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TEN BOYS from
Kate Dickinson Sweetser
George Alfred Williams
In this small volume there are presented as complete stories the boy-lives
portrayed in the works of Charles Dickens. The boys are followed only to
the threshold of manhood, and in all cases the original text of the story
has been kept, except where of necessity a phrase or paragraph has been
inserted to connect passages;--while the net-work of characters with which
the boys are surrounded in the books from which they are taken, has been
eliminated, except where such characters seem necessary to the development
of the story in hand.
Charles Dickens was a loyal champion of all boys, and underlying his pen
pictures of them was an earnest desire to remedy evils which he had found
existing in London and its suburbs. Poor Jo, who was always being "moved
on," David Copperfield, whose early life was a picture of Dickens' own
childhood, workhouse-reared Oliver, and the miserable wretches at Dotheboy
Hall were no mere creations of an author's vivid imagination. They were
descriptions of living boys, the victims of tyranny and oppression which
Dickens felt he must in some way alleviate. And so he wrote his novels
with the histories in them which affected the London public far more
deeply, of course, than they affect us, and awakened a storm of
indignation and protest.
Schools, work-houses, and other public institutions were subjected to a
rigorous examination, and in consequence several were closed, while all
were greatly improved. Thus, in his sketches of boy-life, Dickens
accomplished his object.
My aim is to bring these sketches, with all their beauty and pathos, to
the notice of the young people of to-day. If through this volume any boy
or girl should be aroused to a keener interest in the great writer, and
should learn to love him and his work, my labour will be richly repaid.
KATE DICKINSON SWEETSER
JO, THE CROSSING SWEEPER
[Illustration: TINY TIM AND HIS FATHER.]
Charles Dickens has given us no picture of Tiny Tim, but at the thought of
him comes a vision of a delicate figure, less boy than spirit. We seem to
see a face oval in shape and fair in colouring. We see eyes deep-set and
grey, shaded by lashes as dark as the hair parted from the middle of his
low forehead. We see a sunny, patient smile which from time to time lights
up his whole face, and a mouth whose firm, strong lines reveal clearly the
beauty of character, and the happiness of disposition, which were Tiny
He was a rare little chap indeed, and a prime favourite as well. Ask the
Crachits old and young, whose smile they most desired, whose applause they
most coveted, whose errands they almost fought with one another to run,
whose sadness or pain could most affect the family happiness, and with one
voice they would answer, "Tim's!"
It was Christmas Day, and in all the suburbs of London there was to be no
merrier celebration than at the Crachits. To be sure, Bob Crachit had but
fifteen "Bob" himself a week on which to clothe and feed all the little
Crachits, but what they lacked in luxuries they made up in affection and
contentment, and would not have changed places, one of them, with any king
While Bob took Tiny Tim to church, preparations for the feast were going
on at home. Mrs. Crachit was dressed in a twice-turned gown, but brave in
ribbons which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid
the cloth, assisted by Belinda, second of her daughters, also brave in
ribbons, while Master Peter Crachit plunged a fork into a saucepan full of
potatoes, getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private
property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his
mouth, but rejoiced to find himself so finely dressed, and yearning to
show his linen in the fashionable Parks.
Two smaller Crachits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that
outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own;
and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onions, these young Crachits
danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Crachit to the skies,
while he (not proud, although his collar almost choked him) blew the fire,
until the slow potatoes, bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid
to be let out and peeled.
"What has ever got your precious father, then?" said Mrs. Crachit. "And
your brother, Tiny Tim! And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by
half an hour!"
"Here's Martha, mother!" cried the two young Crachits. "_Hurrah_! there's
_such_ a goose, Martha!"
"Why, bless your heart alive, dear, how late you are!" said Mrs. Crachit,
kissing the daughter, who lived away from home, a dozen times. "Well,
never mind as long as you are come!"
"There's father coming!" cried the two young Crachits, who were everywhere
at once. "_Hide_, Martha, _hide_!"
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least
three feet of comforter hanging down before him, and his threadbare
clothes darned up and brushed to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his
shoulder. Why was the child thus carried? Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a
little crutch and had his limbs supported by an iron frame! Patient little
Tim,--never was he heard to utter a fretful or complaining word. No wonder
they cherished him so tenderly!
