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Oliver Twist - letras-lyrics.com.br· Oliver Twist Author: Dickens, Charles Created Date: 20010907105026Z ... - [PDF Document] (1)

Oliver TwistDickens, Charles

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Oliver Twist

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OLIVER Twist or the parish BOY'S Progress by charles dickens

Oliver Twist

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CHAPTER I − TREATS Of the place where oliver twist was bornand of the circ*mstances attending his BIRTH

Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be

prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there isone anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in thisworkhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuchas it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at allevents; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parishsurgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bearany name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs wouldnever have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of pages, theywould have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimenof biography, extant in the literature of any age or country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother's prospects failed in producing itsdue 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 onits forehead; passed her hands over her face; gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back – anddied. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped forever. Theytalked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver Twist

CHAPTER I − TREATS Of the place where oliver twist was born and of the circ*mstances attending his BIRTH4

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

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

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CHAPTER Ii − Treats Of oliver TWIST'S Growth, Education, ANDBOARD

For the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic course of

treachery and deception. He was brought up by hand. The hungry and destitute situation ofthe infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities.The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there wasno female then domiciled in 'the house' who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, theconsolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities repliedwith humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish authorities magnanimously andhumanely resolved, that Oliver should be 'farmed,' or, in other words, that he should bedispatched to a branch−workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty otherjuvenile offenders against the poor−laws, rolled about the floor all day, without theinconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence ofan elder ly female, who received the culpr i ts at and for the considerat ion ofsevenpence−halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence−halfpenny's worth per week isa good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence−halfpenny, quiteenough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was awoman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a veryaccurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of theweekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even ashorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowestdepth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.

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

Occasionally, when there was some more than usually interesting inquest upon a parishchild who had been overlooked in turning up a bedstead, or inadvertently scalded to deathwhen there happened to be a washing – though the latter accident was very scarce, anything

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approaching to a washing being of rare occurance in the farm – the jury would take it intotheir heads to ask troublesome questions, or the parishioners would rebelliously affix theirsignatures to a remonstrance. But these impertinences were speedily checked by theevidence of the surgeon, and the testimony of the beadle; the former of whom had alwaysopened the body and found nothing inside (which was very probable indeed), and the latterof whom invariably swore whatever the parish wanted; which was very self−devotional.Besides, the board made periodical pilgrimages to the farm, and always sent the beadle theday before, to say they were going. The children were neat and clean to behold, whenThey went; and what more would the people have!

It cannot be expected that this system of farming would produce any very extraordinaryor luxuriant crop. Oliver Twist's ninth birthday found him a pale thin child, somewhatdiminutive in stature, and decidely small in circumference. But nature or inheritance hadimplanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver's breast. It had had plenty of room to expand, thanksto the spare diet of the establishment; and perhaps to this circ*mstance may be attributed hishaving any ninth birth−day at all. Be this as it may, however, it was his ninth birthday; andhe was keeping it in the coal−cellar with a select party of two other young gentleman, who,after participating with him in a sound thrashing, had been locked up for atrociouslypresuming to be hungry, when Mrs. Mann, the good lady of the house, was unexpectedlystartled by the apparition of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, striving to undo the wicket of thegarden−gate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Mann ushered the beadle into a small parlour with a brick floor; placed a seat forhim; and officiously deposited his co*cked hat and can on the table before him. Mr. Bumblewiped from his forehead the perspiration which his walk had engendered, glancedcomplacently at the co*cked hat, and smiled. Yes, he smiled. Beadles are but men: and Mr.Bumble smiled.

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

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

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

Mr. Bumble coughed.

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

'What is it?' inquired the beadle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'You, Mr. Bumble!'

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

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

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

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

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

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Oliver made a bow, which was divided between the beadle on the chair, and the co*ckedhat on the table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not having a very clearly defined notion of what a live board was, Oliver was ratherastounded by this intelligence, and was not quite certain whether he ought to laugh or cry.He had no time to think about the matter, however; for Mr. Bumble gave him a tap on thehead, with his cane, to wake him up: and another on the back to make him lively: and

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bidding him to follow, conducted him into a large white−washed room, where eight or tenfat gentlemen were sitting round a table. At the top of the table, seated in an arm−chairrather higher than the rest, was a particularly fat gentleman with a very round, red face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What are you crying for?' inquired the gentleman in the white waistcoat. And to be sureit 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; 'andpray for the people who feed you, and take care of you – like a Christian.'

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

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

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

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

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

The members of this board were very sage, deep, philosophical men; and when theycame to turn their attention to the workhouse, they found out at once, what ordinary folkswould nver have discovered – the poor people liked it! It was a regular place of publicentertainment for the poorer classes; a tavern where there was nothing to pay; a publicbreakfast, dinner, tea, and supper all the year round; a brick and mortar elysium, where itwas all play and no work. 'Oho!' said the board, looking very knowing; 'we are the fellows toset this to rights; we'll stop it all, in no time.' So, they established the rule, that all poorpeople should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they), of beingstarved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it. With this view, theycontracted with the water−works to lay on an unlimited supply of water; and with acorn−factor to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal; and issued three meals of thingruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll of Sundays. They made a great manyother wise and humane regulations, having reference to the ladies, which it is not necessaryto repeat; kindly undertook to divorce poor married people, in consequence of the greatexpense of a suit in Doctors' Commons; and, instead of compelling a man to support hisfamily, as they had theretofore done, took his family away from him, and made him abachelor! There is no saying how many applicants for relief, under these last two heads,might have started up in all classes of society, if it had not been coupled with theworkhouse; but the board were long−headed men, and had provided for this difficulty. Therelief was inseparable from the workhouse and the gruel; and that frightened people.

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

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

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

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

'Please, sir, I want some more.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'He did, sir,' replied Bumble.

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

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

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

As I purpose to show in the sequel whether the white waistcoated gentleman was rightor not, I should perhaps mar the interest of this narrative (supposing it to possess any at all),if I ventured to hint just yet, whether the life of Oliver Twist had this violent termination orno.

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CHAPTER Iii − Relates How oliver twist was very near getting aplace which would not have been a SINECURE

For a week after the commission of the impious and profane offence of asking for

more, Oliver remained a close prisoner in the dark and solitary room to which he had beenconsigned by the wisdom and mercy of the board. It appears, at first sight not unreasonableto suppose, that, if he had entertained a becoming feeling of respect for the prediction of thegentleman in the white waistcoat, he would have established that sage individual's propheticcharacter, once and for ever, by tying one end of his pocket−handkerchief to a hook in thewall, and attaching himself to the other. To the performance of this feat, however, there wasone obstacle: namely, that pocket−handkerchiefs being decided articles of luxury, had been,for all future times and ages, removed from the noses of paupers by the express order of theboard, in council assembled: solemnly given and pronounced under their hands and seals.There was a still greater obstacle in Oliver's youth and childishness. He only cried bitterlyall day; and, when the long, dismal night came on, spread his little hands before his eyes toshut out the darkness, and crouching in the corner, tried to sleep: ever and anon waking witha start and tremble, and drawing himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even itscold 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 hissolitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society, orthe advantages of religious consolation. As for exercise, it was nice cold weather, and hewas allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in thepresence of Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a tingling sensation topervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane. As for society, he was carried everyother day into the hall where the boys dined, and there sociably flogged as a public warningand example. And so for from being denied the advantages of religious consolation, he waskicked into the same apartment every evening at prayer−time, and there permitted to listento, and console his mind with, a general supplication of the boys, containing a special clause,therein inserted by authority of the board, in which they entreated to be made good, virtuous,contented, and obedient, and to be guarded from the sins and vices of Oliver Twist: whomthe supplication distinctly set forth to be under the exclusive patronage and protection of thepowers of wickedness, and an article direct from the manufactory of the very Devil himself.

It chanced one morning, while Oliver's affairs were in this auspicious and confortablestate, that Mr. Gamfield, chimney−sweep, went his way down the High Street, deeplycogitating in his mind his ways and means of paying certain arrears of rent, for which hislandlord had become rather pressing. Mr. Gamfield's most sanguine estimate of his financescould not raise them within full five pounds of the desired amount; and, in a species ofarthimetical desperation, he was alternately cudgelling his brains and his donkey, when

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passing the workhouse, his eyes encountered the bill on the gate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Decidedly not,' added the other members.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Pooh! pooh! nonsense!' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. 'He'd be cheap withnothing at all, as a premium. Take him, you silly fellow! He's just the boy for you. He wantsthe stick, now and then: it'll do him good; and his board needn't come very expensive, for hehasn't been overfed since he was born. Ha! ha! ha!'

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

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

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

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

'Yes, Oliver,' said Mr. Bumble. 'The kind and blessed gentleman which is so amnyparents to you, Oliver, when you have none of your own: are a going to 'prentice you: and toset you up in life, and make a man of you: although the expense to the parish is three poundten! – three pound ten, Oliver! – seventy shillins – one hundred and forty sixpences! – andall for a naughty orphan which noboday can't love.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old gentleman who was reading the newspaper raised his head for a moment, andpulled the other old gentleman by the sleeve; whereupon, the last−mentioned old gentlemanwoke up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Stand a little away from him, Beadle,' said the other magistrate: laying aside the paper,and leaning forward with an expression of interest. 'Now, boy, tell us what's the matter: don'tbe afraid.'

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

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

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

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

'Yes. Hold your tongue.'

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

The old gentleman in the tortoise−shell spectacles looked at his companion, he noddedsignificantly.

'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 thatthe authorities have been guilty of any improper conduct, on the unsupported testimony of achild.'

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

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

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

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CHAPTER Iv − Oliver, Being offered another place, Makes Hisfirst entry into public LIFE

I n great families, when an advantageous place cannot be obtained, either in possession,

reversion, remainder, or expectancy, for the young man who is growing up, it is a verygeneral custom to send him to sea. The board, in imitation of so wise and salutary anexample, took counsel together on the expediency of shipping off Oliver Twist, in somesmall trading vessel bound to a good unhealthy port. This suggested itself as the very bestthing that could possibly be done with him: the probability being, that the skipper wouldflog him to death, in a playful mood, some day after dinner, or would knock his brains outwith an iron bar; both pastimes being, as is pretty generally known, very favourite andcommon recreations among gentleman of that class. The more the case presented itself to theboard, in this point of view, the more manifold the advantages of the step appeared; so, theycame to the conclusion that the only way of providing for Oliver effectually, was to sendhim to sea without delay.

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

Mr. Sowerberry was a tall gaunt, large−jointed man, attired in a suit of threadbare black,with darned cotton stockings of the same colour, and shoes to answer. His features were notnaturally intended to wear a smiling aspect, but he was in general rather given toprofessional jocosity. His step was elastic, and his face betokened inward pleasantry, as headvanced to Mr. Bumble, and shook him cordially by the hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Just so,' said Mr. Bumble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Bumble nodded.

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

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

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

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

'So they are,' said the undertaker.

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

'No more they have,' acquiesced the undertaker.

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

'So do I,' rejoined the undertaker.

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

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

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

'Well; what about the boy?'

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

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

'Well,' replied the undertaker, 'I was thinking that if I pay so much towards 'em, I've aright to get as much out of 'em as I can, Mr. Bumble; and so – I think I'll take the boymyself.'

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

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

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

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

'Oliver!' said Mr. Bumble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Ah! I dare say he will,' replied the lady pettishly, 'on our victuals and our drink. I see nosaving in parish children, not I; for they always cost more to keep, than they're worth.However, men always think they know best. There! Get downstairs, little bag o' bones.' Withthis, the undertaker's wife opened a side door, and pushed Oliver down a steep flight ofstairs into a stone cell, damp and dark: forming the ante−room to the coal−cellar, anddenominated 'kitchen'; wherein sat a slatternly girl, in shoes down at heel, and blue worstedstockings very much out of repair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHAPTER V − OLIVER Mingles with new associates. Going To afuneral for the first time, HE Forms an unfavourable notion of

his MASTER'S BUSINESS

Oliver, being left to himself in the undertaker's shop, set the lamp down on a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'How old are yer?' inquired the voice.

'Ten, sir,' replied Oliver.

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

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

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

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

'I kicked,' replied the charity−boy.

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

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

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

'No, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'I'm Mister Noah Claypole,' said the charity−boy, 'and you're under me. Take down theshutters, yer idle young ruffian!' With this, Mr. Claypole administered a kick to Oliver, andentered the shop with a dignified air, which did him great credit. It is difficult for alarge−headed, small−eyed youth, of lumbering make and heavy countenance, to lookdignified under any circ*mstances; but it is more especially so, when superadded to these

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personal attractions are a red nose and yellow smalls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noah was a charity−boy, but not a workhouse orphan. No chance−child was he, for hecould trace his genealogy all the way back to his parents, who lived hard by; his motherbeing a washerwoman, and his father a drunken soldier, discharged with a wooden leg, and adiurnal pension of twopence−halfpenny and an unstateable fraction. The shop−boys in theneighbourhood had long been in the habit of branding Noah in the public streets, with theignominious epithets of 'leathers,' 'charity,' and the like; and Noah had bourne them withoutreply. But, now that fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphan, at whom even themeanest could point the finger of scorn, he retorted on him with interest. This affordscharming food for contemplation. It shows us what a beautiful thing human nature may bemade to be; and how impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lordand the dirtiest charity−boy.

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

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

'Well,' said Mrs. Sowerberry, sharply.

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

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

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

'Oh, don't tell me what you were going to say,' interposed Mrs. Sowerberry. 'I amnobody; don't consult me, pray. I don't want to intrude upon your secrets.' As Mrs.Sowerberry said this, she gave an hysterical laugh, which threatened violent consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Sowerberry, who had a good deal of taste in the undertaking way, was much struckby the novelty of this idea; but, as it would have been compromising her dignity to have said

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so, under existing circ*mstances, she merely inquired, with much sharpness, why such anobvious suggestion had not presented itself to her husband's mind before? Mr. Sowerberryrightly construed this, as an acquiescence in his proposition; it was speedily determined,therefore, that Oliver should be at once initiated into the mysteries of the trade; and, withthis view, that he should accompany his master on the very next occasion of his servicesbeing required.

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

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

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

'Bayton,' said the undertaker, looking from the scrap of paper to Mr. Bumble. 'I neverheard the name before.'

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

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

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

'So it is,' asquiesced the undertaker.

'We only heard of the family the night before last,' said the beadle; 'and we shouldn'thave known anything about them, then, only a woman who lodges in the same house madean application to the porochial committee for them to send the porochial surgeon to see awoman as was very bad. He had gone out to dinner; but his 'prentice (which is a very cleverlad) sent 'em some medicine in a blacking−bottle, offhand.'

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

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

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blackin'−bottle in, – and he sends back word that she shan't take it, sir!'

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

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

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

Thus saying, Mr. Bumble put on his co*cked hat wrong side first, in a fever of parochialexcietment; and flounced out of the shop.

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

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

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

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

They walked on, for some time, through the most crowded and densely inhabited part ofthe town; and then, striking down a narrow street more dirty and miserable than any theyhad yet passed through, paused to look for the house which was the object of their search.The houses on either side were high and large, but very old, and tenanted by people of thepoorest class: as their neglected appearance would have sufficiently dentoed, without theconcurrent testimony afforded by the squalid looks of the few men and women who, withfolded arms and bodies half doubled, occasionally skulked along. A great many of thetenements had shop−fronts; but these were fast closed, and mouldering away; only the upperrooms being inhabited. Some houses which had become insecure from age and decay, wereprevented from falling into the street, by huge beams of wood reared against the walls, andfirmly planted in the road; but even these crazy dens seemed to have been selected as thenightly haunts of some houseless wretches, for many of the rough boards which supplied the

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place of door and window, were wrenched from their positions, to afford an aperture wideenough for the passage of a human body. The kennel was stagnant and filthy. The very rats,which here and there lay putrefying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Ah!' said the man: bursting into tears, and sinking on his knees at the feet of the deadwoman; 'kneel down, kneel down – kneel round her, every one of you, and mark my words!I say she was starved to death. I never knew how bad she was, till the fever came upon her;and then her bones were starting through the skin. There was neither fire nor candle; shedied in the dark – in the dark! She couldn't even see her children's faces, though we heard

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her gasping out their names. I begged for her in the streets: and they sent me to prison.When I came back, she was dying; and all the blood in my heart has dried up, for theystarved her to death. I swear it before the God that saw it! They starved her!' He twined hishands in his hair; and, with a loud scream, rolled grovelling upon the floor: his eyes fixed,and the foam covering his lips.

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

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

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

'Stop, stop!' said the old woman in a loud whisper. 'Will she be buried to−morrow, ornext day, or to−night? I laid her out; and I must walk, you know. Send me a large cloak: agood warm one: for it is bitter cold. We should have cake and wine, too, before we go!Never mind; send some bread – only a loaf of bread and a cup of water. Shall we have somebread, dear?' she said eagerly:

catching at the undertaker's coat, as he once more moved towards the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Come, my good fellow!' said Bumble, tapping the man on the back.

'They want to shut up the yard.'

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

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

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

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

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

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CHAPTER Vi − Oliver, Being goaded by the taunts ofnoah, Rouses Into action, AND Rather astonishes HIM

The month's trial over, Oliver was formally apprenticed. It was a nice sickly season just

at this time. In commercial phrase, coffins were looking up; and, in the course of a fewweeks, Oliver acquired a great deal of experience. The success of Mr. Sowerberry'singenious speculation, exceeded even his most sanguine hopes. The oldest inhabitantsrecollected no period at which measles had been so prevalent, or so fatal to infant existence;and many were the mournful processions which little Oliver headed, in a hat−band reachingdown to his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the mothers in thetown. As Oliver accompanied his master in most of his adult expeditions too, in order thathe might acquire that equanimity of demeanour and full command of nerve which wasessential to a finished undertaker, he had many opportunities of observing the beautifulresignation 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 orgentleman, who was surrounded by a great number of nephews and nieces, who had beenperfectly inconsolable during the previous illness, and whose grief had been whollyirrepressible even on the most public occasions, they would be as happy among themselvesas need be – quite cheerful and contented – conversing together with as much freedom andgaiety, as if nothing whatever had happened to disturb them. Husbands, too, bore the loss oftheir wives with the most heroic calmness. Wives, again, put on weeds for their husbands, asif, so far from grieving in the garb of sorrow, they had made up their minds to render it asbecoming and attractive as possible. It was observable, too, that ladies and gentlemen whowere in passions of anguish during the ceremony of interment, recovered almost as soon asthey reached home, and became quite composed before the tea−drinking was over. All thiswas very pleasant and improving to see; and Oliver beheld it with great admiration.

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

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

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

Intent upon this innocent amusem*nt, Noah put his feet on the table−cloth; and pulledOliver's hair; and twitched his ears; and expressed his opinion that he was a 'sneak'; andfurthermore announced his intention of coming to see him hanged, whenever that desirableevent should take place; and entered upon various topics of petty annoyance, like amalicious and ill−conditioned charity−boy as he was. But, making Oliver cry, Noahattempted to be more facetious still; and in his attempt, did what many sometimes do to thisday, when they want to be funny. He got rather personal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected creature that harshtreatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last; the cruel insult to his dead motherhad set his blood on fire. His breast heaved; his attitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid;his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now laycrouching 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 murderingof me! Help! help! Oliver's gone mad! Char – lotte!'

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

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

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

This was rather too violent exercise to last long. When they were all wearied out, andcould tear and beat no longer, they dragged Oliver, struggling and shouting, but nothing

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daunted, into the dust−cellar, and there locked him up. This being done, Mrs. Sowerberrysunk into a chair, and burst into tears.

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

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

'Ah! mercy indeed, ma'am,' was the reply. I only hope this'll teach master not to haveany more of these dreadful creatures, that are born to be murderers and robbers from theirvery cradle.

Poor Noah! He was all but killed, ma'am, when I come in.'

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

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

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

'Dear, dear! I don't know, ma'am,' said Charlotte, 'unless we send for thepolice−officers.'

'Or the millingtary,' suggested Mr. Claypole.

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

It'll keep the swelling down.'

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

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CHAPTER Vii − Oliver Continues REFRACTORY

Noah Claypole ran along the streets at his swiftest pace, and paused not once for

breath, until he reached the workhouse−gate. Having rested here, for a minute or so, tocollect a good burst of sobs and an imposing show of tears and terror, he knocked loudly atthe wicket; and presented such a rueful face to the aged pauper who opened it, that even he,who saw nothing but rueful faces about him at the best of times, started back inastonishment.

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

'Mr. Bumble! Mr. Bumble!' cried Noah, wit well−affected dismay: and in tones so loudand agitated, that they not only caught the ear of Mr. Bumble himself, who happened to behard by, but alarmed him so much that he rushed into the yard without his co*cked hat, –which is a very curious and remarkable circ*mstance: as showing that even a beadle, actedupon a sudden and powerful impulse, may be afflicted with a momentary visitation of lossof self−possession, and forgetfulness of personal dignity.

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

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

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

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

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

The gentleman's notice was very soon attracted; for he had not walked three paces,when he turned angrily round, and inquired what that young cur was howling for, and why

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Mr. Bumble did not favour him with something which would render the series of vocularexclamations so designated, an involuntary process?

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

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

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

'And his missis,' interposed Mr. Claypole.

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

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

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

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

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

'No, I will not, sir,' replied the beadle. And the co*cked hat and cane having been, by thistime, adjusted to their owner's satisfaction, Mr. Bumble and Noah Claypole betookthemselves with all speed to the undertaker's shop.

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

'Oliver!'

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

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

'Yes,' replied Oliver.

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

'No!' replied Oliver, boldly.

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

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

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

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

'What?' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'He called my mother names,' replied Oliver.

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

'She didn't' said Oliver.

'She did,' said Mrs. Sowerberry.

'It's a lie!' said Oliver.

Mrs. Sowerberry burst into a flood of tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Nobody but me,' replied the child.

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

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

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

'I hope so,' replied the child. 'After I am dead, but not before. I know the doctor must beright, Oliver, because I dream so much of Heaven, and Angels, and kind faces that I neversee when I am awake. Kiss me,' said the child, climbing up the low gate, and flinging hislittle arms round Oliver's neck. 'Good−b'ye, dear! God bless you!'

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

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CHAPTER Viii − Oliver Walks to london. He encounters on theroad a strange sort of young GENTLEMAN

Oliver reached the stile at which the by−path terminated; and once more gained the

high−road. It was eight o'clock now. Though he was nearly five miles away from the town,he ran, and hid behind the hedges, by turns, till noon: fearing that he might be pursued andovertaken. Then he sat down to rest by the side of the milestone, and began to think, for thefirst time, where he had better go and try to live.

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

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

He had diminished the distance between himself and London by full four miles more,before he recollected how much he must undergo ere he could hope to reach his place ofdestination. As this consideration forced itself upon him, he slackened his pace a little, andmeditated upon his means of getting there. He had a crust of bread, a coarse shirt, and twopairs of stockings, in his bundle. He had a penny too – a gift of Sowerberry's after somefuneral in which he had acquitted himself more than ordinarily well – in his pocket. 'A cleanshirt,' 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.' ButOliver's thoughts, like those of most other people, although they were extremely ready andactive to point out his difficulties, were wholly at a loss to suggest any feasible mode ofsurmounting them; so, after a good deal of thinking to no particular purpose, he changed hislittle bundle over to the other shoulder, and trudged on.

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

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

He waited at the bottom of a steep hill till a stage−coach came up, and then begged ofthe outside passengers; but there were very few who took any notice of him: and even thosetold him to wait till they got to the top of the hill, and then let them see how far he could runfor a halfpenny. Poor Oliver tried to keep up with the coach a little way, but was unable todo it, by reason of his fatigue and sore feet. When the outsides saw this, they put theirhalfpence back into their pockets again, declaring that he was an idle young dog, and didn'tdeserve anything; and the coach rattled away and left only a cloud of dust behind.

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

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

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

By degrees, the shutters were opened; the window−blinds were drawn up; and peoplebegan passing to and fro. Some few stopped to gaze at Oliver for a moment or two, or turned

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round to stare at him as they hurried by; but none relieved him, or troubled themselves toinquire 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 ofpublic−houses (every other house in Barnet was a tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly atthe coaches as they passed through, and thinking how strange it seemed that they could do,with ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage and determinationbeyond his years to accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boy, who hadpassed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned, and was now surveying him mostearnestly from the opposite side of the way. He took little heed of this at first; but the boyremained in the same attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver raised his head, andreturned his steady look. Upon this, the boy crossed over; and walking close up to Oliver,said

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

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

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

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

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

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

'My eyes, how green!' exclaimed the young gentleman. 'Why, a beak's a madgst'rate;and when you walk by a beak's order, it's not straight forerd, but always agoing up, and niver

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a coming down agin. Was you never on the mill?'

'What mill?' inquired Oliver.

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

Morrice!'

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

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

'Yes.'

'Got any lodgings?'

'No.'

'Money?'

'No.'

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

'Do you live in London?' inquired Oliver.

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

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

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'Don't fret your eyelids on that score.' said the young gentleman. 'I've got to be inLondon to−night; and I know a 'spectable old gentleman as lives there, wot'll give youlodgings for nothink, and never ask for the change – that is, if any genelman he knowsinterduces you. And don't he know me? Oh, no!

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

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

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

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

As John Dawkins objected to their entering London before nightfall, it was nearlyeleven o'clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington. They crossed from the Angelinto St. John's Road; struck down the small street which terminates at Sadler's WellsTheatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice Row; down the little court by the side of theworkhouse; 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 Dodgerscudded at a rapid pace, directing Oliver to follow close at his heels.

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

There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heapsof children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, orscreaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of

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the place, were the public−houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wranglingwith might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the mainstreet, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positivelywallowing in filth; and from several of the door−ways, great ill−looking fellows werecautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well−disposed or harmlesserrands.

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

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

'Plummy and slam!' was the reply.

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

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

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

'Where did he come from?'

'Greenland. Is fa*gin upstairs?'

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

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

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

The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age and dirt. There was adeal table before the fire: upon which were a candle, stuck in a ginger−beer bottle, two orthree pewter pots, a loaf and butter, and a plate. In a frying−pan, which was on the fire, andwhich was secured to the mantelshelf by a string, some sausages were cooking; and standingover them, with a toasting−fork in his hand, was a very old shrivelled Jew, whosevillainous−looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was

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dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare; and seemed to be dividing hisattention between the frying−pan and the clothes−horse, over which a great number of silkhandkerchiefsl were hanging. Several rough beds made of old sacks, were huddled side byside on the floor. Seated round the table were four or five boys, none older than the Dodger,smoking long clay pipes, and drinking spirits with the air of middle−aged men. These allcrowded about their associate as he whispered a few words to the Jew; and then turnedround and grinned at Oliver. So did the Jew himself, toasting−fork in hand.

'This is him, fa*gin,' said Jack Dawkins; 'my friend Oliver Twist.'

The Jew grinned; and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him by the hand, andhoped he should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance. Upon this, the younggentleman with the pipes came round him, and shook both his hands very hard – especiallythe one in which he held his little bundle. One young gentleman was very anxious to hangup his cap for him; and another was so obliging as to put his hands in his pockets, in orderthat, as he was very tired, he might not have the trouble of emptying them, himself, when hewent to bed. These civilities would probably be extended much farther, but for a liberalexercise of the Jew's toasting−fork on the heads and shoulders of the affectionate youthswho offered them.

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

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

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

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CHAPTER Ix − Containing Further particulars concerning thepleasant old gentleman, AND His hopeful PUPILS

I t was late next morning when Oliver awoke, from a sound, long sleep. There was no

other person in the room but the old Jew, who was boiling some coffee in a saucepan forbreakfast, and whistling softly to himself as he stirred it round and round, with an ironspoon. He would stop every now and then to listen when there was the least noise below:and when he had satistified himself, he would go on whistling and stirring again, as before.

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

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

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

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

'Aha!' said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting every feature with ahideous grin. 'Clever dogs! Clever dogs! Staunch to the last! Never told the old parsonwhere they were. Never poached upon old fa*gin! And why should they? It wouldn't haveloosened the knot, or kept the drop up, a minute longer. No, no, no! Fine fellows! Finefellows!'

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

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

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

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

He closed the lid of the box with a loud crash; and, laying his hand on a bread knifewhich was on the table, started furiously up. He trembled very much though; for, even in histerror, 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? Whathave you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick – quick! for your life.

'I wasn't able to sleep any longer, sir,' replied Oliver, meekly.

'I am very sorry if I have disturbed you, sir.'

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

'No! No, indeed!' replied Oliver.

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

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

'Tush, tush, my dear!' said the Jew, abruptly resuming his old manner, and playing withthe knife a little, before he laid it down; as if to induce the belief that he had caught it up, inmere sport. 'Of course I know that, my dear. I only tried to frighten you. You're a brave boy.

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Ha! ha! you're a brave boy, Oliver.' The Jew rubbed his hands with a chuckle, but glanceduneasily at the box, notwithstanding.

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

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Hard,' replied the Dodger.

'As nails,' added Charley Bates.

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

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

'Lined?' inquired the Jew, with eagerness.

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'Pretty well,' replied the Dodger, producing two pocket−books; one green, and the otherred.

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

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

'And what have you got, my dear?' said fa*gin to Charley Bates.

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

'Well,' said the Jew, inspecting them closely; 'they're very good ones, very. You haven'tmarked them well, though, Charley; so the marks shall be picked out with a needle, and we'llteach Oliver how to do it. Shall us, Oliver, eh? Ha! ha! ha!'

'If you please, sir,' said Oliver.

'You'd like to be able to make pocket−handkerchiefs as easy as Charley Bates, wouldn'tyou, my dear?' said the Jew.

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

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

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

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

When the breakfast was cleared away; the merry old gentlman and the two boys playedat a very curious and uncommon game, which was performed in this way. The merry oldgentleman, placing a snuff−box in one pocket of his trousers, a note−case in the other, and awatch in his waistcoat pocket, with a guard−chain round his neck, and sticking a mockdiamond pin in his shirt: buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his spectacle−case

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and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the room with a stick, in imitation ofthe manner in which old gentlmen walk about the streets any hour in the day. Sometimes hestopped at the fire−place, and sometimes at the door, making believe that he was staringwith all his might into shop−windows. At such times, he would look constantly round him,for fear of thieves, and would keep slapping all his pockets in turn, to see that he hadn't lostanything, in such a very funny and natural manner, that Oliver laughed till the tears randown his face. All this time, the two boys followed him closely about: getting out of hissight, so nimbly, every time he turned round, that it was impossible to follow their motions.At last, the Dodger trod upon his toes, or ran upon his boot accidently, while Charley Batesstumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they took from him, with the mostextraordinary rapidity, snuff−box, note−case, watch−guard, chain, shirt−pin,pocket−handkerchief, even the spectacle−case. If the old gentlman felt a hand in any one ofhis pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game began all over again.

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

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

'There, my dear,' said fa*gin. 'That's a pleasant life, isn't it?

They have gone out for the day.'

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

'Yes,' said the Jew; 'that is, unless they should unexpectedly come across any, when theyare out; and they won't neglect it, if they do, my dear, depend upon it. Make 'em yourmodels, my dear.

Make 'em your models,' tapping the fire−shovel on the hearth to add force to his words;'do everything they bid you, and take their advice in all matters – especially the Dodger's,my dear. He'll be a great man himself, and will make you one too, if you take pattern byhim. – Is my handkerchief hanging out of my pocket, my dear?' said the Jew, stopping short.

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'Yes, sir,' said Oliver.

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

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

'Is it gone?' cried the Jew.

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

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

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

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CHAPTER X − OLIVER Becomes better acquainted with thecharacters of his new associates; AND Purchases experience at

a high price. Being A short, BUT Very important chapter, INThis HISTORY

For many days, Oliver remained in the Jew's room, picking the marks out of the

pocket−handkerchief, (of which a great number were brought home,) and sometimes takingpart in the game already described: which the two boys and the Jew played, regularly, everymorning. At length, he began to languish for fresh air, and took many occasions of earnestlyentreating the old gentleman to allow him to go out to work with his two companions.

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

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

The three boys sallied out; the Dodger with his coat−sleeves tucked up, and his hatco*cked, as usual; Master Bates sauntering along with his hands in his pockets; and Oliverbetween them, wondering where they were going, and what branch of manufacture he wouldbe instructed in, first.

The pace at which they went, was such a very lazy, ill−looking saunter, that Oliver soonbegan to think his companions were going to deceive the old gentleman, by not going towork at all. The Dodger had a vicious propensity, too, of pulling the caps from the heads ofsmall boys and tossing them down areas; while Charley Bates exhibited some very loosenotions concerning the rights of property, by pilfering divers apples and onions from thestalls at the kennel sides, and thrusting them into pockets which were so surprisinglycapacious, that they seemed to undermine his whole suit of clothes in every direction. Thesethings looked so bad, that Oliver was on the point of declaring his intention of seeking hisway back, in the best way he could; when his thoughts were suddenly directed into anotherchannel, by a very mysterious change of behaviour on the part of the Dodger.

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They were just emerging from a narrow court not far from the open square inClerkenwell, which is yet called, by some strange perversion of terms, 'The Green': when theDodger made a sudden stop; and, laying his finger on his lip, drew his companions backagain, with the greatest caution and circ*mspection.

'What's the matter?' demanded Oliver.

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

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

'He'll do,' said the Doger.

'A prime plant,' observed Master Charley Bates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the hue−and−cry. TheDodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract public attention by running down the openstreet, had merely retured into the very first doorway round the corner. They no sooner heardthe cry, and saw Oliver running, than, guessing exactly how the matter stood, they issuedforth with great promptitude; and, shouting 'Stop thief!' too, joined in the pursuit like goodcitizens.

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

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

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' The cry is taken up by a hundred voices, and the crowdaccumulate at every turning. Away they fly, splashing through the mud, and rattling alongthe pavements:

up go the windows, out run the people, onward bear the mob, a whole audience desertPunch in the very thickest of the plot, and, joining the rushing throng, swell the shout, andlend fresh vigour to the cry, 'Stop thief! Stop thief!'

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a passion For hunting something deeply implanted inthe human breast. One wretched breathless child, panting with exhaustion; terror in hislooks; agaony in his eyes; large drops of perspiration streaming down his face; strains everynerve to make head upon his pursuers; and as they follow on his track, and gain upon himevery instant, they hail his decreasing strength with joy. 'Stop thief!' Ay, stop him for God'ssake, were it only in mercy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Come, get up!'

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

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

Oliver, who could hardly stand, made a shift to raise himself on his feet, and was atonce lugged along the streets by the jacket−collar, at a rapid pace. The gentleman walked on

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with them by the officer's side; and as many of the crowd as could achieve the feat, got alittle ahead, and stared back at Oliver from time to time. The boys shouted in triumph; andon they went.

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CHAPTER Xi − Treats Of mr. Fang The police magistrate; ANDFurnishes a slight specimen of his mode of

administering JUSTICE

The offence had been committed within the district, and indeed in the immediate

neighborhood of, a very notorious metropolitan police office. The crowd had only thesatisfaction of accompanying Oliver through two or three streets, and down a place calledMutton Hill, when he was led beneath a low archway, and up a dirty court, into thisdispensary of summary justice, by the back way. It was a small paved yard into which theyturned; and here they encountered a stout man with a bunch of whiskers on his face, and abunch of keys in his hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Who are you?' said Mr. Fang.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What!' exclaimed the old gentleman, reddening.

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

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Mr. Brownlow's indignaton was greatly roused; but reflecting perhaps, that he mightonly injure the boy by giving vent to it, he suppressed his feelings and submitted to be swornat once.

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

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

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

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

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

'None, your worship,' replied the policeman.

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

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

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

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

'He has been hurt already,' said the old gentleman in conclusion.

'And I fear,' he added, with great energy, looking towards the bar, 'I really fear that he isill.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I know better,' said Mr. Fang.

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

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

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

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

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

'Summarily,' replied Mr. Fang. 'He stands committed for three months – hard labour ofcourse. Clear the office.'

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

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

Although the presiding Genii in such an office as this, exercise a summary and arbitrarypower over the liberties, the good name, the character, almost the lives, of Her Majesty'ssubjects, expecially of the poorer class; and although, within such walls, enough fantastictricks are daily played to make the angels blind with weeping; they are closed to the public,save through the medium of the daily press.(Footnote: Or were virtually, then.) Mr. Fangwas consequently not a little indignant to see an unbidden guest enter in such irreverentdisorder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clear the office!'

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

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

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

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

'Bless me, yes, my dear sir,' said Mr. Brownlow quickly. 'I forgot you. Dear, dear! Ihave 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.

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CHAPTER Xii − IN Which oliver is taken better care of than heever was before. AND In which the narrative reverts to the merry

old gentleman and his youthful FRIENDS.

The coach rattled away, over nearly the same ground as that which Oliver had traversed

when he first entered London in company with the Dodger; and, turning a different waywhen it reached the Angel at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house, in a quietshady street near Pentonville. Here, a bed was prepared, without loss of time, in which Mr.Brownlow saw his young charge carefully and comfortably deposited; and here, he wastended with a kindness and solicitude that knew no bounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'No, sir,' answered Oliver.

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

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

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

'No, sir,' replied Oliver.

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'No,' said the doctor, with a very shrewd and satisfied look. 'You're not sleepy. Northirsty. Are you?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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much better, forthwith began to cry most violently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Whose, ma'am?' asked Oliver.

'Why, really, my dear, I don't know,' answered the old lady in a good−humouredmanner. 'It's not a likeness of anybody that you or I know, I expect. It seems to strike yourfancy, dear.'

'It is so pretty,' replied Oliver.

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

'Oh no, no,' returned Oliver quickly; 'but the eyes look so sorrowful; and where I sit,they seem fixed upon me. It makes my heart beat,' added Oliver in a low voice, 'as if it was

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alive, and wanted to speak to me, but couldn't.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'No, sir, Twist, Oliver Twist.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That when the Dodger, and his accomplished friend Master Bates, joined in thehue−and−cry which was raised at Oliver's heels, in consequence of their executing an illegalconveyance of Mr. Brownlow's personal property, as has been already described, they wereactuated by a very laudable and becoming regard for themselves; and forasmuch as thefreedom of the subject and the liberty of the individual are among the first and proudestboasts of a true−hearted Englishman, so, I need hardly beg the reader to observe, that thisaction should tend to exalt them in the opinion of all public and patriotic men, in almost as

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great a degree as this strong proof of their anxiety for their own preservation and safety goesto corroborate and confirm the little code of laws which certain profound and sound−judgingphilosophers have laid down as the main−springs of all Nature's deeds and actions: the saidphilosophers very wisely reducing the good lady's proceedings to matters of maxim andtheory: and, by a very neat and pretty compliment to her exalted wisdom and understanding,putting entirely out of sight any considerations of heart, or generous impulse and feeling.For, these are matters totally beneath a female who is acknowledged by universal admissionto 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 theseyoung gentlemen in their very delicate predicament, I should at once find it in the fact (alsorecorded in a foregoing part of this narrative), of their quitting the pursuit, when the generalattention was fixed upon Oliver; and making immediately for their home by the shortestpossible cut. Although I do not mean to assert that it is usually the practice of renowned andlearned sages, to shorten the road to any great conclusion (their course indeed being rather tolengthen the distance, by various circumlocations and discursive staggerings, like unto thosein which drunken men under the pressure of a too mighty flow of ideas, are prone toindulge); still, I do mean to say, and do say distinctly, that it is the invariable practice ofmany mighty philosophers, in carrying out their theories, to evince great wisdom andforesight in providing against every possible contingency which can be supposed at all likelyto affect themselves. Thus, to do a great right, you may do a little wrong; and you may takeany means which the end to be attained, will justify; the amount of the right, or the amountof the wrong, or indeed the distinction between the two, being left entirely to the philosopherconcerned, to be settled and determined by his clear, comprehensive, and impartial view ofhis own particular case.

It was not until the two boys had scoured, with great rapidity, through a most intricatemaze of narrow streets and courts, that they ventured to halt beneath a low and darkarchway. Having remained silent here, just long enough to recover breath to speak, masterb*tes uttered an exclamation of amusem*nt and delight; and, bursting into an uncontrollablefit of laughter, flung himself upon a doorstep, and rolled thereon in a transport of mirth.

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

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

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

'I can't help it,' said Charley, 'I can't help it! To see him splitting away at that pace, andcutting round the corners, and knocking up again' the posts, and starting on again as if hewas made of iron as well as them, and me with the wipe in my pocket, singing out arter him– oh, my eye!' The vivid imagination of Master Bates presented the scene before him in too

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strong colours. As he arrived at this apostrophe, he again rolled upon the door−step, andlaughed louder than before.

'What'll fa*gin say?' inquired the Dodger; taking advantage of the next interval ofbreathlessness on the part of his friend to propound the question.

'What?' repeated Charley Bates.

'Ah, what?' said the Dodger.

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

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

'What do you mean?' said Charley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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matters are related, Appertaining To this HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!' growled a deep voice. 'Who pitched that 'ereat me? It's well it's the beer, and not the pot, as hit me, or I'd have settled somebody. I mighthave know'd, as nobody but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew could afford tothrow away any drink but water – and not that, unless he done the River Company everyquarter. Wot's it all about, fa*gin? D – me, if my neck−handkercher an't lined with beer!Come in, you sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping outside for, as if you was ashamed ofyour master! Come in!'

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The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly−built fellow of aboutfive−and−thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace−up half boots, andgrey cotton stockings which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves; – thekind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete statewithout a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcherhandkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer fromhis face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with abeard of three days' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed variousparti−coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Well, well, then – Bill Sikes,' said the Jew, with abject humility. 'You seem out ofhumour, Bill.'

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

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

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

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

This was said in jest; but if the speaker could have seen the evil leer with which the Jewbit his pale lip as he turned round to the cupboard, he might have thought the caution notwholly unnecessary, or the wish (at all events) to improve upon the distiller's ingenuity notvery far from the old gentleman's merry heart.

After swallowing two of three glasses of spirits, Mr. Sikes condescended to take somenotice of the young gentlemen; which gracious act led to a conversation, in which the causeand manner of Oliver's capture were circ*mstantially detailed, with such alterations andimprovements on the truth, as to the Dodger appeared most advisable under thecirc*mstances.

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

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

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

The man started, and turned round upon the Jew. But the old gentleman's shoulderswere 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 inhis own reflections; not excepting the dog, who by a certain malicious licking of his lipsseemed to be meditating an attack upon the legs of the first gentleman or lady he mightencounter in the streets when he went out.

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

The Jew nodded assent.

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

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Again the Jew nodded.

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

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

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

'Wheres?' inquired the young lady.

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

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

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

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

'That it won't do; so it's no use a−trying it on, fa*gin,' replied Nancy.

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

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

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

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

'She'll go, fa*gin,' said Sikes.

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'No, she won't, fa*gin,' said Nancy.

'Yes, she will, fa*gin,' said Sikes.

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

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

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

'Give her a door−key to carry in her t'other one, fa*gin,' said Sikes; 'it looks real andgenivine like.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Well!' cried a faint and feeble voice.

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

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

This was a vagrant of sixty−five, who was going to prison for NOT playing the flute; or,in other words, for begging in the streets, and doing nothing for his livelihood. In the nextcell was another man, who was going to the same prison for hawking tin saucepans withoutlicense; thereby doing something for his living, in defiance of the Stamp−office.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Bill Sikes no sooner heard the account of the expedition delivered, than he veryhastily called up the white dog, and, putting on his hat, expeditiously departed: withoutdevoting any time to the formality of wishing the company good−morning.

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

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

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

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

'What now?' cried the Jew impatiently.

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

'Yes,' replied the Jew, 'wherever she lays hands on him. Find him, find him out, that'sall. 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 toblab us among his new friends, we may stop his mouth yet.'

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CHAPTER Xiii − Some New acquaintances are introduced to the intelligent reader, Connected With whom various pleasant matters are related, Appertaining To this HISTORY88

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CHAPTER Xiv − Comprising Further particulars of OLIVER'SStay at mr. BROWNLOW'S, With the remarkable prediction whichone mr. Grimwig Uttered concerning him, When He went out on

an ERRAND

Oliver soon recovering from the fainting−fit into which Mr. Brownlow's abrupt

exclamation had thrown him, the subject of the picture was carefully avoided, both by theold gentleman and Mrs. Bedwin, in the conversation that ensued: which indeed bore noreference to Oliver's history or prospects, but was confined to such topics as might amusewithout exciting him. He was still too weak to get up to breakfast; but, when he came downinto the housekeeper's room next day, his first act was to cast an eager glance at the wall, inthe hope of again looking on the face of the beautiful lady. His expectations weredisappointed, however, for the picture had been removed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver considered a little while; and at last said, he should think it would be a muchbetter thing to be a book−seller; upon which the old gentleman laughed heartily, anddeclared he had said a very good thing. Which Oliver felt glad to have done, though he byno means knew what it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At this moment, there walked into the room: supporting himself by a thick stick: a stoutold gentleman, rather lame in one leg, who was dressed in a blue coat, striped waistcoat,nankeen breeches and gaiters, and a broad−brimmed white hat, with the sides turned up withgreen. A very small−plaited shirt frill stuck out from his waistcoat; and a very long steelwatch−chain, with nothing but a key at the end, dangled loosely below it. The ends of hiswhite neckerchief were twisted into a ball about the size of an orange; the variety of shapes

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into which his countenance was twisted, defy description. He had a manner of screwing hishead on one side when he spoke; and of looking out of the corners of his eyes at the sametime: which irresistibly reminded the beholder of a parrot. In this attitude, he fixed himself,the moment he made his appearance; and, holding out a small piece of orange−peel at arm'slength, exclaimed, in a growling, discontented voice.

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

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

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

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

Oliver bowed.

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

'No, no, he has not had one,' said Mr. Brownlow, laughing. 'Come! Put down your hat;and speak to my young friend.'

'I feel strongly on this subject, sir,' said the irritable old gentleman, drawing off hisgloves. 'There's always more or less orange−peel on the pavement in our street; and Iknow it's put there by the surgeon's boy at the corner. A young woman stumbled over a bitlast night, and fell against my garden−railings; directly she got up I saw her look towards hisinfernal 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 gentlemangave a great knock on the ground with his stick; which was always understood, by hisfriends, to imply the customary offer, whenever it was not expressed in words. Then, still

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keeping his stick in his hand, he sat down; and, opening a double eye−glass, which he woreattached to a broad black riband, took a view of Oliver: who, seeing that he was the object ofinspection, coloured, and bowed again.

'That's the boy, is it?' said Mr. Grimwig, at length.

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

'How are you, boy?' said Mr. Grimwig.

'A great deal better, thank you, sir,' replied Oliver.

Mr Brownlow, seeming to apprehend that his singular friend was about to saysomething disagreeable, asked Oliver to step downstairs and tell Mrs. Bedwin they wereready for tea; which, as he did not half like the visitor's manner, he was very happy to do.

'He is a nice−looking boy, is he not?' inquired Mr. Brownlow.

'I don't know,' replied Mr. Grimwig, pettishly.

'Don't know?'

'No. I don't know. I never see any difference in boys. I only knew two sort of boys.Mealy boys, and beef−faced boys.'

'And which is Oliver?'

'Mealy. I know a friend who has a beef−faced boy; a fine boy, they call him; with around head, and red cheeks, and glaring eyes; a horrid boy; with a body and limbs thatappear to be swelling out of the seams of his blue clothes; with the voice of a pilot, and theappetite of a wolf. I know him! The wretch!'

'Come,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'these are not the characteristics of young Oliver Twist; sohe needn't excite your wrath.'

'They are not,' replied Mr. Grimwig. 'He may have worse.'

Here, Mr. Brownlow coughed impatiently; which appeared to afford Mr. Grimwig themost exquisite delight.

'He may have worse, I say,' repeated Mr. Grimwig. 'Where does he come from! Who ishe? What is he? He has had a fever. What of that? Fevers are not peculiar to good peope; arethey? Bad people have fevers sometimes; haven't they, eh? I knew a man who was hung in

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Jamaica for murdering his master. He had had a fever six times; he wasn't recommended tomercy on that account. Pooh! nonsense!'

Now, the fact was, that in the inmost recesses of his own heart, Mr. Grimwig wasstrongly disposed to admit that Oliver's appearance and manner were unusuallyprepossessing; but he had a strong appetite for contradiction, sharpened on this occasion bythe finding of the orange−peel; and, inwardly determining that no man should dictate to himwhether a boy was well−looking or not, he had resolved, from the first, to oppose his friend.When Mr. Brownlow admitted that on no one point of inquiry could he yet return asatisfactory answer; and that he had postponed any investigation into Oliver's previoushistory until he thought the boy was strong enough to hear it; Mr. Grimwig chuckledmaliciously. And he demanded, with a sneer, whether the housekeeper was in the habit ofcounting the plate at night; because if she didn't find a table−spoon or two missing somesunshiny morning, why, he would be content to – and so forth.

All this, Mr. Brownlow, although himself somewhat of an impetuous gentleman:knowing his friend's peculiarities, bore with great good humour; as Mr. Grimwig, at tea, wasgraciously pleased to express his entire approval of the muffins, matters went on verysmoothly; and Oliver, who made one of the party, began to feel more at his ease than he hadyet done in the fierce old gentleman's presence.

'And when are you going to hear at full, true, and particular account of the life andadventures of Oliver Twist?' asked Grimwig of Mr. Brownlow, at the conclusion of themeal; looking sideways at Oliver, as he resumed his subject.

'To−morrow morning,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'I would rather he was alone with me atthe time. Come up to me to−morrow morning at ten o'clock, my dear.'

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver. He answered with some hesitation, because he was confusedby Mr. Grimwig's looking so hard at him.

'I'll tell you what,' whispered that gentleman to Mr. Brownlow; 'he won't come up toyou to−morrow morning. I saw him hesitate. He is deceiving you, my good friend.'

'I'll swear he is not,' replied Mr. Brownlow, warmly.

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

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

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

'We shall see,' said Mr. Brownlow, checking his rising anger.

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'We will,' replied Mr. Grimwig, with a provoking smile; 'we will.'

As fate would have it, Mrs. Bedwin chanced to bring in, at this moment, a small parcelof books, which Mr. Brownlow had that morning purchased of the ident icalbookstall−keeper, who has already figured in this history; having laid them on the table, sheprepared to leave the room.

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

'He has gone, sir,' replied Mrs. Bedwin.

'Call after him,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'it's particular. He is a poor man, and they are notpaid for. There are some books to be taken back, too.'

The street−door was opened. Oliver ran one way; and the girl ran another; and Mrs.Bedwin stood on the step and screamed for the boy; but there was no boy in sight. Oliverand the girl returned, in a breathless state, to report that there were no tidings of him.

'Dear me, I am very sorry for that,' exclaimed Mr. Brownlow; 'I particularly wishedthose books to be returned to−night.'

'Send Oliver with them,' said Mr. Grimwig, with an ironical smile; 'he will be sure todeliver them safely, you know.'

'Yes; do let me take them, if you please, sir,' said Oliver. 'I'll run all the way, sir.'

The old gentleman was just going to say that Oliver should not go out on any account;when a most malicious cough from Mr. Grimwig determined him that he should; and that,by his prompt discharge of the commission, he should prove to him the injustice of hissuspicions: on this head at least: at once.

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

Oliver, delighted to be of use, brought down the books under his arm in a great bustle;and waited, cap in hand, to hear what message he was to take.

'You are to say,' said Mr. Brownlow, glancing steadily at Grimwig; 'you are to say thatyou have brought those books back; and that you have come to pay the four pound ten I owehim. This is a five−pound note, so you will have to bring me back, ten shillings change.'

'I won't be ten minutes, sir,' said Oliver, eagerly. Having buttoned up the bank−note inhis jacket pocket, and placed the books carefully under his arm, he made a respectful bow,

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and left the room. Mrs. Bedwin followed him to the street−door, giving him many directionsabout the nearest way, and the name of the bookseller, and the name of the street: all ofwhich Oliver said he clearly understood. Having superadded many injunctions to be sureand not take cold, the old lady at length permitted him to depart.

'Bless his sweet face!' said the old lady, looking after him. 'I can't bear, somehow, to lethim go out of my sight.'

At this moment, Oliver looked gaily round, and nodded before he turned the corner. Theold lady smilingly returned his salutation, and, closing the door, went back, to her ownroom.

'Let me see; he'll be back in twenty minutes, at the longest,' said Mr. Brownlow, pullingout his watch, and placing it on the table. 'It will be dark by that time.'

'Oh! you really expect him to come back, do you?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.

'Don't you?' asked Mr. Brownlow, smiling.

The spirit of contradiction was strong in Mr. Grimwig's breast, at the moment; and itwas rendered stronger by his friend's confident smile.

'No,' he said, smiting the table with his fist, 'I do not. The boy has a new suit of clotheson his back, a set of valuable books under his arm, and a five−pound note in his pocket. He'lljoin his old friends the thieves, and laugh at you. If ever that boy returns to this house, sir,I'll eat my head.'

With these words he drew his chair closer to the table; and there the two friends sat, insilent expectation, with the watch between them.

It is worthy of remark, as illustrating the importance we attach to our own judgments,and the pride with which we put forth our most rash and hasty conclusions, that, althoughMr. Grimwig was not by any means a bad−hearted man, and though he would have beenunfeignedly sorry to see his respected friend duped and deceived, he really did mostearnestly and strongly hope at that moment, that Oliver Twist might not come back.

It grew so dark, that the figures on the dial−plate were scarcely discernible; but there thetwo old gentlemen continued to sit, in silence, with the watch between them.

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CHAPTER Xv − Showing How very fond of oliver twist, THEMerry old jew and miss nancy WERE

I n the obscure parlour of a low public−house, in the filthiest part of Little Saffron Hill;

a dark and gloomy den, where a flaring gas−light burnt all day in the winter−time; andwhere no ray of sun ever shone in the summer: there sat, brooding over a little pewtermeasure and a small glass, strongly impregnated with the smell of liquor, a man in avelveteen coat, drab shorts, half−boots and stockings, whom even by that dim light noexperienced agent of the police would have hesitated to recognise as Mr. William Sikes. Athis feet, sat a white−coated, red−eyed dog; who occupied himself, alternately, in winking athis master with both eyes at the same time; and in licking a large, fresh cut on one side of hismouth, which appeared to be the result of some recent conflict.

