Part 3 out of 10
his hat, scratched his head, and nodded thrice.
'What do you mean?' said Charley.
'Toor rul lol loo, gammon and spinnage, the frog he wouldn't, and
high cockolorum,' said the Dodger: with a slight sneer on his
This was explanatory, but not satisfactory. Master Bates felt it
so; and again said, 'What do you mean?'
The Dodger made no reply; but putting his hat on again, and
gathering the skirts of his long-tailed coat under his arm,
thrust his tongue into his cheek, slapped the bridge of his nose
some half-dozen times in a familiar but expressive manner, and
turning on his heel, slunk down the court. Master Bates
followed, with a thoughtful countenance.
The noise of footsteps on the creaking stairs, a few minutes
after the occurrence of this conversation, roused the merry old
gentleman as he sat over the fire with a saveloy and a small loaf
in his hand; a pocket-knife in his right; and a pewter pot on the
trivet. There was a rascally smile on his white face as he
turned round, and looking sharply out from under his thick red
eyebrows, bent his ear towards the door, and listened.
'Why, how's this?' muttered the Jew: changing countenance; 'only
two of 'em? Where's the third? They can't have got into
The footsteps approached nearer; they reached the landing. The
door was slowly opened; and the Dodger and Charley Bates entered,
closing it behind them.
SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES ARE INTRODUCED TO THE INTELLIGENT READER,
CONNECTED WITH WHOM VARIOUS PLEASANT MATTERS ARE RELATED,
APPERTAINING TO THIS HISTORY
'Where's Oliver?' said the Jew, rising with a menacing look.
'Where's the boy?'
The young thieves eyed their preceptor as if they were alarmed at
his violence; and looked uneasily at each other. But they made
'What's become of the boy?' said the Jew, seizing the Dodger
tightly by the collar, and threatening him with horrid
imprecations. 'Speak out, or I'll throttle you!'
Mr. Fagin looked so very much in earnest, that Charley Bates, who
deemed it prudent in all cases to be on the safe side, and who
conceived it by no means improbable that it might be his turn to
be throttled second, dropped upon his knees, and raised a loud,
well-sustained, and continuous roar--something between a mad bull
and a speaking trumpet.
'Will you speak?' thundered the Jew: shaking the Dodger so much
that his keeping in the big coat at all, seemed perfectly
'Why, the traps have got him, and that's all about it,' said the
Dodger, sullenly. 'Come, let go o' me, will you!' And,
swinging himself, at one jerk, clean out of the big coat, which
he left in the Jew's hands, the Dodger snatched up the toasting
fork, and made a pass at the merry old gentleman's waistcoat;
which, if it had taken effect, would have let a little more
merriment out than could have been easily replaced.
The Jew stepped back in this emergency, with more agility than
could have been anticipated in a man of his apparent decrepitude;
and, seizing up the pot, prepared to hurl it at his assailant's
head. But Charley Bates, at this moment, calling his attention
by a perfectly terrific howl, he suddenly altered its
destination, and flung it full at that young gentleman.
'Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!' growled a deep voice.
'Who pitched that 'ere at me? It's well it's the beer, and not
the pot, as hit me, or I'd have settled somebody. I might have
know'd, as nobody but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering
old Jew could afford to throw away any drink but water--and not
that, unless he done the River Company every quarter. Wot's it
all about, Fagin? D--me, if my neck-handkercher an't lined with
beer! Come in, you sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping
outside for, as if you was ashamed of your master! Come in!'
The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow
of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled
drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings
which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling
calves;--the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in
an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to
garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty
belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends
of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke. He
disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a
beard of three days' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which
displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently
damaged by a blow.
'Come in, d'ye hear?' growled this engaging ruffian.
A white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty
different places, skulked into the room.
'Why didn't you come in afore?' said the man. 'You're getting
too proud to own me afore company, are you? Lie down!'
This command was accompanied with a kick, which sent the animal
to the other end of the room. He appeared well used to it,
however; for he coiled himself up in a corner very quietly,
without uttering a sound, and winking his very ill-looking eyes
twenty times in a minute, appeared to occupy himself in taking a
survey of the apartment.
'What are you up to? Ill-treating the boys, you covetous,
avaricious, in-sa-ti-a-ble old fence?' said the man, seating
himself deliberately. 'I wonder they don't murder you! I would
if I was them. If I'd been your 'prentice, I'd have done it long
ago, and--no, I couldn't have sold you afterwards, for you're fit
for nothing but keeping as a curiousity of ugliness in a glass
bottle, and I suppose they don't blow glass bottles large
'Hush! hush! Mr. Sikes,' said the Jew, trembling; 'don't speak so
'None of your mistering,' replied the ruffian; 'you always mean
mischief when you come that. You know my name: out with it! I
shan't disgrace it when the time comes.'
'Well, well, then--Bill Sikes,' said the Jew, with abject
humility. 'You seem out of humour, Bill.'
'Perhaps I am,' replied Sikes; 'I should think you was rather out
of sorts too, unless you mean as little harm when you throw
pewter pots about, as you do when you blab and--'
'Are you mad?' said the Jew, catching the man by the sleeve, and
pointing towards the boys.
Mr. Sikes contented himself with tying an imaginary knot under
his left ear, and jerking his head over on the right shoulder; a
piece of dumb show which the Jew appeared to understand
perfectly. He then, in cant terms, with which his whole
conversation was plentifully besprinkled, but which would be
quite unintelligible if they were recorded here, demanded a glass
'And mind you don't poison it,' said Mr. Sikes, laying his hat
upon the table.
This was said in jest; but if the speaker could have seen the
evil leer with which the Jew bit his pale lip as he turned round
to the cupboard, he might have thought the caution not wholly
unnecessary, or the wish (at all events) to improve upon the
distiller's ingenuity not very far from the old gentleman's merry
After swallowing two of three glasses of spirits, Mr. Sikes
condescended to take some notice of the young gentlemen; which
gracious act led to a conversation, in which the cause and manner
of Oliver's capture were circumstantially detailed, with such
alterations and improvements on the truth, as to the Dodger
appeared most advisable under the circumstances.
'I'm afraid,' said the Jew, 'that he may say something which will
get us into trouble.'
'That's very likely,' returned Sikes with a malicious grin.
'You're blowed upon, Fagin.'
'And I'm afraid, you see,' added the Jew, speaking as if he had
not noticed the interruption; and regarding the other closely as
he did so,--'I'm afraid that, if the game was up with us, it
might be up with a good many more, and that it would come out
rather worse for you than it would for me, my dear.'
The man started, and turned round upon the Jew. But the old
gentleman's shoulders were shrugged up to his ears; and his eyes
were vacantly staring on the opposite wall.
There was a long pause. Every member of the respectable coterie
appeared plunged in his own reflections; not excepting the dog,
who by a certain malicious licking of his lips seemed to be
meditating an attack upon the legs of the first gentleman or lady
he might encounter in the streets when he went out.
'Somebody must find out wot's been done at the office,' said Mr.
Sikes in a much lower tone than he had taken since he came in.
The Jew nodded assent.
'If he hasn't peached, and is committed, there's no fear till he
comes out again,' said Mr. Sikes, 'and then he must be taken care
on. You must get hold of him somehow.'
Again the Jew nodded.
The prudence of this line of action, indeed, was obvious; but,
unfortunately, there was one very strong objection to its being
adopted. This was, that the Dodger, and Charley Bates, and
Fagin, and Mr. William Sikes, happened, one and all, to entertain
a violent and deeply-rooted antipathy to going near a
police-office on any ground or pretext whatever.
How long they might have sat and looked at each other, in a state
of uncertainty not the most pleasant of its kind, it is difficult
to guess. It is not necessary to make any guesses on the
subject, however; for the sudden entrance of the two young ladies
whom Oliver had seen on a former occasion, caused the
conversation to flow afresh.
'The very thing!' said the Jew. 'Bet will go; won't you, my
'Wheres?' inquired the young lady.
'Only just up to the office, my dear,' said the Jew coaxingly.
It is due to the young lady to say that she did not positively
affirm that she would not, but that she merely expressed an
emphatic and earnest desire to be 'blessed' if she would; a
polite and delicate evasion of the request, which shows the young
lady to have been possessed of that natural good breeding which
cannot bear to inflict upon a fellow-creature, the pain of a
direct and pointed refusal.
The Jew's countenance fell. He turned from this young lady, who
was gaily, not to say gorgeously attired, in a red gown, green
boots, and yellow curl-papers, to the other female.
'Nancy, my dear,' said the Jew in a soothing manner, 'what do YOU
'That it won't do; so it's no use a-trying it on, Fagin,' replied
'What do you mean by that?' said Mr. Sikes, looking up in a surly
'What I say, Bill,' replied the lady collectedly.
'Why, you're just the very person for it,' reasoned Mr. Sikes:
'nobody about here knows anything of you.'
'And as I don't want 'em to, neither,' replied Nancy in the same
composed manner, 'it's rather more no than yes with me, Bill.'
'She'll go, Fagin,' said Sikes.
'No, she won't, Fagin,' said Nancy.
'Yes, she will, Fagin,' said Sikes.
And Mr. Sikes was right. By dint of alternate threats, promises,
and bribes, the lady in question was ultimately prevailed upon to
undertake the commission. She was not, indeed, withheld by the
same considerations as her agreeable friend; for, having recently
removed into the neighborhood of Field Lane from the remote but
genteel suburb of Ratcliffe, she was not under the same
apprehension of being recognised by any of her numerous
Accordingly, with a clean white apron tied over her gown, and her
curl-papers tucked up under a straw bonnet,--both articles of
dress being provided from the Jew's inexhaustible stock,--Miss
Nancy prepared to issue forth on her errand.