"Why, where's our Martha?" cried Bob Crachit looking round.
"Not coming!" said Mrs. Crachit.
"Not coming?" said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for
he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come home
"Not coming upon Christmas Day!"
Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so
she ran out from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the
two young Crachits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house,
that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Crachit; when she had rallied
Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's
"As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful,
sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever
heard. He told me, coming home, that 'he hoped the people saw him in the
church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to
remember upon Christmas Day, Who made lame beggars walk and blind men
Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and it trembled more
when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim
before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his
stool before the fire; and while Bob compounded some hot mixture in a jug
and put it on the hob to simmer, Master Peter and the two young Crachits
went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought the goose the rarest of
all birds, and in truth it _was_ something very like it in that house.
Mrs. Crachit made the gravy hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes
with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple sauce; Martha
dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a corner at the
table; the two young Crachits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting
themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their
mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be
helped. At last the dishes were set on and grace was said. It was
succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Crachit, looking slowly along the
carving knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast. When she did one
murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by
the two young Crachits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife,
and feebly cried "Hurrah!"
There never was such a goose! its tenderness and size, flavour and
cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by
apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, every one had enough, and the youngest
Crachits were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the
plates being changed, Mrs. Crachit left the room alone--too nervous to
bear witnesses--to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning
out! All sorts of horrors were supposed.
Hallo! a great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper, and in
half a minute Mrs. Crachit entered, flushed, but smiling proudly, with the
pudding blazing in ignited brandy, and with Christmas holly stuck into the
Its appearance was hailed with cheers and with exclamations of joyous
admiration. Then, when it was safely landed upon the table, what a racket
and clatter there was! Such stories and songs and jokes, and such riotous
applause no one can imagine who was not there to see and hear!
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept,
and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted and pronounced
perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table and a shovelful of
chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Crachit family drew round the hearth,
Tiny Tim very close to his father's side, upon his little stool, while he
gave them a song in his plaintive little voice, about a lost child, and
sang it very well indeed.
At Bob Crachit's elbow stood the family display of glass; two tumblers and
a custard cup without a handle. These held the hot stuff from the jug,
however, as well as golden goblets would have done, and Bob served it out
with beaming looks, while the chestnuts sputtered and cracked noisily.
Then Bob proposed:
"_A merry Christmas to us all, my dears,--God bless us_!"
which was just what was needed to bring the joy and enthusiasm to a
climax. Cheer after cheer went up, over and over the toast was re-echoed,
and then one was added for the family ogre, Bob's hard employer, Mr.
Scrooge, and one for old and for young, for sick and for well, for Father
Christmas and for Father Crachit and for all the little Crachits;--for
everyone everywhere who had heard the holiday bells, there was a toast
given. Then when the uproar ceased for a moment, low and sweet spoke Tiny
"_God bless us every one!"_
Clearly it rang out in the earnest childish voice. There was a sudden hush
of the merriment, while Bob's arm stole round his son with a firmer grasp
and for a moment the shadow of a coming Christmas fell upon him, when the
little stool would be vacant and the little crutch unused.
Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God! Thou didst not know
that in the benediction of lives like thine, is given the answer to such
prayers. Much did thy loved ones learn from thee; much can the world learn
of the nobility of patience from thy sweet child life. Unawares thou wert
thyself an answer to thy Christmas prayer:
"_God bless us every one!"_
[Illustration: OLIVER TWIST.]
Oliver Twist was the child of an unknown woman who died in the workhouse
of an English village, almost as soon as her babe drew his first breath.
The mother's name being unknown, the workhouse officials called the child
Oliver Twist, under which title he grew up. For nine years he was farmed
out at a branch poorhouse, where with twenty or thirty other children he
bore all the miseries consequent on neglect, abuse, and starvation. He was
then removed to the workhouse proper to be taught a useful trade.
His ninth birthday found him a pale, thin child, diminutive in stature,
and decidedly small in circumference, but possessed of a good sturdy
spirit, which was not broken by the policy of the officials who tried to
get as much work out of the paupers as possible, and to keep them on as
scant a supply of food as would sustain life.
