Part 9 out of 10
he was not even suspected of having resorted to it for shelter;
and that, if he were properly disguised, it would be as safe a
spot for him to visit as any in London, inasmuch as it would be,
of all places, the very last, to which he could be supposed
likely to resort of his own free will.
Persuaded, in part, by these representations, but overborne in a
much greater degree by his fear of Fagin, Mr. Bolter at length
consented, with a very bad grace, to undertake the expedition.
By Fagin's directions, he immediately substituted for his own
attire, a waggoner's frock, velveteen breeches, and leather
leggings: all of which articles the Jew had at hand. He was
likewise furnished with a felt hat well garnished with turnpike
tickets; and a carter's whip. Thus equipped, he was to saunter
into the office, as some country fellow from Covent Garden market
might be supposed to do for the gratification of his curiousity;
and as he was as awkward, ungainly, and raw-boned a fellow as
need be, Mr. Fagin had no fear but that he would look the part to
These arrangements completed, he was informed of the necessary
signs and tokens by which to recognise the Artful Dodger, and was
conveyed by Master Bates through dark and winding ways to within
a very short distance of Bow Street. Having described the precise
situation of the office, and accompanied it with copious
directions how he was to walk straight up the passage, and when
he got into the side, and pull off his hat as he went into the
room, Charley Bates bade him hurry on alone, and promised to bide
his return on the spot of their parting.
Noah Claypole, or Morris Bolter as the reader pleases, punctually
followed the directions he had received, which--Master Bates
being pretty well acquainted with the locality--were so exact
that he was enabled to gain the magisterial presence without
asking any question, or meeting with any interruption by the way.
He found himself jostled among a crowd of people, chiefly women,
who were huddled together in a dirty frowsy room, at the upper
end of which was a raised platform railed off from the rest, with
a dock for the prisoners on the left hand against the wall, a box
for the witnesses in the middle, and a desk for the magistrates
on the right; the awful locality last named, being screened off
by a partition which concealed the bench from the common gaze,
and left the vulgar to imagine (if they could) the full majesty
There were only a couple of women in the dock, who were nodding
to their admiring friends, while the clerk read some depositions
to a couple of policemen and a man in plain clothes who leant
over the table. A jailer stood reclining against the dock-rail,
tapping his nose listlessly with a large key, except when he
repressed an undue tendency to conversation among the idlers, by
proclaiming silence; or looked sternly up to bid some woman 'Take
that baby out,' when the gravity of justice was disturbed by
feeble cries, half-smothered in the mother's shawl, from some
meagre infant. The room smelt close and unwholesome; the walls
were dirt-discoloured; and the ceiling blackened. There was an
old smoky bust over the mantel-shelf, and a dusty clock above the
dock--the only thing present, that seemed to go on as it ought;
for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance with both,
had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less
unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inamimate object
that frowned upon it.
Noah looked eagerly about him for the Dodger; but although there
were several women who would have done very well for that
distinguished character's mother or sister, and more than one man
who might be supposed to bear a strong resemblance to his father,
nobody at all answering the description given him of Mr. Dawkins
was to be seen. He waited in a state of much suspense and
uncertainty until the women, being committed for trial, went
flaunting out; and then was quickly relieved by the appearance of
another prisoner who he felt at once could be no other than the
object of his visit.
It was indeed Mr. Dawkins, who, shuffling into the office with
the big coat sleeves tucked up as usual, his left hand in his
pocket, and his hat in his right hand, preceded the jailer, with
a rolling gait altogether indescribable, and, taking his place in
the dock, requested in an audible voice to know what he was
placed in that 'ere disgraceful sitivation for.
'Hold your tongue, will you?' said the jailer.
'I'm an Englishman, ain't I?' rejoined the Dodger. 'Where are my
'You'll get your privileges soon enough,' retorted the jailer,
'and pepper with 'em.'
'We'll see wot the Secretary of State for the Home Affairs has
got to say to the beaks, if I don't,' replied Mr. Dawkins. 'Now
then! Wot is this here business? I shall thank the madg'strates
to dispose of this here little affair, and not to keep me while
they read the paper, for I've got an appointment with a genelman
in the City, and as I am a man of my word and wery punctual in
business matters, he'll go away if I ain't there to my time, and
then pr'aps ther won't be an action for damage against them as
kep me away. Oh no, certainly not!'
At this point, the Dodger, with a show of being very particular
with a view to proceedings to be had thereafter, desired the
jailer to communicate 'the names of them two files as was on the
bench.' Which so tickled the spectators, that they laughed
almost as heartily as Master Bates could have done if he had
heard the request.
'Silence there!' cried the jailer.
'What is this?' inquired one of the magistrates.
'A pick-pocketing case, your worship.'
'Has the boy ever been here before?'
'He ought to have been, a many times,' replied the jailer. 'He
has been pretty well everywhere else. _I_ know him well, your
'Oh! you know me, do you?' cried the Artful, making a note of the
statement. 'Wery good. That's a case of deformation of
character, any way.'
Here there was another laugh, and another cry of silence.
'Now then, where are the witnesses?' said the clerk.
'Ah! that's right,' added the Dodger. 'Where are they? I should
like to see 'em.'
This wish was immediately gratified, for a policeman stepped
forward who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an
unknown gentleman in a crowd, and indeed take a handkerchief
therefrom, which, being a very old one, he deliberately put back
again, after trying it on his own countenance. For this reason,
he took the Dodger into custody as soon as he could get near him,
and the said Dodger, being searched, had upon his person a silver
snuff-box, with the owner's name engraved upon the lid. This
gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court Guide,
and being then and there present, swore that the snuff-box was
his, and that he had missed it on the previous day, the moment he
had disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to. He had
also remarked a young gentleman in the throng, particularly
active in making his way about, and that young gentleman was the
prisoner before him.
'Have you anything to ask this witness, boy?' said the
'I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation
with him,' replied the Dodger.
'Have you anything to say at all?'
'Do you hear his worship ask if you've anything to say?' inquired
the jailer, nudging the silent Dodger with his elbow.
'I beg your pardon,' said the Dodger, looking up with an air of
abstraction. 'Did you redress yourself to me, my man?'
'I never see such an out-and-out young wagabond, your worship,'
observed the officer with a grin. 'Do you mean to say anything,
you young shaver?'
'No,' replied the Dodger, 'not here, for this ain't the shop for
justice: besides which, my attorney is a-breakfasting this
morning with the Wice President of the House of Commons; but I
shall have something to say elsewhere, and so will he, and so
will a wery numerous and 'spectable circle of acquaintance as'll
make them beaks wish they'd never been born, or that they'd got
their footmen to hang 'em up to their own hat-pegs, afore they
let 'em come out this morning to try it on upon me. I'll--'
'There! He's fully committed!' interposed the clerk. 'Take him
'Come on,' said the jailer.
'Oh ah! I'll come on,' replied the Dodger, brushing his hat with
the palm of his hand. 'Ah! (to the Bench) it's no use your
looking frightened; I won't show you no mercy, not a ha'porth of
it. _You'll_ pay for this, my fine fellers. I wouldn't be you for
something! I wouldn't go free, now, if you was to fall down on
your knees and ask me. Here, carry me off to prison! Take me
With these last words, the Dodger suffered himself to be led off
by the collar; threatening, till he got into the yard, to make a
parliamentary business of it; and then grinning in the officer's
face, with great glee and self-approval.
Having seen him locked up by himself in a little cell, Noah made
the best of his way back to where he had left Master Bates.
After waiting here some time, he was joined by that young
gentleman, who had prudently abstained from showing himself until
he had looked carefully abroad from a snug retreat, and
ascertained that his new friend had not been followed by any
The two hastened back together, to bear to Mr. Fagin the
animating news that the Dodger was doing full justice to his
bringing-up, and establishing for himself a glorious reputation.
THE TIME ARRIVES FOR NANCY TO REDEEM HER PLEDGE TO ROSE MAYLIE.
Adept as she was, in all the arts of cunning and dissimulation,
the girl Nancy could not wholly conceal the effect which the
knowledge of the step she had taken, wrought upon her mind. She
remembered that both the crafty Jew and the brutal Sikes had
confided to her schemes, which had been hidden from all others:
in the full confidence that she was trustworthy and beyond the
reach of their suspicion. Vile as those schemes were, desperate
as were their originators, and bitter as were her feelings
towards Fagin, who had led her, step by step, deeper and deeper
down into an abyss of crime and misery, whence was no escape;
still, there were times when, even towards him, she felt some
relenting, lest her disclosure should bring him within the iron
grasp he had so long eluded, and he should fall at last--richly
as he merited such a fate--by her hand.
But, these were the mere wanderings of a mind unable wholly to detach
itself from old companions and associations, though enabled to
fix itself steadily on one object, and resolved not to be turned
aside by any consideration. Her fears for Sikes would have been
more powerful inducements to recoil while there was yet time; but
she had stipulated that her secret should be rigidly kept, she
had dropped no clue which could lead to his discovery, she had
refused, even for his sake, a refuge from all the guilt and
wretchedness that encompasses her--and what more could she do!
She was resolved.
