Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



Download 1.32 Mb.
Page15/34
Date conversion15.05.2018
Size1.32 Mb.
1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   ...   34

Bates, and Mr. Chitling: all intent upon a game of whist; the
Artful taking dummy against Master Bates and Mr. Chitling. The
countenance of the first-named gentleman, peculiarly intelligent
at all times, acquired great additional interest from his close
observance of the game, and his attentive perusal of Mr.
Chitling's hand; upon which, from time to time, as occasion
served, he bestowed a variety of earnest glances: wisely
regulating his own play by the result of his observations upon
his neighbour's cards. It being a cold night, the Dodger wore
his hat, as, indeed, was often his custom within doors. He also
sustained a clay pipe between his teeth, which he only removed
for a brief space when he deemed it necessary to apply for
refreshment to a quart pot upon the table, which stood ready
filled with gin-and-water for the accommodation of the company.

Master Bates was also attentive to the play; but being of a more


excitable nature than his accomplished friend, it was observable
that he more frequently applied himself to the gin-and-water, and
moreover indulged in many jests and irrelevant remarks, all
highly unbecoming a scientific rubber. Indeed, the Artful,
presuming upon their close attachment, more than once took
occasion to reason gravely with his companion upon these
improprieties; all of which remonstrances, Master Bates received
in extremely good part; merely requesting his friend to be
'blowed,' or to insert his head in a sack, or replying with some
other neatly-turned witticism of a similar kind, the happy
application of which, excited considerable admiration in the mind
of Mr. Chitling. It was remarkable that the latter gentleman and
his partner invariably lost; and that the circumstance, so far
from angering Master Bates, appeared to afford him the highest
amusement, inasmuch as he laughed most uproariously at the end of
every deal, and protested that he had never seen such a jolly
game in all his born days.

'That's two doubles and the rub,' said Mr. Chitling, with a very


long face, as he drew half-a-crown from his waistcoat-pocket. 'I
never see such a feller as you, Jack; you win everything. Even
when we've good cards, Charley and I can't make nothing of 'em.'

Either the master or the manner of this remark, which was made


very ruefully, delighted Charley Bates so much, that his
consequent shout of laughter roused the Jew from his reverie, and
induced him to inquire what was the matter.

'Matter, Fagin!' cried Charley. 'I wish you had watched the


play. Tommy Chitling hasn't won a point; and I went partners
with him against the Artfull and dumb.'

'Ay, ay!' said the Jew, with a grin, which sufficiently


demonstrated that he was at no loss to understand the reason.
'Try 'em again, Tom; try 'em again.'

'No more of it for me, thank 'ee, Fagin,' replied Mr. Chitling;


'I've had enough. That 'ere Dodger has such a run of luck that
there's no standing again' him.'

'Ha! ha! my dear,' replied the Jew, 'you must get up very early


in the morning, to win against the Dodger.'

'Morning!' said Charley Bates; 'you must put your boots on


over-night, and have a telescope at each eye, and a opera-glass
between your shoulders, if you want to come over him.'

Mr. Dawkins received these handsome compliments with much


philosophy, and offered to cut any gentleman in company, for the
first picture-card, at a shilling at a time. Nobody accepting
the challenge, and his pipe being by this time smoked out, he
proceeded to amuse himself by sketching a ground-plan of Newgate
on the table with the piece of chalk which had served him in lieu
of counters; whistling, meantime, with peculiar shrillness.

'How precious dull you are, Tommy!' said the Dodger, stopping


short when there had been a long silence; and addressing Mr.
Chitling. 'What do you think he's thinking of, Fagin?'

'How should I know, my dear?' replied the Jew, looking round as


he plied the bellows. 'About his losses, maybe; or the little
retirement in the country that he's just left, eh? Ha! ha! Is
that it, my dear?'

'Not a bit of it,' replied the Dodger, stopping the subject of


discourse as Mr. Chitling was about to reply. 'What do YOU say,
Charley?'

'_I_ should say,' replied Master Bates, with a grin, 'that he was


uncommon sweet upon Betsy. See how he's a-blushing! Oh, my eye!
here's a merry-go-rounder! Tommy Chitling's in love! Oh, Fagin,
Fagin! what a spree!'

