Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



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coolly in the face, folded it up small, and tied it in his
neckerchief.

'That's for our share of the trouble,' said Sikes; 'and not half


enough, neither. You may keep the books, if you're fond of
reading. If you ain't, sell 'em.'

'They're very pretty,' said Charley Bates: who, with sundry


grimaces, had been affecting to read one of the volumes in
question; 'beautiful writing, isn't is, Oliver?' At sight of the
dismayed look with which Oliver regarded his tormentors, Master
Bates, who was blessed with a lively sense of the ludicrous, fell
into another ectasy, more boisterous than the first.

'They belong to the old gentleman,' said Oliver, wringing his


hands; 'to the good, kind, old gentleman who took me into his
house, and had me nursed, when I was near dying of the fever.
Oh, pray send them back; send him back the books and money. Keep
me here all my life long; but pray, pray send them back. He'll
think I stole them; the old lady: all of them who were so kind
to me: will think I stole them. Oh, do have mercy upon me, and
send them back!'

With these words, which were uttered with all the energy of


passionate grief, Oliver fell upon his knees at the Jew's feet;
and beat his hands together, in perfect desperation.

'The boy's right,' remarked Fagin, looking covertly round, and


knitting his shaggy eyebrows into a hard knot. 'You're right,
Oliver, you're right; they WILL think you have stolen 'em. Ha!
ha!' chuckled the Jew, rubbing his hands, 'it couldn't have
happened better, if we had chosen our time!'

'Of course it couldn't,' replied Sikes; 'I know'd that, directly


I see him coming through Clerkenwell, with the books under his
arm. It's all right enough. They're soft-hearted psalm-singers,
or they wouldn't have taken him in at all; and they'll ask no
questions after him, fear they should be obliged to prosecute,
and so get him lagged. He's safe enough.'

Oliver had looked from one to the other, while these words were


being spoken, as if he were bewildered, and could scarecely
understand what passed; but when Bill Sikes concluded, he jumped
suddenly to his feet, and tore wildly from the room: uttering
shrieks for help, which made the bare old house echo to the roof.

'Keep back the dog, Bill!' cried Nancy, springing before the


door, and closing it, as the Jew and his two pupils darted out in
pursuit. 'Keep back the dog; he'll tear the boy to pieces.'

'Serve him right!' cried Sikes, struggling to disengage himself


from the girl's grasp. 'Stand off from me, or I'll split your
head against the wall.'

'I don't care for that, Bill, I don't care for that,' screamed


the girl, struggling violently with the man, 'the child shan't be
torn down by the dog, unless you kill me first.'

'Shan't he!' said Sikes, setting his teeth. 'I'll soon do that,


if you don't keep off.'

The housebreaker flung the girl from him to the further end of


the room, just as the Jew and the two boys returned, dragging
Oliver among them.

'What's the matter here!' said Fagin, looking round.

'The girl's gone mad, I think,' replied Sikes, savagely.

'No, she hasn't,' said Nancy, pale and breathless from the


scuffle; 'no, she hasn't, Fagin; don't think it.'

'Then keep quiet, will you?' said the Jew, with a threatening


look.

'No, I won't do that, neither,' replied Nancy, speaking very


loud. 'Come! What do you think of that?'

Mr. Fagin was sufficiently well acquainted with the manners and


customs of that particular species of humanity to which Nancy
belonged, to feel tolerably certain that it would be rather
unsafe to prolong any conversation with her, at present. With
the view of diverting the attention of the company, he turned to
Oliver.

'So you wanted to get away, my dear, did you?' said the Jew,


taking up a jagged and knotted club which law in a corner of the
fireplace; 'eh?'

Oliver made no reply. But he watched the Jew's motions, and


breathed quickly.

'Wanted to get assistance; called for the police; did you?'


sneered the Jew, catching the boy by the arm. 'We'll cure you of
that, my young master.'

The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the


club; and was raising it for a second, when the girl, rushing
forward, wrested it from his hand. She flung it into the fire,
with a force that brought some of the glowing coals whirling out
into the room.

'I won't stand by and see it done, Fagin,' cried the girl.


'You've got the boy, and what more would you have?--Let him
be--let him be--or I shall put that mark on some of you, that
will bring me to the gallows before my time.'

The girl stamped her foot violently on the floor as she vented


this threat; and with her lips compressed, and her hands
clenched, looked alternately at the Jew and the other robber:
her face quite colourless from the passion of rage into which she
had gradually worked herself.

'Why, Nancy!' said the Jew, in a soothing tone; after a pause,


during which he and Mr. Sikes had stared at one another in a
disconcerted manner; 'you,--you're more clever than ever
to-night. Ha! ha! my dear, you are acting beautifully.'

'Am I!' said the girl. 'Take care I don't overdo it. You will


be the worse for it, Fagin, if I do; and so I tell you in good
time to keep clear of me.'