Though all her mental struggles terminated in this conclusion,
they forced themselves upon her, again and again, and left their
traces too. She grew pale and thin, even within a few days. At
times, she took no heed of what was passing before her, or no
part in conversations where once, she would have been the
loudest. At other times, she laughed without merriment, and was
noisy without a moment afterwards--she sat silent and dejected,
brooding with her head upon her hands, while the very effort by
which she roused herself, told, more forcibly than even these
indications, that she was ill at ease, and that her thoughts were
occupied with matters very different and distant from those in
the course of discussion by her companions.
It was Sunday night, and the bell of the nearest church struck
the hour. Sikes and the Jew were talking, but they paused to
listen. The girl looked up from the low seat on which she
crouched, and listened too. Eleven.
'An hour this side of midnight,' said Sikes, raising the blind to
look out and returning to his seat. 'Dark and heavy it is too.
A good night for business this.'
'Ah!' replied Fagin. 'What a pity, Bill, my dear, that there's
none quite ready to be done.'
'You're right for once,' replied Sikes gruffly. 'It is a pity,
for I'm in the humour too.'
Fagin sighed, and shook his head despondingly.
'We must make up for lost time when we've got things into a good
train. That's all I know,' said Sikes.
'That's the way to talk, my dear,' replied Fagin, venturing to
pat him on the shoulder. 'It does me good to hear you.'
'Does you good, does it!' cried Sikes. 'Well, so be it.'
'Ha! ha! ha!' laughed Fagin, as if he were relieved by even this
concession. 'You're like yourself to-night, Bill. Quite like
'I don't feel like myself when you lay that withered old claw on
my shoulder, so take it away,' said Sikes, casting off the Jew's
'It make you nervous, Bill,--reminds you of being nabbed, does
it?' said Fagin, determined not to be offended.
'Reminds me of being nabbed by the devil,' returned Sikes. 'There
never was another man with such a face as yours, unless it was
your father, and I suppose _he_ is singeing his grizzled red beard
by this time, unless you came straight from the old 'un without
any father at all betwixt you; which I shouldn't wonder at, a
Fagin offered no reply to this compliment: but, pulling Sikes by
the sleeve, pointed his finger towards Nancy, who had taken
advantage of the foregoing conversation to put on her bonnet, and
was now leaving the room.
'Hallo!' cried Sikes. 'Nance. Where's the gal going to at this
time of night?'
'What answer's that?' retorted Sikes. 'Do you hear me?'
'I don't know where,' replied the girl.
'Then I do,' said Sikes, more in the spirit of obstinacy than
because he had any real objection to the girl going where she
listed. 'Nowhere. Sit down.'
'I'm not well. I told you that before,' rejoined the girl. 'I
want a breath of air.'
'Put your head out of the winder,' replied Sikes.
'There's not enough there,' said the girl. 'I want it in the
'Then you won't have it,' replied Sikes. With which assurance he
rose, locked the door, took the key out, and pulling her bonnet
from her head, flung it up to the top of an old press. 'There,'
said the robber. 'Now stop quietly where you are, will you?'
'It's not such a matter as a bonnet would keep me,' said the girl
turning very pale. 'What do you mean, Bill? Do you know what
'Know what I'm--Oh!' cried Sikes, turning to Fagin, 'she's out of
her senses, you know, or she daren't talk to me in that way.'
'You'll drive me on the something desperate,' muttered the girl
placing both hands upon her breast, as though to keep down by
force some violent outbreak. 'Let me go, will you,--this
'No!' said Sikes.
'Tell him to let me go, Fagin. He had better. It'll be better
for him. Do you hear me?' cried Nancy stamping her foot upon the
'Hear you!' repeated Sikes turning round in his chair to confront
her. 'Aye! And if I hear you for half a minute longer, the dog
shall have such a grip on your throat as'll tear some of that
screaming voice out. Wot has come over you, you jade! Wot is
'Let me go,' said the girl with great earnestness; then sitting
herself down on the floor, before the door, she said, 'Bill, let
me go; you don't know what you are doing. You don't, indeed. For
only one hour--do--do!'
'Cut my limbs off one by one!' cried Sikes, seizing her roughly
by the arm, 'If I don't think the gal's stark raving mad. Get
'Not till you let me go--not till you let me go--Never--never!'
screamed the girl. Sikes looked on, for a minute, watching his
opportunity, and suddenly pinioning her hands dragged her,
struggling and wrestling with him by the way, into a small room
adjoining, where he sat himself on a bench, and thrusting her
into a chair, held her down by force. She struggled and implored
by turns until twelve o'clock had struck, and then, wearied and
exhausted, ceased to contest the point any further. With a
caution, backed by many oaths, to make no more efforts to go out
that night, Sikes left her to recover at leisure and rejoined
'Whew!' said the housebreaker wiping the perspiration from his
face. 'Wot a precious strange gal that is!'
'You may say that, Bill,' replied Fagin thoughtfully. 'You may
'Wot did she take it into her head to go out to-night for, do you
think?' asked Sikes. 'Come; you should know her better than me.
Wot does it mean?'
'Obstinacy; woman's obstinacy, I suppose, my dear.'
'Well, I suppose it is,' growled Sikes. 'I thought I had tamed
her, but she's as bad as ever.'
'Worse,' said Fagin thoughtfully. 'I never knew her like this,
for such a little cause.'
'Nor I,' said Sikes. 'I think she's got a touch of that fever in
her blood yet, and it won't come out--eh?'
'I'll let her a little blood, without troubling the doctor, if
she's took that way again,' said Sikes.
Fagin nodded an expressive approval of this mode of treatment.
'She was hanging about me all day, and night too, when I was
stretched on my back; and you, like a blackhearted wolf as you
are, kept yourself aloof,' said Sikes. 'We was poor too, all the
time, and I think, one way or other, it's worried and fretted
her; and that being shut up here so long has made her
'That's it, my dear,' replied the Jew in a whisper. 'Hush!'
As he uttered these words, the girl herself appeared and resumed
her former seat. Her eyes were swollen and red; she rocked
herself to and fro; tossed her head; and, after a little time,
burst out laughing.
'Why, now she's on the other tack!' exclaimed Sikes, turning a
look of excessive surprise on his companion.
Fagin nodded to him to take no further notice just then; and, in
a few minutes, the girl subsided into her accustomed demeanour.
Whispering Sikes that there was no fear of her relapsing, Fagin
took up his hat and bade him good-night. He paused when he
reached the room-door, and looking round, asked if somebody would
light him down the dark stairs.
'Light him down,' said Sikes, who was filling his pipe. 'It's a
pity he should break his neck himself, and disappoint the
sight-seers. Show him a light.'
Nancy followed the old man downstairs, with a candle. When they
reached the passage, he laid his finger on his lip, and drawing
close to the girl, said, in a whisper.
'What is it, Nancy, dear?'
'What do you mean?' replied the girl, in the same tone.
'The reason of all this,' replied Fagin. 'If _he_'--he pointed
with his skinny fore-finger up the stairs--'is so hard with you
(he's a brute, Nance, a brute-beast), why don't you--'
'Well?' said the girl, as Fagin paused, with his mouth almost
touching her ear, and his eyes looking into hers.
'No matter just now. We'll talk of this again. You have a
friend in me, Nance; a staunch friend. I have the means at hand,
quiet and close. If you want revenge on those that treat you
like a dog--like a dog! worse than his dog, for he humours him
sometimes--come to me. I say, come to me. He is the mere hound
of a day, but you know me of old, Nance.'
'I know you well,' replied the girl, without manifesting the
least emotion. 'Good-night.'
She shrank back, as Fagin offered to lay his hand on hers, but
said good-night again, in a steady voice, and, answering his
parting look with a nod of intelligence, closed the door between
Fagin walked towards his home, intent upon the thoughts that were
working within his brain. He had conceived the idea--not from
what had just passed though that had tended to confirm him, but
slowly and by degrees--that Nancy, wearied of the housebreaker's
brutality, had conceived an attachment for some new friend. Her
altered manner, her repeated absences from home alone, her
comparative indifference to the interests of the gang for which
she had once been so zealous, and, added to these, her desperate
impatience to leave home that night at a particular hour, all
favoured the supposition, and rendered it, to him at least,
almost matter of certainty. The object of this new liking was
not among his myrmidons. He would be a valuable acquisition with
such an assistant as Nancy, and must (thus Fagin argued) be
secured without delay.
There was another, and a darker object, to be gained. Sikes knew
too much, and his ruffian taunts had not galled Fagin the less,
because the wounds were hidden. The girl must know, well, that
if she shook him off, she could never be safe from his fury, and
that it would be surely wreaked--to the maiming of limbs, or
perhaps the loss of life--on the object of her more recent fancy.
'With a little persuasion,' thought Fagin, 'what more likely than
that she would consent to poison him? Women have done such
things, and worse, to secure the same object before now. There
would be the dangerous villain: the man I hate: gone; another
secured in his place; and my influence over the girl, with a
knowledge of this crime to back it, unlimited.'
These things passed through the mind of Fagin, during the short
time he sat alone, in the housebreaker's room; and with them
uppermost in his thoughts, he had taken the opportunity
afterwards afforded him, of sounding the girl in the broken hints
he threw out at parting. There was no expression of surprise, no
assumption of an inability to understand his meaning. The girl
clearly comprehended it. Her glance at parting showed _that_.
