Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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very few who took any notice of him: and even those told him to
wait till they got to the top of the hill, and then let them see
how far he could run for a halfpenny. Poor Oliver tried to keep
up with the coach a little way, but was unable to do it, by
reason of his fatigue and sore feet. When the outsides saw this,
they put their halfpence back into their pockets again, declaring
that he was an idle young dog, and didn't deserve anything; and
the coach rattled away and left only a cloud of dust behind.

In some villages, large painted boards were fixed up: warning all

persons who begged within the district, that they would be sent
to jail. This frightened Oliver very much, and made him glad to
get out of those villages with all possible expedition. In
others, he would stand about the inn-yards, and look mournfully
at every one who passed: a proceeding which generally terminated
in the landlady's ordering one of the post-boys who were lounging
about, to drive that strange boy out of the place, for she was
sure he had come to steal something. If he begged at a farmer's
house, ten to one but they threatened to set the dog on him; and
when he showed his nose in a shop, they talked about the
beadle--which brought Oliver's heart into his mouth,--very often
the only thing he had there, for many hours together.

In fact, if it had not been for a good-hearted turnpike-man, and

a benevolent old lady, Oliver's troubles would have been
shortened by the very same process which had put an end to his
mother's; in other words, he would most assuredly have fallen
dead upon the king's highway. But the turnpike-man gave him a
meal of bread and cheese; and the old lady, who had a shipwrecked
grandson wandering barefoot in some distant part of the earth,
took pity upon the poor orphan, and gave him what little she
could afford--and more--with such kind and gently words, and such
tears of sympathy and compassion, that they sank deeper into
Oliver's soul, than all the sufferings he had ever undergone.

Early on the seventh morning after he had left his native place,

Oliver limped slowly into the little town of Barnet. The
window-shutters were closed; the street was empty; not a soul had
awakened to the business of the day. The sun was rising in all
its splendid beauty; but the light only served to show the boy
his own lonesomeness and desolation, as he sat, with bleeding
feet and covered with dust, upon a door-step.

By degrees, the shutters were opened; the window-blinds were

drawn up; and people began passing to and fro. Some few stopped
to gaze at Oliver for a moment or two, or turned round to stare
at him as they hurried by; but none relieved him, or troubled
themselves to inquire how he came there. He had no heart to beg.
And there he sat.

He had been crouching on the step for some time: wondering at

the great number of public-houses (every other house in Barnet
was a tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly at the coaches
as they passed through, and thinking how strange it seemed that
they could do, with ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a
whole week of courage and determination beyond his years to
accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boy, who had
passed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned, and was
now surveying him most earnestly from the opposite side of the
way. He took little heed of this at first; but the boy remained
in the same attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver
raised his head, and returned his steady look. Upon this, the
boy crossed over; and walking close up to Oliver, said

'Hullo, my covey! What's the row?'

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was
about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that
Oliver had even seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed,
common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would
wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a
man. He was short of his age: with rather bow-legs, and little,
sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so
lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment--and would
have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of
every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought
it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which
reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back,
half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves:
apparently with the ultimated view of thrusting them into the
pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He
was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman
as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in the bluchers.

'Hullo, my covey! What's the row?' said this strange young

gentleman to Oliver.

'I am very hungry and tired,' replied Oliver: the tears standing

in his eyes as he spoke. 'I have walked a long way. I have been
walking these seven days.'

'Walking for sivin days!' said the young gentleman. 'Oh, I see.

Beak's order, eh? But,' he added, noticing Oliver's look of
surprise, 'I suppose you don't know what a beak is, my flash

Oliver mildly replied, that he had always heard a bird's mouth

described by the term in question.

'My eyes, how green!' exclaimed the young gentleman. 'Why, a

beak's a madgst'rate; and when you walk by a beak's order, it's
not straight forerd, but always agoing up, and niver a coming
down agin. Was you never on the mill?'

'What mill?' inquired Oliver.

'What mill! Why, THE mill--the mill as takes up so little room
that it'll work inside a Stone Jug; and always goes better when
the wind's low with people, than when it's high; acos then they
can't get workmen. But come,' said the young gentleman; 'you
want grub, and you shall have it. I'm at low-water-mark
myself--only one bob and a magpie; but, as far as it goes, I'll
fork out and stump. Up with you on your pins. There! Now then!