'Stop a minute, my dear,' said the Jew, producing, a little
covered basket. 'Carry that in one hand. It looks more
respectable, my dear.'
'Give her a door-key to carry in her t'other one, Fagin,' said
Sikes; 'it looks real and genivine like.'
'Yes, yes, my dear, so it does,' said the Jew, hanging a large
street-door key on the forefinger of the young lady's right hand.
'There; very good! Very good indeed, my dear!' said the Jew,
rubbing his hands.
'Oh, my brother! My poor, dear, sweet, innocent little brother!'
exclaimed Nancy, bursting into tears, and wringing the little
basket and the street-door key in an agony of distress. 'What
has become of him! Where have they taken him to! Oh, do have
pity, and tell me what's been done with the dear boy, gentlemen;
do, gentlemen, if you please, gentlemen!'
Having uttered those words in a most lamentable and heart-broken
tone: to the immeasurable delight of her hearers: Miss Nancy
paused, winked to the company, nodded smilingly round, and
'Ah, she's a clever girl, my dears,' said the Jew, turning round
to his young friends, and shaking his head gravely, as if in mute
admonition to them to follow the bright example they had just
'She's a honour to her sex,' said Mr. Sikes, filling his glass,
and smiting the table with his enormous fist. 'Here's her
health, and wishing they was all like her!'
While these, and many other encomiums, were being passed on the
accomplished Nancy, that young lady made the best of her way to
the police-office; whither, notwithstanding a little natural
timidity consequent upon walking through the streets alone and
unprotected, she arrived in perfect safety shortly afterwards.
Entering by the back way, she tapped softly with the key at one
of the cell-doors, and listened. There was no sound within: so
she coughed and listened again. Still there was no reply: so
'Nolly, dear?' murmured Nancy in a gentle voice; 'Nolly?'
There was nobody inside but a miserable shoeless criminal, who
had been taken up for playing the flute, and who, the offence
against society having been clearly proved, had been very
properly committed by Mr. Fang to the House of Correction for one
month; with the appropriate and amusing remark that since he had
so much breath to spare, it would be more wholesomely expended on
the treadmill than in a musical instrument. He made no answer:
being occupied mentally bewailing the loss of the flute, which
had been confiscated for the use of the county: so Nancy passed
on to the next cell, and knocked there.
'Well!' cried a faint and feeble voice.
'Is there a little boy here?' inquired Nancy, with a preliminary
'No,' replied the voice; 'God forbid.'
This was a vagrant of sixty-five, who was going to prison for _not_
playing the flute; or, in other words, for begging in the
streets, and doing nothing for his livelihood. In the next cell
was another man, who was going to the same prison for hawking tin
saucepans without license; thereby doing something for his
living, in defiance of the Stamp-office.
But, as neither of these criminals answered to the name of
Oliver, or knew anything about him, Nancy made straight up to the
bluff officer in the striped waistcoat; and with the most piteous
wailings and lamentations, rendered more piteous by a prompt and
efficient use of the street-door key and the little basket,
demanded her own dear brother.
'I haven't got him, my dear,' said the old man.
'Where is he?' screamed Nancy, in a distracted manner.
'Why, the gentleman's got him,' replied the officer.
'What gentleman! Oh, gracious heavens! What gentleman?'
In reply to this incoherent questioning, the old man informed the
deeply affected sister that Oliver had been taken ill in the
office, and discharged in consequence of a witness having proved
the robbery to have been committed by another boy, not in
custody; and that the prosecutor had carried him away, in an
insensible condition, to his own residence: of and concerning
which, all the informant knew was, that it was somewhere in
Pentonville, he having heard that word mentioned in the
directions to the coachman.
In a dreadful state of doubt and uncertainty, the agonised young
woman staggered to the gate, and then, exchanging her faltering
walk for a swift run, returned by the most devious and
complicated route she could think of, to the domicile of the Jew.
Mr. Bill Sikes no sooner heard the account of the expedition
delivered, than he very hastily called up the white dog, and,
putting on his hat, expeditiously departed: without devoting any
time to the formality of wishing the company good-morning.
'We must know where he is, my dears; he must be found,' said the
Jew greatly excited. 'Charley, do nothing but skulk about, till
you bring home some news of him! Nancy, my dear, I must have him
found. I trust to you, my dear,--to you and the Artful for
everything! Stay, stay,' added the Jew, unlocking a drawer with
a shaking hand; 'there's money, my dears. I shall shut up this
shop to-night. You'll know where to find me! Don't stop here a
minute. Not an instant, my dears!'
With these words, he pushed them from the room: and carefully
double-locking and barring the door behind them, drew from its
place of concealment the box which he had unintentionally
disclosed to Oliver. Then, he hastily proceeded to dispose the
watches and jewellery beneath his clothing.
A rap at the door startled him in this occupation. 'Who's
there?' he cried in a shrill tone.
'Me!' replied the voice of the Dodger, through the key-hole.
'What now?' cried the Jew impatiently.
'Is he to be kidnapped to the other ken, Nancy says?' inquired
'Yes,' replied the Jew, 'wherever she lays hands on him. Find
him, find him out, that's all. I shall know what to do next;
The boy murmured a reply of intelligence: and hurried downstairs
after his companions.
'He has not peached so far,' said the Jew as he pursued his
occupation. 'If he means to blab us among his new friends, we
may stop his mouth yet.'
COMPRISING FURTHER PARTICULARS OF OLIVER'S STAY AT MR.
BROWNLOW'S, WITH THE REMARKABLE PREDICTION WHICH ONE MR. GRIMWIG
UTTERED CONCERNING HIM, WHEN HE WENT OUT ON AN ERRAND
Oliver soon recovering from the fainting-fit into which Mr.
Brownlow's abrupt exclamation had thrown him, the subject of the
picture was carefully avoided, both by the old gentleman and Mrs.
Bedwin, in the conversation that ensued: which indeed bore no
reference to Oliver's history or prospects, but was confined to
such topics as might amuse without exciting him. He was still
too weak to get up to breakfast; but, when he came down into the
housekeeper's room next day, his first act was to cast an eager
glance at the wall, in the hope of again looking on the face of
the beautiful lady. His expectations were disappointed, however,
for the picture had been removed.
'Ah!' said the housekeeper, watching the direction of Oliver's
eyes. 'It is gone, you see.'
'I see it is ma'am,' replied Oliver. 'Why have they taken it
'It has been taken down, child, because Mr. Brownlow said, that
as it seemed to worry you, perhaps it might prevent your getting
well, you know,' rejoined the old lady.
'Oh, no, indeed. It didn't worry me, ma'am,' said Oliver. 'I
liked to see it. I quite loved it.'
'Well, well!' said the old lady, good-humouredly; 'you get well
as fast as ever you can, dear, and it shall be hung up again.
There! I promise you that! Now, let us talk about something
This was all the information Oliver could obtain about the
picture at that time. As the old lady had been so kind to him in
his illness, he endeavoured to think no more of the subject just
then; so he listened attentively to a great many stories she told
him, about an amiable and handsome daughter of hers, who was
married to an amiable and handsome man, and lived in the country;
and about a son, who was clerk to a merchant in the West Indies;
and who was, also, such a good young man, and wrote such dutiful
letters home four times a-year, that it brought the tears into
her eyes to talk about them. When the old lady had expatiated, a
long time, on the excellences of her children, and the merits of
her kind good husband besides, who had been dead and gone, poor
dear soul! just six-and-twenty years, it was time to have tea.
After tea she began to teach Oliver cribbage: which he learnt as
quickly as she could teach: and at which game they played, with
great interest and gravity, until it was time for the invalid to
have some warm wine and water, with a slice of dry toast, and
then to go cosily to bed.
They were happy days, those of Oliver's recovery. Everything was
so quiet, and neat, and orderly; everybody so kind and gentle;
that after the noise and turbulence in the midst of which he had
always lived, it seemed like Heaven itself. He was no sooner
strong enough to put his clothes on, properly, than Mr. Brownlow
caused a complete new suit, and a new cap, and a new pair of
shoes, to be provided for him. As Oliver was told that he might
do what he liked with the old clothes, he gave them to a servant
who had been very kind to him, and asked her to sell them to a
Jew, and keep the money for herself. This she very readily did;
and, as Oliver looked out of the parlour window, and saw the Jew
roll them up in his bag and walk away, he felt quite delighted to
think that they were safely gone, and that there was now no
possible danger of his ever being able to wear them again. They
were sad rags, to tell the truth; and Oliver had never had a new
One evening, about a week after the affair of the picture, as he
was sitting talking to Mrs. Bedwin, there came a message down
from Mr. Brownlow, that if Oliver Twist felt pretty well, he
should like to see him in his study, and talk to him a little
'Bless us, and save us! Wash your hands, and let me part your
hair nicely for you, child,' said Mrs. Bedwin. 'Dear heart
alive! If we had known he would have asked for you, we would
have put you a clean collar on, and made you as smart as
Oliver did as the old lady bade him; and, although she lamented
grievously, meanwhile, that there was not even time to crimp the
little frill that bordered his shirt-collar; he looked so
delicate and handsome, despite that important personal advantage,
that she went so far as to say: looking at him with great
complacency from head to foot, that she really didn't think it
would have been possible, on the longest notice, to have made
much difference in him for the better.
Thus encouraged, Oliver tapped at the study door. On Mr.