The boys were fed in a large stone hall, with a copper at one end, out of
which the gruel was ladled at meal-times. Of this festive composition each
boy had one porringer, and no more--except on occasions of great public
rejoicing, when he had two ounces and a quarter of bread besides. The
bowls never wanted washing. The boys polished them with their spoons till
they shone again; and when they had performed this operation, they would
sit staring at the copper, as if they could have devoured the very bricks
of which it was composed; sucking their fingers, with the view of catching
up any stray splashes of gruel that might have been cast thereon.
Boys have generally excellent appetites. Oliver Twist and his companions
suffered the tortures of slow starvation for three months: at last they
got so voracious and wild that one boy hinted darkly that unless he had
another basin of gruel a day, he was afraid he might some night happen to
eat the boy who slept next him. He had a wild, hungry, eye; and they
implicitly believed him. A council was held; lots were cast who should
walk up to the master, and ask for more, and it fell to Oliver Twist.
The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The gruel was served out,
and a long grace was said. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each
other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child
as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose
and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat
alarmed at his own temerity:
"Please, sir, I want some more!"
The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in
stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung
for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the
boys with fear.
"What?" said the master at length, in a faint voice.
"Please, sir," replied Oliver, "I want some more."
The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in
his arms; and shrieked for the beadle, and when that gentleman appeared,
an animated discussion took place. Oliver was ordered into instant
confinement; and a bill was next morning pasted on the outside of the
gate, offering a reward of five pounds to any body who would take Oliver
Twist off the hands of the parish. In other words, five pounds, and Oliver
Twist were offered to any man or woman who wanted an apprentice to any
trade, business, or calling.
Mr. Sowerberry, the parish undertaker, finally applied for the prize, and
carried Oliver away with him, which, for the poor boy, was a matter of
falling from the frying pan into the fire, and in his short career as
undertaker's assistant he even sighed for the workhouse,--miserable as his
life there had been. At the undertaker's, Oliver's bed was in the shop.
The atmosphere seemed tainted with the smell of coffins. The recess behind
the counter in which his mattress was thrust, looked like a grave. His
food was broken bits left from the meals of others, and his constant
companion was an older boy, Noah Claypole, who, although a charity boy
himself, was not a workhouse orphan, and therefore considered himself in a
position above Oliver. He made Oliver's days hideous with his abuse, which
the younger boy bore as quietly as he could, until the day when Noah made
a sneering remark about Oliver's dead mother. That was too much. Crimson
with fury, Oliver started up, seized Noah by the throat, shook him till
his teeth chattered, and then with one heavy blow, felled him to the
This brought about a violent scene, for Noah accused Oliver of attempting
to murder him, and Mrs. Sowerberry, the maid, and the beadle,--who had
been hastily summoned,--agreed that Oliver was a hardened wretch, only fit
for confinement, and he was accordingly placed in the cellar, till the
undertaker came in, when he was dragged out again to have the story
retold. To do Mr. Sowerberry justice, he would have been kindly disposed
towards Oliver, but for the prejudice of his wife against the boy.
However, to satisfy her, he gave Oliver a sound beating, and shut him up
in the back kitchen until night, when, amidst the jeers and pointings of
Noah and Mrs. Sowerberry, he was ordered up-stairs to his dismal bed.
It was then, alone, in the silence of the gloomy workshop, that Oliver
gave way to his feelings, wept bitterly, and resolved no longer to bear
such treatment. Softly he undid the fastenings of the door, and looked
abroad. It was a cold night. The stars seemed, to the boy's eyes, farther
from the earth than he had ever seen them before; there was no wind; and
the sombre shadows looked sepulchral and death-like, from being so still.
He softly reclosed the door, and having availed himself of the expiring
light of the candle to tie up in a handkerchief the few articles of
wearing apparel he had, sat himself down to wait for morning.
With the first ray of light, Oliver arose, and again unbarred the door.
One timid look around,--one minute's pause of hesitation,--he had closed
it behind him.
He looked to the right, and to the left, uncertain whither to fly. He
remembered to have seen the waggons, as they went out, toiling up the
hill, so he took the same route; and arriving at a footpath which he knew
led out into the road, struck into it, and walked quickly on.