'Keep quiet, you warmint! Keep quiet!' said Mr. Sikes, suddenly breaking silence.Whether his meditations were so intense as to be disturbed by the dog's winking, or whetherhis feelings were so wrought upon by his reflections that they required all the reliefderivable from kicking an unoffending animal to allay them, is matter for argument andconsideration. Whatever was the cause, the effect was a kick and a curse, bestowed upon thedog simultaneously.

Dogs are not generally apt to revenge injuries inflicted upon them by their masters; butMr. Sikes's dog, having faults of temper in common with his owner, and labouring, perhaps,at this moment, under a powerful sense of injury, made no more ado but at once fixed histeeth in one of the half−boots. Having given in a hearty shake, he retired, growling, under aform; just escaping the pewter measure which Mr. Sikes levelled at his head.

'You would, would you?' said Sikes, seizing the poker in one hand, and deliberatelyopening with the other a large clasp−knife, which he drew from his pocket. 'Come here, youborn devil! Come here! D'ye hear?'

The dog no doubt heard; because Mr. Sikes spoke in the very harshest key of a veryharsh voice; but, appearing to entertain some unaccountable objection to having his throatcut, he remained where he was, and growled more fiercely than before: at the same timegrasping the end of the poker between his teeth, and biting at it like a wild beast.

This resistance only infuriated Mr. Sikes the more; who, dropping on his knees, beganto assail the animal most furiously. The dog jumped from right to left, and from left to right;snapping, growling, and barking; the man thrust and swore, and struck and blasphemed; andthe struggle was reaching a most critical point for one or other; when, the door suddenlyopening, the dog darted out: leaving Bill Sikes with the poker and the clasp−knife in his

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hands.

There must always be two parties to a quarrel, says the old adage. Mr. Sikes, beingdisappointed of the dog's participation, at once transferred his share in the quarrel to the newcomer.

'What the devil do you come in between me and my dog for?' said Sikes, with a fiercegesture.

'I didn't know, my dear, I didn't know,' replied fa*gin, humbly; for the Jew was the newcomer.

'Didn't know, you white−livered thief!' growled Sikes. 'Couldn't you hear the noise?'

'Not a sound of it, as I'm a living man, Bill,' replied the Jew.

'Oh no! You hear nothing, you don't,' retorted Sikes with a fierce sneer. 'Sneaking in andout, so as nobody hears how you come or go! I wish you had been the dog, fa*gin, half aminute ago.'

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

'Cause the government, as cares for the lives of such men as you, as haven't half thepluck of curs, lets a man kill a dog how he likes,' replied Sikes, shutting up the knife with avery expressive look; 'that's why.'

The Jew rubbed his hands; and, sitting down at the table, affected to laugh at thepleasantry of his friend. He was obviously very ill at ease, however.

'Grin away,' said Sikes, replacing the poker, and surveying him with savage contempt;'grin away. You'll never have the laugh at me, though, unless it's behind a nightcap. I've gotthe upper hand over you, fa*gin; and, d – me, I'll keep it. There! If I go, you go; so take careof me.'

'Well, well, my dear,' said the Jew, 'I know all that; we – we – have a mutual interest,Bill, – a mutual interest.'

'Humph,' said Sikes, as if he though the interest lay rather more on the Jew's side thanon his. 'Well, what have you got to say to me?'

'It's all passed safe through the melting−pot,' replied fa*gin, 'and this is your share. It'srather more than it ought to be, my dear; but as I know you'll do me a good turn anothertime, and – '

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'Stow that gammon,' interposed the robber, impatiently. 'Where is it? Hand over!'

'Yes, yes, Bill; give me time, give me time,' replied the Jew, soothingly. 'Here it is! Allsafe!' As he spoke, he drew forth an old cotton handkerchief from his breast; and untying alarge knot in one corner, produced a small brown−paper packet. Sikes, snatching it fromhim, hastily opened it; and proceeded to count the sovereigns it contained.

'This is all, is it?' inquired Sikes.

'All,' replied the Jew.

'You haven't opened the parcel and swallowed one or two as you come along, haveyou?' inquired Sikes, suspiciously. 'Don't put on an injured look at the question; you've doneit many a time. Jerk the tinkler.'

These words, in plain English, conveyed an injunction to ring the bell. It was answeredby another Jew: younger than fa*gin, but nearly as vile and repulsive in appearance.

Bill Sikes merely pointed to the empty measure. The Jew, perfectly understanding thehint, retired to fill it: previously exchanging a remarkable look with fa*gin, who raised hiseyes for an instant, as if in expectation of it, and shook his head in reply; so slightly that theaction would have been almost imperceptible to an observant third person. It was lost uponSikes, who was stooping at the moment to tie the boot−lace which the dog had torn.Possibly, if he had observed the brief interchange of signals, he might have thought that itboded no good to him.

'Is anybody here, Barney?' inquired fa*gin; speaking, now that that Sikes was lookingon, without raising his eyes from the ground.

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

'Nobody?' inquired fa*gin, in a tone of surprise: which perhaps might mean that Barneywas at liberty to tell the truth.

'Dobody but Biss Dadsy,' replied Barney.

'Nancy!' exclaimed Sikes. 'Where? Strike me blind, if I don't honour that 'ere girl, forher native talents.'

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

'Send her here,' said Sikes, pouring out a glass of liquor. 'Send her here.'

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Barney looked timidly at fa*gin, as if for permission; the Jew reamining silent, and notlifting his eyes from the ground, he retired; and presently returned, ushering in Nancy; whowas decorated with the bonnet, apron, basket, and street−door key, complete.

'You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?' inquired Sikes, proffering the glass.

'Yes, I am, Bill,' replied the young lady, disposing of its contents; 'and tired enough of itI am, too. The young brat's been ill and confined to the crib; and – '

'Ah, Nancy, dear!' said fa*gin, looking up.

Now, whether a peculiar contraction of the Jew's red eye−brows, and a half closing ofhis deeply−set eyes, warned Miss Nancy that she was disposed to be too communicative, isnot a matter of much importance. The fact is all we need care for here; and the fact is, thatshe suddenly checked herself, and with several gracious smiles upon Mr. Sikes, turned theconversation to other matters. In about ten minutes' time, Mr. fa*gin was seized with a fit ofcoughing; upon which Nancy pulled her shawl over her shoulders, and declared it was timeto go. Mr. Sikes, finding that he was walking a short part of her way himself, expressed hisintention of accompanying her; they went away together, followed, at a little distant, by thedog, who slunk out of a back−yard as soon as his master was out of sight.

The Jew thrust his head out of the room door when Sikes had left it; looked after him aswe walked up the dark passage; shook his clenched fist; muttered a deep curse; and then,with a horrible grin, reseated himself at the table; where he was soon deeply absorbed in theinteresting pages of the Hue−and−Cry.

Meanwhile, Oliver Twist, little dreaming that he was within so very short a distance ofthe merry old gentleman, was on his way to the book−stall. When he got into Clerkenwell,he accidently turned down a by−street which was not exactly in his way; but not discoveringhis mistake until he had got half−way down it, and knowing it must lead in the rightdirection, he did not think it worth while to turn back; and so marched on, as quickly as hecould, with the books under his arm.

He was walking along, thinking how happy and contented he ought to feel; and howmuch he would give for only one look at poor little Dick, who, starved and beaten, might beweeping bitterly at that very moment; when he was startled by a young woman screamingout very loud. 'Oh, my dear brother!' And he had hardly looked up, to see what the matterwas, when he was stopped by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.

'Don't,' cried Oliver, struggling. 'Let go of me. Who is it? What are you stopping mefor?'

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The only reply to this, was a great number of loud lamentations from the young womanwho 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! Ohyou naughty boy, to make me suffer such distress on your account! Come home, dear, come.Oh, I've found him. Thank gracious goodness heavins, I've found him!' With theseincoherent exclamations, the young woman burst into another fit of crying, and got sodreadfully hysterical, that a couple of women who came up at the moment asked a butcher'sboy with a shiny head of hair anointed with suet, who was also looking on, whether he didn'tthink he had better run for the doctor. To which, the butcher's boy: who appeared of alounging, not to say indolent disposition: replied, that he thought not.

'Oh, no, no, never mind,' said the young woman, grasping Oliver's hand; 'I'm better now.Come home directly, you cruel boy! Come!'

'Oh, ma'am,' replied the young woman, 'he ran away, near a month ago, from hisparents, who are hard−working and respectable people; and went and joined a set of thievesand bad characters; and almost broke his mother's heart.'

'Young wretch!' said one woman.

'Go home, do, you little brute,' said the other.

'I am not,' replied Oliver, greatly alarmed. 'I don't know her. I haven't any sister, orfather and mother either. I'm an orphan; I live at Pentonville.'

'Only hear him, how he braves it out!' cried the young woman.

'Why, it's Nancy!' exclaimed Oliver; who now saw her face for the first time; andstarted back, in irrepressible astonishment.

'You see he knows me!' cried Nancy, appealing to the bystanders. 'He can't help himself.Make him come home, there's good people, or he'll kill his dear mother and father, andbreak my heart!'

'What the devil's this?' said a man, bursting out of a beer−shop, with a white dog at hisheels; 'young Oliver! Come home to your poor mother, you young dog! Come homedirectly.'

'I don't belong to them. I don't know them. Help! help! cried Oliver, struggling in theman's powerful grasp.

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

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What books are these? You've been a stealing 'em, have you? Give 'em here.' With thesewords, the man tore the volumes from his grasp, and struck him on the head.

'That's right!' cried a looker−on, from a garret−window. 'That's the only way of bringinghim to his senses!'

'To be sure!' cried a sleepy−faced carpenter, casting an approving look at thegarret−window.

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

'And he shall have it, too!' rejoined the man, administering another blow, and seizingOliver by the collar. 'Come on, you young villain! Here, Bull's−eye, mind him, boy! Mindhim!'

Weak with recent illness; stupified by the blows and the suddenness of the attack;terrified by the fierce growling of the dog, and the brutality of the man; overpowered by theconviction of the bystanders that he really was the hardened little wretch he was described tobe; what could one poor child do! Darkness had set in; it was a low neighborhood; no helpwas near; resistance was useless. In another moment he was dragged into a labyrinth of darknarrow courts, and was forced along them at a pace which rendered the few cries he dared togive utterance to, unintelligible. It was of little moment, indeed, whether they wereintelligible 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; theservant had run up the street twenty times to see if there were any traces of Oliver; and stillthe two old gentlemen sat, perseveringly, in the dark parlour, with the watch between them.

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The narrow streets and courts, at length, terminated in a large open space; scattered

about which, were pens for beasts, and other indications of a cattle−market. Sikes slackenedhis pace when they reached this spot: the girl being quite unable to support any longer, therapid rate at which they had hitherto walked. Turning to Oliver, he roughly commanded himto take hold of Nancy's hand.

'Do you hear?' growled Sikes, as Oliver hesitated, and looked round.

They were in a dark corner, quite out of the track of passengers.

Oliver saw, but too plainly, that resistance would be of no avail. He held out his hand,which Nancy clasped tight in hers.

'Give me the other,' said Sikes, seizing Oliver's unoccupied hand. 'Here, Bull's−Eye!'

The dog looked up, and growled.

'See here, boy!' said Sikes, putting his other hand to Oliver's throat; 'if he speaks ever sosoft a word, hold him! D'ye mind!'

The dog growled again; and licking his lips, eyed Oliver as if he were anxious to attachhimself to his windpipe without delay.

'He's as willing as a Christian, strike me blind if he isn't!' said Sikes, regarding theanimal with a kind of grim and ferocious approval. 'Now, you know what you've got toexpect, master, so call away as quick as you like; the dog will soon stop that game. Get on,young'un!'

Bull's−eye wagged his tail in acknowledgment of this unusually endearing form ofspeech; and, giving vent to another admonitory growl for the benefit of Oliver, led the wayonward.

It was Smithfield that they were crossing, although it might have been GrosvenorSquare, for anything Oliver knew to the contrary. The night was dark and foggy. The lightsin the shops could scarecely struggle through the heavy mist, which thickened everymoment and shrouded the streets and houses in gloom; rendering the strange place stillstranger in Oliver's eyes; and making his uncertainty the more dismal and depressing.

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They had hurried on a few paces, when a deep church−bell struck the hour. With its firststroke, his two conductors stopped, and turned their heads in the direction whence the soundproceeded.

'Eight o' clock, Bill,' said Nancy, when the bell ceased.

'What's the good of telling me that; I can hear it, can't I!' replied Sikes.

'I wonder whether They can hear it,' said Nancy.

'Of course they can,' replied Sikes. 'It was Bartlemy time when I was shopped; and therewarn't a penny trumpet in the fair, as I couldn't hear the squeaking on. Arter I was locked upfor the night, the row and din outside made the thundering old jail so silent, that I couldalmost have beat my brains out against the iron plates of the door.'

'Poor fellow!' said Nancy, who still had her face turned towards the quarter in which thebell had sounded. 'Oh, Bill, such fine young chaps as them!'

'Yes; that's all you women think of,' answered Sikes. 'Fine young chaps! Well, they're asgood as dead, so it don't much matter.'

With this consolation, Mr. Sikes appeared to repress a rising tendency to jealousy, and,clasping Oliver's wrist more firmly, told him to step out again.

'Wait a minute!' said the girl: 'I wouldn't hurry by, if it was you that was coming out tobe hung, the next time eight o'clock struck, Bill. I'd walk round and round the place till Idropped, if the snow was on the ground, and I hadn't a shawl to cover me.'

'And what good would that do?' inquired the unsentimental Mr. Sikes. 'Unless you couldpitch over a file and twenty yards of good stout rope, you might as well be walking fiftymile off, or not walking at all, for all the good it would do me. Come on, and don't standpreaching there.'

The girl burst into a laugh; drew her shawl more closely round her; and they walkedaway. But Oliver felt her hand tremble, and, looking up in her face as they passed agas−lamp, saw that it had turned a deadly white.

They walked on, by little−frequented and dirty ways, for a full half−hour: meeting veryfew people, and those appearing from their looks to hold much the same position in societyas Mr. Sikes himself. At length they turned into a very filthy narrow street, nearly full ofold−clothes shops; the dog running forward, as if conscious that there was no furtheroccasion for his keeping on guard, stopped before the door of a shop that was closed andapparently untenanted; the house was in a ruinous condition, and on the door was nailed a

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board, intimating that it was to let: which looked as if it had hung there for many years.

'All right,' cried Sikes, glancing cautiously about.

Nancy stooped below the shutters, and Oliver heard the sound of a bell. They crossed tothe opposite side of the street, and stood for a few moments under a lamp. A noise, as if asash window were gently raised, was heard; and soon afterwards the door softly opened. Mr.Sikes then seized the terrified boy by the collar with very little ceremony; and all three werequickly inside the house.

The passage was perfectly dark. They waited, while the person who had let them in,chained and barred the door.

'Anybody here?' inquired Sikes.

'No,' replied a voice, which Oliver thought he had heard before.

'Is the old 'un here?' asked the robber.

'Yes,' replied the voice, 'and precious down in the mouth he has been. Won't he be gladto see you? Oh, no!'

The style of this reply, as well as the voice which delivered it, seemed familiar toOliver's ears: but it was impossible to distinguish even the form of the speaker in thedarkness.

'Let's have a glim,' said Sikes, 'or we shall go breaking our necks, or treading on thedog. Look after your legs if you do!'

'Stand still a moment, and I'll get you one,' replied the voice. The receding footsteps ofthe speaker were heard; and, in another minute, the form of Mr. John Dawkins, otherwisethe Artful Dodger, appeared. He bore in his right hand a tallow candle stuck in the end of acleft stick.

The young gentleman did not stop to bestow any other mark of recognition upon Oliverthan a humourous grin; but, turning away, beckoned the visitors to follow him down a flightof stairs. They crossed an empty kitchen; and, opening the door of a low earthy−smellingroom, which seemed to have been built in a small back−yard, were received with a shout oflaughter.

'Oh, my wig, my wig!' cried Master Charles Bates, from whose lungs the laughter hadproceeded: 'here he is! oh, cry, here he is! Oh, fa*gin, look at him! fa*gin, do look at him! Ican't bear it; it is such a jolly game, I cant' bear it. Hold me, somebody, while I laugh it out.'

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With this irrepressible ebullition of mirth, Master Bates laid himself flat on the floor:and kicked convulsively for five minutes, in an ectasy of facetious joy. Then jumping to hisfeet, he snatched the cleft stick from the Dodger; and, advancing to Oliver, viewed himround and round; while the Jew, taking off his nightcap, made a great number of low bowsto the bewildered boy. The Artful, meantime, who was of a rather saturnine disposition, andseldom gave way to merriment when it interfered with business, rifled Oliver's pockets withsteady assiduity.

'Look at his togs, fa*gin!' said Charley, putting the light so close to his new jacket asnearly to set him on fire. 'Look at his togs! Superfine cloth, and the heavy swell cut! Oh, myeye, what a game! And his books, too! Nothing but a gentleman, fa*gin!'

'Delighted to see you looking so well, my dear,' said the Jew, bowing with mockhumility. 'The Artful shall give you another suit, my dear, for fear you should spoil thatSunday one. Why didn't you write, my dear, and say you were coming? We'd have gotsomething warm for supper.'

At his, Master Bates roared again: so loud, that fa*gin himself relaxed, and even theDodger smiled; but as the Artful drew forth the five−pound note at that instant, it is doubtfulwhether the sally of the discovery awakened his merriment.

'Hallo, what's that?' inquired Sikes, stepping forward as the Jew seized the note. 'That'smine, fa*gin.'

'No, no, my dear,' said the Jew. 'Mine, Bill, mine. You shall have the books.'

'If that ain't mine!' said Bill Sikes, putting on his hat with a determined air; 'mine andNancy's that is; I'll take the boy back again.'

The Jew started. Oliver started too, though from a very different cause; for he hopedthat the dispute might really end in his being taken back.

'Come! Hand over, will you?' said Sikes.

'This is hardly fair, Bill; hardly fair, is it, Nancy?' inquired the Jew.

'Fair, or not fair,' retorted Sikes, 'hand over, I tell you! Do you think Nancy and me hasgot nothing else to do with our precious time but to spend it in scouting arter, andkidnapping, every young boy as gets grabbed through you? Give it here, you avaricious oldskeleton, give it here!'

With this gentle remonstrance, Mr. Sikes plucked the note from between the Jew'sfinger and thumb; and looking the old man coolly in the face, folded it up small, and tied it

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in his neckerchief.

'That's for our share of the trouble,' said Sikes; 'and not half enough, neither. You maykeep the books, if you're fond of reading. If you ain't, sell 'em.'

'They're very pretty,' said Charley Bates: who, with sundry grimaces, had been affectingto read one of the volumes in question; 'beautiful writing, isn't is, Oliver?' At sight of thedismayed look with which Oliver regarded his tormentors, Master Bates, who was blessedwith a lively sense of the ludicrous, fell into another ectasy, more boisterous than the first.

'They belong to the old gentleman,' said Oliver, wringing his hands; 'to the good, kind,old gentleman who took me into his house, and had me nursed, when I was near dying of thefever. Oh, pray send them back; send him back the books and money. Keep me here all mylife long; but pray, pray send them back. He'll think I stole them; the old lady: all of themwho were so kind to me: will think I stole them. Oh, do have mercy upon me, and send themback!'

With these words, which were uttered with all the energy of passionate grief, Oliver fellupon his knees at the Jew's feet; and beat his hands together, in perfect desperation.

'The boy's right,' remarked fa*gin, looking covertly round, and knitting his shaggyeyebrows into a hard knot. 'You're right, Oliver, you're right; they Will think you have stolen'em. Ha! ha!' chuckled the Jew, rubbing his hands, 'it couldn't have happened better, if wehad chosen our time!'

'Of course it couldn't,' replied Sikes; 'I know'd that, directly I see him coming throughClerkenwell, with the books under his arm. It's all right enough. They're soft−heartedpsalm−singers, or they wouldn't have taken him in at all; and they'll ask no questions afterhim, fear they should be obliged to prosecute, and so get him lagged. He's safe enough.'

Oliver had looked from one to the other, while these words were being spoken, as if hewere bewildered, and could scarecely understand what passed; but when Bill Sikesconcluded, he jumped suddenly to his feet, and tore wildly from the room: uttering shrieksfor help, which made the bare old house echo to the roof.

'Keep back the dog, Bill!' cried Nancy, springing before the door, and closing it, as theJew and his two pupils darted out in pursuit. 'Keep back the dog; he'll tear the boy to pieces.'

'Serve him right!' cried Sikes, struggling to disengage himself from the girl's grasp.'Stand off from me, or I'll split your head against the wall.'

'I don't care for that, Bill, I don't care for that,' screamed the girl, struggling violentlywith the man, 'the child shan't be torn down by the dog, unless you kill me first.'

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'Shan't he!' said Sikes, setting his teeth. 'I'll soon do that, if you don't keep off.'

The housebreaker flung the girl from him to the further end of the room, just as the Jewand the two boys returned, dragging Oliver among them.

'What's the matter here!' said fa*gin, looking round.

'The girl's gone mad, I think,' replied Sikes, savagely.

'No, she hasn't,' said Nancy, pale and breathless from the scuffle; 'no, she hasn't, fa*gin;don't think it.'

'Then keep quiet, will you?' said the Jew, with a threatening look.

'No, I won't do that, neither,' replied Nancy, speaking very loud. 'Come! What do youthink of that?'

Mr. fa*gin was sufficiently well acquainted with the manners and customs of thatparticular species of humanity to which Nancy belonged, to feel tolerably certain that itwould be rather unsafe to prolong any conversation with her, at present. With the view ofdiverting the attention of the company, he turned to Oliver.

'So you wanted to get away, my dear, did you?' said the Jew, taking up a jagged andknotted club which law in a corner of the fireplace; 'eh?'

Oliver made no reply. But he watched the Jew's motions, and breathed quickly.

'Wanted to get assistance; called for the police; did you?' sneered the Jew, catching theboy by the arm. 'We'll cure you of that, my young master.'

The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the club; and was raising itfor a second, when the girl, rushing forward, wrested it from his hand. She flung it into thefire, with a force that brought some of the glowing coals whirling out into the room.

'I won't stand by and see it done, fa*gin,' cried the girl. 'You've got the boy, and whatmore would you have? – Let him be – let him be – or I shall put that mark on some of you,that will bring me to the gallows before my time.'

The girl stamped her foot violently on the floor as she vented this threat; and with herlips compressed, and her hands clenched, looked alternately at the Jew and the other robber:her face quite colourless from the passion of rage into which she had gradually workedherself.

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'Why, Nancy!' said the Jew, in a soothing tone; after a pause, during which he and Mr.Sikes had stared at one another in a disconcerted manner; 'you, – you're more clever thanever to−night. Ha! ha! my dear, you are acting beautifully.'

'Am I!' said the girl. 'Take care I don't overdo it. You will be the worse for it, fa*gin, if Ido; 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 strongpassions, the fierce impulses of recklessness and despair; which few men like to provoke.The Jew saw that it would be hopeless to affect any further mistake regarding the reality ofMiss Nancy's rage; and, shrinking involuntarily back a few paces, cast a glance, halfimploring and half cowardly, at Sikes: as if to hint that he was the fittest person to pursue thedialogue.

Mr. Sikes, thus mutely appealed to; and possibly feeling his personal pride andinfluence interested in the immediate reduction of Miss Nancy to reason; gave utterance toabout a couple of score of curses and threats, the rapid production of which reflected greatcredit on the fertility of his invention. As they produced no visible effect on the objectagainst whom they were discharged, however, he resorted to more tangible arguments.

'What do you mean by this?' said Sikes; backing the inquiry with a very commonimprecation concerning the most beautiful of human features: which, if it were heard above,only once out of every fifty thousand times that it is uttered below, would render blindnessas common a disorder as measles: 'what do you mean by it? Burn my body! Do you knowwho you are, and what you are?'

'Oh, yes, I know all about it,' replied the girl, laughing hysterically; and shaking herhead from side to side, with a poor assumption of indifference.

'Well, then, keep quiet,' rejoined Sikes, with a growl like that he was accustomed to usewhen 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 atSikes, turned her face aside, and bit her lip till the blood came.

'You're a nice one,' added Sikes, as he surveyed her with a contemptuous air, 'to take upthe humane and gen – teel side! A pretty subject for the child, as you call him, to make afriend of!'

'God Almighty help me, I am!' cried the girl passionately; 'and I wish I had been struckdead in the street, or had changed places with them we passed so near to−night, before I hadlent a hand in bringing him here. He's a thief, a liar, a devil, all that's bad, from this nightforth. Isn't that enough for the old wretch, without blows?'

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'Come, come, Sikes,' said the Jew appealing to him in a remonstratory tone, andmotioning towards the boys, who were eagerly attentive to all that passed; 'we must havecivil words; civil words, Bill.'

'Civil words!' cried the girl, whose passion was frightful to see. 'Civil words, youvillain! Yes, you deserve 'em from me. I thieved for you when I was a child not half as oldas this!' pointing to Oliver. 'I have been in the same trade, and in the same service, fortwelve years since. Don't you know it? Speak out! Don't you know it?'

'Well, well,' replied the Jew, with an attempt at pacification; 'and, if you have, it's yourliving!'

'Aye, it is!' returned the girl; not speaking, but pouring out the words in one continuousand vehement scream. 'It is my living; and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; andyou're the wretch that drove me to them long ago, and that'll keep me there, day and night,day and night, till I die!'

'I shall do you a mischief!' interposed the Jew, goaded by these reproaches; 'a mischiefworse than that, if you say much more!'

The girl said nothing more; but, tearing her hair and dress in a transport of passion,made such a rush at the Jew as would probably have left signal marks of her revenge uponhim, had not her wrists been seized by Sikes at the right moment; upon which, she made afew ineffectual struggles, and fainted.

'She's all right now,' said Sikes, laying her down in a corner. 'She's uncommon strong inthe arms, when she's up in this way.'

The Jew wiped his forehead: and smiled, as if it were a relief to have the disturbanceover; but neither he, nor Sikes, nor the dog, nor the boys, seemed to consider it in any otherlight 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'reclever, and we can't get on, in our line, without 'em. Charley, show Oliver to bed.'

'I suppose he'd better not wear his best clothes tomorrow, fa*gin, had he?' inquiredCharley Bates.

'Certainly not,' replied the Jew, reciprocating the grin with which Charley put thequestion.

Master Bates, apparently much delighted with his commission, took the cleft stick: andled Oliver into an adjacent kitchen, where there were two or three of the beds on which he

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had slept before; and here, with many uncontrollable bursts of laughter, he produced theidentical old suit of clothes which Oliver had so much congratulated himself upon leavingoff at Mr. Brownlow's; and the accidental display of which, to fa*gin, by the Jew whopurchased them, had been the very first clue received, of his whereabout.

'Put off the smart ones,' said Charley, 'and I'll give 'em to fa*gin to take care of. Whatfun it is!'

Poor Oliver unwillingly complied. Master Bates rolling up the new clothes under hisarm, departed from the room, leaving Oliver in the dark, and locking the door behind him.

The noise of Charley's laughter, and the voice of Miss Betsy, who opportunely arrivedto throw water over her friend, and perform other feminine offices for the promotion of herrecovery, might have kept many people awake under more happy circ*mstances than thosein which Oliver was placed. But he was sick and weary; and he soon fell sound asleep.

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CHAPTER Xvii − OLIVER'S Destiny continuingunpropitious, Brings A great man to london to injure

his REPUTATION

I t is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas, to present the tragic

and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side ofstreaky bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bed, weighed down by fetters and misfortunes;in the next scene, his faithful but unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song.We behold, with throbbing bosoms, the heroine in the grasp of a proud and ruthless baron:her virtue and her life alike in danger, drawing forth her dagger to preserve the one at thecost of the other; and just as our expectations are wrought up to the highest pitch, a whistleis heard, and we are straightway transported to the great hall of the castle; where agrey−headed seneschal sings a funny chorus with a funnier body of vassals, who are free ofall sorts of places, from church vaults to palaces, and roam about in company, carollingperpetually.

Such changes appear absurd; but they are not so unnatural as they would seem at firstsight. The transitions in real life from well−spread boards to death−beds, and frommourning−weeds to holiday garments, are not a whit less startling; only, there, we are busyactors, instead of passive lookers−on, which makes a vast difference. The actors in themimic life of the theatre, are blind to violent transitions and abrupt impulses of passion orfeeling, which, presented before the eyes of mere spectators, are at once condemned asoutrageous and preposterous.

As sudden shiftings of the scene, and rapid changes of time and place, are not onlysanctioned in books by long usage, but are by many considered as the great art ofauthorship: an author's skill in his craft being, by such critics, chiefly estimated with relationto the dilemmas in which he leaves his characters at the end of every chapter: this briefintroduction to the present one may perhaps be deemed unnecessary. If so, let it beconsidered a delicate intimation on the part of the historian that he is going back to the townin which Oliver Twist was born; the reader taking it for granted that there are good andsubstantial reasons for making the journey, or he would not be invited to proceed upon suchan expedition.

Mr. Bumble emerged at early morning from the workhouse−gate, and walked withportly carriage and commanding steps, up the High Street. He was in the full bloom andpride of beadlehood; his co*cked hat and coat were dazzling in the morning sun; he clutchedhis cane with the vigorous tenacity of health and power. Mr. Bumble always carried his headhigh; but this morning it was higher than usual. There was an abstraction in his eye, anelevation in his air, which might have warned an observant stranger that thoughts were

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passing in the beadle's mind, too great for utterance.

Mr. Bumble stopped not to converse with the small shopkeepers and others who spoketo him, deferentially, as he passed along. He merely returned their salutations with a wave ofhis hand, and relaxed not in his dignified pace, until he reached the farm where Mrs. Manntended the infant paupers with parochial care.

'Drat that beadle!' said Mrs. Mann, hearing the well−known shaking at the garden−gate.'If it isn't him at this time in the morning! Lauk, Mr. Bumble, only think of its being you!Well, dear me, it Is a pleasure, this is! Come into the parlour, sir, please.'

The first sentence was addressed to Susan; and the exclamations of delight were utteredto Mr. Bumble: as the good lady unlocked the garden−gate: and showed him, with greatattention and respect, into the house.

'Mrs. Mann,' said Mr. Bumble; not sitting upon, or dropping himself into a seat, as anycommon jackanapes would: but letting himself gradually and slowly down into a chair; 'Mrs.Mann, ma'am, good morning.'

'Well, and good morning to YOU, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann, with many smiles; 'andhoping you find yourself well, sir!'

'So−so, Mrs. Mann,' replied the beadle. 'A porochial life is not a bed of roses, Mrs.Mann.'

'Ah, that it isn't indeed, Mr. Bumble,' rejoined the lady. And all the infant paupers mighthave chorussed the rejoinder with great propriety, if they had heard it.

'A porochial life, ma'am,' continued Mr. Bumble, striking the table with his cane, 'is alife of worrit, and vexation, and hardihood; but all public characters, as I may say, mustsuffer prosecution.'

Mrs. Mann, not very well knowing what the beadle meant, raised her hands with a lookof sympathy, and sighed.

'Ah! You may well sigh, Mrs. Mann!' said the beadle.

Finding she had done right, Mrs. Mann sighed again: evidently to the satisfaction of thepublic character: who, repressing a complacent smile by looking sternly at his co*cked hat,said,

'Mrs. Mann, I am going to London.'

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'Lauk, Mr. Bumble!' cried Mrs. Mann, starting back.

'To London, ma'am,' resumed the inflexible beadle, 'by coach. I and two paupers, Mrs.Mann! A legal action is a coming on, about a settlement; and the board has appointed me –me, Mrs. Mann – to dispose to the matter before the quarter−sessions at Clerkinwell.

And I very much question,' added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up, 'whether theClerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the wrong box before they have done withme.'

'Oh! you mustn't be too hard upon them, sir,' said Mrs. Mann, coaxingly.

'The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves, ma'am,' replied Mr.Bumble; 'and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find that they come off rather worse than theyexpected, the Clerkinwell Sessions have only themselves to thank.'

There was so much determination and depth of purpose about the menacing manner inwhich Mr. Bumble delivered himself of these words, that Mrs. Mann appeared quite awedby them. At length she said,

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

'That's when they're ill, Mrs. Mann,' said the beadle. 'We put the sick paupers into opencarts in the rainy weather, to prevent their taking cold.'

'Oh!' said Mrs. Mann.

'The opposition coach contracts for these two; and takes them cheap,' said Mr. Bumble.'They are both in a very low state, and we find it would come two pound cheaper to move'em than to bury 'em – that is, if we can throw 'em upon another parish, which I think weshall be able to do, if they don't die upon the road to spite us. Ha! ha! ha!'

When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little while, his eyes again encountered the co*ckedhat; and he became grave.

'We are forgetting business, ma'am,' said the beadle; 'here is your porochial stipend forthe month."

Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paper, from his pocket−book; andrequested a receipt: which Mrs. Mann wrote.

'It's very much blotted, sir,' said the farmer of infants; 'but it's formal enough, I dare say.Thank you, Mr. Bumble, sir, I am very much obliged to you, I'm sure.'

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Mr. Bumble nodded, blandly, in acknowledgment of Mrs. Mann's curtsey; and inquiredhow the children were.

'Bless their dear little hearts!' said Mrs. Mann with emotion, 'they're as well as can be,the dears! Of course, except the two that died last week. And little Dick.'

'Isn't that boy no better?' inquired Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Mann shook her head.

'He's a ill−conditioned, wicious, bad−disposed porochial child that,' said Mr. Bumbleangrily. 'Where is he?'

'I'll bring him to you in one minute, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann. 'Here, you Dick!'

After some calling, Dick was discovered. Having had his face put under the pump, anddried upon Mrs. Mann's gown, he was led into the awful presence of Mr. Bumble, thebeadle.

The child was pale and thin; his cheeks were sunken; and his eyes large and bright. Thescanty parish dress, the livery of his misery, hung loosely on his feeble body; and his younglimbs had wasted away, like those of an old man.

Such was the little being who stood trembling beneath Mr. Bumble's glance; not daringto lift his eyes from the floor; and dreading even to hear the beadle's voice.

'Can't you look at the gentleman, you obstinate boy?' said Mrs. Mann.

The child meekly raised his eyes, and encountered those of Mr. Bumble.

'What's the matter with you, porochial Dick?' inquired Mr. Bumble, with well−timedjocularity.

'Nothing, sir,' replied the child faintly.

'I should think not,' said Mrs. Mann, who had of course laughed very much at Mr.Bumble's humour.

'You want for nothing, I'm sure.'

'I should like – ' faltered the child.

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'Hey−day!' interposed Mr. Mann, 'I suppose you're going to say that you DO want forsomething, now? Why, you little wretch – '

'Stop, Mrs. Mann, stop!' said the beadle, raising his hand with a show of authority. 'Likewhat, sir, eh?'

'I should like,' said the child, 'to leave my dear love to poor Oliver Twist; and to let himknow how often I have sat by myself and cried to think of his wandering about in the darknights with nobody to help him. And I should like to tell him,' said the child pressing hissmall hands together, and speaking with great fervour, 'that I was glad to die when I wasvery young; for, perhaps, if I had lived to be a man, and had grown old, my little sister whois in Heaven, might forget me, or be unlike me; and it would be so much happier if we wereboth children there together.'

Mr. Bumble surveyed the little speaker, from head to foot, with indescribableastonishment; and, turning to his companion, said, 'They're all in one story, Mrs. Mann. Thatout−dacious Oliver had demogalized them all!'

'I couldn't have believed it, sir' said Mrs Mann, holding up her hands, and lookingmalignantly at Dick. 'I never see such a hardened little wretch!'

'Take him away, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble imperiously. 'This must be stated to theboard, Mrs. Mann.

'I hope the gentleman will understand that it isn't my fault, sir?' said Mrs. Mann,whimpering pathetically.

'They shall understand that, ma'am; they shall be acquainted with the true state of thecase,' said Mr. Bumble. 'There; take him away, I can't bear the sight on him.'

Dick was immediately taken away, and locked up in the coal−cellar. Mr. Bumbleshortly afterwards took himself off, to prepare for his journey.

At six o'clock next morning, Mr. Bumble: having exchanged his co*cked hat for a roundone, and encased his person in a blue great−coat with a cape to it: took his place on theoutside of the coach, accompanied by the criminals whose settlement was disputed; withwhom, in due course of time, he arrived in London.

He experienced no other crosses on the way, than those which originated in the perversebehaviour of the two paupers, who persisted in shivering, and complaining of the cold, in amanner which, Mr. Bumble declared, caused his teeth to chatter in his head, and made himfeel quite uncomfortable; although he had a great−coat on.

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Having disposed of these evil−minded persons for the night, Mr. Bumble sat himselfdown in the house at which the coach stopped; and took a temperate dinner of steaks, oystersauce, and porter. Putting a glass of hot gin−and−water on the chimney−piece, he drew hischair to the fire; and, with sundry moral reflections on the too−prevalent sin of discontentand complaining, composed himself to read the paper.

The very first paragraph upon which Mr. Bumble's eye rested, was the followingadvertisem*nt.

'FIVE Guineas REWARD

'Whereas a young boy, named Oliver Twist, absconded, or was enticed, on Thursdayevening last, from his home, at Pentonville; and has not since been heard of. The abovereward will be paid to any person who will give such information as will lead to thediscovery of the said Oliver Twist, or tend to throw any light upon his previous history, inwhich the advertiser is, for many reasons, warmly interested.'

And then followed a full description of Oliver's dress, person, appearance, anddisappearance: with the name and address of Mr. Brownlow at full length.

Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisem*nt, slowly and carefully, three severaltimes; and in something more than five minutes was on his way to Pentonville: havingactually, in his excitement, left the glass of hot gin−and−water, untasted.

'Is Mr. Brownlow at home?' inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who opened the door.

To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommon, but rather evasive reply of 'I don'tknow; where do you come from?'

Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver's name, in explanation of his errand, than Mrs.Bedwin, who had been listening at the parlour door, hastened into the passage in a breathlessstate.

'Come in, come in,' said the old lady: 'I knew we should hear of him. Poor dear! I knewwe should! I was certain of it. Bless his heart! I said so all along.'

Having heard this, the worthy old lady hurried back into the parlour again; and seatingherself on a sofa, burst into tears. The girl, who was not quite so susceptible, had runupstairs meanwhile; and now returned with a request that Mr. Bumble would follow herimmediately: which he did.

He was shown into the little back study, where sat Mr. Brownlow and his friend Mr.Grimwig, with decanters and glasses before them. The latter gentleman at once burst into the

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exclamation:

'A beadle. A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head.'

'Pray don't interrupt just now,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Take a seat, will you?'

Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of Mr. Grimwig'smanner. Mr. Brownlow moved the lamp, so as to obtain an uninterrupted view of thebeadle's countenance; and said, with a little impatience,

'Now, sir, you come in consequence of having seen the advertisem*nt?'

'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Bumble.

'And you Are a beadle, are you not?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.

'I am a porochial beadle, gentlemen,' rejoined Mr. Bumble proudly.

'Of course,' observed Mr. Grimwig aside to his friend, 'I knew he was. A beadle allover!'

Mr. Brownlow gently shook his head to impose silence on his friend, and resumed:

'Do you know where this poor boy is now?'

'No more than nobody,' replied Mr. Bumble.

'Well, what DO you know of him?' inquired the old gentleman. 'Speak out, my friend, ifyou have anything to say. What DO you know of him?'

'You don't happen to know any good of him, do you?' said Mr. Grimwig, caustically;after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble's features.

Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head with portentoussolemnity.

'You see?' said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr. Brownlow.

Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble's pursed−up countenance; andrequested him to communicate what he knew regarding Oliver, in as few words as possible.

Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his arms; inclined his head ina retrospective manner; and, after a few moments' reflection, commenced his story.

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It would be tedious if given in the beadle's words: occupying, as it did, some twentyminutes in the telling; but the sum and substance of it was, that Oliver was a foundling, bornof low and vicious parents. That he had, from his birth, displayed no better qualities thantreachery, ingratitude, and malice. That he had terminated his brief career in the place of hisbirth, by making a sanguinary and cowardly attack on an unoffending lad, and running awayin the night−time from his master's house. In proof of his really being the person herepresented himself, Mr. Bumble laid upon the table the papers he had brought to town.Folding his arms again, he then awaited Mr. Brownlow's observations.

'I fear it is all too true,' said the old gentleman sorrowfully, after looking over thepapers. 'This is not much for your intelligence; but I would gladly have given you treble themoney, if it had been favourable to the boy.'

It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of this information at anearlier period of the interview, he might have imparted a very different colouring to his littlehistory. It was too late to do it now, however; so he shook his head gravely, and, pocketingthe five guineas, withdrew.

Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes; evidently so muchdisturbed by the beadle's tale, that even Mr. Grimwig forbore to vex him further.

At length he stopped, and rang the bell violently.

'Mrs. Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, when the housekeeper appeared; 'that boy, Oliver, isan imposter.'

'It can't be, sir. It cannot be,' said the old lady energetically.

'I tell you he is,' retorted the old gentleman. 'What do you mean by can't be? We havejust heard a full account of him from his birth; and he has been a thorough−paced littlevillain, all his life.'

'I never will believe it, sir,' replied the old lady, firmly. 'Never!'

'You old women never believe anything but quack−doctors, and lying story−books,'growled Mr. Grimwig. 'I knew it all along. Why didn't you take my advise in the beginning;you would if he hadn't had a fever, I suppose, eh? He was interesting, wasn't he? Interesting!Bah!' And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a flourish.

'He was a dear, grateful, gentle child, sir,' retorted Mrs. Bedwin, indignantly. 'I knowwhat children are, sir; and have done these forty years; and people who can't say the same,shouldn't say anything about them. That's my opinion!'

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This was a hard hit at Mr. Grimwig, who was a bachelor. As it extorted nothing fromthat gentleman but a smile, the old lady tossed her head, and smoothed down her apronpreparatory to another speech, when she was stopped by Mr. Brownlow.

'Silence!' said the old gentleman, feigning an anger he was far from feeling. 'Never letme hear the boy's name again. I rang to tell you that. Never. Never, on any pretence, mind!You may leave the room, Mrs. Bedwin. Remember! I am in earnest.'

There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow's that night.

Oliver's heart sank within him, when he thought of his good friends; it was well for himthat he could not know what they had heard, or it might have broken outright.

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CHAPTER Xviii − HOW Oliver passed his time in the improvingsociety of his reputable FRIENDS

About noon next day, when the Dodger and Master Bates had gone out to pursue their

customary avocations, Mr. fa*gin took the opportunity of reading Oliver a long lecture on thecrying sin of ingratitude; of which he clearly demonstrated he had been guilty, to noordinary extent, in wilfully absenting himself from the society of his anxious friends; and,still more, in endeavouring to escape from them after so much trouble and expense had beenincurred in his recovery. Mr. fa*gin laid great stress on the fact of his having taken Oliver in,and cherished him, when, without his timely aid, he might have perished with hunger; andhe related the dismal and affecting history of a young lad whom, in his philanthropy, he hadsuccoured under parallel circ*mstances, but who, proving unworthy of his confidence andevincing a desire to communicate with the police, had unfortunately come to be hanged atthe Old Bailey one morning. Mr. fa*gin did not seek to conceal his share in the catastrophe,but lamented with tears in his eyes that the wrong−headed and treacherous behaviour of theyoung person in question, had rendered it necessary that he should become the victim ofcertain evidence for the crown: which, if it were not precisely true, was indispensablynecessary for the safety of him (Mr. fa*gin) and a few select friends. Mr. fa*gin concluded bydrawing a rather disagreeable picture of the discomforts of hanging; and, with greatfriendliness and politeness of manner, expressed his anxious hopes that he might never beobliged to submit Oliver Twist to that unpleasant operation.

Little Oliver's blood ran cold, as he listened to the Jew's words, and imperfectlycomprehended the dark threats conveyed in them. That it was possible even for justice itselfto confound the innocent with the guilty when they were in accidental companionship, heknew already; and that deeply−laid plans for the destruction of inconveniently knowing orover−communicative persons, had been really devised and carried out by the Jew on moreoccasions than one, he thought by no means unlikely, when he recollected the general natureof the altercations between that gentleman and Mr. Sikes: which seemed to bear reference tosome foregone conspiracy of the kind. As he glanced timidly up, and met the Jew'ssearching look, he felt that his pale face and trembling limbs were neither unnoticed norunrelished by that wary old gentleman.

The Jew, smiling hideously, patted Oliver on the head, and said, that if he kept himselfquiet, and applied himself to business, he saw they would be very good friends yet. Then,taking his hat, and covering himself with an old patched great−coat, he went out, and lockedthe room−door behind him.

And so Oliver remained all that day, and for the greater part of many subsequent days,seeing nobody, between early morning and midnight, and left during the long hours to

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commune with his own thoughts. Which, never failing to revert to his kind friends, and theopinion they must long ago have formed of him, were sad indeed.

After the lapse of a week or so, the Jew left the room−door unlocked; and he was atliberty to wander about the house.

It was a very dirty place. The rooms upstairs had great high wooden chimney−piecesand large doors, with panelled walls and cornices to the ceiling; which, although they wereblack with neglect and dust, were ornamented in various ways. From all of these tokensOliver concluded that a long time ago, before the old Jew was born, it had belonged to betterpeople, and had perhaps been quite gay and handsome: dismal and dreary as it looked now.

Spiders had built their webs in the angles of the walls and ceilings; and sometimes,when Oliver walked softly into a room, the mice would scamper across the floor, and runback terrified to their holes. With these exceptions, there was neither sight nor sound of anyliving thing; and often, when it grew dark, and he was tired of wandering from room toroom, he would crouch in the corner of the passage by the street−door, to be as near livingpeople as he could; and would remain there, listening and counting the hours, until the Jewor the boys returned.

In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed: the bars which held themwere screwed tight into the wood; the only light which was admitted, stealing its waythrough round holes at the top: which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them withstrange shadows. There was a back−garret window with rusty bars outside, which had noshutter; and out of this, Oliver often gazed with a melancholy face for hours together; butnothing was to be descried from it but a confused and crowded mass of housetops,blackened chimneys, and gable−ends. Sometimes, indeed, a grizzly head might be seen,peering over the parapet−wall of a distant house; but it was quickly withdrawn again; and asthe window of Oliver's observatory was nailed down, and dimmed with the rain and smokeof years, it was as much as he could do to make out the forms of the different objectsbeyond, without making any attempt to be seen or heard, – which he had as much chance ofbeing, as if he had lived inside the ball of St. Paul's Cathedral.

One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that evening, thefirst−named young gentleman took it into his head to evince some anxiety regarding thedecoration of his person (to do him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness withhim); and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver to assist him in histoilet, straightway.

Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have some faces, howeverbad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate those about him when he could honestly do so;to throw any objection in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed his readiness;and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat upon the table so that he could take his foot

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in his laps, he applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as 'japanning histrotter−cases.' The phrase, rendered into plain English, signifieth, cleaning his boots.

Whether it was the sense of freedom and independence which a rational animal may besupposed to feel when he sits on a table in an easy attitude smoking a pipe, swinging one legcarelessly to and fro, and having his boots cleaned all the time, without even the past troubleof having taken them off, or the prospective misery of putting them on, to disturb hisreflections; or whether it was the goodness of the tobacco that soothed the feelings of theDodger, or the mildness of the beer that mollified his thoughts; he was evidently tinctured,for the nonce, with a spice of romance and enthusiasm, foreign to his general nature. Helooked down on Oliver, with a thoughtful countenance, for a brief space; and then, raisinghis head, and heaving a gentle sign, said, half in abstraction, and half to Master Bates:

'What a pity it is he isn't a prig!'

'Ah!' said Master Charles Bates; 'he don't know what's good for him.'

The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley Bates. They bothsmoked, for some seconds, in silence.

'I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?' said the Dodger mournfully.

'I think I know that,' replied Oliver, looking up. 'It's a the – ; you're one, are you not?'inquired Oliver, checking himself.

'I am,' replied the Doger. 'I'd scorn to be anything else.' Mr. Dawkins gave his hat aferocious co*ck, after delivering this sentiment, and looked at Master Bates, as if to denotethat he would feel obliged by his saying anything to the contrary.

'I am,' repeated the Dodger. 'So's Charley. So's fa*gin. So's Sikes. So's Nancy. So's Bet.So we all are, down to the dog. And he's the downiest one of the lot!'

'And the least given to peaching,' added Charley Bates.

'He wouldn't so much as bark in a witness−box, for fear of committing himself; no, notif you tied him up in one, and left him there without wittles for a fortnight,' said the Dodger.

'Not a bit of it,' observed Charley.

'He's a rum dog. Don't he look fierce at any strange cove that laughs or sings when he'sin company!' pursued the Dodger. 'Won't he growl at all, when he hears a fiddle playing!And don't he hate other dogs as ain't of his breed! Oh, no!'

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'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 appropriateremark in another sense, if Master Bates had only known it; for there are a good many ladiesand gentlemen, claiming to be out−and−out Christians, between whom, and Mr. Sikes' dog,there exist strong and singular points of resemblance.

'Well, well,' said the Dodger, recurring to the point from which they had strayed: withthat mindfulness of his profession which influenced all his proceedings. 'This hasn't goanything to do with young Green here.'

'No more it has,' said Charley. 'Why don't you put yourself under fa*gin, Oliver?'

'And make your fortun' out of hand?' added the Dodger, with a grin.

'And so be able to retire on your property, and do the gen−teel: as I mean to, in the verynext leap−year but four that ever comes, and the forty−second Tuesday in Trinity−week,'said Charley Bates.

'I don't like it,' rejoined Oliver, timidly; 'I wish they would let me go. I – I – wouldrather go.'

'And fa*gin would Rather not!' rejoined Charley.

Oliver knew this too well; but thinking it might be dangerous to express his feelingsmore openly, he only sighed, and went on with his boot−cleaning.

'Go!' exclaimed the Dodger. 'Why, where's your spirit?' Don't you take any pride out ofyourself? Would you go and be dependent on your friends?'

'Oh, blow that!' said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk handkerchiefs from hispocket, and tossing them into a cupboard, 'that's too mean; that is.'

'I couldn't do it,' said the Dodger, with an air of haughty disgust.

'You can leave your friends, though,' said Oliver with a half smile; 'and let them bepunished for what you did.'

'That,' rejoined the Dodger, with a wave of his pipe, 'That was all out of considerationfor fa*gin, 'cause the traps know that we work together, and he might have got into trouble ifwe hadn't made our lucky; that was the move, wasn't it, Charley?'

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Master Bates nodded assent, and would have spoken, but the recollection of Oliver'sflight came so suddenly upon him, that the smoke he was inhaling got entagled with a laugh,and went up into his head, and down into his throat: and brought on a fit of coughing andstamping, about five minutes long.

'Look here!' said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and halfpence. 'Here'sa jolly life! What's the odds where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty morewhere they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious flat!'

'It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?' inquired Charley Bates. 'He'll come to be scragged, won'the?'

'I don't know what that means,' replied Oliver.

'Something in this way, old feller,' said Charly. As he said it, Master Bates caught up anend of his neckerchief; and, holding it erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, andjerked a curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively pantomimicrepresentation, that scragging and hanging were one and the same thing.

'That's what it means,' said Charley. 'Look how he stares, Jack!

I never did see such prime company as that 'ere boy; he'll be the death of me, I know hewill.' Master Charley Bates, having laughed heartily again, resumed his pipe with tears in hiseyes.

'You've been brought up bad,' said the Dodger, surveying his boots with muchsatisfaction when Oliver had polished them. 'fa*gin will make something of you, though, oryou'll be the first he ever had that turned out unprofitable. You'd better begin at once; foryou'll come to the trade long before you think of it; and you're only losing time, Oliver.'

Master Bates backed this advice with sundry moral admonitions of his own: which,being exhausted, he and his friend Mr. Dawkins launched into a glowing description of thenumerous pleasures incidental to the life they led, interspersed with a variety of hints toOliver that the best thing he could do, would be to secure fa*gin's favour without more delay,by the means which they themselves had employed to gain it.

'And always put this in your pipe, Nolly,' said the Dodger, as the Jew was heardunlocking 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 whatyou mean.'

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'If you don't take pocket−handkechers and watches,' said the Dodger, reducing hisconversation to the level of Oliver's capacity, 'some other cove will; so that the coves thatlose 'em will be all the worse, and you'll be all the worse, too, and nobody half a ha'p'orththe better, except the chaps wot gets them – and you've just as good a right to them as theyhave.'

'To be sure, to be sure!' said the Jew, who had entered unseen by Oliver. 'It all lies in anutshell my dear; in a nutshell, take the Dodger's word for it. Ha! ha! ha! He understands thecatechism of his trade.'

The old man rubbed his hands gleefully together, as he corroborated the Dodger'sreasoning in these terms; and chuckled with delight at his pupil's proficiency.

The conversation proceeded no farther at this time, for the Jew had returned homeaccompanied by Miss Betsy, and a gentleman whom Oliver had never seen before, but whowas accosted by the Dodger as Tom Chitling; and who, having lingered on the stairs toexchange a few gallantries with the lady, now made his appearance.

Mr. Chitling was older in years than the Dodger: having perhaps numbered eighteenwinters; but there was a degree of deference in his deportment towards that younggentleman which seemed to indicate that he felt himself conscious of a slight inferiority inpoint of genius and professional aquirements. He had small twinkling eyes, and apock−marked face; wore a fur cap, a dark corduroy jacket, greasy fustian trousers, and anapron. His wardrobe was, in truth, rather out of repair; but he excused himself to thecompany by stating that his 'time' was only out an hour before; and that, in consequence ofhaving worn the regimentals for six weeks past, he had not been able to bestow any attentionon his private clothes. Mr. Chitling added, with strong marks of irritation, that the new wayof fumigating clothes up yonder was infernal unconstitutional, for it burnt holes in them, andthere was no remedy against the County. The same remark he considered to apply to theregulation mode of cutting the hair: which he held to be decidedly unlawful. Mr. Chitlingwound up his observations by stating that he had not touched a drop of anything forforty−two moral long hard−working days; and that he 'wished he might be busted if hewarn't as dry as a lime−basket.'

