Part 4 out of 10
'Now, sir, you come in consequence of having seen the
'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Bumble.
'And you ARE a beadle, are you not?' inquired Mr. Grimwig.
'I am a porochial beadle, gentlemen,' rejoined Mr. Bumble
'Of course,' observed Mr. Grimwig aside to his friend, 'I knew he
was. A beadle all over!'
Mr. Brownlow gently shook his head to impose silence on his
friend, and resumed:
'Do you know where this poor boy is now?'
'No more than nobody,' replied Mr. Bumble.
'Well, what DO you know of him?' inquired the old gentleman.
'Speak out, my friend, if you have anything to say. What DO you
know of him?'
'You don't happen to know any good of him, do you?' said Mr.
Grimwig, caustically; after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble's
Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head
with portentous solemnity.
'You see?' said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr.
Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble's pursed-up
countenance; and requested him to communicate what he knew
regarding Oliver, in as few words as possible.
Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his
arms; inclined his head in a retrospective manner; and, after a
few moments' reflection, commenced his story.
It would be tedious if given in the beadle's words: occupying,
as it did, some twenty minutes in the telling; but the sum and
substance of it was, that Oliver was a foundling, born of low and
vicious parents. That he had, from his birth, displayed no
better qualities than treachery, ingratitude, and malice. That
he had terminated his brief career in the place of his birth, by
making a sanguinary and cowardly attack on an unoffending lad,
and running away in the night-time from his master's house. In
proof of his really being the person he represented himself, Mr.
Bumble laid upon the table the papers he had brought to town.
Folding his arms again, he then awaited Mr. Brownlow's
'I fear it is all too true,' said the old gentleman sorrowfully,
after looking over the papers. 'This is not much for your
intelligence; but I would gladly have given you treble the money,
if it had been favourable to the boy.'
It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of
this information at an earlier period of the interview, he might
have imparted a very different colouring to his little history.
It was too late to do it now, however; so he shook his head
gravely, and, pocketing the five guineas, withdrew.
Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes;
evidently so much disturbed by the beadle's tale, that even Mr.
Grimwig forbore to vex him further.
At length he stopped, and rang the bell violently.
'Mrs. Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, when the housekeeper appeared;
'that boy, Oliver, is an imposter.'
'It can't be, sir. It cannot be,' said the old lady
'I tell you he is,' retorted the old gentleman. 'What do you
mean by can't be? We have just heard a full account of him from
his birth; and he has been a thorough-paced little villain, all
'I never will believe it, sir,' replied the old lady, firmly.
'You old women never believe anything but quack-doctors, and
lying story-books,' growled Mr. Grimwig. 'I knew it all along.
Why didn't you take my advise in the beginning; you would if he
hadn't had a fever, I suppose, eh? He was interesting, wasn't
he? Interesting! Bah!' And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a
'He was a dear, grateful, gentle child, sir,' retorted Mrs.
Bedwin, indignantly. 'I know what children are, sir; and have
done these forty years; and people who can't say the same,
shouldn't say anything about them. That's my opinion!'
This was a hard hit at Mr. Grimwig, who was a bachelor. As it
extorted nothing from that gentleman but a smile, the old lady
tossed her head, and smoothed down her apron preparatory to
another speech, when she was stopped by Mr. Brownlow.
'Silence!' said the old gentleman, feigning an anger he was far
from feeling. 'Never let me hear the boy's name again. I rang
to tell you that. Never. Never, on any pretence, mind! You may
leave the room, Mrs. Bedwin. Remember! I am in earnest.'
There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow's that night.
Oliver's heart sank within him, when he thought of his good
friends; it was well for him that he could not know what they had
heard, or it might have broken outright.
HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY OF HIS
About noon next day, when the Dodger and Master Bates had gone
out to pursue their customary avocations, Mr. Fagin took the
opportunity of reading Oliver a long lecture on the crying sin of
ingratitude; of which he clearly demonstrated he had been guilty,
to no ordinary extent, in wilfully absenting himself from the
society of his anxious friends; and, still more, in endeavouring
to escape from them after so much trouble and expense had been
incurred in his recovery. Mr. Fagin laid great stress on the fact
of his having taken Oliver in, and cherished him, when, without
his timely aid, he might have perished with hunger; and he
related the dismal and affecting history of a young lad whom, in
his philanthropy, he had succoured under parallel circumstances,
but who, proving unworthy of his confidence and evincing a desire
to communicate with the police, had unfortunately come to be
hanged at the Old Bailey one morning. Mr. Fagin did not seek to
conceal his share in the catastrophe, but lamented with tears in
his eyes that the wrong-headed and treacherous behaviour of the
young person in question, had rendered it necessary that he
should become the victim of certain evidence for the crown:
which, if it were not precisely true, was indispensably necessary
for the safety of him (Mr. Fagin) and a few select friends. Mr.
Fagin concluded by drawing a rather disagreeable picture of the
discomforts of hanging; and, with great friendliness and
politeness of manner, expressed his anxious hopes that he might
never be obliged to submit Oliver Twist to that unpleasant
Little Oliver's blood ran cold, as he listened to the Jew's
words, and imperfectly comprehended the dark threats conveyed in
them. That it was possible even for justice itself to confound
the innocent with the guilty when they were in accidental
companionship, he knew already; and that deeply-laid plans for
the destruction of inconveniently knowing or over-communicative
persons, had been really devised and carried out by the Jew on
more occasions than one, he thought by no means unlikely, when he
recollected the general nature of the altercations between that
gentleman and Mr. Sikes: which seemed to bear reference to some
foregone conspiracy of the kind. As he glanced timidly up, and
met the Jew's searching look, he felt that his pale face and
trembling limbs were neither unnoticed nor unrelished by that
wary old gentleman.
The Jew, smiling hideously, patted Oliver on the head, and said,
that if he kept himself quiet, and applied himself to business,
he saw they would be very good friends yet. Then, taking his
hat, and covering himself with an old patched great-coat, he went
out, and locked the room-door behind him.
And so Oliver remained all that day, and for the greater part of
many subsequent days, seeing nobody, between early morning and
midnight, and left during the long hours to commune with his own
thoughts. Which, never failing to revert to his kind friends,
and the opinion they must long ago have formed of him, were sad
After the lapse of a week or so, the Jew left the room-door
unlocked; and he was at liberty to wander about the house.
It was a very dirty place. The rooms upstairs had great high
wooden chimney-pieces and large doors, with panelled walls and
cornices to the ceiling; which, although they were black with
neglect and dust, were ornamented in various ways. From all of
these tokens Oliver concluded that a long time ago, before the
old Jew was born, it had belonged to better people, and had
perhaps been quite gay and handsome: dismal and dreary as it
Spiders had built their webs in the angles of the walls and
ceilings; and sometimes, when Oliver walked softly into a room,
the mice would scamper across the floor, and run back terrified
to their holes. With these exceptions, there was neither sight
nor sound of any living thing; and often, when it grew dark, and
he was tired of wandering from room to room, he would crouch in
the corner of the passage by the street-door, to be as near
living people as he could; and would remain there, listening and
counting the hours, until the Jew or the boys returned.
In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed: the
bars which held them were screwed tight into the wood; the only
light which was admitted, stealing its way through round holes at
the top: which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with
strange shadows. There was a back-garret window with rusty bars
outside, which had no shutter; and out of this, Oliver often
gazed with a melancholy face for hours together; but nothing was
to be descried from it but a confused and crowded mass of
housetops, blackened chimneys, and gable-ends. Sometimes,
indeed, a grizzly head might be seen, peering over the
parapet-wall of a distant house; but it was quickly withdrawn
again; and as the window of Oliver's observatory was nailed down,
and dimmed with the rain and smoke of years, it was as much as he
could do to make out the forms of the different objects beyond,
without making any attempt to be seen or heard,--which he had as
much chance of being, as if he had lived inside the ball of St.
One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that
evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to
evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do
him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him);
and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver
to assist him in his toilet, straightway.
Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have
some faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate
those about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any
objection in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed
his readiness; and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat
upon the table so that he could take his foot in his laps, he
applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as
'japanning his trotter-cases.' The phrase, rendered into plain
English, signifieth, cleaning his boots.
Whether it was the sense of freedom and independence which a
rational animal may be supposed to feel when he sits on a table
in an easy attitude smoking a pipe, swinging one leg carelessly
to and fro, and having his boots cleaned all the time, without
even the past trouble of having taken them off, or the
prospective misery of putting them on, to disturb his
reflections; or whether it was the goodness of the tobacco that
soothed the feelings of the Dodger, or the mildness of the beer
that mollified his thoughts; he was evidently tinctured, for the
nonce, with a spice of romance and enthusiasm, foreign to his
general nature. He looked down on Oliver, with a thoughtful
countenance, for a brief space; and then, raising his head, and
heaving a gentle sign, said, half in abstraction, and half to
'What a pity it is he isn't a prig!'
'Ah!' said Master Charles Bates; 'he don't know what's good for
The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley
Bates. They both smoked, for some seconds, in silence.
'I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?' said the Dodger
'I think I know that,' replied Oliver, looking up. 'It's a
the--; you're one, are you not?' inquired Oliver, checking
'I am,' replied the Doger. 'I'd scorn to be anything else.' Mr.
Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cock, after delivering this
sentiment, and looked at Master Bates, as if to denote that he
would feel obliged by his saying anything to the contrary.
'I am,' repeated the Dodger. 'So's Charley. So's Fagin. So's
Sikes. So's Nancy. So's Bet. So we all are, down to the dog.
And he's the downiest one of the lot!'
'And the least given to peaching,' added Charley Bates.
'He wouldn't so much as bark in a witness-box, for fear of
committing himself; no, not if you tied him up in one, and left
him there without wittles for a fortnight,' said the Dodger.
'Not a bit of it,' observed Charley.
'He's a rum dog. Don't he look fierce at any strange cove that
laughs or sings when he's in company!' pursued the Dodger.
'Won't he growl at all, when he hears a fiddle playing! And
don't he hate other dogs as ain't of his breed! Oh, no!'
'He's an out-and-out Christian,' said Charley.
This was merely intended as a tribute to the animal's abilities,
but it was an appropriate remark in another sense, if Master
Bates had only known it; for there are a good many ladies and
gentlemen, claiming to be out-and-out Christians, between whom,
and Mr. Sikes' dog, there exist strong and singular points of
'Well, well,' said the Dodger, recurring to the point from which
they had strayed: with that mindfulness of his profession which
influenced all his proceedings. 'This hasn't go anything to do
with young Green here.'
'No more it has,' said Charley. 'Why don't you put yourself
under Fagin, Oliver?'
'And make your fortun' out of hand?' added the Dodger, with a
'And so be able to retire on your property, and do the gen-teel:
as I mean to, in the very next leap-year but four that ever
comes, and the forty-second Tuesday in Trinity-week,' said
'I don't like it,' rejoined Oliver, timidly; 'I wish they would
let me go. I--I--would rather go.'
'And Fagin would RATHER not!' rejoined Charley.
Oliver knew this too well; but thinking it might be dangerous to
express his feelings more openly, he only sighed, and went on
with his boot-cleaning.
'Go!' exclaimed the Dodger. 'Why, where's your spirit?' Don't
you take any pride out of yourself? Would you go and be
dependent on your friends?'
'Oh, blow that!' said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk
handkerchiefs from his pocket, and tossing them into a cupboard,
'that's too mean; that is.'
'_I_ couldn't do it,' said the Dodger, with an air of haughty
'You can leave your friends, though,' said Oliver with a half
smile; 'and let them be punished for what you did.'
'That,' rejoined the Dodger, with a wave of his pipe, 'That was
all out of consideration for Fagin, 'cause the traps know that we
work together, and he might have got into trouble if we hadn't
made our lucky; that was the move, wasn't it, Charley?'
Master Bates nodded assent, and would have spoken, but the
recollection of Oliver's flight came so suddenly upon him, that
the smoke he was inhaling got entangled with a laugh, and went up
into his head, and down into his throat: and brought on a fit of
coughing and stamping, about five minutes long.
'Look here!' said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of
shillings and halfpence. 'Here's a jolly life! What's the odds
where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where
they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious
'It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?' inquired Charley Bates. 'He'll
come to be scragged, won't he?'
'I don't know what that means,' replied Oliver.
'Something in this way, old feller,' said Charly. As he said it,
Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it
erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a
curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively
pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one
and the same thing.
'That's what it means,' said Charley. 'Look how he stares, Jack!
I never did see such prime company as that 'ere boy; he'll be the
death of me, I know he will.' Master Charley Bates, having
laughed heartily again, resumed his pipe with tears in his eyes.
'You've been brought up bad,' said the Dodger, surveying his
boots with much satisfaction when Oliver had polished them.
'Fagin will make something of you, though, or you'll be the first
he ever had that turned out unprofitable. You'd better begin at
once; for you'll come to the trade long before you think of it;
and you're only losing time, Oliver.'
Master Bates backed this advice with sundry moral admonitions of
his own: which, being exhausted, he and his friend Mr. Dawkins
launched into a glowing description of the numerous pleasures
incidental to the life they led, interspersed with a variety of
hints to Oliver that the best thing he could do, would be to
secure Fagin's favour without more delay, by the means which they
themselves had employed to gain it.
'And always put this in your pipe, Nolly,' said the Dodger, as
the Jew was heard unlocking the door above, 'if you don't take
fogels and tickers--'
'What's the good of talking in that way?' interposed Master
Bates; 'he don't know what you mean.'
'If you don't take pocket-handkechers and watches,' said the
Dodger, reducing his conversation to the level of Oliver's
capacity, 'some other cove will; so that the coves that lose 'em
will be all the worse, and you'll be all the worse, too, and
nobody half a ha'p'orth the better, except the chaps wot gets
them--and you've just as good a right to them as they have.'
'To be sure, to be sure!' said the Jew, who had entered unseen by
Oliver. 'It all lies in a nutshell my dear; in a nutshell, take
the Dodger's word for it. Ha! ha! ha! He understands the
catechism of his trade.'
The old man rubbed his hands gleefully together, as he
corroborated the Dodger's reasoning in these terms; and chuckled
with delight at his pupil's proficiency.
The conversation proceeded no farther at this time, for the Jew
had returned home accompanied by Miss Betsy, and a gentleman whom
Oliver had never seen before, but who was accosted by the Dodger
as Tom Chitling; and who, having lingered on the stairs to
exchange a few gallantries with the lady, now made his
Mr. Chitling was older in years than the Dodger: having perhaps
numbered eighteen winters; but there was a degree of deference in
his deportment towards that young gentleman which seemed to
indicate that he felt himself conscious of a slight inferiority
in point of genius and professional aquirements. He had small
twinkling eyes, and a pock-marked face; wore a fur cap, a dark
corduroy jacket, greasy fustian trousers, and an apron. His
wardrobe was, in truth, rather out of repair; but he excused
himself to the company by stating that his 'time' was only out an
hour before; and that, in consequence of having worn the
regimentals for six weeks past, he had not been able to bestow
any attention on his private clothes. Mr. Chitling added, with
strong marks of irritation, that the new way of fumigating
clothes up yonder was infernal unconstitutional, for it burnt
holes in them, and there was no remedy against the County. The
same remark he considered to apply to the regulation mode of
cutting the hair: which he held to be decidedly unlawful. Mr.
Chitling wound up his observations by stating that he had not
touched a drop of anything for forty-two moral long hard-working
days; and that he 'wished he might be busted if he warn't as dry
as a lime-basket.'
'Where do you think the gentleman has come from, Oliver?'
inquired the Jew, with a grin, as the other boys put a bottle of
spirits on the table.
'I--I--don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.
'Who's that?' inquired Tom Chitling, casting a contemptuous look
'A young friend of mine, my dear,' replied the Jew.
'He's in luck, then,' said the young man, with a meaning look at
Fagin. 'Never mind where I came from, young 'un; you'll find
your way there, soon enough, I'll bet a crown!'
At this sally, the boys laughed. After some more jokes on the
same subject, they exchanged a few short whispers with Fagin; and
After some words apart between the last comer and Fagin, they
drew their chairs towards the fire; and the Jew, telling Oliver
to come and sit by him, led the conversation to the topics most
calculated to interest his hearers. These were, the great
advantages of the trade, the proficiency of the Dodger, the
amiability of Charley Bates, and the liberality of the Jew
himself. At length these subjects displayed signs of being
thoroughly exhausted; and Mr. Chitling did the same: for the
house of correction becomes fatiguing after a week or two. Miss
Betsy accordingly withdrew; and left the party to their repose.
From this day, Oliver was seldom left alone; but was placed in
almost constant communication with the two boys, who played the
old game with the Jew every day: whether for their own
improvement or Oliver's, Mr. Fagin best knew. At other times the
old man would tell them stories of robberies he had committed in
his younger days: mixed up with so much that was droll and
curious, that Oliver could not help laughing heartily, and
showing that he was amused in spite of all his better feelings.
In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils. Having
prepared his mind, by solitude and gloom, to prefer any society
to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary
place, he was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison
which he hoped would blacken it, and change its hue for ever.
IN WHICH A NOTABLE PLAN IS DISCUSSED AND DETERMINED ON
It was a chill, damp, windy night, when the Jew: buttoning his
great-coat tight round his shrivelled body, and pulling the
collar up over his ears so as completely to obscure the lower
part of his face: emerged from his den. He paused on the step
as the door was locked and chained behind him; and having
listened while the boys made all secure, and until their
retreating footsteps were no longer audible, slunk down the
street as quickly as he could.
The house to which Oliver had been conveyed, was in the
neighborhood of Whitechapel. The Jew stopped for an instant at
the corner of the street; and, glancing suspiciously round,
crossed the road, and struck off in the direction of the
The mud lay thick upon the stones, and a black mist hung over the
streets; the rain fell sluggishly down, and everything felt cold
and clammy to the touch. It seemed just the night when it
befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. As he glided
stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and
doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile,
engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved:
crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a
He kept on his course, through many winding and narrow ways,
until he reached Bethnal Green; then, turning suddenly off to the
left, he soon became involved in a maze of the mean and dirty
streets which abound in that close and densely-populated quarter.
