Bumble
gazed sternly upon himit rolled down his cheek. It was followed
by anotherand another. The child made a strong effortbut 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. Bumblestopping shortand darting at his
little charge a look of intense malignity. 'Well! Of ALL the
ungratefullestand worst-disposed boys as ever I seeOliver
you are the--'

'Nonosir' sobbed Oliverclinging to the hand which held the
well-known cane; 'nonosir; I will be good indeed; indeed
indeed I willsir! I am a very little boysir; and it is
so--so--'

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

'So lonelysir! So very lonely!' cried the child. 'Everybody
hates me. Oh! sirdon'tdon'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 lookwith some
astonishmentfor 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 handhe walked on with him in silence.

The undertakerwho had just putup the shutters of his shopwas
making some entries in his day-book by the light of a most
appropriate dismal candlewhen Mr. Bumble entered.

'Aha!' said the undertaker; looking up from the bookand pausing
in the middle of a word; 'is that youBumble?'

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

'Oh! that's the boyis it?' said the undertaker: raising the
candle above his headto get a better view of Oliver. 'Mrs.
Sowerberrywill you have the goodness to come here a momentmy
dear?'

Mrs. Sowerberry emerged from a little room behind the shopand
presented the form of a shortthensqueezed-up womanwith a
vixenish countenance.

'My dear' said Mr. Sowerberrydeferentially'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.'

'Whyhe 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 growMrs. Sowerberry--he'll
grow.'

'Ah! I dare say he will' replied the lady pettishly'on our
victuals and our drink. I see no saving in parish childrennot
I; for they always cost more to keepthan they're worth.
Howevermen always think they know best. There! Get downstairs
little bag o' bones.' With thisthe undertaker's wife opened a
side doorand pushed Oliver down a steep flight of stairs into a
stone celldamp and dark: forming the ante-room to the
coal-cellarand denominated 'kitchen'; wherein sat a slatternly
girlin shoes down at heeland blue worsted stockings very much
out of repair.

'HereCharlotte' said Mr. Sowerberrywho 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 morningso he may go
without 'em. I dare say the boy isn't too dainty to eat 'em--are
youboy?'

Oliverwhose eyes had glistened at the mention of meatand who
was trembling with eagerness to devour itreplied in the
negative; and a plateful of coarse broken victuals was set before
him.

I wish some well-fed philosopherwhose meat and drink turn to
gall within him; whose blood is icewhose 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 himselfwith the same relish.

'Well' said the undertaker's wifewhen Oliver had finished his
supper: which she had regarded in silent horrorand with
fearful auguries of his future appetite: 'have you done?'

There being nothing eatable within his reachOliver replied in
the affirmative.

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

Oliver lingered no longerbut meekly followed his new mistress.

CHAPTER V

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

Oliverbeing left to himself in the undertaker's shopset the


lamp down on a workman's benchand gazed timidly about him with
a feeling of awe and dreadwhich many people a good deal older
than he will be at no loss to understand. An unfinished coffin
on black tresselswhich stood in the middle of the shoplooked
so gloomy and death-like that a cold tremble came over himevery
time his eyes wandered in the direction of the dismal object:
from which he almost expected to see some frightful form slowly
rear its headto drive him mad with terror. Against the wall
were rangedin regular arraya long row of elm boards cut in
the same shape: looking in the dim lightlike high-shouldered
ghosts with their hands in their breeches pockets.
Coffin-plateselm-chipsbright-headed nailsand shreds of
black clothlay scattered on the floor; and the wall behind the
counter was ornamented with a lively representation of two mutes
in very stiff neckclothson duty at a large private doorwith a
hearse drawn by four black steedsapproaching 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 thrustlooked 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 foror 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 heavynotwithstanding; and he wishedas he
crept into his narrow bedthat that were his coffinand that he
could be lain in a calm and lasting sleep in the churchyard
groundwith the tall grass waving gently above his headand the
sound of the old deep bell to soothe him in his sleep.

Oliver was awakened in the morningby a loud kicking at the
outside of the shop-door: whichbefore he could huddle on his
clotheswas repeatedin an angry and impetuous mannerabout
twenty-five times. When he began to undo the chainthe legs
desistedand a voice began.

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

'I willdirectlysir' replied Oliver: undoing the chainand
turning the key.

'I suppose yer the new boyain't yer?' said the voice through
the key-hole.

'Yessir' replied Oliver.

'How old are yer?' inquired the voice.

'Tensir' replied Oliver.

'Then I'll whop yer when I get in' said the voice; 'you just see
if I don'tthat's allmy work'us brat!' and having made this
obliging promisethe voice began to whistle.

Oliver had been too often subjected to the process to which the
very expressive monosyllable just recorded bears referenceto
entertain the smallest doubt that the owner of the voicewhoever
he might bewould redeem his pledgemost honourably. He drew
back the bolts with a trembling handand opened the door.


For a second or twoOliver glanced up the streetand down the
streetand over the way: impressed with the belief that the
unknownwho had addressed him through the key-holehad walked a
few paces offto warm himself; for nobody did he see but a big
charity-boysitting on a post in front of the houseeating a
slice of bread and butter: which he cut into wedgesthe size of
his mouthwith a clasp-knifeand then consumed with great
dexterity.

'I beg your pardonsir' 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 coffinsir?' inquired Oliverinnocently.

At thisthe charity-boy looked monstrous fierce; and said that
Oliver would want one before longif he cut jokes with his
superiors in that way.

'Yer don't know who I amI supposeWork'us?' said the
charity-boyin continuation: descending from the top of the
postmeanwhilewith edifying gravity.

'Nosir' rejoined Oliver.

'I'm Mister Noah Claypole' said the charity-boy'and you're
under me. Take down the shuttersyer idle young ruffian!' With
thisMr. Claypole administered a kick to Oliverand entered the
shop with a dignified airwhich did him great credit. It is
difficult for a large-headedsmall-eyed youthof lumbering make
and heavy countenanceto look dignified under any circumstances;
but it is more especially sowhen superadded to these personal
attractions are a red nose and yellow smalls.

Oliverhaving taken down the shuttersand 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 daywas 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 afterwardsMrs. Sowerberry appeared. Oliver having
'caught it' in fulfilment of Noah's predictionfollowed that
young gentleman down the stairs to breakfast.

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

'D'ye hearWork'us?' said Noah Claypole.

'LorNoah!' 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
enoughfor 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. EhCharlotte? He! he! he!'

'Ohyou queer soul!' said Charlottebursting into a hearty
laughin which she was joined by Noah; after which they both


looked scornfully at poor Oliver Twistas he sat shivering on
the box in the coldest corner of the roomand ate the stale
pieces which had been specially reserved for him.

Noah was a charity-boybut not a workhouse orphan. No
chance-child was hefor he could trace his genealogy all the way
back to his parentswho lived hard by; his mother being a
washerwomanand his father a drunken soldierdischarged with a
wooden legand 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. Butnow that
fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphanat whom even the
meanest could point the finger of scornhe 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-parlourwhen Mr.
Sowerberryafter several deferential glances at his wifesaid

'My dear--' He was going to say more; butMrs. Sowerberry
looking upwith a peculiarly unpropitious aspecthe stopped
short.

'Well' said Mrs. Sowerberrysharply.

'Nothingmy dearnothing' said Mr. Sowerberry.

'Ughyou brute!' said Mrs. Sowerberry.

'Not at allmy dear' said Mr. Sowerberry humbly. 'I thought
you didn't want to hearmy dear. I was only going to say--'

'Ohdon't tell me what you were going to say' interposed Mrs.
Sowerberry. 'I am nobody; don't consult mepray. _I_ don't
want to intrude upon your secrets.' As Mrs. Sowerberry said
thisshe gave an hysterical laughwhich threatened violent
consequences.

'Butmy dear' said Sowerberry'I want to ask your advice.'

'Nonodon't ask mine' replied Mrs. Sowerberryin an
affecting manner: 'ask somebody else's.' Herethere was
another hysterical laughwhich frightened Mr. Sowerberry very
much. This is a very common and much-approved matrimonial course
of treatmentwhich is often very effective It at once reduced
Mr. Sowerberry to beggingas a special favourto be allowed to
say what Mrs. Sowerberry was most curious to hear. After a short
durationthe permission was most graciously conceded.

'It's only about young Twistmy dear' said Mr. Sowerberry. 'A
very good-looking boythatmy dear.'

'He need befor he eats enough' observed the lady.

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


Mrs. Sowerberry looked up with an expression of considerable
wonderment. Mr. Sowerberry remarked it andwithout allowing
time for any observation on the good lady's partproceeded.

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

Mrs. Sowerberrywho had a good deal of taste in the undertaking
waywas much struck by the novelty of this idea; butas it
would have been compromising her dignity to have said sounder
existing circumstancesshe merely inquiredwith much sharpness
why such an obvious suggestion had not presented itself to her
husband's mind before? Mr. Sowerberry rightly construed thisas
an acquiescence in his proposition; it was speedily determined
thereforethat Oliver should be at once initiated into the
mysteries of the trade; andwith this viewthat 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 morningMr. Bumble entered the shop; and
supporting his cane against the counterdrew forth his large
leathern pocket-book: from which he selected a small scrap of
paperwhich he handed over to Sowerberry.

'Aha!' said the undertakerglancing over it with a lively
countenance; 'an order for a coffineh?'

'For a coffin firstand a porochial funeral afterwards' replied
Mr. Bumblefastening the strap of the leathern pocket-book:
whichlike himselfwas very corpulent.

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

Bumble shook his headas he replied'Obstinate peopleMr.
Sowerberry; very obstinate. ProudtooI'm afraidsir.'

'Proudeh?' exclaimed Mr. Sowerberry with a sneer. 'Come
that's too much.'

'Ohit's sickening' replied the beadle. 'AntimonialMr.
Sowerberry!'

'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 themthen
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-bottleoffhand.'

'Ahthere's promptness' said the undertaker.

'Promptnessindeed!' replied the beadle. 'But what's the
consequence; what's the ungrateful behaviour of these rebels
sir? Whythe husband sends back word that the medicine won't
suit his wife's complaintand so she shan't take it--says she
shan't take itsir! Goodstrongwholesome medicineas was
given with great success to two Irish labourers and a


coal-heaverony a week before--sent 'em for nothingwith a
blackin'-bottle in--and he sends back word that she shan't take
itsir!'

As the atrocity presented itself to Mr. Bumble's mind in full
forcehe struck the counter sharply with his caneand became
flushed with indignation.

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

'Never didsir!' ejaculated the beadle. 'Nonor nobody never
did; but now she's deadwe've got to bury her; and that's the
direction; and the sooner it's donethe better.'

Thus sayingMr. Bumble put on his cocked hat wrong side first
in a fever of parochial excietment; and flounced out of the shop.

'Whyhe was so angryOliverthat he forgot even to ask after
you!' said Mr. Sowerberrylooking after the beadle as he strode
down the street.

'Yessir' replied Oliverwho had carefully kept himself out of
sightduring 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
glancehowever; for that functionaryon whom the prediction of
the gentleman in the white waistcoat had made a very strong
impressionthought that now the undertaker had got Oliver upon
trial the subject was better avoideduntil such time as he
should be firmly bound for seven yearsand all danger of his
being returned upon the hands of the parish should be thus
effectually and legally overcome.

'Well' said Mr. Sowerberrytaking up his hat. 'the sooner this
job is donethe better. Noahlook after the shop. Oliverput
on your capand come with me.' Oliver obeyedand followed his
master on his professional mission.

They walked onfor some timethrough the most crowded and
densely inhabited part of the town; and thenstriking down a
narrow street more dirty and miserable than any they had yet
passed throughpaused to look for the house which was the object
of their search. The houses on either side were high and large
but very oldand 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 whowith folded arms and bodies half
doubledoccasionally skulked along. A great many of the
tenements had shop-fronts; but these were fast closedand
mouldering away; only the upper rooms being inhabited. Some
houses which had become insecure from age and decaywere
prevented from falling into the streetby huge beams of wood
reared against the wallsand firmly planted in the road; but
even these crazy dens seemed to have been selected as the nightly
haunts of some houseless wretchesfor many of the rough boards
which supplied the place of door and windowwere wrenched from
their positionsto afford an aperture wide enough for the
passage of a human body. The kennel was stagnant and filthy.
The very ratswhich here and there lay putrefying in its
rottennesswere hideous with famine.

There was neither knocker nor bell-handle at the open door where
Oliver and his master stopped; sogroping his way cautiously


through the dark passageand 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 landinghe
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 containedto 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
mechanicallyover the empty stove. An old womantoohad drawn
a low stool to the cold hearthand was sitting beside him.
There were some ragged children in another corner; and in a small
recessopposite the doorthere lay upon the groundsomething
covered with an old blanket. Oliver shuddered as he cast his
eyes toward the placeand crept involuntarily closer to his
master; for though it was covered upthe boy felt that it was a
corpse.

The man's face was thin and very pale; his hair and beard were
grizzly; his eyes were 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 manstarting fiercely up
as the undertaker approached the recess. 'Keep back! Damn you
keep backif you've a life to lose!'

'Nonsensemy good man' said the undertakerwho was pretty well
used to misery in all its shapes. 'Nonsense!'

'I tell you' said the man: clenching his handsand 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 pocketknelt down for a moment by the side of the
body.

'Ah!' said the man: bursting into tearsand sinking on his
knees at the feet of the dead woman; 'kneel downkneel down
--kneel round herevery one of youand mark my words! I say
she was starved to death. I never knew how bad she wastill 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 backshe
was dying; and all the blood in my heart has dried upfor they
starved her to death. I swear it before the God that saw it!
They starved her!' He twined his hands in his hair; andwith a
loud screamrolled grovelling upon the floor: his eyes fixed
and the foam covering his lips.

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


'She was my daughter' said the old womannodding 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.
'LordLord! Wellit IS strange that I who gave birth to her
and was a woman thenshould be alive and merry nowand she
lying ther: so cold and stiff! LordLord!--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
merrimentthe undertaker turned to go away.

'Stopstop!' said the old woman in a loud whisper. 'Will she be
buried to-morrowor next dayor to-night? I laid her out; and
I must walkyou know. Send me a large cloak: a good warm one:
for it is bitter cold. We should have cake and winetoobefore
we go! Never mind; send some bread--only a loaf of bread and a
cup of water. Shall we have some breaddear?' she said eagerly:

catching at the undertaker's coatas he once more moved towards
the door.

'Yesyes' said the undertaker'of course. Anything you like!'
He disengaged himself from the old woman's grasp; anddrawing
Oliver after himhurried away.

The next day(the family having been meanwhile relieved with a
half-quartern loaf and a piece of cheeseleft with them by Mr.
Bumble himself) Oliver and his master returned to the miserable
abode; where Mr. Bumble had already arrivedaccompanied by four
men from the workhousewho 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 downwas hoisted on the
shoulders of the bearersand carried into the street.

'Nowyou must put your best leg foremostold lady!' whispered
Sowerberry in the old woman's ear; 'we are rather late; and it
won't doto keep the clergyman waiting. Move onmy men--as
quick as you like!'

Thus directedthe bearers trotted on under their light burden;
and the two mourners kept as near themas they could. Mr.
Bumble and Sowerberry walked at a good smart pace in front; and
Oliverwhose legs were not so long as his master'sran by the
side.

There was not so great a necessity for hurrying as Mr. Sowerberry
had anticipatedhowever; for when they reached the obscure
corner of the churchyard in which the nettles grewand where the
parish graves were madethe clergyman had not arrived; and the
clerkwho was sitting by the vestry-room fireseemed to think
it by no means improbable that it might be an hour or sobefore
he came. Sothey put the bier on the brink of the grave; and
the two mourners waited patiently in the damp claywith a cold
rain drizzling downwhile the ragged boys whom the spectacle had
attracted into the churchyard played a noisy game at
hide-and-seek among the tombstonesor varied their amusements by
jumping backwards and forwards over the coffin. Mr. Sowerberry
and Bumblebeing personal friends of the clerksat by the fire
with himand read the paper.

At lengthafter a lapse of something more than an hourMr.
Bumbleand Sowerberryand the clerkwere seen running towards
the grave. Immediately afterwardsthe clergyman appeared:
putting on his surplice as he came along. Mr. Bumble then


thrashed a boy or twoto keep up appearances; and the reverend
gentlemanhaving read as much of the burial service as could be
compressed into four minutesgave his surplice to the clerkand
walked away again.

'NowBill!' said Sowerberry to the grave-digger. 'Fill up!'

It was no very difficult taskfor the grave was so fullthat
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 offfollowed by the
boyswho murmured very loud complaints at the fun being over so
soon.

'Comemy good fellow!' said Bumbletapping the man on the back.

'They want to shut up the yard.'

The man who had never once movedsince he had taken his station
by the grave sidestartedraised his headstared at the person
who had addressed himwalked 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 tosaw him safely out of the
churchyardlocked the gateand departed on their different
ways.

'WellOliver' said Sowerberryas they walked home'how do you
like it?'

'Pretty wellthank yousir' replied Oliverwith considerable
hesitation. 'Not very muchsir.'

'Ahyou'll get used to it in timeOliver' said Sowerberry.
'Nothing when you ARE used to itmy boy.'

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

CHAPTER VI

OLIVERBEING GOADED BY THE TAUNTS OF NOAHROUSES INTO ACTION
AND RATHER ASTONISHES HIM

The month's trial overOliver was formally apprenticed. It was
a nice sickly season just at this time. In commercial phrase
coffins were looking up; andin the course of a few weeks
Oliver acquired a great deal of experience. The success of Mr.
Sowerberry's ingenious speculationexceeded even his most
sanguine hopes. The oldest inhabitants recollected no period at
which measles had been so prevalentor so fatal to infant
existence; and many were the mournful processions which little
Oliver headedin a hat-band reaching down to his kneesto the
indescribable admiration and emotion of all the mothers in the
town. As Oliver accompanied his master in most of his adult
expeditions tooin order that he might acquire that equanimity
of demeanour and full command of nerve which was essential to a
finished undertakerhe 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 gentlemanwho was surrounded by a great number
of nephews and nieceswho had been perfectly inconsolable during
the previous illnessand whose grief had been wholly
irrepressible even on the most public occasionsthey 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
toobore the loss of their wives with the most heroic calmness.
Wivesagainput on weeds for their husbandsas ifso far from
grieving in the garb of sorrowthey had made up their minds to
render it as becoming and attractive as possible. It was
observabletoothat ladies and gentlemen who were in passions
of anguish during the ceremony of intermentrecovered almost as
soon as they reached homeand 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 peopleI cannotalthough I am his biographer
undertake to affirm with any degree of confidence; but I can most
distinctly saythat for many months he continued meekly to
submit to the domination and ill-treatment of Noah Claypole: who
used him far worse than beforenow that his jealousy was roused
by seeing the new boy promoted to the black stick and hatband
while hethe old oneremained stationary in the muffin-cap and
leathers. Charlotte treated him illbecause Noah did; and Mrs.
Sowerberry was his decided enemybecause Mr. Sowerberry was
disposed to be his friend; sobetween these three on one side
and a glut of funerals on the otherOliver was not altogether as
comfortable as the hungry pig waswhen he was shut upby
mistakein the grain department of a brewery.

And nowI come to a very important passage in Oliver's history;
for I have to record an actslight and unimportant perhaps in
appearancebut which indirectly produced a material change in
all his future prospects and proceedings.

One dayOliver and Noah had descended into the kitchen at the
usual dinner-hourto 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 waythere ensued a brief interval of
timewhich Noah Claypolebeing hungry and viciousconsidered
he could not possibly devote to a worthier purpose than
aggravating and tantalising young Oliver Twist.

Intent upon this innocent amusementNoah 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 hangedwhenever
that desirable event should take place; and entered upon various
topics of petty annoyancelike a malicious and ill-conditioned
charity-boy as he was. Butmaking Oliver cryNoah attempted to
be more facetious still; and in his attemptdid what many
sometimes do to this daywhen 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 nostrilswhich 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 ofWork'us?' said Noah.

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

'Tol de rol lol lolright fol lairyWork'us' said Noahas a
tear rolled down Oliver's cheek. 'What's set you a snivelling
now?'

'Not YOU' replied Oliversharply. '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 mothertoo! She was a nice 'un she
was. OhLor!' And hereNoah nodded his head expressively; and
curled up as much of his small red nose as muscular action could
collect togetherfor the occasion.

'Yer knowWork'us' continued Noahemboldened by Oliver's
silenceand speaking in a jeering tone of affected pity: of all
tones the most annoying: 'Yer knowWork'usit 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 areand pity yer very much. But yer
must knowWork'usyer mother was a regular right-down bad 'un.'

'What did you say?' inquired Oliverlooking up very quickly.

'A regular right-down bad 'unWork'us' replied Noahcoolly.
'And it's a great deal betterWork'usthat she died when she
didor else she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewellor
transportedor hung; which is more likely than eitherisn't
it?'

Crimson with furyOliver started up; overthrew the chair and
table; seized Noah by the throat; shook himin the violence of
his ragetill his teeth chattered in his head; and collecting
his whole force into one heavy blowfelled him to the ground.

A minute agothe boy had looked the quiet childmilddejected
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 changedas he stood
glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now lay crouching at his
feet; and defied him with an energy he had never known before.

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

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

'Ohyou little wretch!' screamed Charlotte: seizing Oliver with


her utmost forcewhich was about equal to that of a moderately
strong man in particularly good training. 'Ohyou little
un-grate-fulmur-de-roushor-rid villain!' And between every
syllableCharlotte gave Oliver a blow with all her might:
accompanying it with a screamfor the benefit of society.

Charlotte's fist was by no means a light one; butlest it should
not be effectual in calming Oliver's wrathMrs. Sowerberry
plunged into the kitchenand assisted to hold him with one hand
while she scratched his face with the other. In this favourable
position of affairsNoah rose from the groundand pommelled him
behind.

This was rather too violent exercise to last long. When they
were all wearied outand could tear and beat no longerthey
dragged Oliverstruggling and shoutingbut nothing daunted
into the dust-cellarand there locked him up. This being done
Mrs. Sowerberry sunk into a chairand burst into tears.

'Bless hershe's going off!' said Charlotte. 'A glass of water
Noahdear. Make haste!'

'Oh! Charlotte' said Mrs. Sowerberry: speaking as well as she
couldthrough a deficiency of breathand a sufficiency of cold
waterwhich Noah had poured over her head and shoulders. 'Oh!
Charlottewhat a mercy we have not all been murdered in our
beds!'

'Ah! mercy indeedma'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 killedma'amwhen I come in.'

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

Noahwhose top waistcoat-button might have been somewhere on a
level with the crown of Oliver's headrubbed his eyes with the
inside of his wrists while this commiseration was bestowed upon
himand 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 houseand he'll kick that
door down in ten minutes.' Oliver's vigorous plunges against the
bit of timber in questionrendered this occurance highly
probable.

'Deardear! I don't knowma'am' said Charlotte'unless we
send for the police-officers.'

'Or the millingtary' suggested Mr. Claypole.

'Nono' said Mrs. Sowerberry: bethinking herself of Oliver's
old friend. 'Run to Mr. BumbleNoahand tell him to come here
directlyand not to lose a minute; never mind your cap! Make
haste! You can hold a knife to that black eyeas you run along.

It'll keep the swelling down.'

Noah stopped to make no replybut started off at his fullest
speed; and very much it astonished the people who were out
walkingto see a charity-boy tearing through the streets
pell-mellwith no cap on his headand a clasp-knife at his eye.


CHAPTER VII

OLIVER CONTINUES REFRACTORY

Noah Claypole ran along the streets at his swiftest paceand
paused not once for breathuntil he reached the workhouse-gate.
Having rested herefor a minute or soto collect a good burst
of sobs and an imposing show of tears and terrorhe knocked
loudly at the wicket; and presented such a rueful face to the
aged pauper who opened itthat even hewho saw nothing but
rueful faces about him at the best of timesstarted back in
astonishment.

'Whywhat's the matter with the boy!' said the old pauper.

'Mr. Bumble! Mr. Bumble!' cried Noahwit well-affected dismay:
and in tones so loud and agitatedthat they not only caught the
ear of Mr. Bumble himselfwho happened to be hard bybut
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 beadleacted upon a sudden
and powerful impulsemay be afflicted with a momentary
visitation of loss of self-possessionand forgetfulness of
personal dignity.

'OhMr. Bumblesir!' said Noah: 'Oliversir--Oliver has--'

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

'Nosirno. Not run awaysirbut he's turned wicious'
replied Noah. 'He tried to murder mesir; and then he tried to
murder Charlotte; and then missis. Oh! what dreadful pain it is!

Such agonypleasesir!' And hereNoah writhed and twisted his
body into an extensive variety of eel-like positions; thereby
giving Mr. Bumble to understand thatfrom the violent and
sanguinary onset of Oliver Twisthe had sustained severe
internal injury and damagefrom which he was at that moment
suffering the acutest torture.

When Noah saw that the intelligence he communicated perfectly
paralysed Mr. Bumblehe imparted additional effect thereuntoby
bewailing his dreadful wounds ten times louder than before; and
when he observed a gentleman in a white waistcoat crossing the
yardhe was more tragic in his lamentations than ever: rightly
conceiving it highly expedient to attract the noticeand rouse
the indignationof the gentleman aforesaid.

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

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


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

'He has likewise attemptedsirto murder the female servant'
said Mr. Bumblewith a face of ashy paleness.

'And his missis' interposed Mr. Claypole.

'And his mastertooI think you saidNoah?' added Mr. Bumble.

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

'Ah! Said he wanted todid hemy boy?' inquired the gentleman
in the white waistcoat.

'Yessir' replied Noah. 'And pleasesirmissis wants to know
whether Mr. Bumble can spare time to step up theredirectlyand
flog him-- 'cause master's out.'

'Certainlymy boy; certainly' said the gentleman in the white
waistcoat: smiling benignlyand patting Noah's headwhich was
about three inches higher than his own. 'You're a good boy--a
very good boy. Here's a penny for you. Bumblejust step up to
Sowerberry's with your caneand seed what's best to be done.
Don't spare himBumble.'

'NoI will notsir' replied the beadle. And the cocked hat
and cane having beenby this timeadjusted to their owner's
satisfactionMr. 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 returnedand Oliver continued to kickwith
undiminished vigourat the cellar-door. The accounts of his
ferocity as related by Mrs. Sowerberry and Charlottewere of so
startling a naturethat Mr. Bumble judged it prudent to parley
before opening the door. With this view he gave a kick at the
outsideby way of prelude; andthenapplying his mouth to the
keyholesaidin a deep and impressive tone:

'Oliver!'

'Come; you let me out!' replied Oliverfrom the inside.

'Do you know this here voiceOliver?' said Mr. Bumble.

'Yes' replied Oliver.

'Ain't you afraid of itsir? Ain't you a-trembling while I
speaksir?' said Mr. Bumble.

'No!' replied Oliverboldly.

An answer so different from the one he had expected to elicit
and was in the habit of receivingstaggered 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
bystandersin mute astonishment.

'Ohyou knowMr. Bumblehe must be mad' said Mrs. Sowerberry.


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

'It's not Madnessma'am' replied Mr. Bumbleafter a few
moments of deep meditation. 'It's Meat.'

'What?' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.

'Meatma'ammeat' replied Bumblewith stern emphasis.
'You've over-fed himma'am. You've raised a artificial soul and
spirit in himma'am unbecoming a person of his condition: as the
boardMrs. Sowerberrywho are practical philosopherswill 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 gruelma'amthis would never have happened.'

'Deardear!' ejaculated Mrs. Sowerberrypiously raising her
eyes to the kitchen ceiling: 'this comes of being liberal!'

The liberality of Mrs. Sowerberry to Oliverhad 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 whichto do her justiceshe was wholly
innocentin thoughtwordor deed.

'Ah!' said Mr. Bumblewhen the lady brought her eyes down to
earth again; 'the only thing that can be done nowthat I know
ofis to leave him in the cellar for a day or sotill he's a
little starved down; and then to take him outand keep him on
gruel all through the apprenticeship. He comes of a bad family.
Excitable naturesMrs. Sowerberry! Both the nurse and doctor
saidthat that mother of his made her way hereagainst
difficulties and pain that would have killed any well-disposed
womanweeks before.'

At this point of Mr. Bumble's discourseOliverjust hearing
enough to know that some allusion was being made to his mother
recommenced kickingwith a violence that rendered every other
sound inaudible. Sowerberry returned at this juncture. Oliver's
offence having been explained to himwith such exaggerations as
the ladies thought best calculated to rouse his irehe unlocked
the cellar-door in a twinklingand dragged his rebellious
apprentice outby 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 disappearedhowever; and
when he was pulled out of his prisonhe scowled boldly on Noah
and looked quite undismayed.

'Nowyou are a nice young fellowain't you?' said Sowerberry;
giving Oliver a shakeand a box on the ear.

'He called my mother names' replied Oliver.

'Welland what if he didyou little ungrateful wretch?' said
Mrs. Sowerberry. 'She deserved what he saidand 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 severelyit
must be quite clear to every experienced reader that he would
have beenaccording to all precedents in disputes of matrimony
establisheda brutean unnatural husbandan insulting
creaturea base imitation of a manand various other agreeable
characters too numerous for recital within the limits of this
chapter. To do him justicehe wasas far as his power went--it
was not very extensive--kindly disposed towards the boy; perhaps
because it was his interest to be so; perhapsbecause his wife
disliked him. The flood of tearshoweverleft him no resource;
so he at once gave him a drubbingwhich satisfied even Mrs.
Sowerberry herselfand rendered Mr. Bumble's subsequent
application of the parochial canerather unnecessary. For the
rest of the dayhe was shut up in the back kitchenin company
with a pump and a slice of bread; and at nightMrs. Sowerberry
after making various remarks outside the doorby no means
complimentary to the memory of his motherlooked into the room
andamidst 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 undertakerthat 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 lastthough they had roasted him
alive. But nowwhen there were none to see or hear himhe fell
upon his knees on the floor; andhiding his face in his hands
wept such tears asGod send for the credit of our naturefew so
young may ever have cause to pour out before him!

For a long timeOliver remained motionless in this attitude. The
candle was burning low in the socket when he rose to his feet.
Having gazed cautiously round himand listened intentlyhe
gently undid the fastenings of the doorand looked abroad.

It was a colddark night. The stars seemedto 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
groundlooked sepulchral and death-likefrom 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 hadsat himself down upon a
benchto wait for morning.

With the first ray of light that struggled through the crevices
in the shuttersOliver aroseand again unbarred the door. One
timid look around--one moment's pause of hesitation--he had
closed it behind himand was in the open street.

He looked to the right and to the leftuncertain whither to fly.

He remembered to have seen the waggonsas they went outtoiling
up the hill. He took the same route; and arriving at a footpath
across the fields: which he knewafter some distanceled out
again into the road; struck into itand walked quickly on.

Along this same footpathOliver well-remembered he had trotted
beside Mr. Bumblewhen 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 thoughand
should lose a great deal of time by doing so. Besidesit 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 stoppedand peeped into the
garden. A child was weeding one of the little beds; as he
stoppedhe raised his pale face and disclosed the features of
one of his former companions. Oliver felt glad to see him
before he went; forthough younger than himselfhe had been his
little friend and playmate. They had been beatenand starved
and shut up togethermany and many a time.

'HushDick!' said Oliveras the boy ran to the gateand 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 meDick' said Oliver. 'I am running
away. They beat and ill-use meDick; and I am going to seek my
fortunesome long way off. I don't know where. How pale you
are!'

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

'YesyesI willto say good-b'ye to you' replied Oliver. 'I
shall see you againDick. I know I shall! You will be well and
happy!'

'I hope so' replied the child. 'After I am deadbut not
before. I know the doctor must be rightOliverbecause I dream
so much of Heavenand Angelsand kind faces that I never see
when I am awake. Kiss me' said the childclimbing up the low
gateand flinging his little arms round Oliver's neck.
'Good-b'yedear! God bless you!'

The blessing was from a young child's lipsbut it was the first
that Oliver had ever heard invoked upon his head; and through the
struggles and sufferingsand troubles and changesof his after
lifehe never once forgot it.

CHAPTER VIII

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

Oliver reached the stile at which the by-path terminated; and
once more gained the high-road. It was eight o'clock now. Though
he was nearly five miles away from the townhe ranand hid
behind the hedgesby turnstill noon: fearing that he might be
pursued and overtaken. Then he sat down to rest by the side of
the milestoneand began to thinkfor the first timewhere he
had better go and try to live.

The stone by which he was seatedborein large charactersan
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
workhousetoosay that no lad of spirit need want in London;
and that there were ways of living in that vast citywhich those
who had been bred up in country parts had no idea of. It was the
very place for a homeless boywho must die in the streets unless
some one helped him. As these things passed through his thoughts
he jumped upon his feetand again walked forward.

He had diminished the distance between himself and London by full
four miles morebefore he recollected how much he must undergo
ere he could hope to reach his place of destination. As this
consideration forced itself upon himhe slackened his pace a
littleand meditated upon his means of getting there. He had a
crust of breada coarse shirtand two pairs of stockingsin
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 peoplealthough they were extremely
ready and active to point out his difficultieswere wholly at a
loss to suggest any feasible mode of surmounting them; soafter
a good deal of thinking to no particular purposehe changed his
little bundle over to the other shoulderand trudged on.

Oliver walked twenty miles that day; and all that time tasted
nothing but the crust of dry breadand a few draughts of water
which he begged at the cottage-doors by the road-side. When the
night camehe turned into a meadow; andcreeping close under a
hay-rickdetermined to lie theretill morning. He felt
frightened at firstfor the wind moaned dismally over the empty
fields: and he was cold and hungryand more alone than he had
ever felt before. Being very tired with his walkhoweverhe
soon fell asleep and forgot his troubles.

He felt cold and stiffwhen he got up next morningand so
hungry that he was obliged to exchange the penny for a small
loafin the very first village through which he passed. He had
walked no more than twelve mileswhen night closed in again.
His feet were soreand his legs so weak that they trembled
beneath him. Another night passed in the bleak damp airmade
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
upand 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 hilland then let them see
how far he could run for a halfpenny. Poor Oliver tried to keep
up with the coach a little waybut was unable to do itby
reason of his fatigue and sore feet. When the outsides saw this
they put their halfpence back into their pockets againdeclaring
that he was an idle young dogand didn't deserve anything; and
the coach rattled away and left only a cloud of dust behind.

In some villageslarge painted boards were fixed up: warning all
persons who begged within the districtthat they would be sent
to jail. This frightened Oliver very muchand made him glad to
get out of those villages with all possible expedition. In
othershe would stand about the inn-yardsand 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
aboutto drive that strange boy out of the placefor she was
sure he had come to steal something. If he begged at a farmer's
houseten to one but they threatened to set the dog on him; and
when he showed his nose in a shopthey talked about the
beadle--which brought Oliver's heart into his mouth--very often
the only thing he had therefor many hours together.

In factif it had not been for a good-hearted turnpike-manand
a benevolent old ladyOliver's troubles would have been
shortened by the very same process which had put an end to his
mother's; in other wordshe 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 ladywho had a shipwrecked
grandson wandering barefoot in some distant part of the earth
took pity upon the poor orphanand gave him what little she
could afford--and more--with such kind and gently wordsand such
tears of sympathy and compassionthat they sank deeper into
Oliver's soulthan 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 desolationas he satwith bleeding
feet and covered with dustupon a door-step.

By degreesthe 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 twoor turned round to stare
at him as they hurried by; but none relieved himor 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 tavernlarge or small)gazing listlessly at the coaches
as they passed throughand thinking how strange it seemed that
they could dowith easein a few hourswhat it had taken him a
whole week of courage and determination beyond his years to
accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boywho had
passed him carelessly some minutes beforehad returnedand 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 longthat Oliver
raised his headand returned his steady look. Upon thisthe
boy crossed over; and walking close up to Oliversaid

'Hullomy covey! What's the row?'

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarerwas
about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that
Oliver had even seen. He was a snub-nosedflat-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-legsand little
sharpugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so
lightlythat it threatened to fall off every moment--and would
have done sovery oftenif the wearer had not had a knack of
every now and then giving his head a sudden twitchwhich brought
it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coatwhich
reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back
half-way up his armto 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
wasaltogetheras roystering and swaggering a young gentleman
as ever stood four feet sixor something lessin the bluchers.

'Hullomy 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. 'OhI see.
Beak's ordereh? But' he addednoticing Oliver's look of
surprise'I suppose you don't know what a beak ismy flash
com-pan-i-on.'

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

'My eyeshow green!' exclaimed the young gentleman. 'Whya
beak's a madgst'rate; and when you walk by a beak's orderit's
not straight forerdbut always agoing upand niver a coming
down agin. Was you never on the mill?'

'What mill?' inquired Oliver.

'What mill! WhyTHE 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 peoplethan when it's high; acos then they
can't get workmen. But come' said the young gentleman; 'you
want gruband you shall have it. I'm at low-water-mark
myself--only one bob and a magpie; butas far as it goesI'll
fork out and stump. Up with you on your pins. There! Now then!

Morrice!'

Assisting Oliver to risethe young gentleman took him to an
adjacent chandler's shopwhere he purchased a sufficiency of
ready-dressed ham and a half-quartern loaforas he himself
expressed it'a fourpenny bran!' the ham being kept clean and
preserved from dustby the ingenious expedient of making a hole
in the loaf by pulling out a portion of the crumband stuffing
it therein. Taking the bread under his armthe young gentlman
turned into a small public-houseand led the way to a tap-room
in the rear of the premises. Herea pot of beer was brought in
by direction of the mysterious youth; and Oliverfalling toat
his new friend's biddingmade a long and hearty mealduring the
progress of which the strange boy eyed him from time to time with
great attention.

'Going to London?' said the strange boywhen Oliver had at
length concluded.

'Yes.'

'Got any lodgings?'

'No.'

'Money?'

'No.'


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

'Do you live in London?' inquired Oliver.

'Yes. I dowhen I'm at home' replied the boy. 'I suppose you
want some place to sleep in to-nightdon't you?'

'I doindeed' 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 therewot'll give you lodgings
for nothinkand never ask for the change--that isif any
genelman he knows interduces you. And don't he know me? Ohno!

Not in the least! By no means. Certainly not!'

The young gentelman smiledas 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 upby the assurance
that the old gentleman referred towould doubtless provide
Oliver with a comfortable placewithout loss of time. This led
to a more friendly and confidential dialogue; from which Oliver
discovered that his friend's name was Jack Dawkinsand that he
was a peculiar pet and protege of the elderly gentleman before
mentioned.

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

As John Dawkins objected to their entering London before
nightfallit 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 pacedirecting
Oliver to follow close at his heels.

Although Oliver had enough to occupy his attention in keeping
sight of his leaderhe could not help bestowing a few hasty
glances on either side of the wayas he passed along. A dirtier
or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very
narrow and muddyand 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 childrenwhoeven at that time of


nightwere crawling in and out at the doorsor screaming from
the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the
general blight of the placewere the public-houses; and in them
the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main.
Covered ways and yardswhich here and there diverged from the
main streetdisclosed little knots of houseswhere drunken men
and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of
the door-waysgreat ill-looking fellows were cautiously
emergingboundto all appearanceon 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 armpushed open the door of a house near
Field Lane; and drawing him into the passageclosed it behind
them.

'Nowthen!' cried a voice from belowin 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 outfrom
where a balustrade of the old kitchen staircase had been broken
away.

'There's two on you' said the manthrusting the candle farther
outand shielding his eyes with his hand. 'Who's the t'other
one?'

'A new pal' replied Jack Dawkinspulling Oliver forward.

'Where did he come from?'

'Greenland. Is Fagin upstairs?'

'Yeshe's a sortin' the wipes. Up with you!' The candle was
drawn backand the face disappeared.

Olivergroping his way with one handand having the other
firmly grasped by his companionascended 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-roomand drew Oliver in after
him.

The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age
and dirt. There was a deal table before the fire: upon which
were a candlestuck in a ginger-beer bottletwo or three pewter
potsa loaf and butterand a plate. In a frying-panwhich was
on the fireand which was secured to the mantelshelf by a
stringsome sausages were cooking; and standing over themwith
a toasting-fork in his handwas a very old shrivelled Jewwhose
villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity
of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gownwith
his throat bare; and seemed to be dividing his attention between
the frying-pan and the clothes-horseover which a great number
of silk handkerchiefsl were hanging. Several rough beds made of
old sackswere huddled side by side on the floor. Seated round
the table were four or five boysnone older than the Dodger
smoking long clay pipesand 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 himselftoasting-fork in
hand.

'This is himFagin' said Jack Dawkins; 'my friend Oliver
Twist.'

The Jew grinned; andmaking a low obeisance to Olivertook him
by the handand hoped he should have the honour of his intimate
acquaintance. Upon thisthe young gentleman with the pipes came
round himand 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 pocketsin order thatas he was very
tiredhe might not have the trouble of emptying themhimself
when he went to bed. These civilities would probably be extended
much fartherbut 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 youOliververy' said the Jew.
'Dodgertake off the sausages; and draw a tub near the fire for
Oliver. Ahyou're a-staring at the pocket-handkerchiefs! ehmy
dear. There are a good many of 'emain't there? We've just
looked 'em outready for the wash; that's allOliver; that's
all. Ha! ha! ha!'

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

CHAPTER IX

CONTAINING FURTHER PARTICULARS CONCERNING THE PLEASANT OLD
GENTLEMANAND HIS HOPEFUL PUPILS

It was late next morning when Oliver awokefrom a soundlong
sleep. There was no other person in the room but the old Jew
who was boiling some coffee in a saucepan for breakfastand
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
himselfhe would go on whistling and stirring againas before.

Although Oliver had roused himself from sleephe was not
thoroughly awake. There is a drowsy statebetween sleeping and
wakingwhen you dream more in five minutes with your eyes half
openand yourself half conscious of everything that is passing
around youthan you would in five nights with your eyes fast
closedand your senses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness. At
such timea mortal knows just enough of what his mind is doing
to form some glimmering conception of its mighty powersits
bounding from earth and spurning time and spacewhen 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 engagedat the same timein
busy action with almost everybody he had ever known.

When the coffee was donethe Jew drew the saucepan to the hob.
Standingthen in an irresolute attitude for a few minutesas if
he did not well know how to employ himselfhe turned round and
looked at Oliverand called him by his name. He did not answer
and was to all appearances asleep.

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

'Aha!' said the Jewshrugging up his shouldersand 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 knotor kept the drop upa minute longer.
Nonono! Fine fellows! Fine fellows!'

With theseand 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
boxand surveyed with equal pleasure; besides ringsbrooches
braceletand other articles of jewelleryof such magnificent
materialsand costly workmanshipthat Oliver had no ideaeven
of their names.

Having replaced these trinketsthe 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 tableand shading it with his handpored over itlong and
earnestly. At length he put it downas if despairing of
success; andleaning back in his chairmuttered:

'What a fine thing capital punishment is! Dead men never repent;
dead men never bring awkward stories to light. Ahit's a fine
thing for the trade! Five of 'em strung up in a rowand none
left to play bootyor turn white-livered!'

As the Jew uttered these wordshis bright dark eyeswhich had
been staring vacantly before himfell 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; andlaying his
hand on a bread knife which was on the tablestarted furiously
up. He trembled very much though; foreven 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 outboy! Quick--quick!
for your life.


'I wasn't able to sleep any longersir' replied Olivermeekly.

'I am very sorry if I have disturbed yousir.'

'You were not awake an hour ago?' said the Jewscowling fiercely
on the boy.

'No! Noindeed!' replied Oliver.

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

'Upon my word I was notsir' replied Oliverearnestly. 'I was
notindeedsir.'

'Tushtushmy dear!' said the Jewabruptly resuming his old
mannerand playing with the knife a littlebefore he laid it
down; as if to induce the belief that he had caught it upin
mere sport. 'Of course I know thatmy 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 chucklebut glanced
uneasily at the boxnotwithstanding.

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

'Yessir' replied Oliver.

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

Oliver thought the old gentleman must be a decided miser to live
in such a dirty placewith so many watches; butthinking that
perhaps his fondness for the Dodger and the other boyscost him
a good deal of moneyhe only cast a deferential look at the Jew
and asked if he might get up.

'Certainlymy dearcertainly' 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 inmy dear.'

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

He had scarcely washed himselfand made everything tidyby
emptying the basin out of the windowagreeably to the Jew's
directionswhen the Dodger returned: accompanied by a very
sprightly young friendwhom Oliver had seen smoking on the
previous nightand who was now formally introduced to him as
Charley Bates. The four sat downto breakfaston the coffee
and some hot rolls and ham which the Dodger had brought home in
the crown of his hat.

'Well' said the Jewglancing slyly at Oliverand 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 boysgood boys!' said the Jew. 'What have you got
Dodger?'

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

'Lined?' inquired the Jewwith eagerness.

'Pretty well' replied the Dodgerproducing two pocket-books;
one greenand the other red.

'Not so heavy as they might be' said the Jewafter looking at
the insides carefully; 'but very neat and nicely made. Ingenious
workmanain't heOliver?'

'Very indeedsir' said Oliver. At which Mr. Charles Bates
laughed uproariously; very much to the amazement of Oliverwho
saw nothing to laugh atin anything that had passed.

'And what have you gotmy dear?' said Fagin to Charley Bates.

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

'Well' said the Jewinspecting them closely; 'they're very good
onesvery. You haven't marked them wellthoughCharley; so
the marks shall be picked out with a needleand we'll teach
Oliver how to do it. Shall usOlivereh? Ha! ha! ha!'

'If you pleasesir' said Oliver.

'You'd like to be able to make pocket-handkerchiefs as easy as
Charley Bateswouldn't youmy dear?' said the Jew.

'Very muchindeedif you'll teach mesir' replied Oliver.

Master Bates saw something so exquisitely ludicrous in this
replythat he burst into another laugh; which laughmeeting the
coffee he was drinkingand carrying it down some wrong channel
very nearly terminated in his premature suffocation.

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

The Dodger said nothingbut he smoothed Oliver's hair over his
eyesand said he'd know betterby and by; upon which the old
gentlemanobserving Oliver's colour mountingchanged 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 gamewhich
was performed in this way. The merry old gentlemanplacing a
snuff-box in one pocket of his trousersa note-case in the
otherand a watch in his waistcoat pocketwith a guard-chain
round his neckand sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt:
buttoned his coat tight round himand putting his spectacle-case
and handkerchief in his pocketstrotted up and down the room
with a stickin imitation of the manner in which old gentlmen
walk about the streets any hour in the day. Sometimes he stopped
at the fire-placeand sometimes at the doormaking believe that
he was staring with all his might into shop-windows. At such


timeshe would look constantly round himfor fear of thieves
and would keep slapping all his pockets in turnto see that he
hadn't lost anythingin such a very funny and natural manner
that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face. All this
timethe two boys followed him closely about: getting out of
his sightso nimblyevery time he turned roundthat it was
impossible to follow their motions. At lastthe Dodger trod
upon his toesor ran upon his boot accidentlywhile Charley
Bates stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they
took from himwith the most extraordinary rapiditysnuff-box
note-casewatch-guardchainshirt-pinpocket-handkerchief
even the spectacle-case. If the old gentlman felt a hand in any
one of his pocketshe cried out where it was; and then the game
began all over again.

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

The visitors stopped a long time. Spirits were producedin
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 lengthCharley Bates expressed his opinion
that it was time to pad the hoof. Thisit occurred to Oliver
must be French for going out; for directly afterwardsthe
Dodgerand Charleyand the two young ladieswent away
togetherhaving been kindly furnished by the amiable old Jew
with money to spend.

'Theremy dear' said Fagin. 'That's a pleasant lifeisn't it?

They have gone out for the day.'

'Have they done worksir?' inquired Oliver.

'Yes' said the Jew; 'that isunless they should unexpectedly
come across anywhen they are out; and they won't neglect itif
they domy deardepend upon it. Make 'em your modelsmy dear.

Make 'em your models' tapping the fire-shovel on the hearth to
add force to his words; 'do everything they bid youand take
their advice in all matters--especially the Dodger'smy dear.
He'll be a great man himselfand will make you one tooif you
take pattern by him.--Is my handkerchief hanging out of my
pocketmy dear?' said the Jewstopping short.

'Yessir' said Oliver.

'See if you can take it outwithout my feeling it; as you saw
them dowhen we were at play this morning.'

Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one handas he had
seen the Dodger hold itand drew the handkerchief lighty out of
it with the other.

'Is it gone?' cried the Jew.

'Here it issir' said Olivershowing it in his hand.


'You're a clever boymy 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 onin this way
you'll be the greatest man of the time. And now come hereand
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. Butthinking
that the Jewbeing so much his seniormust know besthe
followed him quietly to the tableand was soon deeply involved
in his new study.

CHAPTER X

OLIVER BECOMES BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THE CHARACTERS OF HIS NEW
ASSOCIATES; AND PURCHASES EXPERIENCE AT A HIGH PRICE. BEING A
SHORTBUT VERY IMPORTANT CHAPTERIN THIS HISTORY

For many daysOliver remained in the Jew's roompicking 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 playedregularly
every morning. At lengthhe began to languish for fresh airand
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 employedby
what he had seen of the stern morality of the old gentleman's
character. Whenever the Dodger or Charley Bates came home at
nightempty-handedhe would expatiate with great vehemence on
the misery of idle and lazy habits; and would enforce upon them
the necessity of an active lifeby sending them supperless to
bed. On one occasionindeedhe 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 lengthone morningOliver obtained the permission he had so
eagerly sought. There had been no handkerchiefs to work upon
for two or three daysand the dinners had been rather meagre.
Perhaps these were reasons for the old gentleman's giving his
assent; butwhether they were or nohe told Oliver he might go
and placed him under the joint guardianship of Charley Batesand
his friend the Dodger.

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

The pace at which they wentwas such a very lazyill-looking
saunterthat Oliver soon began to think his companions were
going to deceive the old gentlemanby not going to work at all.
The Dodger had a vicious propensitytooof 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 propertyby pilfering divers apples and onions from
the stalls at the kennel sidesand thrusting them into pockets
which were so surprisingly capaciousthat they seemed to
undermine his whole suit of clothes in every direction. These


things looked so badthat Oliver was on the point of declaring
his intention of seeking his way backin the best way he could;
when his thoughts were suddenly directed into another channelby
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 Clerkenwellwhich is yet calledby some strange
perversion of terms'The Green': when the Dodger made a sudden
stop; andlaying his finger on his lipdrew his companions back
againwith the greatest caution and circumspection.

'What's the matter?' demanded Oliver.

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

'The old gentleman over the way?' said Oliver. 'YesI see him.'

'He'll do' said the Doger.

'A prime plant' observed Master Charley Bates.

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

The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personagewith
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 stalland there he stoodreading away
as hard as if he were in his elbow-chairin his own study. It
is very possible that he fancied himself thereindeed; for it
was plainfrom his abstractionthat he saw not the book-stall
nor the streetnor the boysnorin shortanything but the
book itself: which he was reading straight through: turning
over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a pagebeginning at
the top line of the next oneand going regularly onwith 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
goto see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's
pocketand draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the
same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold themboth running
away round the corner at full speed!

In an instant the whole mystery of the hankerchiefsand the
watchesand the jewelsand the Jewrushed upon the boy's mind.

He stoodfor a momentwith the blood so tingling through all
his veins from terrorthat he felt as if he were in a burning
fire; thenconfused and frightenedhe took to his heels; and
not knowing what he didmade 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 runthe old gentlemanputting his hand to his
pocketand missing his handkerchiefturned sharp round. Seeing
the boy scudding away at such a rapid pacehe very naturally
concluded him to be the depredator; and shouting 'Stop thief!'


with all his mightmade off after himbook in hand.

But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the
hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Batesunwilling to attract
public attention by running down the open streethad merely
retured into the very first doorway round the corner. They no
sooner heard the cryand saw Oliver runningthanguessing
exactly how the matter stoodthey issued forth with great
promptitude; andshouting 'Stop thief!' toojoined in the
pursuit like good citizens.

Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophershe 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
preparedhoweverit alarmed him the more; so away he went like
the windwith 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 counterand 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
runpell-mellhelter-skelterslap-dash: tearingyelling
screamingknocking down the passengers as they turn the corners
rousing up the dogsand astonishing the fowls: and streets
squaresand courtsre-echo with the sound.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' The cry is taken up by a hundred
voicesand the crowd accumulate at every turning. Away they
flysplashing through the mudand rattling along the pavements:

up go the windowsout run the peopleonward bear the moba
whole audience desert Punch in the very thickest of the plot
andjoining the rushing throngswell the shoutand 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 childpanting 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 trackand gain upon him every instant
they hail his decreasing strength with joy. 'Stop thief!' Ay
stop him for God's sakewere 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 comerjostling
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 iscoming down the
street.' 'Make room there for the gentleman!' 'Is this the boy
sir!' 'Yes.'

Oliver laycovered with mud and dustand bleeding from the
mouthlooking wildly round upon the heap of faces that
surrounded himwhen 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 thatsir' said a great lubberly fellowstepping
forward; 'and preciously I cut my knuckle agin' his mouth. I
stopped himsir.'

The follow touched his hat with a grinexpecting something for
his pains; butthe old gentlemaneyeing him with an expression
of dislikelook anxiously roundas if he contemplated running
away himself: which it is very possible he might have attempted
to doand thus have afforded another chasehad not a police
officer (who is generally the last person to arrive in such
cases) at that moment made his way through the crowdand seized
Oliver by the collar.

'Comeget up' said the manroughly.

'It wasn't me indeedsir. Indeedindeedit was two other
boys' said Oliverclasping his hands passionatelyand looking
round. 'They are here somewhere.'

'Oh nothey ain't' said the officer. He meant this to be
ironicalbut it was true besides; for the Dodger and Charley
Bates had filed off down the first convenient court they came to.

'Comeget up!'

'Don't hurt him' said the old gentlemancompassionately.

'Oh noI won't hurt him' replied the officertearing his
jacket half off his backin proof thereof. 'ComeI know you;
it won't do. Will you stand upon your legsyou young devil?'

Oliverwho could hardly standmade a shift to raise himself on
his feetand was at once lugged along the streets by the
jacket-collarat a rapid pace. The gentleman walked on with
them by the officer's side; and as many of the crowd as could
achieve the featgot a little aheadand stared back at Oliver
from time to time. The boys shouted in triumph; and on they
went.

CHAPTER XI

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

The offence had been committed within the districtand indeed in
the immediate neighborhood ofa very notorious metropolitan
police office. The crowd had only the satisfaction of
accompanying Oliver through two or three streetsand down a
place called Mutton Hillwhen he was led beneath a low archway
and up a dirty courtinto this dispensary of summary justiceby
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 faceand 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 robbedsir?' inquired the man


with the keys.

'YesI 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 nowsir' replied the man. 'His
worship will be disengaged in half a minute. Nowyoung
gallows!'

This was an invitation for Oliver to enter through a door which
he unlocked as he spokeand which led into a stone cell. Here
he was searched; and nothing being found upon himlocked 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 upelsewheresince Saturday night. But
this is little. In our station-housesmen and women are every
night confined on the most trivial charges--the word is worth
noting--in dungeonscompared with whichthose in Newgate
occupied by the most atrocious felonstriedfound guiltyand
under sentence of deathare palaces. Let any one who doubts
thiscompare 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 bookwhich 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 awaytapping his chin with the
cover of the bookin a thoughtful manner; 'something that
touches and interests me. CAN he be innocent? He looked
like--Bye the bye' exclaimed the old gentlemanhalting very
abruptlyand staring up into the sky'Bless my soul!--where
have I seen something like that look before?'

After musing for some minutesthe old gentleman walkedwith the
same meditative faceinto a back anteroom opening from the yard;
and thereretiring into a cornercalled 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 gentlemanshaking his
head; 'it must be imagination.

He wandered over them again. He had called them into viewand
it was not easy to replace the shroud that had so long concealed
them. There were the faces of friendsand foesand 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 uponbut which the mindsuperior to its powerstill
dressed in their old freshness and beautycalling back the
lustre of the eyesthe brightness of the smilethe beaming of
the soul through its mask of clayand whispering of beauty
beyond the tombchanged but to be heightenedand taken from
earth only to be set up as a lightto 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. Sohe heaved a sigh over the
recollections he awakened; and beinghappily for himselfan
absent old gentlemanburied them again in the pages of the musty
book.


He was roused by a touch on the shoulderand 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 parlourwith a panelled wall. Mr. Fang
sat behind a barat 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 leanlong-backedstiff-neckedmiddle-sized man
with no great quantity of hairand what he hadgrowing on the
back and sides of his head. His face was sternand much
flushed. If he were really not in the habit of drinking rather
more than was exactly good for himhe might have brought action
against his countenance for libeland have recovered heavy
damages.

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

Nowit so happened that Mr. Fang was at that moment perusing a
leading article in a newspaper of the morningadverting to some
recent decision of hisand commending himfor the three hundred
and fiftieth timeto 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 pointedwith some surpriseto his card.

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

'My namesir' said the old gentlemanspeaking LIKE a
gentleman'my namesiris Brownlow. Permit me to inquire the
name of the magistrate who offers a gratuitous and unprovoked
insult to a respectable personunder the protection of the
bench.' Saying thisMr. Brownlow looked around the office as if
in search of some person who would afford him the required
information.

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

'He's not charged at allyour worship' replied the officer. 'He
appears against this boyyour worship.'

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

'Appears against the boydoes he?' said Mr. Fangsurveying Mr.
Brownlow contemptuously from head to foot. 'Swear him!'

'Before I am swornI must beg to say one word' said Mr.
Brownlow; 'and that isthat I really neverwithout actual
experiencecould have believed--'

'Hold your tonguesir!' said Mr. Fangperemptorily.


'I will notsir!' replied the old gentleman.

'Hold your tongue this instantor 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 gentlemanreddening.

'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
perhapsthat 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 saysir?'

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

'Hold your tonguesir' said Mr. Fang. 'Policeman! Where's the
policeman? Hereswear this policeman. Nowpolicemanwhat is
this?'

The policemanwith becoming humilityrelated how he had taken
the charge; how he had searched Oliverand found nothing on his
person; and how that was all he knew about it.

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

'Noneyour worship' replied the policeman.

Mr. Fang sat silent for some minutesand thenturning round to
the prosecutorsaid in a towering passion.

'Do you mean to state what your complaint against this boy is
manor do you not? You have been sworn. Nowif you stand
thererefusing to give evidenceI'll punish you for disrespect
to the bench; I willby--'

By whator by whomnobody knowsfor the clerk and jailor
coughed very loudjust at the right moment; and the former
dropped a heavy book upon the floorthus preventing the word
from being heard--accidentlyof course.

With many interruptionsand repeated insultsMr. Brownlow
contrived to state his case; observing thatin the surprise of
the momenthe had run after the boy because he had saw him
running away; and expressing his hope thatif the magistrate
should believe himalthough not actually the thiefto be
connected with the thieveshe 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 addedwith great energylooking towards the
bar'I really fear that he is ill.'

'Oh! yesI dare say!' said Mr. Fangwith a sneer. 'Comenone
of your tricks hereyou 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 nameyou hardened scoundrel?' demanded Mr. Fang.
'Officerwhat's his name?'

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

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

'Ohhe won't speak outwon't he?' said Fang. 'Very wellvery
well. Where does he live?'

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

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

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

At this point of the inquiryOliver raised his head; and
looking round with imploring eyesmurmured 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 illyour worship' remonstrated the
officer.

'I know better' said Mr. Fang.

'Take care of himofficer' said the old gentlemanraising his
hands instinctively; 'he'll fall down.'

'Stand awayofficer' cried Fang; 'let himif he likes.'

Oliver availed himself of the kind permissionand fell to the
floor in a fainting fit. The men in the office looked at each
otherbut no one dared to stir.

'I knew he was shamming' said Fangas 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 casesir?' 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 purposeand a couple of men were
preparing to carry the insensible boy to his cell; when an
elderly man of decent but poor appearanceclad in an old suit of
blackrushed hastily into the officeand advanced towards the
bench.

'Stopstop! don't take him away! For Heaven's sake stop a
moment!' cried the new comerbreathless with haste.


Although the presiding Genii in such an office as thisexercise
a summary and arbitrary power over the libertiesthe good name
the characteralmost the livesof Her Majesty's subjects
expecially of the poorer class; and althoughwithin such walls
enough fantastic tricks are daily played to make the angels blind
with weeping; they are closed to the publicsave through the
medium of the daily press.(Footnote: Or were virtuallythen.)
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. Fangyou must hear me. You must not refuse
sir.'

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

'Swear the man' growled Mr. Fang. with a very ill grace. 'Now
manwhat 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 waywhen
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
breaththe worthy book-stall keeper proceeded to relatein a
more coherent manner the exact circumstances of the robbery.

'Why didn't you come here before?' said Fangafter a pause.

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

'The prosecutor was readingwas he?' inquired Fangafter
another pause.

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

'Ohthat bookeh?' said Fang. 'Is it paid for?'

'Noit is not' replied the manwith a smile.

'Dear meI forgot all about it!' exclaimed the absent old
gentlemaninnocently.

'A nice person to prefer a charge against a poor boy!' said Fang
with a comical effort to look humane. 'I considersirthat you
have obtained possession of that bookunder 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 youmy manor the law will overtake you
yet. The boy is discharged. Clear the office!'

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

'Clear the office!' said the magistrate. 'Officersdo you hear?


Clear the office!'

The mandate was obeyed; and the indignant Mr. Brownlow was
conveyed outwith the book in one handand 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 pavementwith his shirt
unbuttonedand his temples bathed with water; his face a deadly
white; and a cold tremble convulsing his whole frame.

'Poor boypoor boy!' said Mr. Brownlowbending over him. 'Call
a coachsomebodypray. Directly!'

A coach was obtainedand Oliver having been carefully laid on
the seatthe old gentleman got in and sat himself on the other.

'May I accompany you?' said the book-stall keeperlooking in.

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

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

CHAPTER XII

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

The coach rattled awayover nearly the same ground as that which
Oliver had traversed when he first entered London in company with
the Dodger; andturning a different way when it reached the
Angel at Islingtonstopped at length before a neat housein a
quiet shady street near Pentonville. Herea bed was prepared
without loss of timein which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge
carefully and comfortably deposited; and herehe was tended with
a kindness and solicitude that knew no bounds.

Butfor many daysOliver remained insensible to all the
goodness of his new friends. The sun rose and sankand rose and
sank againand many times after that; and still the boy lay
stretched on his uneasy beddwindling away beneath the dry and
wasting heat of fever. The worm does not work more surely on the
dead bodythan does this slow creeping fire upon the living
frame.

Weakand thinand pallidhe awoke at last from what seemed to
have been a long and troubled dream. Feebly raising himself in
the bedwith his head resting on his trembling armhe 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 voicebeing very faint and
weak; but they were overheard at once. The curtain at the bed's
head was hastily drawn backand a motherly old ladyvery neatly
and precisely dressedrose as she undrew itfrom an arm-chair
close byin which she had been sitting at needle-work.


'Hushmy dear' said the old lady softly. 'You must be very
quietor you will be ill again; and you have been very bad--as
bad as bad could bepretty nigh. Lie down again; there's a
dear!' With those wordsthe old lady very gently placed
Oliver's head upon the pillow; andsmoothing back his hair from
his foreheadlooked so kindly and loving in his facethat he
could not help placing his little withered hand in hersand
drawing it round his neck.

'Save us!' said the old ladywith 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 haveand could see him
now!'

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

'That was the fevermy dear' said the old lady mildly.

'I suppose it was' replied Oliver'because heaven is a long way
off; and they are too happy thereto come down to the bedside of
a poor boy. But if she knew I was illshe 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 hurtit 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 spectacleswhich lay on the counterpaneafterwardsas
if they were part and parcel of those featuresbrought some cool
stuff for Oliver to drink; and thenpatting him on the cheek
told him he must lie very quietor he would be ill again.

SoOliver kept very still; partly because he was anxious to obey
the kind old lady in all things; and partlyto tell the truth
because he was completely exhausted with what he had already
said. He soon fell into a gentle dozefrom which he was
awakened by the light of a candle: whichbeing brought near the
bedshowed him a gentleman with a very large and loud-ticking
gold watch in his handwho felt his pulseand said he was a
great deal better.

'You ARE a great deal betterare you notmy dear?' said the
gentleman.

'Yesthank yousir' replied Oliver.

'YesI know you are' said the gentleman: 'You're hungry too
an't you?'

'Nosir' answered Oliver.

'Hem!' said the gentleman. 'NoI know you're not. He is not
hungryMrs. Bedwin' said the gentleman: looking very wise.

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

'You feel sleepydon't youmy dear?' said the doctor.

'Nosir' replied Oliver.


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

'Yessirrather thirsty' answered Oliver.

'Just as I expectedMrs. Bedwin' said the doctor. 'It's very
natural that he should be thirsty. You may give him a little
teama'amand some dry toast without any butter. Don't keep
him too warmma'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 doctorafter tasting the
cool stuffand expressing a qualified approval of ithurried
away: his boots creaking in a very important and wealthy manner
as he went downstairs.

Oliver dozed off againsoon after this; when he awokeit was
nearly twelve o'clock. The old lady tenderly bade him good-night
shortly afterwardsand left him in charge of a fat old woman who
had just come: bringing with herin a little bundlea small
Prayer Book and a large nightcap. Putting the latter on her head
and the former on the tablethe old womanafter telling Oliver
that she had come to sit up with himdrew her chair close to the
fire and went off into a series of short napschequered at
frequent intervals with sundry tumblings forwardand divers
moans and chokings. Thesehoweverhad no worse effect than
causing her to rub her nose very hardand then fall asleep
again.

And thus the night crept slowly on. Oliver lay awake for some
timecounting 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 therefor many days and nightsand might yet fill
it with the gloom and dread of his awful presencehe turned his
face upon the pillowand fervently prayed to Heaven.

Graduallyhe 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. Whoif this were deathwould 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 allits weary recollections of the past!

It had been bright dayfor hourswhen 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-chairwell
propped up with pillows; andas he was still too weak to walk
Mrs. Bedwin had him carried downstairs into the little
housekeeper's roomwhich belonged to her. Having him sethere
by the fire-sidethe good old lady sat herself down too; and
being in a state of considerable delight at seeing him so much
betterforthwith began to cry most violently.

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

'You're veryvery kind to mema'am' said Oliver.


'Wellnever you mind thatmy 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 looksbecause the better we
lookthe more he'll be pleased.' And with thisthe old lady
applied herself to warming upin a little saucepana basin full
of broth: strong enoughOliver thoughtto furnish an ample
dinnerwhen reduced to the regulation strengthfor three
hundred and fifty paupersat the lowest computation.

'Are you fond of picturesdear?' inquired the old ladyseeing
that Oliver had fixed his eyesmost intentlyon a portrait
which hung against the wall; just opposite his chair.

'I don't quite knowma'am' said Oliverwithout taking his eyes
from the canvas; 'I have seen so few that I hardly know. What a
beautifulmild face that lady's is!'

'Ah!' said the old lady'painters always make ladies out
prettier than they areor they wouldn't get any customchild.
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 ladylaughing very heartily at her own
acuteness.

'Is--is that a likenessma'am?' said Oliver.

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

'Whosema'am?' asked Oliver.

'Whyreallymy dearI don't know' answered the old lady in a
good-humoured manner. 'It's not a likeness of anybody that you
or I knowI expect. It seems to strike your fancydear.'

'It is so pretty' replied Oliver.

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

'Oh nono' returned Oliver quickly; 'but the eyes look so
sorrowful; and where I sitthey 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 mebut couldn't.'

'Lord save us!' exclaimed the old ladystarting; 'don't talk in
that waychild. 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 ladysuiting the action to
the word; 'you don't see it nowat 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. Bedwinsatisfied that he felt more comfortablesalted
and broke bits of toasted bread into the brothwith all the
bustle befitting so solemn a preparation. Oliver got through it
with extraordinary expedition. He had scarcely swallowed the
last spoonfulwhen there came a soft rap at the door. 'Come
in' said the old lady; and in walked Mr. Brownlow.


Nowthe old gentleman came in as brisk as need be; buthe had
no sooner raised his spectacles on his foreheadand thrust his
hands behind the skirts of his dressing-gown to take a good long
look at Oliverthan his countenance underwent a very great
variety of odd contortions. Oliver looked very worn and shadowy
from sicknessand made an ineffectual attempt to stand upout
of respect to his benefactorwhich terminated in his sinking
back into the chair again; and the fact isif the truth must be
toldthat Mr. Brownlow's heartbeing large enough for any six
ordinary old gentlemen of humane dispositionforced a supply of
tears into his eyesby some hydraulic process which we are not
sufficiently philosophical to be in a condition to explain.

'Poor boypoor boy!' said Mr. Brownlowclearing his throat.
'I'm rather hoarse this morningMrs. Bedwin. I'm afraid I have
caught cold.'

'I hope notsir' said Mrs. Bedwin. 'Everything you have had
has been well airedsir.'

'I don't knowBedwin. 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 feelmy dear?'

'Very happysir' replied Oliver. 'And very grateful indeed
sirfor your goodness to me.'

'Good by' said Mr. Brownlowstoutly. 'Have you given him any
nourishmentBedwin? Any slopseh?'

'He has just had a basin of beautiful strong brothsir' replied
Mrs. Bedwin: drawing herself up slightlyand laying strong
emphasis on the last word: to intimate that between slopsand
broth will compoundedthere existed no affinity or connection
whatsoever.

'Ugh!' said Mr. Brownlowwith a slight shudder; 'a couple of
glasses of port wine would have done him a great deal more good.
Wouldn't theyTom Whiteeh?'

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

'Oliver' said Mr. Brownlow; 'Oliver what? Oliver Whiteeh?'

'NosirTwistOliver Twist.'

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

'I never told him sosir' returned Oliver in amazement.

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

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

'I hope you are not angry with mesir?' said Oliverraising his
eyes beseechingly.


'Nono' replied the old gentleman. 'Why! what's this? Bedwin
look there!'

As he spokehe pointed hastily to the picture over Oliver's
headand then to the boy's face. There was its living copy. The
eyesthe headthe mouth; every feature was the same. The
expression wasfor the instantso precisely alikethat the
minutest line seemed copied with startling accuracy!

Oliver knew not the cause of this sudden exclamation; fornot
being strong enough to bear the start it gave himhe fainted
away. A weakness on his partwhich affords the narrative an
opportunity of relieving the reader from suspensein behalf of
the two young pupils of the Merry Old Gentleman; and of
recording--

That when the Dodgerand his accomplished friend Master Bates
joined in the hue-and-cry which was raised at Oliver's heelsin
consequence of their executing an illegal conveyance of Mr.
Brownlow's personal propertyas has been already describedthey
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 EnglishmansoI need hardly beg the reader to
observethat this action should tend to exalt them in the
opinion of all public and patriotic menin 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
understandingputting entirely out of sight any considerations
of heartor generous impulse and feeling. Forthese 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 predicamentI should at once find it in the fact (also
recorded in a foregoing part of this narrative)of their
quitting the pursuitwhen 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 sagesto shorten
the road to any great conclusion (their course indeed being
rather to lengthen the distanceby various circumlocations and
discursive staggeringslike unto those in which drunken men
under the pressure of a too mighty flow of ideasare prone to
indulge); stillI do mean to sayand do say distinctlythat it
is the invariable practice of many mighty philosophersin
carrying out their theoriesto evince great wisdom and foresight
in providing against every possible contingency which can be
supposed at all likely to affect themselves. Thusto do a great
rightyou may do a little wrong; and you may take any means
which the end to be attainedwill justify; the amount of the
rightor the amount of the wrongor indeed the distinction
between the twobeing left entirely to the philosopher
concernedto be settled and determined by his clear
comprehensiveand impartial view of his own particular case.


It was not until the two boys had scouredwith great rapidity
through a most intricate maze of narrow streets and courtsthat
they ventured to halt beneath a low and dark archway. Having
remained silent herejust long enough to recover breath to
speakMaster Bates uttered an exclamation of amusement and
delight; andbursting into an uncontrollable fit of laughter
flung himself upon a doorstepand 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 Dodgerlooking cautiously
round. 'Do you want to be grabbedstupid?'

'I can't help it' said Charley'I can't help it! To see him
splitting away at that paceand cutting round the cornersand
knocking up again' the postsand starting on again as if he was
made of iron as well as themand me with the wipe in my pocket
singing out arter him--ohmy eye!' The vivid imagination of
Master Bates presented the scene before him in too strong
colours. As he arrived at this apostrophehe again rolled upon
the door-stepand 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.

'Ahwhat?' said the Dodger.

'Whywhat 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; thentaking off
his hatscratched his headand nodded thrice.

'What do you mean?' said Charley.

'Toor rul lol loogammon and spinnagethe frog he wouldn'tand
high cockolorum' said the Dodger: with a slight sneer on his
intellectual countenance.

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

The Dodger made no reply; but putting his hat on againand
gathering the skirts of his long-tailed coat under his arm
thrust his tongue into his cheekslapped the bridge of his nose
some half-dozen times in a familiar but expressive mannerand
turning on his heelslunk down the court. Master Bates
followedwith a thoughtful countenance.

The noise of footsteps on the creaking stairsa few minutes
after the occurrence of this conversationroused 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 roundand looking sharply out from under his thick red
eyebrowsbent his ear towards the doorand listened.


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

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

CHAPTER XIII

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

'Where's Oliver?' said the Jewrising 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 Jewseizing the Dodger
tightly by the collarand threatening him with horrid
imprecations. 'Speak outor I'll throttle you!'

Mr. Fagin looked so very much in earnestthat Charley Bateswho
deemed it prudent in all cases to be on the safe sideand who
conceived it by no means improbable that it might be his turn to
be throttled seconddropped upon his kneesand raised a loud
well-sustainedand 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 allseemed perfectly
miraculous.

'Whythe traps have got himand that's all about it' said the
Dodgersullenly. 'Comelet go o' mewill you!' And
swinging himselfat one jerkclean out of the big coatwhich
he left in the Jew's handsthe Dodger snatched up the toasting
forkand made a pass at the merry old gentleman's waistcoat;
whichif it had taken effectwould have let a little more
merriment outthan could have been easily replaced.

The Jew stepped back in this emergencywith more agility than
could have been anticipated in a man of his apparent decrepitude;
andseizing up the potprepared to hurl it at his assailant's
head. But Charley Batesat this momentcalling his attention
by a perfectly terrific howlhe suddenly altered its
destinationand flung it full at that young gentleman.

'Whywhat the blazes is in the wind now!' growled a deep voice.
'Who pitched that 'ere at me? It's well it's the beerand not
the potas hit meor I'd have settled somebody. I might have
know'das nobody but an infernalrichplunderingthundering
old Jew could afford to throw away any drink but water--and not
thatunless he done the River Company every quarter. Wot's it
all aboutFagin? D--meif my neck-handkercher an't lined with
beer! Come inyou sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping
outside foras if you was ashamed of your master! Come in!'


The man who growled out these wordswas a stoutly-built fellow
of about five-and-thirtyin a black velveteen coatvery soiled
drab breecheslace-up half bootsand grey cotton stockings
which inclosed a bulky pair of legswith large swelling
calves;--the kind of legswhich in such costumealways look in
an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to
garnish them. He had a brown hat on his headand 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
disclosedwhen he had done soa broad heavy countenance with a
beard of three days' growthand two scowling eyes; one of which
displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently
damaged by a blow.

