Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



Download 1.32 Mb.
Page26/34
Date conversion15.05.2018
Size1.32 Mb.
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   ...   34
part of the town one of the lowest and worst that improvement has
left in the midst of London.

Through these streets, Noah Claypole walked, dragging Charlotte


after him; now stepping into the kennel to embrace at a glance
the whole external character of some small public-house; now
jogging on again, as some fancied appearance induced him to
believe it too public for his purpose. At length, he stopped in
front of one, more humble in appearance and more dirty than any
he had yet seen; and, having crossed over and surveyed it from
the opposite pavement, graciously announced his intention of
putting up there, for the night.

'So give us the bundle,' said Noah, unstrapping it from the


woman's shoulders, and slinging it over his own; 'and don't yer
speak, except when yer spoke to. What's the name of the
house--t-h-r--three what?'

'Cripples,' said Charlotte.

'Three Cripples,' repeated Noah, 'and a very good sign too. Now,
then! Keep close at my heels, and come along.' With these
injunctions, he pushed the rattling door with his shoulder, and
entered the house, followed by his companion.

There was nobody in the bar but a young Jew, who, with his two


elbows on the counter, was reading a dirty newspaper. He stared
very hard at Noah, and Noah stared very hard at him.

If Noah had been attired in his charity-boy's dress, there might


have been some reason for the Jew opening his eyes so wide; but
as he had discarded the coat and badge, and wore a short
smock-frock over his leathers, there seemed no particular reason
for his appearance exciting so much attention in a public-house.

'Is this the Three Cripples?' asked Noah.

'That is the dabe of this 'ouse,' replied the Jew.

'A gentleman we met on the road, coming up from the country,


recommended us here,' said Noah, nudging Charlotte, perhaps to
call her attention to this most ingenious device for attracting
respect, and perhaps to warn her to betray no surprise. 'We want
to sleep here to-night.'

'I'b dot certaid you cad,' said Barney, who was the attendant


sprite; 'but I'll idquire.'

'Show us the tap, and give us a bit of cold meat and a drop of


beer while yer inquiring, will yer?' said Noah.

Barney complied by ushering them into a small back-room, and


setting the required viands before them; having done which, he
informed the travellers that they could be lodged that night, and
left the amiable couple to their refreshment.

Now, this back-room was immediately behind the bar, and some


steps lower, so that any person connected with the house,
undrawing a small curtain which concealed a single pane of glass
fixed in the wall of the last-named apartment, about five feet
from its flooring, could not only look down upon any guests in
the back-room without any great hazard of being observed (the
glass being in a dark angle of the wall, between which and a
large upright beam the observer had to thrust himself), but
could, by applying his ear to the partition, ascertain with
tolerable distinctness, their subject of conversation. The
landlord of the house had not withdrawn his eye from this place
of espial for five minutes, and Barney had only just returned
from making the communication above related, when Fagin, in the
course of his evening's business, came into the bar to inquire
after some of his young pupils.

'Hush!' said Barney: 'stradegers id the next roob.'

'Strangers!' repeated the old man in a whisper.

'Ah! Ad rub uds too,' added Barney. 'Frob the cuttry, but


subthig in your way, or I'b bistaked.'

Fagin appeared to receive this communication with great interest.

Mounting a stool, he cautiously applied his eye to the pane of
glass, from which secret post he could see Mr. Claypole taking
cold beef from the dish, and porter from the pot, and
administering homoepathic doses of both to Charlotte, who sat
patiently by, eating and drinking at his pleasure.

'Aha!' he whispered, looking round to Barney, 'I like that


fellow's looks. He'd be of use to us; he knows how to train the
girl already. Don't make as much noise as a mouse, my dear, and
let me hear 'em talk--let me hear 'em.'

He again applied his eye to the glass, and turning his ear to the


partition, listened attentively: with a subtle and eager look
upon his face, that might have appertained to some old goblin.

'So I mean to be a gentleman,' said Mr. Claypole, kicking out his


legs, and continuing a conversation, the commencement of which
Fagin had arrived too late to hear. 'No more jolly old coffins,
Charlotte, but a gentleman's life for me: and, if yer like, yer
shall be a lady.'

'I should like that well enough, dear,' replied Charlotte; 'but


tills ain't to be emptied every day, and people to get clear off
after it.'

'Tills be blowed!' said Mr. Claypole; 'there's more things


besides tills to be emptied.'

'What do you mean?' asked his companion.