'Where do you think the gentleman has come from, Oliver?' inquired the Jew, with agrin, as the other boys put a bottle of spirits on the table.

'I – I – don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Who's that?' inquired Tom Chitling, casting a contemptuous look at Oliver.

'A young friend of mine, my dear,' replied the Jew.

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'He's in luck, then,' said the young man, with a meaning look at fa*gin. 'Never mindwhere I came from, young 'un; you'll find your way there, soon enough, I'll bet a crown!'

At this sally, the boys laughed. After some more jokes on the same subject, theyexchanged a few short whispers with fa*gin; and withdrew.

After some words apart between the last comer and fa*gin, they drew their chairstowards the fire; and the Jew, telling Oliver to come and sit by him, led the conversation tothe topics most calculated to interest his hearers. These were, the great advantages of thetrade, the proficiency of the Dodger, the amiability of Charley Bates, and the liberality of theJew himself. At length these subjects displayed signs of being thoroughly exhausted; andMr. Chitling did the same: for the house of correction becomes fatiguing after a week ortwo. Miss Betsy accordingly withdrew; and left the party to their repose.

From this day, Oliver was seldom left alone; but was placed in almost constantcommunication with the two boys, who played the old game with the Jew every day:whether for their own improvement or Oliver's, Mr. fa*gin best knew. At other times the oldman would tell them stories of robberies he had committed in his younger days: mixed upwith so much that was droll and curious, that Oliver could not help laughing heartily, andshowing that he was amused in spite of all his better feelings.

In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils. Having prepared his mind, by solitudeand gloom, to prefer any society to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such adreary place, he was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped wouldblacken it, and change its hue for ever.

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I t was a chill, damp, windy night, when the Jew: buttoning his great−coat tight round

his shrivelled body, and pulling the collar up over his ears so as completely to obscure thelower part of his face: emerged from his den. He paused on the step as the door was lockedand chained behind him; and having listened while the boys made all secure, and until theirretreating footsteps were no longer audible, slunk down the street as quickly as he could.

The house to which Oliver had been conveyed, was in the neighborhood ofWhitechapel. The Jew stopped for an instant at the corner of the street; and, glancingsuspiciously round, crossed the road, and struck off in the direction of the Spitalfields.

The mud lay thick upon the stones, and a black mist hung over the streets; the rain fellsluggishly down, and everything felt cold and clammy to the touch. It seemed just the nightwhen it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. As he glided stealthily along, creepingbeneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like someloathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: crawlingforth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal.

He kept on his course, through many winding and narrow ways, until he reachedBethnal Green; then, turning suddenly off to the left, he soon became involved in a maze ofthe mean and dirty streets which abound in that close and densely−populated quarter.

The Jew was evidently too familiar with the ground he traversed to be at all bewildered,either by the darkness of the night, or the intricacies of the way. He hurried through severalalleys and streets, and at length turned into one, lighted only by a single lamp at the fartherend. At the door of a house in this street, he knocked; having exchanged a few mutteredwords with the person who opened it, he walked upstairs.

A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room−door; and a man's voice demandedwho was there.

'Only me, Bill; only me, my dear,' said the Jew looking in.

'Bring in your body then,' said Sikes. 'Lie down, you stupid brute! Don't you know thedevil when he's got a great−coat on?'

Apparently, the dog had been somewhat deceived by Mr. fa*gin's outer garment; for asthe Jew unbuttoned it, and threw it over the back of a chair, he retired to the corner from

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which he had risen: wagging his tail as he went, to show that he was as well satisfied as itwas in his nature to be.

'Well!' said Sikes.

'Well, my dear,' replied the Jew. – 'Ah! Nancy.'

The latter recognition was uttered with just enough of embarrassment to imply a doubtof its reception; for Mr. fa*gin and his young friend had not met, since she had interfered inbehalf of Oliver. All doubts upon the subject, if he had any, were speedily removed by theyoung lady's behaviour. She took her feet off the fender, pushed back her chair, and badefa*gin draw up his, without saying more about it: for it was a cold night, and no mistake.

'It is cold, Nancy dear,' said the Jew, as he warmed his skinny hands over the fire. 'Itseems to go right through one,' added the old man, touching his side.

'It must be a piercer, if it finds its way through your heart,' said Mr. Sikes. 'Give himsomething to drink, Nancy. Burn my body, make haste! It's enough to turn a man ill, to seehis lean old carcase shivering in that way, like a ugly ghost just rose from the grave.'

Nancy quickly brought a bottle from a cupboard, in which there were many: which, tojudge from the diversity of their appearance, were filled with several kinds of liquids. Sikespouring out a glass of brandy, bade the Jew drink it off.

'Quite enough, quite, thankye, Bill,' replied the Jew, putting down the glass after justsetting his lips to it.

'What! You're afraid of our getting the better of you, are you?' inquired Sikes, fixing hiseyes on the Jew. 'Ugh!'

With a hoarse grunt of contempt, Mr. Sikes seized the glass, and threw the remainder ofits contents into the ashes: as a preparatory ceremony to filling it again for himself: which hedid at once.

The Jew glanced round the room, as his companion tossed down the second glassful;not in curiousity, for he had seen it often before; but in a restless and suspicious mannerhabitual to him. It was a meanly furnished apartment, with nothing but the contents of thecloset to induce the belief that its occupier was anything but a working man; and with nomore suspicious articles displayed to view than two or three heavy bludgeons which stood ina corner, and a 'life−preserver' that hung over the chimney−piece.

'There,' said Sikes, smacking his lips. 'Now I'm ready.'

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'For business?' inquired the Jew.

'For business,' replied Sikes; 'so say what you've got to say.'

'About the crib at Chertsey, Bill?' said the Jew, drawing his chair forward, and speakingin a very low voice.

'Yes. Wot about it?' inquired Sikes.

'Ah! you know what I mean, my dear,' said the Jew. 'He knows what I mean, Nancy;don't he?'

'No, he don't,' sneered Mr. Sikes. 'Or he won't, and that's the same thing. Speak out, andcall things by their right names; don't sit there, winking and blinking, and talking to me inhints, as if you warn't the very first that thought about the robbery. Wot d'ye mean?'

'Hush, Bill, hush!' said the Jew, who had in vain attempted to stop this burst ofindignation; 'somebody will hear us, my dear. Somebody will hear us.'

'Let 'em hear!' said Sikes; 'I don't care.' But as Mr. Sikes DID care, on reflection, hedropped his voice as he said the words, and grew calmer.

'There, there,' said the Jew, coaxingly. 'It was only my caution, nothing more. Now, mydear, about that crib at Chertsey; when is it to be done, Bill, eh? When is it to be done? Suchplate, my dear, such plate!' said the Jew: rubbing his hands, and elevating his eyebrows in arapture of anticipation.

'Not at all,' replied Sikes coldly.

'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jew, leaning back in his chair.

'No, not at all,' rejoined Sikes. 'At least it can't be a put−up job, as we expected.'

'Then it hasn't been properly gone about,' said the Jew, turning pale with anger. 'Don'ttell me!'

'But I will tell you,' retorted Sikes. 'Who are you that's not to be told? I tell you thatToby Crackit has been hanging about the place for a fortnight, and he can't get one of theservants in line.'

'Do you mean to tell me, Bill,' said the Jew: softening as the other grew heated: 'thatneither of the two men in the house can be got over?'

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'Yes, I do mean to tell you so,' replied Sikes. 'The old lady has had 'em these twentyyears; and if you were to give 'em five hundred pound, they wouldn't be in it.'

'But do you mean to say, my dear,' remonstrated the Jew, 'that the women can't be gotover?'

'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes.

'Not by flash Toby Crackit?' said the Jew incredulously. 'Think what women are, Bill,'

'No; not even by flash Toby Crackit,' replied Sikes. 'He says he's worn sham whiskers,and a canary waistcoat, the whole blessed time he's been loitering down there, and it's all ofno 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 hischin sunk on his breast, he raised his head and said, with a deep sigh, that if flash TobyCrackit reported aright, he feared the game was up.

'And yet,' said the old man, dropping his hands on his knees, 'it's a sad thing, my dear, tolose so much when we had set our hearts upon it.'

'So it is,' said Mr. Sikes. 'Worse luck!'

A long silence ensued; during which the Jew was plunged in deep thought, with his facewrinkled into an expression of villainy perfectly demoniacal. Sikes eyed him furtively fromtime to time. Nancy, apparently fearful of irritating the housebreaker, sat with her eyes fixedupon the fire, as if she had been deaf to all that passed.

'fa*gin,' said Sikes, abruptly breaking the stillness that prevailed; 'is it worth fifty shinersextra, if it's safely done from the outside?'

'Yes,' said the Jew, as suddenly rousing himself.

'Is it a bargain?' inquired Sikes.

'Yes, my dear, yes,' rejoined the Jew; his eyes glistening, and every muscle in his faceworking, with the excitement that the inquiry had awakened.

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'Then,' said Sikes, thrusting aside the Jew's hand, with some disdain, 'let it come off assoon as you like. Toby and me were over the garden−wall the night afore last, sounding thepanels of the door and shutters. The crib's barred up at night like a jail; but there's one partwe can crack, safe and softly.'

'Which is that, Bill?' asked the Jew eagerly.

'Why,' whispered Sikes, 'as you cross the lawn – '

'Yes?' said the Jew, bending his head forward, with his eyes almost starting out of it.

'Umph!' cried Sikes, stopping short, as the girl, scarcely moving her head, lookedsuddenly round, and pointed for an instant to the Jew's face. 'Never mind which part it is.You can't do it without me, I know; but it's best to be on the safe side when one deals withyou.'

'As you like, my dear, as you like' replied the Jew. 'Is there no help wanted, but yoursand Toby's?'

'None,' said Sikes. 'Cept a centre−bit and a boy. The first we've both got; the second youmust find us.'

'A boy!' exclaimed the Jew. 'Oh! then it's a panel, eh?'

'Never mind wot it is!' replied Sikes. 'I want a boy, and he musn't be a big 'un. Lord!'said Mr. Sikes, reflectively, 'if I'd only got that young boy of Ned, the chimbley−sweeper's!He kept him small on purpose, and let him out by the job. But the father gets lagged; andthen the Juvenile Delinquent Society comes, and takes the boy away from a trade where hewas arning money, teaches him to read and write, and in time makes a 'prentice of him. Andso they go on,' said Mr. Sikes, his wrath rising with the recollection of his wrongs, 'so theygo on; and, if they'd got money enough (which it's a Providence they haven't,) we shouldn'thave half a dozen boys left in the whole trade, in a year or two.'

'No more we should,' acquiesed the Jew, who had been considering during this speech,and had only caught the last sentence. 'Bill!'

'What now?' inquired Sikes.

The Jew nodded his head towards Nancy, who was still gazing at the fire; and intimated,by a sign, that he would have her told to leave the room. Sikes shrugged his shouldersimpatiently, as if he thought the precaution unnecessary; but complied, nevertheless, byrequesting Miss Nancy to fetch him a jug of beer.

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'You don't want any beer,' said Nancy, folding her arms, and retaining her seat verycomposedly.

'I tell you I do!' replied Sikes.

'Nonsense,' rejoined the girl coolly, 'Go on, fa*gin. I know what he's going to say, Bill;he needn't mind me.'

The Jew still hesitated. Sikes looked from one to the other in some surprise.

'Why, you don't mind the old girl, do you, fa*gin?' he asked at length. 'You've known herlong enough to trust her, or the Devil's in it. She ain't one to blab. Are you Nancy?'

'I should think not!' replied the young lady: drawing her chair up to the table, andputting her elbows upon it.

'No, no, my dear, I know you're not,' said the Jew; 'but – ' and again the old man paused.

'But wot?' inquired Sikes.

'I didn't know whether she mightn't p'r'aps be out of sorts, you know, my dear, as shewas the other night,' replied the Jew.

At this confession, Miss Nancy burst into a loud laugh; and, swallowing a glass ofbrandy, shook her head with an air of defiance, and burst into sundry exclamations of 'Keepthe game a−going!' 'Never say die!' and the like. These seemed to have the effect ofre−assuring both gentlemen; for the Jew nodded his head with a satisfied air, and resumedhis seat: as did Mr. Sikes likewise.

'Now, fa*gin,' said Nancy with a laugh. 'Tell Bill at once, about Oliver!'

'Ha! you're a clever one, my dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!' said the Jew, patting heron the neck. 'It WAS about Oliver I was going to speak, sure enough. Ha! ha! ha!'

'What about him?' demanded Sikes.

'He's the boy for you, my dear,' replied the Jew in a hoarse whisper; laying his finger onthe side of his nose, and grinning frightfully.

'He!' exclaimed. Sikes.

'Have him, Bill!' said Nancy. 'I would, if I was in your place. He mayn't be so much up,as any of the others; but that's not what you want, if he's only to open a door for you.

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Depend upon it he's a safe one, Bill.'

'I know he is,' rejoined fa*gin. 'He's been in good training these last few weeks, and it'stime he began to work for his bread. Besides, the others are all too big.'

'Well, he is just the size I want,' said Mr. Sikes, ruminating.

'And will do everything you want, Bill, my dear,' interposed the Jew; 'he can't helphimself. That is, if you frighten him enough.'

'Frighten him!' echoed Sikes. 'It'll be no sham frightening, mind you. If there's anythingqueer about him when we once get into the work; in for a penny, in for a pound. You won'tsee him alive again, fa*gin. Think of that, before you send him. Mark my words!' said therobber, poising a crowbar, which he had drawn from under the bedstead.

'I've thought of it all,' said the Jew with energy. 'I've – I've had my eye upon him, mydears, close – close. Once let him feel that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the ideathat he has been a thief; and he's ours! Ours for his life. Oho! It couldn't have come aboutbetter! The old man crossed his arms upon his breast; and, drawing his head and shouldersinto a heap, literally hugged himself for joy.

'Ours!' said Sikes. 'Yours, you mean.'

'Perhaps I do, my dear,' said the Jew, with a shrill chuckle. 'Mine, if you like, Bill.'

'And wot,' said Sikes, scowling fiercely on his agreeable friend, 'wot makes you take somuch pains about one chalk−faced kid, when you know there are fifty boys snoozing aboutCommon Garden every night, as you might pick and choose from?'

'Because they're of no use to me, my dear,' replied the Jew, with some confusion, 'notworth the taking. Their looks convict 'em when they get into trouble, and I lose 'em all. Withthis boy, properly managed, my dears, I could do what I couldn't with twenty of them.Besides,' said the Jew, recovering his self−possession, 'he has us now if he could only giveus leg−bail again; and he must be in the same boat with us. Never mind how he came there;it's quite enough for my power over him that he was in a robbery; that's all I want. Now,how much better this is, than being obliged to put the poor leetle boy out of the way – whichwould be dangerous, and we should lose by it besides.'

'When is it to be done?' asked Nancy, stopping some turbulent exclamation on the partof Mr. Sikes, expressive of the disgust with which he received fa*gin's affectation ofhumanity.

'Ah, to be sure,' said the Jew; 'when is it to be done, Bill?'

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'I planned with Toby, the night arter to−morrow,' rejoined Sikes in a surly voice, 'if heheerd nothing from me to the contrairy.'

'Good,' said the Jew; 'there's no moon.'

'No,' rejoined Sikes.

'It's all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?' asked the Jew.

Sikes nodded.

'And about – '

'Oh, ah, it's all planned,' rejoined Sikes, interrupting him. 'Never mind particulars. You'dbetter bring the boy here to−morrow night. I shall get off the stone an hour arter daybreak.Then you hold your tongue, and keep the melting−pot ready, and that's all you'll have to do.'

After some discussion, in which all three took an active part, it was decided that Nancyshould repair to the Jew's next evening when the night had set in, and bring Oliver awaywith her; fa*gin craftily observing, that, if he evinced any disinclination to the task, he wouldbe more willing to accompany the girl who had so recently interfered in his behalf, thananybody else. It was also solemnly arranged that poor Oliver should, for the purposes of thecontemplated expedition, be unreservedly consigned to the care and custody of Mr. WilliamSikes; and further, that the said Sikes should deal with him as he thought fit; and should notbe held responsible by the Jew for any mischance or evil that might be necessary to visithim: it being understood that, to render the compact in this respect binding, anyrepresentations made by Mr. Sikes on his return should be required to be confirmed andcorroborated, in all important particulars, by the testimony of flash Toby Crackit.

These preliminaries adjusted, Mr. Sikes proceeded to drink brandy at a furious rate, andto flourish the crowbar in an alarming manner; yelling forth, at the same time, mostunmusical snatches of song, mingled with wild execrations. At length, in a fit of professionalenthusiasm, he insisted upon producing his box of housebreaking tools: which he had nosooner stumbled in with, and opened for the purpose of explaining the nature and propertiesof the various implements it contained, and the peculiar beauties of their construction, thanhe fell over the box upon the floor, and went to sleep where he fell.

'Good−night, Nancy,' said the Jew, muffling himself up as before.

'Good−night.'

Their eyes met, and the Jew scrutinised her, narrowly. There was no flinching about thegirl. She was as true and earnest in the matter as Toby Crackit himself could be.

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The Jew again bade her good−night, and, bestowing a sly kick upon the prostrate formof Mr. Sikes while her back was turned, groped downstairs.

'Always the way!' muttered the Jew to himself as he turned homeward. 'The worst ofthese women is, that a very little thing serves to call up some long−forgotten feeling; and,the best of them is, that it never lasts. Ha! ha! The man against the child, for a bag of gold!'

Beguiling the time with these pleasant reflections, Mr. fa*gin wended his way, throughmud and mire, to his gloomy abode: where the Dodger was sitting up, impatiently awaitinghis return.

'Is Oliver a−bed? I want to speak to him,' was his first remark as they descended thestairs.

'Hours ago,' replied the Dodger, throwing open a door. 'Here he is!'

The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so pale with anxiety, andsadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he looked like death; not death as it shows inshroud and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed; when a young andgentle spirit has, but an instant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of the world has not hadtime to breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.

'Not now,' said the Jew, turning softly away. 'To−morrow. To−morrow.'

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CHAPTER Xx − Wherein Olver is delivered over tomr. William SIKES

When Oliver awoke in the morning, he was a good deal surprised to find that a new

pair of shoes, with strong thick soles, had been placed at his bedside; and that his old shoeshad been removed. At first, he was pleased with the discovery: hoping that it might be theforerunner of his release; but such thoughts were quickly dispelled, on his sitting down tobreakfast along with the Jew, who told him, in a tone and manner which increased his alarm,that he was to be taken to the residence of Bill Sikes that night.

'To – to – stop there, sir?' asked Oliver, anxiously.

'No, no, my dear. Not to stop there,' replied the Jew. 'We shouldn't like to lose you.Don't be afraid, Oliver, you shall come back to us again. Ha! ha! ha! We won't be so cruel asto send you away, my dear. Oh no, no!'

The old man, who was stooping over the fire toasting a piece of bread, looked round ashe bantered Oliver thus; and chuckled as if to show that he knew he would still be very gladto get away if he could.

'I suppose,' said the Jew, fixing his eyes on Oliver, 'you want to know what you're goingto Bill's for – −eh, my dear?'

Oliver coloured, involuntarily, to find that the old thief had been reading his thoughts;but boldly said, Yes, he did want to know.

'Why, do you think?' inquired fa*gin, parrying the question.

'Indeed I don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Bah!' said the Jew, turning away with a disappointed countenance from a close perusalof the boy's face. 'Wait till Bill tells you, then.'

The Jew seemed much vexed by Oliver's not expressing any greater curiosity on thesubject; but the truth is, that, although Oliver felt very anxious, he was too much confusedby the earnest cunning of fa*gin's looks, and his own speculations, to make any furtherinquiries just then. He had no other opportunity: for the Jew remained very surly and silenttill night: when he prepared to go abroad.

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'You may burn a candle,' said the Jew, putting one upon the table. 'And here's a book foryou to read, till they come to fetch you. Good−night!'

'Good−night!' replied Oliver, softly.

The Jew walked to the door: looking over his shoulder at the boy as he went. Suddenlystopping, he called him by his name.

Oliver looked up; the Jew, pointing to the candle, motioned him to light it. He did so;and, as he placed the candlestick upon the table, saw that the Jew was gazing fixedly at him,with lowering and contracted brows, from the dark end of the room.

'Take heed, Oliver! take heed!' said the old man, shaking his right hand before him in awarning manner. 'He's a rough man, and thinks nothing of blood when his own is up. Whatever falls out, say nothing; and do what he bids you. Mind!' Placing a strong emphasis onthe last word, he suffered his features gradually to resolve themselves into a ghastly grin,and, nodding his head, left the room.

Oliver leaned his head upon his hand when the old man disappeared, and pondered,with a trembling heart, on the words he had just heard. The more he thought of the Jew'sadmonition, the more he was at a loss to divine its real purpose and meaning.

He could think of no bad object to be attained by sending him to Sikes, which would notbe equally well answered by his remaining with fa*gin; and after meditating for a long time,concluded that he had been selected to perform some ordinary menial offices for thehousebreaker, until another boy, better suited for his purpose could be engaged. He was toowell accustomed to suffering, and had suffered too much where he was, to bewail theprospect of change very severely. He remained lost in thought for some minutes; and then,with a heavy sigh, snuffed the candle, and, taking up the book which the Jew had left withhim, began to read.

He turned over the leaves. Carelessly at first; but, lighting on a passage which attractedhis attention, he soon became intent upon the volume. It was a history of the lives and trialsof great criminals; and the pages were soiled and thumbed with use. Here, he read ofdreadful crimes that made the blood run cold; of secret murders that had been committed bythe lonely wayside; of bodies hidden from the eye of man in deep pits and wells: whichwould not keep them down, deep as they were, but had yielded them up at last, after manyyears, and so maddened the murderers with the sight, that in their horror they had confessedtheir guilt, and yelled for the gibbet to end their agony. Here, too, he read of men who, lyingin their beds at dead of night, had been tempted (so they said) and led on, by their own badthoughts, to such dreadful bloodshed as it made the flesh creep, and the limbs quail, to thinkof. The terrible descriptions were so real and vivid, that the sallow pages seemed to turn redwith gore; and the words upon them, to be sounded in his ears, as if they were whispered, in

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hollow murmers, by the spirits of the dead.

In a paroxysm of fear, the boy closed the book, and thrust it from him. Then, fallingupon his knees, he prayed Heaven to spare him from such deeds; and rather to will that heshould die at once, than be reserved for crimes, so fearful and appaling. By degrees, he grewmore calm, and besought, in a low and broken voice, that he might be rescued from hispresent dangers; and that if any aid were to be raised up for a poor outcast boy who hadnever known the love of friends or kindred, it might come to him now, when, desolate anddeserted, he stood alone in the midst of wickedness and guilt.

He had concluded his prayer, but still remained with his head buried in his hands, whena rustling noise aroused him.

'What's that!' he cried, starting up, and catching sight of a figure standing by the door.'Who's there?'

'Me. Only me,' replied a tremulous voice.

Oliver raised the candle above his head: and looked towards the door. It was Nancy.

'Put down the light,' said the girl, turning away her head. 'It hurts my eyes.'

Oliver saw that she was very pale, and gently inquired if she were ill. The girl threwherself into a chair, with her back towards him: and wrung her hands; but made no reply.

'God forgive me!' she cried after a while, 'I never thought of this.'

'Has anything happened?' asked Oliver. 'Can I help you? I will if I can. I will, indeed.'

She rocked herself to and fro; caught her throat; and, uttering a gurgling sound, gaspedfor breath.

'Nancy!' cried Oliver, 'What is it?'

The girl beat her hands upon her knees, and her feet upon the ground; and, suddenlystopping, drew her shawl close round her: and shivered with cold.

Oliver stirred the fire. Drawing her chair close to it, she sat there, for a little time,without speaking; but at length she raised her head, and looked round.

'I don't know what comes over me sometimes,' said she, affecting to busy herself inarranging her dress; 'it's this damp dirty room, I think. Now, Nolly, dear, are you ready?'

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'Am I to go with you?' asked Oliver.

'Yes. I have come from Bill,' replied the girl. 'You are to go with me.'

'What for?' asked Oliver, recoiling.

'What for?' echoed the girl, raising her eyes, and averting them again, the moment theyencountered the boy's face. 'Oh! For no harm.'

'I don't believe it,' said Oliver: who had watched her closely.

'Have it your own way,' rejoined the girl, affecting to laugh. 'For no good, then.'

Oliver could see that he had some power over the girl's better feelings, and, for aninstant, thought of appealing to her compassion for his helpless state. But, then, the thoughtdarted across his mind that it was barely eleven o'clock; and that many people were still inthe streets: of whom surely some might be found to give credence to his tale. As thereflection occured to him, he stepped forward: and said, somewhat hastily, that he wasready.

Neither his brief consideration, nor its purport, was lost on his companion. She eyedhim narrowly, while he spoke; and cast upon him a look of intelligence which sufficientlyshowed that she guessed what had been passing in his thoughts.

'Hush!' said the girl, stooping over him, and pointing to the door as she lookedcautiously round. 'You can't help yourself. I have tried hard for you, but all to no purpose.You are hedged round and round. If ever you are to get loose from here, this is not the time.'

Struck by the energy of her manner, Oliver looked up in her face with great surprise.She seemed to speak the truth; her countenance was white and agitated; and she trembledwith very earnestness.

'I have saved you from being ill−used once, and I will again, and I do now,' continuedthe girl aloud; 'for those who would have fetched you, if I had not, would have been farmore rough than me. I have promised for your being quiet and silent; if you are not, you willonly do harm to yourself and me too, and perhaps be my death. See here! I have borne allthis for you already, as true as God sees me show it.'

She pointed, hastily, to some livid bruises on her neck and arms; and continued, withgreat rapidity:

'Remember this! And don't let me suffer more for you, just now. If I could help you, Iwould; but I have not the power. They don't mean to harm you; whatever they make you do,

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is no fault of yours. Hush! Every word from you is a blow for me. Give me your hand. Makehaste! Your hand!

She caught the hand which Oliver instinctively placed in hers, and, blowing out thelight, drew him after her up the stairs. The door was opened, quickly, by some one shroudedin the darkness, and was as quickly closed, when they had passed out. A hackney−cabrioletwas in waiting; with the same vehemence which she had exhibited in addressing Oliver, thegirl pulled him in with her, and drew the curtains close. The driver wanted no directions, butlashed his horse into full speed, without the delay of an instant.

The girl still held Oliver fast by the hand, and continued to pour into his ear, thewarnings and assurances she had already imparted. All was so quick and hurried, that he hadscarcely time to recollect where he was, or how he came there, when to carriage stopped atthe house to which the Jew's steps had been directed on the previous evening.

For one brief moment, Oliver cast a hurried glance along the empty street, and a cry forhelp hung upon his lips. But the girl's voice was in his ear, beseeching him in such tones ofa*gony to remember her, that he had not the heart to utter it. While he hesitated, theopportunity was gone; he was already in the house, and the door was shut.

'This way,' said the girl, releasing her hold for the first time.

'Bill!'

'Hallo!' replied Sikes: appearing at the head of the stairs, with a candle. 'Oh! That's thetime of day. Come on!'

This was a very strong expression of approbation, an uncommonly hearty welcome,from a person of Mr. Sikes' temperament. Nancy, appearing much gratified thereby, salutedhim cordially.

'Bull's−eye's gone home with Tom,' observed Sikes, as he lighted them up. 'He'd havebeen 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 dooras he spoke.

'Yes, here he is,' replied Nancy.

'Did he come quiet?' inquired Sikes.

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'Like a lamb,' rejoined Nancy.

'I'm glad to hear it,' said Sikes, looking grimly at Oliver; 'for the sake of his youngcarcase: as would otherways have suffered for it. Come here, young 'un; and let me read youa lectur', which is as well got over at once.'

Thus addressing his new pupil, Mr. Sikes pulled off Oliver's cap and threw it into acorner; and then, taking him by the shoulder, sat himself down by the table, and stood theboy in front of him.

'Now, first: do you know wot this is?' inquired Sikes, taking up a pocket−pistol whichlay on the table.

Oliver replied in the affirmative.

'Well, then, look here,' continued Sikes. 'This is powder; that 'ere's a bullet; and this is alittle bit of a old hat for waddin'.'

Oliver murmured his comprehension of the different bodies referred to; and Mr. Sikesproceeded to load the pistol, with great nicety and deliberation.

'Now it's loaded,' said Mr. Sikes, when he had finished.

'Yes, I see it is, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Well,' said the robber, grasping Oliver's wrist, and putting the barrel so close to histemple that they touched; at which moment the boy could not repress a start; 'if you speak aword when you're out o' doors with me, except when I speak to you, that loading will be inyour head without notice. So, if you DO make up your mind to speak without leave, sayyour prayers first.'

Having bestowed a scowl upon the object of this warning, to increase its effect, Mr.Sikes continued.

'As near as I know, there isn't anybody as would be asking very partickler arter you, ifyou WAS disposed of; so I needn't take this devil−and−all of trouble to explain matters toyou, if it warn't for you own good. D'ye hear me?'

'The short and the long of what you mean,' said Nancy: speaking very emphatically, andslightly frowning at Oliver as if to bespeak his serious attention to her words: 'is, that ifyou're crossed by him in this job you have on hand, you'll prevent his ever telling talesafterwards, by shooting him through the head, and will take your chance of swinging for it,as you do for a great many other things in the way of business, every month of your life.'

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'That's it!' observed Mr. Sikes, approvingly; 'women can always put things in fewestwords. – Except when it's blowing up; and then they lengthens it out. And now that he'sthoroughly up to it, let's have some supper, and get a snooze before starting.'

In pursuance of this request, Nancy quickly laid the cloth; disappearing for a fewminutes, she presently returned with a pot of porter and a dish of sheep's heads: which gaveoccasion to several pleasant witticisms on the part of Mr. Sikes, founded upon the singularcoincidence of 'jemmies' being a can name, common to them, and also to an ingeniousimplement much used in his profession. Indeed, the worthy gentleman, stimulated perhapsby the immediate prospect of being on active service, was in great spirits and good humour;in proof whereof, it may be here remarked, that he humourously drank all the beer at adraught, and did not utter, on a rough calculation, more than four−score oaths during thewhole progress of the meal.

Supper being ended – it may be easily conceived that Oliver had no great appetite for it– Mr. Sikes disposed of a couple of glasses of spirits and water, and threw himself on thebed; ordering Nancy, with many imprecations in case of failure, to call him at five precisely.Oliver stretched himself in his clothes, by command of the same authority, on a mattressupon the floor; and the girl, mending the fire, sat before it, in readiness to rouse them at theappointed time.

For a long time Oliver lay awake, thinking it not impossible that Nancy might seek thatopportunity of whispering some further advice; but the girl sat brooding over the fire,without moving, save now and then to trim the light. Weary with watching and anxiety, he atlength fell asleep.

When he awoke, the table was covered with tea−things, and Sikes was thrusting variousarticles into the pockets of his great−coat, which hung over the back of a chair. Nancy wasbusily engaged in preparing breakfast. It was not yet daylight; for the candle was stillburning, and it was quite dark outside. A sharp rain, too, was beating against thewindow−panes; and the sky looked black and cloudy.

'Now, then!' growled Sikes, as Oliver started up; 'half−past five! Look sharp, or you'llget no breakfast; for it's late as it is.'

Oliver was not long in making his toilet; having taken some breakfast, he replied to asurly inquiry from Sikes, by saying that he was quite ready.

Nancy, scarcely looking at the boy, threw him a handkerchief to tie round his throat;Sikes gave him a large rough cape to button over his shoulders. Thus attired, he gave hishand to the robber, who, merely pausing to show him with a menacing gesture that he hadthat same pistol in a side−pocket of his great−coat, clasped it firmly in his, and, exchanginga farewell with Nancy, led him away.

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Oliver turned, for an instant, when they reached the door, in the hope of meeting a lookfrom the girl. But she had resumed her old seat in front of the fire, and sat, perfectlymotionless before it.

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CHAPTER Xxi − THE EXPEDITION

I t 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 hadcollected in the road: and the kennels were overflowing. There was a faint glimmering of thecoming day in the sky; but it rather aggrevated than relieved the gloom of the scene: thesombre light only serving to pale that which the street lamps afforded, without shedding anywarmer or brighter tints upon the wet house−tops, and dreary streets. There appeared to benobody stirring in that quarter of the town; the windows of the houses were all closely shut;and the streets through which they passed, were noiseless and empty.

By the time they had turned into the Bethnal Green Road, the day had fairly begun tobreak. Many of the lamps were already extinguished; a few country waggons were slowlytoiling on, towards London; now and then, a stage−coach, covered with mud, rattled brisklyby: the driver bestowing, as he passed, and admonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner who,by keeping on the wrong side of the road, had endangered his arriving at the office, a quarterof a minute after his time. The public−houses, with gas−lights burning inside, were alreadyopen. By degrees, other shops began to be unclosed, and a few scattered people were metwith. Then, came straggling groups of labourers going to their work; then, men and womenwith fish−baskets on their heads; donkey−carts laden with vegetables; chaise−carts filledwith live−stock or whole carcasses of meat; milk−women with pails; an unbroken concourseof people, trudging out with various supplies to the eastern suburbs of the town. As theyapproached the City, the noise and traffic gradually increased; when they threaded thestreets between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled into a roar of sound and bustle. Itwas as light as it was likely to be, till night came on again, and the busy morning of half theLondon population had begun.

Turning down Sun Street and Crown Street, and crossing Finsbury square, Mr. Sikesstruck, by way of Chiswell Street, into Barbican: thence into Long Lane, and so intoSmithfield; from which latter place arose a tumult of discordant sounds that filled OliverTwist with amazement.

It was market−morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle−deep, with filth andmire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and minglingwith the fog, which seemd to rest upon the chimney−tops, hung heavily above. All the pensin the centre of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into thevacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long lines ofbeasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves,idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; the whistling ofdrovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the

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grunting and squeaking of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on allsides; the ringing of bells and roar of voices, that issued from every public−house; thecrowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and discordant dimthat resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, anddirty figues constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it astunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses.

Mr. Sikes, dragging Oliver after him, elbowed his way through the thickest of thecrowd, and bestowed very little attention on the numerous sights and sounds, which soastonished the boy. He nodded, twice or thrice, to a passing friend; and, resisting as manyinvitations to take a morning dram, pressed steadily onward, until they were clear of theturmoil, and had made their way through Hosier Lane into Holborn.

'Now, young 'un!' said Sikes, looking up at the clock of St. Andrew's Church, 'hard uponseven! you must step out. Come, don't lag behind already, Lazy−legs!'

Mr. Sikes accompanied this speech with a jerk at his little companion's wrist; Oliver,quickening his pace into a kind of trot between a fast walk and a run, kept up with the rapidstrides of the house−breaker as well as he could.

They held their course at this rate, until they had passed Hyde Park corner, and were ontheir way to Kensington: when Sikes relaxed his pace, until an empty cart which was atsome little distance behind, came up. Seeing 'Hounslow' written on it, he asked the driverwith as much civility as he could assume, if he would give them a lift as far as Isleworth.

'Jump up,' said the man. 'Is that your boy?'

'Yes; he's my boy,' replied Sikes, looking hard at Oliver, and putting his handabstractedly into the pocket where the pistol was.

'Your father walks rather too quick for you, don't he, my man?' inquired the driver:seeing that Oliver was out of breath.

'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes, interposing. 'He's used to it.

Here, take hold of my hand, Ned. In with you!'

Thus addressing Oliver, he helped him into the cart; and the driver, pointing to a heap ofsacks, told him to lie down there, and rest himself.

As they passed the different mile−stones, Oliver wondered, more and more, where hiscompanion meant to take him. Kensington, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Kew Bridge,Brentford, were all passed; and yet they went on as steadily as if they had only just begun

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their journey. At length, they came to a public−house called the Coach and Horses; a littleway beyond which, another road appeared to run off. And here, the cart stopped.

Sikes dismounted with great precipitation, holding Oliver by the hand all the while; andlifting him down directly, bestowed a furious look upon him, and rapped the side−pocketwith his fist, in a significant manner.

'Good−bye, boy,' said the man.

'He's sulky,' replied Sikes, giving him a shake; 'he's sulky. A young dog! Don't mindhim.'

'Not I!' rejoined the other, getting into his cart. 'It's a fine day, after all.' And he droveaway.

Sikes waited until he had fairly gone; and then, telling Oliver he might look about himif he wanted, once again led him onward on his journey.

They turned round to the left, a short way past the public−house; and then, taking aright−hand road, walked on for a long time: passing many large gardens and gentlemen'shouses on both sides of the way, and stopping for nothing but a little beer, until they reacheda town. Here against the wall of a house, Oliver saw written up in pretty large letters,'Hampton.' They lingered about, in the fields, for some hours. At length they came back intothe town; and, turning into an old public−house with a defaced sign−board, ordered somedinner by the kitchen fire.

The kitchen was an old, low−roofed room; with a great beam across the middle of theceiling, and benches, with high backs to them, by the fire; on which were seated severalrough men in smock−frocks, drinking and smoking. They took no notice of Oliver; and verylittle of Sikes; and, as Sikes took very little notice of the, he and his young comrade sat in acorner by themselves, without being much troubled by their company.

They had some cold meat for dinner, and sat so long after it, while Mr. Sikes indulgedhimself with three or four pipes, that Oliver began to feel quite certain they were not goingany further. Being much tired with the walk, and getting up so early, he dozed a little at first;then, quite overpowered by fatigue and the fumes of the tobacco, fell asleep.

It was quite dark when he was awakened by a push from Sikes. Rousing himselfsufficiently to sit up and look about him, he found that worthy in close fellowship andcommunication with a labouring man, over a pint of ale.

'So, you're going on to Lower Halliford, are you?' inquired Sikes.

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'Yes, I am,' replied the man, who seemed a little the worse – or better, as the case mightbe – for drinking; 'and not slow about it neither. My horse hasn't got a load behind himgoing back, as he had coming up in the mornin'; and he won't be long a−doing of it. Here'sluck to him. Ecod! he's a good 'un!'

'Could you give my boy and me a lift as far as there?' demanded Sikes, pushing the aletowards his new friend.

'If you're going directly, I can,' replied the man, looking out of the pot. 'Are you going toHalliford?'

'Going on to Shepperton,' replied Sikes.

'I'm your man, as far as I go,' replied the other. 'Is all paid, Becky?'

'Yes, the other gentleman's paid,' replied the girl.

'I say!' said the man, with tipsy gravity; 'that won't do, you know.'

'Why not?' rejoined Sikes. 'You're a−going to accommodate us, and wot's to prevent mystanding treat for a pint or so, in return?'

The stranger reflected upon this argument, with a very profound face; having done so,he seized Sikes by the hand: and declared he was a real good fellow. To which Mr. Sikesreplied, he was joking; as, if he had been sober, there would have been strong reason tosuppose he was.

After the exchange of a few more compliments, they bade the company good−night,and went out; the girl gathering up the pots and glasses as they did so, and lounging out tothe door, with her hands full, to see the party start.

The horse, whose health had been drunk in his absence, was standing outside: readyharnessed to the cart. Oliver and Sikes got in without any further ceremony; and the man towhom he belonged, having lingered for a minute or two 'to bear him up,' and to defy thehostler and the world to produce his equal, mounted also. Then, the hostler was told to givethe horse his head; and, his head being given him, he made a very unpleasant use of it:tossing it into the air with great disdain, and running into the parlour windows over the way;after performing those feats, and supporting himself for a short time on his hind−legs, hestarted off at great speed, and rattled out of the town right gallantly.

The night was very dark. A damp mist rose from the river, and the marshy groundabout; and spread itself over the dreary fields. It was piercing cold, too; all was gloomy andblack. Not a word was spoken; for the driver had grown sleepy; and Sikes was in no mood to

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lead him into conversation. Oliver sat huddled together, in a corner of the cart; bewilderedwith alarm and apprehension; and figuring strange objects in the gaunt trees, whosebranches waved grimly to and fro, as if in some fantastic joy at the desolation of the scene.

As they passed Sunbury Church, the clock struck seven. There was a light in theferry−house window opposite: which streamed across the road, and threw into more sombreshadow a dark yew−tree with graves beneath it. There was a dull sound of falling water notfar off; and the leaves of the old tree stirred gently in the night wind. It seemed like quietmusic for the repose of the dead.

Sunbury was passed through, and they came again into the lonely road. Two or threemiles more, and the cart stopped. Sikes alighted, took Oliver by the hand, and they onceagain walked on.

They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had expected; but still keptwalking on, in mud and darkness, through gloomy lanes and over cold open wastes, untilthey came within sight of the lights of a town at no great distance. On looking intentlyforward, Oliver saw that the water was just below them, and that they were coming to thefoot of a bridge.

Sikes kept straight on, until they were close upon the bridge; then turned suddenly downa bank upon the left.

'The water!' thought Oliver, turning sick with fear. 'He has brought me to this lonelyplace to murder me!'

He was about to throw himself on the ground, and make one struggle for his young life,when he saw that they stood before a solitary house: all ruinous and decayed. There was awindow on each side of the dilapidated entrance; and one story above; but no light wasvisible. The house was dark, dismantled: and the all appearance, uninhabited.

Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch, and raised thelatch. The door yielded to the pressure, and they passed in together.

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CHAPTER Xxii − THE BURGLARY

'H allo!' cried a loud, hoarse voice, as soon as they set foot in the passage.

'Don't make such a row,' said Sikes, bolting the door. 'Show a glim, Toby.'

'Aha! my pal!' cried the same voice. 'A glim, Barney, a glim! Show the gentleman in,Barney; wake up first, if convenient.'

The speaker appeared to throw a boot−jack, or some such article, at the person headdressed, to rouse him from his slumbers: for the noise of a wooden body, falling violently,was heard; and then an indistinct muttering, as of a man between sleep and awake.

'Do you hear?' cried the same voice. 'There's Bill Sikes in the passage with nobody to dothe civil to him; and you sleeping there, as if you took laudanum with your meals, andnothing stronger. Are you any fresher now, or do you want the iron candlestick to wake youthoroughly?'

A pair of slipshod feet shuffled, hastily, across the bare floor of the room, as thisinterrogatory was put; and there issued, from a door on the right hand; first, a feeble candle:and next, the form of the same individual who has been heretofore described as labouringunder the infirmity of speaking through his nose, and officiating as waiter at thepublic−house on Saffron Hill.

'Bister Sikes!' exclaimed Barney, with real or counterfeit joy; 'cub id, sir; cub id.'

'Here! you get on first,' said Sikes, putting Oliver in front of him. 'Quicker! or I shalltread upon your heels.'

Muttering a curse upon his tardiness, Sikes pushed Oliver before him; and they entereda low dark room with a smoky fire, two or three broken chairs, a table, and a very old couch:on which, with his legs much higher than his head, a man was reposing at full length,smoking a long clay pipe. He was dressed in a smartly−cut snuff−coloured coat, with largebrass buttons; an orange neckerchief; a coarse, staring, shawl−pattern waistcoat; and drabbreeches. Mr. Crackit (for he it was) had no very great quantity of hair, either upon his heador face; but what he had, was of a reddish dye, and tortured into long corkscrew curls,through which he occasionally thrust some very dirty fingers, ornamented with largecommon rings. He was a trifle above the middle size, and apparently rather weak in the legs;but this circ*mstance by no means detracted from his own admiration of his top−boots,which he contemplated, in their elevated situation, with lively satisfaction.

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'Bill, my boy!' said this figure, turning his head towards the door, 'I'm glad to see you. Iwas almost afraid you'd given it up: in which case I should have made a personal wentur.Hallo!'

Uttering this exclamation in a tone of great surprise, as his eyes rested on Oliver, Mr.Toby Crackit brought himself into a sitting posture, and demanded who that was.

'The boy. Only the boy!' replied Sikes, drawing a chair towards the fire.

'Wud of Bister fa*gid's lads,' exclaimed Barney, with a grin.

'fa*gin's, eh!' exclaimed Toby, looking at Oliver. 'Wot an inwalable boy that'll make, forthe old ladies' pockets in chapels! His mug is a fortin' to him.'

'There – there's enough of that,' interposed Sikes, impatiently; and stooping over hisrecumbant friend, he whispered a few words in his ear: at which Mr. Crackit laughedimmensely, and honoured Oliver with a long stare of astonishment.

'Now,' said Sikes, as he resumed his seat, 'if you'll give us something to eat and drinkwhile we're waiting, you'll put some heart in us; or in me, at all events. Sit down by the fire,younker, and rest yourself; for you'll have to go out with us again to−night, though not veryfar off.'

Oliver looked at Sikes, in mute and timid wonder; and drawing a stool to the fire, satwith his aching head upon his hands, scarecely knowing where he was, or what was passingaround him.

'Here,' said Toby, as the young Jew placed some fragments of food, and a bottle uponthe table, 'Success to the crack!' He rose to honour the toast; and, carefully depositing hisempty pipe in a corner, advanced to the table, filled a glass with spirits, and drank off itscontents. Mr. Sikes did the same.

'A drain for the boy,' said Toby, half−filling a wine−glass. 'Down with it, innocence.'

'Indeed,' said Oliver, looking piteously up into the man's face; 'indeed, I – '

'Down with it!' echoed Toby. 'Do you think I don't know what's good for you? Tell himto drink it, Bill.'

'He had better!' said Sikes clapping his hand upon his pocket. 'Burn my body, if he isn'tmore trouble than a whole family of Dodgers. Drink it, you perwerse imp; drink it!'

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Frightened by the menacing gestures of the two men, Oliver hastily swallowed thecontents of the glass, and immediately fell into a violent fit of coughing: which delightedToby Crackit and Barney, and even drew a smile from the surly Mr. Sikes.

This done, and Sikes having satisfied his appetite (Oliver could eat nothing but a smallcrust of bread which they made him swallow), the two men laid themselves down on chairsfor a short nap. Oliver retained his stool by the fire; Barney wrapped in a blanket, stretchedhimself on the floor: close outside the fender.

They slept, or appeared to sleep, for some time; nobody stirring but Barney, who roseonce or twice to throw coals on the fire. Oliver fell into a heavy doze: imagining himselfstraying along the gloomy lanes, or wandering about the dark churchyard, or retracing someone or other of the scenes of the past day: when he was roused by Toby Crackit jumping upand declaring it was half−past one.

In an instant, the other two were on their legs, and all were actively engaged in busypreparation. Sikes and his companion enveloped their necks and chins in large dark shawls,and drew on their great−coats; Barney, opening a cupboard, brought forth several articles,which he hastily crammed into the pockets.

'Barkers for me, Barney,' said Toby Crackit.

'Here they are,' replied Barney, producing a pair of pistols. 'You loaded them yourself.'

'All right!' replied Toby, stowing them away. 'The persuaders?'

'I've got 'em,' replied Sikes.

'Crape, keys, centre−bits, darkies – nothing forgotten?' inquired Toby: fastening a smallcrowbar to a loop inside the skirt of his coat.

'All right,' rejoined his companion. 'Bring them bits of timber, Barney. That's the time ofday.'

With these words, he took a thick stick from Barney's hands, who, having deliveredanother to Toby, busied himself in fastening on Oliver's cape.

'Now then!' said Sikes, holding out his hand.

Oliver: who was completely stupified by the unwonted exercise, and the air, and thedrink which had been forced upon him: put his hand mechanically into that which Sikesextended for the purpose.

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'Take his other hand, Toby,' said Sikes. 'Look out, Barney.'

The man went to the door, and returned to announce that all was quiet. The two robbersissued forth with Oliver between them. Barney, having made all fast, rolled himself up asbefore, and was soon asleep again.

It was now intensely dark. The fog was much heavier than it had been in the early partof the night; and the atmosphere was so damp, that, although no rain fell, Oliver's hair andeyebrows, within a few minutes after leaving the house, had become stiff with thehalf−frozen moisture that was floating about. They crossed the bridge, and kept on towardsthe lights which he had seen before. They were at no great distance off; and, as they walkedpretty briskly, they soon arrived at Chertsey.

'Slap through the town,' whispered Sikes; 'there'll be nobody in the way, to−night, to seeus.'

Toby acquiesced; and they hurried through the main street of the little town, which atthat late hour was wholly deserted. A dim light shone at intervals from some bed−roomwindow; and the hoarse barking of dogs occasionally broke the silence of the night. Butthere was nobody abroad. They had cleared the town, as the church−bell struck two.

Quickening their pace, they turned up a road upon the left hand. After walking about aquarter of a mile, they stopped before a detached house surrounded by a wall: to the top ofwhich, Toby Crackit, scarcely pausing to take breath, climbed in a twinkling.

'The boy next,' said Toby. 'Hoist him up; I'll catch hold of him.'

Before Oliver had time to look round, Sikes had caught him under the arms; and inthree or four seconds he and Toby were lying on the grass on the other side. Sikes followeddirectly. And they stole cautiously towards the house.

And now, for the first time, Oliver, well−nigh mad with grief and terror, saw thathousebreaking and robbery, if not murder, were the objects of the expedition. He clasped hishands together, and involuntarily uttered a subdued exclamation of horror. A mist camebefore his eyes; the cold sweat stood upon his ashy face; his limbs failed him; and he sankupon his knees.

'Get up!' murmured Sikes, trembling with rage, and drawing the pistol from his pocket;'Get up, or I'll strew your brains upon the grass.'

'Oh! for God's sake let me go!' cried Oliver; 'let me run away and die in the fields. I willnever come near London; never, never! Oh! pray have mercy on me, and do not make mesteal. For the love of all the bright Angels that rest in Heaven, have mercy upon me!'

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The man to whom this appeal was made, swore a dreadful oath, and had co*cked thepistol, when Toby, striking it from his grasp, placed his hand upon the boy's mouth, anddragged him to the house.

'Hush!' cried the man; 'it won't answer here. Say another word, and I'll do your businessmyself with a crack on the head. That makes no noise, and is quite as certain, and moregenteel. Here, Bill, wrench the shutter open. He's game enough now, I'll engage. I've seenolder hands of his age took the same way, for a minute or two, on a cold night.'

Sikes, invoking terrific imprecations upon fa*gin's head for sending Oliver on such anerrand, plied the crowbar vigorously, but with little noise. After some delay, and someassistance from Toby, the shutter to which he had referred, swung open on its hinges.

It was a little lattice window, about five feet and a half above the ground, at the back ofthe house: which belonged to a scullery, or small brewing−place, at the end of the passage.The aperture was so small, that the inmates had probably not thought it worth while todefend it more securely; but it was large enough to admit a boy of Oliver's size,nevertheless. A very brief exercise of Mr. Sike's art, sufficed to overcome the fastening ofthe lattice; and it soon stood wide open also.

'Now listen, you young limb,' whispered Sikes, drawing a dark lantern from his pocket,and throwing the glare full on Oliver's face; 'I'm a going to put you through there. Take thislight; go softly up the steps straight afore you, and along the little hall, to the street door;unfasten it, and let us in.'

'There's a bolt at the top, you won't be able to reach,' interposed Toby. 'Stand upon oneof the hall chairs. There are three there, Bill, with a jolly large blue unicorn and goldpitchfork on 'em: which is the old lady's arms.'

'Keep quiet, can't you?' replied Sikes, with a threatening look. 'The room−door is open,is it?'

'Wide,' repied Toby, after peeping in to satisfy himself. 'The game of that is, that theyalways leave it open with a catch, so that the dog, who's got a bed in here, may walk up anddown the passage when he feels wakeful. Ha! ha! Barney 'ticed him away to−night. So neat!'

Although Mr. Crackit spoke in a scarcely audible whisper, and laughed without noise,Sikes imperiously commanded him to be silent, and to get to work. Toby complied, by firstproducing his lantern, and placing it on the ground; then by planting himself firmly with hishead against the wall beneath the window, and his hands upon his knees, so as to make astep of his back. This was no sooner done, than Sikes, mounting upon him, put Oiver gentlythrough the window with his feet first; and, without leaving hold of his collar, planted himsafely on the floor inside.

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'Take this lantern,' said Sikes, looking into the room. 'You see the stairs afore you?'

Oliver, more dead than alive, gasped out, 'Yes.' Sikes, pointing to the street−door withthe pistol−barrel, briefly advised him to take notice that he was within shot all the way; andthat if he faltered, he would fall dead that instant.

'It's done in a minute,' said Sikes, in the same low whisper. 'Directly I leave go of you,do your work. Hark!'

'What's that?' whispered the other man.

They listened intently.

'Nothing,' said Sikes, releasing his hold of Oliver. 'Now!'

In the short time he had had to collect his senses, the boy had firmly resolved that,whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one effort to dart upstairs from thehall, and alarm the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at once, but 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 crywhich followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall, and knew not whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated – a light appeared – a vision of two terrified half−dressed men atthe top of the stairs swam before his eyes – a flash – a loud noise – a smoke – a crashsomewhere, but where he knew not, – and he staggered back.

Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and had him by the collarbefore the smoke had cleared away. He fired his own pistol after the men, who were alreadyretreating; and dragged the boy up.

'Clasp your arm tighter,' said Sikes, as he drew him through the window. 'Give me ashawl here. They've hit him. Quick! How the boy bleeds!'

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of fire−arms, and theshouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. Andthen, the noises grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept over the boy'sheart; and he saw or heard no more.