But perhaps she would recoil from a plot to take the life of
Sikes, and that was one of the chief ends to be attained. 'How,'
thought Fagin, as he crept homeward, 'can I increase my influence
with her? What new power can I acquire?'
Such brains are fertile in expedients. If, without extracting a
confession from herself, he laid a watch, discovered the object
of her altered regard, and threatened to reveal the whole history
to Sikes (of whom she stood in no common fear) unless she entered
into his designs, could he not secure her compliance?
'I can,' said Fagin, almost aloud. 'She durst not refuse me
then. Not for her life, not for her life! I have it all. The
means are ready, and shall be set to work. I shall have you
He cast back a dark look, and a threatening motion of the hand,
towards the spot where he had left the bolder villain; and went
on his way: busying his bony hands in the folds of his tattered
garment, which he wrenched tightly in his grasp, as though there
were a hated enemy crushed with every motion of his fingers.
NOAH CLAYPOLE IS EMPLOYED BY FAGIN ON A SECRET MISSION
The old man was up, betimes, next morning, and waited impatiently
for the appearance of his new associate, who after a delay that
seemed interminable, at length presented himself, and commenced a
voracious assault on the breakfast.
'Bolter,' said Fagin, drawing up a chair and seating himself
opposite Morris Bolter.
'Well, here I am,' returned Noah. 'What's the matter? Don't yer
ask me to do anything till I have done eating. That's a great
fault in this place. Yer never get time enough over yer meals.'
'You can talk as you eat, can't you?' said Fagin, cursing his
dear young friend's greediness from the very bottom of his heart.
'Oh yes, I can talk. I get on better when I talk,' said Noah,
cutting a monstrous slice of bread. 'Where's Charlotte?'
'Out,' said Fagin. 'I sent her out this morning with the other
young woman, because I wanted us to be alone.'
'Oh!' said Noah. 'I wish yer'd ordered her to make some buttered
toast first. Well. Talk away. Yer won't interrupt me.'
There seemed, indeed, no great fear of anything interrupting him,
as he had evidently sat down with a determination to do a great
deal of business.
'You did well yesterday, my dear,' said Fagin. 'Beautiful! Six
shillings and ninepence halfpenny on the very first day! The
kinchin lay will be a fortune to you.'
'Don't you forget to add three pint-pots and a milk-can,' said
'No, no, my dear. The pint-pots were great strokes of genius:
but the milk-can was a perfect masterpiece.'
'Pretty well, I think, for a beginner,' remarked Mr. Bolter
complacently. 'The pots I took off airy railings, and the
milk-can was standing by itself outside a public-house. I
thought it might get rusty with the rain, or catch cold, yer
know. Eh? Ha! ha! ha!'
Fagin affected to laugh very heartily; and Mr. Bolter having had
his laugh out, took a series of large bites, which finished his
first hunk of bread and butter, and assisted himself to a second.
'I want you, Bolter,' said Fagin, leaning over the table, 'to do
a piece of work for me, my dear, that needs great care and
'I say,' rejoined Bolter, 'don't yer go shoving me into danger,
or sending me any more o' yer police-offices. That don't suit me,
that don't; and so I tell yer.'
'That's not the smallest danger in it--not the very smallest,'
said the Jew; 'it's only to dodge a woman.'
'An old woman?' demanded Mr. Bolter.
'A young one,' replied Fagin.
'I can do that pretty well, I know,' said Bolter. 'I was a
regular cunning sneak when I was at school. What am I to dodge
her for? Not to--'
'Not to do anything, but to tell me where she goes, who she sees,
and, if possible, what she says; to remember the street, if it is
a street, or the house, if it is a house; and to bring me back
all the information you can.'
'What'll yer give me?' asked Noah, setting down his cup, and
looking his employer, eagerly, in the face.
'If you do it well, a pound, my dear. One pound,' said Fagin,
wishing to interest him in the scent as much as possible. 'And
that's what I never gave yet, for any job of work where there
wasn't valuable consideration to be gained.'
'Who is she?' inquired Noah.
'One of us.'
'Oh Lor!' cried Noah, curling up his nose. 'Yer doubtful of her,
'She has found out some new friends, my dear, and I must know who
they are,' replied Fagin.
'I see,' said Noah. 'Just to have the pleasure of knowing them,
if they're respectable people, eh? Ha! ha! ha! I'm your man.'
'I knew you would be,' cried Fagin, elated by the success of his
'Of course, of course,' replied Noah. 'Where is she? Where am I
to wait for her? Where am I to go?'
'All that, my dear, you shall hear from me. I'll point her out
at the proper time,' said Fagin. 'You keep ready, and leave the
rest to me.'
That night, and the next, and the next again, the spy sat booted
and equipped in his carter's dress: ready to turn out at a word
from Fagin. Six nights passed--six long weary nights--and on
each, Fagin came home with a disappointed face, and briefly
intimated that it was not yet time. On the seventh, he returned
earlier, and with an exultation he could not conceal. It was
'She goes abroad to-night,' said Fagin, 'and on the right errand,
I'm sure; for she has been alone all day, and the man she is
afraid of will not be back much before daybreak. Come with me.
Noah started up without saying a word; for the Jew was in a state
of such intense excitement that it infected him. They left the
house stealthily, and hurrying through a labyrinth of streets,
arrived at length before a public-house, which Noah recognised as
the same in which he had slept, on the night of his arrival in
It was past eleven o'clock, and the door was closed. It opened
softly on its hinges as Fagin gave a low whistle. They entered,
without noise; and the door was closed behind them.
Scarcely venturing to whisper, but substituting dumb show for
words, Fagin, and the young Jew who had admitted them, pointed
out the pane of glass to Noah, and signed to him to climb up and
observe the person in the adjoining room.
'Is that the woman?' he asked, scarcely above his breath.
Fagin nodded yes.
'I can't see her face well,' whispered Noah. 'She is looking
down, and the candle is behind her.
'Stay there,' whispered Fagin. He signed to Barney, who
withdrew. In an instant, the lad entered the room adjoining,
and, under pretence of snuffing the candle, moved it in the
required position, and, speaking to the girl, caused her to raise
'I see her now,' cried the spy.
'I should know her among a thousand.'
He hastily descended, as the room-door opened, and the girl came
out. Fagin drew him behind a small partition which was curtained
off, and they held their breaths as she passed within a few feet
of their place of concealment, and emerged by the door at which
they had entered.
'Hist!' cried the lad who held the door. 'Dow.'
Noah exchanged a look with Fagin, and darted out.
'To the left,' whispered the lad; 'take the left had, and keep od
the other side.'
He did so; and, by the light of the lamps, saw the girl's
retreating figure, already at some distance before him. He
advanced as near as he considered prudent, and kept on the
opposite side of the street, the better to observe her motions.
She looked nervously round, twice or thrice, and once stopped to
let two men who were following close behind her, pass on. She
seemed to gather courage as she advanced, and to walk with a
steadier and firmer step. The spy preserved the same relative
distance between them, and followed: with his eye upon her.
THE APPOINTMENT KEPT
The church clocks chimed three quarters past eleven, as two
figures emerged on London Bridge. One, which advanced with a
swift and rapid step, was that of a woman who looked eagerly
about her as though in quest of some expected object; the other
figure was that of a man, who slunk along in the deepest shadow
he could find, and, at some distance, accommodated his pace to
hers: stopping when she stopped: and as she moved again,
creeping stealthily on: but never allowing himself, in the
ardour of his pursuit, to gain upon her footsteps. Thus, they
crossed the bridge, from the Middlesex to the Surrey shore, when
the woman, apparently disappointed in her anxious scrutiny of the
foot-passengers, turned back. The movement was sudden; but he
who watched her, was not thrown off his guard by it; for,
shrinking into one of the recesses which surmount the piers of
the bridge, and leaning over the parapet the better to conceal
his figure, he suffered her to pass on the opposite pavement.
When she was about the same distance in advance as she had been
before, he slipped quietly down, and followed her again. At
nearly the centre of the bridge, she stopped. The man stopped
It was a very dark night. The day had been unfavourable, and at
that hour and place there were few people stirring. Such as there
were, hurried quickly past: very possibly without seeing, but
certainly without noticing, either the woman, or the man who kept
her in view. Their appearance was not calculated to attract the
importunate regards of such of London's destitute population, as
chanced to take their way over the bridge that night in search of
some cold arch or doorless hovel wherein to lay their heads; they
stood there in silence: neither speaking nor spoken to, by any
one who passed.
A mist hung over the river, deepening the red glare of the fires
that burnt upon the small craft moored off the different wharfs,
and rendering darker and more indistinct the murky buildings on
the banks. The old smoke-stained storehouses on either side,
rose heavy and dull from the dense mass of roofs and gables, and
frowned sternly upon water too black to reflect even their
lumbering shapes. The tower of old Saint Saviour's Church, and
the spire of Saint Magnus, so long the giant-warders of the
ancient bridge, were visible in the gloom; but the forest of
shipping below bridge, and the thickly scattered spires of
churches above, were nearly all hidden from sight.
The girl had taken a few restless turns to and fro--closely
watched meanwhile by her hidden observer--when the heavy bell of
St. Paul's tolled for the death of another day. Midnight had
come upon the crowded city. The palace, the night-cellar, the
jail, the madhouse: the chambers of birth and death, of health
and sickness, the rigid face of the corpse and the calm sleep of
the child: midnight was upon them all.