Brownlow calling to him to come in, he found himself in a little
back room, quite full of books, with a window, looking into some
pleasant little gardens. There was a table drawn up before the
window, at which Mr. Brownlow was seated reading. When he saw
Oliver, he pushed the book away from him, and told him to come
near the table, and sit down. Oliver complied; marvelling where
the people could be found to read such a great number of books as
seemed to be written to make the world wiser. Which is still a
marvel to more experienced people than Oliver Twist, every day of
'There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?' said Mr.
Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the
shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling.
'A great number, sir,' replied Oliver. 'I never saw so many.'
'You shall read them, if you behave well,' said the old gentleman
kindly; 'and you will like that, better than looking at the
outsides,--that is, some cases; because there are books of which
the backs and covers are by far the best parts.'
'I suppose they are those heavy ones, sir,' said Oliver, pointing
to some large quartos, with a good deal of gilding about the
'Not always those,' said the old gentleman, patting Oliver on the
head, and smiling as he did so; 'there are other equally heavy
ones, though of a much smaller size. How should you like to grow
up a clever man, and write books, eh?'
'I think I would rather read them, sir,' replied Oliver.
'What! wouldn't you like to be a book-writer?' said the old
Oliver considered a little while; and at last said, he should
think it would be a much better thing to be a book-seller; upon
which the old gentleman laughed heartily, and declared he had
said a very good thing. Which Oliver felt glad to have done,
though he by no means knew what it was.
'Well, well,' said the old gentleman, composing his features.
'Don't be afraid! We won't make an author of you, while there's
an honest trade to be learnt, or brick-making to turn to.'
'Thank you, sir,' said Oliver. At the earnest manner of his
reply, the old gentleman laughed again; and said something about
a curious instinct, which Oliver, not understanding, paid no very
great attention to.
'Now,' said Mr. Brownlow, speaking if possible in a kinder, but
at the same time in a much more serious manner, than Oliver had
ever known him assume yet, 'I want you to pay great attention, my
boy, to what I am going to say. I shall talk to you without any
reserve; because I am sure you are well able to understand me, as
many older persons would be.'
'Oh, don't tell you are going to send me away, sir, pray!'
exclaimed Oliver, alarmed at the serious tone of the old
gentleman's commencement! 'Don't turn me out of doors to wander
in the streets again. Let me stay here, and be a servant. Don't
send me back to the wretched place I came from. Have mercy upon
a poor boy, sir!'
'My dear child,' said the old gentleman, moved by the warmth of
Oliver's sudden appeal; 'you need not be afraid of my deserting
you, unless you give me cause.'
'I never, never will, sir,' interposed Oliver.
'I hope not,' rejoined the old gentleman. 'I do not think you
ever will. I have been deceived, before, in the objects whom I
have endeavoured to benefit; but I feel strongly disposed to
trust you, nevertheless; and I am more interested in your behalf
than I can well account for, even to myself. The persons on whom
I have bestowed my dearest love, lie deep in their graves; but,
although the happiness and delight of my life lie buried there
too, I have not made a coffin of my heart, and sealed it up,
forever, on my best affections. Deep affliction has but
strengthened and refined them.'
As the old gentleman said this in a low voice: more to himself
than to his companion: and as he remained silent for a short
time afterwards: Oliver sat quite still.
'Well, well!' said the old gentleman at length, in a more
cheerful tone, 'I only say this, because you have a young heart;
and knowing that I have suffered great pain and sorrow, you will
be more careful, perhaps, not to wound me again. You say you are
an orphan, without a friend in the world; all the inquiries I
have been able to make, confirm the statement. Let me hear your
story; where you come from; who brought you up; and how you got
into the company in which I found you. Speak the truth, and you
shall not be friendless while I live.'
Oliver's sobs checked his utterance for some minutes; when he was
on the point of beginning to relate how he had been brought up at
the farm, and carried to the workhouse by Mr. Bumble, a
peculiarly impatient little double-knock was heard at the
street-door: and the servant, running upstairs, announced Mr.
'Is he coming up?' inquired Mr. Brownlow.
'Yes, sir,' replied the servant. 'He asked if there were any
muffins in the house; and, when I told him yes, he said he had
come to tea.'
Mr. Brownlow smiled; and, turning to Oliver, said that Mr.
Grimwig was an old friend of his, and he must not mind his being
a little rough in his manners; for he was a worthy creature at
bottom, as he had reason to know.
'Shall I go downstairs, sir?' inquired Oliver.
'No,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'I would rather you remained here.'
At this moment, there walked into the room: supporting himself
by a thick stick: a stout old gentleman, rather lame in one leg,
who was dressed in a blue coat, striped waistcoat, nankeen
breeches and gaiters, and a broad-brimmed white hat, with the
sides turned up with green. A very small-plaited shirt frill
stuck out from his waistcoat; and a very long steel watch-chain,
with nothing but a key at the end, dangled loosely below it. The
ends of his white neckerchief were twisted into a ball about the
size of an orange; the variety of shapes into which his
countenance was twisted, defy description. He had a manner of
screwing his head on one side when he spoke; and of looking out
of the corners of his eyes at the same time: which irresistibly
reminded the beholder of a parrot. In this attitude, he fixed
himself, the moment he made his appearance; and, holding out a
small piece of orange-peel at arm's length, exclaimed, in a
growling, discontented voice.
'Look here! do you see this! Isn't it a most wonderful and
extraordinary thing that I can't call at a man's house but I find
a piece of this poor surgeon's friend on the staircase? I've been
lamed with orange-peel once, and I know orange-peel will be my
death, or I'll be content to eat my own head, sir!'
This was the handsome offer with which Mr. Grimwig backed and
confirmed nearly every assertion he made; and it was the more
singular in his case, because, even admitting for the sake of
argument, the possibility of scientific improvements being
brought to that pass which will enable a gentleman to eat his own
head in the event of his being so disposed, Mr. Grimwig's head
was such a particularly large one, that the most sanguine man
alive could hardly entertain a hope of being able to get through
it at a sitting--to put entirely out of the question, a very
thick coating of powder.
'I'll eat my head, sir,' repeated Mr. Grimwig, striking his stick
upon the ground. 'Hallo! what's that!' looking at Oliver, and
retreating a pace or two.
'This is young Oliver Twist, whom we were speaking about,' said
'You don't mean to say that's the boy who had the fever, I hope?'
said Mr. Grimwig, recoiling a little more. 'Wait a minute!
Don't speak! Stop--' continued Mr. Grimwig, abruptly, losing all
dread of the fever in his triumph at the discovery; 'that's the
boy who had the orange! If that's not the boy, sir, who had the
orange, and threw this bit of peel upon the staircase, I'll eat
my head, and his too.'
'No, no, he has not had one,' said Mr. Brownlow, laughing.
'Come! Put down your hat; and speak to my young friend.'
'I feel strongly on this subject, sir,' said the irritable old
gentleman, drawing off his gloves. 'There's always more or less
orange-peel on the pavement in our street; and I _know_ it's put
there by the surgeon's boy at the corner. A young woman stumbled
over a bit last night, and fell against my garden-railings;
directly she got up I saw her look towards his infernal red lamp
with the pantomime-light. "Don't go to him," I called out of the
window, "he's an assassin! A man-trap!" So he is. If he is
not--' Here the irascible old gentleman gave a great knock on
the ground with his stick; which was always understood, by his
friends, to imply the customary offer, whenever it was not
expressed in words. Then, still keeping his stick in his hand, he
sat down; and, opening a double eye-glass, which he wore attached
to a broad black riband, took a view of Oliver: who, seeing that
he was the object of inspection, coloured, and bowed again.
'That's the boy, is it?' said Mr. Grimwig, at length.
'That's the boy,' replied Mr. Brownlow.
'How are you, boy?' said Mr. Grimwig.
'A great deal better, thank you, sir,' replied Oliver.
Mr. Brownlow, seeming to apprehend that his singular friend was
about to say something disagreeable, asked Oliver to step
downstairs and tell Mrs. Bedwin they were ready for tea; which,
as he did not half like the visitor's manner, he was very happy
'He is a nice-looking boy, is he not?' inquired Mr. Brownlow.
'I don't know,' replied Mr. Grimwig, pettishly.
'No. I don't know. I never see any difference in boys. I only
knew two sort of boys. Mealy boys, and beef-faced boys.'
'And which is Oliver?'
'Mealy. I know a friend who has a beef-faced boy; a fine boy,
they call him; with a round head, and red cheeks, and glaring
eyes; a horrid boy; with a body and limbs that appear to be
swelling out of the seams of his blue clothes; with the voice of
a pilot, and the appetite of a wolf. I know him! The wretch!'
'Come,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'these are not the characteristics of
young Oliver Twist; so he needn't excite your wrath.'
'They are not,' replied Mr. Grimwig. 'He may have worse.'
Here, Mr. Brownlow coughed impatiently; which appeared to afford
Mr. Grimwig the most exquisite delight.
'He may have worse, I say,' repeated Mr. Grimwig. 'Where does he
come from! Who is he? What is he? He has had a fever. What of
that? Fevers are not peculiar to good people; are they? Bad
people have fevers sometimes; haven't they, eh? I knew a man who
was hung in Jamaica for murdering his master. He had had a fever
six times; he wasn't recommended to mercy on that account. Pooh!
Now, the fact was, that in the inmost recesses of his own heart,
Mr. Grimwig was strongly disposed to admit that Oliver's
appearance and manner were unusually prepossessing; but he had a
strong appetite for contradiction, sharpened on this occasion by
the finding of the orange-peel; and, inwardly determining that no
man should dictate to him whether a boy was well-looking or not,
he had resolved, from the first, to oppose his friend. When Mr.