The Jew was evidently too familiar with the ground he traversed
to be at all bewildered, either by the darkness of the night, or
the intricacies of the way. He hurried through several alleys
and streets, and at length turned into one, lighted only by a
single lamp at the farther end. At the door of a house in this
street, he knocked; having exchanged a few muttered words with
the person who opened it, he walked upstairs.
A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room-door; and a
man's voice demanded who was there.
'Only me, Bill; only me, my dear,' said the Jew looking in.
'Bring in your body then,' said Sikes. 'Lie down, you stupid
brute! Don't you know the devil when he's got a great-coat on?'
Apparently, the dog had been somewhat deceived by Mr. Fagin's
outer garment; for as the Jew unbuttoned it, and threw it over
the back of a chair, he retired to the corner from which he had
risen: wagging his tail as he went, to show that he was as well
satisfied as it was in his nature to be.
'Well!' said Sikes.
'Well, my dear,' replied the Jew.--'Ah! Nancy.'
The latter recognition was uttered with just enough of
embarrassment to imply a doubt of its reception; for Mr. Fagin
and his young friend had not met, since she had interfered in
behalf of Oliver. All doubts upon the subject, if he had any,
were speedily removed by the young lady's behaviour. She took
her feet off the fender, pushed back her chair, and bade Fagin
draw up his, without saying more about it: for it was a cold
night, and no mistake.
'It is cold, Nancy dear,' said the Jew, as he warmed his skinny
hands over the fire. 'It seems to go right through one,' added
the old man, touching his side.
'It must be a piercer, if it finds its way through your heart,'
said Mr. Sikes. 'Give him something to drink, Nancy. Burn my
body, make haste! It's enough to turn a man ill, to see his lean
old carcase shivering in that way, like a ugly ghost just rose
from the grave.'
Nancy quickly brought a bottle from a cupboard, in which there
were many: which, to judge from the diversity of their
appearance, were filled with several kinds of liquids. Sikes
pouring out a glass of brandy, bade the Jew drink it off.
'Quite enough, quite, thankye, Bill,' replied the Jew, putting
down the glass after just setting his lips to it.
'What! You're afraid of our getting the better of you, are you?'
inquired Sikes, fixing his eyes on the Jew. 'Ugh!'
With a hoarse grunt of contempt, Mr. Sikes seized the glass, and
threw the remainder of its contents into the ashes: as a
preparatory ceremony to filling it again for himself: which he
did at once.
The Jew glanced round the room, as his companion tossed down the
second glassful; not in curiousity, for he had seen it often
before; but in a restless and suspicious manner habitual to him.
It was a meanly furnished apartment, with nothing but the
contents of the closet to induce the belief that its occupier was
anything but a working man; and with no more suspicious articles
displayed to view than two or three heavy bludgeons which stood
in a corner, and a 'life-preserver' that hung over the
'There,' said Sikes, smacking his lips. 'Now I'm ready.'
'For business?' inquired the Jew.
'For business,' replied Sikes; 'so say what you've got to say.'
'About the crib at Chertsey, Bill?' said the Jew, drawing his
chair forward, and speaking in a very low voice.
'Yes. Wot about it?' inquired Sikes.
'Ah! you know what I mean, my dear,' said the Jew. 'He knows
what I mean, Nancy; don't he?'
'No, he don't,' sneered Mr. Sikes. 'Or he won't, and that's the
same thing. Speak out, and call things by their right names;
don't sit there, winking and blinking, and talking to me in
hints, as if you warn't the very first that thought about the
robbery. Wot d'ye mean?'
'Hush, Bill, hush!' said the Jew, who had in vain attempted to
stop this burst of indignation; 'somebody will hear us, my dear.
Somebody will hear us.'
'Let 'em hear!' said Sikes; 'I don't care.' But as Mr. Sikes DID
care, on reflection, he dropped his voice as he said the words,
and grew calmer.
'There, there,' said the Jew, coaxingly. 'It was only my
caution, nothing more. Now, my dear, about that crib at
Chertsey; when is it to be done, Bill, eh? When is it to be
done? Such plate, my dear, such plate!' said the Jew: rubbing
his hands, and elevating his eyebrows in a rapture of
'Not at all,' replied Sikes coldly.
'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jew, leaning back in his
'No, not at all,' rejoined Sikes. 'At least it can't be a put-up
job, as we expected.'
'Then it hasn't been properly gone about,' said the Jew, turning
pale with anger. 'Don't tell me!'
'But I will tell you,' retorted Sikes. 'Who are you that's not
to be told? I tell you that Toby Crackit has been hanging about
the place for a fortnight, and he can't get one of the servants
'Do you mean to tell me, Bill,' said the Jew: softening as the
other grew heated: 'that neither of the two men in the house can
be got over?'
'Yes, I do mean to tell you so,' replied Sikes. 'The old lady
has had 'em these twenty years; and if you were to give 'em five
hundred pound, they wouldn't be in it.'
'But do you mean to say, my dear,' remonstrated the Jew, 'that
the women can't be got over?'
'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes.
'Not by flash Toby Crackit?' said the Jew incredulously. 'Think
what women are, Bill,'
'No; not even by flash Toby Crackit,' replied Sikes. 'He says
he's worn sham whiskers, and a canary waistcoat, the whole
blessed time he's been loitering down there, and it's all of no
'He should have tried mustachios and a pair of military trousers,
my dear,' said the Jew.
'So he did,' rejoined Sikes, 'and they warn't of no more use than
the other plant.'
The Jew looked blank at this information. After ruminating for
some minutes with his chin sunk on his breast, he raised his head
and said, with a deep sigh, that if flash Toby Crackit reported
aright, he feared the game was up.
'And yet,' said the old man, dropping his hands on his knees,
'it's a sad thing, my dear, to lose so much when we had set our
hearts upon it.'
'So it is,' said Mr. Sikes. 'Worse luck!'
A long silence ensued; during which the Jew was plunged in deep
thought, with his face wrinkled into an expression of villainy
perfectly demoniacal. Sikes eyed him furtively from time to
time. Nancy, apparently fearful of irritating the housebreaker,
sat with her eyes fixed upon the fire, as if she had been deaf to
all that passed.
'Fagin,' said Sikes, abruptly breaking the stillness that
prevailed; 'is it worth fifty shiners extra, if it's safely done
from the outside?'
'Yes,' said the Jew, as suddenly rousing himself.
'Is it a bargain?' inquired Sikes.
'Yes, my dear, yes,' rejoined the Jew; his eyes glistening, and
every muscle in his face working, with the excitement that the
inquiry had awakened.
'Then,' said Sikes, thrusting aside the Jew's hand, with some
disdain, 'let it come off as soon as you like. Toby and me were
over the garden-wall the night afore last, sounding the panels of
the door and shutters. The crib's barred up at night like a
jail; but there's one part we can crack, safe and softly.'
'Which is that, Bill?' asked the Jew eagerly.
'Why,' whispered Sikes, 'as you cross the lawn--'
'Yes?' said the Jew, bending his head forward, with his eyes
almost starting out of it.
'Umph!' cried Sikes, stopping short, as the girl, scarcely moving
her head, looked suddenly round, and pointed for an instant to
the Jew's face. 'Never mind which part it is. You can't do it
without me, I know; but it's best to be on the safe side when one
deals with you.'
'As you like, my dear, as you like' replied the Jew. 'Is there
no help wanted, but yours and Toby's?'
'None,' said Sikes. 'Cept a centre-bit and a boy. The first
we've both got; the second you must find us.'
'A boy!' exclaimed the Jew. 'Oh! then it's a panel, eh?'
'Never mind wot it is!' replied Sikes. 'I want a boy, and he
musn't be a big 'un. Lord!' said Mr. Sikes, reflectively, 'if
I'd only got that young boy of Ned, the chimbley-sweeper's! He
kept him small on purpose, and let him out by the job. But the
father gets lagged; and then the Juvenile Delinquent Society
comes, and takes the boy away from a trade where he was earning
money, teaches him to read and write, and in time makes a
'prentice of him. And so they go on,' said Mr. Sikes, his wrath
rising with the recollection of his wrongs, 'so they go on; and,
if they'd got money enough (which it's a Providence they
haven't,) we shouldn't have half a dozen boys left in the whole
trade, in a year or two.'
'No more we should,' acquiesced the Jew, who had been considering
during this speech, and had only caught the last sentence.
'What now?' inquired Sikes.
The Jew nodded his head towards Nancy, who was still gazing at
the fire; and intimated, by a sign, that he would have her told
to leave the room. Sikes shrugged his shoulders impatiently, as
if he thought the precaution unnecessary; but complied,
nevertheless, by requesting Miss Nancy to fetch him a jug of
'You don't want any beer,' said Nancy, folding her arms, and
retaining her seat very composedly.
'I tell you I do!' replied Sikes.
'Nonsense,' rejoined the girl coolly, 'Go on, Fagin. I know what
he's going to say, Bill; he needn't mind me.'
The Jew still hesitated. Sikes looked from one to the other in
'Why, you don't mind the old girl, do you, Fagin?' he asked at
length. 'You've known her long enough to trust her, or the
Devil's in it. She ain't one to blab. Are you Nancy?'
'_I_ should think not!' replied the young lady: drawing her
chair up to the table, and putting her elbows upon it.
'No, no, my dear, I know you're not,' said the Jew; 'but--' and
again the old man paused.
'But wot?' inquired Sikes.