There is something about a roused woman: especially if she add to


all her other strong passions, the fierce impulses of
recklessness and despair; which few men like to provoke. The Jew
saw that it would be hopeless to affect any further mistake
regarding the reality of Miss Nancy's rage; and, shrinking
involuntarily back a few paces, cast a glance, half imploring and
half cowardly, at Sikes: as if to hint that he was the fittest
person to pursue the dialogue.

Mr. Sikes, thus mutely appealed to; and possibly feeling his


personal pride and influence interested in the immediate
reduction of Miss Nancy to reason; gave utterance to about a
couple of score of curses and threats, the rapid production of
which reflected great credit on the fertility of his invention.
As they produced no visible effect on the object against whom
they were discharged, however, he resorted to more tangible
arguments.

'What do you mean by this?' said Sikes; backing the inquiry with


a very common imprecation concerning the most beautiful of human
features: which, if it were heard above, only once out of every
fifty thousand times that it is uttered below, would render
blindness as common a disorder as measles: 'what do you mean by
it? Burn my body! Do you know who you are, and what you are?'

'Oh, yes, I know all about it,' replied the girl, laughing


hysterically; and shaking her head from side to side, with a poor
assumption of indifference.

'Well, then, keep quiet,' rejoined Sikes, with a growl like that


he was accustomed to use when addressing his dog, 'or I'll quiet
you for a good long time to come.'

The girl laughed again: even less composedly than before; and,


darting a hasty look at Sikes, turned her face aside, and bit her
lip till the blood came.

'You're a nice one,' added Sikes, as he surveyed her with a


contemptuous air, 'to take up the humane and gen--teel side! A
pretty subject for the child, as you call him, to make a friend
of!'

'God Almighty help me, I am!' cried the girl passionately; 'and I


wish I had been struck dead in the street, or had changed places
with them we passed so near to-night, before I had lent a hand in
bringing him here. He's a thief, a liar, a devil, all that's
bad, from this night forth. Isn't that enough for the old
wretch, without blows?'

'Come, come, Sikes,' said the Jew appealing to him in a


remonstratory tone, and motioning towards the boys, who were
eagerly attentive to all that passed; 'we must have civil words;
civil words, Bill.'

'Civil words!' cried the girl, whose passion was frightful to


see. 'Civil words, you villain! Yes, you deserve 'em from me.
I thieved for you when I was a child not half as old as this!'
pointing to Oliver. 'I have been in the same trade, and in the
same service, for twelve years since. Don't you know it? Speak
out! Don't you know it?'

'Well, well,' replied the Jew, with an attempt at pacification;


'and, if you have, it's your living!'

'Aye, it is!' returned the girl; not speaking, but pouring out


the words in one continuous and vehement scream. 'It is my
living; and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; and you're
the wretch that drove me to them long ago, and that'll keep me
there, day and night, day and night, till I die!'

'I shall do you a mischief!' interposed the Jew, goaded by these


reproaches; 'a mischief worse than that, if you say much more!'

The girl said nothing more; but, tearing her hair and dress in a


transport of passion, made such a rush at the Jew as would
probably have left signal marks of her revenge upon him, had not
her wrists been seized by Sikes at the right moment; upon which,
she made a few ineffectual struggles, and fainted.

'She's all right now,' said Sikes, laying her down in a corner.


'She's uncommon strong in the arms, when she's up in this way.'

The Jew wiped his forehead: and smiled, as if it were a relief to


have the disturbance over; but neither he, nor Sikes, nor the
dog, nor the boys, seemed to consider it in any other light than
a common occurance incidental to business.

'It's the worst of having to do with women,' said the Jew,


replacing his club; 'but they're clever, and we can't get on, in
our line, without 'em. Charley, show Oliver to bed.'

'I suppose he'd better not wear his best clothes tomorrow, Fagin,


had he?' inquired Charley Bates.

'Certainly not,' replied the Jew, reciprocating the grin with


which Charley put the question.

Master Bates, apparently much delighted with his commission, took


the cleft stick: and led Oliver into an adjacent kitchen, where
there were two or three of the beds on which he had slept before;
and here, with many uncontrollable bursts of laughter, he
produced the identical old suit of clothes which Oliver had so
much congratulated himself upon leaving off at Mr. Brownlow's;
and the accidental display of which, to Fagin, by the Jew who
purchased them, had been the very first clue received, of his
whereabout.

'Put off the smart ones,' said Charley, 'and I'll give 'em to


Fagin to take care of. What fun it is!'

Poor Oliver unwillingly complied. Master Bates rolling up the


new clothes under his arm, departed from the room, leaving Oliver
in the dark, and locking the door behind him.

The noise of Charley's laughter, and the voice of Miss Betsy, who


opportunely arrived to throw water over her friend, and perform
other feminine offices for the promotion of her recovery, might
have kept many people awake under more happy circumstances than
those in which Oliver was placed. But he was sick and weary; and
he soon fell sound asleep.

