Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



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magistrate: laying aside the paper, and leaning forward with an
expression of interest. 'Now, boy, tell us what's the matter:
don't be afraid.'

Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayed


that they would order him back to the dark room-- that they would
starve him--beat him--kill him if they pleased--rather than send
him away with that dreadful man.

'Well!' said Mr. Bumble, raising his hands and eyes with most


impressive solemnite. 'Well! of all the artful and designing
orphans that ever I see, Oliver, you are one of the most
bare-facedest.'

'Hold your tongue, Beadle,' said the second old gentleman, when


Mr. Bumble had given vent to this compound adjective.

'I beg your worship's pardon,' said Mr. Bumble, incredulous of


having heard aright. 'Did your worship speak to me?'

'Yes. Hold your tongue.'

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

The old gentleman in the tortoise-shell spectacles looked at his


companion, he nodded significantly.

'We refuse to sanction these indentures,' said the old gentleman:

tossing aside the piece of parchment as he spoke.

'I hope,' stammered Mr. Limbkins: 'I hope the magistrates will


not form the opinion that the authorities have been guilty of any
improper conduct, on the unsupported testimony of a child.'

'The magistrates are not called upon to pronounce any opinion on


the matter,' said the second old gentleman sharply. 'Take the
boy back to the workhouse, and treat him kindly. He seems to
want it.'

That same evening, the gentleman in the white waistcoat most


positively and decidedly affirmed, not only that Oliver would be
hung, but that he would be drawn and quartered into the bargain.
Mr. Bumble shook his head with gloomy mystery, and said he wished
he might come to good; whereunto Mr. Gamfield replied, that he
wished he might come to him; which, although he agreed with the
beadle in most matters, would seem to be a wish of a totaly
opposite description.

The next morning, the public were once informed that Oliver Twist


was again To Let, and that five pounds would be paid to anybody
who would take possession of him.

CHAPTER IV

OLIVER, BEING OFFERED ANOTHER PLACE, MAKES HIS FIRST ENTRY INTO
PUBLIC LIFE

In great families, when an advantageous place cannot be obtained,


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

Mr. Bumble had been despatched to make various preliminary


inquiries, with the view of finding out some captain or other who
wanted a cabin-boy without any friends; and was returning to the
workhouse to communicate the result of his mission; when he
encountered at the gate, no less a person than Mr. Sowerberry,
the parochial undertaker.

Mr. Sowerberry was a tall gaunt, large-jointed man, attired in a


suit of threadbare black, with darned cotton stockings of the
same colour, and shoes to answer. His features were not
naturally intended to wear a smiling aspect, but he was in
general rather given to professional jocosity. His step was
elastic, and his face betokened inward pleasantry, as he advanced
to Mr. Bumble, and shook him cordially by the hand.

'I have taken the measure of the two women that died last night,


Mr. Bumble,' said the undertaker.

'You'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,' said the beadle, as


he thrust his thumb and forefinger into the proferred snuff-box
of the undertaker: which was an ingenious little model of a
patent coffin. 'I say you'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,'
repeated Mr. Bumble, tapping the undertaker on the shoulder, in a
friendly manner, with his cane.

'Think so?' said the undertaker in a tone which half admitted and


half disputed the probability of the event. 'The prices allowed
by the board are very small, Mr. Bumble.'

'So are the coffins,' replied the beadle: with precisely as near


an approach to a laugh as a great official ought to indulge in.

Mr. Sowerberry was much tickled at this: as of course he ought


to be; and laughed a long time without cessation. 'Well, well,
Mr. Bumble,' he said at length, 'there's no denying that, since
the new system of feeding has come in, the coffins are something
narrower and more shallow than they used to be; but we must have
some profit, Mr. Bumble. Well-seasoned timber is an expensive
article, sir; and all the iron handles come, by canal, from
Birmingham.'

'Well, well,' said Mr. Bumble, 'every trade has its drawbacks. A


fair profit is, of course, allowable.'

'Of course, of course,' replied the undertaker; 'and if I don't


get a profit upon this or that particular article, why, I make it
up in the long-run, you see--he! he! he!'

'Just so,' said Mr. Bumble.

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

As Mr. Sowerberry said this, with the becoming indignation of an


ill-used man; and as Mr. Bumble felt that it rather tended to
convey a reflection on the honour of the parish; the latter
gentleman thought it advisable to change the subject. Oliver
Twist being uppermost in his mind, he made him his theme.

'By the bye,' said Mr. Bumble, 'you don't know anybody who wants


a boy, do you? A porochial 'prentis, who is at present a
dead-weight; a millstone, as I may say, round the porochial
throat? Liberal terms, Mr. Sowerberry, liberal terms?' As Mr.
Bumble spoke, he raised his cane to the bill above him, and gave
three distinct raps upon the words 'five pounds': which were
printed thereon in Roman capitals of gigantic size.