For seven long days he tramped in the direction of London, tasting nothing
but such scraps of meals as he could beg from the occasional cottages by
the roadside. On the seventh morning he limped slowly into the little town
of Barnet, and as he was resting for a few moments on the steps of a
public-house, a boy crossed over, and walking close to him, said,
"Hullo! my covey! What's the row?"
The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his
own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen.
He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a
juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and
manners of a man. He was short, with bow-legs, and little, sharp, ugly,
eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head, and he wore a man's coat
that reached nearly to his heels.
"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" said this strange young gentleman to
"I am very hungry and tired," replied Oliver; the tears standing in his
eyes as he spoke. "I have walked a long way. I have been walking these
"Going to London?" inquired the strange boy.
"Got any lodgings?"
The strange boy whistled; and put his arms into his pockets.
"Do you live in London?" inquired Oliver.
"Yes, I do when I'm at home," replied the boy. "I suppose you want some
place to sleep in to-night, don't you?"
Upon Oliver answering in the affirmative, the strange boy, whose name was
Jack Dawkins, said, "I've got to be in London to-night; and I know a
'spectable old genelman as lives there, wot'll give you lodgings for
nothink, and never ask for the change--that is, if any genelman he knows
This offer of shelter was too tempting to be resisted, and Oliver trudged
off with his new friend. Into the city they passed, and through the worst
and darkest streets, the sight of which filled Oliver with alarm. At
length they reached the door of a house, which Jack entered, drawing
Oliver after him, into its dark passage-way, and closing the door after
Oliver, groping his way with one hand, and having the other firmly grasped
by his companion, ascended with much difficulty the dark and broken
stairs, which his conductor mounted with an expedition that showed he was
well acquainted with them. He threw open the door of a back-room and drew
Oliver in after him.
The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age and dirt.
There was a clothes-horse, over which a great number of silk handkerchiefs
were hanging; and a deal table before the fire; upon which were a candle,
stuck in a ginger-beer bottle, two or three pewter pots, a loaf and
butter, and a plate. In a frying pan, which was on the fire, some sausages
were cooking, and standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand,
was a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villanous-looking and repulsive face
was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair.
Several rough beds, made of old sacks, were huddled side by side on the
floor. Seated round the table were four or five boys, none older than Jack
Dawkins, familiarly called the Dodger. The boys all crowded about their
associate, as he whispered a few words to the Jew; and then they turned
round and grinned at Oliver. So did the Jew himself, toasting-fork in
"This is him, Fagin," said Jack Dawkins; "my friend Oliver Twist."
The Jew, making a low bow to Oliver, took him by the hand, and hoped he
should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance. Upon this the young
gentlemen came round him, and shook his hand very hard, especially the one
in which he held his little bundle.
"We are very glad to see you, Oliver, very," said the Jew. "Dodger take
off the sausages; and draw a tub near the fire for Oliver. Ah, you're
a-staring at the pocket-handkerchiefs! eh, my dear? There are a good many
of 'em, ain't there? We've just looked 'em out ready for the wash; that's
all, Oliver, that's all. Ha! ha! ha!"
The latter part of this speech was hailed by a boisterous shout from the
boys, who, Oliver found, were all pupils of the merry old gentleman. In
the midst of which they went to supper.
Oliver ate his share, and the Jew then mixed him a glass of hot gin and
water, telling him he must drink it off directly because another gentleman
wanted the tumbler. Oliver did as he was desired. Immediately afterwards,
he felt himself gently lifted on to one of the sacks; and then he sunk
into a deep sleep.
It was late next morning when Oliver awoke, from a sound, long sleep.
There was no other person in the room but the old Jew, who was boiling
some coffee in a saucepan for breakfast, and whistling softly to himself
as he stirred it. He would stop every now and then to listen when there
was the least noise below; and, when he had satisfied himself, he would go
on, whistling and stirring again, as before.
When the coffee was done, the Jew drew the saucepan to the hob, then he
turned and looked at Oliver, and called him by name, but the boy did not
answer, and was to all appearances asleep. After satisfying himself upon
this head, the Jew stepped gently to the door, which he fastened. He then
drew forth as it seemed to Oliver, from some trap in the floor a small
box, which he placed carefully on the table. His eyes glistened as he
raised the lid, and looked in. Dragging an old chair to the table, he sat
down, and took from it a magnificent gold watch, sparkling with jewels.