'Come ind'ye hear?' growled this engaging ruffian.

A white shaggy dogwith his face scratched and torn in twenty
different placesskulked into the room.

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

This command was accompanied with a kickwhich 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 soundand winking his very ill-looking eyes
twenty times in a minuteappeared to occupy himself in taking a
survey of the apartment.

'What are you up to? Ill-treating the boysyou covetous
avariciousin-sa-ti-a-ble old fence?' said the manseating
himself deliberately. 'I wonder they don't murder you! I would
if I was them. If I'd been your 'prenticeI'd have done it long
agoand--noI couldn't have sold you afterwardsfor you're fit
for nothing but keeping as a curiousity of ugliness in a glass
bottleand I suppose they don't blow glass bottles large
enough.'

'Hush! hush! Mr. Sikes' said the Jewtrembling; 'don't speak so
loud!'

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

'Wellwellthen--Bill Sikes' said the Jewwith abject
humility. 'You seem out of humourBill.'

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

'Are you mad?' said the Jewcatching the man by the sleeveand
pointing towards the boys.

Mr. Sikes contented himself with tying an imaginary knot under
his left earand jerking his head over on the right shoulder; a
piece of dumb show which the Jew appeared to understand
perfectly. He thenin cant termswith which his whole
conversation was plentifully besprinkledbut which would be
quite unintelligible if they were recorded heredemanded a glass
of liquor.

'And mind you don't poison it' said Mr. Sikeslaying 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 cupboardhe might have thought the caution not wholly
unnecessaryor the wish (at all events) to improve upon the
distiller's ingenuity not very far from the old gentleman's merry
heart.

After swallowing two of three glasses of spiritsMr. Sikes
condescended to take some notice of the young gentlemen; which
gracious act led to a conversationin which the cause and manner
of Oliver's capture were circumstantially detailedwith such
alterations and improvements on the truthas 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 uponFagin.'

'And I'm afraidyou seeadded the Jewspeaking as if he had
not noticed the interruption; and regarding the other closely as
he did so--'I'm afraid thatif the game was up with usit
might be up with a good many moreand that it would come out
rather worse for you than it would for memy dear.'

The man startedand 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 peachedand is committedthere'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 actionindeedwas obvious; but
unfortunatelythere was one very strong objection to its being
adopted. This wasthat the Dodgerand Charley Batesand
Faginand Mr. William Sikeshappenedone and allto 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 otherin a state
of uncertainty not the most pleasant of its kindit is difficult
to guess. It is not necessary to make any guesses on the
subjecthowever; for the sudden entrance of the two young ladies
whom Oliver had seen on a former occasioncaused the
conversation to flow afresh.

'The very thing!' said the Jew. 'Bet will go; won't youmy


dear?'

'Wheres?' inquired the young lady.

'Only just up to the officemy dear' said the Jew coaxingly.

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

The Jew's countenance fell. He turned from this young ladywho
was gailynot to say gorgeously attiredin a red gowngreen
bootsand yellow curl-papersto the other female.

'Nancymy dear' said the Jew in a soothing manner'what do YOU
say?'

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

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

'What I sayBill' replied the lady collectedly.

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

'And as I don't want 'em toneither' replied Nancy in the same
composed manner'it's rather more no than yes with meBill.'

'She'll goFagin' said Sikes.

'Noshe won'tFagin' said Nancy.

'Yesshe willFagin' said Sikes.

And Mr. Sikes was right. By dint of alternate threatspromises
and bribesthe lady in question was ultimately prevailed upon to
undertake the commission. She was notindeedwithheld by the
same considerations as her agreeable friend; forhaving recently
removed into the neighborhood of Field Lane from the remote but
genteel suburb of Ratcliffeshe was not under the same
apprehension of being recognised by any of her numerous
acquaintance.

Accordinglywith a clean white apron tied over her gownand 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 minutemy dear' said the Jewproducinga little
covered basket. 'Carry that in one hand. It looks more
respectablemy dear.'

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

'Yesyesmy dearso it does' said the Jewhanging a large
street-door key on the forefinger of the young lady's right hand.


'There; very good! Very good indeedmy dear!' said the Jew
rubbing his hands.

'Ohmy brother! My poordearsweetinnocent little brother!'
exclaimed Nancybursting into tearsand 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! Ohdo have
pityand tell me what's been done with the dear boygentlemen;
dogentlemenif you pleasegentlemen!'

Having uttered those words in a most lamentable and heart-broken
tone: to the immeasurable delight of her hearers: Miss Nancy
pausedwinked to the companynodded smilingly roundand
disappeared.

'Ahshe's a clever girlmy dears' said the Jewturning round
to his young friendsand shaking his head gravelyas if in mute
admonition to them to follow the bright example they had just
beheld.

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

While theseand many other encomiumswere being passed on the
accomplished Nancythat young lady made the best of her way to
the police-office; whithernotwithstanding a little natural
timidity consequent upon walking through the streets alone and
unprotectedshe arrived in perfect safety shortly afterwards.

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

'Nollydear?' murmured Nancy in a gentle voice; 'Nolly?'

There was nobody inside but a miserable shoeless criminalwho
had been taken up for playing the fluteand whothe offence
against society having been clearly provedhad 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 spareit 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 flutewhich
had been confiscated for the use of the county: so Nancy passed
on to the next celland knocked there.

'Well!' cried a faint and feeble voice.

'Is there a little boy here?' inquired Nancywith a preliminary
sob.

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

This was a vagrant of sixty-fivewho was going to prison for NOT
playing the flute; orin other wordsfor begging in the
streetsand doing nothing for his livelihood. In the next cell
was another manwho was going to the same prison for hawking tin
saucepans without license; thereby doing something for his
livingin defiance of the Stamp-office.

Butas neither of these criminals answered to the name of


Oliveror knew anything about himNancy made straight up to the
bluff officer in the striped waistcoat; and with the most piteous
wailings and lamentationsrendered 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 himmy dear' said the old man.

'Where is he?' screamed Nancyin a distracted manner.

'Whythe gentleman's got him' replied the officer.

'What gentleman! Ohgracious heavens! What gentleman?'
exclaimed Nancy.

In reply to this incoherent questioningthe old man informed the
deeply affected sister that Oliver had been taken ill in the
officeand discharged in consequence of a witness having proved
the robbery to have been committed by another boynot in
custody; and that the prosecutor had carried him awayin an
insensible conditionto his own residence: of and concerning
whichall the informant knew wasthat it was somewhere in
Pentonvillehe having heard that word mentioned in the
directions to the coachman.

In a dreadful state of doubt and uncertaintythe agonised young
woman staggered to the gateand thenexchanging her faltering
walk for a swift runreturned by the most devious and
complicated route she could think ofto the domicile of the Jew.

Mr. Bill Sikes no sooner heard the account of the expedition
deliveredthan he very hastily called up the white dogand
putting on his hatexpeditiously departed: without devoting any
time to the formality of wishing the company good-morning.

'We must know where he ismy dears; he must be found' said the
Jew greatly excited. 'Charleydo nothing but skulk abouttill
you bring home some news of him! Nancymy dearI must have him
found. I trust to youmy dear--to you and the Artful for
everything! Staystay' added the Jewunlocking a drawer with
a shaking hand; 'there's moneymy dears. I shall shut up this
shop to-night. You'll know where to find me! Don't stop here a
minute. Not an instantmy dears!'

With these wordshe pushed them from the room: and carefully
double-locking and barring the door behind themdrew from its
place of concealment the box which he had unintentionally
disclosed to Oliver. Thenhe 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 Dodgerthrough the key-hole.

'What now?' cried the Jew impatiently.

'Is he to be kidnapped to the other kenNancy says?' inquired
the Dodger.

'Yes' replied the Jew'wherever she lays hands on him. Find
himfind him outthat'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 friendswe
may stop his mouth yet.'

CHAPTER XIV

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

Oliver soon recovering from the fainting-fit into which Mr.
Brownlow's abrupt exclamation had thrown himthe subject of the
picture was carefully avoidedboth by the old gentleman and Mrs.
Bedwinin the conversation that ensued: which indeed bore no
reference to Oliver's history or prospectsbut was confined to
such topics as might amuse without exciting him. He was still
too weak to get up to breakfast; butwhen he came down into the
housekeeper's room next dayhis first act was to cast an eager
glance at the wallin the hope of again looking on the face of
the beautiful lady. His expectations were disappointedhowever
for the picture had been removed.

'Ah!' said the housekeeperwatching the direction of Oliver's
eyes. 'It is goneyou see.'

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

'It has been taken downchildbecause Mr. Brownlow saidthat
as it seemed to worry youperhaps it might prevent your getting
wellyou know' rejoined the old lady.

'Ohnoindeed. It didn't worry mema'am' said Oliver. 'I
liked to see it. I quite loved it.'

'Wellwell!' said the old ladygood-humouredly; 'you get well
as fast as ever you candearand it shall be hung up again.
There! I promise you that! Nowlet us talk about something
else.'

This was all the information Oliver could obtain about the
picture at that time. As the old lady had been so kind to him in
his illnesshe endeavoured to think no more of the subject just
then; so he listened attentively to a great many stories she told
himabout an amiable and handsome daughter of herswho was
married to an amiable and handsome manand lived in the country;
and about a sonwho was clerk to a merchant in the West Indies;
and who wasalsosuch a good young manand wrote such dutiful
letters home four times a-yearthat it brought the tears into
her eyes to talk about them. When the old lady had expatiateda
long timeon the excellences of her childrenand the merits of
her kind good husband besideswho had been dead and gonepoor
dear soul! just six-and-twenty yearsit 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 playedwith
great interest and gravityuntil it was time for the invalid to
have some warm wine and waterwith a slice of dry toastand
then to go cosily to bed.


They were happy daysthose of Oliver's recovery. Everything was
so quietand neatand orderly; everybody so kind and gentle;
that after the noise and turbulence in the midst of which he had
always livedit seemed like Heaven itself. He was no sooner
strong enough to put his clothes onproperlythan Mr. Brownlow
caused a complete new suitand a new capand a new pair of
shoesto be provided for him. As Oliver was told that he might
do what he liked with the old clotheshe gave them to a servant
who had been very kind to himand asked her to sell them to a
Jewand keep the money for herself. This she very readily did;
andas Oliver looked out of the parlour windowand saw the Jew
roll them up in his bag and walk awayhe felt quite delighted to
think that they were safely goneand that there was now no
possible danger of his ever being able to wear them again. They
were sad ragsto tell the truth; and Oliver had never had a new
suit before.

One eveningabout a week after the affair of the pictureas he
was sitting talking to Mrs. Bedwinthere came a message down
from Mr. Brownlowthat if Oliver Twist felt pretty wellhe
should like to see him in his studyand talk to him a little
while.

'Bless usand save us! Wash your handsand let me part your
hair nicely for youchild' said Mrs. Bedwin. 'Dear heart
alive! If we had known he would have asked for youwe would
have put you a clean collar onand made you as smart as
sixpence!'

Oliver did as the old lady bade him; andalthough she lamented
grievouslymeanwhilethat there was not even time to crimp the
little frill that bordered his shirt-collar; he looked so
delicate and handsomedespite that important personal advantage
that she went so far as to say: looking at him with great
complacency from head to footthat she really didn't think it
would have been possibleon the longest noticeto have made
much difference in him for the better.

Thus encouragedOliver tapped at the study door. On Mr.
Brownlow calling to him to come inhe found himself in a little
back roomquite full of bookswith a windowlooking into some
pleasant little gardens. There was a table drawn up before the
windowat which Mr. Brownlow was seated reading. When he saw
Oliverhe pushed the book away from himand told him to come
near the tableand 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 Twistevery day of
their lives.

'There are a good many booksare there notmy boy?' said Mr.
Brownlowobserving the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the
shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling.

'A great numbersir' replied Oliver. 'I never saw so many.'

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

'I suppose they are those heavy onessir' said Oliverpointing
to some large quartoswith a good deal of gilding about the


binding.

'Not always those' said the old gentlemanpatting Oliver on the
headand smiling as he did so; 'there are other equally heavy
onesthough of a much smaller size. How should you like to grow
up a clever manand write bookseh?'

'I think I would rather read themsir' replied Oliver.

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

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

'Wellwell' said the old gentlemancomposing his features.
'Don't be afraid! We won't make an author of youwhile there's
an honest trade to be learntor brick-making to turn to.'

'Thank yousir' said Oliver. At the earnest manner of his
replythe old gentleman laughed again; and said something about
a curious instinctwhich Olivernot understandingpaid no very
great attention to.

'Now' said Mr. Brownlowspeaking if possible in a kinderbut
at the same time in a much more serious mannerthan Oliver had
ever known him assume yet'I want you to pay great attentionmy
boyto what I am going to say. I shall talk to you without any
reserve; because I am sure you are well able to understand meas
many older persons would be.'

'Ohdon't tell you are going to send me awaysirpray!'
exclaimed Oliveralarmed 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 hereand be a servant. Don't
send me back to the wretched place I came from. Have mercy upon
a poor boysir!'

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

'I nevernever willsir' interposed Oliver.

'I hope not' rejoined the old gentleman. 'I do not think you
ever will. I have been deceivedbeforein the objects whom I
have endeavoured to benefit; but I feel strongly disposed to
trust younevertheless; and I am more interested in your behalf
than I can well account foreven to myself. The persons on whom
I have bestowed my dearest lovelie deep in their graves; but
although the happiness and delight of my life lie buried there
tooI have not made a coffin of my heartand sealed it up
foreveron 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.

'Wellwell!' said the old gentleman at lengthin a more
cheerful tone'I only say thisbecause you have a young heart;


and knowing that I have suffered great pain and sorrowyou will
be more carefulperhapsnot to wound me again. You say you are
an orphanwithout a friend in the world; all the inquiries I
have been able to makeconfirm 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 truthand 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 farmand carried to the workhouse by Mr. Bumblea
peculiarly impatient little double-knock was heard at the
street-door: and the servantrunning upstairsannounced Mr.
Grimwig.

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

'Yessir' replied the servant. 'He asked if there were any
muffins in the house; andwhen I told him yeshe said he had
come to tea.'

Mr. Brownlow smiled; andturning to Oliversaid that Mr.
Grimwig was an old friend of hisand he must not mind his being
a little rough in his manners; for he was a worthy creature at
bottomas he had reason to know.

'Shall I go downstairssir?' inquired Oliver.

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

At this momentthere walked into the room: supporting himself
by a thick stick: a stout old gentlemanrather lame in one leg
who was dressed in a blue coatstriped waistcoatnankeen
breeches and gaitersand a broad-brimmed white hatwith 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 enddangled 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 twisteddefy 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 attitudehe fixed
himselfthe moment he made his appearance; andholding out a
small piece of orange-peel at arm's lengthexclaimedin a
growlingdiscontented 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 onceand I know orange-peel will be my
deathor I'll be content to eat my own headsir!'

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 casebecauseeven admitting for the sake of
argumentthe 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 disposedMr. Grimwig's head
was such a particularly large onethat 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 questiona very
thick coating of powder.


'I'll eat my headsir' repeated Mr. Grimwigstriking his stick
upon the ground. 'Hallo! what's that!' looking at Oliverand
retreating a pace or two.

'This is young Oliver Twistwhom we were speaking about' said
Mr. Brownlow.

Oliver bowed.

'You don't mean to say that's the boy who had the feverI hope?'
said Mr. Grimwigrecoiling a little more. 'Wait a minute!
Don't speak! Stop--' continued Mr. Grimwigabruptlylosing all
dread of the fever in his triumph at the discovery; 'that's the
boy who had the orange! If that's not the boysirwho had the
orangeand threw this bit of peel upon the staircaseI'll eat
my headand his too.'

'Nonohe has not had one' said Mr. Brownlowlaughing.
'Come! Put down your hat; and speak to my young friend.'

'I feel strongly on this subjectsir' said the irritable old
gentlemandrawing 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 nightand 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 understoodby his
friendsto imply the customary offerwhenever it was not
expressed in words. Thenstill keeping his stick in his handhe
sat down; andopening a double eye-glasswhich he wore attached
to a broad black ribandtook a view of Oliver: whoseeing that
he was the object of inspectioncolouredand bowed again.

'That's the boyis it?' said Mr. Grimwigat length.

'That's the boy' replied Mr. Brownlow.

'How are youboy?' said Mr. Grimwig.

'A great deal betterthank yousir' replied Oliver.

Mr Brownlowseeming to apprehend that his singular friend was
about to say something disagreeableasked Oliver to step
downstairs and tell Mrs. Bedwin they were ready for tea; which
as he did not half like the visitor's mannerhe was very happy
to do.

'He is a nice-looking boyis he not?' inquired Mr. Brownlow.

'I don't know' replied Mr. Grimwigpettishly.

'Don't know?'

'No. I don't know. I never see any difference in boys. I only
knew two sort of boys. Mealy boysand 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 headand red cheeksand 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 pilotand 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.'

HereMr. Brownlow coughed impatiently; which appeared to afford
Mr. Grimwig the most exquisite delight.

'He may have worseI 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 theyeh? I knew a man who
was hung in Jamaica for murdering his master. He had had a fever
six times; he wasn't recommended to mercy on that account. Pooh!
nonsense!'

Nowthe fact wasthat 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 contradictionsharpened on this occasion by
the finding of the orange-peel; andinwardly determining that no
man should dictate to him whether a boy was well-looking or not
he had resolvedfrom the firstto 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 demandedwith a sneerwhether 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 morningwhyhe would be content to--and so forth.

All thisMr. Brownlowalthough himself somewhat of an impetuous
gentleman: knowing his friend's peculiaritiesbore with great
good humour; as Mr. Grimwigat teawas graciously pleased to
express his entire approval of the muffinsmatters went on very
smoothly; and Oliverwho made one of the partybegan 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 fulltrueand particular
account of the life and adventures of Oliver Twist?' asked
Grimwig of Mr. Brownlowat the conclusion of the meal; looking
sideways at Oliveras 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'clockmy dear.'

'Yessir' 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 youmy good friend.'

'I'll swear he is not' replied Mr. Brownlowwarmly.

'If he is not' said Mr. Grimwig'I'll--' and down went the
stick.


'I'll answer for that boy's truth with my life!' said Mr.
Brownlowknocking the table.

'And I for his falsehood with my head!' rejoined Mr. Grimwig
knocking the table also.

'We shall see' said Mr. Brownlowchecking his rising anger.

'We will' replied Mr. Grimwigwith a provoking smile; 'we
will.'

As fate would have itMrs. Bedwin chanced to bring inat this
momenta small parcel of bookswhich Mr. Brownlow had that
morning purchased of the identical bookstall-keeperwho has
already figured in this history; having laid them on the table
she prepared to leave the room.

'Stop the boyMrs. Bedwin!' said Mr. Brownlow; 'there is
something to go back.'

'He has gonesir' replied Mrs. Bedwin.

'Call after him' said Mr. Brownlow; 'it's particular. He is a
poor manand they are not paid for. There are some books to be
taken backtoo.'

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
returnedin a breathless stateto report that there were no
tidings of him.

'Dear meI am very sorry for that' exclaimed Mr. Brownlow; 'I
particularly wished those books to be returned to-night.'

'Send Oliver with them' said Mr. Grimwigwith an ironical
smile; 'he will be sure to deliver them safelyyou know.'

'Yes; do let me take themif you pleasesir' said Oliver.
'I'll run all the waysir.'

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 thatby his prompt discharge
of the commissionhe should prove to him the injustice of his
suspicions: on this head at least: at once.

'You SHALL gomy dear' said the old gentleman. 'The books are
on a chair by my table. Fetch them down.'

Oliverdelighted to be of usebrought down the books under his
arm in a great bustle; and waitedcap in handto hear what
message he was to take.

'You are to say' said Mr. Brownlowglancing 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 noteso you will have to bring me backten
shillings change.'

'I won't be ten minutessir' said Olivereagerly. Having
buttoned up the bank-note in his jacket pocketand placed the
books carefully under his armhe made a respectful bowand left
the room. Mrs. Bedwin followed him to the street-doorgiving


him many directions about the nearest wayand the name of the
booksellerand the name of the street: all of which Oliver said
he clearly understood. Having superadded many injunctions to be
sure and not take coldthe old lady at length permitted him to
depart.

'Bless his sweet face!' said the old ladylooking after him. 'I
can't bearsomehowto let him go out of my sight.'

At this momentOliver looked gaily roundand nodded before he
turned the corner. The old lady smilingly returned his
salutationandclosing the doorwent backto her own room.

'Let me see; he'll be back in twenty minutesat the longest'
said Mr. Brownlowpulling out his watchand placing it on the
table. 'It will be dark by that time.'

'Oh! you really expect him to come backdo you?' inquired Mr.
Grimwig.

'Don't you?' asked Mr. Brownlowsmiling.

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 saidsmiting the table with his fist'I do not. The
boy has a new suit of clothes on his backa set of valuable
books under his armand a five-pound note in his pocket. He'll
join his old friends the thievesand laugh at you. If ever that
boy returns to this housesirI'll eat my head.'

With these words he drew his chair closer to the table; and there
the two friends satin silent expectationwith the watch
between them.

It is worthy of remarkas illustrating the importance we attach
to our own judgmentsand the pride with which we put forth our
most rash and hasty conclusionsthatalthough Mr. Grimwig was
not by any means a bad-hearted manand 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 darkthat the figures on the dial-plate were scarcely
discernible; but there the two old gentlemen continued to sitin
silencewith the watch between them.

CHAPTER XV

SHOWING HOW VERY FOND OF OLIVER TWISTTHE MERRY OLD JEW AND MISS
NANCY WERE

In the obscure parlour of a low public-housein the filthiest
part of Little Saffron Hill; a dark and gloomy denwhere a
flaring gas-light burnt all day in the winter-time; and where no
ray of sun ever shone in the summer: there satbrooding over a
little pewter measure and a small glassstrongly impregnated
with the smell of liquora man in a velveteen coatdrab shorts
half-boots and stockingswhom even by that dim light no
experienced agent of the police would have hesitated to recognise


as Mr. William Sikes. At his feetsat a white-coatedred-eyed
dog; who occupied himselfalternatelyin winking at his master
with both eyes at the same time; and in licking a largefresh
cut on one side of his mouthwhich appeared to be the result of
some recent conflict.

'Keep quietyou warmint! Keep quiet!' said Mr. Sikessuddenly
breaking silence. Whether his meditations were so intense as to
be disturbed by the dog's winkingor whether his feelings were
so wrought upon by his reflections that they required all the
relief derivable from kicking an unoffending animal to allay
themis matter for argument and consideration. Whatever was the
causethe effect was a kick and a cursebestowed upon the dog
simultaneously.

Dogs are not generally apt to revenge injuries inflicted upon
them by their masters; but Mr. Sikes's doghaving faults of
temper in common with his ownerand labouringperhapsat this
momentunder a powerful sense of injurymade no more ado but at
once fixed his teeth in one of the half-boots. Having given in a
hearty shakehe retiredgrowlingunder a form; just escaping
the pewter measure which Mr. Sikes levelled at his head.

'You wouldwould you?' said Sikesseizing the poker in one
handand deliberately opening with the other a large
clasp-knifewhich he drew from his pocket. 'Come hereyou 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; butappearing to entertain
some unaccountable objection to having his throat cuthe
remained where he wasand 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; whodropping
on his kneesbegan to assail the animal most furiously. The dog
jumped from right to leftand from left to right; snapping
growlingand barking; the man thrust and sworeand struck and
blasphemed; and the struggle was reaching a most critical point
for one or other; whenthe door suddenly openingthe dog darted
out: leaving Bill Sikes with the poker and the clasp-knife in
his hands.

There must always be two parties to a quarrelsays the old
adage. Mr. Sikesbeing 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
Sikeswith a fierce gesture.

'I didn't knowmy dearI didn't know' replied Faginhumbly;
for the Jew was the new comer.

'Didn't knowyou white-livered thief!' growled Sikes. 'Couldn't
you hear the noise?'

'Not a sound of itas I'm a living manBill' replied the Jew.

'Oh no! You hear nothingyou don't' retorted Sikes with a
fierce sneer. 'Sneaking in and outso as nobody hears how you
come or go! I wish you had been the dogFaginhalf a minute
ago.'


'Why?' inquired the Jew with a forced smile.

'Cause the governmentas cares for the lives of such men as you
as haven't half the pluck of curslets a man kill a dog how he
likes' replied Sikesshutting up the knife with a very
expressive look; 'that's why.'

The Jew rubbed his hands; andsitting down at the table
affected to laugh at the pleasantry of his friend. He was
obviously very ill at easehowever.

'Grin away' said Sikesreplacing the pokerand surveying him
with savage contempt; 'grin away. You'll never have the laugh at
methoughunless it's behind a nightcap. I've got the upper
hand over youFagin; andd--meI'll keep it. There! If I go
you go; so take care of me.'

'Wellwellmy dear' said the Jew'I know all that;
we--we--have a mutual interestBill--a mutual interest.'

'Humph' said Sikesas if he though the interest lay rather more
on the Jew's side than on his. 'Wellwhat have you got to say
to me?'

'It's all passed safe through the melting-pot' replied Fagin
'and this is your share. It's rather more than it ought to be
my dear; but as I know you'll do me a good turn another time
and--'

'Stow that gammon' interposed the robberimpatiently. 'Where is
it? Hand over!'

'YesyesBill; give me timegive me time' replied the Jew
soothingly. 'Here it is! All safe!' As he spokehe drew forth
an old cotton handkerchief from his breast; and untying a large
knot in one cornerproduced a small brown-paper packet. Sikes
snatching it from himhastily opened it; and proceeded to count
the sovereigns it contained.

'This is allis it?' inquired Sikes.

'All' replied the Jew.

'You haven't opened the parcel and swallowed one or two as you
come alonghave you?' inquired Sikessuspiciously. 'Don't put
on an injured look at the question; you've done it many a time.
Jerk the tinkler.'

These wordsin plain Englishconveyed an injunction to ring the
bell. It was answered by another Jew: younger than Faginbut
nearly as vile and repulsive in appearance.

Bill Sikes merely pointed to the empty measure. The Jew
perfectly understanding the hintretired to fill it: previously
exchanging a remarkable look with Faginwho raised his eyes for
an instantas if in expectation of itand shook his head in
reply; so slightly that the action would have been almost
imperceptible to an observant third person. It was lost upon
Sikeswho was stooping at the moment to tie the boot-lace which
the dog had torn. Possiblyif he had observed the brief
interchange of signalshe might have thought that it boded no
good to him.

'Is anybody hereBarney?' inquired Fagin; speakingnow that


that Sikes was looking onwithout raising his eyes from the
ground.

'Dot a shoul' replied Barney; whose words: whether they came
from the heart or not: made their way through the nose.

'Nobody?' inquired Faginin 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 blindif I don't
honour that 'ere girlfor her native talents.'

'She's bid havid a plate of boiled beef id the bar' replied
Barney.

'Send her here' said Sikespouring out a glass of liquor. 'Send
her here.'

Barney looked timidly at Faginas if for permission; the Jew
reamining silentand not lifting his eyes from the groundhe
retired; and presently returnedushering in Nancy; who was
decorated with the bonnetapronbasketand street-door key
complete.

'You are on the scentare youNancy?' inquired Sikes
proffering the glass.

'YesI amBill' replied the young ladydisposing of its
contents; 'and tired enough of it I amtoo. The young brat's
been ill and confined to the crib; and--'

'AhNancydear!' said Faginlooking up.

Nowwhether a peculiar contraction of the Jew's red eye-brows
and a half closing of his deeply-set eyeswarned Miss Nancy that
she was disposed to be too communicativeis not a matter of much
importance. The fact is all we need care for here; and the fact
isthat she suddenly checked herselfand with several gracious
smiles upon Mr. Sikesturned the conversation to other matters.
In about ten minutes' timeMr. 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. Sikesfinding that he was
walking a short part of her way himselfexpressed his intention
of accompanying her; they went away togetherfollowedat a
little distantby the dogwho 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 thenwith a horrible
grinreseated himself at the table; where he was soon deeply
absorbed in the interesting pages of the Hue-and-Cry.

MeanwhileOliver Twistlittle dreaming that he was within so
very short a distance of the merry old gentlemanwas on his way
to the book-stall. When he got into Clerkenwellhe 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 itand
knowing it must lead in the right directionhe did not think it
worth while to turn back; and so marched onas quickly as he
couldwith the books under his arm.


He was walking alongthinking how happy and contented he ought
to feel; and how much he would give for only one look at poor
little Dickwhostarved and beatenmight be weeping bitterly
at that very moment; when he was startled by a young woman
screaming out very loud. 'Ohmy dear brother!' And he had
hardly looked upto see what the matter waswhen he was stopped
by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.

'Don't' cried Oliverstruggling. 'Let go of me. Who is it?
What are you stopping me for?'

The only reply to thiswas 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 boyto make me suffer such
distress on your account! Come homedearcome. OhI've found
him. Thank gracious goodness heavinsI've found him!' With
these incoherent exclamationsthe young woman burst into another
fit of cryingand got so dreadfully hystericalthat a couple of
women who came up at the moment asked a butcher's boy with a
shiny head of hair anointed with suetwho was also looking on
whether he didn't think he had better run for the doctor. To
whichthe butcher's boy: who appeared of a loungingnot to say
indolent disposition: repliedthat he thought not.

'Ohnononever mind' said the young womangrasping Oliver's
hand; 'I'm better now. Come home directlyyou cruel boy!
Come!'

'Ohma'am' replied the young woman'he ran awaynear a month
agofrom his parentswho 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 homedoyou little brute' said the other.

'I am not' replied Olivergreatly alarmed. 'I don't know her.
I haven't any sisteror father and mother either. I'm an
orphan; I live at Pentonville.'

'Only hear himhow he braves it out!' cried the young woman.

'Whyit's Nancy!' exclaimed Oliver; who now saw her face for the
first time; and started backin irrepressible astonishment.

'You see he knows me!' cried Nancyappealing to the bystanders.
'He can't help himself. Make him come homethere's good people
or he'll kill his dear mother and fatherand break my heart!'

'What the devil's this?' said a manbursting out of a beer-shop
with a white dog at his heels; 'young Oliver! Come home to your
poor motheryou young dog! Come home directly.'

'I don't belong to them. I don't know them. Help! help! cried
Oliverstruggling in the man's powerful grasp.

'Help!' repeated the man. 'Yes; I'll help youyou young rascal!

What books are these? You've been a stealing 'emhave you?
Give 'em here.' With these wordsthe man tore the volumes from


his graspand struck him on the head.

'That's right!' cried a looker-onfrom a garret-window. 'That's
the only way of bringing him to his senses!'

'To be sure!' cried a sleepy-faced carpentercasting an
approving look at the garret-window.

'It'll do him good!' said the two women.

'And he shall have ittoo!' rejoined the manadministering
another blowand seizing Oliver by the collar. 'Come onyou
young villain! HereBull's-eyemind himboy! Mind him!'

Weak with recent illness; stupified by the blows and the
suddenness of the attack; terrified by the fierce growling of the
dogand 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 courtsand was forced along them at a
pace which rendered the few cries he dared to give utterance to
unintelligible. It was of little momentindeedwhether 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 satperseveringlyin the dark parlourwith the watch
between them.

CHAPTER XVI

RELATES WHAT BECAME OF OLIVER TWISTAFTER HE HAD BEEN CLAIMED BY
NANCY

The narrow streets and courtsat lengthterminated in a large
open space; scattered about whichwere pens for beastsand
other indications of a cattle-market. Sikes slackened his pace
when they reached this spot: the girl being quite unable to
support any longerthe rapid rate at which they had hitherto
walked. Turning to Oliverhe roughly commanded him to take hold
of Nancy's hand.

'Do you hear?' growled Sikesas Oliver hesitatedand looked
round.

They were in a dark cornerquite out of the track of passengers.

Oliver sawbut too plainlythat resistance would be of no
avail. He held out his handwhich Nancy clasped tight in hers.

'Give me the other' said Sikesseizing Oliver's unoccupied
hand. 'HereBull's-Eye!'

The dog looked upand growled.


'See hereboy!' said Sikesputting his other hand to Oliver's
throat; 'if he speaks ever so soft a wordhold him! D'ye mind!'

The dog growled again; and licking his lipseyed Oliver as if he
were anxious to attach himself to his windpipe without delay.

'He's as willing as a Christianstrike me blind if he isn't!'
said Sikesregarding the animal with a kind of grim and
ferocious approval. 'Nowyou know what you've got to expect
masterso call away as quick as you like; the dog will soon stop
that game. Get onyoung'un!'

Bull's-eye wagged his tail in acknowledgment of this unusually
endearing form of speech; andgiving vent to another admonitory
growl for the benefit of Oliverled the way onward.

It was Smithfield that they were crossingalthough it might have
been Grosvenor Squarefor anything Oliver knew to the contrary.
The night was dark and foggy. The lights in the shops could
scarecely struggle through the heavy mistwhich 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 paceswhen a deep church-bell struck
the hour. With its first strokehis two conductors stoppedand
turned their heads in the direction whence the sound proceeded.

'Eight o' clockBill' said Nancywhen the bell ceased.

'What's the good of telling me that; I can hear itcan'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 fairas I
couldn't hear the squeaking on. Arter I was locked up for the
nightthe row and din outside made the thundering old jail so
silentthat I could almost have beat my brains out against the
iron plates of the door.'

'Poor fellow!' said Nancywho still had her face turned towards
the quarter in which the bell had sounded. 'OhBillsuch fine
young chaps as them!'

'Yes; that's all you women think of' answered Sikes. 'Fine
young chaps! Wellthey're as good as deadso it don't much
matter.'

With this consolationMr. Sikes appeared to repress a rising
tendency to jealousyandclasping Oliver's wrist more firmly
told him to step out again.

'Wait a minute!' said the girl: 'I wouldn't hurry byif it was
you that was coming out to be hungthe next time eight o'clock
struckBill. I'd walk round and round the place till I dropped
if the snow was on the groundand 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 ropeyou might as well be walking fifty mile offor
not walking at allfor 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
andlooking up in her face as they passed a gas-lampsaw that
it had turned a deadly white.

They walked onby little-frequented and dirty waysfor a full
half-hour: meeting very few peopleand 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
streetnearly full of old-clothes shops; the dog running
forwardas if conscious that there was no further occasion for
his keeping on guardstopped before the door of a shop that was
closed and apparently untenanted; the house was in a ruinous
conditionand on the door was nailed a boardintimating that it
was to let: which looked as if it had hung there for many years.

'All right' cried Sikesglancing cautiously about.

Nancy stooped below the shuttersand Oliver heard the sound of a
bell. They crossed to the opposite side of the streetand stood
for a few moments under a lamp. A noiseas if a sash window
were gently raisedwas 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 waitedwhile the person
who had let them inchained and barred the door.

'Anybody here?' inquired Sikes.

'No' replied a voicewhich 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? Ohno!'

The style of this replyas 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
necksor treading on the dog. Look after your legs if you do!'

'Stand still a momentand I'll get you one' replied the voice.
The receding footsteps of the speaker were heard; andin another
minutethe form of Mr. John Dawkinsotherwise the Artful
Dodgerappeared. 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; butturning away
beckoned the visitors to follow him down a flight of stairs.
They crossed an empty kitchen; andopening the door of a low
earthy-smelling roomwhich seemed to have been built in a small
back-yardwere received with a shout of laughter.

'Ohmy wigmy wig!' cried Master Charles Batesfrom whose
lungs the laughter had proceeded: 'here he is! ohcryhere he
is! OhFaginlook at him! Fagindo look at him! I can't bear
it; it is such a jolly gameI cant' bear it. Hold mesomebody
while I laugh it out.'


With this irrepressible ebullition of mirthMaster Bates laid
himself flat on the floor: and kicked convulsively for five
minutesin an ectasy of facetious joy. Then jumping to his
feethe snatched the cleft stick from the Dodger; andadvancing
to Oliverviewed him round and round; while the Jewtaking off
his nightcapmade a great number of low bows to the bewildered
boy. The Artfulmeantimewho was of a rather saturnine
dispositionand seldom gave way to merriment when it interfered
with businessrifled Oliver's pockets with steady assiduity.

'Look at his togsFagin!' said Charleyputting the light so
close to his new jacket as nearly to set him on fire. 'Look at
his togs! Superfine clothand the heavy swell cut! Ohmy eye
what a game! And his bookstoo! Nothing but a gentleman
Fagin!'

'Delighted to see you looking so wellmy dear' said the Jew
bowing with mock humility. 'The Artful shall give you another
suitmy dearfor fear you should spoil that Sunday one. Why
didn't you writemy dearand say you were coming? We'd have
got something warm for supper.'

At hisMaster Bates roared again: so loudthat Fagin himself
relaxedand even the Dodger smiled; but as the Artful drew forth
the five-pound note at that instantit is doubtful whether the
sally of the discovery awakened his merriment.

'Hallowhat's that?' inquired Sikesstepping forward as the Jew
seized the note. 'That's mineFagin.'

'Nonomy dear' said the Jew. 'MineBillmine. You shall
have the books.'

'If that ain't mine!' said Bill Sikesputting on his hat with a
determined air; 'mine and Nancy's that is; I'll take the boy back
again.'

The Jew started. Oliver started toothough from a very
different cause; for he hoped that the dispute might really end
in his being taken back.

'Come! Hand overwill you?' said Sikes.

'This is hardly fairBill; hardly fairis itNancy?' inquired
the Jew.

'Fairor not fair' retorted Sikes'hand overI tell you! Do
you think Nancy and me has got nothing else to do with our
precious time but to spend it in scouting arterand kidnapping
every young boy as gets grabbed through you? Give it hereyou
avaricious old skeletongive it here!'

With this gentle remonstranceMr. Sikes plucked the note from
between the Jew's finger and thumb; and looking the old man
coolly in the facefolded it up smalland tied it in his
neckerchief.

'That's for our share of the trouble' said Sikes; 'and not half
enoughneither. You may keep the booksif you're fond of
reading. If you ain'tsell 'em.'

'They're very pretty' said Charley Bates: whowith sundry
grimaceshad been affecting to read one of the volumes in


question; 'beautiful writingisn't isOliver?' At sight of the
dismayed look with which Oliver regarded his tormentorsMaster
Bateswho was blessed with a lively sense of the ludicrousfell
into another ectasymore boisterous than the first.

'They belong to the old gentleman' said Oliverwringing his
hands; 'to the goodkindold gentleman who took me into his
houseand had me nursedwhen I was near dying of the fever.
Ohpray send them back; send him back the books and money. Keep
me here all my life long; but praypray 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. Ohdo have mercy upon meand
send them back!'

With these wordswhich were uttered with all the energy of
passionate griefOliver fell upon his knees at the Jew's feet;
and beat his hands togetherin perfect desperation.

'The boy's right' remarked Faginlooking covertly roundand
knitting his shaggy eyebrows into a hard knot. 'You're right
Oliveryou're right; they WILL think you have stolen 'em. Ha!
ha!' chuckled the Jewrubbing his hands'it couldn't have
happened betterif we had chosen our time!'

'Of course it couldn't' replied Sikes; 'I know'd thatdirectly
I see him coming through Clerkenwellwith 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 himfear they should be obliged to prosecute
and so get him lagged. He's safe enough.'

Oliver had looked from one to the otherwhile these words were
being spokenas if he were bewilderedand could scarecely
understand what passed; but when Bill Sikes concludedhe jumped
suddenly to his feetand tore wildly from the room: uttering
shrieks for helpwhich made the bare old house echo to the roof.

'Keep back the dogBill!' cried Nancyspringing before the
doorand closing itas 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 Sikesstruggling to disengage himself
from the girl's grasp. 'Stand off from meor I'll split your
head against the wall.'

'I don't care for thatBillI don't care for that' screamed
the girlstruggling violently with the man'the child shan't be
torn down by the dogunless you kill me first.'

'Shan't he!' said Sikessetting 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 roomjust as the Jew and the two boys returneddragging
Oliver among them.

'What's the matter here!' said Faginlooking round.

'The girl's gone madI think' replied Sikessavagely.

'Noshe hasn't' said Nancypale and breathless from the
scuffle; 'noshe hasn'tFagin; don't think it.'

'Then keep quietwill you?' said the Jewwith a threatening


look.

'NoI won't do thatneither' replied Nancyspeaking 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
belongedto feel tolerably certain that it would be rather
unsafe to prolong any conversation with herat present. With
the view of diverting the attention of the companyhe turned to
Oliver.

'So you wanted to get awaymy deardid 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 motionsand
breathed quickly.

'Wanted to get assistance; called for the police; did you?'
sneered the Jewcatching the boy by the arm. 'We'll cure you of
thatmy young master.'

The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the
club; and was raising it for a secondwhen the girlrushing
forwardwrested 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 doneFagin' cried the girl.
'You've got the boyand what more would you have?--Let him
be--let him be--or I shall put that mark on some of youthat
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 compressedand her hands
clenchedlooked alternately at the Jew and the other robber:
her face quite colourless from the passion of rage into which she
had gradually worked herself.

'WhyNancy!' said the Jewin 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 dearyou are acting beautifully.'

'Am I!' said the girl. 'Take care I don't overdo it. You will
be the worse for itFaginif 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 passionsthe 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; andshrinking
involuntarily back a few pacescast a glancehalf imploring and
half cowardlyat Sikes: as if to hint that he was the fittest
person to pursue the dialogue.

Mr. Sikesthus 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 threatsthe 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 dischargedhoweverhe resorted to more tangible
arguments.

'What do you mean by this?' said Sikes; backing the inquiry with
a very common imprecation concerning the most beautiful of human
features: whichif it were heard aboveonly once out of every
fifty thousand times that it is uttered belowwould render
blindness as common a disorder as measles: 'what do you mean by
it? Burn my body! Do you know who you areand what you are?'

'OhyesI know all about it' replied the girllaughing
hysterically; and shaking her head from side to sidewith a poor
assumption of indifference.

'Wellthenkeep quiet' rejoined Sikeswith 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 Sikesturned her face asideand bit her
lip till the blood came.

'You're a nice one' added Sikesas he surveyed her with a
contemptuous air'to take up the humane and gen--teel side! A
pretty subject for the childas you call himto make a friend
of!'

'God Almighty help meI am!' cried the girl passionately; 'and I
wish I had been struck dead in the streetor had changed places
with them we passed so near to-nightbefore I had lent a hand in
bringing him here. He's a thiefa liara devilall that's
badfrom this night forth. Isn't that enough for the old
wretchwithout blows?'

'ComecomeSikes' said the Jew appealing to him in a
remonstratory toneand motioning towards the boyswho were
eagerly attentive to all that passed; 'we must have civil words;
civil wordsBill.'

'Civil words!' cried the girlwhose passion was frightful to
see. 'Civil wordsyou villain! Yesyou 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 tradeand in the
same servicefor twelve years since. Don't you know it? Speak
out! Don't you know it?'

'Wellwell' replied the Jewwith an attempt at pacification;
'andif you haveit's your living!'

'Ayeit is!' returned the girl; not speakingbut pouring out
the words in one continuous and vehement scream. 'It is my
living; and the coldwetdirty streets are my home; and you're
the wretch that drove me to them long agoand that'll keep me
thereday and nightday and nighttill I die!'

'I shall do you a mischief!' interposed the Jewgoaded by these
reproaches; 'a mischief worse than thatif you say much more!'

The girl said nothing more; buttearing her hair and dress in a
transport of passionmade such a rush at the Jew as would
probably have left signal marks of her revenge upon himhad not
her wrists been seized by Sikes at the right moment; upon which
she made a few ineffectual strugglesand fainted.


'She's all right now' said Sikeslaying her down in a corner.
'She's uncommon strong in the armswhen she's up in this way.'

The Jew wiped his forehead: and smiledas if it were a relief to
have the disturbance over; but neither henor Sikesnor the
dognor the boysseemed 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 cleverand we can't get onin
our linewithout 'em. Charleyshow Oliver to bed.'

'I suppose he'd better not wear his best clothes tomorrowFagin
had he?' inquired Charley Bates.

'Certainly not' replied the Jewreciprocating the grin with
which Charley put the question.

Master Batesapparently much delighted with his commissiontook
the cleft stick: and led Oliver into an adjacent kitchenwhere
there were two or three of the beds on which he had slept before;
and herewith many uncontrollable bursts of laughterhe
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 whichto Faginby the Jew who
purchased themhad been the very first clue receivedof his
whereabout.

'Put off the smart ones' said Charley'and I'll give 'em to
Fagin to take care of. What fun it is!'

Poor Oliver unwillingly complied. Master Bates rolling up the
new clothes under his armdeparted from the roomleaving Oliver
in the darkand locking the door behind him.

The noise of Charley's laughterand the voice of Miss Betsywho
opportunely arrived to throw water over her friendand perform
other feminine offices for the promotion of her recoverymight
have kept many people awake under more happy circumstances than
those in which Oliver was placed. But he was sick and weary; and
he soon fell sound asleep.

CHAPTER XVII

OLIVER'S DESTINY CONTINUING UNPROPITIOUSBRINGS A GREAT MAN TO
LONDON TO INJURE HIS REPUTATION

It is the custom on the stagein all good murderous melodramas
to present the tragic and the comic scenesin as regular
alternationas the layers of red and white in a side of streaky
bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bedweighed down by
fetters and misfortunes; in the next scenehis faithful but
unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song. We
beholdwith throbbing bosomsthe heroine in the grasp of a
proud and ruthless baron: her virtue and her life alike in
dangerdrawing forth her dagger to preserve the one at the cost
of the other; and just as our expectations are wrought up to the
highest pitcha whistle is heardand 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 placesfrom church vaults to


palacesand roam about in companycarolling 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-bedsand from mourning-weeds to
holiday garmentsare not a whit less startling; onlytherewe
are busy actorsinstead of passive lookers-onwhich makes a
vast difference. The actors in the mimic life of the theatre
are blind to violent transitions and abrupt impulses of passion
or feelingwhichpresented before the eyes of mere spectators
are at once condemned as outrageous and preposterous.

As sudden shiftings of the sceneand rapid changes of time and
placeare not only sanctioned in books by long usagebut are by
many considered as the great art of authorship: an author's skill
in his craft beingby such criticschiefly 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 solet 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 journeyor he would not be invited to proceed
upon such an expedition.

Mr. Bumble emerged at early morning from the workhouse-gateand
walked with portly carriage and commanding stepsup 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 eyean
elevation in his airwhich might have warned an observant
stranger that thoughts were passing in the beadle's mindtoo
great for utterance.

Mr. Bumble stopped not to converse with the small shopkeepers and
others who spoke to himdeferentiallyas he passed along. He
merely returned their salutations with a wave of his handand
relaxed not in his dignified paceuntil he reached the farm
where Mrs. Mann tended the infant paupers with parochial care.

'Drat that beadle!' said Mrs. Mannhearing the well-known
shaking at the garden-gate. 'If it isn't him at this time in the
morning! LaukMr. Bumbleonly think of its being you! Well
dear meit IS a pleasurethis is! Come into the parloursir
please.'

The first sentence was addressed to Susan; and the exclamations
of delight were uttered to Mr. Bumble: as the good lady unlocked
the garden-gate: and showed himwith great attention and
respectinto the house.

'Mrs. Mann' said Mr. Bumble; not sitting uponor dropping
himself into a seatas any common jackanapes would: but letting
himself gradually and slowly down into a chair; 'Mrs. Mann
ma'amgood morning.'

'Welland good morning to YOUsir' replied Mrs. Mannwith
many smiles; 'and hoping you find yourself wellsir!'

'So-soMrs. Mann' replied the beadle. 'A porochial life is not
a bed of rosesMrs. Mann.'


'Ahthat it isn't indeedMr. Bumble' rejoined the lady. And
all the infant paupers might have chorussed the rejoinder with
great proprietyif they had heard it.

'A porochial lifema'am' continued Mr. Bumblestriking the
table with his cane'is a life of worritand vexationand
hardihood; but all public charactersas I may saymust suffer
prosecution.'

Mrs. Mannnot very well knowing what the beadle meantraised
her hands with a look of sympathyand sighed.

'Ah! You may well sighMrs. Mann!' said the beadle.

Finding she had done rightMrs. Mann sighed again: evidently to
the satisfaction of the public character: whorepressing a
complacent smile by looking sternly at his cocked hatsaid

'Mrs. MannI am going to London.'

'LaukMr. Bumble!' cried Mrs. Mannstarting back.

'To Londonma'am' resumed the inflexible beadle'by coach. I
and two paupersMrs. Mann! A legal action is a coming onabout
a settlement; and the board has appointed me--meMrs. Mann--to
dispose to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell.

And I very much question' added Mr. Bumbledrawing 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 themsir' said Mrs. Mann
coaxingly.

'The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves
ma'am' replied Mr. Bumble; 'and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find
that they come off rather worse than they expectedthe
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
wordsthat Mrs. Mann appeared quite awed by them. At length she
said

'You're going by coachsir? I thought it was always usual to
send them paupers in carts.'

'That's when they're illMrs. Mann' said the beadle. 'We put
the sick paupers into open carts in the rainy weatherto 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 stateand
we find it would come two pound cheaper to move 'em than to bury
'em--that isif we can throw 'em upon another parishwhich I
think we shall be able to doif they don't die upon the road to
spite us. Ha! ha! ha!'

When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little whilehis eyes again
encountered the cocked hat; and he became grave.

'We are forgetting businessma'am' said the beadle; 'here is


your porochial stipend for the month."

Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paperfrom
his pocket-book; and requested a receipt: which Mrs. Mann wrote.

'It's very much blottedsir' said the farmer of infants; 'but
it's formal enoughI dare say. Thank youMr. BumblesirI am
very much obliged to youI'm sure.'

Mr. Bumble noddedblandlyin 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 bethe dears! Of courseexcept 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-conditionedwiciousbad-disposed porochial child
that' said Mr. Bumble angrily. 'Where is he?'

'I'll bring him to you in one minutesir' replied Mrs. Mann.
'Hereyou Dick!'

After some callingDick was discovered. Having had his face put
under the pumpand dried upon Mrs. Mann's gownhe was led into
the awful presence of Mr. Bumblethe beadle.

The child was pale and thin; his cheeks were sunken; and his eyes
large and bright. The scanty parish dressthe livery of his
miseryhung loosely on his feeble body; and his young limbs had
wasted awaylike 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 gentlemanyou obstinate boy?' said Mrs.
Mann.

The child meekly raised his eyesand encountered those of Mr.
Bumble.

'What's the matter with youporochial Dick?' inquired Mr.
Bumblewith well-timed jocularity.

'Nothingsir' replied the child faintly.

'I should think not' said Mrs. Mannwho had of course laughed
very much at Mr. Bumble's humour.

'You want for nothingI'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 somethingnow? Whyyou little wretch--'

'StopMrs. Mannstop!' said the beadleraising his hand with a
show of authority. 'Like whatsireh?'

'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 togetherand speaking with great
fervour'that I was glad to die when I was very young; for
perhapsif I had lived to be a manand had grown oldmy little
sister who is in Heavenmight forget meor be unlike me; and it
would be so much happier if we were both children there
together.'

Mr. Bumble surveyed the little speakerfrom head to footwith
indescribable astonishment; andturning to his companionsaid
'They're all in one storyMrs. Mann. That out-dacious Oliver
had demogalized them all!'

'I couldn't have believed itsir' said Mrs Mannholding up her
handsand looking malignantly at Dick. 'I never see such a
hardened little wretch!'

'Take him awayma'am!' said Mr. Bumble imperiously. 'This must
be stated to the boardMrs. Mann.

'I hope the gentleman will understand that it isn't my fault
sir?' said Mrs. Mannwhimpering pathetically.

'They shall understand thatma'am; they shall be acquainted with
the true state of the case' said Mr. Bumble. 'There; take him
awayI can't bear the sight on him.'

Dick was immediately taken awayand locked up in the
coal-cellar. Mr. Bumble shortly afterwards took himself offto
prepare for his journey.

At six o'clock next morningMr. Bumble: having exchanged his
cocked hat for a round oneand encased his person in a blue
great-coat with a cape to it: took his place on the outside of
the coachaccompanied by the criminals whose settlement was
disputed; with whomin due course of timehe arrived in London.

He experienced no other crosses on the waythan those which
originated in the perverse behaviour of the two pauperswho
persisted in shiveringand complaining of the coldin a manner
whichMr. Bumble declaredcaused his teeth to chatter in his
headand made him feel quite uncomfortable; although he had a
great-coat on.

Having disposed of these evil-minded persons for the nightMr.
Bumble sat himself down in the house at which the coach stopped;
and took a temperate dinner of steaksoyster sauceand porter.
Putting a glass of hot gin-and-water on the chimney-piecehe
drew his chair to the fire; andwith sundry moral reflections on
the too-prevalent sin of discontent and complainingcomposed
himself to read the paper.

The very first paragraph upon which Mr. Bumble's eye restedwas
the following advertisement.

'FIVE GUINEAS REWARD

'Whereas a young boynamed Oliver Twistabscondedor was
enticedon Thursday evening lastfrom his homeat 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 Twistor tend to throw any light


upon his previous historyin which the advertiser isfor many
reasonswarmly interested.'

And then followed a full description of Oliver's dressperson
appearanceand disappearance: with the name and address of Mr.
Brownlow at full length.

Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisementslowly and
carefullythree several times; and in something more than five
minutes was on his way to Pentonville: having actuallyin his
excitementleft the glass of hot gin-and-wateruntasted.

'Is Mr. Brownlow at home?' inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who
opened the door.

To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommonbut rather
evasive reply of 'I don't know; where do you come from?'

Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver's namein explanation of his
errandthan Mrs. Bedwinwho had been listening at the parlour
doorhastened into the passage in a breathless state.

'Come income 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 thisthe worthy old lady hurried back into the
parlour again; and seating herself on a sofaburst into tears.
The girlwho was not quite so susceptiblehad 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 studywhere sat Mr. Brownlow
and his friend Mr. Grimwigwith decanters and glasses before
them. The latter gentleman at once burst into the exclamation:

'A beadle. A parish beadleor I'll eat my head.'

'Pray don't interrupt just now' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Take a
seatwill you?'

Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of
Mr. Grimwig's manner. Mr. Brownlow moved the lampso as to
obtain an uninterrupted view of the beadle's countenance; and
saidwith a little impatience

'Nowsiryou come in consequence of having seen the
advertisement?'

'Yessir' said Mr. Bumble.

'And you ARE a beadleare you not?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.

'I am a porochial beadlegentlemen' rejoined Mr. Bumble
proudly.

'Of course' observed Mr. Grimwig aside to his friend'I knew he
was. A beadle all over!'

Mr. Brownlow gently shook his head to impose silence on his
friendand resumed:

'Do you know where this poor boy is now?'


'No more than nobody' replied Mr. Bumble.

'Wellwhat DO you know of him?' inquired the old gentleman.
'Speak outmy friendif you have anything to say. What DO you
know of him?'

'You don't happen to know any good of himdo you?' said Mr.
Grimwigcaustically; after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble's
features.

Mr. Bumblecatching at the inquiry very quicklyshook his head
with portentous solemnity.

'You see?' said Mr. Grimwiglooking triumphantly at Mr.
Brownlow.

Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble's pursed-up
countenance; and requested him to communicate what he knew
regarding Oliverin as few words as possible.

Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his
arms; inclined his head in a retrospective manner; andafter a
few moments' reflectioncommenced his story.

It would be tedious if given in the beadle's words: occupying
as it didsome twenty minutes in the telling; but the sum and
substance of it wasthat Oliver was a foundlingborn of low and
vicious parents. That he hadfrom his birthdisplayed no
better qualities than treacheryingratitudeand malice. That
he had terminated his brief career in the place of his birthby
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 himselfMr.
Bumble laid upon the table the papers he had brought to town.
Folding his arms againhe then awaited Mr. Brownlow's
observations.

'I fear it is all too true' said the old gentleman sorrowfully
after looking over the papers. 'This is not much for your
intelligence; but I would gladly have given you treble the money
if it had been favourable to the boy.'

It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of
this information at an earlier period of the interviewhe might
have imparted a very different colouring to his little history.
It was too late to do it nowhowever; so he shook his head
gravelyandpocketing the five guineaswithdrew.

Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes;
evidently so much disturbed by the beadle's talethat even Mr.
Grimwig forbore to vex him further.

At length he stoppedand rang the bell violently.

'Mrs. Bedwin' said Mr. Brownlowwhen the housekeeper appeared;
'that boyOliveris an imposter.'

'It can't besir. It cannot be' said the old lady
energetically.

'I tell you he is' retorted the old gentleman. 'What do you
mean by can't be? We have just heard a full account of him from
his birth; and he has been a thorough-paced little villainall
his life.'


'I never will believe itsir' replied the old ladyfirmly.
'Never!'

'You old women never believe anything but quack-doctorsand
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 feverI supposeeh? He was interestingwasn't
he? Interesting! Bah!' And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a
flourish.

'He was a deargratefulgentle childsir' retorted Mrs.
Bedwinindignantly. 'I know what children aresir; 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. Grimwigwho was a bachelor. As it
extorted nothing from that gentleman but a smilethe old lady
tossed her headand smoothed down her apron preparatory to
another speechwhen she was stopped by Mr. Brownlow.

'Silence!' said the old gentlemanfeigning an anger he was far
from feeling. 'Never let me hear the boy's name again. I rang
to tell you that. Never. Neveron any pretencemind! You may
leave the roomMrs. Bedwin. Remember! I am in earnest.'

There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow's that night.

Oliver's heart sank within himwhen he thought of his good
friends; it was well for him that he could not know what they had
heardor it might have broken outright.

CHAPTER XVIII

HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY OF HIS
REPUTABLE FRIENDS

About noon next daywhen the Dodger and Master Bates had gone
out to pursue their customary avocationsMr. 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 extentin wilfully absenting himself from the
society of his anxious friends; andstill morein 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 inand cherished himwhenwithout
his timely aidhe might have perished with hunger; and he
related the dismal and affecting history of a young lad whomin
his philanthropyhe had succoured under parallel circumstances
but whoproving unworthy of his confidence and evincing a desire
to communicate with the policehad unfortunately come to be
hanged at the Old Bailey one morning. Mr. Fagin did not seek to
conceal his share in the catastrophebut lamented with tears in
his eyes that the wrong-headed and treacherous behaviour of the
young person in questionhad rendered it necessary that he
should become the victim of certain evidence for the crown:
whichif it were not precisely truewas 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; andwith great friendliness and
politeness of mannerexpressed his anxious hopes that he might


never be obliged to submit Oliver Twist to that unpleasant
operation.

Little Oliver's blood ran coldas he listened to the Jew's
wordsand 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
companionshiphe knew already; and that deeply-laid plans for
the destruction of inconveniently knowing or over-communicative
personshad been really devised and carried out by the Jew on
more occasions than onehe thought by no means unlikelywhen 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 upand
met the Jew's searching lookhe felt that his pale face and
trembling limbs were neither unnoticed nor unrelished by that
wary old gentleman.

The Jewsmiling hideouslypatted Oliver on the headand said
that if he kept himself quietand applied himself to business
he saw they would be very good friends yet. Thentaking his
hatand covering himself with an old patched great-coathe went
outand locked the room-door behind him.

And so Oliver remained all that dayand for the greater part of
many subsequent daysseeing nobodybetween early morning and
midnightand left during the long hours to commune with his own
thoughts. Whichnever failing to revert to his kind friends
and the opinion they must long ago have formed of himwere sad
indeed.

After the lapse of a week or sothe 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 doorswith panelled walls and
cornices to the ceiling; whichalthough they were black with
neglect and dustwere ornamented in various ways. From all of
these tokens Oliver concluded that a long time agobefore the
old Jew was bornit had belonged to better peopleand 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 sometimeswhen Oliver walked softly into a room
the mice would scamper across the floorand run back terrified
to their holes. With these exceptionsthere was neither sight
nor sound of any living thing; and oftenwhen it grew darkand
he was tired of wandering from room to roomhe would crouch in
the corner of the passage by the street-doorto be as near
living people as he could; and would remain therelistening and
counting the hoursuntil the Jew or the boys returned.

In all the roomsthe mouldering shutters were fast closed: the
bars which held them were screwed tight into the wood; the only
light which was admittedstealing its way through round holes at
the top: which made the rooms more gloomyand filled them with
strange shadows. There was a back-garret window with rusty bars
outsidewhich had no shutter; and out of thisOliver often
gazed with a melancholy face for hours together; but nothing was
to be descried from it but a confused and crowded mass of
housetopsblackened chimneysand gable-ends. Sometimes
indeeda grizzly head might be seenpeering 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 yearsit 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 beingas if he had lived inside the ball of St.
Paul's Cathedral.

One afternoonthe Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that
eveningthe first-named young gentleman took it into his head to
evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do
him justicethis was by no means an habitual weakness with him);
andwith this end and aimhe condescendingly commanded Oliver
to assist him in his toiletstraightway.

Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have
some faceshowever badto 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; andkneeling on the floorwhile the Dodger sat
upon the table so that he could take his foot in his lapshe
applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as
'japanning his trotter-cases.' The phraserendered into plain
Englishsignifiethcleaning 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 pipeswinging one leg carelessly
to and froand having his boots cleaned all the timewithout
even the past trouble of having taken them offor the
prospective misery of putting them onto disturb his
reflections; or whether it was the goodness of the tobacco that
soothed the feelings of the Dodgeror the mildness of the beer
that mollified his thoughts; he was evidently tincturedfor the
noncewith a spice of romance and enthusiasmforeign to his
general nature. He looked down on Oliverwith a thoughtful
countenancefor a brief space; and thenraising his headand
heaving a gentle signsaidhalf in abstractionand half to
Master Bates:

'What a pity it is he isn't a prig!'

'Ah!' said Master Charles Bates; 'he don't know what's good for
him.'

The Dodger sighed againand resumed his pipe: as did Charley
Bates. They both smokedfor some secondsin silence.

'I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?' said the Dodger
mournfully.

'I think I know that' replied Oliverlooking up. 'It's a
the--; you're oneare you not?' inquired Oliverchecking
himself.

'I am' replied the Doger. 'I'd scorn to be anything else.' Mr.
Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cockafter delivering this
sentimentand looked at Master Batesas 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 aredown 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-boxfor fear of
committing himself; nonot if you tied him up in oneand 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 allwhen he hears a fiddle playing! And
don't he hate other dogs as ain't of his breed! Ohno!'

'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 senseif Master
Bates had only known it; for there are a good many ladies and
gentlemenclaiming to be out-and-out Christiansbetween whom
and Mr. Sikes' dogthere exist strong and singular points of
resemblance.

'Wellwell' said the Dodgerrecurring 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 FaginOliver?'

'And make your fortun' out of hand?' added the Dodgerwith a
grin.

'And so be able to retire on your propertyand do the gen-teel:
as I mean toin the very next leap-year but four that ever
comesand the forty-second Tuesday in Trinity-week' said
Charley Bates.

'I don't like it' rejoined Olivertimidly; '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 openlyhe only sighedand went on
with his boot-cleaning.

'Go!' exclaimed the Dodger. 'Whywhere's your spirit?' Don't
you take any pride out of yourself? Would you go and be
dependent on your friends?'

'Ohblow that!' said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk
handkerchiefs from his pocketand tossing them into a cupboard
'that's too mean; that is.'

'_I_ couldn't do it' said the Dodgerwith an air of haughty
disgust.

'You can leave your friendsthough' said Oliver with a half
smile; 'and let them be punished for what you did.'

'That' rejoined the Dodgerwith a wave of his pipe'That was
all out of consideration for Fagin'cause the traps know that we
work togetherand he might have got into trouble if we hadn't
made our lucky; that was the movewasn't itCharley?'


Master Bates nodded assentand would have spokenbut the
recollection of Oliver's flight came so suddenly upon himthat
the smoke he was inhaling got entagled with a laughand went up
into his headand down into his throat: and brought on a fit of
coughing and stampingabout five minutes long.

'Look here!' said the Dodgerdrawing forth a handful of
shillings and halfpence. 'Here's a jolly life! What's the odds
where it comes from? Herecatch hold; there's plenty more where
they were took from. You won'twon't you? Ohyou precious
flat!'

'It's naughtyain't itOliver?' inquired Charley Bates. 'He'll
come to be scraggedwon't he?'

'I don't know what that means' replied Oliver.

'Something in this wayold feller' said Charly. As he said it
Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; andholding it
erect in the airdropped his head on his shoulderand jerked a
curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicatingby a lively
pantomimic representationthat scragging and hanging were one
and the same thing.

'That's what it means' said Charley. 'Look how he staresJack!

I never did see such prime company as that 'ere boy; he'll be the
death of meI know he will.' Master Charley Bateshaving
laughed heartily againresumed his pipe with tears in his eyes.

'You've been brought up bad' said the Dodgersurveying his
boots with much satisfaction when Oliver had polished them.
'Fagin will make something of youthoughor 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 timeOliver.'

Master Bates backed this advice with sundry moral admonitions of
his own: whichbeing exhaustedhe and his friend Mr. Dawkins
launched into a glowing description of the numerous pleasures
incidental to the life they ledinterspersed with a variety of
hints to Oliver that the best thing he could dowould be to
secure Fagin's favour without more delayby the means which they
themselves had employed to gain it.

'And always put this in your pipeNolly' said the Dodgeras
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
Dodgerreducing his conversation to the level of Oliver's
capacity'some other cove will; so that the coves that lose 'em
will be all the worseand you'll be all the worsetooand
nobody half a ha'p'orth the betterexcept the chaps wot gets
them--and you've just as good a right to them as they have.'

'To be sureto be sure!' said the Jewwho had entered unseen by
Oliver. 'It all lies in a nutshell my dear; in a nutshelltake
the Dodger's word for it. Ha! ha! ha! He understands the
catechism of his trade.'


The old man rubbed his hands gleefully togetheras 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 timefor the Jew
had returned home accompanied by Miss Betsyand a gentleman whom
Oliver had never seen beforebut who was accosted by the Dodger
as Tom Chitling; and whohaving lingered on the stairs to
exchange a few gallantries with the ladynow made his
appearance.

Mr. Chitling was older in years than the Dodger: having perhaps
numbered eighteen winters; but there was a degree of deference in
his deportment towards that young gentleman which seemed to
indicate that he felt himself conscious of a slight inferiority
in point of genius and professional aquirements. He had small
twinkling eyesand a pock-marked face; wore a fur capa dark
corduroy jacketgreasy fustian trousersand an apron. His
wardrobe wasin truthrather out of repair; but he excused
himself to the company by stating that his 'time' was only out an
hour before; and thatin consequence of having worn the
regimentals for six weeks pasthe had not been able to bestow
any attention on his private clothes. Mr. Chitling addedwith
strong marks of irritationthat the new way of fumigating
clothes up yonder was infernal unconstitutionalfor it burnt
holes in themand 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 fromOliver?'
inquired the Jewwith a grinas the other boys put a bottle of
spirits on the table.

'I--I--don't knowsir' replied Oliver.

'Who's that?' inquired Tom Chitlingcasting a contemptuous look
at Oliver.

'A young friend of minemy dear' replied the Jew.

'He's in luckthen' said the young manwith a meaning look at
Fagin. 'Never mind where I came fromyoung 'un; you'll find
your way theresoon enoughI'll bet a crown!'

At this sallythe boys laughed. After some more jokes on the
same subjectthey exchanged a few short whispers with Fagin; and
withdrew.

After some words apart between the last comer and Faginthey
drew their chairs towards the fire; and the Jewtelling Oliver
to come and sit by himled the conversation to the topics most
calculated to interest his hearers. These werethe great
advantages of the tradethe proficiency of the Dodgerthe
amiability of Charley Batesand 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 dayOliver was seldom left alone; but was placed in
almost constant communication with the two boyswho played the
old game with the Jew every day: whether for their own
improvement or Oliver'sMr. 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
curiousthat Oliver could not help laughing heartilyand
showing that he was amused in spite of all his better feelings.

In shortthe wily old Jew had the boy in his toils. Having
prepared his mindby solitude and gloomto prefer any society
to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary
placehe was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison
which he hoped would blacken itand change its hue for ever.

CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH A NOTABLE PLAN IS DISCUSSED AND DETERMINED ON

It was a chilldampwindy nightwhen the Jew: buttoning his
great-coat tight round his shrivelled bodyand 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 secureand until their
retreating footsteps were no longer audibleslunk down the
street as quickly as he could.

The house to which Oliver had been conveyedwas in the
neighborhood of Whitechapel. The Jew stopped for an instant at
the corner of the street; andglancing suspiciously round
crossed the roadand struck off in the direction of the
Spitalfields.

The mud lay thick upon the stonesand a black mist hung over the
streets; the rain fell sluggishly downand 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 alongcreeping beneath the shelter of the walls and
doorwaysthe hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile
engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved:
crawling forthby nightin search of some rich offal for a
meal.

He kept on his coursethrough many winding and narrow ways
until he reached Bethnal Green; thenturning suddenly off to the
lefthe 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 bewilderedeither by the darkness of the nightor
the intricacies of the way. He hurried through several alleys
and streetsand at length turned into onelighted only by a
single lamp at the farther end. At the door of a house in this
streethe knocked; having exchanged a few muttered words with
the person who opened ithe walked upstairs.

A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room-door; and a
man's voice demanded who was there.

'Only meBill; only memy dear' said the Jew looking in.


'Bring in your body then' said Sikes. 'Lie downyou stupid
brute! Don't you know the devil when he's got a great-coat on?'

Apparentlythe dog had been somewhat deceived by Mr. Fagin's
outer garment; for as the Jew unbuttoned itand threw it over
the back of a chairhe retired to the corner from which he had
risen: wagging his tail as he wentto show that he was as well
satisfied as it was in his nature to be.

'Well!' said Sikes.

'Wellmy 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 metsince she had interfered in
behalf of Oliver. All doubts upon the subjectif he had any
were speedily removed by the young lady's behaviour. She took
her feet off the fenderpushed back her chairand bade Fagin
draw up hiswithout saying more about it: for it was a cold
nightand no mistake.

'It is coldNancy dear' said the Jewas he warmed his skinny
hands over the fire. 'It seems to go right through one' added
the old mantouching his side.

'It must be a piercerif it finds its way through your heart'
said Mr. Sikes. 'Give him something to drinkNancy. Burn my
bodymake haste! It's enough to turn a man illto see his lean
old carcase shivering in that waylike a ugly ghost just rose
from the grave.'

Nancy quickly brought a bottle from a cupboardin which there
were many: whichto judge from the diversity of their
appearancewere filled with several kinds of liquids. Sikes
pouring out a glass of brandybade the Jew drink it off.

'Quite enoughquitethankyeBill' replied the Jewputting
down the glass after just setting his lips to it.

'What! You're afraid of our getting the better of youare you?'
inquired Sikesfixing his eyes on the Jew. 'Ugh!'

With a hoarse grunt of contemptMr. Sikes seized the glassand
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 roomas his companion tossed down the
second glassful; not in curiousityfor he had seen it often
before; but in a restless and suspicious manner habitual to him.
It was a meanly furnished apartmentwith 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 cornerand a 'life-preserver' that hung over the
chimney-piece.

'There' said Sikessmacking 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 ChertseyBill?' said the Jewdrawing his
chair forwardand speaking in a very low voice.

'Yes. Wot about it?' inquired Sikes.

'Ah! you know what I meanmy dear' said the Jew. 'He knows
what I meanNancy; don't he?'

'Nohe don't' sneered Mr. Sikes. 'Or he won'tand that's the
same thing. Speak outand call things by their right names;
don't sit therewinking and blinkingand talking to me in
hintsas if you warn't the very first that thought about the
robbery. Wot d'ye mean?'

'HushBillhush!' said the Jewwho had in vain attempted to
stop this burst of indignation; 'somebody will hear usmy dear.
Somebody will hear us.'

'Let 'em hear!' said Sikes; 'I don't care.' But as Mr. Sikes DID
careon reflectionhe dropped his voice as he said the words
and grew calmer.

'Therethere' said the Jewcoaxingly. 'It was only my
cautionnothing more. Nowmy dearabout that crib at
Chertsey; when is it to be doneBilleh? When is it to be
done? Such platemy dearsuch plate!' said the Jew: rubbing
his handsand elevating his eyebrows in a rapture of
anticipation.

'Not at all' replied Sikes coldly.

'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jewleaning back in his
chair.

'Nonot at all' rejoined Sikes. 'At least it can't be a put-up
jobas we expected.'

'Then it hasn't been properly gone about' said the Jewturning
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 fortnightand he can't get one of the servants
in line.'

'Do you mean to tell meBill' said the Jew: softening as the
other grew heated: 'that neither of the two men in the house can
be got over?'

'YesI 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 poundthey wouldn't be in it.'

'But do you mean to saymy 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 areBill'

'No; not even by flash Toby Crackit' replied Sikes. 'He says
he's worn sham whiskersand a canary waistcoatthe whole


blessed time he's been loitering down thereand it's all of no
use.'

'He should have tried mustachios and a pair of military trousers
my dear' said the Jew.

'So he did' rejoined Sikes'and they warn't of no more use than
the other plant.'

The Jew looked blank at this information. After ruminating for
some minutes with his chin sunk on his breasthe raised his head
and saidwith a deep sighthat if flash Toby Crackit reported
arighthe feared the game was up.

'And yet' said the old mandropping his hands on his knees
'it's a sad thingmy dearto 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
thoughtwith his face wrinkled into an expression of villainy
perfectly demoniacal. Sikes eyed him furtively from time to
time. Nancyapparently fearful of irritating the housebreaker
sat with her eyes fixed upon the fireas if she had been deaf to
all that passed.

'Fagin' said Sikesabruptly breaking the stillness that
prevailed; 'is it worth fifty shiners extraif it's safely done
from the outside?'

'Yes' said the Jewas suddenly rousing himself.

'Is it a bargain?' inquired Sikes.

'Yesmy dearyes' rejoined the Jew; his eyes glisteningand
every muscle in his face workingwith the excitement that the
inquiry had awakened.

'Then' said Sikesthrusting aside the Jew's handwith some
disdain'let it come off as soon as you like. Toby and me were
over the garden-wall the night afore lastsounding the panels of
the door and shutters. The crib's barred up at night like a
jail; but there's one part we can cracksafe and softly.'

'Which is thatBill?' asked the Jew eagerly.

'Why' whispered Sikes'as you cross the lawn--'

'Yes?' said the Jewbending his head forwardwith his eyes
almost starting out of it.

'Umph!' cried Sikesstopping shortas the girlscarcely moving
her headlooked suddenly roundand pointed for an instant to
the Jew's face. 'Never mind which part it is. You can't do it
without meI know; but it's best to be on the safe side when one
deals with you.'

'As you likemy dearas you like' replied the Jew. 'Is there
no help wantedbut 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 paneleh?'

'Never mind wot it is!' replied Sikes. 'I want a boyand he
musn't be a big 'un. Lord!' said Mr. Sikesreflectively'if
I'd only got that young boy of Nedthe chimbley-sweeper's! He
kept him small on purposeand let him out by the job. But the
father gets lagged; and then the Juvenile Delinquent Society
comesand takes the boy away from a trade where he was arning
moneyteaches him to read and writeand in time makes a
'prentice of him. And so they go on' said Mr. Sikeshis 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
tradein a year or two.'

'No more we should' acquiesed the Jewwho had been considering
during this speechand had only caught the last sentence.
'Bill!'

'What now?' inquired Sikes.