Brownlow admitted that on no one point of inquiry could he yet
return a satisfactory answer; and that he had postponed any
investigation into Oliver's previous history until he thought the
boy was strong enough to hear it; Mr. Grimwig chuckled
maliciously. And he demanded, with a sneer, whether the
housekeeper was in the habit of counting the plate at night;
because if she didn't find a table-spoon or two missing some
sunshiny morning, why, he would be content to--and so forth.
All this, Mr. Brownlow, although himself somewhat of an impetuous
gentleman: knowing his friend's peculiarities, bore with great
good humour; as Mr. Grimwig, at tea, was graciously pleased to
express his entire approval of the muffins, matters went on very
smoothly; and Oliver, who made one of the party, began to feel
more at his ease than he had yet done in the fierce old
'And when are you going to hear a full, true, and particular
account of the life and adventures of Oliver Twist?' asked
Grimwig of Mr. Brownlow, at the conclusion of the meal; looking
sideways at Oliver, as he resumed his subject.
'To-morrow morning,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'I would rather he
was alone with me at the time. Come up to me to-morrow morning
at ten o'clock, my dear.'
'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver. He answered with some hesitation,
because he was confused by Mr. Grimwig's looking so hard at him.
'I'll tell you what,' whispered that gentleman to Mr. Brownlow;
'he won't come up to you to-morrow morning. I saw him hesitate.
He is deceiving you, my good friend.'
'I'll swear he is not,' replied Mr. Brownlow, warmly.
'If he is not,' said Mr. Grimwig, 'I'll--' and down went the
'I'll answer for that boy's truth with my life!' said Mr.
Brownlow, knocking the table.
'And I for his falsehood with my head!' rejoined Mr. Grimwig,
knocking the table also.
'We shall see,' said Mr. Brownlow, checking his rising anger.
'We will,' replied Mr. Grimwig, with a provoking smile; 'we
As fate would have it, Mrs. Bedwin chanced to bring in, at this
moment, a small parcel of books, which Mr. Brownlow had that
morning purchased of the identical bookstall-keeper, who has
already figured in this history; having laid them on the table,
she prepared to leave the room.
'Stop the boy, Mrs. Bedwin!' said Mr. Brownlow; 'there is
something to go back.'
'He has gone, sir,' replied Mrs. Bedwin.
'Call after him,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'it's particular. He is a
poor man, and they are not paid for. There are some books to be
taken back, too.'
The street-door was opened. Oliver ran one way; and the girl ran
another; and Mrs. Bedwin stood on the step and screamed for the
boy; but there was no boy in sight. Oliver and the girl
returned, in a breathless state, to report that there were no
tidings of him.
'Dear me, I am very sorry for that,' exclaimed Mr. Brownlow; 'I
particularly wished those books to be returned to-night.'
'Send Oliver with them,' said Mr. Grimwig, with an ironical
smile; 'he will be sure to deliver them safely, you know.'
'Yes; do let me take them, if you please, sir,' said Oliver.
'I'll run all the way, sir.'
The old gentleman was just going to say that Oliver should not go
out on any account; when a most malicious cough from Mr. Grimwig
determined him that he should; and that, by his prompt discharge
of the commission, he should prove to him the injustice of his
suspicions: on this head at least: at once.
'You _shall_ go, my dear,' said the old gentleman. 'The books are
on a chair by my table. Fetch them down.'
Oliver, delighted to be of use, brought down the books under his
arm in a great bustle; and waited, cap in hand, to hear what
message he was to take.
'You are to say,' said Mr. Brownlow, glancing steadily at
Grimwig; 'you are to say that you have brought those books back;
and that you have come to pay the four pound ten I owe him. This
is a five-pound note, so you will have to bring me back, ten
'I won't be ten minutes, sir,' said Oliver, eagerly. Having
buttoned up the bank-note in his jacket pocket, and placed the
books carefully under his arm, he made a respectful bow, and left
the room. Mrs. Bedwin followed him to the street-door, giving
him many directions about the nearest way, and the name of the
bookseller, and the name of the street: all of which Oliver said
he clearly understood. Having superadded many injunctions to be
sure and not take cold, the old lady at length permitted him to
'Bless his sweet face!' said the old lady, looking after him. 'I
can't bear, somehow, to let him go out of my sight.'
At this moment, Oliver looked gaily round, and nodded before he
turned the corner. The old lady smilingly returned his
salutation, and, closing the door, went back to her own room.
'Let me see; he'll be back in twenty minutes, at the longest,'
said Mr. Brownlow, pulling out his watch, and placing it on the
table. 'It will be dark by that time.'
'Oh! you really expect him to come back, do you?' inquired Mr.
'Don't you?' asked Mr. Brownlow, smiling.
The spirit of contradiction was strong in Mr. Grimwig's breast,
at the moment; and it was rendered stronger by his friend's
'No,' he said, smiting the table with his fist, 'I do not. The
boy has a new suit of clothes on his back, a set of valuable
books under his arm, and a five-pound note in his pocket. He'll
join his old friends the thieves, and laugh at you. If ever that
boy returns to this house, sir, I'll eat my head.'
With these words he drew his chair closer to the table; and there
the two friends sat, in silent expectation, with the watch
It is worthy of remark, as illustrating the importance we attach
to our own judgments, and the pride with which we put forth our
most rash and hasty conclusions, that, although Mr. Grimwig was
not by any means a bad-hearted man, and though he would have been
unfeignedly sorry to see his respected friend duped and deceived,
he really did most earnestly and strongly hope at that moment,
that Oliver Twist might not come back.
It grew so dark, that the figures on the dial-plate were scarcely
discernible; but there the two old gentlemen continued to sit, in
silence, with the watch between them.
SHOWING HOW VERY FOND OF OLIVER TWIST, THE MERRY OLD JEW AND MISS
In the obscure parlour of a low public-house, in the filthiest
part of Little Saffron Hill; a dark and gloomy den, where a
flaring gas-light burnt all day in the winter-time; and where no
ray of sun ever shone in the summer: there sat, brooding over a
little pewter measure and a small glass, strongly impregnated
with the smell of liquor, a man in a velveteen coat, drab shorts,
half-boots and stockings, whom even by that dim light no
experienced agent of the police would have hesitated to recognise
as Mr. William Sikes. At his feet, sat a white-coated, red-eyed
dog; who occupied himself, alternately, in winking at his master
with both eyes at the same time; and in licking a large, fresh
cut on one side of his mouth, which appeared to be the result of
some recent conflict.
'Keep quiet, you warmint! Keep quiet!' said Mr. Sikes, suddenly
breaking silence. Whether his meditations were so intense as to
be disturbed by the dog's winking, or whether his feelings were
so wrought upon by his reflections that they required all the
relief derivable from kicking an unoffending animal to allay
them, is matter for argument and consideration. Whatever was the
cause, the effect was a kick and a curse, bestowed upon the dog
Dogs are not generally apt to revenge injuries inflicted upon
them by their masters; but Mr. Sikes's dog, having faults of
temper in common with his owner, and labouring, perhaps, at this
moment, under a powerful sense of injury, made no more ado but at
once fixed his teeth in one of the half-boots. Having given in a
hearty shake, he retired, growling, under a form; just escaping
the pewter measure which Mr. Sikes levelled at his head.
'You would, would you?' said Sikes, seizing the poker in one
hand, and deliberately opening with the other a large
clasp-knife, which he drew from his pocket. 'Come here, you born
devil! Come here! D'ye hear?'
The dog no doubt heard; because Mr. Sikes spoke in the very
harshest key of a very harsh voice; but, appearing to entertain
some unaccountable objection to having his throat cut, he
remained where he was, and growled more fiercely than before: at
the same time grasping the end of the poker between his teeth,
and biting at it like a wild beast.
This resistance only infuriated Mr. Sikes the more; who, dropping
on his knees, began to assail the animal most furiously. The dog
jumped from right to left, and from left to right; snapping,
growling, and barking; the man thrust and swore, and struck and
blasphemed; and the struggle was reaching a most critical point
for one or other; when, the door suddenly opening, the dog darted
out: leaving Bill Sikes with the poker and the clasp-knife in
There must always be two parties to a quarrel, says the old
adage. Mr. Sikes, being disappointed of the dog's participation,
at once transferred his share in the quarrel to the new comer.
'What the devil do you come in between me and my dog for?' said
Sikes, with a fierce gesture.
'I didn't know, my dear, I didn't know,' replied Fagin, humbly;
for the Jew was the new comer.
'Didn't know, you white-livered thief!' growled Sikes. 'Couldn't
you hear the noise?'
'Not a sound of it, as I'm a living man, Bill,' replied the Jew.
'Oh no! You hear nothing, you don't,' retorted Sikes with a
fierce sneer. 'Sneaking in and out, so as nobody hears how you
come or go! I wish you had been the dog, Fagin, half a minute
'Why?' inquired the Jew with a forced smile.
'Cause the government, as cares for the lives of such men as you,
as haven't half the pluck of curs, lets a man kill a dog how he
likes,' replied Sikes, shutting up the knife with a very
expressive look; 'that's why.'
The Jew rubbed his hands; and, sitting down at the table,
affected to laugh at the pleasantry of his friend. He was
obviously very ill at ease, however.
'Grin away,' said Sikes, replacing the poker, and surveying him
with savage contempt; 'grin away. You'll never have the laugh at
me, though, unless it's behind a nightcap. I've got the upper
hand over you, Fagin; and, d--me, I'll keep it. There! If I go,
you go; so take care of me.'