'Pockets, women's ridicules, houses, mail-coaches, banks!' said
Mr. Claypole, rising with the porter.

'But you can't do all that, dear,' said Charlotte.

'I shall look out to get into company with them as can,' replied
Noah. 'They'll be able to make us useful some way or another.
Why, you yourself are worth fifty women; I never see such a
precious sly and deceitful creetur as yer can be when I let yer.'

'Lor, how nice it is to hear yer say so!' exclaimed Charlotte,


imprinting a kiss upon his ugly face.

'There, that'll do: don't yer be too affectionate, in case I'm


cross with yer,' said Noah, disengaging himself with great
gravity. 'I should like to be the captain of some band, and have
the whopping of 'em, and follering 'em about, unbeknown to
themselves. That would suit me, if there was good profit; and if
we could only get in with some gentleman of this sort, I say it
would be cheap at that twenty-pound note you've got,--especially
as we don't very well know how to get rid of it ourselves.'

After expressing this opinion, Mr. Claypole looked into the


porter-pot with an aspect of deep wisdom; and having well shaken
its contents, nodded condescendingly to Charlotte, and took a
draught, wherewith he appeared greatly refreshed. He was
meditating another, when the sudden opening of the door, and the
appearance of a stranger, interrupted him.

The stranger was Mr. Fagin. And very amiable he looked, and a


very low bow he made, as he advanced, and setting himself down at
the nearest table, ordered something to drink of the grinning
Barney.

'A pleasant night, sir, but cool for the time of year,' said


Fagin, rubbing his hands. 'From the country, I see, sir?'

'How do yer see that?' asked Noah Claypole.

'We have not so much dust as that in London,' replied Fagin,
pointing from Noah's shoes to those of his companion, and from
them to the two bundles.

'Yer a sharp feller,' said Noah. 'Ha! ha! only hear that,


Charlotte!'

'Why, one need be sharp in this town, my dear,' replied the Jew,


sinking his voice to a confidential whisper; 'and that's the
truth.'

Fagin followed up this remark by striking the side of his nose


with his right forefinger,--a gesture which Noah attempted to
imitate, though not with complete success, in consequence of his
own nose not being large enough for the purpose. However, Mr.
Fagin seemed to interpret the endeavour as expressing a perfect
coincidence with his opinion, and put about the liquor which
Barney reappeared with, in a very friendly manner.

'Good stuff that,' observed Mr. Claypole, smacking his lips.

'Dear!' said Fagin. 'A man need be always emptying a till, or a
pocket, or a woman's reticule, or a house, or a mail-coach, or a
bank, if he drinks it regularly.'

Mr. Claypole no sooner heard this extract from his own remarks


than he fell back in his chair, and looked from the Jew to
Charlotte with a countenance of ashy palences and excessive
terror.

'Don't mind me, my dear,' said Fagin, drawing his chair closer.


'Ha! ha! it was lucky it was only me that heard you by chance.
It was very lucky it was only me.'

'I didn't take it,' stammered Noah, no longer stretching out his


legs like an independent gentleman, but coiling them up as well
as he could under his chair; 'it was all her doing; yer've got it
now, Charlotte, yer know yer have.'

'No matter who's got it, or who did it, my dear,' replied Fagin,


glancing, nevertheless, with a hawk's eye at the girl and the two
bundles. 'I'm in that way myself, and I like you for it.'

'In what way?' asked Mr. Claypole, a little recovering.

'In that way of business,' rejoined Fagin; 'and so are the people
of the house. You've hit the right nail upon the head, and are
as safe here as you could be. There is not a safer place in all
this town than is the Cripples; that is, when I like to make it
so. And I have taken a fancy to you and the young woman; so I've
said the word, and you may make your minds easy.'

Noah Claypole's mind might have been at ease after this


assurance, but his body certainly was not; for he shuffled and
writhed about, into various uncouth positions: eyeing his new
friend meanwhile with mingled fear and suspicion.

'I'll tell you more,' said Fagin, after he had reassured the


girl, by dint of friendly nods and muttered encouragements. 'I
have got a friend that I think can gratify your darling wish, and
put you in the right way, where you can take whatever department
of the business you think will suit you best at first, and be
taught all the others.'

'Yer speak as if yer were in earnest,' replied Noah.

'What advantage would it be to me to be anything else?' inquired
Fagin, shrugging his shoulders. 'Here! Let me have a word with
you outside.'