'I didn't know whether she mightn't p'r'aps be out of sorts, you
know, my dear, as she was the other night,' replied the Jew.
At this confession, Miss Nancy burst into a loud laugh; and,
swallowing a glass of brandy, shook her head with an air of
defiance, and burst into sundry exclamations of 'Keep the game
a-going!' 'Never say die!' and the like. These seemed to have
the effect of re-assuring both gentlemen; for the Jew nodded his
head with a satisfied air, and resumed his seat: as did Mr. Sikes
'Now, Fagin,' said Nancy with a laugh. 'Tell Bill at once, about
'Ha! you're a clever one, my dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!'
said the Jew, patting her on the neck. 'It WAS about Oliver I
was going to speak, sure enough. Ha! ha! ha!'
'What about him?' demanded Sikes.
'He's the boy for you, my dear,' replied the Jew in a hoarse
whisper; laying his finger on the side of his nose, and grinning
'He!' exclaimed. Sikes.
'Have him, Bill!' said Nancy. 'I would, if I was in your place.
He mayn't be so much up, as any of the others; but that's not
what you want, if he's only to open a door for you. Depend upon
it he's a safe one, Bill.'
'I know he is,' rejoined Fagin. 'He's been in good training
these last few weeks, and it's time he began to work for his
bread. Besides, the others are all too big.'
'Well, he is just the size I want,' said Mr. Sikes, ruminating.
'And will do everything you want, Bill, my dear,' interposed the
Jew; 'he can't help himself. That is, if you frighten him
'Frighten him!' echoed Sikes. 'It'll be no sham frightening,
mind you. If there's anything queer about him when we once get
into the work; in for a penny, in for a pound. You won't see him
alive again, Fagin. Think of that, before you send him. Mark my
words!' said the robber, poising a crowbar, which he had drawn
from under the bedstead.
'I've thought of it all,' said the Jew with energy. 'I've--I've
had my eye upon him, my dears, close--close. Once let him feel
that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he
has been a thief; and he's ours! Ours for his life. Oho! It
couldn't have come about better! The old man crossed his arms
upon his breast; and, drawing his head and shoulders into a heap,
literally hugged himself for joy.
'Ours!' said Sikes. 'Yours, you mean.'
'Perhaps I do, my dear,' said the Jew, with a shrill chuckle.
'Mine, if you like, Bill.'
'And wot,' said Sikes, scowling fiercely on his agreeable friend,
'wot makes you take so much pains about one chalk-faced kid, when
you know there are fifty boys snoozing about Common Garden every
night, as you might pick and choose from?'
'Because they're of no use to me, my dear,' replied the Jew, with
some confusion, 'not worth the taking. Their looks convict 'em
when they get into trouble, and I lose 'em all. With this boy,
properly managed, my dears, I could do what I couldn't with
twenty of them. Besides,' said the Jew, recovering his
self-possession, 'he has us now if he could only give us leg-bail
again; and he must be in the same boat with us. Never mind how
he came there; it's quite enough for my power over him that he
was in a robbery; that's all I want. Now, how much better this
is, than being obliged to put the poor leetle boy out of the
way--which would be dangerous, and we should lose by it besides.'
'When is it to be done?' asked Nancy, stopping some turbulent
exclamation on the part of Mr. Sikes, expressive of the disgust
with which he received Fagin's affectation of humanity.
'Ah, to be sure,' said the Jew; 'when is it to be done, Bill?'
'I planned with Toby, the night arter to-morrow,' rejoined Sikes
in a surly voice, 'if he heerd nothing from me to the contrairy.'
'Good,' said the Jew; 'there's no moon.'
'No,' rejoined Sikes.
'It's all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?' asked the
'Oh, ah, it's all planned,' rejoined Sikes, interrupting him.
'Never mind particulars. You'd better bring the boy here
to-morrow night. I shall get off the stone an hour arter
daybreak. Then you hold your tongue, and keep the melting-pot
ready, and that's all you'll have to do.'
After some discussion, in which all three took an active part, it
was decided that Nancy should repair to the Jew's next evening
when the night had set in, and bring Oliver away with her; Fagin
craftily observing, that, if he evinced any disinclination to the
task, he would be more willing to accompany the girl who had so
recently interfered in his behalf, than anybody else. It was
also solemnly arranged that poor Oliver should, for the purposes
of the contemplated expedition, be unreservedly consigned to the
care and custody of Mr. William Sikes; and further, that the said
Sikes should deal with him as he thought fit; and should not be
held responsible by the Jew for any mischance or evil that might
be necessary to visit him: it being understood that, to render
the compact in this respect binding, any representations made by
Mr. Sikes on his return should be required to be confirmed and
corroborated, in all important particulars, by the testimony of
flash Toby Crackit.
These preliminaries adjusted, Mr. Sikes proceeded to drink brandy
at a furious rate, and to flourish the crowbar in an alarming
manner; yelling forth, at the same time, most unmusical snatches
of song, mingled with wild execrations. At length, in a fit of
professional enthusiasm, he insisted upon producing his box of
housebreaking tools: which he had no sooner stumbled in with,
and opened for the purpose of explaining the nature and
properties of the various implements it contained, and the
peculiar beauties of their construction, than he fell over the
box upon the floor, and went to sleep where he fell.
'Good-night, Nancy,' said the Jew, muffling himself up as before.
Their eyes met, and the Jew scrutinised her, narrowly. There was
no flinching about the girl. She was as true and earnest in the
matter as Toby Crackit himself could be.
The Jew again bade her good-night, and, bestowing a sly kick upon
the prostrate form of Mr. Sikes while her back was turned, groped
'Always the way!' muttered the Jew to himself as he turned
homeward. 'The worst of these women is, that a very little thing
serves to call up some long-forgotten feeling; and, the best of
them is, that it never lasts. Ha! ha! The man against the
child, for a bag of gold!'
Beguiling the time with these pleasant reflections, Mr. Fagin
wended his way, through mud and mire, to his gloomy abode: where
the Dodger was sitting up, impatiently awaiting his return.
'Is Oliver a-bed? I want to speak to him,' was his first remark
as they descended the stairs.
'Hours ago,' replied the Dodger, throwing open a door. 'Here he
The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so
pale with anxiety, and sadness, and the closeness of his prison,
that he looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and
coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed;
when a young and gentle spirit has, but an instant, fled to
Heaven, and the gross air of the world has not had time to
breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.
'Not now,' said the Jew, turning softly away. 'To-morrow.
WHEREIN OLVER IS DELIVERED OVER TO MR. WILLIAM SIKES
When Oliver awoke in the morning, he was a good deal surprised to
find that a new pair of shoes, with strong thick soles, had been
placed at his bedside; and that his old shoes had been removed.
At first, he was pleased with the discovery: hoping that it might
be the forerunner of his release; but such thoughts were quickly
dispelled, on his sitting down to breakfast along with the Jew,
who told him, in a tone and manner which increased his alarm,
that he was to be taken to the residence of Bill Sikes that
'To--to--stop there, sir?' asked Oliver, anxiously.
'No, no, my dear. Not to stop there,' replied the Jew. 'We
shouldn't like to lose you. Don't be afraid, Oliver, you shall
come back to us again. Ha! ha! ha! We won't be so cruel as to
send you away, my dear. Oh no, no!'
The old man, who was stooping over the fire toasting a piece of
bread, looked round as he bantered Oliver thus; and chuckled as
if to show that he knew he would still be very glad to get away
if he could.
'I suppose,' said the Jew, fixing his eyes on Oliver, 'you want
to know what you're going to Bill's for---eh, my dear?'
Oliver coloured, involuntarily, to find that the old thief had
been reading his thoughts; but boldly said, Yes, he did want to
'Why, do you think?' inquired Fagin, parrying the question.
'Indeed I don't know, sir,' replied Oliver.
'Bah!' said the Jew, turning away with a disappointed countenance
from a close perusal of the boy's face. 'Wait till Bill tells
The Jew seemed much vexed by Oliver's not expressing any greater
curiosity on the subject; but the truth is, that, although Oliver
felt very anxious, he was too much confused by the earnest
cunning of Fagin's looks, and his own speculations, to make any
further inquiries just then. He had no other opportunity: for
the Jew remained very surly and silent till night: when he
prepared to go abroad.
'You may burn a candle,' said the Jew, putting one upon the
table. 'And here's a book for you to read, till they come to
fetch you. Good-night!'
'Good-night!' replied Oliver, softly.
The Jew walked to the door: looking over his shoulder at the boy
as he went. Suddenly stopping, he called him by his name.
Oliver looked up; the Jew, pointing to the candle, motioned him
to light it. He did so; and, as he placed the candlestick upon
the table, saw that the Jew was gazing fixedly at him, with
lowering and contracted brows, from the dark end of the room.
'Take heed, Oliver! take heed!' said the old man, shaking his
right hand before him in a warning manner. 'He's a rough man,
and thinks nothing of blood when his own is up. Whatever falls
out, say nothing; and do what he bids you. Mind!' Placing a
strong emphasis on the last word, he suffered his features
gradually to resolve themselves into a ghastly grin, and, nodding
his head, left the room.
Oliver leaned his head upon his hand when the old man
disappeared, and pondered, with a trembling heart, on the words
he had just heard. The more he thought of the Jew's admonition,
the more he was at a loss to divine its real purpose and meaning.