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CHAPTER Xxiii − Which Contains the substance of a pleasantconversation between mr. Bumble And a lady; AND Shows that

even a beadle may be susceptible on some POINTS

The night was bitter cold. The snow lay on the ground, frozen into a hard thick crust, so

that only the heaps that had drifted into byways and corners were affected by the sharp windthat howled abroad: which, as if expending increased fury on such prey as it found, caught itsavagely up in clouds, and, whirling it into a thousand misty eddies, scattered it in air. Bleak,dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well−housed and fed to draw round the brightfire and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless, starving wretch to lay himdown and die. Many hunger−worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare streets, at such times,who, let their crimes have been what they may, can hardly open them in a more bitter world.

Such was the aspect of out−of−doors affairs, when Mr. Corney, the matron of theworkhouse to which our readers have been already introduced as the birthplace of OliverTwist, sat herself down before a cheerful fire in her own little room, and glanced, with nosmall degree of complacency, at a small round table: on which stood a tray of correspondingsize, furnished with all necessary materials for the most grateful meal that matrons enjoy. Infact, Mrs. Corney was about to solace herself with a cup of tea. As she glanced from thetable to the fireplace, where the smallest of all possible kettles was singing a small song in asmall voice, her inward satisfaction evidently increased, – so much so, indeed, that Mrs.Corney smiled.

'Well!' said the matron, leaning her elbow on the table, and looking reflectively at thefire; 'I'm sure we have all on us a great deal to be grateful for! A great deal, if we did butknow it. Ah!'

Mrs. Corney shook her head mournfully, as if deploring the mental blindness of thosepaupers who did not know it; and thrusting a silver spoon (private property) into the inmostrecesses of a two−ounce tin tea−caddy, proceeded to make the tea.

How slight a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail minds! The black teapot,being very small and easily filled, ran over while Mrs. Corney was moralising; and the waterslightly scalded Mrs. Corney's hand.

'Drat the pot!' said the worthy matron, setting it down very hastily on the hob; 'a littlestupid thing, that only holds a couple of cups! What use is it of, to anybody! Except,' saidMrs. Corney, pausing, 'except to a poor desolate creature like me. Oh dear!'

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With these words, the matron dropped into her chair, and, once more resting her elbowon the table, thought of her solitary fate. The small teapot, and the single cup, had awakenedin her mind sad recollections of Mr. Corney (who had not been dead more thanfive−and−twenty years); and she was overpowered.

'I shall never get another!' said Mrs. Corney, pettishly; 'I shall never get another – likehim.'

Whether this remark bore reference to the husband, or the teapot, is uncertain. It mighthave been the latter; for Mrs. Corney looked at it as she spoke; and took it up afterwards.She had just tasted her first cup, when she was disturbed by a soft tap at the room−door.

'Oh, come in with you!' said Mrs. Corney, sharply. 'Some of the old women dying, Isuppose. They always die when I'm at meals. Don't stand there, letting the cold air in, don't.What's amiss now, eh?'

'Nothing, ma'am, nothing,' replied a man's voice.

'Dear me!' exclaimed the matron, in a much sweeter tone, 'is that Mr. Bumble?'

'At your service, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble, who had been stopping outside to rub hisshoes clean, and to shake the snow off his coat; and who now made his appearance, bearingthe co*cked hat in one hand and a bundle in the other. 'Shall I shut the door, ma'am?'

The lady modestly hesitated to reply, lest there should be any impropriety in holding aninterview with Mr. Bumble, with closed doors. Mr. Bumble taking advantage of thehesitation, and being very cold himself, shut it without permission.

'Hard weather, Mr. Bumble,' said the matron.

'Hard, indeed, ma'am,' replied the beadle. 'Anti−porochial weather this, ma'am. We havegiven away, Mrs. Corney, we have given away a matter of twenty quartern loaves and acheese and a half, this very blessed afternoon; and yet them paupers are not contented.'

'Of course not. When would they be, Mr. Bumble?' said the matron, sipping her tea.

'When, indeed, ma'am!' rejoined Mr. Bumble. 'Why here's one man that, in consideratonof his wife and large family, has a quartern loaf and a good pound of cheese, full weight. Ishe grateful, ma'am? Is he grateful? Not a copper farthing's worth of it! What does he do,ma'am, but ask for a few coals; if it's only a pocket handkerchief full, he says! Coals! Whatwould he do with coals? Toast his cheese with 'em and then come back for more. That's theway with these people, ma'am; give 'em a apron full of coals to−day, and they'll come backfor another, the day after to−morrow, as brazen as alabaster.'

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The matron expressed her entire concurrence in this intelligible simile; and the beadlewent on.

'I never,' said Mr. Bumble, 'see anything like the pitch it's got to. The day aforeyesterday, a man – you have been a married woman, ma'am, and I may mention it to you – aman, with hardly a rag upon his back (here Mrs. Corney looked at the floor), goes to ouroverseer's door when he has got company coming to dinner; and says, he must be relieved,Mrs. Corney. As he wouldn't go away, and shocked the company very much, our overseersent him out a pound of potatoes and half a pint of oatmeal. «My heart!» says the ungratefulvillain, «what's the use of This to me? You might as well give me a pair of iron spectacles!'»Very good,« says our overseer, taking 'em away again, »you won't get anything else here.«»Then I'll die in the streets!« says the vagrant. »Oh no, you won't," says our overseer.'

'Ha! ha! That was very good! So like Mr. Grannett, wasn't it?' interposed the matron.'Well, Mr. Bumble?'

'Well, ma'am,' rejoined the beadle, 'he went away; and he DID die in the streets. There'sa obstinate pauper for you!'

'It beats anything I could have believed,' observed the matron emphatically. 'But don'tyou think out−of−door relief a very bad thing, any way, Mr. Bumble? You're a gentleman ofexperience, and ought to know. Come.'

'Mrs. Corney,' said the beadle, smiling as men smile who are conscious of superiorinformation, 'out−of−door relief, properly managed, ma'am: is the porochial safeguard. Thegreat 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; andthat'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 therule now, Mrs. Corney, all over the country. But, however,' said the beadle, stopping tounpack his bundle, 'these are official secrets, ma'am; not to be spoken of; except, as I maysay, among the porochial officers, such as ourselves. This is the port wine, ma'am, that theboard ordered for the infirmary; real, fresh, genuine port wine; only out of the cask thisforenoon; 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 whichthey had been wrapped; put it carefully in his pocket; and took up his hat, as if to go.

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'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'sears off.'

The matron looked, from the little kettle, to the beadle, who was moving towards thedoor; and as the beadle coughed, preparatory to bidding her good−night, bashfully inquiredwhether – whether he wouldn't take a cup of tea?

Mr. Bumble instantaneously turned back his collar again; laid his hat and stick upon achair; and drew another chair up to the table. As he slowly seated himself, he looked at thelady. She fixed her eyes upon the little teapot. Mr. Bumble coughed again, and slightlysmiled.

Mrs. Corney rose to get another cup and saucer from the closet. As she sat down, hereyes once again encountered those of the gallant beadle; she coloured, and applied herself tothe task of making his tea. Again Mr. Bumble coughed – louder this time than he hadcoughed 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 ashe 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 handkerchiefover his knees to prevent the crumbs from sullying the splendour of his shorts, began to eatand drink; varying these amusem*nts, occasionally, by fetching a deep sigh; which,however, had no injurious effect upon his appetite, but, on the contrary, rather seemed tofacilitate 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 ofher 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 SOhappy, 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 quitea 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

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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 theteaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which made him doubly impressive; 'I woulddrown it myself, with pleasure.'

'Then you're a cruel man,' said the matron vivaciously, as she held out her hand for thebeadle's cup; 'and a very hard−hearted man besides.'

'Hard−hearted, ma'am?' said Mr. Bumble. 'Hard?' Mr. Bumble resigned his cup withoutanother word; squeezed Mrs. Corney's little finger as she took it; and inflicting twoopen−handed slaps upon his laced waistcoat, gave a mighty sigh, and hitched his chair avery little morsel farther from the fire.

It was a round table; and as Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble had been sitting opposite eachother, 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 distancebetween himself and Mrs. Corney; which proceeding, some prudent readers will doubtlessbe disposed to admire, and to consider an act of great heroism on Mr. Bumble's part: hebeing in some sort tempted by time, place, and opportunity, to give utterance to certain softnothings, which however well they may become the lips of the light and thoughtless, doseem immeasurably beneath the dignity of judges of the land, members of parliament,ministers of state, lord mayors, and other great public functionaries, but more particularlybeneath the stateliness and gravity of a beadle: who (as is well known) should be the sternestand 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 roundone; consequently Mr. Bumble, moving his chair by little and little, soon began to diminishthe distance between himself and the matron; and, continuing to travel round the outer edgeof 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 bythe fire; and if to the left, she must have fallen into Mr. Bumble's arms; so (being a discreetmatron, and no doubt foreseeing these consequences at a glance) she remained where shewas, and handed Mr. Bumble another cup of tea.

'Hard−hearted, Mrs. Corney?' said Mr. Bumble, stirring his tea, and looking up into thematron's face; 'are YOU hard−hearted, Mrs. Corney?'

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'Dear me!' exclaimed the matron, 'what a very curious question from a single man. Whatcan you want to know for, Mr. Bumble?'

The beadle drank his tea to the last drop; finished a piece of toast; whisked the crumbsoff 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 shehad quite lost her voice, 'Mr. Bumble, I shall scream!' Mr. Bumble made no reply; but in aslow 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 atthis additional boldness, but that the exertion was rendered unnecessary by a hasty knockingat the door: which was no sooner heard, than Mr. Bumble darted, with much agility, to thewine bottles, and began dusting them with great violence: while the matron sharplydemanded who was there.

It is worthy of remark, as a curious physical instance of the efficacy of a sudden surprisein counteracting the effects of extreme fear, that her voice had quite recovered all its officialasperity.

'If you please, mistress,' said a withered old female pauper, hideously ugly: putting herhead 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 ofhelp. I've seen a many people die; little babes and great strong men; and I know whendeath's a−coming, well enough. But she's troubled in her mind: and when the fits are not onher, – and that's not often, for she is dying very hard, – she says she has got something totell, 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 oldwomen who couldn't even die without purposely annoying their betters; and, mufflingherself in a thick shawl which she hastily caught up, briefly requested Mr. Bumble to staytill 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 illgrace, scolding all the way.

Mr. Bumble's conduct on being left to himself, was rather inexplicable. He opened thecloset, counted the teaspoons, weighed the sugar−tongs, closely inspected a silver milk−potto ascertain that it was of the genuine metal, and, having satisfied his curiosity on thesepoints, put on his co*cked hat corner−wise, and danced with much gravity four distinct timesround the table.

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Having gone through this very extraordinary performance, he took off the co*cked hatagain, and, spreading himself before the fire with his back towards it, seemed to be mentallyengaged in taking an exact inventory of the furniture.

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CHAPTER Xxiv − Treats On a very poor subject. But is a shortone, AND May be found of importance in this HISTORY

I t 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 amumbling leer, resembled more the grotesque shaping of some wild pencil, than the work ofNature's hand.

Alas! How few of Nature's faces are left alone to gladden us with their beauty! Thecares, and sorrows, and hungerings, of the world, change them as they change hearts; and itis only when those passions sleep, and have lost their hold for ever, that the troubled cloudspass off, and leave Heaven's surface clear. It is a common thing for the countenances of thedead, even in that fixed and rigid state, to subside into the long−forgotten expression ofsleeping infancy, and settle into the very look of early life; so calm, so peaceful, do theygrow again, that those who knew them in their happy childhood, kneel by the coffin's side inawe, and see the Angel even upon earth.

The old crone tottered alone the passages, and up the stairs, muttering some indistinctanswers to the chidings of her companion; being at length compelled to pause for breath, shegave the light into her hand, and remained behind to follow as she might: while the morenimble 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 wasanother old woman watching by the bed; the parish apothecary's apprentice was standing bythe 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 acurtsey 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 ofthing for a cold night.'

'They're the board's choosing, sir,' returned the matron. 'The least they could do, wouldbe to keep us pretty warm: for our places are hard enough.'

The conversation was here interrupted by a moan from the sick woman.

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'Oh!' said the young mag, turning his face towards the bed, as if he had previously quiteforgotten 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, oldlady?'

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 thewoman would not die so easily; having done so, she resumed her seat by the side of theother 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: whenapparently growing rather dull, he wished Mrs. Corney joy of her job, and took himself offon tiptoe.

When they had sat in silence for some time, the two old women rose from the bed, andcrouching over the fire, held out their withered hands to catch the heat. The flame threw aghastly light on their shrivelled faces, and made their ugliness appear terrible, as, in thisposition, 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 Iheld her hands, and she soon dropped off. She hasn't much strength in her, so I easily kepther 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 clenchedthe mug so hard that it was as much as I could do to get it back again. So I drank it; and itdid me good!'

Looking cautiously round, to ascertain that they were not overheard, the two hagscowered nearer to the fire, and chuckled heartily.

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'I mind the time,' said the first speaker, 'when she would have done the same, and maderare 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 oldeyes 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 themexultingly before her face, and fumbling in her pocket, brought out an old time−discolouredtin snuff−box, from which she shook a few grains into the outstretched palm of hercompanion, and a few more into her own. While they were thus employed, the matron, whohad 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 noneof 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; hasshe 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 doeswake; take care, both of you, how you worry me again for nothing. It's no part of my duty tosee all the old women in the house die, and I won't – that's more. Mind that, you impudentold 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 thebed, caused her to look round. The patient had raised herself upright, and was stretching herarms 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.'

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She clutched the matron by the arm, and forcing her into a chair by the bedside, wasabout to speak, when looking round, she caught sight of the two old women bending forwardin 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 lamentationsthat the poor dear was too far gone to know her best friends; and were uttering sundryprotestations that they would never leave her, when the superior pushed them from theroom, closed the door, and returned to the bedside. On being excluded, the old ladieschanged 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 theapothecary, she was labouring under the effects of a final taste of gin−and−water which hadbeen privily administered, in the openness of their hearts, by the worthy old ladiesthemselves.

'Now listen to me,' said the dying woman aloud, as if making a great effort to revive onelatent spark of energy. 'In this very room – in this very bed – I once nursed a pretty youngcreetur', that was brought into the house with her feet cut and bruised with walking, and allsoiled with dust and blood. She gave birth to a boy, and died. Let me think – what was theyear again!'

'Never mind the year,' said the impatient auditor; 'what about her?'

'Ay,' murmured the sick woman, relapsing into her former drowsy state, 'what abouther? – what about – I know!' she cried, jumping fiercely up: her face flushed, and her eyesstarting 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 forhelp.

'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 inher 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, goon – 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 theonly woman about her. I stole it in my heart when she first showed it me hanging round her

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neck; and the child's death, perhaps, is on me besides! They would have treated him better, ifthey 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 thequestion, 'that I could never forget it when I saw his face. Poor girl! poor girl! She was soyoung, 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 morefaintly 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 bornalive, and thrived, the day might come when it would not feel so much disgraced to hear itspoor young mother named. «And oh, kind Heaven!» she said, folding her thin handstogether, «whether it be boy or girl, raise up some friends for it in this troubled world, andtake pity upon a lonely desolate child, abandoned to its mercy!»'

'The boy's name?' demanded the matron.

'They Called him Oliver,' replied the woman, feebly. 'The gold I stole was – '

'Yes, yes – what?' cried the other.

She was bending eagerly over the woman to hear her reply; but drew back, instinctively,as she once again rose, slowly and stiffly, into a sitting posture; then, clutching the coverlidwith both hands, muttered some indistinct sounds in her throat, and fell lifeless on the bed.

* * * * * * *

'Stone dead!' said one of the old women, hurrying in as soon as the door was opened.

'And nothing to tell, after all,' rejoined the matron, walking carelessly away.

The two crones, to all appearance, too busily occupied in the preparations for theirdreadful duties to make any reply, were left alone, hovering about the body.

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CHAPTER Xxv − Wherein This history reverts to mr. fa*ginand COMPANY

While these things were passing in the country workhouse, Mr. fa*gin sat in the old den

– the same from which Oliver had been removed by the girl – brooding over a dull, smokyfire. He held a pair of bellows upon his knee, with which he had apparently beenendeavouring to rouse it into more cheerful action; but he had fallen into deep thought; andwith his arms folded on them, and his chin resting on his thumbs, fixed his eyes,abstractedly, on the rusty bars.

At a table behind him sat the Artful Dodger, Master Charles Bates, and Mr. Chitling: allintent upon a game of whist; the Artful taking dummy against Master Bates and Mr.Chitling. The countenance of the first−named gentleman, peculiarly intelligent at all times,acquired great additional interest from his close observance of the game, and his attentiveperusal of Mr. Chitling's hand; upon which, from time to time, as occasion served, hebestowed a variety of earnest glances: wisely regulating his own play by the result of hisobservations upon his neighbour's cards. It being a cold night, the Dodger wore his hat, as,indeed, was often his custom within doors. He also sustained a clay pipe between his teeth,which he only removed for a brief space when he deemed it necessary to apply forrefreshment to a quart pot upon the table, which stood ready filled with gin−and−water forthe accommodation of the company.

Master Bates was also attentive to the play; but being of a more excitable nature thanhis accomplished friend, it was observable that he more frequently applied himself to thegin−and−water, and moreover indulged in many jests and irrelevant remarks, all highlyunbecoming a scientific rubber. Indeed, the Artful, presuming upon their close attachment,more than once took occasion to reason gravely with his companion upon theseimproprieties; all of which remonstrances, Master Bates received in extremely good part;merely requesting his friend to be 'blowed,' or to insert his head in a sack, or replying withsome other neatly−turned witticism of a similar kind, the happy application of which,excited considerable admiration in the mind of Mr. Chitling. It was remarkable that the lattergentleman and his partner invariably lost; and that the circ*mstance, so far from angeringMaster Bates, appeared to afford him the highest amusem*nt, inasmuch as he laughed mostuproariously at the end of every deal, and protested that he had never seen such a jolly gamein all his born days.

'That's two doubles and the rub,' said Mr. Chitling, with a very long face, as he drewhalf−a−crown from his waistcoat−pocket. 'I never see such a feller as you, Jack; you wineverything. Even when we've good cards, Charley and I can't make nothing of 'em.'

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Either the master or the manner of this remark, which was made very ruefully, delightedCharley Bates so much, that his consequent shout of laughter roused the Jew from hisreverie, and induced him to inquire what was the matter.

'Matter, fa*gin!' cried Charley. 'I wish you had watched the play. Tommy Chitling hasn'twon a point; and I went partners with him against the Artfull and dumb.'

'Ay, ay!' said the Jew, with a grin, which sufficiently demonstrated that he was at noloss to understand the reason. 'Try 'em again, Tom; try 'em again.'

'No more of it for me, thank 'ee, fa*gin,' replied Mr. Chitling; 'I've had enough. That 'ereDodger has such a run of luck that there's no standing again' him.'

'Ha! ha! my dear,' replied the Jew, 'you must get up very early in the morning, to winagainst the Dodger.'

'Morning!' said Charley Bates; 'you must put your boots on over−night, and have atelescope at each eye, and a opera−glass between your shoulders, if you want to come overhim.'

Mr. Dawkins received these handsome compliments with much philosophy, and offeredto cut any gentleman in company, for the first picture−card, at a shilling at a time. Nobodyaccepting the challenge, and his pipe being by this time smoked out, he proceeded to amusehimself by sketching a ground−plan of Newgate on the table with the piece of chalk whichhad served him in lieu of counters; whistling, meantime, with peculiar shrillness.

'How precious dull you are, Tommy!' said the Dodger, stopping short when there hadbeen a long silence; and addressing Mr. Chitling. 'What do you think he's thinking of,fa*gin?'

'How should I know, my dear?' replied the Jew, looking round as he plied the bellows.'About his losses, maybe; or the little retirement in the country that he's just left, eh? Ha! ha!Is that it, my dear?'

'Not a bit of it,' replied the Dodger, stopping the subject of discourse as Mr. Chitlingwas about to reply. 'What do YOU say, Charley?'

'I should say,' replied Master Bates, with a grin, 'that he was uncommon sweet uponBetsy. See how he's a−blushing! Oh, my eye! here's a merry−go−rounder! Tommy Chitling'sin love! Oh, fa*gin, fa*gin! what a spree!'

Thoroughly overpowered with the notion of Mr. Chitling being the victim of the tenderpassion, Master Bates threw himself back in his chair with such violence, that he lost his

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balance, and pitched over upon the floor; where (the accident abating nothing of hismerriment) he lay at full length until his laugh was over, when he resumed his formerposition, and began another laugh.

'Never mind him, my dear,' said the Jew, winking at Mr. Dawkins, and giving masterb*tes a reproving tap with the nozzle of the bellows. 'Betsy's a fine girl. Stick up to her,Tom. Stick up to her.'

'What I mean to say, fa*gin,' replied Mr. Chitling, very red in the face, 'is, that that isn'tanything to anybody here.'

'No more it is,' replied the Jew; 'Charley will talk. Don't mind him, my dear; don't mindhim. Betsy's a fine girl. Do as she bids you, Tom, and you will make your fortune.'

'So I do do as she bids me,' replied Mr. Chitling; 'I shouldn't have been milled, if ithadn't been for her advice. But it turned out a good job for you; didn't it, fa*gin! And what'ssix weeks of it? It must come, some time or another, and why not in the winter time whenyou don't want to go out a−walking so much; eh, fa*gin?'

'Ah, to be sure, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'You wouldn't mind it again, Tom, would you,' asked the Dodger, winking upon Charleyand the Jew, 'if Bet was all right?'

'I mean to say that I shouldn't,' replied Tom, angrily. 'There, now. Ah! Who'll say asmuch as that, I should like to know; eh, fa*gin?'

'Nobody, my dear,' replied the Jew; 'not a soul, Tom. I don't know one of 'em that woulddo it besides you; not one of 'em, my dear.'

'I might have got clear off, if I'd split upon her; mightn't I, fa*gin?' angrily pursued thepoor half−witted dupe. 'A word from me would have done it; wouldn't it, fa*gin?'

'To be sure it would, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'But I didn't blab it; did I, fa*gin?' demanded Tom, pouring question upon question withgreat volubility.

'No, no, to be sure,' replied the Jew; 'you were too stout−hearted for that. A deal toostout, my dear!'

'Perhaps I was,' rejoined Tom, looking round; 'and if I was, what's to laugh at, in that;eh, fa*gin?'

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The Jew, perceiving that Mr. Chitling was considerably roused, hastened to assure himthat nobody was laughing; and to prove the gravity of the company, appealed to masterb*tes, the principal offender. But, unfortunately, Charley, in opening his mouth to reply thathe was never more serious in his life, was unable to prevent the escape of such a violentroar, that the abused Mr. Chitling, without any preliminary ceremonies, rushed across theroom and aimed a blow at the offender; who, being skilful in evading pursuit, ducked toavoid it, and chose his time so well that it lighted on the chest of the merry old gentleman,and caused him to stagger to the wall, where he stood panting for breath, while Mr. Chitlinglooked on in intense dismay.

'Hark!' cried the Dodger at this moment, 'I heard the tinkler.' Catching up the light, hecrept softly upstairs.

The bell was rung again, with some impatience, while the party were in darkness. Aftera short pause, the Dodger reappeared, and whispered fa*gin mysteriously.

'What!' cried the Jew, 'alone?'

The Dodger nodded in the affirmative, and, shading the flame of the candle with hishand, gave Charley Bates a private intimation, in dumb show, that he had better not be funnyjust then. Having performed this friendly office, he fixed his eyes on the Jew's face, andawaited his directions.

The old man bit his yellow fingers, and meditated for some seconds; his face workingwith agitation the while, as if he dreaded something, and feared to know the worst. At lengthhe raised his head.

'Where is he?' he asked.

The Dodger pointed to the floor above, and made a gesture, as if to leave the room.

'Yes,' said the Jew, answering the mute inquiry; 'bring him down.

Hush! Quiet, Charley! Gently, Tom! Scarce, scarce!'

This brief direction to Charley Bates, and his recent antagonist, was softly andimmediately obeyed. There was no sound of their whereabout, when the Dodger descendedthe stairs, bearing the light in his hand, and followed by a man in a coarse smock−frock;who, after casting a hurried glance round the room, pulled off a large wrapper which hadconcealed the lower portion of his face, and disclosed: all haggard, unwashed, and unshorn:the features of flash Toby Crackit.

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'How are you, fa*guey?' said this worthy, nodding to the Jew. 'Pop that shawl away inmy castor, Dodger, so that I may know where to find it when I cut; that's the time of day!You'll be a fine young cracksman afore the old file now.'

With these words he pulled up the smock−frock; and, winding it round his middle, drewa chair to the fire, and placed his feet upon the hob.

'See there, fa*guey,' he said, pointing disconsolately to his top boots; 'not a drop of Dayand Martin since you know when; not a bubble of blacking, by Jove! But don't look at me inthat way, man. All in good time. I can't talk about business till I've eat and drank; so producethe sustainance, and let's have a quiet fill−out for the first time these three days!'

The Jew motioned to the Dodger to place what eatables there were, upon the table; and,seating himself opposite the housebreaker, waited his leisure.

To judge from appearances, Toby was by no means in a hurry to open the conversation.At first, the Jew contented himself with patiently watching his countenance, as if to gainfrom its expression some clue to the intelligence he brought; but in vain.

He looked tired and worn, but there was the same complacent repose upon his featuresthat they always wore: and through dirt, and beard, and whisker, there still shone,unimpaired, the self−satisfied smirk of flash Toby Crackit. Then the Jew, in an agony ofimpatience, watched every morsel he put into his mouth; pacing up and down the room,meanwhile, in irrepressible excitement. It was all of no use. Toby continued to eat with theutmost outward indifference, until he could eat no more; then, ordering the Dodger out, heclosed the door, mixed a glass of spirits and water, and composed himself for talking.

'First and foremost, fa*guey,' said Toby.

'Yes, yes!' interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to declare that the ginwas excellent; then placing his feet against the low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots toabout the level of his eye, he quietly resumed.

'First and foremost, fa*guey,' said the housebreaker, 'how's Bill?'

'What!' screamed the Jew, starting from his seat.

'Why, you don't mean to say – ' began Toby, turning pale.

'Mean!' cried the Jew, stamping furiously on the ground. 'Where are they? Sikes and theboy! Where are they? Where have they been? Where are they hiding? Why have they not

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been here?'

'The crack failed,' said Toby faintly.

'I know it,' replied the Jew, tearing a newspaper from his pocket and pointing to it.'What more?'

'They fired and hit the boy. We cut over the fields at the back, with him between us –straight as the crow flies – through hedge and ditch. They gave chase. Damme! the wholecountry was awake, and the dogs upon us.'

'The boy!'

'Bill had him on his back, and scudded like the wind. We stopped to take him betweenus; his head hung down, and he was cold. They were close upon our heels; every man forhimself, and each from the gallows! We parted company, and left the youngster lying in aditch. Alive or dead, that's all I know about him.'

The Jew stopped to hear no more; but uttering a loud yell, and twining his hands in hishair, rushed from the room, and from the house.

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CHAPTER Xxvi − IN Which a mysterious character appears uponthe scene; AND Many things, Inseparable From this history, ARE

Done and PERFORMED

The old man had gained the street corner, before he began to recover the effect of Toby

Crackit's intelligence. He had relaxed nothing of his unusual speed; but was still pressingonward, in the same wild and disordered manner, when the sudden dashing past of acarriage: and a boisterous cry from the foot passengers, who saw his danger: drove him backupon the pavement. Avoiding, as much as was possible, all the main streets, and skulkingonly through the by−ways and alleys, he at length emerged on Snow Hill. Here he walkedeven faster than before; nor did he linger until he had again turned into a court; when, as ifconscious that he was now in his proper element, he fell into his usual shuffling pace, andseemed to breathe more freely.

Near to the spot on which Snow Hill and Holborn Hill meet, opens, upon the right handas you come out of the City, a narrow and dismal alley, leading to Saffron Hill. In its filthyshops are exposed for sale huge bunches of second−hand silk handkerchiefs, of all sizes andpatterns; for here reside the traders who purchase them from pick−pockets. Hundreds ofthese handkerchiefs hang dangling from pegs outside the windows or flaunting from thedoor−posts; and the shelves, within, are piled with them. Confined as the limits of FieldLane are, it has its barber, its coffee−shop, its beer−shop, and its fried−fish warehouse. It isa commercial colony of itself: the emporium of petty larceny: visited at early morning, andsetting−in of dusk, by silent merchants, who traffic in dark back−parlours, and who go asstrangely as they come. Here, the clothesman, the shoe−vamper, and the rag−merchant,display their goods, as sign−boards to the petty thief; here, stores of old iron and bones, andheaps of mildewy fragments of woollen−stuff and linen, rust and rot in the grimy cellars.

It was into this place that the Jew turned. He was well known to the sallow denizens ofthe lane; for such of them as were on the look−out to buy or sell, nodded, familiarly, as hepassed along. He replied to their salutations in the same way; but bestowed no closerrecognition until he reached the further end of the alley; when he stopped, to address asalesman of small stature, who had squeezed as much of his person into a child's chair as thechair would hold, and was smoking a pipe at his warehouse door.

'Why, the sight of you, Mr. fa*gin, would cure the hoptalymy!' said this respectabletrader, in acknowledgment of the Jew's inquiry after his health.

'The neighbourhood was a little too hot, Lively,' said fa*gin, elevating his eyebrows, andcrossing his hands upon his shoulders.

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'Well, I've heerd that complaint of it, once or twice before,' replied the trader; 'but itsoon cools down again; don't you find it so?'

fa*gin nodded in the affirmative. Pointing in the direction of Saffron Hill, he inquiredwhether any one was up yonder to−night.

'At the Cripples?' inquired the man.

The Jew nodded.

'Let me see,' pursued the merchant, reflecting.

'Yes, there's some half−dozen of 'em gone in, that I knows. I don't think your friend'sthere.'

'Sikes is not, I suppose?' inquired the Jew, with a disappointed countenance.

'Non istwentus, as the lawyers say,' replied the little man, shaking his head, and lookingamazingly sly. 'Have you got anything in my line to−night?'

'Nothing to−night,' said the Jew, turning away.

'Are you going up to the Cripples, fa*gin?' cried the little man, calling after him. 'Stop! Idon't mind if I have a drop there with you!'

But as the Jew, looking back, waved his hand to intimate that he preferred being alone;and, moreover, as the little man could not very easily disengage himself from the chair; thesign of the Cripples was, for a time, bereft of the advantage of Mr. Lively's presence. By thetime he had got upon his legs, the Jew had disappeared; so Mr. Lively, after ineffectuallystanding on tiptoe, in the hope of catching sight of him, again forced himself into the littlechair, and, exchanging a shake of the head with a lady in the opposite shop, in which doubtand mistrust were plainly mingled, resumed his pipe with a grave demeanour.

The Three Cripples, or rather the Cripples; which was the sign by which theestablishment was familiarly known to its patrons: was the public−house in which Mr. Sikesand his dog have already figured. Merely making a sign to a man at the bar, fa*gin walkedstraight upstairs, and opening the door of a room, and softly insinuating himself into thechamber, looked anxiously about: shading his eyes with his hand, as if in search of someparticular person.

The room was illuminated by two gas−lights; the glare of which was prevented by thebarred shutters, and closely−drawn curtains of faded red, from being visible outside. Theceiling was blackened, to prevent its colour from being injured by the flaring of the lamps;

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and the place was so full of dense tobacco smoke, that at first it was scarcely possible todiscern anything more. By degrees, however, as some of it cleared away through the opendoor, an assemblage of heads, as confused as the noises that greeted the ear, might be madeout; and as the eye grew more accustomed to the scene, the spectator gradually becameaware of the presence of a numerous company, male and female, crowded round a longtable: at the upper end of which, sat a chairman with a hammer of office in his hand; while aprofessional gentleman with a bluish nose, and his face tied up for the benefit of a toothache,presided at a jingling piano in a remote corner.

As fa*gin stepped softly in, the professional gentleman, running over the keys by way ofprelude, occasioned a general cry of order for a song; which having subsided, a young ladyproceeded to entertain the company with a ballad in four verses, between each of which theaccompanyist played the melody all through, as loud as he could. When this was over, thechairman gave a sentiment, after which, the professional gentleman on the chairman's rightand left volunteered a duet, and sang it, with great applause.

It was curious to observe some faces which stood out prominently from among thegroup. There was the chairman himself, (the landlord of the house,) a coarse, rough, heavybuilt fellow, who, while the songs were proceeding, rolled his eyes hither and thither, and,seeming to give himself up to joviality, had an eye for everything that was done, and an earfor everything that was said – and sharp ones, too. Near him were the singers: receiving,with professional indifference, the compliments of the company, and applying themselves,in turn, to a dozen proffered glasses of spirits and water, tendered by their more boisterousadmirers; whose countenances, expressive of almost every vice in almost every grade,irresistibly attracted the attention, by their very repulsiveness. Cunning, ferocity, anddrunkeness in all its stages, were there, in their strongest aspect; and women:

some with the last lingering tinge of their early freshness almost fading as you looked:others with every mark and stamp of their sex utterly beaten out, and presenting but oneloathsome blank of profligacy and crime; some mere girls, others but young women, andnone past the prime of life; formed the darkest and saddest portion of this dreary picture.

fa*gin, troubled by no grave emotions, looked eagerly from face to face while theseproceedings were in progress; but apparently without meeting that of which he was insearch. Succeeding, at length, in catching the eye of the man who occupied the chair, hebeckoned to him slightly, and left the room, as quietly as he had entered it.

'What can I do for you, Mr. fa*gin?' inquired the man, as he followed him out to thelanding. 'Won't you join us? They'll be delighted, every one of 'em.'

The Jew shook his head impatiently, and said in a whisper, 'Is HE here?'

'No,' replied the man.

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'And no news of Barney?' inquired fa*gin.

'None,' replied the landlord of the Cripples; for it was he. 'He won't stir till it's all safe.Depend on it, they're on the scent down there; and that if he moved, he'd blow upon thething at once. He's all right enough, Barney is, else I should have heard of him. I'll pound it,that Barney's managing properly. Let him alone for that.'

'Will HE be here to−night?' asked the Jew, laying the same emphasis on the pronoun asbefore.

'Monks, do you mean?' inquired the landlord, hesitating.

'Hush!' said the Jew. 'Yes.'

'Certain,' replied the man, drawing a gold watch from his fob; 'I expected him herebefore now. If you'll wait ten minutes, he'll be – '

'No, no,' said the Jew, hastily; as though, however desirous he might be to see theperson in question, he was nevertheless relieved by his absence. 'Tell him I came here to seehim; and that he must come to me to−night. No, say to−morrow. As he is not here,to−morrow will be time enough.'

'Good!' said the man. 'Nothing more?'

'Not a word now,' said the Jew, descending the stairs.

'I say,' said the other, looking over the rails, and speaking in a hoarse whisper; 'what atime this would be for a sell! I've got Phil Barker here: so drunk, that a boy might take him!'

'Ah! But it's not Phil Barker's time,' said the Jew, looking up.

'Phil has something more to do, before we can afford to part with him; so go back to thecompany, my dear, and tell them to lead merry lives – While they last. Ha! ha! ha!'

The landlord reciprocated the old man's laugh; and returned to his guests. The Jew wasno sooner alone, than his countenance resumed its former expression of anxiety and thought.After a brief reflection, he called a hack−cabriolet, and bade the man drive towards BethnalGreen. He dismissed him within some quarter of a mile of Mr. Sikes's residence, andperformed the short remainder of the distance, on foot.

'Now,' muttered the Jew, as he knocked at the door, 'if there is any deep play here, Ishall have it out of you, my girl, cunning as you are.'

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She was in her room, the woman said. fa*gin crept softly upstairs, and entered it withoutany previous ceremony. The girl was alone; lying with her head upon the table, and her hairstraggling over it.

'She has been drinking,' thought the Jew, cooly, 'or perhaps she is only miserable.'

The old man turned to close the door, as he made this reflection; the noise thusoccasioned, roused the girl. She eyed his crafty face narrowly, as she inquired to his recitalof Toby Crackit's story. When it was concluded, she sank into her former attitude, but spokenot a word. She pushed the candle impatiently away; and once or twice as she feverishlychanged her position, shuffled her feet upon the ground; but this was all.

During the silence, the Jew looked restlessly about the room, as if to assure himself thatthere were no appearances of Sikes having covertly returned. Apparently satisfied with hisinspection, he coughed twice or thrice, and made as many efforts to open a conversation; butthe girl heeded him no more than if he had been made of stone. At length he made anotherattempt; and rubbing his hands together, said, in his most concilitory tone,

'And where should you think Bill was now, my dear?'

The girl moaned out some half intelligible reply, that she could not tell; and seemed,from the smothered noise that escaped her, to be crying.

'And the boy, too,' said the Jew, straining his eyes to catch a glimpse of her face. 'Poorleetle child! Left in a ditch, Nance; only think!'

'The child,' said the girl, suddenly looking up, 'is better where he is, than among us; andif no harm comes to Bill from it, I hope he lies dead in the ditch and that his young bonesmay rot there.'

'What!' cried the Jew, in amazement.

'Ay, I do,' returned the girl, meeting his gaze. 'I shall be glad to have him away from myeyes, and to know that the worst is over. I can't bear to have him about me. The sight of himturns me against myself, and all of you.'

'Pooh!' said the Jew, scornfully. 'You're drunk.'

'Am I?' cried the girl bitterly. 'It's no fault of yours, if I am not! You'd never have meanything else, if you had your will, except now; – the humour doesn't suit you, doesn't it?'

'No!' rejoined the Jew, furiously. 'It does not.'

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'Change it, then!' responded the girl, with a laugh.

'Change it!' exclaimed the Jew, exasperated beyond all bounds by his companion'sunexpected obstinacy, and the vexation of the night, 'I Will change it! Listen to me, youdrab. Listen to me, who with six words, can strangle Sikes as surely as if I had his bull'sthroat between my fingers now. If he comes back, and leaves the boy behind him; if he getsoff free, and dead or alive, fails to restore him to me; murder him yourself if you would havehim escape Jack Ketch. And do it the moment he sets foot in this room, or mind me, it willbe too late!'

'What is all this?' cried the girl involuntarily.

'What is it?' pursued fa*gin, mad with rage. 'When the boy's worth hundreds of poundsto me, am I to lose what chance threw me in the way of getting safely, through the whims ofa drunken gang that I could whistle away the lives of! And me bound, too, to a born devilthat only wants the will, and has the power to, to – '

Panting for breath, the old man stammered for a word; and in that instant checked thetorrent of his wrath, and changed his whole demeanour. A moment before, his clenchedhands had grasped the air; his eyes had dilated; and his face grown livid with passion; butnow, he shrunk into a chair, and, cowering together, trembled with the apprehension ofhaving himself disclosed some hidden villainy. After a short silence, he ventured to lookround at his companion. He appeared somewhat reassured, on beholding her in the samelistless attitude from which he had first roused her.

'Nancy, dear!' croaked the Jew, in his usual voice. 'Did you mind me, dear?'

'Don't worry me now, fa*gin!' replied the girl, raising her head languidly. 'If Bill has notdone it this time, he will another. He has done many a good job for you, and will do manymore when he can; and when he can't he won't; so no more about that.'

'Regarding this boy, my dear?' said the Jew, rubbing the palms of his hands nervouslytogether.

'The boy must take his chance with the rest,' interrupted Nancy, hastily; 'and I say again,I hope he is dead, and out of harm's way, and out of yours, – that is, if Bill comes to noharm. And if Toby got clear off, Bill's pretty sure to be safe; for Bill's worth two of Tobyany time.'

'And about what I was saying, my dear?' observed the Jew, keeping his glistening eyesteadily upon her.

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'Your must say it all over again, if it's anything you want me to do,' rejoined Nancy; 'andif it is, you had better wait till to−morrow. You put me up for a minute; but now I'm stupidagain.'

fa*gin put several other questions: all with the same drift of ascertaining whether the girlhad profited by his unguarded hints; but, she answered them so readily, and was withal soutterly unmoved by his searching looks, that his original impression of her being more thana trifle in liquor, was confirmed. Nancy, indeed, was not exempt from a failing which wasvery common among the Jew's female pupils; and in which, in their tenderer years, theywere rather encouraged than checked. Her disordered appearance, and a wholesale perfumeof Geneva which pervaded the apartment, afforded stong confirmatory evidence of thejustice of the Jew's supposition; and when, after indulging in the temporary display ofviolence above described, she subsided, first into dullness, and afterwards into a compoundof feelings: under the influence of which she shed tears one minute, and in the next gaveutterance to various exclamations of 'Never say die!' and divers calculations as to whatmight be the amount of the odds so long as a lady or gentleman was happy, Mr. fa*gin, whohad had considerable experience of such matters in his time, saw, with great satisfaction,that she was very far gone indeed.

Having eased his mind by this discovery; and having accomplished his twofold objectof imparting to the girl what he had, that night, heard, and of ascertaining, with his owneyes, that Sikes had not returned, Mr. fa*gin again turned his face homeward: leaving hisyoung friend asleep, with her head upon the table.

It was within an hour of midnight. The weather being dark, and piercing cold, he had nogreat temptation to loiter. The sharp wind that scoured the streets, seemed to have clearedthem of passengers, as of dust and mud, for few people were abroad, and they were to allappearance hastening fast home. It blew from the right quarter for the Jew, however, andstraight before it he went: trembling, and shivering, as every fresh gust drove him rudely onhis way.

He had reached the corner of his own street, and was already fumbling in his pocket forthe door−key, when a dark figure emerged from a projecting entrance which lay in deepshadow, and, crossing the road, glided up to him unperceived.

'fa*gin!' whispered a voice close to his ear.

'Ah!' said the Jew, turning quickly round, 'is that – '

'Yes!' interrupted the stranger. 'I have been lingering here these two hours. Where thedevil have you been?'

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'On your business, my dear,' replied the Jew, glancing uneasily at his companion, andslackening his pace as he spoke. 'On your business all night.'

'Oh, of course!' said the stranger, with a sneer. 'Well; and what's come of it?'

'Nothing good,' said the Jew.

'Nothing bad, I hope?' said the stranger, stopping short, and turning a startled look onhis companion.

The Jew shook his head, and was about to reply, when the stranger, interrupting him,motioned to the house, before which they had by this time arrived: remarking, that he hadbetter say what he had got to say, under cover: for his blood was chilled with standing aboutso long, and the wind blew through him.

fa*gin looked as if he could have willingly excused himself from taking home a visitorat that unseasonable hour; and, indeed, muttered something about having no fire; but hiscompanion repeating his request in a peremptory manner, he unlocked the door, andrequested him to close it softly, while he got a light.

'It's as dark as the grave,' said the man, groping forward a few steps. 'Make haste!'

'Shut the door,' whispered fa*gin from the end of the passage. As he spoke, it closedwith a loud noise.

'That wasn't my doing,' said the other man, feeling his way. 'The wind blew it to, or itshut of its own accord: one or the other. Look sharp with the light, or I shall knock mybrains out against something in this confounded hole.'

fa*gin stealthily descended the kitchen stairs. After a short absence, he returned with alighted candle, and the intelligence that Toby Crackit was asleep in the back room below,and that the boys were in the front one. Beckoning the man to follow him, he led the wayupstairs.

'We can say the few words we've got to say in here, my dear,' said the Jew, throwingopen a door on the first floor; 'and as there are holes in the shutters, and we never showlights to our neighbours, we'll set the candle on the stairs. There!'

With those words, the Jew, stooping down, placed the candle on an upper flight ofstairs, exactly opposite to the room door. This done, he led the way into the apartment;which was destitute of all movables save a broken arm−chair, and an old couch or sofawithout covering, which stood behind the door. Upon this piece of furniture, the stranger sathimself with the air of a weary man; and the Jew, drawing up the arm−chair opposite, they

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sat face to face. It was not quite dark; the door was partially open; and the candle outside,threw a feeble reflection on the opposite wall.

They conversed for some time in whispers. Though nothing of the conversation wasdistinguishable beyond a few disjointed words here and there, a listener might easily haveperceived that fa*gin appeared to be defending himself against some remarks of the stranger;and that the latter was in a state of considerable irritation. They might have been talking,thus, for a quarter of an hour or more, when Monks – by which name the Jew had designatedthe strange man several times in the course of their colloquy – said, raising his voice a little,

'I tell you again, it was badly planned. Why not have kept him here among the rest, andmade a sneaking, snivelling pickpocket of him at once?'

'Only hear him!' exclaimed the Jew, shrugging his shoulders.

'Why, do you mean to say you couldn't have done it, if you had chosen?' demandedMonks, sternly. 'Haven't you done it, with other boys, scores of times? If you had hadpatience for a twelvemonth, at most, couldn't you have got him convicted, and sent safelyout of the kingdom; perhaps for life?'

'Whose turn would that have served, my dear?' inquired the Jew humbly.

'Mine,' replied Monks.

'But not mine,' said the Jew, submissively. 'He might have become of use to me. Whenthere are two parties to a bargain, it is only reasonable that the interests of both should beconsulted; is it, my good friend?'

'What then?' demanded Monks.

'I saw it was not easy to train him to the business,' replied the Jew; 'he was not like otherboys in the same circ*mstances.'

'Curse him, no!' muttered the man, 'or he would have been a thief, long ago.'

'I had no hold upon him to make him worse,' pursued the Jew, anxiously watching thecountenance of his companion. 'His hand was not in. I had nothing to frighten him with;which we always must have in the beginning, or we labour in vain. What could I do? Sendhim out with the Dodger and Charley? We had enough of that, at first, my dear; I trembledfor us all.'

'THAT was not my doing,' observed Monks.

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'No, no, my dear!' renewed the Jew. 'And I don't quarrel with it now; because, if it hadnever happened, you might never have clapped eyes on the boy to notice him, and so led tothe discovery that it was him you were looking for. Well! I got him back for you by meansof the girl; and then SHE begins to favour him.'

'Throttle the girl!' said Monks, impatiently.

'Why, we can't afford to do that just now, my dear,' replied the Jew, smiling; 'and,besides, that sort of thing is not in our way; or, one of these days, I might be glad to have itdone. I know what these girls are, Monks, well. As soon as the boy begins to harden, she'llcare no more for him, than for a block of wood. You want him made a thief. If he is alive, Ican make him one from this time; and, if – if – ' said the Jew, drawing nearer to the other, –'it's not likely, mind, – but if the worst comes to the worst, and he is dead – '

'It's no fault of mine if he is!' interposed the other man, with a look of terror, andclasping the Jew's arm with trembling hands. 'Mind that. fa*gin! I had no hand in it.Anything but his death, I told you from the first. I won't shed blood; it's always found out,and haunts a man besides. If they shot him dead, I was not the cause; do you hear me? Firethis infernal den! What's that?'

'What!' cried the Jew, grasping the coward round the body, with both arms, as he sprungto his feet. 'Where?'

'Yonder! replied the man, glaring at the opposite wall. 'The shadow! I saw the shadowof a woman, in a cloak and bonnet, pass along the wainscot like a breath!'

The Jew released his hold, and they rushed tumultuously from the room. The candle,wasted by the draught, was standing where it had been placed. It showed them only theempty staircase, and their own white faces. They listened intently: a profound silencereigned throughout the house.

'It's your fancy,' said the Jew, taking up the light and turning to his companion.

'I'll swear I saw it!' replied Monks, trembling. 'It was bending forward when I saw itfirst; and when I spoke, it darted away.'

The Jew glanced contemptuously at the pale face of his associate, and, telling him hecould follow, if he pleased, ascended the stairs. They looked into all the rooms; they werecold, bare, and empty. They descended into the passage, and thence into the cellars below.The green damp hung upon the low walls; the tracks of the snail and slug glistened in thelight of the candle; but all was still as death.

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'What do you think now?' said the Jew, when they had regained the passage. 'Besidesourselves, there's not a creature in the house except Toby and the boys; and they're safeenough. See here!'

As a proof of the fact, the Jew drew forth two keys from his pocket; and explained, thatwhen he first went downstairs, he had locked them in, to prevent any intrusion on theconference.

This accumulated testimony effectually staggered Mr. Monks. His protestations hadgradually become less and less vehement as they proceeded in their search without makingany discovery; and, now, he gave vent to several very grim laughs, and confessed it couldonly have been his excited imagination. He declined any renewal of the conversation,however, for that night: suddenly remembering that it was past one o'clock. And so theamiable couple parted.

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CHAPTER Xxvii − Atones For the unpoliteness of a formerchapter; Which Deserted a lady, Most UNCEREMONIOUSLY

As it would be, by no means, seemly in a humble author to keep so mighty a personage

as a beadle waiting, with his back to the fire, and the skirts of his coat gathered up under hisarms, until such time as it might suit his pleasure to relieve him; and as it would still lessbecome his station, or his gallentry to involve in the same neglect a lady on whom thatbeadle had looked with an eye of tenderness and affection, and in whose ear he hadwhispered sweet words, which, coming from such a quarter, might well thrill the bosom ofmaid or matron of whatsoever degree; the historian whose pen traces these words – trustingthat he knows his place, and that he entertains a becoming reverence for those upon earth towhom high and important authority is delegated – hastens to pay them that respect whichtheir position demands, and to treat them with all that duteous ceremony which their exaltedrank, and (by consequence) great virtues, imperatively claim at his hands. Towards this end,indeed, he had purposed to introduce, in this place, a dissertation touching the divine right ofbeadles, and elucidative of the position, that a beadle can do no wrong: which could not failto have been both pleasurable and profitable to the right−minded reader but which he isunfortunately compelled, by want of time and space, to postpone to some more convenientand fitting opportunity; on the arrival of which, he will be prepared to show, that a beadleproperly constituted: that is to say, a parochial beadle, attached to a parochail workhouse,and attending in his official capacity the parochial church: is, in right and virtue of hisoffice, possessed of all the excellences and best qualities of humanity; and that to none ofthose excellences, can mere companies' beadles, or court−of−law beadles, or evenchapel−of−ease beadles (save the last, and they in a very lowly and inferior degree), lay theremotest sustainable claim.

Mr. Bumble had re−counted the teaspoons, re−weighed the sugar−tongs, made a closerinspection of the milk−pot, and ascertained to a nicety the exact condition of the furniture,down to the very horse−hair seats of the chairs; and had repeated each process full half adozen times; before he began to think that it was time for Mrs. Corney to return. Thinkingbegets thinking; as there were no sounds of Mrs. Corney's approach, it occured to Mr.Bumble that it would be an innocent and virtuous way of spending the time, if he werefurther to allay his curiousity by a cursory glance at the interior of Mrs. Corney's chest ofdrawers.

Having listened at the keyhole, to assure himself that nobody was approaching thechamber, Mr. Bumble, beginning at the bottom, proceeded to make himself acquainted withthe contents of the three long drawers: which, being filled with various garments of goodfashion and texture, carefully preserved between two layers of old newspapers, speckledwith dried lavender: seemed to yield him exceeding satisfaction. Arriving, in course of time,

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at the right−hand corner drawer (in which was the key), and beholding therein a smallpadlocked box, which, being shaken, gave forth a pleasant sound, as of the chinking of coin,Mr. Bumble returned with a stately walk to the fireplace; and, resuming his old attitude,said, with a grave and determined air, 'I'll do it!' He followed up this remarkable declaration,by shaking his head in a waggish manner for ten minutes, as though he were remonstratingwith himself for being such a pleasant dog; and then, he took a view of his legs in profile,with much seeming pleasure and interest.

He was still placidly engaged in this latter survey, when Mrs. Corney, hurrying into theroom, threw herself, in a breathless state, on a chair by the fireside, and covering her eyeswith one hand, placed the other over her heart, and gasped for breath.

'Mrs. Corney,' said Mr. Bumble, stooping over the matron, 'what is this, ma'am? Hasanything happened, ma'am? Pray answer me: I'm on – on – ' Mr. Bumble, in his alarm, couldnot immediately think of the word 'tenterhooks,' so he said 'broken bottles.'

'Oh, Mr. Bumble!' cried the lady, 'I have been so dreadfully put out!'

'Put out, ma'am!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble; 'who has dared to – ? I know!' said Mr.Bumble, checking himself, with native majesty, 'this is them wicious paupers!'

'It's dreadful to think of!' said the lady, shuddering.

'Then DON'T think of it, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

'I can't help it,' whimpered the lady.

'Then take something, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble soothingly. 'A little of the wine?'

'Not for the world!' replied Mrs. Corney. 'I couldn't, – oh! The top shelf in theright−hand corner – oh!' Uttering these words, the good lady pointed, distractedly, to thecupboard, and underwent a convulsion from internal spasms. Mr. Bumble rushed to thecloset; and, snatching a pint green−glass bottle from the shelf thus incoherently indicated,filled a tea−cup with its contents, and held it to the lady's lips.

'I'm better now,' said Mrs. Corney, falling back, after drinking half of it.

Mr. Bumble raised his eyes piously to the ceiling in thankfulness; and, bringing themdown again to the brim of the cup, lifted it to his nose.

'Peppermint,' exclaimed Mrs. Corney, in a faint voice, smiling gently on the beadle asshe spoke. 'Try it! There's a little – a little something else in it.'

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Mr. Bumble tasted the medicine with a doubtful look; smacked his lips; took anothertaste; and put the cup down empty.

'It's very comforting,' said Mrs. Corney.

'Very much so indeed, ma'am,' said the beadle. As he spoke, he drew a chair beside thematron, and tenderly inquired what had happened to distress her.

'Nothing,' replied Mrs. Corney. 'I am a foolish, excitable, weak creetur.'

'Not weak, ma'am,' retorted Mr. Bumble, drawing his chair a little closer. 'Are you aweak creetur, Mrs. Corney?'

'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mrs. Corney, laying down a general principle.

'So we are,' said the beadle.

Nothing was said on either side, for a minute or two afterwards. By the expiration ofthat time, Mr. Bumble had illustrated the position by removing his left arm from the back ofMrs. Corney's chair, where it had previously rested, to Mrs. Corney's aprong−string, roundwhich is gradually became entwined.

'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Corney sighed.

'Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney,' said Mr. Bumble.

'I can't help it,' said Mrs. Corney. And she sighed again.

'This is a very comfortable room, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble looking round. 'Anotherroom, and this, ma'am, would be a complete thing.'