'There's no occasion to trouble ourselves to move,' said Noah,


getting his legs by gradual degrees abroad again. 'She'll take
the luggage upstairs the while. Charlotte, see to them bundles.'

This mandate, which had been delivered with great majesty, was


obeyed without the slightest demur; and Charlotte made the best
of her way off with the packages while Noah held the door open
and watched her out.

'She's kept tolerably well under, ain't she?' he asked as he


resumed his seat: in the tone of a keeper who had tamed some
wild animal.

'Quite perfect,' rejoined Fagin, clapping him on the shoulder.


'You're a genius, my dear.'

'Why, I suppose if I wasn't, I shouldn't be here,' replied Noah.


'But, I say, she'll be back if yer lose time.'

'Now, what do you think?' said Fagin. 'If you was to like my


friend, could you do better than join him?'

'Is he in a good way of business; that's where it is!' responded


Noah, winking one of his little eyes.

'The top of the tree; employs a power of hands; has the very best


society in the profession.'

'Regular town-maders?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'Not a countryman among 'em; and I don't think he'd take you,
even on my recommendation, if he didn't run rather short of
assistants just now,' replied Fagin.

'Should I have to hand over?' said Noah, slapping his


breeches-pocket.

'It couldn't possibly be done without,' replied Fagin, in a most


decided manner.

'Twenty pound, though--it's a lot of money!'

'Not when it's in a note you can't get rid of,' retorted Fagin.
'Number and date taken, I suppose? Payment stopped at the Bank?
Ah! It's not worth much to him. It'll have to go abroad, and he
couldn't sell it for a great deal in the market.'

'When could I see him?' asked Noah doubtfully.

'To-morrow morning.'

'Where?'


'Here.'

'Um!' said Noah. 'What's the wages?'

'Live like a gentleman--board and lodging, pipes and spirits
free--half of all you earn, and half of all the young woman
earns,' replied Mr. Fagin.

Whether Noah Claypole, whose rapacity was none of the least


comprehensive, would have acceded even to these glowing terms,
had he been a perfectly free agent, is very doubtful; but as he
recollected that, in the event of his refusal, it was in the
power of his new acquaintance to give him up to justice
immediately (and more unlikely things had come to pass), he
gradually relented, and said he thought that would suit him.

'But, yer see,' observed Noah, 'as she will be able to do a good


deal, I should like to take something very light.'

'A little fancy work?' suggested Fagin.

'Ah! something of that sort,' replied Noah. 'What do you think
would suit me now? Something not too trying for the strength,
and not very dangerous, you know. That's the sort of thing!'

'I heard you talk of something in the spy way upon the others, my


dear,' said Fagin. 'My friend wants somebody who would do that
well, very much.'

'Why, I did mention that, and I shouldn't mind turning my hand to


it sometimes,' rejoined Mr. Claypole slowly; 'but it wouldn't pay
by itself, you know.'

'That's true!' observed the Jew, ruminating or pretending to


ruminate. 'No, it might not.'

'What do you think, then?' asked Noah, anxiously regarding him.


'Something in the sneaking way, where it was pretty sure work,
and not much more risk than being at home.'

'What do you think of the old ladies?' asked Fagin. 'There's a


good deal of money made in snatching their bags and parcels, and
running round the corner.'

'Don't they holler out a good deal, and scratch sometimes?' asked


Noah, shaking his head. 'I don't think that would answer my
purpose. Ain't there any other line open?'

'Stop!' said Fagin, laying his hand on Noah's knee. 'The kinchin


lay.'

'The kinchins, my dear,' said Fagin, 'is the young children


that's sent on errands by their mothers, with sixpences and
shillings; and the lay is just to take their money away--they've
always got it ready in their hands,--then knock 'em into the
kennel, and walk off very slow, as if there were nothing else the
matter but a child fallen down and hurt itself. Ha! ha! ha!'

'Ha! ha!' roared Mr. Claypole, kicking up his legs in an ecstasy.

'Lord, that's the very thing!'

'To be sure it is,' replied Fagin; 'and you can have a few good


beats chalked out in Camden Town, and Battle Bridge, and
neighborhoods like that, where they're always going errands; and
you can upset as many kinchins as you want, any hour in the day.
Ha! ha! ha!'

With this, Fagin poked Mr. Claypole in the side, and they joined


in a burst of laughter both long and loud.

'Well, that's all right!' said Noah, when he had recovered


himself, and Charlotte had returned. 'What time to-morrow shall
we say?'

