Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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the marks shall be picked out with a needle, and we'll teach
Oliver how to do it. Shall us, Oliver, eh? Ha! ha! ha!'

'If you please, sir,' said Oliver.

'You'd like to be able to make pocket-handkerchiefs as easy as
Charley Bates, wouldn't you, my dear?' said the Jew.

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

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

'He is so jolly green!' said Charley when he recovered, as an

apology to the company for his unpolite behaviour.

The Dodger said nothing, but he smoothed Oliver's hair over his

eyes, and said he'd know better, by and by; upon which the old
gentleman, observing Oliver's colour mounting, changed the
subject by asking whether there had been much of a crowd at the
execution that morning? This made him wonder more and more; for
it was plain from the replies of the two boys that they had both
been there; and Oliver naturally wondered how they could possibly
have found time to be so very industrious.

When the breakfast was cleared away; the merry old gentlman and

the two boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which
was performed in this way. The merry old gentleman, placing a
snuff-box in one pocket of his trousers, a note-case in the
other, and a watch in his waistcoat pocket, with a guard-chain
round his neck, and sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt:
buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his spectacle-case
and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the room
with a stick, in imitation of the manner in which old gentlmen
walk about the streets any hour in the day. Sometimes he stopped
at the fire-place, and sometimes at the door, making believe that
he was staring with all his might into shop-windows. At such
times, he would look constantly round him, for fear of thieves,
and would keep slapping all his pockets in turn, to see that he
hadn't lost anything, in such a very funny and natural manner,
that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face. All this
time, the two boys followed him closely about: getting out of
his sight, so nimbly, every time he turned round, that it was
impossible to follow their motions. At last, the Dodger trod
upon his toes, or ran upon his boot accidently, while Charley
Bates stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they
took from him, with the most extraordinary rapidity, snuff-box,
note-case, watch-guard, chain, shirt-pin, pocket-handkerchief,
even the spectacle-case. If the old gentlman felt a hand in any
one of his pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game
began all over again.

When this game had been played a great many times, a couple of

young ladies called to see the young gentleman; one of whom was
named Bet, and the other Nancy. They wore a good deal of hair,
not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about
the shoes and stockings. They were not exactly pretty, perhaps;
but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked
quite stout and hearty. Being remarkably free and agreeable in
their manners, Oliver thought them very nice girls indeed. As
there is no doubt they were.

The visitors stopped a long time. Spirits were produced, in

consequence of one of the young ladies complaining of a coldness
in her inside; and the conversation took a very convivial and
improving turn. At length, Charley Bates expressed his opinion
that it was time to pad the hoof. This, it occurred to Oliver,
must be French for going out; for directly afterwards, the
Dodger, and Charley, and the two young ladies, went away
together, having been kindly furnished by the amiable old Jew
with money to spend.

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

They have gone out for the day.'

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

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

Make 'em your models,' tapping the fire-shovel on the hearth to

add force to his words; 'do everything they bid you, and take
their advice in all matters--especially the Dodger's, my dear.
He'll be a great man himself, and will make you one too, if you
take pattern by him.--Is my handkerchief hanging out of my
pocket, my dear?' said the Jew, stopping short.

'Yes, sir,' said Oliver.

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

Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one hand, as he had

seen the Dodger hold it, and drew the handkerchief lighty out of
it with the other.

'Is it gone?' cried the Jew.

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

'You're a clever boy, my dear,' said the playful old gentleman,

patting Oliver on the head approvingly. 'I never saw a sharper
lad. Here's a shilling for you. If you go on, in this way,
you'll be the greatest man of the time. And now come here, and
I'll show you how to take the marks out of the handkerchiefs.'

Oliver wondered what picking the old gentleman's pocket in play,

had to do with his chances of being a great man. But, thinking
that the Jew, being so much his senior, must know best, he
followed him quietly to the table, and was soon deeply involved
in his new study.