'It would be too much for one,' murmured the lady.

'But not for two, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, in soft accents. 'Eh, Mrs. Corney?'

Mrs. Corney drooped her head, when the beadle said this; the beadle drooped his, to geta view of Mrs. Corney's face. Mrs. Corney, with great propriety, turned her head away, andreleased her hand to get at her pocket−handkerchief; but insensibly replaced it in that of Mr.Bumble.

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'The board allows you coals, don't they, Mrs. Corney?' inquired the beadle,affectionately pressing her hand.

'And candles,' replied Mrs. Corney, slightly returning the pressure.

'Coals, candles, and house−rent free,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Oh, Mrs. Corney, what anAngel you are!'

The lady was not proof against this burst of feeling. She sank into Mr. Bumble's arms;and that gentleman in his agitation, imprinted a passionate kiss upon her chaste nose.

'Such porochial perfection!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, rapturously. 'You know that Mr.Slout is worse to−night, my fascinator?'

'Yes,' replied Mrs. Corney, bashfully.

'He can't live a week, the doctor says,' pursued Mr. Bumble. 'He is the master of thisestablishment; his death will cause a wacancy; that wacancy must be filled up. Oh, Mrs.Corney, what a prospect this opens! What a opportunity for a jining of hearts andhousekeepings!'

Mrs. Corney sobbed.

'The little word?' said Mr. Bumble, bending over the bashful beauty. 'The one little,little, little word, my blessed Corney?'

'Ye – ye – yes!' sighed out the matron.

'One more,' pursued the beadle; 'compose your darling feelings for only one more.When is it to come off?'

Mrs. Corney twice essayed to speak: and twice failed. At length summoning upcourage, she threw her arms around Mr. Bumble's neck, and said, it might be as soon as everhe pleased, and that he was 'a irresistible duck.'

Matters being thus amicably and satisfactorily arranged, the contract was solemnlyratified in another teacupful of the peppermint mixture; which was rendered the morenecessary, by the flutter and agitation of the lady's spirits. While it was being disposed of,she acquainted Mr. Bumble with the old woman's decease.

'Very good,' said that gentleman, sipping his peppermint; 'I'll call at Sowerberry's as I gohome, and tell him to send to−morrow morning. Was it that as frightened you, love?'

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'It wasn't anything particular, dear,' said the lady evasively.

'It must have been something, love,' urged Mr. Bumble. 'Won't you tell your own B.?'

'Not now,' rejoined the lady; 'one of these days. After we're married, dear.'

'After we're married!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble. 'It wasn't any impudence from any ofthem male paupers as – '

'No, no, love!' interposed the lady, hastily.

'If I thought it was,' continued Mr. Bumble; 'if I thought as any one of 'em had dared tolift his wulgar eyes to that lovely countenance – '

'They wouldn't have dared to do it, love,' responded the lady.

'They had better not!' said Mr. Bumble, clenching his fist. 'Let me see any man,porochial or extra−porochial, as would presume to do it; and I can tell him that he wouldn'tdo it a second time!'

Unembellished by any violence of gesticulation, this might have seemed no very highcompliment to the lady's charms; but, as Mr. Bumble accompanied the threat with manywarlike gestures, she was much touched with this proof of his devotion, and protested, withgreat admiration, that he was indeed a dove.

The dove then turned up his coat−collar, and put on his co*cked hat; and, havingexchanged a long and affectionate embrace with his future partner, once again braved thecold wind of the night: merely pausing, for a few minutes, in the male paupers' ward, toabuse them a little, with the view of satisfying himself that he could fill the office ofworkhouse−master with needful acerbity. Assured of his qualifications, Mr. Bumble left thebuilding with a light heart, and bright visions of his future promotion: which served tooccupy his mind until he reached the shop of the undertaker.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry having gone out to tea and supper: and Noah Claypolenot being at any time disposed to take upon himself a greater amount of physical exertionthan is necessary to a convenient performance of the two functions of eating and drinking,the shop was not closed, although it was past the usual hour of shutting−up. Mr. Bumbletapped with his cane on the counter several times; but, attracting no attention, and beholdinga light shining through the glass−window of the little parlour at the back of the shop, hemade bold to peep in and see what was going forward; and when he saw what was goingforward, he was not a little surprised.

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The cloth was laid for supper; the table was covered with bread and butter, plates andglasses; a porter−pot and a wine−bottle. At the upper end of the table, Mr. Noah Claypolelolled negligently in an easy−chair, with his legs thrown over one of the arms: an openclasp−knife in one hand, and a mass of buttered bread in the other. Close beside him stoodCharlotte, opening oysters from a barrel: which Mr. Claypole condescended to swallow,with remarkable avidity. A more than ordinary redness in the region of the younggentleman's nose, and a kind of fixed wink in his right eye, denoted that he was in a slightdegree intoxicated; these symptoms were confirmed by the intense relish with which he tookhis oysters, for which nothing but a strong appreciation of their cooling properties, in casesof internal fever, could have sufficiently accounted.

'Here's a delicious fat one, Noah, dear!' said Charlotte; 'try him, do; only this one.'

'What a delicious thing is a oyster!' remarked Mr. Claypole, after he had swallowed it.'What a pity it is, a number of 'em should ever make you feel uncomfortable; isn't it,Charlotte?'

'It's quite a cruelty,' said Charlotte.

'So it is,' acquiesced Mr. Claypole. 'An't yer fond of oysters?'

'Not overmuch,' replied Charlotte. 'I like to see you eat 'em, Noah dear, better thaneating 'em myself.'

'Lor!' said Noah, reflectively; 'how queer!'

'Have another,' said Charlotte. 'Here's one with such a beautiful, delicate beard!'

'I can't manage any more,' said Noah. 'I'm very sorry. Come here, Charlotte, and I'll kissyer.'

'What!' said Mr. Bumble, bursting into the room. 'Say that again, sir.'

Charlotte uttered a scream, and hid her face in her apron. Mr. Claypole, without makingany further change in his position than suffering his legs to reach the ground, gazed at thebeadle in drunken terror.

'Say it again, you wile, owdacious fellow!' said Mr. Bumble. 'How dare you mentionsuch a thing, sir? And how dare you encourage him, you insolent minx? Kiss her!' exclaimedMr. Bumble, in strong indignation. 'Faugh!'

'I didn't mean to do it!' said Noah, blubbering. 'She's always a−kissing of me, whether Ilike it, or not.'

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'Oh, Noah,' cried Charlotte, reproachfully.

'Yer are; yer know yer are!' retorted Noah. 'She's always a−doin' of it, Mr. Bumble, sir;she chucks me under the chin, please, sir; and makes all manner of love!'

'Silence!' cried Mr. Bumble, sternly. 'Take yourself downstairs, ma'am. Noah, you shutup the shop; say another word till your master comes home, at your peril; and, when he doescome home, tell him that Mr. Bumble said he was to send a old woman's shell after breakfastto−morrow morning. Do you hear sir? Kissing!' cried Mr. Bumble, holding up his hands.'The sin and wickedness of the lower orders in this porochial district is frightful! IfParliament don't take their abominable courses under consideration, this country's ruined,and the character of the peasantry gone for ever!' With these words, the beadle strode, with alofty and gloomy air, from the undertaker's premises.

And now that we have accompanied him so far on his road home, and have made allnecessary preparations for the old woman's funeral, let us set on foot a few inquires afteryoung Oliver Twist, and ascertain whether he be still lying in the ditch where Toby Crackitleft him.

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CHAPTER Xxviii − Looks After oliver, AND Proceeds withhis ADVENTURES

'Wolves tear your throats!' muttered Sikes, grinding his teeth. 'I wish I was among

some of you; you'd howl the hoarser for it.'

As Sikes growled forth this imprecation, with the most desperate ferocity that hisdesperate nature was capable of, he rested the body of the wounded boy across his bendedknee; and turned his head, for an instant, to look back at his pursuers.

There was little to be made out, in the mist and darkness; but the loud shouting of menvibrated through the air, and the barking of the neighbouring dogs, roused by the sound ofthe alarm bell, resounded in every direction.

'Stop, you white−livered hound!' cried the robber, shouting after Toby Crackit, who,making the best use of his long legs, was already ahead. 'Stop!'

The repetition of the word, brought Toby to a dead stand−still. For he was not quitesatisfied that he was beyond the range of pistol−shot; and Sikes was in no mood to be playedwith.

'Bear a hand with the boy,' cried Sikes, beckoning furiously to his confederate. 'Comeback!'

Toby made a show of returning; but ventured, in a low voice, broken for want of breath,to intimate considerable reluctance as he came slowly along.

'Quicker!' cried Sikes, laying the boy in a dry ditch at his feet, and drawing a pistol fromhis pocket. 'Don't play booty with me.'

At this moment the noise grew louder. Sikes, again looking round, could discern thatthe men who had given chase were already climbing the gate of the field in which he stood;and that a couple of dogs were some paces in advance of them.

'It's all up, Bill!' cried Toby; 'drop the kid, and show 'em your heels.' With this partingadvice, Mr. Crackit, preferring the chance of being shot by his friend, to the certainty ofbeing taken by his enemies, fairly turned tail, and darted off at full speed. Sikes clenched histeeth; took one look around; threw over the prostrate form of Oliver, the cape in which hehad been hurriedly muffled; ran along the front of the hedge, as if to distract the attention ofthose behind, from the spot where the boy lay; paused, for a second, before another hedge

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which met it at right angles; and whirling his pistol high into the air, cleared it at a bound,and was gone.

'Ho, ho, there!' cried a tremulous voice in the rear. 'Pincher! Neptune! Come here, comehere!'

The dogs, who, in common with their masters, seemed to have no particular relish forthe sport in which they were engaged, readily answered to the command. Three men, whohad by this time advanced some distance into the field, stopped to take counsel together.

'My advice, or, leastways, I should say, my Orders, is,' said the fattest man of the party,'that we 'mediately go home again.'

'I am agreeable to anything which is agreeable to Mr. Giles,' said a shorter man; whowas by no means of a slim figure, and who was very pale in the face, and very polite: asfrightened men frequently are.

'I shouldn't wish to appear ill−mannered, gentlemen,' said the third, who had called thedogs back, 'Mr. Giles ought to know.'

'Certainly,' replied the shorter man; 'and whatever Mr. Giles says, it isn't our place tocontradict him. No, no, I know my sitiwation! Thank my stars, I know my sitiwation.' To tellthe truth, the little man DID seem to know his situation, and to know perfectly well that itwas by no means a desirable one; for his teeth chattered in his head as he spoke.

'You are afraid, Brittles,' said Mr. Giles.

'I an't,' said Brittles.

'You are,' said Giles.

'You're a falsehood, Mr. Giles,' said Brittles.

'You're a lie, Brittles,' said Mr. Giles.

Now, these four retorts arose from Mr. Giles's taunt; and Mr. Giles's taunt had arisenfrom his indignation at having the responsibility of going home again, imposed upon himselfunder cover of a compliment. The third man brought the dispute to a close, mostphilosophically.

'I'll tell you what it is, gentlemen,' said he, 'we're all afraid.'

'Speak for yourself, sir,' said Mr. Giles, who was the palest of the party.

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'So I do,' replied the man. 'It's natural and proper to be afraid, under such circ*mstances.I am.'

'So am I,' said Brittles; 'only there's no call to tell a man he is, so bounceably.'

These frank admissions softened Mr. Giles, who at once owned that HE was afraid;upon which, they all three faced about, and ran back again with the completest unanimity,until Mr. Giles (who had the shortest wind of the party, as was encumbered with a pitchfork)most handsomely insisted on stopping, to make an apology for his hastiness of speech.

'But it's wonderful,' said Mr. Giles, when he had explained, 'what a man will do, whenhis blood is up. I should have committed murder – I know I should – if we'd caught one ofthem rascals.'

As the other two were impressed with a similar presentiment; and as their blood, likehis, had all gone down again; some speculation ensued upon the cause of this sudden changein their temperament.

'I know what it was,' said Mr. Giles; 'it was the gate.'

'I shouldn't wonder if it was,' exclaimed Brittles, catching at the idea.

'You may depend upon it,' said Giles, 'that that gate stopped the flow of the excitement.I felt all mine suddenly going away, as I was climbing over it.'

By a remarkable coincidence, the other two had been visited with the same unpleasantsensation at that precise moment. It was quite obvious, therefore, that it was the gate;especially as there was no doubt regarding the time at which the change had taken place,because all three remembered that they had come in sight of the robbers at the instant of itsoccurance.

This dialogue was held between the two men who had surprised the burglars, and atravelling tinker who had been sleeping in an outhouse, and who had been roused, togetherwith his two mongrel curs, to join in the pursuit. Mr. Giles acted in the double capacity ofbutler and steward to the old lady of the mansion; Brittles was a lad of all−work: who,having entered her service a mere child, was treated as a promising young boy still, thoughhe was something past thirty.

Encouraging each other with such converse as this; but, keeping very close together,notwithstanding, and looking apprehensively round, whenever a fresh gust rattled throughthe boughs; the three men hurried back to a tree, behind which they had left their lantern,lest its light should inform the thieves in what direction to fire. Catching up the light, theymade the best of their way home, at a good round trot; and long after their dusky forms had

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ceased to be discernible, the light might have been seen twinkling and dancing in thedistance, like some exhalation of the damp and gloomy atmosphere through which it wasswiftly borne.

The air grew colder, as day came slowly on; and the mist rolled along the ground like adense cloud of smoke. The grass was wet; the pathways, and low places, were all mire andwater; the damp breath of an unwholesome wind went languidly by, with a hollow moaning.Still, Oliver lay motionless and insensible on the spot where Sikes had left him.

Morning drew on apace. The air become more sharp and piercing, as its first dull hue –the death of night, rather than the birth of day – glimmered faintly in the sky. The objectswhich had looked dim and terrible in the darkness, grew more and more defined, andgradually resolved into their familiar shapes. The rain came down, thick and fast, andpattered noisily among the leafless bushes. But, Oliver felt it not, as it beat against him; forhe still lay stretched, helpless and unconscious, on his bed of clay.

At length, a low cry of pain broke the stillness that prevailed; and uttering it, the boyawoke. His left arm, rudely bandaged in a shawl, hung heavy and useless at his side; thebandage was saturated with blood. He was so weak, that he could scarcely raise himself intoa sitting posture; when he had done so, he looked feebly round for help, and groaned withpain. Trembling in every joint, from cold and exhaustion, he made an effort to stand upright;but, shuddering from head to foot, fell prostrate on the ground.

After a short return of the stupor in which he had been so long plunged, Oliver: urgedby a creeping sickness at his heart, which seemed to warn him that if he lay there, he mustsurely die: got upon his feet, and essayed to walk. His head was dizzy, and he staggered toand from like a drunken man. But he kept up, nevertheless, and, with his head droopinglanguidly on his breast, went stumbling onward, he knew not whither.

And now, hosts of bewildering and confused ideas came crowding on his mind. Heseemed to be still walking between Sikes and Crackit, who were angrily disputing – for thevery words they said, sounded in his ears; and when he caught his own attention, as it were,by making some violent effort to save himself from falling, he found that he was talking tothem. Then, he was alone with Sikes, plodding on as on the previous day; and as shadowypeople passed them, he felt the robber's grasp upon his wrist. Suddenly, he started back atthe report of firearms; there rose into the air, loud cries and shouts; lights gleamed before hiseyes; all was noise and tumult, as some unseen hand bore him hurriedly away. Through allthese rapid visions, there ran an undefined, uneasy conscious of pain, which wearied andtormented him incessantly.

Thus he staggered on, creeping, almost mechanically, between the bars of gates, orthrough hedge−gaps as they came in his way, until he reached a road. Here the rain began tofall so heavily, that it roused him.

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He looked about, and saw that at no great distance there was a house, which perhaps hecould reach. Pitying his condition, they might have compassion on him; and if they did not,it would be better, he thought, to die near human beings, than in the lonely open fields. Hesummoned up all his strength for one last trial, and bent his faltering steps towards it.

As he drew nearer to this house, a feeling come over him that he had seen it before. Heremembered nothing of its details; but the shape and aspect of the building seemed familiarto him.

That garden wall! On the grass inside, he had fallen on his knees last night, and prayedthe two men's mercy. It was the very house they had attempted to rob.

Oliver felt such fear come over him when he recognised the place, that, for the instant,he forgot the agony of his wound, and thought only of flight. Flight! He could scarcelystand: and if he were in full possession of all the best powers of his slight and youthfulframe, whither could he fly? He pushed against the garden−gate; it was unlocked, andswung open on its hinges. He tottered across the lawn; climbed the steps; knocked faintly atthe door; and, his whole strength failing him, sunk down against one of the pillars of thelittle portico.

It happened that about this time, Mr. Giles, Brittles, and the tinker, were recruitingthemselves, after the fatigues and terrors of the night, with tea and sundries, in the kitchen.Not that it was Mr. Giles's habit to admit to too great familiarity the humbler servants:towards whom it was rather his wont to deport himself with a lofty affability, which, while itgratified, could not fail to remind them of his superior position in society. But, death, fires,and burglary, make all men equals; so Mr. Giles sat with his legs stretched out before thekitchen fender, leaning his left arm on the table, while, with his right, he illustrated acirc*mstantial and minute account of the robbery, to which his bearers (but especially thecook and housemaid, who 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 havebeen a little nearer three, when I woke up, and, turning round in my bed, as it might be so,(here Mr. Giles turned round in his chair, and pulled the corner of the table−cloth over himto imitate bed−clothes,) I fancied I heerd a noise.'

At this point of the narrative the cook turned pale, and asked the housemaid to shut thedoor: who asked Brittles, who asked the tinker, who pretended not to hear.

' – Heerd a noise,' continued Mr. Giles. 'I says, at first, «This is illusion»; and wascomposing myself off to sleep, when I heerd the noise again, distinct.'

'What sort of a noise?' asked the cook.

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'A kind of a busting noise,' replied Mr. Giles, looking round him.

'More like the noise of powdering a iron bar on a nutmeg−grater,' suggested Brittles.

'It was, when you Heerd it, sir,' rejoined Mr. Giles; 'but, at this time, it had a bustingsound. I turned down the clothes'; continued Giles, rolling back the table−cloth, 'sat up inbed; and listened.'

The cook and housemaid simultaneously ejacul*ted 'Lor!' and drew their chairs closertogether.

'I heerd it now, quite apparent,' resumed Mr. Giles. '«Somebody,» I says, «is forcing ofa door, or window; what's to be done? I'll call up that poor lad, Brittles, and save him frombeing murdered in his bed; or his throat,» I says, «may be cut from his right ear to his left,without his ever knowing it.»'

Here, all eyes were turned upon Brittles, who fixed his upon the speaker, and stared athim, with his mouth wide open, and his face expressive of the most unmitigated horror.

'I tossed off the clothes,' said Giles, throwing away the table−cloth, and looking veryhard at the cook and housemaid, 'got softly out of bed; drew on a pair of – '

'Ladies present, Mr. Giles,' murmured the tinker.

' – Of SHOES, sir,' said Giles, turning upon him, and laying great emphasis on theword; 'seized the loaded pistol that always goes upstairs with the plate−basket; and walkedon tiptoes to his room. «Brittles,» I says, when I had woke him, «don't be frightened!»'

'So you did,' observed Brittles, in a low voice.

'«We're dead men, I think, Brittles,» I says,' continued Giles; '«but don't be frightened.»'

'WAS he frightened?' asked the cook.

'Not a bit of it,' replied Mr. Giles. 'He was as firm – ah! pretty near as firm as I was.'

'I should have died at once, I'm sure, if it had been me,' observed the housemaid.

'You're a woman,' retorted Brittles, plucking up a little.

'Brittles is right,' said Mr. Giles, nodding his head, approvingly; 'from a woman, nothingelse was to be expected. We, being men, took a dark lantern that was standing on Brittle'shob, and groped our way downstairs in the pitch dark, – as it might be so.'

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Mr. Giles had risen from his seat, and taken two steps with his eyes shut, to accompanyhis description with appropriate action, when he started violently, in common with the restof the company, and hurried back to his chair. The cook and housemaid screamed.

'It was a knock,' said Mr. Giles, assuming perfect serenity. 'Open the door, somebody.'

Nobody moved.

'It seems a strange sort of a thing, a knock coming at such a time in the morning,' saidMr. Giles, surveying the pale faces which surrounded him, and looking very blank himself;'but the door must be opened. Do you hear, somebody?'

Mr. Giles, as he spoke, looked at Brittles; but that young man, being naturally modest,probably considered himself nobody, and so held that the inquiry could not have anyapplication to him; at all events, he tendered no reply. Mr. Giles directed an appealingglance at the tinker; but he had suddenly fallen asleep. The women were out of the question.

'If Brittles would rather open the door, in the presence of witnesses,' said Mr. Giles,after a short silence, 'I am ready to make one.'

'So am I,' said the tinker, waking up, as suddenly as he had fallen asleep.

Brittles capitualated on these terms; and the party being somewhat re−assured by thediscovery (made on throwing open the shutters) that it was now broad day, took their wayupstairs; with the dogs in front. The two women, who were afraid to stay below, brought upthe rear. By the advice of Mr. Giles, they all talked very loud, to warn any evil−disposedperson outside, that they were strong in numbers; and by a master−stoke of policy,originating in the brain of the same ingenious gentleman, the dogs' tails were well pinched,in the hall, to make them bark savagely.

These precautions having been taken, Mr. Giles held on fast by the tinker's arm (toprevent his running away, as he pleasantly said), and gave the word of command to open thedoor. Brittles obeyed; the group, peeping timourously over each other's shoulders, beheld nomore formidable object than poor little Oliver Twist, speechless and exhausted, who raisedhis heavy eyes, and mutely solicited their compassion.

'A boy!' exclaimed Mr. Giles, valiantly, pushing the tinker into the background. 'What'sthe matter with the – eh? – Why – Brittles – look here – don't you know?'

Brittles, who had got behind the door to open it, no sooner saw Oliver, than he uttered aloud cry. Mr. Giles, seizing the boy by one leg and one arm (fortunately not the brokenlimb) lugged him straight into the hall, and deposited him at full length on the floor thereof.

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'Here he is!' bawled Giles, calling in a state of great excitement, up the staircase; 'here'sone of the thieves, ma'am! Here's a thief, miss! Wounded, miss! I shot him, miss; andBrittles held the light.'

' – In a lantern, miss,' cried Brittles, applying one hand to the side of his mouth, so thathis voice might travel the better.

The two women−servants ran upstairs to carry the intelligence that Mr. Giles hadcaptured a robber; and the tinker busied himself in endeavouring to restore Oliver, lest heshould die before he could be hanged. In the midst of all this noise and commotion, therewas heard a sweet female voice, which quelled it in an instant.

'Giles!' whispered the voice from the stair−head.

'I'm here, miss,' replied Mr. Giles. 'Don't be frightened, miss; I ain't much injured. Hedidn't make a very desperate resistance, miss! I was soon too many for him.'

'Hush!' replied the young lady; 'you frighten my aunt as much as the thieves did. Is thepoor creature much hurt?'

'Wounded desperate, miss,' replied Giles, with indescribable complacency.

'He looks as if he was a−going, miss,' bawled Brittles, in the same manner as before.'Wouldn't you like to come and look at him, miss, in case he should?'

'Hush, pray; there's a good man!' rejoined the lady. 'Wait quietly only one instant, whileI speak to aunt.'

With a footstep as soft and gentle as the voice, the speaker tripped away. She soonreturned, with the direction that the wounded person was to be carried, carefully, upstairs toMr. Giles's room; and that Brittles was to saddle the pony and betake himself instantly toChertsey: from which place, he was to despatch, with all speed, a constable and doctor.

'But won't you take one look at him, first, miss?' asked Mr. Giles, with as much pride asif Oliver were some bird of rare plumage, that he had skilfully brought down. 'Not one littlepeep, miss?'

'Not now, for the world,' replied the young lady. 'Poor fellow! Oh! treat him kindly,Giles for my sake!'

The old servant looked up at the speaker, as she turned away, with a glance as proudand admiring as if she had been his own child. Then, bending over Oliver, he helped to carryhim upstairs, with the care and solicitude of a woman.

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CHAPTER Xxix − HAS An introductory account of the inmates ofthe house, TO Which oliver RESORTED

I n a handsome room: though its furniture had rather the air of old−fashioned comfort,

than of modern elegance: there sat two ladies at a well−spread breakfast−table. Mr. Giles,dressed with scrupulous care in a full suit of black, was in attendance upon them. He hadtaken his station some half−way between the side−board and the breakfast−table; and, withhis body drawn up to its full height, his head thrown back, and inclined the merest trifle onone side, his left leg advanced, and his right hand thrust into his waist−coat, while his lefthung down by his side, grasping a waiter, looked like one who laboured under a veryagreeable sense of his own merits and importance.

Of the two ladies, one was well advanced in years; but the high−backed oaken chair inwhich she sat, was not more upright than she. Dressed with the utmost nicety and precision,in a quaint mixture of by−gone costume, with some slight concessions to the prevailingtaste, which rather served to point the old style pleasantly than to impair its effect, she sat, ina stately manner, with her hands folded on the table before her. Her eyes (and age haddimmed but little of their brightness) were attentively upon her young companion.

The younger lady was in the lovely bloom and spring−time of womanhood; at that age,when, if ever angels be for God's good purposes enthroned in mortal forms, they may be,without impiety, supposed to abide in such as hers.

She was not past seventeen. Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould; so mild and gentle;so pure and beautiful; that earth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fitcompanions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye, and was stamped uponher noble head, seemed scarcely of her age, or of the world; and yet the changing expressionof sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face, and left noshadow there; above all, the smile, the cheerful, happy smile, were made for Home, andfireside peace and happiness.

She was busily engaged in the little offices of the table. Chancing to raise her eyes asthe elder lady was regarding her, she playfully put back her hair, which was simply braidedon her forehead; and threw into her beaming look, such an expression of affection andartless loveliness, that blessed spirits might have smiled to look upon her.

'And Brittles has been gone upwards of an hour, has he?' asked the old lady, after apause.

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'An hour and twelve minutes, ma'am,' replied Mr. Giles, referring to a silver watch,which he drew forth by a black ribbon.

'He is always slow,' remarked the old lady.

'Brittles always was a slow boy, ma'am,' replied the attendant. And seeing, by the bye,that Brittles had been a slow boy for upwards of thirty years, there appeared no greatprobability of his ever being a fast one.

'He gets worse instead of better, I think,' said the elder lady.

'It is very inexcusable in him if he stops to play with any other boys,' said the younglady, smiling.

Mr. Giles was apparently considering the propriety of indulging in a respectful smilehimself, when a gig drove up to the garden−gate: out of which there jumped a fat gentleman,who ran straight up to the door: and who, getting quickly into the house by some mysteriousprocess, burst into the room, and nearly overturned Mr. Giles and the breakfast−tabletogether.

'I never heard of such a thing!' exclaimed the fat gentleman. 'My dear Mrs. Maylie –bless my soul – in the silence of the night, too – I never heard of such a thing!'

With these expressions of condolence, the fat gentleman shook hands with both ladies,and drawing up a chair, inquired how they found themselves.

'You ought to be dead; positively dead with the fright,' said the fat gentleman. 'Whydidn't you send? Bless me, my man should have come in a minute; and so would I; and myassistant would have been delighted; or anybody, I'm sure, under such circ*mstances. Dear,dear! So unexpected! In the silence of the night, too!'

The doctor seemed expecially troubled by the fact of the robbery having beenunexpected, and attempted in the night−time; as if it were the established custom ofgentlemen in the housebreaking way to transact business at noon, and to make anappointment, by post, a day or two previous.

'And you, Miss Rose,' said the doctor, turning to the young lady, 'I – '

'Oh! very much so, indeed,' said Rose, interrupting him; 'but there is a poor creatureupstairs, whom aunt wishes you to see.'

'Ah! to be sure,' replied the doctor, 'so there is. That was your handiwork, Giles, Iunderstand.'

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Mr. Giles, who had been feverishly putting the tea−cups to rights, blushed very red, andsaid that he had had that honour.

'Honour, eh?' said the doctor; 'well, I don't know; perhaps it's as honourable to hit a thiefin a back kitchen, as to hit your man at twelve paces. Fancy that he fired in the air, andyou've fought a duel, Giles.'

Mr. Giles, who thought this light treatment of the matter an unjust attempt atdiminishing his glory, answered respectfully, that it was not for the like of him to judgeabout that; but he rather thought it was no joke to the opposite party.

'Gad, that's true!' said the doctor. 'Where is he? Show me the way. I'll look in again, as Icome down, Mrs. Maylie. That's the little window that he got in at, eh? Well, I couldn't havebelieved it!'

Talking all the way, he followed Mr. Giles upstairs; and while he is going upstairs, thereader may be informed, that Mr. Losberne, a surgeon in the neighbourhood, known througha circuit of ten miles round as 'the doctor,' had grown fat, more from good−humour thanfrom good living: and was as kind and hearty, and withal as eccentric an old bachelor, aswill be found in five times that space, by any explorer alive.

The doctor was absent, much longer than either he or the ladies had anticipated. A largeflat box was fetched out of the gig; and a bedroom bell was rung very often; and the servantsran up and down stairs perpetually; from which tokens it was justly concluded thatsomething important was going on above. At length he returned; and in reply to an anxiousinquiry after his patient; looked very mysterious, and closed the door, carefully.

'This is a very extraordinary thing, Mrs. Maylie,' said the doctor, standing with his backto the door, as if to keep it shut.

'He is not in danger, I hope?' said the old lady.

'Why, that would NOT be an extraordinary thing, under the circ*mstances,' replied thedoctor; 'though I don't think he is. Have you seen the thief?'

'No,' rejoined the old lady.

'Nor heard anything about him?'

'No.'

'I beg your pardon, ma'am, interposed Mr. Giles; 'but I was going to tell you about himwhen Doctor Losberne came in.'

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The fact was, that Mr. Giles had not, at first, been able to bring his mind to the avowal,that he had only shot a boy. Such commendations had been bestowed upon his bravery, thathe could not, for the life of him, help postponing the explanation for a few deliciousminutes; during which he had flourished, in the very zenith of a brief reputation forundaunted 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. Haveyou 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 youwould deeply regret not having done so, if you postponed it. He is perfectly quiet andcomfortable now. Allow me – Miss Rose, will you permit me? Not the slightest fear, Ipledge you my honour!'

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CHAPTER Xxx − Relates What OLIVER'S New visitors thoughtof HIM

With many loquacious assurances that they would be agreeably surprised in the aspect

of the criminal, the doctor drew the young lady's arm through one of him; and offering hisdisengaged hand to Mrs. Maylie, led them, with much ceremony and stateliness, upstairs.

'Now,' said the doctor, in a whisper, as he softly turned the handle of a bedroom−door,'let us hear what you think of him. He has not been shaved very recently, but he don't look atall ferocious notwithstanding. Stop, though! Let me first see that he is in visiting order.'

Stepping before them, he looked into the room. Motioning them to advance, he closedthe door when they had entered; and gently drew back the curtains of the bed. Upon it, inlieu of the dogged, black−visaged ruffian they had expected to behold, there lay a merechild: worn with pain and exhaustion, and sunk into a deep sleep. His wounded arm, boundand splintered up, was crossed upon his breast; his head reclined upon the other arm, whichwas half hidden by his long hair, as it streamed over the pillow.

The honest gentleman held the curtain in his hand, and looked on, for a minute or so, insilence. Whilst he was watching the patient thus, the younger lady glided softly past, andseating herself in a chair by the bedside, gathered Oliver's hair from his face. As she stoopedover him, her tears fell upon his forehead.

The boy stirred, and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassionhad awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection he had never known. Thus, astrain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower, orthe mention of a familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of scenesthat never were, in this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory of ahappier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened; which no voluntaryexertion of the mind can ever recall.

'What can this mean?' exclaimed the elder lady. 'This poor child can never have beenthe pupil of robbers!'

'Vice,' said the surgeon, replacing the curtain, 'takes up her abode in many temples; andwho can say that a fair outside shell not enshrine her?'

'But at so early an age!' urged Rose.

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'My dear young lady,' rejoined the surgeon, mournfully shaking his head; 'crime, likedeath, is not confined to the old and withered alone. The youngest and fairest are too oftenits chosen victims.'

'But, can you – oh! can you really believe that this delicate boy has been the voluntaryassociate of the worst outcasts of society?' said Rose.

The surgeon shook his head, in a manner which intimated that he feared it was verypossible; and observing that they might disturb the patient, led the way into an adjoiningapartment.

'But even if he has been wicked,' pursued Rose, 'think how young he is; think that hemay never have known a mother's love, or the comfort of a home; that ill−usage and blows,or the want of bread, may have driven him to herd with men who have forced him to guilt.Aunt, dear aunt, for mercy's sake, think of this, before you let them drag this sick child to aprison, which in any case must be the grave of all his chances of amendment. Oh! as youlove me, and know that I have never felt the want of parents in your goodness and affection,but that I might have done so, and might have been equally helpless and unprotected withthis poor child, have pity upon him before it is too late!'

'My dear love,' said the elder lady, as she folded the weeping girl to her bosom, 'do youthink I would harm a hair of his head?'

'Oh, no!' replied Rose, eagerly.

'No, surely,' said the old lady; 'my days are drawing to their close: and may mercy beshown to me as I show it to others! What can I do to save him, sir?'

'Let me think, ma'am,' said the doctor; 'let me think.'

Mr. Losberne thrust his hands into his pockets, and took several turns up and down theroom; often stopping, and balancing himself on his toes, and frowning frightfully. Aftervarious exclamations of 'I've got it now' and 'no, I haven't,' and as many renewals of thewalking and frowning, he at length made a dead halt, and spoke as follows:

'I think if you give me a full and unlimited commission to bully Giles, and that littleboy, Brittles, I can manage it. Giles is a faithful fellow and an old servant, I know; but youcan make it up to him in a thousand ways, and reward him for being such a good shotbesides. You don't object to that?'

'Unless there is some other way of preserving the child,' replied Mrs. Maylie.

'There is no other,' said the doctor. 'No other, take my word for it.'

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'Then my aunt invests you with full power,' said Rose, smiling through her tears; 'butpray 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−heartedto−day, except yourself, Miss Rose. I only hope, for the sake of the rising male sexgenerally, that you may be found in as vulnerable and soft−hearted a mood by the firsteligible young fellow who appeals to your compassion; and I wish I were a young fellow,that I might avail myself, on the spot, of such a favourable opportunity for doing so, as thepresent.'

'You are as great a boy as poor Brittles himself,' returned Rose, blushing.

'Well,' said the doctor, laughing heartily, 'that is no very difficult matter. But to return tothis boy. The great point of our agreement is yet to come. He will wake in an hour or so, Idare say; and although I have told that thick−headed constable−fellow downstairs that hemusn't be moved or spoken to, on peril of his life, I think we may converse with him withoutdanger. Now I make this stipulation – that I shall examine him in your presence, and that, if,from what he says, we judge, and I can show to the satisfaction of your cool reason, that heis a real and thorough bad one (which is more than possible), he shall be left to his fate,without any farther interference on my part, at all events.'

'Oh no, aunt!' entreated Rose.

'Oh yes, aunt!' said the doctor. 'Is is a bargain?;

'He cannot be hardened in vice,' said Rose; 'It is impossible.'

'Very good,' retorted the doctor; 'then so much the more reason for acceding to myproposition.'

Finally the treaty was entered into; and the parties thereunto sat down to wait, withsome impatience, until Oliver should awake.

The patience of the two ladies was destined to undergo a longer trial than Mr. Losbernehad led them to expect; for hour after hour passed on, and still Oliver slumbered heavily. Itwas evening, indeed, before the kind−hearted doctor brought them the intelligence, that hewas at length sufficiently restored to be spoken to. The boy was very ill, he said, and weakfrom the loss of blood; but his mind was so troubled with anxiety to disclose something, thathe deemed it better to give him the opportunity, than to insist upon his remaining quiet untilnext morning: which he should otherwise have done.

The conference was a long one. Oliver told them all his simple history, and was oftencompelled to stop, by pain and want of strength. It was a solemn thing, to hear, in the

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darkened room, the feeble voice of the sick child recounting a weary catalogue of evils andcalamities which hard men had brought upon him. Oh! if when we oppress and grind ourfellow−creatures, we bestowed but one thought on the dark evidences of human error,which, like dense and heavy clouds, are rising, slowly it is true, but not less surely, toHeaven, to pour their after−vengeance on our heads; if we heard but one instant, inimagination, the deep testimony of dead men's voices, which no power can stifle, and nopride shut out; where would be the injury and injustice, the suffering, misery, cruelty, andwrong, that each day's life brings with it!

Oliver's pillow was smoothed by gentle hands that night; and loveliness and virtuewatched him as he slept. He felt calm and happy, and could have died without a murmur.

The momentous interview was no sooner concluded, and Oliver composed to rest again,than the doctor, after wiping his eyes, and condemning them for being weak all at once,betook himself downstairs to open upon Mr. Giles. And finding nobody about the parlours,it occurred to him, that he could perhaps originate the proceedings with better effect in thekitchen; so into the kitchen he went.

There were assembled, in that lower house of the domestic parliament, thewomen−servants, Mr. Brittles, Mr. Giles, the tinker (who had received a special invitation toregale himself for the remainder of the day, in consideration of his services), and theconstable. The latter gentleman had a large staff, a large head, large features, and largehalf−boots; and he looked as if he had been taking a proportionate allowance of ale – asindeed he had.

The adventures of the previous night were still under discussion; for Mr. Giles wasexpatiating upon his presence of mind, when the doctor entered; Mr. Brittles, with a mug ofale in his hand, was corroborating everything, before his superior said it.

'Sit still!' said the doctor, waving his hand.

'Thank you, sir, said Mr. Giles. 'Misses wished some ale to be given out, sir; and as Ifelt no ways inclined for my own little room, sir, and was disposed for company, I am takingmine among 'em here.'

Brittles headed a low murmur, by which the ladies and gentlemen generally wereunderstood to express the gratification they derived from Mr. Giles's condescension. Mr.Giles looked round with a patronising air, as much as to say that so long as they behavedproperly, he would never desert them.

'How is the patient to−night, sir?' asked Giles.

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'So−so'; returned the doctor. 'I am afraid you have got yourself into a scrape there, Mr.Giles.'

'I hope you don't mean to say, sir,' said Mr. Giles, trembling, 'that he's going to die. If Ithought it, I should never be happy again. I wouldn't cut a boy off: no, not even Brittles here;not for all the plate in the county, sir.'

'That's not the point,' said the doctor, mysteriously. 'Mr. Giles, are you a Protestant?'

'Yes, sir, I hope so,' faltered Mr. Giles, who had turned very pale.

'And what are YOU, boy?' said the doctor, turning sharply upon Brittles.

'Lord bless me, sir!' replied Brittles, starting violently; 'I'm the same as Mr. Giles, sir.'

'Then tell me this,' said the doctor, 'both of you, both of you! Are you going to takeupon yourselves to swear, that that boy upstairs is the boy that was put through the littlewindow last night? Out with it! Come! We are prepared for you!'

The doctor, who was universally considered one of the best−tempered creatures onearth, made this demand in such a dreadful tone of anger, that Giles and Brittles, who wereconsiderably muddled by ale and excitement, stared at each other in a state of stupefaction.

'Pay attention to the reply, constable, will you?' said the doctor, shaking his forefingerwith great solemnity of manner, and tapping the bridge of his nose with it, to bespeak theexercise of that worthy's utmost acuteness. 'Something may come of this before long.'

The constable looked as wise as he could, and took up his staff of office: which hadbeen recling indolently in the chimney−corner.

'It's a simple question of identity, you will observe,' said the doctor.

'That's what it is, sir,' replied the constable, coughing with great violence; for he hadfinished his ale in a hurry, and some of it had gone the wrong way.

'Here's the house broken into,' said the doctor, 'and a couple of men catch one moment'sglimpse of a boy, in the midst of gunpowder smoke, and in all the distraction of alarm anddarkness. Here's a boy comes to that very same house, next morning, and because hehappens to have his arm tied up, these men lay violent hands upon him – by doing which,they place his life in great danger – and swear he is the thief. Now, the question is, whetherthese men are justified by the fact; if not, in what situation do they place themselves?'

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The constable nodded profoundly. He said, if that wasn't law, he would be glad to knowwhat was.

'I ask you again,' thundered the doctor, 'are you, on your solemn oaths, able to identifythat boy?'

Brittles looked doubtfully at Mr. Giles; Mr. Giles looked doubtfully at Brittles; theconstable put his hand behind his ear, to catch the reply; the two women and the tinkerleaned forward to listen; the doctor glanced keenly round; when a ring was heard at the gate,and at the same moment, the sound of wheels.

'It's the runners!' cried Brittles, to all appearance much relieved.

'The what?' exclaimed the doctor, aghast in his turn.

'The Bow Street officers, sir,' replied Brittles, taking up a candle; 'me and Mr. Giles sentfor 'em this morning.'

'What?' cried the doctor.

'Yes,' replied Brittles; 'I sent a message up by the coachman, and I only wonder theyweren't here before, sir.'

'You did, did you? Then confound your – slow coaches down here; that's all,' said thedoctor, walking away.

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CHAPTER Xxxi − Involves A critical POSITION

'Who's that?' inquired Brittles, opening the door a little way, with the chain up, and

peeping out, shading the candle with his hand.

'Open the door,' replied a man outside; 'it's the officers from Bow Street, as was sent toto−day.'

Much comforted by this assurance, Brittles opened the door to its full width, andconfronted a portly man in a great−coat; who walked in, without saying anything more, andwiped his shoes on the mat, as coolly as if he lived there.

'Just send somebody out to relieve my mate, will you, young man?' said the officer; 'he'sin the gig, a−minding the prad. Have you got a coach 'us here, that you could put it up in, forfive or ten minutes?'

Brittles replying in the affirmative, and pointing out the building, the portly manstepped back to the garden−gate, and helped his companion to put up the gig: while Brittleslighted them, in a state of great admiration. This done, they returned to the house, and, beingshown into a parlour, took off their great−coats and hats, and showed like what they were.

The man who had knocked at the door, was a stout personage of middle height, agedabout fifty: with shiny black hair, cropped pretty close; half−whiskers, a round face, andsharp eyes. The other was a red−headed, bony man, in top−boots; with a rather ill−favouredcountenance, and a turned−up sinister−looking nose.

'Tell your governor that Blathers and Duff is here, will you?' said the stouter man,smoothing down his hair, and laying a pair of handcuffs on the table. 'Oh! Good−evening,master. Can I have a word or two with you in private, if you please?'

This was addressed to Mr. Losberne, who now made his appearance; that gentleman,motioning Brittles to retire, brought in the two ladies, and shut the door.

'This is the lady of the house,' said Mr. Losberne, motioning towards Mrs. Maylie.

Mr. Blathers made a bow. Being desired to sit down, he put his hat on the floor, andtaking a chair, motioned to Duff to do the same. The latter gentleman, who did not appearquite so much accustomed to good society, or quite so much at his ease in it – one of the two– seated himself, after undergoing several muscular affections of the limbs, and the head ofhis stick into his mouth, with some embarrassment.

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'Now, with regard to this here robbery, master,' said Blathers. 'What are thecirc*mstances?'

Mr. Losberne, who appeared desirous of gaining time, recounted them at great length,and with much circumlocution. Messrs. Blathers and Duff looked very knowing meanwhile,and occasionally exchanged a nod.

'I can't say, for certain, till I see the work, of course,' said Blathers; 'but my opinion atonce is, – I don't mind committing myself to that extent, – that this wasn't done by a yokel;eh, Duff?'

'Certainly not,' replied Duff.

'And, translating the word yokel for the benefit of the ladies, I apprehend your meaningto be, that this attempt was not made by a countryman?' said Mr. Losberne, with a smile.

'That's it, master,' replied Blathers. 'This is all about the robbery, is it?'

'All,' replied the doctor.

'Now, what is this, about this here boy that the servants are a−talking on?' said Blathers.

'Nothing at all,' replied the doctor. 'One of the frightened servants chose to take it intohis head, that he had something to do with this attempt to break into the house; but it'snonsense: sheer absurdity.'

'Wery easy disposed of, if it is,' remarked Duff.

'What he says is quite correct,' observed Blathers, nodding his head in a confirmatoryway, and playing carelessly with the handcuffs, as if they were a pair of castanets. 'Who isthe boy?

What account does he give of himself? Where did he come from? He didn't drop out ofthe clouds, did he, master?'

'Of course not,' replied the doctor, with a nervous glance at the two ladies. 'I know hiswhole history: but we can talk about that presently. You would like, first, to see the placewhere the thieves made their attempt, I suppose?'

'Certainly,' rejoined Mr. Blathers. 'We had better inspect the premises first, and examinethe servants afterwards. That's the usual way of doing business.'

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Lights were then procured; and Messrs. Blathers and Duff, attended by the nativeconstable, Brittles, Giles, and everybody else in short, went into the little room at the end ofthe passage and looked out at the window; and afterwards went round by way of the lawn,and looked in at the window; and after that, had a candle handed out to inspect the shutterwith; and after that, a lantern to trace the footsteps with; and after that, a pitchfork to pokethe bushes with. This done, amidst the breathless interest of all beholders, they came inagain; and Mr. Giles and Brittles were put through a melodramatic representation of theirshare in the previous night's adventures: which they performed some six times over:contradiction each other, in not more than one important respect, the first time, and in notmore than a dozen the last. This consummation being arrived at, Blathers and Duff clearedthe room, and held a long council together, compared with which, for secrecy and solemnity,a consultation of great doctors on the knottiest point in medicine, would be mere child'splay.

Meanwhile, the doctor walked up and down the next room in a very uneasy state; andMrs. Maylie and Rose looked on, with anxious faces.

'Upon my word,' he said, making a halt, after a great number of very rapid turns, 'Ihardly know what to do.'

'Surely,' said Rose, 'the poor child's story, faithfully repeated to these men, will besufficient to exonerate him.'

'I doubt it, my dear young lady,' said the doctor, shaking his head. 'I don't think it wouldexonerate him, either with them, or with legal functionaries of a higher grade. What is he,after all, they would say? A runaway. Judged by mere worldly considerations andprobabilities, his story is a very doubtful one.'

'You believe it, surely?' interrupted Rose.

'I believe it, strange as it is; and perhaps I may be an old fool for doing so,' rejoined thedoctor; 'but I don't think it is exactly the tale for a practical police−officer, nevertheless.'

'Why not?' demanded Rose.

'Because, my pretty cross−examiner,' replied the doctor: 'because, viewed with theireyes, there are many ugly points about it; he can only prove the parts that look ill, and noneof those that look well. Confound the fellows, they Will have the way and the wherefore,and will take nothing for granted. On his own showing, you see, he has been the companionof thieves for some time past; he has been carried to a police−officer, on a charge of pickinga gentleman's pocket; he has been taken away, forcibly, from that gentleman's house, to aplace which he cannot describe or point out, and of the situation of which he has not theremotest idea. He is brought down to Chertsey, by men who seem to have taken a violent

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fancy to him, whether he will or no; and is put through a window to rob a house; and then,just at the very moment when he is going to alarm the inmates, and so do the very thing thatwould set him all to rights, there rushes into the way, a blundering dog of a half−bred butler,and shoots him! As if on purpose to prevent his doing any good for himself! Don't you seeall this?'

'I see it, of course,' replied Rose, smiling at the doctor's impetuosity; 'but still I do notsee anything in it, to criminate the poor child.'

'No,' replied the doctor; 'of course not! Bless the bright eyes of your sex! They neversee, whether for good or bad, more than one side of any question; and that is, always, theone which first presents itself to them.'

Having given vent to this result of experience, the doctor put his hands into his pockets,and walked up and down the room with even greater rapidity than before.

'The more I think of it,' said the doctor, 'the more I see that it will occasion endlesstrouble and difficulty if we put these men in possession of the boy's real story. I am certain itwill not be believed; and even if they can do nothing to him in the end, still the dragging itforward, and giving publicity to all the doubts that will be cast upon it, must interfere,materially, with your benevolent plan of rescuing him from misery.'

'Oh! what is to be done?' cried Rose. 'Dear, dear! whyddid they send for these people?'

'Why, indeed!' exclaimed Mrs. Maylie. 'I would not have had them here, for the world.'

'All I know is,' said Mr. Losberne, at last: sitting down with a kind of desperatecalmness, 'that we must try and carry it off with a bold face. The object is a good one, andthat must be our excuse. The boy has strong symptoms of fever upon him, and is in nocondition to be talked to any more; that's one comfort. We must make the best of it; and ifbad be the best, it is no fault of ours. Come in!'

'Well, master,' said Blathers, entering the room followed by his colleague, and makingthe door fast, before he said any more. 'This warn't a put−up thing.'

'And what the devil's a put−up thing?' demanded the doctor, impatiently.

'We call it a put−up robbery, ladies,' said Blathers, turning to them, as if he pitied theirignorance, but had a contempt for the doctor's, 'when the servants is in it.'

'Nobody suspected them, in this case,' said Mrs. Maylie.

'Wery likely not, ma'am,' replied Blathers; 'but they might have been in it, for all that.'

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'More likely on that wery account,' said Duff.

'We find it was a town hand,' said Blathers, continuing his report; 'for the style of workis first−rate.'

'Wery pretty indeed it is,' remarked Duff, in an undertone.

'There was two of 'em in it,' continued Blathers; 'and they had a boy with 'em; that'splain from the size of the window. That's all to be said at present. We'll see this lad thatyou've got upstairs at once, if you please.'

'Perhaps they will take something to drink first, Mrs. Maylie?' said the doctor: his facebrightening, as if some new thought had occurred to him.

'Oh! to be sure!' exclaimed Rose, eagerly. 'You shall have it immediately, if you will.'

'Why, thank you, miss!' said Blathers, drawing his coat−sleeve across his mouth; 'it'sdry work, this sort of duty. Anythink that's handy, miss; don't put yourself out of the way, onour accounts.'

'What shall it be?' asked the doctor, following the young lady to the sideboard.

'A little drop of spirits, master, if it's all the same,' replied Blathers. 'It's a cold ride fromLondon, ma'am; and I always find that spirits comes home warmer to the feelings.'

This interesting communication was addressed to Mrs. Maylie, who received it verygraciously. 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 bottombetween the thumb and forefinger of his left hand: and placing it in front of his chest; 'I haveseen a good many pieces of business like this, in my time, ladies.'

'That crack down in the back lane at Edmonton, Blathers,' said Mr. Duff, assisting hiscolleague's memory.

'That was something in this way, warn't it?' rejoined Mr. Blathers; 'that was done byConkey Chickweed, that was.'

'You always gave that to him' replied Duff. 'It was the Family Pet, I tell you. Conkeyhadn't any more to do with it than I had.'

'Get out!' retorted Mr. Blathers; 'I know better. Do you mind that time when Conkeywas robbed of his money, though? What a start that was! Better than any novel−book I ever

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see!'

'What was that?' inquired Rose: anxious to encourage any symptoms of good−humourin the unwelcome visitors.

'It was a robbery, miss, that hardly anybody would have been down upon,' said Blathers.'This here Conkey Chickweed – '

'Conkey means Nosey, ma'am,' interposed Duff.

'Of course the lady knows that, don't she?' demanded Mr. Blathers. 'Alwaysinterrupting, you are, partner! This here Conkey Chickweed, miss, kept a public−house overBattlebridge way, and he had a cellar, where a good many young lords went to seeco*ck−fighting, and badger−drawing, and that; and a wery intellectural manner the sports wasconducted in, for I've seen 'em off'en. He warn't one of the family, at that time; and one nighthe was robbed of three hundred and twenty−seven guineas in a canvas bag, that was stoleout of his bedrrom in the dead of night, by a tall man with a black patch over his eye, whohad concealed himself under the bed, and after committing the robbery, jumped slap out ofwindow: which was only a story high.

He was wery quick about it. But Conkey was quick, too; for he fired a blunderbuss arterhim, and roused the neighbourhood. They set up a hue−and−cry, directly, and when theycame to look about 'em, found that Conkey had hit the robber; for there was traces of blood,all the way to some palings a good distance off; and there they lost 'em. However, he hadmade off with the blunt; and, consequently, the name of Mr. Chickweed, licensed witler,appeared in the Gazette among the other bankrupts; and all manner of benefits andsubscriptions, and I don't know what all, was got up for the poor man, who was in a werylow state of mind about his loss, and went up and down the streets, for three or four days, apulling his hair off in such a desperate manner that many people was afraid he might begoing to make away with himself. One day he came up to the office, all in a hurry, and had aprivate interview with the magistrate, who, after a deal of talk, rings the bell, and orders JemSpyers in (Jem was a active officer), and tells him to go and assist Mr. Chickweed inapprehending the man as robbed his house. «I see him, Spyers,» said Chickweed, «pass myhouse yesterday morning,» «Why didn't you up, and collar him!» says Spyers. «I was sostruck all of a heap, that you might have fractured my skull with a toothpick,» says the poorman; «but we're sure to have him; for between ten and eleven o'clock at night he passedagain.» Spyers no sooner heard this, than he put some clean linen and a comb, in his pocket,in case he should have to stop a day or two; and away he goes, and sets himself down at oneof the public−house windows behind the little red curtain, with his hat on, all ready to boltout, at a moment's notice. He was smoking his pipe here, late at night, when all of a suddenChickweed roars out, «Here he is! Stop thief! Murder!» Jem Spyers dashes out; and there hesees Chickweed, a−tearing down the street full cry. Away goes Spyers; on goes Chickweed;round turns the people; everybody roars out, «Thieves!» and Chickweed himself keeps on

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shouting, all the time, like mad. Spyers loses sight of him a minute as he turns a corner;shoots round; sees a little crowd; dives in; «Which is the man?» «D – me!» says Chickweed,«I've lost him again!» It was a remarkable occurrence, but he warn't to be seen nowhere, sothey went back to the public−house. Next morning, Spyers took his old place, and lookedout, from behind the curtain, for a tall man with a black patch over his eye, till his own twoeyes ached again. At last, he couldn't help shutting 'em, to ease 'em a minute; and the verymoment he did so, he hears Chickweed a−roaring out, «Here he is!» Off he starts once more,with Chickweed half−way down the street ahead of him; and after twice as long a run as theyesterday's one, the man's lost again! This was done, once or twice more, till one−half theneighbours gave out that Mr. Chickweed had been robbed by the devil, who was playingtricks with him arterwards; and the other half, that poor Mr. Chickweed had gone mad withgrief.'