'Will ten do?' asked Fagin, adding, as Mr. Claypole nodded


assent, 'What name shall I tell my good friend.'

'Mr. Bolter,' replied Noah, who had prepared himself for such


emergency. 'Mr. Morris Bolter. This is Mrs. Bolter.'

'Mrs. Bolter's humble servant,' said Fagin, bowing with grotesque


politeness. 'I hope I shall know her better very shortly.'

'Do you hear the gentleman, Charlotte?' thundered Mr. Claypole.

'Yes, Noah, dear!' replied Mrs. Bolter, extending her hand.

'She calls me Noah, as a sort of fond way of talking,' said Mr.


Morris Bolter, late Claypole, turning to Fagin. 'You
understand?'

'Oh yes, I understand--perfectly,' replied Fagin, telling the


truth for once. 'Good-night! Good-night!'

With many adieus and good wishes, Mr. Fagin went his way. Noah


Claypole, bespeaking his good lady's attention, proceeded to
enlighten her relative to the arrangement he had made, with all
that haughtiness and air of superiority, becoming, not only a
member of the sterner sex, but a gentleman who appreciated the
dignity of a special appointment on the kinchin lay, in London
and its vicinity.

CHAPTER XLIII

WHEREIN IS SHOWN HOW THE ARTFUL DODGER GOT INTO TROUBLE

'And so it was you that was your own friend, was it?' asked Mr.


Claypole, otherwise Bolter, when, by virtue of the compact
entered into between them, he had removed next day to Fagin's
house. ''Cod, I thought as much last night!'

'Every man's his own friend, my dear,' replied Fagin, with his


most insinuating grin. 'He hasn't as good a one as himself
anywhere.'

'Except sometimes,' replied Morris Bolter, assuming the air of a


man of the world. 'Some people are nobody's enemies but their
own, yer know.'

'Don't believe that,' said Fagin. 'When a man's his own enemy,


it's only because he's too much his own friend; not because he's
careful for everybody but himself. Pooh! pooh! There ain't such
a thing in nature.'

'There oughn't to be, if there is,' replied Mr. Bolter.

'That stands to reason. Some conjurers say that number three is
the magic number, and some say number seven. It's neither, my
friend, neither. It's number one.

'Ha! ha!' cried Mr. Bolter. 'Number one for ever.'

'In a little community like ours, my dear,' said Fagin, who felt
it necessary to qualify this position, 'we have a general number
one, without considering me too as the same, and all the other
young people.'

'Oh, the devil!' exclaimed Mr. Bolter.

'You see,' pursued Fagin, affecting to disregard this
interruption, 'we are so mixed up together, and identified in our
interests, that it must be so. For instance, it's your object to
take care of number one--meaning yourself.'

'Certainly,' replied Mr. Bolter. 'Yer about right there.'

'Well! You can't take care of yourself, number one, without
taking care of me, number one.'

'Number two, you mean,' said Mr. Bolter, who was largely endowed


with the quality of selfishness.

'No, I don't!' retorted Fagin. 'I'm of the same importance to


you, as you are to yourself.'

'I say,' interrupted Mr. Bolter, 'yer a very nice man, and I'm


very fond of yer; but we ain't quite so thick together, as all
that comes to.'

'Only think,' said Fagin, shrugging his shoulders, and stretching


out his hands; 'only consider. You've done what's a very pretty
thing, and what I love you for doing; but what at the same time
would put the cravat round your throat, that's so very easily
tied and so very difficult to unloose--in plain English, the
halter!'

Mr. Bolter put his hand to his neckerchief, as if he felt it


inconveniently tight; and murmured an assent, qualified in tone
but not in substance.

'The gallows,' continued Fagin, 'the gallows, my dear, is an ugly


finger-post, which points out a very short and sharp turning that
has stopped many a bold fellow's career on the broad highway. To
keep in the easy road, and keep it at a distance, is object
number one with you.'

'Of course it is,' replied Mr. Bolter. 'What do yer talk about


such things for?'

'Only to show you my meaning clearly,' said the Jew, raising his


eyebrows. 'To be able to do that, you depend upon me. To keep my
little business all snug, I depend upon you. The first is your
number one, the second my number one. The more you value your
number one, the more careful you must be of mine; so we come at
last to what I told you at first--that a regard for number one
holds us all together, and must do so, unless we would all go to
pieces in company.'