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

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

Oliver was rendered the more anxious to be actively employed, by

what he had seen of the stern morality of the old gentleman's
character. Whenever the Dodger or Charley Bates came home at
night, empty-handed, he would expatiate with great vehemence on
the misery of idle and lazy habits; and would enforce upon them
the necessity of an active life, by sending them supperless to
bed. On one occasion, indeed, he even went so far as to knock
them both down a flight of stairs; but this was carrying out his
virtuous precepts to an unusual extent.

At length, one morning, Oliver obtained the permission he had so

eagerly sought. There had been no handkerchiefs to work upon,
for two or three days, and the dinners had been rather meagre.
Perhaps these were reasons for the old gentleman's giving his
assent; but, whether they were or no, he told Oliver he might go,
and placed him under the joint guardianship of Charley Bates, and
his friend the Dodger.

The three boys sallied out; the Dodger with his coat-sleeves

tucked up, and his hat cocked, as usual; Master Bates sauntering
along with his hands in his pockets; and Oliver between them,
wondering where they were going, and what branch of manufacture
he would be instructed in, first.

The pace at which they went, was such a very lazy, ill-looking

saunter, that Oliver soon began to think his companions were
going to deceive the old gentleman, by not going to work at all.
The Dodger had a vicious propensity, too, of pulling the caps
from the heads of small boys and tossing them down areas; while
Charley Bates exhibited some very loose notions concerning the
rights of property, by pilfering divers apples and onions from
the stalls at the kennel sides, and thrusting them into pockets
which were so surprisingly capacious, that they seemed to
undermine his whole suit of clothes in every direction. These
things looked so bad, that Oliver was on the point of declaring
his intention of seeking his way back, in the best way he could;
when his thoughts were suddenly directed into another channel, by
a very mysterious change of behaviour on the part of the Dodger.

They were just emerging from a narrow court not far from the open

square in Clerkenwell, which is yet called, by some strange
perversion of terms, 'The Green': when the Dodger made a sudden
stop; and, laying his finger on his lip, drew his companions back
again, with the greatest caution and circumspection.

'What's the matter?' demanded Oliver.

'Hush!' replied the Dodger. 'Do you see that old cove at the

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

'He'll do,' said the Doger.

'A prime plant,' observed Master Charley Bates.

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

The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with

a powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a
bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar; wore white
trousers; and carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had
taken up a book from the stall, and there he stood, reading away,
as hard as if he were in his elbow-chair, in his own study. It
is very possible that he fancied himself there, indeed; for it
was plain, from his abstraction, that he saw not the book-stall,
nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short, anything but the
book itself: which he was reading straight through: turning
over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at
the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the
greatest interest and eagerness.

What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces off,

looking on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly
go, to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's
pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the
same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both running
away round the corner at full speed!

In an instant the whole mystery of the hankerchiefs, and the

watches, and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind.

He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all

his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning
fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and,
not knowing what he did, made off as fast as he could lay his
feet to the ground.

This was all done in a minute's space. In the very instant when

Oliver began to run, the old gentleman, putting his hand to his
pocket, and missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round. Seeing
the boy scudding away at such a rapid pace, he very naturally
concluded him to be the depredator; and shouting 'Stop thief!'
with all his might, made off after him, book in hand.

But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the

hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract
public attention by running down the open street, had merely
retured into the very first doorway round the corner. They no
sooner heard the cry, and saw Oliver running, than, guessing
exactly how the matter stood, they issued forth with great
promptitude; and, shouting 'Stop thief!' too, joined in the
pursuit like good citizens.

Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophers, he was not

theoretically acquainted with the beautiful axiom that
self-preservation is the first law of nature. If he had been,
perhaps he would have been prepared for this. Not being
prepared, however, it alarmed him the more; so away he went like
the wind, with the old gentleman and the two boys roaring and
shouting behind him.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a magic in the sound. The

tradesman leaves his counter, and the car-man his waggon; the
butcher throws down his tray; the baker his basket; the milkman
his pail; the errand-boy his parcels; the school-boy his marbles;
the paviour his pickaxe; the child his battledore. Away they
run, pell-mell, helter-skelter, slap-dash: tearing, yelling,
screaming, knocking down the passengers as they turn the corners,
rousing up the dogs, and astonishing the fowls: and streets,
squares, and courts, re-echo with the sound.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' The cry is taken up by a hundred

voices, and the crowd accumulate at every turning. Away they
fly, splashing through the mud, and rattling along the pavements:

up go the windows, out run the people, onward bear the mob, a

whole audience desert Punch in the very thickest of the plot,
and, joining the rushing throng, swell the shout, and lend fresh
vigour to the cry, 'Stop thief! Stop thief!'

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a passion FOR HUNTING

SOMETHING deeply implanted in the human breast. One wretched
breathless child, panting with exhaustion; terror in his looks;
agaony in his eyes; large drops of perspiration streaming down
his face; strains every nerve to make head upon his pursuers; and
as they follow on his track, and gain upon him every instant,
they hail his decreasing strength with joy. 'Stop thief!' Ay,
stop him for God's sake, were it only in mercy!

Stopped at last! A clever blow. He is down upon the pavement;

and the crowd eagerly gather round him: each new comer, jostling
and struggling with the others to catch a glimpse. 'Stand
aside!' 'Give him a little air!' 'Nonsense! he don't deserve
it.' 'Where's the gentleman?' 'Here his is, coming down the
street.' 'Make room there for the gentleman!' 'Is this the boy,
sir!' 'Yes.'

Oliver lay, covered with mud and dust, and bleeding from the

mouth, looking wildly round upon the heap of faces that
surrounded him, when the old gentleman was officiously dragged
and pushed into the circle by the foremost of the pursuers.

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

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

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

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

The follow touched his hat with a grin, expecting something for

his pains; but, the old gentleman, eyeing him with an expression
of dislike, look anxiously round, as if he contemplated running
away himself: which it is very possible he might have attempted
to do, and thus have afforded another chase, had not a police
officer (who is generally the last person to arrive in such
cases) at that moment made his way through the crowd, and seized
Oliver by the collar.

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

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

'Oh no, they ain't,' said the officer. He meant this to be

ironical, but it was true besides; for the Dodger and Charley
Bates had filed off down the first convenient court they came to.

'Come, get up!'

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

'Oh no, I won't hurt him,' replied the officer, tearing his

jacket half off his back, in proof thereof. 'Come, I know you;
it won't do. Will you stand upon your legs, you young devil?'

Oliver, who could hardly stand, made a shift to raise himself on

his feet, and was at once lugged along the streets by the
jacket-collar, at a rapid pace. The gentleman walked on with
them by the officer's side; and as many of the crowd as could
achieve the feat, got a little ahead, and stared back at Oliver
from time to time. The boys shouted in triumph; and on they



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

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

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

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

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

with the keys.

'Yes, I am,' replied the old gentleman; 'but I am not sure that

this boy actually took the handkerchief. I--I would rather not
press the case.'

'Must go before the magistrate now, sir,' replied the man. 'His

worship will be disengaged in half a minute. Now, young

This was an invitation for Oliver to enter through a door which

he unlocked as he spoke, and which led into a stone cell. Here
he was searched; and nothing being found upon him, locked up.

This cell was in shape and size something like an area cellar,

only not so light. It was most intolably dirty; for it was
Monday morning; and it had been tenanted by six drunken people,
who had been locked up, elsewhere, since Saturday night. But
this is little. In our station-houses, men and women are every
night confined on the most trivial charges--the word is worth
noting--in dungeons, compared with which, those in Newgate,
occupied by the most atrocious felons, tried, found guilty, and
under sentence of death, are palaces. Let any one who doubts
this, compare the two.