He could think of no bad object to be attained by sending him to
Sikes, which would not be equally well answered by his remaining
with Fagin; and after meditating for a long time, concluded that
he had been selected to perform some ordinary menial offices for
the housebreaker, until another boy, better suited for his
purpose could be engaged. He was too well accustomed to
suffering, and had suffered too much where he was, to bewail the
prospect of change very severely. He remained lost in thought
for some minutes; and then, with a heavy sigh, snuffed the
candle, and, taking up the book which the Jew had left with him,
began to read.
He turned over the leaves. Carelessly at first; but, lighting on
a passage which attracted his attention, he soon became intent
upon the volume. It was a history of the lives and trials of
great criminals; and the pages were soiled and thumbed with use.
Here, he read of dreadful crimes that made the blood run cold; of
secret murders that had been committed by the lonely wayside; of
bodies hidden from the eye of man in deep pits and wells: which
would not keep them down, deep as they were, but had yielded them
up at last, after many years, and so maddened the murderers with
the sight, that in their horror they had confessed their guilt,
and yelled for the gibbet to end their agony. Here, too, he read
of men who, lying in their beds at dead of night, had been
tempted (so they said) and led on, by their own bad thoughts, to
such dreadful bloodshed as it made the flesh creep, and the limbs
quail, to think of. The terrible descriptions were so real and
vivid, that the sallow pages seemed to turn red with gore; and
the words upon them, to be sounded in his ears, as if they were
whispered, in hollow murmurs, by the spirits of the dead.
In a paroxysm of fear, the boy closed the book, and thrust it
from him. Then, falling upon his knees, he prayed Heaven to
spare him from such deeds; and rather to will that he should die
at once, than be reserved for crimes, so fearful and appalling.
By degrees, he grew more calm, and besought, in a low and broken
voice, that he might be rescued from his present dangers; and
that if any aid were to be raised up for a poor outcast boy who
had never known the love of friends or kindred, it might come to
him now, when, desolate and deserted, he stood alone in the midst
of wickedness and guilt.
He had concluded his prayer, but still remained with his head
buried in his hands, when a rustling noise aroused him.
'What's that!' he cried, starting up, and catching sight of a
figure standing by the door. 'Who's there?'
'Me. Only me,' replied a tremulous voice.
Oliver raised the candle above his head: and looked towards the
door. It was Nancy.
'Put down the light,' said the girl, turning away her head. 'It
hurts my eyes.'
Oliver saw that she was very pale, and gently inquired if she
were ill. The girl threw herself into a chair, with her back
towards him: and wrung her hands; but made no reply.
'God forgive me!' she cried after a while, 'I never thought of
'Has anything happened?' asked Oliver. 'Can I help you? I will
if I can. I will, indeed.'
She rocked herself to and fro; caught her throat; and, uttering a
gurgling sound, gasped for breath.
'Nancy!' cried Oliver, 'What is it?'
The girl beat her hands upon her knees, and her feet upon the
ground; and, suddenly stopping, drew her shawl close round her:
and shivered with cold.
Oliver stirred the fire. Drawing her chair close to it, she sat
there, for a little time, without speaking; but at length she
raised her head, and looked round.
'I don't know what comes over me sometimes,' said she, affecting
to busy herself in arranging her dress; 'it's this damp dirty
room, I think. Now, Nolly, dear, are you ready?'
'Am I to go with you?' asked Oliver.
'Yes. I have come from Bill,' replied the girl. 'You are to go
'What for?' asked Oliver, recoiling.
'What for?' echoed the girl, raising her eyes, and averting them
again, the moment they encountered the boy's face. 'Oh! For no
'I don't believe it,' said Oliver: who had watched her closely.
'Have it your own way,' rejoined the girl, affecting to laugh.
'For no good, then.'
Oliver could see that he had some power over the girl's better
feelings, and, for an instant, thought of appealing to her
compassion for his helpless state. But, then, the thought darted
across his mind that it was barely eleven o'clock; and that many
people were still in the streets: of whom surely some might be
found to give credence to his tale. As the reflection occured to
him, he stepped forward: and said, somewhat hastily, that he was
Neither his brief consideration, nor its purport, was lost on his
companion. She eyed him narrowly, while he spoke; and cast upon
him a look of intelligence which sufficiently showed that she
guessed what had been passing in his thoughts.
'Hush!' said the girl, stooping over him, and pointing to the
door as she looked cautiously round. 'You can't help yourself. I
have tried hard for you, but all to no purpose. You are hedged
round and round. If ever you are to get loose from here, this is
not the time.'
Struck by the energy of her manner, Oliver looked up in her face
with great surprise. She seemed to speak the truth; her
countenance was white and agitated; and she trembled with very
'I have saved you from being ill-used once, and I will again, and
I do now,' continued the girl aloud; 'for those who would have
fetched you, if I had not, would have been far more rough than
me. I have promised for your being quiet and silent; if you are
not, you will only do harm to yourself and me too, and perhaps be
my death. See here! I have borne all this for you already, as
true as God sees me show it.'
She pointed, hastily, to some livid bruises on her neck and arms;
and continued, with great rapidity:
'Remember this! And don't let me suffer more for you, just now.
If I could help you, I would; but I have not the power. They
don't mean to harm you; whatever they make you do, is no fault of
yours. Hush! Every word from you is a blow for me. Give me
your hand. Make haste! Your hand!'
She caught the hand which Oliver instinctively placed in hers,
and, blowing out the light, drew him after her up the stairs. The
door was opened, quickly, by some one shrouded in the darkness,
and was as quickly closed, when they had passed out. A
hackney-cabriolet was in waiting; with the same vehemence which
she had exhibited in addressing Oliver, the girl pulled him in
with her, and drew the curtains close. The driver wanted no
directions, but lashed his horse into full speed, without the
delay of an instant.
The girl still held Oliver fast by the hand, and continued to
pour into his ear, the warnings and assurances she had already
imparted. All was so quick and hurried, that he had scarcely
time to recollect where he was, or how he came there, when the
carriage stopped at the house to which the Jew's steps had been
directed on the previous evening.
For one brief moment, Oliver cast a hurried glance along the
empty street, and a cry for help hung upon his lips. But the
girl's voice was in his ear, beseeching him in such tones of
agony to remember her, that he had not the heart to utter it.
While he hesitated, the opportunity was gone; he was already in
the house, and the door was shut.
'This way,' said the girl, releasing her hold for the first time.
'Hallo!' replied Sikes: appearing at the head of the stairs, with
a candle. 'Oh! That's the time of day. Come on!'
This was a very strong expression of approbation, an uncommonly
hearty welcome, from a person of Mr. Sikes' temperament. Nancy,
appearing much gratified thereby, saluted him cordially.
'Bull's-eye's gone home with Tom,' observed Sikes, as he lighted
them up. 'He'd have been in the way.'
'That's right,' rejoined Nancy.
'So you've got the kid,' said Sikes when they had all reached the
room: closing the door as he spoke.
'Yes, here he is,' replied Nancy.
'Did he come quiet?' inquired Sikes.
'Like a lamb,' rejoined Nancy.
'I'm glad to hear it,' said Sikes, looking grimly at Oliver; 'for
the sake of his young carcase: as would otherways have suffered
for it. Come here, young 'un; and let me read you a lectur',
which is as well got over at once.'
Thus addressing his new pupil, Mr. Sikes pulled off Oliver's cap
and threw it into a corner; and then, taking him by the shoulder,
sat himself down by the table, and stood the boy in front of him.
'Now, first: do you know wot this is?' inquired Sikes, taking up
a pocket-pistol which lay on the table.
Oliver replied in the affirmative.
'Well, then, look here,' continued Sikes. 'This is powder; that
'ere's a bullet; and this is a little bit of a old hat for
Oliver murmured his comprehension of the different bodies
referred to; and Mr. Sikes proceeded to load the pistol, with
great nicety and deliberation.
'Now it's loaded,' said Mr. Sikes, when he had finished.
'Yes, I see it is, sir,' replied Oliver.
'Well,' said the robber, grasping Oliver's wrist, and putting the
barrel so close to his temple that they touched; at which moment
the boy could not repress a start; 'if you speak a word when
you're out o'doors with me, except when I speak to you, that
loading will be in your head without notice. So, if you _do_ make
up your mind to speak without leave, say your prayers first.'
Having bestowed a scowl upon the object of this warning, to
increase its effect, Mr. Sikes continued.
'As near as I know, there isn't anybody as would be asking very
partickler arter you, if you _was_ disposed of; so I needn't take
this devil-and-all of trouble to explain matters to you, if it
warn't for your own good. D'ye hear me?'
'The short and the long of what you mean,' said Nancy: speaking
very emphatically, and slightly frowning at Oliver as if to
bespeak his serious attention to her words: 'is, that if you're
crossed by him in this job you have on hand, you'll prevent his
ever telling tales afterwards, by shooting him through the head,
and will take your chance of swinging for it, as you do for a
great many other things in the way of business, every month of
'That's it!' observed Mr. Sikes, approvingly; 'women can always
put things in fewest words.--Except when it's blowing up; and
then they lengthens it out. And now that he's thoroughly up to
it, let's have some supper, and get a snooze before starting.'