'That's true,' rejoined Mr. Bolter, thoughtfully. 'Oh! yer a


cunning old codger!'

Mr. Fagin saw, with delight, that this tribute to his powers was


no mere compliment, but that he had really impressed his recruit
with a sense of his wily genius, which it was most important that
he should entertain in the outset of their acquaintance. To
strengthen an impression so desirable and useful, he followed up
the blow by acquainting him, in some detail, with the magnitude
and extent of his operations; blending truth and fiction
together, as best served his purpose; and bringing both to bear,
with so much art, that Mr. Bolter's respect visibly increased,
and became tempered, at the same time, with a degree of wholesome
fear, which it was highly desirable to awaken.

'It's this mutual trust we have in each other that consoles me


under heavy losses,' said Fagin. 'My best hand was taken from
me, yesterday morning.'

'You don't mean to say he died?' cried Mr. Bolter.

'No, no,' replied Fagin, 'not so bad as that. Not quite so bad.'

'What, I suppose he was--'

'Wanted,' interposed Fagin. 'Yes, he was wanted.'

'Very particular?' inquired Mr. Bolter.

'No,' replied Fagin, 'not very. He was charged with attempting
to pick a pocket, and they found a silver snuff-box on him,--his
own, my dear, his own, for he took snuff himself, and was very
fond of it. They remanded him till to-day, for they thought they
knew the owner. Ah! he was worth fifty boxes, and I'd give the
price of as many to have him back. You should have known the
Dodger, my dear; you should have known the Dodger.'

'Well, but I shall know him, I hope; don't yer think so?' said


Mr. Bolter.

'I'm doubtful about it,' replied Fagin, with a sigh. 'If they


don't get any fresh evidence, it'll only be a summary conviction,
and we shall have him back again after six weeks or so; but, if
they do, it's a case of lagging. They know what a clever lad he
is; he'll be a lifer. They'll make the Artful nothing less than
a lifer.'

'What do you mean by lagging and a lifer?' demanded Mr. Bolter.


'What's the good of talking in that way to me; why don't yer
speak so as I can understand yer?'

Fagin was about to translate these mysterious expressions into


the vulgar tongue; and, being interpreted, Mr. Bolter would have
been informed that they represented that combination of words,
'transportation for life,' when the dialogue was cut short by the
entry of Master Bates, with his hands in his breeches-pockets,
and his face twisted into a look of semi-comical woe.

'It's all up, Fagin,' said Charley, when he and his new companion


had been made known to each other.

'What do you mean?'

'They've found the gentleman as owns the box; two or three more's
a coming to 'dentify him; and the Artful's booked for a passage
out,' replied Master Bates. 'I must have a full suit of
mourning, Fagin, and a hatband, to wisit him in, afore he sets
out upon his travels. To think of Jack Dawkins--lummy Jack--the
Dodger--the Artful Dodger--going abroad for a common
twopenny-halfpenny sneeze-box! I never thought he'd a done it
under a gold watch, chain, and seals, at the lowest. Oh, why
didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his walables, and go
out as a gentleman, and not like a common prig, without no honour
nor glory!'

With this expression of feeling for his unfortunate friend,


Master Bates sat himself on the nearest chair with an aspect of
chagrin and despondency.

'What do you talk about his having neither honour nor glory for!'


exclaimed Fagin, darting an angry look at his pupil. 'Wasn't he
always the top-sawyer among you all! Is there one of you that
could touch him or come near him on any scent! Eh?'

'Not one,' replied Master Bates, in a voice rendered husky by


regret; 'not one.'

'Then what do you talk of?' replied Fagin angrily; 'what are you


blubbering for?'

''Cause it isn't on the rec-ord, is it?' said Charley, chafed


into perfect defiance of his venerable friend by the current of
his regrets; ''cause it can't come out in the 'dictment; 'cause
nobody will never know half of what he was. How will he stand in
the Newgate Calendar? P'raps not be there at all. Oh, my eye,
my eye, wot a blow it is!'

'Ha! ha!' cried Fagin, extending his right hand, and turning to


Mr. Bolter in a fit of chuckling which shook him as though he had
the palsy; 'see what a pride they take in their profession, my
dear. Ain't it beautiful?'

Mr. Bolter nodded assent, and Fagin, after contemplating the


grief of Charley Bates for some seconds with evident
satisfaction, stepped up to that young gentleman and patted him
on the shoulder.