CHAPTER XVII

OLIVER'S DESTINY CONTINUING UNPROPITIOUS, BRINGS A GREAT MAN TO
LONDON TO INJURE HIS REPUTATION

It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas,


to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular
alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky
bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bed, weighed down by
fetters and misfortunes; in the next scene, his faithful but
unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song. We
behold, with throbbing bosoms, the heroine in the grasp of a
proud and ruthless baron: her virtue and her life alike in
danger, drawing forth her dagger to preserve the one at the cost
of the other; and just as our expectations are wrought up to the
highest pitch, a whistle is heard, and we are straightway
transported to the great hall of the castle; where a grey-headed
seneschal sings a funny chorus with a funnier body of vassals,
who are free of all sorts of places, from church vaults to
palaces, and roam about in company, carolling perpetually.

Such changes appear absurd; but they are not so unnatural as they


would seem at first sight. The transitions in real life from
well-spread boards to death-beds, and from mourning-weeds to
holiday garments, are not a whit less startling; only, there, we
are busy actors, instead of passive lookers-on, which makes a
vast difference. The actors in the mimic life of the theatre,
are blind to violent transitions and abrupt impulses of passion
or feeling, which, presented before the eyes of mere spectators,
are at once condemned as outrageous and preposterous.

As sudden shiftings of the scene, and rapid changes of time and


place, are not only sanctioned in books by long usage, but are by
many considered as the great art of authorship: an author's skill
in his craft being, by such critics, chiefly estimated with
relation to the dilemmas in which he leaves his characters at the
end of every chapter: this brief introduction to the present one
may perhaps be deemed unnecessary. If so, let it be considered a
delicate intimation on the part of the historian that he is going
back to the town in which Oliver Twist was born; the reader
taking it for granted that there are good and substantial reasons
for making the journey, or he would not be invited to proceed
upon such an expedition.

Mr. Bumble emerged at early morning from the workhouse-gate, and


walked with portly carriage and commanding steps, up the High
Street. He was in the full bloom and pride of beadlehood; his
cocked hat and coat were dazzling in the morning sun; he clutched
his cane with the vigorous tenacity of health and power. Mr.
Bumble always carried his head high; but this morning it was
higher than usual. There was an abstraction in his eye, an
elevation in his air, which might have warned an observant
stranger that thoughts were passing in the beadle's mind, too
great for utterance.

Mr. Bumble stopped not to converse with the small shopkeepers and


others who spoke to him, deferentially, as he passed along. He
merely returned their salutations with a wave of his hand, and
relaxed not in his dignified pace, until he reached the farm
where Mrs. Mann tended the infant paupers with parochial care.

'Drat that beadle!' said Mrs. Mann, hearing the well-known


shaking at the garden-gate. 'If it isn't him at this time in the
morning! Lauk, Mr. Bumble, only think of its being you! Well,
dear me, it IS a pleasure, this is! Come into the parlour, sir,
please.'

The first sentence was addressed to Susan; and the exclamations


of delight were uttered to Mr. Bumble: as the good lady unlocked
the garden-gate: and showed him, with great attention and
respect, into the house.

'Mrs. Mann,' said Mr. Bumble; not sitting upon, or dropping


himself into a seat, as any common jackanapes would: but letting
himself gradually and slowly down into a chair; 'Mrs. Mann,
ma'am, good morning.'

'Well, and good morning to YOU, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann, with


many smiles; 'and hoping you find yourself well, sir!'

'So-so, Mrs. Mann,' replied the beadle. 'A porochial life is not


a bed of roses, Mrs. Mann.'

'Ah, that it isn't indeed, Mr. Bumble,' rejoined the lady. And


all the infant paupers might have chorussed the rejoinder with
great propriety, if they had heard it.

'A porochial life, ma'am,' continued Mr. Bumble, striking the


table with his cane, 'is a life of worrit, and vexation, and
hardihood; but all public characters, as I may say, must suffer
prosecution.'

Mrs. Mann, not very well knowing what the beadle meant, raised


her hands with a look of sympathy, and sighed.

'Ah! You may well sigh, Mrs. Mann!' said the beadle.

Finding she had done right, Mrs. Mann sighed again: evidently to
the satisfaction of the public character: who, repressing a
complacent smile by looking sternly at his cocked hat, said,

'Mrs. Mann, I am going to London.'

'Lauk, Mr. Bumble!' cried Mrs. Mann, starting back.

'To London, ma'am,' resumed the inflexible beadle, 'by coach. I


and two paupers, Mrs. Mann! A legal action is a coming on, about
a settlement; and the board has appointed me--me, Mrs. Mann--to
dispose to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell.

And I very much question,' added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up,


'whether the Clerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the
wrong box before they have done with me.'

'Oh! you mustn't be too hard upon them, sir,' said Mrs. Mann,


coaxingly.

'The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves,


ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble; 'and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find
that they come off rather worse than they expected, the
Clerkinwell Sessions have only themselves to thank.'

There was so much determination and depth of purpose about the


menacing manner in which Mr. Bumble delivered himself of these
words, that Mrs. Mann appeared quite awed by them. At length she
said,

'You're going by coach, sir? I thought it was always usual to


send them paupers in carts.'