The Jew nodded his head towards Nancywho was still gazing at
the fire; and intimatedby a signthat he would have her told
to leave the room. Sikes shrugged his shoulders impatientlyas
if he thought the precaution unnecessary; but complied
neverthelessby requesting Miss Nancy to fetch him a jug of
beer.

'You don't want any beer' said Nancyfolding her armsand
retaining her seat very composedly.

'I tell you I do!' replied Sikes.

'Nonsense' rejoined the girl coolly'Go onFagin. I know what
he's going to sayBill; he needn't mind me.'

The Jew still hesitated. Sikes looked from one to the other in
some surprise.

'Whyyou don't mind the old girldo youFagin?' he asked at
length. 'You've known her long enough to trust heror 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 tableand putting her elbows upon it.

'Nonomy dearI 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 sortsyou
knowmy dearas she was the other night' replied the Jew.

At this confessionMiss Nancy burst into a loud laugh; and
swallowing a glass of brandyshook her head with an air of
defianceand 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 airand resumed his seat: as did Mr. Sikes
likewise.

'NowFagin' said Nancy with a laugh. 'Tell Bill at onceabout
Oliver!'


'Ha! you're a clever onemy dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!'
said the Jewpatting her on the neck. 'It WAS about Oliver I
was going to speaksure enough. Ha! ha! ha!'

'What about him?' demanded Sikes.

'He's the boy for youmy dear' replied the Jew in a hoarse
whisper; laying his finger on the side of his noseand grinning
frightfully.

'He!' exclaimed. Sikes.

'Have himBill!' said Nancy. 'I wouldif I was in your place.
He mayn't be so much upas any of the others; but that's not
what you wantif he's only to open a door for you. Depend upon
it he's a safe oneBill.'

'I know he is' rejoined Fagin. 'He's been in good training
these last few weeksand it's time he began to work for his
bread. Besidesthe others are all too big.'

'Wellhe is just the size I want' said Mr. Sikesruminating.

'And will do everything you wantBillmy dear' interposed the
Jew; 'he can't help himself. That isif you frighten him
enough.'

'Frighten him!' echoed Sikes. 'It'll be no sham frightening
mind you. If there's anything queer about him when we once get
into the work; in for a pennyin for a pound. You won't see him
alive againFagin. Think of thatbefore you send him. Mark my
words!' said the robberpoising a crowbarwhich 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 himmy dearsclose--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; anddrawing his head and shoulders into a heap
literally hugged himself for joy.

'Ours!' said Sikes. 'Yoursyou mean.'

'Perhaps I domy dear' said the Jewwith a shrill chuckle.
'Mineif you likeBill.'

'And wot' said Sikesscowling fiercely on his agreeable friend
'wot makes you take so much pains about one chalk-faced kidwhen
you know there are fifty boys snoozing about Common Garden every
nightas you might pick and choose from?'

'Because they're of no use to memy dear' replied the Jewwith
some confusion'not worth the taking. Their looks convict 'em
when they get into troubleand I lose 'em all. With this boy
properly managedmy dearsI could do what I couldn't with
twenty of them. Besides' said the Jewrecovering 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. Nowhow much better this
isthan being obliged to put the poor leetle boy out of the
way--which would be dangerousand we should lose by it besides.'


'When is it to be done?' asked Nancystopping some turbulent
exclamation on the part of Mr. Sikesexpressive of the disgust
with which he received Fagin's affectation of humanity.

'Ahto be sure' said the Jew; 'when is it to be doneBill?'

'I planned with Tobythe 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 swagis it?' asked the
Jew.

Sikes nodded.

'And about--'

'Ohahit's all planned' rejoined Sikesinterrupting 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 tongueand keep the melting-pot
readyand that's all you'll have to do.'

After some discussionin which all three took an active partit
was decided that Nancy should repair to the Jew's next evening
when the night had set inand bring Oliver away with her; Fagin
craftily observingthatif he evinced any disinclination to the
taskhe would be more willing to accompany the girl who had so
recently interfered in his behalfthan anybody else. It was
also solemnly arranged that poor Oliver shouldfor the purposes
of the contemplated expeditionbe unreservedly consigned to the
care and custody of Mr. William Sikes; and furtherthat 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 thatto render
the compact in this respect bindingany representations made by
Mr. Sikes on his return should be required to be confirmed and
corroboratedin all important particularsby the testimony of
flash Toby Crackit.

These preliminaries adjustedMr. Sikes proceeded to drink brandy
at a furious rateand to flourish the crowbar in an alarming
manner; yelling forthat the same timemost unmusical snatches
of songmingled with wild execrations. At lengthin a fit of
professional enthusiasmhe 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 containedand the
peculiar beauties of their constructionthan he fell over the
box upon the floorand went to sleep where he fell.

'Good-nightNancy' said the Jewmuffling himself up as before.

'Good-night.'

Their eyes metand the Jew scrutinised hernarrowly. 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-nightandbestowing a sly kick upon


the prostrate form of Mr. Sikes while her back was turnedgroped
downstairs.

'Always the way!' muttered the Jew to himself as he turned
homeward. 'The worst of these women isthat a very little thing
serves to call up some long-forgotten feeling; andthe best of
them isthat it never lasts. Ha! ha! The man against the
childfor a bag of gold!'

Beguiling the time with these pleasant reflectionsMr. Fagin
wended his waythrough mud and mireto his gloomy abode: where
the Dodger was sitting upimpatiently 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 Dodgerthrowing open a door. 'Here he
is!'

The boy was lyingfast asleepon a rude bed upon the floor; so
pale with anxietyand sadnessand the closeness of his prison
that he looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and
coffinbut in the guise it wears when life has just departed;
when a young and gentle spirit hasbut an instantfled to
Heavenand the gross air of the world has not had time to
breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.

'Not now' said the Jewturning softly away. 'To-morrow.
To-morrow.'

CHAPTER XX

WHEREIN OLVER IS DELIVERED OVER TO MR. WILLIAM SIKES

When Oliver awoke in the morninghe was a good deal surprised to
find that a new pair of shoeswith strong thick soleshad been
placed at his bedside; and that his old shoes had been removed.
At firsthe was pleased with the discovery: hoping that it might
be the forerunner of his release; but such thoughts were quickly
dispelledon his sitting down to breakfast along with the Jew
who told himin a tone and manner which increased his alarm
that he was to be taken to the residence of Bill Sikes that
night.

'To--to--stop theresir?' asked Oliveranxiously.

'Nonomy dear. Not to stop there' replied the Jew. 'We
shouldn't like to lose you. Don't be afraidOliveryou shall
come back to us again. Ha! ha! ha! We won't be so cruel as to
send you awaymy dear. Oh nono!'

The old manwho was stooping over the fire toasting a piece of
breadlooked 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 Jewfixing his eyes on Oliver'you want
to know what you're going to Bill's for---ehmy dear?'

Oliver colouredinvoluntarilyto find that the old thief had
been reading his thoughts; but boldly saidYeshe did want to


know.

'Whydo you think?' inquired Faginparrying the question.

'Indeed I don't knowsir' replied Oliver.

'Bah!' said the Jewturning away with a disappointed countenance
from a close perusal of the boy's face. 'Wait till Bill tells
youthen.'

The Jew seemed much vexed by Oliver's not expressing any greater
curiosity on the subject; but the truth isthatalthough Oliver
felt very anxioushe was too much confused by the earnest
cunning of Fagin's looksand his own speculationsto 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 Jewputting one upon the
table. 'And here's a book for you to readtill they come to
fetch you. Good-night!'

'Good-night!' replied Oliversoftly.

The Jew walked to the door: looking over his shoulder at the boy
as he went. Suddenly stoppinghe called him by his name.

Oliver looked up; the Jewpointing to the candlemotioned him
to light it. He did so; andas he placed the candlestick upon
the tablesaw that the Jew was gazing fixedly at himwith
lowering and contracted browsfrom the dark end of the room.

'Take heedOliver! take heed!' said the old manshaking 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
outsay nothing; and do what he bids you. Mind!' Placing a
strong emphasis on the last wordhe suffered his features
gradually to resolve themselves into a ghastly grinandnodding
his headleft the room.

Oliver leaned his head upon his hand when the old man
disappearedand ponderedwith a trembling hearton 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
Sikeswhich would not be equally well answered by his remaining
with Fagin; and after meditating for a long timeconcluded that
he had been selected to perform some ordinary menial offices for
the housebreakeruntil another boybetter suited for his
purpose could be engaged. He was too well accustomed to
sufferingand had suffered too much where he wasto bewail the
prospect of change very severely. He remained lost in thought
for some minutes; and thenwith a heavy sighsnuffed the
candleandtaking up the book which the Jew had left with him
began to read.

He turned over the leaves. Carelessly at first; butlighting on
a passage which attracted his attentionhe 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.
Herehe 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 downdeep as they werebut had yielded them
up at lastafter many yearsand so maddened the murderers with
the sightthat in their horror they had confessed their guilt
and yelled for the gibbet to end their agony. Heretoohe read
of men wholying in their beds at dead of nighthad been
tempted (so they said) and led onby their own bad thoughtsto
such dreadful bloodshed as it made the flesh creepand the limbs
quailto think of. The terrible descriptions were so real and
vividthat the sallow pages seemed to turn red with gore; and
the words upon themto be sounded in his earsas if they were
whisperedin hollow murmersby the spirits of the dead.

In a paroxysm of fearthe boy closed the bookand thrust it
from him. Thenfalling upon his kneeshe prayed Heaven to
spare him from such deeds; and rather to will that he should die
at oncethan be reserved for crimesso fearful and appaling.
By degreeshe grew more calmand besoughtin a low and broken
voicethat 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 kindredit might come to
him nowwhendesolate and desertedhe stood alone in the midst
of wickedness and guilt.

He had concluded his prayerbut still remained with his head
buried in his handswhen a rustling noise aroused him.

'What's that!' he criedstarting upand 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 girlturning away her head. 'It
hurts my eyes.'

Oliver saw that she was very paleand gently inquired if she
were ill. The girl threw herself into a chairwith her back
towards him: and wrung her hands; but made no reply.

'God forgive me!' she cried after a while'I never thought of
this.'

'Has anything happened?' asked Oliver. 'Can I help you? I will
if I can. I willindeed.'

She rocked herself to and fro; caught her throat; anduttering a
gurgling soundgasped for breath.

'Nancy!' cried Oliver'What is it?'

The girl beat her hands upon her kneesand her feet upon the
ground; andsuddenly stoppingdrew her shawl close round her:
and shivered with cold.

Oliver stirred the fire. Drawing her chair close to itshe sat
therefor a little timewithout speaking; but at length she
raised her headand looked round.

'I don't know what comes over me sometimes' said sheaffecting
to busy herself in arranging her dress; 'it's this damp dirty
roomI think. NowNollydearare 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 Oliverrecoiling.

'What for?' echoed the girlraising her eyesand averting them
againthe moment they encountered the boy's face. 'Oh! For no
harm.'

'I don't believe it' said Oliver: who had watched her closely.

'Have it your own way' rejoined the girlaffecting to laugh.
'For no goodthen.'

Oliver could see that he had some power over the girl's better
feelingsandfor an instantthought of appealing to her
compassion for his helpless state. Butthenthe 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
himhe stepped forward: and saidsomewhat hastilythat he was
ready.

Neither his brief considerationnor its purportwas lost on his
companion. She eyed him narrowlywhile 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 girlstooping over himand pointing to the
door as she looked cautiously round. 'You can't help yourself. I
have tried hard for youbut all to no purpose. You are hedged
round and round. If ever you are to get loose from herethis is
not the time.'

Struck by the energy of her mannerOliver looked up in her face
with great surprise. She seemed to speak the truth; her
countenance was white and agitated; and she trembled with very
earnestness.

'I have saved you from being ill-used onceand I will againand
I do now' continued the girl aloud; 'for those who would have
fetched youif I had notwould have been far more rough than
me. I have promised for your being quiet and silent; if you are
notyou will only do harm to yourself and me tooand perhaps be
my death. See here! I have borne all this for you alreadyas
true as God sees me show it.'

She pointedhastilyto some livid bruises on her neck and arms;
and continuedwith great rapidity:

'Remember this! And don't let me suffer more for youjust now.
If I could help youI would; but I have not the power. They
don't mean to harm you; whatever they make you dois 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
andblowing out the lightdrew him after her up the stairs. The
door was openedquicklyby some one shrouded in the darkness
and was as quickly closedwhen they had passed out. A
hackney-cabriolet was in waiting; with the same vehemence which
she had exhibited in addressing Oliverthe girl pulled him in


with herand drew the curtains close. The driver wanted no
directionsbut lashed his horse into full speedwithout the
delay of an instant.

The girl still held Oliver fast by the handand continued to
pour into his earthe warnings and assurances she had already
imparted. All was so quick and hurriedthat he had scarcely
time to recollect where he wasor how he came therewhen to
carriage stopped at the house to which the Jew's steps had been
directed on the previous evening.

For one brief momentOliver cast a hurried glance along the
empty streetand a cry for help hung upon his lips. But the
girl's voice was in his earbeseeching him in such tones of
agony to remember herthat he had not the heart to utter it.
While he hesitatedthe opportunity was gone; he was already in
the houseand the door was shut.

'This way' said the girlreleasing her hold for the first time.

'Bill!'

'Hallo!' replied Sikes: appearing at the head of the stairswith
a candle. 'Oh! That's the time of day. Come on!'

This was a very strong expression of approbationan uncommonly
hearty welcomefrom a person of Mr. Sikes' temperament. Nancy
appearing much gratified therebysaluted him cordially.

'Bull's-eye's gone home with Tom' observed Sikesas 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.

'Yeshere he is' replied Nancy.

'Did he come quiet?' inquired Sikes.

'Like a lamb' rejoined Nancy.

'I'm glad to hear it' said Sikeslooking grimly at Oliver; 'for
the sake of his young carcase: as would otherways have suffered
for it. Come hereyoung 'un; and let me read you a lectur'
which is as well got over at once.'

Thus addressing his new pupilMr. Sikes pulled off Oliver's cap
and threw it into a corner; and thentaking him by the shoulder
sat himself down by the tableand stood the boy in front of him.

'Nowfirst: do you know wot this is?' inquired Sikestaking up
a pocket-pistol which lay on the table.

Oliver replied in the affirmative.

'Wellthenlook here' continued Sikes. 'This is powder; that
'ere's a bullet; and this is a little bit of a old hat for
waddin'.'

Oliver murmured his comprehension of the different bodies
referred to; and Mr. Sikes proceeded to load the pistolwith
great nicety and deliberation.


'Now it's loaded' said Mr. Sikeswhen he had finished.

'YesI see it issir' replied Oliver.

'Well' said the robbergrasping Oliver's wristand 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 meexcept when I speak to youthat
loading will be in your head without notice. Soif you DO make
up your mind to speak without leavesay your prayers first.'

Having bestowed a scowl upon the object of this warningto
increase its effectMr. Sikes continued.

'As near as I knowthere isn't anybody as would be asking very
partickler arter youif you WAS disposed of; so I needn't take
this devil-and-all of trouble to explain matters to youif it
warn't for you own good. D'ye hear me?'

'The short and the long of what you mean' said Nancy: speaking
very emphaticallyand slightly frowning at Oliver as if to
bespeak his serious attention to her words: 'isthat if you're
crossed by him in this job you have on handyou'll prevent his
ever telling tales afterwardsby shooting him through the head
and will take your chance of swinging for itas you do for a
great many other things in the way of businessevery month of
your life.'

'That's it!' observed Mr. Sikesapprovingly; '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
itlet's have some supperand get a snooze before starting.'

In pursuance of this requestNancy quickly laid the cloth;
disappearing for a few minutesshe 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. Sikesfounded
upon the singular coincidence of 'jemmies' being a can name
common to themand also to an ingenious implement much used in
his profession. Indeedthe worthy gentlemanstimulated perhaps
by the immediate prospect of being on active servicewas in
great spirits and good humour; in proof whereofit may be here
remarkedthat he humourously drank all the beer at a draught
and did not utteron a rough calculationmore 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 waterand threw himself on the bed; ordering
Nancywith many imprecations in case of failureto call him at
five precisely. Oliver stretched himself in his clothesby
command of the same authorityon a mattress upon the floor; and
the girlmending the firesat before itin readiness to rouse
them at the appointed time.

For a long time Oliver lay awakethinking it not impossible that
Nancy might seek that opportunity of whispering some further
advice; but the girl sat brooding over the firewithout moving
save now and then to trim the light. Weary with watching and
anxietyhe at length fell asleep.

When he awokethe table was covered with tea-thingsand Sikes
was thrusting various articles into the pockets of his


great-coatwhich hung over the back of a chair. Nancy was
busily engaged in preparing breakfast. It was not yet daylight;
for the candle was still burningand it was quite dark outside.
A sharp raintoowas beating against the window-panes; and the
sky looked black and cloudy.

'Nowthen!' growled Sikesas Oliver started up; 'half-past
five! Look sharpor you'll get no breakfast; for it's late as
it is.'

Oliver was not long in making his toilet; having taken some
breakfasthe replied to a surly inquiry from Sikesby saying
that he was quite ready.

Nancyscarcely looking at the boythrew him a handkerchief to
tie round his throat; Sikes gave him a large rough cape to button
over his shoulders. Thus attiredhe gave his hand to the
robberwhomerely 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 hisandexchanging a farewell with Nancy
led him away.

Oliver turnedfor an instantwhen they reached the doorin the
hope of meeting a look from the girl. But she had resumed her
old seat in front of the fireand satperfectly motionless
before it.

CHAPTER XXI

THE EXPEDITION

It was a cheerless morning when they got into the street; blowing
and raining hard; and the clouds looking dull and stormy. The
night had been very wet: large pools of water had collected in
the road: and the kennels were overflowing. There was a faint
glimmering of the coming day in the sky; but it rather aggrevated
than relieved the gloom of the scene: the sombre light only
serving to pale that which the street lamps affordedwithout
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 passedwere noiseless
and empty.

By the time they had turned into the Bethnal Green Roadthe 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 thena stage-coachcovered with mud
rattled briskly by: the driver bestowingas he passedand
admonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner whoby keeping on the
wrong side of the roadhad endangered his arriving at the
officea quarter of a minute after his time. The public-houses
with gas-lights burning insidewere already open. By degrees
other shops began to be unclosedand a few scattered people were
met with. Thencame straggling groups of labourers going to
their work; thenmen 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 peopletrudging 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 Smithfieldit had swelled into a
roar of sound and bustle. It was as light as it was likely to
betill night came on againand the busy morning of half the
London population had begun.

Turning down Sun Street and Crown Streetand crossing Finsbury
squareMr. Sikes struckby way of Chiswell Streetinto
Barbican: thence into Long Laneand 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 coverednearly
ankle-deepwith filth and mire; a thick steamperpetually
rising from the reeking bodies of the cattleand mingling with
the fogwhich seemd to rest upon the chimney-topshung heavily
above. All the pens in the centre of the large areaand as many
temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant spacewere
filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long
lines of beasts and oxenthree or four deep. Countrymen
butchersdrovershawkersboysthievesidlersand vagabonds
of every low gradewere mingled together in a mass; the
whistling of droversthe barking dogsthe bellowing and
plunging of the oxenthe bleating of sheepthe grunting and
squeaking of pigsthe cries of hawkersthe shoutsoathsand
quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of
voicesthat issued from every public-house; the crowding
pushingdrivingbeatingwhooping and yelling; the hideous and
discordant dim that resounded from every corner of the market;
and the unwashedunshavensqualidand dirty figues constantly
running to and froand bursting in and out of the throng;
rendered it a stunning and bewildering scenewhich quite
confounded the senses.

Mr. Sikesdragging Oliver after himelbowed his way through the
thickest of the crowdand bestowed very little attention on the
numerous sights and soundswhich so astonished the boy. He
noddedtwice or thriceto a passing friend; andresisting as
many invitations to take a morning drampressed steadily onward
until they were clear of the turmoiland had made their way
through Hosier Lane into Holborn.

'Nowyoung 'un!' said Sikeslooking up at the clock of St.
Andrew's Church'hard upon seven! you must step out. Come
don't lag behind alreadyLazy-legs!'

Mr. Sikes accompanied this speech with a jerk at his little
companion's wrist; Oliverquickening his pace into a kind of
trot between a fast walk and a runkept up with the rapid
strides of the house-breaker as well as he could.

They held their course at this rateuntil they had passed Hyde
Park cornerand were on their way to Kensington: when Sikes
relaxed his paceuntil an empty cart which was at some little
distance behindcame up. Seeing 'Hounslow' written on ithe
asked the driver with as much civility as he could assumeif 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 Sikeslooking hard at Oliverand
putting his hand abstractedly into the pocket where the pistol
was.

'Your father walks rather too quick for youdon't hemy man?'


inquired the driver: seeing that Oliver was out of breath.

'Not a bit of it' replied Sikesinterposing. 'He's used to it.

Heretake hold of my handNed. In with you!'

Thus addressing Oliverhe helped him into the cart; and the
driverpointing to a heap of sackstold him to lie down there
and rest himself.

As they passed the different mile-stonesOliver wonderedmore
and morewhere his companion meant to take him. Kensington
HammersmithChiswickKew BridgeBrentfordwere all passed;
and yet they went on as steadily as if they had only just begun
their journey. At lengththey came to a public-house called the
Coach and Horses; a little way beyond whichanother road
appeared to run off. And herethe cart stopped.

Sikes dismounted with great precipitationholding Oliver by the
hand all the while; and lifting him down directlybestowed a
furious look upon himand rapped the side-pocket with his fist
in a significant manner.

'Good-byeboy' said the man.

'He's sulky' replied Sikesgiving him a shake; 'he's sulky. A
young dog! Don't mind him.'

'Not I!' rejoined the othergetting into his cart. 'It's a fine
dayafter all.' And he drove away.

Sikes waited until he had fairly gone; and thentelling Oliver
he might look about him if he wantedonce again led him onward
on his journey.

They turned round to the lefta short way past the public-house;
and thentaking a right-hand roadwalked on for a long time:
passing many large gardens and gentlemen's houses on both sides
of the wayand stopping for nothing but a little beeruntil
they reached a town. Here against the wall of a houseOliver
saw written up in pretty large letters'Hampton.' They lingered
aboutin the fieldsfor some hours. At length they came back
into the town; andturning into an old public-house with a
defaced sign-boardordered some dinner by the kitchen fire.

The kitchen was an oldlow-roofed room; with a great beam across
the middle of the ceilingand bencheswith high backs to them
by the fire; on which were seated several rough men in
smock-frocksdrinking and smoking. They took no notice of
Oliver; and very little of Sikes; andas Sikes took very little
notice of thehe and his young comrade sat in a corner by
themselveswithout being much troubled by their company.

They had some cold meat for dinnerand sat so long after it
while Mr. Sikes indulged himself with three or four pipesthat
Oliver began to feel quite certain they were not going any
further. Being much tired with the walkand getting up so
earlyhe dozed a little at first; thenquite overpowered by
fatigue and the fumes of the tobaccofell asleep.

It was quite dark when he was awakened by a push from Sikes.
Rousing himself sufficiently to sit up and look about himhe
found that worthy in close fellowship and communication with a
labouring manover a pint of ale.


'Soyou're going on to Lower Hallifordare you?' inquired
Sikes.

'YesI am' replied the manwho seemed a little the worse--or
betteras the case might be--for drinking; 'and not slow about
it neither. My horse hasn't got a load behind him going backas
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
Sikespushing the ale towards his new friend.

'If you're going directlyI can' replied the manlooking out
of the pot. 'Are you going to Halliford?'

'Going on to Shepperton' replied Sikes.

'I'm your manas far as I go' replied the other. 'Is all paid
Becky?'

'Yesthe other gentleman's paid' replied the girl.

'I say!' said the manwith tipsy gravity; 'that won't doyou
know.'

'Why not?' rejoined Sikes. 'You're a-going to accommodate us
and wot's to prevent my standing treat for a pint or soin
return?'

The stranger reflected upon this argumentwith a very profound
face; having done sohe seized Sikes by the hand: and declared
he was a real good fellow. To which Mr. Sikes repliedhe was
joking; asif he had been soberthere would have been strong
reason to suppose he was.

After the exchange of a few more complimentsthey bade the
company good-nightand went out; the girl gathering up the pots
and glasses as they did soand lounging out to the doorwith
her hands fullto see the party start.

The horsewhose health had been drunk in his absencewas
standing outside: ready harnessed to the cart. Oliver and Sikes
got in without any further ceremony; and the man to whom he
belongedhaving lingered for a minute or two 'to bear him up'
and to defy the hostler and the world to produce his equal
mounted also. Thenthe hostler was told to give the horse his
head; andhis head being given himhe made a very unpleasant
use of it: tossing it into the air with great disdainand
running into the parlour windows over the way; after performing
those featsand supporting himself for a short time on his
hind-legshe started off at great speedand rattled out of the
town right gallantly.

The night was very dark. A damp mist rose from the riverand
the marshy ground about; and spread itself over the dreary
fields. It was piercing coldtoo; 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
togetherin a corner of the cart; bewildered with alarm and
apprehension; and figuring strange objects in the gaunt trees
whose branches waved grimly to and froas if in some fantastic
joy at the desolation of the scene.


As they passed Sunbury Churchthe clock struck seven. There was
a light in the ferry-house window opposite: which streamed
across the roadand 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 throughand they came again into the lonely
road. Two or three miles moreand the cart stopped. Sikes
alightedtook Oliver by the handand they once again walked on.

They turned into no house at Sheppertonas the weary boy had
expected; but still kept walking onin mud and darknessthrough
gloomy lanes and over cold open wastesuntil they came within
sight of the lights of a town at no great distance. On looking
intently forwardOliver saw that the water was just below them
and that they were coming to the foot of a bridge.

Sikes kept straight onuntil they were close upon the bridge;
then turned suddenly down a bank upon the left.

'The water!' thought Oliverturning sick with fear. 'He has
brought me to this lonely place to murder me!'

He was about to throw himself on the groundand make one
struggle for his young lifewhen 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 darkdismantled: and the
all appearanceuninhabited.

Sikeswith Oliver's hand still in hissoftly approached the low
porchand raised the latch. The door yielded to the pressure
and they passed in together.

CHAPTER XXII

THE BURGLARY

'Hallo!' cried a loudhoarse voiceas soon as they set foot in
the passage.

'Don't make such a row' said Sikesbolting the door. 'Show a
glimToby.'

'Aha! my pal!' cried the same voice. 'A glimBarneya glim!
Show the gentleman inBarney; wake up firstif convenient.'

The speaker appeared to throw a boot-jackor some such article
at the person he addressedto rouse him from his slumbers: for
the noise of a wooden bodyfalling violentlywas heard; and
then an indistinct mutteringas of a man between sleep and
awake.

'Do you hear?' cried the same voice. 'There's Bill Sikes in the
passage with nobody to do the civil to him; and you sleeping
thereas if you took laudanum with your mealsand nothing
stronger. Are you any fresher nowor do you want the iron
candlestick to wake you thoroughly?'


A pair of slipshod feet shuffledhastilyacross the bare floor
of the roomas this interrogatory was put; and there issued
from a door on the right hand; firsta 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 Barneywith real or counterfeit joy;
'cub idsir; cub id.'

'Here! you get on first' said Sikesputting Oliver in front of
him. 'Quicker! or I shall tread upon your heels.'

Muttering a curse upon his tardinessSikes pushed Oliver before
him; and they entered a low dark room with a smoky firetwo or
three broken chairsa tableand a very old couch: on which
with his legs much higher than his heada man was reposing at
full lengthsmoking a long clay pipe. He was dressed in a
smartly-cut snuff-coloured coatwith large brass buttons; an
orange neckerchief; a coarsestaringshawl-pattern waistcoat;
and drab breeches. Mr. Crackit (for he it was) had no very great
quantity of haireither upon his head or face; but what he had
was of a reddish dyeand 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 sizeand apparently rather weak in the legs; but this
circumstance by no means detracted from his own admiration of his
top-bootswhich he contemplatedin their elevated situation
with lively satisfaction.

'Billmy boy!' said this figureturning 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 surpriseas his
eyes rested on OliverMr. Toby Crackit brought himself into a
sitting postureand demanded who that was.

'The boy. Only the boy!' replied Sikesdrawing a chair towards
the fire.

'Wud of Bister Fagid's lads' exclaimed Barneywith a grin.

'Fagin'seh!' exclaimed Tobylooking at Oliver. 'Wot an
inwalable boy that'll makefor the old ladies' pockets in
chapels! His mug is a fortin' to him.'

'There--there's enough of that' interposed Sikesimpatiently;
and stooping over his recumbant friendhe whispered a few words
in his ear: at which Mr. Crackit laughed immenselyand honoured
Oliver with a long stare of astonishment.

'Now' said Sikesas he resumed his seat'if you'll give us
something to eat and drink while we're waitingyou'll put some
heart in us; or in meat all events. Sit down by the fire
younkerand rest yourself; for you'll have to go out with us
again to-nightthough not very far off.'

Oliver looked at Sikesin mute and timid wonder; and drawing a
stool to the firesat with his aching head upon his hands
scarecely knowing where he wasor what was passing around him.

'Here' said Tobyas the young Jew placed some fragments of
foodand a bottle upon the table'Success to the crack!' He


rose to honour the toast; andcarefully depositing his empty
pipe in a corneradvanced to the tablefilled a glass with
spiritsand drank off its contents. Mr. Sikes did the same.

'A drain for the boy' said Tobyhalf-filling a wine-glass.
'Down with itinnocence.'

'Indeed' said Oliverlooking piteously up into the man's face;
'indeedI--'

'Down with it!' echoed Toby. 'Do you think I don't know what's
good for you? Tell him to drink itBill.'

'He had better!' said Sikes clapping his hand upon his pocket.
'Burn my bodyif he isn't more trouble than a whole family of
Dodgers. Drink ityou perwerse imp; drink it!'

Frightened by the menacing gestures of the two menOliver
hastily swallowed the contents of the glassand immediately fell
into a violent fit of coughing: which delighted Toby Crackit and
Barneyand even drew a smile from the surly Mr. Sikes.

This doneand 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
blanketstretched himself on the floor: close outside the
fender.

They sleptor appeared to sleepfor some time; nobody stirring
but Barneywho rose once or twice to throw coals on the fire.
Oliver fell into a heavy doze: imagining himself straying along
the gloomy lanesor wandering about the dark churchyardor
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 instantthe other two were on their legsand all were
actively engaged in busy preparation. Sikes and his companion
enveloped their necks and chins in large dark shawlsand drew on
their great-coats; Barneyopening a cupboardbrought forth
several articleswhich he hastily crammed into the pockets.

'Barkers for meBarney' said Toby Crackit.

'Here they are' replied Barneyproducing a pair of pistols.
'You loaded them yourself.'

'All right!' replied Tobystowing them away. 'The persuaders?'

'I've got 'em' replied Sikes.

'Crapekeyscentre-bitsdarkies--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 wordshe took a thick stick from Barney's handswho
having delivered another to Tobybusied himself in fastening on
Oliver's cape.

'Now then!' said Sikesholding out his hand.


Oliver: who was completely stupified by the unwonted exercise
and the airand the drink which had been forced upon him: put
his hand mechanically into that which Sikes extended for the
purpose.

'Take his other handToby' said Sikes. 'Look outBarney.'

The man went to the doorand returned to announce that all was
quiet. The two robbers issued forth with Oliver between them.
Barneyhaving made all fastrolled himself up as beforeand
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
dampthatalthough no rain fellOliver's hair and eyebrows
within a few minutes after leaving the househad become stiff
with the half-frozen moisture that was floating about. They
crossed the bridgeand kept on towards the lights which he had
seen before. They were at no great distance off; andas they
walked pretty brisklythey soon arrived at Chertsey.

'Slap through the town' whispered Sikes; 'there'll be nobody in
the wayto-nightto see us.'

Toby acquiesced; and they hurried through the main street of the
little townwhich 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 pacethey turned up a road upon the left hand.
After walking about a quarter of a milethey stopped before a
detached house surrounded by a wall: to the top of whichToby
Crackitscarcely pausing to take breathclimbed in a twinkling.

'The boy next' said Toby. 'Hoist him up; I'll catch hold of
him.'

Before Oliver had time to look roundSikes 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 nowfor the first timeOliverwell-nigh mad with grief and
terrorsaw that housebreaking and robberyif not murderwere
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 Sikestrembling with rageand drawing the
pistol from his pocket; 'Get upor 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 meand do not make me steal. For
the love of all the bright Angels that rest in Heavenhave mercy
upon me!'

The man to whom this appeal was madeswore a dreadful oathand
had cocked the pistolwhen Tobystriking it from his grasp


placed his hand upon the boy's mouthand dragged him to the
house.

'Hush!' cried the man; 'it won't answer here. Say another word
and I'll do your business myself with a crack on the head. That
makes no noiseand is quite as certainand more genteel. Here
Billwrench the shutter open. He's game enough nowI'll
engage. I've seen older hands of his age took the same wayfor
a minute or twoon a cold night.'

Sikesinvoking terrific imprecations upon Fagin's head for
sending Oliver on such an errandplied the crowbar vigorously
but with little noise. After some delayand some assistance
from Tobythe shutter to which he had referredswung open on
its hinges.

It was a little lattice windowabout five feet and a half above
the groundat the back of the house: which belonged to a
sculleryor small brewing-placeat the end of the passage. The
aperture was so smallthat 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 sizenevertheless. A very
brief exercise of Mr. Sike's artsufficed to overcome the
fastening of the lattice; and it soon stood wide open also.

'Now listenyou young limb' whispered Sikesdrawing a dark
lantern from his pocketand 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 youand along the little
hallto the street door; unfasten itand let us in.'

'There's a bolt at the topyou won't be able to reach'
interposed Toby. 'Stand upon one of the hall chairs. There are
three thereBillwith a jolly large blue unicorn and gold
pitchfork on 'em: which is the old lady's arms.'

'Keep quietcan't you?' replied Sikeswith a threatening look.
'The room-door is openis it?'

'Wide' repied Tobyafter peeping in to satisfy himself. 'The
game of that isthat they always leave it open with a catchso
that the dogwho's got a bed in heremay 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 whisperand
laughed without noiseSikes imperiously commanded him to be
silentand to get to work. Toby compliedby first producing
his lanternand placing it on the ground; then by planting
himself firmly with his head against the wall beneath the window
and his hands upon his kneesso as to make a step of his back.
This was no sooner donethan Sikesmounting upon himput Oiver
gently through the window with his feet first; andwithout
leaving hold of his collarplanted him safely on the floor
inside.

'Take this lantern' said Sikeslooking into the room. 'You see
the stairs afore you?'

Olivermore dead than alivegasped out'Yes.' Sikespointing
to the street-door with the pistol-barrelbriefly advised him to
take notice that he was within shot all the way; and that if he
falteredhe would fall dead that instant.


'It's done in a minute' said Sikesin the same low whisper.
'Directly I leave go of youdo your work. Hark!'

'What's that?' whispered the other man.

They listened intently.

'Nothing' said Sikesreleasing his hold of Oliver. 'Now!'

In the short time he had had to collect his sensesthe boy had
firmly resolved thatwhether he died in the attempt or nothe
would make one effort to dart upstairs from the halland alarm
the family. Filled with this ideahe advanced at oncebut
stealthiy.

'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 itOliver 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 somewherebut where he
knew not--and he staggered back.

Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up againand
had him by the collar before the smoke had cleared away. He
fired his own pistol after the menwho were already retreating;
and dragged the boy up.

'Clasp your arm tighter' said Sikesas 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 bellmingled with the noise of
fire-armsand the shouts of menand the sensation of being
carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And thenthe noises
grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept
over the boy's heart; and he saw or heard no more.

CHAPTER XXIII

WHICH CONTAINS THE SUBSTANCE OF A PLEASANT CONVERSATION BETWEEN
MR. BUMBLE AND A LADY; AND SHOWS THAT EVEN A BEADLE MAY BE
SUSCEPTIBLE ON SOME POINTS

The night was bitter cold. The snow lay on the groundfrozen
into a hard thick crustso that only the heaps that had drifted
into byways and corners were affected by the sharp wind that
howled abroad: whichas if expending increased fury on such
prey as it foundcaught it savagely up in cloudsandwhirling
it into a thousand misty eddiesscattered it in air. Bleak
darkand piercing coldit 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 homelessstarving wretch to lay him down and
die. Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare
streetsat such timeswholet their crimes have been what they
maycan hardly open them in a more bitter world.

Such was the aspect of out-of-doors affairswhen Mr. Corneythe


matron of the workhouse to which our readers have been already
introduced as the birthplace of Oliver Twistsat herself down
before a cheerful fire in her own little roomand glancedwith
no small degree of complacencyat a small round table: on which
stood a tray of corresponding sizefurnished with all necessary
materials for the most grateful meal that matrons enjoy. In
factMrs. Corney was about to solace herself with a cup of tea.
As she glanced from the table to the fireplacewhere the
smallest of all possible kettles was singing a small song in a
small voiceher inward satisfaction evidently increased--so
much soindeedthat Mrs. Corney smiled.

'Well!' said the matronleaning her elbow on the tableand
looking reflectively at the fire; 'I'm sure we have all on us a
great deal to be grateful for! A great dealif we did but know
it. Ah!'

Mrs. Corney shook her head mournfullyas 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-caddyproceeded to make the tea.

How slight a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail
minds! The black teapotbeing very small and easily filledran
over while Mrs. Corney was moralising; and the water slightly
scalded Mrs. Corney's hand.

'Drat the pot!' said the worthy matronsetting it down very
hastily on the hob; 'a little stupid thingthat only holds a
couple of cups! What use is it ofto anybody! Except' said
Mrs. Corneypausing'except to a poor desolate creature like
me. Oh dear!'

With these wordsthe matron dropped into her chairandonce
more resting her elbow on the tablethought of her solitary
fate. The small teapotand the single cuphad 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. Corneypettishly; 'I
shall never get another--like him.'

Whether this remark bore reference to the husbandor 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 cupwhen she was disturbed by a soft tap
at the room-door.

'Ohcome in with you!' said Mrs. Corneysharply. 'Some of the
old women dyingI suppose. They always die when I'm at meals.
Don't stand thereletting the cold air indon't. What's amiss
noweh?'

'Nothingma'amnothing' replied a man's voice.

'Dear me!' exclaimed the matronin a much sweeter tone'is that
Mr. Bumble?'

'At your servicema'am' said Mr. Bumblewho had been stopping
outside to rub his shoes cleanand to shake the snow off his
coat; and who now made his appearancebearing the cocked hat in
one hand and a bundle in the other. 'Shall I shut the door
ma'am?'


The lady modestly hesitated to replylest there should be any
impropriety in holding an interview with Mr. Bumblewith closed
doors. Mr. Bumble taking advantage of the hesitationand being
very cold himselfshut it without permission.

'Hard weatherMr. Bumble' said the matron.

'Hardindeedma'am' replied the beadle. 'Anti-porochial
weather thisma'am. We have given awayMrs. Corneywe have
given away a matter of twenty quartern loaves and a cheese and a
halfthis very blessed afternoon; and yet them paupers are not
contented.'

'Of course not. When would they beMr. Bumble?' said the
matronsipping her tea.

'Whenindeedma'am!' rejoined Mr. Bumble. 'Why here's one man
thatin consideraton of his wife and large familyhas a
quartern loaf and a good pound of cheesefull weight. Is he
gratefulma'am? Is he grateful? Not a copper farthing's worth
of it! What does he doma'ambut ask for a few coals; if it's
only a pocket handkerchief fullhe 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 peoplema'am; give 'em a apron
full of coals to-dayand they'll come back for anotherthe day
after to-morrowas 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 yesterdaya man--you have been a married
womanma'amand I may mention it to you--a manwith 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
sayshe must be relievedMrs. Corney. As he wouldn't go away
and shocked the company very muchour overseer sent him out a
pound of potatoes and half a pint of oatmeal. "My heart!" says
the ungrateful villainwhat'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
noyou 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,
too!'


'Yes. Betwixt you and me, ma'am,' returned Mr. Bumble, 'that's
the great principle; and that's the reason why, if you look at
any cases that get into them owdacious newspapers, you'll always
observe that sick families have been relieved with slices of
cheese. That's the rule now, Mrs. Corney, all over the country.
But, however,' said the beadle, stopping to unpack his bundle,
'these are official secrets, ma'am; not to be spoken of; except,
as I may say, among the porochial officers, such as ourselves.
This is the port wine, ma'am, that the board ordered for the
infirmary; real, fresh, genuine port wine; only out of the cask
this forenoon; clear as a bell, and no sediment!'

Having held the first bottle up to the light, and shaken it well
to test its excellence, Mr. Bumble placed them both on top of a
chest of drawers; folded the handkerchief in which they had been
wrapped; put it carefully in his pocket; and took up his hat, as
if to go.

'You'll have a very cold walk, Mr. Bumble,' said the matron.

'It blows, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble, turning up his
coat-collar, 'enough to cut one's ears off.'

The matron looked, from the little kettle, to the beadle, who was
moving towards the door; and as the beadle coughed, preparatory
to bidding her good-night, bashfully inquired whether--whether he
wouldn't take a cup of tea?

Mr. Bumble instantaneously turned back his collar again; laid his
hat and stick upon a chair; and drew another chair up to the
table. As he slowly seated himself, he looked at the lady. She
fixed her eyes upon the little teapot. Mr. Bumble coughed again,
and slightly smiled.

Mrs. Corney rose to get another cup and saucer from the closet.
As she sat down, her eyes once again encountered those of the
gallant beadle; she coloured, and applied herself to the task of
making his tea. Again Mr. Bumble coughed--louder this time than
he had coughed yet.

'Sweet? Mr. Bumble?' inquired the matron, taking up the
sugar-basin.

'Very sweet, indeed, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble. He fixed his
eyes on Mrs. Corney as he said this; and if ever a beadle looked
tender, Mr. Bumble was that beadle at that moment.

The tea was made, and handed in silence. Mr. Bumble, having
spread a handkerchief over his knees to prevent the crumbs from
sullying the splendour of his shorts, began to eat and drink;
varying these amusements, occasionally, by fetching a deep sigh;
which, however, had no injurious effect upon his appetite, but,
on the contrary, rather seemed to facilitate his operations in
the tea and toast department.

'You have a cat, ma'am, I see,' said Mr. Bumble, glancing at one
who, in the centre of her family, was basking before the fire;
'and kittens too, I declare!'

'I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble,you can't think,' replied the
matron. 'They're SO happy, SO frolicsome, and SO cheerful, that
they are quite companions for me.'

'Very nice animals, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble, approvingly; 'so


very domestic.'

'Oh, yes!' rejoined the matron with enthusiasm; 'so fond of their
home too, that it's quite a pleasure, I'm sure.'

'Mrs. Corney, ma'am, said Mr. Bumble, slowly, and marking the
time with his teaspoon, 'I mean to say this, ma'am; that any cat,
or kitten, that could live with you, ma'am, and NOT be fond of
its home, must be a ass, ma'am.'

'Oh, Mr. Bumble!' remonstrated Mrs. Corney.

'It's of no use disguising facts, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble, slowly
flourishing the teaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which
made him doubly impressive; 'I would drown it myself, with
pleasure.'

'Then you're a cruel man,' said the matron vivaciously, as she
held out her hand for the beadle's cup; 'and a very hard-hearted
man besides.'

'Hard-hearted, ma'am?' said Mr. Bumble. 'Hard?' Mr. Bumble
resigned his cup without another word; squeezed Mrs. Corney's
little finger as she took it; and inflicting two open-handed
slaps upon his laced waistcoat, gave a mighty sigh, and hitched
his chair a very little morsel farther from the fire.

It was a round table; and as Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble had been
sitting opposite each other, with no great space between them,
and fronting the fire, it will be seen that Mr. Bumble, in
receding from the fire, and still keeping at the table, increased
the distance between himself and Mrs. Corney; which proceeding,
some prudent readers will doubtless be disposed to admire, and to
consider an act of great heroism on Mr. Bumble's part: he being
in some sort tempted by time, place, and opportunity, to give
utterance to certain soft nothings, which however well they may
become the lips of the light and thoughtless, do seem
immeasurably beneath the dignity of judges of the land, members
of parliament, ministers of state, lord mayors, and other great
public functionaries, but more particularly beneath the
stateliness and gravity of a beadle: who (as is well known)
should be the sternest and most inflexible among them all.

Whatever were Mr. Bumble's intentions, however (and no doubt they
were of the best): it unfortunately happened, as has been twice
before remarked, that the table was a round one; consequently Mr.
Bumble, moving his chair by little and little, soon began to
diminish the distance between himself and the matron; and,
continuing to travel round the outer edge of the circle, brought
his chair, in time, close to that in which the matron was seated.

Indeed, the two chairs touched; and when they did so, Mr. Bumble
stopped.

Now, if the matron had moved her chair to the right, she would
have been scorched by the fire; and if to the left, she must have
fallen into Mr. Bumble's arms; so (being a discreet matron, and
no doubt foreseeing these consequences at a glance) she remained
where she was, and handed Mr. Bumble another cup of tea.

'Hard-hearted, Mrs. Corney?' said Mr. Bumble, stirring his tea,
and looking up into the matron's face; 'are YOU hard-hearted,
Mrs. Corney?'


'Dear me!' exclaimed the matron, 'what a very curious question
from a single man. What can you want to know for, Mr. Bumble?'

The beadle drank his tea to the last drop; finished a piece of
toast; whisked the crumbs off his knees; wiped his lips; and
deliberately kissed the matron.

'Mr. Bumble!' cried that discreet lady in a whisper; for the
fright was so great, that she had quite lost her voice, 'Mr.
Bumble, I shall scream!' Mr. Bumble made no reply; but in a slow
and dignified manner, put his arm round the matron's waist.

As the lady had stated her intention of screaming, of course she
would have screamed at this additional boldness, but that the
exertion was rendered unnecessary by a hasty knocking at the
door: which was no sooner heard, than Mr. Bumble darted, with
much agility, to the wine bottles, and began dusting them with
great violence: while the matron sharply demanded who was there.

It is worthy of remark, as a curious physical instance of the
efficacy of a sudden surprise in counteracting the effects of
extreme fear, that her voice had quite recovered all its official
asperity.

'If you please, mistress,' said a withered old female pauper,
hideously ugly: putting her head in at the door, 'Old Sally is
a-going fast.'

'Well, what's that to me?' angrily demanded the matron. 'I can't
keep her alive, can I?'

'No, no, mistress,' replied the old woman, 'nobody can; she's far
beyond the reach of help. I've seen a many people die; little
babes and great strong men; and I know when death's a-coming,
well enough. But she's troubled in her mind: and when the fits
are not on her,--and that's not often, for she is dying very
hard,--she says she has got something to tell, which you must
hear. She'll never die quiet till you come, mistress.'

At this intelligence, the worthy Mrs. Corney muttered a variety
of invectives against old women who couldn't even die without
purposely annoying their betters; and, muffling herself in a
thick shawl which she hastily caught up, briefly requested Mr.
Bumble to stay till she came back, lest anything particular
should occur. Bidding the messenger walk fast, and not be all
night hobbling up the stairs, she followed her from the room with
a very ill grace, scolding all the way.

Mr. Bumble's conduct on being left to himself, was rather
inexplicable. He opened the closet, counted the teaspoons,
weighed the sugar-tongs, closely inspected a silver milk-pot to
ascertain that it was of the genuine metal, and, having satisfied
his curiosity on these points, put on his cocked hat corner-wise,
and danced with much gravity four distinct times round the table.

Having gone through this very extraordinary performance, he took
off the cocked hat again, and, spreading himself before the fire
with his back towards it, seemed to be mentally engaged in taking
an exact inventory of the furniture.

CHAPTER XXIV


TREATS ON A VERY POOR SUBJECT. BUT IS A SHORT ONE, AND MAY BE
FOUND OF IMPORTANCE IN THIS HISTORY

It was no unfit 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
woman.

'Oh!' said the young mag, turning his face towards the bed, as if
he had previously quite forgotten the patient, 'it's all U.P.
there, Mrs. Corney.'

'It is, is it, sir?' asked the matron.

'If she lasts a couple of hours, I shall be surprised.' said the
apothecary's apprentice, intent upon the toothpick's point.
'It's a break-up of the system altogether. Is she dozing, old
lady?'

The attendant stooped over the bed, to ascertain; and nodded in


the affirmative.

'Then perhaps she'll go off in that way, if you don't make a
row,' said the young man. 'Put the light on the floor. She
won't see it there.'

The attendant did as she was told: shaking her head meanwhile,
to intimate that the woman would not die so easily; having done
so, she resumed her seat by the side of the other nurse, who had
by this time returned. The mistress, with an expression of
impatience, wrapped herself in her shawl, and sat at the foot of
the bed.

The apothecary's apprentice, having completed the manufacture of
the toothpick, planted himself in front of the fire and made good
use of it for ten minutes or so: when apparently growing rather
dull, he wished Mrs. Corney joy of her job, and took himself off
on tiptoe.

When they had sat in silence for some time, the two old women
rose from the bed, and crouching over the fire, held out their
withered hands to catch the heat. The flame threw a ghastly
light on their shrivelled faces, and made their ugliness appear
terrible, as, in this position, they began to converse in a low
voice.

'Did she say any more, Anny dear, while I was gone?' inquired the
messenger.

'Not a word,' replied the other. 'She plucked and tore at her
arms for a little time; but I held her hands, and she soon
dropped off. She hasn't much strength in her, so I easily kept
her quiet. I ain't so weak for an old woman, although I am on
parish allowance; no, no!'

'Did she drink the hot wine the doctor said she was to have?'
demanded the first.

'I tried to get it down,' rejoined the other. 'But her teeth
were tight set, and she clenched the mug so hard that it was as
much as I could do to get it back again. So I drank it; and it
did me good!'

Looking cautiously round, to ascertain that they were not
overheard, the two hags cowered nearer to the fire, and chuckled
heartily.

'I mind the time,' said the first speaker, 'when she would have
done the same, and made rare fun of it afterwards.'

'Ay, that she would,' rejoined the other; 'she had a merry heart.

A many, many, beautiful corpses she laid out, as nice and neat as
waxwork. My old eyes have seen them--ay, and those old hands
touched them too; for I have helped her, scores of times.'

Stretching forth her trembling fingers as she spoke, the old
creature shook them exultingly before her face, and fumbling in
her pocket, brought out an old time-discoloured tin snuff-box,
from which she shook a few grains into the outstretched palm of
her companion, and a few more into her own. While they were thus
employed, the matron, who had been impatiently watching until the
dying woman should awaken from her stupor, joined them by the
fire, and sharply asked how long she was to wait?


'Not long, mistress,' replied the second woman, looking up into
her face. 'We have none of us long to wait for Death. Patience,
patience! He'll be here soon enough for us all.'

'Hold your tongue, you doting idiot!' said the matron sternly.
'You, Martha, tell me; has she been in this way before?'

'Often,' answered the first woman.

'But will never be again,' added the second one; 'that is, she'll
never wake again but once--and mind, mistress, that won't be for
long!'

'Long or short,' said the matron, snappishly, 'she won't find me
here when she does wake; take care, both of you, how you worry me
again for nothing. It's no part of my duty to see all the old
women in the house die, and I won't--that's more. Mind that, you
impudent old harridans. If you make a fool of me again, I'll
soon cure you, I warrant you!'

She was bouncing away, when a cry from the two women, who had
turned towards the bed, caused her to look round. The patient
had raised herself upright, and was stretching her arms towards
them.

'Who's that?' she cried, in a hollow voice.

'Hush, hush!' said one of the women, stooping over her. 'Lie
down, lie down!'

'I'll never lie down again alive!' said the woman, struggling. 'I
WILL tell her! Come here! Nearer! Let me whisper in your ear.'

She clutched the matron by the arm, and forcing her into a chair
by the bedside, was about to speak, when looking round, she
caught sight of the two old women bending forward in the attitude
of eager listeners.

'Turn them away,' said the woman, drowsily; 'make haste! make
haste!'

The two old crones, chiming in together, began pouring out many
piteous lamentations that the poor dear was too far gone to know
her best friends; and were uttering sundry protestations that
they would never leave her, when the superior pushed them from
the room, closed the door, and returned to the bedside. On being
excluded, the old ladies changed their tone, and cried through
the keyhole that old Sally was drunk; which, indeed, was not
unlikely; since, in addition to a moderate dose of opium
prescribed by the apothecary, she was labouring under the effects
of a final taste of gin-and-water which had been privily
administered, in the openness of their hearts, by the worthy old
ladies themselves.

'Now listen to me,' said the dying woman aloud, as if making a
great effort to revive one latent spark of energy. 'In this very
room--in this very bed--I once nursed a pretty young creetur',
that was brought into the house with her feet cut and bruised
with walking, and all soiled with dust and blood. She gave birth
to a boy, and died. Let me think--what was the year again!'

'Never mind the year,' said the impatient auditor; 'what about
her?'


'Ay,' murmured the sick woman, relapsing into her former drowsy
state, 'what about her?--what about--I know!' she cried, jumping
fiercely up: her face flushed, and her eyes starting from her
head--'I robbed her, so I did! She wasn't cold--I tell you she
wasn't cold, when I stole it!'

'Stole what, for God's sake?' cried the matron, with a gesture as
if she would call for help.

'IT!' replied the woman, laying her hand over the other's mouth.
'The only thing she had. She wanted clothes to keep her warm,
and food to eat; but she had kept it safe, and had it in her
bosom. It was gold, I tell you! Rich gold, that might have
saved her life!'

'Gold!' echoed the matron, bending eagerly over the woman as she
fell back. 'Go on, go on--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 ohkind Heaven!" she
saidfolding her thin hands togetherwhether 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 womanfeebly. 'The gold I
stole was--'

'Yesyes--what?' cried the other.

She was bending eagerly over the woman to hear her reply; but
drew backinstinctivelyas she once again roseslowly and
stifflyinto a sitting posture; thenclutching the coverlid
with both handsmuttered some indistinct sounds in her throat
and fell lifeless on the bed.

* * * * * * *

'Stone dead!' said one of the old womenhurrying in as soon as


the door was opened.

'And nothing to tellafter all' rejoined the matronwalking
carelessly away.

The two cronesto all appearancetoo busily occupied in the
preparations for their dreadful duties to make any replywere
left alonehovering about the body.

CHAPTER XXV

WHEREIN THIS HISTORY REVERTS TO MR. FAGIN AND COMPANY

While these things were passing in the country workhouseMr.
Fagin sat in the old den--the same from which Oliver had been
removed by the girl--brooding over a dullsmoky fire. He held a
pair of bellows upon his kneewith 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 themand
his chin resting on his thumbsfixed his eyesabstractedlyon
the rusty bars.

At a table behind him sat the Artful DodgerMaster Charles
Batesand 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 gentlemanpeculiarly intelligent
at all timesacquired great additional interest from his close
observance of the gameand his attentive perusal of Mr.
Chitling's hand; upon whichfrom time to timeas occasion
servedhe 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 nightthe Dodger wore
his hatasindeedwas often his custom within doors. He also
sustained a clay pipe between his teethwhich he only removed
for a brief space when he deemed it necessary to apply for
refreshment to a quart pot upon the tablewhich 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 friendit was observable
that he more frequently applied himself to the gin-and-waterand
moreover indulged in many jests and irrelevant remarksall
highly unbecoming a scientific rubber. Indeedthe Artful
presuming upon their close attachmentmore than once took
occasion to reason gravely with his companion upon these
improprieties; all of which remonstrancesMaster Bates received
in extremely good part; merely requesting his friend to be
'blowed' or to insert his head in a sackor replying with some
other neatly-turned witticism of a similar kindthe happy
application of whichexcited considerable admiration in the mind
of Mr. Chitling. It was remarkable that the latter gentleman and
his partner invariably lost; and that the circumstanceso far
from angering Master Batesappeared to afford him the highest
amusementinasmuch as he laughed most uproariously at the end of
every dealand protested that he had never seen such a jolly
game in all his born days.

'That's two doubles and the rub' said Mr. Chitlingwith a very
long faceas he drew half-a-crown from his waistcoat-pocket. 'I
never see such a feller as youJack; you win everything. Even
when we've good cardsCharley and I can't make nothing of 'em.'


Either the master or the manner of this remarkwhich was made
very ruefullydelighted Charley Bates so muchthat his
consequent shout of laughter roused the Jew from his reverieand
induced him to inquire what was the matter.

'MatterFagin!' 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.'

'Ayay!' said the Jewwith a grinwhich sufficiently
demonstrated that he was at no loss to understand the reason.
'Try 'em againTom; try 'em again.'

'No more of it for methank 'eeFagin' 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 morningto win against the Dodger.'

'Morning!' said Charley Bates; 'you must put your boots on
over-nightand have a telescope at each eyeand a opera-glass
between your shouldersif you want to come over him.'

Mr. Dawkins received these handsome compliments with much
philosophyand offered to cut any gentleman in companyfor the
first picture-cardat a shilling at a time. Nobody accepting
the challengeand his pipe being by this time smoked outhe
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; whistlingmeantimewith peculiar shrillness.

'How precious dull you areTommy!' said the Dodgerstopping
short when there had been a long silence; and addressing Mr.
Chitling. 'What do you think he's thinking ofFagin?'

'How should I knowmy dear?' replied the Jewlooking round as
he plied the bellows. 'About his lossesmaybe; or the little
retirement in the country that he's just lefteh? Ha! ha! Is
that itmy dear?'

'Not a bit of it' replied the Dodgerstopping the subject of
discourse as Mr. Chitling was about to reply. 'What do YOU say
Charley?'

'_I_ should say' replied Master Bateswith a grin'that he was
uncommon sweet upon Betsy. See how he's a-blushing! Ohmy eye!
here's a merry-go-rounder! Tommy Chitling's in love! OhFagin
Fagin! what a spree!'

Thoroughly overpowered with the notion of Mr. Chitling being the
victim of the tender passionMaster Bates threw himself back in
his chair with such violencethat he lost his balanceand
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 positionand began another laugh.

'Never mind himmy dear' said the Jewwinking at Mr. Dawkins
and giving Master Bates a reproving tap with the nozzle of the
bellows. 'Betsy's a fine girl. Stick up to herTom. Stick up
to her.'

'What I mean to sayFagin' replied Mr. Chitlingvery red in


the face'isthat that isn't anything to anybody here.'

'No more it is' replied the Jew; 'Charley will talk. Don't mind
himmy dear; don't mind him. Betsy's a fine girl. Do as she
bids youTomand you will make your fortune.'

'So I DO do as she bids me' replied Mr. Chitling; 'I shouldn't
have been milledif it hadn't been for her advice. But it
turned out a good job for you; didn't itFagin! And what's six
weeks of it? It must comesome time or anotherand why not in
the winter time when you don't want to go out a-walking so much;
ehFagin?'

'Ahto be suremy dear' replied the Jew.

'You wouldn't mind it againTomwould you' asked the Dodger
winking upon Charley and the Jew'if Bet was all right?'

'I mean to say that I shouldn't' replied Tomangrily. 'There
now. Ah! Who'll say as much as thatI should like to know; eh
Fagin?'

'Nobodymy dear' replied the Jew; 'not a soulTom. I don't
know one of 'em that would do it besides you; not one of 'emmy
dear.'

'I might have got clear offif 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 itFagin?'

'To be sure it wouldmy dear' replied the Jew.

'But I didn't blab it; did IFagin?' demanded Tompouring
question upon question with great volubility.

'Nonoto be sure' replied the Jew; 'you were too
stout-hearted for that. A deal too stoutmy dear!'

'Perhaps I was' rejoined Tomlooking round; 'and if I was
what's to laugh atin that; ehFagin?'

The Jewperceiving that Mr. Chitling was considerably roused
hastened to assure him that nobody was laughing; and to prove the
gravity of the companyappealed to Master Batesthe principal
offender. ButunfortunatelyCharleyin opening his mouth to
reply that he was never more serious in his lifewas unable to
prevent the escape of such a violent roarthat the abused Mr.
Chitlingwithout any preliminary ceremoniesrushed across the
room and aimed a blow at the offender; whobeing skilful in
evading pursuitducked to avoid itand chose his time so well
that it lighted on the chest of the merry old gentlemanand
caused him to stagger to the wallwhere he stood panting for
breathwhile Mr. Chitling looked on in intense dismay.

'Hark!' cried the Dodger at this moment'I heard the tinkler.'
Catching up the lighthe crept softly upstairs.

The bell was rung againwith some impatiencewhile the party
were in darkness. After a short pausethe Dodger reappeared
and whispered Fagin mysteriously.

'What!' cried the Jew'alone?'

The Dodger nodded in the affirmativeandshading the flame of


the candle with his handgave Charley Bates a private
intimationin dumb showthat he had better not be funny just
then. Having performed this friendly officehe fixed his eyes
on the Jew's faceand awaited his directions.

The old man bit his yellow fingersand meditated for some
seconds; his face working with agitation the whileas if he
dreaded somethingand feared to know the worst. At length he
raised his head.

'Where is he?' he asked.

The Dodger pointed to the floor aboveand made a gestureas if
to leave the room.

'Yes' said the Jewanswering the mute inquiry; 'bring him down.

Hush! QuietCharley! GentlyTom! Scarcescarce!'

This brief direction to Charley Batesand his recent antagonist
was softly and immediately obeyed. There was no sound of their
whereaboutwhen the Dodger descended the stairsbearing the
light in his handand followed by a man in a coarse smock-frock;
whoafter casting a hurried glance round the roompulled off a
large wrapper which had concealed the lower portion of his face
and disclosed: all haggardunwashedand unshorn: the features
of flash Toby Crackit.

'How are youFaguey?' said this worthynodding to the Jew. 'Pop
that shawl away in my castorDodgerso 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; andwinding it
round his middledrew a chair to the fireand placed his feet
upon the hob.

'See thereFaguey' he saidpointing disconsolately to his top
boots; 'not a drop of Day and Martin since you know when; not a
bubble of blackingby 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 sustainanceand 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; andseating himself opposite the housebreaker
waited his leisure.

To judge from appearancesToby was by no means in a hurry to
open the conversation. At firstthe Jew contented himself with
patiently watching his countenanceas if to gain from its
expression some clue to the intelligence he brought; but in vain.

He looked tired and wornbut there was the same complacent
repose upon his features that they always wore: and through
dirtand beardand whiskerthere still shoneunimpairedthe
self-satisfied smirk of flash Toby Crackit. Then the Jewin an
agony of impatiencewatched every morsel he put into his mouth;
pacing up and down the roommeanwhilein irrepressible
excitement. It was all of no use. Toby continued to eat with
the utmost outward indifferenceuntil he could eat no more;
thenordering the Dodger outhe closed the doormixed a glass
of spirits and waterand composed himself for talking.


'First and foremostFaguey' said Toby.

'Yesyes!' interposed the Jewdrawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and waterand
to declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet
against the low mantelpieceso as to bring his boots to about
the level of his eyehe quietly resumed.

'First and foremostFaguey' said the housebreaker'how's
Bill?'

'What!' screamed the Jewstarting from his seat.

'Whyyou don't mean to say--' began Tobyturning pale.

'Mean!' cried the Jewstamping 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 Jewtearing 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 backand scudded like the wind. We stopped
to take him between us; his head hung downand he was cold.
They were close upon our heels; every man for himselfand each
from the gallows! We parted companyand left the youngster
lying in a ditch. Alive or deadthat's all I know about him.'

The Jew stopped to hear no more; but uttering a loud yelland
twining his hands in his hairrushed from the roomand from the
house.

CHAPTER XXVI

IN WHICH A MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER APPEARS UPON THE SCENE; AND MANY
THINGSINSEPARABLE FROM THIS HISTORYARE DONE AND PERFORMED

The old man had gained the street cornerbefore he began to
recover the effect of Toby Crackit's intelligence. He had
relaxed nothing of his unusual speed; but was still pressing
onwardin the same wild and disordered mannerwhen the sudden
dashing past of a carriage: and a boisterous cry from the foot
passengerswho saw his danger: drove him back upon the
pavement. Avoidingas much as was possibleall the main
streetsand skulking only through the by-ways and alleyshe 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;
whenas if conscious that he was now in his proper elementhe
fell into his usual shuffling paceand seemed to breathe more
freely.


Near to the spot on which Snow Hill and Holborn Hill meetopens
upon the right hand as you come out of the Citya narrow and
dismal alleyleading 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 shelveswithinare piled with them.
Confined as the limits of Field Lane areit has its barberits
coffee-shopits beer-shopand its fried-fish warehouse. It is
a commercial colony of itself: the emporium of petty larceny:
visited at early morningand setting-in of duskby silent
merchantswho traffic in dark back-parloursand who go as
strangely as they come. Herethe clothesmanthe shoe-vamper
and the rag-merchantdisplay their goodsas sign-boards to the
petty thief; herestores of old iron and bonesand heaps of
mildewy fragments of woollen-stuff and linenrust 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 sellnoddedfamiliarlyas 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 stoppedto address a salesman of small staturewho had
squeezed as much of his person into a child's chair as the chair
would holdand was smoking a pipe at his warehouse door.

'Whythe sight of youMr. Faginwould cure the hoptalymy!'
said this respectable traderin acknowledgment of the Jew's
inquiry after his health.

'The neighbourhood was a little too hotLively' said Fagin
elevating his eyebrowsand crossing his hands upon his
shoulders.

'WellI've heerd that complaint of itonce 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 Hillhe inquired whether any one was up yonder to-night.

'At the Cripples?' inquired the man.

The Jew nodded.

'Let me see' pursued the merchantreflecting.

'Yesthere's some half-dozen of 'em gone inthat I knows. I
don't think your friend's there.'

'Sikes is notI suppose?' inquired the Jewwith a disappointed
countenance.

'Non istwentusas the lawyers say' replied the little man
shaking his headand looking amazingly sly. 'Have you got
anything in my line to-night?'

'Nothing to-night' said the Jewturning away.

'Are you going up to the CripplesFagin?' cried the little man
calling after him. 'Stop! I don't mind if I have a drop there
with you!'


But as the Jewlooking backwaved his hand to intimate that he
preferred being alone; andmoreoveras the little man could not
very easily disengage himself from the chair; the sign of the
Cripples wasfor a timebereft of the advantage of Mr. Lively's
presence. By the time he had got upon his legsthe Jew had
disappeared; so Mr. Livelyafter ineffectually standing on
tiptoein the hope of catching sight of himagain forced
himself into the little chairandexchanging a shake of the
head with a lady in the opposite shopin which doubt and
mistrust were plainly mingledresumed his pipe with a grave
demeanour.

The Three Cripplesor 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 barFagin walked
straight upstairsand opening the door of a roomand softly
insinuating himself into the chamberlooked anxiously about:
shading his eyes with his handas if in search of some
particular person.

The room was illuminated by two gas-lights; the glare of which
was prevented by the barred shuttersand closely-drawn curtains
of faded redfrom being visible outside. The ceiling was
blackenedto prevent its colour from being injured by the
flaring of the lamps; and the place was so full of dense tobacco
smokethat at first it was scarcely possible to discern anything
more. By degreeshoweveras some of it cleared away through
the open dooran assemblage of headsas confused as the noises
that greeted the earmight be made out; and as the eye grew more
accustomed to the scenethe spectator gradually became aware of
the presence of a numerous companymale and femalecrowded
round a long table: at the upper end of whichsat a chairman
with a hammer of office in his hand; while a professional
gentleman with a bluish noseand his face tied up for the
benefit of a toothachepresided at a jingling piano in a remote
corner.

As Fagin stepped softly inthe professional gentlemanrunning
over the keys by way of preludeoccasioned a general cry of
order for a song; which having subsideda young lady proceeded
to entertain the company with a ballad in four versesbetween
each of which the accompanyist played the melody all throughas
loud as he could. When this was overthe chairman gave a
sentimentafter whichthe professional gentleman on the
chairman's right and left volunteered a duetand sang itwith
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 coarseroughheavy built fellowwho
while the songs were proceedingrolled his eyes hither and
thitherandseeming to give himself up to jovialityhad an eye
for everything that was doneand an ear for everything that was
said--and sharp onestoo. Near him were the singers:
receivingwith professional indifferencethe compliments of the
companyand applying themselvesin turnto a dozen proffered
glasses of spirits and watertendered by their more boisterous
admirers; whose countenancesexpressive of almost every vice in
almost every gradeirresistibly attracted the attentionby
their very repulsiveness. Cunningferocityand drunkeness in
all its stageswere therein 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 outand presenting but one loathsome
blank of profligacy and crime; some mere girlsothers but young
womenand none past the prime of life; formed the darkest and
saddest portion of this dreary picture.

Fagintroubled by no grave emotionslooked eagerly from face to
face while these proceedings were in progress; but apparently
without meeting that of which he was in search. Succeedingat
lengthin catching the eye of the man who occupied the chairhe
beckoned to him slightlyand left the roomas quietly as he had
entered it.

'What can I do for youMr. Fagin?' inquired the manas he
followed him out to the landing. 'Won't you join us? They'll be
delightedevery one of 'em.'

The Jew shook his head impatientlyand said in a whisper'Is HE
here?'

'No' replied the man.

'And no news of Barney?' inquired Fagin.

'None' replied the landlord of the Cripples; for it was he. 'He
won't stir till it's all safe. Depend on itthey're on the
scent down there; and that if he movedhe'd blow upon the thing
at once. He's all right enoughBarney iselse I should have
heard of him. I'll pound itthat Barney's managing properly.
Let him alone for that.'

'Will HE be here to-night?' asked the Jewlaying the same
emphasis on the pronoun as before.

'Monksdo you mean?' inquired the landlordhesitating.

'Hush!' said the Jew. 'Yes.'

'Certain' replied the mandrawing a gold watch from his fob; 'I
expected him here before now. If you'll wait ten minuteshe'll
be--'

'Nono' said the Jewhastily; as thoughhowever desirous he
might be to see the person in questionhe was nevertheless
relieved by his absence. 'Tell him I came here to see him; and
that he must come to me to-night. Nosay to-morrow. As he is
not hereto-morrow will be time enough.'

'Good!' said the man. 'Nothing more?'

'Not a word now' said the Jewdescending the stairs.

'I say' said the otherlooking over the railsand speaking in
a hoarse whisper; 'what a time this would be for a sell! I've
got Phil Barker here: so drunkthat a boy might take him!'

'Ah! But it's not Phil Barker's time' said the Jewlooking up.

'Phil has something more to dobefore we can afford to part with
him; so go back to the companymy dearand 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 alonethan his countenance
resumed its former expression of anxiety and thought. After a
brief reflectionhe called a hack-cabrioletand bade the man
drive towards Bethnal Green. He dismissed him within some quarter
of a mile of Mr. Sikes's residenceand performed the short
remainder of the distanceon foot.

'Now' muttered the Jewas he knocked at the door'if there is
any deep play hereI shall have it out of youmy girlcunning
as you are.'

She was in her roomthe woman said. Fagin crept softly
upstairsand entered it without any previous ceremony. The girl
was alone; lying with her head upon the tableand her hair
straggling over it.

'She has been drinking' thought the Jewcooly'or perhaps she
is only miserable.'

The old man turned to close the dooras he made this reflection;
the noise thus occasionedroused the girl. She eyed his crafty
face narrowlyas she inquired to his recital of Toby Crackit's
story. When it was concludedshe 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 silencethe Jew looked restlessly about the roomas
if to assure himself that there were no appearances of Sikes
having covertly returned. Apparently satisfied with his
inspectionhe coughed twice or thriceand 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 togethersaidin his most concilitory
tone

'And where should you think Bill was nowmy dear?'

The girl moaned out some half intelligible replythat she could
not tell; and seemedfrom the smothered noise that escaped her
to be crying.

'And the boytoo' said the Jewstraining his eyes to catch a
glimpse of her face. 'Poor leetle child! Left in a ditch
Nance; only think!'

'The child' said the girlsuddenly looking up'is better where
he isthan among us; and if no harm comes to Bill from itI
hope he lies dead in the ditch and that his young bones may rot
there.'

'What!' cried the Jewin amazement.

'AyI do' returned the girlmeeting his gaze. 'I shall be
glad to have him away from my eyesand to know that the worst is
over. I can't bear to have him about me. The sight of him turns
me against myselfand all of you.'

'Pooh!' said the Jewscornfully. 'You're drunk.'

'Am I?' cried the girl bitterly. 'It's no fault of yoursif I
am not! You'd never have me anything elseif you had your will
except now;--the humour doesn't suit youdoesn't it?'


'No!' rejoined the Jewfuriously. 'It does not.'

'Change itthen!' responded the girlwith a laugh.

'Change it!' exclaimed the Jewexasperated beyond all bounds by
his companion's unexpected obstinacyand the vexation of the
night'I WILL change it! Listen to meyou drab. Listen to me
who with six wordscan strangle Sikes as surely as if I had his
bull's throat between my fingers now. If he comes backand
leaves the boy behind him; if he gets off freeand dead or
alivefails 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 roomor mind meit will be too late!'

'What is all this?' cried the girl involuntarily.

'What is it?' pursued Faginmad with rage. 'When the boy's
worth hundreds of pounds to meam I to lose what chance threw me
in the way of getting safelythrough the whims of a drunken gang
that I could whistle away the lives of! And me boundtooto a
born devil that only wants the willand has the power toto--'

Panting for breaththe old man stammered for a word; and in that
instant checked the torrent of his wrathand changed his whole
demeanour. A moment beforehis clenched hands had grasped the
air; his eyes had dilated; and his face grown livid with passion;
but nowhe shrunk into a chairandcowering togethertrembled
with the apprehension of having himself disclosed some hidden
villainy. After a short silencehe ventured to look round at
his companion. He appeared somewhat reassuredon beholding her
in the same listless attitude from which he had first roused her.

'Nancydear!' croaked the Jewin his usual voice. 'Did you
mind medear?'

'Don't worry me nowFagin!' replied the girlraising her head
languidly. 'If Bill has not done it this timehe will another.
He has done many a good job for youand will do many more when
he can; and when he can't he won't; so no more about that.'

'Regarding this boymy dear?' said the Jewrubbing the palms of
his hands nervously together.

'The boy must take his chance with the rest' interrupted Nancy
hastily; 'and I say againI hope he is deadand out of harm's
wayand out of yours--that isif Bill comes to no harm. And
if Toby got clear offBill's pretty sure to be safe; for Bill's
worth two of Toby any time.'

'And about what I was sayingmy dear?' observed the Jewkeeping
his glistening eye steadily upon her.

'Your must say it all over againif it's anything you want me to
do' rejoined Nancy; 'and if it isyou had better wait till
to-morrow. You put me up for a minute; but now I'm stupid
again.'

Fagin put several other questions: all with the same drift of
ascertaining whether the girl had profited by his unguarded
hints; butshe answered them so readilyand was withal so
utterly unmoved by his searching looksthat his original
impression of her being more than a trifle in liquorwas
confirmed. Nancyindeedwas not exempt from a failing which
was very common among the Jew's female pupils; and in whichin


their tenderer yearsthey were rather encouraged than checked.
Her disordered appearanceand a wholesale perfume of Geneva
which pervaded the apartmentafforded stong confirmatory
evidence of the justice of the Jew's supposition; and whenafter
indulging in the temporary display of violence above described
she subsidedfirst into dullnessand afterwards into a compound
of feelings: under the influence of which she shed tears one
minuteand 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 happyMr.
Faginwho had had considerable experience of such matters in his
timesawwith great satisfactionthat she was very far gone
indeed.