'Never mind, Charley,' said Fagin soothingly; 'it'll come out,


it'll be sure to come out. They'll all know what a clever fellow
he was; he'll show it himself, and not disgrace his old pals and
teachers. Think how young he is too! What a distinction,
Charley, to be lagged at his time of life!'

'Well, it is a honour that is!' said Charley, a little consoled.

'He shall have all he wants,' continued the Jew. 'He shall be
kept in the Stone Jug, Charley, like a gentleman. Like a
gentleman! With his beer every day, and money in his pocket to
pitch and toss with, if he can't spend it.'

'No, shall he though?' cried Charley Bates.

'Ay, that he shall,' replied Fagin, 'and we'll have a big-wig,
Charley: one that's got the greatest gift of the gab: to carry
on his defence; and he shall make a speech for himself too, if he
likes; and we'll read it all in the papers--"Artful
Dodger--shrieks of laughter--here the court was convulsed"--eh,
Charley, eh?'

'Ha! ha! laughed Master Bates, 'what a lark that would be,


wouldn't it, Fagin? I say, how the Artful would bother 'em
wouldn't he?'

'Would!' cried Fagin. 'He shall--he will!'

'Ah, to be sure, so he will,' repeated Charley, rubbing his
hands.

'I think I see him now,' cried the Jew, bending his eyes upon his


pupil.

'So do I,' cried Charley Bates. 'Ha! ha! ha! so do I. I see it


all afore me, upon my soul I do, Fagin. What a game! What a
regular game! All the big-wigs trying to look solemn, and Jack
Dawkins addressing of 'em as intimate and comfortable as if he
was the judge's own son making a speech arter dinner--ha! ha!
ha!'

In fact, Mr. Fagin had so well humoured his young friend's


eccentric disposition, that Master Bates, who had at first been
disposed to consider the imprisoned Dodger rather in the light of
a victim, now looked upon him as the chief actor in a scene of
most uncommon and exquisite humour, and felt quite impatient for
the arrival of the time when his old companion should have so
favourable an opportunity of displaying his abilities.

'We must know how he gets on to-day, by some handy means or


other,' said Fagin. 'Let me think.'

'Shall I go?' asked Charley.

'Not for the world,' replied Fagin. 'Are you mad, my dear, stark
mad, that you'd walk into the very place where--No, Charley, no.
One is enough to lose at a time.'

'You don't mean to go yourself, I suppose?' said Charley with a


humorous leer.

'That wouldn't quite fit,' replied Fagin shaking his head.

'Then why don't you send this new cove?' asked Master Bates,
laying his hand on Noah's arm. 'Nobody knows him.'

'Why, if he didn't mind--' observed Fagin.

'Mind!' interposed Charley. 'What should he have to mind?'

'Really nothing, my dear,' said Fagin, turning to Mr. Bolter,


'really nothing.'

'Oh, I dare say about that, yer know,' observed Noah, backing


towards the door, and shaking his head with a kind of sober
alarm. 'No, no--none of that. It's not in my department, that
ain't.'

'Wot department has he got, Fagin?' inquired Master Bates,


surveying Noah's lank form with much disgust. 'The cutting away
when there's anything wrong, and the eating all the wittles when
there's everything right; is that his branch?'

'Never mind,' retorted Mr. Bolter; 'and don't yer take liberties


with yer superiors, little boy, or yer'll find yerself in the
wrong shop.'

Master Bates laughed so vehemently at this magnificent threat,


that it was some time before Fagin could interpose, and represent
to Mr. Bolter that he incurred no possible danger in visiting the
police-office; that, inasmuch as no account of the little affair
in which he had engaged, nor any description of his person, had
yet been forwarded to the metropolis, it was very probable that
he was not even suspected of having resorted to it for shelter;
and that, if he were properly disguised, it would be as safe a
spot for him to visit as any in London, inasmuch as it would be,
of all places, the very last, to which he could be supposed
likely to resort of his own free will.

Persuaded, in part, by these representations, but overborne in a


much greater degree by his fear of Fagin, Mr. Bolter at length
consented, with a very bad grace, to undertake the expedition.
By Fagin's directions, he immediately substituted for his own
attire, a waggoner's frock, velveteen breeches, and leather
leggings: all of which articles the Jew had at hand. He was
likewise furnished with a felt hat well garnished with turnpike
tickets; and a carter's whip. Thus equipped, he was to saunter
into the office, as some country fellow from Covent Garden market
might be supposed to do for the gratification of his curiousity;
and as he was as awkward, ungainly, and raw-boned a fellow as
need be, Mr. Fagin had no fear but that he would look the part to
perfection.