'That's when they're ill, Mrs. Mann,' said the beadle. 'We put


the sick paupers into open carts in the rainy weather, to prevent
their taking cold.'

'Oh!' said Mrs. Mann.

'The opposition coach contracts for these two; and takes them
cheap,' said Mr. Bumble. 'They are both in a very low state, and
we find it would come two pound cheaper to move 'em than to bury
'em--that is, if we can throw 'em upon another parish, which I
think we shall be able to do, if they don't die upon the road to
spite us. Ha! ha! ha!'

When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little while, his eyes again


encountered the cocked hat; and he became grave.

'We are forgetting business, ma'am,' said the beadle; 'here is


your porochial stipend for the month."

Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paper, from


his pocket-book; and requested a receipt: which Mrs. Mann wrote.

'It's very much blotted, sir,' said the farmer of infants; 'but


it's formal enough, I dare say. Thank you, Mr. Bumble, sir, I am
very much obliged to you, I'm sure.'

Mr. Bumble nodded, blandly, in acknowledgment of Mrs. Mann's


curtsey; and inquired how the children were.

'Bless their dear little hearts!' said Mrs. Mann with emotion,


'they're as well as can be, the dears! Of course, except the two
that died last week. And little Dick.'

'Isn't that boy no better?' inquired Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Mann shook her head.

'He's a ill-conditioned, wicious, bad-disposed porochial child


that,' said Mr. Bumble angrily. 'Where is he?'

'I'll bring him to you in one minute, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann.


'Here, you Dick!'

After some calling, Dick was discovered. Having had his face put


under the pump, and dried upon Mrs. Mann's gown, he was led into
the awful presence of Mr. Bumble, the beadle.

The child was pale and thin; his cheeks were sunken; and his eyes


large and bright. The scanty parish dress, the livery of his
misery, hung loosely on his feeble body; and his young limbs had
wasted away, like those of an old man.

Such was the little being who stood trembling beneath Mr.


Bumble's glance; not daring to lift his eyes from the floor; and
dreading even to hear the beadle's voice.

'Can't you look at the gentleman, you obstinate boy?' said Mrs.


Mann.

The child meekly raised his eyes, and encountered those of Mr.


Bumble.

'What's the matter with you, porochial Dick?' inquired Mr.


Bumble, with well-timed jocularity.

'Nothing, sir,' replied the child faintly.

'I should think not,' said Mrs. Mann, who had of course laughed
very much at Mr. Bumble's humour.

'You want for nothing, I'm sure.'

'I should like--' faltered the child.

'Hey-day!' interposed Mr. Mann, 'I suppose you're going to say


that you DO want for something, now? Why, you little wretch--'

'Stop, Mrs. Mann, stop!' said the beadle, raising his hand with a


show of authority. 'Like what, sir, eh?'

'I should like,' said the child, 'to leave my dear love to poor


Oliver Twist; and to let him know how often I have sat by myself
and cried to think of his wandering about in the dark nights with
nobody to help him. And I should like to tell him,' said the
child pressing his small hands together, and speaking with great
fervour, 'that I was glad to die when I was very young; for,
perhaps, if I had lived to be a man, and had grown old, my little
sister who is in Heaven, might forget me, or be unlike me; and it
would be so much happier if we were both children there
together.'

Mr. Bumble surveyed the little speaker, from head to foot, with


indescribable astonishment; and, turning to his companion, said,
'They're all in one story, Mrs. Mann. That out-dacious Oliver
had demogalized them all!'

'I couldn't have believed it, sir' said Mrs Mann, holding up her


hands, and looking malignantly at Dick. 'I never see such a
hardened little wretch!'

'Take him away, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble imperiously. 'This must


be stated to the board, Mrs. Mann.

'I hope the gentleman will understand that it isn't my fault,


sir?' said Mrs. Mann, whimpering pathetically.

'They shall understand that, ma'am; they shall be acquainted with


the true state of the case,' said Mr. Bumble. 'There; take him
away, I can't bear the sight on him.'

Dick was immediately taken away, and locked up in the


coal-cellar. Mr. Bumble shortly afterwards took himself off, to
prepare for his journey.

At six o'clock next morning, Mr. Bumble: having exchanged his


cocked hat for a round one, and encased his person in a blue
great-coat with a cape to it: took his place on the outside of
the coach, accompanied by the criminals whose settlement was
disputed; with whom, in due course of time, he arrived in London.

He experienced no other crosses on the way, than those which


originated in the perverse behaviour of the two paupers, who
persisted in shivering, and complaining of the cold, in a manner
which, Mr. Bumble declared, caused his teeth to chatter in his
head, and made him feel quite uncomfortable; although he had a
great-coat on.

Having disposed of these evil-minded persons for the night, Mr.


Bumble sat himself down in the house at which the coach stopped;
and took a temperate dinner of steaks, oyster sauce, and porter.
Putting a glass of hot gin-and-water on the chimney-piece, he
drew his chair to the fire; and, with sundry moral reflections on
the too-prevalent sin of discontent and complaining, composed
himself to read the paper.