Having eased his mind by this discovery; and having accomplished
his twofold object of imparting to the girl what he hadthat
nightheardand of ascertainingwith his own eyesthat Sikes
had not returnedMr. Fagin again turned his face homeward:
leaving his young friend asleepwith her head upon the table.

It was within an hour of midnight. The weather being darkand
piercing coldhe had no great temptation to loiter. The sharp
wind that scoured the streetsseemed to have cleared them of
passengersas of dust and mudfor few people were abroadand
they were to all appearance hastening fast home. It blew from the
right quarter for the Jewhoweverand straight before it he
went: tremblingand shiveringas every fresh gust drove him
rudely on his way.

He had reached the corner of his own streetand was already
fumbling in his pocket for the door-keywhen a dark figure
emerged from a projecting entrance which lay in deep shadowand
crossing the roadglided up to him unperceived.

'Fagin!' whispered a voice close to his ear.

'Ah!' said the Jewturning quickly round'is that--'

'Yes!' interrupted the stranger. 'I have been lingering here
these two hours. Where the devil have you been?'

'On your businessmy dear' replied the Jewglancing uneasily
at his companionand slackening his pace as he spoke. 'On your
business all night.'

'Ohof course!' said the strangerwith a sneer. 'Well; and
what's come of it?'

'Nothing good' said the Jew.

'Nothing badI hope?' said the strangerstopping shortand
turning a startled look on his companion.

The Jew shook his headand was about to replywhen the
strangerinterrupting himmotioned to the housebefore which
they had by this time arrived: remarkingthat he had better say
what he had got to sayunder cover: for his blood was chilled
with standing about so longand the wind blew through him.

Fagin looked as if he could have willingly excused himself from
taking home a visitor at that unseasonable hour; andindeed
muttered something about having no fire; but his companion
repeating his request in a peremptory mannerhe unlocked the
doorand requested him to close it softlywhile he got a light.


'It's as dark as the grave' said the mangroping forward a few
steps. 'Make haste!'

'Shut the door' whispered Fagin from the end of the passage. As
he spokeit closed with a loud noise.

'That wasn't my doing' said the other manfeeling his way. 'The
wind blew it toor it shut of its own accord: one or the other.
Look sharp with the lightor I shall knock my brains out against
something in this confounded hole.'

Fagin stealthily descended the kitchen stairs. After a short
absencehe returned with a lighted candleand the intelligence
that Toby Crackit was asleep in the back room belowand that the
boys were in the front one. Beckoning the man to follow himhe
led the way upstairs.

'We can say the few words we've got to say in heremy dear'
said the Jewthrowing open a door on the first floor; 'and as
there are holes in the shuttersand we never show lights to our
neighbourswe'll set the candle on the stairs. There!'

With those wordsthe Jewstooping downplaced the candle on an
upper flight of stairsexactly opposite to the room door. This
donehe led the way into the apartment; which was destitute of
all movables save a broken arm-chairand an old couch or sofa
without coveringwhich stood behind the door. Upon this piece
of furniturethe stranger sat himself with the air of a weary
man; and the Jewdrawing up the arm-chair oppositethey sat
face to face. It was not quite dark; the door was partially
open; and the candle outsidethrew 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 therea 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 talkingthusfor a quarter of
an hour or morewhen Monks--by which name the Jew had designated
the strange man several times in the course of their
colloquy--saidraising his voice a little

'I tell you againit was badly planned. Why not have kept him
here among the restand made a sneakingsnivelling pickpocket
of him at once?'

'Only hear him!' exclaimed the Jewshrugging his shoulders.

'Whydo you mean to say you couldn't have done itif you had
chosen?' demanded Monkssternly. 'Haven't you done itwith
other boysscores of times? If you had had patience for a
twelvemonthat mostcouldn't you have got him convictedand
sent safely out of the kingdom; perhaps for life?'

'Whose turn would that have servedmy dear?' inquired the Jew
humbly.

'Mine' replied Monks.

'But not mine' said the Jewsubmissively. 'He might have
become of use to me. When there are two parties to a bargainit
is only reasonable that the interests of both should be


consulted; is itmy 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 himno!' muttered the man'or he would have been a
thieflong 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 beginningor we labour in vain. What could I
do? Send him out with the Dodger and Charley? We had enough of
thatat firstmy dear; I trembled for us all.'

'THAT was not my doing' observed Monks.

'Nonomy dear!' renewed the Jew. 'And I don't quarrel with it
now; becauseif it had never happenedyou might never have
clapped eyes on the boy to notice himand so led to the
discovery that it was him you were looking for. Well! I got him
back for you by means of the girl; and then SHE begins to favour
him.'

'Throttle the girl!' said Monksimpatiently.

'Whywe can't afford to do that just nowmy dear' replied the
Jewsmiling; 'andbesidesthat sort of thing is not in our
way; orone of these daysI might be glad to have it done. I
know what these girls areMonkswell. As soon as the boy
begins to hardenshe'll care no more for himthan for a block
of wood. You want him made a thief. If he is aliveI can make
him one from this time; andif--if--' said the Jewdrawing
nearer to the other--'it's not likelymind--but if the worst
comes to the worstand he is dead--'

'It's no fault of mine if he is!' interposed the other manwith
a look of terrorand clasping the Jew's arm with trembling
hands. 'Mind that. Fagin! I had no hand in it. Anything but
his deathI told you from the first. I won't shed blood; it's
always found outand haunts a man besides. If they shot him
deadI was not the cause; do you hear me? Fire this infernal
den! What's that?'

'What!' cried the Jewgrasping the coward round the bodywith
both armsas he sprung to his feet. 'Where?'

'Yonder! replied the manglaring at the opposite wall. 'The
shadow! I saw the shadow of a womanin a cloak and bonnetpass
along the wainscot like a breath!'

The Jew released his holdand they rushed tumultuously from the
room. The candlewasted by the draughtwas standing where it
had been placed. It showed them only the empty staircaseand
their own white faces. They listened intently: a profound
silence reigned throughout the house.

'It's your fancy' said the Jewtaking up the light and turning
to his companion.

'I'll swear I saw it!' replied Monkstrembling. 'It was bending
forward when I saw it first; and when I spokeit darted away.'


The Jew glanced contemptuously at the pale face of his associate
andtelling him he could followif he pleasedascended the
stairs. They looked into all the rooms; they were coldbare
and empty. They descended into the passageand 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 Jewwhen they had regained the
passage. 'Besides ourselvesthere's not a creature in the house
except Toby and the boys; and they're safe enough. See here!'

As a proof of the factthe Jew drew forth two keys from his
pocket; and explainedthat when he first went downstairshe had
locked them into 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; andnow
he gave vent to several very grim laughsand confessed it could
only have been his excited imagination. He declined any renewal
of the conversationhoweverfor that night: suddenly
remembering that it was past one o'clock. And so the amiable
couple parted.

CHAPTER XXVII

ATONES FOR THE UNPOLITENESS OF A FORMER CHAPTER; WHICH DESERTED A
LADYMOST UNCEREMONIOUSLY

As it would beby no meansseemly in a humble author to keep so
mighty a personage as a beadle waitingwith his back to the
fireand 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 stationor his gallentry to
involve in the same neglect a lady on whom that beadle had looked
with an eye of tenderness and affectionand in whose ear he had
whispered sweet wordswhichcoming from such a quartermight
well thrill the bosom of maid or matron of whatsoever degree; the
historian whose pen traces these words--trusting that he knows
his placeand 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
demandsand to treat them with all that duteous ceremony which
their exalted rankand (by consequence) great virtues
imperatively claim at his hands. Towards this endindeedhe
had purposed to introducein this placea dissertation touching
the divine right of beadlesand 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 compelledby want of time and space
to postpone to some more convenient and fitting opportunity; on
the arrival of whichhe will be prepared to showthat a beadle
properly constituted: that is to saya parochial beadle
attached to a parochail workhouseand attending in his official
capacity the parochial church: isin right and virtue of his
officepossessed of all the excellences and best qualities of
humanity; and that to none of those excellencescan mere
companies' beadlesor court-of-law beadlesor even
chapel-of-ease beadles (save the lastand they in a very lowly


and inferior degree)lay the remotest sustainable claim.

Mr. Bumble had re-counted the teaspoonsre-weighed the
sugar-tongsmade a closer inspection of the milk-potand
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 approachit
occured to Mr. Bumble that it would be an innocent and virtuous
way of spending the timeif 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 keyholeto assure himself that nobody was
approaching the chamberMr. Bumblebeginning at the bottom
proceeded to make himself acquainted with the contents of the
three long drawers: whichbeing filled with various garments of
good fashion and texturecarefully preserved between two layers
of old newspapersspeckled with dried lavender: seemed to yield
him exceeding satisfaction. Arrivingin course of timeat the
right-hand corner drawer (in which was the key)and beholding
therein a small padlocked boxwhichbeing shakengave forth a
pleasant soundas of the chinking of coinMr. Bumble returned
with a stately walk to the fireplace; andresuming his old
attitudesaidwith a grave and determined air'I'll do it!'
He followed up this remarkable declarationby shaking his head
in a waggish manner for ten minutesas though he were
remonstrating with himself for being such a pleasant dog; and
thenhe took a view of his legs in profilewith much seeming
pleasure and interest.

He was still placidly engaged in this latter surveywhen Mrs.
Corneyhurrying into the roomthrew herselfin a breathless
stateon a chair by the firesideand covering her eyes with one
handplaced the other over her heartand gasped for breath.

'Mrs. Corney' said Mr. Bumblestooping over the matron'what
is thisma'am? Has anything happenedma'am? Pray answer me:
I'm on--on--' Mr. Bumblein his alarmcould not immediately
think of the word 'tenterhooks' so he said 'broken bottles.'

'OhMr. Bumble!' cried the lady'I have been so dreadfully put
out!'

'Put outma'am!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble; 'who has dared to--? I
know!' said Mr. Bumblechecking himselfwith native majesty
'this is them wicious paupers!'

'It's dreadful to think of!' said the ladyshuddering.

'Then DON'T think of itma'am' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

'I can't help it' whimpered the lady.

'Then take somethingma'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 pointeddistractedlyto the cupboardand
underwent a convulsion from internal spasms. Mr. Bumble rushed
to the closet; andsnatching a pint green-glass bottle from the
shelf thus incoherently indicatedfilled a tea-cup with its


contentsand held it to the lady's lips.

'I'm better now' said Mrs. Corneyfalling backafter drinking
half of it.

Mr. Bumble raised his eyes piously to the ceiling in
thankfulness; andbringing them down again to the brim of the
cuplifted it to his nose.

'Peppermint' exclaimed Mrs. Corneyin a faint voicesmiling
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 indeedma'am' said the beadle. As he spokehe
drew a chair beside the matronand tenderly inquired what had
happened to distress her.

'Nothing' replied Mrs. Corney. 'I am a foolishexcitableweak
creetur.'

'Not weakma'am' retorted Mr. Bumbledrawing his chair a
little closer. 'Are you a weak creeturMrs. Corney?'

'We are all weak creeturs' said Mrs. Corneylaying down a
general principle.

'So we are' said the beadle.

Nothing was said on either sidefor a minute or two afterwards.
By the expiration of that timeMr. Bumble had illustrated the
position by removing his left arm from the back of Mrs. Corney's
chairwhere it had previously restedto Mrs. Corney's
aprong-stringround which is gradually became entwined.

'We are all weak creeturs' said Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Corney sighed.

'Don't sighMrs. Corney' said Mr. Bumble.

'I can't help it' said Mrs. Corney. And she sighed again.

'This is a very comfortable roomma'am' said Mr. Bumble looking
round. 'Another roomand thisma'amwould be a complete
thing.'

'It would be too much for one' murmured the lady.

'But not for twoma'am' rejoined Mr. Bumblein soft accents.
'EhMrs. Corney?'

Mrs. Corney drooped her headwhen the beadle said this; the
beadle drooped histo get a view of Mrs. Corney's face. Mrs.
Corneywith great proprietyturned her head awayand released
her hand to get at her pocket-handkerchief; but insensibly
replaced it in that of Mr. Bumble.

'The board allows you coalsdon't theyMrs. Corney?' inquired
the beadleaffectionately pressing her hand.


'And candles' replied Mrs. Corneyslightly returning the
pressure.

'Coalscandlesand house-rent free' said Mr. Bumble. 'Oh
Mrs. Corneywhat 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. Bumblerapturously.
'You know that Mr. Slout is worse to-nightmy fascinator?'

'Yes' replied Mrs. Corneybashfully.

'He can't live a weekthe doctor says' pursued Mr. Bumble. 'He
is the master of this establishment; his death will cause a
wacancy; that wacancy must be filled up. OhMrs. Corneywhat a
prospect this opens! What a opportunity for a jining of hearts
and housekeepings!'

Mrs. Corney sobbed.

'The little word?' said Mr. Bumblebending over the bashful
beauty. 'The one littlelittlelittle wordmy blessed
Corney?'

'Ye--ye--yes!' sighed out the matron.

'One more' pursued the beadle; 'compose your darling feelings
for only one more. When is it to come off?'

Mrs. Corney twice essayed to speak: and twice failed. At length
summoning up courageshe threw her arms around Mr. Bumble's
neckand saidit might be as soon as ever he pleasedand that
he was 'a irresistible duck.'

Matters being thus amicably and satisfactorily arrangedthe
contract was solemnly ratified in another teacupful of the
peppermint mixture; which was rendered the more necessaryby the
flutter and agitation of the lady's spirits. While it was being
disposed ofshe acquainted Mr. Bumble with the old woman's
decease.

'Very good' said that gentlemansipping his peppermint; 'I'll
call at Sowerberry's as I go homeand tell him to send to-morrow
morning. Was it that as frightened youlove?'

'It wasn't anything particulardear' said the lady evasively.

'It must have been somethinglove' urged Mr. Bumble. 'Won't you
tell your own B.?'

'Not now' rejoined the lady; 'one of these days. After we're
marrieddear.'

'After we're married!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble. 'It wasn't any
impudence from any of them male paupers as--'

'Nonolove!' interposed the ladyhastily.

'If I thought it was' continued Mr. Bumble; 'if I thought as any
one of 'em had dared to lift his wulgar eyes to that lovely


countenance--'

'They wouldn't have dared to do itlove' responded the lady.

'They had better not!' said Mr. Bumbleclenching his fist. 'Let
me see any manporochial or extra-porochialas would presume to
do it; and I can tell him that he wouldn't do it a second time!'

Unembellished by any violence of gesticulationthis might have
seemed no very high compliment to the lady's charms; butas Mr.
Bumble accompanied the threat with many warlike gesturesshe was
much touched with this proof of his devotionand protestedwith
great admirationthat he was indeed a dove.

The dove then turned up his coat-collarand put on his cocked
hat; andhaving exchanged a long and affectionate embrace with
his future partneronce again braved the cold wind of the night:
merely pausingfor a few minutesin the male paupers' wardto
abuse them a littlewith the view of satisfying himself that he
could fill the office of workhouse-master with needful acerbity.
Assured of his qualificationsMr. Bumble left the building with
a light heartand bright visions of his future promotion: which
served to occupy his mind until he reached the shop of the
undertaker.

NowMr. 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
drinkingthe shop was not closedalthough it was past the usual
hour of shutting-up. Mr. Bumble tapped with his cane on the
counter several times; butattracting no attentionand
beholding a light shining through the glass-window of the little
parlour at the back of the shophe 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 butterplates and glasses; a porter-pot and a wine-bottle.
At the upper end of the tableMr. Noah Claypole lolled
negligently in an easy-chairwith his legs thrown over one of
the arms: an open clasp-knife in one handand a mass of buttered
bread in the other. Close beside him stood Charlotteopening
oysters from a barrel: which Mr. Claypole condescended to
swallowwith remarkable avidity. A more than ordinary redness
in the region of the young gentleman's noseand a kind of fixed
wink in his right eyedenoted that he was in a slight degree
intoxicated; these symptoms were confirmed by the intense relish
with which he took his oystersfor which nothing but a strong
appreciation of their cooling propertiesin cases of internal
fevercould have sufficiently accounted.

'Here's a delicious fat oneNoahdear!' said Charlotte; 'try
himdo; only this one.'

'What a delicious thing is a oyster!' remarked Mr. Claypole
after he had swallowed it. 'What a pity it isa number of 'em
should ever make you feel uncomfortable; isn't itCharlotte?'

'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 dearbetter than eating 'em myself.'

'Lor!' said Noahreflectively; 'how queer!'

'Have another' said Charlotte. 'Here's one with such a
beautifuldelicate beard!'

'I can't manage any more' said Noah. 'I'm very sorry. Come
hereCharlotteand I'll kiss yer.'

'What!' said Mr. Bumblebursting into the room. 'Say that
againsir.'

Charlotte uttered a screamand hid her face in her apron. Mr.
Claypolewithout making any further change in his position than
suffering his legs to reach the groundgazed at the beadle in
drunken terror.

'Say it againyou wileowdacious fellow!' said Mr. Bumble. 'How
dare you mention such a thingsir? And how dare you encourage
himyou insolent minx? Kiss her!' exclaimed Mr. Bumblein
strong indignation. 'Faugh!'

'I didn't mean to do it!' said Noahblubbering. 'She's always
a-kissing of mewhether I like itor not.'

'OhNoah' cried Charlottereproachfully.

'Yer are; yer know yer are!' retorted Noah. 'She's always
a-doin' of itMr. Bumblesir; she chucks me under the chin
pleasesir; and makes all manner of love!'

'Silence!' cried Mr. Bumblesternly. 'Take yourself downstairs
ma'am. Noahyou shut up the shop; say another word till your
master comes homeat your peril; andwhen 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. Bumbleholding 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
considerationthis country's ruinedand the character of the
peasantry gone for ever!' With these wordsthe beadle strode
with a lofty and gloomy airfrom the undertaker's premises.

And now that we have accompanied him so far on his road homeand
have made all necessary preparations for the old woman's funeral
let us set on foot a few inquires after young Oliver Twistand
ascertain whether he be still lying in the ditch where Toby
Crackit left him.

CHAPTER XXVIII

LOOKS AFTER OLIVERAND PROCEEDS WITH HIS ADVENTURES

'Wolves tear your throats!' muttered Sikesgrinding his teeth.
'I wish I was among some of you; you'd howl the hoarser for it.'

As Sikes growled forth this imprecationwith the most desperate
ferocity that his desperate nature was capable ofhe rested the
body of the wounded boy across his bended knee; and turned his
headfor an instantto look back at his pursuers.


There was little to be made outin the mist and darkness; but
the loud shouting of men vibrated through the airand the
barking of the neighbouring dogsroused by the sound of the
alarm bellresounded in every direction.

'Stopyou white-livered hound!' cried the robbershouting after
Toby Crackitwhomaking the best use of his long legswas
already ahead. 'Stop!'

The repetition of the wordbrought 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 Sikesbeckoning furiously to
his confederate. 'Come back!'

Toby made a show of returning; but venturedin a low voice
broken for want of breathto intimate considerable reluctance as
he came slowly along.

'Quicker!' cried Sikeslaying the boy in a dry ditch at his
feetand drawing a pistol from his pocket. 'Don't play booty
with me.'

At this moment the noise grew louder. Sikesagain looking
roundcould 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 upBill!' cried Toby; 'drop the kidand show 'em your
heels.' With this parting adviceMr. Crackitpreferring the
chance of being shot by his friendto the certainty of being
taken by his enemiesfairly turned tailand darted off at full
speed. Sikes clenched his teeth; took one look around; threw
over the prostrate form of Oliverthe cape in which he had been
hurriedly muffled; ran along the front of the hedgeas if to
distract the attention of those behindfrom the spot where the
boy lay; pausedfor a secondbefore another hedge which met it
at right angles; and whirling his pistol high into the air
cleared it at a boundand was gone.

'Hohothere!' cried a tremulous voice in the rear. 'Pincher!
Neptune! Come herecome here!'

The dogswhoin common with their mastersseemed to have no
particular relish for the sport in which they were engaged
readily answered to the command. Three menwho had by this time
advanced some distance into the fieldstopped to take counsel
together.

'My adviceorleastwaysI should saymy ORDERSis' 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 figureand who
was very pale in the faceand very polite: as frightened men
frequently are.

'I shouldn't wish to appear ill-manneredgentlemen' said the
thirdwho had called the dogs back'Mr. Giles ought to know.'

'Certainly' replied the shorter man; 'and whatever Mr. Giles
saysit isn't our place to contradict him. NonoI know my


sitiwation! Thank my starsI know my sitiwation.' To tell the
truththe little man DID seem to know his situationand 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 afraidBrittles' said Mr. Giles.

'I an't' said Brittles.

'You are' said Giles.

'You're a falsehoodMr. Giles' said Brittles.

'You're a lieBrittles' said Mr. Giles.

Nowthese 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 againimposed upon himself under
cover of a compliment. The third man brought the dispute to a
closemost philosophically.

'I'll tell you what it isgentlemen' said he'we're all
afraid.'

'Speak for yourselfsir' said Mr. Gileswho was the palest of
the party.

'So I do' replied the man. 'It's natural and proper to be
afraidunder such circumstances. I am.'

'So am I' said Brittles; 'only there's no call to tell a man he
isso bounceably.'

These frank admissions softened Mr. Gileswho at once owned that
HE was afraid; upon whichthey all three faced aboutand ran
back again with the completest unanimityuntil Mr. Giles (who
had the shortest wind of the partyas was encumbered with a
pitchfork) most handsomely insisted on stoppingto make an
apology for his hastiness of speech.

'But it's wonderful' said Mr. Gileswhen he had explained
'what a man will dowhen his blood is up. I should have
committed murder--I know I should--if we'd caught one of them
rascals.'

As the other two were impressed with a similar presentiment; and
as their bloodlike hishad all gone down again; some
speculation ensued upon the cause of this sudden change in their
temperament.

'I know what it was' said Mr. Giles; 'it was the gate.'

'I shouldn't wonder if it was' exclaimed Brittlescatching 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 awayas
I was climbing over it.'

By a remarkable coincidencethe other two had been visited with
the same unpleasant sensation at that precise moment. It was
quite obviousthereforethat it was the gate; especially as
there was no doubt regarding the time at which the change had
taken placebecause 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
burglarsand a travelling tinker who had been sleeping in an
outhouseand who had been rousedtogether with his two mongrel
cursto 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: whohaving entered her service a
mere childwas treated as a promising young boy stillthough he
was something past thirty.

Encouraging each other with such converse as this; butkeeping
very close togethernotwithstandingand looking apprehensively
roundwhenever a fresh gust rattled through the boughs; the
three men hurried back to a treebehind which they had left
their lanternlest its light should inform the thieves in what
direction to fire. Catching up the lightthey made the best of
their way homeat a good round trot; and long after their dusky
forms had ceased to be discerniblethe light might have been
seen twinkling and dancing in the distancelike some exhalation
of the damp and gloomy atmosphere through which it was swiftly
borne.

The air grew colderas day came slowly on; and the mist rolled
along the ground like a dense cloud of smoke. The grass was wet;
the pathwaysand low placeswere all mire and water; the damp
breath of an unwholesome wind went languidly bywith a hollow
moaning. StillOliver 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 nightrather than the birth
of day--glimmered faintly in the sky. The objects which had
looked dim and terrible in the darknessgrew more and more
definedand gradually resolved into their familiar shapes. The
rain came downthick and fastand pattered noisily among the
leafless bushes. ButOliver felt it notas it beat against
him; for he still lay stretchedhelpless and unconsciouson his
bed of clay.

At lengtha low cry of pain broke the stillness that prevailed;
and uttering itthe boy awoke. His left armrudely bandaged in
a shawlhung heavy and useless at his side; the bandage was
saturated with blood. He was so weakthat he could scarcely
raise himself into a sitting posture; when he had done sohe
looked feebly round for helpand groaned with pain. Trembling
in every jointfrom cold and exhaustionhe made an effort to
stand upright; butshuddering from head to footfell prostrate
on the ground.

After a short return of the stupor in which he had been so long
plungedOliver: urged by a creeping sickness at his heart
which seemed to warn him that if he lay therehe must surely
die: got upon his feetand essayed to walk. His head was dizzy
and he staggered to and from like a drunken man. But he kept up
neverthelessandwith his head drooping languidly on his
breastwent stumbling onwardhe knew not whither.

And nowhosts of bewildering and confused ideas came crowding on
his mind. He seemed to be still walking between Sikes and
Crackitwho were angrily disputing--for the very words they
saidsounded in his ears; and when he caught his own attention
as it wereby making some violent effort to save himself from
fallinghe found that he was talking to them. Thenhe was alone


with Sikesplodding on as on the previous day; and as shadowy
people passed themhe felt the robber's grasp upon his wrist.
Suddenlyhe started back at the report of firearms; there rose
into the airloud cries and shouts; lights gleamed before his
eyes; all was noise and tumultas some unseen hand bore him
hurriedly away. Through all these rapid visionsthere ran an
undefineduneasy conscious of painwhich wearied and tormented
him incessantly.

Thus he staggered oncreepingalmost mechanicallybetween the
bars of gatesor 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 aboutand saw that at no great distance there was a
housewhich perhaps he could reach. Pitying his conditionthey
might have compassion on him; and if they did notit would be
betterhe thoughtto die near human beingsthan 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 housea 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 insidehe had fallen on his
knees last nightand 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
thatfor the instanthe forgot the agony of his woundand
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 framewhither could he fly? He pushed
against the garden-gate; it was unlockedand swung open on its
hinges. He tottered across the lawn; climbed the steps; knocked
faintly at the door; andhis whole strength failing himsunk
down against one of the pillars of the little portico.

It happened that about this timeMr. GilesBrittlesand the
tinkerwere recruiting themselvesafter the fatigues and
terrors of the nightwith tea and sundriesin 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 affabilitywhichwhile it
gratifiedcould not fail to remind them of his superior position
in society. Butdeathfiresand burglarymake all men
equals; so Mr. Giles sat with his legs stretched out before the
kitchen fenderleaning his left arm on the tablewhilewith
his righthe illustrated a circumstantial and minute account of
the robberyto which his bearers (but especially the cook and
housemaidwho were of the party) listened with breathless
interest.

'It was about half-past tow' said Mr. Giles'or I wouldn't
swear that it mightn't have been a little nearer threewhen I
woke upandturning round in my bedas it might be so(here
Mr. Giles turned round in his chairand pulled the corner of the
table-cloth over him to imitate bed-clothes) I fancied I heerd a
noise.'

At this point of the narrative the cook turned paleand asked
the housemaid to shut the door: who asked Brittleswho asked the
tinkerwho pretended not to hear.


'--Heerd a noise' continued Mr. Giles. 'I saysat firstThis
is illusion; and was composing myself off to sleepwhen I heerd
the noise againdistinct.'

'What sort of a noise?' asked the cook.

'A kind of a busting noise' replied Mr. Gileslooking round
him.

'More like the noise of powdering a iron bar on a nutmeg-grater'
suggested Brittles.

'It waswhen you HEERD itsir' rejoined Mr. Giles; 'butat
this timeit had a busting sound. I turned down the clothes';
continued Gilesrolling 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 nowquite apparent' resumed Mr. Giles. '"Somebody
I says, is forcing of a dooror window; what's to be done?
I'll call up that poor ladBrittlesand save him from being
murdered in his bed; or his throat I says, may be cut from his
right ear to his leftwithout his ever knowing it."'

Hereall eyes were turned upon Brittleswho fixed his upon the
speakerand stared at himwith his mouth wide openand his
face expressive of the most unmitigated horror.

'I tossed off the clothes' said Gilesthrowing away the
table-clothand looking very hard at the cook and housemaid
'got softly out of bed; drew on a pair of--'

'Ladies presentMr. Giles' murmured the tinker.

'--Of SHOESsir' said Gilesturning upon himand laying great
emphasis on the word; 'seized the loaded pistol that always goes
upstairs with the plate-basket; and walked on tiptoes to his
room. "Brittles I says, when I had woke him, don't be
frightened!"'

'So you did' observed Brittlesin a low voice.

'"We're dead menI thinkBrittles 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 onceI'm sureif it had been me'
observed the housemaid.

'You're a woman' retorted Brittlesplucking up a little.

'Brittles is right' said Mr. Gilesnodding his head
approvingly; 'from a womannothing else was to be expected. We
being mentook a dark lantern that was standing on Brittle's
hoband groped our way downstairs in the pitch dark--as it
might be so.'


Mr. Giles had risen from his seatand taken two steps with his
eyes shutto accompany his description with appropriate action
when he started violentlyin common with the rest of the
companyand hurried back to his chair. The cook and housemaid
screamed.

'It was a knock' said Mr. Gilesassuming perfect serenity.
'Open the doorsomebody.'

Nobody moved.

'It seems a strange sort of a thinga knock coming at such a
time in the morning' said Mr. Gilessurveying the pale faces
which surrounded himand looking very blank himself; 'but the
door must be opened. Do you hearsomebody?'

Mr. Gilesas he spokelooked at Brittles; but that young man
being naturally modestprobably considered himself nobodyand
so held that the inquiry could not have any application to him;
at all eventshe 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 doorin the presence of
witnesses' said Mr. Gilesafter a short silence'I am ready to
make one.'

'So am I' said the tinkerwaking upas 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 daytook their way upstairs;
with the dogs in front. The two womenwho were afraid to stay
belowbrought up the rear. By the advice of Mr. Gilesthey all
talked very loudto warn any evil-disposed person outsidethat
they were strong in numbers; and by a master-stoke of policy
originating in the brain of the same ingenious gentlemanthe
dogs' tails were well pinchedin the hallto make them bark
savagely.

These precautions having been takenMr. Giles held on fast by
the tinker's arm (to prevent his running awayas he pleasantly
said)and gave the word of command to open the door. Brittles
obeyed; the grouppeeping timourously over each other's
shouldersbeheld no more formidable object than poor little
Oliver Twistspeechless and exhaustedwho raised his heavy
eyesand mutely solicited their compassion.

'A boy!' exclaimed Mr. Gilesvaliantlypushing the tinker into
the background. 'What's the matter with
the--eh?--Why--Brittles--look here--don't you know?'

Brittleswho had got behind the door to open itno sooner saw
Oliverthan he uttered a loud cry. Mr. Gilesseizing the boy
by one leg and one arm (fortunately not the broken limb) lugged
him straight into the halland deposited him at full length on
the floor thereof.

'Here he is!' bawled Gilescalling in a state of great
excitementup the staircase; 'here's one of the thievesma'am!
Here's a thiefmiss! Woundedmiss! I shot himmiss; and
Brittles held the light.'


'--In a lanternmiss' cried Brittlesapplying one hand to the
side of his mouthso 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 Oliverlest he should die
before he could be hanged. In the midst of all this noise and
commotionthere was heard a sweet female voicewhich quelled it
in an instant.

'Giles!' whispered the voice from the stair-head.

'I'm heremiss' replied Mr. Giles. 'Don't be frightenedmiss;
I ain't much injured. He didn't make a very desperate
resistancemiss! 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 desperatemiss' replied Gileswith indescribable
complacency.

'He looks as if he was a-goingmiss' bawled Brittlesin the
same manner as before. 'Wouldn't you like to come and look at
himmissin case he should?'

'Hushpray; there's a good man!' rejoined the lady. 'Wait
quietly only one instantwhile I speak to aunt.'

With a footstep as soft and gentle as the voicethe speaker
tripped away. She soon returnedwith the direction that the
wounded person was to be carriedcarefullyupstairs to Mr.
Giles's room; and that Brittles was to saddle the pony and betake
himself instantly to Chertsey: from which placehe was to
despatchwith all speeda constable and doctor.

'But won't you take one look at himfirstmiss?' asked Mr.
Gileswith as much pride as if Oliver were some bird of rare
plumagethat he had skilfully brought down. 'Not one little
peepmiss?'

'Not nowfor the world' replied the young lady. 'Poor fellow!
Oh! treat him kindlyGiles for my sake!'

The old servant looked up at the speakeras she turned away
with a glance as proud and admiring as if she had been his own
child. Thenbending over Oliverhe helped to carry him
upstairswith the care and solicitude of a woman.

CHAPTER XXIX

HAS AN INTRODUCTORY ACCOUNT OF THE INMATES OF THE HOUSETO WHICH
OLIVER RESORTED

In a handsome room: though its furniture had rather the air of
old-fashioned comfortthan of modern elegance: there sat two
ladies at a well-spread breakfast-table. Mr. Gilesdressed with
scrupulous care in a full suit of blackwas in attendance upon
them. He had taken his station some half-way between the
side-board and the breakfast-table; andwith his body drawn up
to its full heighthis head thrown backand inclined the merest


trifle on one sidehis left leg advancedand his right hand
thrust into his waist-coatwhile his left hung down by his side
grasping a waiterlooked like one who laboured under a very
agreeable sense of his own merits and importance.

Of the two ladiesone was well advanced in years; but the
high-backed oaken chair in which she satwas not more upright
than she. Dressed with the utmost nicety and precisionin a
quaint mixture of by-gone costumewith some slight concessions
to the prevailing tastewhich rather served to point the old
style pleasantly than to impair its effectshe satin a stately
mannerwith 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 agewhenif ever angels be for God's good
purposes enthroned in mortal formsthey may bewithout 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 elementnor its rough creatures her fit
companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue
eyeand was stamped upon her noble headseemed scarcely of her
ageor of the world; and yet the changing expression of
sweetness and good humourthe thousand lights that played about
the faceand left no shadow there; above allthe smilethe
cheerfulhappy smilewere made for Homeand fireside peace and
happiness.

She was busily engaged in the little offices of the table.
Chancing to raise her eyes as the elder lady was regarding her
she playfully put back her hairwhich was simply braided on her
forehead; and threw into her beaming looksuch an expression of
affection and artless lovelinessthat blessed spirits might have
smiled to look upon her.

'And Brittles has been gone upwards of an hourhas he?' asked
the old ladyafter a pause.

'An hour and twelve minutesma'am' replied Mr. Gilesreferring
to a silver watchwhich he drew forth by a black ribbon.

'He is always slow' remarked the old lady.

'Brittles always was a slow boyma'am' replied the attendant.
And seeingby the byethat Brittles had been a slow boy for
upwards of thirty yearsthere appeared no great probability of
his ever being a fast one.

'He gets worse instead of betterI think' said the elder lady.

'It is very inexcusable in him if he stops to play with any other
boys' said the young ladysmiling.

Mr. Giles was apparently considering the propriety of indulging
in a respectful smile himselfwhen a gig drove up to the
garden-gate: out of which there jumped a fat gentlemanwho ran
straight up to the door: and whogetting quickly into the house
by some mysterious processburst into the roomand 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 condolencethe fat gentleman shook
hands with both ladiesand drawing up a chairinquired how they
found themselves.

'You ought to be dead; positively dead with the fright' said the
fat gentleman. 'Why didn't you send? Bless memy man should
have come in a minute; and so would I; and my assistant would
have been delighted; or anybodyI'm sureunder such
circumstances. Deardear! So unexpected! In the silence of
the nighttoo!'

The doctor seemed expecially troubled by the fact of the robbery
having been unexpectedand attempted in the night-time; as if it
were the established custom of gentlemen in the housebreaking way
to transact business at noonand to make an appointmentby
posta day or two previous.

'And youMiss Rose' said the doctorturning to the young lady
'I--'

'Oh! very much soindeed' said Roseinterrupting him; 'but
there is a poor creature upstairswhom aunt wishes you to see.'

'Ah! to be sure' replied the doctor'so there is. That was
your handiworkGilesI understand.'

Mr. Gileswho had been feverishly putting the tea-cups to
rightsblushed very redand said that he had had that honour.

'Honoureh?' said the doctor; 'wellI don't know; perhaps it's
as honourable to hit a thief in a back kitchenas to hit your
man at twelve paces. Fancy that he fired in the airand you've
fought a duelGiles.'

Mr. Gileswho thought this light treatment of the matter an
unjust attempt at diminishing his gloryanswered 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.

'Gadthat's true!' said the doctor. 'Where is he? Show me the
way. I'll look in againas I come downMrs. Maylie. That's
the little window that he got in ateh? WellI couldn't have
believed it!'

Talking all the wayhe followed Mr. Giles upstairs; and while he
is going upstairsthe reader may be informedthat Mr. Losberne
a surgeon in the neighbourhoodknown through a circuit of ten
miles round as 'the doctor' had grown fatmore from good-humour
than from good living: and was as kind and heartyand withal as
eccentric an old bacheloras will be found in five times that
spaceby any explorer alive.

The doctor was absentmuch 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 mysteriousand closed the doorcarefully.

'This is a very extraordinary thingMrs. Maylie' said the


doctorstanding with his back to the dooras if to keep it
shut.

'He is not in dangerI hope?' said the old lady.

'Whythat would NOT be an extraordinary thingunder the
circumstances' replied the doctor; 'though I don't think he is.
Have you seen the thief?'

'No' rejoined the old lady.

'Nor heard anything about him?'

'No.'

'I beg your pardonma'aminterposed Mr. Giles; 'but I was going
to tell you about him when Doctor Losberne came in.'

The fact wasthat Mr. Giles had notat firstbeen able to
bring his mind to the avowalthat he had only shot a boy. Such
commendations had been bestowed upon his braverythat he could
notfor the life of himhelp postponing the explanation for a
few delicious minutes; during which he had flourishedin the
very zenith of a brief reputation for undaunted courage.

'Rose wished to see the man' said Mrs. Maylie'but I wouldn't
hear of it.'

'Humph!' rejoined the doctor. 'There is nothing very alarming in
his appearance. Have you any objection to see him in my
presence?'

'If it be necessary' replied the old lady'certainly not.'

'Then I think it is necessary' said the doctor; 'at all events
I am quite sure that you would deeply regret not having done so
if you postponed it. He is perfectly quiet and comfortable now.
Allow me--Miss Rosewill you permit me? Not the slightest fear
I pledge you my honour!'

CHAPTER XXX

RELATES WHAT OLIVER'S NEW VISITORS THOUGHT OF HIM

With many loquacious assurances that they would be agreeably
surprised in the aspect of the criminalthe doctor drew the
young lady's arm through one of him; and offering his disengaged
hand to Mrs. Maylieled themwith much ceremony and
statelinessupstairs.

'Now' said the doctorin a whisperas he softly turned the
handle of a bedroom-door'let us hear what you think of him. He
has not been shaved very recentlybut he don't look at all
ferocious notwithstanding. Stopthough! Let me first see that
he is in visiting order.'

Stepping before themhe looked into the room. Motioning them to
advancehe closed the door when they had entered; and gently
drew back the curtains of the bed. Upon itin lieu of the
doggedblack-visaged ruffian they had expected to beholdthere
lay a mere child: worn with pain and exhaustionand sunk into a


deep sleep. His wounded armbound and splintered upwas
crossed upon his breast; his head reclined upon the other arm
which was half hidden by his long hairas it streamed over the
pillow.

The honest gentleman held the curtain in his handand looked on
for a minute or soin silence. Whilst he was watching the
patient thusthe younger lady glided softly pastand seating
herself in a chair by the bedsidegathered Oliver's hair from
his face. As she stooped over himher tears fell upon his
forehead.

The boy stirredand smiled in his sleepas though these marks
of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love
and affection he had never known. Thusa strain of gentle
musicor the rippling of water in a silent placeor the odour
of a floweror the mention of a familiar wordwill sometimes
call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes that never werein
this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory of
a happier existencelong gone bywould 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 surgeonreplacing 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 surgeonmournfully shaking
his head; 'crimelike deathis not confined to the old and
withered alone. The youngest and fairest are too often its
chosen victims.'

'Butcan 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 headin a manner which intimated that he
feared it was very possible; and observing that they might
disturb the patientled 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 loveor the
comfort of a home; that ill-usage and blowsor the want of
breadmay have driven him to herd with men who have forced him
to guilt. Auntdear auntfor mercy's sakethink of this
before you let them drag this sick child to a prisonwhich in
any case must be the grave of all his chances of amendment. Oh!
as you love meand know that I have never felt the want of
parents in your goodness and affectionbut that I might have
done soand might have been equally helpless and unprotected
with this poor childhave pity upon him before it is too late!'

'My dear love' said the elder ladyas she folded the weeping
girl to her bosom'do you think I would harm a hair of his
head?'

'Ohno!' replied Roseeagerly.

'Nosurely' 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 himsir?'

'Let me thinkma'am' said the doctor; 'let me think.'

Mr. Losberne thrust his hands into his pocketsand took several
turns up and down the room; often stoppingand balancing himself
on his toesand frowning frightfully. After various
exclamations of 'I've got it now' and 'noI haven't' and as
many renewals of the walking and frowninghe at length made a
dead haltand spoke as follows:

'I think if you give me a full and unlimited commission to bully
Gilesand that little boyBrittlesI can manage it. Giles is
a faithful fellow and an old servantI know; but you can make it
up to him in a thousand waysand 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 othertake my word
for it.'

'Then my aunt invests you with full power' said Rosesmiling
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-dayexcept yourselfMiss Rose.
I only hopefor the sake of the rising male sex generallythat
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 fellowthat I might avail myselfon the
spotof such a favourable opportunity for doing soas the
present.'

'You are as great a boy as poor Brittles himself' returned Rose
blushing.

'Well' said the doctorlaughing 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 soI
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 lifeI think we may converse with him without
danger. Now I make this stipulation--that I shall examine him in
your presenceand thatiffrom what he sayswe judgeand I
can show to the satisfaction of your cool reasonthat he is a
real and thorough bad one (which is more than possible)he shall
be left to his fatewithout any farther interference on my part
at all events.'

'Oh noaunt!' entreated Rose.

'Oh yesaunt!' 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 waitwith some impatienceuntil Oliver should
awake.


The patience of the two ladies was destined to undergo a longer
trial than Mr. Losberne had led them to expect; for hour after
hour passed onand still Oliver slumbered heavily. It was
eveningindeedbefore the kind-hearted doctor brought them the
intelligencethat he was at length sufficiently restored to be
spoken to. The boy was very illhe saidand weak from the loss
of blood; but his mind was so troubled with anxiety to disclose
somethingthat 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
historyand was often compelled to stopby pain and want of
strength. It was a solemn thingto hearin 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-creatureswe bestowed
but one thought on the dark evidences of human errorwhichlike
dense and heavy cloudsare risingslowly it is truebut not
less surelyto Heavento pour their after-vengeance on our
heads; if we heard but one instantin imaginationthe deep
testimony of dead men's voiceswhich no power can stifleand no
pride shut out; where would be the injury and injusticethe
sufferingmiserycrueltyand wrongthat 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
happyand could have died without a murmur.

The momentous interview was no sooner concludedand Oliver
composed to rest againthan the doctorafter wiping his eyes
and condemning them for being weak all at oncebetook himself
downstairs to open upon Mr. Giles. And finding nobody about the
parloursit occurred to himthat he could perhaps originate the
proceedings with better effect in the kitchen; so into the
kitchen he went.

There were assembledin that lower house of the domestic
parliamentthe women-servantsMr. BrittlesMr. Gilesthe
tinker (who had received a special invitation to regale himself
for the remainder of the dayin consideration of his services)
and the constable. The latter gentleman had a large staffa
large headlarge featuresand 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 mindwhen the
doctor entered; Mr. Brittleswith a mug of ale in his handwas
corroborating everythingbefore his superior said it.

'Sit still!' said the doctorwaving his hand.

'Thank yousirsaid Mr. Giles. 'Misses wished some ale to be
given outsir; and as I felt no ways inclined for my own little
roomsirand was disposed for companyI am taking mine among
'em here.'

Brittles headed a low murmurby 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 airas much as to say that so long as they


behaved properlyhe would never desert them.

'How is the patient to-nightsir?' asked Giles.

'So-so'; returned the doctor. 'I am afraid you have got yourself
into a scrape thereMr. Giles.'

'I hope you don't mean to saysir' said Mr. Gilestrembling
'that he's going to die. If I thought itI should never be
happy again. I wouldn't cut a boy off: nonot even Brittles
here; not for all the plate in the countysir.'

'That's not the point' said the doctormysteriously. 'Mr.
Gilesare you a Protestant?'

'YessirI hope so' faltered Mr. Gileswho had turned very
pale.

'And what are YOUboy?' said the doctorturning sharply upon
Brittles.

'Lord bless mesir!' replied Brittlesstarting violently; 'I'm
the same as Mr. Gilessir.'

'Then tell me this' said the doctor'both of youboth of you!
Are you going to take upon yourselves to swearthat 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 doctorwho was universally considered one of the
best-tempered creatures on earthmade this demand in such a
dreadful tone of angerthat Giles and Brittleswho were
considerably muddled by ale and excitementstared at each other
in a state of stupefaction.

'Pay attention to the replyconstablewill you?' said the
doctorshaking his forefinger with great solemnity of manner
and tapping the bridge of his nose with itto bespeak the
exercise of that worthy's utmost acuteness. 'Something may come
of this before long.'

The constable looked as wise as he couldand took up his staff
of office: which had been recling indolently in the
chimney-corner.

'It's a simple question of identityyou will observe' said the
doctor.

'That's what it issir' replied the constablecoughing with
great violence; for he had finished his ale in a hurryand 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 boyin the midst of
gunpowder smokeand in all the distraction of alarm and
darkness. Here's a boy comes to that very same housenext
morningand because he happens to have his arm tied upthese
men lay violent hands upon him--by doing whichthey place his
life in great danger--and swear he is the thief. Nowthe
question iswhether these men are justified by the fact; if not
in what situation do they place themselves?'

The constable nodded profoundly. He saidif that wasn't lawhe
would be glad to know what was.


'I ask you again' thundered the doctor'are youon your solemn
oathsable to identify that boy?'

Brittles looked doubtfully at Mr. Giles; Mr. Giles looked
doubtfully at Brittles; the constable put his hand behind his
earto 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 gateand at the same momentthe sound of
wheels.

'It's the runners!' cried Brittlesto all appearance much
relieved.

'The what?' exclaimed the doctoraghast in his turn.

'The Bow Street officerssir' replied Brittlestaking 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 beforesir.'

'You diddid you? Then confound your--slow coaches down here;
that's all' said the doctorwalking away.

CHAPTER XXXI

INVOLVES A CRITICAL POSITION

'Who's that?' inquired Brittlesopening the door a little way
with the chain upand peeping outshading the candle with his
hand.

'Open the door' replied a man outside; 'it's the officers from
Bow Streetas was sent to to-day.'

Much comforted by this assuranceBrittles opened the door to its
full widthand confronted a portly man in a great-coat; who
walked inwithout saying anything moreand wiped his shoes on
the matas coolly as if he lived there.

'Just send somebody out to relieve my matewill youyoung man?'
said the officer; 'he's in the giga-minding the prad. Have you
got a coach 'us herethat you could put it up infor five or
ten minutes?'

Brittles replying in the affirmativeand pointing out the
buildingthe portly man stepped back to the garden-gateand
helped his companion to put up the gig: while Brittles lighted
themin a state of great admiration. This donethey returned
to the houseandbeing shown into a parlourtook off their
great-coats and hatsand showed like what they were.

The man who had knocked at the doorwas a stout personage of
middle heightaged about fifty: with shiny black haircropped
pretty close; half-whiskersa round faceand sharp eyes. The
other was a red-headedbony manin top-boots; with a rather
ill-favoured countenanceand a turned-up sinister-looking nose.


'Tell your governor that Blathers and Duff is herewill you?'
said the stouter mansmoothing down his hairand laying a pair
of handcuffs on the table. 'Oh! Good-eveningmaster. Can I
have a word or two with you in privateif you please?'

This was addressed to Mr. Losbernewho now made his appearance;
that gentlemanmotioning Brittles to retirebrought in the two
ladiesand shut the door.

'This is the lady of the house' said Mr. Losbernemotioning
towards Mrs. Maylie.

Mr. Blathers made a bow. Being desired to sit downhe put his
hat on the floorand taking a chairmotioned to Duff to do the
same. The latter gentlemanwho did not appear quite so much
accustomed to good societyor quite so much at his ease in
it--one of the two--seated himselfafter undergoing several
muscular affections of the limbsand the head of his stick into
his mouthwith some embarrassment.

'Nowwith regard to this here robberymaster' said Blathers.
'What are the circumstances?'

Mr. Losbernewho appeared desirous of gaining timerecounted
them at great lengthand with much circumlocution. Messrs.
Blathers and Duff looked very knowing meanwhileand occasionally
exchanged a nod.

'I can't sayfor certaintill I see the workof course' said
Blathers; 'but my opinion at once is--I don't mind committing
myself to that extent--that this wasn't done by a yokel; eh
Duff?'

'Certainly not' replied Duff.

'Andtranslating the word yokel for the benefit of the ladiesI
apprehend your meaning to bethat this attempt was not made by a
countryman?' said Mr. Losbernewith a smile.

'That's itmaster' replied Blathers. 'This is all about the
robberyis it?'

'All' replied the doctor.

'Nowwhat is thisabout 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 headthat he had something to
do with this attempt to break into the house; but it's nonsense:
sheer absurdity.'

'Wery easy disposed ofif it is' remarked Duff.

'What he says is quite correct' observed Blathersnodding his
head in a confirmatory wayand playing carelessly with the
handcuffsas 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 cloudsdid hemaster?'

'Of course not' replied the doctorwith a nervous glance at the
two ladies. 'I know his whole history: but we can talk about
that presently. You would likefirstto see the place where


the thieves made their attemptI suppose?'

'Certainly' rejoined Mr. Blathers. 'We had better inspect the
premises firstand 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 constableBrittlesGilesand everybody
else in shortwent into the little room at the end of the
passage and looked out at the window; and afterwards went round
by way of the lawnand looked in at the window; and after that
had a candle handed out to inspect the shutter with; and after
thata lantern to trace the footsteps with; and after thata
pitchfork to poke the bushes with. This doneamidst the
breathless interest of all beholdersthey 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 otherin not
more than one important respectthe first timeand in not more
than a dozen the last. This consummation being arrived at
Blathers and Duff cleared the roomand held a long council
togethercompared with whichfor secrecy and solemnitya
consultation of great doctors on the knottiest point in medicine
would be mere child's play.

Meanwhilethe doctor walked up and down the next room in a very
uneasy state; and Mrs. Maylie and Rose looked onwith anxious
faces.

'Upon my word' he saidmaking a haltafter a great number of
very rapid turns'I hardly know what to do.'

'Surely' said Rose'the poor child's storyfaithfully repeated
to these menwill be sufficient to exonerate him.'

'I doubt itmy dear young lady' said the doctorshaking his
head. 'I don't think it would exonerate himeither with them
or with legal functionaries of a higher grade. What is heafter
allthey would say? A runaway. Judged by mere worldly
considerations and probabilitieshis story is a very doubtful
one.'

'You believe itsurely?' interrupted Rose.

'_I_ believe itstrange 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-officernevertheless.'

'Why not?' demanded Rose.

'Becausemy pretty cross-examiner' replied the doctor:
'becauseviewed with their eyesthere are many ugly points
about it; he can only prove the parts that look illand none of
those that look well. Confound the fellowsthey WILL have the
way and the whereforeand will take nothing for granted. On his
own showingyou seehe has been the companion of thieves for
some time past; he has been carried to a police-officeron a
charge of picking a gentleman's pocket; he has been taken away
forciblyfrom that gentleman's houseto a place which he cannot
describe or point outand of the situation of which he has not
the remotest idea. He is brought down to Chertseyby men who
seem to have taken a violent fancy to himwhether he will or no;
and is put through a window to rob a house; and thenjust at the
very moment when he is going to alarm the inmatesand so do the


very thing that would set him all to rightsthere rushes into
the waya blundering dog of a half-bred butlerand shoots him!
As if on purpose to prevent his doing any good for himself!
Don't you see all this?'

'I see itof course' replied Rosesmiling at the doctor's
impetuosity; 'but still I do not see anything in itto criminate
the poor child.'

'No' replied the doctor; 'of course not! Bless the bright eyes
of your sex! They never seewhether for good or badmore than
one side of any question; and that isalwaysthe one which
first presents itself to them.'

Having given vent to this result of experiencethe doctor put
his hands into his pocketsand 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
endstill the dragging it forwardand giving publicity to all
the doubts that will be cast upon itmust interferematerially
with your benevolent plan of rescuing him from misery.'

'Oh! what is to be done?' cried Rose. 'Deardear! whyddid they
send for these people?'
'Whyindeed!' exclaimed Mrs. Maylie. 'I would not have had them

herefor the world.'

'All I know is' said Mr. Losberneat 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 oneand that must be our
excuse. The boy has strong symptoms of fever upon himand 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 bestit is no fault
of ours. Come in!'

'Wellmaster' said Blathersentering the room followed by his
colleagueand making the door fastbefore he said any more.
'This warn't a put-up thing.'

'And what the devil's a put-up thing?' demanded the doctor
impatiently.

'We call it a put-up robberyladies' said Blathersturning to
themas if he pitied their ignorancebut had a contempt for the
doctor's'when the servants is in it.'

'Nobody suspected themin this case' said Mrs. Maylie.

'Wery likely notma'am' replied Blathers; 'but they might have
been in itfor all that.'

'More likely on that wery account' said Duff.

'We find it was a town hand' said Blatherscontinuing his
report; 'for the style of work is first-rate.'

'Wery pretty indeed it is' remarked Duffin 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 onceif you please.'

'Perhaps they will take something to drink firstMrs. Maylie?'
said the doctor: his face brighteningas if some new thought had
occurred to him.

'Oh! to be sure!' exclaimed Roseeagerly. 'You shall have it
immediatelyif you will.'

'Whythank youmiss!' said Blathersdrawing his coat-sleeve
across his mouth; 'it's dry workthis sort of duty. Anythink
that's handymiss; don't put yourself out of the wayon our
accounts.'

'What shall it be?' asked the doctorfollowing the young lady to
the sideboard.

'A little drop of spiritsmasterif it's all the same' replied
Blathers. 'It's a cold ride from Londonma'am; and I always
find that spirits comes home warmer to the feelings.'

This interesting communication was addressed to Mrs. Mayliewho
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 thisin my timeladies.'

'That crack down in the back lane at EdmontonBlathers' said
Mr. Duffassisting his colleague's memory.

'That was something in this waywarn't it?' rejoined Mr.
Blathers; 'that was done by Conkey Chickweedthat was.'

'You always gave that to him' replied Duff. 'It was the Family
PetI tell you. Conkey hadn't any more to do with it than I
had.'

'Get out!' retorted Mr. Blathers; 'I know better. Do you mind
that time when Conkey was robbed of his moneythough? 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 robberymissthat hardly anybody would have been down
upon' said Blathers. 'This here Conkey Chickweed--'

'Conkey means Noseyma'am' interposed Duff.

'Of course the lady knows thatdon't she?' demanded Mr.
Blathers. 'Always interruptingyou arepartner! This here
Conkey Chickweedmisskept a public-house over Battlebridge
wayand he had a cellarwhere a good many young lords went to
see cock-fightingand badger-drawingand that; and a wery
intellectural manner the sports was conducted infor I've seen
'em off'en. He warn't one of the familyat that time; and one
night he was robbed of three hundred and twenty-seven guineas in
a canvas bagthat was stole out of his bedrrom in the dead of
nightby a tall man with a black patch over his eyewho had


concealed himself under the bedand after committing the
robberyjumped slap out of window: which was only a story high.

He was wery quick about it. But Conkey was quicktoo; for he
fired a blunderbuss arter himand roused the neighbourhood. They
set up a hue-and-crydirectlyand when they came to look about
'emfound that Conkey had hit the robber; for there was traces
of bloodall the way to some palings a good distance off; and
there they lost 'em. Howeverhe had made off with the blunt;
andconsequentlythe name of Mr. Chickweedlicensed witler
appeared in the Gazette among the other bankrupts; and all manner
of benefits and subscriptionsand I don't know what allwas got
up for the poor manwho was in a wery low state of mind about
his lossand went up and down the streetsfor three or four
daysa 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 officeall in a hurryand had a
private interview with the magistratewhoafter a deal of talk
rings the belland 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 himSpyers
said Chickweed, pass my house yesterday morning Why didn't
you upand collar him!" says Spyers. "I was so struck all of a
heapthat 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 thisthan he put some clean linen and a combin his
pocketin case he should have to stop a day or two; and away he
goesand sets himself down at one of the public-house windows
behind the little red curtainwith his hat onall ready to bolt
outat a moment's notice. He was smoking his pipe herelate at
nightwhen all of a sudden Chickweed roars outHere he is!
Stop thief! Murder!Jem Spyers dashes out; and there he sees
Chickweeda-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 shoutingall 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 ChickweedI've lost him again!It
was a remarkable occurrencebut he warn't to be seen nowhereso
they went back to the public-house. Next morningSpyers took his
old placeand looked outfrom behind the curtainfor a tall
man with a black patch over his eyetill his own two eyes ached
again. At lasthe couldn't help shutting 'emto ease 'em a
minute; and the very moment he did sohe hears Chickweed
a-roaring outHere he is!Off he starts once morewith
Chickweed half-way down the street ahead of him; and after twice
as long a run as the yesterday's onethe man's lost again! This
was doneonce or twice moretill one-half the neighbours gave
out that Mr. Chickweed had been robbed by the devilwho was
playing tricks with him arterwards; and the other halfthat 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 alland listened to everything without seeming towhich
showed he understood his business. Butone morninghe walked
into the barand taking out his snuffboxsays "ChickweedI've
found out who done this here robbery." "Have you?" said
Chickweed. "Ohmy dear Spyersonly let me have wengeanceand
I shall die contented! Ohmy dear Spyerswhere is the
villain!" "Come!" said Spyersoffering 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 ittoo; and nobody would never
have found it outif he hadn't been so precious anxious to keep
up appearances!' said Mr. Blathersputting down his wine-glass
and clinking the handcuffs together.

'Very curiousindeed' observed the doctor. 'Nowif you
pleaseyou can walk upstairs.'

'If YOU pleasesir' returned Mr. Blathers. Closely following
Mr. Losbernethe two officers ascended to Oliver's bedroom; Mr.
Giles preceding the partywith a lighted candle.

Oliver had been dozing; but looked worseand was more feverish
than he had appeared yet. Being assisted by the doctorhe
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
factwithout seeming to recollect where he wasor what had been
passing.

'This' said Mr. Losbernespeaking softlybut with great
vehemence notwithstanding'this is the ladwhobeing
accidently wounded by a spring-gun in some boyish trespass on Mr.
What-d' ye-call-him's groundsat the back herecomes to the
house for assistance this morningand is immediately laid hold
of and maltreatedby that ingenious gentleman with the candle in
his hand: who has placed his life in considerable dangeras I
can professionally certify.'

Messrs. Blathers and Duff looked at Mr. Gilesas he was thus
recommended to their notice. The bewildered butler gazed from
them towards Oliverand from Oliver towards Mr. Losbernewith a
most ludicrous mixture of fear and perplexity.

'You don't mean to deny thatI suppose?' said the doctorlaying
Oliver gently down again.

'It was all done for the--for the bestsir' answered Giles. 'I
am sure I thought it was the boyor I wouldn't have meddled with
him. I am not of an inhuman dispositionsir.'

'Thought it was what boy?' inquired the senior officer.

'The housebreaker's boysir!' replied Giles. 'They--they
certainly had a boy.'

'Well? Do you think so now?' inquired Blathers.

'Think whatnow?' replied Gileslooking vacantly at his
questioner.

'Think it's the same boyStupid-head?' rejoined Blathers
impatiently.

'I don't know; I really don't know' said Gileswith 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; indeedI'm almost certain that it isn't. You
know it can't be.'

'Has this man been a-drinkingsir?' inquired Blathersturning


to the doctor.

'What a precious muddle-headed chap you are!' said Duff
addressing Mr. Gileswith 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 remarkedthat if the officers had any doubts upon the
subjectthey would perhaps like to step into the next roomand
have Brittles before them.

Acting upon this suggestionthey adjourned to a neighbouring
apartmentwhere Mr. Brittlesbeing called ininvolved himself
and his respected superior in such a wonderful maze of fresh
contradictions and impossibilitiesas tended to throw no
particular light on anythingbut the fact of his own strong
mystification; exceptindeedhis declarations that he shouldn't
know the real boyif he were put before him that instant; that
he had only taken Oliver to be hebecause Mr. Giles had said he
was; and that Mr. Giles hadfive minutes previouslyadmitted in
the kitchenthat he begain to be very much afraid he had been a
little too hasty.

Among other ingenious surmisesthe question was then raised
whether Mr. Giles had really hit anybody; and upon examination of
the fellow pistol to that which he had firedit turned out to
have no more destructive loading than gunpowder and brown paper:
a discovery which made a considerable impression on everybody but
the doctorwho had drawn the ball about ten minutes before.
Upon no onehoweverdid it make a greater impression than on
Mr. Giles himself; whoafter labouringfor some hoursunder
the fear of having mortally wounded a fellow-creatureeagerly
caught at this new ideaand favoured it to the utmost. Finally
the officerswithout troubling themselves very much about
Oliverleft the Chertsey constable in the houseand took up
their rest for that night in the town; promising to return the
next morning.

With the next morningthere came a rumourthat two men and a
boy were in the cage at Kingstonwho had been apprehended over
night under suspicious circumstances; and to Kingston Messrs.
Blathers and Duff journeyed accordingly. The suspicious
circumstanceshoweverresolving themselveson investigation
into the one factthat they had been discovered sleeping under a
haystack; whichalthough a great crimeis only punishable by
imprisonmentand isin the merciful eye of the English lawand
its comprehensive love of all the King's subjectsheld to be no
satisfactory proofin the absence of all other evidencethat
the sleeperor sleepershave committed burglary accompanied
with violenceand have therefore rendered themselves liable to
the punishment of death; Messrs. Blathers and Duff came back
againas wise as they went.

In shortafter some more examinationand a great deal more
conversationa 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
Duffbeing rewarded with a couple of guineasreturned to town
with divided opinions on the subject of their expedition: the
latter gentleman on a mature consideration of all the
circumstancesinclining 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.


MeanwhileOliver gradually throve and prospered under the united
care of Mrs. MaylieRoseand the kind-hearted Mr. Losberne. If
fervent prayersgushing from hearts overcharged with gratitude
be heard in heaven--and if they be notwhat prayers are!--the
blessings which the orphan child called down upon themsunk into
their soulsdiffusing peace and happiness.

CHAPTER XXXII

OF THE HAPPY LIFE OLIVER BEGAN TO LEAD WITH HIS KIND FRIENDS

Oliver's ailings were neither slight nor few. In addition to the
pain and delay attendant on a broken limbhis exposure to the
wet and cold had brought on fever and ague: which hung about him
for many weeksand reduced him sadly. Butat lengthhe began
by slow degreesto get betterand to be able to say sometimes
in a few tearful wordshow deeply he felt the goodness of the
two sweet ladiesand how ardently he hoped that when he grew
strong and well againhe could do something to show his
gratitude; only somethingwhich would let them see the love and
duty with which his breast was full; somethinghowever 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 miseryor deathwas eager to serve them with his whole
heart and soul.

'Poor fellow!' said Rosewhen 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 usif
you will. We are going into the countryand my aunt intends
that you shall accompany us. The quiet placethe pure airand
all the pleasure and beauties of springwill restore you in a
few days. We will employ you in a hundred wayswhen you can
bear the trouble.'

'The trouble!' cried Oliver. 'Oh! dear ladyif I could but work
for you; if I could only give you pleasure by watering your
flowersor watching your birdsor running up and down the whole
day longto make you happy; what would I give to do it!'

'You shall give nothing at all' said Miss Mayliesmiling; 'for
as I told you beforewe shall employ you in a hundred ways; and
if you only take half the trouble to please usthat you promise
nowyou will make me very happy indeed.'

'Happyma'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 uswould be an unspeakable pleasure to me; but to
know that the object of her goodness and compassion was sincerely
grateful and attachedin consequencewould delight memore
than you can well imagine. Do you understand me?' she inquired
watching Oliver's thoughtful face.

'Oh yesma'amyes!' replied Oliver eagerly; 'but I was thinking
that I am ungrateful now.'

'To whom?' inquired the young lady.


'To the kind gentlemanand the dear old nursewho took so much
care of me before' rejoined Oliver. 'If they knew how happy I
amthey would be pleasedI 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 journeyhe will carry you to see
them.'

'Has hema'am?' cried Oliverhis 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
outaccordinglyin a little carriage which belonged to Mrs.
Maylie. When they came to Chertsey BridgeOliver turned very
paleand uttered a loud exclamation.

'What's the matter with the boy?' cried the doctoras usualall
in a bustle. 'Do you see anything--hear anything--feel
anything--eh?'

'Thatsir' cried Oliverpointing out of the carriage window.
'That house!'

'Yes; wellwhat of it? Stop coachman. Pull up here' cried the
doctor. 'What of the housemy man; eh?'

'The thieves--the house they took me to!' whispered Oliver.

'The devil it is!' cried the doctor. 'Hallothere! let me out!'

Butbefore the coachman could dismount from his boxhe had
tumbled out of the coachby some means or other; andrunning
down to the deserted tenementbegan kicking at the door like a
madman.

'Halloa?' said a little ugly hump-backed man: opening the door
so suddenlythat the doctorfrom the very impetus of his last
kicknearly fell forward into the passage. 'What's the matter
here?'

'Matter!' exclaimed the othercollaring himwithout a moment's
reflection. 'A good deal. Robbery is the matter.'

'There'll be Murder the mattertoo' replied the hump-backed
mancoolly'if you don't take your hands off. Do you hear me?'

'I hear you' said the doctorgiving his captive a hearty shake.

'Where's--confound the fellowwhat's his rascally name--Sikes;
that's it. Where's Sikesyou thief?'

The hump-backed man staredas if in excess of amazement and
indignation; thentwisting himselfdexterouslyfrom the
doctor's graspgrowled forth a volley of horrid oathsand
retired into the house. Before he could shut the doorhowever
the doctor had passed into the parlourwithout a word of parley.

He looked anxiously round; not an article of furniture; not a
vestige of anythinganimate or inanimate; not even the position
of the cupboards; answered Oliver's description!


'Now!' said the hump-backed manwho had watched him keenly
'what do you mean by coming into my housein this violent way?
Do you want to rob meor to murder me? Which is it?'

'Did you ever know a man come out to do eitherin a chariot and
a pairyou ridiculous old vampire?' said the irritable doctor.

'What do you wantthen?' demanded the hunchback. 'Will you take
yourself offbefore I do you a mischief? Curse you!'

'As soon as I think proper' said Mr. Losbernelooking into the
other parlour; whichlike the firstbore no resemblance
whatever to Oliver's account of it. 'I shall find you outsome
daymy friend.'

'Will you?' sneered the ill-favoured cripple. 'If you ever want
meI'm here. I haven't lived here mad and all alonefor
five-and-twenty yearsto be scared by you. You shall pay for
this; you shall pay for this.' And so sayingthe mis-shapen
little demon set up a yelland danced upon the groundas if
wild with rage.

'Stupid enoughthis' muttered the doctor to himself; 'the boy
must have made a mistake. Here! Put that in your pocketand
shut yourself up again.' With these words he flung the hunchback
a piece of moneyand returned to the carriage.

The man followed to the chariot dooruttering the wildest
imprecations and curses all the way; but as Mr. Losberne turned
to speak to the driverhe looked into the carriageand eyed
Oliver for an instant with a glance so sharp and fierce and at
the same time so furious and vindictivethatwaking or
sleepinghe could not forget it for months afterwards. He
continued to utter the most fearful imprecationsuntil the
driver had resumed his seat; and when they were once more on
their waythey could see him some distance behind: beating his
feet upon the groundand tearing his hairin transports of real
or pretended rage.

'I am an ass!' said the doctorafter a long silence. 'Did you
know that beforeOliver?'

'Nosir.'

'Then don't forget it another time.'

'An ass' said the doctor againafter a further silence of some
minutes. 'Even if it had been the right placeand the right
fellows had been therewhat could I have donesingle-handed?
And if I had had assistanceI see no good that I should have
doneexcept leading to my own exposureand an unavoidable
statement of the manner in which I have hushed up this business.
That would have served me rightthough. I am always involving
myself in some scrape or otherby acting on impulse. It might
have done me good.'

Nowthe fact was that the excellent doctor had never acted upon
anything but impulse all through his lifeand if was no bad
compliment to the nature of the impulses which governed himthat
so far from being involved in any peculiar troubles or
misfortuneshe had the warmest respect and esteem of all who
knew him. If the truth must be toldhe was a little out of
temperfor a minute or twoat 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 againhowever; and finding that Oliver's replies to his
questionswere still as straightforward and consistentand
still delivered with as much apparent sincerity and truthas
they had ever beenhe made up his mind to attach full credence
to themfrom that time forth.

As Oliver knew the name of the street in which Mr. Brownlow
residedthey were enabled to drive straight thither. When the
coach turned into ithis heart beat so violentlythat he could
scarcely draw his breath.

'Nowmy boywhich house is it?' inquired Mr. Losberne.

'That! That!' replied Oliverpointing 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.'

'Comecome!' said the good doctorpatting him on the shoulder.
'You will see them directlyand they will be overjoyed to find
you safe and well.'

'Oh! I hope so!' cried Oliver. 'They were so good to me; so
veryvery good to me.'

The coach rolled on. It stopped. No; that was the wrong house;
the next door. It went on a few pacesand stopped again.
Oliver looked up at the windowswith tears of happy expectation
coursing down his face.

Alas! the white house was emptyand there was a bill in the
window. 'To Let.'

'Knock at the next door' cried Mr. Losbernetaking Oliver's arm
in his. 'What has become of Mr. Brownlowwho used to live in
the adjoining housedo you know?'

The servant did not know; but would go and inquire. She
presently returnedand saidthat Mr. Brownlow had sold off his
goodsand gone to the West Indiessix weeks before. Oliver
clasped his handsand sank feebly backward.

'Has his housekeeper gone too?' inquired Mr. Losberneafter a
moment's pause.

'Yessir'; replied the servant. 'The old gentlemanthe
housekeeperand 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 horsestill you get out of this
confounded London!'

'The book-stall keepersir?' said Oliver. 'I know the way
there. See himpraysir! Do see him!'

'My poor boythis is disappointment enough for one day' said
the doctor. 'Quite enough for both of us. If we go to the
book-stall keeper'swe shall certainly find that he is deador
has set his house on fireor run away. No; home again
straight!' And in obedience to the doctor's impulsehome they
went.


This bitter disappointment caused Oliver much sorrow and grief
even in the midst of his happiness; for he had pleased himself
many times during his illnesswith 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 himand in bewailing his
cruel separation from them. The hope of eventually clearing
himself with themtooand explaining how he had been forced
awayhad buoyed him upand sustained himunder many of his
recent trials; and nowthe idea that they should have gone so
farand 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 alterationhoweverin the
behaviour of his benefactors. After another fortnightwhen the
fine warm weather had fairly begunand every tree and flower was
putting forth its young leaves and rich blossomsthey made
preparations for quitting the house at Chertseyfor some months.

Sending the platewhich had so excited Fagin's cupidityto the
banker's; and leaving Giles and another servant in care of the
housethey departed to a cottage at some distance in the
countryand took Oliver with them.

Who can describe the pleasure and delightthe peace of mind and
soft tranquillitythe sickly boy felt in the balmy airand
among the green hills and rich woodsof an inland village! Who
can tell how scenes of peace and quietude sink into the minds of
pain-worn dwellers in close and noisy placesand carry their own
freshnessdeep into their jaded hearts! Men who have lived in
crowdedpent-up streetsthrough lives of toiland who have
never wished for change; mento whom custom has indeed been
second natureand who have come almost to love each brick and
stone that formed the narrow boundaries of their daily walks;
even theywith the hand of death upon themhave 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
forthfrom day to dayto some green sunny spotthey have had
such memories wakened up within them by the sight of the skyand
hill and plainand glistening waterthat a foretaste of heaven
itself has soothed their quick declineand they have sunk into
their tombsas peacefully as the sun whose setting they watched
from their lonely chamber window but a few hours beforefaded
from their dim and feeble sight! The memories which peaceful
country scenes call upare not of this worldnor 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 thoughtsand bear down before it old enmity and
hatred; but beneath all thisthere lingersin the least
reflective minda vague and half-formed consciousness of having
held such feelings long beforein some remote and distant time
which calls up solemn thoughts of distant times to comeand
bends down pride and worldliness beneath it.

It was a lovely spot to which they repaired. Oliverwhose days
had been spent among squalid crowdsand in the midst of noise
and brawlingseemed 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 bywas a little churchyard; not
crowded with tall unsightly gravestonesbut full of humble
moundscovered with fresh turf and moss: beneath whichthe old


people of the village lay at rest. Oliver often wandered here;
andthinking of the wretched grave in which his mother lay
would sometimes sit him down and sob unseen; butwhen he raised
his eyes to the deep sky overheadhe would cease to think of her
as lying in the groundand would weep for hersadlybut
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 prisonor associating with wretched men; nothing but
pleasant and happy thoughts. Every morning he went to a
white-headed old gentlemanwho lived near the little church:
who taught him to read betterand to write: and who spoke so
kindlyand took such painsthat Oliver could never try enough
to please him. Thenhe would walk with Mrs. Maylie and Rose
and hear them talk of books; or perhaps sit near themin some
shady placeand listen whilst the young lady read: which he
could have doneuntil it grew too dark to see the letters.
Thenhe had his own lesson for the next day to prepare; and at
thishe would work hardin a little room which looked into the
gardentill evening came slowly onwhen the ladies would walk
out againand he with them: listening with such pleasure to all
they said: and so happy if they wanted a flower that he could
climb to reachor had forgotten anything he could run to fetch:
that he could never be quick enought about it. When it became
quite darkand they returned homethe young lady would sit down
to the pianoand play some pleasant airor singin a low and
gentle voicesome 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 windowslistening to the sweet
musicin a perfect rapture.

And when Sunday camehow differently the day was spentfrom 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
churchin the morningwith the green leaves fluttering at the
windows: the birds singing without: and the sweet-smelling air
stealing in at the low porchand filling the homely building
with its fragrance. The poor people were so neat and cleanand
knelt so reverently in prayerthat it seemed a pleasurenot a
tedious dutytheir assembling there together; and though the
singing might be rudeit was realand sounded more musical (to
Oliver's ears at least) than any he had ever heard in church
before. Thenthere were the walks as usualand many calls at
the clean houses of the labouring men; and at nightOliver read
a chapter or two from the Biblewhich he had been studying all
the weekand in the performance of which duty he felt more proud
and pleasedthan if he had been the clergyman himself.

In the morningOliver would be a-foot by six o'clockroaming
the fieldsand plundering the hedgesfar and widefor nosegays
of wild flowerswith which he would return ladenhome; and
which it took great care and consideration to arrangeto the
best advantagefor the embellishment of the breakfast-table.
There was fresh groundseltoofor Miss Maylie's birdswith
which Oliverwho had been studying the subject under the able
tuition of the village clerkwould decorate the cagesin the
most approved taste. When the birds were made all spruce and
smart for the daythere was usually some little commission of
charity to execute in the village; orfailing thatthere was
rare cricket-playingsometimeson the green; orfailing that
there was always something to do in the gardenor about the
plantsto which Oliver (who had studied this science alsounder
the same masterwho was a gardener by trade) applied himself


with hearty good-willuntil Miss Rose made her appearance: when
there were a thousand commendations to be bestowed on all he had
done.