These arrangements completed, he was informed of the necessary


signs and tokens by which to recognise the Artful Dodger, and was
conveyed by Master Bates through dark and winding ways to within
a very short distance of Bow Street. Having described the precise
situation of the office, and accompanied it with copious
directions how he was to walk straight up the passage, and when
he got into the side, and pull off his hat as he went into the
room, Charley Bates bade him hurry on alone, and promised to bide
his return on the spot of their parting.

Noah Claypole, or Morris Bolter as the reader pleases, punctually


followed the directions he had received, which--Master Bates
being pretty well acquainted with the locality--were so exact
that he was enabled to gain the magisterial presence without
asking any question, or meeting with any interruption by the way.

He found himself jostled among a crowd of people, chiefly women,


who were huddled together in a dirty frowsy room, at the upper
end of which was a raised platform railed off from the rest, with
a dock for the prisoners on the left hand against the wall, a box
for the witnesses in the middle, and a desk for the magistrates
on the right; the awful locality last named, being screened off
by a partition which concealed the bench from the common gaze,
and left the vulgar to imagine (if they could) the full majesty
of justice.

There were only a couple of women in the dock, who were nodding


to their admiring friends, while the clerk read some depositions
to a couple of policemen and a man in plain clothes who leant
over the table. A jailer stood reclining against the dock-rail,
tapping his nose listlessly with a large key, except when he
repressed an undue tendency to conversation among the idlers, by
proclaiming silence; or looked sternly up to bid some woman 'Take
that baby out,' when the gravity of justice was disturbed by
feeble cries, half-smothered in the mother's shawl, from some
meagre infant. The room smelt close and unwholesome; the walls
were dirt-discoloured; and the ceiling blackened. There was an
old smoky bust over the mantel-shelf, and a dusty clock above the
dock--the only thing present, that seemed to go on as it ought;
for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance with both,
had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less
unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inaminate object
that frowned upon it.

Noah looked eagerly about him for the Dodger; but although there


were several women who would have done very well for that
distinguished character's mother or sister, and more than one man
who might be supposed to bear a strong resemblance to his father,
nobody at all answering the description given him of Mr. Dawkins
was to be seen. He waited in a state of much suspense and
uncertainty until the women, being committed for trial, went
flaunting out; and then was quickly relieved by the appearance of
another prisoner who he felt at once could be no other than the
object of his visit.

It was indeed Mr. Dawkins, who, shuffling into the office with


the big coat sleeves tucked up as usual, his left hand in his
pocket, and his hat in his right hand, preceded the jailer, with
a rolling gait altogether indescribable, and, taking his place in
the dock, requested in an audible voice to know what he was
placed in that 'ere disgraceful sitivation for.

'Hold your tongue, will you?' said the jailer.

'I'm an Englishman, ain't I?' rejoined the Dodger. 'Where are my
priwileges?'

'You'll get your privileges soon enough,' retorted the jailer,


'and pepper with 'em.'

'We'll see wot the Secretary of State for the Home Affairs has


got to say to the beaks, if I don't,' replied Mr. Dawkins. 'Now
then! Wot is this here business? I shall thank the madg'strates
to dispose of this here little affair, and not to keep me while
they read the paper, for I've got an appointment with a genelman
in the City, and as I am a man of my word and wery punctual in
business matters, he'll go away if I ain't there to my time, and
then pr'aps ther won't be an action for damage against them as
kep me away. Oh no, certainly not!'

At this point, the Dodger, with a show of being very particular


with a view to proceedings to be had thereafter, desired the
jailer to communicate 'the names of them two files as was on the
bench.' Which so tickled the spectators, that they laughed
almost as heartily as Master Bates could have done if he had
heard the request.

'Silence there!' cried the jailer.

'What is this?' inquired one of the magistrates.

'A pick-pocketing case, your worship.'

'Has the boy ever been here before?'

'He ought to have been, a many times,' replied the jailer. 'He


has been pretty well everywhere else. _I_ know him well, your
worship.'

'Oh! you know me, do you?' cried the Artful, making a note of the


statement. 'Wery good. That's a case of deformation of
character, any way.'

Here there was another laugh, and another cry of silence.

'Now then, where are the witnesses?' said the clerk.