The very first paragraph upon which Mr. Bumble's eye rested, was


the following advertisement.

'FIVE GUINEAS REWARD

'Whereas a young boy, named Oliver Twist, absconded, or was
enticed, on Thursday evening last, from his home, at Pentonville;
and has not since been heard of. The above reward will be paid
to any person who will give such information as will lead to the
discovery of the said Oliver Twist, or tend to throw any light
upon his previous history, in which the advertiser is, for many
reasons, warmly interested.'

And then followed a full description of Oliver's dress, person,


appearance, and disappearance: with the name and address of Mr.
Brownlow at full length.

Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisement, slowly and


carefully, three several times; and in something more than five
minutes was on his way to Pentonville: having actually, in his
excitement, left the glass of hot gin-and-water, untasted.

'Is Mr. Brownlow at home?' inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who


opened the door.

To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommon, but rather


evasive reply of 'I don't know; where do you come from?'

Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver's name, in explanation of his


errand, than Mrs. Bedwin, who had been listening at the parlour
door, hastened into the passage in a breathless state.

'Come in, come in,' said the old lady: 'I knew we should hear of


him. Poor dear! I knew we should! I was certain of it. Bless
his heart! I said so all along.'

Having heard this, the worthy old lady hurried back into the


parlour again; and seating herself on a sofa, burst into tears.
The girl, who was not quite so susceptible, had run upstairs
meanwhile; and now returned with a request that Mr. Bumble would
follow her immediately: which he did.

He was shown into the little back study, where sat Mr. Brownlow


and his friend Mr. Grimwig, with decanters and glasses before
them. The latter gentleman at once burst into the exclamation:

'A beadle. A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head.'

'Pray don't interrupt just now,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Take a
seat, will you?'

Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of


Mr. Grimwig's manner. Mr. Brownlow moved the lamp, so as to
obtain an uninterrupted view of the beadle's countenance; and
said, with a little impatience,

'Now, sir, you come in consequence of having seen the


advertisement?'

'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Bumble.

'And you ARE a beadle, are you not?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.

'I am a porochial beadle, gentlemen,' rejoined Mr. Bumble


proudly.

'Of course,' observed Mr. Grimwig aside to his friend, 'I knew he


was. A beadle all over!'

Mr. Brownlow gently shook his head to impose silence on his


friend, and resumed:

'Do you know where this poor boy is now?'

'No more than nobody,' replied Mr. Bumble.

'Well, what DO you know of him?' inquired the old gentleman.


'Speak out, my friend, if you have anything to say. What DO you
know of him?'

'You don't happen to know any good of him, do you?' said Mr.


Grimwig, caustically; after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble's
features.

Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head


with portentous solemnity.

'You see?' said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr.


Brownlow.

Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble's pursed-up


countenance; and requested him to communicate what he knew
regarding Oliver, in as few words as possible.

Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his


arms; inclined his head in a retrospective manner; and, after a
few moments' reflection, commenced his story.

It would be tedious if given in the beadle's words: occupying,


as it did, some twenty minutes in the telling; but the sum and
substance of it was, that Oliver was a foundling, born of low and
vicious parents. That he had, from his birth, displayed no
better qualities than treachery, ingratitude, and malice. That
he had terminated his brief career in the place of his birth, by
making a sanguinary and cowardly attack on an unoffending lad,
and running away in the night-time from his master's house. In
proof of his really being the person he represented himself, Mr.
Bumble laid upon the table the papers he had brought to town.
Folding his arms again, he then awaited Mr. Brownlow's
observations.

'I fear it is all too true,' said the old gentleman sorrowfully,


after looking over the papers. 'This is not much for your
intelligence; but I would gladly have given you treble the money,
if it had been favourable to the boy.'

It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of


this information at an earlier period of the interview, he might
have imparted a very different colouring to his little history.
It was too late to do it now, however; so he shook his head
gravely, and, pocketing the five guineas, withdrew.

Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes;


evidently so much disturbed by the beadle's tale, that even Mr.
Grimwig forbore to vex him further.

At length he stopped, and rang the bell violently.

'Mrs. Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, when the housekeeper appeared;
'that boy, Oliver, is an imposter.'

'It can't be, sir. It cannot be,' said the old lady


energetically.

'I tell you he is,' retorted the old gentleman. 'What do you


mean by can't be? We have just heard a full account of him from
his birth; and he has been a thorough-paced little villain, all
his life.'

'I never will believe it, sir,' replied the old lady, firmly.


'Never!'

'You old women never believe anything but quack-doctors, and


lying story-books,' growled Mr. Grimwig. 'I knew it all along.
Why didn't you take my advise in the beginning; you would if he
hadn't had a fever, I suppose, eh? He was interesting, wasn't
he? Interesting! Bah!' And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a
flourish.

'He was a dear, grateful, gentle child, sir,' retorted Mrs.


Bedwin, indignantly. 'I know what children are, sir; and have
done these forty years; and people who can't say the same,
shouldn't say anything about them. That's my opinion!'