Thoroughly overpowered with the notion of Mr. Chitling being the


victim of the tender passion, Master Bates threw himself back in
his chair with such violence, that he lost his balance, and
pitched over upon the floor; where (the accident abating nothing
of his merriment) he lay at full length until his laugh was over,
when he resumed his former position, and began another laugh.

'Never mind him, my dear,' said the Jew, winking at Mr. Dawkins,


and giving Master Bates a reproving tap with the nozzle of the
bellows. 'Betsy's a fine girl. Stick up to her, Tom. Stick up
to her.'

'What I mean to say, Fagin,' replied Mr. Chitling, very red in


the face, 'is, that that isn't anything to anybody here.'

'No more it is,' replied the Jew; 'Charley will talk. Don't mind


him, my dear; don't mind him. Betsy's a fine girl. Do as she
bids you, Tom, and you will make your fortune.'

'So I DO do as she bids me,' replied Mr. Chitling; 'I shouldn't


have been milled, if it hadn't been for her advice. But it
turned out a good job for you; didn't it, Fagin! And what's six
weeks of it? It must come, some time or another, and why not in
the winter time when you don't want to go out a-walking so much;
eh, Fagin?'

'Ah, to be sure, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'You wouldn't mind it again, Tom, would you,' asked the Dodger,
winking upon Charley and the Jew, 'if Bet was all right?'

'I mean to say that I shouldn't,' replied Tom, angrily. 'There,


now. Ah! Who'll say as much as that, I should like to know; eh,
Fagin?'

'Nobody, my dear,' replied the Jew; 'not a soul, Tom. I don't


know one of 'em that would do it besides you; not one of 'em, my
dear.'

'I might have got clear off, if I'd split upon her; mightn't I,


Fagin?' angrily pursued the poor half-witted dupe. 'A word from
me would have done it; wouldn't it, Fagin?'

'To be sure it would, my dear,' replied the Jew.

'But I didn't blab it; did I, Fagin?' demanded Tom, pouring
question upon question with great volubility.

'No, no, to be sure,' replied the Jew; 'you were too


stout-hearted for that. A deal too stout, my dear!'

'Perhaps I was,' rejoined Tom, looking round; 'and if I was,


what's to laugh at, in that; eh, Fagin?'

The Jew, perceiving that Mr. Chitling was considerably roused,


hastened to assure him that nobody was laughing; and to prove the
gravity of the company, appealed to Master Bates, the principal
offender. But, unfortunately, Charley, in opening his mouth to
reply that he was never more serious in his life, was unable to
prevent the escape of such a violent roar, that the abused Mr.
Chitling, without any preliminary ceremonies, rushed across the
room and aimed a blow at the offender; who, being skilful in
evading pursuit, ducked to avoid it, and chose his time so well
that it lighted on the chest of the merry old gentleman, and
caused him to stagger to the wall, where he stood panting for
breath, while Mr. Chitling looked on in intense dismay.

'Hark!' cried the Dodger at this moment, 'I heard the tinkler.'


Catching up the light, he crept softly upstairs.

The bell was rung again, with some impatience, while the party


were in darkness. After a short pause, the Dodger reappeared,
and whispered Fagin mysteriously.

'What!' cried the Jew, 'alone?'

The Dodger nodded in the affirmative, and, shading the flame of
the candle with his hand, gave Charley Bates a private
intimation, in dumb show, that he had better not be funny just
then. Having performed this friendly office, he fixed his eyes
on the Jew's face, and awaited his directions.

The old man bit his yellow fingers, and meditated for some


seconds; his face working with agitation the while, as if he
dreaded something, and feared to know the worst. At length he
raised his head.

'Where is he?' he asked.

The Dodger pointed to the floor above, and made a gesture, as if
to leave the room.

'Yes,' said the Jew, answering the mute inquiry; 'bring him down.

Hush! Quiet, Charley! Gently, Tom! Scarce, scarce!'