At least half a dozen more were severally drawn forth from the same box,
besides rings, brooches, bracelets, and other articles of jewellery, of
such magnificent materials, and costly workmanship, that Oliver had no
idea, even of their names.
At length the bright, dark eyes of the Jew, which had been staring
vacantly before him, fell on Oliver's face; the boy's eyes were fixed on
his in mute curiosity; and, although the recognition was only for an
instant,--it was enough to show the man that he had been observed. He
closed the lid of the box with a loud crash; and, laying his hand on a
bread knife which was on the table, started furiously up.
"What's that?" said the Jew. "What do you watch me for? Why are you awake?
What have you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick--quick! for your life!"
"I wasn't able to sleep any longer, sir," replied Oliver meekly. "I am
very sorry if I have disturbed you, sir."
"You were not awake an hour ago?" said the Jew, scowling fiercely.
"No! No indeed!" replied Oliver.
"Are you sure?" cried the Jew, with a still fiercer look than before, and
a threatening attitude.
"Upon my word I was not, sir," replied Oliver, earnestly. "I was not,
"Tush, tush, my dear!" said the Jew, abruptly resuming his old manner. "Of
course I know that, my dear, I only tried to frighten you. You're a brave
boy. Ha! ha! you're a brave boy, Oliver!"
The Jew rubbed his hands with a chuckle, but glanced uneasily at the box,
"Did you see any of these pretty things, my dear?" said the Jew.
"Yes, sir," replied Oliver.
"Ah!" said Fagin, turning rather pale. "They--they're mine, Oliver; my
little property. All I have to live upon in my old age. The folks call me
a miser, my dear. Only a miser; that's all."
Oliver thought the old gentleman must be a decided miser to live in such a
dirty place, with so many watches; but thinking that perhaps his fondness
for the Dodger and the other boys, cost him a good deal of money, he only
cast a deferential look at the Jew, and asked if he might get up.
Permission being granted him, he got up, walked across the room, and
stooped for an instant to raise the water-pitcher. When he turned his
head, the box was gone.
Presently the Dodger returned with a friend, Charley Bates, and the four
sat down to a breakfast of coffee, and some hot rolls, and ham, which the
Dodger had brought home in the crown of his hat.
"Well," said the Jew, "I hope you've been at work this morning, my dears?"
"Hard," replied the Dodger.
"As Nails," added Charley Bates.
"Good boys, good boys!" said the Jew. "What have _you_ got, Dodger?"
"A couple of pocket-books," replied the young gentleman.
"Lined?" inquired the Jew, with eagerness.
"Pretty well," replied the Dodger, producing two pocket-books.
"And what have you got, my dear?" said Fagin to Charley Bates.
"Wipes," replied Master Bates; at the same time producing four
"Well," said the Jew, inspecting them closely; "they 're very good ones,
very. You haven't marked them well, though, Charley; so the marks shall be
picked out with a needle, and we'll teach Oliver how to do it. Shall us,
"If you please, sir," said Oliver.
"You'd like to be able to make pocket-handkerchiefs as easy as Charley
Bates, wouldn't you, my dear?" said the Jew.
"Very much indeed, if you'll teach me, sir," replied Oliver.
Master Bates saw something so exquisitely ludicrous in this reply, that he
burst into a laugh; which laugh, meeting the coffee he was drinking, and
carrying it down some wrong channel, very nearly terminated in his
"He is so jolly green!" said Charley, when he recovered, as an apology to
the company for his unpolite behaviour.
When the breakfast was cleared away, the merry old gentleman and the two
boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which was performed in
this way. Fagin, placing a snuff-box in one pocket of his trousers, a
notecase in the other, and a watch in his waistcoat pocket, with a
guard-chain round his neck, and sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt,
buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his spectacle-case and
handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down with a stick, in
imitation of the manner in which old gentlemen walk about the streets.