In pursuance of this request, Nancy quickly laid the cloth;
disappearing for a few minutes, she presently returned with a pot
of porter and a dish of sheep's heads: which gave occasion to
several pleasant witticisms on the part of Mr. Sikes, founded
upon the singular coincidence of 'jemmies' being a can name,
common to them, and also to an ingenious implement much used in
his profession. Indeed, the worthy gentleman, stimulated perhaps
by the immediate prospect of being on active service, was in
great spirits and good humour; in proof whereof, it may be here
remarked, that he humourously drank all the beer at a draught,
and did not utter, on a rough calculation, more than four-score
oaths during the whole progress of the meal.
Supper being ended--it may be easily conceived that Oliver had no
great appetite for it--Mr. Sikes disposed of a couple of glasses
of spirits and water, and threw himself on the bed; ordering
Nancy, with many imprecations in case of failure, to call him at
five precisely. Oliver stretched himself in his clothes, by
command of the same authority, on a mattress upon the floor; and
the girl, mending the fire, sat before it, in readiness to rouse
them at the appointed time.
For a long time Oliver lay awake, thinking it not impossible that
Nancy might seek that opportunity of whispering some further
advice; but the girl sat brooding over the fire, without moving,
save now and then to trim the light. Weary with watching and
anxiety, he at length fell asleep.
When he awoke, the table was covered with tea-things, and Sikes
was thrusting various articles into the pockets of his
great-coat, which hung over the back of a chair. Nancy was
busily engaged in preparing breakfast. It was not yet daylight;
for the candle was still burning, and it was quite dark outside.
A sharp rain, too, was beating against the window-panes; and the
sky looked black and cloudy.
'Now, then!' growled Sikes, as Oliver started up; 'half-past
five! Look sharp, or you'll get no breakfast; for it's late as
Oliver was not long in making his toilet; having taken some
breakfast, he replied to a surly inquiry from Sikes, by saying
that he was quite ready.
Nancy, scarcely looking at the boy, threw him a handkerchief to
tie round his throat; Sikes gave him a large rough cape to button
over his shoulders. Thus attired, he gave his hand to the
robber, who, merely pausing to show him with a menacing gesture
that he had that same pistol in a side-pocket of his great-coat,
clasped it firmly in his, and, exchanging a farewell with Nancy,
led him away.
Oliver turned, for an instant, when they reached the door, in the
hope of meeting a look from the girl. But she had resumed her
old seat in front of the fire, and sat, perfectly motionless
It was a cheerless morning when they got into the street; blowing
and raining hard; and the clouds looking dull and stormy. The
night had been very wet: large pools of water had collected in
the road: and the kennels were overflowing. There was a faint
glimmering of the coming day in the sky; but it rather aggravated
than relieved the gloom of the scene: the sombre light only
serving to pale that which the street lamps afforded, without
shedding any warmer or brighter tints upon the wet house-tops,
and dreary streets. There appeared to be nobody stirring in that
quarter of the town; the windows of the houses were all closely
shut; and the streets through which they passed, were noiseless
By the time they had turned into the Bethnal Green Road, the day
had fairly begun to break. Many of the lamps were already
extinguished; a few country waggons were slowly toiling on,
towards London; now and then, a stage-coach, covered with mud,
rattled briskly by: the driver bestowing, as he passed, and
admonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner who, by keeping on the
wrong side of the road, had endangered his arriving at the
office, a quarter of a minute after his time. The public-houses,
with gas-lights burning inside, were already open. By degrees,
other shops began to be unclosed, and a few scattered people were
met with. Then, came straggling groups of labourers going to
their work; then, men and women with fish-baskets on their heads;
donkey-carts laden with vegetables; chaise-carts filled with
live-stock or whole carcasses of meat; milk-women with pails; an
unbroken concourse of people, trudging out with various supplies
to the eastern suburbs of the town. As they approached the City,
the noise and traffic gradually increased; when they threaded the
streets between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled into a
roar of sound and bustle. It was as light as it was likely to
be, till night came on again, and the busy morning of half the
London population had begun.
Turning down Sun Street and Crown Street, and crossing Finsbury
square, Mr. Sikes struck, by way of Chiswell Street, into
Barbican: thence into Long Lane, and so into Smithfield; from
which latter place arose a tumult of discordant sounds that
filled Oliver Twist with amazement.
It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly
ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually
rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with
the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily
above. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as many
temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were
filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long
lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen,
butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds
of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; the
whistling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and
plunging of the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and
squeaking of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and
quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of
voices, that issued from every public-house; the crowding,
pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and
discordant dim that resounded from every corner of the market;
and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures constantly
running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng;
rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite
confounded the senses.
Mr. Sikes, dragging Oliver after him, elbowed his way through the
thickest of the crowd, and bestowed very little attention on the
numerous sights and sounds, which so astonished the boy. He
nodded, twice or thrice, to a passing friend; and, resisting as
many invitations to take a morning dram, pressed steadily onward,
until they were clear of the turmoil, and had made their way
through Hosier Lane into Holborn.
'Now, young 'un!' said Sikes, looking up at the clock of St.
Andrew's Church, 'hard upon seven! you must step out. Come,
don't lag behind already, Lazy-legs!'
Mr. Sikes accompanied this speech with a jerk at his little
companion's wrist; Oliver, quickening his pace into a kind of
trot between a fast walk and a run, kept up with the rapid
strides of the house-breaker as well as he could.
They held their course at this rate, until they had passed Hyde
Park corner, and were on their way to Kensington: when Sikes
relaxed his pace, until an empty cart which was at some little
distance behind, came up. Seeing 'Hounslow' written on it, he
asked the driver with as much civility as he could assume, if he
would give them a lift as far as Isleworth.
'Jump up,' said the man. 'Is that your boy?'
'Yes; he's my boy,' replied Sikes, looking hard at Oliver, and
putting his hand abstractedly into the pocket where the pistol
'Your father walks rather too quick for you, don't he, my man?'
inquired the driver: seeing that Oliver was out of breath.
'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes, interposing. 'He's used to it.
Here, take hold of my hand, Ned. In with you!'
Thus addressing Oliver, he helped him into the cart; and the
driver, pointing to a heap of sacks, told him to lie down there,
and rest himself.
As they passed the different mile-stones, Oliver wondered, more
and more, where his companion meant to take him. Kensington,
Hammersmith, Chiswick, Kew Bridge, Brentford, were all passed;
and yet they went on as steadily as if they had only just begun
their journey. At length, they came to a public-house called the
Coach and Horses; a little way beyond which, another road
appeared to run off. And here, the cart stopped.
Sikes dismounted with great precipitation, holding Oliver by the
hand all the while; and lifting him down directly, bestowed a
furious look upon him, and rapped the side-pocket with his fist,
in a significant manner.
'Good-bye, boy,' said the man.
'He's sulky,' replied Sikes, giving him a shake; 'he's sulky. A
young dog! Don't mind him.'
'Not I!' rejoined the other, getting into his cart. 'It's a fine
day, after all.' And he drove away.
Sikes waited until he had fairly gone; and then, telling Oliver
he might look about him if he wanted, once again led him onward
on his journey.
They turned round to the left, a short way past the public-house;
and then, taking a right-hand road, walked on for a long time:
passing many large gardens and gentlemen's houses on both sides
of the way, and stopping for nothing but a little beer, until
they reached a town. Here against the wall of a house, Oliver
saw written up in pretty large letters, 'Hampton.' They lingered
about, in the fields, for some hours. At length they came back
into the town; and, turning into an old public-house with a
defaced sign-board, ordered some dinner by the kitchen fire.
The kitchen was an old, low-roofed room; with a great beam across
the middle of the ceiling, and benches, with high backs to them,
by the fire; on which were seated several rough men in
smock-frocks, drinking and smoking. They took no notice of
Oliver; and very little of Sikes; and, as Sikes took very little
notice of them, he and his young comrade sat in a corner by
themselves, without being much troubled by their company.
They had some cold meat for dinner, and sat so long after it,
while Mr. Sikes indulged himself with three or four pipes, that
Oliver began to feel quite certain they were not going any
further. Being much tired with the walk, and getting up so
early, he dozed a little at first; then, quite overpowered by
fatigue and the fumes of the tobacco, fell asleep.
It was quite dark when he was awakened by a push from Sikes.
Rousing himself sufficiently to sit up and look about him, he
found that worthy in close fellowship and communication with a
labouring man, over a pint of ale.
'So, you're going on to Lower Halliford, are you?' inquired
'Yes, I am,' replied the man, who seemed a little the worse--or
better, as the case might be--for drinking; 'and not slow about
it neither. My horse hasn't got a load behind him going back, as
he had coming up in the mornin'; and he won't be long a-doing of
it. Here's luck to him. Ecod! he's a good 'un!'
'Could you give my boy and me a lift as far as there?' demanded
Sikes, pushing the ale towards his new friend.
'If you're going directly, I can,' replied the man, looking out
of the pot. 'Are you going to Halliford?'
'Going on to Shepperton,' replied Sikes.
'I'm your man, as far as I go,' replied the other. 'Is all paid,
'Yes, the other gentleman's paid,' replied the girl.