This brief direction to Charley Bates, and his recent antagonist,


was softly and immediately obeyed. There was no sound of their
whereabout, when the Dodger descended the stairs, bearing the
light in his hand, and followed by a man in a coarse smock-frock;
who, after casting a hurried glance round the room, pulled off a
large wrapper which had concealed the lower portion of his face,
and disclosed: all haggard, unwashed, and unshorn: the features
of flash Toby Crackit.

'How are you, Faguey?' said this worthy, nodding to the Jew. 'Pop


that shawl away in my castor, Dodger, so that I may know where to
find it when I cut; that's the time of day! You'll be a fine
young cracksman afore the old file now.'

With these words he pulled up the smock-frock; and, winding it


round his middle, drew a chair to the fire, and placed his feet
upon the hob.

'See there, Faguey,' he said, pointing disconsolately to his top


boots; 'not a drop of Day and Martin since you know when; not a
bubble of blacking, by Jove! But don't look at me in that way,
man. All in good time. I can't talk about business till I've
eat and drank; so produce the sustainance, and let's have a quiet
fill-out for the first time these three days!'

The Jew motioned to the Dodger to place what eatables there were,


upon the table; and, seating himself opposite the housebreaker,
waited his leisure.

To judge from appearances, Toby was by no means in a hurry to


open the conversation. At first, the Jew contented himself with
patiently watching his countenance, as if to gain from its
expression some clue to the intelligence he brought; but in vain.

He looked tired and worn, but there was the same complacent


repose upon his features that they always wore: and through
dirt, and beard, and whisker, there still shone, unimpaired, the
self-satisfied smirk of flash Toby Crackit. Then the Jew, in an
agony of impatience, watched every morsel he put into his mouth;
pacing up and down the room, meanwhile, in irrepressible
excitement. It was all of no use. Toby continued to eat with
the utmost outward indifference, until he could eat no more;
then, ordering the Dodger out, he closed the door, mixed a glass
of spirits and water, and composed himself for talking.

'First and foremost, Faguey,' said Toby.

'Yes, yes!' interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and


to declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet
against the low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots to about
the level of his eye, he quietly resumed.

'First and foremost, Faguey,' said the housebreaker, 'how's


Bill?'

'What!' screamed the Jew, starting from his seat.

'Why, you don't mean to say--' began Toby, turning pale.

'Mean!' cried the Jew, stamping furiously on the ground. 'Where


are they? Sikes and the boy! Where are they? Where have they
been? Where are they hiding? Why have they not been here?'

'The crack failed,' said Toby faintly.

'I know it,' replied the Jew, tearing a newspaper from his pocket
and pointing to it. 'What more?'

'They fired and hit the boy. We cut over the fields at the back,


with him between us--straight as the crow flies--through hedge
and ditch. They gave chase. Damme! the whole country was awake,
and the dogs upon us.'

'The boy!'

'Bill had him on his back, and scudded like the wind. We stopped
to take him between us; his head hung down, and he was cold.
They were close upon our heels; every man for himself, and each
from the gallows! We parted company, and left the youngster
lying in a ditch. Alive or dead, that's all I know about him.'

The Jew stopped to hear no more; but uttering a loud yell, and


twining his hands in his hair, rushed from the room, and from the
house.

CHAPTER XXVI

IN WHICH A MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER APPEARS UPON THE SCENE; AND MANY
THINGS, INSEPARABLE FROM THIS HISTORY, ARE DONE AND PERFORMED

The old man had gained the street corner, before he began to


recover the effect of Toby Crackit's intelligence. He had
relaxed nothing of his unusual speed; but was still pressing
onward, in the same wild and disordered manner, when the sudden
dashing past of a carriage: and a boisterous cry from the foot
passengers, who saw his danger: drove him back upon the
pavement. Avoiding, as much as was possible, all the main
streets, and skulking only through the by-ways and alleys, he at
length emerged on Snow Hill. Here he walked even faster than
before; nor did he linger until he had again turned into a court;
when, as if conscious that he was now in his proper element, he
fell into his usual shuffling pace, and seemed to breathe more
freely.