Assisting Oliver to rise, the young gentleman took him to an
adjacent chandler's shop, where he purchased a sufficiency of
ready-dressed ham and a half-quartern loaf, or, as he himself
expressed it, 'a fourpenny bran!' the ham being kept clean and
preserved from dust, by the ingenious expedient of making a hole
in the loaf by pulling out a portion of the crumb, and stuffing
it therein. Taking the bread under his arm, the young gentlman
turned into a small public-house, and led the way to a tap-room
in the rear of the premises. Here, a pot of beer was brought in,
by direction of the mysterious youth; and Oliver, falling to, at
his new friend's bidding, made a long and hearty meal, during the
progress of which the strange boy eyed him from time to time with
great attention.

'Going to London?' said the strange boy, when Oliver had at

length concluded.


'Got any lodgings?'




The strange boy whistled; and put his arms into his pockets, as
far as the big coat-sleeves would let them go.

'Do you live in London?' inquired Oliver.

'Yes. I do, when I'm at home,' replied the boy. 'I suppose you
want some place to sleep in to-night, don't you?'

'I do, indeed,' answered Oliver. 'I have not slept under a roof

since I left the country.'

'Don't fret your eyelids on that score.' said the young

gentleman. 'I've got to be in London to-night; and I know a
'spectable old gentleman as lives there, wot'll give you lodgings
for nothink, and never ask for the change--that is, if any
genelman he knows interduces you. And don't he know me? Oh, no!

Not in the least! By no means. Certainly not!'

The young gentelman smiled, as if to intimate that the latter
fragments of discourse were playfully ironical; and finished the
beer as he did so.

This unexpected offer of shelter was too tempting to be resisted;

especially as it was immediately followed up, by the assurance
that the old gentleman referred to, would doubtless provide
Oliver with a comfortable place, without loss of time. This led
to a more friendly and confidential dialogue; from which Oliver
discovered that his friend's name was Jack Dawkins, and that he
was a peculiar pet and protege of the elderly gentleman before

Mr. Dawkin's appearance did not say a vast deal in favour of the

comforts which his patron's interest obtained for those whom he
took under his protection; but, as he had a rather flightly and
dissolute mode of conversing, and furthermore avowed that among
his intimate friends he was better known by the sobriquet of 'The
Artful Dodger,' Oliver concluded that, being of a dissipated and
careless turn, the moral precepts of his benefactor had hitherto
been thrown away upon him. Under this impression, he secretly
resolved to cultivate the good opinion of the old gentleman as
quickly as possible; and, if he found the Dodger incorrigible, as
he more than half suspected he should, to decline the honour of
his farther acquaintance.

As John Dawkins objected to their entering London before

nightfall, it was nearly eleven o'clock when they reached the
turnpike at Islington. They crossed from the Angel into St.
John's Road; struck down the small street which terminates at
Sadler's Wells Theatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice Row;
down the little court by the side of the workhouse; across the
classic ground which once bore the name of Hockley-in-the-Hole;
thence into Little Saffron Hill; and so into Saffron Hill the
Great: along which the Dodger scudded at a rapid pace, directing
Oliver to follow close at his heels.

Although Oliver had enough to occupy his attention in keeping

sight of his leader, he could not help bestowing a few hasty
glances on either side of the way, as he passed along. A dirtier
or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very
narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours.

There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade

appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of
night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from
the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the
general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them,
the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main.
Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the
main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men
and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of
the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously
emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or
harmless errands.

Oliver was just considering whether he hadn't better run away,

when they reached the bottom of the hill. His conductor,
catching him by the arm, pushed open the door of a house near
Field Lane; and drawing him into the passage, closed it behind

'Now, then!' cried a voice from below, in reply to a whistle from

the Dodger.

'Plummy and slam!' was the reply.

This seemed to be some watchword or signal that all was right;
for the light of a feeble candle gleamed on the wall at the
remote end of the passage; and a man's face peeped out, from
where a balustrade of the old kitchen staircase had been broken

'There's two on you,' said the man, thrusting the candle farther

out, and shielding his eyes with his hand. 'Who's the t'other

'A new pal,' replied Jack Dawkins, pulling Oliver forward.

'Where did he come from?'

'Greenland. Is Fagin upstairs?'

'Yes, he's a sortin' the wipes. Up with you!' The candle was
drawn back, and the face disappeared.

Oliver, groping his way with one hand, and having the other

firmly grasped by his companion, ascended with much difficulty
the dark and broken stairs: which his conductor mounted with an
ease and expedition that showed he was well acquainted with them.