'Well, well, my dear,' said the Jew, 'I know all that;
we--we--have a mutual interest, Bill,--a mutual interest.'
'Humph,' said Sikes, as if he thought the interest lay rather more
on the Jew's side than on his. 'Well, what have you got to say
'It's all passed safe through the melting-pot,' replied Fagin,
'and this is your share. It's rather more than it ought to be,
my dear; but as I know you'll do me a good turn another time,
'Stow that gammon,' interposed the robber, impatiently. 'Where is
it? Hand over!'
'Yes, yes, Bill; give me time, give me time,' replied the Jew,
soothingly. 'Here it is! All safe!' As he spoke, he drew forth
an old cotton handkerchief from his breast; and untying a large
knot in one corner, produced a small brown-paper packet. Sikes,
snatching it from him, hastily opened it; and proceeded to count
the sovereigns it contained.
'This is all, is it?' inquired Sikes.
'All,' replied the Jew.
'You haven't opened the parcel and swallowed one or two as you
come along, have you?' inquired Sikes, suspiciously. 'Don't put
on an injured look at the question; you've done it many a time.
Jerk the tinkler.'
These words, in plain English, conveyed an injunction to ring the
bell. It was answered by another Jew: younger than Fagin, but
nearly as vile and repulsive in appearance.
Bill Sikes merely pointed to the empty measure. The Jew,
perfectly understanding the hint, retired to fill it: previously
exchanging a remarkable look with Fagin, who raised his eyes for
an instant, as if in expectation of it, and shook his head in
reply; so slightly that the action would have been almost
imperceptible to an observant third person. It was lost upon
Sikes, who was stooping at the moment to tie the boot-lace which
the dog had torn. Possibly, if he had observed the brief
interchange of signals, he might have thought that it boded no
good to him.
'Is anybody here, Barney?' inquired Fagin; speaking, now that
that Sikes was looking on, without raising his eyes from the
'Dot a shoul,' replied Barney; whose words: whether they came
from the heart or not: made their way through the nose.
'Nobody?' inquired Fagin, in a tone of surprise: which perhaps
might mean that Barney was at liberty to tell the truth.
'Dobody but Biss Dadsy,' replied Barney.
'Nancy!' exclaimed Sikes. 'Where? Strike me blind, if I don't
honour that 'ere girl, for her native talents.'
'She's bid havid a plate of boiled beef id the bar,' replied
'Send her here,' said Sikes, pouring out a glass of liquor. 'Send
Barney looked timidly at Fagin, as if for permission; the Jew
remaining silent, and not lifting his eyes from the ground, he
retired; and presently returned, ushering in Nancy; who was
decorated with the bonnet, apron, basket, and street-door key,
'You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?' inquired Sikes,
proffering the glass.
'Yes, I am, Bill,' replied the young lady, disposing of its
contents; 'and tired enough of it I am, too. The young brat's
been ill and confined to the crib; and--'
'Ah, Nancy, dear!' said Fagin, looking up.
Now, whether a peculiar contraction of the Jew's red eye-brows,
and a half closing of his deeply-set eyes, warned Miss Nancy that
she was disposed to be too communicative, is not a matter of much
importance. The fact is all we need care for here; and the fact
is, that she suddenly checked herself, and with several gracious
smiles upon Mr. Sikes, turned the conversation to other matters.
In about ten minutes' time, Mr. Fagin was seized with a fit of
coughing; upon which Nancy pulled her shawl over her shoulders,
and declared it was time to go. Mr. Sikes, finding that he was
walking a short part of her way himself, expressed his intention
of accompanying her; they went away together, followed, at a
little distant, by the dog, who slunk out of a back-yard as soon
as his master was out of sight.
The Jew thrust his head out of the room door when Sikes had left
it; looked after him as we walked up the dark passage; shook his
clenched fist; muttered a deep curse; and then, with a horrible
grin, reseated himself at the table; where he was soon deeply
absorbed in the interesting pages of the Hue-and-Cry.
Meanwhile, Oliver Twist, little dreaming that he was within so
very short a distance of the merry old gentleman, was on his way
to the book-stall. When he got into Clerkenwell, he accidently
turned down a by-street which was not exactly in his way; but not
discovering his mistake until he had got half-way down it, and
knowing it must lead in the right direction, he did not think it
worth while to turn back; and so marched on, as quickly as he
could, with the books under his arm.
He was walking along, thinking how happy and contented he ought
to feel; and how much he would give for only one look at poor
little Dick, who, starved and beaten, might be weeping bitterly
at that very moment; when he was startled by a young woman
screaming out very loud. 'Oh, my dear brother!' And he had
hardly looked up, to see what the matter was, when he was stopped
by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.
'Don't,' cried Oliver, struggling. 'Let go of me. Who is it?
What are you stopping me for?'
The only reply to this, was a great number of loud lamentations
from the young woman who had embraced him; and who had a little
basket and a street-door key in her hand.
'Oh my gracious!' said the young woman, 'I have found him! Oh!
Oliver! Oliver! Oh you naughty boy, to make me suffer such
distress on your account! Come home, dear, come. Oh, I've found
him. Thank gracious goodness heavins, I've found him!' With
these incoherent exclamations, the young woman burst into another
fit of crying, and got so dreadfully hysterical, that a couple of
women who came up at the moment asked a butcher's boy with a
shiny head of hair anointed with suet, who was also looking on,
whether he didn't think he had better run for the doctor. To
which, the butcher's boy: who appeared of a lounging, not to say
indolent disposition: replied, that he thought not.
'Oh, no, no, never mind,' said the young woman, grasping Oliver's
hand; 'I'm better now. Come home directly, you cruel boy!
'Oh, ma'am,' replied the young woman, 'he ran away, near a month
ago, from his parents, who are hard-working and respectable
people; and went and joined a set of thieves and bad characters;
and almost broke his mother's heart.'
'Young wretch!' said one woman.
'Go home, do, you little brute,' said the other.
'I am not,' replied Oliver, greatly alarmed. 'I don't know her.
I haven't any sister, or father and mother either. I'm an
orphan; I live at Pentonville.'
'Only hear him, how he braves it out!' cried the young woman.
'Why, it's Nancy!' exclaimed Oliver; who now saw her face for the
first time; and started back, in irrepressible astonishment.
'You see he knows me!' cried Nancy, appealing to the bystanders.
'He can't help himself. Make him come home, there's good people,
or he'll kill his dear mother and father, and break my heart!'
'What the devil's this?' said a man, bursting out of a beer-shop,
with a white dog at his heels; 'young Oliver! Come home to your
poor mother, you young dog! Come home directly.'
'I don't belong to them. I don't know them. Help! help!' cried
Oliver, struggling in the man's powerful grasp.
'Help!' repeated the man. 'Yes; I'll help you, you young rascal!
What books are these? You've been a stealing 'em, have you?
Give 'em here.' With these words, the man tore the volumes from
his grasp, and struck him on the head.
'That's right!' cried a looker-on, from a garret-window. 'That's
the only way of bringing him to his senses!'
'To be sure!' cried a sleepy-faced carpenter, casting an
approving look at the garret-window.
'It'll do him good!' said the two women.
'And he shall have it, too!' rejoined the man, administering
another blow, and seizing Oliver by the collar. 'Come on, you
young villain! Here, Bull's-eye, mind him, boy! Mind him!'
Weak with recent illness; stupified by the blows and the
suddenness of the attack; terrified by the fierce growling of the
dog, and the brutality of the man; overpowered by the conviction
of the bystanders that he really was the hardened little wretch
he was described to be; what could one poor child do! Darkness
had set in; it was a low neighborhood; no help was near;
resistance was useless. In another moment he was dragged into a
labyrinth of dark narrow courts, and was forced along them at a
pace which rendered the few cries he dared to give utterance to,
unintelligible. It was of little moment, indeed, whether they
were intelligible or no; for there was nobody to care for them,
had they been ever so plain.
* * * * * * * * *
The gas-lamps were lighted; Mrs. Bedwin was waiting anxiously at
the open door; the servant had run up the street twenty times to
see if there were any traces of Oliver; and still the two old
gentlemen sat, perseveringly, in the dark parlour, with the watch
RELATES WHAT BECAME OF OLIVER TWIST, AFTER HE HAD BEEN CLAIMED BY
The narrow streets and courts, at length, terminated in a large
open space; scattered about which, were pens for beasts, and
other indications of a cattle-market. Sikes slackened his pace
when they reached this spot: the girl being quite unable to
support any longer, the rapid rate at which they had hitherto
walked. Turning to Oliver, he roughly commanded him to take hold
of Nancy's hand.
'Do you hear?' growled Sikes, as Oliver hesitated, and looked
They were in a dark corner, quite out of the track of passengers.
Oliver saw, but too plainly, that resistance would be of no
avail. He held out his hand, which Nancy clasped tight in hers.
'Give me the other,' said Sikes, seizing Oliver's unoccupied
hand. 'Here, Bull's-Eye!'
The dog looked up, and growled.
'See here, boy!' said Sikes, putting his other hand to Oliver's
throat; 'if he speaks ever so soft a word, hold him! D'ye mind!'
The dog growled again; and licking his lips, eyed Oliver as if he
were anxious to attach himself to his windpipe without delay.
'He's as willing as a Christian, strike me blind if he isn't!'
said Sikes, regarding the animal with a kind of grim and
ferocious approval. 'Now, you know what you've got to expect,
master, so call away as quick as you like; the dog will soon stop
that game. Get on, young'un!'