The hour had not struck two minutes, when a young lady,
accompanied by a grey-haired gentleman, alighted from a
hackney-carriage within a short distance of the bridge, and,
having dismissed the vehicle, walked straight towards it. They
had scarcely set foot upon its pavement, when the girl started,
and immediately made towards them.
They walked onward, looking about them with the air of persons
who entertained some very slight expectation which had little
chance of being realised, when they were suddenly joined by this
new associate. They halted with an exclamation of surprise, but
suppressed it immediately; for a man in the garments of a
countryman came close up--brushed against them, indeed--at that
'Not here,' said Nancy hurriedly, 'I am afraid to speak to you
here. Come away--out of the public road--down the steps yonder!'
As she uttered these words, and indicated, with her hand, the
direction in which she wished them to proceed, the countryman
looked round, and roughly asking what they took up the whole
pavement for, passed on.
The steps to which the girl had pointed, were those which, on the
Surrey bank, and on the same side of the bridge as Saint
Saviour's Church, form a landing-stairs from the river. To this
spot, the man bearing the appearance of a countryman, hastened
unobserved; and after a moment's survey of the place, he began to
These stairs are a part of the bridge; they consist of three
flights. Just below the end of the second, going down, the stone
wall on the left terminates in an ornamental pilaster facing
towards the Thames. At this point the lower steps widen: so
that a person turning that angle of the wall, is necessarily
unseen by any others on the stairs who chance to be above him, if
only a step. The countryman looked hastily round, when he reached
this point; and as there seemed no better place of concealment,
and, the tide being out, there was plenty of room, he slipped
aside, with his back to the pilaster, and there waited: pretty
certain that they would come no lower, and that even if he could
not hear what was said, he could follow them again, with safety.
So tardily stole the time in this lonely place, and so eager was
the spy to penetrate the motives of an interview so different
from what he had been led to expect, that he more than once gave
the matter up for lost, and persuaded himself, either that they
had stopped far above, or had resorted to some entirely different
spot to hold their mysterious conversation. He was on the point
of emerging from his hiding-place, and regaining the road above,
when he heard the sound of footsteps, and directly afterwards of
voices almost close at his ear.
He drew himself straight upright against the wall, and, scarcely
breathing, listened attentively.
'This is far enough,' said a voice, which was evidently that of
the gentleman. 'I will not suffer the young lady to go any
farther. Many people would have distrusted you too much to have
come even so far, but you see I am willing to humour you.'
'To humour me!' cried the voice of the girl whom he had followed.
'You're considerate, indeed, sir. To humour me! Well, well,
it's no matter.'
'Why, for what,' said the gentleman in a kinder tone, 'for what
purpose can you have brought us to this strange place? Why not
have let me speak to you, above there, where it is light, and
there is something stirring, instead of bringing us to this dark
and dismal hole?'
'I told you before,' replied Nancy, 'that I was afraid to speak
to you there. I don't know why it is,' said the girl,
shuddering, 'but I have such a fear and dread upon me to-night
that I can hardly stand.'
'A fear of what?' asked the gentleman, who seemed to pity her.
'I scarcely know of what,' replied the girl. 'I wish I did.
Horrible thoughts of death, and shrouds with blood upon them, and
a fear that has made me burn as if I was on fire, have been upon
me all day. I was reading a book to-night, to wile the time
away, and the same things came into the print.'
'Imagination,' said the gentleman, soothing her.
'No imagination,' replied the girl in a hoarse voice. 'I'll swear
I saw "coffin" written in every page of the book in large black
letters,--aye, and they carried one close to me, in the streets
'There is nothing unusual in that,' said the gentleman. 'They
have passed me often.'
'_Real ones_,' rejoined the girl. 'This was not.'
There was something so uncommon in her manner, that the flesh of
the concealed listener crept as he heard the girl utter these
words, and the blood chilled within him. He had never
experienced a greater relief than in hearing the sweet voice of
the young lady as she begged her to be calm, and not allow
herself to become the prey of such fearful fancies.
'Speak to her kindly,' said the young lady to her companion.
'Poor creature! She seems to need it.'
'Your haughty religious people would have held their heads up to
see me as I am to-night, and preached of flames and vengeance,'
cried the girl. 'Oh, dear lady, why ar'n't those who claim to be
God's own folks as gentle and as kind to us poor wretches as you,
who, having youth, and beauty, and all that they have lost, might
be a little proud instead of so much humbler?'
'Ah!' said the gentleman. 'A Turk turns his face, after washing
it well, to the East, when he says his prayers; these good
people, after giving their faces such a rub against the World as
to take the smiles off, turn with no less regularity, to the
darkest side of Heaven. Between the Mussulman and the Pharisee,
commend me to the first!'
These words appeared to be addressed to the young lady, and were
perhaps uttered with the view of affording Nancy time to recover
herself. The gentleman, shortly afterwards, addressed himself to
'You were not here last Sunday night,' he said.
'I couldn't come,' replied Nancy; 'I was kept by force.'
'Him that I told the young lady of before.'
'You were not suspected of holding any communication with anybody
on the subject which has brought us here to-night, I hope?' asked
the old gentleman.
'No,' replied the girl, shaking her head. 'It's not very easy
for me to leave him unless he knows why; I couldn't give him a
drink of laudanum before I came away.'
'Did he awake before you returned?' inquired the gentleman.
'No; and neither he nor any of them suspect me.'
'Good,' said the gentleman. 'Now listen to me.'
'I am ready,' replied the girl, as he paused for a moment.
'This young lady,' the gentleman began, 'has communicated to me,
and to some other friends who can be safely trusted, what you
told her nearly a fortnight since. I confess to you that I had
doubts, at first, whether you were to be implicitly relied upon,
but now I firmly believe you are.'
'I am,' said the girl earnestly.
'I repeat that I firmly believe it. To prove to you that I am
disposed to trust you, I tell you without reserve, that we
propose to extort the secret, whatever it may be, from the fear
of this man Monks. But if--if--' said the gentleman, 'he cannot
be secured, or, if secured, cannot be acted upon as we wish, you
must deliver up the Jew.'
'Fagin,' cried the girl, recoiling.
'That man must be delivered up by you,' said the gentleman.
'I will not do it! I will never do it!' replied the girl. 'Devil
that he is, and worse than devil as he has been to me, I will
never do that.'
'You will not?' said the gentleman, who seemed fully prepared for
'Never!' returned the girl.
'Tell me why?'
'For one reason,' rejoined the girl firmly, 'for one reason, that
the lady knows and will stand by me in, I know she will, for I
have her promise: and for this other reason, besides, that, bad
life as he has led, I have led a bad life too; there are many of
us who have kept the same courses together, and I'll not turn
upon them, who might--any of them--have turned upon me, but
didn't, bad as they are.'
'Then,' said the gentleman, quickly, as if this had been the
point he had been aiming to attain; 'put Monks into my hands, and
leave him to me to deal with.'
'What if he turns against the others?'
'I promise you that in that case, if the truth is forced from
him, there the matter will rest; there must be circumstances in
Oliver's little history which it would be painful to drag before
the public eye, and if the truth is once elicited, they shall go
'And if it is not?' suggested the girl.
'Then,' pursued the gentleman, 'this Fagin shall not be brought
to justice without your consent. In such a case I could show you
reasons, I think, which would induce you to yield it.'
'Have I the lady's promise for that?' asked the girl.
'You have,' replied Rose. 'My true and faithful pledge.'
'Monks would never learn how you knew what you do?' said the
girl, after a short pause.
'Never,' replied the gentleman. 'The intelligence should be
brought to bear upon him, that he could never even guess.'
'I have been a liar, and among liars from a little child,' said
the girl after another interval of silence, 'but I will take your
After receiving an assurance from both, that she might safely do
so, she proceeded in a voice so low that it was often difficult
for the listener to discover even the purport of what she said,
to describe, by name and situation, the public-house whence she
had been followed that night. From the manner in which she
occasionally paused, it appeared as if the gentleman were making
some hasty notes of the information she communicated. When she
had thoroughly explained the localities of the place, the best
position from which to watch it without exciting observation, and
the night and hour on which Monks was most in the habit of
frequenting it, she seemed to consider for a few moments, for the
purpose of recalling his features and appearances more forcibly
to her recollection.
'He is tall,' said the girl, 'and a strongly made man, but not
stout; he has a lurking walk; and as he walks, constantly looks
over his shoulder, first on one side, and then on the other.
Don't forget that, for his eyes are sunk in his head so much
deeper than any other man's, that you might almost tell him by
that alone. His face is dark, like his hair and eyes; and,
although he can't be more than six or eight and twenty, withered
and haggard. His lips are often discoloured and disfigured with
the marks of teeth; for he has desperate fits, and sometimes even
bites his hands and covers them with wounds--why did you start?'
said the girl, stopping suddenly.
The gentleman replied, in a hurried manner, that he was not
conscious of having done so, and begged her to proceed.
'Part of this,' said the girl, 'I have drawn out from other
people at the house I tell you of, for I have only seen him
twice, and both times he was covered up in a large cloak. I
think that's all I can give you to know him by. Stay though,'
she added. 'Upon his throat: so high that you can see a part of
it below his neckerchief when he turns his face: there is--'
'A broad red mark, like a burn or scald?' cried the gentleman.