'What did Jem Spyers say?' inquired the doctor; who had returned to the room shortlyafter the commencement of the story.

'Jem Spyers,' resumed the officer, 'for a long time said nothing at all, and listened toeverything without seeming to, which showed he understood his business. But, one morning,he walked into the bar, and taking out his snuffbox, says «Chickweed, I've found out whodone this here robbery.» «Have you?» said Chickweed. «Oh, my dear Spyers, only let mehave wengeance, and I shall die contented! Oh, my dear Spyers, where is the villain!»«Come!» said Spyers, offering him a pinch of snuff, «none of that gammon! You did ityourself.» So he had; and a good bit of money he had made by it, too; and nobody wouldnever have found it out, if he hadn't been so precious anxious to keep up appearances!' saidMr. Blathers, putting down his wine−glass, and clinking the handcuffs together.

'Very curious, indeed,' observed the doctor. 'Now, if you please, you can walk upstairs.'

'If YOU please, sir,' returned Mr. Blathers. Closely following Mr. Losberne, the twoofficers ascended to Oliver's bedroom; Mr. Giles preceding the party, with a lighted candle.

Oliver had been dozing; but looked worse, and was more feverish than he had appearedyet. Being assisted by the doctor, he managed to sit up in bed for a minute or so; and lookedat the strangers without at all understanding what was going forward – in fact, withoutseeming to recollect where he was, or what had been passing.

'This,' said Mr. Losberne, speaking softly, but with great vehemence notwithstanding,'this is the lad, who, being accidently wounded by a spring−gun in some boyish trespass onMr. What−d' ye−call−him's grounds, at the back here, comes to the house for assistance thismorning, and is immediately laid hold of and maltreated, by that ingenious gentleman withthe candle in his hand: who has placed his life in considerable danger, as I can professionallycertify.'

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Messrs. Blathers and Duff looked at Mr. Giles, as he was thus recommended to theirnotice. The bewildered butler gazed from them towards Oliver, and from Oliver towards Mr.Losberne, with a most ludicrous mixture of fear and perplexity.

'You don't mean to deny that, I suppose?' said the doctor, laying Oliver gently downagain.

'It was all done for the – for the best, sir,' answered Giles. 'I am sure I thought it was theboy, or I wouldn't have meddled with him. I am not of an inhuman disposition, sir.'

'Thought it was what boy?' inquired the senior officer.

'The housebreaker's boy, sir!' replied Giles. 'They – they certainly had a boy.'

'Well? Do you think so now?' inquired Blathers.

'Think what, now?' replied Giles, looking vacantly at his questioner.

'Think it's the same boy, Stupid−head?' rejoined Blathers, impatiently.

'I don't know; I really don't know,' said Giles, with a rueful countenance. 'I couldn'tswear to him.'

'What do you think?' asked Mr. Blathers.

'I don't know what to think,' replied poor Giles. 'I don't think it is the boy; indeed, I'malmost certain that it isn't. You know it can't be.'

'Has this man been a−drinking, sir?' inquired Blathers, turning to the doctor.

'What a precious muddle−headed chap you are!' said Duff, addressing Mr. Giles, withsupreme contempt.

Mr. Losberne had been feeling the patient's pulse during this short dialogue; but he nowrose from the chair by the bedside, and remarked, that if the officers had any doubts uponthe subject, they would perhaps like to step into the next room, and have Brittles beforethem.

Acting upon this suggestion, they adjourned to a neighbouring apartment, where Mr.Brittles, being called in, involved himself and his respected superior in such a wonderfulmaze of fresh contradictions and impossibilities, as tended to throw no particular light onanything, but the fact of his own strong mystification; except, indeed, his declarations thathe shouldn't know the real boy, if he were put before him that instant; that he had only taken

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Oliver to be he, because Mr. Giles had said he was; and that Mr. Giles had, five minutespreviously, admitted in the kitchen, that he begain to be very much afraid he had been a littletoo hasty.

Among other ingenious surmises, the question was then raised, whether Mr. Giles hadreally hit anybody; and upon examination of the fellow pistol to that which he had fired, itturned out to have no more destructive loading than gunpowder and brown paper: adiscovery which made a considerable impression on everybody but the doctor, who haddrawn the ball about ten minutes before. Upon no one, however, did it make a greaterimpression than on Mr. Giles himself; who, after labouring, for some hours, under the fearof having mortally wounded a fellow−creature, eagerly caught at this new idea, andfavoured it to the utmost. Finally, the officers, without troubling themselves very muchabout Oliver, left the Chertsey constable in the house, and took up their rest for that night inthe town; promising to return the next morning.

With the next morning, there came a rumour, that two men and a boy were in the cageat Kingston, who had been apprehended over night under suspicious circ*mstances; and toKingston Messrs. Blathers and Duff journeyed accordingly. The suspicious circ*mstances,however, resolving themselves, on investigation, into the one fact, that they had beendiscovered sleeping under a haystack; which, although a great crime, is only punishable byimprisonment, and is, in the merciful eye of the English law, and its comprehensive love ofall the King's subjects, held to be no satisfactory proof, in the absence of all other evidence,that the sleeper, or sleepers, have committed burglary accompanied with violence, and havetherefore rendered themselves liable to the punishment of death; Messrs. Blathers and Duffcame back again, as wise as they went.

In short, after some more examination, and a great deal more conversation, aneighbouring magistrate was readily induced to take the joint bail of Mrs. Maylie and Mr.Losberne for Oliver's appearance if he should ever be called upon; and Blathers and Duff,being rewarded with a couple of guineas, returned to town with divided opinions on thesubject of their expedition: the latter gentleman on a mature consideration of all thecirc*mstances, inclining to the belief that the burglarious attempt had originated with theFamily Pet; and the former being equally disposed to concede the full merit of it to the greatMr. Conkey Chickweed.

Meanwhile, Oliver gradually throve and prospered under the united care of Mrs.Maylie, Rose, and the kind−hearted Mr. Losberne. If fervent prayers, gushing from heartsovercharged with gratitude, be heard in heaven – and if they be not, what prayers are! – theblessings which the orphan child called down upon them, sunk into their souls, diffusingpeace and happiness.

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CHAPTER Xxxii − OF The happy life oliver began to lead with hiskind FRIENDS

Oliver's ailings were neither slight nor few. In addition to the pain and delay attendant

on a broken limb, his exposure to the wet and cold had brought on fever and ague: whichhung about him for many weeks, and reduced him sadly. But, at length, he began, by slowdegrees, to get better, and to be able to say sometimes, in a few tearful words, how deeply hefelt the goodness of the two sweet ladies, and how ardently he hoped that when he grewstrong and well again, he could do something to show his gratitude; only something, whichwould let them see the love and duty with which his breast was full; something, howeverslight, which would prove to them that their gentle kindness had not been cast away; but thatthe poor boy whom their charity had rescued from misery, or death, was eager to serve themwith his whole heart and soul.

'Poor fellow!' said Rose, when Oliver had been one day feebly endeavouring to utter thewords of thankfulness that rose to his pale lips; 'you shall have many opportunities ofserving us, if you will. We are going into the country, and my aunt intends that you shallaccompany us. The quiet place, the pure air, and all the pleasure and beauties of spring, willrestore you in a few days. We will employ you in a hundred ways, when you can bear thetrouble.'

'The trouble!' cried Oliver. 'Oh! dear lady, if I could but work for you; if I could onlygive you pleasure by watering your flowers, or watching your birds, or running up and downthe whole day long, to make you happy; what would I give to do it!'

'You shall give nothing at all,' said Miss Maylie, smiling; 'for, as I told you before, weshall employ you in a hundred ways; and if you only take half the trouble to please us, thatyou promise now, you will make me very happy indeed.'

'Happy, ma'am!' cried Oliver; 'how kind of you to say so!'

'You will make me happier than I can tell you,' replied the young lady. 'To think that mydear good aunt should have been the means of rescuing any one from such sad misery as youhave described to us, would be an unspeakable pleasure to me; but to know that the object ofher goodness and compassion was sincerely grateful and attached, in consequence, woulddelight me, more than you can well imagine. Do you understand me?' she inquired, watchingOliver's thoughtful face.

'Oh yes, ma'am, yes!' replied Oliver eagerly; 'but I was thinking that I am ungratefulnow.'

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'To whom?' inquired the young lady.

'To the kind gentleman, and the dear old nurse, who took so much care of me before,'rejoined Oliver. 'If they knew how happy I am, they would be pleased, I am sure.'

'I am sure they would,' rejoined Oliver's benefactress; 'and Mr. Losberne has alreadybeen kind enough to promise that when you are well enough to bear the journey, he willcarry you to see them.'

'Has he, ma'am?' cried Oliver, his face brightening with pleasure. 'I don't know what Ishall do for joy when I see their kind faces once again!'

In a short time Oliver was sufficiently recovered to undergo the fatigue of thisexpedition. One morning he and Mr. Losberne set out, accordingly, in a little carriage whichbelonged to Mrs. Maylie. When they came to Chertsey Bridge, Oliver turned very pale, anduttered a loud exclamation.

'What's the matter with the boy?' cried the doctor, as usual, all in a bustle. 'Do you seeanything – hear anything – feel anything – eh?'

'That, sir,' cried Oliver, pointing out of the carriage window. 'That house!'

'Yes; well, what of it? Stop coachman. Pull up here,' cried the doctor. 'What of thehouse, my man; eh?'

'The thieves – the house they took me to!' whispered Oliver.

'The devil it is!' cried the doctor. 'Hallo, there! let me out!'

But, before the coachman could dismount from his box, he had tumbled out of thecoach, by some means or other; and, running down to the deserted tenement, began kickingat the door like a madman.

'Halloa?' said a little ugly hump−backed man: opening the door so suddenly, that thedoctor, from the very impetus of his last kick, nearly fell forward into the passage. 'What'sthe matter here?'

'Matter!' exclaimed the other, collaring him, without a moment's reflection. 'A gooddeal. Robbery is the matter.'

'There'll be Murder the matter, too,' replied the hump−backed man, coolly, 'if you don'ttake your hands off. Do you hear me?'

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'I hear you,' said the doctor, giving his captive a hearty shake.

'Where's – confound the fellow, what's his rascally name – Sikes; that's it. Where'sSikes, you thief?'

The hump−backed man stared, as if in excess of amazement and indignation; then,twisting himself, dexterously, from the doctor's grasp, growled forth a volley of horrid oaths,and retired into the house. Before he could shut the door, however, the doctor had passedinto the parlour, without a word of parley.

He looked anxiously round; not an article of furniture; not a vestige of anything,animate or inanimate; not even the position of the cupboards; answered Oliver's description!

'Now!' said the hump−backed man, who had watched him keenly, 'what do you mean bycoming into my house, in this violent way? Do you want to rob me, or to murder me? Whichis it?'

'Did you ever know a man come out to do either, in a chariot and a pair, you ridiculousold vampire?' said the irritable doctor.

'What do you want, then?' demanded the hunchback. 'Will you take yourself off, beforeI do you a mischief? Curse you!'

'As soon as I think proper,' said Mr. Losberne, looking into the other parlour; which,like the first, bore no resemblance whatever to Oliver's account of it. 'I shall find you out,some day, my friend.'

'Will you?' sneered the ill−favoured cripple. 'If you ever want me, I'm here. I haven'tlived here mad and all alone, for five−and−twenty years, to be scared by you. You shall payfor this; you shall pay for this.' And so saying, the mis−shapen little demon set up a yell, anddanced upon the ground, as if wild with rage.

'Stupid enough, this,' muttered the doctor to himself; 'the boy must have made amistake. Here! Put that in your pocket, and shut yourself up again.' With these words heflung the hunchback a piece of money, and returned to the carriage.

The man followed to the chariot door, uttering the wildest imprecations and curses allthe way; but as Mr. Losberne turned to speak to the driver, he looked into the carriage, andeyed Oliver for an instant with a glance so sharp and fierce and at the same time so furiousand vindictive, that, waking or sleeping, he could not forget it for months afterwards. Hecontinued to utter the most fearful imprecations, until the driver had resumed his seat; andwhen they were once more on their way, they could see him some distance behind: beatinghis feet upon the ground, and tearing his hair, in transports of real or pretended rage.

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'I am an ass!' said the doctor, after a long silence. 'Did you know that before, Oliver?'

'No, sir.'

'Then don't forget it another time.'

'An ass,' said the doctor again, after a further silence of some minutes. 'Even if it hadbeen the right place, and the right fellows had been there, what could I have done,single−handed? And if I had had assistance, I see no good that I should have done, exceptleading to my own exposure, and an unavoidable statement of the manner in which I havehushed up this business. That would have served me right, though. I am always involvingmyself in some scrape or other, by acting on impulse. It might have done me good.'

Now, the fact was that the excellent doctor had never acted upon anything but impulseall through his life, and if was no bad compliment to the nature of the impulses whichgoverned him, that so far from being involved in any peculiar troubles or misfortunes, hehad the warmest respect and esteem of all who knew him. If the truth must be told, he was alittle out of temper, for a minute or two, at being disappointed in procuring corroborativeevidence of Oliver's story on the very first occasion on which he had a chance of obtainingany. He soon came round again, however; and finding that Oliver's replies to his questions,were still as straightforward and consistent, and still delivered with as much apparentsincerity and truth, as they had ever been, he made up his mind to attach full credence tothem, from that time forth.

As Oliver knew the name of the street in which Mr. Brownlow resided, they wereenabled to drive straight thither. When the coach turned into it, his heart beat so violently,that he could scarcely draw his breath.

'Now, my boy, which house is it?' inquired Mr. Losberne.

'That! That!' replied Oliver, pointing eagerly out of the window. 'The white house. Oh!make haste! Pray make haste! I feel as if I should die: it makes me tremble so.'

'Come, come!' said the good doctor, patting him on the shoulder. 'You will see themdirectly, and they will be overjoyed to find you safe and well.'

'Oh! I hope so!' cried Oliver. 'They were so good to me; so very, very good to me.'

The coach rolled on. It stopped. No; that was the wrong house; the next door. It went ona few paces, and stopped again. Oliver looked up at the windows, with tears of happyexpectation coursing down his face.

Alas! the white house was empty, and there was a bill in the window. 'To Let.'

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'Knock at the next door,' cried Mr. Losberne, taking Oliver's arm in his. 'What hasbecome of Mr. Brownlow, who used to live in the adjoining house, do you know?'

The servant did not know; but would go and inquire. She presently returned, and said,that Mr. Brownlow had sold off his goods, and gone to the West Indies, six weeks before.Oliver clasped his hands, and sank feebly backward.

'Has his housekeeper gone too?' inquired Mr. Losberne, after a moment's pause.

'Yes, sir'; replied the servant. 'The old gentleman, the housekeeper, and a gentlemanwho 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 baitthe horses, till you get out of this confounded London!'

'The book−stall keeper, sir?' said Oliver. 'I know the way there. See him, pray, sir! Dosee him!'

'My poor boy, this is disappointment enough for one day,' said the doctor. 'Quite enoughfor both of us. If we go to the book−stall keeper's, we shall certainly find that he is dead, orhas set his house on fire, or run away. No; home again straight!' And in obedience to thedoctor's impulse, home they went.

This bitter disappointment caused Oliver much sorrow and grief, even in the midst ofhis happiness; for he had pleased himself, many times during his illness, with thinking of allthat Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin would say to him: and what delight it would be to tellthem how many long days and nights he had passed in reflecting on what they had done forhim, and in bewailing his cruel separation from them. The hope of eventually clearinghimself with them, too, and explaining how he had been forced away, had buoyed him up,and sustained him, under many of his recent trials; and now, the idea that they should havegone so far, and carried with them the belief that the was an impostor and a robber – a beliefwhich might remain uncontradicted to his dying day – was almost more than he could bear.

The circ*mstance occasioned no alteration, however, in the behaviour of hisbenefactors. After another fortnight, when the fine warm weather had fairly begun, andevery tree and flower was putting forth its young leaves and rich blossoms, they madepreparations for quitting the house at Chertsey, for some months.

Sending the plate, which had so excited fa*gin's cupidity, to the banker's; and leavingGiles and another servant in care of the house, they departed to a cottage at some distance inthe country, and took Oliver with them.

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Who can describe the pleasure and delight, the peace of mind and soft tranquillity, thesickly boy felt in the balmy air, and among the green hills and rich woods, of an inlandvillage! Who can tell how scenes of peace and quietude sink into the minds of pain−worndwellers in close and noisy places, and carry their own freshness, deep into their jadedhearts! Men who have lived in crowded, pent−up streets, through lives of toil, and who havenever wished for change; men, to whom custom has indeed been second nature, and whohave come almost to love each brick and stone that formed the narrow boundaries of theirdaily walks; even they, with the hand of death upon them, have been known to yearn at lastfor one short glimpse of Nature's face; and, carried far from the scenes of their old pains andpleasures, have seemed to pass at once into a new state of being. Crawling forth, from day today, to some green sunny spot, they have had such memories wakened up within them bythe sight of the sky, and hill and plain, and glistening water, that a foretaste of heaven itselfhas soothed their quick decline, and they have sunk into their tombs, as peacefully as the sunwhose setting they watched from their lonely chamber window but a few hours before, fadedfrom their dim and feeble sight! The memories which peaceful country scenes call up, arenot of this world, nor of its thoughts and hopes. Their gentle influence may teach us how toweave fresh garlands for the graves of those we loved: may purify our thoughts, and beardown before it old enmity and hatred; but beneath all this, there lingers, in the leastreflective mind, a vague and half−formed consciousness of having held such feelings longbefore, in some remote and distant time, which calls up solemn thoughts of distant times tocome, and bends down pride and worldliness beneath it.

It was a lovely spot to which they repaired. Oliver, whose days had been spent amongsqualid crowds, and in the midst of noise and brawling, seemed to enter on a new existencethere. The rose and honeysuckle clung to the cottage walls; the ivy crept round the trunks ofthe trees; and the garden−flowers perfumed the air with delicious odours. Hard by, was alittle churchyard; not crowded with tall unsightly gravestones, but full of humble mounds,covered with fresh turf and moss: beneath which, the old people of the village lay at rest.Oliver often wandered here; and, thinking of the wretched grave in which his mother lay,would sometimes sit him down and sob unseen; but, when he raised his eyes to the deep skyoverhead, he would cease to think of her as lying in the ground, and would weep for her,sadly, but without pain.

It was a happy time. The days were peaceful and serene; the nights brought with themneither fear nor care; no languishing in a wretched prison, or associating with wretched men;nothing but pleasant and happy thoughts. Every morning he went to a white−headed oldgentleman, who lived near the little church: who taught him to read better, and to write: andwho spoke so kindly, and took such pains, that Oliver could never try enough to please him.Then, he would walk with Mrs. Maylie and Rose, and hear them talk of books; or perhaps sitnear them, in some shady place, and listen whilst the young lady read: which he could havedone, until it grew too dark to see the letters. Then, he had his own lesson for the next day toprepare; and at this, he would work hard, in a little room which looked into the garden, tillevening came slowly on, when the ladies would walk out again, and he with them: listening

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with such pleasure to all they said: and so happy if they wanted a flower that he could climbto reach, or had forgotten anything he could run to fetch: that he could never be quickenought about it. When it became quite dark, and they returned home, the young lady wouldsit down to the piano, and play some pleasant air, or sing, in a low and gentle voice, someold song which it pleased her aunt to hear. There would be no candles lighted at such timesas these; and Oliver would sit by one of the windows, listening to the sweet music, in aperfect rapture.

And when Sunday came, how differently the day was spent, from any way in which hehad ever spent it yet! and how happily too; like all the other days in that most happy time!There was the little church, in the morning, with the green leaves fluttering at the windows:the birds singing without: and the sweet−smelling air stealing in at the low porch, and fillingthe homely building with its fragrance. The poor people were so neat and clean, and knelt soreverently in prayer, that it seemed a pleasure, not a tedious duty, their assembling theretogether; and though the singing might be rude, it was real, and sounded more musical (toOliver's ears at least) than any he had ever heard in church before. Then, there were thewalks as usual, and many calls at the clean houses of the labouring men; and at night, Oliverread a chapter or two from the Bible, which he had been studying all the week, and in theperformance of which duty he felt more proud and pleased, than if he had been theclergyman himself.

In the morning, Oliver would be a−foot by six o'clock, roaming the fields, andplundering the hedges, far and wide, for nosegays of wild flowers, with which he wouldreturn laden, home; and which it took great care and consideration to arrange, to the bestadvantage, for the embellishment of the breakfast−table. There was fresh groundsel, too, forMiss Maylie's birds, with which Oliver, who had been studying the subject under the abletuition of the village clerk, would decorate the cages, in the most approved taste. When thebirds were made all spruce and smart for the day, there was usually some little commissionof charity to execute in the village; or, failing that, there was rare cricket−playing,sometimes, on the green; or, failing that, there was always something to do in the garden, orabout the plants, to which Oliver (who had studied this science also, under the same master,who was a gardener by trade,) applied himself with hearty good−will, until Miss Rose madeher appearance: when there were a thousand commendations to be bestowed on all he haddone.

So three months glided away; three months which, in the life of the most blessed andfavoured of mortals, might have been unmingled happiness, and which, in Oliver's were truefelicity. With the purest and most amiable generousity on one side; and the truest, warmest,soul−felt gratitude on the other; it is no wonder that, by the end of that short time, OliverTwist had become completely domesticated with the old lady and her niece, and that thefervent attachment of his young and sensitive heart, was repaid by their pride in, andattachment to, himself.

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Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came. If the village had been beautiful at first it

was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had lookedshrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; andstretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spotsinto choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wideprospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched beyond. The earth had donned her mantleof brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of theyear; all things were glad and flourishing.

Still, the same quiet life went on at the little cottage, and the same cheerful serenityprevailed among its inmates. Oliver had long since grown stout and healthy; but health orsickness made no difference in his warm feelings of a great many people. He was still thesame gentle, attached, affectionate creature that he had been when pain and suffering hadwasted his strength, and when he was dependent for every slight attention, and comfort onthose who tended him.

One beautiful night, when they had taken a longer walk than was customary with them:for the day had been unusually warm, and there was a brilliant moon, and a light wind hadsprung up, which was unusually refreshing. Rose had been in high spirits, too, and they hadwalked on, in merry conversation, until they had far exceeded their ordinary bounds. Mrs.Maylie being fatigued, they returned more slowly home. The young lady merely throwingoff her simple bonnet, sat down to the piano as usual. After running abstractedly over thekeys for a few minutes, she fell into a low and very solemn air; and as she played it, theyheard a sound as if she were weeping.

'Rose, my dear!' said the elder lady.

Rose made no reply, but played a little quicker, as though the words had roused herfrom some painful thoughts.

'Rose, my love!' cried Mrs. Maylie, rising hastily, and bending over her. 'What is this?In tears! My dear child, what distresses you?'

'Nothing, aunt; nothing,' replied the young lady. 'I don't know what it is; I can't describeit; but I feel – '

'Not ill, my love?' interposed Mrs. Maylie.

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'No, no! Oh, not ill!' replied Rose: shuddering as though some deadly chillness werepassing over her, while she spoke; 'I shall be better presently. Close the window, pray!'

Oliver hastened to comply with her request. The young lady, making an effort torecover her cheerfulness, strove to play some livelier tune; but her fingers droppedpowerless over the keys. Covering her face with her hands, she sank upon a sofa, and gavevent to the tears which she was now unable to repress.

'My child!' said the elderly lady, folding her arms about her, 'I never saw you so before.'

'I would not alarm you if I could avoid it,' rejoined Rose; 'but indeed I have tried veryhard, and cannot help this. I fear I am ill, aunt.'

She was, indeed; for, when candles were brought, they saw that in the very short timewhich had elapsed since their return home, the hue of her countenance had changed to amarble whiteness. Its expression had lost nothing of its beauty; but it was changed; and therewas an anxious haggard look about the gentle face, which it had never worn before. Anotherminute, and it was suffused with a crimson flush: and a heavy wildness came over the softblue eye. Again this disappeared, like the shadow thrown by a passing cloud; and she wasonce more deadly pale.

Oliver, who watched the old lady anxiously, observed that she was alarmed by theseappearances; and so in truth, was he; but seeing that she affected to make light of them, heendeavoured to do the same, and they so far succeeded, that when Rose was persuaded byher aunt to retire for the night, she was in better spirits; and appeared even in better health:assuring them that she felt certain she should rise in the morning, quite well.

'I hope,' said Oliver, when Mrs. Maylie returned, 'that nothing is the matter? She don'tlook well to−night, but – '

The old lady motioned to him not to speak; and sitting herself down in a dark corner ofthe room, remained silent for some time.

At length, she said, in a trembling voice:

'I hope not, Oliver. I have been very happy with her for some years: too happy, perhaps.It may be time that I should meet with some misfortune; but I hope it is not this.'

'What?' inquired Oliver.

'The heavy blow,' said the old lady, 'of losing the dear girl who has so long been mycomfort and happiness.'

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'Oh! God forbid!' exclaimed Oliver, hastily.

'Amen to that, my child!' said the old lady, wringing her hands.

'Surely there is no danger of anything so dreadful?' said Oliver.

'Two hours ago, she was quite well.'

'She is very ill now,' rejoined Mrs. Maylies; 'and will be worse, I am sure. My dear, dearRose! Oh, what shall I do without her!'

She gave way to such great grief, that Oliver, suppressing his own emotion, ventured toremonstrate with her; and to beg, earnestly, that, for the sake of the dear young lady herself,she would be more calm.

'And consider, ma'am,' said Oliver, as the tears forced themselves into his eyes, despiteof his efforts to the contrary.

'Oh! consider how young and good she is, and what pleasure and comfort she gives toall about her. I am sure – certain – quite certain – that, for your sake, who are so goodyourself; and for her own; and for the sake of all she makes so happy; she will not die.Heaven will never let her die so young.'

'Hush!' said Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand on Oliver's head. 'You think like a child, poorboy. But you teach me my duty, notwithstanding. I had forgotten it for a moment, Oliver,but I hope I may be pardoned, for I am old, and have seen enough of illness and death toknow the agony of separation from the objects of our love. I have seen enough, too, to knowthat it is not always the youngest and best who are spared to those that love them; but thisshould give us comfort in our sorrow; for Heaven is just; and such things teach us,impressively, that there is a brighter world than this; and that the passage to it is speedy.God's will be done! I love her; and He know how well!'

Oliver was surprised to see that as Mrs. Maylie said these words, she checked herlamentations as though by one effort; and drawing herself up as she spoke, becamecomposed and firm. He was still more astonished to find that this firmness lasted; and that,under all the care and watching which ensued, Mrs. Maylie was every ready and collected:performing all the duties which had devolved upon her, steadily, and, to all externalappearances, even cheerfully. But he was young, and did not know what strong minds arecapable of, under trying circ*mstances. How should he, when their possessors so seldomknow themselves?

An anxious night ensued. When morning came, Mrs. Maylie's predictions were but toowell verified. Rose was in the first stage of a high and dangerous fever.

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'We must be active, Oliver, and not give way to useless grief,' said Mrs. Maylie, layingher finger on her lip, as she looked steadily into his face; 'this letter must be sent, with allpossible expedition, to Mr. Losberne. It must be carried to the market−town: which is notmore than four miles off, by the footpath across the field: and thence dispatched, by anexpress on horseback, straight to Chertsey. The people at the inn will undertake to do this:and I can trust to you to see it done, I know.'

Oliver could make no reply, but looked his anxiety to be gone at once.

'Here is another letter,' said Mrs. Maylie, pausing to reflect; 'but whether to send it now,or wait until I see how Rose goes on, I scarcely know. I would not forward it, unless I fearedthe worst.'

'Is it for Chertsey, too, ma'am?' inquired Oliver; impatient to execute his commission,and holding out his trembling hand for the letter.

'No,' replied the old lady, giving it to him mechanically. Oliver glanced at it, and sawthat it was directed to Harry Maylie, Esquire, at some great lord's house in the country;where, he could not make out.

'Shall it go, ma'am?' asked Oliver, looking up, impatiently.

'I think not,' replied Mrs. Maylie, taking it back. 'I will wait until to−morrow.'

With these words, she gave Oliver her purse, and he started off, without more delay, atthe greatest speed he could muster.

Swiftly he ran across the fields, and down the little lanes which sometimes dividedthem: now almost hidden by the high corn on either side, and now emerging on an openfield, where the mowers and haymakers were busy at their work: nor did he stop once, savenow and then, for a few seconds, to recover breath, until he came, in a great heat, andcovered with dust, on the little market−place of the market−town.

Here he paused, and looked about for the inn. There were a white bank, and a redbrewery, and a yellow town−hall; and in one corner there was a large house, with all thewood about it painted green: before which was the sign of 'The George.' To this he hastened,as soon as it caught his eye.

He spoke to a postboy who was dozing under the gateway; and who, after hearing whathe wanted, referred him to the ostler; who after hearing all he had to say again, referred himto the landlord; who was a tall gentleman in a blue neckcloth, a white hat, drab breeches,and boots with tops to match, leaning against a pump by the stable−door, picking his teethwith a silver toothpick.

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This gentleman walked with much deliberation into the bar to make out the bill: whichtook a long time making out: and after it was ready, and paid, a horse had to be saddled, anda man to be dressed, which took up ten good minutes more. Meanwhile Oliver was in such adesperate state of impatience and anxiety, that he felt as if he could have jumped upon thehorse himself, and galloped away, full tear, to the next stage. At length, all was ready; andthe little parcel having been handed up, with many injunctions and entreaties for its speedydelivery, the man set spurs to his horse, and rattling over the uneven paving of themarket−place, was out of the town, and galloping along the turnpike−road, in a couple ofminutes.

As it was something to feel certain that assistance was sent for, and that no time hadbeen lost, Oliver hurried up the inn−yard, with a somewhat lighter heart. He was turning outof the gateway when he accidently stumbled against a tall man wrapped in a cloak, who wasat that moment coming out of the inn door.

'Hah!' cried the man, fixing his eyes on Oliver, and suddenly recoiling. 'What the devil'sthis?'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Oliver; 'I was in a great hurry to get home, and didn't seeyou were coming.'

'Death!' muttered the man to himself, glaring at the boy with his large dark eyes. 'Whowould have thought it! Grind him to ashes!

He'd start up from a stone coffin, to come in my way!'

'I am sorry,' stammered Oliver, confused by the strange man's wild look. 'I hope I havenot hurt you!'

'Rot you!' murmured the man, in a horrible passion; between his clenched teeth; 'if I hadonly had the courage to say the word, I might have been free of you in a night. Curses onyour head, and black death on your heart, you imp! What are you doing here?'

The man shook his fist, as he uttered these words incoherently. He advanced towardsOliver, as if with the intention of aiming a blow at him, but fell violently on the ground:writhing and foaming, in a fit.

Oliver gazed, for a moment, at the struggles of the madman (for such he supposed himto be); and then darted into the house for help. Having seen him safely carried into the hotel,he turned his face homewards, running as fast as he could, to make up for lost time: andrecalling with a great deal of astonishment and some fear, the extraordinary behaviour of theperson from whom he had just parted.

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The circ*mstance did not dwell in his recollection long, however:

for when he reached the cottage, there was enough to occupy his mind, and to drive allconsiderations of self completely from his memory.

Rose Maylie had rapidly grown worse; before mid−night she was delirious. A medicalpractitioner, who resided on the spot, was in constant attendance upon her; and after firstseeing the patient, he had taken Mrs. Maylie aside, and pronounced her disorder to be one ofa most alarming nature. 'In fact,' he said, 'it would be little short of a miracle, if sherecovered.'

How often did Oliver start from his bed that night, and stealing out, with noiselessfootstep, to the staircase, listen for the slightest sound from the sick chamber! How often dida tremble shake his frame, and cold drops of terror start upon his brow, when a suddentrampling of feet caused him to fear that something too dreadful to think of, had even thenoccurred! And what had been the fervency of all the prayers he had ever muttered, comparedwith those he poured forth, now, in the agony and passion of his supplication for the life andhealth of the gentle creature, who was tottering on the deep grave's verge!

Oh! the suspense, the fearful, acute suspense, of standing idly by while the life of onewe dearly love, is trembling in the balance! Oh! the racking thoughts that crowd upon themind, and make the heart beat violently, and the breath come thick, by the force of theimages they conjure up before it; the Desperate anxiety to be doing something to relievethe pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul andspirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessness produces; what tortures can equalthese; what reflections or endeavours can, in the full tide and fever of the time, allay them!

Morning came; and the little cottage was lonely and still. People spoke in whispers;anxious faces appeared at the gate, from time to time; women and children went away intears. All the livelong day, and for hours after it had grown dark, Oliver paced softly up anddown the garden, raising his eyes every instant to the sick chamber, and shuddering to seethe darkened window, looking as if death lay stretched inside. Late that night, Mr. Losbernearrived. 'It is hard,' said the good doctor, turning away as he spoke; 'so young; so muchbeloved; but there is very little hope.'

Another morning. The sun shone brightly; as brightly as if it looked upon no misery orcare; and, with every leaf and flower in full bloom about her; with life, and health, andsounds and sights of joy, surrounding her on every side: the fair young creature lay, wastingfast. Oliver crept away to the old churchyard, and sitting down on one of the green mounds,wept and prayed for her, in silence.

There was such peace and beauty in the scene; so much of brightness and mirth in thesunny landscape; such blithesome music in the songs of the summer birds; such freedom in

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the rapid flight of the rook, careering overhead; so much of life and joyousness in all; that,when the boy raised his aching eyes, and looked about, the thought instinctively occurred tohim, that this was not a time for death; that Rose could surely never die when humblerthings were all so glad and gay; that graves were for cold and cheerless winter: not forsunlight and fragrance. He almost thought that shrouds were for the old and shrunken; andthat 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: wearingwhite favours; for the corpse was young. They stood uncovered by a grave; and there was amother – a mother once – among the weeping train. But the sun shone brightly, and the birdssang on.

Oliver turned homeward, thinking on the many kindnesses he had received from theyoung lady, and wishing that the time could come again, that he might never cease showingher how grateful and attached he was. He had no cause for self−reproach on the score ofneglect, or want of thought, for he had been devoted to her service; and yet a hundred littleoccasions rose up before him, on which he fancied he might have been more zealous, andmore earnest, and wished he had been. We need be careful how we deal with those about us,when every death carries to some small circle of survivors, thoughts of so much omitted, andso little done – of so many things forgotten, and so many more which might have beenrepaired! There is no remorse so deep as that which is unavailing; if we would be spared itstortures, let us remember this, in time.

When he reached home Mrs. Maylie was sitting in the little parlour. Oliver's heart sandat sight of her; for she had never left the bedside of her niece; and he trembled to think whatchange could have driven her away. He learnt that she had fallen into a deep sleep, fromwhich she would waken, either to recovery and life, or to bid them farewell, and die.

They sat, listening, and afraid to speak, for hours. The untasted meal was removed, withlooks which showed that their thoughts were elsewhere, they watched the sun as he sanklower and lower, and, at length, cast over sky and earth those brilliant hues which herald hisdeparture. Their quick ears caught the sound of an approaching footstep. They bothinvoluntarily darted to the door, as Mr. Losberne entered.

'What of Rose?' cried the old lady. 'Tell me at once! I can bear it; anything butsuspense! Oh!, tell me! in the name of Heaven!'

'You must compose yourself,' said the doctor supporting her. 'Be calm, my dear ma'am,pray.'

'Let me go, in God's name! My dear child! She is dead! She is dying!'

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'No!' cried the doctor, passionately. 'As He is good and merciful, she will live to bless usall, for years to come.'

The lady fell upon her knees, and tried to fold her hands together; but the energy whichhad supported her so long, fled up to Heaven with her first thanksgiving; and she sank intothe friendly arms which were extended to receive her.

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CHAPTER Xxiv − Contains Some introductory particulars relativeto a young gentleman who now arrives upon the scene; AND A

new adventure which happened to OLIVER

I t was almost too much happiness to bear. Oliver felt stunned and stupefied by the

unexpected intelligence; he could not weep, or speak, or rest. He had scarcely the power ofunderstanding anything that had passed, until, after a long ramble in the quiet evening air, aburst of tears came to his relief, and he seemed to awaken, all at once, to a full sense of thejoyful change that had occurred, and the almost insupportable load of anguish which hadbeen taken from his breast.

The night was fast closing in, when he returned homeward: laden with flowers which hehad culled, with peculiar care, for the adornment of the sick chamber. As he walked brisklyalong the road, he heard behind him, the noise of some vehicle, approaching at a furiouspace. Looking round, he saw that it was a post−chaise, driven at great speed; and as thehorses were galloping, and the road was narrow, he stood leaning against a gate until itshould have passed him.

As it dashed on, Oliver caught a glimpse of a man in a white nitecap, whose faceseemed familiar to him, although his view was so brief that he could not identify the person.In another second or two, the nightcap was thrust out of the chaise−window, and a stentorianvoice bellowed to the driver to stop: which he did, as soon as he could pull up his horses.Then, the nightcap once again appeared: and the same voice called Oliver by his name.

'Here!' cried the voice. 'Oliver, what's the news? Miss Rose! Master O−li−ver!'

'Is is you, Giles?' cried Oliver, running up to the chaise−door.

Giles popped out his nightcap again, preparatory to making some reply, when he wassuddenly pulled back by a young gentleman who occupied the other corner of the chaise,and who eagerly demanded what was the news.

'In a word!' cried the gentleman, 'Better or worse?'

'Better – much better!' replied Oliver, hastily.

'Thank Heaven!' exclaimed the gentleman. 'You are sure?'

'Quite, sir,' replied Oliver. 'The change took place only a few hours ago; and Mr.Losberne says, that all danger is at an end.'

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The gentleman said not another word, but, opening the chaise−door, leaped out, andtaking Oliver hurriedly by the arm, led him aside.

'You are quite certain? There is no possibility of any mistake on your part, my boy, isthere?' demanded the gentleman in a tremulous voice. 'Do not deceive me, by awakeninghopes that are not to be fulfilled.'

'I would not for the world, sir,' replied Oliver. 'Indeed you may believe me. Mr.Losberne's words were, that she would live to bless us all for many years to come. I heardhim say so.'

The tears stood in Oliver's eyes as he recalled the scene which was the beginning of somuch happiness; and the gentleman turned his face away, and remained silent, for someminutes. Oliver thought he heard him sob, more than once; but he feared to interrupt him byany fresh remark – for he could well guess what his feelings were – and so stood apart,feigning to be occupied with his nosegay.

All this time, Mr. Giles, with the white nightcap on, had been sitting on the steps of thechaise, supporting an elbow on each knee, and wiping his eyes with a blue cottonpocket−handkerchief dotted with white spots. That the honest fellow had not been feigningemotion, was abundently demonstrated by the very red eyes with which he regarded theyoung gentleman, when he turned round and addressed him.

'I think you had better go on to my mother's in the chaise, Giles,' said he. 'I would ratherwalk slowly on, so as to gain a little time before I see her. You can say I am coming.'

'I beg your pardon, Mr. Harry,' said Giles: giving a final polish to his ruffledcountenance with the handkerchief; 'but if you would leave the postboy to say that, I shouldbe very much obliged to you. It wouldn't be proper for the maids to see me in this state, sir; Ishould never have any more authority with them if they did.'

'Well,' rejoined Harry Maylie, smiling, 'you can do as you like. Let him go on with theluggage, if you wish it, and do you follow with us. Only first exchange that nightcap forsome more appropriate covering, or we shall be taken for madmen.'

Mr. Giles, reminded of his unbecoming costume, snatched off and pocketed hisnightcap; and substituted a hat, of grave and sober shape, which he took out of the chaise.This done, the postboy drove off; Giles, Mr. Maylie, and Oliver, followed at their leisure.

As they walked along, Oliver glanced from time to time with much interest andcuriosity at the new comer. He seemed about five−and−twenty years of age, and was of themiddle height; his countenance was frank and handsome; and his demeanor easy andprepossessing. Notwithstanding the difference between youth and age, he bore so strong a

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likeness to the old lady, that Oliver would have had no great difficulty in imagining theirrelationship, if he had not already spoken of her as his mother.

Mrs. Maylie was anxiously waiting to receive her son when he reached the cottage. Themeeting did not take place without great emotion on both sides.

'Mother!' whispered the young man; 'why did you not write before?'

'I did,' replied Mrs. Maylie; 'but, on reflection, I determined to keep back the letter untilI had heard Mr. Losberne's opinion.'

'But why,' said the young man, 'why run the chance of that occurring which so nearlyhappened? If Rose had – I cannot utter that word now – if this illness had terminateddifferently, how could you ever have forgiven yourself! How could I ever have knowhappiness again!'

'If that HAD been the case, Harry,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'I fear your happiness would havebeen effectually blighted, and that your arrival here, a day sooner or a day later, would havebeen of very, very little import.'

'And who can wonder if it be so, mother?' rejoined the young man; 'or why should I say,IF? – It is – it is – you know it, mother – you must know it!'

'I know that she deserves the best and purest love the heart of man can offer,' said Mrs.Maylie; 'I know that the devotion and affection of her nature require no ordinary return, butone that shall be deep and lasting. If I did not feel this, and know, besides, that a changedbehaviour in one she loved would break her heart, I should not feel my task so difficult ofperformance, or have to encounter so many struggles in my own bosom, when I take whatseems to me to be the strict line of duty.'

'This is unkind, mother,' said Harry. 'Do you still suppose that I am a boy ignorant ofmy own mind, and mistaking the impulses of my own soul?'

'I think, my dear son,' returned Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand upon his shoulder, 'thatyouth has many generous impulses which do not last; and that among them are some, which,being gratified, become only the more fleeting. Above all, I think' said the lady, fixing hereyes on her son's face, 'that if an enthusiastic, ardent, and ambitious man marry a wife onwhose name there is a stain, which, though it originate in no fault of hers, may be visited bycold and sordid people upon her, and upon his children also: and, in exact proportion to hissuccess in the world, be cast in his teeth, and made the subject of sneers against him: hemay, no matter how generous and good his nature, one day repent of the connection heformed in early life. And she may have the pain of knowing that he does so.'

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'Mother,' said the young man, impatiently, 'he would be a selfish brute, unworthy alikeof the name of man and of the woman you describe, who acted thus.'

'You think so now, Harry,' replied his mother.

'And ever will!' said the young man. 'The mental agony I have suffered, during the lasttwo days, wrings from me the avowal to you of a passion which, as you well know, is notone of yesterday, nor one I have lightly formed. On Rose, sweet, gentle girl! my heart is set,as firmly as ever heart of man was set on woman. I have no thought, no view, no hope inlife, beyond her; and if you oppose me in this great stake, you take my peace and happinessin your hands, and cast them to the wind. Mother, think better of this, and of me, and do notdisregard the happiness of which you seem to think so little.'

'Harry,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'it is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts,that I would spare them from being wounded.

But we have said enough, and more than enough, on this matter, just now.'

'Let it rest with Rose, then,' interposed Harry. 'You will not press these overstrainedopinions of yours, so far, as to throw any obstacle in my way?'

'I will not,' rejoined Mrs. Maylie; 'but I would have you consider – '

'I Have considered!' was the impatient reply; 'Mother, I have considered, years andyears. I have considered, ever since I have been capable of serious reflection. My feelingsremain unchanged, as they ever will; and why should I suffer the pain of a delay in givingthem vent, which can be productive of no earthly good? No! Before I leave this place, Roseshall hear me.'

'She shall,' said Mrs. Maylie.

'There is something in your manner, which would almost imply that she will hear mecoldly, mother,' said the young man.

'Not coldly,' rejoined the old lady; 'far from it.'

'How then?' urged the young man. 'She has formed no other attachment?'

'No, indeed,' replied his mother; 'you have, or I mistake, too strong a hold on heraffections already. What I would say,' resumed the old lady, stopping her son as he wasabout to speak, 'is this. Before you stake your all on this chance; before you suffer yourselfto be carried to the highest point of hope; reflect for a few moments, my dear child, onRose's history, and consider what effect the knowledge of her doubtful birth may have on

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her decision: devoted as she is to us, with all the intensity of her noble mind, and with thatperfect sacrifice of self which, in all matters, great or trifling, has always been hercharacteristic.'

'What do you mean?'

'That I leave you to discover,' replied Mrs. Maylie. 'I must go back to her. God blessyou!'

'I shall see you again to−night?' said the young man, eagerly.

'By and by,' replied the lady; 'when I leave Rose.'

'You will tell her I am here?' said Harry.

'Of course,' replied Mrs. Maylie.

'And say how anxious I have been, and how much I have suffered, and how I long to seeher. You will not refuse to do this, mother?'

'No,' said the old lady; 'I will tell her all.' And pressing her son's hand, affectionately,she hastened from the room.

Mr. Losberne and Oliver had remained at another end of the apartment while thishurried conversation was proceeding. The former now held out his hand to Harry Maylie;and hearty salutations were exchanged between them. The doctor then communicated, inreply to multifarious questions from his young friend, a precise account of his patient'ssituation; which was quite as consolatory and full of promise, as Oliver's statement hadencouraged him to hope; and to the whole of which, Mr. Giles, who affected to be busyabout the luggage, listened with greedy ears.

'Have you shot anything particular, lately, Giles?' inquired the doctor, when he hadconcluded.

'Nothing particular, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, colouring up to the eyes.

'Nor catching any thieves, nor identifying any house−breakers?' said the doctor.

'None at all, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, with much gravity.

'Well,' said the doctor, 'I am sorry to hear it, because you do that sort of thing admirably.Pray, how is Brittles?'

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'The boy is very well, sir,' said Mr. Giles, recovering his usual tone of patronage; 'andsends his respectful duty, sir.'

'That's well,' said the doctor. 'Seeing you here, reminds me, Mr. Giles, that on the daybefore that on which I was called away so hurriedly, I executed, at the request of your goodmistress, a small commission in your favour. Just step into this corner a moment, will you?'

Mr. Giles walked into the corner with much importance, and some wonder, and washonoured with a short whispering conference with the doctor, on the termination of which,he made a great many bows, and retired with steps of unusual stateliness. The subject matterof this conference was not disclosed in the parlour, but the kitchen was speedily enlightenedconcerning it; for Mr. Giles walked straight thither, and having called for a mug of ale,announced, with an air of majesty, which was highly effective, that it had pleased hismistress, in consideration of his gallant behaviour on the occasion of that attempted robbery,to depost, in the local savings−bank, the sum of five−and−twenty pounds, for his sole useand benefit. At this, the two women−servants lifted up their hands and eyes, and supposedthat Mr. Giles, pulling out his shirt−frill, replied, 'No, no'; and that if they observed that hewas at all haughty to his inferiors, he would thank them to tell him so. And then he made agreat many other remarks, no less illustrative of his humility, which were received withequal favour and applause, and were, withal, as original and as much to the purpose, as theremarks of great men commonly are.

Above stairs, the remainder of the evening passed cheerfully away; for the doctor was inhigh spirits; and however fatigued or thoughtful Harry Maylie might have been at first, hewas not proof against the worthy gentleman's good humour, which displayed itself in a greatvariety of sallies and professional recollections, and an abundance of small jokes, whichstruck Oliver as being the drollest things he had ever heard, and caused him to laughproportionately; to the evident satisfaction of the doctor, who laughed immoderately athimself, and made Harry laugh almost as heartily, by the very force of sympathy. So, theywere as pleasant a party as, under the circ*mstances, they could well have been; and it waslate before they retired, with light and thankful hearts, to take that rest of which, after thedoubt and suspense they had recently undergone, they stood much in need.

Oliver rose next morning, in better heart, and went about his usual occupations, withmore hope and pleasure than he had known for many days. The birds were once more hungout, to sing, in their old places; and the sweetest wild flowers that could be found, were oncemore gathered to gladden Rose with their beauty. The melancholy which had seemed to thesad eyes of the anxious boy to hang, for days past, over every object, beautiful as all were,was dispelled by magic. The dew seemed to sparkle more brightly on the green leaves; theair to rustle among them with a sweeter music; and the sky itself to look more blue andbright. Such is the influence which the condition of our own thoughts, exercise, even overthe appearance of external objects. Men who look on nature, and their fellow−men, and crythat all is dark and gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are reflections from their

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own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real hues are delicate, and need a clearer vision.

It is worthy of remark, and Oliver did not fail to note it at the time, that his morningexpeditions were no longer made alone. Harry Maylie, after the very first morning when hemet Oliver coming laden home, was seized with such a passion for flowers, and displayedsuch a taste in their arrangement, as left his young companion far behind. If Oliver werebehindhand in these respects, he knew where the best were to be found; and morning aftermorning they scoured the country together, and brought home the fairest that blossomed.The window of the young lady's chamber was opened now; for she loved to feel the richsummer air stream in, and revive her with its freshness; but there always stood in water, justinside the lattice, one particular little bunch, which was made up with great care, everymorning. Oliver could not help noticing that the withered flowers were never thrown away,although the little vase was regularly replenished; nor, could he help observing, thatwhenever the doctor came into the garden, he invariably cast his eyes up to that particularcorner, and nodded his head most expressively, as he set forth on his morning's walk.Pending these observations, the days were flying by; and Rose was rapidly recovering.

Nor did Oliver's time hang heavy on his hands, although the young lady had not yet lefther chamber, and there were no evening walks, save now and then, for a short distance, withMrs. Maylie.

He applied himself, with redoubled assiduity, to the instructions of the white−headedold gentleman, and laboured so hard that his quick progress surprised even himself. It waswhile he was engaged in this pursuit, that he was greatly startled and distressed by a mostunexpected occurence.

The little room in which he was accustomed to sit, when busy at his books, was on theground−floor, at the back of the house. It was quite a cottage−room, with a lattice−window:around which were clusters of jessamine and honeysuckle, that crept over the casem*nt, andfilled the place with their delicious perfume. It looked into a garden, whence a wicket−gateopened into a small paddock; all beyond, was fine meadow−land and wood. There was noother dwelling near, in that direction; and the prospect it commanded was very extensive.

One beautiful evening, when the first shades of twilight were beginning to settle uponthe earth, Oliver sat at this window, intent upon his books. He had been poring over them forsome time; and, as the day had been uncommonly sultry, and he had exerted himself a greatdeal, it it no disparagement to the authors, whoever they may have been, to say, thatgradually and by slow degrees, he fell asleep.

There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes, which, while it holds the bodyprisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things about it, and enable it to ramble at itspleasure. So far as an overpowering heaviness, a prostration of strength, and an utterinability to control our thoughts or power of motion, can be called sleep, this is it; and yet,

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we have a consciousness of all that is going on about us, and, if we dream at such a time,words which are really spoken, or sounds which really exist at the moment, accommodatethemselves with surprising readiness to our visions, until reality and imagination become sostrangely blended that it is afterwards almost matter of impossibility to separate the two. Noris this, the most striking phenomenon indcidental to such a state. It is an undoubted fact, thatalthough our senses of touch and sight be for the time dead, yet our sleeping thoughts, andthe visionary scenes that pass before us, will be influenced and materially influenced, by theMere silent presence of some external object; which may not have been near us when weclosed our eyes: and of whose vicinity we have had no waking consciousness.

Oliver knew, perfectly well, that he was in his own little room; that his books werelying on the table before him; that the sweet air was stirring among the creeping plantsoutside. And yet he was asleep. Suddenly, the scene changed; the air became close andconfined; and he thought, with a glow of terror, that he was in the Jew's house again. Theresat the hideous old man, in his accustomed corner, pointing at him, and whispering toanother man, with his face averted, who sat beside him.

'Hush, my dear!' he thought he heard the Jew say; 'it is he, sure enough. Come away.'

'He!' the other man seemed to answer; 'could I mistake him, think you? If a crowd ofghosts were to put themselves into his exact shape, and he stood amongst them, there issomething that would tell me how to point him out. If you buried him fifty feet deep, andtook me across his grave, I fancy I should know, if there wasn't a mark above it, that he layburied there?'

The man seemed to say this, with such dreadful hatred, that Oliver awoke with the fear,and started up.

Good Heaven! what was that, which sent the blood tingling to his heart, and deprivedhim of his voice, and of power to move! There – there – at the window – close before him –so close, that he could have almost touched him before he started back: with his eyes peeringinto the room, and meeting his: there stood the Jew! And beside him, white with rage orfear, or both, were the scowling features of the man who had accosted him in the inn−yard.

It was but an instant, a glance, a flash, before his eyes; and they were gone. But theyhad recognised him, and he them; and their look was as firmly impressed upon his memory,as if it had been deeply carved in stone, and set before him from his birth. He stoodtransfixed for a moment; then, leaping from the window into the garden, called loudly forhelp.

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CHAPTER Xxxv − Containing The unsatisfactory resultof OLIVER'S Adventure; AND A conversation of some

importance between harry maylie and ROSE

When the inmates of the house, attracted by Oliver's cries, hurried to the spot from

which they proceeded, they found him, pale and agitated, pointing in the direction of themeadows behind the house, and scarcely able to articulate the words, 'The Jew! the Jew!'

Mr. Giles was at a loss to comprehend what this outcry meant; but Harry Maylie, whoseperceptions were something quicker, and who had heard Oliver's history from his mother,understood it at once.

'What direction did he take?' he asked, catching up a heavy stick which was standing ina corner.

'That,' replied Oliver, pointing out the course the man had taken; 'I missed them in aninstant.'

'Then, they are in the ditch!' said Harry. 'Follow! And keep as near me, as you can.' Sosaying, he sprang over the hedge, and darted off with a speed which rendered it matter ofexceeding difficulty for the others to keep near him.