Bull's-eye wagged his tail in acknowledgment of this unusually
endearing form of speech; and, giving vent to another admonitory
growl for the benefit of Oliver, led the way onward.
It was Smithfield that they were crossing, although it might have
been Grosvenor Square, for anything Oliver knew to the contrary.
The night was dark and foggy. The lights in the shops could
scarecely struggle through the heavy mist, which thickened every
moment and shrouded the streets and houses in gloom; rendering
the strange place still stranger in Oliver's eyes; and making his
uncertainty the more dismal and depressing.
They had hurried on a few paces, when a deep church-bell struck
the hour. With its first stroke, his two conductors stopped, and
turned their heads in the direction whence the sound proceeded.
'Eight o' clock, Bill,' said Nancy, when the bell ceased.
'What's the good of telling me that; I can hear it, can't I!'
'I wonder whether THEY can hear it,' said Nancy.
'Of course they can,' replied Sikes. 'It was Bartlemy time when
I was shopped; and there warn't a penny trumpet in the fair, as I
couldn't hear the squeaking on. Arter I was locked up for the
night, the row and din outside made the thundering old jail so
silent, that I could almost have beat my brains out against the
iron plates of the door.'
'Poor fellow!' said Nancy, who still had her face turned towards
the quarter in which the bell had sounded. 'Oh, Bill, such fine
young chaps as them!'
'Yes; that's all you women think of,' answered Sikes. 'Fine
young chaps! Well, they're as good as dead, so it don't much
With this consolation, Mr. Sikes appeared to repress a rising
tendency to jealousy, and, clasping Oliver's wrist more firmly,
told him to step out again.
'Wait a minute!' said the girl: 'I wouldn't hurry by, if it was
you that was coming out to be hung, the next time eight o'clock
struck, Bill. I'd walk round and round the place till I dropped,
if the snow was on the ground, and I hadn't a shawl to cover me.'
'And what good would that do?' inquired the unsentimental Mr.
Sikes. 'Unless you could pitch over a file and twenty yards of
good stout rope, you might as well be walking fifty mile off, or
not walking at all, for all the good it would do me. Come on,
and don't stand preaching there.'
The girl burst into a laugh; drew her shawl more closely round
her; and they walked away. But Oliver felt her hand tremble,
and, looking up in her face as they passed a gas-lamp, saw that
it had turned a deadly white.
They walked on, by little-frequented and dirty ways, for a full
half-hour: meeting very few people, and those appearing from
their looks to hold much the same position in society as Mr.
Sikes himself. At length they turned into a very filthy narrow
street, nearly full of old-clothes shops; the dog running
forward, as if conscious that there was no further occasion for
his keeping on guard, stopped before the door of a shop that was
closed and apparently untenanted; the house was in a ruinous
condition, and on the door was nailed a board, intimating that it
was to let: which looked as if it had hung there for many years.
'All right,' cried Sikes, glancing cautiously about.
Nancy stooped below the shutters, and Oliver heard the sound of a
bell. They crossed to the opposite side of the street, and stood
for a few moments under a lamp. A noise, as if a sash window
were gently raised, was heard; and soon afterwards the door
softly opened. Mr. Sikes then seized the terrified boy by the
collar with very little ceremony; and all three were quickly
inside the house.
The passage was perfectly dark. They waited, while the person
who had let them in, chained and barred the door.
'Anybody here?' inquired Sikes.
'No,' replied a voice, which Oliver thought he had heard before.
'Is the old 'un here?' asked the robber.
'Yes,' replied the voice, 'and precious down in the mouth he has
been. Won't he be glad to see you? Oh, no!'
The style of this reply, as well as the voice which delivered it,
seemed familiar to Oliver's ears: but it was impossible to
distinguish even the form of the speaker in the darkness.
'Let's have a glim,' said Sikes, 'or we shall go breaking our
necks, or treading on the dog. Look after your legs if you do!'
'Stand still a moment, and I'll get you one,' replied the voice.
The receding footsteps of the speaker were heard; and, in another
minute, the form of Mr. John Dawkins, otherwise the Artful
Dodger, appeared. He bore in his right hand a tallow candle
stuck in the end of a cleft stick.
The young gentleman did not stop to bestow any other mark of
recognition upon Oliver than a humourous grin; but, turning away,
beckoned the visitors to follow him down a flight of stairs.
They crossed an empty kitchen; and, opening the door of a low
earthy-smelling room, which seemed to have been built in a small
back-yard, were received with a shout of laughter.
'Oh, my wig, my wig!' cried Master Charles Bates, from whose
lungs the laughter had proceeded: 'here he is! oh, cry, here he
is! Oh, Fagin, look at him! Fagin, do look at him! I can't bear
it; it is such a jolly game, I cant' bear it. Hold me, somebody,
while I laugh it out.'
With this irrepressible ebullition of mirth, Master Bates laid
himself flat on the floor: and kicked convulsively for five
minutes, in an ectasy of facetious joy. Then jumping to his
feet, he snatched the cleft stick from the Dodger; and, advancing
to Oliver, viewed him round and round; while the Jew, taking off
his nightcap, made a great number of low bows to the bewildered
boy. The Artful, meantime, who was of a rather saturnine
disposition, and seldom gave way to merriment when it interfered
with business, rifled Oliver's pockets with steady assiduity.
'Look at his togs, Fagin!' said Charley, putting the light so
close to his new jacket as nearly to set him on fire. 'Look at
his togs! Superfine cloth, and the heavy swell cut! Oh, my eye,
what a game! And his books, too! Nothing but a gentleman,
'Delighted to see you looking so well, my dear,' said the Jew,
bowing with mock humility. 'The Artful shall give you another
suit, my dear, for fear you should spoil that Sunday one. Why
didn't you write, my dear, and say you were coming? We'd have
got something warm for supper.'
At his, Master Bates roared again: so loud, that Fagin himself
relaxed, and even the Dodger smiled; but as the Artful drew forth
the five-pound note at that instant, it is doubtful whether the
sally of the discovery awakened his merriment.
'Hallo, what's that?' inquired Sikes, stepping forward as the Jew
seized the note. 'That's mine, Fagin.'
'No, no, my dear,' said the Jew. 'Mine, Bill, mine. You shall
have the books.'
'If that ain't mine!' said Bill Sikes, putting on his hat with a
determined air; 'mine and Nancy's that is; I'll take the boy back
The Jew started. Oliver started too, though from a very
different cause; for he hoped that the dispute might really end
in his being taken back.
'Come! Hand over, will you?' said Sikes.
'This is hardly fair, Bill; hardly fair, is it, Nancy?' inquired
'Fair, or not fair,' retorted Sikes, 'hand over, I tell you! Do
you think Nancy and me has got nothing else to do with our
precious time but to spend it in scouting arter, and kidnapping,
every young boy as gets grabbed through you? Give it here, you
avaricious old skeleton, give it here!'
With this gentle remonstrance, Mr. Sikes plucked the note from
between the Jew's finger and thumb; and looking the old man
coolly in the face, folded it up small, and tied it in his
'That's for our share of the trouble,' said Sikes; 'and not half
enough, neither. You may keep the books, if you're fond of
reading. If you ain't, sell 'em.'
'They're very pretty,' said Charley Bates: who, with sundry
grimaces, had been affecting to read one of the volumes in
question; 'beautiful writing, isn't is, Oliver?' At sight of the
dismayed look with which Oliver regarded his tormentors, Master
Bates, who was blessed with a lively sense of the ludicrous, fell
into another ectasy, more boisterous than the first.
'They belong to the old gentleman,' said Oliver, wringing his
hands; 'to the good, kind, old gentleman who took me into his
house, and had me nursed, when I was near dying of the fever.
Oh, pray send them back; send him back the books and money. Keep
me here all my life long; but pray, pray send them back. He'll
think I stole them; the old lady: all of them who were so kind
to me: will think I stole them. Oh, do have mercy upon me, and
send them back!'
With these words, which were uttered with all the energy of
passionate grief, Oliver fell upon his knees at the Jew's feet;
and beat his hands together, in perfect desperation.
'The boy's right,' remarked Fagin, looking covertly round, and
knitting his shaggy eyebrows into a hard knot. 'You're right,
Oliver, you're right; they WILL think you have stolen 'em. Ha!
ha!' chuckled the Jew, rubbing his hands, 'it couldn't have
happened better, if we had chosen our time!'
'Of course it couldn't,' replied Sikes; 'I know'd that, directly
I see him coming through Clerkenwell, with the books under his
arm. It's all right enough. They're soft-hearted psalm-singers,
or they wouldn't have taken him in at all; and they'll ask no
questions after him, fear they should be obliged to prosecute,
and so get him lagged. He's safe enough.'
Oliver had looked from one to the other, while these words were
being spoken, as if he were bewildered, and could scarecely
understand what passed; but when Bill Sikes concluded, he jumped
suddenly to his feet, and tore wildly from the room: uttering
shrieks for help, which made the bare old house echo to the roof.
'Keep back the dog, Bill!' cried Nancy, springing before the
door, and closing it, as the Jew and his two pupils darted out in
pursuit. 'Keep back the dog; he'll tear the boy to pieces.'
'Serve him right!' cried Sikes, struggling to disengage himself
from the girl's grasp. 'Stand off from me, or I'll split your
head against the wall.'
'I don't care for that, Bill, I don't care for that,' screamed
the girl, struggling violently with the man, 'the child shan't be
torn down by the dog, unless you kill me first.'
'Shan't he!' said Sikes, setting his teeth. 'I'll soon do that,
if you don't keep off.'