'How's this?' said the girl. 'You know him!'
The young lady uttered a cry of surprise, and for a few moments
they were so still that the listener could distinctly hear them
'I think I do,' said the gentleman, breaking silence. 'I should
by your description. We shall see. Many people are singularly
like each other. It may not be the same.'
As he expressed himself to this effect, with assumed
carelessness, he took a step or two nearer the concealed spy, as
the latter could tell from the distinctness with which he heard
him mutter, 'It must be he!'
'Now,' he said, returning: so it seemed by the sound: to the
spot where he had stood before, 'you have given us most valuable
assistance, young woman, and I wish you to be the better for it.
What can I do to serve you?'
'Nothing,' replied Nancy.
'You will not persist in saying that,' rejoined the gentleman,
with a voice and emphasis of kindness that might have touched a
much harder and more obdurate heart. 'Think now. Tell me.'
'Nothing, sir,' rejoined the girl, weeping. 'You can do nothing
to help me. I am past all hope, indeed.'
'You put yourself beyond its pale,' said the gentleman. 'The past
has been a dreary waste with you, of youthful energies mis-spent,
and such priceless treasures lavished, as the Creator bestows but
once and never grants again, but, for the future, you may hope.
I do not say that it is in our power to offer you peace of heart
and mind, for that must come as you seek it; but a quiet asylum,
either in England, or, if you fear to remain here, in some
foreign country, it is not only within the compass of our ability
but our most anxious wish to secure you. Before the dawn of
morning, before this river wakes to the first glimpse of
day-light, you shall be placed as entirely beyond the reach of
your former associates, and leave as utter an absence of all
trace behind you, as if you were to disappear from the earth this
moment. Come! I would not have you go back to exchange one word
with any old companion, or take one look at any old haunt, or
breathe the very air which is pestilence and death to you. Quit
them all, while there is time and opportunity!'
'She will be persuaded now,' cried the young lady. 'She
hesitates, I am sure.'
'I fear not, my dear,' said the gentleman.
'No sir, I do not,' replied the girl, after a short struggle. 'I
am chained to my old life. I loathe and hate it now, but I
cannot leave it. I must have gone too far to turn back,--and yet
I don't know, for if you had spoken to me so, some time ago, I
should have laughed it off. But,' she said, looking hastily
round, 'this fear comes over me again. I must go home.'
'Home!' repeated the young lady, with great stress upon the word.
'Home, lady,' rejoined the girl. 'To such a home as I have
raised for myself with the work of my whole life. Let us part.
I shall be watched or seen. Go! Go! If I have done you any
service all I ask is, that you leave me, and let me go my way
'It is useless,' said the gentleman, with a sigh. 'We compromise
her safety, perhaps, by staying here. We may have detained her
longer than she expected already.'
'Yes, yes,' urged the girl. 'You have.'
'What,' cried the young lady, 'can be the end of this poor
'What!' repeated the girl. 'Look before you, lady. Look at that
dark water. How many times do you read of such as I who spring
into the tide, and leave no living thing, to care for, or bewail
them. It may be years hence, or it may be only months, but I
shall come to that at last.'
'Do not speak thus, pray,' returned the young lady, sobbing.
'It will never reach your ears, dear lady, and God forbid such
horrors should!' replied the girl. 'Good-night, good-night!'
The gentleman turned away.
'This purse,' cried the young lady. 'Take it for my sake, that
you may have some resource in an hour of need and trouble.'
'No!' replied the girl. 'I have not done this for money. Let me
have that to think of. And yet--give me something that you have
worn: I should like to have something--no, no, not a ring--your
gloves or handkerchief--anything that I can keep, as having
belonged to you, sweet lady. There. Bless you! God bless you.
The violent agitation of the girl, and the apprehension of some
discovery which would subject her to ill-usage and violence,
seemed to determine the gentleman to leave her, as she requested.
The sound of retreating footsteps were audible and the voices
The two figures of the young lady and her companion soon
afterwards appeared upon the bridge. They stopped at the summit
of the stairs.
'Hark!' cried the young lady, listening. 'Did she call! I
thought I heard her voice.'
'No, my love,' replied Mr. Brownlow, looking sadly back. 'She has
not moved, and will not till we are gone.'
Rose Maylie lingered, but the old gentleman drew her arm through
his, and led her, with gentle force, away. As they disappeared,
the girl sunk down nearly at her full length upon one of the
stone stairs, and vented the anguish of her heart in bitter
After a time she arose, and with feeble and tottering steps
ascended the street. The astonished listener remained motionless
on his post for some minutes afterwards, and having ascertained,
with many cautious glances round him, that he was again alone,
crept slowly from his hiding-place, and returned, stealthily and
in the shade of the wall, in the same manner as he had descended.
Peeping out, more than once, when he reached the top, to make
sure that he was unobserved, Noah Claypole darted away at his
utmost speed, and made for the Jew's house as fast as his legs
would carry him.
It was nearly two hours before day-break; that time which in the
autumn of the year, may be truly called the dead of night; when
the streets are silent and deserted; when even sounds appear to
slumber, and profligacy and riot have staggered home to dream; it
was at this still and silent hour, that Fagin sat watching in his
old lair, with face so distorted and pale, and eyes so red and
blood-shot, that he looked less like a man, than like some
hideous phantom, moist from the grave, and worried by an evil
He sat crouching over a cold hearth, wrapped in an old torn
coverlet, with his face turned towards a wasting candle that
stood upon a table by his side. His right hand was raised to his
lips, and as, absorbed in thought, he hit his long black nails,
he disclosed among his toothless gums a few such fangs as should
have been a dog's or rat's.
Stretched upon a mattress on the floor, lay Noah Claypole, fast
asleep. Towards him the old man sometimes directed his eyes for
an instant, and then brought them back again to the candle; which
with a long-burnt wick drooping almost double, and hot grease
falling down in clots upon the table, plainly showed that his
thoughts were busy elsewhere.
Indeed they were. Mortification at the overthrow of his notable
scheme; hatred of the girl who had dared to palter with
strangers; and utter distrust of the sincerity of her refusal to
yield him up; bitter disappointment at the loss of his revenge on
Sikes; the fear of detection, and ruin, and death; and a fierce
and deadly rage kindled by all; these were the passionate
considerations which, following close upon each other with rapid
and ceaseless whirl, shot through the brain of Fagin, as every
evil thought and blackest purpose lay working at his heart.
He sat without changing his attitude in the least, or appearing
to take the smallest heed of time, until his quick ear seemed to
be attracted by a footstep in the street.
'At last,' he muttered, wiping his dry and fevered mouth. 'At
The bell rang gently as he spoke. He crept upstairs to the door,
and presently returned accompanied by a man muffled to the chin,
who carried a bundle under one arm. Sitting down and throwing
back his outer coat, the man displayed the burly frame of Sikes.
'There!' he said, laying the bundle on the table. 'Take care of
that, and do the most you can with it. It's been trouble enough
to get; I thought I should have been here, three hours ago.'
Fagin laid his hand upon the bundle, and locking it in the
cupboard, sat down again without speaking. But he did not take
his eyes off the robber, for an instant, during this action; and
now that they sat over against each other, face to face, he
looked fixedly at him, with his lips quivering so violently, and
his face so altered by the emotions which had mastered him, that
the housebreaker involuntarily drew back his chair, and surveyed
him with a look of real affright.
'Wot now?' cried Sikes. 'Wot do you look at a man so for?'
Fagin raised his right hand, and shook his trembling forefinger
in the air; but his passion was so great, that the power of
speech was for the moment gone.
'Damme!' said Sikes, feeling in his breast with a look of alarm.
'He's gone mad. I must look to myself here.'
'No, no,' rejoined Fagin, finding his voice. 'It's not--you're
not the person, Bill. I've no--no fault to find with you.'
'Oh, you haven't, haven't you?' said Sikes, looking sternly at
him, and ostentatiously passing a pistol into a more convenient
pocket. 'That's lucky--for one of us. Which one that is, don't
'I've got that to tell you, Bill,' said Fagin, drawing his chair
nearer, 'will make you worse than me.'
'Aye?' returned the robber with an incredulous air. 'Tell away!
Look sharp, or Nance will think I'm lost.'
'Lost!' cried Fagin. 'She has pretty well settled that, in her
own mind, already.'
Sikes looked with an aspect of great perplexity into the Jew's
face, and reading no satisfactory explanation of the riddle
there, clenched his coat collar in his huge hand and shook him
'Speak, will you!' he said; 'or if you don't, it shall be for
want of breath. Open your mouth and say wot you've got to say in
plain words. Out with it, you thundering old cur, out with it!'
'Suppose that lad that's laying there--' Fagin began.
Sikes turned round to where Noah was sleeping, as if he had not
previously observed him. 'Well!' he said, resuming his former
'Suppose that lad,' pursued Fagin, 'was to peach--to blow upon us
all--first seeking out the right folks for the purpose, and then
having a meeting with 'em in the street to paint our likenesses,
describe every mark that they might know us by, and the crib
where we might be most easily taken. Suppose he was to do all
this, and besides to blow upon a plant we've all been in, more or
less--of his own fancy; not grabbed, trapped, tried, earwigged by
the parson and brought to it on bread and water,--but of his own
fancy; to please his own taste; stealing out at nights to find
those most interested against us, and peaching to them. Do you
hear me?' cried the Jew, his eyes flashing with rage. 'Suppose
he did all this, what then?'