Giles followed as well as he could; and Oliver followed too; and in the course of aminute or two, Mr. Losberne, who had been out walking, and just then returned, tumbledover the hedge after them, and picking himself up with more agility than he could have beensupposed to possess, struck into the same course at no contemptible speed, shouting all thewhile, most prodigiously, to know what was the matter.

On they all went; nor stopped they once to breathe, until the leader, striking off into anangle of the field indicated by Oliver, began to search, narrowly, the ditch and hedgeadjoining; which afforded time for the remainder of the party to come up; and for Oliver tocommunicate to Mr. Losberne the circ*mstances that had led to so vigorous a pursuit.

The search was all in vain. There were not even the traces of recent footsteps, to beseen. They stood now, on the summit of a little hill, commanding the open fields in everydirection for three or four miles. There was the village in the hollow on the left; but, in orderto gain that, after pursuing the track Oliver had pointed out, the men must have made acircuit of open ground, which it was impossible they could have accomplished in so short atime. A thick wood skirted the meadow−land in another direction; but they could not havegained that covert for the same reason.

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'It must have been a dream, Oliver,' said Harry Maylie.

'Oh no, indeed, sir,' replied Oliver, shuddering at the very recollection of the oldwretch's countenance; 'I saw him too plainly for that. I saw them both, as plainly as I see younow.'

'Who was the other?' inquired Harry and Mr. Losberne, together.

'The very same man I told you of, who came so suddenly upon me at the inn,' saidOliver. 'We had our eyes fixed full upon each other; and I could swear to him.'

'They took this way?' demanded Harry: 'are you sure?'

'As I am that the men were at the window,' replied Oliver, pointing down, as he spoke,to the hedge which divided the cottage−garden from the meadow. 'The tall man leaped over,just there; and the Jew, running a few paces to the right, crept through that gap.'

The two gentlemen watched Oliver's earnest face, as he spoke, and looking from him toeach other, seemed to fell satisfied of the accuracy of what he said. Still, in no directionwere there any appearances of the trampling of men in hurried flight. The grass was long;but it was trodden down nowhere, save where their own feet had crushed it. The sides andbrinks of the ditches were of damp clay; but in no one place could they discern the print ofmen's shoes, or the slightest mark which would indicate that any feet had pressed the groundfor hours before.

'This is strange!' said Harry.

'Strange?' echoed the doctor. 'Blathers and Duff, themselves, could make nothing of it.'

Notwithstanding the evidently useless nature of their search, they did not desist until thecoming on of night rendered its further prosecution hopeless; and even then, they gave it upwith reluctance. Giles was dispatched to the different ale−houses in the village, furnishedwith the best description Oliver could give of the appearance and dress of the strangers. Ofthese, the Jew was, at all events, sufficiently remarkable to be remembered, supposing hehad been seen drinking, or loitering about; but Giles returned without any intelligence,calculated to dispel or lessen the mystery.

On the next day, fresh search was made, and the inquiries renewed; but with no bettersuccess. On the day following, Oliver and Mr. Maylie repaired to the market−town, in thehope of seeing or hearing something of the men there; but this effort was equally fruitless.After a few days, the affair began to be forgotten, as most affairs are, when wonder, havingno fresh food to support it, dies away of itself.

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Meanwhile, Rose was rapidly recovering. She had left her room: was able to go out; andmixing once more with the family, carried joy into the hearts of all.

But, although this happy change had a visible effect on the little circle; and althoughcheerful voices and merry laughter were once more heard in the cottage; there was at times,an unwonted restraint upon some there: even upon Rose herself: which Oliver could not failto remark. Mrs. Maylie and her son were often closeted together for a long time; and morethan once Rose appeared with traces of tears upon her face. After Mr. Losberne had fixed aday for his departure to Chertsey, these symptoms increased; and it became evident thatsomething was in progress which affected the peace of the young lady, and of somebodyelse besides.

At length, one morning, when Rose was alone in the breakfast−parlour, Harry Maylieentered; and, with some hesitation, begged permission to speak with her for a few moments.

'A few – a very few – will suffice, Rose,' said the young man, drawing his chair towardsher. 'What I shall have to say, has already presented itself to your mind; the most cherishedhopes of my heart are not unknown to you, though from my lips you have not heard themstated.'

Rose had been very pale from the moment of his entrance; but that might have been theeffect of her recent illness. She merely bowed; and bending over some plants that stood near,waited in silence for him to proceed.

'I – I – ought to have left here, before,' said Harry.

'You should, indeed,' replied Rose. 'Forgive me for saying so, but I wish you had.'

'I was brought here, by the most dreadful and agonising of all apprehensions,' said theyoung man; 'the fear of losing the one dear being on whom my every wish and hope arefixed. You had been dying; trembling between earth and heaven. We know that when theyoung, the beautiful, and good, are visited with sickness, their pure spirits insensibly turntowards their bright home of lasting rest; we know, Heaven help us! that the best and fairestof our kind, too often fade in blooming.'

There were tears in the eyes of the gentle girl, as these words were spoken; and whenone fell upon the flower over which she bent, and glistened brightly in its cup, making itmore beautiful, it seemed as though the outpouring of her fresh young heart, claimedkindred naturally, with the loveliest things in nature.

'A creature,' continued the young man, passionately, 'a creature as fair and innocent ofguile as one of God's own angels, fluttered between life and death. Oh! who could hope,when the distant world to which she was akin, half opened to her view, that she would return

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to the sorrow and calamity of this! Rose, Rose, to know that you were passing away likesome soft shadow, which a light from above, casts upon the earth; to have no hope that youwould be spared to those who linger here; hardly to know a reason why you should be; tofeel that you belonged to that bright sphere whither so many of the fairest and the best havewinged their early flight; and yet to pray, amid all these consolations, that you might berestored to those who loved you – these were distractions almost too great to bear. Theywere mine, by day and night; and with them, came such a rushing torrent of fears, andapprehensions, and selfish regrets, lest you should die, and never know how devotedly Iloved you, as almost bore down sense and reason in its course. You recovered. Day by day,and almost hour by hour, some drop of health came back, and mingling with the spent andfeeble stream of life which circulated languidly within you, swelled it again to a high andrushing tide. I have watched you change almost from death, to life, with eyes that turnedblind with their eagerness and deep affection. Do not tell me that you wish I had lost this; forit has softened my heart to all mankind.'

'I did not mean that,' said Rose, weeping; 'I only wish you had left here, that you mighthave turned to high and noble pursuits again; to pursuits well worthy of you.'

'There is no pursuit more worthy of me: more worthy of the highest nature that exists:than the struggle to win such a heart as yours,' said the young man, taking her hand. 'Rose,my own dear Rose! For years – for years – I have loved you; hoping to win my way to fame,and then come proudly home and tell you it had been pursued only for you to share;thinking, in my daydreams, how I would remind you, in that happy moment, of the manysilent tokens I had given of a boy's attachment, and claim your hand, as in redemption ofsome old mute contract that had been sealed between us! That time has not arrived; but here,with not fame won, and no young vision realised, I offer you the heart so long your own, andstake my all upon the words with which you greet the offer.'

'Your behaviour has ever been kind and noble.' said Rose, mastering the emotions bywhich she was agitated. 'As you believe that I am not insensible or ungrateful, so hear myanswer.'

'It is, that I may endeavour to deserve you; it is, dear Rose?'

'It is,' replied Rose, 'that you must endeavour to forget me; not as your old anddearly−attached companion, for that would wound me deeply; but, as the object of yourlove. Look into the world; think how many hearts you would be proud to gain, are there.Confide some other passion to me, if you will; I will be the truest, warmest, and mostfaithful friend you have.'

There was a pause, during which, Rose, who had covered her face with one hand, gavefree vent to her tears. Harry still retained the other.

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'And your reasons, Rose,' he said, at length, in a low voice; 'your reasons for thisdecision?'

'You have a right to know them,' rejoined Rose. 'You can say nothing to alter myresolution. It is a duty that I must perform. I owe it, alike to others, and to myself.'

'To yourself?'

'Yes, Harry. I owe it to myself, that I, a friendless, portionless, girl, with a blight uponmy name, should not give your friends reason to suspect that I had sordidly yielded to yourfirst passion, and fastened myself, a clog, on all your hopes and projects. I owe it to you andyours, to prevent you from opposing, in the warmth of your generous nature, this greatobstacle to your progress in the world.'

'If your inclinations chime with your sense of duty – ' Harry began.

'They do not,' replied Rose, colouring deeply.

'Then you return my love?' said Harry. 'Say but that, dear Rose; say but that; and softenthe bitterness of this hard disappointment!'

'If I could have done so, without doing heavy wrong to him I loved,' rejoined Rose, 'Icould have – '

'Have received this declaration very differently?' said Harry. 'Do not conceal that fromme, at least, Rose.'

'I could,' said Rose. 'Stay!' she added, disengaging her hand, 'why should we prolongthis painful interview? Most painful to me, and yet productive of lasting happiness,notwithstanding; for it Will be happiness to know that I once held the high place in yourregard which I now occupy, and every triumph you achieve in life will animate me with newfortitude and firmness. Farewell, Harry! As we have met to−day, we meet no more; but inother relations than those in which this conversation have placed us, we may be long andhappily entwined; and may every blessing that the prayers of a true and earnest heart cancall down from the source of all truth and sincerity, cheer and prosper you!'

'Another word, Rose,' said Harry. 'Your reason in your own words. From your own lips,let me hear it!'

'The prospect before you,' answered Rose, firmly, 'is a brilliant one. All the honours towhich great talents and powerful connections can help men in public life, are in store foryou. But those connections are proud; and I will neither mingle with such as may hold inscorn the mother who gave me life; nor bring disgrace or failure on the son of her who has

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so well supplied that mother's place. In a word,' said the young lady, turning away, as hertemporary firmness forsook her, 'there is a stain upon my name, which the world visits oninnocent heads. I will carry it into no blood but my own; and the reproach shall rest alone onme.'

'One word more, Rose. Dearest Rose! one more!' cried Harry, throwing himself beforeher. 'If I had been less – less fortunate, the world would call it – if some obscure andpeaceful life had been my destiny – if I had been poor, sick, helpless – would you haveturned from me then? Or has my probable advancement to riches and honour, given thisscruple birth?'

'Do not press me to reply,' answered Rose. 'The question does not arise, and never will.It is unfair, almost unkind, to urge it.'

'If your answer be what I almost dare to hope it is,' retorted Harry, 'it will shed a gleamof happiness upon my lonely way, and light the path before me. It is not an idle thing to doso much, by the utterance of a few brief words, for one who loves you beyond all else. Oh,Rose: in the name of my ardent and enduring attachment; in the name of all I have sufferedfor you, and all you doom me to undergo; answer me this one question!'

'Then, if your lot had been differently cast,' rejoined Rose; 'if you had been even a little,but not so far, above me; if I could have been a help and comfort to you in any humble sceneof peace and retirement, and not a blot and drawback in ambitious and distinguished crowds;I should have been spared this trial. I have every reason to be happy, very happy, now; butthen, Harry, I own I should have been happier.'

Busy recollections of old hopes, cherished as a girl, long ago, crowded into the mind ofRose, while making this avowal; but they brought tears with them, as old hopes will whenthey come back withered; and they relieved her.

'I cannot help this weakness, and it makes my purpose stronger,' said Rose, extendingher hand. 'I must leave you now, indeed.'

'I ask one promise,' said Harry. 'Once, and only once more, – say within a year, but itmay be much sooner, – I may speak to you again on this subject, for the last time.'

'Not to press me to alter my right determination,' replied Rose, with a melancholy smile;'it will be useless.'

'No,' said Harry; 'to hear you repeat it, if you will – finally repeat it! I will lay at yourfeet, whatever of station of fortune I may possess; and if you still adhere to your presentresolution, will not seek, by word or act, to change it.'

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'Then let it be so,' rejoined Rose; 'it is but one pang the more, and by that time I may beenabled to bear it better.'

She extended her hand again. But the young man caught her to his bosom; andimprinting one kiss on her beautiful forehead, hurried from the room.

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CHAPTER Xxxvi − IS A very short one, AND May appear of nogreat importance in its place, BUT It should be read

notwithstanding, AS A sequel to the last, AND A key to one thatwill follow when its time ARRIVES

'And so you are resolved to be my travelling companion this morning; eh?' said the

doctor, as Harry Maylie joined him and Oliver at the breakfast−table. 'Why, you are not inthe same mind or intention two half−hours together!'

'You will tell me a different tale one of these days,' said Harry, colouring without anyperceptible reason.

'I hope I may have good cause to do so,' replied Mr. Losberne; 'though I confess I don'tthink I shall. But yesterday morning you had made up your mind, in a great hurry, to stayhere, and to accompany your mother, like a dutiful son, to the sea−side. Before noon, youannounce that you are going to do me the honour of accompanying me as far as I go, onyour road to London. And at night, you urge me, with great mystery, to start before theladies are stirring; the consequence of which is, that young Oliver here is pinned down to hisbreakfast when he ought to be ranging the meadows after botanical phenomena of all kinds.Too bad, isn't it, Oliver?'

'I should have been very sorry not to have been at home when you and Mr. Maylie wentaway, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'That's a fine fellow,' said the doctor; 'you shall come and see me when you return. But,to speak seriously, Harry; has any communication from the great nobs produced this suddenanxiety on your part to be gone?'

'The great nobs,' replied Harry, 'under which designation, I presume, you include mymost stately uncle, have not communicated with me at all, since I have been here; nor, at thistime of the year, is it likely that anything would occur to render necessary my immediateattendance among them.'

'Well,' said the doctor, 'you are a queer fellow. But of course they will get you intoparliament at the election before Christmas, and these sudden shiftings and changes are nobad preparation for political life. There's something in that. Good training is alwaysdesirable, whether the race be for place, cup, or sweepstakes.'

Harry Maylie looked as if he could have followed up this short dialogue by one or tworemarks that would have staggered the doctor not a little; but he contented himself with

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saying, 'We shall see,' and pursued the subject no farther. The post−chaise drove up to thedoor shortly afterwards; and Giles coming in for the luggage, the good doctor bustled out, tosee it packed.

'Oliver,' said Harry Maylie, in a low voice, 'let me speak a word with you.'

Oliver walked into the window−recess to which Mr. Maylie beckoned him; muchsurprised at the mixture of sadness and boisterous spirits, which his whole behaviourdisplayed.

'You can write well now?' said Harry, laying his hand upon his arm.

'I hope so, sir,' replied Oliver.

'I shall not be at home again, perhaps for some time; I wish you would write to me – sayonce a fort−night: every alternate Monday: to the General Post Office in London. Will you?'

'Oh! certainly, sir; I shall be proud to do it,' exclaimed Oliver, greatly delighted with thecommission.

'I should like to know how – how my mother and Miss Maylie are,' said the young man;'and you can fill up a sheet by telling me what walks you take, and what you talk about, andwhether she – they, I mean – seem happy and quite well. You understand me?'

'Oh! quite, sir, quite,' replied Oliver.

'I would rather you did not mention it to them,' said Harry, hurrying over his words;'because it might make my mother anxious to write to me oftener, and it is a trouble andworry to her. Let is be a secret between you and me; and mind you tell me everything! Idepend upon you.'

Oliver, quite elated and honoured by a sense of his importance, faithfully promised tobe secret and explicit in his communications. Mr. Maylie took leave of him, with manyassurances of his regard and protection.

The doctor was in the chaise; Giles (who, it had been arranged, should be left behind)held the door open in his hand; and the women−servants were in the garden, looking on.Harry cast one slight glance at the latticed window, and jumped into the carriage.

'Drive on!' he cried, 'hard, fast, full gallop! Nothing short of flying will keep pace withme, to−day.'

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'Halloa!' cried the doctor, letting down the front glass in a great hurry, and shouting tothe postillion; 'something very short of flyng will keep pace with me. Do you hear?'

Jingling and clattering, till distance rendered its noise inaudible, and its rapid progressonly perceptible to the eye, the vehicle wound its way along the road, almost hidden in acloud of dust: now wholly disappearing, and now becoming visible again, as interveningobjects, or the intricacies of the way, permitted. It was not until even the dusty cloud was nolonger to be seen, that the gazers dispersed.

And there was one looker−on, who remained with eyes fixed upon the spot where thecarriage had disappeared, long after it was many miles away; for, behind the white curtainwhich had shrouded her from view when Harry raised his eyes towards the window, satRose herself.

'He seems in high spirits and happy,' she said, at length. 'I feared for a time he might beotherwise. I was mistaken. I am very, very glad.'

Tears are signs of gladness as well as grief; but those which coursed down Rose's face,as she sat pensively at the window, still gazing in the same direction, seemed to tell more ofsorrow than of joy.

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CHAPTER Xxxvii − IN Which the reader may perceive acontrast, NOT Uncommon in matrimonial CASES

Mr. Bumble sat in the workhouse parlour, with his eyes moodily fixed on the cheerless

grate, whence, as it was summer time, no brighter gleam proceeded, than the reflection ofcertain sickly rays of the sun, which were sent back from its cold and shining surface. Apaper fly−cage dangled from the ceiling, to which he occasionally raised his eyes in gloomythought; and, as the heedless insects hovered round the gaudy net−work, Mr. Bumble wouldheave a deep sigh, while a more gloomy shadow overspread his countenance. Mr. Bumblewas meditating; it might be that the insects brought to mind, some painful passage in hisown past life.

Nor was Mr. Bumble's gloom the only thing calculated to awaken a pleasingmelancholy in the bosom of a spectator. There were not wanting other appearances, andthose closely connected with his own person, which announced that a great change hadtaken place in the position of his affairs. The laced coat, and the co*cked hat; where werethey? He still wore knee−breeches, and dark cotton stockings on his nether limbs; but theywere not THE breeches. The coat was wide−skirted; and in that respect like THE coat, but,oh how different! The mighty co*cked hat was replaced by a modest round one. Mr. Bumblewas no longer a beadle.

There are some promotions in life, which, independent of the more substantial rewardsthey offer, require peculiar value and dignity from the coats and waistcoats connected withthem. A field−marshal has his uniform; a bishop his silk apron; a counsellor his silk gown; abeadle his co*cked hat. Strip the bishop of his apron, or the beadle of his hat and lace; whatare they? Men. Mere men. Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions ofcoat and waistcoat than some people imagine.

Mr. Bumle had married Mrs. Corney, and was master of the workhouse. Another beadlehad come into power. On him the co*cked hat, gold−laced coat, and staff, had all threedescended.

'And to−morrow two months it was done!' said Mr. Bumble, with a sigh. 'It seems aage.'

Mr. Bumble might have meant that he had concentrated a whole existence of happinessinto the short space of eight weeks; but the sigh – there was a vast deal of meaning in thesigh.

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'I sold myself,' said Mr. Bumble, pursuing the same train of relection, 'for six teaspoons,a pair of sugar−tongs, and a milk−pot; with a small quantity of second−hand furniture, andtwenty pound in money. I went very reasonable. Cheap, dirt cheap!'

'Cheap!' cried a shrill voice in Mr. Bumble's ear: 'you would have been dear at anyprice; and dear enough I paid for you, Lord above knows that!'

Mr. Bumble turned, and encountered the face of his interesting consort, who,imperfectly comprehending the few words she had overheard of his complaint, had hazardedthe foregoing remark at a venture.

'Mrs. Bumble, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble, with a sentimental sternness.

'Well!' cried the lady.

'Have the goodness to look at me,' said Mr. Bumble, fixing his eyes upon her. (If shestands such a eye as that,' said Mr. Bumble to himself, 'she can stand anything. It is a eye Inever knew to fail with paupers. If it fails with her, my power is gone.')

Whether an exceedingly small expansion of eye be sufficient to quell paupers, who,being lightly fed, are in no very high condition; or whether the late Mrs. Corney wasparticularly proof against eagle glances; are matters of opinion. The matter of fact, is, thatthe matron was in no way overpowered by Mr. Bumble's scowl, but, on the contrary, treatedit with great disdain, and even raised a laugh threreat, which sounded as though it weregenuine.

On hearing this most unexpected sound, Mr. Bumble looked, first incredulous, andafterwards amazed. He then relapsed into his former state; nor did he rouse himself until hisattention was again awakened by the voice of his partner.

'Are you going to sit snoring there, all day?' inquired Mrs. Bumble.

'I am going to sit here, as long as I think proper, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble; 'andalthough I was NOT snoring, I shall snore, gape, sneeze, laugh, or cry, as the humour strikesme; such being my prerogative.'

'Your PREROGATIVE!' sneered Mrs. Bumble, with ineffable contempt.

'I said the word, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble. 'The prerogative of a man is to command.'

'And what's the prerogative of a woman, in the name of Goodness?' cried the relict ofMr. Corney deceased.

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'To obey, ma'am,' thundered Mr. Bumble. 'Your late unfortunate husband should havetaught it you; and then, perhaps, he might have been alive now. I wish he was, poor man!'

Mrs. Bumble, seeing at a glance, that the decisive moment had now arrived, and that ablow struck for the mastership on one side or other, must necessarily be final andconclusive, no sooner heard this allusion to the dead and gone, than she dropped into a chair,and with a loud scream that Mr. Bumble was a hard−hearted brute, fell into a paroxysm oftears.

But, tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble's soul; his heart waswaterproof. Like washable beaver hats that improve with rain, his nerves were renderedstouter and more vigorous, by showers of tears, which, being tokens of weakness, and so fartacit admissions of his own power, please and exalted him. He eyed his good lady with looksof great satisfaction, and begged, in an encouraging manner, that she should cry her hardest:the exercise being looked upon, by the faculty, as stronly conducive to health.

'It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down thetemper,' said Mr. Bumble. 'So cry away.'

As he discharged himself of this pleasantry, Mr. Bumble took his hat from a peg, andputting it on, rather rakishly, on one side, as a man might, who felt he had asserted hissuperiority in a becoming manner, thrust his hands into his pockets, and sauntered towardsthe door, with much ease and waggishness depicted in his whole appearance.

Now, Mrs. Corney that was, had tried the tears, because they were less troublesomethan a manual assault; but, she was quite prepared to make trial of the latter mode ofproceeding, as Mr. Bumble was not long in discovering.

The first proof he experienced of the fact, was conveyed in a hollow sound,immediately succeeded by the sudden flying off of his hat to the opposite end of the room.This preliminary proceeding laying bare his head, the expert lady, clasping him tightly roundthe throat with one hand, inflicted a shower of blows (dealt with singular vigour anddexterity) upon it with the other. This done, she created a little variety by scratching his face,and tearing his hair; and, having, by this time, inflicted as much punishment as she deemednecessary for the offence, she pushed him over a chair, which was luckily well situated forthe purpose: and defied him to talk about his prerogative again, if he dared.

'Get up!' said Mrs. Bumble, in a voice of command. 'And take yourself away from here,unless you want me to do something desperate.'

Mr. Bumble rose with a very rueful countenance: wondering much what somethingdesperate might be. Picking up his hat, he looked towards the door.

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'Are you going?' demanded Mr. Bumble.

'Certainly, my dear, certainly,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, making a quicker motion towardsthe door. 'I didn't intend to – I'm going, my dear! You are so very violent, that really I – '

At this instant, Mrs. Bumble stepped hastily forward to replace the carpet, which hadbeen kicked up in the scuffle. Mr. Bumble immediately darted out of the room, withoutbestowing another thought on his unfinished sentence: leaving the late Mrs. Corney in fullpossession of the field.

Mr. Bumble was fairly taken by surprise, and fairly beaten. He had a decided propensityfor bullying: derived no inconsiderable pleasure from the exercise of petty cruelty; and,consequently, was (it is needless to say) a coward. This is by no means a disparagement tohis character; for many official personages, who are held in high respect and admiration, arethe victims of similar infirmities. The remark is made, indeed, rather in his favour thanotherwise, and with a view of impressing the reader with a just sense of his qualifications foroffice.

But, the measure of his degradation was not yet full. After making a tour of the house,and thinking, for the first time, that the poor−laws really were too hard on people; and thatmen who ran away from their wives, leaving them chargeable to the parish, ought, in justiceto be visited with no punishment at all, but rather rewarded as meritorious individuals whohad suffered much; Mr. Bumble came to a room where some of the female paupers wereusually employed in washing the parish linen: when the sound of voices in conversation,now proceeded.

'Hem!' said Mr. Bumble, summoning up all his native dignity. 'These women at leastshall continue to respect the prerogative. Hallo! hallo there! What do you mean by thisnoise, you hussies?'

With these words, Mr. Bumble opened the door, and walked in with a very fierce andangry manner: which was at once exchanged for a most humiliated and cowering air, as hiseyes unexpectedly rested on the form of his lady wife.

'My dear,' said Mr. Bumble, 'I didn't know you were here.'

'Didn't know I was here!' repeated Mrs. Bumble. 'What do YOU do here?'

'I thought they were talking rather too much to be doing their work properly, my dear,'replied Mr. Bumble: glancing distractedly at a couple of old women at the wash−tub, whowere comparing notes of admiration at the workhouse−master's humility.

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'YOU thought they were talking too much?' said Mrs. Bumble. 'What business is it ofyours?'

'Why, my dear – ' urged Mr. Bumble submissively.

'What business is it of yours?' demanded Mrs. Bumble, again.

'It's very true, you're matron here, my dear,' submitted Mr. Bumble; 'but I thought youmightn't be in the way just then.'

'I'll tell you what, Mr. Bumble,' returned his lady. 'We don't want any of yourinterference. You're a great deal too fond of poking your nose into things that don't concernyou, making everybody in the house laugh, the moment your back is turned, and makingyourself look like a fool every hour in the day. Be off; come!'

Mr. Bumble, seeing with excruciating feelings, the delight of the two old paupers, whowere tittering together most rapturously, hesitated for an instant. Mrs. Bumble, whosepatience brooked no delay, caught up a bowl of soap−suds, and motioning him towards thedoor, ordered him instantly to depart, on pain of receiving the contents upon his portlyperson.

What could Mr. Bumble do? He looked dejectedly round, and slunk away; and, as hereached the door, the titterings of the paupers broke into a shrill chuckle of irrepressibledelight. It wanted but this. He was degraded in their eyes; he had lost caste and stationbefore the very paupers; he had fallen from all the height and pomp of beadleship, to thelowest depth of the most snubbed hen−peckery.

'All in two months!' said Mr. Bumble, filled with dismal thoughts. 'Two months! Nomore than two months ago, I was not only my own master, but everybody else's, so far as theporochial workhouse was concerned, and now! – '

It was too much. Mr. Bumble boxed the ears of the boy who opened the gate for him(for he had reached the portal in his reverie); and walked, distractedly, into the street.

He walked up one street, and down another, until exercise had abated the first passion ofhis grief; and then the revulsion of feeling made him thirsty. He passed a great manypublic−houses; but, at length paused before one in a by−way, whose parlour, as he gatheredfrom a hasty peep over the blinds, was deserted, save by one solitary customer. It began torain, heavily, at the moment. This determined him. Mr. Bumble stepped in; and orderingsomething to drink, as he passed the bar, entered the apartment into which he had lookedfrom the street.

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The man who was seated there, was tall and dark, and wore a large cloak. He had the airof a stranger; and seemed, by a certain haggardness in his look, as well as by the dusty soilson his dress, to have travelled some distance. He eyed Bumble askance, as he entered, butscarcely deigned to nod his head in acknowledgment of his salutation.

Mr. Bumble had quite dignity enough for two; supposing even that the stranger hadbeen more familiar: so he drank his gin−and−water in silence, and read the paper with greatshow of pomp and circ*mstance.

It so happened, however: as it will happen very often, when men fall into companyunder such circ*mstances: that Mr. Bumble felt, every now and then, a powerfulinducement, which he could not resist, to steal a look at the stranger: and that whenever hedid so, he withdrew his eyes, in some confusion, to find that the stranger was at that momentstealing a look at him. Mr. Bumble's awkwardness was enhanced by the very remarkableexpression of the stranger's eye, which was keen and bright, but shadowed by a scowl ofdistrust and suspicion, unlike anything he had ever observed before, and repulsive to behold.

When they had encountered each other's glance several times in this way, the stranger,in a harsh, deep voice, broke silence.

'Were you looking for me,' he said, 'when you peered in at the window?'

'Not that I am aware of, unless you're Mr. – ' Here Mr. Bumble stopped short; for hewas curious to know the stranger's name, and thought in his impatience, he might supply theblank.

'I see you were not,' said the stranger; and expression of quiet sarcasm playing about hismouth; 'or you have known my name. You don't know it. I would recommend you not to askfor it.'

'I meant no harm, young man,' observed Mr. Bumble, majestically.

'And have done none,' said the stranger.

Another silence succeeded this short dialogue: which was again broken by the stranger.

'I have seen you before, I think?' said he. 'You were differently dressed at that time, andI only passed you in the street, but I should know you again. You were beadle here, once;were you not?'

'I was,' said Mr. Bumble, in some surprise; 'porochial beadle.'

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'Just so,' rejoined the other, nodding his head. 'It was in that character I saw you. Whatare you now?'

'Master of the workhouse,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, slowly and impressively, to check anyundue familiarity the stranger might otherwise assume. 'Master of the workhouse, youngman!'

'You have the same eye to your own interest, that you always had, I doubt not?' resumedthe stranger, looking keenly into Mr. Bumble's eyes, as he raised them in astonishment at thequestion.

'Don't scruple to answer freely, man. I know you pretty well, you see.'

'I suppose, a married man,' replied Mr. Bumble, shading his eyes with his hand, andsurveying the stranger, from head to foot, in evident perplexity, 'is not more averse toturning an honest penny when he can, than a single one. Porochial officers are not so wellpaid that they can afford to refuse any little extra fee, when it comes to them in a civil andproper manner.'

The stranger smiled, and nodded his head again: as much to say, he had not mistakenhis man; then rang the bell.

'Fill this glass again,' he said, handing Mr. Bumble's empty tumbler to the landlord. 'Letit be strong and hot. You like it so, I suppose?'

'Not too strong,' replied Mr. Bumble, with a delicate cough.

'You understand what that means, landlord!' said the stranger, drily.

The host smiled, disappeared, and shortly afterwards returned with a steaming jorum: ofwhich, the first gulp brought the water into Mr. Bumble's eyes.

'Now listen to me,' said the stranger, after closing the door and window. 'I came down tothis place, to−day, to find you out; and, by one of those chances which the devil throws inthe way of his friends sometimes, you walked into the very room I was sitting in, while youwere uppermost in my mind. I want some information from you. I don't ask you to give it formothing, slight as it is. Put up that, to begin with.'

As he spoke, he pushed a couple of sovereigns across the table to his companion,carefully, as though unwilling that the chinking of money should be heard without. WhenMr. Bumble had scrupulously examined the coins, to see that they were genuine, and hadput them up, with much satisfaction, in his waistcoat−pocket, he went on:

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'Carry your memory back – let me see – twelve years, last winter.'

'It's a long time,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Very good. I've done it.'

'The scene, the workhouse.'

'Good!'

'And the time, night.'

'Yes.'

'And the place, the crazy hole, wherever it was, in which miserable drabs brought forththe life and health so often denied to themselves – gave birth to puling children for theparish to rear; and hid their shame, rot 'em in the grave!'

'The lying−in room, I suppose?' said Mr. Bumble, not quite following the stranger'sexcited description.

'Yes,' said the stranger. 'A boy was born there.'

'A many boys,' observed Mr. Bumble, shaking his head, despondingly.

'A murrain on the young devils!' cried the stranger; 'I speak of one; a meek−looking,pale−faced boy, who was apprenticed down here, to a coffin−maker – I wish he had madehis coffin, and screwed his body in it – and who afterwards ran away to London, as it wassupposed.

'Why, you mean Oliver! Young Twist!' said Mr. Bumble; 'I remember him, of course.There wasn't a obstinater young rascal – '

'It's not of him I want to hear; I've heard enough of him,' said the stranger, stopping Mr.Bumble in the outset of a tirade on the subject of poor Oliver's vices. 'It's of a woman; thehag that nursed his mother. Where is she?'

'Where is she?' said Mr. Bumble, whom the gin−and−water had rendered facetious. 'Itwould be hard to tell. There's no midwifery there, whichever place she's gone to; so Isuppose she's out of employment, anyway.'

'What do you mean?' demanded the stranger, sternly.

'That she died last winter,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

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The man looked fixedly at him when he had given this information, and although he didnot withdraw his eyes for some time afterwards, his gaze gradually became vacant andabstracted, and he seemed lost in thought. For some time, he appeared doubtful whether heought to be relieved or disappointed by the intelligence; but at length he breathed morefreely; and withdrawing his eyes, observed that it was no great matter. With that he rose, asif to depart.

But Mr. Bumble was cunning enough; and he at once saw that an opportunity wasopened, for the lucrative disposal of some secret in the possession of his better half. He wellremembered the night of old Sally's death, which the occurrences of that day had given himgood reason to recollect, as the occasion on which he had proposed to Mrs. Corney; andalthough that lady had never confided to him the disclosure of which she had been thesolitary witness, he had heard enough to know that it related to something that had occurredin the old woman's attendance, as workhouse nurse, upon the young mother of Oliver Twist.Hastily calling this circ*mstance to mind, he informed the stranger, with an air of mystery,that one woman had been closeted with the old harridan shortly before she died; and that shecould, as he had reason to believe, throw some light on the subject of his inquiry.

'How can I find her?' said the stranger, thrown off his guard; and plainly showing thatall his fears (whatever they were) were aroused afresh by the intelligence.

'Only through me,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

'When?' cried the stranger, hastily.

'To−morrow,' rejoined Bumble.

'At nine in the evening,' said the stranger, producing a scrap of paper, and writing downupon it, an obscure address by the water−side, in characters that betrayed his agitation; 'atnine in the evening, bring her to me there. I needn't tell you to be secret. It's your interest.'

With these words, he led the way to the door, after stopping to pay for the liquor thathad been drunk. Shortly remarking that their roads were different, he departed, without moreceremony than an emphatic repetition of the hour of appointment for the following night.

On glancing at the address, the parochial functionary observed that it contained noname. The stranger had not gone far, so he made after him to ask it.

'What do you want?' cried the man. turning quickly round, as Bumble touched him onthe arm. 'Following me?'

'Only to ask a question,' said the other, pointing to the scrap of paper. 'What name am Ito ask for?'

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'Monks!' rejoined the man; and strode hastily, away.

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CHAPTER Xxxviii − Containing An account of what passedbetween mr. And mrs. Bumble, And mr. Monks, At their

nocturnal INTERVIEW

I t was a dull, close, overcast summer evening. The clouds, which had been threatening

all day, spread out in a dense and sluggish mass of vapour, already yielded large drops ofrain, and seemed to presage a violent thunder−storm, when Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, turningout of the main street of the town, directed their course towards a scattered little colony ofruinous houses, distant from it some mile and a−half, or thereabouts, and erected on a lowunwholesome swamp, bordering upon the river.

They were both wrapped in old and shabby outer garments, which might, perhaps, servethe double purpose of protecting their persons from the rain, and sheltering them fromobservation. The husband carried a lantern, from which, however, no light yet shone; andtrudged on, a few paces in front, as though – the way being dirty – to give his wife thebenefit of treading in his heavy footprints. They went on, in profound silence; every nowand then, Mr. Bumble relaxed his pace, and turned his head as if to make sure that hishelpmate was following; then, discovering that she was close at his heels, he mended his rateof walking, and proceeded, at a considerable increase of speed, towards their place ofdestination.

This was far from being a place of doubtful character; for it had long been known as theresidence of none but low ruffians, who, under various pretences of living by their labour,subsisted chiefly on plunder and crime. It was a collection of mere hovels: some, hastilybuilt with loose bricks: others, of old worm−eaten ship−timber: jumbled together withoutany attempt at order or arrangement, and planted, for the most part, within a few feet of theriver's bank. A few leaky boats drawn up on the mud, and made fast to the dwarf wall whichskirted it: and here and there an oar or coil of rope: appeared, at first, to indicate that theinhabitants of these miserable cottages pursued some avocation on the river; but a glance atthe shattered and useless condition of the articles thus displayed, would have led apasser−by, without much difficulty, to the conjecture that they were disposed there, ratherfor 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 storiesoverhung; stood a large building, formerly used as a manufactory of some kind. It had, in itsday, probably furnished employment to the inhabitants of the surrounding tenements. But ithad long since gone to ruin. The rat, the worm, and the action of the damp, had weakenedand rotted the piles on which it stood; and a considerable portion of the building had alreadysunk down into the water; while the remainder, tottering and bending over the dark stream,seemed to wait a favourable opportunity of following its old companion, and involving itself

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in the same fate.

It was before this ruinous building that the worthy couple paused, as the first peal ofdistant thunder reverberated in the air, and the rain commenced pouring violently down.

'The place should be somewhere here,' said Bumble, consulting a scrap of paper he heldin his hand.

'Halloa there!' cried a voice from above.

Following the sound, Mr. Bumble raised his head and descried a man looking out of adoor, breast−high, on the second story.

'Stand still, a minute,' cried the voice; 'I'll be with you directly.' With which the headdisappeared, and the door closed.

'Is that the man?' asked Mr. Bumble's good lady.

Mr. Bumble nodded in the affirmative.

'Then, mind what I told you,' said the matron: 'and be careful to say as little as you can,or you'll betray us at once.'

Mr. Bumble, who had eyed the building with very rueful looks, was apparently about toexpress some doubts relative to the advisability of proceeding any further with the enterprisejust then, when he was prevented by the appearance of Monks: w ho opened a small door,near which they stood, and beckoned them inwards.

'Come in!' he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the ground. 'Don't keep mehere!'

The woman, who had hesitated at first, walked boldly in, without any other invitation.Mr. Bumble, who was ashamed or afraid to lag behind, followed: obviously very ill at easeand with scarcely any of that remarkable dignity which was usually his chief characteristic.

'What the devil made you stand lingering there, in the wet?' said Monks, turning round,and addressing Bumble, after he had bolted the door behind them.

'We – we were only cooling ourselves,' stammered Bumble, looking apprehensivelyabout him.

'Cooling yourselves!' retorted Monks. 'Not all the rain that ever fell, or ever will fall,will put as much of hell's fire out, as a man can carry about with him. You won't cool

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yourself so easily; don't think it!'

With this agreeable speech, Monks turned short upon the matron, and bent his gazeupon her, till even she, who was not easily cowed, was fain to withdraw her eyes, and turnthem them towards the ground.

'This is the woman, is it?' demanded Monks.

'Hem! That is the woman,' replied Mr. Bumble, mindful of his wife's caution.

'You think women never can keep secrets, I suppose?' said the matron, interposing, andreturning, as she spoke, the searching look of Monks.

'I know they will always keep ONE till it's found out,' said Monks.

'And what may that be?' asked the matron.

'The loss of their own good name,' replied Monks. 'So, by the same rule, if a woman's aparty to a secret that might hang or transport her, I'm not afraid of her telling it to anybody;not I! Do you understand, mistress?'

'No,' rejoined the matron, slightly colouring as she spoke.

'Of course you don't!' said Monks. 'How should you?'

Bestowing something half−way between a smile and a frown upon his two companions,and again beckoning them to follow him, the man hastened across the apartment, which wasof considerable extent, but low in the roof. He was preparing to ascend a steep staircase, orrather ladder, leading to another floor of warehouses above: when a bright flash of lightningstreamed down the aperture, and a peal of thunder followed, which shook the crazy buildingto its centre.

'Hear it!' he cried, shrinking back. 'Hear it! Rolling and crashing on as if it echoedthrough a thousand caverns where the devils were hiding from it. I hate the sound!'

He remained silent for a few moments; and then, removing his hands suddenly from hisface, showed, to the unspeakable discomposure of Mr. Bumble, that it was much distortedand discoloured.

'These fits come over me, now and then,' said Monks, observing his alarm; 'and thundersometimes brings them on. Don't mind me now; it's all over for this once.'

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Thus speaking, he led the way up the ladder; and hastily closing the window−shutter ofthe room into which it led, lowered a lantern which hung at the end of a rope and pulleypassed through one of the heavy beams in the ceiling: and which cast a dim light upon anold table and three chairs that were placed beneath it.

'Now,' said Monks, when they had all three seated themselves, 'the sooner we come toour business, the better for all. The woman know what it is, does she?'

The question was addressed to Bumble; but his wife anticipated the reply, by intimatingthat she was perfectly acquainted with it.

'He is right in saying that you were with this hag the night she died; and that she toldyou something – '

'About the mother of the boy you named,' replied the matron interrupting him. 'Yes.'

'The first question is, of what nature was her communication?' said Monks.

'That's the second,' observed the woman with much deliberation. 'The first is, what maythe communication be worth?'

'Who the devil can tell that, without knowing of what kind it is?' asked Monks.

'Nobody better than you, I am persuaded,' answered Mrs. Bumble: who did not want forspirit, as her yoke−fellow could abundantly testify.

'Humph!' said Monks significantly, and with a look of eager inquiry; 'there may bemoney's worth to get, eh?'

'Perhaps there may,' was the composed reply.

'Something that was taken from her,' said Monks. 'Something that she wore. Somethingthat – '

'You had better bid,' interrupted Mrs. Bumble. 'I have heard enough, already, to assureme that you are the man I ought to talk to.'

Mr. Bumble, who had not yet been admitted by his better half into any greater share ofthe secret than he had originally possessed, listened to this dialogue with outstretched neckand distended eyes: which he directed towards his wife and Monks, by turns, in undisguisedastonishment; increased, if possible, when the latter sternly demanded, what sum wasrequired for the disclosure.

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'What's it worth to you?' asked the woman, as collectedly as before.

'It may be nothing; it may be twenty pounds,' replied Monks. 'Speak out, and let meknow which.'

'Add five pounds to the sum you have named; give me five−and−twenty pounds ingold,' said the woman; 'and I'll tell you all I know. Not before.'

'Five−and−twenty pounds!' exclaimed Monks, drawing back.

'I spoke as plainly as I could,' replied Mrs. Bumble. 'It's not a large sum, either.'

'Not a large sum for a paltry secret, that may be nothing when it's told!' cried Monksimpatiently; 'and which has been lying dead for twelve years past or more!'

'Such matters keep well, and, like good wine, often double their value in course of time,'answered the matron, still preserving the resolute indifference she had assumed. 'As to lyingdead, there are those who will lie dead for twelve thousand years to come, or twelve million,for anything you or I know, who will tell strange tales at last!'

'What if I pay it for nothing?' asked Monks, hesitating.

'You can easily take it away again,' replied the matron. 'I am but a woman; alone here;and unprotected.'

'Not alone, my dear, nor unprotected, neither,' submitted Mr. Bumble, in a voicetremulous with fear: 'I am here, my dear. And besides,' said Mr. Bumble, his teeth chatteringas he spoke, 'Mr. Monks is too much of a gentleman to attempt any violence on porochialpersons. Mr. Monks is aware that I am not a young man, my dear, and also that I am a littlerun to seed, as I may say; bu he has heerd: I say I have no doubt Mr. Monks has heerd, mydear: that I am a very determined officer, with very uncommon strength, if I'm once roused.I only want a little rousing; that's all.'

As Mr. Bumble spoke, he made a melancholy feint of grasping his lantern with fiercedetermination; and plainly showed, by the alarmed expression of every feature, that he DIDwant a little rousing, and not a little, prior to making any very warlike demonstration: unless,indeed, against paupers, or other person or persons trained down for the purpose.

'You are a fool,' said Mrs. Bumble, in reply; 'and had better hold your tongue.'

'He had better have cut it out, before he came, if he can't speak in a lower tone,' saidMonks, grimly. 'So! He's your husband, eh?'

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'He my husband!' tittered the matron, parrying the question.

'I thought as much, when you came in,' rejoined Monks, marking the angry glancewhich the lady darted at her spouse as she spoke. 'So much the better; I have less hesitationin dealing with two people, when I find that there's only one will between them. I'm inearnest. See here!'

He thrust his hand into a side−pocket; and producing a canvas bag, told out twenty−fivesovereigns on the table, and pushed them over to the woman.

'Now,' he said, 'gather them up; and when this cursed peal of thunder, which I feel iscoming up to break over the house−top, is gone, let's hear your story.'

The thunder, which seemed in fact much nearer, and to shiver and break almost overtheir heads, having subsided, Monks, raising his face from the table, bent forward to listen towhat the woman should say. The faces of the three nearly touched, as the two men leant overthe small table in their eagerness to hear, and the woman also leant forward to render herwhisper audible. The sickly rays of the suspended lantern falling directly upon them,aggravated the paleness and anxiety of their countenances: which, encircled by the deepestgloom and darkness, looked ghastly in the extreme.

'When this woman, that we called old Sally, died,' the matron began, 'she and I werealone.'

'Was there no one by?' asked Monks, in the same hollow whisper; 'No sick wretch oridiot in some other bed? No one who could hear, and might, by possibility, understand?'

'Not a soul,' replied the woman; 'we were alone. I stood alone beside the body whendeath came over it.'

'Good,' said Monks, regarding her attentively. 'Go on.'

'She spoke of a young creature,' resumed the matron, 'who had brought a child into theworld some years before; not merely in the same room, but in the same bed, in which shethen lay dying.'

'Ay?' said Monks, with quivering lip, and glancing over his shoulder, 'Blood! Howthings come about!'

'The child was the one you named to him last night,' said the matron, nodding carelesslytowards her husband; 'the mother this nurse had robbed.'

'In life?' asked Monks.

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'In death,' replied the woman, with something like a shudder. 'She stole from the corpse,when it had hardly turned to one, that which the dead mother had prayed her, with her lastbreath, to keep for the infant's sake.'

'She sold it,' cried Monks, with desperate eagerness; 'did she sell it? Where? When? Towhom? How long before?'

'As she told me, with great difficulty, that she had done this,' said the matron, 'she fellback and died.'

'Without saying more?' cried Monks, in a voice which, from its very suppression,seemed only the more furious. 'It's a lie! I'll not be played with. She said more. I'll tear thelife out of you both, but I'll know what it was.'

'She didn't utter another word,' said the woman, to all appearance unmoved (as Mr.Bumble was very far from being) by the strange man's violence; 'but she clutched my gown,violently, with one hand, which was partly closed; and when I saw that she was dead, and soremoved the hand by force, I found it clasped a scrap of dirty paper.'

'Which contained – ' interposed Monks, stretching forward.

'Nothing,' replied the woman; 'it was a pawnbroker's duplicate.'

'For what?' demanded Monks.

'In good time I'll tell you.' said the woman. 'I judge that she had kept the trinket, forsome time, in the hope of turning it to better account; and then had pawned it; and had savedor scraped together money to pay the pawnbroker's interest year by year, and prevent itsrunning out; so that if anything came of it, it could still be redeemed. Nothing had come ofit; and, as I tell you, she died with the scrap of paper, all worn and tattered, in her hand. Thetime was out in two days; I thought something might one day come of it too; and soredeemed the pledge.'

'Where is it now?' asked Monks quickly.

'THERE,' replied the woman. And, as if glad to be relieved of it, she hastily threw uponthe table a small kid bag scarcely large enough for a French watch, which Monks pouncingupon, tore open with trembling hands. It contained a little gold locket: in which were twolocks of hair, and a plain gold wedding−ring.

'It has the word «Agnes» engraved on the inside,' said the woman.

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'There is a blank left for the surname; and then follows the date; which is within a yearbefore the child was born. I found out that.'

'And this is all?' said Monks, after a close and eager scrutiny of the contents of the littlepacket.

'All,' replied the woman.

Mr. Bumble drew a long breath, as if he were glad to find that the story was over, andno mention made of taking the five−and−twenty pounds back again; and now he tookcourage to wipe the perspiration which had been trickling over his nose, unchecked, duringthe whole of the previous dialogue.

'I know nothing of the story, beyond what I can guess at,' said his wife addressingMonks, after a short silence; 'and I want to know nothing; for it's safer not. But I may askyou two questions, may I?'

'You may ask,' said Monks, with some show of surprise; 'but whether I answer or not isanother question.'

' – Which makes three,' observed Mr. Bumble, essaying a stroke of facetiousness.

'Is that what you expected to get from me?' demanded the matron.

'It is,' replied Monks. 'The other question?'

'What do you propose to do with it? Can it be used against me?'

'Never,' rejoined Monks; 'nor against me either. See here! But don't move a stepforward, or your life is not worth a bulrush.'

With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and pulling an iron ring in theboarding, threw back a large trap−door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and causedthat gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great precipitation.

'Look down,' said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. 'Don't fear me. I could havelet you down, quietly enough, when you were seated over it, if that had been my game.'

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble himself,impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same. The turbid water, swollen by the heavyrain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashingand eddying against the green and slimy piles. There had once been a water−mill beneath;the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that

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yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed from the obstacleswhich had unavailingly attempted to stem its headlong course.

'If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to−morrow morning?' saidMonks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well.

'Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides,' replied Bumble, recoiling atthe thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had hurriedly thrust it; and tyingit to a leaden weight, which had formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor,dropped it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove the water with a scarcelyaudible splash; and was gone.

The three looking into each other's faces, seemed to breathe more freely.

'There!' said Monks, closing the trap−door, which fell heavily back into its formerposition. 'If the sea ever gives up its dead, as books say it will, it will keep its gold and silverto itself, and that trash among it. We have nothing more to say, and may break up ourpleasant party.'

'By all means,' observed Mr. Bumble, with great alacrity.

'You'll keep a quiet tongue in your head, will you?' said Monks, with a threatening look.'I am not afraid of your wife.'

'You may depend upon me, young man,' answered Mr. Bumble, bowing himselfgradually towards the ladder, with excessive politeness. 'On everybody's account, youngman; on my own, you know, Mr. Monks.'

'I am glad, for your sake, to hear it,' remarked Monks. 'Light your lantern! And get awayfrom here as fast as you can.'

It was fortunate that the conversation terminated at this point, or Mr. Bumble, who hadbowed himself to within six inches of the ladder, would infallibly have pitched headlonginto the room below. He lighted his lantern from that which Monks had detached from therope, and now carried in his hand; and making no effort to prolong the discourse, descendedin silence, followed by his wife. Monks brought up the rear, after pausing on the steps tosatisfy himself that there were no other sounds to be heard than the beating of the rainwithout, and the rushing of the water.

They traversed the lower room, slowly, and with caution; for Monks started at everyshadow; and Mr. Bumble, holding his lantern a foot above the ground, walked not only with

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remarkable care, but with a marvellously light step for a gentleman of his figure: lookingnervously about him for hidden trap−doors. The gate at which they had entered, was softlyunfastened and opened by Monks; merely exchanging a nod with their mysteriousacquaintance, the married couple emerged into the wet and darkness outside.

They were no sooner gone, than Monks, who appeared to entertain an invinciblerepugnance to being left alone, called to a boy who had been hidden somewhere below.Bidding him go first, and bear the light, he returned to the chamber he had just quitted.

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CHAPTER Xxxix − Introduces Some respectable characters withwhom the reader is already acquainted, AND Shows how monks

and the jew laid their worthy heads TOGETHER

On the evening following that upon which the three worthies mentioned in the last

chapter, disposed of their little matter of business as therein narrated, Mr. William Sikes,awakening from a nap, drowsily growled forth an inquiry what time of night it was.

The room in which Mr. Sikes propounded this question, was not one of those he hadtenanted, previous to the Chertsey expedition, although it was in the same quarter of thetown, and was situated at no great distance from his former lodgings. It was not, inappearance, so desirable a habitation as his old quarters: being a mean and badly−furnishedapartment, of very limited size; lighted only by one small window in the shelving roof, andabutting on a close and dirty lane. Nor were there wanting other indications of the goodgentleman's having gone down in the world of late: for a great scarcity of furniture, and totalabsence of comfort, together with the disappearance of all such small moveables as spareclothes and linen, bespoke a state of extreme poverty; while the meagre and attenuatedcondition of Mr. Sikes himself would have fully confirmed these symptoms, if they hadstood in any need of corroboration.

The housebreaker was lying on the bed, wrapped in his white great−coat, by way ofdressing−gown, and displaying a set of features in no degree improved by the cadaveroushue of illness, and the addition of a soiled nightcap, and a stiff, black beard of a week'sgrowth. The dog sat at the bedside: now eyeing his master with a wistful look, and nowpricking his ears, and uttering a low growl as some noise in the street, or in the lower part ofthe house, attracted his attention. Seated by the window, busily engaged in patching an oldwaistcoat which formed a portion of the robber's ordinary dress, was a female: so pale andreduced with watching and privation, that there would have been considerable difficulty inrecognising her as the same Nancy who has already figured in this tale, but for the voice inwhich she replied to Mr. Sikes's question.

'Not long gone seven,' said the girl. 'How do you feel to−night, Bill?'

'As weak as water,' replied Mr. Sikes, with an imprecation on his eyes and limbs. 'Here;lend us a hand, and let me get off this thundering bed anyhow.'

Illness had not improved Mr. Sikes's temper; for, as the girl raised him up and led himto a chair, he muttered various curses on her awkwardnewss, and struck her.

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'Whining are you?' said Sikes. 'Come! Don't stand snivelling there. If you can't doanything better than that, cut off altogether. D'ye hear me?'

'I hear you,' replied the girl, turning her face aside, and forcing a laugh. 'What fancyhave you got in your head now?'

'Oh! you've thought better of it, have you?' growled Sikes, marking the tear whichtrembled in her eye. 'All the better for you, you have.'

'Why, you don't mean to say, you'd be hard upon me to−night, Bill,' said the girl, layingher hand upon his shoulder.

'No!' cried Mr. Sikes. 'Why not?'

'Such a number of nights,' said the girl, with a touch of woman's tenderness, whichcommunicated something like sweetness of tone, even to her voice: 'such a number of nightsas I've been patient with you, nursing and caring for you, as if you had been a child: and thisthe first that I've seen you like yourself; you wouldn't have served me as you did just now, ifyou'd thought of that, would you? Come, come; say you wouldn't.'

'Well, then,' rejoined Mr. Sikes, 'I wouldn't. Why, damme, now, the girls's whiningagain!'

'It's nothing,' said the girl, throwing herself into a chair. 'Don't you seem to mind me.It'll soon be over.'