The housebreaker flung the girl from him to the further end of
the room, just as the Jew and the two boys returned, dragging
Oliver among them.
'What's the matter here!' said Fagin, looking round.
'The girl's gone mad, I think,' replied Sikes, savagely.
'No, she hasn't,' said Nancy, pale and breathless from the
scuffle; 'no, she hasn't, Fagin; don't think it.'
'Then keep quiet, will you?' said the Jew, with a threatening
'No, I won't do that, neither,' replied Nancy, speaking very
loud. 'Come! What do you think of that?'
Mr. Fagin was sufficiently well acquainted with the manners and
customs of that particular species of humanity to which Nancy
belonged, to feel tolerably certain that it would be rather
unsafe to prolong any conversation with her, at present. With
the view of diverting the attention of the company, he turned to
'So you wanted to get away, my dear, did you?' said the Jew,
taking up a jagged and knotted club which law in a corner of the
Oliver made no reply. But he watched the Jew's motions, and
'Wanted to get assistance; called for the police; did you?'
sneered the Jew, catching the boy by the arm. 'We'll cure you of
that, my young master.'
The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the
club; and was raising it for a second, when the girl, rushing
forward, wrested it from his hand. She flung it into the fire,
with a force that brought some of the glowing coals whirling out
into the room.
'I won't stand by and see it done, Fagin,' cried the girl.
'You've got the boy, and what more would you have?--Let him
be--let him be--or I shall put that mark on some of you, that
will bring me to the gallows before my time.'
The girl stamped her foot violently on the floor as she vented
this threat; and with her lips compressed, and her hands
clenched, looked alternately at the Jew and the other robber:
her face quite colourless from the passion of rage into which she
had gradually worked herself.
'Why, Nancy!' said the Jew, in a soothing tone; after a pause,
during which he and Mr. Sikes had stared at one another in a
disconcerted manner; 'you,--you're more clever than ever
to-night. Ha! ha! my dear, you are acting beautifully.'
'Am I!' said the girl. 'Take care I don't overdo it. You will
be the worse for it, Fagin, if I do; and so I tell you in good
time to keep clear of me.'
There is something about a roused woman: especially if she add to
all her other strong passions, the fierce impulses of
recklessness and despair; which few men like to provoke. The Jew
saw that it would be hopeless to affect any further mistake
regarding the reality of Miss Nancy's rage; and, shrinking
involuntarily back a few paces, cast a glance, half imploring and
half cowardly, at Sikes: as if to hint that he was the fittest
person to pursue the dialogue.
Mr. Sikes, thus mutely appealed to; and possibly feeling his
personal pride and influence interested in the immediate
reduction of Miss Nancy to reason; gave utterance to about a
couple of score of curses and threats, the rapid production of
which reflected great credit on the fertility of his invention.
As they produced no visible effect on the object against whom
they were discharged, however, he resorted to more tangible
'What do you mean by this?' said Sikes; backing the inquiry with
a very common imprecation concerning the most beautiful of human
features: which, if it were heard above, only once out of every
fifty thousand times that it is uttered below, would render
blindness as common a disorder as measles: 'what do you mean by
it? Burn my body! Do you know who you are, and what you are?'
'Oh, yes, I know all about it,' replied the girl, laughing
hysterically; and shaking her head from side to side, with a poor
assumption of indifference.
'Well, then, keep quiet,' rejoined Sikes, with a growl like that
he was accustomed to use when addressing his dog, 'or I'll quiet
you for a good long time to come.'
The girl laughed again: even less composedly than before; and,
darting a hasty look at Sikes, turned her face aside, and bit her
lip till the blood came.
'You're a nice one,' added Sikes, as he surveyed her with a
contemptuous air, 'to take up the humane and gen--teel side! A
pretty subject for the child, as you call him, to make a friend
'God Almighty help me, I am!' cried the girl passionately; 'and I
wish I had been struck dead in the street, or had changed places
with them we passed so near to-night, before I had lent a hand in
bringing him here. He's a thief, a liar, a devil, all that's
bad, from this night forth. Isn't that enough for the old
wretch, without blows?'
'Come, come, Sikes,' said the Jew appealing to him in a
remonstratory tone, and motioning towards the boys, who were
eagerly attentive to all that passed; 'we must have civil words;
civil words, Bill.'
'Civil words!' cried the girl, whose passion was frightful to
see. 'Civil words, you villain! Yes, you deserve 'em from me.
I thieved for you when I was a child not half as old as this!'
pointing to Oliver. 'I have been in the same trade, and in the
same service, for twelve years since. Don't you know it? Speak
out! Don't you know it?'
'Well, well,' replied the Jew, with an attempt at pacification;
'and, if you have, it's your living!'
'Aye, it is!' returned the girl; not speaking, but pouring out
the words in one continuous and vehement scream. 'It is my
living; and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; and you're
the wretch that drove me to them long ago, and that'll keep me
there, day and night, day and night, till I die!'
'I shall do you a mischief!' interposed the Jew, goaded by these
reproaches; 'a mischief worse than that, if you say much more!'
The girl said nothing more; but, tearing her hair and dress in a
transport of passion, made such a rush at the Jew as would
probably have left signal marks of her revenge upon him, had not
her wrists been seized by Sikes at the right moment; upon which,
she made a few ineffectual struggles, and fainted.
'She's all right now,' said Sikes, laying her down in a corner.
'She's uncommon strong in the arms, when she's up in this way.'
The Jew wiped his forehead: and smiled, as if it were a relief to
have the disturbance over; but neither he, nor Sikes, nor the
dog, nor the boys, seemed to consider it in any other light than
a common occurance incidental to business.
'It's the worst of having to do with women,' said the Jew,
replacing his club; 'but they're clever, and we can't get on, in
our line, without 'em. Charley, show Oliver to bed.'
'I suppose he'd better not wear his best clothes tomorrow, Fagin,
had he?' inquired Charley Bates.
'Certainly not,' replied the Jew, reciprocating the grin with
which Charley put the question.
Master Bates, apparently much delighted with his commission, took
the cleft stick: and led Oliver into an adjacent kitchen, where
there were two or three of the beds on which he had slept before;
and here, with many uncontrollable bursts of laughter, he
produced the identical old suit of clothes which Oliver had so
much congratulated himself upon leaving off at Mr. Brownlow's;
and the accidental display of which, to Fagin, by the Jew who
purchased them, had been the very first clue received, of his
'Put off the smart ones,' said Charley, 'and I'll give 'em to
Fagin to take care of. What fun it is!'
Poor Oliver unwillingly complied. Master Bates rolling up the
new clothes under his arm, departed from the room, leaving Oliver
in the dark, and locking the door behind him.
The noise of Charley's laughter, and the voice of Miss Betsy, who
opportunely arrived to throw water over her friend, and perform
other feminine offices for the promotion of her recovery, might
have kept many people awake under more happy circumstances than
those in which Oliver was placed. But he was sick and weary; and
he soon fell sound asleep.
OLIVER'S DESTINY CONTINUING UNPROPITIOUS, BRINGS A GREAT MAN TO
LONDON TO INJURE HIS REPUTATION
It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas,
to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular
alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky
bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bed, weighed down by
fetters and misfortunes; in the next scene, his faithful but
unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song. We
behold, with throbbing bosoms, the heroine in the grasp of a
proud and ruthless baron: her virtue and her life alike in
danger, drawing forth her dagger to preserve the one at the cost
of the other; and just as our expectations are wrought up to the
highest pitch, a whistle is heard, and we are straightway
transported to the great hall of the castle; where a grey-headed
seneschal sings a funny chorus with a funnier body of vassals,
who are free of all sorts of places, from church vaults to
palaces, and roam about in company, carolling perpetually.
Such changes appear absurd; but they are not so unnatural as they
would seem at first sight. The transitions in real life from
well-spread boards to death-beds, and from mourning-weeds to
holiday garments, are not a whit less startling; only, there, we
are busy actors, instead of passive lookers-on, which makes a
vast difference. The actors in the mimic life of the theatre,
are blind to violent transitions and abrupt impulses of passion
or feeling, which, presented before the eyes of mere spectators,
are at once condemned as outrageous and preposterous.
As sudden shiftings of the scene, and rapid changes of time and
place, are not only sanctioned in books by long usage, but are by
many considered as the great art of authorship: an author's skill
in his craft being, by such critics, chiefly estimated with
relation to the dilemmas in which he leaves his characters at the
end of every chapter: this brief introduction to the present one
may perhaps be deemed unnecessary. If so, let it be considered a
delicate intimation on the part of the historian that he is going
back to the town in which Oliver Twist was born; the reader
taking it for granted that there are good and substantial reasons
for making the journey, or he would not be invited to proceed
upon such an expedition.
Mr. Bumble emerged at early morning from the workhouse-gate, and
walked with portly carriage and commanding steps, up the High
Street. He was in the full bloom and pride of beadlehood; his
cocked hat and coat were dazzling in the morning sun; he clutched
his cane with the vigorous tenacity of health and power. Mr.
Bumble always carried his head high; but this morning it was
higher than usual. There was an abstraction in his eye, an
elevation in his air, which might have warned an observant
stranger that thoughts were passing in the beadle's mind, too
great for utterance.
Mr. Bumble stopped not to converse with the small shopkeepers and
others who spoke to him, deferentially, as he passed along. He
merely returned their salutations with a wave of his hand, and
relaxed not in his dignified pace, until he reached the farm
where Mrs. Mann tended the infant paupers with parochial care.