'What then!' replied Sikes; with a tremendous oath. 'If he was
left alive till I came, I'd grind his skull under the iron heel
of my boot into as many grains as there are hairs upon his head.'
'What if I did it!' cried Fagin almost in a yell. 'I, that knows
so much, and could hang so many besides myself!'
'I don't know,' replied Sikes, clenching his teeth and turning
white at the mere suggestion. 'I'd do something in the jail that
'ud get me put in irons; and if I was tried along with you, I'd
fall upon you with them in the open court, and beat your brains
out afore the people. I should have such strength,' muttered the
robber, poising his brawny arm, 'that I could smash your head as
if a loaded waggon had gone over it.'
'Would I!' said the housebreaker. 'Try me.'
'If it was Charley, or the Dodger, or Bet, or--'
'I don't care who,' replied Sikes impatiently. 'Whoever it was,
I'd serve them the same.'
Fagin looked hard at the robber; and, motioning him to be silent,
stooped over the bed upon the floor, and shook the sleeper to
rouse him. Sikes leant forward in his chair: looking on with
his hands upon his knees, as if wondering much what all this
questioning and preparation was to end in.
'Bolter, Bolter! Poor lad!' said Fagin, looking up with an
expression of devilish anticipation, and speaking slowly and with
marked emphasis. 'He's tired--tired with watching for her so
long,--watching for _her_, Bill.'
'Wot d'ye mean?' asked Sikes, drawing back.
Fagin made no answer, but bending over the sleeper again, hauled
him into a sitting posture. When his assumed name had been
repeated several times, Noah rubbed his eyes, and, giving a heavy
yawn, looked sleepily about him.
'Tell me that again--once again, just for him to hear,' said the
Jew, pointing to Sikes as he spoke.
'Tell yer what?' asked the sleepy Noah, shaking himself pettishly.
'That about-- _Nancy_,' said Fagin, clutching Sikes by the wrist, as
if to prevent his leaving the house before he had heard enough.
'You followed her?'
'To London Bridge?'
'Where she met two people.'
'So she did.'
'A gentleman and a lady that she had gone to of her own accord
before, who asked her to give up all her pals, and Monks first,
which she did--and to describe him, which she did--and to tell
her what house it was that we meet at, and go to, which she
did--and where it could be best watched from, which she did--and
what time the people went there, which she did. She did all
this. She told it all every word without a threat, without a
murmur--she did--did she not?' cried Fagin, half mad with fury.
'All right,' replied Noah, scratching his head. 'That's just
what it was!'
'What did they say, about last Sunday?'
'About last Sunday!' replied Noah, considering. 'Why I told yer
'Again. Tell it again!' cried Fagin, tightening his grasp on
Sikes, and brandishing his other hand aloft, as the foam flew
from his lips.
'They asked her,' said Noah, who, as he grew more wakeful, seemed
to have a dawning perception who Sikes was, 'they asked her why
she didn't come, last Sunday, as she promised. She said she
'Why--why? Tell him that.'
'Because she was forcibly kept at home by Bill, the man she had
told them of before,' replied Noah.
'What more of him?' cried Fagin. 'What more of the man she had
told them of before? Tell him that, tell him that.'
'Why, that she couldn't very easily get out of doors unless he
knew where she was going to,' said Noah; 'and so the first time
she went to see the lady, she--ha! ha! ha! it made me laugh when
she said it, that it did--she gave him a drink of laudanum.'
'Hell's fire!' cried Sikes, breaking fiercely from the Jew. 'Let
Flinging the old man from him, he rushed from the room, and
darted, wildly and furiously, up the stairs.
'Bill, Bill!' cried Fagin, following him hastily. 'A word. Only
The word would not have been exchanged, but that the housebreaker
was unable to open the door: on which he was expending fruitless
oaths and violence, when the Jew came panting up.
'Let me out,' said Sikes. 'Don't speak to me; it's not safe.
Let me out, I say!'
'Hear me speak a word,' rejoined Fagin, laying his hand upon the
lock. 'You won't be--'
'Well,' replied the other.
'You won't be--too--violent, Bill?'
The day was breaking, and there was light enough for the men to
see each other's faces. They exchanged one brief glance; there
was a fire in the eyes of both, which could not be mistaken.
'I mean,' said Fagin, showing that he felt all disguise was now
useless, 'not too violent for safety. Be crafty, Bill, and not
Sikes made no reply; but, pulling open the door, of which Fagin
had turned the lock, dashed into the silent streets.
Without one pause, or moment's consideration; without once
turning his head to the right or left, or raising his eyes to the
sky, or lowering them to the ground, but looking straight before
him with savage resolution: his teeth so tightly compressed that
the strained jaw seemed starting through his skin; the robber
held on his headlong course, nor muttered a word, nor relaxed a
muscle, until he reached his own door. He opened it, softly,
with a key; strode lightly up the stairs; and entering his own
room, double-locked the door, and lifting a heavy table against
it, drew back the curtain of the bed.
The girl was lying, half-dressed, upon it. He had roused her
from her sleep, for she raised herself with a hurried and
'Get up!' said the man.
'It is you, Bill!' said the girl, with an expression of pleasure
at his return.
'It is,' was the reply. 'Get up.'
There was a candle burning, but the man hastily drew it from the
candlestick, and hurled it under the grate. Seeing the faint
light of early day without, the girl rose to undraw the curtain.
'Let it be,' said Sikes, thrusting his hand before her. 'There's
enough light for wot I've got to do.'
'Bill,' said the girl, in the low voice of alarm, 'why do you
look like that at me!'
The robber sat regarding her, for a few seconds, with dilated
nostrils and heaving breast; and then, grasping her by the head
and throat, dragged her into the middle of the room, and looking
once towards the door, placed his heavy hand upon her mouth.
'Bill, Bill!' gasped the girl, wrestling with the strength of
mortal fear,--'I--I won't scream or cry--not once--hear me--speak
to me--tell me what I have done!'
'You know, you she devil!' returned the robber, suppressing his
breath. 'You were watched to-night; every word you said was
'Then spare my life for the love of Heaven, as I spared yours,'
rejoined the girl, clinging to him. 'Bill, dear Bill, you cannot
have the heart to kill me. Oh! think of all I have given up,
only this one night, for you. You _shall_ have time to think, and
save yourself this crime; I will not loose my hold, you cannot
throw me off. Bill, Bill, for dear God's sake, for your own, for
mine, stop before you spill my blood! I have been true to you,
upon my guilty soul I have!'
The man struggled violently, to release his arms; but those of
the girl were clasped round his, and tear her as he would, he
could not tear them away.
'Bill,' cried the girl, striving to lay her head upon his breast,
'the gentleman and that dear lady, told me to-night of a home in
some foreign country where I could end my days in solitude and
peace. Let me see them again, and beg them, on my knees, to show
the same mercy and goodness to you; and let us both leave this
dreadful place, and far apart lead better lives, and forget how
we have lived, except in prayers, and never see each other more.
It is never too late to repent. They told me so--I feel it
now--but we must have time--a little, little time!'
The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The
certainty of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his
mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all
the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost
touched his own.
She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that
rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising
herself, with difficulty, on her knees, drew from her bosom a
white handkerchief--Rose Maylie's own--and holding it up, in her
folded hands, as high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would
allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.
It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering
backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand,
seized a heavy club and struck her down.
THE FLIGHT OF SIKES
Of all bad deeds that, under cover of the darkness, had been
committed within wide London's bounds since night hung over it,
that was the worst. Of all the horrors that rose with an ill
scent upon the morning air, that was the foulest and most cruel.
The sun--the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but
new life, and hope, and freshness to man--burst upon the crowded
city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass
and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten
crevice, it shed its equal ray. It lighted up the room where the
murdered woman lay. It did. He tried to shut it out, but it
would stream in. If the sight had been a ghastly one in the dull
morning, what was it, now, in all that brilliant light!
He had not moved; he had been afraid to stir. There had been a
moan and motion of the hand; and, with terror added to rage, he
had struck and struck again. Once he threw a rug over it; but it
was worse to fancy the eyes, and imagine them moving towards him,
than to see them glaring upward, as if watching the reflection of
the pool of gore that quivered and danced in the sunlight on the
ceiling. He had plucked it off again. And there was the
body--mere flesh and blood, no more--but such flesh, and so much
He struck a light, kindled a fire, and thrust the club into it.
There was hair upon the end, which blazed and shrunk into a light
cinder, and, caught by the air, whirled up the chimney. Even
that frightened him, sturdy as he was; but he held the weapon
till it broke, and then piled it on the coals to burn away, and
smoulder into ashes. He washed himself, and rubbed his clothes;
there were spots that would not be removed, but he cut the pieces
out, and burnt them. How those stains were dispersed about the
room! The very feet of the dog were bloody.
All this time he had, never once, turned his back upon the
corpse; no, not for a moment. Such preparations completed, he
moved, backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him,
lest he should soil his feet anew and carry out new evidence of
the crime into the streets. He shut the door softly, locked it,
took the key, and left the house.