Sometimes he stopped at the fire-place, and sometimes at the door, making
believe that he was staring with all his might into shop windows. At such
times he would look constantly round him, for fear of thieves, and would
keep slapping all his pockets in turn, to see that he hadn't lost
anything, in such a very funny and natural manner, that Oliver laughed
till the tears ran down his face.
All this time, the two boys followed him closely about; getting out of his
sight so nimbly, that it was impossible to follow their motions. At last,
the Dodger trod upon his toes accidentally, while Charley Bates stumbled
up against him behind; and in that one moment they took from him, with the
most extraordinary rapidity, snuff-box, note-case, watch-guard, chain,
shirt-pin, pocket-handkerchief--even the spectacle-case. If the old
gentleman felt a hand in one of his pockets, he cried out where it was;
and then the game began all over again.
When this game had been played a great many times, a couple of young women
came in; one of whom was named Bet, and the other Nancy, and afterwards
Oliver discovered that they also were pupils of Fagin's as well as the
Later the young people went out, leaving Oliver alone with the Jew, who
was pacing up and down the room.
"Is my handkerchief hanging out of my pocket, my dear?" said the Jew,
stopping short, in front of Oliver.
"Yes sir," said Oliver.
"See if you can take it out, without my feeling it: as you saw them do
when we were at play."
Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one hand, as he had seen the
Dodger hold it, and drew the handkerchief lightly out of it with the
"Is it gone?" cried the Jew.
"Here it is, sir," said Oliver, showing it in his hand.
"You're a clever boy, my dear," said the playful old gentleman, patting
Oliver on the head approvingly. "I never saw a sharper lad. Here's a
shilling for you. If you go on in this way, you'll be the greatest man of
the time. And now come here, and I'll show you how to take the marks out
of the handkerchiefs."
Oliver wondered what picking the old gentleman's pocket in play, had to do
with his chances of being a great man. But, thinking that the Jew, being
so much his senior, must know best, he followed him quietly to the table,
and was soon deeply involved in his new study.
For many days Oliver remained in the Jew's room, picking marks out of the
pocket-handkerchiefs. But at length, he began to languish, and entreated
Fagin to allow him to go out to work with his two companions. So, one
morning, he obtained permission to go out, under the guardianship of
Charley Bates and the Dodger.
The three boys sallied out; the Dodger with his coat-sleeves tucked up,
and his hat cocked as usual; Master Bates sauntering along with his hands
in his pockets; and Oliver between them, wondering where they were going,
and what branch of manufacture he would be instructed in, first.
They were just emerging from a narrow court, when the Dodger made a sudden
stop; and, laying his finger on his lip, drew his companions back again
with the greatest caution.
"What's the matter?" demanded Oliver.
"Hush!" replied the Dodger. "Do you see that old cove at the book-stall?"
"The old gentleman over the way?" said Oliver. "Yes, I see him."
"He'll do," said the Dodger.
"A prime plant," observed Master Charley Bates.
Oliver looked from one to the other, with the greatest surprise; but could
not ask any questions, for the two boys walked stealthily across the road,
and slunk close behind the old gentleman. Oliver walked a few paces behind
them, looking on in silent amazement.
The old gentleman had taken up a book from the stall; and there he stood:
reading away, perfectly absorbed, and saw not the book-stall, nor the
street, nor the boys, nor anything but the book itself. What was Oliver's
horror and alarm to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old
gentleman's pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand
the same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both, running away
round the corner at full speed!
In an instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs, and the watches, and
the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind. He stood, for a
moment, with the blood tingling through all his veins from terror; then,
confused and frightened, he took to his heels.
In the very instant when Oliver began to run, the old gentleman, putting
his hand to his pocket, and missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round.
Seeing the boy scudding away at such a rapid pace, he very naturally
concluded him to be the depredator, and, shouting "Stop thief!" with all
his might, made off after him, book in hand. The Dodger and Master Bates,
who had merely retired into the first doorway round the corner, no sooner
heard the cry, and saw Oliver running, than they issued forth with great
promptitude; and, shouting, "Stop thief! Stop thief!" too, joined in the
pursuit like good citizens.