'Drat that beadle!' said Mrs. Mann, hearing the well-known
shaking at the garden-gate. 'If it isn't him at this time in the
morning! Lauk, Mr. Bumble, only think of its being you! Well,
dear me, it IS a pleasure, this is! Come into the parlour, sir,
The first sentence was addressed to Susan; and the exclamations
of delight were uttered to Mr. Bumble: as the good lady unlocked
the garden-gate: and showed him, with great attention and
respect, into the house.
'Mrs. Mann,' said Mr. Bumble; not sitting upon, or dropping
himself into a seat, as any common jackanapes would: but letting
himself gradually and slowly down into a chair; 'Mrs. Mann,
ma'am, good morning.'
'Well, and good morning to _you_, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann, with
many smiles; 'and hoping you find yourself well, sir!'
'So-so, Mrs. Mann,' replied the beadle. 'A porochial life is not
a bed of roses, Mrs. Mann.'
'Ah, that it isn't indeed, Mr. Bumble,' rejoined the lady. And
all the infant paupers might have chorussed the rejoinder with
great propriety, if they had heard it.
'A porochial life, ma'am,' continued Mr. Bumble, striking the
table with his cane, 'is a life of worrit, and vexation, and
hardihood; but all public characters, as I may say, must suffer
Mrs. Mann, not very well knowing what the beadle meant, raised
her hands with a look of sympathy, and sighed.
'Ah! You may well sigh, Mrs. Mann!' said the beadle.
Finding she had done right, Mrs. Mann sighed again: evidently to
the satisfaction of the public character: who, repressing a
complacent smile by looking sternly at his cocked hat, said,
'Mrs. Mann, I am going to London.'
'Lauk, Mr. Bumble!' cried Mrs. Mann, starting back.
'To London, ma'am,' resumed the inflexible beadle, 'by coach. I
and two paupers, Mrs. Mann! A legal action is a coming on, about
a settlement; and the board has appointed me--me, Mrs. Mann--to
dispose to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell.
And I very much question,' added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up,
'whether the Clerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the
wrong box before they have done with me.'
'Oh! you mustn't be too hard upon them, sir,' said Mrs. Mann,
'The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves,
ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble; 'and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find
that they come off rather worse than they expected, the
Clerkinwell Sessions have only themselves to thank.'
There was so much determination and depth of purpose about the
menacing manner in which Mr. Bumble delivered himself of these
words, that Mrs. Mann appeared quite awed by them. At length she
'You're going by coach, sir? I thought it was always usual to
send them paupers in carts.'
'That's when they're ill, Mrs. Mann,' said the beadle. 'We put
the sick paupers into open carts in the rainy weather, to prevent
their taking cold.'
'Oh!' said Mrs. Mann.
'The opposition coach contracts for these two; and takes them
cheap,' said Mr. Bumble. 'They are both in a very low state, and
we find it would come two pound cheaper to move 'em than to bury
'em--that is, if we can throw 'em upon another parish, which I
think we shall be able to do, if they don't die upon the road to
spite us. Ha! ha! ha!'
When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little while, his eyes again
encountered the cocked hat; and he became grave.
'We are forgetting business, ma'am,' said the beadle; 'here is
your porochial stipend for the month.'
Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paper, from
his pocket-book; and requested a receipt: which Mrs. Mann wrote.
'It's very much blotted, sir,' said the farmer of infants; 'but
it's formal enough, I dare say. Thank you, Mr. Bumble, sir, I am
very much obliged to you, I'm sure.'
Mr. Bumble nodded, blandly, in acknowledgment of Mrs. Mann's
curtsey; and inquired how the children were.
'Bless their dear little hearts!' said Mrs. Mann with emotion,
'they're as well as can be, the dears! Of course, except the two
that died last week. And little Dick.'
'Isn't that boy no better?' inquired Mr. Bumble.
Mrs. Mann shook her head.
'He's a ill-conditioned, wicious, bad-disposed porochial child
that,' said Mr. Bumble angrily. 'Where is he?'
'I'll bring him to you in one minute, sir,' replied Mrs. Mann.
'Here, you Dick!'
After some calling, Dick was discovered. Having had his face put
under the pump, and dried upon Mrs. Mann's gown, he was led into
the awful presence of Mr. Bumble, the beadle.
The child was pale and thin; his cheeks were sunken; and his eyes
large and bright. The scanty parish dress, the livery of his
misery, hung loosely on his feeble body; and his young limbs had
wasted away, like those of an old man.
Such was the little being who stood trembling beneath Mr.
Bumble's glance; not daring to lift his eyes from the floor; and
dreading even to hear the beadle's voice.
'Can't you look at the gentleman, you obstinate boy?' said Mrs.
The child meekly raised his eyes, and encountered those of Mr.
'What's the matter with you, porochial Dick?' inquired Mr.
Bumble, with well-timed jocularity.
'Nothing, sir,' replied the child faintly.
'I should think not,' said Mrs. Mann, who had of course laughed
very much at Mr. Bumble's humour.
'You want for nothing, I'm sure.'
'I should like--' faltered the child.
'Hey-day!' interposed Mr. Mann, 'I suppose you're going to say
that you DO want for something, now? Why, you little wretch--'
'Stop, Mrs. Mann, stop!' said the beadle, raising his hand with a
show of authority. 'Like what, sir, eh?'
'I should like,' faltered the child, 'if somebody that can write,
would put a few words down for me on a piece of paper, and fold it
up and seal it, and keep it for me, after I am laid in the ground.'
'Why, what does the boy mean?' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, on whom the
earnest manner and wan aspect of the child had made some impression:
accustomed as he was to such things. 'What do you mean, sir?'
'I should like,' said the child, 'to leave my dear love to poor
Oliver Twist; and to let him know how often I have sat by myself
and cried to think of his wandering about in the dark nights with
nobody to help him. And I should like to tell him,' said the
child pressing his small hands together, and speaking with great
fervour, 'that I was glad to die when I was very young; for,
perhaps, if I had lived to be a man, and had grown old, my little
sister who is in Heaven, might forget me, or be unlike me; and it
would be so much happier if we were both children there
Mr. Bumble surveyed the little speaker, from head to foot, with
indescribable astonishment; and, turning to his companion, said,
'They're all in one story, Mrs. Mann. That out-dacious Oliver
had demogalized them all!'
'I couldn't have believed it, sir' said Mrs Mann, holding up her
hands, and looking malignantly at Dick. 'I never see such a
hardened little wretch!'
'Take him away, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble imperiously. 'This must
be stated to the board, Mrs. Mann.
'I hope the gentleman will understand that it isn't my fault,
sir?' said Mrs. Mann, whimpering pathetically.
'They shall understand that, ma'am; they shall be acquainted with
the true state of the case,' said Mr. Bumble. 'There; take him
away, I can't bear the sight on him.'
Dick was immediately taken away, and locked up in the
coal-cellar. Mr. Bumble shortly afterwards took himself off, to
prepare for his journey.
At six o'clock next morning, Mr. Bumble: having exchanged his
cocked hat for a round one, and encased his person in a blue
great-coat with a cape to it: took his place on the outside of
the coach, accompanied by the criminals whose settlement was
disputed; with whom, in due course of time, he arrived in London.
He experienced no other crosses on the way, than those which
originated in the perverse behaviour of the two paupers, who
persisted in shivering, and complaining of the cold, in a manner
which, Mr. Bumble declared, caused his teeth to chatter in his
head, and made him feel quite uncomfortable; although he had a
Having disposed of these evil-minded persons for the night, Mr.
Bumble sat himself down in the house at which the coach stopped;
and took a temperate dinner of steaks, oyster sauce, and porter.
Putting a glass of hot gin-and-water on the chimney-piece, he
drew his chair to the fire; and, with sundry moral reflections on
the too-prevalent sin of discontent and complaining, composed
himself to read the paper.
The very first paragraph upon which Mr. Bumble's eye rested, was
the following advertisement.
'FIVE GUINEAS REWARD
'Whereas a young boy, named Oliver Twist, absconded, or was
enticed, on Thursday evening last, from his home, at Pentonville;
and has not since been heard of. The above reward will be paid
to any person who will give such information as will lead to the
discovery of the said Oliver Twist, or tend to throw any light
upon his previous history, in which the advertiser is, for many
reasons, warmly interested.'
And then followed a full description of Oliver's dress, person,
appearance, and disappearance: with the name and address of Mr.
Brownlow at full length.
Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisement, slowly and
carefully, three several times; and in something more than five
minutes was on his way to Pentonville: having actually, in his
excitement, left the glass of hot gin-and-water, untasted.
'Is Mr. Brownlow at home?' inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who
opened the door.
To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommon, but rather
evasive reply of 'I don't know; where do you come from?'
Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver's name, in explanation of his
errand, than Mrs. Bedwin, who had been listening at the parlour
door, hastened into the passage in a breathless state.
'Come in, come in,' said the old lady: 'I knew we should hear of
him. Poor dear! I knew we should! I was certain of it. Bless
his heart! I said so all along.'
Having heard this, the worthy old lady hurried back into the
parlour again; and seating herself on a sofa, burst into tears.
The girl, who was not quite so susceptible, had run upstairs
meanwhile; and now returned with a request that Mr. Bumble would
follow her immediately: which he did.
He was shown into the little back study, where sat Mr. Brownlow
and his friend Mr. Grimwig, with decanters and glasses before
them. The latter gentleman at once burst into the exclamation:
'A beadle. A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head.'
'Pray don't interrupt just now,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Take a
seat, will you?'
Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of
Mr. Grimwig's manner. Mr. Brownlow moved the lamp, so as to
obtain an uninterrupted view of the beadle's countenance; and
said, with a little impatience,