He crossed over, and glanced up at the window, to be sure that
nothing was visible from the outside. There was the curtain
still drawn, which she would have opened to admit the light she
never saw again. It lay nearly under there. _He_ knew that. God,
how the sun poured down upon the very spot!
The glance was instantaneous. It was a relief to have got free
of the room. He whistled on the dog, and walked rapidly away.
He went through Islington; strode up the hill at Highgate on
which stands the stone in honour of Whittington; turned down to
Highgate Hill, unsteady of purpose, and uncertain where to go;
struck off to the right again, almost as soon as he began to
descend it; and taking the foot-path across the fields, skirted
Caen Wood, and so came on Hampstead Heath. Traversing the hollow
by the Vale of Heath, he mounted the opposite bank, and crossing
the road which joins the villages of Hampstead and Highgate, made
along the remaining portion of the heath to the fields at North
End, in one of which he laid himself down under a hedge, and
Soon he was up again, and away,--not far into the country, but
back towards London by the high-road--then back again--then over
another part of the same ground as he already traversed--then
wandering up and down in fields, and lying on ditches' brinks to
rest, and starting up to make for some other spot, and do the
same, and ramble on again.
Where could he go, that was near and not too public, to get some
meat and drink? Hendon. That was a good place, not far off, and
out of most people's way. Thither he directed his
steps,--running sometimes, and sometimes, with a strange
perversity, loitering at a snail's pace, or stopping altogether
and idly breaking the hedges with a stick. But when he got
there, all the people he met--the very children at the
doors--seemed to view him with suspicion. Back he turned again,
without the courage to purchase bit or drop, though he had tasted
no food for many hours; and once more he lingered on the Heath,
uncertain where to go.
He wandered over miles and miles of ground, and still came back
to the old place. Morning and noon had passed, and the day was
on the wane, and still he rambled to and fro, and up and down,
and round and round, and still lingered about the same spot. At
last he got away, and shaped his course for Hatfield.
It was nine o'clock at night, when the man, quite tired out, and
the dog, limping and lame from the unaccustomed exercise, turned
down the hill by the church of the quiet village, and plodding
along the little street, crept into a small public-house, whose
scanty light had guided them to the spot. There was a fire in
the tap-room, and some country-labourers were drinking before it.
They made room for the stranger, but he sat down in the furthest
corner, and ate and drank alone, or rather with his dog: to whom
he cast a morsel of food from time to time.
The conversation of the men assembled here, turned upon the
neighbouring land, and farmers; and when those topics were
exhausted, upon the age of some old man who had been buried on
the previous Sunday; the young men present considering him very
old, and the old men present declaring him to have been quite
young--not older, one white-haired grandfather said, than he
was--with ten or fifteen year of life in him at least--if he had
taken care; if he had taken care.
There was nothing to attract attention, or excite alarm in this.
The robber, after paying his reckoning, sat silent and unnoticed
in his corner, and had almost dropped asleep, when he was half
wakened by the noisy entrance of a new comer.
This was an antic fellow, half pedlar and half mountebank, who
travelled about the country on foot to vend hones, strops, razors,
washballs, harness-paste, medicine for dogs and horses, cheap
perfumery, cosmetics, and such-like wares, which he carried in a
case slung to his back. His entrance was the signal for various
homely jokes with the countrymen, which slackened not until he
had made his supper, and opened his box of treasures, when he
ingeniously contrived to unite business with amusement.
'And what be that stoof? Good to eat, Harry?' asked a grinning
countryman, pointing to some composition-cakes in one corner.
'This,' said the fellow, producing one, 'this is the infallible
and invaluable composition for removing all sorts of stain, rust,
dirt, mildew, spick, speck, spot, or spatter, from silk, satin,
linen, cambric, cloth, crape, stuff, carpet, merino, muslin,
bombazeen, or woollen stuff. Wine-stains, fruit-stains,
beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, any
stains, all come out at one rub with the infallible and
invaluable composition. If a lady stains her honour, she has
only need to swallow one cake and she's cured at once--for it's
poison. If a gentleman wants to prove this, he has only need to
bolt one little square, and he has put it beyond question--for
it's quite as satisfactory as a pistol-bullet, and a great deal
nastier in the flavour, consequently the more credit in taking
it. One penny a square. With all these virtues, one penny a
There were two buyers directly, and more of the listeners plainly
hesitated. The vendor observing this, increased in loquacity.
'It's all bought up as fast as it can be made,' said the fellow.
'There are fourteen water-mills, six steam-engines, and a
galvanic battery, always a-working upon it, and they can't make
it fast enough, though the men work so hard that they die off,
and the widows is pensioned directly, with twenty pound a-year
for each of the children, and a premium of fifty for twins. One
penny a square! Two half-pence is all the same, and four
farthings is received with joy. One penny a square!
Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains,
paint-stains, pitch-stains, mud-stains, blood-stains! Here is a
stain upon the hat of a gentleman in company, that I'll take
clean out, before he can order me a pint of ale.'
'Hah!' cried Sikes starting up. 'Give that back.'
'I'll take it clean out, sir,' replied the man, winking to the
company, 'before you can come across the room to get it.
Gentlemen all, observe the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat,
no wider than a shilling, but thicker than a half-crown. Whether
it is a wine-stain, fruit-stain, beer-stain, water-stain,
paint-stain, pitch-stain, mud-stain, or blood-stain--'
The man got no further, for Sikes with a hideous imprecation
overthrew the table, and tearing the hat from him, burst out of
With the same perversity of feeling and irresolution that had
fastened upon him, despite himself, all day, the murderer,
finding that he was not followed, and that they most probably
considered him some drunken sullen fellow, turned back up the
town, and getting out of the glare of the lamps of a stage-coach
that was standing in the street, was walking past, when he
recognised the mail from London, and saw that it was standing at
the little post-office. He almost knew what was to come; but he
crossed over, and listened.
The guard was standing at the door, waiting for the letter-bag.
A man, dressed like a game-keeper, came up at the moment, and he
handed him a basket which lay ready on the pavement.
'That's for your people,' said the guard. 'Now, look alive in
there, will you. Damn that 'ere bag, it warn't ready night afore
last; this won't do, you know!'
'Anything new up in town, Ben?' asked the game-keeper, drawing
back to the window-shutters, the better to admire the horses.
'No, nothing that I knows on,' replied the man, pulling on his
gloves. 'Corn's up a little. I heerd talk of a murder, too,
down Spitalfields way, but I don't reckon much upon it.'
'Oh, that's quite true,' said a gentleman inside, who was looking
out of the window. 'And a dreadful murder it was.'
'Was it, sir?' rejoined the guard, touching his hat. 'Man or
woman, pray, sir?'
'A woman,' replied the gentleman. 'It is supposed--'
'Now, Ben,' replied the coachman impatiently.
'Damn that 'ere bag,' said the guard; 'are you gone to sleep in
'Coming!' cried the office keeper, running out.
'Coming,' growled the guard. 'Ah, and so's the young 'ooman of
property that's going to take a fancy to me, but I don't know
when. Here, give hold. All ri--ight!'
The horn sounded a few cheerful notes, and the coach was gone.
Sikes remained standing in the street, apparently unmoved by what
he had just heard, and agitated by no stronger feeling than a
doubt where to go. At length he went back again, and took the
road which leads from Hatfield to St. Albans.
He went on doggedly; but as he left the town behind him, and
plunged into the solitude and darkness of the road, he felt a
dread and awe creeping upon him which shook him to the core.
Every object before him, substance or shadow, still or moving,
took the semblance of some fearful thing; but these fears were
nothing compared to the sense that haunted him of that morning's
ghastly figure following at his heels. He could trace its shadow
in the gloom, supply the smallest item of the outline, and note
how stiff and solemn it seemed to stalk along. He could hear its
garments rustling in the leaves, and every breath of wind came
laden with that last low cry. If he stopped it did the same. If
he ran, it followed--not running too: that would have been a
relief: but like a corpse endowed with the mere machinery of
life, and borne on one slow melancholy wind that never rose or
At times, he turned, with desperate determination, resolved to
beat this phantom off, though it should look him dead; but the
hair rose on his head, and his blood stood still, for it had
turned with him and was behind him then. He had kept it before
him that morning, but it was behind now--always. He leaned his
back against a bank, and felt that it stood above him, visibly
out against the cold night-sky. He threw himself upon the
road--on his back upon the road. At his head it stood, silent,
erect, and still--a living grave-stone, with its epitaph in
Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice, and hint that
Providence must sleep. There were twenty score of violent deaths
in one long minute of that agony of fear.
There was a shed in a field he passed, that offered shelter for
the night. Before the door, were three tall poplar trees, which
made it very dark within; and the wind moaned through them with a
dismal wail. He _could not_ walk on, till daylight came again; and
here he stretched himself close to the wall--to undergo new
For now, a vision came before him, as constant and more terrible
than that from which he had escaped. Those widely staring eyes,
so lustreless and so glassy, that he had better borne to see them
than think upon them, appeared in the midst of the darkness:
light in themselves, but giving light to nothing. There were but
two, but they were everywhere. If he shut out the sight, there
came the room with every well-known object--some, indeed, that he
would have forgotten, if he had gone over its contents from
memory--each in its accustomed place. The body was in _its_ place,
and its eyes were as he saw them when he stole away. He got up,
and rushed into the field without. The figure was behind him.