'Ah! that's right,' added the Dodger. 'Where are they? I should


like to see 'em.'

This wish was immediately gratified, for a policeman stepped


forward who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an
unknown gentleman in a crowd, and indeed take a handkerchief
therefrom, which, being a very old one, he deliberately put back
again, after trying in on his own countenance. For this reason,
he took the Dodger into custody as soon as he could get near him,
and the said Dodger, being searched, had upon his person a silver
snuff-box, with the owner's name engraved upon the lid. This
gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court Guide,
and being then and there present, swore that the snuff-box was
his, and that he had missed it on the previous day, the moment he
had disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to. He had
also remarked a young gentleman in the throng, particularly
active in making his way about, and that young gentleman was the
prisoner before him.

'Have you anything to ask this witness, boy?' said the


magistrate.

'I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation


with him' replied the Dodger.

'Have you anything to say at all?'

'Do you hear his worship ask if you've anything to say?' inquired
the jailer, nudging the silent Dodger with his elbow.

'I beg your pardon,' said the Dodger, looking up with an air of


abstraction. 'Did you redress yourself to me, my man?'

'I never see such an out-and-out young wagabond, your worship,'


observed the officer with a grin. 'Do you mean to say anything,
you young shaver?'

'No,' replied the Dodger, 'not here, for this ain't the shop for


justice: besides which, my attorney is a-breakfasting this
morning with the Wice President of the House of Commons; but I
shall have something to say elsewhere, and so will he, and so
will a wery numerous and 'spectable circle of acquaintance as'll
make them beaks wish they'd never been born, or that they'd got
their footmen to hang 'em up to their own hat-pegs, afore they
let 'em come out this morning to try it on upon me. I'll--'

'There! He's fully committed!' interposed the clerk. 'Take him


away.'

'Come on,' said the jailer.

'Oh ah! I'll come on,' replied the Dodger, brushing his hat with
the palm of his hand. 'Ah! (to the Bench) it's no use your
looking frightened; I won't show you no mercy, not a ha'porth of
it. YOU'LL pay for this, my fine fellers. I wouldn't be you for
something! I wouldn't go free, now, if you was to fall down on
your knees and ask me. Here, carry me off to prison! Take me
away!'

With these last words, the Dodger suffered himself to be led off


by the collar; threatening, till he got into the yard, to make a
parliamentary business of it; and then grinning in the officer's
face, with great glee and self-approval.

Having seen him locked up by himself in a little cell, Noah made


the best of his way back to where he had left Master Bates.
After waiting here some time, he was joined by that young
gentleman, who had prudently abstained from showing himself until
he had looked carefully abroad from a snug retreat, and
ascertained that his new friend had not been followed by any
impertinent person.

The two hastened back together, to bear to Mr. Fagin the


animating news that the Dodger was doing full justice to his
bringing-up, and establishing for himself a glorious reputation.

CHAPTER XLIV

THE TIME ARRIVES FOR NANCY TO REDEEM HER PLEDGE TO ROSE MAYLIE.
SHE FAILS.

Adept as she was, in all the arts of cunning and dissimulation,


the girl Nancy could not wholly conceal the effect which the
knowledge of the step she had taken, wrought upon her mind. She
remembered that both the crafty Jew and the brutal Sikes had
confided to her schemes, which had been hidden from all others:
in the full confidence that she was trustworthy and beyond the
reach of their suspicion. Vile as those schemes were, desperate
as were their originators, and bitter as were her feelings
towards Fagin, who had led her, step by step, deeper and deeper
down into an abyss of crime and misery, whence was no escape;
still, there were times when, even towards him, she felt some
relenting, lest her disclosure should bring him within the iron
grasp he had so long eluded, and he should fall at last--richly
as he merited such a fate--by her hand.

But, these were the mere wanderings of a mind unwholly to detach


itself from old companions and associations, though enabled to
fix itself steadily on one object, and resolved not to be turned
aside by any consideration. Her fears for Sikes would have been
more powerful inducements to recoil while there was yet time; but
she had stipulated that her secret should be rigidly kept, she
had dropped no clue which could lead to his discovery, she had
refused, even for his sake, a refuge from all the guilt and
wretchedness that encompasses her--and what more could she do!
She was resolved.

Though all her mental struggles terminated in this conclusion,


they forced themselves upon her, again and again, and left their
traces too. She grew pale and thin, even within a few days. At
times, she took no heed of what was passing before her, or no
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   ...   34


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

    Main page