'What'll be over?' demanded Mr. Sikes in a savage voice. 'What foolery are you up to,now, again? Get up and bustle about, and don't come over me with your woman's nonsense.'

At any other time, this remonstrance, and the tone in which it was delivered, wouldhave had the desired effect; but the girl being really weak and exhausted, dropped her headover the back of the chair, and fainted, before Mr. Sikes could get out a few of theappropriate oaths with which, on similar occasions, he was accustomed to garnish histhreats. Not knowing, very well, what to do, in this uncommon emergency; for Miss Nancy'shysterics were usually of that violent kind which the patient fights and struggles out of,without much assistance; Mr. Sikes tried a little blasphemy: and finding that mode oftreatment wholly ineffectual, called for assistance.

'What's the matter here, my dear?' said fa*gin, looking in.

'Lend a hand to the girl, can't you?' replied Sikes impatiently. 'Don't stand chattering andgrinning at me!'

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With an exclamation of surprise, fa*gin hastened to the girl's assistance, while Mr. JohnDawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger), who had followed his venerable friend into theroom, hastily deposited on the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and snatching abottle from the grasp of Master Charles Bates who came close at his heels, uncorked it in atwinkling with his teeth, and poured a portion of its contents down the patient's throat:previously taking a taste, himself, to prevent mistakes.

'Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellows, Charley,' said Mr. Dawkins; 'and youslap her hands, fa*gin, while Bill undoes the petticuts.'

These united restoratives, administered with great energy: especially that departmentconsigned to Master Bates, who appeared to consider his share in the proceedings, a piece ofunexampled pleasantry: were not long in producing the desired effect. The girl graduallyrecovered her senses; and, staggering to a chair by the bedside, hid her face upon the pillow:leaving Mr. Sikes to confront the new comers, in some astonishment at their unlooked−forappearance.

'Why, what evil wind has blowed you here?' he asked fa*gin.

'No evil wind at all, my dear, for evil winds blow nobody any good; and I've broughtsomething good with me, that you'll be glad to see. Dodger, my dear, open the bundle; andgive Bill the little trifles that we spent all our money on, this morning.'

In compliance with Mr. fa*gin's request, the Artful untied this bundle, which was oflarge size, and formed of an old table−cloth; and handed the articles it contained, one byone, to Charley Bates: who placed them on the table, with various encomiums on their rarityand excellence.

'Sitch a rabbit pie, Bill,' exclaimed that young gentleman, disclosing to view a hugepasty; 'sitch delicate creeturs, with sitch tender limbs, Bill, that the wery bones melt in yourmouth, and there's no occasion to pick 'em; half a pound of seven and six−penny green, soprecious strong that if you mix it with biling water, it'll go nigh to blow the lid of the tea−potoff; a pound and a half of moist sugar that the nigg*rs didn't work at all at, afore they got itup to sitch a pitch of goodness, – oh no! Two half−quartern brans; pound of best fresh; pieceof double Glo'ster; and, to wind up all, some of the richest sort you ever lushed!'

Uttering this last panegyrie, Master Bates produced, from one of his extensive pockets,a full−sized wine−bottle, carefully corked; while Mr. Dawkins, at the same instant, pouredout a wine−glassful of raw spirits from the bottle he carried: which the invalid tossed downhis throat without a moment's hesitation.

'Ah!' said fa*gin, rubbing his hands with great satisfaction. 'You'll do, Bill; you'll donow.'

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'Do!' exclaimed Mr. Sikes; 'I might have been done for, twenty times over, afore you'dhave done anything to help me. What do you mean by leaving a man in this state, threeweeks and more, you false−hearted wagabond?'

'Only hear him, boys!' said fa*gin, shrugging his shoulders. 'And us come to bring himall these beau−ti−ful things.'

'The things is well enough in their way,' observed Mr. Sikes: a little soothed as heglanced over the table; 'but what have you got to say for yourself, why you should leave mehere, down in the mouth, health, blunt, and everything else; and take no more notice of me,all this mortal time, than if I was that 'ere dog. – Drive him down, Charley!'

'I never see such a jolly dog as that,' cried Master Bates, doing as he was desired.'Smelling the grub like a old lady a going to market! He'd make his fortun' on the stage thatdog would, and rewive the drayma besides.'

'Hold your din,' cried Sikes, as the dog retreated under the bed:

still growling angrily. 'What have you got to say for yourself, you withered old fence,eh?'

'I was away from London, a week and more, my dear, on a plant,' replied the Jew.

'And what about the other fortnight?' demanded Sikes. 'What about the other fortnightthat you've left me lying here, like a sick rat in his hole?'

'I couldn't help it, Bill. I can't go into a long explanation before company; but I couldn'thelp it, upon my honour.'

'Upon your what?' growled Sikes, with excessive disgust. 'Here! Cut me off a piece ofthat pie, one of you boys, to take the taste of that out of my mouth, or it'll choke me dead.'

'Don't be out of temper, my dear,' urged fa*gin, submissively. 'I have never forgot you,Bill; never once.'

'No! I'll pound it that you han't,' replied Sikes, with a bitter grin. 'You've been schemingand plotting away, every hour that I have laid shivering and burning here; and Bill was to dothis; and Bill was to do that; and Bill was to do it all, dirt cheap, as soon as he got well: andwas quite poor enough for your work. If it hadn't been for the girl, I might have died.'

'There now, Bill,' remonstrated fa*gin, eagerly catching at the word. 'If it hadn't been forthe girl! Who but poor ould fa*gin was the means of your having such a handy girl aboutyou?'

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'He says true enough there!' said Nancy, coming hastily forward. 'Let him be; let himbe.'

Nancy's appearance gave a new turn to the conversation; for the boys, receiving a slywink from the wary old Jew, began to ply her with liquor: of which, however, she took verysparingly; while fa*gin, assuming an unusual flow of spirits, gradually brought Mr. Sikesinto a better temper, by affecting to regard his threats as a little pleasant banter; and,moreover, by laughing very heartily at one or two rough jokes, which, after repeatedapplications to the spirit−bottle, he condescended to make.

'It's all very well,' said Mr. Sikes; 'but I must have some blunt from you to−night.'

'I haven't a piece of coin about me,' replied the Jew.

'Then you've got lots at home,' retorted Sikes; 'and I must have some from there.'

'Lots!' cried fa*gin, holding up is hands. 'I haven't so much as would – '

'I don't know how much you've got, and I dare say you hardly know yourself, as itwould take a pretty long time to count it,' said Sikes; 'but I must have some to−night; andthat's flat.'

'Well, well,' said fa*gin, with a sigh, 'I'll send the Artful round presently.'

'You won't do nothing of the kind,' rejoined Mr. Sikes. 'The Artful's a deal too artful,and would forget to come, or lose his way, or get dodged by traps and so be perwented, oranything for an excuse, if you put him up to it. Nancy shall go to the ken and fetch it, tomake all sure; and I'll lie down and have a snooze while she's gone.'

After a great deal of haggling and squabbling, fa*gin beat down the amount of therequired advance from five pounds to three pounds four and sixpence: protesting with manysolemn 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, takingleave of his affectionate friend, returned homeward, attended by Nancy and the boys: Mr.Sikes, meanwhile, flinging himself on the bed, and composing himself to sleep away thetime until the young lady's return.

In due course, they arrived at fa*gin's abode, where they found Toby Crackit and Mr.Chitling intent upon their fifteenth game at cribbage, which it is scarcely necessary to saythe latter gentleman lost, and with it, his fifteenth and last sixpence: much to the amusem*ntof his young friends. Mr. Crackit, apparently somewhat ashamed at being found relaxinghimself with a gentleman so much his inferior in station and mental endowments, yawned,

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and inquiring after Sikes, took up his hat to go.

'Has nobody been, Toby?' asked fa*gin.

'Not a living leg,' answered Mr. Crackit, pulling up his collar; 'it's been as dull asswipes. You ought to stand something handsome, fa*gin, to recompense me for keepinghouse so long. Damme, I'm as flat as a juryman; and should have gone to sleep, as fast asNewgate, if I hadn't had the good natur' to amuse this youngster. Horrid dull, I'm blessed if Ian't!'

With these and other ejacul*tions of the same kind, Mr. Toby Crackit swept up hiswinnings, and crammed them into his waistcoat pocket with a haughty air, as though suchsmall pieces of silver were wholly beneath the consideration of a man of his figure; thisdone, he swaggered out of the room, with so much elegance and gentility, that Mr. Chitling,bestowing numerous admiring glances on his legs and boots till they were out of sight,assured the company that he considered his acquaintance cheap at fifteen sixpences aninterview, and that he didn't value his losses the snap of his little finger.

'Wot a rum chap you are, Tom!' said Master Bates, highly amused by this declaration.

'Not a bit of it,' replied Mr. Chitling. 'Am I, fa*gin?'

'A very clever fellow, my dear,' said fa*gin, patting him on the shoulder, and winking tohis other pupils.

'And Mr. Crackit is a heavy swell; an't he, fa*gin?' asked Tom.

'No doubt at all of that, my dear.'

'And it is a creditable thing to have his acquaintance; an't it, fa*gin?' pursued Tom.

'Very much so, indeed, my dear. They're only jealous, Tom, because he won't give it tothem.'

'Ah!' cried Tom, triumphantly, 'that's where it is! He has cleaned me out. But I can goand earn some more, when I like; can't I, fa*gin?'

'To be sure you can, and the sooner you go the better, Tom; so make up your loss atonce, and don't lose any more time. Dodger!

Charley! It's time you were on the lay. Come! It's near ten, and nothing done yet.'

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In obedience to this hint, the boys, nodding to Nancy, took up their hats, and left theroom; the Dodger and his vivacious friend indulging, as they went, in many witticisms at theexpense of Mr. Chitling; in whose conduct, it is but justice to say, there was nothing veryconspicuous or peculiar: inasmuch as there are a great number of spirited young bloods upontown, who pay a much higher price than Mr. Chitling for being seen in good society: and agreat number of fine gentlemen (composing the good society aforesaid) who establishedtheir reputation upon very much the same footing as flash Toby Crackit.

'Now,' said fa*gin, when they had left the room, 'I'll go and get you that cash, Nancy.This is only the key of a little cupboard where I keep a few odd things the boys get, my dear.I never lock up my money, for I've got none to lock up, my dear – ha! ha! ha! – none to lockup. It's a poor trade, Nancy, and no thanks; but I'm fond of seeing the young people aboutme; and I bear it all, I bear it all. Hush!' he said, hastily concealing the key in his breast;'who's that? Listen!'

The girl, who was sitting at the table with her arms folded, appeared in no wayinterested in the arrival: or to care whether the person, whoever he was, came or went: untilthe murmur of a man's voice reached her ears. The instant she caught the sound, she tore offher bonnet and shawl, with the rapidity of lightning, and thrust them under the table. TheJew, turning round immediately afterwards, she muttered a complaint of the heat: in a toneof languor that contrasted, very remarkably, with the extreme haste and violence of thisaction: which, however, had been unobserved by fa*gin, who had his back towards her at thetime.

'Bah!' he whispered, as though nettled by the interruption; 'it's the man I expectedbefore; he's coming downstairs. Not a word about the money while he's here, Nance. Hewon't stop long. Not ten minutes, my dear.'

Laying his skinny forefinger upon his lip, the Jew carried a candle to the door, as aman's step was heard upon the stairs without. He reached it, at the same moment as thevisitor, who, coming hastily into the room, was close upon the girl before he observed her.

It was Monks.

'Only one of my young people,' said fa*gin, observing that Monks drew back, onbeholding a stranger. 'Don't move, Nancy.'

The girl drew closer to the table, and glancing at Monks with an air of careless levity,withdrew her eyes; but as he turned towards fa*gin, she stole another look; so keen andsearching, and full of purpose, that if there had been any bystander to observe the change, hecould hardly have believed the two looks to have proceeded from the same person.

'Any news?' inquired fa*gin.

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'Great.'

'And – and – good?' asked fa*gin, hesitating as though he feared to vex the other man bybeing too sanguine.

'Not bad, any way,' replied Monks with a smile. 'I have been prompt enough this time.Let me have a word with you.'

The girl drew closer to the table, and made no offer to leave the room, although shecould see that Monks was pointing to her. The Jew: perhaps fearing she might saysomething aloud about the money, if he endeavoured to get rid of her: pointed upward, andtook Monks out of the room.

'Not that infernal hole we were in before,' she could hear the man say as they wentupstairs. fa*gin laughed; and making some reply which did not reach her, seemed, by thecreaking of the boards, to lead his companion to the second story.

Before the sound of their footsteps had ceased to echo through the house, the girl hadslipped off her shoes; and drawing her gown loosely over her head, and muffling her arms init, stood at the door, listening with breathless interest. The moment the noise ceased, sheglided from the room; ascended the stairs with incredible softness and silence; and was lostin the gloom above.

The room remained deserted for a quarter of an hour or more; the girl glided back withthe same unearthly tread; and, immediately afterwards, the two men were heard descending.Monks went at once into the street; and the Jew crawled upstairs again for the money. Whenhe returned, the girl was adjusting her shawl and bonnet, as if preparing to be gone.

'Why, Nance!,' exclaimed the Jew, starting back as he put down the candle, 'how paleyou are!'

'Pale!' echoed the girl, shading her eyes with her hands, as if to look steadily at him.

'Quite horrible. What have you been doing to yourself?'

'Nothing that I know of, except sitting in this close place for I don't know how long andall,' replied the girl carelessly. 'Come! Let me get back; that's a dear.'

With a sigh for every piece of money, fa*gin told the amount into her hand. They partedwithout more conversation, merely interchanging a 'good−night.'

When the girl got into the open street, she sat down upon a doorstep; and seemed, for afew moments, wholly bewildered and unable to pursue her way. Suddenly she arose; and

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hurrying on, in a direction quite opposite to that in which Sikes was awaiting her returned,quickened her pace, until it gradually resolved into a violent run. After completelyexhausting herself, she stopped to take breath: and, as if suddenly recollecting herself, anddeploring her inability to do something she was bent upon, wrung her hands, and burst intotears.

It might be that her tears relieved her, or that she felt the full hopelessness of hercondition; but she turned back; and hurrying with nearly as great rapidity in the contrarydirection; partly to recover lost time, and partly to keep pace with the violent current of herown thoughts: soon reached the dwelling where she had left the housebreaker.

If she betrayed any agitation, when she presented herself to Mr. Sikes, he did notobserve it; for merely inquiring if she had brought the money, and receiving a reply in theaffirmative, he uttered a growl of satisfaction, and replacing his head upon the pillow,resumed the slumbers which her arrival had interrupted.

It was fortunate for her that the possession of money occasioned him so muchemployment next day in the way of eating and drinking; and withal had so beneficial aneffect in smoothing down the asperities of his temper; that he had neither time norinclination to be very critical upon her behaviour and deportment. That she had all theabstracted and nervous manner of one who is on the eve of some bold and hazardous step,which it has required no common struggle to resolve upon, would have been obvious to thelynx−eyed fa*gin, who would most probably have taken the alarm at once; but Mr. Sikeslacking the niceties of discrimination, and being troubled with no more subtle misgivingsthan those which resolve themselves into a dogged roughness of behaviour towardseverybody; and being, furthermore, in an unusually amiable condition, as has been alreadyobserved; saw nothing unusual in her demeanor, and indeed, troubled himself so little abouther, that, had her agitation been far more perceptible than it was, it would have been veryunlikely to have awakened his suspicions.

As that day closed in, the girl's excitement increased; and, when night came on, and shesat by, watching until the housebreaker should drink himself asleep, there was an unusualpaleness in her cheek, and a fire in her eye, that even Sikes observed with astonishment.

Mr. Sikes being weak from the fever, was lying in bed, taking hot water with his gin torender it less inflammatory; and had pushed his glass towards Nancy to be replenished forthe third or fourth time, when these symptoms first struck him.

'Why, burn my body!' said the man, raising himself on his hands as he stared the girl inthe 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?'

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'What foolery is this?' demanded Sikes, grasping her by the arm, and shaking herroughly. 'What is it? What do you mean? What are you thinking of?'

'Of many things, Bill,' replied the girl, shivering, and as she did so, pressing her handsupon her eyes. 'But, Lord! What odds in that?'

The tone of forced gaiety in which the last words were spoken, seemd to produce adeeper impression on Sikes than the wild and rigid look which had preceded them.

'I tell you wot it is,' said Sikes; 'if you haven't caught the fever, and got it comin' on,now, there's something more than usual in the wind, and something dangerous too. You'renot a−going to – . No, damme! you wouldn't do that!'

'Do what?' asked the girl.

'There ain't,' said Sikes, fixing his eyes upon her, and muttering the words to himself;'there ain't a stauncher−hearted gal going, or I'd have cut her throat three months ago. She'sgot the fever coming on; that's it.'

Fortifying himself with this assurance, Sikes drained the glass to the bottom, and then,with many grumbling oaths, called for his physic. The girl jumped up, with great alacrity;poured it quickly out, but with her back towards him; and held the vessel to his lips, whilehe drank off the contents.

'Now,' said the robber, 'come and sit aside of me, and put on your own face; or I'll alterit so, that you won't know it agin when you do want it.'

The girl obeyed. Sikes, locking her hand in his, fell back upon the pillow: turning hiseyes upon her face. They closed; opened again; closed once more; again opened. He shiftedhis position restlessly; and, after dozing again, and again, for two or three minutes, and asoften springing up with a look of terror, and gazing vacantly about him, was suddenlystricken, as it were, while in the very attitude of rising, into a deep and heavy sleep. Thegrasp of his hand relaxed; the upraised arm fell languidly by his side; and he lay like one in aprofound trance.

'The laudanum has taken effect at last,' murmured the girl, as she rose from the bedside.'I may be too late, even now.'

She hastily dressed herself in her bonnet and shawl: looking fearfully round, from timeto time, as if, despite the sleeping draught, she expected every moment to feel the pressureof Sikes's heavy hand upon her shoulder; then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed therobber's lips; and then opening and closing the room−door with noiseless touch, hurriedfrom the house.

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A watchman was crying half−past nine, down a dark passage through which she had topass, in gaining the main thoroughfare.

'Has it long gone the half−hour?' asked the girl.

'It'll strike the hour in another quarter,' said the man: raising his lantern to her face.

'And I cannot get there in less than an hour or more,' muttered Nancy: brushing swiftlypast him, and gliding rapidly down the street.

Many of the shops were already closing in the back lanes and avenues through whichshe tracked her way, in making from Spitalfields towards the West−End of London. Theclock struck ten, increasing her impatience. She tore along the narrow pavement: elbowingthe passengers from side to side; and darting almost under the horses' heads, crossedcrowded streets, where clusters of persons were eagerly watching their opportunity to do thelike.

'The woman is mad!' said the people, turning to look after her as she rushed away.

When she reached the more wealthy quarter of the town, the streets were comparativelydeserted; and here her headlong progress excited a still greater curiosity in the stragglerswhom she hurried past. Some quickened their pace behind, as though to see whither she washastening at such an unusual rate; and a few made head upon her, and looked back, surprisedat her undiminished speed; but they fell off one by one; and when she neared her place ofdestination, she was alone.

It was a family hotel in a quiet but handsome street near Hyde Park. As the brilliantlight of the lamp which burnt before its door, guided her to the spot, the clock struck eleven.She had loitered for a few paces as though irresolute, and making up her mind to advance;but the sound determined her, and she stepped into the hall. The porter's seat was vacant.She looked round with an air of incertitude, and advanced towards the stairs.

'Now, young woman!' said a smartly−dressed female, looking out from a door behindher, 'who do you want here?'

'A lady who is stopping in this house,' answered the girl.

'A lady!' was the reply, accompanied with a scornful look. 'What lady?'

'Miss Maylie,' said Nancy.

The young woman, who had by this time, noted her appearance, replied only by a lookof virtuous disdain; and summoned a man to answer her. To him, Nancy repeated her

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request.

'What name am I to say?' asked the waiter.

'It's of no use saying any,' replied Nancy.

'Nor business?' said the man.

'No, nor that neither,' rejoined the girl. 'I must see the lady.'

'Come!' said the man, pushing her towards the door. 'None of this. Take yourself off.'

'I shall be carried out if I go!' said the girl violently; 'and I can make that a job that twoof you won't like to do. Isn't there anybody here,' she said, looking round, 'that will see asimple message carried for a poor wretch like me?'

This appeal produced an effect on a good−tempered−faced man−cook, who with someof the other servants was looking on, and who stepped forward to interfere.

'Take it up for her, Joe; can't you?' said this person.

'What's the good?' replied the man. 'You don't suppose the young lady will see such asher; do you?'

This allusion to Nancy's doubtful character, raised a vast quantity of chaste wrath in thebosoms of four housemaids, who remarked, with great fervour, that the creature was adisgrace to her sex; and strongly advocated her being thrown, ruthlessly, into the kennel.

'Do what you like with me,' said the girl, turning to the men again; 'but do what I askyou first, and I ask you to give this message for God Almighty's sake.'

The soft−hearted cook added his intercession, and the result was that the man who hadfirst appeared undertook its delivery.

'What's it to be?' said the man, with one foot on the stairs.

'That a young woman earnestly asks to speak to Miss Maylie alone,' said Nancy; 'andthat if the lady will only hear the first word she has to say, she will know whether to hear herbusiness, or to have her turned out of doors as an impostor.'

'I say,' said the man, 'you're coming it strong!'

'You give the message,' said the girl firmly; 'and let me hear the answer.'

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The man ran upstairs. Nancy remained, pale and almost breathless, listening withquivering lip to the very audible expressions of scorn, of which the chaste housemaids werevery prolific; and of which they became still more so, when the man returned, and said theyoung 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 fourthtook the first in a quartette of 'Shameful!' with which the Dianas concluded.

Regardless of all this: for she had weightier matters at heart: Nancy followed the man,with trembling limbs, to a small ante−chamber, lighted by a lamp from the ceiling. Here heleft her, and retired.

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CHAPTER Xl − A Strange interview, Which Is a sequel to thelast CHAMBER

The girl's life had been squandered in the streets, and among the most noisome of the

stews and dens of London, but there was something of the woman's original nature left inher still; and when she heard a light step approaching the door opposite to that by which shehad entered, and thought of the wide contrast which the small room would in anothermoment contain, she felt burdened with the sense of her own deep shame, and shrunk asthough 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 mostdebased creatures no less than of the high and self−assured. The miserable companion ofthieves and ruffians, the fallen outcast of low haunts, the associate of the scourings of thejails and hulks, living within the shadow of the gallows itself, – even this degraded being felttoo proud to betray a feeble gleam of the womanly feeling which she thought a weakness,but which alone connected her with that humanity, of which her wasting life had obliteratedso many, many traces when a very child.

She raised her eyes sufficiently to observe that the figure which presented itself was thatof a slight and beautiful girl; then, bending them on the ground, she tossed her head withaffected carelessness as she said:

'It's a hard matter to get to see you, lady. If I had taken offence, and gone away, as manywould have done, you'd have been sorry for it one day, and not without reason either.'

'I am very sorry if any one has behaved harshly to you,' replied Rose. 'Do not think ofthat. Tell me why you wished to see me. I am the person you inquired for.'

The kind tone of this answer, the sweet voice, the gentle manner, the absence of anyaccent of haughtiness or displeasure, took the girl completely by surprise, and she burst intotears.

'Oh, lady, lady!' she said, clasping her hands passionately before her face, 'if there wasmore like you, there would be fewer like me, – there would – there would!'

'Sit down,' said Rose, earnestly. 'If you are in poverty or affliction I shall be truly glad torelieve you if I can, – I shall indeed. Sit down.'

'Let me stand, lady,' said the girl, still weeping, 'and do not speak to me so kindly tillyou know me better. It is growing late. Is – is – that door shut?'

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'Yes,' said Rose, recoiling a few steps, as if to be nearer assistance in case she shouldrequire it. 'Why?'

'Because,' said the girl, 'I am about to put my life and the lives of others in your hands. Iam the girl that dragged little Oliver back to old fa*gin's on the night he went out from thehouse in Pentonville.'

'You!' said Rose Maylie.

'I, lady!' replied the girl. 'I am the infamous creature you have heard of, that lives amongthe thieves, and that never from the first moment I can recollect my eyes and senses openingon London streets have known any better life, or kinder words than they have given me, sohelp me God! Do not mind shrinking openly from me, lady. I am younger than you wouldthink, to look at me, but I am well used to it. The poorest women fall back, as I make myway along the crowded pavement.'

'What dreadful things are these!' said Rose, involuntarily falling from her strangecompanion.

'Thank Heaven upon your knees, dear lady,' cried the girl, 'that you had friends to carefor and keep you in your childhood, and that you were never in the midst of cold andhunger, and riot and drunkenness, and – and – something worse than all – as I have beenfrom my cradle. I may use the word, for the alley and the gutter were mine, as they will bemy deathbed.'

'I pity you!' said Rose, in a broken voice. 'It wrings my heart to hear you!'

'Heaven bless you for your goodness!' rejoined the girl. 'If you knew what I amsometimes, you would pity me, indeed. But I have stolen away from those who would surelymurder me, if they knew I had been here, to tell you what I have overheard. Do you know aman named Monks?'

'No,' said Rose.

'He knows you,' replied the girl; 'and knew you were here, for it was by hearing him tellthe 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 thoughtbefore. Some time ago, and soon after Oliver was put into your house on the night of therobbery, I – suspecting this man – listened to a conversation held between him and fa*gin inthe dark. I found out, from what I heard, that Monks – the man I asked you about, you know

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– '

'Yes,' said Rose, 'I understand.'

' – That Monks,' pursued the girl, 'had seen him accidently with two of our boys on theday we first lost him, and had known him directly to be the same child that he was watchingfor, though I couldn't make out why. A bargain was struck with fa*gin, that if Oliver was gotback he should have a certain sum; and he was to have more for making him a thief, whichthis Monks wanted for some purpose of his own.

'For what purpose?' asked Rose.

'He caught sight of my shadow on the wall as I listened, in the hope of finding out,' saidthe girl; 'and there are not many people besides me that could have got out of their way intime to escape discovery. But I did; and I saw him no more till last night.'

'And what occurred then?'

'I'll tell you, lady. Last night he came again. Again they went upstairs, and I, wrappingmyself up so that my shadow would not betray me, again listened at the door. The firstwords I heard Monks say were these: «So the only proofs of the boy's identity lie at thebottom of the river, and the old hag that received them from the mother is rotting in hercoffin.» They laughed, and talked of his success in doing this; and Monks, talking on aboutthe boy, and getting very wild, said that though he had got the young devil's money safelyknow, he'd rather have had it the other way; for, what a game it would have been to havebrought down the boast of the father's will, by driving him through every jail in town, andthen hauling him up for some capital felony which fa*gin could easily manage, after havingmade a good profit of him besides.'

'What is all this!' said Rose.

'The truth, lady, though it comes from my lips,' replied the girl. 'Then, he said, withoaths common enough in my ears, but strange to yours, that if he could gratify his hatred bytaking the boy's life without bringing his own neck in danger, he would; but, as he couldn't,he'd be upon the watch to meet him at every turn in life; and if he took advantage of his birthand history, he might harm him yet. «In short, fa*gin,» he says, «Jew as you are, you neverlaid such snares as I'll contrive for my young brother, Oliver.»'

'His brother!' exclaimed Rose.

'Those were his words,' said Nancy, glancing uneasily round, as she had scarcely ceasedto do, since she began to speak, for a vision of Sikes haunted her perpetually. 'And more.When he spoke of you and the other lady, and said it seemed contrived by Heaven, or the

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devil, against him, that Oliver should come into your hands, he laughed, and said there wassome comfort in that too, for how many thousands and hundreds of thousands of poundswould you not give, if you had them, to know who your two−legged spaniel was.'

'You do not mean,' said Rose, turning very pale, 'to tell me that this was said in earnest?'

'He spoke in hard and angry earnest, if a man ever did,' replied the girl, shaking herhead. 'He is an earnest man when his hatred is up. I know many who do worse things; but I'drather listen to them all a dozen times, than to that Monks once. It is growing late, and I haveto reach home without suspicion of having been on such an errand as this. I must get backquickly.'

'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 yourepeat this information to a gentleman whom I can summon in an instant from the nextroom, you can be consigned to some place of safety without half an hour's delay.'

'I wish to go back,' said the girl. 'I must go back, because – how can I tell such things toan innocent lady like you? – because among the men I have told you of, there is one: themost desperate among them all; that I can't leave: no, not even to be saved from the life I amleading now.'

'Your having interfered in this dear boy's behalf before,' said Rose; 'your coming here,at so great a risk, to tell me what you have heard; your manner, which convinces me of thetruth of what you say; your evident contrition, and sense of shame; all lead me to believethat you might yet be reclaimed. Oh!' said the earnest girl, folding her hands as the tearscoursed down her face, 'do not turn a deaf ear to the entreaties of one of your own sex; thefirst – the first, I do believe, who ever appealed to you in the voice of pity and compassion.Do hear my words, and let me save you yet, for better things.'

'Lady,' cried the girl, sinking on her knees, 'dear, sweet, angel lady, you ARE the firstthat ever blessed me with such words as these, and if I had heard them years ago, they mighthave turned me from a life of sin and sorrow; but it is too late, it is too late!'

'It is never too late,' said Rose, 'for penitence and atonement.'

'It is,' cried the girl, writhing in agony of her mind; 'I cannot leave him now! I could notbe his death.'

'Why should you be?' asked Rose.

'Nothing could save him,' cried the girl. 'If I told others what I have told you, and led totheir being taken, he would be sure to die. He is the boldest, and has been so cruel!'

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'Is it possible,' cried Rose, 'that for such a man as this, you can resign every future hope,and the certainty of immediate rescue? It is madness.'

'I don't know what it is,' answered the girl; 'I only know that it is so, and not with mealone, but with hundreds of others as bad and wretched as myself. I must go back. Whetherit is God's wrath for the wrong I have done, I do not know; but I am drawn back to himthrough every suffering and ill usage; and I should be, I believe, if I knew that I was to dieby his hand at last.'

'What am I to do?' said Rose. 'I should not let you depart from me thus.'

'You should, lady, and I know you will,' rejoined the girl, rising. 'You will not stop mygoing because I have trusted in your goodness, and forced no promise from you, as I mighthave done.'

'Of what use, then, is the communication you have made?' said Rose. 'This mysterymust be investigated, or how will its disclosure to me, benefit Oliver, whom you are anxiousto serve?'

'You must have some kind gentleman about you that will hear it as a secret, and adviseyou what to do,' rejoined the girl.

'But where can I find you again when it is necessary?' asked Rose. 'I do not seek toknow where these dreadful people live, but where will you be walking or passing at anysettled period from this time?'

'Will you promise me that you will have my secret strictly kept, and come alone, or withthe only other person that knows it; and that I shall not be watched or followed?' asked thegirl.

'I promise you solemnly,' answered Rose.

'Every Sunday night, from eleven until the clock strikes twelve,' said the girl withouthesitation, 'I will walk on London Bridge if I am alive.'

'Stay another moment,' interposed Rose, as the girl moved hurriedly towards the door.'Think once again on your own condition, and the opportunity you have of escaping from it.You have a claim on me: not only as the voluntary bearer of this intelligence, but as awoman lost almost beyond redemption. Will you return to this gang of robbers, and to thisman, when a word can save you? What fascination is it that can take you back, and makeyou cling to wickedness and misery? Oh! is there no chord in your heart that I can touch! Isthere nothing left, to which I can appeal against this terrible infatuation!'

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'When ladies as young, and good, and beautiful as you are,' replied the girl steadily,'give away your hearts, love will carry you all lengths – even such as you, who have home,friends, other admirers, everything, to fill them. When such as I, who have no certain roofbut the coffinlid, and no friend in sickness or death but the hospital nurse, set our rottenhearts on any man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all our wretchedlives, who can hope to cure us? Pity us, lady – pity us for having only one feeling of thewoman left, and for having that turned, by a heavy judgment, from a comfort and a pride,into a new means of violence and suffering.'

'You will,' said Rose, after a pause, 'take some money from me, which may enable youto live without dishonesty – at all events until we meet again?'

'Not a penny,' replied the girl, waving her hand.

'Do not close your heart against all my efforts to help you,' said Rose, stepping gentlyforward. 'I wish to serve you indeed.'

'You would serve me best, lady,' replied the girl, wringing her hands, 'if you could takemy life at once; for I have felt more grief to think of what I am, to−night, than I ever didbefore, and it would be something not to die in the hell in which I have lived. God bless you,sweet lady, and send as much happiness on your head as I have brought shame on mine!'

Thus speaking, and sobbing aloud, the unhappy creature turned away; while RoseMaylie, overpowered by this extraordinary interview, which had more the semblance of arapid dream than an actual occurance, sank into a chair, and endeavoured to collect herwandering thoughts.

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CHAPTER Xli − Containing Fresh discoveries, AND Showing thatsuprises, Like Misfortunes, Seldom Come ALONE

Her situation was, indeed, one of no common trial and difficulty.

While she felt the most eager and burning desire to penetrate the mystery in whichOliver's history was enveloped, she could not but hold sacred the confidence which themiserable woman with whom she had just conversed, had reposed in her, as a young andguileless girl. Her words and manner had touched Rose Maylie's heart; and, mingled withher love for her young charge, and scarcely less intense in its truth and fervour, was her fondwish to win the outcast back to repentance and hope.

They purposed remaining in London only three days, prior to departing for some weeksto a distant part of the coast. It was now midnight of the first day. What course of actioncould she determine upon, which could be adopted in eight−and−forty hours? Or how couldshe postpone the journey without exciting suspicion?

Mr. Losberne was with them, and would be for the next two days; but Rose was toowell acquainted with the excellent gentleman's impetuosity, and foresaw too clearly thewrath with which, in the first explosion of his indignation, he would regard the instrument ofOliver's recapture, to trust him with the secret, when her representations in the girl's behalfcould be seconded by no experienced person. These were all reasons for the greatest cautionand most circ*mspect behaviour in communicating it to Mrs. Maylie, whose first impulsewould infallibly be to hold a conference with the worthy doctor on the subject. As toresorting to any legal adviser, even if she had known how to do so, it was scarcely to bethought of, for the same reason. Once the thought occurred to her of seeking assistance fromHarry; but this awakened the recollection of their last parting, and it seemed unworthy of herto call him back, when – the tears rose to her eyes as she pursued this train of reflection – hemight have by this time learnt to forget her, and to be happier away.

Disturbed by these different reflections; inclining now to one course and then toanother, and again recoiling from all, as each successive consideration presented itself to hermind; Rose passed a sleepless and anxious night. After more communing with herself nextday, she arrived at the desperate conclusion of consulting Harry.

'If it be painful to him,' she thought, 'to come back here, how painful it will be to me!But perhaps he will not come; he may write, or he may come himself, and studiously abstainfrom meeting me – he did when he went away. I hardly thought he would; but it was betterfor us both.' And here Rose dropped the pen, and turned away, as though the very paperwhich was to be her messenger should not see her weep.

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She had taken up the same pen, and laid it down again fifty times, and had consideredand reconsidered the first line of her letter without writing the first word, when Oliver, whohad been walking in the streets, with Mr. Giles for a body−guard, entered the room in suchbreathless haste and violent agitation, as seemed to betoken some new cause of alarm.

'What makes you look so flurried?' asked Rose, advancing to meet him.

'I hardly know how; I feel as if I should be choked,' replied the boy. 'Oh dear! To thinkthat I should see him at last, and you should be able to know that I have told you the truth!'

'I never thought you had told us anything but the truth,' said Rose, soothing him. 'Butwhat is this? – of whom do you speak?'

'I have seen the gentleman,' replied Oliver, scarcely able to articulate, 'the gentlemanwho was so good to me – Mr. Brownlow, that we have so often talked about.'

'Where?' asked Rose.

'Getting out of a coach,' replied Oliver, shedding tears of delight, 'and going into ahouse. I didn't speak to him – I couldn't speak to him, for he didn't see me, and I trembled so,that I was not able to go up to him. But Giles asked, for me, whether he lived there, and theysaid he did. Look here,' said Oliver, opening a scrap of paper, 'here it is; here's where helives – I'm going there directly! Oh, dear me, dear me! What shall I do when I come to seehim and hear him speak again!'

With her attention not a little distracted by these and a great many other incoherentexclamations of joy, Rose read the address, which was Craven Street, in the Strand. She verysoon determined upon turning the discovery to account.

'Quick!' she said. 'Tell them to fetch a hackney−coach, and be ready to go with me. Iwill take you there directly, without a minute's loss of time. I will only tell my aunt that weare going out for an hour, and be ready as soon as you are.'

Oliver needed no prompting to despatch, and in little more than five minutes they wereon their way to Craven Street. When they arrived there, Rose left Oliver in the coach, underpretence of preparing the old gentleman to receive him; and sending up her card by theservant, requested to see Mr. Brownlow on very pressing business. The servant soonreturned, to beg that she would walk upstairs; and following him into an upper room, MissMaylie was presented to an elderly gentleman of benevolent appearance, in a bottle−greencoat. At no great distance from whom, was seated another old gentleman, in nankeenbreeches and gaiters; who did not look particularly benevolent, and who was sitting with hishands clasped on the top of a thick stick, and his chin propped thereupon.

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'Dear me,' said the gentleman, in the bottle−green coat, hastily rising with greatpoliteness, 'I beg your pardon, young lady – I imagined it was some importunate person who– I beg you will excuse me. Be seated, pray.'

'Mr. Brownlow, I believe, sir?' said Rose, glancing from the other gentleman to the onewho had spoken.

'That is my name,' said the old gentleman. 'This is my friend, Mr. Grimwig. Grimwig,will you leave us for a few minutes?'

'I believe,' interposed Miss Maylie, 'that at this period of our interview, I need not givethat gentleman the trouble of going away. If I am correctly informed, he is cognizant of thebusiness on which I wish to speak to you.'

Mr. Brownlow inclined his head. Mr. Grimwig, who had made one very stiff bow, andrisen from his chair, made another very stiff bow, and dropped into it again.

'I shall surprise you very much, I have no doubt,' said Rose, naturally embarrassed; 'butyou once showed great benevolence and goodness to a very dear young friend of mine, and Iam sure you will take an interest in hearing of him again.'

'Indeed!' said Mr. Brownlow.

'Oliver Twist you knew him as,' replied Rose.

The words no sooner escaped her lips, than Mr. Grimwig, who had been affecting to dipinto a large book that lay on the table, upset it with a great crash, and falling back in hischair, discharged from his features every expression but one of unmitigated wonder, andindulged in a prolonged and vacant stare; then, as if ashamed of having betrayed so muchemotion, he jerked himself, as it were, by a convulsion into his former attitude, and lookingout straight before him emitted a long deep whistle, which seemed, at last, not to bedischarged on empty air, but to die away in the innermost recesses of his stomach.

Mr. Browlow was no less surprised, although his astonishment was not expressed in thesame eccentric manner. He drew his chair nearer to Miss Maylie's, and said,

'Do me the favour, my dear young lady, to leave entirely out of the question thatgoodness 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 unfavourableopinion I was once induced to entertain of that poor child, in Heaven's name put me inpossession of it.'

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'A bad one! I'll eat my head if he is not a bad one,' growled Mr. Grimwig, speaking bysome ventriloquial power, without moving a muscle of his face.

'He is a child of a noble nature and a warm heart,' said Rose, colouring; 'and that Powerwhich has thought fit to try him beyond his years, has planted in his breast affections andfeelings which would do honour to many who have numbered his days six times over.'

'I'm only sixty−one,' said Mr. Grimwig, with the same rigid face.

'And, as the devil's in it if this Oliver is not twelve years old at least, I don't see theapplication of that remark.'

'Do not heed my friend, Miss Maylie,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'he does not mean what hesays.'

'Yes, he does,' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'No, he does not,' said Mr. Brownlow, obviously rising in wrath as he spoke.

'He'll eat his head, if he doesn't,' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'He would deserve to have it knocked off, if he does,' said Mr. Brownlow.

'And he'd uncommonly like to see any man offer to do it,' responded Mr. Grimwig,knocking his stick upon the floor.

Having gone thus far, the two old gentlemen severally took snuff, and afterwards shookhands, according to their invariable custom.

'Now, Miss Maylie,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'to return to the subject in which yourhumanity is so much interested. Will you let me know what intelligence you have of thispoor child: allowing me to promise that I exhausted every means in my power ofdiscovering him, and that since I have been absent from this country, my first impressionthat he had imposed upon me, and had been persuaded by his former associates to rob me,has been considerably shaken.'

Rose, who had had time to collect her thoughts, at once related, in a few natural words,all that had befallen Oliver since he left Mr. Brownlow's house; reserving Nancy'sinformation for that gentleman's private ear, and concluding with the assurance that his onlysorrow, for some months past, had been not being able to meet with his former benefactorand friend.

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'Thank God!' said the old gentleman. 'This is great happiness to me, great happiness.But you have not told me where he is now, Miss Maylie. You must pardon my finding faultwith you, – but why not have brought him?'

'He is waiting in a coach at the door,' replied Rose.

'At this door!' cried the old gentleman. With which he hurried out of the room, down thestairs, up the coachsteps, and into the coach, without another word.

When the room−door closed behind him, Mr. Grimwig lifted up his head, andconverting one of the hind legs of his chair into a pivot, described three distinct circles withthe assistance of his stick and the table; stitting in it all the time. After performing thisevolution, he rose and limped as fast as he could up and down the room at least a dozentimes, and then stopping suddenly before Rose, kissed her without the slightest preface.

'Hush!' he said, as the young lady rose in some alarm at this unusual proceeding. 'Don'tbe afraid. I'm old enough to be your grandfather. You're a sweet girl. I like you. Here theyare!'

In fact, as he threw himself at one dexterous dive into his former seat, Mr. Brownlowreturned, accompanied by Oliver, whom Mr. Grimwig received very graciously; and if thegratification of that moment had been the only reward for all her anxiety and care in Oliver'sbehalf, Rose Maylie would have been well repaid.

'There is somebody else who should not be forgotten, by the bye,' said Mr. Brownlow,ringing the bell. 'Send Mrs. Bedwin here, if you please.'

The old housekeeper answered the summons with all dispatch; and dropping a curtsey atthe door, waited for orders.

'Why, you get blinder every day, Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, rather testily.

'Well, that I do, sir,' replied the old lady. 'People's eyes, at my time of life, don't improvewith age, sir.'

'I could have told you that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but put on your glasses, and see ifyou can't find out what you were wanted for, will you?'

The old lady began to rummage in her pocket for her spectacles. But Oliver's patiencewas not proof against this new trial; and yielding to his first impulse, he sprang into herarms.

'God be good to me!' cried the old lady, embracing him; 'it is my innocent boy!'

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'My dear old nurse!' cried Oliver.

'He would come back – I knew he would,' said the old lady, holding him in her arms.'How well he looks, and how like a gentleman's son he is dressed again! Where have youbeen, this long, long while? Ah! the same sweet face, but not so pale; the same soft eye, butnot so sad. I have never forgotten them or his quiet smile, but have seen them every day,side by side with those of my own dear children, dead and gone since I was a lightsomeyoung creature.' Running on thus, and now holding Oliver from her to mark how he hadgrown, now clasping him to her and passing her fingers fondly through his hair, the goodsoul laughed and wept upon his neck by turns.

Leaving her and Oliver to compare notes at leisure, Mr. Brownlow led the way intoanother room; and there, heard from Rose a full narration of her interview with Nancy,which occasioned him no little surprise and perplexity. Rose also explained her reasons fornot confiding in her friend Mr. Losberne in the first instance. The old gentleman consideredthat she had acted prudently, and readily undertook to hold solemn conference with theworthy doctor himself. To afford him an early opportunity for the execution of this design, itwas arranged that he should call at the hotel at eight o'clock that evening, and that in themeantime Mrs. Maylie should be cautiously informed of all that had occurred. Thesepreliminaries adjusted, Rose and Oliver returned home.

Rose had by no means overrated the measure of the good doctor's wrath. Nancy'shistory was no sooner unfolded to him, than he poured forth a shower of mingled threats andexecrations; 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 theassistance of those worthies. And, doubtless, he would, in this first outbreak, have carriedthe intention into effect without a moment's consideration of the consequences, if he had notbeen restrained, in part, by corresponding violence on the side of Mr. Brownlow, who washimself of an irascible temperament, and party by such arguments and representations asseemed best calculated to dissuade him from his hotbrained purpose.

'Then what the devil is to be done?' said the impetuous doctor, when they had rejoinedthe two ladies. 'Are we to pass a vote of thanks to all these vagabonds, male and female, andbeg them to accept a hundred pounds, or so, apiece, as a trifling mark of our esteem, andsome slight acknowledgment of their kindness to Oliver?'

'Not exactly that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow, laughing; 'but we must proceed gently andwith 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 themanywhere is likely to attain the object we have in view.'

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'What object?' asked the doctor.

'Simply, the discovery of Oliver's parentage, and regaining for him the inheritance ofwhich, if this story be true, he has been fraudulently deprived.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Losberne, cooling himself with his pocket−handkerchief; 'I almost forgotthat.'

'You see,' pursued Mr. Brownlow; 'placing this poor girl entirely out of the question,and supposing it were possible to bring these scoundrels to justice without compromisingher safety, what good should we bring about?'

'Hanging a few of them at least, in all probability,' suggested the doctor, 'andtransporting the rest.'

'Very good,' replied Mr. Brownlow, smiling; 'but no doubt they will bring that about forthemselves in the fulness of time, and if we step in to forestall them, it seems to me that weshall be performing a very Quixotic act, in direct opposition to our own interest – or at leastto Oliver's, which is the same thing.'

'How?' inquired the doctor.

'Thus. It is quite clear that we shall have extreme difficulty in getting to the bottom ofthis mystery, unless we can bring this man, Monks, upon his knees. That can only be doneby stratagem, and by catching him when he is not surrounded by these people. For, supposehe were apprehended, we have no proof against him. He is not even (so far as we know, oras the facts appear to us) concerned with the gang in any of their robberies. If he were notdischarged, it is very unlikely that he could receive any further punishment than beingcommitted to prison as a rogue and vagabond; and of course ever afterwards his mouthwould be so obstinately closed that he might as well, for our purposes, be deaf, dumb, blind,and an idiot.'

'Then,' said the doctor impetuously, 'I put it to you again, whether you think itreasonable that this promise to the girl should be considered binding; a promise made withthe best and kindest intentions, but really – '

'Do not discuss the point, my dear young lady, pray,' said Mr. Brownlow, interruptingRose as she was about to speak. 'The promise shall be kept. I don't think it will, in theslightest degree, interfere with our proceedings. But, before we can resolve upon any precisecourse of action, it will be necessary to see the girl; to ascertain from her whether she willpoint out this Monks, on the understanding that he is to be dealt with by us, and not by thelaw; or, if she will not, or cannot do that, to procure from her such an account of his hauntsand description of his person, as will enable us to identify him. She cannot be seen until next

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Sunday night; this is Tuesday. I would suggest that in the meantime, we remain perfectlyquiet, and keep these matters secret even from Oliver himself.'

Although Mr. Loseberne received with many wry faces a proposal involving a delay offive whole days, he was fain to admit that no better course occurred to him just then; and asboth Rose and Mrs. Maylie sided very strongly with Mr. Brownlow, that gentleman'sproposition was carried unanimously.

'I should like,' he said, 'to call in the aid of my friend Grimwig. He is a strange creature,but a shrewd one, and might prove of material assistance to us; I should say that he was breda lawyer, and quitted the Bar in disgust because he had only one brief and a motion ofcourse, in twenty years, though whether that is recommendation or not, you must determinefor yourselves.'

'I have no objection to your calling in your friend if I may call in mine,' said the doctor.

'We must put it to the vote,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'who may he be?'

'That lady's son, and this young lady's – very old friend,' said the doctor, motioningtowards Mrs. Maylie, and concluding with an expressive glance at her niece.

Rose blushed deeply, but she did not make any audible objection to this motion(possibly she felt in a hopeless minority); and Harry Maylie and Mr. Grimwig wereaccordingly added to the committee.

'We stay in town, of course,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'while there remains the slightestprospect of prosecuting this inquiry with a chance of success. I will spare neither trouble norexpense in behalf of the object in which we are all so deeply interested, and I am content toremain here, if it be for twelve months, so long as you assure me that any hope remains.'

'Good!' rejoined Mr. Brownlow. 'And as I see on the faces about me, a disposition toinquire how it happened that I was not in the way to corroborate Oliver's tale, and had sosuddenly left the kingdom, let me stipulate that I shall be asked no questions until such timeas I may deem it expedient to forestall them by telling my own story. Believe me, I makethis request with good reason, for I might otherwise excite hopes destined never to berealised, and only increase difficulties and disappointments already quite numerous enough.Come! Supper has been announced, and young Oliver, who is all alone in the next room,will have begun to think, by this time, that we have wearied of his company, and enteredinto some dark conspiracy to thrust him forth upon the world.'

With these words, the old gentleman gave his hand to Mrs. Maylie, and escorted herinto the supper−room. Mr. Losberne followed, leading Rose; and the council was, for thepresent, effectually broken up.

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CHAPTER Xlii − AN Old acquaintance of OLIVER'S, Exhibitingdecided marks of genius, Becomes A public character in

the METROPOLIS

Upon the night when Nancy, having lulled Mr. Sikes to sleep, hurried on her

self−imposed mission to Rose Maylie, there advanced towards London, by the Great NorthRoad, two persons, upon whom it is expedient that this history should bestow someattention.

They were a man and woman; or perhaps they would be better described as a male andfemale: for the former was one of those long−limbed, knock−kneed, shambling, bonypeople, to whom it is difficult to assign any precise age, – looking as they do, when they areyet boys, like undergrown men, and when they are almost men, like overgrown boys. Thewoman was young, but of a robust and hardy make, as she need have been to bear theweight of the heavy bundle which was strapped to her back. Her companion was notencumbered with much luggage, as there merely dangled from a stick which he carried overhis shoulder, a small parcel wrapped in a common handkerchief, and apparently lightenough. This circ*mstance, added to the length of his legs, which were of unusual extent,enabled him with much ease to keep some half−dozen paces in advance of his companion, towhom he occasionally turned with an impatient jerk of the head: as if reproaching hertardiness, and urging her to greater exertion.

Thus, they had toiled along the dusty road, taking little heed of any object within sight,save when they stepped aside to allow a wider passage for the mail−coaches which werewhirling out of town, until they passed through Highgate archway; when the foremosttraveller stopped and called impatiently to his companion,

'Come on, can't yer? What a lazybones yer are, Charlotte.'

'It's a heavy load, I can tell you,' said the female, coming up, almost breathless withfatigue.

'Heavy! What are yer talking about? What are yer made for?' rejoined the male traveller,changing his own little bundle as he spoke, to the other shoulder. 'Oh, there yer are, restingagain!

Well, if yer ain't enough to tire anybody's patience out, I don't know what is!'

'Is it much farther?' asked the woman, resting herself against a bank, and looking upwith the perspiration streaming from her face.

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'Much farther! Yer as good as there,' said the long−legged tramper, pointing out beforehim. 'Look there! Those are the lights of London.'

'They're a good two mile off, at least,' said the woman despondingly.

'Never mind whether they're two mile off, or twenty,' said Noah Claypole; for he it was;'but get up and come on, or I'll kick yer, and so I give yer notice.'

As Noah's red nose grew redder with anger, and as he crossed the road while speaking,as if fully prepared to put his threat into execution, the woman rose without any furtherremark, and trudged onward by his side.

'Where do you mean to stop for the night, Noah?' she asked, after they had walked a fewhundred yards.

'How should I know?' replied Noah, whose temper had been considerably impaired bywalking.

'Near, I hope,' said Charlotte.

'No, not near,' replied Mr. Claypole. 'There! Not near; so don't think it.'

'Why not?'

'When I tell yer that I don't mean to do a thing, that's enough, without any why orbecause either,' replied Mr. Claypole with dignity.

'Well, you needn't be so cross,' said his companion.

'A pretty thing it would be, wouldn't it to go and stop at the very first public−houseoutside the town, so that Sowerberry, if he come up after us, might poke in his old nose, andhave us taken back in a cart with handcuffs on,' said Mr. Claypole in a jeering tone. 'No! Ishall go and lose myself among the narrowest streets I can find, and not stop till we come tothe very out−of−the−wayest house I can set eyes on. 'Cod, yer may thanks yer stars I've gota head; for if we hadn't gone, at first, the wrong road a purpose, and come back acrosscountry, yer'd have been locked up hard and fast a week ago, my lady. And serve yer rightfor being a fool.'

'I know I ain't as cunning as you are,' replied Charlotte; 'but don't put all the blame onme, and say I should have been locked up. You would have been if I had been, any way.'

'Yer took the money from the till, yer know yer did,' said Mr. Claypole.

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'I took it for you, Noah, dear,' rejoined Charlotte.

'Did I keep it?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'No; you trusted in me, and let me carry it like a dear, and so you are,' said the lady,chucking him under the chin, and drawing her arm through his.

This was indeed the case; but as it was not Mr. Claypole's habit to repose a blind andfoolish confidence in anybody, it should be observed, in justice to that gentleman, that hehad trusted Charlotte to this extent, in order that, if they were pursued, the money might befound on her: which would leave him an opportunity of asserting his innocence of any theft,and would greatly facilitate his chances of escape. Of course, he entered at this juncture, intono explanation of his motives, and they walked on very lovingly together.

In pursuance of this cautious plan, Mr. Claypole went on, without halting, until hearrived at the Angel at Islington, where he wisely judged, from the crowd of passengers andnumbers of vehicles, that London began in earnest. Just pausing to observe which appearedthe most crowded streets, and consequently the most to be avoided, he crossed into SaintJohn's Road, and was soon deep in the obscurity of the intricate and dirty ways, which, lyingbetween Gray's Inn Lane and Smithfield, render that part of the town one of the lowest andworst that improvement has left in the midst of London.

Through these streets, Noah Claypole walked, dragging Charlotte after him; nowstepping into th