"Stop thief!" The cry is taken up by a hundred voices, the tradesman, the
carman, the butcher, the baker, the milkman, the school-boy, follow in hot
pursuit. Away they run, pell-mell, helter-skelter, slap-dash: tearing,
yelling: screaming, knocking down the passengers as they turn the corners,
splashing through the mud, and rattling along the pavements, following
after the wretched, breathless, panting child, gaining upon him every
instant. Stopped at last! A clever blow! He is down upon the pavement,
covered with mud and dust, looking wildly round upon the heap of faces
that surround him.
"Yes," said the old gentleman, "I am afraid that is the boy. Poor fellow!
he has hurt himself!"
Just then a police officer appeared and dragged the half fainting boy off,
the old gentleman walking beside him, Oliver protesting his innocence as
they went. At the police station Oliver was searched in vain, and then
locked in a cell for a time, while the old gentleman sat outside waiting,
and read his book. Presently the boy was brought out before the
Magistrate; and the policeman and the old gentleman preferred their
charges against him. While the case was proceeding, Oliver fell to the
floor in a fainting fit, and as he lay there the Magistrate uttered his
penance, "He stands committed for three months of hard labour. Clear the
office!" A couple of men were about to carry the insensible boy to his
cell, when an elderly man rushed hastily into the office. "Stop, stop!" he
said. "Don't take him away! I saw it all. I keep the book-stall. I saw
three boys loitering on the opposite side of the way when this gentleman
was reading. The robbery was committed by another boy. I saw it done; and
I saw that this boy was perfectly amazed and stupified by it!"
Having by this time recovered a little breath, the bookstall keeper
proceeded to relate in a more coherent manner the exact circumstances of
the robbery, in consequence of which explanation Oliver Twist was
discharged, and carried off, still white and faint, in a coach, by the
kind-hearted old gentleman whose name was Brownlow, who seemed to feel
himself responsible for the boy's condition, and resolved to have him
cared for in his own home.
After Charley Bates and the Dodger had seen Oliver dragged away by the
police officer, they scoured off with great rapidity. Coming to a halt
Master Bates burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
"What's the matter?" inquired the Dodger.
"I can't help it," said Charley, "I can't help it! To see him splitting
away at that pace, and cutting round the corners, and knocking up against
the posts, and starting on again as if he was made of iron, and me with
the wipe in my pocket, singing out arter him--oh, my eye!" The vivid
imagination of Master Bates presented the scene before him in too strong
colours, and he rolled upon a door-step and laughed louder than before.
"What'll Fagin say?" inquired the Dodger, and the question sobered Master
Bates at once, as both boys stood in great dread of the Jew. And their
worst fears were realised. Fagin was livid with rage at the loss of his
promising pupil, as well as fearful of the disclosures he might make.
After long consultation on the subject, it was agreed by the band that
Nancy was to go to the police station in a disguised dress, to find out
what had been done with Oliver, for whom she was to search as her "dear
little lost brother."
Meanwhile Oliver lay for many days burning with fever and unconscious of
his surroundings, in the quietly comfortable home of Mr. Brownlow at
Pentonville. At length, weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke from what
seemed a dream, and found himself being nursed by Mrs. Bedwin, Mr.
Brownlow's motherly old house-keeper, and visited constantly by the
doctor. Gradually he grew stronger, and soon could sit up a little. Those
were happy, peaceful days of his recovery, the only happy ones he had ever
known. Everybody was so kind and gentle that it seemed like Heaven itself,
as he sat by the fireside in the house-keeper's room. On the wall hung a
portrait of a beautiful, mild, lady with sorrowful eyes, of which Oliver
was the living copy. Every feature was the same--to Mr. Brownlow's intense
astonishment, as he gazed from it to Oliver.
Later, Oliver heard the history of the portrait and his own connection
When he was strong enough to put his clothes on, Mr. Brownlow caused a
complete new suit, and a new cap, and a new pair of shoes, to be provided
for him. Oliver gave his old clothes to one of the servants who had been
kind to him, and she sold them to a Jew who came to the house.
One evening Mr. Brownlow sent up word to have Oliver come down into his
study and see him for a little while,--so Mrs. Bedwin helped him to
prepare himself, and although there was not even time to crimp the little
frill that bordered his shirt-collar, he looked so delicate and handsome,
that she surveyed him with great complacency.