'Gadso!' said the undertaker: taking Mr. Bumble by the


gilt-edged lappel of his official coat; 'that's just the very
thing I wanted to speak to you about. You know--dear me, what a
very elegant button this is, Mr. Bumble! I never noticed it
before.'

'Yes, I think it rather pretty,' said the beadle, glancing


proudly downwards at the large brass buttons which embellished
his coat. 'The die is the same as the porochial seal--the Good
Samaritan healing the sick and bruised man. The board presented
it to me on Newyear's morning, Mr. Sowerberry. I put it on, I
remember, for the first time, to attend the inquest on that
reduced tradesman, who died in a doorway at midnight.'

'I recollect,' said the undertaker. 'The jury brought it in,


"Died from exposure to the cold, and want of the common
necessaries of life," didn't they?'

Mr. Bumble nodded.

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

'Tush! Foolery!' interposed the beadle. 'If the board attended


to all the nonsense that ignorant jurymen talk, they'd have
enough to do.'

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

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

'So they are,' said the undertaker.

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

'No more they have,' acquiesced the undertaker.

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

'So do I,' rejoined the undertaker.

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

'Let 'em alone for that,' replied the undertaker. So saying, he


smiled, approvingly: to calm the rising wrath of the indignant
parish officer.

Mr Bumble lifted off his cocked hat; took a handkerchief from the


inside of the crown; wiped from his forehead the perspiration
which his rage had engendered; fixed the cocked hat on again;
and, turning to the undertaker, said in a calmer voice:

'Well; what about the boy?'

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

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

'Well,' replied the undertaker, 'I was thinking that if I pay so
much towards 'em, I've a right to get as much out of 'em as I
can, Mr. Bumble; and so--I think I'll take the boy myself.'

Mr. Bumble grasped the undertaker by the arm, and led him into


the building. Mr. Sowerberry was closeted with the board for
five minutes; and it was arranged that Oliver should go to him
that evening 'upon liking'--a phrase which means, in the case of
a parish apprentice, that if the master find, upon a short trial,
that he can get enough work out of a boy without putting too much
food into him, he shall have him for a term of years, to do what
he likes with.

When little Oliver was taken before 'the gentlemen' that evening;


and informed that he was to go, that night, as general house-lad
to a coffin-maker's; and that if he complained of his situation,
or ever came back to the parish again, he would be sent to sea,
there to be drowned, or knocked on the head, as the case might
be, he evinced so little emotion, that they by common consent
pronounced him a hardened young rascal, and orered Mr. Bumble to
remove him forthwith.

Now, although it was very natural that the board, of all people


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

For some time, Mr. Bumble drew Oliver along, without notice or


remark; for the beadle carried his head very erect, as a beadle
always should: and, it being a windy day, little Oliver was
completely enshrouded by the skirts of Mr. Bumble's coat as they
blew open, and disclosed to great advantage his flapped waistcoat
and drab plush knee-breeches. As they drew near to their
destination, however, Mr. Bumble thought it expedient to look
down, and see that the boy was in good order for inspection by
his new master: which he accordingly did, with a fit and
becoming air of gracious patronage.

'Oliver!' said Mr. Bumble.

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

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

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

'Well!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, stopping short, and darting at his


little charge a look of intense malignity. 'Well! Of ALL the
ungratefullest, and worst-disposed boys as ever I see, Oliver,
you are the--'

'No, no, sir,' sobbed Oliver, clinging to the hand which held the


well-known cane; 'no, no, sir; I will be good indeed; indeed,
indeed I will, sir! I am a very little boy, sir; and it is
so--so--'

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

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

Mr. Bumble regarded Oliver's piteous and helpless look, with some


astonishment, for a few seconds; hemmed three or four times in a
husky manner; and after muttering something about 'that
troublesome cough,' bade Oliver dry his eyes and be a good boy.
Then once more taking his hand, he walked on with him in silence.

The undertaker, who had just putup the shutters of his shop, was


making some entries in his day-book by the light of a most
appropriate dismal candle, when Mr. Bumble entered.

'Aha!' said the undertaker; looking up from the book, and pausing


in the middle of a word; 'is that you, Bumble?'

'No one else, Mr. Sowerberry,' replied the beadle. 'Here! I've


brought the boy.' Oliver made a bow.

'Oh! that's the boy, is it?' said the undertaker: raising the


candle above his head, to get a better view of Oliver. 'Mrs.
Sowerberry, will you have the goodness to come here a moment, my
dear?'

Mrs. Sowerberry emerged from a little room behind the shop, and


presented the form of a short, then, squeezed-up woman, with a
vixenish countenance.

'My dear,' said Mr. Sowerberry, deferentially, 'this is the boy


from the workhouse that I told you of.' Oliver bowed again.