'I say!' said the man, with tipsy gravity; 'that won't do, you
'Why not?' rejoined Sikes. 'You're a-going to accommodate us,
and wot's to prevent my standing treat for a pint or so, in
The stranger reflected upon this argument, with a very profound
face; having done so, he seized Sikes by the hand: and declared
he was a real good fellow. To which Mr. Sikes replied, he was
joking; as, if he had been sober, there would have been strong
reason to suppose he was.
After the exchange of a few more compliments, they bade the
company good-night, and went out; the girl gathering up the pots
and glasses as they did so, and lounging out to the door, with
her hands full, to see the party start.
The horse, whose health had been drunk in his absence, was
standing outside: ready harnessed to the cart. Oliver and Sikes
got in without any further ceremony; and the man to whom he
belonged, having lingered for a minute or two 'to bear him up,'
and to defy the hostler and the world to produce his equal,
mounted also. Then, the hostler was told to give the horse his
head; and, his head being given him, he made a very unpleasant
use of it: tossing it into the air with great disdain, and
running into the parlour windows over the way; after performing
those feats, and supporting himself for a short time on his
hind-legs, he started off at great speed, and rattled out of the
town right gallantly.
The night was very dark. A damp mist rose from the river, and
the marshy ground about; and spread itself over the dreary
fields. It was piercing cold, too; all was gloomy and black.
Not a word was spoken; for the driver had grown sleepy; and Sikes
was in no mood to lead him into conversation. Oliver sat huddled
together, in a corner of the cart; bewildered with alarm and
apprehension; and figuring strange objects in the gaunt trees,
whose branches waved grimly to and fro, as if in some fantastic
joy at the desolation of the scene.
As they passed Sunbury Church, the clock struck seven. There was
a light in the ferry-house window opposite: which streamed
across the road, and threw into more sombre shadow a dark
yew-tree with graves beneath it. There was a dull sound of
falling water not far off; and the leaves of the old tree stirred
gently in the night wind. It seemed like quiet music for the
repose of the dead.
Sunbury was passed through, and they came again into the lonely
road. Two or three miles more, and the cart stopped. Sikes
alighted, took Oliver by the hand, and they once again walked on.
They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had
expected; but still kept walking on, in mud and darkness, through
gloomy lanes and over cold open wastes, until they came within
sight of the lights of a town at no great distance. On looking
intently forward, Oliver saw that the water was just below them,
and that they were coming to the foot of a bridge.
Sikes kept straight on, until they were close upon the bridge;
then turned suddenly down a bank upon the left.
'The water!' thought Oliver, turning sick with fear. 'He has
brought me to this lonely place to murder me!'
He was about to throw himself on the ground, and make one
struggle for his young life, when he saw that they stood before a
solitary house: all ruinous and decayed. There was a window on
each side of the dilapidated entrance; and one story above; but
no light was visible. The house was dark, dismantled: and the
all appearance, uninhabited.
Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low
porch, and raised the latch. The door yielded to the pressure,
and they passed in together.
'Hallo!' cried a loud, hoarse voice, as soon as they set foot in
'Don't make such a row,' said Sikes, bolting the door. 'Show a
'Aha! my pal!' cried the same voice. 'A glim, Barney, a glim!
Show the gentleman in, Barney; wake up first, if convenient.'
The speaker appeared to throw a boot-jack, or some such article,
at the person he addressed, to rouse him from his slumbers: for
the noise of a wooden body, falling violently, was heard; and
then an indistinct muttering, as of a man between sleep and
'Do you hear?' cried the same voice. 'There's Bill Sikes in the
passage with nobody to do the civil to him; and you sleeping
there, as if you took laudanum with your meals, and nothing
stronger. Are you any fresher now, or do you want the iron
candlestick to wake you thoroughly?'
A pair of slipshod feet shuffled, hastily, across the bare floor
of the room, as this interrogatory was put; and there issued,
from a door on the right hand; first, a feeble candle: and next,
the form of the same individual who has been heretofore described
as labouring under the infirmity of speaking through his nose,
and officiating as waiter at the public-house on Saffron Hill.
'Bister Sikes!' exclaimed Barney, with real or counterfeit joy;
'cub id, sir; cub id.'
'Here! you get on first,' said Sikes, putting Oliver in front of
him. 'Quicker! or I shall tread upon your heels.'
Muttering a curse upon his tardiness, Sikes pushed Oliver before
him; and they entered a low dark room with a smoky fire, two or
three broken chairs, a table, and a very old couch: on which,
with his legs much higher than his head, a man was reposing at
full length, smoking a long clay pipe. He was dressed in a
smartly-cut snuff-coloured coat, with large brass buttons; an
orange neckerchief; a coarse, staring, shawl-pattern waistcoat;
and drab breeches. Mr. Crackit (for he it was) had no very great
quantity of hair, either upon his head or face; but what he had,
was of a reddish dye, and tortured into long corkscrew curls,
through which he occasionally thrust some very dirty fingers,
ornamented with large common rings. He was a trifle above the
middle size, and apparently rather weak in the legs; but this
circumstance by no means detracted from his own admiration of his
top-boots, which he contemplated, in their elevated situation,
with lively satisfaction.
'Bill, my boy!' said this figure, turning his head towards the
door, 'I'm glad to see you. I was almost afraid you'd given it
up: in which case I should have made a personal wentur. Hallo!'
Uttering this exclamation in a tone of great surprise, as his
eyes rested on Oliver, Mr. Toby Crackit brought himself into a
sitting posture, and demanded who that was.
'The boy. Only the boy!' replied Sikes, drawing a chair towards
'Wud of Bister Fagid's lads,' exclaimed Barney, with a grin.
'Fagin's, eh!' exclaimed Toby, looking at Oliver. 'Wot an
inwalable boy that'll make, for the old ladies' pockets in
chapels! His mug is a fortin' to him.'
'There--there's enough of that,' interposed Sikes, impatiently;
and stooping over his recumbant friend, he whispered a few words
in his ear: at which Mr. Crackit laughed immensely, and honoured
Oliver with a long stare of astonishment.
'Now,' said Sikes, as he resumed his seat, 'if you'll give us
something to eat and drink while we're waiting, you'll put some
heart in us; or in me, at all events. Sit down by the fire,
younker, and rest yourself; for you'll have to go out with us
again to-night, though not very far off.'
Oliver looked at Sikes, in mute and timid wonder; and drawing a
stool to the fire, sat with his aching head upon his hands,
scarecely knowing where he was, or what was passing around him.
'Here,' said Toby, as the young Jew placed some fragments of
food, and a bottle upon the table, 'Success to the crack!' He
rose to honour the toast; and, carefully depositing his empty
pipe in a corner, advanced to the table, filled a glass with
spirits, and drank off its contents. Mr. Sikes did the same.
'A drain for the boy,' said Toby, half-filling a wine-glass.
'Down with it, innocence.'
'Indeed,' said Oliver, looking piteously up into the man's face;
'Down with it!' echoed Toby. 'Do you think I don't know what's
good for you? Tell him to drink it, Bill.'
'He had better!' said Sikes clapping his hand upon his pocket.
'Burn my body, if he isn't more trouble than a whole family of
Dodgers. Drink it, you perwerse imp; drink it!'
Frightened by the menacing gestures of the two men, Oliver
hastily swallowed the contents of the glass, and immediately fell
into a violent fit of coughing: which delighted Toby Crackit and
Barney, and even drew a smile from the surly Mr. Sikes.
This done, and Sikes having satisfied his appetite (Oliver could
eat nothing but a small crust of bread which they made him
swallow), the two men laid themselves down on chairs for a short
nap. Oliver retained his stool by the fire; Barney wrapped in a
blanket, stretched himself on the floor: close outside the
They slept, or appeared to sleep, for some time; nobody stirring
but Barney, who rose once or twice to throw coals on the fire.
Oliver fell into a heavy doze: imagining himself straying along
the gloomy lanes, or wandering about the dark churchyard, or
retracing some one or other of the scenes of the past day: when
he was roused by Toby Crackit jumping up and declaring it was
In an instant, the other two were on their legs, and all were
actively engaged in busy preparation. Sikes and his companion
enveloped their necks and chins in large dark shawls, and drew on
their great-coats; Barney, opening a cupboard, brought forth
several articles, which he hastily crammed into the pockets.
'Barkers for me, Barney,' said Toby Crackit.
'Here they are,' replied Barney, producing a pair of pistols.
'You loaded them yourself.'
'All right!' replied Toby, stowing them away. 'The persuaders?'
'I've got 'em,' replied Sikes.
'Crape, keys, centre-bits, darkies--nothing forgotten?' inquired
Toby: fastening a small crowbar to a loop inside the skirt of
'All right,' rejoined his companion. 'Bring them bits of timber,
Barney. That's the time of day.'
With these words, he took a thick stick from Barney's hands, who,
having delivered another to Toby, busied himself in fastening on
'Now then!' said Sikes, holding out his hand.
Oliver: who was completely stupified by the unwonted exercise,
and the air, and the drink which had been forced upon him: put
his hand mechanically into that which Sikes extended for the
'Take his other hand, Toby,' said Sikes. 'Look out, Barney.'
The man went to the door, and returned to announce that all was
quiet. The two robbers issued forth with Oliver between them.
Barney, having made all fast, rolled himself up as before, and
was soon asleep again.