He re-entered the shed, and shrunk down once more. The eyes were
there, before he had laid himself along.
And here he remained in such terror as none but he can know,
trembling in every limb, and the cold sweat starting from every
pore, when suddenly there arose upon the night-wind the noise of
distant shouting, and the roar of voices mingled in alarm and
wonder. Any sound of men in that lonely place, even though it
conveyed a real cause of alarm, was something to him. He
regained his strength and energy at the prospect of personal
danger; and springing to his feet, rushed into the open air.
The broad sky seemed on fire. Rising into the air with showers
of sparks, and rolling one above the other, were sheets of flame,
lighting the atmosphere for miles round, and driving clouds of
smoke in the direction where he stood. The shouts grew louder as
new voices swelled the roar, and he could hear the cry of Fire!
mingled with the ringing of an alarm-bell, the fall of heavy
bodies, and the crackling of flames as they twined round some new
obstacle, and shot aloft as though refreshed by food. The noise
increased as he looked. There were people there--men and
women--light, bustle. It was like new life to him. He darted
onward--straight, headlong--dashing through brier and brake, and
leaping gate and fence as madly as his dog, who careered with
loud and sounding bark before him.
He came upon the spot. There were half-dressed figures tearing
to and fro, some endeavouring to drag the frightened horses from
the stables, others driving the cattle from the yard and
out-houses, and others coming laden from the burning pile, amidst
a shower of falling sparks, and the tumbling down of red-hot
beams. The apertures, where doors and windows stood an hour ago,
disclosed a mass of raging fire; walls rocked and crumbled into
the burning well; the molten lead and iron poured down, white
hot, upon the ground. Women and children shrieked, and men
encouraged each other with noisy shouts and cheers. The clanking
of the engine-pumps, and the spirting and hissing of the water as
it fell upon the blazing wood, added to the tremendous roar. He
shouted, too, till he was hoarse; and flying from memory and
himself, plunged into the thickest of the throng. Hither and
thither he dived that night: now working at the pumps, and now
hurrying through the smoke and flame, but never ceasing to engage
himself wherever noise and men were thickest. Up and down the
ladders, upon the roofs of buildings, over floors that quaked and
trembled with his weight, under the lee of falling bricks and
stones, in every part of that great fire was he; but he bore a
charmed life, and had neither scratch nor bruise, nor weariness
nor thought, till morning dawned again, and only smoke and
blackened ruins remained.
This mad excitement over, there returned, with ten-fold force,
the dreadful consciousness of his crime. He looked suspiciously
about him, for the men were conversing in groups, and he feared
to be the subject of their talk. The dog obeyed the significant
beck of his finger, and they drew off, stealthily, together. He
passed near an engine where some men were seated, and they called
to him to share in their refreshment. He took some bread and
meat; and as he drank a draught of beer, heard the firemen, who
were from London, talking about the murder. 'He has gone to
Birmingham, they say,' said one: 'but they'll have him yet, for
the scouts are out, and by to-morrow night there'll be a cry all
through the country.'
He hurried off, and walked till he almost dropped upon the
ground; then lay down in a lane, and had a long, but broken and
uneasy sleep. He wandered on again, irresolute and undecided,
and oppressed with the fear of another solitary night.
Suddenly, he took the desperate resolution to going back to
'There's somebody to speak to there, at all event,' he thought.
'A good hiding-place, too. They'll never expect to nab me there,
after this country scent. Why can't I lie by for a week or so,
and, forcing blunt from Fagin, get abroad to France? Damme, I'll
He acted upon this impulse without delay, and choosing the least
frequented roads began his journey back, resolved to lie
concealed within a short distance of the metropolis, and,
entering it at dusk by a circuitous route, to proceed straight to
that part of it which he had fixed on for his destination.
The dog, though. If any description of him were out, it would
not be forgotten that the dog was missing, and had probably gone
with him. This might lead to his apprehension as he passed along
the streets. He resolved to drown him, and walked on, looking
about for a pond: picking up a heavy stone and tying it to his
handkerchief as he went.
The animal looked up into his master's face while these
preparations were making; whether his instinct apprehended
something of their purpose, or the robber's sidelong look at him
was sterner than ordinary, he skulked a little farther in the
rear than usual, and cowered as he came more slowly along. When
his master halted at the brink of a pool, and looked round to
call him, he stopped outright.
'Do you hear me call? Come here!' cried Sikes.
The animal came up from the very force of habit; but as Sikes
stooped to attach the handkerchief to his throat, he uttered a
low growl and started back.
'Come back!' said the robber.
The dog wagged his tail, but moved not. Sikes made a running
noose and called him again.
The dog advanced, retreated, paused an instant, and scoured away
at his hardest speed.
The man whistled again and again, and sat down and waited in the
expectation that he would return. But no dog appeared, and at
length he resumed his journey.
MONKS AND MR. BROWNLOW AT LENGTH MEET. THEIR CONVERSATION, AND
THE INTELLIGENCE THAT INTERRUPTS IT
The twilight was beginning to close in, when Mr. Brownlow
alighted from a hackney-coach at his own door, and knocked
softly. The door being opened, a sturdy man got out of the coach
and stationed himself on one side of the steps, while another
man, who had been seated on the box, dismounted too, and stood
upon the other side. At a sign from Mr. Brownlow, they helped
out a third man, and taking him between them, hurried him into
the house. This man was Monks.
They walked in the same manner up the stairs without speaking,
and Mr. Brownlow, preceding them, led the way into a back-room.
At the door of this apartment, Monks, who had ascended with
evident reluctance, stopped. The two men looked at the old
gentleman as if for instructions.
'He knows the alternative,' said Mr. Browlow. 'If he hesitates
or moves a finger but as you bid him, drag him into the street,
call for the aid of the police, and impeach him as a felon in my
'How dare you say this of me?' asked Monks.
'How dare you urge me to it, young man?' replied Mr. Brownlow,
confronting him with a steady look. 'Are you mad enough to leave
this house? Unhand him. There, sir. You are free to go, and we
to follow. But I warn you, by all I hold most solemn and most
sacred, that instant will have you apprehended on a charge of
fraud and robbery. I am resolute and immoveable. If you are
determined to be the same, your blood be upon your own head!'
'By what authority am I kidnapped in the street, and brought here
by these dogs?' asked Monks, looking from one to the other of the
men who stood beside him.
'By mine,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'Those persons are indemnified
by me. If you complain of being deprived of your liberty--you
had power and opportunity to retrieve it as you came along, but
you deemed it advisable to remain quiet--I say again, throw
yourself for protection on the law. I will appeal to the law
too; but when you have gone too far to recede, do not sue to me
for leniency, when the power will have passed into other hands;
and do not say I plunged you down the gulf into which you rushed,
Monks was plainly disconcerted, and alarmed besides. He
'You will decide quickly,' said Mr. Brownlow, with perfect
firmness and composure. 'If you wish me to prefer my charges
publicly, and consign you to a punishment the extent of which,
although I can, with a shudder, foresee, I cannot control, once
more, I say, for you know the way. If not, and you appeal to my
forbearance, and the mercy of those you have deeply injured, seat
yourself, without a word, in that chair. It has waited for you
two whole days.'
Monks muttered some unintelligible words, but wavered still.
'You will be prompt,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'A word from me, and
the alternative has gone for ever.'
Still the man hesitated.
'I have not the inclination to parley,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'and,
as I advocate the dearest interests of others, I have not the
'Is there--' demanded Monks with a faltering tongue,--'is
there--no middle course?'
Monks looked at the old gentleman, with an anxious eye; but,
reading in his countenance nothing but severity and
determination, walked into the room, and, shrugging his
shoulders, sat down.
'Lock the door on the outside,' said Mr. Brownlow to the
attendants, 'and come when I ring.'
The men obeyed, and the two were left alone together.
'This is pretty treatment, sir,' said Monks, throwing down his
hat and cloak, 'from my father's oldest friend.'
'It is because I was your father's oldest friend, young man,'
returned Mr. Brownlow; 'it is because the hopes and wishes of
young and happy years were bound up with him, and that fair
creature of his blood and kindred who rejoined her God in youth,
and left me here a solitary, lonely man: it is because he knelt
with me beside his only sisters' death-bed when he was yet a boy,
on the morning that would--but Heaven willed otherwise--have made
her my young wife; it is because my seared heart clung to him,
from that time forth, through all his trials and errors, till he
died; it is because old recollections and associations filled my
heart, and even the sight of you brings with it old thoughts of
him; it is because of all these things that I am moved to treat
you gently now--yes, Edward Leeford, even now--and blush for your
unworthiness who bear the name.'
'What has the name to do with it?' asked the other, after
contemplating, half in silence, and half in dogged wonder, the
agitation of his companion. 'What is the name to me?'
'Nothing,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'nothing to you. But it was
_hers_, and even at this distance of time brings back to me, an old
man, the glow and thrill which I once felt, only to hear it
repeated by a stranger. I am very glad you have changed
'This is all mighty fine,' said Monks (to retain his assumed
designation) after a long silence, during which he had jerked
himself in sullen defiance to and fro, and Mr. Brownlow had sat,
shading his face with his hand. 'But what do you want with me?'
'You have a brother,' said Mr. Brownlow, rousing himself: 'a
brother, the whisper of whose name in your ear when I came behind