So three months glided away; three months whichin the life of
the most blessed and favoured of mortalsmight have been
unmingled happinessand whichin Oliver's were true felicity.
With the purest and most amiable generousity on one side; and the
truestwarmestsoul-felt gratitude on the other; it is no
wonder thatby the end of that short timeOliver 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 inand attachment tohimself.

CHAPTER XXXIII

WHEREIN THE HAPPINESS OF OLIVER AND HIS FRIENDSEXPERIENCES A
SUDDEN CHECK

Spring flew swiftly byand summer came. If the village had been
beautiful at first it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of
its richness. The great treeswhich had looked shrunken and
bare in the earlier monthshad now burst into strong life and
health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty
groundconverted open and naked spots into choice nookswhere
was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide
prospectsteeped in sunshinewhich 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.

Stillthe same quiet life went on at the little cottageand 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 gentleattachedaffectionate creature that
he had been when pain and suffering had wasted his strengthand
when he was dependent for every slight attentionand comfort on
those who tended him.

One beautiful nightwhen they had taken a longer walk than was
customary with them: for the day had been unusually warmand
there was a brilliant moonand a light wind had sprung upwhich
was unusually refreshing. Rose had been in high spiritstoo
and they had walked onin merry conversationuntil they had far
exceeded their ordinary bounds. Mrs. Maylie being fatiguedthey
returned more slowly home. The young lady merely throwing off
her simple bonnetsat down to the piano as usual. After running
abstractedly over the keys for a few minutesshe fell into a low
and very solemn air; and as she played itthey heard a sound as
if she were weeping.

'Rosemy dear!' said the elder lady.

Rose made no replybut played a little quickeras though the
words had roused her from some painful thoughts.

'Rosemy love!' cried Mrs. Maylierising hastilyand bending
over her. 'What is this? In tears! My dear childwhat
distresses you?'


'Nothingaunt; nothing' replied the young lady. 'I don't know
what it is; I can't describe it; but I feel--'

'Not illmy love?' interposed Mrs. Maylie.

'Nono! Ohnot ill!' replied Rose: shuddering as though some
deadly chillness were passing over herwhile she spoke; 'I shall
be better presently. Close the windowpray!'

Oliver hastened to comply with her request. The young lady
making an effort to recover her cheerfulnessstrove to play some
livelier tune; but her fingers dropped powerless over the keys.
Covering her face with her handsshe sank upon a sofaand gave
vent to the tears which she was now unable to repress.

'My child!' said the elderly ladyfolding 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 hardand cannot help this. I fear I AM
illaunt.'

She wasindeed; forwhen candles were broughtthey 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
facewhich it had never worn before. Another minuteand it was
suffused with a crimson flush: and a heavy wildness came over
the soft blue eye. Again this disappearedlike the shadow
thrown by a passing cloud; and she was once more deadly pale.

Oliverwho watched the old lady anxiouslyobserved that she was
alarmed by these appearances; and so in truthwas he; but seeing
that she affected to make light of themhe endeavoured to do the
sameand they so far succeededthat when Rose was persuaded by
her aunt to retire for the nightshe was in better spirits; and
appeared even in better health: assuring them that she felt
certain she should rise in the morningquite well.

'I hope' said Oliverwhen Mrs. Maylie returned'that nothing
is the matter? She don't look well to-nightbut--'

The old lady motioned to him not to speak; and sitting herself
down in a dark corner of the roomremained silent for some time.

At lengthshe saidin a trembling voice:

'I hope notOliver. I have been very happy with her for some
years: too happyperhaps. 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 Oliverhastily.

'Amen to thatmy child!' said the old ladywringing her hands.

'Surely there is no danger of anything so dreadful?' said Oliver.

'Two hours agoshe was quite well.'


'She is very ill now' rejoined Mrs. Maylies; 'and will be worse
I am sure. My deardear Rose! Ohwhat shall I do without
her!'

She gave way to such great griefthat Oliversuppressing his
own emotionventured to remonstrate with her; and to beg
earnestlythatfor the sake of the dear young lady herselfshe
would be more calm.

'And considerma'am' said Oliveras the tears forced
themselves into his eyesdespite of his efforts to the contrary.

'Oh! consider how young and good she isand what pleasure and
comfort she gives to all about her. I am sure--certain--quite
certain--thatfor your sakewho 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. Maylielaying her hand on Oliver's head. 'You
think like a childpoor boy. But you teach me my duty
notwithstanding. I had forgotten it for a momentOliverbut I
hope I may be pardonedfor I am oldand have seen enough of
illness and death to know the agony of separation from the
objects of our love. I have seen enoughtooto 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 usimpressivelythat
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
well!'

Oliver was surprised to see that as Mrs. Maylie said these words
she checked her lamentations as though by one effort; and drawing
herself up as she spokebecame composed and firm. He was still
more astonished to find that this firmness lasted; and that
under all the care and watching which ensuedMrs. Maylie was
every ready and collected: performing all the duties which had
devolved upon hersteadilyandto all external appearances
even cheerfully. But he was youngand did not know what strong
minds are capable ofunder trying circumstances. How should he
when their possessors so seldom know themselves?

An anxious night ensued. When morning cameMrs. Maylie's
predictions were but too well verified. Rose was in the first
stage of a high and dangerous fever.

'We must be activeOliverand not give way to useless grief'
said Mrs. Maylielaying her finger on her lipas she looked
steadily into his face; 'this letter must be sentwith all
possible expeditionto Mr. Losberne. It must be carried to the
market-town: which is not more than four miles offby the
footpath across the field: and thence dispatchedby an express
on horsebackstraight to Chertsey. The people at the inn will
undertake to do this: and I can trust to you to see it doneI
know.'

Oliver could make no replybut looked his anxiety to be gone at
once.

'Here is another letter' said Mrs. Mayliepausing to reflect;
'but whether to send it nowor wait until I see how Rose goes
onI scarcely know. I would not forward itunless I feared the
worst.'


'Is it for Chertseytooma'am?' inquired Oliver; impatient to
execute his commissionand holding out his trembling hand for
the letter.

'No' replied the old ladygiving it to him mechanically.
Oliver glanced at itand saw that it was directed to Harry
MaylieEsquireat some great lord's house in the country;
wherehe could not make out.

'Shall it goma'am?' asked Oliverlooking upimpatiently.

'I think not' replied Mrs. Maylietaking it back. 'I will wait
until to-morrow.'

With these wordsshe gave Oliver her purseand he started off
without more delayat the greatest speed he could muster.

Swiftly he ran across the fieldsand down the little lanes which
sometimes divided them: now almost hidden by the high corn on
either sideand now emerging on an open fieldwhere the mowers
and haymakers were busy at their work: nor did he stop once
save now and thenfor a few secondsto recover breathuntil he
camein a great heatand covered with duston the little
market-place of the market-town.

Here he pausedand looked about for the inn. There were a white
bankand a red breweryand a yellow town-hall; and in one
corner there was a large housewith all the wood about it
painted green: before which was the sign of 'The George.' To
this he hastenedas soon as it caught his eye.

He spoke to a postboy who was dozing under the gateway; and who
after hearing what he wantedreferred him to the ostler; who
after hearing all he had to say againreferred him to the
landlord; who was a tall gentleman in a blue neckclotha white
hatdrab breechesand boots with tops to matchleaning against
a pump by the stable-doorpicking his teeth with a silver
toothpick.

This gentleman walked with much deliberation into the bar to make
out the bill: which took a long time making out: and after it
was readyand paida horse had to be saddledand a man to be
dressedwhich took up ten good minutes more. Meanwhile Oliver
was in such a desperate state of impatience and anxietythat he
felt as if he could have jumped upon the horse himselfand
galloped awayfull tearto the next stage. At lengthall was
ready; and the little parcel having been handed upwith many
injunctions and entreaties for its speedy deliverythe man set
spurs to his horseand rattling over the uneven paving of the
market-placewas out of the townand galloping along the
turnpike-roadin a couple of minutes.

As it was something to feel certain that assistance was sent for
and that no time had been lostOliver 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
cloakwho was at that moment coming out of the inn door.

'Hah!' cried the manfixing his eyes on Oliverand suddenly
recoiling. 'What the devil's this?'

'I beg your pardonsir' said Oliver; 'I was in a great hurry to
get homeand didn't see you were coming.'


'Death!' muttered the man to himselfglaring at the boy with his
large dark eyes. 'Who would have thought it! Grind him to ashes!

He'd start up from a stone coffinto come in my way!'

'I am sorry' stammered Oliverconfused by the strange man's
wild look. 'I hope I have not hurt you!'

'Rot you!' murmured the manin a horrible passion; between his
clenched teeth; 'if I had only had the courage to say the wordI
might have been free of you in a night. Curses on your headand
black death on your heartyou imp! What are you doing here?'

The man shook his fistas he uttered these words incoherently.
He advanced towards Oliveras if with the intention of aiming a
blow at himbut fell violently on the ground: writhing and
foamingin a fit.

Oliver gazedfor a momentat 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 hotelhe turned
his face homewardsrunning as fast as he couldto make up for
lost time: and recalling with a great deal of astonishment and
some fearthe extraordinary behaviour of the person from whom he
had just parted.

The circumstance did not dwell in his recollection longhowever:

for when he reached the cottagethere was enough to occupy his
mindand to drive all considerations of self completely from his
memory.

Rose Maylie had rapidly grown worse; before mid-night she was
delirious. A medical practitionerwho resided on the spotwas
in constant attendance upon her; and after first seeing the
patienthe had taken Mrs. Maylie asideand pronounced her
disorder to be one of a most alarming nature. 'In fact' he said
'it would be little short of a miracleif she recovered.'

How often did Oliver start from his bed that nightand stealing
outwith noiseless footstepto the staircaselisten for the
slightest sound from the sick chamber! How often did a tremble
shake his frameand cold drops of terror start upon his brow
when a sudden trampling of feet caused him to fear that something
too dreadful to think ofhad even then occurred! And what had
been the fervency of all the prayers he had ever muttered
compared with those he poured forthnowin the agony and
passion of his supplication for the life and health of the gentle
creaturewho was tottering on the deep grave's verge!

Oh! the suspensethe fearfulacute suspenseof standing idly
by while the life of one we dearly loveis trembling in the
balance! Oh! the racking thoughts that crowd upon the mindand
make the heart beat violentlyand the breath come thickby the
force of the images they conjure up before it; the DESPERATE
ANXIETY TO BE DOING SOMETHING to relieve the painor lessen the
dangerwhich we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul
and spiritwhich the sad remembrance of our helplessness
produces; what tortures can equal these; what reflections or
endeavours canin the full tide and fever of the timeallay
them!

Morning came; and the little cottage was lonely and still. People


spoke in whispers; anxious faces appeared at the gatefrom time
to time; women and children went away in tears. All the livelong
dayand for hours after it had grown darkOliver paced softly
up and down the gardenraising his eyes every instant to the
sick chamberand shuddering to see the darkened windowlooking
as if death lay stretched inside. Late that nightMr. Losberne
arrived. 'It is hard' said the good doctorturning away as he
spoke; 'so young; so much beloved; but there is very little
hope.'

Another morning. The sun shone brightly; as brightly as if it
looked upon no misery or care; andwith every leaf and flower in
full bloom about her; with lifeand healthand sounds and
sights of joysurrounding her on every side: the fair young
creature laywasting fast. Oliver crept away to the old
churchyardand sitting down on one of the green moundswept and
prayed for herin 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 rookcareering overhead; so much of life and
joyousness in all; thatwhen the boy raised his aching eyesand
looked aboutthe thought instinctively occurred to himthat
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 brightlyand the birds sang on.

Oliver turned homewardthinking on the many kindnesses he had
received from the young ladyand wishing that the time could
come againthat he might never cease showing her how grateful
and attached he was. He had no cause for self-reproach on the
score of neglector want of thoughtfor he had been devoted to
her service; and yet a hundred little occasions rose up before
himon which he fancied he might have been more zealousand
more earnestand wished he had been. We need be careful how we
deal with those about uswhen every death carries to some small
circle of survivorsthoughts of so much omittedand so little
done--of so many things forgottenand 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 tortureslet us remember
thisin 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 sleepfrom which she would wakeneither to recovery
and lifeor to bid them farewelland die.

They satlisteningand afraid to speakfor hours. The
untasted meal was removedwith looks which showed that their
thoughts were elsewherethey watched the sun as he sank lower
and lowerandat lengthcast 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 dooras Mr. Losberne entered.

'What of Rose?' cried the old lady. 'Tell me at once! I can
bear it; anything but suspense! Oh!tell me! in the name of
Heaven!'

'You must compose yourself' said the doctor supporting her. 'Be
calmmy dear ma'ampray.'

'Let me goin God's name! My dear child! She is dead! She is
dying!'

'No!' cried the doctorpassionately. 'As He is good and
mercifulshe will live to bless us allfor years to come.'

The lady fell upon her kneesand tried to fold her hands
together; but the energy which had supported her so longfled up
to Heaven with her first thanksgiving; and she sank into the
friendly arms which were extended to receive her.

CHAPTER XXIV

CONTAINS SOME INTRODUCTORY PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO A YOUNG
GENTLEMAN WHO NOW ARRIVES UPON THE SCENE; AND A NEW ADVENTURE
WHICH HAPPENED TO OLIVER

It was almost too much happiness to bear. Oliver felt stunned
and stupefied by the unexpected intelligence; he could not weep
or speakor rest. He had scarcely the power of understanding
anything that had passeduntilafter a long ramble in the quiet
evening aira burst of tears came to his reliefand he seemed
to awakenall at onceto a full sense of the joyful change that
had occurredand the almost insupportable load of anguish which
had been taken from his breast.

The night was fast closing inwhen he returned homeward: laden
with flowers which he had culledwith peculiar carefor the
adornment of the sick chamber. As he walked briskly along the
roadhe heard behind himthe noise of some vehicleapproaching
at a furious pace. Looking roundhe saw that it was a
post-chaisedriven at great speed; and as the horses were
gallopingand the road was narrowhe stood leaning against a
gate until it should have passed him.

As it dashed onOliver caught a glimpse of a man in a white
nitecapwhose face seemed familiar to himalthough his view was
so brief that he could not identify the person. In another
second or twothe nightcap was thrust out of the chaise-window
and a stentorian voice bellowed to the driver to stop: which he
didas soon as he could pull up his horses. Thenthe nightcap
once again appeared: and the same voice called Oliver by his
name.

'Here!' cried the voice. 'Oliverwhat's the news? Miss Rose!
Master O-li-ver!'

'Is is youGiles?' cried Oliverrunning up to the chaise-door.

Giles popped out his nightcap againpreparatory to making some


replywhen he was suddenly pulled back by a young gentleman who
occupied the other corner of the chaiseand who eagerly demanded
what was the news.

'In a word!' cried the gentleman'Better or worse?'

'Better--much better!' replied Oliverhastily.

'Thank Heaven!' exclaimed the gentleman. 'You are sure?'

'Quitesir' replied Oliver. 'The change took place only a few
hours ago; and Mr. Losberne saysthat all danger is at an end.'

The gentleman said not another wordbutopening the
chaise-doorleaped outand taking Oliver hurriedly by the arm
led him aside.

'You are quite certain? There is no possibility of any mistake
on your partmy boyis there?' demanded the gentleman in a
tremulous voice. 'Do not deceive meby awakening hopes that are
not to be fulfilled.'

'I would not for the worldsir' replied Oliver. 'Indeed you
may believe me. Mr. Losberne's words werethat 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 awayand remained silentfor some minutes. Oliver
thought he heard him sobmore than once; but he feared to
interrupt him by any fresh remark--for he could well guess what
his feelings were--and so stood apartfeigning to be occupied
with his nosegay.

All this timeMr. Gileswith the white nightcap onhad been
sitting on the steps of the chaisesupporting an elbow on each
kneeand wiping his eyes with a blue cotton pocket-handkerchief
dotted with white spots. That the honest fellow had not been
feigning emotionwas abundently demonstrated by the very red
eyes with which he regarded the young gentlemanwhen 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 onso as to gain a
little time before I see her. You can say I am coming.'

'I beg your pardonMr. Harry' said Giles: giving a final
polish to his ruffled countenance with the handkerchief; 'but if
you would leave the postboy to say thatI should be very much
obliged to you. It wouldn't be proper for the maids to see me in
this statesir; I should never have any more authority with them
if they did.'

'Well' rejoined Harry Mayliesmiling'you can do as you like.
Let him go on with the luggageif you wish itand do you follow
with us. Only first exchange that nightcap for some more
appropriate coveringor we shall be taken for madmen.'

Mr. Gilesreminded of his unbecoming costumesnatched off and
pocketed his nightcap; and substituted a hatof grave and sober
shapewhich he took out of the chaise. This donethe postboy
drove off; GilesMr. Maylieand Oliverfollowed at their
leisure.


As they walked alongOliver glanced from time to time with much
interest and curiosity at the new comer. He seemed about
five-and-twenty years of ageand was of the middle height; his
countenance was frank and handsome; and his demeanor easy and
prepossessing. Notwithstanding the difference between youth and
agehe bore so strong a likeness to the old ladythat Oliver
would have had no great difficulty in imagining their
relationshipif he had not already spoken of her as his mother.

Mrs. Maylie was anxiously waiting to receive her son when he
reached the cottage. The meeting did not take place without
great emotion on both sides.

'Mother!' whispered the young man; 'why did you not write
before?'

'I did' replied Mrs. Maylie; 'buton reflectionI determined
to keep back the letter until I had heard Mr. Losberne's
opinion.'

'But why' said the young man'why run the chance of that
occurring which so nearly happened? If Rose had--I cannot utter
that word now--if this illness had terminated differentlyhow
could you ever have forgiven yourself! How could I ever have
know happiness again!'

'If that HAD been the caseHarry' said Mrs. Maylie'I fear
your happiness would have been effectually blightedand that
your arrival herea day sooner or a day laterwould have been
of veryvery little import.'

'And who can wonder if it be somother?' rejoined the young man;
'or why should I sayIF?--It is--it is--you know itmother--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 returnbut one that
shall be deep and lasting. If I did not feel thisand know
besidesthat a changed behaviour in one she loved would break
her heartI should not feel my task so difficult of performance
or have to encounter so many struggles in my own bosomwhen I
take what seems to me to be the strict line of duty.'

'This is unkindmother' said Harry. 'Do you still suppose that
I am a boy ignorant of my own mindand mistaking the impulses of
my own soul?'

'I thinkmy dear son' returned Mrs. Maylielaying her hand
upon his shoulder'that youth has many generous impulses which
do not last; and that among them are somewhichbeing
gratifiedbecome only the more fleeting. Above allI think'
said the ladyfixing her eyes on her son's face'that if an
enthusiasticardentand ambitious man marry a wife on whose
name there is a stainwhichthough it originate in no fault of
hersmay be visited by cold and sordid people upon herand upon
his children also: andin exact proportion to his success in the
worldbe cast in his teethand made the subject of sneers
against him: he mayno 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 manimpatiently'he would be a selfish
bruteunworthy alike of the name of man and of the woman you


describewho acted thus.'

'You think so nowHarry' replied his mother.

'And ever will!' said the young man. 'The mental agony I have
sufferedduring the last two dayswrings from me the avowal to
you of a passion whichas you well knowis not one of
yesterdaynor one I have lightly formed. On Rosesweetgentle
girl! my heart is setas firmly as ever heart of man was set on
woman. I have no thoughtno viewno hope in lifebeyond her;
and if you oppose me in this great stakeyou take my peace and
happiness in your handsand cast them to the wind. Mother
think better of thisand of meand 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 heartsthat I would spare them from being wounded.

But we have said enoughand more than enoughon this matter
just now.'

'Let it rest with Rosethen' interposed Harry. 'You will not
press these overstrained opinions of yoursso faras to throw
any obstacle in my way?'

'I will not' rejoined Mrs. Maylie; 'but I would have you
consider--'

'I HAVE considered!' was the impatient reply; 'MotherI have
consideredyears and years. I have consideredever since I
have been capable of serious reflection. My feelings remain
unchangedas they ever will; and why should I suffer the pain of
a delay in giving them ventwhich can be productive of no
earthly good? No! Before I leave this placeRose shall hear
me.'

'She shall' said Mrs. Maylie.

'There is something in your mannerwhich would almost imply that
she will hear me coldlymother' said the young man.

'Not coldly' rejoined the old lady; 'far from it.'

'How then?' urged the young man. 'She has formed no other
attachment?'

'Noindeed' replied his mother; 'you haveor I mistaketoo
strong a hold on her affections already. What I would say'
resumed the old ladystopping 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 momentsmy dear childon Rose's historyand
consider what effect the knowledge of her doubtful birth may have
on her decision: devoted as she is to uswith all the intensity
of her noble mindand with that perfect sacrifice of self which
in all mattersgreat or triflinghas always been her
characteristic.'

'What do you mean?'

'That I leave you to discover' replied Mrs. Maylie. 'I must go
back to her. God bless you!'

'I shall see you again to-night?' said the young maneagerly.


'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 beenand how much I have suffered
and how I long to see her. You will not refuse to do this
mother?'

'No' said the old lady; 'I will tell her all.' And pressing her
son's handaffectionatelyshe 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
communicatedin reply to multifarious questions from his young
frienda precise account of his patient's situation; which was
quite as consolatory and full of promiseas Oliver's statement
had encouraged him to hope; and to the whole of whichMr. Giles
who affected to be busy about the luggagelistened with greedy
ears.

'Have you shot anything particularlatelyGiles?' inquired the
doctorwhen he had concluded.

'Nothing particularsir' replied Mr. Gilescolouring up to the
eyes.

'Nor catching any thievesnor identifying any house-breakers?'
said the doctor.

'None at allsir' replied Mr. Gileswith much gravity.

'Well' said the doctor'I am sorry to hear itbecause you do
that sort of thing admirably. Prayhow is Brittles?'

'The boy is very wellsir' said Mr. Gilesrecovering his usual
tone of patronage; 'and sends his respectful dutysir.'

'That's well' said the doctor. 'Seeing you herereminds me
Mr. Gilesthat on the day before that on which I was called away
so hurriedlyI executedat the request of your good mistressa
small commission in your favour. Just step into this corner a
momentwill you?'

Mr. Giles walked into the corner with much importanceand some
wonderand was honoured with a short whispering conference with
the doctoron the termination of whichhe made a great many
bowsand retired with steps of unusual stateliness. The subject
matter of this conference was not disclosed in the parlourbut
the kitchen was speedily enlightened concerning it; for Mr. Giles
walked straight thitherand having called for a mug of ale
announcedwith an air of majestywhich was highly effective
that it had pleased his mistressin consideration of his gallant
behaviour on the occasion of that attempted robberyto depost
in the local savings-bankthe sum of five-and-twenty poundsfor
his sole use and benefit. At thisthe two women-servants lifted
up their hands and eyesand supposed that Mr. Gilespulling out
his shirt-frillreplied'Nono'; and that if they observed
that he was at all haughty to his inferiorshe would thank them
to tell him so. And then he made a great many other remarksno


less illustrative of his humilitywhich were received with equal
favour and applauseand werewithalas original and as much to
the purposeas the remarks of great men commonly are.

Above stairsthe 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 firsthe was not
proof against the worthy gentleman's good humourwhich displayed
itself in a great variety of sallies and professional
recollectionsand an abundance of small jokeswhich struck
Oliver as being the drollest things he had ever heardand caused
him to laugh proportionately; to the evident satisfaction of the
doctorwho laughed immoderately at himselfand made Harry laugh
almost as heartilyby the very force of sympathy. Sothey were
as pleasant a party asunder the circumstancesthey could well
have been; and it was late before they retiredwith light and
thankful heartsto take that rest of whichafter the doubt and
suspense they had recently undergonethey stood much in need.

Oliver rose next morningin better heartand went about his
usual occupationswith more hope and pleasure than he had known
for many days. The birds were once more hung outto singin
their old places; and the sweetest wild flowers that could be
foundwere once more gathered to gladden Rose with their beauty.
The melancholy which had seemed to the sad eyes of the anxious
boy to hangfor days pastover every objectbeautiful as all
werewas 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
exerciseeven over the appearance of external objects. Men who
look on natureand their fellow-menand cry that all is dark
and gloomyare in the right; but the sombre colours are
reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real
hues are delicateand need a clearer vision.

It is worthy of remarkand Oliver did not fail to note it at the
timethat his morning expeditions were no longer made alone.
Harry Maylieafter the very first morning when he met Oliver
coming laden homewas seized with such a passion for flowers
and displayed such a taste in their arrangementas left his
young companion far behind. If Oliver were behindhand in these
respectshe knew where the best were to be found; and morning
after morning they scoured the country togetherand 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 inand revive her with its freshness; but there always
stood in waterjust inside the latticeone particular little
bunchwhich was made up with great careevery morning. Oliver
could not help noticing that the withered flowers were never
thrown awayalthough the little vase was regularly replenished;
norcould he help observingthat whenever the doctor came into
the gardenhe invariably cast his eyes up to that particular
cornerand nodded his head most expressivelyas he set forth on
his morning's walk. Pending these observationsthe days were
flying by; and Rose was rapidly recovering.

Nor did Oliver's time hang heavy on his handsalthough the young
lady had not yet left her chamberand there were no evening
walkssave now and thenfor a short distancewith Mrs. Maylie.

He applied himselfwith redoubled assiduityto the instructions
of the white-headed old gentlemanand laboured so hard that his
quick progress surprised even himself. It was while he was


engaged in this pursuitthat he was greatly startled and
distressed by a most unexpected occurence.

The little room in which he was accustomed to sitwhen busy at
his bookswas on the ground-floorat the back of the house. It
was quite a cottage-roomwith a lattice-window: around which
were clusters of jessamine and honeysucklethat crept over the
casementand filled the place with their delicious perfume. It
looked into a gardenwhence a wicket-gate opened into a small
paddock; all beyondwas fine meadow-land and wood. There was no
other dwelling nearin that direction; and the prospect it
commanded was very extensive.

One beautiful eveningwhen the first shades of twilight were
beginning to settle upon the earthOliver sat at this window
intent upon his books. He had been poring over them for some
time; andas the day had been uncommonly sultryand he had
exerted himself a great dealit it no disparagement to the
authorswhoever they may have beento saythat gradually and
by slow degreeshe fell asleep.

There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimeswhich
while it holds the body prisonerdoes not free the mind from a
sense of things about itand enable it to ramble at its
pleasure. So far as an overpowering heavinessa prostration of
strengthand an utter inability to control our thoughts or power
of motioncan be called sleepthis is it; and yetwe have a
consciousness of all that is going on about usandif we dream
at such a timewords which are really spokenor sounds which
really exist at the momentaccommodate themselves with
surprising readiness to our visionsuntil 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 factthat although our senses of touch and sight be
for the time deadyet our sleeping thoughtsand the visionary
scenes that pass before uswill be influenced and materially
influencedby 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 knewperfectly wellthat 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. Suddenlythe scene changed; the air became close
and confined; and he thoughtwith a glow of terrorthat he was
in the Jew's house again. There sat the hideous old manin his
accustomed cornerpointing at himand whispering to another
manwith his face avertedwho sat beside him.

'Hushmy dear!' he thought he heard the Jew say; 'it is hesure
enough. Come away.'

'He!' the other man seemed to answer; 'could I mistake himthink
you? If a crowd of ghosts were to put themselves into his exact
shapeand he stood amongst themthere is something that would
tell me how to point him out. If you buried him fifty feet deep
and took me across his graveI fancy I should knowif there
wasn't a mark above itthat he lay buried there?'

The man seemed to say thiswith such dreadful hatredthat
Oliver awoke with the fearand started up.

Good Heaven! what was thatwhich sent the blood tingling to his


heartand deprived him of his voiceand of power to move!
There--there--at the window--close before him--so closethat he
could have almost touched him before he started back: with his
eyes peering into the roomand meeting his: there stood the
Jew! And beside himwhite with rage or fearor bothwere the
scowling features of the man who had accosted him in the
inn-yard.

It was but an instanta glancea flashbefore his eyes; and
they were gone. But they had recognised himand he them; and
their look was as firmly impressed upon his memoryas if it had
been deeply carved in stoneand set before him from his birth.
He stood transfixed for a moment; thenleaping from the window
into the gardencalled loudly for help.

CHAPTER XXXV

CONTAINING THE UNSATISFACTORY RESULT OF OLIVER'S ADVENTURE; AND A
CONVERSATION OF SOME IMPORTANCE BETWEEN HARRY MAYLIE AND ROSE

When the inmates of the houseattracted by Oliver's cries
hurried to the spot from which they proceededthey found him
pale and agitatedpointing in the direction of the meadows
behind the houseand scarcely able to articulate the words'The
Jew! the Jew!'

Mr. Giles was at a loss to comprehend what this outcry meant; but
Harry Mayliewhose perceptions were something quickerand who
had heard Oliver's history from his motherunderstood it at
once.

'What direction did he take?' he askedcatching up a heavy stick
which was standing in a corner.

'That' replied Oliverpointing out the course the man had
taken; 'I missed them in an instant.'

'Thenthey are in the ditch!' said Harry. 'Follow! And keep as
near meas you can.' So sayinghe sprang over the hedgeand
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 twoMr. Losbernewho had been out
walkingand just then returnedtumbled over the hedge after
themand picking himself up with more agility than he could have
been supposed to possessstruck into the same course at no
contemptible speedshouting all the whilemost prodigiouslyto
know what was the matter.

On they all went; nor stopped they once to breatheuntil the
leaderstriking off into an angle of the field indicated by
Oliverbegan to searchnarrowlythe 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 footstepsto be seen. They stood nowon the summit of a
little hillcommanding the open fields in every direction for
three or four miles. There was the village in the hollow on the


left; butin order to gain thatafter pursuing the track Oliver
had pointed outthe 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 dreamOliver' said Harry Maylie.

'Oh noindeedsir' replied Olivershuddering at the very
recollection of the old wretch's countenance; 'I saw him too
plainly for that. I saw them bothas plainly as I see you now.'

'Who was the other?' inquired Harry and Mr. Losbernetogether.

'The very same man I told you ofwho 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 downas he spoketo the hedge which divided the
cottage-garden from the meadow. 'The tall man leaped overjust
there; and the Jewrunning a few paces to the rightcrept
through that gap.'

The two gentlemen watched Oliver's earnest faceas he spokeand
looking from him to each otherseemed to fell satisfied of the
accuracy of what he said. Stillin no direction were there any
appearances of the trampling of men in hurried flight. The grass
was long; but it was trodden down nowheresave 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 shoesor 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 Duffthemselves
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 thenthey gave it up with
reluctance. Giles was dispatched to the different ale-houses in
the villagefurnished with the best description Oliver could
give of the appearance and dress of the strangers. Of thesethe
Jew wasat all eventssufficiently remarkable to be remembered
supposing he had been seen drinkingor loitering about; but
Giles returned without any intelligencecalculated to dispel or
lessen the mystery.

On the next dayfresh search was madeand the inquiries
renewed; but with no better success. On the day following
Oliver and Mr. Maylie repaired to the market-townin the hope of
seeing or hearing something of the men there; but this effort was
equally fruitless. After a few daysthe affair began to be
forgottenas most affairs arewhen wonderhaving no fresh food
to support itdies away of itself.

MeanwhileRose was rapidly recovering. She had left her room:
was able to go out; and mixing once more with the familycarried
joy into the hearts of all.


Butalthough 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 timesan
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 Chertseythese
symptoms increased; and it became evident that something was in
progress which affected the peace of the young ladyand of
somebody else besides.

At lengthone morningwhen Rose was alone in the
breakfast-parlourHarry Maylie entered; andwith some
hesitationbegged permission to speak with her for a few
moments.

'A few--a very few--will sufficeRose' said the young man
drawing his chair towards her. 'What I shall have to sayhas
already presented itself to your mind; the most cherished hopes
of my heart are not unknown to youthough 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 nearwaited in
silence for him to proceed.

'I--I--ought to have left herebefore' said Harry.

'You shouldindeed' replied Rose. 'Forgive me for saying so
but I wish you had.'

'I was brought hereby 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 youngthe beautifuland goodare visited with
sicknesstheir pure spirits insensibly turn towards their bright
home of lasting rest; we knowHeaven help us! that the best and
fairest of our kindtoo often fade in blooming.'

There were tears in the eyes of the gentle girlas these words
were spoken; and when one fell upon the flower over which she
bentand glistened brightly in its cupmaking it more
beautifulit seemed as though the outpouring of her fresh young
heartclaimed kindred naturallywith the loveliest things in
nature.

'A creature' continued the young manpassionately'a creature
as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels
fluttered between life and death. Oh! who could hopewhen the
distant world to which she was akinhalf opened to her view
that she would return to the sorrow and calamity of this! Rose
Roseto know that you were passing away like some soft shadow
which a light from abovecasts 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 prayamid all these
consolationsthat you might be restored to those who loved
you--these were distractions almost too great to bear. They were
mineby day and night; and with themcame such a rushing


torrent of fearsand apprehensionsand selfish regretslest
you should dieand never know how devotedly I loved youas
almost bore down sense and reason in its course. You recovered.
Day by dayand almost hour by hoursome drop of health came
backand mingling with the spent and feeble stream of life which
circulated languidly within youswelled it again to a high and
rushing tide. I have watched you change almost from deathto
lifewith 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 Roseweeping; 'I only wish you had
left herethat 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 mantaking her hand. 'Rosemy
own dear Rose! For years--for years--I have loved you; hoping to
win my way to fameand then come proudly home and tell you it
had been pursued only for you to share; thinkingin my
daydreamshow I would remind youin that happy momentof the
many silent tokens I had given of a boy's attachmentand claim
your handas in redemption of some old mute contract that had
been sealed between us! That time has not arrived; but here
with not fame wonand no young vision realisedI offer you the
heart so long your ownand 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 ungratefulso hear my
answer.'

'It isthat I may endeavour to deserve you; it isdear Rose?'

'It is' replied Rose'that you must endeavour to forget me; not
as your old and dearly-attached companionfor that would wound
me deeply; butas the object of your love. Look into the world;
think how many hearts you would be proud to gainare there.
Confide some other passion to meif you will; I will be the
truestwarmestand most faithful friend you have.'

There was a pauseduring whichRosewho had covered her face
with one handgave free vent to her tears. Harry still retained
the other.

'And your reasonsRose' he saidat lengthin 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 italike to othersand to myself.'

'To yourself?'

'YesHarry. I owe it to myselfthat Ia friendless
portionlessgirlwith a blight upon my nameshould not give
your friends reason to suspect that I had sordidly yielded to
your first passionand fastened myselfa clogon all your
hopes and projects. I owe it to you and yoursto prevent you
from opposingin the warmth of your generous naturethis great
obstacle to your progress in the world.'


'If your inclinations chime with your sense of duty--' Harry
began.

'They do not' replied Rosecolouring deeply.

'Then you return my love?' said Harry. 'Say but thatdear Rose;
say but that; and soften the bitterness of this hard
disappointment!'

'If I could have done sowithout 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 meat leastRose.'

'I could' said Rose. 'Stay!' she addeddisengaging her hand
'why should we prolong this painful interview? Most painful to
meand yet productive of lasting happinessnotwithstanding; for
it WILL be happiness to know that I once held the high place in
your regard which I now occupyand every triumph you achieve in
life will animate me with new fortitude and firmness. Farewell
Harry! As we have met to-daywe 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 sinceritycheer and prosper you!'

'Another wordRose' said Harry. 'Your reason in your own
words. From your own lipslet me hear it!'

'The prospect before you' answered Rosefirmly'is a brilliant
one. All the honours to which great talents and powerful
connections can help men in public lifeare 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 ladyturning
awayas her temporary firmness forsook her'there is a stain
upon my namewhich 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 moreRose. Dearest Rose! one more!' cried Harry
throwing himself before her. 'If I had been less--less
fortunatethe world would call it--if some obscure and peaceful
life had been my destiny--if I had been poorsick
helpless--would you have turned from me then? Or has my probable
advancement to riches and honourgiven this scruple birth?'

'Do not press me to reply' answered Rose. 'The question does
not ariseand never will. It is unfairalmost unkindto urge
it.'

'If your answer be what I almost dare to hope it is' retorted
Harry'it will shed a gleam of happiness upon my lonely wayand
light the path before me. It is not an idle thing to do so much
by the utterance of a few brief wordsfor one who loves you
beyond all else. OhRose: in the name of my ardent and enduring
attachment; in the name of all I have suffered for youand all
you doom me to undergo; answer me this one question!'

'Thenif your lot had been differently cast' rejoined Rose; 'if
you had been even a littlebut not so farabove me; if I could
have been a help and comfort to you in any humble scene of peace


and retirementand not a blot and drawback in ambitious and
distinguished crowds; I should have been spared this trial.
have every reason to be happyvery happynow; but thenHarry
I own I should have been happier.'

Busy recollections of old hopescherished as a girllong ago
crowded into the mind of Rosewhile making this avowal; but they
brought tears with themas old hopes will when they come back
withered; and they relieved her.

'I cannot help this weaknessand it makes my purpose stronger'
said Roseextending her hand. 'I must leave you nowindeed.'

'I ask one promise' said Harry. 'Onceand only once more--say
within a yearbut it may be much sooner--I may speak to you
again on this subjectfor 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 itif you will--finally
repeat it! I will lay at your feetwhatever of station of
fortune I may possess; and if you still adhere to your present
resolutionwill not seekby word or actto 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 foreheadhurried
from the room.

CHAPTER XXXVI

IS A VERY SHORT ONEAND MAY APPEAR OF NO GREAT IMPORTANCE IN ITS
PLACEBUT IT SHOULD BE READ NOTWITHSTANDINGAS A SEQUEL TO THE
LASTAND A KEY TO ONE THAT WILL FOLLOW WHEN ITS TIME ARRIVES

'And so you are resolved to be my travelling companion this
morning; eh?' said the doctoras Harry Maylie joined him and
Oliver at the breakfast-table. 'Whyyou are not in the same
mind or intention two half-hours together!'

'You will tell me a different tale one of these days' said
Harrycolouring 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 mindin a great hurryto stay hereand to
accompany your motherlike a dutiful sonto the sea-side.
Before noonyou announce that you are going to do me the honour
of accompanying me as far as I goon your road to London. And
at nightyou urge mewith great mysteryto start before the
ladies are stirring; the consequence of which isthat young
Oliver here is pinned down to his breakfast when he ought to be
ranging the meadows after botanical phenomena of all kinds. Too
badisn't itOliver?'

'I should have been very sorry not to have been at home when you
and Mr. Maylie went awaysir' rejoined Oliver.


'That's a fine fellow' said the doctor; 'you shall come and see
me when you return. Butto speak seriouslyHarry; has any
communication from the great nobs produced this sudden anxiety on
your part to be gone?'

'The great nobs' replied Harry'under which designationI
presumeyou include my most stately unclehave not communicated
with me at allsince I have been here; norat this time of the
yearis 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
Christmasand these sudden shiftings and changes are no bad
preparation for political life. There's something in that. Good
training is always desirablewhether the race be for placecup
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 luggagethe good doctor bustled outto see it packed.

'Oliver' said Harry Mayliein 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
spiritswhich his whole behaviour displayed.

'You can write well now?' said Harrylaying his hand upon his
arm.

'I hope sosir' replied Oliver.

'I shall not be at home againperhaps 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! certainlysir; I shall be proud to do it' exclaimed
Olivergreatly 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 takeand what you talk aboutand whether
she--theyI mean--seem happy and quite well. You understand me?'

'Oh! quitesirquite' 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 oftenerand 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.'

Oliverquite elated and honoured by a sense of his importance
faithfully promised to be secret and explicit in his
communications. Mr. Maylie took leave of himwith many
assurances of his regard and protection.

The doctor was in the chaise; Giles (whoit had been arranged
should be left behind) held the door open in his hand; and the


women-servants were in the gardenlooking on. Harry cast one
slight glance at the latticed windowand jumped into the
carriage.

'Drive on!' he cried'hardfastfull gallop! Nothing short of
flying will keep pace with meto-day.'

'Halloa!' cried the doctorletting down the front glass in a
great hurryand shouting to the postillion; 'something very
short of flyng will keep pace with me. Do you hear?'

Jingling and clatteringtill distance rendered its noise
inaudibleand its rapid progress only perceptible to the eye
the vehicle wound its way along the roadalmost hidden in a
cloud of dust: now wholly disappearingand now becoming visible
againas intervening objectsor the intricacies of the way
permitted. It was not until even the dusty cloud was no longer
to be seenthat the gazers dispersed.

And there was one looker-onwho remained with eyes fixed upon
the spot where the carriage had disappearedlong after it was
many miles away; forbehind the white curtain which had shrouded
her from view when Harry raised his eyes towards the windowsat
Rose herself.

'He seems in high spirits and happy' she saidat length. 'I
feared for a time he might be otherwise. I was mistaken. I am
veryvery glad.'

Tears are signs of gladness as well as grief; but those which
coursed down Rose's faceas she sat pensively at the window
still gazing in the same directionseemed to tell more of sorrow
than of joy.

CHAPTER XXXVII

IN WHICH THE READER MAY PERCEIVE A CONTRASTNOT UNCOMMON IN
MATRIMONIAL CASES

Mr. Bumble sat in the workhouse parlourwith his eyes moodily
fixed on the cheerless gratewhenceas it was summer timeno
brighter gleam proceededthan the reflection of certain sickly
rays of the sunwhich were sent back from its cold and shining
surface. A paper fly-cage dangled from the ceilingto which he
occasionally raised his eyes in gloomy thought; andas the
heedless insects hovered round the gaudy net-workMr. Bumble
would heave a deep sighwhile a more gloomy shadow overspread
his countenance. Mr. Bumble was meditating; it might be that the
insects brought to mindsome painful passage in his own past
life.

Nor was Mr. Bumble's gloom the only thing calculated to awaken a
pleasing melancholy in the bosom of a spectator. There were not
wanting other appearancesand those closely connected with his
own personwhich announced that a great change had taken place
in the position of his affairs. The laced coatand the cocked
hat; where were they? He still wore knee-breechesand dark
cotton stockings on his nether limbs; but they were not THE
breeches. The coat was wide-skirted; and in that respect like
THE coatbutoh how different! The mighty cocked hat was
replaced by a modest round one. Mr. Bumble was no longer a


beadle.

There are some promotions in lifewhichindependent of the more
substantial rewards they offerrequire 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 apronor the beadle of his hat and lace; what are
they? Men. Mere men. Dignityand even holiness too
sometimesare more questions of coat and waistcoat than some
people imagine.

Mr. Bumle had married Mrs. Corneyand was master of the
workhouse. Another beadle had come into power. On him the
cocked hatgold-laced coatand staffhad all three descended.

'And to-morrow two months it was done!' said Mr. Bumblewith 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. Bumblepursuing the same train of
relection'for six teaspoonsa pair of sugar-tongsand a
milk-pot; with a small quantity of second-hand furnitureand
twenty pound in money. I went very reasonable. Cheapdirt
cheap!'

'Cheap!' cried a shrill voice in Mr. Bumble's ear: 'you would
have been dear at any price; and dear enough I paid for youLord
above knows that!'

Mr. Bumble turnedand encountered the face of his interesting
consortwhoimperfectly comprehending the few words she had
overheard of his complainthad hazarded the foregoing remark at
a venture.

'Mrs. Bumblema'am!' said Mr. Bumblewith a sentimental
sternness.

'Well!' cried the lady.

'Have the goodness to look at me' said Mr. Bumblefixing 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 hermy power is
gone.')

Whether an exceedingly small expansion of eye be sufficient to
quell pauperswhobeing lightly fedare in no very high
condition; or whether the late Mrs. Corney was particularly proof
against eagle glances; are matters of opinion. The matter of
factisthat the matron was in no way overpowered by Mr.
Bumble's scowlbuton the contrarytreated it with great
disdainand even raised a laugh threreatwhich sounded as
though it were genuine.

On hearing this most unexpected soundMr. Bumble lookedfirst
incredulousand 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 thereall day?' inquired Mrs.


Bumble.

'I am going to sit hereas long as I think properma'am'
rejoined Mr. Bumble; 'and although I was NOT snoringI shall
snoregapesneezelaughor cryas the humour strikes me;
such being my prerogative.'

'Your PREROGATIVE!' sneered Mrs. Bumblewith ineffable contempt.

'I said the wordma'am' said Mr. Bumble. 'The prerogative of a
man is to command.'

'And what's the prerogative of a womanin the name of Goodness?'
cried the relict of Mr. Corney deceased.

'To obeyma'am' thundered Mr. Bumble. 'Your late unfortunate
husband should have taught it you; and thenperhapshe might
have been alive now. I wish he waspoor man!'

Mrs. Bumbleseeing at a glancethat the decisive moment had now
arrivedand that a blow struck for the mastership on one side or
othermust necessarily be final and conclusiveno sooner heard
this allusion to the dead and gonethan she dropped into a
chairand with a loud scream that Mr. Bumble was a hard-hearted
brutefell into a paroxysm of tears.

Buttears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble's
soul; his heart was waterproof. Like washable beaver hats that
improve with rainhis nerves were rendered stouter and more
vigorousby showers of tearswhichbeing tokens of weakness
and so far tacit admissions of his own powerplease and exalted
him. He eyed his good lady with looks of great satisfactionand
beggedin an encouraging mannerthat she should cry her
hardest: the exercise being looked uponby the facultyas
stronly conducive to health.

'It opens the lungswashes the countenanceexercises the eyes
and softens down the temper' said Mr. Bumble. 'So cry away.'

As he discharged himself of this pleasantryMr. Bumble took his
hat from a pegand putting it onrather rakishlyon one side
as a man mightwho felt he had asserted his superiority in a
becoming mannerthrust his hands into his pocketsand sauntered
towards the doorwith much ease and waggishness depicted in his
whole appearance.

NowMrs. Corney that washad tried the tearsbecause they were
less troublesome than a manual assault; butshe was quite
prepared to make trial of the latter mode of proceedingas Mr.
Bumble was not long in discovering.

The first proof he experienced of the factwas conveyed in a
hollow soundimmediately succeeded by the sudden flying off of
his hat to the opposite end of the room. This preliminary
proceeding laying bare his headthe expert ladyclasping him
tightly round the throat with one handinflicted a shower of
blows (dealt with singular vigour and dexterity) upon it with the
other. This doneshe created a little variety by scratching his
faceand tearing his hair; andhavingby this timeinflicted
as much punishment as she deemed necessary for the offenceshe
pushed him over a chairwhich was luckily well situated for the
purpose: and defied him to talk about his prerogative againif
he dared.


'Get up!' said Mrs. Bumblein a voice of command. 'And take
yourself away from hereunless you want me to do something
desperate.'

Mr. Bumble rose with a very rueful countenance: wondering much
what something desperate might be. Picking up his hathe looked
towards the door.

'Are you going?' demanded Mr. Bumble.

'Certainlymy dearcertainly' rejoined Mr. Bumblemaking a
quicker motion towards the door. 'I didn't intend to--I'm going
my dear! You are so very violentthat really I--'

At this instantMrs. Bumble stepped hastily forward to replace
the carpetwhich had been kicked up in the scuffle. Mr. Bumble
immediately darted out of the roomwithout bestowing another
thought on his unfinished sentence: leaving the late Mrs. Corney
in full possession of the field.

Mr. Bumble was fairly taken by surpriseand fairly beaten. He
had a decided propensity for bullying: derived no inconsiderable
pleasure from the exercise of petty cruelty; andconsequently
was (it is needless to say) a coward. This is by no means a
disparagement to his character; for many official personageswho
are held in high respect and admirationare the victims of
similar infirmities. The remark is madeindeedrather in his
favour than otherwiseand with a view of impressing the reader
with a just sense of his qualifications for office.

Butthe measure of his degradation was not yet full. After
making a tour of the houseand thinkingfor the first time
that the poor-laws really were too hard on people; and that men
who ran away from their wivesleaving them chargeable to the
parishoughtin justice to be visited with no punishment at
allbut 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 conversationnow proceeded.

'Hem!' said Mr. Bumblesummoning up all his native dignity.
'These women at least shall continue to respect the prerogative.
Hallo! hallo there! What do you mean by this noiseyou
hussies?'

With these wordsMr. Bumble opened the doorand walked in with
a very fierce and angry manner: which was at once exchanged for
a most humiliated and cowering airas his eyes unexpectedly
rested on the form of his lady wife.

'My dear' said Mr. Bumble'I didn't know you were here.'

'Didn't know I was here!' repeated Mrs. Bumble. 'What do YOU do
here?'

'I thought they were talking rather too much to be doing their
work properlymy dear' replied Mr. Bumble: glancing
distractedly at a couple of old women at the wash-tubwho 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?'

'Whymy dear--' urged Mr. Bumble submissively.


'What business is it of yours?' demanded Mrs. Bumbleagain.

'It's very trueyou're matron heremy dear' submitted Mr.
Bumble; 'but I thought you mightn't be in the way just then.'

'I'll tell you whatMr. 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 youmaking
everybody in the house laughthe moment your back is turnedand
making yourself look like a fool every hour in the day. Be off;
come!'

Mr. Bumbleseeing with excruciating feelingsthe delight of the
two old pauperswho were tittering together most rapturously
hesitated for an instant. Mrs. Bumblewhose patience brooked no
delaycaught up a bowl of soap-sudsand motioning him towards
the doorordered him instantly to departon pain of receiving
the contents upon his portly person.

What could Mr. Bumble do? He looked dejectedly roundand slunk
away; andas he reached the doorthe 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 beadleshipto the lowest depth of the most
snubbed hen-peckery.

'All in two months!' said Mr. Bumblefilled with dismal
thoughts. 'Two months! No more than two months agoI was not
only my own masterbut everybody else'sso far as the porochial
workhouse was concernedand 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 walkeddistractedlyinto the street.

He walked up one streetand down anotheruntil 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;
butat length paused before one in a by-waywhose parlouras
he gathered from a hasty peep over the blindswas desertedsave
by one solitary customer. It began to rainheavilyat the
moment. This determined him. Mr. Bumble stepped in; and
ordering something to drinkas he passed the barentered the
apartment into which he had looked from the street.

The man who was seated therewas tall and darkand wore a large
cloak. He had the air of a stranger; and seemedby a certain
haggardness in his lookas well as by the dusty soils on his
dressto have travelled some distance. He eyed Bumble askance
as he enteredbut 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 silenceand read the paper with great show of
pomp and circumstance.

It so happenedhowever: as it will happen very oftenwhen men
fall into company under such circumstances: that Mr. Bumble
feltevery now and thena powerful inducementwhich he could
not resistto steal a look at the stranger: and that whenever
he did sohe withdrew his eyesin some confusionto 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 eyewhich was keen and brightbut
shadowed by a scowl of distrust and suspicionunlike anything he
had ever observed beforeand repulsive to behold.

When they had encountered each other's glance several times in
this waythe strangerin a harshdeep voicebroke silence.

'Were you looking for me' he said'when you peered in at the
window?'

'Not that I am aware ofunless you're Mr. --' Here Mr. Bumble
stopped short; for he was curious to know the stranger's name
and thought in his impatiencehe 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 harmyoung man' observed Mr. Bumblemajestically.

'And have done none' said the stranger.

Another silence succeeded this short dialogue: which was again
broken by the stranger.

'I have seen you beforeI think?' said he. 'You were
differently dressed at that timeand I only passed you in the
streetbut I should know you again. You were beadle hereonce;
were you not?'

'I was' said Mr. Bumblein some surprise; 'porochial beadle.'

'Just so' rejoined the othernodding his head. 'It was in that
character I saw you. What are you now?'

'Master of the workhouse' rejoined Mr. Bumbleslowly and
impressivelyto check any undue familiarity the stranger might
otherwise assume. 'Master of the workhouseyoung man!'

'You have the same eye to your own interestthat you always had
I doubt not?' resumed the strangerlooking keenly into Mr.
Bumble's eyesas he raised them in astonishment at the question.

'Don't scruple to answer freelyman. I know you pretty well
you see.'

'I supposea married man' replied Mr. Bumbleshading his eyes
with his handand surveying the strangerfrom head to footin
evident perplexity'is not more averse to turning an honest
penny when he canthan 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 smiledand nodded his head again: as much to say
he had not mistaken his man; then rang the bell.

'Fill this glass again' he saidhanding Mr. Bumble's empty
tumbler to the landlord. 'Let it be strong and hot. You like it
soI suppose?'

'Not too strong' replied Mr. Bumblewith a delicate cough.


'You understand what that meanslandlord!' said the stranger
drily.

The host smileddisappearedand shortly afterwards returned
with a steaming jorum: of whichthe first gulp brought the water
into Mr. Bumble's eyes.

'Now listen to me' said the strangerafter closing the door and
window. 'I came down to this placeto-dayto find you out;
andby one of those chances which the devil throws in the way of
his friends sometimesyou walked into the very room I was
sitting inwhile 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 thatto begin with.'

As he spokehe pushed a couple of sovereigns across the table to
his companioncarefullyas though unwilling that the chinking
of money should be heard without. When Mr. Bumble had
scrupulously examined the coinsto see that they were genuine
and had put them upwith much satisfactionin his
waistcoat-pockethe went on:

'Carry your memory back--let me see--twelve yearslast winter.'

'It's a long time' said Mr. Bumble. 'Very good. I've done it.'

'The scenethe workhouse.'

'Good!'

'And the timenight.'

'Yes.'

'And the placethe crazy holewherever it wasin 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 shamerot 'em in the grave!'

'The lying-in roomI suppose?' said Mr. Bumblenot quite
following the stranger's excited description.

'Yes' said the stranger. 'A boy was born there.'

'A many boys' observed Mr. Bumbleshaking his head
despondingly.

'A murrain on the young devils!' cried the stranger; 'I speak of
one; a meek-lookingpale-faced boywho was apprenticed down
hereto a coffin-maker--I wish he had made his coffinand
screwed his body in it--and who afterwards ran away to Londonas
it was supposed.

'Whyyou mean Oliver! Young Twist!' said Mr. Bumble; 'I
remember himof course. There wasn't a obstinater young
rascal--'

'It's not of him I want to hear; I've heard enough of him' said
the strangerstopping 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. Bumblewhom the gin-and-water had
rendered facetious. 'It would be hard to tell. There's no


midwifery therewhichever place she's gone to; so I suppose
she's out of employmentanyway.'

'What do you mean?' demanded the strangersternly.

'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
afterwardshis gaze gradually became vacant and abstractedand
he seemed lost in thought. For some timehe appeared doubtful
whether he ought to be relieved or disappointed by the
intelligence; but at length he breathed more freely; and
withdrawing his eyesobserved that it was no great matter. With
that he roseas if to depart.

But Mr. Bumble was cunning enough; and he at once saw that an
opportunity was openedfor the lucrative disposal of some secret
in the possession of his better half. He well remembered the
night of old Sally's deathwhich the occurrences of that day had
given him good reason to recollectas 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
witnesshe had heard enough to know that it related to something
that had occurred in the old woman's attendanceas workhouse
nurseupon the young mother of Oliver Twist. Hastily calling
this circumstance to mindhe informed the strangerwith an air
of mysterythat one woman had been closeted with the old
harridan shortly before she died; and that she couldas he had
reason to believethrow some light on the subject of his
inquiry.

'How can I find her?' said the strangerthrown 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 strangerhastily.

'To-morrow' rejoined Bumble.

'At nine in the evening' said the strangerproducing a scrap of
paperand writing down upon itan obscure address by the
water-sidein characters that betrayed his agitation; 'at nine
in the eveningbring her to me there. I needn't tell you to be
secret. It's your interest.'

With these wordshe led the way to the doorafter stopping to
pay for the liquor that had been drunk. Shortly remarking that
their roads were differenthe departedwithout more ceremony
than an emphatic repetition of the hour of appointment for the
following night.

On glancing at the addressthe parochial functionary observed
that it contained no name. The stranger had not gone farso he
made after him to ask it.

'What do you want?' cried the man. turning quickly roundas
Bumble touched him on the arm. 'Following me?'

'Only to ask a question' said the otherpointing to the scrap
of paper. 'What name am I to ask for?'


'Monks!' rejoined the man; and strode hastilyaway.

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED BETWEEN MR. AND MRS. BUMBLE
AND MR. MONKSAT THEIR NOCTURNAL INTERVIEW

It was a dullcloseovercast summer evening. The cloudswhich
had been threatening all dayspread out in a dense and sluggish
mass of vapouralready yielded large drops of rainand seemed
to presage a violent thunder-stormwhen Mr. and Mrs. Bumble
turning out of the main street of the towndirected their course
towards a scattered little colony of ruinous housesdistant from
it some mile and a-halfor thereaboutsand erected on a low
unwholesome swampbordering upon the river.

They were both wrapped in old and shabby outer garmentswhich
mightperhapsserve the double purpose of protecting their
persons from the rainand sheltering them from observation. The
husband carried a lanternfrom whichhoweverno light yet
shone; and trudged ona few paces in frontas though--the way
being dirty--to give his wife the benefit of treading in his
heavy footprints. They went onin profound silence; every now
and thenMr. Bumble relaxed his paceand turned his head as if
to make sure that his helpmate was following; thendiscovering
that she was close at his heelshe mended his rate of walking
and proceededat a considerable increase of speedtowards 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 ruffianswho
under various pretences of living by their laboursubsisted
chiefly on plunder and crime. It was a collection of mere
hovels: somehastily built with loose bricks: othersof old
worm-eaten ship-timber: jumbled together without any attempt at
order or arrangementand plantedfor the most partwithin a
few feet of the river's bank. A few leaky boats drawn up on the
mudand made fast to the dwarf wall which skirted it: and here
and there an oar or coil of rope: appearedat firstto
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 displayedwould have led
a passer-bywithout much difficultyto the conjecture that they
were disposed thererather 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 hadin its day
probably furnished employment to the inhabitants of the
surrounding tenements. But it had long since gone to ruin. The
ratthe wormand the action of the damphad 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
remaindertottering and bending over the dark streamseemed to
wait a favourable opportunity of following its old companionand
involving itself in the same fate.

It was before this ruinous building that the worthy couple
pausedas the first peal of distant thunder reverberated in the
airand the rain commenced pouring violently down.


'The place should be somewhere here' said Bumbleconsulting a
scrap of paper he held in his hand.

'Halloa there!' cried a voice from above.

Following the soundMr. Bumble raised his head and descried a
man looking out of a doorbreast-highon the second story.

'Stand stilla minute' cried the voice; 'I'll be with you
directly.' With which the head disappearedand the door closed.

'Is that the man?' asked Mr. Bumble's good lady.

Mr. Bumble nodded in the affirmative.

'Thenmind what I told you' said the matron: 'and be careful to
say as little as you canor you'll betray us at once.'

Mr. Bumblewho had eyed the building with very rueful lookswas
apparently about to express some doubts relative to the
advisability of proceeding any further with the enterprise just
thenwhen he was prevented by the appearance of Monks: w ho
opened a small doornear which they stoodand beckoned them
inwards.

'Come in!' he cried impatientlystamping his foot upon the
ground. 'Don't keep me here!'

The womanwho had hesitated at firstwalked boldly inwithout
any other invitation. Mr. Bumblewho was ashamed or afraid to
lag behindfollowed: 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 therein the wet?' said
Monksturning roundand addressing Bumbleafter he had bolted
the door behind them.

'We--we were only cooling ourselves' stammered Bumblelooking
apprehensively about him.

'Cooling yourselves!' retorted Monks. 'Not all the rain that
ever fellor ever will fallwill put as much of hell's fire
outas a man can carry about with him. You won't cool yourself
so easily; don't think it!'

With this agreeable speechMonks turned short upon the matron
and bent his gaze upon hertill even shewho was not easily
cowedwas fain to withdraw her eyesand turn them them towards
the ground.

'This is the womanis it?' demanded Monks.

'Hem! That is the woman' replied Mr. Bumblemindful of his
wife's caution.

'You think women never can keep secretsI suppose?' said the
matroninterposingand returningas she spokethe searching
look of Monks.

'I know they will always keep ONE till it's found out' said
Monks.


'And what may that be?' asked the matron.

'The loss of their own good name' replied Monks. 'Soby the
same ruleif a woman's a party to a secret that might hang or
transport herI'm not afraid of her telling it to anybody; not
I! Do you understandmistress?'

'No' rejoined the matronslightly 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 companionsand again beckoning them to follow himthe man
hastened across the apartmentwhich was of considerable extent
but low in the roof. He was preparing to ascend a steep
staircaseor rather ladderleading to another floor of
warehouses above: when a bright flash of lightning streamed down
the apertureand a peal of thunder followedwhich shook the
crazy building to its centre.

'Hear it!' he criedshrinking 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 thenremoving his
hands suddenly from his faceshowedto the unspeakable
discomposure of Mr. Bumblethat it was much distorted and
discoloured.

'These fits come over menow and then' said Monksobserving
his alarm; 'and thunder sometimes brings them on. Don't mind me
now; it's all over for this once.'

Thus speakinghe led the way up the ladder; and hastily closing
the window-shutter of the room into which it ledlowered a
lantern which hung at the end of a rope and pulley passed through
one of the heavy beams in the ceiling: and which cast a dim
light upon an old table and three chairs that were placed beneath
it.

'Now' said Monkswhen they had all three seated themselves
'the sooner we come to our businessthe better for all. The
woman know what it isdoes she?'

The question was addressed to Bumble; but his wife anticipated
the replyby intimating that she was perfectly acquainted with
it.

'He is right in saying that you were with this hag the night she
died; and that she told you something--'

'About the mother of the boy you named' replied the matron
interrupting him. 'Yes.'

'The first question isof what nature was her communication?'
said Monks.

'That's the second' observed the woman with much deliberation.
'The first iswhat may the communication be worth?'

'Who the devil can tell thatwithout knowing of what kind it
is?' asked Monks.

'Nobody better than youI am persuaded' answered Mrs. Bumble:


who did not want for spiritas her yoke-fellow could abundantly
testify.

'Humph!' said Monks significantlyand with a look of eager
inquiry; 'there may be money's worth to geteh?'

'Perhaps there may' was the composed reply.

'Something that was taken from her' said Monks. 'Something that
she wore. Something that--'

'You had better bid' interrupted Mrs. Bumble. 'I have heard
enoughalreadyto assure me that you are the man I ought to
talk to.'

Mr. Bumblewho had not yet been admitted by his better half into
any greater share of the secret than he had originally possessed
listened to this dialogue with outstretched neck and distended
eyes: which he directed towards his wife and Monksby turnsin
undisguised astonishment; increasedif possiblewhen the latter
sternly demandedwhat sum was required for the disclosure.

'What's it worth to you?' asked the womanas collectedly as
before.

'It may be nothing; it may be twenty pounds' replied Monks.
'Speak outand let me know which.'

'Add five pounds to the sum you have named; give me
five-and-twenty pounds in gold' said the woman; 'and I'll tell
you all I know. Not before.'

'Five-and-twenty pounds!' exclaimed Monksdrawing back.

'I spoke as plainly as I could' replied Mrs. Bumble. 'It's not
a large sumeither.'

'Not a large sum for a paltry secretthat may be nothing when
it's told!' cried Monks impatiently; 'and which has been lying
dead for twelve years past or more!'

'Such matters keep wellandlike good wineoften double their
value in course of time' answered the matronstill preserving
the resolute indifference she had assumed. 'As to lying dead
there are those who will lie dead for twelve thousand years to
comeor twelve millionfor anything you or I knowwho will
tell strange tales at last!'

'What if I pay it for nothing?' asked Monkshesitating.

'You can easily take it away again' replied the matron. 'I am
but a woman; alone here; and unprotected.'

'Not alonemy dearnor unprotectedneither' submitted Mr.
Bumblein a voice tremulous with fear: '_I_ am heremy dear.
And besides' said Mr. Bumblehis teeth chattering as he spoke
'Mr. Monks is too much of a gentleman to attempt any violence on
porochial persons. Mr. Monks is aware that I am not a young man
my dearand also that I am a little run to seedas I may say;
bu he has heerd: I say I have no doubt Mr. Monks has heerdmy
dear: that I am a very determined officerwith very uncommon
strengthif I'm once roused. I only want a little rousing;
that's all.'


As Mr. Bumble spokehe made a melancholy feint of grasping his
lantern with fierce determination; and plainly showedby the
alarmed expression of every featurethat he DID want a little
rousingand not a littleprior to making any very warlike
demonstration: unlessindeedagainst paupersor other person
or persons trained down for the purpose.

'You are a fool' said Mrs. Bumblein reply; 'and had better
hold your tongue.'

'He had better have cut it outbefore he cameif he can't speak
in a lower tone' said Monksgrimly. 'So! He's your husband
eh?'

'He my husband!' tittered the matronparrying the question.

'I thought as muchwhen you came in' rejoined Monksmarking
the angry glance which the lady darted at her spouse as she
spoke. 'So much the better; I have less hesitation in dealing
with two peoplewhen I find that there's only one will between
them. I'm in earnest. See here!'

He thrust his hand into a side-pocket; and producing a canvas
bagtold out twenty-five sovereigns on the tableand pushed
them over to the woman.

'Now' he said'gather them up; and when this cursed peal of
thunderwhich I feel is coming up to break over the house-top
is gonelet's hear your story.'

The thunderwhich seemed in fact much nearerand to shiver and
break almost over their headshaving subsidedMonksraising
his face from the tablebent forward to listen to what the woman
should say. The faces of the three nearly touchedas the two
men leant over the small table in their eagerness to hearand
the woman also leant forward to render her whisper audible. The
sickly rays of the suspended lantern falling directly upon them
aggravated the paleness and anxiety of their countenances: which
encircled by the deepest gloom and darknesslooked ghastly in
the extreme.

'When this womanthat we called old Sallydied' the matron
began'she and I were alone.'

'Was there no one by?' asked Monksin the same hollow whisper;
'No sick wretch or idiot in some other bed? No one who could
hearand mightby possibilityunderstand?'

'Not a soul' replied the woman; 'we were alone. _I_ stood alone
beside the body when death came over it.'

'Good' said Monksregarding her attentively. 'Go on.'

'She spoke of a young creature' resumed the matron'who had
brought a child into the world some years before; not merely in
the same roombut in the same bedin which she then lay dying.'

'Ay?' said Monkswith quivering lipand glancing over his
shoulder'Blood! How things come about!'

'The child was the one you named to him last night' said the
matronnodding carelessly towards her husband; 'the mother this
nurse had robbed.'


'In life?' asked Monks.

'In death' replied the womanwith something like a shudder.
'She stole from the corpsewhen it had hardly turned to one
that which the dead mother had prayed herwith her last breath
to keep for the infant's sake.'

'She sold it' cried Monkswith desperate eagerness; 'did she
sell it? Where? When? To whom? How long before?'

'As she told mewith great difficultythat she had done this'
said the matron'she fell back and died.'

'Without saying more?' cried Monksin a voice whichfrom its
very suppressionseemed only the more furious. 'It's a lie!
I'll not be played with. She said more. I'll tear the life out
of you bothbut I'll know what it was.'

'She didn't utter another word' said the womanto all
appearance unmoved (as Mr. Bumble was very far from being) by the
strange man's violence; 'but she clutched my gownviolently
with one handwhich was partly closed; and when I saw that she
was deadand so removed the hand by forceI found it clasped a
scrap of dirty paper.'

'Which contained--' interposed Monksstretching forward.

'Nothing' replied the woman; 'it was a pawnbroker's duplicate.'

'For what?' demanded Monks.

'In good time I'll tell you.' said the woman. 'I judge that she
had kept the trinketfor some timein the hope of turning it to
better account; and then had pawned it; and had saved or scraped
together money to pay the pawnbroker's interest year by yearand
prevent its running out; so that if anything came of itit could
still be redeemed. Nothing had come of it; andas I tell you
she died with the scrap of paperall worn and tatteredin her
hand. The time was out in two days; I thought something might
one day come of it too; and so redeemed the pledge.'

'Where is it now?' asked Monks quickly.

'THERE' replied the woman. Andas if glad to be relieved of
itshe hastily threw upon the table a small kid bag scarcely
large enough for a French watchwhich Monks pouncing upontore
open with trembling hands. It contained a little gold locket:
in which were two locks of hairand a plain gold wedding-ring.

'It has the word "Agnes" engraved on the inside' said the woman.

'There is a blank left for the surname; and then follows the
date; which is within a year before the child was born. I found
out that.'

'And this is all?' said Monksafter a close and eager scrutiny
of the contents of the little packet.

'All' replied the woman.

Mr. Bumble drew a long breathas if he were glad to find that
the story was overand no mention made of taking the
five-and-twenty pounds back again; and now he took courage to
wipe the perspiration which had been trickling over his nose


uncheckedduring the whole of the previous dialogue.

'I know nothing of the storybeyond what I can guess at' said
his wife addressing Monksafter a short silence; 'and I want to
know nothing; for it's safer not. But I may ask you two
questionsmay I?'

'You may ask' said Monkswith some show of surprise; 'but
whether I answer or not is another question.'

'--Which makes three' observed Mr. Bumbleessaying a stroke of
facetiousness.

'Is that what you expected to get from me?' demanded the matron.

'It is' replied Monks. 'The other question?'

'What do you propose to do with it? Can it be used against me?'

'Never' rejoined Monks; 'nor against me either. See here! But
don't move a step forwardor your life is not worth a bulrush.'

With these wordshe suddenly wheeled the table asideand
pulling an iron ring in the boardingthrew back a large
trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feetand caused
that gentleman to retire several paces backwardwith great
precipitation.

'Look down' said Monkslowering the lantern into the gulf.
'Don't fear me. I could have let you downquietly enoughwhen
you were seated over itif that had been my game.'

Thus encouragedthe matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr.
Bumble himselfimpelled by curiousityventured to do the same.
The turbid waterswollen by the heavy rainwas rushing rapidly
on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its
plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There
had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing
round the few rotten stakesand fragments of machinery that yet
remainedseemed to dart onwardwith a new impulsewhen freed
from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its
headlong course.

'If you flung a man's body down therewhere would it be
to-morrow morning?' said Monksswinging the lantern to and fro
in the dark well.

'Twelve miles down the riverand cut to pieces besides' replied
Bumblerecoiling at the thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breastwhere he had
hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weightwhich had
formed a part of some pulleyand was lying on the floordropped
it into the stream. It fell straightand true as a die; clove
the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone.

The three looking into each other's facesseemed to breathe more
freely.

'There!' said Monksclosing the trap-doorwhich fell heavily
back into its former position. 'If the sea ever gives up its
deadas books say it willit will keep its gold and silver to
itselfand that trash among it. We have nothing more to say
and may break up our pleasant party.'


'By all means' observed Mr. Bumblewith great alacrity.

'You'll keep a quiet tongue in your headwill you?' said Monks
with a threatening look. 'I am not afraid of your wife.'

'You may depend upon meyoung man' answered Mr. Bumblebowing
himself gradually towards the ladderwith excessive politeness.
'On everybody's accountyoung man; on my ownyou knowMr.
Monks.'

'I am gladfor your saketo hear it' remarked Monks. 'Light
your lantern! And get away from here as fast as you can.'

It was fortunate that the conversation terminated at this point
or Mr. Bumblewho had bowed himself to within six inches of the
ladderwould infallibly have pitched headlong into the room
below. He lighted his lantern from that which Monks had detached
from the ropeand now carried in his hand; and making no effort
to prolong the discoursedescended in silencefollowed by his
wife. Monks brought up the rearafter pausing on the steps to
satisfy himself that there were no other sounds to be heard than
the beating of the rain withoutand the rushing of the water.

They traversed the lower roomslowlyand with caution; for
Monks started at every shadow; and Mr. Bumbleholding his
lantern a foot above the groundwalked not only with remarkable
carebut with a marvellously light step for a gentleman of his
figure: looking nervously about him for hidden trap-doors. The
gate at which they had enteredwas softly unfastened and opened
by Monks; merely exchanging a nod with their mysterious
acquaintancethe married couple emerged into the wet and
darkness outside.

They were no sooner gonethan Monkswho appeared to entertain
an invincible repugnance to being left alonecalled to a boy who
had been hidden somewhere below. Bidding him go firstand bear
the lighthe returned to the chamber he had just quitted.

CHAPTER XXXIX

INTRODUCES SOME RESPECTABLE CHARACTERS WITH WHOM THE READER IS
ALREADY ACQUAINTEDAND SHOWS HOW MONKS AND THE JEW LAID THEIR
WORTHY HEADS TOGETHER

On the evening following that upon which the three worthies
mentioned in the last chapterdisposed of their little matter of
business as therein narratedMr. William Sikesawakening from a
napdrowsily growled forth an inquiry what time of night it was.

The room in which Mr. Sikes propounded this questionwas not one
of those he had tenantedprevious to the Chertsey expedition
although it was in the same quarter of the townand was situated
at no great distance from his former lodgings. It was notin
appearanceso desirable a habitation as his old quarters: being
a mean and badly-furnished apartmentof very limited size;
lighted only by one small window in the shelving roofand
abutting on a close and dirty lane. Nor were there wanting other
indications of the good gentleman's having gone down in the world
of late: for a great scarcity of furnitureand total absence of
comforttogether with the disappearance of all such small


moveables as spare clothes and linenbespoke a state of extreme
poverty; while the meagre and attenuated condition of Mr. Sikes
himself would have fully confirmed these symptomsif they had
stood in any need of corroboration.

The housebreaker was lying on the bedwrapped in his white
great-coatby way of dressing-gownand displaying a set of
features in no degree improved by the cadaverous hue of illness
and the addition of a soiled nightcapand a stiffblack beard
of a week's growth. The dog sat at the bedside: now eyeing his
master with a wistful lookand now pricking his earsand
uttering a low growl as some noise in the streetor in the lower
part of the houseattracted his attention. Seated by the
windowbusily engaged in patching an old waistcoat which formed
a portion of the robber's ordinary dresswas a female: so pale
and reduced with watching and privationthat there would have
been considerable difficulty in recognising her as the same Nancy
who has already figured in this talebut for the voice in which
she replied to Mr. Sikes's question.

'Not long gone seven' said the girl. 'How do you feel to-night
Bill?'

'As weak as water' replied Mr. Sikeswith an imprecation on his
eyes and limbs. 'Here; lend us a handand let me get off this
thundering bed anyhow.'

Illness had not improved Mr. Sikes's temper; foras the girl
raised him up and led him to a chairhe muttered various curses
on her awkwardnewssand struck her.

'Whining are you?' said Sikes. 'Come! Don't stand snivelling
there. If you can't do anything better than thatcut off
altogether. D'ye hear me?'

'I hear you' replied the girlturning her face asideand
forcing a laugh. 'What fancy have you got in your head now?'

'Oh! you've thought better of ithave you?' growled Sikes
marking the tear which trembled in her eye. 'All the better for
youyou have.'

'Whyyou don't mean to sayyou'd be hard upon me to-night
Bill' said the girllaying her hand upon his shoulder.

'No!' cried Mr. Sikes. 'Why not?'

'Such a number of nights' said the girlwith a touch of woman's
tendernesswhich communicated something like sweetness of tone
even to her voice: 'such a number of nights as I've been patient
with younursing and caring for youas if you had been a child:
and this the first that I've seen you like yourself; you wouldn't
have served me as you did just nowif you'd thought of that
would you? Comecome; say you wouldn't.'

'Wellthen' rejoined Mr. Sikes'I wouldn't. Whydammenow
the girls's whining again!'