It was now intensely dark. The fog was much heavier than it had
been in the early part of the night; and the atmosphere was so
damp, that, although no rain fell, Oliver's hair and eyebrows,
within a few minutes after leaving the house, had become stiff
with the half-frozen moisture that was floating about. They
crossed the bridge, and kept on towards the lights which he had
seen before. They were at no great distance off; and, as they
walked pretty briskly, they soon arrived at Chertsey.
'Slap through the town,' whispered Sikes; 'there'll be nobody in
the way, to-night, to see us.'
Toby acquiesced; and they hurried through the main street of the
little town, which at that late hour was wholly deserted. A dim
light shone at intervals from some bed-room window; and the
hoarse barking of dogs occasionally broke the silence of the
night. But there was nobody abroad. They had cleared the town,
as the church-bell struck two.
Quickening their pace, they turned up a road upon the left hand.
After walking about a quarter of a mile, they stopped before a
detached house surrounded by a wall: to the top of which, Toby
Crackit, scarcely pausing to take breath, climbed in a twinkling.
'The boy next,' said Toby. 'Hoist him up; I'll catch hold of
Before Oliver had time to look round, Sikes had caught him under
the arms; and in three or four seconds he and Toby were lying on
the grass on the other side. Sikes followed directly. And they
stole cautiously towards the house.
And now, for the first time, Oliver, well-nigh mad with grief and
terror, saw that housebreaking and robbery, if not murder, were
the objects of the expedition. He clasped his hands together,
and involuntarily uttered a subdued exclamation of horror. A
mist came before his eyes; the cold sweat stood upon his ashy
face; his limbs failed him; and he sank upon his knees.
'Get up!' murmured Sikes, trembling with rage, and drawing the
pistol from his pocket; 'Get up, or I'll strew your brains upon
'Oh! for God's sake let me go!' cried Oliver; 'let me run away
and die in the fields. I will never come near London; never,
never! Oh! pray have mercy on me, and do not make me steal. For
the love of all the bright Angels that rest in Heaven, have mercy
The man to whom this appeal was made, swore a dreadful oath, and
had cocked the pistol, when Toby, striking it from his grasp,
placed his hand upon the boy's mouth, and dragged him to the
'Hush!' cried the man; 'it won't answer here. Say another word,
and I'll do your business myself with a crack on the head. That
makes no noise, and is quite as certain, and more genteel. Here,
Bill, wrench the shutter open. He's game enough now, I'll
engage. I've seen older hands of his age took the same way, for
a minute or two, on a cold night.'
Sikes, invoking terrific imprecations upon Fagin's head for
sending Oliver on such an errand, plied the crowbar vigorously,
but with little noise. After some delay, and some assistance
from Toby, the shutter to which he had referred, swung open on
It was a little lattice window, about five feet and a half above
the ground, at the back of the house: which belonged to a
scullery, or small brewing-place, at the end of the passage. The
aperture was so small, that the inmates had probably not thought
it worth while to defend it more securely; but it was large
enough to admit a boy of Oliver's size, nevertheless. A very
brief exercise of Mr. Sike's art, sufficed to overcome the
fastening of the lattice; and it soon stood wide open also.
'Now listen, you young limb,' whispered Sikes, drawing a dark
lantern from his pocket, and throwing the glare full on Oliver's
face; 'I'm a going to put you through there. Take this light; go
softly up the steps straight afore you, and along the little
hall, to the street door; unfasten it, and let us in.'
'There's a bolt at the top, you won't be able to reach,'
interposed Toby. 'Stand upon one of the hall chairs. There are
three there, Bill, with a jolly large blue unicorn and gold
pitchfork on 'em: which is the old lady's arms.'
'Keep quiet, can't you?' replied Sikes, with a threatening look.
'The room-door is open, is it?'
'Wide,' replied Toby, after peeping in to satisfy himself. 'The
game of that is, that they always leave it open with a catch, so
that the dog, who's got a bed in here, may walk up and down the
passage when he feels wakeful. Ha! ha! Barney 'ticed him away
to-night. So neat!'
Although Mr. Crackit spoke in a scarcely audible whisper, and
laughed without noise, Sikes imperiously commanded him to be
silent, and to get to work. Toby complied, by first producing
his lantern, and placing it on the ground; then by planting
himself firmly with his head against the wall beneath the window,
and his hands upon his knees, so as to make a step of his back.
This was no sooner done, than Sikes, mounting upon him, put Oiver
gently through the window with his feet first; and, without
leaving hold of his collar, planted him safely on the floor
'Take this lantern,' said Sikes, looking into the room. 'You see
the stairs afore you?'
Oliver, more dead than alive, gasped out, 'Yes.' Sikes, pointing
to the street-door with the pistol-barrel, briefly advised him to
take notice that he was within shot all the way; and that if he
faltered, he would fall dead that instant.
'It's done in a minute,' said Sikes, in the same low whisper.
'Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!'
'What's that?' whispered the other man.
They listened intently.
'Nothing,' said Sikes, releasing his hold of Oliver. 'Now!'
In the short time he had had to collect his senses, the boy had
firmly resolved that, whether he died in the attempt or not, he
would make one effort to dart upstairs from the hall, and alarm
the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at once, but
'Come back!' suddenly cried Sikes aloud. 'Back! back!'
Scared by the sudden breaking of the dead stillness of the place,
and by a loud cry which followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall,
and knew not whether to advance or fly.
The cry was repeated--a light appeared--a vision of two terrified
half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes--a
flash--a loud noise--a smoke--a crash somewhere, but where he
knew not,--and he staggered back.
Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and
had him by the collar before the smoke had cleared away. He
fired his own pistol after the men, who were already retreating;
and dragged the boy up.
'Clasp your arm tighter,' said Sikes, as he drew him through the
window. 'Give me a shawl here. They've hit him. Quick! How
the boy bleeds!'
Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of
fire-arms, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being
carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And then, the noises
grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept
over the boy's heart; and he saw or heard no more.
WHICH CONTAINS THE SUBSTANCE OF A PLEASANT CONVERSATION BETWEEN
MR. BUMBLE AND A LADY; AND SHOWS THAT EVEN A BEADLE MAY BE
SUSCEPTIBLE ON SOME POINTS
The night was bitter cold. The snow lay on the ground, frozen
into a hard thick crust, so that only the heaps that had drifted
into byways and corners were affected by the sharp wind that
howled abroad: which, as if expending increased fury on such
prey as it found, caught it savagely up in clouds, and, whirling
it into a thousand misty eddies, scattered it in air. Bleak,
dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and
fed to draw round the bright fire and thank God they were at
home; and for the homeless, starving wretch to lay him down and
die. Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare
streets, at such times, who, let their crimes have been what they
may, can hardly open them in a more bitter world.
Such was the aspect of out-of-doors affairs, when Mrs. Corney, the
matron of the workhouse to which our readers have been already
introduced as the birthplace of Oliver Twist, sat herself down
before a cheerful fire in her own little room, and glanced, with
no small degree of complacency, at a small round table: on which
stood a tray of corresponding size, furnished with all necessary
materials for the most grateful meal that matrons enjoy. In
fact, Mrs. Corney was about to solace herself with a cup of tea.
As she glanced from the table to the fireplace, where the
smallest of all possible kettles was singing a small song in a
small voice, her inward satisfaction evidently increased,--so
much so, indeed, that Mrs. Corney smiled.
'Well!' said the matron, leaning her elbow on the table, and
looking reflectively at the fire; 'I'm sure we have all on us a
great deal to be grateful for! A great deal, if we did but know
Mrs. Corney shook her head mournfully, as if deploring the mental
blindness of those paupers who did not know it; and thrusting a
silver spoon (private property) into the inmost recesses of a
two-ounce tin tea-caddy, proceeded to make the tea.
How slight a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail
minds! The black teapot, being very small and easily filled, ran
over while Mrs. Corney was moralising; and the water slightly
scalded Mrs. Corney's hand.
'Drat the pot!' said the worthy matron, setting it down very
hastily on the hob; 'a little stupid thing, that only holds a
couple of cups! What use is it of, to anybody! Except,' said
Mrs. Corney, pausing, 'except to a poor desolate creature like
me. Oh dear!'
With these words, the matron dropped into her chair, and, once
more resting her elbow on the table, thought of her solitary
fate. The small teapot, and the single cup, had awakened in her
mind sad recollections of Mr. Corney (who had not been dead more
than five-and-twenty years); and she was overpowered.
'I shall never get another!' said Mrs. Corney, pettishly; 'I
shall never get another--like him.'
Whether this remark bore reference to the husband, or the teapot,
is uncertain. It might have been the latter; for Mrs. Corney
looked at it as she spoke; and took it up afterwards. She had
just tasted her first cup, when she was disturbed by a soft tap
at the room-door.
'Oh, come in with you!' said Mrs. Corney, sharply. 'Some of the
old women dying, I suppose. They always die when I'm at meals.
Don't stand there, letting the cold air in, don't. What's amiss
'Nothing, ma'am, nothing,' replied a man's voice.
'Dear me!' exclaimed the matron, in a much sweeter tone, 'is that
'At your service, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble, who had been stopping
outside to rub his shoes clean, and to shake the snow off his
coat; and who now made his appearance, bearing the cocked hat in
one hand and a bundle in the other. 'Shall I shut the door,