The old gentleman looked almost as rueful as Oliver when the key

grated in the lock. He turned with a sigh to the book, which had
been the innocent cause of all this disturbance.

'There is something in that boy's face,' said the old gentleman

to himself as he walked slowly away, tapping his chin with the
cover of the book, in a thoughtful manner; 'something that
touches and interests me. CAN he be innocent? He looked
like--Bye the bye,' exclaimed the old gentleman, halting very
abruptly, and staring up into the sky, 'Bless my soul!--where
have I seen something like that look before?'

After musing for some minutes, the old gentleman walked, with the

same meditative face, into a back anteroom opening from the yard;
and there, retiring into a corner, called up before his mind's
eye a vast amphitheatre of faces over which a dusky curtain had
hung for many years. 'No,' said the old gentleman, shaking his
head; 'it must be imagination.

He wandered over them again. He had called them into view, and

it was not easy to replace the shroud that had so long concealed
them. There were the faces of friends, and foes, and of many
that had been almost strangers peering intrusively from the
crowd; there were the faces of young and blooming girls that were
now old women; there were faces that the grave had changed and
closed upon, but which the mind, superior to its power, still
dressed in their old freshness and beauty, calling back the
lustre of the eyes, the brightness of the smile, the beaming of
the soul through its mask of clay, and whispering of beauty
beyond the tomb, changed but to be heightened, and taken from
earth only to be set up as a light, to shed a soft and gentle
glow upon the path to Heaven.

But the old gentleman could recall no one countenance of which

Oliver's features bore a trace. So, he heaved a sigh over the
recollections he awakened; and being, happily for himself, an
absent old gentleman, buried them again in the pages of the musty

He was roused by a touch on the shoulder, and a request from the

man with the keys to follow him into the office. He closed his
book hastily; and was at once ushered into the imposing presence
of the renowned Mr. Fang.

The office was a front parlour, with a panelled wall. Mr. Fang

sat behind a bar, at the upper end; and on one side the door was
a sort of wooden pen in which poor little Oliver was already
deposited; trembling very much at the awfulness of the scene.

Mr. Fang was a lean, long-backed, stiff-necked, middle-sized man,

with no great quantity of hair, and what he had, growing on the
back and sides of his head. His face was stern, and much
flushed. If he were really not in the habit of drinking rather
more than was exactly good for him, he might have brought action
against his countenance for libel, and have recovered heavy

The old gentleman bowed respectfully; and advancing to the

magistrate's desk, said suiting the action to the word, 'That is
my name and address, sir.' He then withdrew a pace or two; and,
with another polite and gentlemanly inclination of the head,
waited to be questioned.

Now, it so happened that Mr. Fang was at that moment perusing a

leading article in a newspaper of the morning, adverting to some
recent decision of his, and commending him, for the three hundred
and fiftieth time, to the special and particular notice of the
Secretary of State for the Home Department. He was out of
temper; and he looked up with an angry scowl.

'Who are you?' said Mr. Fang.

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

'Officer!' said Mr. Fang, tossing the card contemptuously away

with the newspaper. 'Who is this fellow?'

'My name, sir,' said the old gentleman, speaking LIKE a

gentleman, 'my name, sir, is Brownlow. Permit me to inquire the
name of the magistrate who offers a gratuitous and unprovoked
insult to a respectable person, under the protection of the
bench.' Saying this, Mr. Brownlow looked around the office as if
in search of some person who would afford him the required

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

this fellow charged with?'

'He's not charged at all, your worship,' replied the officer. 'He

appears against this boy, your worship.'

His worshp knew this perfectly well; but it was a good annoyance,

and a safe one.

'Appears against the boy, does he?' said Mr. Fang, surveying Mr.

Brownlow contemptuously from head to foot. 'Swear him!'

'Before I am sworn, I must beg to say one word,' said Mr.

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