Near to the spot on which Snow Hill and Holborn Hill meet, opens,


upon the right hand as you come out of the City, a narrow and
dismal alley, leading to Saffron Hill. In its filthy shops are
exposed for sale huge bunches of second-hand silk handkerchiefs,
of all sizes and patterns; for here reside the traders who
purchase them from pick-pockets. Hundreds of these handkerchiefs
hang dangling from pegs outside the windows or flaunting from the
door-posts; and the shelves, within, are piled with them.
Confined as the limits of Field Lane are, it has its barber, its
coffee-shop, its beer-shop, and its fried-fish warehouse. It is
a commercial colony of itself: the emporium of petty larceny:
visited at early morning, and setting-in of dusk, by silent
merchants, who traffic in dark back-parlours, and who go as
strangely as they come. Here, the clothesman, the shoe-vamper,
and the rag-merchant, display their goods, as sign-boards to the
petty thief; here, stores of old iron and bones, and heaps of
mildewy fragments of woollen-stuff and linen, rust and rot in the
grimy cellars.

It was into this place that the Jew turned. He was well known to


the sallow denizens of the lane; for such of them as were on the
look-out to buy or sell, nodded, familiarly, as he passed along.
He replied to their salutations in the same way; but bestowed no
closer recognition until he reached the further end of the alley;
when he stopped, to address a salesman of small stature, who had
squeezed as much of his person into a child's chair as the chair
would hold, and was smoking a pipe at his warehouse door.

'Why, the sight of you, Mr. Fagin, would cure the hoptalymy!'


said this respectable trader, in acknowledgment of the Jew's
inquiry after his health.

'The neighbourhood was a little too hot, Lively,' said Fagin,


elevating his eyebrows, and crossing his hands upon his
shoulders.

'Well, I've heerd that complaint of it, once or twice before,'


replied the trader; 'but it soon cools down again; don't you find
it so?'

Fagin nodded in the affirmative. Pointing in the direction of


Saffron Hill, he inquired whether any one was up yonder to-night.

'At the Cripples?' inquired the man.

The Jew nodded.

'Let me see,' pursued the merchant, reflecting.

'Yes, there's some half-dozen of 'em gone in, that I knows. I
don't think your friend's there.'

'Sikes is not, I suppose?' inquired the Jew, with a disappointed


countenance.

'Non istwentus, as the lawyers say,' replied the little man,


shaking his head, and looking amazingly sly. 'Have you got
anything in my line to-night?'

'Nothing to-night,' said the Jew, turning away.

'Are you going up to the Cripples, Fagin?' cried the little man,
calling after him. 'Stop! I don't mind if I have a drop there
with you!'

But as the Jew, looking back, waved his hand to intimate that he


preferred being alone; and, moreover, as the little man could not
very easily disengage himself from the chair; the sign of the
Cripples was, for a time, bereft of the advantage of Mr. Lively's
presence. By the time he had got upon his legs, the Jew had
disappeared; so Mr. Lively, after ineffectually standing on
tiptoe, in the hope of catching sight of him, again forced
himself into the little chair, and, exchanging a shake of the
head with a lady in the opposite shop, in which doubt and
mistrust were plainly mingled, resumed his pipe with a grave
demeanour.

The Three Cripples, or rather the Cripples; which was the sign by


which the establishment was familiarly known to its patrons: was
the public-house in which Mr. Sikes and his dog have already
figured. Merely making a sign to a man at the bar, Fagin walked
straight upstairs, and opening the door of a room, and softly
insinuating himself into the chamber, looked anxiously about:
shading his eyes with his hand, as if in search of some
particular person.

The room was illuminated by two gas-lights; the glare of which


was prevented by the barred shutters, and closely-drawn curtains
of faded red, from being visible outside. The ceiling was
blackened, to prevent its colour from being injured by the
flaring of the lamps; and the place was so full of dense tobacco
smoke, that at first it was scarcely possible to discern anything
more. By degrees, however, as some of it cleared away through
the open door, an assemblage of heads, as confused as the noises
that greeted the ear, might be made out; and as the eye grew more
accustomed to the scene, the spectator gradually became aware of
the presence of a numerous company, male and female, crowded
round a long table: at the upper end of which, sat a chairman
with a hammer of office in his hand; while a professional
gentleman with a bluish nose, and his face tied up for the
benefit of a toothache, presided at a jingling piano in a remote
corner.