'It's nothing' said the girlthrowing herself into a chair.
'Don't you seem to mind me. It'll soon be over.'

'What'll be over?' demanded Mr. Sikes in a savage voice. 'What
foolery are you up tonowagain? Get up and bustle aboutand
don't come over me with your woman's nonsense.'


At any other timethis remonstranceand the tone in which it
was deliveredwould have had the desired effect; but the girl
being really weak and exhausteddropped her head over the back
of the chairand faintedbefore Mr. Sikes could get out a few
of the appropriate oaths with whichon similar occasionshe was
accustomed to garnish his threats. Not knowingvery wellwhat
to doin this uncommon emergency; for Miss Nancy's hysterics
were usually of that violent kind which the patient fights and
struggles out ofwithout much assistance; Mr. Sikes tried a
little blasphemy: and finding that mode of treatment wholly
ineffectualcalled for assistance.

'What's the matter heremy dear?' said Faginlooking in.

'Lend a hand to the girlcan't you?' replied Sikes impatiently.
'Don't stand chattering and grinning at me!'

With an exclamation of surpriseFagin hastened to the girl's
assistancewhile Mr. John Dawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger)
who had followed his venerable friend into the roomhastily
deposited on the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and
snatching a bottle from the grasp of Master Charles Bates who
came close at his heelsuncorked it in a twinkling with his
teethand poured a portion of its contents down the patient's
throat: previously taking a tastehimselfto prevent mistakes.

'Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellowsCharley' said
Mr. Dawkins; 'and you slap her handsFaginwhile Bill undoes
the petticuts.'

These united restorativesadministered with great energy:
especially that department consigned to Master Bateswho
appeared to consider his share in the proceedingsa piece of
unexampled pleasantry: were not long in producing the desired
effect. The girl gradually recovered her senses; andstaggering
to a chair by the bedsidehid her face upon the pillow: leaving
Mr. Sikes to confront the new comersin some astonishment at
their unlooked-for appearance.

'Whywhat evil wind has blowed you here?' he asked Fagin.

'No evil wind at allmy dearfor evil winds blow nobody any
good; and I've brought something good with methat you'll be
glad to see. Dodgermy dearopen the bundle; and give Bill the
little trifles that we spent all our money onthis morning.'

In compliance with Mr. Fagin's requestthe Artful untied this
bundlewhich was of large sizeand formed of an old
table-cloth; and handed the articles it containedone by oneto
Charley Bates: who placed them on the tablewith various
encomiums on their rarity and excellence.

'Sitch a rabbit pieBill' exclaimed that young gentleman
disclosing to view a huge pasty; 'sitch delicate creeturswith
sitch tender limbsBillthat the wery bones melt in your mouth
and there's no occasion to pick 'em; half a pound of seven and
six-penny greenso precious strong that if you mix it with
biling waterit'll go nigh to blow the lid of the tea-pot off; a
pound and a half of moist sugar that the niggers didn't work at
all atafore they got it up to sitch a pitch of goodness--oh
no! Two half-quartern brans; pound of best fresh; piece of
double Glo'ster; andto wind up allsome of the richest sort
you ever lushed!'


Uttering this last panegyrieMaster Bates producedfrom one of
his extensive pocketsa full-sized wine-bottlecarefully
corked; while Mr. Dawkinsat the same instantpoured out a
wine-glassful of raw spirits from the bottle he carried: which
the invalid tossed down his throat without a moment's hesitation.

'Ah!' said Faginrubbing his hands with great satisfaction.
'You'll doBill; you'll do now.'

'Do!' exclaimed Mr. Sikes; 'I might have been done fortwenty
times overafore you'd have done anything to help me. What do
you mean by leaving a man in this statethree weeks and more
you false-hearted wagabond?'

'Only hear himboys!' said Faginshrugging his shoulders. 'And
us come to bring him all these beau-ti-ful things.'

'The things is well enough in their way' observed Mr. Sikes: a
little soothed as he glanced over the table; 'but what have you
got to say for yourselfwhy you should leave me heredown in
the mouthhealthbluntand everything else; and take no more
notice of meall this mortal timethan if I was that 'ere
dog.--Drive him downCharley!'

'I never see such a jolly dog as that' cried Master Batesdoing
as he was desired. 'Smelling the grub like a old lady a going to
market! He'd make his fortun' on the stage that dog wouldand
rewive the drayma besides.'

'Hold your din' cried Sikesas the dog retreated under the bed:

still growling angrily. 'What have you got to say for yourself
you withered old fenceeh?'

'I was away from Londona week and moremy dearon a plant'
replied the Jew.

'And what about the other fortnight?' demanded Sikes. 'What
about the other fortnight that you've left me lying herelike a
sick rat in his hole?'

'I couldn't help itBill. I can't go into a long explanation
before company; but I couldn't help itupon my honour.'

'Upon your what?' growled Sikeswith excessive disgust. 'Here!
Cut me off a piece of that pieone of you boysto take the
taste of that out of my mouthor it'll choke me dead.'

'Don't be out of tempermy dear' urged Faginsubmissively. 'I
have never forgot youBill; never once.'

'No! I'll pound it that you han't' replied Sikeswith a bitter
grin. 'You've been scheming and plotting awayevery hour that I
have laid shivering and burning here; and Bill was to do this;
and Bill was to do that; and Bill was to do it alldirt cheap
as soon as he got well: and was quite poor enough for your work.
If it hadn't been for the girlI might have died.'

'There nowBill' remonstrated Fagineagerly catching at the
word. 'If it hadn't been for the girl! Who but poor ould Fagin
was the means of your having such a handy girl about you?'

'He says true enough there!' said Nancycoming hastily forward.


'Let him be; let him be.'

Nancy's appearance gave a new turn to the conversation; for the
boysreceiving a sly wink from the wary old Jewbegan to ply
her with liquor: of whichhowevershe took very sparingly;
while Faginassuming an unusual flow of spiritsgradually
brought Mr. Sikes into a better temperby affecting to regard
his threats as a little pleasant banter; andmoreoverby
laughing very heartily at one or two rough jokeswhichafter
repeated applications to the spirit-bottlehe condescended to
make.

'It's all very well' said Mr. Sikes; 'but I must have some blunt
from you to-night.'

'I haven't a piece of coin about me' replied the Jew.

'Then you've got lots at home' retorted Sikes; 'and I must have
some from there.'

'Lots!' cried Faginholding up is hands. 'I haven't so much as
would--'

'I don't know how much you've gotand I dare say you hardly know
yourselfas it would take a pretty long time to count it' said
Sikes; 'but I must have some to-night; and that's flat.'

'Wellwell' said Faginwith a sigh'I'll send the Artful
round presently.'

'You won't do nothing of the kind' rejoined Mr. Sikes. 'The
Artful's a deal too artfuland would forget to comeor lose his
wayor get dodged by traps and so be perwentedor anything for
an excuseif you put him up to it. Nancy shall go to the ken
and fetch itto make all sure; and I'll lie down and have a
snooze while she's gone.'

After a great deal of haggling and squabblingFagin beat down
the amount of the required advance from five pounds to three
pounds four and sixpence: protesting with many solemn
asseverations that that would only leave him eighteen-pence to
keep house with; Mr. Sikes sullenly remarking that if he couldn't
get any more he must accompany him home; with the Dodger and
Master Bates put the eatables in the cupboard. The Jew then
taking leave of his affectionate friendreturned homeward
attended by Nancy and the boys: Mr. Sikesmeanwhileflinging
himself on the bedand composing himself to sleep away the time
until the young lady's return.

In due coursethey arrived at Fagin's abodewhere they found
Toby Crackit and Mr. Chitling intent upon their fifteenth game at
cribbagewhich it is scarcely necessary to say the latter
gentleman lostand with ithis fifteenth and last sixpence:
much to the amusement of his young friends. Mr. Crackit
apparently somewhat ashamed at being found relaxing himself with
a gentleman so much his inferior in station and mental
endowmentsyawnedand inquiring after Sikestook up his hat to
go.

'Has nobody beenToby?' asked Fagin.

'Not a living leg' answered Mr. Crackitpulling up his collar;
'it's been as dull as swipes. You ought to stand something
handsomeFaginto recompense me for keeping house so long.


DammeI'm as flat as a juryman; and should have gone to sleep
as fast as Newgateif I hadn't had the good natur' to amuse this
youngster. Horrid dullI'm blessed if I an't!'

With these and other ejaculations of the same kindMr. Toby
Crackit swept up his winningsand crammed them into his
waistcoat pocket with a haughty airas though such small pieces
of silver were wholly beneath the consideration of a man of his
figure; this donehe swaggered out of the roomwith so much
elegance and gentilitythat Mr. Chitlingbestowing numerous
admiring glances on his legs and boots till they were out of
sightassured the company that he considered his acquaintance
cheap at fifteen sixpences an interviewand that he didn't value
his losses the snap of his little finger.

'Wot a rum chap you areTom!' said Master Bateshighly amused
by this declaration.

'Not a bit of it' replied Mr. Chitling. 'Am IFagin?'

'A very clever fellowmy dear' said Faginpatting him on the
shoulderand winking to his other pupils.

'And Mr. Crackit is a heavy swell; an't heFagin?' asked Tom.

'No doubt at all of thatmy dear.'

'And it is a creditable thing to have his acquaintance; an't it
Fagin?' pursued Tom.

'Very much soindeedmy dear. They're only jealousTom
because he won't give it to them.'

'Ah!' cried Tomtriumphantly'that's where it is! He has
cleaned me out. But I can go and earn some morewhen I like;
can't IFagin?'

'To be sure you canand the sooner you go the betterTom; so
make up your loss at onceand don't lose any more time. Dodger!

Charley! It's time you were on the lay. Come! It's near ten
and nothing done yet.'

In obedience to this hintthe boysnodding to Nancytook up
their hatsand left the room; the Dodger and his vivacious
friend indulgingas they wentin many witticisms at the expense
of Mr. Chitling; in whose conductit is but justice to say
there was nothing very conspicuous or peculiar: inasmuch as
there are a great number of spirited young bloods upon townwho
pay a much higher price than Mr. Chitling for being seen in good
society: and a great number of fine gentlemen (composing the
good society aforesaid) who established their reputation upon
very much the same footing as flash Toby Crackit.

'Now' said Faginwhen they had left the room'I'll go and get
you that cashNancy. This is only the key of a little cupboard
where I keep a few odd things the boys getmy dear. I never
lock up my moneyfor I've got none to lock upmy dear--ha! ha!
ha!--none to lock up. It's a poor tradeNancyand no thanks;
but I'm fond of seeing the young people about me; and I bear it
allI bear it all. Hush!' he saidhastily concealing the key
in his breast; 'who's that? Listen!'

The girlwho was sitting at the table with her arms folded


appeared in no way interested in the arrival: or to care whether
the personwhoever he wascame or went: until the murmur of a
man's voice reached her ears. The instant she caught the sound
she tore off her bonnet and shawlwith the rapidity of
lightningand thrust them under the table. The Jewturning
round immediately afterwardsshe muttered a complaint of the
heat: in a tone of languor that contrastedvery remarkably
with the extreme haste and violence of this action: which
howeverhad been unobserved by Faginwho had his back towards
her at the time.

'Bah!' he whisperedas though nettled by the interruption; 'it's
the man I expected before; he's coming downstairs. Not a word
about the money while he's hereNance. He won't stop long. Not
ten minutesmy dear.'

Laying his skinny forefinger upon his lipthe Jew carried a
candle to the dooras a man's step was heard upon the stairs
without. He reached itat the same moment as the visitorwho
coming hastily into the roomwas close upon the girl before he
observed her.

It was Monks.

'Only one of my young people' said Faginobserving that Monks
drew backon beholding a stranger. 'Don't moveNancy.'

The girl drew closer to the tableand glancing at Monks with an
air of careless levitywithdrew her eyes; but as he turned
towards Faginshe stole another look; so keen and searchingand
full of purposethat if there had been any bystander to observe
the changehe could hardly have believed the two looks to have
proceeded from the same person.

'Any news?' inquired Fagin.

'Great.'

'And--and--good?' asked Faginhesitating as though he feared to
vex the other man by being too sanguine.

'Not badany way' replied Monks with a smile. 'I have been
prompt enough this time. Let me have a word with you.'

The girl drew closer to the tableand made no offer to leave the
roomalthough she could see that Monks was pointing to her. The
Jew: perhaps fearing she might say something aloud about the
moneyif he endeavoured to get rid of her: pointed upwardand
took Monks out of the room.

'Not that infernal hole we were in before' she could hear the
man say as they went upstairs. Fagin laughed; and making some
reply which did not reach herseemedby the creaking of the
boardsto lead his companion to the second story.

Before the sound of their footsteps had ceased to echo through
the housethe girl had slipped off her shoes; and drawing her
gown loosely over her headand muffling her arms in itstood at
the doorlistening with breathless interest. The moment the
noise ceasedshe glided from the room; ascended the stairs with
incredible softness and silence; and was lost in the gloom above.

The room remained deserted for a quarter of an hour or more; the
girl glided back with the same unearthly tread; andimmediately


afterwardsthe two men were heard descending. Monks went at
once into the street; and the Jew crawled upstairs again for the
money. When he returnedthe girl was adjusting her shawl and
bonnetas if preparing to be gone.

'WhyNance!' exclaimed the Jewstarting back as he put down
the candle'how pale you are!'

'Pale!' echoed the girlshading her eyes with her handsas if
to look steadily at him.

'Quite horrible. What have you been doing to yourself?'

'Nothing that I know ofexcept sitting in this close place for I
don't know how long and all' replied the girl carelessly.
'Come! Let me get back; that's a dear.'

With a sigh for every piece of moneyFagin told the amount into
her hand. They parted without more conversationmerely
interchanging a 'good-night.'

When the girl got into the open streetshe sat down upon a
doorstep; and seemedfor a few momentswholly bewildered and
unable to pursue her way. Suddenly she arose; and hurrying on
in a direction quite opposite to that in which Sikes was awaiting
her returnedquickened her paceuntil it gradually resolved
into a violent run. After completely exhausting herselfshe
stopped to take breath: andas if suddenly recollecting
herselfand deploring her inability to do something she was bent
uponwrung her handsand burst into tears.

It might be that her tears relieved heror that she felt the
full hopelessness of her condition; but she turned back; and
hurrying with nearly as great rapidity in the contrary direction;
partly to recover lost timeand partly to keep pace with the
violent current of her own thoughts: soon reached the dwelling
where she had left the housebreaker.

If she betrayed any agitationwhen she presented herself to Mr.
Sikeshe did not observe it; for merely inquiring if she had
brought the moneyand receiving a reply in the affirmativehe
uttered a growl of satisfactionand replacing his head upon the
pillowresumed the slumbers which her arrival had interrupted.

It was fortunate for her that the possession of money occasioned
him so much employment next day in the way of eating and
drinking; and withal had so beneficial an effect in smoothing
down the asperities of his temper; that he had neither time nor
inclination to be very critical upon her behaviour and
deportment. That she had all the abstracted and nervous manner
of one who is on the eve of some bold and hazardous stepwhich
it has required no common struggle to resolve uponwould have
been obvious to the lynx-eyed Faginwho would most probably have
taken the alarm at once; but Mr. Sikes lacking the niceties of
discriminationand being troubled with no more subtle misgivings
than those which resolve themselves into a dogged roughness of
behaviour towards everybody; and beingfurthermorein an
unusually amiable conditionas has been already observed; saw
nothing unusual in her demeanorand indeedtroubled himself so
little about herthathad her agitation been far more
perceptible than it wasit would have been very unlikely to have
awakened his suspicions.

As that day closed inthe girl's excitement increased; andwhen


night came onand she sat bywatching until the housebreaker
should drink himself asleepthere was an unusual paleness in her
cheekand a fire in her eyethat even Sikes observed with
astonishment.

Mr. Sikes being weak from the feverwas lying in bedtaking hot
water with his gin to render it less inflammatory; and had pushed
his glass towards Nancy to be replenished for the third or fourth
timewhen these symptoms first struck him.

'Whyburn my body!' said the manraising himself on his hands
as he stared the girl in the face. 'You look like a corpse come
to life again. What's the matter?'

'Matter!' replied the girl. 'Nothing. What do you look at me so
hard for?'

'What foolery is this?' demanded Sikesgrasping her by the arm
and shaking her roughly. 'What is it? What do you mean? What
are you thinking of?'

'Of many thingsBill' replied the girlshiveringand as she
did sopressing her hands upon her eyes. 'ButLord! What odds
in that?'

The tone of forced gaiety in which the last words were spoken
seemd to produce a deeper impression on Sikes than the wild and
rigid look which had preceded them.

'I tell you wot it is' said Sikes; 'if you haven't caught the
feverand got it comin' onnowthere's something more than
usual in the windand something dangerous too. You're not
a-going to--. Nodamme! you wouldn't do that!'

'Do what?' asked the girl.

'There ain't' said Sikesfixing his eyes upon herand
muttering the words to himself; 'there ain't a stauncher-hearted
gal goingor I'd have cut her throat three months ago. She's
got the fever coming on; that's it.'

Fortifying himself with this assuranceSikes drained the glass
to the bottomand thenwith many grumbling oathscalled for
his physic. The girl jumped upwith great alacrity; poured it
quickly outbut with her back towards him; and held the vessel
to his lipswhile he drank off the contents.

'Now' said the robber'come and sit aside of meand put on
your own face; or I'll alter it sothat you won't know it agin
when you do want it.'

The girl obeyed. Sikeslocking her hand in hisfell back upon
the pillow: turning his eyes upon her face. They closed; opened
again; closed once more; again opened. He shifted his position
restlessly; andafter dozing againand againfor two or three
minutesand as often springing up with a look of terrorand
gazing vacantly about himwas suddenly strickenas it were
while in the very attitude of risinginto a deep and heavy
sleep. The grasp of his hand relaxed; the upraised arm fell
languidly by his side; and he lay like one in a profound trance.

'The laudanum has taken effect at last' murmured the girlas
she rose from the bedside. 'I may be too lateeven now.'


She hastily dressed herself in her bonnet and shawl: looking
fearfully roundfrom time to timeas ifdespite the sleeping
draughtshe expected every moment to feel the pressure of
Sikes's heavy hand upon her shoulder; thenstooping softly over
the bedshe kissed the robber's lips; and then opening and
closing the room-door with noiseless touchhurried from the
house.

A watchman was crying half-past ninedown a dark passage through
which she had to passin gaining the main thoroughfare.

'Has it long gone the half-hour?' asked the girl.

'It'll strike the hour in another quarter' said the man:
raising his lantern to her face.

'And I cannot get there in less than an hour or more' muttered
Nancy: brushing swiftly past himand gliding rapidly down the
street.

Many of the shops were already closing in the back lanes and
avenues through which she tracked her wayin making from
Spitalfields towards the West-End of London. The clock struck
tenincreasing her impatience. She tore along the narrow
pavement: elbowing the passengers from side to side; and darting
almost under the horses' headscrossed crowded streetswhere
clusters of persons were eagerly watching their opportunity to do
the like.

'The woman is mad!' said the peopleturning to look after her as
she rushed away.

When she reached the more wealthy quarter of the townthe
streets were comparatively deserted; and here her headlong
progress excited a still greater curiosity in the stragglers whom
she hurried past. Some quickened their pace behindas though to
see whither she was hastening at such an unusual rate; and a few
made head upon herand looked backsurprised at her
undiminished speed; but they fell off one by one; and when she
neared her place of destinationshe was alone.

It was a family hotel in a quiet but handsome street near Hyde
Park. As the brilliant light of the lamp which burnt before its
doorguided her to the spotthe clock struck eleven. She had
loitered for a few paces as though irresoluteand making up her
mind to advance; but the sound determined herand she stepped
into the hall. The porter's seat was vacant. She looked round
with an air of incertitudeand advanced towards the stairs.

'Nowyoung woman!' said a smartly-dressed femalelooking out
from a door behind her'who do you want here?'

'A lady who is stopping in this house' answered the girl.

'A lady!' was the replyaccompanied with a scornful look. 'What
lady?'

'Miss Maylie' said Nancy.

The young womanwho had by this timenoted her appearance
replied only by a look of virtuous disdain; and summoned a man to
answer her. To himNancy repeated her request.

'What name am I to say?' asked the waiter.


'It's of no use saying any' replied Nancy.

'Nor business?' said the man.

'Nonor that neither' rejoined the girl. 'I must see the
lady.'

'Come!' said the manpushing her towards the door. 'None of
this. Take yourself off.'

'I shall be carried out if I go!' said the girl violently; 'and I
can make that a job that two of you won't like to do. Isn't
there anybody here' she saidlooking round'that will see a
simple message carried for a poor wretch like me?'

This appeal produced an effect on a good-tempered-faced man-cook
who with some of the other servants was looking onand who
stepped forward to interfere.

'Take it up for herJoe; can't you?' said this person.

'What's the good?' replied the man. 'You don't suppose the young
lady will see such as her; do you?'

This allusion to Nancy's doubtful characterraised a vast
quantity of chaste wrath in the bosoms of four housemaidswho
remarkedwith great fervourthat the creature was a disgrace to
her sex; and strongly advocated her being thrownruthlessly
into the kennel.

'Do what you like with me' said the girlturning to the men
again; 'but do what I ask you firstand I ask you to give this
message for God Almighty's sake.'

The soft-hearted cook added his intercessionand the result was
that the man who had first appeared undertook its delivery.

'What's it to be?' said the manwith one foot on the stairs.

'That a young woman earnestly asks to speak to Miss Maylie
alone' said Nancy; 'and that if the lady will only hear the
first word she has to sayshe will know whether to hear her
businessor to have her turned out of doors as an impostor.'

'I say' said the man'you're coming it strong!'

'You give the message' said the girl firmly; 'and let me hear
the answer.'

The man ran upstairs. Nancy remainedpale and almost
breathlesslistening with quivering lip to the very audible
expressions of scornof which the chaste housemaids were very
prolific; and of which they became still more sowhen the man
returnedand said the young woman was to walk upstairs.

'It's no good being proper in this world' said the first
housemaid.

'Brass can do better than the gold what has stood the fire' said
the second.

The third contented herself with wondering 'what ladies was made
of'; and the fourth took the first in a quartette of 'Shameful!'


with which the Dianas concluded.

Regardless of all this: for she had weightier matters at heart:
Nancy followed the manwith trembling limbsto a small
ante-chamberlighted by a lamp from the ceiling. Here he left
herand retired.

CHAPTER XL

A STRANGE INTERVIEWWHICH IS A SEQUEL TO THE LAST CHAMBER

The girl's life had been squandered in the streetsand among the
most noisome of the stews and dens of Londonbut there was
something of the woman's original nature left in her still; and
when she heard a light step approaching the door opposite to that
by which she had enteredand thought of the wide contrast which
the small room would in another moment containshe felt burdened
with the sense of her own deep shameand shrunk as though she
could scarcely bear the presence of her with whom she had sought
this interview.

But struggling with these better feelings was pride--the vice of
the lowest and most debased creatures no less than of the high
and self-assured. The miserable companion of thieves and
ruffiansthe fallen outcast of low hauntsthe associate of the
scourings of the jails and hulksliving within the shadow of the
gallows itself--even this degraded being felt too proud to
betray a feeble gleam of the womanly feeling which she thought a
weaknessbut which alone connected her with that humanityof
which her wasting life had obliterated so manymany traces when
a very child.

She raised her eyes sufficiently to observe that the figure which
presented itself was that of a slight and beautiful girl; then
bending them on the groundshe tossed her head with affected
carelessness as she said:

'It's a hard matter to get to see youlady. If I had taken
offenceand gone awayas many would have doneyou'd have been
sorry for it one dayand not without reason either.'

'I am very sorry if any one has behaved harshly to you' replied
Rose. 'Do not think of that. Tell me why you wished to see me.
I am the person you inquired for.'

The kind tone of this answerthe sweet voicethe gentle manner
the absence of any accent of haughtiness or displeasuretook the
girl completely by surpriseand she burst into tears.

'Ohladylady!' she saidclasping her hands passionately
before her face'if there was more like youthere would be
fewer like me--there would--there would!'

'Sit down' said Roseearnestly. 'If you are in poverty or
affliction I shall be truly glad to relieve you if I can--I
shall indeed. Sit down.'

'Let me standlady' said the girlstill weeping'and do not
speak to me so kindly till you know me better. It is growing
late. Is--is--that door shut?'


'Yes' said Roserecoiling a few stepsas if to be nearer
assistance in case she should require it. 'Why?'

'Because' said the girl'I am about to put my life and the
lives of others in your hands. I am the girl that dragged little
Oliver back to old Fagin's on the night he went out from the
house in Pentonville.'

'You!' said Rose Maylie.

'Ilady!' replied the girl. 'I am the infamous creature you
have heard ofthat lives among the thievesand that never from
the first moment I can recollect my eyes and senses opening on
London streets have known any better lifeor kinder words than
they have given meso help me God! Do not mind shrinking openly
from melady. I am younger than you would thinkto look at me
but I am well used to it. The poorest women fall backas I make
my way along the crowded pavement.'

'What dreadful things are these!' said Roseinvoluntarily
falling from her strange companion.

'Thank Heaven upon your kneesdear lady' cried the girl'that
you had friends to care for and keep you in your childhoodand
that you were never in the midst of cold and hungerand riot and
drunkennessand--and--something worse than all--as I have been
from my cradle. I may use the wordfor the alley and the gutter
were mineas they will be my deathbed.'

'I pity you!' said Rosein a broken voice. 'It wrings my heart
to hear you!'

'Heaven bless you for your goodness!' rejoined the girl. 'If you
knew what I am sometimesyou would pity meindeed. But I have
stolen away from those who would surely murder meif they knew I
had been hereto tell you what I have overheard. Do you know a
man named Monks?'

'No' said Rose.

'He knows you' replied the girl; 'and knew you were herefor it
was by hearing him tell the place that I found you out.'

'I never heard the name' said Rose.

'Then he goes by some other amongst us' rejoined the girl
'which I more than thought before. Some time agoand soon after
Oliver was put into your house on the night of the robbery
I--suspecting this man--listened to a conversation held between
him and Fagin in the dark. I found outfrom what I heardthat
Monks--the man I asked you aboutyou know--'

'Yes' said Rose'I understand.'

'--That Monks' pursued the girl'had seen him accidently with
two of our boys on the day we first lost himand had known him
directly to be the same child that he was watching forthough I
couldn't make out why. A bargain was struck with Faginthat if
Oliver was got back he should have a certain sum; and he was to
have more for making him a thiefwhich this Monks wanted for
some purpose of his own.

'For what purpose?' asked Rose.


'He caught sight of my shadow on the wall as I listenedin the
hope of finding out' said the girl; 'and there are not many
people besides me that could have got out of their way in time to
escape discovery. But I did; and I saw him no more till last
night.'

'And what occurred then?'

'I'll tell youlady. Last night he came again. Again they went
upstairsand Iwrapping myself up so that my shadow would not
betray meagain listened at the door. The first words I heard
Monks say were these: "So the only proofs of the boy's identity
lie at the bottom of the riverand the old hag that received
them from the mother is rotting in her coffin." They laughed
and talked of his success in doing this; and Monkstalking on
about the boyand getting very wildsaid that though he had got
the young devil's money safely knowhe'd rather have had it the
other way; forwhat a game it would have been to have brought
down the boast of the father's willby driving him through every
jail in townand then hauling him up for some capital felony
which Fagin could easily manageafter having made a good profit
of him besides.'

'What is all this!' said Rose.

'The truthladythough it comes from my lips' replied the
girl. 'Thenhe saidwith oaths common enough in my earsbut
strange to yoursthat if he could gratify his hatred by taking
the boy's life without bringing his own neck in dangerhe would;
butas he couldn'the'd be upon the watch to meet him at every
turn in life; and if he took advantage of his birth and history
he might harm him yet. "In shortFagin he says, Jew as you
areyou never laid such snares as I'll contrive for my young
brotherOliver."'

'His brother!' exclaimed Rose.

'Those were his words' said Nancyglancing uneasily roundas
she had scarcely ceased to dosince she began to speakfor a
vision of Sikes haunted her perpetually. 'And more. When he
spoke of you and the other ladyand said it seemed contrived by
Heavenor the devilagainst himthat Oliver should come into
your handshe laughedand said there was some comfort in that
toofor how many thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds
would you not giveif you had themto know who your two-legged
spaniel was.'

'You do not mean' said Roseturning very pale'to tell me that
this was said in earnest?'

'He spoke in hard and angry earnestif a man ever did' replied
the girlshaking her head. 'He is an earnest man when his
hatred is up. I know many who do worse things; but I'd rather
listen to them all a dozen timesthan to that Monks once. It is
growing lateand I have to reach home without suspicion of
having been on such an errand as this. I must get back quickly.'

'But what can I do?' said Rose. 'To what use can I turn this
communication without you? Back! Why do you wish to return to
companions you paint in such terrible colors? If you repeat this
information to a gentleman whom I can summon in an instant from
the next roomyou can be consigned to some place of safety
without half an hour's delay.'


'I wish to go back' said the girl. 'I must go back
because--how can I tell such things to an innocent lady like
you?--because among the men I have told you ofthere is one:
the most desperate among them all; that I can't leave: nonot
even to be saved from the life I am leading now.'

'Your having interfered in this dear boy's behalf before' said
Rose; 'your coming hereat so great a riskto tell me what you
have heard; your mannerwhich convinces me of the truth of what
you say; your evident contritionand sense of shame; all lead me
to believe that you might yet be reclaimed. Oh!' said the
earnest girlfolding her hands as the tears coursed down her
face'do not turn a deaf ear to the entreaties of one of your
own sex; the first--the firstI do believewho ever appealed to
you in the voice of pity and compassion. Do hear my wordsand
let me save you yetfor better things.'

'Lady' cried the girlsinking on her knees'dearsweetangel
ladyyou ARE the first that ever blessed me with such words as
theseand if I had heard them years agothey might have turned
me from a life of sin and sorrow; but it is too lateit is too
late!'

'It is never too late' said Rose'for penitence and atonement.'

'It is' cried the girlwrithing in agony of her mind; 'I cannot
leave him now! I could not be his death.'

'Why should you be?' asked Rose.

'Nothing could save him' cried the girl. 'If I told others what
I have told youand led to their being takenhe would be sure
to die. He is the boldestand has been so cruel!'

'Is it possible' cried Rose'that for such a man as thisyou
can resign every future hopeand the certainty of immediate
rescue? It is madness.'

'I don't know what it is' answered the girl; 'I only know that
it is soand not with me alonebut with hundreds of others as
bad and wretched as myself. I must go back. Whether it is God's
wrath for the wrong I have doneI do not know; but I am drawn
back to him through every suffering and ill usage; and I should
beI believeif I knew that I was to die by his hand at last.'

'What am I to do?' said Rose. 'I should not let you depart from
me thus.'

'You shouldladyand I know you will' rejoined the girl
rising. 'You will not stop my going because I have trusted in
your goodnessand forced no promise from youas I might have
done.'

'Of what usethenis the communication you have made?' said
Rose. 'This mystery must be investigatedor how will its
disclosure to mebenefit Oliverwhom you are anxious to serve?'

'You must have some kind gentleman about you that will hear it as
a secretand advise you what to do' rejoined the girl.

'But where can I find you again when it is necessary?' asked
Rose. 'I do not seek to know where these dreadful people live
but where will you be walking or passing at any settled period
from this time?'


'Will you promise me that you will have my secret strictly kept
and come aloneor with the only other person that knows it; and
that I shall not be watched or followed?' asked the girl.

'I promise you solemnly' answered Rose.

'Every Sunday nightfrom eleven until the clock strikes twelve'
said the girl without hesitation'I will walk on London Bridge
if I am alive.'

'Stay another moment' interposed Roseas the girl moved
hurriedly towards the door. 'Think once again on your own
conditionand the opportunity you have of escaping from it. You
have a claim on me: not only as the voluntary bearer of this
intelligencebut as a woman lost almost beyond redemption. Will
you return to this gang of robbersand to this manwhen a word
can save you? What fascination is it that can take you backand
make you cling to wickedness and misery? Oh! is there no chord
in your heart that I can touch! Is there nothing leftto which
I can appeal against this terrible infatuation!'

'When ladies as youngand goodand beautiful as you are'
replied the girl steadily'give away your heartslove will
carry you all lengths--even such as youwho have homefriends
other admirerseverythingto fill them. When such as Iwho
have no certain roof but the coffinlidand no friend in sickness
or death but the hospital nurseset our rotten hearts on any
manand let him fill the place that has been a blank through all
our wretched liveswho can hope to cure us? Pity uslady--pity
us for having only one feeling of the woman leftand for having
that turnedby a heavy judgmentfrom a comfort and a pride
into a new means of violence and suffering.'

'You will' said Roseafter a pause'take some money from me
which may enable you to live without dishonesty--at all events
until we meet again?'

'Not a penny' replied the girlwaving her hand.

'Do not close your heart against all my efforts to help you'
said Rosestepping gently forward. 'I wish to serve you
indeed.'

'You would serve me bestlady' replied the girlwringing her
hands'if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more
grief to think of what I amto-nightthan I ever did before
and it would be something not to die in the hell in which I have
lived. God bless yousweet ladyand send as much happiness on
your head as I have brought shame on mine!'

Thus speakingand sobbing aloudthe unhappy creature turned
away; while Rose Maylieoverpowered by this extraordinary
interviewwhich had more the semblance of a rapid dream than an
actual occurancesank into a chairand endeavoured to collect
her wandering thoughts.

CHAPTER XLI

CONTAINING FRESH DISCOVERIESAND SHOWING THAT SUPRISESLIKE
MISFORTUNESSELDOM COME ALONE


Her situation wasindeedone of no common trial and difficulty.

While she felt the most eager and burning desire to penetrate the
mystery in which Oliver's history was envelopedshe could not
but hold sacred the confidence which the miserable woman with
whom she had just conversedhad reposed in heras a young and
guileless girl. Her words and manner had touched Rose Maylie's
heart; andmingled with her love for her young chargeand
scarcely less intense in its truth and fervourwas her fond wish
to win the outcast back to repentance and hope.

They purposed remaining in London only three daysprior to
departing for some weeks to a distant part of the coast. It was
now midnight of the first day. What course of action could she
determine uponwhich could be adopted in eight-and-forty hours?
Or how could she postpone the journey without exciting suspicion?

Mr. Losberne was with themand would be for the next two days;
but Rose was too well acquainted with the excellent gentleman's
impetuosityand foresaw too clearly the wrath with whichin the
first explosion of his indignationhe would regard the
instrument of Oliver's recaptureto trust him with the secret
when her representations in the girl's behalf could be seconded
by no experienced person. These were all reasons for the
greatest caution and most circumspect behaviour in communicating
it to Mrs. Mayliewhose first impulse would infallibly be to
hold a conference with the worthy doctor on the subject. As to
resorting to any legal advisereven if she had known how to do
soit was scarcely to be thought offor the same reason. Once
the thought occurred to her of seeking assistance from Harry; but
this awakened the recollection of their last partingand it
seemed unworthy of her to call him backwhen--the tears rose to
her eyes as she pursued this train of reflection--he might have
by this time learnt to forget herand to be happier away.

Disturbed by these different reflections; inclining now to one
course and then to anotherand again recoiling from allas each
successive consideration presented itself to her mind; Rose
passed a sleepless and anxious night. After more communing with
herself next dayshe arrived at the desperate conclusion of
consulting Harry.

'If it be painful to him' she thought'to come back herehow
painful it will be to me! But perhaps he will not come; he may
writeor he may come himselfand studiously abstain from
meeting me--he did when he went away. I hardly thought he would;
but it was better for us both.' And here Rose dropped the pen
and turned awayas though the very paper which was to be her
messenger should not see her weep.

She had taken up the same penand laid it down again fifty
timesand had considered and reconsidered the first line of her
letter without writing the first wordwhen Oliverwho had been
walking in the streetswith Mr. Giles for a body-guardentered
the room in such breathless haste and violent agitationas
seemed to betoken some new cause of alarm.

'What makes you look so flurried?' asked Roseadvancing to meet
him.

'I hardly know how; I feel as if I should be choked' replied the
boy. 'Oh dear! To think that I should see him at lastand you
should be able to know that I have told you the truth!'


'I never thought you had told us anything but the truth' said
Rosesoothing him. 'But what is this?--of whom do you speak?'

'I have seen the gentleman' replied Oliverscarcely able to
articulate'the gentleman who was so good to me--Mr. Brownlow
that we have so often talked about.'

'Where?' asked Rose.

'Getting out of a coach' replied Olivershedding tears of
delight'and going into a house. I didn't speak to him--I
couldn't speak to himfor he didn't see meand I trembled so
that I was not able to go up to him. But Giles askedfor me
whether he lived thereand they said he did. Look here' said
Oliveropening a scrap of paper'here it is; here's where he
lives--I'm going there directly! Ohdear medear me! What
shall I do when I come to see him and hear him speak again!'

With her attention not a little distracted by these and a great
many other incoherent exclamations of joyRose read the address
which was Craven Streetin the Strand. She very soon determined
upon turning the discovery to account.

'Quick!' she said. 'Tell them to fetch a hackney-coachand be
ready to go with me. I will take you there directlywithout a
minute's loss of time. I will only tell my aunt that we are
going out for an hourand be ready as soon as you are.'

Oliver needed no prompting to despatchand in little more than
five minutes they were on their way to Craven Street. When they
arrived thereRose left Oliver in the coachunder pretence of
preparing the old gentleman to receive him; and sending up her
card by the servantrequested to see Mr. Brownlow on very
pressing business. The servant soon returnedto beg that she
would walk upstairs; and following him into an upper roomMiss
Maylie was presented to an elderly gentleman of benevolent
appearancein a bottle-green coat. At no great distance from
whomwas seated another old gentlemanin nankeen breeches and
gaiters; who did not look particularly benevolentand who was
sitting with his hands clasped on the top of a thick stickand
his chin propped thereupon.

'Dear me' said the gentlemanin the bottle-green coathastily
rising with great politeness'I beg your pardonyoung lady--I
imagined it was some importunate person who--I beg you will
excuse me. Be seatedpray.'

'Mr. BrownlowI believesir?' said Roseglancing from the
other gentleman to the one who had spoken.

'That is my name' said the old gentleman. 'This is my friend
Mr. Grimwig. Grimwigwill you leave us for a few minutes?'

'I believe' interposed Miss Maylie'that at this period of our
interviewI need not give that gentleman the trouble of going
away. If I am correctly informedhe is cognizant of the
business on which I wish to speak to you.'

Mr. Brownlow inclined his head. Mr. Grimwigwho had made one
very stiff bowand risen from his chairmade another very stiff
bowand dropped into it again.

'I shall surprise you very muchI have no doubt' said Rose


naturally embarrassed; 'but you once showed great benevolence and
goodness to a very dear young friend of mineand I am sure you
will take an interest in hearing of him again.'

'Indeed!' said Mr. Brownlow.

'Oliver Twist you knew him as' replied Rose.

The words no sooner escaped her lipsthan Mr. Grimwigwho had
been affecting to dip into a large book that lay on the table
upset it with a great crashand falling back in his chair
discharged from his features every expression but one of
unmitigated wonderand indulged in a prolonged and vacant stare;
thenas if ashamed of having betrayed so much emotionhe jerked
himselfas it wereby a convulsion into his former attitude
and looking out straight before him emitted a long deep whistle
which seemedat lastnot to be discharged on empty airbut to
die away in the innermost recesses of his stomach.

Mr. Browlow was no less surprisedalthough his astonishment was
not expressed in the same eccentric manner. He drew his chair
nearer to Miss Maylie'sand said

'Do me the favourmy dear young ladyto leave entirely out of
the question that goodness and benevolence of which you speak
and of which nobody else knows anything; and if you have it in
your power to produce any evidence which will alter the
unfavourable opinion I was once induced to entertain of that poor
childin Heaven's name put me in possession of it.'

'A bad one! I'll eat my head if he is not a bad one' growled
Mr. Grimwigspeaking by some ventriloquial powerwithout moving
a muscle of his face.

'He is a child of a noble nature and a warm heart' said Rose
colouring; 'and that Power which has thought fit to try him
beyond his yearshas planted in his breast affections and
feelings which would do honour to many who have numbered his days
six times over.'

'I'm only sixty-one' said Mr. Grimwigwith the same rigid face.

'Andas the devil's in it if this Oliver is not twelve years old
at leastI don't see the application of that remark.'

'Do not heed my friendMiss Maylie' said Mr. Brownlow; 'he does
not mean what he says.'

'Yeshe does' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'Nohe does not' said Mr. Brownlowobviously rising in wrath
as he spoke.

'He'll eat his headif he doesn't' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'He would deserve to have it knocked offif he does' said Mr.
Brownlow.

'And he'd uncommonly like to see any man offer to do it'
responded Mr. Grimwigknocking his stick upon the floor.

Having gone thus farthe two old gentlemen severally took snuff
and afterwards shook handsaccording to their invariable custom.


'NowMiss Maylie' said Mr. Brownlow'to return to the subject
in which your humanity is so much interested. Will you let me
know what intelligence you have of this poor child: allowing me
to promise that I exhausted every means in my power of
discovering himand that since I have been absent from this
countrymy first impression that he had imposed upon meand had
been persuaded by his former associates to rob mehas been
considerably shaken.'

Rosewho had had time to collect her thoughtsat once related
in a few natural wordsall that had befallen Oliver since he
left Mr. Brownlow's house; reserving Nancy's information for that
gentleman's private earand concluding with the assurance that
his only sorrowfor some months pasthad been not being able to
meet with his former benefactor and friend.

'Thank God!' said the old gentleman. 'This is great happiness to
megreat happiness. But you have not told me where he is now
Miss Maylie. You must pardon my finding fault with you--but why
not have brought him?'

'He is waiting in a coach at the door' replied Rose.

'At this door!' cried the old gentleman. With which he hurried
out of the roomdown the stairsup the coachstepsand into the
coachwithout another word.

When the room-door closed behind himMr. Grimwig lifted up his
headand converting one of the hind legs of his chair into a
pivotdescribed three distinct circles with the assistance of
his stick and the table; stitting in it all the time. After
performing this evolutionhe rose and limped as fast as he could
up and down the room at least a dozen timesand then stopping
suddenly before Rosekissed her without the slightest preface.

'Hush!' he saidas the young lady rose in some alarm at this
unusual proceeding. 'Don't be afraid. I'm old enough to be your
grandfather. You're a sweet girl. I like you. Here they are!'

In factas he threw himself at one dexterous dive into his
former seatMr. Brownlow returnedaccompanied by Oliverwhom
Mr. Grimwig received very graciously; and if the gratification of
that moment had been the only reward for all her anxiety and care
in Oliver's behalfRose Maylie would have been well repaid.

'There is somebody else who should not be forgottenby the bye'
said Mr. Brownlowringing the bell. 'Send Mrs. Bedwin hereif
you please.'

The old housekeeper answered the summons with all dispatch; and
dropping a curtsey at the doorwaited for orders.

'Whyyou get blinder every dayBedwin' said Mr. Brownlow
rather testily.

'Wellthat I dosir' replied the old lady. 'People's eyesat
my time of lifedon't improve with agesir.'

'I could have told you that' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but put on
your glassesand see if you can't find out what you were wanted
forwill you?'

The old lady began to rummage in her pocket for her spectacles.
But Oliver's patience was not proof against this new trial; and


yielding to his first impulsehe sprang into her arms.

'God be good to me!' cried the old ladyembracing him; 'it is my
innocent boy!'

'My dear old nurse!' cried Oliver.

'He would come back--I knew he would' said the old ladyholding
him in her arms. 'How well he looksand how like a gentleman's
son he is dressed again! Where have you beenthis longlong
while? Ah! the same sweet facebut not so pale; the same soft
eyebut not so sad. I have never forgotten them or his quiet
smilebut have seen them every dayside by side with those of
my own dear childrendead and gone since I was a lightsome young
creature.' Running on thusand now holding Oliver from her to
mark how he had grownnow clasping him to her and passing her
fingers fondly through his hairthe good soul laughed and wept
upon his neck by turns.

Leaving her and Oliver to compare notes at leisureMr. Brownlow
led the way into another room; and thereheard from Rose a full
narration of her interview with Nancywhich occasioned him no
little surprise and perplexity. Rose also explained her reasons
for not confiding in her friend Mr. Losberne in the first
instance. The old gentleman considered that she had acted
prudentlyand readily undertook to hold solemn conference with
the worthy doctor himself. To afford him an early opportunity
for the execution of this designit was arranged that he should
call at the hotel at eight o'clock that eveningand that in the
meantime Mrs. Maylie should be cautiously informed of all that
had occurred. These preliminaries adjustedRose and Oliver
returned home.

Rose had by no means overrated the measure of the good doctor's
wrath. Nancy's history was no sooner unfolded to himthan he
poured forth a shower of mingled threats and execrations;
threatened to make her the first victim of the combined ingenuity
of Messrs. Blathers and Duff; and actually put on his hat
preparatory to sallying forth to obtain the assistance of those
worthies. Anddoubtlesshe wouldin this first outbreakhave
carried the intention into effect without a moment's
consideration of the consequencesif he had not been restrained
in partby corresponding violence on the side of Mr. Brownlow
who was himself of an irascible temperamentand party by such
arguments and representations as seemed best calculated to
dissuade him from his hotbrained purpose.

'Then what the devil is to be done?' said the impetuous doctor
when they had rejoined the two ladies. 'Are we to pass a vote of
thanks to all these vagabondsmale and femaleand beg them to
accept a hundred poundsor soapieceas a trifling mark of our
esteemand some slight acknowledgment of their kindness to
Oliver?'

'Not exactly that' rejoined Mr. Brownlowlaughing; 'but we must
proceed gently and with great care.'

'Gentleness and care' exclaimed the doctor. 'I'd send them one
and all to--'

'Never mind where' interposed Mr. Brownlow. 'But reflect
whether sending them anywhere is likely to attain the object we
have in view.'


'What object?' asked the doctor.

'Simplythe discovery of Oliver's parentageand regaining for
him the inheritance of whichif this story be truehe has been
fraudulently deprived.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Losbernecooling himself with his
pocket-handkerchief; 'I almost forgot that.'

'You see' pursued Mr. Brownlow; 'placing this poor girl entirely
out of the questionand supposing it were possible to bring
these scoundrels to justice without compromising her safetywhat
good should we bring about?'

'Hanging a few of them at leastin all probability' suggested
the doctor'and transporting the rest.'

'Very good' replied Mr. Brownlowsmiling; 'but no doubt they
will bring that about for themselves in the fulness of timeand
if we step in to forestall themit seems to me that we shall be
performing a very Quixotic actin direct opposition to our own
interest--or at least to Oliver'swhich is the same thing.'

'How?' inquired the doctor.

'Thus. It is quite clear that we shall have extreme difficulty
in getting to the bottom of this mysteryunless we can bring
this manMonksupon his knees. That can only be done by
stratagemand by catching him when he is not surrounded by these
people. Forsuppose he were apprehendedwe have no proof
against him. He is not even (so far as we knowor as the facts
appear to us) concerned with the gang in any of their robberies.
If he were not dischargedit is very unlikely that he could
receive any further punishment than being committed to prison as
a rogue and vagabond; and of course ever afterwards his mouth
would be so obstinately closed that he might as wellfor our
purposesbe deafdumbblindand an idiot.'

'Then' said the doctor impetuously'I put it to you again
whether you think it reasonable that this promise to the girl
should be considered binding; a promise made with the best and
kindest intentionsbut really--'

'Do not discuss the pointmy dear young ladypray' said Mr.
Brownlowinterrupting Rose as she was about to speak. 'The
promise shall be kept. I don't think it willin the slightest
degreeinterfere with our proceedings. Butbefore we can
resolve upon any precise course of actionit will be necessary
to see the girl; to ascertain from her whether she will point out
this Monkson the understanding that he is to be dealt with by
usand not by the law; orif she will notor cannot do that
to procure from her such an account of his haunts and description
of his personas will enable us to identify him. She cannot be
seen until next Sunday night; this is Tuesday. I would suggest
that in the meantimewe remain perfectly quietand keep these
matters secret even from Oliver himself.'

Although Mr. Loseberne received with many wry faces a proposal
involving a delay of five whole dayshe was fain to admit that
no better course occurred to him just then; and as both Rose and
Mrs. Maylie sided very strongly with Mr. Brownlowthat
gentleman's proposition was carried unanimously.

'I should like' he said'to call in the aid of my friend


Grimwig. He is a strange creaturebut a shrewd oneand might
prove of material assistance to us; I should say that he was bred
a lawyerand quitted the Bar in disgust because he had only one
brief and a motion of coursein twenty yearsthough whether
that is recommendation or notyou must determine for
yourselves.'

'I have no objection to your calling in your friend if I may call
in mine' said the doctor.

'We must put it to the vote' replied Mr. Brownlow'who may he
be?'

'That lady's sonand this young lady's--very old friend' said
the doctormotioning towards Mrs. Maylieand concluding with an
expressive glance at her niece.

Rose blushed deeplybut she did not make any audible objection
to this motion (possibly she felt in a hopeless minority); and
Harry Maylie and Mr. Grimwig were accordingly added to the
committee.

'We stay in townof course' said Mrs. Maylie'while there
remains the slightest prospect of prosecuting this inquiry with a
chance of success. I will spare neither trouble nor expense in
behalf of the object in which we are all so deeply interested
and I am content to remain hereif it be for twelve monthsso
long as you assure me that any hope remains.'

'Good!' rejoined Mr. Brownlow. 'And as I see on the faces about
mea disposition to inquire how it happened that I was not in
the way to corroborate Oliver's taleand had so suddenly left
the kingdomlet me stipulate that I shall be asked no questions
until such time as I may deem it expedient to forestall them by
telling my own story. Believe meI make this request with good
reasonfor I might otherwise excite hopes destined never to be
realisedand only increase difficulties and disappointments
already quite numerous enough. Come! Supper has been announced
and young Oliverwho is all alone in the next roomwill have
begun to thinkby this timethat we have wearied of his
companyand entered into some dark conspiracy to thrust him
forth upon the world.'

With these wordsthe old gentleman gave his hand to Mrs. Maylie
and escorted her into the supper-room. Mr. Losberne followed
leading Rose; and the council wasfor the presenteffectually
broken up.

CHAPTER XLII

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE OF OLIVER'SEXHIBITING DECIDED MARKS OF
GENIUSBECOMES A PUBLIC CHARACTER IN THE METROPOLIS

Upon the night when Nancyhaving lulled Mr. Sikes to sleep
hurried on her self-imposed mission to Rose Mayliethere
advanced towards Londonby the Great North Roadtwo persons
upon whom it is expedient that this history should bestow some
attention.

They were a man and woman; or perhaps they would be better
described as a male and female: for the former was one of those


long-limbedknock-kneedshamblingbony peopleto whom it is
difficult to assign any precise age--looking as they dowhen
they are yet boyslike undergrown menand when they are almost
menlike overgrown boys. The woman was youngbut of a robust
and hardy makeas she need have been to bear the weight of the
heavy bundle which was strapped to her back. Her companion was
not encumbered with much luggageas there merely dangled from a
stick which he carried over his shouldera small parcel wrapped
in a common handkerchiefand apparently light enough. This
circumstanceadded to the length of his legswhich were of
unusual extentenabled him with much ease to keep some
half-dozen paces in advance of his companionto whom he
occasionally turned with an impatient jerk of the head: as if
reproaching her tardinessand urging her to greater exertion.

Thusthey had toiled along the dusty roadtaking little heed of
any object within sightsave when they stepped aside to allow a
wider passage for the mail-coaches which were whirling out of
townuntil they passed through Highgate archway; when the
foremost traveller stopped and called impatiently to his
companion

'Come oncan't yer? What a lazybones yer areCharlotte.'

'It's a heavy loadI can tell you' said the femalecoming up
almost breathless with fatigue.

'Heavy! What are yer talking about? What are yer made for?'
rejoined the male travellerchanging his own little bundle as he
spoketo the other shoulder. 'Ohthere yer areresting again!

Wellif yer ain't enough to tire anybody's patience outI don't
know what is!'

'Is it much farther?' asked the womanresting herself against a
bankand looking up with the perspiration streaming from her
face.

'Much farther! Yer as good as there' said the long-legged
tramperpointing out before him. 'Look there! Those are the
lights of London.'

'They're a good two mile offat least' said the woman
despondingly.

'Never mind whether they're two mile offor twenty' said Noah
Claypole; for he it was; 'but get up and come onor I'll kick
yerand so I give yer notice.'

As Noah's red nose grew redder with angerand as he crossed the
road while speakingas if fully prepared to put his threat into
executionthe woman rose without any further remarkand trudged
onward by his side.

'Where do you mean to stop for the nightNoah?' she askedafter
they had walked a few hundred yards.

'How should I know?' replied Noahwhose temper had been
considerably impaired by walking.

'NearI hope' said Charlotte.

'Nonot near' replied Mr. Claypole. 'There! Not near; so
don't think it.'


'Why not?'

'When I tell yer that I don't mean to do a thingthat's enough
without any why or because either' replied Mr. Claypole with
dignity.

'Wellyou needn't be so cross' said his companion.

'A pretty thing it would bewouldn't it to go and stop at the
very first public-house outside the townso that Sowerberryif
he come up after usmight poke in his old noseand have us
taken back in a cart with handcuffs on' said Mr. Claypole in a
jeering tone. 'No! I shall go and lose myself among the
narrowest streets I can findand not stop till we come to the
very out-of-the-wayest house I can set eyes on. 'Codyer may
thanks yer stars I've got a head; for if we hadn't goneat
firstthe wrong road a purposeand come back across country
yer'd have been locked up hard and fast a week agomy lady. And
serve yer right for being a fool.'

'I know I ain't as cunning as you are' replied Charlotte; 'but
don't put all the blame on meand say I should have been locked
up. You would have been if I had beenany way.'

'Yer took the money from the tillyer know yer did' said Mr.
Claypole.

'I took it for youNoahdear' rejoined Charlotte.

'Did I keep it?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'No; you trusted in meand let me carry it like a dearand so
you are' said the ladychucking him under the chinand drawing
her arm through his.

This was indeed the case; but as it was not Mr. Claypole's habit
to repose a blind and foolish confidence in anybodyit should be
observedin justice to that gentlemanthat he had trusted
Charlotte to this extentin order thatif they were pursued
the money might be found on her: which would leave him an
opportunity of asserting his innocence of any theftand would
greatly facilitate his chances of escape. Of coursehe entered
at this junctureinto no explanation of his motivesand they
walked on very lovingly together.

In pursuance of this cautious planMr. Claypole went onwithout
haltinguntil he arrived at the Angel at Islingtonwhere he
wisely judgedfrom the crowd of passengers and numbers of
vehiclesthat London began in earnest. Just pausing to observe
which appeared the most crowded streetsand consequently the
most to be avoidedhe crossed into Saint John's Roadand was
soon deep in the obscurity of the intricate and dirty ways
whichlying between Gray's Inn Lane and Smithfieldrender that
part of the town one of the lowest and worst that improvement has
left in the midst of London.

Through these streetsNoah Claypole walkeddragging Charlotte
after him; now stepping into the kennel to embrace at a glance
the whole external character of some small public-house; now
jogging on againas some fancied appearance induced him to
believe it too public for his purpose. At lengthhe stopped in
front of onemore humble in appearance and more dirty than any
he had yet seen; andhaving crossed over and surveyed it from


the opposite pavementgraciously announced his intention of
putting up therefor the night.

'So give us the bundle' said Noahunstrapping it from the
woman's shouldersand slinging it over his own; 'and don't yer
speakexcept when yer spoke to. What's the name of the
house--t-h-r--three what?'

'Cripples' said Charlotte.

'Three Cripples' repeated Noah'and a very good sign too. Now
then! Keep close at my heelsand come along.' With these
injunctionshe pushed the rattling door with his shoulderand
entered the housefollowed by his companion.

There was nobody in the bar but a young Jewwhowith his two
elbows on the counterwas reading a dirty newspaper. He stared
very hard at Noahand Noah stared very hard at him.

If Noah had been attired in his charity-boy's dressthere might
have been some reason for the Jew opening his eyes so wide; but
as he had discarded the coat and badgeand wore a short
smock-frock over his leathersthere seemed no particular reason
for his appearance exciting so much attention in a public-house.

'Is this the Three Cripples?' asked Noah.

'That is the dabe of this 'ouse' replied the Jew.

'A gentleman we met on the roadcoming up from the country
recommended us here' said Noahnudging Charlotteperhaps to
call her attention to this most ingenious device for attracting
respectand perhaps to warn her to betray no surprise. 'We want
to sleep here to-night.'

'I'b dot certaid you cad' said Barneywho was the attendant
sprite; 'but I'll idquire.'

'Show us the tapand give us a bit of cold meat and a drop of
beer while yer inquiringwill yer?' said Noah.

Barney complied by ushering them into a small back-roomand
setting the required viands before them; having done whichhe
informed the travellers that they could be lodged that nightand
left the amiable couple to their refreshment.

Nowthis back-room was immediately behind the barand some
steps lowerso that any person connected with the house
undrawing a small curtain which concealed a single pane of glass
fixed in the wall of the last-named apartmentabout five feet
from its flooringcould not only look down upon any guests in
the back-room without any great hazard of being observed (the
glass being in a dark angle of the wallbetween which and a
large upright beam the observer had to thrust himself)but
couldby applying his ear to the partitionascertain with
tolerable distinctnesstheir subject of conversation. The
landlord of the house had not withdrawn his eye from this place
of espial for five minutesand Barney had only just returned
from making the communication above relatedwhen Faginin the
course of his evening's businesscame into the bar to inquire
after some of his young pupils.

'Hush!' said Barney: 'stradegers id the next roob.'


'Strangers!' repeated the old man in a whisper.

'Ah! Ad rub uds too' added Barney. 'Frob the cuttrybut
subthig in your wayor I'b bistaked.'

Fagin appeared to receive this communication with great interest.

Mounting a stoolhe cautiously applied his eye to the pane of
glassfrom which secret post he could see Mr. Claypole taking
cold beef from the dishand porter from the potand
administering homoepathic doses of both to Charlottewho sat
patiently byeating and drinking at his pleasure.

'Aha!' he whisperedlooking round to Barney'I like that
fellow's looks. He'd be of use to us; he knows how to train the
girl already. Don't make as much noise as a mousemy dearand
let me hear 'em talk--let me hear 'em.'

He again applied his eye to the glassand turning his ear to the
partitionlistened attentively: with a subtle and eager look
upon his facethat might have appertained to some old goblin.

'So I mean to be a gentleman' said Mr. Claypolekicking out his
legsand continuing a conversationthe commencement of which
Fagin had arrived too late to hear. 'No more jolly old coffins
Charlottebut a gentleman's life for me: andif yer likeyer
shall be a lady.'

'I should like that well enoughdear' replied Charlotte; 'but
tills ain't to be emptied every dayand people to get clear off
after it.'

'Tills be blowed!' said Mr. Claypole; 'there's more things
besides tills to be emptied.'

'What do you mean?' asked his companion.

'Pocketswomen's ridiculeshousesmail-coachesbanks!' said
Mr. Claypolerising with the porter.

'But you can't do all thatdear' said Charlotte.

'I shall look out to get into company with them as can' replied
Noah. 'They'll be able to make us useful some way or another.
Whyyou yourself are worth fifty women; I never see such a
precious sly and deceitful creetur as yer can be when I let yer.'

'Lorhow nice it is to hear yer say so!' exclaimed Charlotte
imprinting a kiss upon his ugly face.

'Therethat'll do: don't yer be too affectionatein case I'm
cross with yer' said Noahdisengaging himself with great
gravity. 'I should like to be the captain of some bandand have
the whopping of 'emand follering 'em aboutunbeknown to
themselves. That would suit meif there was good profit; and if
we could only get in with some gentleman of this sortI say it
would be cheap at that twenty-pound note you've got--especially
as we don't very well know how to get rid of it ourselves.'

After expressing this opinionMr. Claypole looked into the
porter-pot with an aspect of deep wisdom; and having well shaken
its contentsnodded condescendingly to Charlotteand took a
draughtwherewith he appeared greatly refreshed. He was
meditating anotherwhen the sudden opening of the doorand the


appearance of a strangerinterrupted him.

The stranger was Mr. Fagin. And very amiable he lookedand a
very low bow he madeas he advancedand setting himself down at
the nearest tableordered something to drink of the grinning
Barney.

'A pleasant nightsirbut cool for the time of year' said
Faginrubbing his hands. 'From the countryI seesir?'

'How do yer see that?' asked Noah Claypole.

'We have not so much dust as that in London' replied Fagin
pointing from Noah's shoes to those of his companionand from
them to the two bundles.

'Yer a sharp feller' said Noah. 'Ha! ha! only hear that
Charlotte!'

'Whyone need be sharp in this townmy dear' replied the Jew
sinking his voice to a confidential whisper; 'and that's the
truth.'

Fagin followed up this remark by striking the side of his nose
with his right forefinger--a gesture which Noah attempted to
imitatethough not with complete successin consequence of his
own nose not being large enough for the purpose. HoweverMr.
Fagin seemed to interpret the endeavour as expressing a perfect
coincidence with his opinionand put about the liquor which
Barney reappeared within a very friendly manner.

'Good stuff that' observed Mr. Claypolesmacking his lips.

'Dear!' said Fagin. 'A man need be always emptying a tillor a
pocketor a woman's reticuleor a houseor a mail-coachor a
bankif he drinks it regularly.'

Mr. Claypole no sooner heard this extract from his own remarks
than he fell back in his chairand looked from the Jew to
Charlotte with a countenance of ashy palences and excessive
terror.

'Don't mind memy dear' said Fagindrawing his chair closer.
'Ha! ha! it was lucky it was only me that heard you by chance.
It was very lucky it was only me.'

'I didn't take it' stammered Noahno longer stretching out his
legs like an independent gentlemanbut coiling them up as well
as he could under his chair; 'it was all her doing; yer've got it
nowCharlotteyer know yer have.'

'No matter who's got itor who did itmy dear' replied Fagin
glancingneverthelesswith a hawk's eye at the girl and the two
bundles. 'I'm in that way myselfand I like you for it.'

'In what way?' asked Mr. Claypolea little recovering.

'In that way of business' rejoined Fagin; 'and so are the people
of the house. You've hit the right nail upon the headand are
as safe here as you could be. There is not a safer place in all
this town than is the Cripples; that iswhen I like to make it
so. And I have taken a fancy to you and the young woman; so I've
said the wordand you may make your minds easy.'


Noah Claypole's mind might have been at ease after this
assurancebut his body certainly was not; for he shuffled and
writhed aboutinto various uncouth positions: eyeing his new
friend meanwhile with mingled fear and suspicion.

'I'll tell you more' said Faginafter he had reassured the
girlby dint of friendly nods and muttered encouragements. 'I
have got a friend that I think can gratify your darling wishand
put you in the right waywhere you can take whatever department
of the business you think will suit you best at firstand be
taught all the others.'

'Yer speak as if yer were in earnest' replied Noah.

'What advantage would it be to me to be anything else?' inquired
Faginshrugging his shoulders. 'Here! Let me have a word with
you outside.'

'There's no occasion to trouble ourselves to move' said Noah
getting his legs by gradual degrees abroad again. 'She'll take
the luggage upstairs the while. Charlottesee to them bundles.'

This mandatewhich had been delivered with great majestywas
obeyed without the slightest demur; and Charlotte made the best
of her way off with the packages while Noah held the door open
and watched her out.

'She's kept tolerably well underain't she?' he asked as he
resumed his seat: in the tone of a keeper who had tamed some
wild animal.

'Quite perfect' rejoined Faginclapping him on the shoulder.
'You're a geniusmy dear.'

'WhyI suppose if I wasn'tI shouldn't be here' replied Noah.
'ButI sayshe'll be back if yer lose time.'

'Nowwhat do you think?' said Fagin. 'If you was to like my
friendcould you do better than join him?'

'Is he in a good way of business; that's where it is!' responded
Noahwinking one of his little eyes.

'The top of the tree; employs a power of hands; has the very best
society in the profession.'

'Regular town-maders?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'Not a countryman among 'em; and I don't think he'd take you
even on my recommendationif he didn't run rather short of
assistants just now' replied Fagin.

'Should I have to hand over?' said Noahslapping his
breeches-pocket.

'It couldn't possibly be done without' replied Faginin a most
decided manner.

'Twenty poundthough--it's a lot of money!'

'Not when it's in a note you can't get rid of' retorted Fagin.
'Number and date takenI suppose? Payment stopped at the Bank?
Ah! It's not worth much to him. It'll have to go abroadand he
couldn't sell it for a great deal in the market.'


'When could I see him?' asked Noah doubtfully.

'To-morrow morning.'

'Where?'

'Here.'

'Um!' said Noah. 'What's the wages?'

'Live like a gentleman--board and lodgingpipes and spirits
free--half of all you earnand half of all the young woman
earns' replied Mr. Fagin.

Whether Noah Claypolewhose rapacity was none of the least
comprehensivewould have acceded even to these glowing terms
had he been a perfectly free agentis very doubtful; but as he
recollected thatin the event of his refusalit was in the
power of his new acquaintance to give him up to justice
immediately (and more unlikely things had come to pass)he
gradually relentedand said he thought that would suit him.

'Butyer see' observed Noah'as she will be able to do a good
dealI should like to take something very light.'

'A little fancy work?' suggested Fagin.

'Ah! something of that sort' replied Noah. 'What do you think
would suit me now? Something not too trying for the strength
and not very dangerousyou know. That's the sort of thing!'

'I heard you talk of something in the spy way upon the othersmy
dear' said Fagin. 'My friend wants somebody who would do that
wellvery much.'

'WhyI did mention thatand I shouldn't mind turning my hand to
it sometimes' rejoined Mr. Claypole slowly; 'but it wouldn't pay
by itselfyou know.'

'That's true!' observed the Jewruminating or pretending to
ruminate. 'Noit might not.'

'What do you thinkthen?' asked Noahanxiously regarding him.
'Something in the sneaking waywhere it was pretty sure work
and not much more risk than being at home.'

'What do you think of the old ladies?' asked Fagin. 'There's a
good deal of money made in snatching their bags and parcelsand
running round the corner.'

'Don't they holler out a good dealand scratch sometimes?' asked
Noahshaking his head. 'I don't think that would answer my
purpose. Ain't there any other line open?'

'Stop!' said Faginlaying his hand on Noah's knee. 'The kinchin
lay.'

'The kinchinsmy dear' said Fagin'is the young children
that's sent on errands by their motherswith sixpences and
shillings; and the lay is just to take their money away--they've
always got it ready in their hands--then knock 'em into the
kenneland walk off very slowas if there were nothing else the
matter but a child fallen down and hurt itself. Ha! ha! ha!'


'Ha! ha!' roared Mr. Claypolekicking up his legs in an ecstasy.

'Lordthat's the very thing!'

'To be sure it is' replied Fagin; 'and you can have a few good
beats chalked out in Camden Townand Battle Bridgeand
neighborhoods like thatwhere they're always going errands; and
you can upset as many kinchins as you wantany hour in the day.
Ha! ha! ha!'

With thisFagin poked Mr. Claypole in the sideand they joined
in a burst of laughter both long and loud.

'Wellthat's all right!' said Noahwhen he had recovered
himselfand Charlotte had returned. 'What time to-morrow shall
we say?'

'Will ten do?' asked Faginaddingas Mr. Claypole nodded
assent'What name shall I tell my good friend.'

'Mr. Bolter' replied Noahwho had prepared himself for such
emergency. 'Mr. Morris Bolter. This is Mrs. Bolter.'

'Mrs. Bolter's humble servant' said Faginbowing with grotesque
politeness. 'I hope I shall know her better very shortly.'

'Do you hear the gentlemanCharlotte?' thundered Mr. Claypole.

'YesNoahdear!' replied Mrs. Bolterextending her hand.

'She calls me Noahas a sort of fond way of talking' said Mr.
Morris Bolterlate Claypoleturning to Fagin. 'You
understand?'

'Oh yesI understand--perfectly' replied Fagintelling the
truth for once. 'Good-night! Good-night!'

With many adieus and good wishesMr. Fagin went his way. Noah
Claypolebespeaking his good lady's attentionproceeded to
enlighten her relative to the arrangement he had madewith all
that haughtiness and air of superioritybecomingnot only a
member of the sterner sexbut a gentleman who appreciated the
dignity of a special appointment on the kinchin layin London
and its vicinity.

CHAPTER XLIII

WHEREIN IS SHOWN HOW THE ARTFUL DODGER GOT INTO TROUBLE

'And so it was you that was your own friendwas it?' asked Mr.
Claypoleotherwise Bolterwhenby virtue of the compact
entered into between themhe had removed next day to Fagin's
house. ''CodI thought as much last night!'

'Every man's his own friendmy dear' replied Faginwith his
most insinuating grin. 'He hasn't as good a one as himself
anywhere.'

'Except sometimes' replied Morris Bolterassuming the air of a
man of the world. 'Some people are nobody's enemies but their


ownyer know.'

'Don't believe that' said Fagin. 'When a man's his own enemy
it's only because he's too much his own friend; not because he's
careful for everybody but himself. Pooh! pooh! There ain't such
a thing in nature.'

'There oughn't to beif there is' replied Mr. Bolter.

'That stands to reason. Some conjurers say that number three is
the magic numberand some say number seven. It's neithermy
friendneither. It's number one.

'Ha! ha!' cried Mr. Bolter. 'Number one for ever.'

'In a little community like oursmy dear' said Faginwho felt
it necessary to qualify this position'we have a general number
onewithout considering me too as the sameand all the other
young people.'

'Ohthe devil!' exclaimed Mr. Bolter.

'You see' pursued Faginaffecting to disregard this
interruption'we are so mixed up togetherand identified in our
intereststhat it must be so. For instanceit's your object to
take care of number one--meaning yourself.'

'Certainly' replied Mr. Bolter. 'Yer about right there.'

'Well! You can't take care of yourselfnumber onewithout
taking care of menumber one.'

'Number twoyou mean' said Mr. Bolterwho was largely endowed
with the quality of selfishness.

'NoI don't!' retorted Fagin. 'I'm of the same importance to
youas you are to yourself.'

'I say' interrupted Mr. Bolter'yer a very nice manand I'm
very fond of yer; but we ain't quite so thick togetheras all
that comes to.'

'Only think' said Faginshrugging his shouldersand stretching
out his hands; 'only consider. You've done what's a very pretty
thingand what I love you for doing; but what at the same time
would put the cravat round your throatthat's so very easily
tied and so very difficult to unloose--in plain Englishthe
halter!'

Mr. Bolter put his hand to his neckerchiefas if he felt it
inconveniently tight; and murmured an assentqualified in tone
but not in substance.

'The gallows' continued Fagin'the gallowsmy dearis an ugly
finger-postwhich points out a very short and sharp turning that
has stopped many a bold fellow's career on the broad highway. To
keep in the easy roadand keep it at a distanceis object
number one with you.'

'Of course it is' replied Mr. Bolter. 'What do yer talk about
such things for?'

'Only to show you my meaning clearly' said the Jewraising his
eyebrows. 'To be able to do thatyou depend upon me. To keep my


little business all snugI depend upon you. The first is your
number onethe second my number one. The more you value your
number onethe more careful you must be of mine; so we come at
last to what I told you at first--that a regard for number one
holds us all togetherand must do sounless we would all go to
pieces in company.'

'That's true' rejoined Mr. Bolterthoughtfully. 'Oh! yer a
cunning old codger!'

Mr. Fagin sawwith delightthat this tribute to his powers was
no mere complimentbut that he had really impressed his recruit
with a sense of his wily geniuswhich it was most important that
he should entertain in the outset of their acquaintance. To
strengthen an impression so desirable and usefulhe followed up
the blow by acquainting himin some detailwith the magnitude
and extent of his operations; blending truth and fiction
togetheras best served his purpose; and bringing both to bear
with so much artthat Mr. Bolter's respect visibly increased
and became temperedat the same timewith a degree of wholesome
fearwhich it was highly desirable to awaken.

'It's this mutual trust we have in each other that consoles me
under heavy losses' said Fagin. 'My best hand was taken from
meyesterday morning.'

'You don't mean to say he died?' cried Mr. Bolter.

'Nono' replied Fagin'not so bad as that. Not quite so bad.'

'WhatI suppose he was--'

'Wanted' interposed Fagin. 'Yeshe was wanted.'

'Very particular?' inquired Mr. Bolter.

'No' replied Fagin'not very. He was charged with attempting
to pick a pocketand they found a silver snuff-box on him--his
ownmy dearhis ownfor he took snuff himselfand was very
fond of it. They remanded him till to-dayfor they thought they
knew the owner. Ah! he was worth fifty boxesand I'd give the
price of as many to have him back. You should have known the
Dodgermy dear; you should have known the Dodger.'

'Wellbut I shall know himI hope; don't yer think so?' said
Mr. Bolter.

'I'm doubtful about it' replied Faginwith a sigh. 'If they
don't get any fresh evidenceit'll only be a summary conviction
and we shall have him back again after six weeks or so; butif
they doit's a case of lagging. They know what a clever lad he
is; he'll be a lifer. They'll make the Artful nothing less than
a lifer.'

'What do you mean by lagging and a lifer?' demanded Mr. Bolter.
'What's the good of talking in that way to me; why don't yer
speak so as I can understand yer?'

Fagin was about to translate these mysterious expressions into
the vulgar tongue; andbeing interpretedMr. Bolter would have
been informed that they represented that combination of words
'transportation for life' when the dialogue was cut short by the
entry of Master Bateswith his hands in his breeches-pockets
and his face twisted into a look of semi-comical woe.


'It's all upFagin' said Charleywhen he and his new companion
had been made known to each other.

'What do you mean?'

'They've found the gentleman as owns the box; two or three more's
a coming to 'dentify him; and the Artful's booked for a passage
out' replied Master Bates. 'I must have a full suit of
mourningFaginand a hatbandto wisit him inafore he sets
out upon his travels. To think of Jack Dawkins--lummy Jack--the
Dodger--the Artful Dodger--going abroad for a common
twopenny-halfpenny sneeze-box! I never thought he'd a done it
under a gold watchchainand sealsat the lowest. Ohwhy
didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his walablesand go
out as a gentlemanand not like a common prigwithout no honour
nor glory!'

With this expression of feeling for his unfortunate friend
Master Bates sat himself on the nearest chair with an aspect of
chagrin and despondency.

'What do you talk about his having neither honour nor glory for!'
exclaimed Fagindarting an angry look at his pupil. 'Wasn't he
always the top-sawyer among you all! Is there one of you that
could touch him or come near him on any scent! Eh?'

'Not one' replied Master Batesin a voice rendered husky by
regret; 'not one.'

'Then what do you talk of?' replied Fagin angrily; 'what are you
blubbering for?'

''Cause it isn't on the rec-ordis it?' said Charleychafed
into perfect defiance of his venerable friend by the current of
his regrets; ''cause it can't come out in the 'dictment; 'cause
nobody will never know half of what he was. How will he stand in
the Newgate Calendar? P'raps not be there at all. Ohmy eye
my eyewot a blow it is!'

'Ha! ha!' cried Faginextending his right handand turning to
Mr. Bolter in a fit of chuckling which shook him as though he had
the palsy; 'see what a pride they take in their professionmy
dear. Ain't it beautiful?'