This was a hard hit at Mr. Grimwig, who was a bachelor. As it


extorted nothing from that gentleman but a smile, the old lady
tossed her head, and smoothed down her apron preparatory to
another speech, when she was stopped by Mr. Brownlow.

'Silence!' said the old gentleman, feigning an anger he was far


from feeling. 'Never let me hear the boy's name again. I rang
to tell you that. Never. Never, on any pretence, mind! You may
leave the room, Mrs. Bedwin. Remember! I am in earnest.'

There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow's that night.

Oliver's heart sank within him, when he thought of his good
friends; it was well for him that he could not know what they had
heard, or it might have broken outright.

CHAPTER XVIII

HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY OF HIS
REPUTABLE FRIENDS

About noon next day, when the Dodger and Master Bates had gone


out to pursue their customary avocations, Mr. Fagin took the
opportunity of reading Oliver a long lecture on the crying sin of
ingratitude; of which he clearly demonstrated he had been guilty,
to no ordinary extent, in wilfully absenting himself from the
society of his anxious friends; and, still more, in endeavouring
to escape from them after so much trouble and expense had been
incurred in his recovery. Mr. Fagin laid great stress on the fact
of his having taken Oliver in, and cherished him, when, without
his timely aid, he might have perished with hunger; and he
related the dismal and affecting history of a young lad whom, in
his philanthropy, he had succoured under parallel circumstances,
but who, proving unworthy of his confidence and evincing a desire
to communicate with the police, had unfortunately come to be
hanged at the Old Bailey one morning. Mr. Fagin did not seek to
conceal his share in the catastrophe, but lamented with tears in
his eyes that the wrong-headed and treacherous behaviour of the
young person in question, had rendered it necessary that he
should become the victim of certain evidence for the crown:
which, if it were not precisely true, was indispensably necessary
for the safety of him (Mr. Fagin) and a few select friends. Mr.
Fagin concluded by drawing a rather disagreeable picture of the
discomforts of hanging; and, with great friendliness and
politeness of manner, expressed his anxious hopes that he might
never be obliged to submit Oliver Twist to that unpleasant
operation.

Little Oliver's blood ran cold, as he listened to the Jew's


words, and imperfectly comprehended the dark threats conveyed in
them. That it was possible even for justice itself to confound
the innocent with the guilty when they were in accidental
companionship, he knew already; and that deeply-laid plans for
the destruction of inconveniently knowing or over-communicative
persons, had been really devised and carried out by the Jew on
more occasions than one, he thought by no means unlikely, when he
recollected the general nature of the altercations between that
gentleman and Mr. Sikes: which seemed to bear reference to some
foregone conspiracy of the kind. As he glanced timidly up, and
met the Jew's searching look, he felt that his pale face and
trembling limbs were neither unnoticed nor unrelished by that
wary old gentleman.

The Jew, smiling hideously, patted Oliver on the head, and said,


that if he kept himself quiet, and applied himself to business,
he saw they would be very good friends yet. Then, taking his
hat, and covering himself with an old patched great-coat, he went
out, and locked the room-door behind him.

And so Oliver remained all that day, and for the greater part of


many subsequent days, seeing nobody, between early morning and
midnight, and left during the long hours to commune with his own
thoughts. Which, never failing to revert to his kind friends,
and the opinion they must long ago have formed of him, were sad
indeed.

After the lapse of a week or so, the Jew left the room-door


unlocked; and he was at liberty to wander about the house.

It was a very dirty place. The rooms upstairs had great high


wooden chimney-pieces and large doors, with panelled walls and
cornices to the ceiling; which, although they were black with
neglect and dust, were ornamented in various ways. From all of
these tokens Oliver concluded that a long time ago, before the
old Jew was born, it had belonged to better people, and had
perhaps been quite gay and handsome: dismal and dreary as it
looked now.

Spiders had built their webs in the angles of the walls and


ceilings; and sometimes, when Oliver walked softly into a room,
the mice would scamper across the floor, and run back terrified
to their holes. With these exceptions, there was neither sight
nor sound of any living thing; and often, when it grew dark, and
he was tired of wandering from room to room, he would crouch in
the corner of the passage by the street-door, to be as near
living people as he could; and would remain there, listening and
counting the hours, until the Jew or the boys returned.

In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed: the


bars which held them were screwed tight into the wood; the only
light which was admitted, stealing its way through round holes at
the top: which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with
strange shadows. There was a back-garret window with rusty bars
outside, which had no shutter; and out of this, Oliver often
gazed with a melancholy face for hours together; but nothing was
to be descried from it but a confused and crowded mass of
housetops, blackened chimneys, and gable-ends. Sometimes,
indeed, a grizzly head might be seen, peering over the
parapet-wall of a distant house; but it was quickly withdrawn
again; and as the window of Oliver's observatory was nailed down,
and dimmed with the rain and smoke of years, it was as much as he
could do to make out the forms of the different objects beyond,
without making any attempt to be seen or heard,--which he had as
much chance of being, as if he had lived inside the ball of St.
Paul's Cathedral.