As Fagin stepped softly in, the professional gentleman, running


over the keys by way of prelude, occasioned a general cry of
order for a song; which having subsided, a young lady proceeded
to entertain the company with a ballad in four verses, between
each of which the accompanyist played the melody all through, as
loud as he could. When this was over, the chairman gave a
sentiment, after which, the professional gentleman on the
chairman's right and left volunteered a duet, and sang it, with
great applause.

It was curious to observe some faces which stood out prominently


from among the group. There was the chairman himself, (the
landlord of the house,) a coarse, rough, heavy built fellow, who,
while the songs were proceeding, rolled his eyes hither and
thither, and, seeming to give himself up to joviality, had an eye
for everything that was done, and an ear for everything that was
said--and sharp ones, too. Near him were the singers:
receiving, with professional indifference, the compliments of the
company, and applying themselves, in turn, to a dozen proffered
glasses of spirits and water, tendered by their more boisterous
admirers; whose countenances, expressive of almost every vice in
almost every grade, irresistibly attracted the attention, by
their very repulsiveness. Cunning, ferocity, and drunkeness in
all its stages, were there, in their strongest aspect; and women:

some with the last lingering tinge of their early freshness


almost fading as you looked: others with every mark and stamp of
their sex utterly beaten out, and presenting but one loathsome
blank of profligacy and crime; some mere girls, others but young
women, and none past the prime of life; formed the darkest and
saddest portion of this dreary picture.

Fagin, troubled by no grave emotions, looked eagerly from face to


face while these proceedings were in progress; but apparently
without meeting that of which he was in search. Succeeding, at
length, in catching the eye of the man who occupied the chair, he
beckoned to him slightly, and left the room, as quietly as he had
entered it.

'What can I do for you, Mr. Fagin?' inquired the man, as he


followed him out to the landing. 'Won't you join us? They'll be
delighted, every one of 'em.'

The Jew shook his head impatiently, and said in a whisper, 'Is HE


here?'

'No,' replied the man.

'And no news of Barney?' inquired Fagin.

'None,' replied the landlord of the Cripples; for it was he. 'He


won't stir till it's all safe. Depend on it, they're on the
scent down there; and that if he moved, he'd blow upon the thing
at once. He's all right enough, Barney is, else I should have
heard of him. I'll pound it, that Barney's managing properly.
Let him alone for that.'

'Will HE be here to-night?' asked the Jew, laying the same


emphasis on the pronoun as before.

'Monks, do you mean?' inquired the landlord, hesitating.

'Hush!' said the Jew. 'Yes.'

'Certain,' replied the man, drawing a gold watch from his fob; 'I


expected him here before now. If you'll wait ten minutes, he'll
be--'

'No, no,' said the Jew, hastily; as though, however desirous he


might be to see the person in question, he was nevertheless
relieved by his absence. 'Tell him I came here to see him; and
that he must come to me to-night. No, say to-morrow. As he is
not here, to-morrow will be time enough.'

'Good!' said the man. 'Nothing more?'

'Not a word now,' said the Jew, descending the stairs.

'I say,' said the other, looking over the rails, and speaking in


a hoarse whisper; 'what a time this would be for a sell! I've
got Phil Barker here: so drunk, that a boy might take him!'

'Ah! But it's not Phil Barker's time,' said the Jew, looking up.

'Phil has something more to do, before we can afford to part with
him; so go back to the company, my dear, and tell them to lead
merry lives--WHILE THEY LAST. Ha! ha! ha!'

The landlord reciprocated the old man's laugh; and returned to


his guests. The Jew was no sooner alone, than his countenance
resumed its former expression of anxiety and thought. After a
brief reflection, he called a hack-cabriolet, and bade the man
drive towards Bethnal Green. He dismissed him within some quarter
of a mile of Mr. Sikes's residence, and performed the short
remainder of the distance, on foot.

'Now,' muttered the Jew, as he knocked at the door, 'if there is

1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   ...   34


The database is protected by copyright ©dentisty.org 2016
send message

    Main page