Mr. Bolter nodded assentand Faginafter contemplating the
grief of Charley Bates for some seconds with evident
satisfactionstepped up to that young gentleman and patted him
on the shoulder.

'Never mindCharley' said Fagin soothingly; 'it'll come out
it'll be sure to come out. They'll all know what a clever fellow
he was; he'll show it himselfand not disgrace his old pals and
teachers. Think how young he is too! What a distinction
Charleyto be lagged at his time of life!'

'Wellit is a honour that is!' said Charleya little consoled.

'He shall have all he wants' continued the Jew. 'He shall be
kept in the Stone JugCharleylike a gentleman. Like a
gentleman! With his beer every dayand money in his pocket to
pitch and toss withif he can't spend it.'

'Noshall he though?' cried Charley Bates.


'Aythat he shall' replied Fagin'and we'll have a big-wig
Charley: one that's got the greatest gift of the gab: to carry
on his defence; and he shall make a speech for himself tooif he
likes; and we'll read it all in the papers--"Artful
Dodger--shrieks of laughter--here the court was convulsed"--eh
Charleyeh?'

'Ha! ha! laughed Master Bates'what a lark that would be
wouldn't itFagin? I sayhow the Artful would bother 'em
wouldn't he?'

'Would!' cried Fagin. 'He shall--he will!'

'Ahto be sureso he will' repeated Charleyrubbing his
hands.

'I think I see him now' cried the Jewbending his eyes upon his
pupil.

'So do I' cried Charley Bates. 'Ha! ha! ha! so do I. I see it
all afore meupon my soul I doFagin. What a game! What a
regular game! All the big-wigs trying to look solemnand Jack
Dawkins addressing of 'em as intimate and comfortable as if he
was the judge's own son making a speech arter dinner--ha! ha!
ha!'

In factMr. Fagin had so well humoured his young friend's
eccentric dispositionthat Master Bateswho had at first been
disposed to consider the imprisoned Dodger rather in the light of
a victimnow looked upon him as the chief actor in a scene of
most uncommon and exquisite humourand felt quite impatient for
the arrival of the time when his old companion should have so
favourable an opportunity of displaying his abilities.

'We must know how he gets on to-dayby some handy means or
other' said Fagin. 'Let me think.'

'Shall I go?' asked Charley.

'Not for the world' replied Fagin. 'Are you madmy dearstark
madthat you'd walk into the very place where--NoCharleyno.
One is enough to lose at a time.'

'You don't mean to go yourselfI suppose?' said Charley with a
humorous leer.

'That wouldn't quite fit' replied Fagin shaking his head.

'Then why don't you send this new cove?' asked Master Bates
laying his hand on Noah's arm. 'Nobody knows him.'

'Whyif he didn't mind--' observed Fagin.

'Mind!' interposed Charley. 'What should he have to mind?'

'Really nothingmy dear' said Faginturning to Mr. Bolter
'really nothing.'

'OhI dare say about thatyer know' observed Noahbacking
towards the doorand shaking his head with a kind of sober
alarm. 'Nono--none of that. It's not in my departmentthat
ain't.'


'Wot department has he gotFagin?' inquired Master Bates
surveying Noah's lank form with much disgust. 'The cutting away
when there's anything wrongand the eating all the wittles when
there's everything right; is that his branch?'

'Never mind' retorted Mr. Bolter; 'and don't yer take liberties
with yer superiorslittle boyor yer'll find yerself in the
wrong shop.'

Master Bates laughed so vehemently at this magnificent threat
that it was some time before Fagin could interposeand represent
to Mr. Bolter that he incurred no possible danger in visiting the
police-office; thatinasmuch as no account of the little affair
in which he had engagednor any description of his personhad
yet been forwarded to the metropolisit was very probable that
he was not even suspected of having resorted to it for shelter;
and thatif he were properly disguisedit would be as safe a
spot for him to visit as any in Londoninasmuch as it would be
of all placesthe very lastto which he could be supposed
likely to resort of his own free will.

Persuadedin partby these representationsbut overborne in a
much greater degree by his fear of FaginMr. Bolter at length
consentedwith a very bad graceto undertake the expedition.
By Fagin's directionshe immediately substituted for his own
attirea waggoner's frockvelveteen breechesand leather
leggings: all of which articles the Jew had at hand. He was
likewise furnished with a felt hat well garnished with turnpike
tickets; and a carter's whip. Thus equippedhe was to saunter
into the officeas some country fellow from Covent Garden market
might be supposed to do for the gratification of his curiousity;
and as he was as awkwardungainlyand raw-boned a fellow as
need beMr. Fagin had no fear but that he would look the part to
perfection.

These arrangements completedhe was informed of the necessary
signs and tokens by which to recognise the Artful Dodgerand was
conveyed by Master Bates through dark and winding ways to within
a very short distance of Bow Street. Having described the precise
situation of the officeand accompanied it with copious
directions how he was to walk straight up the passageand when
he got into the sideand pull off his hat as he went into the
roomCharley Bates bade him hurry on aloneand promised to bide
his return on the spot of their parting.

Noah Claypoleor Morris Bolter as the reader pleasespunctually
followed the directions he had receivedwhich--Master Bates
being pretty well acquainted with the locality--were so exact
that he was enabled to gain the magisterial presence without
asking any questionor meeting with any interruption by the way.

He found himself jostled among a crowd of peoplechiefly women
who were huddled together in a dirty frowsy roomat the upper
end of which was a raised platform railed off from the restwith
a dock for the prisoners on the left hand against the walla box
for the witnesses in the middleand a desk for the magistrates
on the right; the awful locality last namedbeing screened off
by a partition which concealed the bench from the common gaze
and left the vulgar to imagine (if they could) the full majesty
of justice.

There were only a couple of women in the dockwho were nodding
to their admiring friendswhile the clerk read some depositions
to a couple of policemen and a man in plain clothes who leant


over the table. A jailer stood reclining against the dock-rail
tapping his nose listlessly with a large keyexcept when he
repressed an undue tendency to conversation among the idlersby
proclaiming silence; or looked sternly up to bid some woman 'Take
that baby out' when the gravity of justice was disturbed by
feeble crieshalf-smothered in the mother's shawlfrom some
meagre infant. The room smelt close and unwholesome; the walls
were dirt-discoloured; and the ceiling blackened. There was an
old smoky bust over the mantel-shelfand a dusty clock above the
dock--the only thing presentthat seemed to go on as it ought;
for depravityor povertyor an habitual acquaintance with both
had left a taint on all the animate matterhardly less
unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inaminate object
that frowned upon it.

Noah looked eagerly about him for the Dodger; but although there
were several women who would have done very well for that
distinguished character's mother or sisterand more than one man
who might be supposed to bear a strong resemblance to his father
nobody at all answering the description given him of Mr. Dawkins
was to be seen. He waited in a state of much suspense and
uncertainty until the womenbeing committed for trialwent
flaunting out; and then was quickly relieved by the appearance of
another prisoner who he felt at once could be no other than the
object of his visit.

It was indeed Mr. Dawkinswhoshuffling into the office with
the big coat sleeves tucked up as usualhis left hand in his
pocketand his hat in his right handpreceded the jailerwith
a rolling gait altogether indescribableandtaking his place in
the dockrequested in an audible voice to know what he was
placed in that 'ere disgraceful sitivation for.

'Hold your tonguewill you?' said the jailer.

'I'm an Englishmanain't I?' rejoined the Dodger. 'Where are my
priwileges?'

'You'll get your privileges soon enough' retorted the jailer
'and pepper with 'em.'

'We'll see wot the Secretary of State for the Home Affairs has
got to say to the beaksif I don't' replied Mr. Dawkins. 'Now
then! Wot is this here business? I shall thank the madg'strates
to dispose of this here little affairand not to keep me while
they read the paperfor I've got an appointment with a genelman
in the Cityand as I am a man of my word and wery punctual in
business mattershe'll go away if I ain't there to my timeand
then pr'aps ther won't be an action for damage against them as
kep me away. Oh nocertainly not!'

At this pointthe Dodgerwith a show of being very particular
with a view to proceedings to be had thereafterdesired the
jailer to communicate 'the names of them two files as was on the
bench.' Which so tickled the spectatorsthat they laughed
almost as heartily as Master Bates could have done if he had
heard the request.

'Silence there!' cried the jailer.

'What is this?' inquired one of the magistrates.

'A pick-pocketing caseyour worship.'


'Has the boy ever been here before?'

'He ought to have beena many times' replied the jailer. 'He
has been pretty well everywhere else. _I_ know him wellyour
worship.'

'Oh! you know medo you?' cried the Artfulmaking a note of the
statement. 'Wery good. That's a case of deformation of
characterany way.'

Here there was another laughand another cry of silence.

'Now thenwhere are the witnesses?' said the clerk.

'Ah! that's right' added the Dodger. 'Where are they? I should
like to see 'em.'

This wish was immediately gratifiedfor a policeman stepped
forward who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an
unknown gentleman in a crowdand indeed take a handkerchief
therefromwhichbeing a very old onehe deliberately put back
againafter trying in on his own countenance. For this reason
he took the Dodger into custody as soon as he could get near him
and the said Dodgerbeing searchedhad upon his person a silver
snuff-boxwith the owner's name engraved upon the lid. This
gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court Guide
and being then and there presentswore that the snuff-box was
hisand that he had missed it on the previous daythe moment he
had disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to. He had
also remarked a young gentleman in the throngparticularly
active in making his way aboutand that young gentleman was the
prisoner before him.

'Have you anything to ask this witnessboy?' said the
magistrate.

'I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation
with him' replied the Dodger.

'Have you anything to say at all?'

'Do you hear his worship ask if you've anything to say?' inquired
the jailernudging the silent Dodger with his elbow.

'I beg your pardon' said the Dodgerlooking up with an air of
abstraction. 'Did you redress yourself to memy man?'

'I never see such an out-and-out young wagabondyour worship'
observed the officer with a grin. 'Do you mean to say anything
you young shaver?'

'No' replied the Dodger'not herefor this ain't the shop for
justice: besides whichmy attorney is a-breakfasting this
morning with the Wice President of the House of Commons; but I
shall have something to say elsewhereand so will heand so
will a wery numerous and 'spectable circle of acquaintance as'll
make them beaks wish they'd never been bornor that they'd got
their footmen to hang 'em up to their own hat-pegsafore they
let 'em come out this morning to try it on upon me. I'll--'

'There! He's fully committed!' interposed the clerk. 'Take him
away.'

'Come on' said the jailer.


'Oh ah! I'll come on' replied the Dodgerbrushing his hat with
the palm of his hand. 'Ah! (to the Bench) it's no use your
looking frightened; I won't show you no mercynot a ha'porth of
it. YOU'LL pay for thismy fine fellers. I wouldn't be you for
something! I wouldn't go freenowif you was to fall down on
your knees and ask me. Herecarry me off to prison! Take me
away!'

With these last wordsthe Dodger suffered himself to be led off
by the collar; threateningtill he got into the yardto make a
parliamentary business of it; and then grinning in the officer's
facewith great glee and self-approval.

Having seen him locked up by himself in a little cellNoah made
the best of his way back to where he had left Master Bates.
After waiting here some timehe was joined by that young
gentlemanwho had prudently abstained from showing himself until
he had looked carefully abroad from a snug retreatand
ascertained that his new friend had not been followed by any
impertinent person.

The two hastened back togetherto bear to Mr. Fagin the
animating news that the Dodger was doing full justice to his
bringing-upand establishing for himself a glorious reputation.

CHAPTER XLIV

THE TIME ARRIVES FOR NANCY TO REDEEM HER PLEDGE TO ROSE MAYLIE.
SHE FAILS.

Adept as she wasin all the arts of cunning and dissimulation
the girl Nancy could not wholly conceal the effect which the
knowledge of the step she had takenwrought upon her mind. She
remembered that both the crafty Jew and the brutal Sikes had
confided to her schemeswhich had been hidden from all others:
in the full confidence that she was trustworthy and beyond the
reach of their suspicion. Vile as those schemes weredesperate
as were their originatorsand bitter as were her feelings
towards Faginwho had led herstep by stepdeeper and deeper
down into an abyss of crime and miserywhence was no escape;
stillthere were times wheneven towards himshe felt some
relentinglest her disclosure should bring him within the iron
grasp he had so long eludedand he should fall at last--richly
as he merited such a fate--by her hand.

Butthese were the mere wanderings of a mind unwholly to detach
itself from old companions and associationsthough enabled to
fix itself steadily on one objectand resolved not to be turned
aside by any consideration. Her fears for Sikes would have been
more powerful inducements to recoil while there was yet time; but
she had stipulated that her secret should be rigidly keptshe
had dropped no clue which could lead to his discoveryshe had
refusedeven for his sakea refuge from all the guilt and
wretchedness that encompasses her--and what more could she do!
She was resolved.

Though all her mental struggles terminated in this conclusion
they forced themselves upon heragain and againand left their
traces too. She grew pale and thineven within a few days. At
timesshe took no heed of what was passing before heror no


part in conversations where onceshe would have been the
loudest. At other timesshe laughed without merrimentand was
noisy without a moment afterwards--she sat silent and dejected
brooding with her head upon her handswhile the very effort by
which she roused herselftoldmore forcibly than even these
indicationsthat she was ill at easeand that her thoughts were
occupied with matters very different and distant from those in
the course of discussion by her companions.

It was Sunday nightand the bell of the nearest church struck
the hour. Sikes and the Jew were talkingbut they paused to
listen. The girl looked up from the low seat on which she
crouchedand listened too. Eleven.

'An hour this side of midnight' said Sikesraising the blind to
look out and returning to his seat. 'Dark and heavy it is too.
A good night for business this.'

'Ah!' replied Fagin. 'What a pityBillmy dearthat there's
none quite ready to be done.'

'You're right for once' replied Sikes gruffly. 'It is a pity
for I'm in the humour too.'

Fagin sighedand shook his head despondingly.

'We must make up for lost time when we've got things into a good
train. That's all I know' said Sikes.

'That's the way to talkmy dear' replied Faginventuring to
pat him on the shoulder. 'It does me good to hear you.'

'Does you gooddoes it!' cried Sikes. 'Wellso be it.'

'Ha! ha! ha!' laughed Faginas if he were relieved by even this
concession. 'You're like yourself to-nightBill. Quite like
yourself.'

'I don't feel like myself when you lay that withered old claw on
my shoulderso take it away' said Sikescasting off the Jew's
hand.

'It make you nervousBill--reminds you of being nabbeddoes
it?' said Fagindetermined not to be offended.

'Reminds me of being nabbed by the devil' returned Sikes. 'There
never was another man with such a face as yoursunless it was
your fatherand I suppose HE is singeing his grizzled red beard
by this timeunless you came straight from the old 'un without
any father at all betwixt you; which I shouldn't wonder ata
bit.'

Fagin offered no reply to this compliment: butpulling Sikes by
the sleevepointed his finger towards Nancywho had taken
advantage of the foregoing conversation to put on her bonnetand
was now leaving the room.

'Hallo!' cried Sikes. 'Nance. Where's the gal going to at this
time of night?'

'Not far.'

'What answer's that?' retorted Sikes. 'Do you hear me?'


'I don't know where' replied the girl.

'Then I do' said Sikesmore in the spirit of obstinacy than
because he had any real objection to the girl going where she
listed. 'Nowhere. Sit down.'

'I'm not well. I told you that before' rejoined the girl. 'I
want a breath of air.'

'Put your head out of the winder' replied Sikes.

'There's not enough there' said the girl. 'I want it in the
street.'

'Then you won't have it' replied Sikes. With which assurance he
roselocked the doortook the key outand pulling her bonnet
from her headflung it up to the top of an old press. 'There'
said the robber. 'Now stop quietly where you arewill you?'

'It's not such a matter as a bonnet would keep me' said the girl
turning very pale. 'What do you meanBill? Do you know what
you're doing?'

'Know what I'm--Oh!' cried Sikesturning to Fagin'she's out of
her sensesyou knowor she daren't talk to me in that way.'

'You'll drive me on the something desperate' muttered the girl
placing both hands upon her breastas though to keep down by
force some violent outbreak. 'Let me gowill you--this
minute--this instant.'

'No!' said Sikes.

'Tell him to let me goFagin. He had better. It'll be better
for him. Do you hear me?' cried Nancy stamping her foot upon the
ground.

'Hear you!' repeated Sikes turning round in his chair to confront
her. 'Aye! And if I hear you for half a minute longerthe dog
shall have such a grip on your throat as'll tear some of that
screaming voice out. Wot has come over youyou jade! Wot is
it?'

'Let me go' said the girl with great earnestness; then sitting
herself down on the floorbefore the doorshe said'Billlet
me go; you don't know what you are doing. You don'tindeed. For
only one hour--do--do!'

'Cut my limbs off one by one!' cried Sikesseizing her roughly
by the arm'If I don't think the gal's stark raving mad. Get
up.'

'Not till you let me go--not till you let me go--Never--never!'
screamed the girl. Sikes looked onfor a minutewatching his
opportunityand suddenly pinioning her hands dragged her
struggling and wrestling with him by the wayinto a small room
adjoiningwhere he sat himself on a benchand thrusting her
into a chairheld her down by force. She struggled and implored
by turns until twelve o'clock had struckand thenwearied and
exhaustedceased to contest the point any further. With a
cautionbacked by many oathsto make no more efforts to go out
that nightSikes left her to recover at leisure and rejoined
Fagin.


'Whew!' said the housebreaker wiping the perspiration from his
face. 'Wot a precious strange gal that is!'

'You may say thatBill' replied Fagin thoughtfully. 'You may
say that.'

'Wot did she take it into her head to go out to-night fordo you
think?' asked Sikes. 'Come; you should know her better than me.
Wot does is mean?'

'Obstinacy; woman's obstinacyI supposemy dear.'

'WellI suppose it is' growled Sikes. 'I thought I had tamed
herbut she's as bad as ever.'

'Worse' said Fagin thoughtfully. 'I never knew her like this
for such a little cause.'

'Nor I' said Sikes. 'I think she's got a touch of that fever in
her blood yetand it won't come out--eh?'

'Like enough.'

'I'll let her a little bloodwithout troubling the doctorif
she's took that way again' said Sikes.

Fagin nodded an expressive approval of this mode of treatment.

'She was hanging about me all dayand night toowhen I was
stretched on my back; and youlike a blackhearted wolf as you
arekept yourself aloof' said Sikes. 'We was poor tooall the
timeand I thinkone way or otherit's worried and fretted
her; and that being shut up here so long has made her
restless--eh?'

'That's itmy dear' replied the Jew in a whisper. 'Hush!'

As he uttered these wordsthe girl herself appeared and resumed
her former seat. Her eyes were swollen and red; she rocked
herself to and fro; tossed her head; andafter a little time
burst out laughing.

'Whynow she's on the other tack!' exclaimed Sikesturning a
look of excessive surprise on his companion.

Fagin nodded to him to take no further notice just then; andin
a few minutesthe girl subsided into her accustomed demeanour.
Whispering Sikes that there was no fear of her relapsingFagin
took up his hat and bade him good-night. He paused when he
reached the room-doorand looking roundasked if somebody would
light him down the dark stairs.

'Light him down' said Sikeswho was filling his pipe. 'It's a
pity he should break his neck himselfand disappoint the
sight-seers. Show him a light.'

Nancy followed the old man downstairswith a candle. When they
reached the passagehe laid his finger on his lipand drawing
close to the girlsaidin a whisper.

'What is itNancydear?'

'What do you mean?' replied the girlin the same tone.


'The reason of all this' replied Fagin. 'If HE'--he pointed
with his skinny fore-finger up the stairs--'is so hard with you
(he's a bruteNancea brute-beast)why don't you--'

'Well?' said the girlas Fagin pausedwith his mouth almost
touching her earand his eyes looking into hers.

'No matter just now. We'll talk of this again. You have a
friend in meNance; a staunch friend. I have the means at hand
quiet and close. If you want revenge on those that treat you
like a dog--like a dog! worse than his dogfor he humours him
sometimes--come to me. I saycome to me. He is the mere hound
of a daybut you know me of oldNance.'

'I know you well' replied the girlswithout manifesting the
least emotion. 'Good-night.'

She shrank backas Fagin offered to lay his hand on hersbut
said good-night againin a steady voiceandanswering his
parting look with a nod of intelligenceclosed the door between
them.

Fagin walked towards his homeintent upon the thoughts that were
working within his brain. He had conceived the idea--not from
what had just passed though that had tended to confirm himbut
slowly and by degrees--that Nancywearied of the housebreaker's
brutalityhad conceived an attachment for some new friend. Her
altered mannerher repeated absences from home aloneher
comparative indifference to the interests of the gang for which
she had once been so zealousandadded to theseher desperate
impatience to leave home that night at a particular hourall
favoured the suppositionand rendered itto him at least
almost matter of certainty. The object of this new liking was
not among his myrmidons. He would be a valuable acquisition with
such an assistant as Nancyand must (thus Fagin argued) be
secured without delay.

There was anotherand a darker objectto be gained. Sikes knew
too muchand his ruffian taunts had not galled Fagin the less
because the wounds were hidden. The girl must knowwellthat
if she shook him offshe could never be safe from his furyand
that it would be surely wreaked--to the maiming of limbsor
perhaps the loss of life--on the object of her more recent fancy.

'With a little persuasion' thought Fagin'what more likely than
that she would consent to poison him? Women have done such
thingsand worseto secure the same object before now. There
would be the dangerous villain: the man I hate: gone; another
secured in his place; and my influence over the girlwith a
knowledge of this crime to back itunlimited.'

These things passed through the mind of Faginduring the short
time he sat alonein the housebreaker's room; and with them
uppermost in his thoughtshe had taken the opportunity
afterwards afforded himof sounding the girl in the broken hints
he threw out at parting. There was no expression of surpriseno
assumption of an inability to understand his meaning. The girl
clearly comprehended it. Her glance at parting showed THAT.

But perhaps she would recoil from a plot to take the life of
Sikesand that was one of the chief ends to be attained. 'How'
thought Faginas he crept homeward'can I increase my influence
with her? what new power can I acquire?'


Such brains are fertile in expedients. Ifwithout extracting a
confession from herselfhe laid a watchdiscovered the object
of her altered regardand threatened to reveal the whole history
to Sikes (of whom she stood in no common fear) unless she entered
into his designscould he not secure her compliance?

'I can' said Faginalmost aloud. 'She durst not refuse me
then. Not for her lifenot for her life! I have it all. The
means are readyand shall be set to work. I shall have you
yet!'

He cast back a dark lookand a threatening motion of the hand
towards the spot where he had left the bolder villian; and went
on his way: busying his bony hands in the folds of his tattered
garmentwhich he wrenched tightly in his graspas though there
were a hated enemy crushed with every motion of his fingers.

CHAPTER XLV

NOAH CLAYPOLE IS EMPLOYED BY FAGIN ON A SECRET MISSION

The old man was upbetimesnext morningand waited impatiently
for the appearance of his new associatewho after a delay that
seemed interminableat length presented himselfand commenced a
voracious assault on the breakfast.

'Bolter' said Fagindrawing up a chair and seating himself
opposite Morris Bolter.

'Wellhere I am' returned Noah. 'What's the matter? Don't yer
ask me to do anything till I have done eating. That's a great
fault in this place. Yer never get time enough over yer meals.'

'You can talk as you eatcan't you?' said Fagincursing his
dear young friend's greediness from the very bottom of his heart.

'Oh yesI can talk. I get on better when I talk' said Noah
cutting a monstrous slice of bread. 'Where's Charlotte?'

'Out' said Fagin. 'I sent her out this morning with the other
young womanbecause I wanted us to be alone.'

'Oh!' said Noah. 'I wish yer'd ordered her to make some buttered
toast first. Well. Talk away. Yer won't interrupt me.'

There seemedindeedno great fear of anything interrupting him
as he had evidently sat down with a determination to do a great
deal of business.

'You did well yesterdaymy dear' said Fagin. 'Beautiful! Six
shillings and ninepence halfpenny on the very first day! The
kinchin lay will be a fortune to you.'

'Don't you forget to add three pint-pots and a milk-can' said
Mr. Bolter.

'Nonomy dear. The pint-pots were great strokes of genius:
but the milk-can was a perfect masterpiece.'

'Pretty wellI thinkfor a beginner' remarked Mr. Bolter
complacently. 'The pots I took off airy railingsand the


milk-can was standing by itself outside a public-house. I
thought it might get rusty with the rainor catch coldyer
know. Eh? Ha! ha! ha!'

Fagin affected to laugh very heartily; and Mr. Bolter having had
his laugh outtook a series of large biteswhich finished his
first hunk of bread and butterand assisted himself to a second.

'I want youBolter' said Faginleaning over the table'to do
a piece of work for memy dearthat needs great care and
caution.'

'I say' rejoined Bolter'don't yer go shoving me into danger
or sending me any more o' yer police-offices. That don't suit me
that don't; and so I tell yer.'

'That's not the smallest danger in it--not the very smallest'
said the Jew; 'it's only to dodge a woman.'

'An old woman?' demanded Mr. Bolter.

'A young one' replied Fagin.

'I can do that pretty wellI know' said Bolter. 'I was a
regular cunning sneak when I was at school. What am I to dodge
her for? Not to--'

'Not to do anythingbut to tell me where she goeswho she sees
andif possiblewhat she says; to remember the streetif it is
a streetor the houseif it is a house; and to bring me back
all the information you can.'

'What'll yer give me?' asked Noahsetting down his cupand
looking his employereagerlyin the face.

'If you do it wella poundmy dear. One pound' said Fagin
wishing to interest him in the scent as much as possible. 'And
that's what I never gave yetfor any job of work where there
wasn't valuable consideration to be gained.'

'Who is she?' inquired Noah.

'One of us.'

'Oh Lor!' cried Noahcurling up his nose. 'Yer doubtful of her
are yer?'

'She had found out some new friendsmy dearand I must know who
they are' replied Fagin.

'I see' said Noah. 'Just to have the pleasure of knowing them
if they're respectable peopleeh? Ha! ha! ha! I'm your man.'

'I knew you would be' cried Fagineleated by the success of his
proposal.

'Of courseof course' replied Noah. 'Where is she? Where am I
to wait for her? Where am I to go?'

'All thatmy dearyou shall hear from me. I'll point her out
at the proper time' said Fagin. 'You keep readyand leave the
rest to me.'

That nightand the nextand the next againthe spy sat booted


and equipped in his carter's dress: ready to turn out at a word
from Fagin. Six nights passed--six long weary nights--and on
eachFagin came home with a disappointed faceand briefly
intimated that it was not yet time. On the seventhhe returned
earlierand with an exultation he could not conceal. It was
Sunday.

'She goes abroad to-night' said Fagin'and on the right errand
I'm sure; for she has been alone all dayand the man she is
afraid of will not be back much before daybreak. Come with me.
Quick!'

Noah started up without saying a word; for the Jew was in a state
of such intense excitement that it infected him. They left the
house stealthilyand hurrying through a labyrinth of streets
arrived at length before a public-housewhich Noah recognised as
the same in which he had slepton the night of his arrival in
London.

It was past eleven o'clockand the door was closed. It opened
softly on its hinges as Fagin gave a low whistle. They entered
without noise; and the door was closed behind them.

Scarcely venturing to whisperbut substituting dumb show for
wordsFaginand the young Jew who had admitted thempointed
out the pane of glass to Noahand signed to him to climb up and
observe the person in the adjoining room.

'Is that the woman?' he askedscarcely above his breath.

Fagin nodded yes.

'I can't see her face well' whispered Noah. 'She is looking
downand the candle is behind her.

'Stay there' whispered Fagin. He signed to Barneywho
withdrew. In an instantthe lad entered the room adjoining
andunder pretence of snuffing the candlemoved it in the
required positionandspeaking to the girlcaused her to raise
her face.

'I see her now' cried the spy.

'Plainly?'

'I should know her among a thousand.'

He hastily descendedas the room-door openedand the girl came
out. Fagin drew him behind a small partition which was curtained
offand they held their breaths as she passed within a few feet
of their place of concealmentand emerged by the door at which
they had entered.

'Hist!' cried the lad who held the door. 'Dow.'

Noah exchanged a look with Faginand darted out.

'To the left' whispered the lad; 'take the left hadand keep od
the other side.'

He did so; andby the light of the lampssaw the girl's
retreating figurealready at some distance before him. He
advanced as near as he considered prudentand kept on the
opposite side of the streetthe better to observe her motions.


She looked nervously roundtwice or thriceand once stopped to
let two men who were following close behind herpass on. She
seemed to gather courage as she advancedand to walk with a
steadier and firmer step. The spy preserved the same relative
distance between themand followed: with his eye upon her.

CHAPTER XLVI

THE APPOINTMENT KEPT

The church clocks chimed three quarters past elevenas two
figures emerged on London Bridge. Onewhich advanced with a
swift and rapid stepwas that of a woman who looked eagerly
about her as though in quest of some expected object; the other
figure was that of a manwho slunk along in the deepest shadow
he could findandat some distanceaccommodated his pace to
hers: stopping when she stopped: and as she moved again
creeping stealthily on: but never allowing himselfin the
ardour of his pursuitto gain upon her footsteps. Thusthey
crossed the bridgefrom the Middlesex to the Surrey shorewhen
the womanapparently disappointed in her anxious scrutiny of the
foot-passengersturned back. The movement was sudden; but he
who watched herwas not thrown off his guard by it; for
shrinking into one of the recesses which surmount the piers of
the bridgeand leaning over the parapet the better to conceal
his figurehe suffered her to pass on the opposite pavement.
When she was about the same distance in advance as she had been
beforehe slipped quietly downand followed her again. At
nearly the centre of the bridgeshe stopped. The man stopped
too.

It was a very dark night. The day had been unfavourableand at
that hour and place there were few people stirring. Such as there
werehurried quickly past: very possibly without seeingbut
certainly without noticingeither the womanor the man who kept
her in view. Their appearance was not calculated to attract the
importunate regards of such of London's destitute populationas
chanced to take their way over the bridge that night in search of
some cold arch or doorless hovel wherein to lay their heads; they
stood there in silence: neither speaking nor spoken toby any
one who passed.

A mist hung over the riverdeepening the red glare of the fires
that burnt upon the small craft moored off the different wharfs
and rendering darker and more indistinct the murky buildings on
the banks. The old smoke-stained storehouses on either side
rose heavy and dull from the dense mass of roofs and gablesand
frowned sternly upon water too black to reflect even their
lumbering shapes. The tower of old Saint Saviour's Churchand
the spire of Saint Magnusso long the giant-warders of the
ancient bridgewere visible in the gloom; but the forest of
shipping below bridgeand the thickly scattered spires of
churches abovewere nearly all hidden from sight.

The girl had taken a few restless turns to and fro--closely
watched meanwhile by her hidden observer--when the heavy bell of
St. Paul's tolled for the death of another day. Midnight had
come upon the crowded city. The palacethe night-cellarthe
jailthe madhouse: the chambers of birth and deathof health
and sicknessthe rigid face of the corpse and the calm sleep of
the child: midnight was upon them all.


The hour had not struck two minuteswhen a young lady
accompanied by a grey-haired gentlemanalighted from a
hackney-carriage within a short distance of the bridgeand
having dismissed the vehiclewalked straight towards it. They
had scarcely set foot upon its pavementwhen the girl started
and immediately made towards them.

They walked onwardlooking about them with the air of persons
who entertained some very slight expectation which had little
chance of being realisedwhen they were suddenly joined by this
new associate. They halted with an exclamation of surprisebut
suppressed it immediately; for a man in the garments of a
countryman came close up--brushed against themindeed--at that
precise moment.

'Not here' said Nancy hurriedly'I am afraid to speak to you
here. Come away--out of the public road--down the steps yonder!'

As she uttered these wordsand indicatedwith her handthe
direction in which she wished them to proceedthe countryman
looked roundand roughly asking what they took up the whole
pavement forpassed on.

The steps to which the girl had pointedwere those whichon the
Surrey bankand on the same side of the bridge as Saint
Saviour's Churchform a landing-stairs from the river. To this
spotthe man bearing the appearance of a countrymanhastened
unobserved; and after a moment's survey of the placehe began to
descend.

These stairs are a part of the bridge; they consist of three
flights. Just below the end of the secondgoing downthe stone
wall on the left terminates in an ornamental pilaster facing
towards the Thames. At this point the lower steps widen: so
that a person turning that angle of the wallis necessarily
unseen by any others on the stairs who chance to be above himif
only a step. The countryman looked hastily roundwhen he reached
this point; and as there seemed no better place of concealment
andthe tide being outthere was plenty of roomhe slipped
asidewith his back to the pilasterand there waited: pretty
certain that they would come no lowerand that even if he could
not hear what was saidhe could follow them againwith safety.

So tardily stole the time in this lonely placeand so eager was
the spy to penetrate the motives of an interview so different
from what he had been led to expectthat he more than once gave
the matter up for lostand persuaded himselfeither that they
had stopped far aboveor had resorted to some entirely different
spot to hold their mysterious conversation. He was on the point
of emerging from his hiding-placeand regaining the road above
when he heard the sound of footstepsand directly afterwards of
voices almost close at his ear.

He drew himself straight upright against the wallandscarcely
breathinglistened attentively.

'This is far enough' said a voicewhich was evidently that of
the gentleman. 'I will not suffer the young lady to go any
farther. Many people would have distrusted you too much to have
come even so farbut you see I am willing to humour you.'

'To humour me!' cried the voice of the girl whom he had followed.

'You're considerateindeedsir. To humour me! Wellwell


it's no matter.'

'Whyfor what' said the gentleman in a kinder tone'for what
purpose can you have brought us to this strange place? Why not
have let me speak to youabove therewhere it is lightand
there is something stirringinstead of bringing us to this dark
and dismal hole?'

'I told you before' replied Nancy'that I was afraid to speak
to you there. I don't know why it is' said the girl
shuddering'but I have such a fear and dread upon me to-night
that I can hardly stand.'

'A fear of what?' asked the gentlemanwho seemed to pity her.

'I scarcely know of what' replied the girl. 'I wish I did.
Horrible thoughts of deathand shrouds with blood upon themand
a fear that has made me burn as if I was on firehave been upon
me all day. I was reading a book to-nightto wile the time
awayand the same things came into the print.'

'Imagination' said the gentlemansoothing her.

'No imagination' replied the girl in a hoarse voice. 'I'll swear
I saw "coffin" written in every page of the book in large black
letters--ayeand they carried one close to mein the streets
to-night.'

'There is nothing unusual in that' said the gentleman. 'They
have passed me often.'

'REAL ONES' rejoined the girl. 'This was not.'

There was something so uncommon in her mannerthat the flesh of
the concealed listener crept as he heard the girl utter these
wordsand the blood chilled within him. He had never
experienced a greater relief than in hearing the sweet voice of
the young lady as she begged her to be calmand not allow
herself to become the prey of such fearful fancies.

'Speak to her kindly' said the young lady to her companion.
'Poor creature! She seems to need it.'

'Your haughty religious people would have held their heads up to
see me as I am to-nightand preached of flames and vengeance'
cried the girl. 'Ohdear ladywhy ar'n't those who claim to be
God's own folks as gentle and as kind to us poor wretches as you
whohaving youthand beautyand all that they have lostmight
be a little proud instead of so much humbler?'

'Ah!' said the gentleman. 'A Turk turns his faceafter washing
it wellto the Eastwhen he says his prayers; these good
peopleafter giving their faces such a rub against the World as
to take the smiles offturn with no less regularityto the
darkest side of Heaven. Between the Mussulman and the Pharisee
commend me to the first!'

These words appeared to be addressed to the young ladyand were
perhaps uttered with the view of afffording Nancy time to recover
herself. The gentlemanshortly afterwardsaddressed himself to
her.

'You were not here last Sunday night' he said.


'I couldn't come' replied Nancy; 'I was kept by force.'

'By whom?'

'Him that I told the young lady of before.'

'You were not suspected of holding any communication with anybody
on the subject which has brought us here to-nightI hope?' asked
the old gentleman.

'No' replied the girlshaking her head. 'It's not very easy
for me to leave him unless he knows why; I couldn't give him a
drink of laudanum before I came away.'

'Did he awake before you returned?' inquired the gentleman.

'No; and neither he nor any of them suspect me.'

'Good' said the gentleman. 'Now listen to me.'

'I am ready' replied the girlas he paused for a moment.

'This young lady' the gentleman began'has communicated to me
and to some other friends who can be safely trustedwhat you
told her nearly a fortnight since. I confess to you that I had
doubtsat firstwhether you were to be implicitly relied upon
but now I firmly believe you are.'

'I am' said the girl earnestly.

'I repeat that I firmly believe it. To prove to you that I am
disposed to trust youI tell you without reservethat we
propose to extort the secretwhatever it may befrom the fear
of this man Monks. But if--if--' said the gentleman'he cannot
be securedorif securedcannot be acted upon as we wishyou
must deliver up the Jew.'

'Fagin' cried the girlrecoiling.

'That man must be delivered up by you' said the gentleman.

'I will not do it! I will never do it!' replied the girl. 'Devil
that he isand worse than devil as he has been to meI will
never do that.'

'You will not?' said the gentlemanwho seemed fully prepared for
this answer.

'Never!' returned the girl.

'Tell me why?'

'For one reason' rejoined the girl firmly'for one reasonthat
the lady knows and will stand by me inI know she willfor I
have her promise: and for this other reasonbesidesthatbad
life as he has ledI have led a bad life too; there are many of
us who have kept the same courses togetherand I'll not turn
upon themwho might--any of them--have turned upon mebut
didn'tbad as they are.'

'Then' said the gentlemanquicklyas if this had been the
point he had been aiming to attain; 'put Monks into my handsand
leave him to me to deal with.'


'What if he turns against the others?'

'I promise you that in that caseif the truth is forced from
himthere the matter will rest; there must be circumstances in
Oliver's little history which it would be painful to drag before
the public eyeand if the truth is once elicitedthey shall go
scot free.'

'And if it is not?' suggested the girl.

'Then' pursued the gentleman'this Fagin shall not be brought
to justice without your consent. In such a case I could show you
reasonsI thinkwhich would induce you to yield it.'

'Have I the lady's promise for that?' asked the girl.

'You have' replied Rose. 'My true and faithful pledge.'

'Monks would never learn how you knew what you do?' said the
girlafter a short pause.

'Never' replied the gentleman. 'The intelligence should be
brought to bear upon himthat he could never even guess.'

'I have been a liarand among liars from a little child' said
the girl after another interval of silence'but I will take your
words.'

After receving an assurance from boththat she might safely do
soshe proceeded in a voice so low that it was often difficult
for the listener to discover even the purport of what she said
to describeby name and situationthe public-house whence she
had been followed that night. From the manner in which she
occasionally pausedit appeared as if the gentleman were making
some hasty notes of the information she communicated. When she
had thoroughly explained the localities of the placethe best
position from which to watch it without exciting observationand
the night and hour on which Monks was most in the habit of
frequenting itshe seemed to consider for a few momentsfor the
purpose of recalling his features and appearances more forcibly
to her recollection.

'He is tall' said the girl'and a strongly made manbut not
stout; he has a lurking walk; and as he walksconstantly looks
over his shoulderfirst on one sideand then on the other.
Don't forget thatfor his eyes are sunk in his head so much
deeper than any other man'sthat you might almost tell him by
that alone. His face is darklike his hair and eyes; and
although he can't be more than six or eight and twentywithered
and haggard. His lips are often discoloured and disfigured with
the marks of teeth; for he has desperate fitsand sometimes even
bites his hands and covers them with wounds--why did you start?'
said the girlstopping suddenly.

The gentleman repliedin a hurried mannerthat he was not
conscious of having done soand begged her to proceed.

'Part of this' said the girl'I have drawn out from other
people at the house I tell you offor I have only seen him
twiceand both times he was covered up in a large cloak. I
think that's all I can give you to know him by. Stay though'
she added. 'Upon his throat: so high that you can see a part of
it below his neckerchief when he turns his face: there is--'


'A broad red marklike a burn or scald?' cried the gentleman.

'How's this?' said the girl. 'You know him!'

The young lady uttered a cry of surpriseand for a few moments
they were so still that the listener could distinctly hear them
breathe.

'I think I do' said the gentlemanbreaking silence. 'I should
by your description. We shall see. Many people are singularly
like each other. It may not be the same.'

As he expressed himself to this effectwith assumed
carelessnesshe took a step or two nearer the concealed spyas
the latter could tell from the distinctness with which he heard
him mutter'It must be he!'

'Now' he saidreturning: so it seemed by the sound: to the
spot where he had stood before'you have given us most valuable
assistanceyoung womanand I wish you to be the better for it.
What can I do to serve you?'

'Nothing' replied Nancy.

'You will not persist in saying that' rejoined the gentleman
with a voice and emphasis of kindness that might have touched a
much harder and more obdurate heart. 'Think now. Tell me.'

'Nothingsir' rejoined the girlweeping. 'You can do nothing
to help me. I am past all hopeindeed.'

'You put yourself beyond its pale' said the gentleman. 'The past
has been a dreary waste with youof youthful energies mis-spent
and such priceless treasures lavishedas the Creator bestows but
once and never grants againbutfor the futureyou may hope.
I do not say that it is in our power to offer you peace of heart
and mindfor that must come as you seek it; but a quiet asylum
either in Englandorif you fear to remain herein some
foreign countryit is not only within the compass of our ability
but our most anxious wish to secure you. Before the dawn of
morningbefore this river wakes to the first glimpse of
day-lightyou shall be placed as entirely beyond the reach of
your former associatesand leave as utter an absence of all
trace behind youas if you were to disappear from the earth this
moment. Come! I would not have you go back to exchange one word
with any old companionor take one look at any old hauntor
breathe the very air which is pestilence and death to you. Quit
them allwhile there is time and opportunity!'

'She will be persuaded now' cried the young lady. 'She
hesitatesI am sure.'

'I fear notmy dear' said the gentleman.

'No sirI do not' replied the girlafter a short struggle. 'I
am chained to my old life. I loathe and hate it nowbut I
cannot leave it. I must have gone too far to turn back--and yet
I don't knowfor if you had spoken to me sosome time agoI
should have laughed it off. But' she saidlooking hastily
round'this fear comes over me again. I must go home.'

'Home!' repeated the young ladywith great stress upon the word.

'Homelady' rejoined the girl. 'To such a home as I have


raised for myself with the work of my whole life. Let us part.
I shall be watched or seen. Go! Go! If I have done you any
service all I ask isthat you leave meand let me go my way
alone.'

'It is useless' said the gentlemanwith a sigh. 'We compromise
her safetyperhapsby staying here. We may have detained her
longer than she expected already.'

'Yesyes' urged the girl. 'You have.'

'What' cried the young lady. 'can be the end of this poor
creature's life!'

'What!' repeated the girl. 'Look before youlady. Look at that
dark water. How many times do you read of such as I who spring
into the tideand leave no living thingto care foror bewail
them. It may be years henceor it may be only monthsbut I
shall come to that at last.'

'Do not speak thuspray' returned the young ladysobbing.

'It will never reach your earsdear ladyand God forbid such
horrors should!' replied the girl. 'Good-nightgood-night!'

The gentleman turned away.

'This purse' cried the young lady. 'Take it for my sakethat
you may have some resource in an hour of need and trouble.'

'No!' replied the girl. 'I have not done this for money. Let me
have that to think of. And yet--give me something that you have
worn: I should like to have something--nononot a ring--your
gloves or handkerchief--anything that I can keepas having
belonged to yousweet lady. There. Bless you! God bless you.
Good-nightgood-night!'

The violent agitation of the girland the apprehension of some
discovery which would subject her to ill-usage and violence
seemed to determine the gentleman to leave heras she requested.

The sound of retreating footsteps were audible and the voices
ceased.

The two figures of the young lady and her companion soon
afterwards appeared upon the bridge. They stopped at the summit
of the stairs.

'Hark!' cried the young ladylistening. 'Did she call! I
thought I heard her voice.'

'Nomy love' replied Mr. Brownlowlooking sadly back. 'She has
not movedand will not till we are gone.'

Rose Maylie lingeredbut the old gentleman drew her arm through
hisand led herwith gentle forceaway. As they disappeared
the girl sunk down nearly at her full length upon one of the
stone stairsand vented the anguish of her heart in bitter
tears.

After a time she aroseand with feeble and tottering steps
ascended the street. The astonished listener remained motionless
on his post for some minutes afterwardsand having ascertained
with many cautious glances round himthat he was again alone


crept slowly from his hiding-placeand returnedstealthily and
in the shade of the wallin the same manner as he had descended.

Peeping outmore than oncewhen he reached the topto make
sure that he was unobservedNoah Claypole darted away at his
utmost speedand made for the Jew's house as fast as his legs
would carry him.

CHAPTER XLVII

FATAL CONSEQUENCES

It was nearly two hours before day-break; that time which in the
autumn of the yearmay be truly called the dead of night; when
the streets are silent and deserted; when even sounds appear to
slumberand profligacy and riot have staggered home to dream; it
was at this still and silent hourthat Fagin sat watching in his
old lairwith face so distorted and paleand eyes so red and
blood-shotthat he looked less like a manthan like some
hideous phantommoist from the graveand worried by an evil
spirit.

He sat crouching over a cold hearthwrapped in an old torn
coverletwith his face turned towards a wasting candle that
stood upon a table by his side. His right hand was raised to his
lipsand asabsorbed in thoughthe hit his long black nails
he disclosed among his toothless gums a few such fangs as should
have been a dog's or rat's.

Stretched upon a mattress on the floorlay Noah Claypolefast
asleep. Towards him the old man sometimes directed his eyes for
an instantand then brought them back again to the candle; which
with a long-burnt wick drooping almost doubleand hot grease
falling down in clots upon the tableplainly showed that his
thoughts were busy elsewhere.

Indeed they were. Mortification at the overthrow of his notable
scheme; hatred of the girl who had dared to palter with
strangers; and utter distrust of the sincerity of her refusal to
yield him up; bitter disappointment at the loss of his revenge on
Sikes; the fear of detectionand ruinand death; and a fierce
and deadly rage kindled by all; these were the passionate
considerations whichfollowing close upon each other with rapid
and ceaseless whirlshot through the brain of Faginas every
evil thought and blackest purpose lay working at his heart.

He sat without changing his attitude in the leastor appearing
to tkae the smallest heed of timeuntil his quick ear seemed to
be attracted by a footstep in the street.

'At last' he mutteredwiping his dry and fevered mouth. 'At
last!'

The bell rang gently as he spoke. He crept upstairs to the door
and presently returned accompanied by a man muffled to the chin
who carried a bundle under one arm. Sitting down and throwing
back his outer coatthe man displayed the burly frame of Sikes.

'There!' he saidlaying the bundle on the table. 'Take care of
thatand do the most you can with it. It's been trouble enough
to get; I thought I should have been herethree hours ago.'


Fagin laid his hand upon the bundleand locking it in the
cupboardsat down again without speaking. But he did not take
his eyes off the robberfor an instantduring this action; and
now that they sat over against each otherface to facehe
looked fixedly at himwith his lips quivering so violentlyand
his face so altered by the emotions which had mastered himthat
the housebreaker involuntarily drew back his chairand surveyed
him with a look of real affright.

'Wot now?' cried Sikes. 'Wot do you look at a man so for?'

Fagin raised his right handand shook his trembling forefinger
in the air; but his passion was so greatthat the power of
speech was for the moment gone.

'Damme!' said Sikesfeeling in his breast with a look of alarm.
'He's gone mad. I must look to myself here.'

'Nono' rejoined Faginfinding his voice. 'It's not--you're
not the personBill. I've no--no fault to find with you.'

'Ohyou haven'thaven't you?' said Sikeslooking sternly at
himand ostentatiously passing a pistol into a more convenient
pocket. 'That's lucky--for one of us. Which one that isdon't
matter.'

'I've got that to tell youBill' said Fagindrawing his chair
nearer'will make you worse than me.'

'Aye?' returned the robber with an incredulous air. 'Tell away!
Look sharpor Nance will think I'm lost.'

'Lost!' cried Fagin. 'She has pretty well settled thatin her
own mindalready.'

Sikes looked with an aspect of great perplexity into the Jew's
faceand reading no satisfactory explanation of the riddle
thereclenched his coat collar in his huge hand and shook him
soundly.

'Speakwill you!' he said; 'or if you don'tit shall be for
want of breath. Open your mouth and say wot you've got to say in
plain words. Out with ityou thundering old curout with it!'

'Suppose that lad that's laying there--' Fagin began.

Sikes turned round to where Noah was sleepingas if he had not
previously observed him. 'Well!' he saidresuming his former
position.

'Suppose that lad' pursued Fagin'was to peach--to blow upon us
all--first seeking out the right folks for the purposeand then
having a meeting with 'em in the street to paint our likenesses
describe every mark that they might know us byand the crib
where we might be most easily taken. Suppose he was to do all
thisand besides to blow upon a plant we've all been inmore or
less--of his own fancy; not grabbedtrappedtriedearwigged by
the parson and brought to it on bread and water--but of his own
fancy; to please his own taste; stealing out at nights to find
those most interested against usand peaching to them. Do you
hear me?' cried the Jewhis eyes flashing with rage. 'Suppose
he did all thiswhat then?'


'What then!' replied Sikes; with a tremendous oath. 'If he was
left alive till I cameI'd grind his skull under the iron heel
of my boot into as many grains as there are hairs upon his head.'

'What if I did it!' cried Fagin almost in a yell. 'Ithat knows
so muchand could hang so many besides myself!'

'I don't know' replied Sikesclenching his teeth and turning
white at the mere suggestion. 'I'd do something in the jail that
'ud get me put in irons; and if I was tried along with youI'd
fall upon you with them in the open courtand beat your brains
out afore the people. I should have such strength' muttered the
robberpoising his brawny arm'that I could smash your head as
if a loaded waggon had gone over it.'

'You would?'

'Would I!' said the housebreaker. 'Try me.'

'If it was Charleyor the Dodgeror Betor--'

'I don't care who' replied Sikes impatiently. 'Whoever it was
I'd serve them the same.'

Fagin looked hard at the robber; andmotioning him to be silent
stooped over the bed upon the floorand shook the sleeper to
rouse him. Sikes leant forward in his chair: looking on with
his hands upon his kneesas if wondering much what all this
questioning and preparation was to end in.

'BolterBolter! Poor lad!' said Faginlooking up with an
expression of devilish anticipationand speaking slowly and with
marked emphasis. 'He's tired--tired with watching for her so
long--watching for herBill.'

'Wot d'ye mean?' asked Sikesdrawing back.

Fagin made no answerbut bending over the sleeper againhauled
him into a sitting posture. When his assumed name had been
repeated several timesNoah rubbed his eyesandgiving a heavy
yawnlooked sleepily about him.

'Tell me that again--once againjust for him to hear' said the
Jewpointing to Sikes as he spoke.

'Tell yer what?' asked the sleepy Noahshaking himself pettishy.

'That about--NANCY' said Faginclutching Sikes by the wristas
if to prevent his leaving the house before he had heard enough.
'You followed her?'

'Yes.'

'To London Bridge?'

'Yes.'

'Where she met two people.'

'So she did.'

'A gentleman and a lady that she had gone to of her own accord
beforewho asked her to give up all her palsand Monks first
which she did--and to describe himwhich she did--and to tell


her what house it was that we meet atand go towhich she
did--and where it could be best watched fromwhich she did--and
what time the people went therewhich she did. She did all
this. She told it all every word without a threatwithout a
murmur--she did--did she not?' cried Faginhalf mad with fury.

'All right' replied Noahscratching his head. 'That's just
what it was!'

'What did they sayabout last Sunday?'

'About last Sunday!' replied Noahconsidering. 'Why I told yer
that before.'

'Again. Tell it again!' cried Fagintightening his grasp on
Sikesand brandishing his other hand aloftas the foam flew
from his lips.

'They asked her' said Noahwhoas he grew more wakefulseemed
to have a dawning perception who Sikes was'they asked her why
she didn't comelast Sundayas she promised. She said she
couldn't.'

'Why--why? Tell him that.'

'Because she was forcibly kept at home by Billthe man she had
told them of before' replied Noah.

'What more of him?' cried Fagin. 'What more of the man she had
told them of before? Tell him thattell him that.'

'Whythat she couldn't very easily get out of doors unless he
knew where she was going to' said Noah; 'and so the first time
she went to see the ladyshe--ha! ha! ha! it made me laugh when
she said itthat it did--she gave him a drink of laudanum.'

'Hell's fire!' cried Sikesbreaking fiercely from the Jew. 'Let
me go!'

Flinging the old man from himhe rushed from the roomand
dartedwildly and furiouslyup the stairs.

'BillBill!' cried Faginfollowing him hastily. 'A word. Only
a word.'

The word would not have been exchangedbut that the housebreaker
was unable to open the door: on which he was expending fruitless
oaths and violencewhen the Jew came panting up.

'Let me out' said Sikes. 'Don't speak to me; it's not safe.
Let me outI say!'

'Hear me speak a word' rejoined Faginlaying his hand upon the
lock. 'You won't be--'

'Well' replied the other.

'You won't be--too--violentBill?'

The day was breakingand there was light enough for the men to
see each other's faces. They exchanged one brief glance; there
was a fire in the eyes of bothwhich could not be mistaken.

'I mean' said Faginshowing that he felt all disguise was now


useless'not too violent for safety. Be craftyBilland not
too bold.'

Sikes made no reply; butpulling open the doorof which Fagin
had turned the lockdashed into the silent streets.

Without one pauseor moment's consideration; without once
turning his head to the right or leftor raising his eyes to the
skyor lowering them to the groundbut looking straight before
him with savage resolution: his teeth so tightly compressed that
the strained jaw seemed starting through his skin; the robber
held on his headlong coursenor muttered a wordnor relaxed a
muscleuntil he reached his own door. He opened itsoftly
with a key; strode lightly up the stairs; and entering his own
roomdouble-locked the doorand lifting a heavy table against
itdrew back the curtain of the bed.

The girl was lyinghalf-dressedupon it. He had roused her
from her sleepfor she raised herself with a hurried and
startled look.

'Get up!' said the man.

'It is youBill!' said the girlwith an expression of pleasure
at his return.

'It is' was the reply. 'Get up.'

There was a candle burningbut the man hastily drew it from the
candlestickand hurled it under the grate. Seeing the faint
light of early day withoutthe girl rose to undraw the curtain.

'Let it be' said Sikesthrusting his hand before her. 'There's
enough light for wot I've got to do.'

'Bill' said the girlin the low voice of alarm'why do you
look like that at me!'

The robber sat regarding herfor a few secondswith dilated
nostrils and heaving breast; and thengrasping her by the head
and throatdragged her into the middle of the roomand looking
once towards the doorplaced his heavy hand upon her mouth.

'BillBill!' gasped the girlwrestling with the strength of
mortal fear--'I--I won't scream or cry--not once--hear me--speak
to me--tell me what I have done!'

'You knowyou she devil!' returned the robbersuppressing his
breath. 'You were watched to-night; every word you said was
heard.'

'Then spare my life for the love of Heavenas I spared yours'
rejoined the girlclinging to him. 'Billdear Billyou cannot
have the heart to kill me. Oh! think of all I have given up
only this one nightfor you. You SHALL have time to thinkand
save yourself this crime; I will not loose my holdyou cannot
throw me off. BillBillfor dear God's sakefor your ownfor
minestop before you spill my blood! I have been true to you
upon my guilty soul I have!'

The man struggled violentlyto release his arms; but those of
the girl were clasped round hisand tear her as he wouldhe
could not tear them away.


'Bill' cried the girlstriving to lay her head upon his breast
'the gentleman and that dear ladytold me to-night of a home in
some foreign country where I could end my days in solitude and
peace. Let me see them againand beg themon my kneesto show
the same mercy and goodness to you; and let us both leave this
dreadful placeand far apart lead better livesand forget how
we have livedexcept in prayersand never see each other more.
It is never too late to repent. They told me so--I feel it
now--but we must have time--a littlelittle time!'

The housebreaker freed one armand grasped his pistol. The
certainty of immediate detection if he firedflashed across his
mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all
the force he could summonupon the upturned face that almost
touched his own.

She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that
rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising
herselfwith difficultyon her kneesdrew from her bosom a
white handkerchief--Rose Maylie's own--and holding it upin her
folded handsas high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would
allowbreathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.

It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering
backward to the walland shutting out the sight with his hand
seized a heavy club and struck her down.

CHAPTER XLVIII

THE FLIGHT OF SIKES

Of all bad deeds thatunder cover of the darknesshad been
committed with wide London's bounds since night hung over it
that was the worst. Of all the horrors that rose with an ill
scent upon the morning airthat was the foulest and most cruel.

The sun--the bright sunthat brings backnot light alonebut
new lifeand hopeand freshness to man--burst upon the crowded
city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass
and paper-mended windowthrough cathedral dome and rotten
creviceit shed its equal ray. It lighted up the room where the
murdered woman lay. It did. He tried to shut it outbut it
would stream in. If the sight had been a ghastly one in the dull
morningwhat was itnowin all that brilliant light!

He had not moved; he had been afraid to stir. There had been a
moan and motion of the hand; andwith terror added to ragehe
had struck and struck again. Once he threw a rug over it; but it
was worse to fancy the eyesand imagine them moving towards him
than to see them glaring upwardas if watching the reflection of
the pool of gore that quivered and danced in the sunlight on the
ceiling. He had plucked it off again. And there was the
body--mere flesh and bloodnor more--but such fleshand so much
blood!

He struck a lightkindled a fireand thrust the club into it.
There was hair upon the endwhich blazed and shrunk into a light
cinderandcaught by the airwhirled up the chimney. Even
that frightened himsturdy as he was; but he held the weapon
till it brokeand then piled it on the coals to burn awayand
smoulder into ashes. He washed himselfand rubbed his clothes;


there were spots that would not be removedbut he cut the pieces
outand burnt them. How those stains were dispersed about the
room! The very feet of the dog were bloody.

All this time he hadnever onceturned his back upon the
corpse; nonot for a moment. Such preparations completedhe
movedbackwardtowards the door: dragging the dog with him
lest he should soil his feet anew and carry out new evidence of
the crime into the streets. He shut the door softlylocked it
took the keyand left the house.

He crossed overand glanced up at the windowto be sure that
nothing was visible from the outside. There was the curtain
still drawnwhich she would have opened to admit the light she
never saw again. It lay nearly under there. HE knew that. God
how the sun poured down upon the very spot!

The glance was instantaneous. It was a relief to have got free
of the room. He whistled on the dogand walked rapidly away.

He went through Islington; strode up the hill at Highgate on
which stands the stone in honour of Whittington; turned down to
Highgate Hillunsteady of purposeand uncertain where to go;
struck off to the right againalmost as soon as he began to
descend it; and taking the foot-path across the fieldsskirted
Caen Woodand so came on Hampstead Heath. Traversing the hollow
by the Vale of Heathhe mounted the opposite bankand crossing
the road which joins the villages of Hampstead and Highgatemade
along the remaining portion of the heath to the fields at North
Endin one of which he laid himself down under a hedgeand
slept.

Soon he was up againand away--not far into the countrybut
back towards London by the high-road--then back again--then over
another part of the same ground as he already traversed--then
wandering up and down in fieldsand lying on ditches' brinks to
restand starting up to make for some other spotand do the
sameand ramble on again.

Where could he gothat was near and not too publicto get some
meat and drink? Hendon. That was a good placenot far offand
out of most people's way. Thither he directed his
steps--running sometimesand sometimeswith a strange
perversityloitering at a snail's paceor stopping altogether
and idly breaking the hedges with a stick. But when he got
thereall the people he met--the very children at the
doors--seemed to view him with suspicion. Back he turned again
without the courage to purchase bit or dropthough he had tasted
no food for many hours; and once more he lingered on the Heath
uncertain where to go.

He wandered over miles and miles of groundand still came back
to the old place. Morning and noon had passedand the day was
on the waneand still he rambled to and froand up and down
and round and roundand still lingered about the same spot. At
last he got awayand shaped his course for Hatfield.

It was nine o'clock at nightwhen the manquite tired outand
the doglimping and lame from the unaccustomed exerciseturned
down the hill by the church of the quiet villageand plodding
along the little streetcrept into a small public-housewhose
scanty light had guided them to the spot. There was a fire in
the tap-roomand some country-labourers were drinking before it.


They made room for the strangerbut he sat down in the furthest
cornerand ate and drank aloneor rather with his dog: to whom
he cast a morsel of food from time to time.

The conversation of the men assembled hereturned upon the
neighboring landand farmers; and when those topics were
exhaustedupon the age of some old man who had been buried on
the previous Sunday; the young men present considering him very
oldand the old men present declaring him to have been quite
young--not olderone white-haired grandfather saidthan he
was--with ten or fifteen year of life in him at least--if he had
taken care; if he had taken care.

There was nothing to attract attentionor excite alarm in this.
The robberafter paying his reckoningsat silent and unnoticed
in his cornerand had almost dropped asleepwhen he was half
wakened by the noisy entrance of a new comer.

This was an antic fellowhalf pedlar and half mountebankwho
travelled about the country on foot to vend honesstopsrazors
washballsharness-pastemedicine for dogs and horsescheap
perfumerycosmeticsand such-like wareswhich he carried in a
case slung to his back. His entrance was the signal for various
homely jokes with the countrymenwhich slackened not until he
had made his supperand opened his box of treasureswhen he
ingeniously contrived to unite business with amusement.

'And what be that stoof? Good to eatHarry?' asked a grinning
countrymanpointing to some composition-cakes in one corner.

'This' said the fellowproducing one'this is the infallible
and invaluable composition for removing all sorts of stainrust
dirtmildewspickspeckspotor spatterfrom silksatin
linencambrickclothcrapestuffcarpetmerinomuslin
bombazeenor woollen stuff. Wine-stainsfruit-stains
beer-stainswater-stainspaint-stainspitch-stainsany
stainsall come out at one rub with the infallible and
invaluable composition. If a lady stains her honourshe has
only need to swallow one cake and she's cured at once--for it's
poison. If a gentleman wants to prove thishe has only need to
bolt one little squareand he has put it beyond question--for
it's quite as satisfactory as a pistol-bulletand a great deal
nastier in the flavourconsequently the more credit in taking
it. One penny a square. With all these virtuesone penny a
square!'

There were two buyers directlyand more of the listeners plainly
hesitated. The vendor observing thisincreased in loquacity.

'It's all bought up as fast as it can be made' said the fellow.
'There are fourteen water-millssix steam-enginesand a
galvanic batteryalways a-working upon itand they can't make
it fast enoughthough the men work so hard that they die off
and the widows is pensioned directlywith twenty pound a-year
for each of the childrenand a premium of fifty for twins. One
penny a square! Two half-pence is all the sameand four
farthings is received with joy. One penny a square!
Wine-stainsfruit-stainsbeer-stainswater-stains
paint-stainspitch-stainsmud-stainsblood-stains! Here is a
stain upon the hat of a gentleman in companythat I'll take
clean outbefore he can order me a pint of ale.'

'Hah!' cried Sikes starting up. 'Give that back.'


'I'll take it clean outsir' replied the manwinking to the
company'before you can come across the room to get it.
Gentlemen allobserve the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat
no wider than a shillingbut thicker than a half-crown. Whether
it is a wine-stainfruit-stainbeer-stainwater-stain
paint-stainpitch-stainmud-stainor blood-stain--'

The man got no furtherfor Sikes with a hideous imprecation
overthrew the tableand tearing the hat from himburst out of
the house.

With the same perversity of feeling and irresolution that had
fastened upon himdespite himselfall daythe murderer
finding that he was not followedand that they most probably
considered him some drunken sullen fellowturned back up the
townand getting out of the glare of the lamps of a stage-coach
that was standing in the streetwas walking pastwhen he
recognised the mail from Londonand saw that it was standing at
the little post-office. He almost knew what was to come; but he
crossed overand listened.

The guard was standing at the doorwaiting for the letter-bag.
A mandressed like a game-keepercame up at the momentand he
handed him a basket which lay ready on the pavement.

'That's for your people' said the guard. 'Nowlook alive in
therewill you. Damn that 'ere bagit warn't ready night afore
last; this won't doyou know!'

'Anything new up in townBen?' asked the game-keeperdrawing
back to the window-shuttersthe better to admire the horses.

'Nonothing that I knows on' replied the manpulling on his
gloves. 'Corn's up a little. I heerd talk of a murdertoo
down Spitalfields waybut I don't reckon much upon it.'

'Ohthat's quite true' said a gentleman insidewho was looking
out of the window. 'And a dreadful murder it was.'

'Was itsir?' rejoined the guardtouching his hat. 'Man or
womanpraysir?'

'A woman' replied the gentleman. 'It is supposed--'

'NowBen' replied the coachman impatiently.

'Damn that 'ere bag' said the guard; 'are you gone to sleep in
there?'

'Coming!' cried the office keeperrunning out.

'Coming' growled the guard. 'Ahand so's the young 'ooman of
property that's going to take a fancy to mebut I don't know
when. Heregive hold. All ri--ight!'

The horn sounded a few cheerful notesand the coach was gone.

Sikes remained standing in the streetapparently unmoved by what
he had just heardand agitated by no stronger feeling than a
doubt where to go. At length he went back againand took the
road which leads from Hatfield to St. Albans.

He went on doggedly; but as he left the town behind himand
plunged into the solitude and darkness of the roadhe felt a


dread and awe creeping upon him which shook him to the core.
Every object before himsubstance or shadowstill or moving
took the semblance of some fearful thing; but these fears were
nothing compared to the sense that haunted him of that morning's
ghastly figure following at his heels. He could trace its shadow
in the gloomsupply the smallest item of the outlineand note
how stiff and solemn it seemed to stalk along. He could hear its
garments rustling in the leavesand every breath of wind came
laden with that last low cry. If he stopped it did the same. If
he ranit followed--not running too: that would have been a
relief: but like a corpse endowed with the mere machinery of
lifeand borne on one slow melancholy wind that never rose or
fell.

At timeshe turnedwith desperate determinationresolved to
beat this phantom offthough it should look him dead; but the
hair rose on his headand his blood stood stillfor it had
turned with him and was behind him then. He had kept it before
him that morningbut it was behind now--always. He leaned his
back against a bankand felt that it stood above himvisibly
out against the cold night-sky. He threw himself upon the
road--on his back upon the road. At his head it stoodsilent
erectand still--a living grave-stonewith its epitaph in
blood.

Let no man talk of murderers escaping justiceand hint that
Providence must sleep. There were twenty score of violent deaths
in one long minute of that agony of fear.

There was a shed in a field he passedthat offered shelter for
the night. Before the doorwere three tall poplar treeswhich
made it very dark within; and the wind moaned through them with a
dismal wail. He COULD NOT walk ontill daylight came again; and
here he stretched himself close to the wall--to undergo new
torture.

For nowa vision came before himas constant and more terrible
than that from which he had escaped. Those widely staring eyes
so lustreless and so glassythat he had better borne to see them
than think upon themappeared in the midst of the darkness:
light in themselvesbut giving light to nothing. There were but
twobut they were everywhere. If he shut out the sightthere
came the room with every well-known object--someindeedthat he
would have forgottenif he had gone over its contents from
memory--each in its accustomed place. The body was in ITS place
and its eyes were as he saw them when he stole away. He got up
and rushed into the field without. The figure was behind him.
He re-entered the shedand shrunk down once more. The eyes were
therebefore he had laid himself along.

And here he remained in such terror as none but he can know
trembling in every limband the cold sweat starting from every
porewhen suddenly there arose upon the night-wind the noise of
distant shoutingand the roar of voices mingled in alarm and
wonder. Any sound of men in that lonely placeeven though it
conveyed a real cause of alarmwas something to him. He
regained his strength and energy at the prospect of personal
danger; and springing to his feetrushed into the open air.

The broad sky seemed on fire. Rising into the air with showers
of sparksand rolling one above the otherwere sheets of flame
lighting the atmosphere for miles roundand driving clouds of
smoke in the direction where he stood. The shouts grew louder as
new voices swelled the roarand he could hear the cry of Fire!


mingled with the ringing of an alarm-bellthe fall of heavy
bodiesand the crackling of flames as they twined round some new
obstacleand shot aloft as though refreshed by food. The noise
increased as he looked. There were people there--men and
women--lightbustle. It was like new life to him. He darted
onward--straightheadlong--dashing through brier and brakeand
leaping gate and fence as madly as his dogwho careered with
loud and sounding bark before him.

He came upon the spot. There were half-dressed figures tearing
to and frosome endeavouring to drag the frightened horses from
the stablesothers driving the cattle from the yard and
out-housesand others coming laden from the burning pileamidst
a shower of falling sparksand the tumbling down of red-hot
beams. The apertureswhere doors and windows stood an hour ago
disclosed a mass of raging fire; walls rocked and crumbled into
the burning well; the molten lead and iron poured downwhite
hotupon the ground. Women and children shriekedand men
encouraged each other with noisy shouts and cheers. The clanking
of the engine-pumpsand the spirting and hissing of the water as
it fell upon the blazing woodadded to the tremendous roar. He
shoutedtootill he was hoarse; and flying from memory and
himselfplunged into the thickest of the throng. Hither and
thither he dived that night: now working at the pumpsand now
hurrying through the smoke and flamebut never ceasing to engage
himself wherever noise and men were thickest. Up and down the
laddersupon the roofs of buildingsover floors that quaked and
trembled with his weightunder the lee of falling bricks and
stonesin every part of that great fire was he; but he bore a
charmed lifeand had neither scratch nor bruisenor weariness
nor thoughttill morning dawned againand only smoke and
blackened ruins remained.

This mad excitement overthere returnedwith ten-fold force
the dreadful consciousness of his crime. He looked suspiciously
about himfor the men were conversing in groupsand he feared
to be the subject of their talk. The dog obeyed the significant
beck of his fingerand they drew offstealthilytogether. He
passed near an engine where some men were seatedand they called
to him to share in their refreshment. He took some bread and
meat; and as he drank a draught of beerheard the firemenwho
were from Londontalking about the murder. 'He has gone to
Birminghamthey say' said one: 'but they'll have him yetfor
the scouts are outand by to-morrow night there'll be a cry all
through the country.'

He hurried offand walked till he almost dropped upon the
ground; then lay down in a laneand had a longbut broken and
uneasy sleep. He wandered on againirresolute and undecided
and oppressed with the fear of another solitary night.

Suddenlyhe took the desperate resolution to going back to
London.

'There's somebody to speak to thereat all event' he thought.
'A good hiding-placetoo. They'll never expect to nab me there
after this country scent. Why can't I lie by for a week or so
andforcing blunt from Faginget abroad to France? DammeI'll
risk it.'

He acted upon this impluse without delayand choosing the least
frequented roads began his journey backresolved to lie
concealed within a short distance of the metropolisand
entering it at dusk by a circuitous routeto proceed straight to


that part of it which he had fixed on for his destination.

The dogthough. If any description of him were outit would
not be forgotten that the dog was missingand had probably gone
with him. This might lead to his apprehension as he passed along
the streets. He resolved to drown himand walked onlooking
about for a pond: picking up a heavy stone and tying it to his
handerkerchief as he went.

The animal looked up into his master's face while these
preparations were making; whether his instinct apprehended
something of their purposeor the robber's sidelong look at him
was sterner than ordinaryhe skulked a little farther in the
rear than usualand cowered as he came more slowly along. When
his master halted at the brink of a pooland looked round to
call himhe stopped outright.

'Do you hear me call? Come here!' cried Sikes.

The animal came up from the very force of habit; but as Sikes
stooped to attach the handkerchief to his throathe uttered a
low growl and started back.

'Come back!' said the robber.

The dog wagged his tailbut moved not. Sikes made a running
noose and called him again.

The dog advancedretreatedpaused an instantand scoured away
at his hardest speed.

The man whistled again and againand sat down and waited in the
expectation that he would return. But no dog appearedand at
length he resumed his journey.

CHAPTER XLIX

MONKS AND MR. BROWNLOW AT LENGTH MEET. THEIR CONVERSATIONAND
THE INTELLIGENCE THAT INTERRUPTS IT

The twilight was beginning to close inwhen Mr. Brownlow
alighted from a hackney-coach at his own doorand knocked
softly. The door being openeda sturdy man got out of the coach
and stationed himself on one side of the stepswhile another
manwho had been seated on the boxdismounted tooand stood
upon the other side. At a sign from Mr. Brownlowthey helped
out a third manand taking him between themhurried him into
the house. This man was Monks.

They walked in the same manner up the stairs without speaking
and Mr. Brownlowpreceding themled the way into a back-room.
At the door of this apartmentMonkswho had ascended with
evident reluctancestopped. The two men looked at the old
gentleman as if for instructions.

'He knows the alternative' said Mr. Browlow. 'If he hesitates
or moves a finger but as you bid himdrag him into the street
call for the aid of the policeand impeach him as a felon in my
name.'

'How dare you say this of me?' asked Monks.


'How dare you urge me to ityoung man?' replied Mr. Brownlow
confronting him with a steady look. 'Are you mad enough to leave
this house? Unhand him. Theresir. You are free to goand we
to follow. But I warn youby all I hold most solemn and most
sacredthat instant will have you apprehended on a charge of
fraud and robbery. I am resolute and immoveable. If you are
determined to be the sameyour blood be upon your own head!'

'By what authority am I kidnapped in the streetand brought here
by these dogs?' asked Monkslooking from one to the other of the
men who stood beside him.

'By mine' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'Those persons are indemnified
by me. If you complain of being deprived of your liberty--you
had power and opportunity to retrieve it as you came alongbut
you deemed it advisable to remain quiet--I say againthrow
yourself for protection on the law. I will appeal to the law
too; but when you have gone too far to recededo not sue to me
for leniencywhen the power will have passed into other hands;
and do not say I plunged you down the gulf into which you rushed
yourself.'

Monks was plainly disconcertedand alarmed besides. He
hesitated.

'You will decide quickly' said Mr. Brownlowwith perfect
firmness and composure. 'If you wish me to prefer my charges
publiclyand consign you to a punishment the extent of which
although I canwith a shudderforeseeI cannot controlonce
moreI sayfor you know the way. If notand you appeal to my
forbearanceand the mercy of those you have deeply injuredseat
yourselfwithout a wordin that chair. It has waited for you
two whole days.'

Monks muttered some unintelligible wordsbut wavered still.

'You will be prompt' said Mr. Brownlow. 'A word from meand
the alternative has gone for ever.'

Still the man hesitated.

'I have not the inclination to parley' said Mr. Brownlow'and
as I advocate the dearest interests of othersI have not the
right.'

'Is there--' demanded Monks with a faltering tongue--'is
there--no middle course?'

'None.'

Monks looked at the old gentlemanwith an anxious eye; but
reading in his countenance nothing but severity and
determinationwalked into the roomandshrugging his
shoulderssat down.

'Lock the door on the outside' said Mr. Brownlow to the
attendants'and come when I ring.'

The men obeyedand the two were left alone together.

'This is pretty treatmentsir' said Monksthrowing down his
hat and cloak'from my father's oldest friend.'