One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that


evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to
evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do
him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him);
and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver
to assist him in his toilet, straightway.

Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have


some faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate
those about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any
objection in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed
his readiness; and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat
upon the table so that he could take his foot in his laps, he
applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as
'japanning his trotter-cases.' The phrase, rendered into plain
English, signifieth, cleaning his boots.

Whether it was the sense of freedom and independence which a


rational animal may be supposed to feel when he sits on a table
in an easy attitude smoking a pipe, swinging one leg carelessly
to and fro, and having his boots cleaned all the time, without
even the past trouble of having taken them off, or the
prospective misery of putting them on, to disturb his
reflections; or whether it was the goodness of the tobacco that
soothed the feelings of the Dodger, or the mildness of the beer
that mollified his thoughts; he was evidently tinctured, for the
nonce, with a spice of romance and enthusiasm, foreign to his
general nature. He looked down on Oliver, with a thoughtful
countenance, for a brief space; and then, raising his head, and
heaving a gentle sign, said, half in abstraction, and half to
Master Bates:

'What a pity it is he isn't a prig!'

'Ah!' said Master Charles Bates; 'he don't know what's good for
him.'

The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley


Bates. They both smoked, for some seconds, in silence.

'I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?' said the Dodger


mournfully.

'I think I know that,' replied Oliver, looking up. 'It's a


the--; you're one, are you not?' inquired Oliver, checking
himself.

'I am,' replied the Doger. 'I'd scorn to be anything else.' Mr.


Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cock, after delivering this
sentiment, and looked at Master Bates, as if to denote that he
would feel obliged by his saying anything to the contrary.

'I am,' repeated the Dodger. 'So's Charley. So's Fagin. So's


Sikes. So's Nancy. So's Bet. So we all are, down to the dog.
And he's the downiest one of the lot!'

'And the least given to peaching,' added Charley Bates.

'He wouldn't so much as bark in a witness-box, for fear of
committing himself; no, not if you tied him up in one, and left
him there without wittles for a fortnight,' said the Dodger.

'Not a bit of it,' observed Charley.

'He's a rum dog. Don't he look fierce at any strange cove that
laughs or sings when he's in company!' pursued the Dodger.
'Won't he growl at all, when he hears a fiddle playing! And
don't he hate other dogs as ain't of his breed! Oh, no!'

'He's an out-and-out Christian,' said Charley.

This was merely intended as a tribute to the animal's abilities,
but it was an appropriate remark in another sense, if Master
Bates had only known it; for there are a good many ladies and
gentlemen, claiming to be out-and-out Christians, between whom,
and Mr. Sikes' dog, there exist strong and singular points of
resemblance.

'Well, well,' said the Dodger, recurring to the point from which


they had strayed: with that mindfulness of his profession which
influenced all his proceedings. 'This hasn't go anything to do
with young Green here.'

'No more it has,' said Charley. 'Why don't you put yourself


under Fagin, Oliver?'

'And make your fortun' out of hand?' added the Dodger, with a


grin.

'And so be able to retire on your property, and do the gen-teel:


as I mean to, in the very next leap-year but four that ever
comes, and the forty-second Tuesday in Trinity-week,' said
Charley Bates.

'I don't like it,' rejoined Oliver, timidly; 'I wish they would


let me go. I--I--would rather go.'

'And Fagin would RATHER not!' rejoined Charley.

Oliver knew this too well; but thinking it might be dangerous to
express his feelings more openly, he only sighed, and went on
with his boot-cleaning.

'Go!' exclaimed the Dodger. 'Why, where's your spirit?' Don't


you take any pride out of yourself? Would you go and be
dependent on your friends?'

'Oh, blow that!' said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk


handkerchiefs from his pocket, and tossing them into a cupboard,
'that's too mean; that is.'

'_I_ couldn't do it,' said the Dodger, with an air of haughty


disgust.

'You can leave your friends, though,' said Oliver with a half


smile; 'and let them be punished for what you did.'

'That,' rejoined the Dodger, with a wave of his pipe, 'That was


all out of consideration for Fagin, 'cause the traps know that we
work together, and he might have got into trouble if we hadn't
made our lucky; that was the move, wasn't it, Charley?'

Master Bates nodded assent, and would have spoken, but the


recollection of Oliver's flight came so suddenly upon him, that
the smoke he was inhaling got entagled with a laugh, and went up
into his head, and down into his throat: and brought on a fit of
coughing and stamping, about five minutes long.

'Look here!' said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of


shillings and halfpence. 'Here's a jolly life! What's the odds
where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where
they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious
flat!'

'It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?' inquired Charley Bates. 'He'll


come to be scragged, won't he?'

'I don't know what that means,' replied Oliver.

'Something in this way, old feller,' said Charly. As he said it,
Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it
erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a
curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively
pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one
and the same thing.

'That's what it means,' said Charley. 'Look how he stares, Jack!