He threw open the door of a back-room, and drew Oliver in after


The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age

and dirt. There was a deal table before the fire: upon which
were a candle, stuck in a ginger-beer bottle, two or three pewter
pots, a loaf and butter, and a plate. In a frying-pan, which was
on the fire, and which was secured to the mantelshelf by a
string, some sausages were cooking; and standing over them, with
a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old shrivelled Jew, whose
villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity
of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with
his throat bare; and seemed to be dividing his attention between
the frying-pan and the clothes-horse, over which a great number
of silk handkerchiefsl were hanging. Several rough beds made of
old sacks, were huddled side by side on the floor. Seated round
the table were four or five boys, none older than the Dodger,
smoking long clay pipes, and drinking spirits with the air of
middle-aged men. These all crowded about their associate as he
whispered a few words to the Jew; and then turned round and
grinned at Oliver. So did the Jew himself, toasting-fork in

'This is him, Fagin,' said Jack Dawkins; 'my friend Oliver


The Jew grinned; and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him

by the hand, and hoped he should have the honour of his intimate
acquaintance. Upon this, the young gentleman with the pipes came
round him, and shook both his hands very hard--especially the one
in which he held his little bundle. One young gentleman was very
anxious to hang up his cap for him; and another was so obliging
as to put his hands in his pockets, in order that, as he was very
tired, he might not have the trouble of emptying them, himself,
when he went to bed. These civilities would probably be extended
much farther, but for a liberal exercise of the Jew's
toasting-fork on the heads and shoulders of the affectionate
youths who offered them.

'We are very glad to see you, Oliver, very,' said the Jew.

'Dodger, take off the sausages; and draw a tub near the fire for
Oliver. Ah, you're a-staring at the pocket-handkerchiefs! eh, my
dear. There are a good many of 'em, ain't there? We've just
looked 'em out, ready for the wash; that's all, Oliver; that's
all. Ha! ha! ha!'

The latter part of this speech, was hailed by a boisterous shout

from all the hopeful pupils of the merry old gentleman. In the
midst of which they went to supper.

Oliver ate his share, and the Jew then mixed him a glass of hot

gin-and-water: telling him he must drink it off directly,
because another gentleman wanted the tumbler. Oliver did as he
was desired. Immediately afterwards he felt himself gently
lifted on to one of the sacks; and then he sunk into a deep



It was late next morning when Oliver awoke, from a sound, long

sleep. There was no other person in the room but the old Jew,
who was boiling some coffee in a saucepan for breakfast, and
whistling softly to himself as he stirred it round and round,
with an iron spoon. He would stop every now and then to listen
when there was the least noise below: and when he had satistified
himself, he would go on whistling and stirring again, as before.

Although Oliver had roused himself from sleep, he was not

thoroughly awake. There is a drowsy state, between sleeping and
waking, when you dream more in five minutes with your eyes half
open, and yourself half conscious of everything that is passing
around you, than you would in five nights with your eyes fast
closed, and your senses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness. At
such time, a mortal knows just enough of what his mind is doing,
to form some glimmering conception of its mighty powers, its
bounding from earth and spurning time and space, when freed from
the restraint of its corporeal associate.

Oliver was precisely in this condition. He saw the Jew with his

half-closed eyes; heard his low whistling; and recognised the
sound of the spoon grating against the saucepan's sides: and yet
the self-same senses were mentally engaged, at the same time, in
busy action with almost everybody he had ever known.

When the coffee was done, the Jew drew the saucepan to the hob.

Standing, then in an irresolute attitude for a few minutes, as if
he did not well know how to employ himself, he turned round and
looked at Oliver, and called him by his name. He did not answer,
and was to all appearances asleep.

After satisfiying himself upon this head, the Jew stepped gently

to the door: which he fastened. He then drew forth: as it
seemed to Oliver, from some trap in the floor: a small box,
which he placed carefully on the table. His eyes glistened as he
raised the lid, and looked in. Dragging an old chair to the
table, he sat down; and took from it a magnificent gold watch,
sparkling with jewels.

'Aha!' said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting

every feature with a hideous grin. 'Clever dogs! Clever dogs!
Staunch to the last! Never told the old parson where they were.
Never poached upon old Fagin! And why should they? It wouldn't
have loosened the knot, or kept the drop up, a minute longer.
No, no, no! Fine fellows! Fine fellows!'

With these, and other muttered reflections of the like nature,

the Jew once more deposited the watch in its place of safety. At
least half a dozen more were severally drawn forth from the same
box, and surveyed with equal pleasure; besides rings, brooches,
bracelet, and other articles of jewellery, of such magnificent
materials, and costly workmanship, that Oliver had no idea, even
of their names.