'It is because I was your father's oldest friendyoung man'
returned Mr. Brownlow; 'it is because the hopes and wishes of
young and happy years were bound up with himand that fair
creature of his blood and kindred who rejoined her God in youth
and left me here a solitarylonely man: it is because he knelt
with me beside his only sisters' death-bed when he was yet a boy
on the morning that would--but Heaven willed otherwise--have made
her my young wife; it is because my seared heart clung to him
from that time forththrough all his trials and errorstill he
died; it is because old recollections and associations filled my
heartand even the sight of you brings with it old thoughts of
him; it is because of all these things that I am moved to treat
you gently now--yesEdward Leefordeven now--and blush for your
unworthiness who bear the name.'

'What has the name to do with it?' asked the otherafter
contemplatinghalf in silenceand half in dogged wonderthe
agitation of his companion. 'What is the name to me?'

'Nothing' replied Mr. Brownlow'nothing to you. But it was
HERSand even at this distance of time brings back to mean old
manthe glow and thrill which I once feltonly to hear it
repeated by a stranger. I am very glad you have changed
it--very--very.'

'This is all mighty fine' said Monks (to retain his assumed
designation) after a long silenceduring which he had jerked
himself in sullen defiance to and froand Mr. Brownlow had sat
shading his face with his hand. 'But what do you want with me?'

'You have a brother' said Mr. Brownlowrousing himself: 'a
brotherthe whisper of whose name in your ear when I came behind
you in the streetwasin itselfalmost enough to make you
accompany me hitherin wonder and alarm.'

'I have no brother' replied Monks. 'You know I was an only
child. Why do you talk to me of brothers? You know thatas
well as I.'

'Attend to what I do knowand you may not' said Mr. Brownlow.
'I shall interest you by and by. I know that of the wretched
marriageinto which family prideand the most sordid and
narrowest of all ambitionforced your unhappy father when a mere
boyyou were the sole and most unnatural issue.'

'I don't care for hard names' interrupted Monks with a jeering
laugh. 'You know the factand that's enough for me.'

'But I also know' pursued the old gentleman'the miserythe
slow torturethe protracted anguish of that ill-assorted union.
I know how listlessly and wearily each of that wretched pair
dragged on their heavy chain through a world that was poisoned to
them both. I know how cold formalities were succeeded by open
taunts; how indifference gave place to dislikedislike to hate
and hate to loathinguntil at last they wrenched the clanking
bond asunderand retiring a wide space apartcarried each a
galling fragmentof which nothing but death could break the
rivetsto hide it in new society beneath the gayest looks they
could assume. Your mother succeeded; she forgot it soon. But it
rusted and cankered at your father's heart for years.'

'Wellthey were separated' said Monks'and what of that?'

'When they had been separated for some time' returned Mr.


Brownlow'and your motherwholly given up to continental
frivolitieshad utterly forgotten the young husband ten good
years her juniorwhowith prospects blightedlingered on at
homehe fell among new friends. This circumstanceat least
you know already.'

'Not I' said Monksturning away his eyes and beating his foot
upon the groundas a man who is determined to deny everything.
'Not I.'

'Your mannerno less than your actionsassures me that you have
never forgotten itor ceased to think of it with bitterness'
returned Mr. Brownlow. 'I speak of fifteen years agowhen you
were not more than eleven years oldand your father but
one-and-thirty--for he wasI repeata boywhen HIS father
ordered him to marry. Must I go back to events which cast a shade
upon the memory of your parentor will you spare itand
disclose to me the truth?'

'I have nothing to disclose' rejoined Monks. 'You must talk on
if you will.'

'These new friendsthen' said Mr. Brownlow'were a naval
officer retired from active servicewhose wife had died some
half-a-year beforeand left him with two children--there had
been morebutof all their familyhappily but two survived.
They were both daughters; one a beautiful creature of nineteen
and the other a mere child of two or three years old.'

'What's this to me?' asked Monks.

'They resided' said Mr. Brownlowwithout seeming to hear the
interruption'in a part of the country to which your father in
his wandering had repairedand where he had taken up his abode.
Acquaintanceintimacyfriendshipfast followed on each other.
Your father was gifted as few men are. He had his sister's soul
and person. As the old officer knew him more and morehe grew
to love him. I would that it had ended there. His daughter did
the same.

The old gentleman paused; Monks was biting his lipswith his
eyes fixed upon the floor; seeing thishe immediately resumed:

'The end of a year found him contractedsolemnly contractedto
that daughter; the object of the firsttrueardentonly
passion of a guileless girl.'

'Your tale is of the longest' observed Monksmoving restlessly
in his chair.

'It is a true tale of grief and trialand sorrowyoung man'
returned Mr. Brownlow'and such tales usually are; if it were
one of unmixed joy and happinessit would be very brief. At
length one of those rich relations to strengthen whose interest
and importance your father had been sacrificedas others are
often--it is no uncommon case--diedand to repair the misery he
had been instrumental in occasioningleft him his panacea for
all griefs--Money. It was necessary that he should immediately
repair to Romewhither this man had sped for healthand where
he had diedleaving his affairs in great confusion. He went;
was seized with mortal illness there; was followedthe moment
the intelligence reached Parisby your mother who carried you
with her; he died the day after her arrivalleaving no will--NO
WILL--so that the whole property fell to her and you.'


At this part of the recital Monks held his breathand listened
with a face of intense eagernessthough his eyes were not
directed towards the speaker. As Mr. Brownlow pausedhe changed
his position with the air of one who has experienced a sudden
reliefand wiped his hot face and hands.

'Before he went abroadand as he passed through London on his
way' said Mr. Brownlowslowlyand fixing his eyes upon the
other's face'he came to me.'

'I never heard of that' interrupted MOnks in a tone intended to
appear incredulousbut savouring more of disagreeable surprise.

'He came to meand left with meamong some other thingsa
picture--a portrait painted by himself--a likeness of this poor
girl--which he did not wish to leave behindand could not carry
forward on his hasty journey. He was worn by anxiety and remorse
almost to a shadow; talked in a wilddistracted wayof ruin and
dishonour worked by himself; confided to me his intention to
convert his whole propertyat any lossinto moneyandhaving
settled on his wife and you a portion of his recent acquisition
to fly the country--I guessed too well he would not fly
alone--and never see it more. Even from mehis old and early
friendwhose strong attachment had taken root in the earth that
covered one most dear to both--even from me he withheld any more
particular confessionpromising to write and tell me alland
after that to see me once againfor the last time on earth.
Alas! THAT was the last time. I had no letterand I never saw
him more.'

'I went' said Mr. Brownlowafter a short pause'I wentwhen
all was overto the scene of his--I will use the term the world
would freely usefor worldly harshness or favour are now alike
to him--of his guilty loveresolved that if my fears were
realised that erring child should find one heart and home to
shelter and compassionate her. The family had left that part a
week before; they had called in such trifling debts as were
outstandingdischarged themand left the place by night. Why
or whithternone can tell.'

Monks drew his breath yet more freelyand looked round with a
smile of triumph.

'When your brother' said Mr. Brownlowdrawing nearer to the
other's chair'When your brother: a feebleraggedneglected
child: was cast in my way by a stronger hand than chanceand
rescued by me from a life of vice and infamy--'

'What?' cried Monks.

'By me' said Mr. Brownlow. 'I told you I should interest you
before long. I say by me--I see that your cunning associate
suppressed my namealthough for ought he knewit would be quite
strange to your ears. When he was rescued by methenand lay
recovering from sickness in my househis strong resemblance to
this picture I have spoken ofstruck me with astonishment. Even
when I first saw him in all his dirt and miserythere was a
lingering expression in his face that came upon me like a glimpse
of some old friend flashing on one in a vivid dream. I need not
tell you he was snared away before I knew his history--'

'Why not?' asked Monks hastily.


'Because you know it well.'

'I!'

'Denial to me is vain' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'I shall show you
that I know more than that.'

'You--you--can't prove anything against me' stammered Monks. 'I
defy you to do it!'

'We shall see' returned the old gentleman with a searching
glance. 'I lost the boyand no efforts of mine could recover
him. Your mother being deadI knew that you alone could solve
the mystery if anybody couldand as when I had last heard of you
you were on your own estate in the West Indies--whitheras you
well knowyou retired upon your mother's death to escape the
consequences of vicious courses here--I made the voyage. You had
left itmonths beforeand were supposed to be in Londonbut no
one could tell where. I returned. Your agents had no clue to
your residence. You came and wentthey saidas strangely as
you had ever done: sometimes for days together and sometimes not
for months: keeping to all appearance the same low haunts and
mingling with the same infamous herd who had been your associates
when a fierce ungovernable boy. I wearied them with new
applications. I paced the streets by night and daybut until
two hours agoall my efforts were fruitlessand I never saw you
for an instant.'

'And now you do see me' said Monksrising boldly'what then?
Fraud and robbery are high-sounding words--justifiedyou think
by a fancied resemblance in some young imp to an idle daub of a
dead man's Brother! You don't even know that a child was born of
this maudlin pair; you don't even know that.'

'I DID NOT' replied Mr. Brownlowrising too; 'but within the
last fortnight I have learnt it all. You have a brother; you
know itand him. There was a willwhich your mother destroyed
leaving the secret and the gain to you at her own death. It
contained a reference to some child likely to be the result of
this sad connectionwhich child was bornand accidentally
encountered by youwhen your suspicions were first awakened by
his resemblance to your father. You repaired to the place of his
birth. There existed proofs--proofs long suppressed--of his birth
and parentage. Those proofs were destroyed by youand nowin
your own words to your accomplice the JewTHE ONLY PROOFS OF
THE BOY'S IDENTITY LIE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER, AND THE OLD
HAG THAT RECEIVED THEM FORM THE MOTHER IS ROTTING IN HER COFFIN.

Unworthy soncowardliar--youwho hold your councils with
thieves and murderers in dark rooms at night--youwhose plots
and wiles have brought a violent death upon the head of one worth
millions such as you--youwho from your cradle were gall and
bitterness to your own father's heartand in whom all evil
passionsviceand profligacyfesteredtill they found a vent
in a hideous disease which had made your face an index even to
your mind--youEdward Leeforddo you still brave me!'

'Nonono!' returned the cowardoverwhelmed by these
accumulated charges.

'Every word!' cried the gentleman'every word that has passed
between you and this detested villainis known to me. Shadows
on the wall have caught your whispersand brought them to my
ear; the sight of the persecuted child has turned vice itself


and given it the courage and almost the attributes of virtue.
Murder has been doneto which you were morally if not really a
party.'

'Nono' interposed Monks. 'I--I knew nothing of that; I was
going to inquire the truth of the story when you overtook me. I
didn't know the cause. I thought it was a common quarrel.'

'It was the partial disclosure of your secrets' replied Mr.
Brownlow. 'Will you disclose the whole?'

'YesI will.'

'Set your hand to a statement of truth and factsand repeat it
before witnesses?'

'That I promise too.'

'Remain quietly hereuntil such a document is drawn upand
proceed with me to such a place as I may deem most advisablefor
the purpose of attesting it?'

'If you insist upon thatI'll do that also' replied Monks.

'You must do more than that' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Make
restitution to an innocent and unoffending childfor such he is
although the offspring of a guilty and most miserable love. You
have not forgotten the provisions of the will. Carry them into
execution so far as your brother is concernedand then go where
you please. In this world you need meet no more.'

While Monks was pacing up and downmeditating with dark and evil
looks on this proposal and the possibilities of evading it: torn
by his fears on the one hand and his hatred on the other: the
door was hurriedly unlockedand a gentleman (Mr. Losberne)
entered the room in violent agitation.

'The man will be taken' he cried. 'He will be taken to-night!'

'The murderer?' asked Mr. Brownlow.

'Yesyes' replied the other. 'His dog has been seen lurking
about some old hauntand there seems little doubt hat his master
either isor will bethereunder cover of the darkness. Spies
are hovering about in every direction. I have spoken to the men
who are charged with his captureand they tell me he cannot
escape. A reward of a hundred pounds is proclaimed by Government
to-night.'

'I will give fifty more' said Mr. Brownlow'and proclaim it
with my own lips upon the spotif I can reach it. Where is Mr.
Maylie?'

'Harry? As soon as he had seen your friend heresafe in a coach
with youhe hurried off to where he heard this' replied the
doctor'and mounting his horse sallied forth to join the first
party at some place in the outskirts agreed upon between them.'

'Fagin' said Mr. Brownlow; 'what of him?'

'When I last heardhe had not been takenbut he will beor is
by this time. They're sure of him.'

'Have you made up your mind?' asked Mr. Brownlowin a low voice


of Monks.

'Yes' he replied. 'You--you--will be secret with me?'

'I will. Remain here till I return. It is your only hope of
safety.

They left the roomand the door was again locked.

'What have you done?' asked the doctor in a whisper.

'All that I could hope to doand even more. Coupling the poor
girl's intelligence with my previous knowledgeand the result of
our good friend's inquiries on the spotI left him no loophole
of escapeand laid bare the whole villainy which by these lights
became plain as day. Write and appoint the evening after
to-morrowat sevenfor the meeting. We shall be down therea
few hours beforebut shall require rest: especially the young
ladywho MAY have greater need of firmness than either you or I
can quite foresee just now. But my blood boils to avenge this
poor murdered creature. Which way have they taken?'

'Drive straight to the office and you will be in time' replied
Mr. Losberne. 'I will remain here.'

The two gentlemen hastily separated; each in a fever of
excitement wholly uncontrollable.

CHAPTER L

THE PURSUIT AND ESCAPE

Near to that part of the Thames on which the church at
Rotherhithe abutswhere the buildings on the banks are dirtiest
and the vessels on the river blackest with the dust of colliers
and the smoke of close-built low-roofed housesthere exists the
filthiestthe strangestthe most extraordinary of the many
localities that are hidden in Londonwholly unknowneven by
nameto the great mass of its inhabitants.

To reach this placethe visitor has to penetrate through a maze
of closenarrowand muddy streetsthronged by the rougest and
poorest of waterside peopleand devoted to the traffic they may
be supposed to occasion. The cheapest and least delicate
provisions are heaped in the shops; the coarsest and commonest
articles of wearing apparel dangle at the salesman's doorand
stream from the house-parapet and windows. Jostling with
unemployed labourers of the lowest classballast-heavers
coal-whippersbrazen womenragged childrenand the raff and
refuse of the riverhe makes his way with difficulty along
assailed by offensive sights and smells from the narrow alleys
which branch off on the right and leftand deafened by the clash
of ponderous waggons that bear great piles of merchandise from
the stacks of warehouses that rise from every corner. Arriving
at lengthin streets remoter and less-frequented than those
through which he has passedhe walks beneath tottering
house-fronts projecting over the pavementdismantled walls that
seem to totter as he passeschimneys half crushed half
hesitating to fallwindows guarded by rusty iron bars that time
and dirt have almost eaten awayevery imaginable sign of
desolation and neglect.


In such a neighborhoodbeyond Dockhead in the Borough of
Southwarkstands Jacob's Islandsurrounded by a muddy ditch
six or eight feet deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide
is inonce called Mill Pondbut known in the days of this story
as Folly Ditch. It is a creek or inlet from the Thamesand can
always be filled at high water by opening the sluices at the Lead
Mills from which it took its old name. At such timesa
strangerlooking from one of the wooden bridges thrown across it
at Mill Lanewill see the inhabitants of the houses on either
side lowering from their back doors and windowsbucketspails
domestic utensils of all kindsin which to haul the water up;
and when his eye is turned from these operations to the houses
themselveshis utmost astonishment will be excited by the scene
before him. Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a
dozen houseswith holes from which to look upon the slime
beneath; windowsbroken and patchedwith poles thrust outon
which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so smallso
filthyso confinedthat the air would seem too tainted even for
the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers
thrusting themselves out above the mudand threatening to fall
into it--as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying
foundations; every repulsive lineament of povertyevery
loathsome indication of filthrotand garbage; all these
ornament the banks of Folly Ditch.

In Jacob's Islandthe warehouses are roofless and empty; the
walls are crumbling down; the windows are windows no more; the
doors are falling into the streets; the chimneys are blackened
but they yield no smoke. Thirty or forty years agobefore
losses and chancery suits came upon itit was a thriving place;
but now it is a desolate island indeed. The houses have no
owners; they are broken openand entered upon by those who have
the courage; and there they liveand there they die. They must
have powerful motives for a secret residenceor be reduced to a
destitute condition indeedwho seek a refuge in Jacob's Island.

In an upper room of one of these houses--a detached house of fair
sizeruinous in other respectsbut strongly defended at door
and window: of which house the back commanded the ditch in
manner already described--there were assembled three menwho
regarding each other every now and then with looks expressive of
perplexity and expectationsat for some time in profound and
gloomy silence. One of these was Toby Crackitanother Mr.
Chitlingand the third a robber of fifty yearswhose nose had
been almost beaten inin some old scuffleand whose face bore a
frightful scar which might probably be traced to the same
occasion. This man was a returned transportand his name was
Kags.

'I wish' said Toby turning to Mr. Chitling'that you had picked
out some other crig when the two old ones got too warmand had
not come heremy fine feller.'

'Why didn't youblunder-head!' said Kags.

'WellI thought you'd have been a little more glad to see me
than this' replied Mr. Chitlingwith a melancholy air.

'Whylook'eyoung gentleman' said Toby'when a man keeps
himself so very ex-clusive as I have doneand by that means has
a snug house over his head with nobody a prying and smelling
about itit's rather a startling thing to have the honour of a
wisit from a young gentleman (however respectable and pleasant a


person he may be to play cards with at conweniency) circumstanced
as you are.'

'Especiallywhen the exclusive young man has got a friend
stopping with himthat's arrived sooner than was expected from
foreign partsand is too modest to want to be presented to the
Judges on his return' added Mr. Kags.

There was a short silenceafter which Toby Crackitseeming to
abandon as hopeless any further effort to maintain his usual
devil-may-care swaggerturned to Chitling and said

'When was Fagin took then?'

'Just at dinner-time--two o'clock this afternoon. Charley and I
made our lucky up the wash-us chimneyand Bolter got into the
empty water-butthead downwards; but his legs were so precious
long that they stuck out at the topand so they took him too.'

'And Bet?'

'Poor Bet! She went to see the Bodyto speak to who it was'
replied Chitlinghis countenance falling more and more'and
went off madscreaming and ravingand beating her head against
the boards; so they put a strait-weskut on her and took her to
the hospital--and there she is.'

'Wot's come of young Bates?' demanded Kags.

'He hung aboutnot to come over here afore darkbut he'll be
here soon' replied Chitling. 'There's nowhere else to go to
nowfor the people at the Cripples are all in custodyand the
bar of the ken--I went up there and see it with my own eyes--is
filled with traps.'

'This is a smash' observed Tobybiting his lips. 'There's more
than one will go with this.'

'The sessions are on' said Kags: 'if they get the inquest over
and Bolter turns King's evidence: as of course he willfrom
what he's said already: they can prove Fagin an accessory before
the factand get the trial on on Fridayand he'll swing in six
days from thisby G--!'

'You should have heard the people groan' said Chitling; 'the
officers fought like devilsor they'd have torn him away. He
was down oncebut they made a ring round himand fought their
way along. You should have seen how he looked about himall
muddy and bleedingand clung to them as if they were his dearest
friends. I can see 'em nownot able to stand upright with the
pressing of the moband draggin him along amongst 'em; I can see
the people jumping upone behind anotherand snarling with
their teeth and making at him; I can see the blood upon his hair
and beardand hear the cries with which the women worked
themselves into the centre of the crowd at the street cornerand
swore they'd tear his heart out!'

The horror-stricken witness of this scene pressed his hands upon
his earsand with his eyes closed got up and paced violently to
and frolike one distracted.

While he was thus engagedand the two men sat by in silence with
their eyes fixed upon the floora pattering noise was heard upon
the stairsand Sikes's dog bounded into the room. They ran to


the windowdownstairsand into the street. The dog had jumped
in at an open window; he made no attempt to follow themnor was
his master to be seen.

'What's the meaning of this?' said Toby when they had returned.
'He can't be coming here. I--I--hope not.'

'If he was coming herehe'd have come with the dog' said Kags
stooping down to examine the animalwho lay panting on the
floor. 'Here! Give us some water for him; he has run himself
faint.'

'He's drunk it all upevery drop' said Chitling after watching
the dog some time in silence. 'Covered with mud--lame--half
blind--he must have come a long way.'

'Where can he have come from!' exclaimed Toby. 'He's been to the
other kens of courseand finding them filled with strangers come
on herewhere he's been many a time and often. But where can he
have come from firstand how comes he here alone without the
other!'

'He'--(none of them called the murderer by his old name)--'He
can't have made away with himself. What do you think?' said
Chitling.

Toby shook his head.

'If he had' said Kags'the dog 'ud want to lead us away to
where he did it. No. I think he's got out of the countryand
left the dog behind. He must have given him the slip somehowor
he wouldn't be so easy.'

This solutionappearing the most probable onewas adopted as
the right; the dogcreeping under a chaircoiled himself up to
sleepwithout more notice from anybody.

It being now darkthe shutter was closedand a candle lighted
and placed upon the table. The terrible events of the last two
days had made a deep impression on all threeincreased by the
danger and uncertainty of their own position. They drew their
chairs closer togetherstarting at every sound. They spoke
littleand that in whispersand were as silent and awe-stricken
as if the remains of the murdered woman lay in the next room.

They had sat thussome timewhen suddenly was heard a hurried
knocking at the door below.

'Young Bates' said Kagslooking angrily roundto check the
fear he felt himself.

The knocking came again. Noit wasn't he. He never knocked
like that.

Crackit went to the windowand shaking all overdrew in his
head. There was no need to tell them who it was; his pale face
was enough. The dog too was on the alert in an instantand ran
whining to the door.

'We must let him in' he saidtaking up the candle.

'Isn't there any help for it?' asked the other man in a hoarse
voice.


'None. He MUST come in.'

'Don't leave us in the dark' said Kagstaking down a candle
from the chimney-pieceand lighting itwith such a trembling
hand that the knocking was twice repeated before he had finished.

Crackit went down to the doorand returned followed by a man
with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchiefand
another tied over his head under his hat. He drew them slowly
off. Blanched facesunken eyeshollow cheeksbeard of three
days' growthwasted fleshshort thick breath; it was the very
ghost of Sikes.

He laid his hand upon a chair which stood in the middle of the
roombut shuddering as he was about to drop into itand seeming
to glance over his shoulderdragged it back close to the
wall--as close as it would go--and ground it against it--and sat
down.

Not a word had been exchanged. He looked from one to another in
silence. If an eye were furtively raised and met hisit was
instantly averted. When his hollow voice broke silencethey all
three started. They seemed never to have heard its tones before.

'How came that dog here?' he asked.

'Alone. Three hours ago.'

'To-night's paper says that Fagin's took. Is it trueor a lie?'

'True.'

They were silent again.

'Damn you all!' said Sikespassing his hand across his forehead.

'Have you nothing to say to me?'

There was an uneasy movement among thembut nobody spoke.

'You that keep this house' said Sikesturning his face to
Crackit'do you mean to sell meor to let me lie here till this
hunt is over?'

'You may stop hereif you think it safe' returned the person
addressedafter some hesitation.

Sikes carried his eyes slowly up the wall behind him: rather
trying to turn his head than actually doing it: and said
'Is--it--the body--is it buried?'

They shook their heads.

'Why isn't it!' he retorted with the same glance behind him.
'Wot do they keep such ugly things above the ground for?--Who's
that knocking?'

Crackit intimatedby a motion of his hand as he left the room
that there was nothing to fear; and directly came back with
Charley Bates behind him. Sikes sat opposite the doorso that
the moment the boy entered the room he encountered his figure.

'Toby' said the boy falling backas Sikes turned his eyes
towards him'why didn't you tell me thisdownstairs?'


There had been something so tremendous in the shrinking off of
the threethat the wretched man was willing to propitiate even
this lad. Accordingly he noddedand made as though he would
shake hands with him.

'Let me go into some other room' said the boyretreating still
farther.

'Charley!' said Sikesstepping forward. 'Don't you--don't you
know me?'

'Don't come nearer me' answered the boystill retreatingand
lookingwith horror in his eyesupon the murderer's face. 'You
monster!'

The man stopped half-wayand they looked at each other; but
Sikes's eyes sunk gradually to the ground.

'Witness you three' cried the boy shaking his clenched fistand
becoming more and more excited as he spoke. 'Witness you
three--I'm not afraid of him--if they come here after himI'll
give him up; I will. I tell you out at once. He may kill me for
it if he likesor if he daresbut if I am here I'll give him
up. I'd give him up if he was to be boiled alive. Murder!
Help! If there's the pluck of a man among you threeyou'll help
me. Murder! Help! Down with him!'

Pouring out these criesand accompanying them with violent
gesticulationthe boy actually threw himselfsingle-handed
upon the strong manand in the intensity of his energy and the
suddenness of his surprisebrought him heavily to the ground.

The three spectators seemed quite stupefied. They offered no
interferenceand the boy and man rolled on the ground together;
the formerheedless of the blows that showered upon him
wrenching his hands tighter and tighter in the garments about the
murderer's breastand never ceasing to call for help with all
his might.

The contesthoweverwas too unequal to last long. Sikes had
him downand his knee was on his throatwhen Crackit pulled him
back with a look of alarmand pointed to the window. There were
lights gleaming belowvoices in loud and earnest conversation
the tramp of hurried footsteps--endless they seemed in
number--crossing the nearest wooden bridge. One man on horseback
seemed to be among the crowd; for there was the noise of hoofs
rattling on the uneven pavement. The gleam of lights increased;
the footsteps came more thickly and noisily on. Thencame a
loud knocking at the doorand then a hoarse murmur from such a
multitude of angry voices as would have made the boldest quail.

'Help!' shrieked the boy in a voice that rent the air.

'He's here! Break down the door!'

'In the King's name' cried the voices without; and the hoarse
cry arose againbut louder.

'Break down the door!' screamed the boy. 'I tell you they'll
never open it. Run straight to the room where the light is.
Break down the door!'

Strokesthick and heavyrattled upon the door and lower


window-shutters as he ceased to speakand a loud huzzah burst
from the crowd; giving the listenerfor the first timesome
adequate idea of its immense extent.

'Open the door of some place where I can lock this screeching
Hell-babe' cried Sikes fiercely; running to and froand
dragging the boynowas easily as if he were an empty sack.
'That door. Quick!' He flung him inbolted itand turned the
key. 'Is the downstairs door fast?'

'Double-locked and chained' replied Crackitwhowith the other
two menstill remained quite helpless and bewildered.

'The panels--are they strong?'

'Lined with sheet-iron.'

'And the windows too?'

'Yesand the windows.'

'Damn you!' cried the desperate ruffianthrowing up the sash and
menacing the crowd. 'Do your worst! I'll cheat you yet!'

Of all the terrific yells that ever fell on mortal earsnone
could exceed the cry of the infuriated throng. Some shouted to
those who were nearest to set the house on fire; others roared to
the officers to shoot him dead. Among them allnone showed such
fury as the man on horsebackwhothrowing himself out of the
saddleand bursting through the crowd as if he were parting
watercriedbeneath the windowin a voice that rose above all
others'Twenty guineas to the man who brings a ladder!'

The nearest voices took up the cryand hundreds echoed it. Some
called for ladderssome for sledge-hammers; some ran with
torches to and fro as if to seek themand still came back and
roared again; some spent their breath in impotent curses and
execrations; some pressed forward with the ecstasy of madmenand
thus impeded the progress of those below; some among the boldest
attempted to climb up by the water-spout and crevices in the
wall; and all waved to and froin the darkness beneathlike a
field of corn moved by an angry wind: and joined from time to
time in one loud furious roar.

'The tide' cried the murdereras he staggered back into the
roomand shut the faces out'the tide was in as I came up.
Give me a ropea long rope. They're all in front. I may drop
into the Folly Ditchand clear off that way. Give me a ropeor
I shall do three more murders and kill myself.

The panic-stricken men pointed to where such articles were kept;
the murdererhastily selecting the longest and strongest cord
hurried up to the house-top.

All the window in the rear of the house had been long ago bricked
upexcept one small trap in the room where the boy was locked
and that was too small even for the passage of his body. But
from this aperturehe had never ceased to call on those without
to guard the back; and thuswhen the murderer emerged at last on
the house-top by the door in the roofa loud shout proclaimed
the fact to those in frontwho immediately began to pour round
pressing upon each other in an unbroken stream.

He planted a boardwhich he had carried up with him for the


purposeso firmly against the door that it must be matter of
great difficulty to open it from the inside; and creeping over
the tileslooked over the low parapet.

The water was outand the ditch a bed of mud.

The crowd had been hushed during these few momentswatching his
motions and doubtful of his purposebut the instant they
perceived it and knew it was defeatedthey raised a cry of
triumphant execration to which all their previous shouting had
been whispers. Again and again it rose. Those who were at too
great a distance to know its meaningtook up the sound; it
echoed and re-echoed; it seemed as though the whole city had
poured its population out to curse him.

On pressed the people from the front--onononin a strong
struggling current of angry faceswith here and there a glaring
torch to lighten them upand show them out in all their wrath
and passion. The houses on the opposite side of the ditch had
been entered by the mob; sashes were thrown upor torn bodily
out; there were tiers and tiers of faces in every window; cluster
upon cluster of people clinging to every house-top. Each little
bridge (and there were three in sight) bent beneath the weight of
the crowd upon it. Still the current poured on to find some nook
or hole from which to vent their shoutsand only for an instant
see the wretch.

'They have him now' cried a man on the nearest bridge. 'Hurrah!'

The crowd grew light with uncovered heads; and again the shout
uprose.

'I will give fifty pounds' cried an old gentleman from the same
quarter'to the man who takes him alive. I will remain here
till he come to ask me for it.'

There was another roar. At this moment the word was passed among
the crowd that the door was forced at lastand that he who had
first called for the ladder had mounted into the room. The
stream abruptly turnedas this intelligence ran from mouth to
mouth; and the people at the windowsseeing those upon the
bridges pouring backquitted their stationsand running into
the streetjoined the concourse that now thronged pell-mell to
the spot they had left: each man crushing and striving with his
neighborand all panting with impatience to get near the door
and look upon the criminal as the officers brought him out. The
cries and shrieks of those who were pressed almost to
suffocationor trampled down and trodden under foot in the
confusionwere dreadful; the narrow ways were completely blocked
up; and at this timebetween the rush of some to regain the
space in front of the houseand the unavailing struggles of
others to extricate themselves from the massthe immediate
attention was distracted from the murdereralthough the
universal eagerness for his capture wasif possibleincreased.

The man had shrunk downthoroughly quelled by the ferocity of
the crowdand the impossibility of escape; but seeing this
sudden change with no less rapidity than it had occurredhe
sprang upon his feetdetermined to make one last effort for his
life by dropping into the ditchandat the risk of being
stifledendeavouring to creep away in the darkness and
confusion.

Roused into new strength and energyand stimulated by the noise


within the house which announced that an entrance had really been
effectedhe set his foot against the stack of chimneysfastened
one end of the rope tightly and firmly round itand with the
other made a strong running noose by the aid of his hands and
teeth almost in a second. He could let himself down by the cord
to within a less distance of the ground than his own heightand
had his knife ready in his hand to cut it then and drop.

At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head
previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pitsand when the old
gentleman before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing
of the bridge as to resist the force of the crowdand retain his
position) earnestly warned those about him that the man was about
to lower himself down--at that very instant the murdererlooking
behind him on the roofthrew his arms above his headand
uttered a yell of terror.

'The eyes again!' he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightninghe lost his balance and
tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up
with his weighttight as a bow-stringand swift as the arrow it
speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden
jerka terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hungwith
the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shockbut stood it bravely.
The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy
thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his viewcalled
to the people to come and take him outfor God's sake.

A dogwhich had lain concealed till nowran backwards and
forwards on the parapet with a dismal howland collecting
himself for a springjumped for the dead man's shoulders.
Missing his aimhe fell into the ditchturning completely over
as he went; and striking his head against a stonedashed out his
brains.

CHAPTER LI

AFFORDING AN EXPLANATION OF MORE MYSTERIES THAN ONEAND
COMPREHENDING A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE WITH NO WORD OF SETTLEMENT
OR PIN-MONEY

The events narrated in the last chapter were yet but two days
oldwhen Oliver found himselfat three o'clock in the
afternoonin a travelling-carriage rolling fast towards his
native town. Mrs. Maylieand Roseand Mrs. Bedwinand the
good doctor were with him: and Mr. Brownlow followed in a
post-chaiseaccompanied by one other person whose name had not
been mentioned.

They had not talked much upon the way; for Oliver was in a
flutter of agitation and uncertainty which deprived him of the
power of collecting his thoughtsand almost of speechand
appeared to have scarcely less effect on his companionswho
shared itin at least an equal degree. He and the two ladies
had been very carefully made acquainted by Mr. Brownlow with the
nature of the admissions which had been forced from Monks; and
although they knew that the object of their present journey was
to complete the work which had been so well begunstill the


whole matter was enveloped in enough of doubt and mystery to
leave them in endurance of the most intense suspense.

The same kind friend hadwith Mr. Losberne's assistance
cautiously stopped all channels of communication through which
they could receive intelligence of the dreadful occurrences that
so recently taken place. 'It was quite true' he said'that
they must know them before longbut it might be at a better time
than the presentand it could not be at a worse.' Sothey
travelled on in silence: each busied with reflections on the
object which had brought them together: and no one disposed to
give utterance to the thoughts which crowded upon all.

But if Oliverunder these influenceshad remained silent while
they journeyed towards his birth-place by a road he had never
seenhow the whole current of his recollections ran back to old
timesand what a crowd of emotions were wakened up in his
breastwhen they turned into that which he had traversed on
foot: a poor houselesswandering boywithout a friend to help
himor a roof to shelter his head.

'See therethere!' cried Olivereagerly clasping the hand of
Roseand pointing out at the carriage window; 'that's the stile
I came over; there are the hedges I crept behindfor fear any
one should overtake me and force me back! Yonder is the path
across the fieldsleading to the old house where I was a little
child! Oh DickDickmy dear old friendif I could only see
you now!'

'You will see him soon' replied Rosegently taking his folded
hands between her own. 'You shall tell him how happy you are
and how rich you have grownand that in all your happiness you
have none so great as the coming back to make him happy too.'

'Yesyes' said Oliver'and we'll--we'll take him away from
hereand have him clothed and taughtand send him to some quiet
country place where he may grow strong and well--shall we?'

Rose nodded 'yes' for the boy was smiling through such happy
tears that she could not speak.

'You will be kind and good to himfor you are to every one'
said Oliver. 'It will make you cryI knowto hear what he can
tell; but never mindnever mindit will be all overand you
will smile again--I know that too--to think how changed he is;
you did the same with me. He said "God bless you" to me when I
ran away' cried the boy with a burst of affectionate emotion;
'and I will say "God bless you" nowand show him how I love him
for it!'

As they approached the townand at length drove through its
narrow streetsit became matter of no small difficulty to
restrain the boy within reasonable bounds. There was
Sowerberry's the undertaker's just as it used to beonly smaller
and less imposing in appearance than he remembered it--there were
all the well-known shops and houseswith almost every one of
which he had some slight incident connected--there was Gamfield's
cartthe very cart he used to havestanding at the old
public-house door--there was the workhousethe dreary prison of
his youthful dayswith its dismal windows frowning on the
street--there was the same lean porter standing at the gateat
sight of whom Oliver involuntarily shrunk backand then laughed
at himself for being so foolishthen criedthen laughed
again--there were scores of faces at the doors and windows that


he knew quite well--there was nearly everything as if he had left
it but yesterdayand all his recent life had been but a happy
dream.

But it was pureearnestjoyful reality. They drove straight to
the door of the chief hotel (which Oliver used to stare up at
with aweand think a mighty palacebut which had somehow fallen
off in grandeur and size); and here was Mr. Grimwig all ready to
receive themkissing the young ladyand the old one toowhen
they got out of the coachas if he were the grandfather of the
whole partyall smiles and kindnessand not offering to eat his
head--nonot once; not even when he contradicted a very old
postboy about the nearest road to Londonand maintained he knew
it bestthough he had only come that way onceand that time
fast asleep. There was dinner preparedand there were bedrooms
readyand everything was arranged as if by magic.

Notwithstanding all thiswhen the hurry of the first half-hour
was overthe same silence and constraint prevailed that had
marked their journey down. Mr. Brownlow did not join them at
dinnerbut remained in a separate room. The two other gentlemen
hurried in and out with anxious facesandduring the short
intervals when they were presentconversed apart. OnceMrs.
Maylie was called awayand after being absent for nearly an
hourreturned with eyes swollen with weeping. All these things
made Rose and Oliverwho were not in any new secretsnervous
and uncomfortable. They sat wonderingin silence; orif they
exchanged a few wordsspoke in whispersas if they were afraid
to hear the sound of their own voices.

At lengthwhen nine o'clock had comeand they began to think
they were to hear no more that nightMr. Losberne and Mr.
Grimwig entered the roomfollowed by Mr. Brownlow and a man whom
Oliver almost shrieked with surprise to see; for they told him it
was his brotherand it was the same man he had met at the
market-townand seen looking in with Fagin at the window of his
little room. Monks cast a look of hatewhicheven thenhe
could not dissembleat the astonished boyand sat down near the
door. Mr. Brownlowwho had papers in his handwalked to a
table near which Rose and Oliver were seated.

'This is a painful task' said he'but these declarationswhich
have been signed in London before many gentlemenmust be
substance repeated here. I would have spared you the
degradationbut we must hear them from your own lips before we
partand you know why.'

'Go on' said the person addressedturning away his face.
'Quick. I have almost done enoughI think. Don't keep me
here.'

'This child' said Mr. Brownlowdrawing Oliver to himand
laying his hand upon his head'is your half-brother; the
illegitimate son of your fathermy dear friend Edwin Leefordby
poor young Agnes Flemingwho died in giving him birth.'

'Yes' said Monksscowling at the trembling boy: the beating of
whose heart he might have heard. 'That is the bastard child.'

'The term you use' said Mr. Brownlowsternly'is a reproach to
those long since passed beyong the feeble censure of the world.
It reflects disgrace on no one livingexcept you who use it.
Let that pass. He was born in this town.'


'In the workhouse of this town' was the sullen reply. 'You have
the story there.' He pointed impatiently to the papers as he
spoke.

'I must have it heretoo' said Mr. Brownlowlooking round upon
the listeners.

'Listen then! You!' returned Monks. 'His father being taken ill
at Romewas joined by his wifemy motherfrom whom he had been
long separatedwho went from Paris and took me with her--to look
after his propertyfor what I knowfor she had no great
affection for himnor he for her. He knew nothing of usfor
his senses were goneand he slumbered on till next daywhen he
died. Among the papers in his deskwere twodated on the night
his illness first came ondirected to yourself'; he addressed
himself to Mr. Brownlow; 'and enclosed in a few short lines to
youwith an intimation on the cover of the package that it was
not to be forwarded till after he was dead. One of these papers
was a letter to this girl Agnes; the other a will.'

'What of the letter?' asked Mr. Brownlow.

'The letter?--A sheet of paper crossed and crossed againwith a
penitent confessionand prayers to God to help her. He had
palmed a tale on the girl that some secret mystery--to be
explained one day--prevented his marrying her just then; and so
she had gone ontrusting patiently to himuntil she trusted too
farand lost what none could ever give her back. She wasat
that timewithin a few months of her confinement. He told her
all he had meant to doto hide her shameif he had livedand
prayed herif he diednot to curse him memoryor think the
consequences of their sin would be visited on her or their young
child; for all the guilt was his. He reminded her of the day he
had given her the little locket and the ring with her christian
name engraved upon itand a blank left for that which he hoped
one day to have bestowed upon her--prayed her yet to keep itand
wear it next her heartas she had done before--and then ran on
wildlyin the same wordsover and over againas if he had gone
distracted. I believe he had.'

'The will' said Mr. Brownlowas Oliver's tears fell fast.

Monks was silent.

'The will' said Mr. Brownlowspeaking for him'was in the same
spirit as the letter. He talked of miseries which his wife had
brought upon him; of the rebellious dispositionvicemalice
and premature bad passions of you his only sonwho had been
trained to hate him; and left youand your mothereach an
annuity of eight hundred pounds. The bulk of his property he
divided into two equal portions--one for Agnes Flemingand the
other for their childit it should be born aliveand ever come
of age. If it were a girlit was to inherit the money
unconditionally; but if a boyonly on the stipulation that in
his minority he should never have stained his name with any
public act of dishonourmeannesscowardiceor wrong. He did
thishe saidto mark his confidence in the otherand his
conviction--only strengthened by approaching death--that the
child would share her gentle heartand noble nature. If he were
disappointed in this expectationthen the money was to come to
you: for thenand not till thenwhen both children were equal
would he recognise your prior claim upon his pursewho had none
upon his heartbut hadfrom an infantrepulsed him with
coldness and aversion.'


'My mother' said Monksin a louder tone'did what a woman
should have done. She burnt this will. The letter never reached
its destination; but thatand other proofsshe keptin case
they ever tried to lie away the blot. The girl's father had the
truth from her with every aggravation that her violent hate--I
love her for it now--could add. Goaded by shame and dishonour he
fled with his children into a remote corner of Waleschanging
his very name that his friends might never know of his retreat;
and hereno great while afterwardshe was found dead in his
bed. The girl had left her homein secretsome weeks before;
he had searched for heron footin every town and village near;
it was on the night when he returned homeassured that she had
destroyed herselfto hide her shame and histhat his old heart
broke.'

There was a short silence hereuntil Mr. Brownlow took up the
thread of the narrative.

'Years after this' he said'this man's--Edward
Leeford's--mother came to me. He had left herwhen only
eighteen; robbed her of jewels and money; gambledsquandered
forgedand fled to London: where for two years he had
associated with the lowest outcasts. She was sinking under a
painful and incurable diseaseand wished to recover him before
she died. Inquiries were set on footand strict searches made.
They were unavailing for a long timebut ultimately successful;
and he went back with her to France.

'There she died' said Monks'after a lingering illness; andon
her death-bedshe bequeathed these secrets to metogether with
her unquenchable and deadly hatred of all whom they
involved--though she need not have left me thatfor I had
inherited it long before. She would not believe that the girl
had destroyed herselfand the child toobut was filled with the
impression that a male child had been bornand was alive. I
swore to herif ever it crossed my pathto hunt it down; never
to let it rest; to pursue it with the bitterest and most
unrelenting animosity; to vent upon it the hatred that I deeply
feltand to spit upon the empty vaunt of that insulting will by
draggin itif I couldto the very gallows-foot. She was right.

He came in my way at last. I began well; andbut for babbling
drabsI would have finished as I began!'

As the villain folded his arms tight togetherand muttered
curses on himself in the impotence of baffled maliceMr.
Brownlow turned to the terrified group beside himand explained
that the Jewwho had been his old accomplice and confidanthad
a large reward for keeping Oliver ensnared: of which some part
was to be given upin the event of his being rescued: and that
a dispute on this head had led to their visit to the country
house for the purpose of identifying him.

'The locket and ring?' said Mr. Brownlowturning to Monks.

'I bought them from the man and woman I told you ofwho stole
them from the nursewho stole them from the corpse' answered
Monks without raising his eyes. 'You know what became of them.'

Mr. Brownlow merely nodded to Mr. Grimwigwho disappearing with
great alacrityshortly returnedpushing in Mrs. Bumbleand
dragging her unwilling consort after him.


'Do my hi's deceive me!' cried Mr. Bumblewith ill-feigned
enthusiasm'or is that little Oliver? Oh O-li-verif you
know'd how I've been a-grieving for you--'

'Hold your tonguefool' murmured Mrs. Bumble.

'Isn't naturnaturMrs. Bumble?' remonstrated the workhouse
master. 'Can't I be supposed to feel--_I_ as brought him up
porochially--when I see him a-setting here among ladies and
gentlemen of the very affablest description! I always loved that
boy as if he'd been my--my--my own grandfather' said Mr. Bumble
halting for an appropriate comparison. 'Master Olivermy dear
you remember the blessed gentleman in the white waistcoat? Ah!
he went to heaven last weekin a oak coffin with plated handles
Oliver.'

'Comesir' said Mr. Grimwigtartly; 'suppress your feelings.'

'I will do my endeavourssir' replied Mr. Bumble. 'How do you
dosir? I hope you are very well.'

This salutation was addressed to Mr. Brownlowwho had stepped up
to within a short distance of the respectable couple. He
inquiredas he pointed to Monks

'Do you know that person?'

'No' replied Mrs. Bumble flatly.

'Perhaps YOU don't?' said Mr. Brownlowaddressing her spouse.

'I never saw him in all my life' said Mr. Bumble.

'Nor sold him anythingperhaps?'

'No' replied Mrs. Bumble.

'You never hadperhapsa certain gold locket and ring?' said
Mr. Brownlow.

'Certainly not' replied the matron. 'Why are we brought here to
answer to such nonsense as this?'

Again Mr. Brownlow nodded to Mr. Grimwig; and again that
gentleman limped away with extraordinary readiness. But not
again did he return with a stout man and wife; for this timehe
led in two palsied womenwho shook and tottered as they walked.

'You shut the door the night old Sally died' said the foremost
oneraising her shrivelled hand'but you couldn't shut out the
soundnor stop the chinks.'

'Nono' said the otherlooking round her and wagging her
toothless jaws. 'Nonono.'

'We heard her try to tell you what she'd doneand saw you take a
paper from her handand watched you toonext dayto the
pawnbroker's shop' said the first.

'Yes' added the second'and it was a "locket and gold ring."
We found out thatand saw it given you. We were by. Oh! we
were by.'

'And we know more than that' resumed the first'for she told us


oftenlong agothat the young mother had told her thatfeeling
she should never get over itshe was on her wayat the time
that she was taken illto die near the grave of the father of
the child.'

'Would you like to see the pawnbroker himself?' asked Mr. Grimwig
with a motion towards the door.

'No' replied the woman; 'if he--she pointed to Monks--'has been
coward enough to confessas I see he hadand you have sounded
all these hags till you have found the right onesI have nothing
more to say. I DID sell themand they're where you'll never get
them. What then?'

'Nothing' replied Mr. Brownlow'except that it remains for us
to take care that neither of you is employed in a situation of
trust again. You may leave the room.'

'I hope' said Mr. Bumblelooking about him with great
ruefulnessas Mr. Grimwig disappeared with the two old women:
'I hope that this unfortunate little circumstance will not
deprive me of my porochial office?'

'Indeed it will' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'You may make up your
mind to thatand think yourself well off besides.'

'It was all Mrs. Bumble. She WOULD do it' urged Mr. Bumble;
first looking round to ascertain that his partner had left the
room.

'That is no excuse' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'You were present on
the occasion of the destruction of these trinketsand indeed are
the more guilty of the twoin the eye of the law; for the law
supposes that your wife acts under your direction.'

'If the law supposes that' said Mr. Bumblesqueezing his hat
emphatically in both hands'the law is a ass--a idiot. If
that's the eye of the lawthe law is a bachelor; and the worst I
wish the law isthat his eye may be opened by experience--by
experience.'

Laying great stress on the repetition of these two wordsMr.
Bumble fixed his hat on very tightand putting his hands in his
pocketsfollowed his helpmate downstairs.

'Young lady' said Mr. Brownlowturning to Rose'give me your
hand. Do not tremble. You need not fear to hear the few
remaining words we have to say.'

'If they have--I do not know how they canbut if they have--any
reference to me' said Rose'pray let me hear them at some other
time. I have not strength or spirits now.'

'Nay' returned the old gentlmandrawing her arm through his;
'you have more fortitude than thisI am sure. Do you know this
young ladysir?'

'Yes' replied Monks.

'I never saw you before' said Rose faintly.

'I have seen you often' returned Monks.

'The father of the unhappy Agnes had TWO daughters' said Mr.


Brownlow. 'What was the fate of the other--the child?'

'The child' replied Monks'when her father died in a strange
placein a strange namewithout a letterbookor scrap of
paper that yielded the faintest clue by which his friends or
relatives could be traced--the child was taken by some wretched
cottagerswho reared it as their own.'

'Go on' said Mr. Brownlowsigning to Mrs. Maylie to approach.
'Go on!'

'You couldn't find the spot to which these people had repaired'
said Monks'but where friendship failshatred will often force
a way. My mother found itafter a year of cunning search--ay
and found the child.'

'She took itdid she?'

'No. The people were poor and began to sicken--at least the man
did--of their fine humanity; so she left it with themgiving
them a small present of money which would not last longand
promised morewhich she never meant to send. She didn't quite
relyhoweveron their discontent and poverty for the child's
unhappinessbut told the history of the sister's shamewith
such alterations as suited her; bade them take good heed of the
childfor she came of bad blood;; and told them she was
illegitimateand sure to go wrong at one time or other. The
circumstances countenanced all this; the people believed it; and
there the child dragged on an existencemiserable enough even to
satisfy usuntil a widow ladyresidingthenat Chestersaw
the girl by chancepitied herand took her home. There was
some cursed spellI thinkagainst us; for in spite of all our
efforts she remained there and was happy. I lost sight of her
two or three years agoand saw her no more until a few months
back.'

'Do you see her now?'

'Yes. Leaning on your arm.'

'But not the less my niece' cried Mrs. Mayliefolding the
fainting girl in her arms; 'not the less my dearest child. I
would not lose her nowfor all the treasures of the world. My
sweet companionmy own dear girl!'

'The only friend I ever had' cried Roseclinging to her. 'The
kindestbest of friends. My heart will burst. I cannot bear
all this.'

'You have borne moreand have beenthrough allthe best and
gentlest creature that ever shed happiness on every one she
knew' said Mrs. Maylieembracing her tenderly. 'Comecomemy
loveremember who this is who waits to clasp you in his arms
poor child! See here--looklookmy dear!'

'Not aunt' cried Oliverthrowing his arms about her neck; 'I'll
never call her aunt--sistermy own dear sisterthat something
taught my heart to love so dearly from the first! Rosedear
darling Rose!'

Let the tears which felland the broken words which were
exchanged in the long close embrace between the orphansbe
sacred. A fathersisterand motherwere gainedand lostin
that one moment. Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but


there were no bitter tears: for even grief itself arose so
softenedand clothed in such sweet and tender recollections
that it became a solemn pleasureand lost all character of pain.

They were a longlong time alone. A soft tap at the doorat
length announced that some one was without. Oliver opened it
glided awayand gave place to Harry Maylie.

'I know it all' he saidtaking a seat beside the lovely girl.
'Dear RoseI know it all.'

'I am not here by accident' he added after a lengthened silence;
'nor have I heard all this to-nightfor I knew it
yesterday--only yesterday. Do you guess that I have come to
remind you of a promise?'

'Stay' said Rose. 'You DO know all.'

'All. You gave me leaveat any time within a yearto renew the
subject of our last discourse.'

'I did.'

'Not to press you to alter your determination' pursued the young
man'but to hear you repeat itif you would. I was to lay
whatever of station or fortune I might possess at your feetand
if you still adhered to your former determinationI pledged
myselfby no word or actto seek to change it.'

'The same reasons which influenced me thenwill influence me
know' said Rose firmly. 'If I ever owed a strict and rigid duty
to herwhose goodness saved me from a life of indigence and
sufferingwhen should I ever feel itas I should to-night? It
is a struggle' said Rose'but one I am proud to make; it is a
pangbut one my heart shall bear.'

'The disclosure of to-night'--Harry began.

'The disclosure of to-night' replied Rose softly'leaves me in
the same positionwith reference to youas that in which I
stood before.'

'You harden your heart against meRose' urged her lover.

'Oh HarryHarry' said the young ladybursting into tears; 'I
wish I couldand spare myself this pain.'

'Then why inflict it on yourself?' said Harrytaking her hand.
'Thinkdear Rosethink what you have heard to-night.'

'And what have I heard! What have I heard!' cried Rose. 'That a
sense of his deep disgrace so worked upon my own father that he
shunned all--therewe have said enoughHarrywe have said
enough.'

'Not yetnot yet' said the young mandetaining her as she
rose. 'My hopesmy wishesprospectsfeeling: every thought
in life except my love for you: have undergone a change. I
offer younowno distinction among a bustling crowd; no
mingling with a world of malice and detractionwhere the blood
is called into honest cheeks by aught but real disgrace and
shame; but a home--a heart and home--yesdearest Roseand
thoseand those aloneare all I have to offer.'


'What do you mean!' she faltered.

'I mean but this--that when I left you lastI left you with a
firm determination to level all fancied barriers between yourself
and me; resolved that if my world could not be yoursI would
make yours mine; that no pride of birth should curl the lip at
youfor I would turn from it. This I have done. Those who have
shrunk from me because of thishave shrunk from youand proved
you so far right. Such power and patronage: such relatives of
influence and rank: as smiled upon me thenlook coldly now; but
there are smiling fields and waving trees in England's richest
county; and by one village church--mineRosemy own!--there
stands a rustic dwelling which you can make me prouder ofthan
all the hopes I have renouncedmeasured a thousandfold. This is
my rank and station nowand here I lay it down!'

* * * * * * *

'It's a trying thing waiting supper for lovers' said Mr.
Grimwigwaking upand pulling his pocket-handkerchief from over
his head.

Truth to tellthe supper had been waiting a most unreasonable
time. Neither Mrs. Maylienor Harrynor Rose (who all came in
together)could offer a word in extenuation.

'I had serious thoughts of eating my head to-night' said Mr.
Grimwig'for I began to think I should get nothing else. I'll
take the libertyif you'll allow meof saluting the bride that
is to be.'

Mr. Grimwig lost no time in carrying this notice into effect upon
the blushing girl; and the examplebeing contagiouswas
followed both by the doctor and Mr. Brownlow: some people affirm
that Harry Maylie had been observed to set itorginallyin a
dark room adjoining; but the best authorities consider this
downright scandal: he being young and a clergyman.

'Olivermy child' said Mrs. Maylie'where have you beenand
why do you look so sad? There are tears stealing down your face
at this moment. What is the matter?'

It is a world of disappointment: often to the hopes we most
cherishand hopes that do our nature the greatest honour.

Poor Dick was dead!

CHAPTER LII

FAGIN'S LAST NIGHT ALIVE

The court was pavedfrom floor to roofwith human faces.
Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. From
the rail before the dockaway into the sharpest angle of the
smallest corner in the galleriesall looks were fixed upon one
man--Fagin. Before him and behind: abovebelowon the right
and on the left: he seemed to stand surrounded by a firmament
all bright with gleaming eyes.

He stood therein all this glare of living lightwith one hand
resting on the wooden slab before himthe other held to his ear


and his head thrust forward to enable him to catch with greater
distinctness every word that fell from the presiding judgewho
was delivering his charge to the jury. At timeshe turned his
eyes sharply upon them to observe the effect of the slightest
featherweight in his favour; and when the points against him were
stated with terrible distinctnesslooked towards his counselin
mute appeal that he wouldeven thenurge something in his
behalf. Beyond these manifestations of anxietyhe stirred not
hand or foot. He had scarcely moved since the trial began; and
now that the judge ceased to speakhe still remained in the same
strained attitude of close attentionwith his gaze ben on him
as though he listened still.

A slight bustle in the courtrecalled him to himself. Looking
roundhe saw that the juryman had turned togetherto consider
their verdict. As his eyes wandered to the galleryhe could see
the people rising above each other to see his face: some hastily
applying their glasses to their eyes: and others whispering
their neighbours with looks expressive of abhorrence. A few
there werewho seemed unmindful of himand looked only to the
juryin impatient wonder how they could delay. But in no one
face--not even among the womenof whom there were many
there--could he read the faintest sympathy with himselfor any
feeling but one of all-absorbing interest that he should be
condemned.

As he saw all this in one bewildered glancethe deathlike
stillness came againand looking back he saw that the jurymen
had turned towards the judge. Hush!

They only sought permission to retire.

He lookedwistfullyinto their facesone by one when they
passed outas though to see which way the greater number leant;
but that was fruitless. The jailed touched him on the shoulder.
He followed mechanically to the end of the dockand sat down on
a chair. The man pointed it outor he would not have seen it.

He looked up into the gallery again. Some of the people were
eatingand some fanning themselves with handkerchiefs; for the
crowded place was very hot. There was one young man sketching
his face in a little note-book. He wondered whether it was like
and looked on when the artist broke his pencil-pointand made
another with his knifeas any idle spectator might have done.

In the same waywhen he turned his eyes towards the judgehis
mind began to busy itself with the fashion of his dressand what
it costand how he put it on. There was an old fat gentleman on
the benchtoowho had gone outsome half an hour beforeand
now come back. He wondered within himself whether this man had
been to get his dinnerwhat he had hadand where he had had it;
and pursued this train of careless thought until some new object
caught his eye and roused another.

Not thatall this timehis mind wasfor an instantfree from
one oppressive overwhelming sense of the grave that opened at his
feet; it was ever present to himbut in a vague and general way
and he could not fix his thoughts upon it. Thuseven while he
trembledand turned burning hot at the idea of speedy deathhe
fell to counting the iron spikes before himand wondering how
the head of one had been broken offand whether they would mend
itor leave it as it was. Thenhe thought of all the horrors
of the gallows and the scaffold--and stopped to watch a man
sprinkling the floor to cool it--and then went on to think again.


At length there was a cry of silenceand a breathless look from
all towards the door. The jury returnedand passed him close.
He could glean nothing from their faces; they might as well have
been of stone. Perfect stillness ensued--not a rustle--not a
breath--Guilty.

The building rang with a tremendous shoutand anotherand
anotherand then it echoed loud groansthat gathered strength
as they swelled outlike angry thunder. It was a peal of joy
from the populace outsidegreeting the news that he would die on
Monday.

The noise subsidedand he was asked if he had anything to say
why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. He had
resumed his listening attitudeand looked intently at his
questioner while the demand was made; but it was twice repeated
before he seemed to hear itand then he only muttered that he
was an old man--an old man--and sodropping into a whisperwas
silent again.

The judge assumed the black capand the prisoner still stood
with the same air and gesture. A woman in the galleryuttered
some exclamationcalled forth by this dread solemnity; he looked
hastily up as if angry at the interruptionand bent forward yet
more attentively. The address was solemn and impressive; the
sentence fearful to hear. But he stoodlike a marble figure
without the motion of a nerve. His haggard face was still thrust
forwardhis under-jaw hanging downand his eyes staring out
before himwhen the jailer put his hand upon his armand
beckoned him away. He gazed stupidly about him for an instant
and obeyed.

They led him through a paved room under the courtwhere some
prisoners were waiting till their turns cameand others were
talking to their friendswho crowded round a grate which looked
into the open yard. There was nobody there to speak to HIM; but
as he passedthe prisoners fell back to render him more visible
to the people who were clinging to the bars: and they assailed
him with opprobrious namesand screeched and hissed. He shook
his fistand would have spat upon them; but his conductors
hurried him onthrough a gloomy passage lighted by a few dim
lampsinto the interior of the prison.

Herehe was searchedthat he might not have about him the means
of anticipating the law; this ceremony performedthey led him to
one of the condemned cellsand left him there--alone.

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the doorwhich served for
seat and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the
groundtried to collect his thoughts. After awhilehe began to
remember a few disjointed fragments of what the judge had said:
though it had seemed to himat the timethat he could not hear
a word. These gradually fell into their proper placesand by
degrees suggested more: so that in a little time he had the
wholealmost as it was delivered. To be hanged by the neck
till he was dead--that was the end. To be hanged by the neck
till he was dead.

As it came on very darkhe began to think of all the men he had
known who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his
means. They rose upin such quick successionthat he could
hardly count them. He had seen some of them die--and had joked
toobecause they died with prayers upon their lips. With what a


rattling noise the drop went down; and how suddenly they changed
from strong and vigorous men to dangling heaps of clothes!

Some of them might have inhabited that very cell--sat upon that
very spot. It was very dark; why didn't they bring a light? The
cell had been built for many years. Scores of men must have
passed their last hours there. It was like sitting in a vault
strewn with dead bodies--the capthe noosethe pinioned arms
the faces that he kneweven beneath that hideous veil.--Light
light!

At lengthwhen his hands were raw with beating against the heavy
door and wallstwo men appeared: one bearing a candlewhich he
thrust into an iron candlestick fixed against the wall: the
other dragging in a mattress on which to pass the night; for the
prisoner was to be left alone no more.

Then came the night--darkdismalsilent night. Other watchers
are glad to hear this church-clock strikefor they tell of life
and coming day. To him they brought despair. The boom of every
iron bell came laden with the onedeephollow sound--Death.
What availed the noise and bustle of cheerful morningwhich
penetrated even thereto him? It was another form of knell
with mockery added to the warning.

The day passed off. Day? There was no day; it was gone as soon
as come--and night came on again; night so longand yet so
short; long in its dreadful silenceand short in its fleeting
hours. At one time he raved and blasphemed; and at another
howled and tore his hair. Venerable men of his own persuasion
had come to pray beside himbut he had driven them away with
curses. They renewed their charitable effortsand he beat them
off.

Saturday night. He had only one night more to live. And as he
thought of thisthe day broke--Sunday.

It was not until the night of this last awful daythat a
withering sense of his helplessdesperate state came in its full
intensity upon his blighted soul; not that he had ever held any
defined or positive hope of mercybut that he had never been
able to consider more than the dim probability of dying so soon.
He had spoken little to either of the two menwho relieved each
other in their attendance upon him; and theyfor their parts
made no effort to rouse his attention. He had sat thereawake
but dreaming. Nowhe started upevery minuteand with gasping
mouth and burning skinhurried to and froin such a paroxysm of
fear and wrath that even they--used to such sights--recoiled from
him with horror. He grew so terribleat lastin all the
tortures of his evil consciencethat one man could not bear to
sit thereeyeing him alone; and so the two kept watch together.

He cowered down upon his stone bedand thought of the past. He
had been wounded with some missiles from the crowd on the day of
his captureand his head was bandaged with a linen cloth. His
red hair hung down upon his bloodless face; his beard was torn
and twisted into knots; his eyes shone with a terrible light; his
unwashed flesh crackled with the fever that burnt him up.
Eight--nine--then. If it was not a trick to frighten himand
those were the real hours treading on each other's heelswhere
would he bewhen they came round again! Eleven! Another
struckbefore the voice of the previous hour had ceased to
vibrate. At eighthe would be the only mourner in his own
funeral train; at eleven-



Those dreadful walls of Newgatewhich have hidden so much misery
and such unspeakable anguishnot only from the eyesbuttoo
oftenand too longfrom the thoughtsof mennever held so
dread a spectacle as that. The few who lingered as they passed
and wondered what the man was doing who was to be hanged
to-morrowwould have slept but ill that nightif they could
have seen him.

From early in the evening until nearly midnightlittle groups of
two and three presented themselves at the lodge-gateand
inquiredwith anxious faceswhether any reprieve had been
received. These being answered in the negativecommunicated the
welcome intelligence to clusters in the streetwho pointed out
to one another the door from which he must come outand showed
where the scaffold would be builtandwalking with unwilling
steps awayturned back to conjure up the scene. By degrees they
fell offone by one; andfor an hourin the dead of nightthe
street was left to solitude and darkness.

The space before the prison was clearedand a few strong
barrierspainted blackhad been already thrown across the road
to break the pressure of the expected crowdwhen Mr. Brownlow
and Oliver appeared at the wicketand presented an order of
admission to the prisonersigned by one of the sheriffs. They
were immediately admitted into the lodge.

'Is the young gentleman to come toosir?' said the man whose
duty it was to conduct them. 'It's not a sight for children
sir.'

'It is not indeedmy friend' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but my
business with this man is intimately connected with him; and as
this child has seen him in the full career of his success and
villainyI think it as well--even at the cost of some pain and
fear--that he should see him now.'

These few words had been said apartso as to be inaudible to
Oliver. The man touched his hat; and glancing at Oliver with
some curiousityopened another gateopposite to that by which
they had enteredand led them onthrough dark and winding ways
towards the cells.

'This' said the manstopping in a gloomy passage where a couple
of workmen were making some preparations in profound
silence--'this is the place he passes through. If you step this
wayyou can see the door he goes out at.'

He led them into a stone kitchenfitted with coppers for
dressing the prison foodand pointed to a door. There was an
open grating above itthrought which came the sound of men's
voicesmingled with the noise of hammeringand the throwing
down of boards. There were putting up the scaffold.

From this placethey passed through several strong gatesopened
by other turnkeys from the inner side; andhaving entered an
open yardascended a flight of narrow stepsand came into a
passage with a row of strong doors on the left hand. Motioning
them to remain where they werethe turnkey knocked at one of
these with his bunch of keys. The two attendantsafter a little
whisperingcame out into the passagestretching themselves as
if glad of the temporary reliefand motioned the visitors to
follow the jailer into the cell. They did so.


The condemned criminal was seated on his bedrocking himself
from side to sidewith a countenance more like that of a snared
beast than the face of a man. His mind was evidently wandering
to his old lifefor he continued to mutterwithout appearing
conscious of their presence otherwise than as a part of his
vision.

'Good boyCharley--well done--' he mumbled. 'Olivertooha!
ha! ha! Oliver too--quite the gentleman now--quite the--take
that boy away to bed!'

The jailer took the disengaged hand of Oliver; andwhispering
him not to be alarmedlooked on without speaking.

'Take him away to bed!' cried Fagin. 'Do you hear mesome of
you? He has been the--the--somehow the cause of all this. It's
worth the money to bring him up to it--Bolter's throatBill;
never mind the girl--Bolter's throat as deep as you can cut. Saw
his head off!'

'Fagin' said the jailer.

'That's me!' cried the Jewfalling instantlyinto the attitude
of listening he had assumed upon his trial. 'An old manmy
Lord; a very oldold man!'

'Here' said the turnkeylaying his hand upon his breast to keep
him down. 'Here's somebody wants to see youto ask you some
questionsI suppose. FaginFagin! Are you a man?'

'I shan't be one long' he repliedlooking up with a face
retaining no human expression but rage and terror. 'Strike them
all dead! What right have they to butcher me?'

As he spoke he caught sight of Oliver and Mr. Brownlow. Shrinking
to the furthest corner of the seathe demanded to know what they
wanted there.

'Steady' said the turnkeystill holding him down. 'Nowsir
tell him what you want. Quickif you pleasefor he grows worse
as the time gets on.'

'You have some papers' said Mr. Brownlow advancing'which were
placed in your handsfor better securityby a man called
Monks.'

'It's all a lie together' replied Fagin. 'I haven't one--not
one.'

'For the love of God' said Mr. Brownlow solemnly'do not say
that nowupon the very verge of death; but tell me where they
are. You know that Sikes is dead; that Monks has confessed; that
there is no hope of any further gain. Where are those papers?'

'Oliver' cried Faginbeckoning to him. 'Herehere! Let me
whisper to you.'

'I am not afraid' said Oliver in a low voiceas he relinquished
Mr. Brownlow's hand.

'The papers' said Fagindrawing Oliver towards him'are in a
canvas bagin a hole a little way up the chimney in the top
front-room. I want to talk to youmy dear. I want to talk to
you.'


'Yesyes' returned Oliver. 'Let me say a prayer. Do! Let me
say one prayer. Say only oneupon your kneeswith meand we
will talk till morning.'

'Outsideoutside' replied Faginpushing the boy before him
towards the doorand looking vacantly over his head. 'Say I've
gone to sleep--they'll believe you. You can get me outif you
take me so. Now thennow then!'

'Oh! God forgive this wretched man!' cried the boy with a burst
of tears.

'That's rightthat's right' said Fagin. 'That'll help us on.
This door first. If I shake and trembleas we pass the gallows
don't you mindbut hurry on. Nownownow!'

'Have you nothing else to ask himsir?' inquired the turnkey.

'No other question' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'If I hoped we could
recall him to a sense of his position--'

'Nothing will do thatsir' replied the manshaking his head.
'You had better leave him.'

The door of the cell openedand the attendants returned.

'Press onpress on' cried Fagin. 'Softlybut not so slow.
Fasterfaster!'

The men laid hands upon himand disengaging Oliver from his
graspheld him back. He struggled with the power of
desperationfor an instant; and then sent up cry upon cry that
penetrated even those massive wallsand rang in their ears until
they reached the open yard.

It was some time before they left the prison. Oliver nearly
swooned after this frightful sceneand was so weak that for an
hour or morehe had not the strength to walk.

Day was dawning when they again emerged. A great multitude had
already assembled; the windows were filled with peoplesmoking
and playing cards to beguile the time; the crowd were pushing
quarrellingjoking. Everything told of life and animationbut
one dark cluster of objects in the centre of all--the black stage
the cross-beamthe ropeand all the hideous apparatus of death.

CHAPTER LIII

AND LAST

The fortunes of those who have figured in this tale are nearly
closed. The little that remains to their historian to relateis
told in few and simple words.

Before three months had passedRose Fleming and Harry Maylie
were married in the village church which was henceforth to be the
scene of the young clergyman's labours; on the same day they
entered into possession of their new and happy home.

Mrs. Maylie took up her abode with her son and daughter-in-law


to enjoyduring the tranquil remainder of her daysthe greatest
felicity that age and worth can know--the contemplation of the
happiness of those on whom the warmest affections and tenderest
cares of a well-spent lifehave been unceasingly bestowed.

It appearedon full and careful investigationthat if the wreck
of property remaining in the custody of Monks (which had never
prospered either in his hands or in those of his mother) were
equally divided between himself and Oliverit would yieldto
eachlittle more than three thousand pounds. By the provisions
of his father's willOliver would have been entitled to the
whole; but Mr. Brownlowunwilling to deprive the elder son of
the opportunity of retrieving his former vices and pursuing an
honest careerproposed this mode of distributionto which his
young charge joyfully acceded.

Monksstill bearing that assumed nameretired with his portion
to a distant part of the New World; wherehaving quickly
squandered ithe once more fell into his old coursesandafter
undergoing a long confinement for some fresh act of fraud and
knaveryat length sunk under an attack of his old disorderand
died in prison. As far from homedied the chief remaining
members of his friend Fagin's gang.

Mr. Brownlow adopted Oliver as his son. Removing with him and
the old housekeeper to within a mile of the parsonage-house
where his dear friends residedhe gratified the only remaining
wish of Oliver's warm and earnest heartand thus linked together
a little societywhose condition approached as nearly to one of
perfect happiness as can ever be known in this changing world.

Soon after the marriage of the young peoplethe worthy doctor
returned to Chertseywherebereft of the presence of his old
friendshe would have been discontented if his temperament had
admitted of such a feeling; and would have turned quite peevish
if he had known how. For two or three monthshe contented
himself with hinting that he feared the air began to disagree
with him; thenfinding that the place really no longer wasto
himwhat it had beenhe settled his business on his assistant
took a bachelor's cottage outside the village of which his young
friend was pastorand instantaneously recovered. Here he took
to gardeningplantingfishingcarpenteringand various other
pursuits of a similar kind: all undertaken with his
characteristic impetuosity. In each and all he has since become
famous throughout the neighborhoodas a most profound authority.

Before his removalhe had managed to contract a strong
friendship for Mr. Grimwigwhich that eccentric gentleman
cordially reciprocated. He is accordingly visited by Mr. Grimwig
a great many times in the course of the year. On all such
occasionsMr. Grimwig plantsfishesand carpenterswith great
ardour; doing everything in a very singular and unprecedented
mannerbut always maintaining with his favourite asseveration
that his mode is the right one. On Sundayshe never fails to
criticise the sermon to the young clergyman's face: always
informing Mr. Losbernein strict confidence afterwardsthat he
considers it an excellent performancebut deems it as well not
to say so. It is a standing and very favourite jokefor Mr.
Brownlow to rally him on his old prophecy concerning Oliverand
to remind him of the night on which they sat with the watch
between themwaiting his return; but Mr. Grimwig contends that
he was right in the mainandin proof thereofremarks that
Oliver did not come back after all; which always calls forth a
laugh on his sideand increases his good humour.


Mr. Noah Claypole: receiving a free pardon from the Crown in
consequence of being admitted approver against Fagin: and
considering his profession not altogether as safe a one as he
could wish: wasfor some little timeat a loss for the means
of a livelihoodnot burdened with too much work. After some
considerationhe went into business as an Informerin which
calling he realises a genteel subsistence. His plan isto walk
out once a week during church time attended by Charlotte in
respectable attire. The lady faints away at the doors of
charitable publicansand the gentleman being accommodated with
three-penny worth of brandy to restore herlays an information
next dayand pockets half the penalty. Sometimes Mr. Claypole
faints himselfbut the result is the same.

Mr. and Mrs. Bumbledeprived of their situationswere gradually
reduced to great indigence and miseryand finally became paupers
in that very same workhouse in which they had once lorded it over
others. Mr. Bumble has been heard to saythat in this reverse
and degradationhe has not even spirits to be thankful for being
separated from his wife.

As to Mr. Giles and Brittlesthey still remain in their old
postsalthough the former is baldand the last-named boy quite
grey. They sleep at the parsonagebut divide their attentions
so equally among its inmatesand Oliver and Mr. Brownlowand
Mr. Losbernethat to this day the villagers have never been able
to discover to which establishment they properly belong.

Master Charles Batesappalled by Sikes's crimefell into a
train of reflection whether an honest life was notafter all
the best. Arriving at the conclusion that it certainly washe
turned his back upon the scenes of the pastresolved to amend it
in some new sphere of action. He struggled hardand suffered
muchfor some time; buthaving a contented dispositionand a
good purposesucceeded in the end; andfrom being a farmer's
drudgeand a carrier's ladhe is now the merriest young grazier
in all Northamptonshire.

And nowthe hand that traces these wordsfaltersas it
approaches the conclusion of its task; and would weavefor a
little longer spacethe thread of these adventures.

I would fain linger yet with a few of those among whom I have so
long movedand share their happiness by endeavouring to depict
it. I would show Rose Maylie in all the bloom and grace of early
womanhoodshedding on her secluded path in life soft and gentle
lightthat fell on all who trod it with herand shone into
their hearts. I would paint her the life and joy of the
fire-side circle and the lively summer group; I would follow her
through the sultry fields at noonand hear the low tones of her
sweet voice in the moonlit evening walk; I would watch her in all
her goodness and charity abroadand the smiling untiring
discharge of domestic duties at home; I would paint her and her
dead sister's child happy in their love for one anotherand
passing whole hours together in picturing the friends whom they
had so sadly lost; I would summon before meonce againthose
joyous little faces that clustered round her kneeand listen to
their merry prattle; I would recall the tones of that clear
laughand conjure up the sympathising tear that glistened in the
soft blue eye. Theseand a thousand looks and smilesand turns
fo thought and speech--I would fain recall them every one.

How Mr. Brownlow went onfrom day to dayfilling the mind of


his adopted child with stores of knowledgeand becoming attached
to himmore and moreas his nature developed itselfand showed
the thriving seeds of all he wished him to become--how he traced
in him new traits of his early friendthat awakened in his own
bosom old remembrancesmelancholy and yet sweet and
soothing--how the two orphanstried by adversityremembered its
lessons in mercy to othersand mutual loveand fervent thanks
to Him who had protected and preserved them--these are all
matters which need not to be told. I have said that they were
truly happy; and without strong affection and humanity of heart
and gratitude to that Being whose code is Mercyand whose great
attribute is Benevolence to all things that breathehappiness
can never be attained.

Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white
marble tabletwhich bears as yet but one word: 'AGNES.' There
is no coffin in that tomb; and may it be manymany yearsbefore
another name is placed above it! Butif the spirits of the Dead
ever come back to earthto visit spots hallowed by the love--the
love beyond the grave--of those whom they knew in lifeI believe
that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook.
I believe it none the less because that nook is in a Churchand
she was weak and erring.