I never did see such prime company as that 'ere boy; he'll be the
death of me, I know he will.' Master Charley Bates, having
laughed heartily again, resumed his pipe with tears in his eyes.

'You've been brought up bad,' said the Dodger, surveying his


boots with much satisfaction when Oliver had polished them.
'Fagin will make something of you, though, or you'll be the first
he ever had that turned out unprofitable. You'd better begin at
once; for you'll come to the trade long before you think of it;
and you're only losing time, Oliver.'

Master Bates backed this advice with sundry moral admonitions of


his own: which, being exhausted, he and his friend Mr. Dawkins
launched into a glowing description of the numerous pleasures
incidental to the life they led, interspersed with a variety of
hints to Oliver that the best thing he could do, would be to
secure Fagin's favour without more delay, by the means which they
themselves had employed to gain it.

'And always put this in your pipe, Nolly,' said the Dodger, as


the Jew was heard unlocking the door above, 'if you don't take
fogels and tickers--'

'What's the good of talking in that way?' interposed Master


Bates; 'he don't know what you mean.'

'If you don't take pocket-handkechers and watches,' said the


Dodger, reducing his conversation to the level of Oliver's
capacity, 'some other cove will; so that the coves that lose 'em
will be all the worse, and you'll be all the worse, too, and
nobody half a ha'p'orth the better, except the chaps wot gets
them--and you've just as good a right to them as they have.'

'To be sure, to be sure!' said the Jew, who had entered unseen by


Oliver. 'It all lies in a nutshell my dear; in a nutshell, take
the Dodger's word for it. Ha! ha! ha! He understands the
catechism of his trade.'

The old man rubbed his hands gleefully together, as he


corroborated the Dodger's reasoning in these terms; and chuckled
with delight at his pupil's proficiency.

The conversation proceeded no farther at this time, for the Jew


had returned home accompanied by Miss Betsy, and a gentleman whom
Oliver had never seen before, but who was accosted by the Dodger
as Tom Chitling; and who, having lingered on the stairs to
exchange a few gallantries with the lady, now made his
appearance.

Mr. Chitling was older in years than the Dodger: having perhaps


numbered eighteen winters; but there was a degree of deference in
his deportment towards that young gentleman which seemed to
indicate that he felt himself conscious of a slight inferiority
in point of genius and professional aquirements. He had small
twinkling eyes, and a pock-marked face; wore a fur cap, a dark
corduroy jacket, greasy fustian trousers, and an apron. His
wardrobe was, in truth, rather out of repair; but he excused
himself to the company by stating that his 'time' was only out an
hour before; and that, in consequence of having worn the
regimentals for six weeks past, he had not been able to bestow
any attention on his private clothes. Mr. Chitling added, with
strong marks of irritation, that the new way of fumigating
clothes up yonder was infernal unconstitutional, for it burnt
holes in them, and there was no remedy against the County. The
same remark he considered to apply to the regulation mode of
cutting the hair: which he held to be decidedly unlawful. Mr.
Chitling wound up his observations by stating that he had not
touched a drop of anything for forty-two moral long hard-working
days; and that he 'wished he might be busted if he warn't as dry
as a lime-basket.'

'Where do you think the gentleman has come from, Oliver?'


inquired the Jew, with a grin, as the other boys put a bottle of
spirits on the table.

'I--I--don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Who's that?' inquired Tom Chitling, casting a contemptuous look
at Oliver.

'A young friend of mine, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'He's in luck, then,' said the young man, with a meaning look at
Fagin. 'Never mind where I came from, young 'un; you'll find
your way there, soon enough, I'll bet a crown!'

At this sally, the boys laughed. After some more jokes on the


same subject, they exchanged a few short whispers with Fagin; and
withdrew.

After some words apart between the last comer and Fagin, they


drew their chairs towards the fire; and the Jew, telling Oliver
to come and sit by him, led the conversation to the topics most
calculated to interest his hearers. These were, the great
advantages of the trade, the proficiency of the Dodger, the
amiability of Charley Bates, and the liberality of the Jew
himself. At length these subjects displayed signs of being
thoroughly exhausted; and Mr. Chitling did the same: for the
house of correction becomes fatiguing after a week or two. Miss
Betsy accordingly withdrew; and left the party to their repose.

From this day, Oliver was seldom left alone; but was placed in


almost constant communication with the two boys, who played the
old game with the Jew every day: whether for their own
improvement or Oliver's, Mr. Fagin best knew. At other times the
old man would tell them stories of robberies he had committed in
his younger days: mixed up with so much that was droll and
curious, that Oliver could not help laughing heartily, and
showing that he was amused in spite of all his better feelings.

In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils. Having


prepared his mind, by solitude and gloom, to prefer any society
to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary
place, he was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison
which he hoped would blacken it, and change its hue for ever.

CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH A NOTABLE PLAN IS DISCUSSED AND DETERMINED ON

It was a chill, damp, windy night, when the Jew: buttoning his


great-coat tight round his shrivelled body, and pulling the
collar up over his ears so as completely to obscure the lower
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