Having replaced these trinkets, the Jew took out another: so

small that it lay in the palm of his hand. There seemed to be
some very minute inscription on it; for the Jew laid it flat upon
the table, and shading it with his hand, pored over it, long and
earnestly. At length he put it down, as if despairing of
success; and, leaning back in his chair, muttered:

'What a fine thing capital punishment is! Dead men never repent;

dead men never bring awkward stories to light. Ah, it's a fine
thing for the trade! Five of 'em strung up in a row, and none
left to play booty, or turn white-livered!'

As the Jew uttered these words, his bright dark eyes, which had

been staring vacantly before him, fell on Oliver's face; the
boy's eyes were fixed on his in mute curiousity; and although the
recognition was only for an instant--for the briefest space of
time that can possibly be conceived--it was enough to show the
old man that he had been observed.

He closed the lid of the box with a loud crash; and, laying his

hand on a bread knife which was on the table, started furiously
up. He trembled very much though; for, even in his terror,
Oliver could see that the knife quivered in the air.

'What's that?' said the Jew. 'What do you watch me for? Why are

you awake? What have you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick--quick!
for your life.

'I wasn't able to sleep any longer, sir,' replied Oliver, meekly.

'I am very sorry if I have disturbed you, sir.'

'You were not awake an hour ago?' said the Jew, scowling fiercely

on the boy.

'No! No, indeed!' replied Oliver.

'Are you sure?' cried the Jew: with a still fiercer look than
before: and a threatening attitude.

'Upon my word I was not, sir,' replied Oliver, earnestly. 'I was

not, indeed, sir.'

'Tush, tush, my dear!' said the Jew, abruptly resuming his old

manner, and playing with the knife a little, before he laid it
down; as if to induce the belief that he had caught it up, in
mere sport. 'Of course I know that, my dear. I only tried to
frighten you. You're a brave boy. Ha! ha! you're a brave boy,
Oliver.' The Jew rubbed his hands with a chuckle, but glanced
uneasily at the box, notwithstanding.

'Did you see any of these pretty things, my dear?' said the Jew,

laying his hand upon it after a short pause.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Ah!' said the Jew, turning rather pale. 'They--they're mine,
Oliver; my little property. All I have to live upon, in my old
age. The folks call me a miser, my dear. Only a miser; that's

Oliver thought the old gentleman must be a decided miser to live

in such a dirty place, with so many watches; but, thinking that
perhaps his fondness for the Dodger and the other boys, cost him
a good deal of money, he only cast a deferential look at the Jew,
and asked if he might get up.

'Certainly, my dear, certainly,' replied the old gentleman.

'Stay. There's a pitcher of water in the corner by the door.
Bring it here; and I'll give you a basin to wash in, my dear.'

Oliver got up; walked across the room; and stooped for an instant

to raise the pitcher. When he turned his head, the box was gone.

He had scarcely washed himself, and made everything tidy, by

emptying the basin out of the window, agreeably to the Jew's
directions, when the Dodger returned: accompanied by a very
sprightly young friend, whom Oliver had seen smoking on the
previous night, and who was now formally introduced to him as
Charley Bates. The four sat down, to breakfast, on the coffee,
and some hot rolls and ham which the Dodger had brought home in
the crown of his hat.

'Well,' said the Jew, glancing slyly at Oliver, and addressing

himself to the Dodger, 'I hope you've been at work this morning,
my dears?'

'Hard,' replied the Dodger.

'As nails,' added Charley Bates.

'Good boys, good boys!' said the Jew. 'What have you got,


'A couple of pocket-books,' replied that young gentlman.

'Lined?' inquired the Jew, with eagerness.

'Pretty well,' replied the Dodger, producing two pocket-books;

one green, and the other red.

'Not so heavy as they might be,' said the Jew, after looking at

the insides carefully; 'but very neat and nicely made. Ingenious
workman, ain't he, Oliver?'

'Very indeed, sir,' said Oliver. At which Mr. Charles Bates

laughed uproariously; very much to the amazement of Oliver, who
saw nothing to laugh at, in anything that had passed.

'And what have you got, my dear?' said Fagin to Charley Bates.

'Wipes,' replied Master Bates; at the same time producing four

'Well,' said the Jew, inspecting them closely; 'they're very good

ones, very. You haven't marked them well, though, Charley; so

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