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

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

'Ah! I dare say he will,' replied the lady pettishly, 'on our


victuals and our drink. I see no saving in parish children, not
I; for they always cost more to keep, than they're worth.
However, men always think they know best. There! Get downstairs,
little bag o' bones.' With this, the undertaker's wife opened a
side door, and pushed Oliver down a steep flight of stairs into a
stone cell, damp and dark: forming the ante-room to the
coal-cellar, and denominated 'kitchen'; wherein sat a slatternly
girl, in shoes down at heel, and blue worsted stockings very much
out of repair.

'Here, Charlotte,' said Mr. Sowerberry, who had followed Oliver


down, 'give this boy some of the cold bits that were put by for
Trip. He hasn't come home since the morning, so he may go
without 'em. I dare say the boy isn't too dainty to eat 'em--are
you, boy?'

Oliver, whose eyes had glistened at the mention of meat, and who


was trembling with eagerness to devour it, replied in the
negative; and a plateful of coarse broken victuals was set before
him.

I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose meat and drink turn to


gall within him; whose blood is ice, whose heart is iron; could
have seen Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands that the
dog had neglected. I wish he could have witnessed the horrible
avidity with which Oliver tore the bits asunder with all the
ferocity of famine. There is only one thing I should like
better; and that would be to see the Philosopher making the same
sort of meal himself, with the same relish.

'Well,' said the undertaker's wife, when Oliver had finished his


supper: which she had regarded in silent horror, and with
fearful auguries of his future appetite: 'have you done?'

There being nothing eatable within his reach, Oliver replied in


the affirmative.

'Then come with me,' said Mrs. Sowerberry: taking up a dim and


dirty lamp, and leading the way upstairs; 'your bed's under the
counter. You don't mind sleeping among the coffins, I suppose?
But it doesn't much matter whether you do or don't, for you can't
sleep anywhere else. Come; don't keep me here all night!'

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


CHAPTER V

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

Oliver, being left to himself in the undertaker's shop, set the


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

Nor were these the only dismal feelings which depressed Oliver.


He was alone in a strange place; and we all know how chilled and
desolate the best of us will sometimes feel in such a situation.
The boy had no friends to care for, or to care for him. The
regret of no recent separation was fresh in his mind; the absence
of no loved and well-remembered face sank heavily into his heart.

But his heart was heavy, notwithstanding; and he wished, as he


crept into his narrow bed, that that were his coffin, and that he
could be lain in a calm and lasting sleep in the churchyard
ground, with the tall grass waving gently above his head, and the
sound of the old deep bell to soothe him in his sleep.

Oliver was awakened in the morning, by a loud kicking at the


outside of the shop-door: which, before he could huddle on his
clothes, was repeated, in an angry and impetuous manner, about
twenty-five times. When he began to undo the chain, the legs
desisted, and a voice began.

'Open the door, will yer?' cried the voice which belonged to the


legs which had kicked at the door.

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


turning the key.

'I suppose yer the new boy, ain't yer?' said the voice through


the key-hole.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'How old are yer?' inquired the voice.

'Ten, sir,' replied Oliver.

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

Oliver had been too often subjected to the process to which the


very expressive monosyllable just recorded bears reference, to
entertain the smallest doubt that the owner of the voice, whoever
he might be, would redeem his pledge, most honourably. He drew
back the bolts with a trembling hand, and opened the door.

For a second or two, Oliver glanced up the street, and down the


street, and over the way: impressed with the belief that the
unknown, who had addressed him through the key-hole, had walked a
few paces off, to warm himself; for nobody did he see but a big
charity-boy, sitting on a post in front of the house, eating a
slice of bread and butter: which he cut into wedges, the size of
his mouth, with a clasp-knife, and then consumed with great
dexterity.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Oliver at length: seeing that no


other visitor made his appearance; 'did you knock?'

'I kicked,' replied the charity-boy.

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

At this, the charity-boy looked monstrous fierce; and said that


Oliver would want one before long, if he cut jokes with his
superiors in that way.

'Yer don't know who I am, I suppose, Work'us?' said the


charity-boy, in continuation: descending from the top of the
post, meanwhile, with edifying gravity.

'No, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'I'm Mister Noah Claypole,' said the charity-boy, 'and you're
under me. Take down the shutters, yer idle young ruffian!' With
this, Mr. Claypole administered a kick to Oliver, and entered the
shop with a dignified air, which did him great credit. It is
difficult for a large-headed, small-eyed youth, of lumbering make
and heavy countenance, to look dignified under any circumstances;
but it is more especially so, when superadded to these personal
attractions are a red nose and yellow smalls.

Oliver, having taken down the shutters, and broken a pane of


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

'Come near the fire, Noah,' said Charlotte. 'I saved a nice

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