Mr. Brownlow was reading, but when he saw Oliver, he pushed the book away,
and told him to come near, and sit down, which Oliver did. Then the old
gentleman began to talk kindly of what Oliver's future was to be.
Instantly the boy became pallid with fright, and implored Mr. Brownlow to
let him stay with him, as a servant, as anything, only not to send him out
into the streets again, and the old gentleman, touched by the appeal,
assured the boy that unless he should deceive him, he would be his
faithful friend. He then asked Oliver to relate the whole story of his
life, which he was beginning to do when an old friend of Mr. Brownlow's--a
He was an eccentric old man, and was loud in his exclamations of distrust
in this boy whom Mr. Brownlow was harbouring.
"I'll answer for that boy's truth with my life!" said Mr. Brownlow,
knocking the table.
"And I for his falsehood with my head!" rejoined Mr. Grimwig, knocking the
"We shall see!" said Mr. Brownlow, checking his rising anger.
"We will!" said Mr. Grimwig, with a provoking smile; "we will."
Just then Mrs. Bedwin brought in some books which had been bought of the
identical book stall-keeper who has already figured in this history. Mr.
Brownlow was greatly disturbed that the boy who brought them had not
waited, as there were some other books to be returned.
"Send Oliver with them," suggested Mr. Grimwig, "he will be sure to
deliver them safely, you know!"
"Yes; do let me take them, if you please, sir," said Oliver "I'll run all
the way, sir."
Mr. Brownlow was about to refuse to have Oliver go out, when Mr. Grimwig's
malicious cough made him change his mind, and let the boy go.
"You are to say," said Mr. Brownlow, "that you have brought those books
back; and that you have come to pay the four pound ten I owe him. This is
a five-pound note, so you will have to bring me back ten shilling change."
"I won't be ten minutes, sir," replied Oliver, eagerly, as with a
respectful bow he left the room. Mrs. Bedwin watched him out of sight
exclaiming, "Bless his sweet face!"--while Oliver looked gaily round, and
nodded before he turned the corner.
Then Mr. Brownlow drew out his watch and waited, while Mr. Grimwig
asserted that the boy would never be back. "He has a new suit of clothes
on his back; a set of valuable books under his arm; and a five-pound note
in his pocket. He'll join his old friends the thieves, and laugh at you.
If ever that boy returns to this house, sir," said Mr. Grimwig, "I'll eat
It grew so dark that the figures on the dial-plate were scarcely
discernible. The gas lamps were lighted; Mrs. Bedwin was waiting anxiously
at the open door; the servant had run up the street twenty times to see if
there were any traces of Oliver; and still the two old gentlemen sat,
perseveringly, in the dark parlour, with the watch between them,
waiting--but Oliver did not come.
He meanwhile, had walked along, on his way to the bookstall, thinking how
happy and contented he ought to feel, when he was startled by a young
woman screaming out very loud, "Oh, my dear brother!"--and then he was
stopped by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.
"Don't!" cried Oliver, struggling. "Let go of Who is it? What are you
stopping me for?"
"Oh my gracious!" said the young woman, "I've found him! Oh you naughty
boy, to make me suffer sich distress on your account! Come home, dear,
come!" With these and more incoherent exclamations, the young woman burst
out crying, and told the onlookers that Oliver was her brother, who had
run away from his respectable parents a month ago, joined a gang of
thieves and almost broke his mother's heart,--to which Oliver, greatly
alarmed, replied that he was an orphan, had no sister, and lived at
Pentonville. Then, catching sight of the woman's face for the first time,
he cried,--"Why, it's Nancy!"
"You see he knows me!" cried Nancy. "Make him come home, there's good
people, or he'll kill his dear mother and father, and break my heart!"
With this a man who was Nancy's accomplice, Bill Sikes by name, came to
the rescue, tore the volumes from Oliver's grasp, and struck him on the
head. Weak still, and stupified by the suddenness of the attack,
overpowered and helpless, what could one poor child do? Darkness had set
in; it was a low neighbourhood; no help was near--resistance was useless.
In another moment he was dragged into a labyrinth of dark narrow courts:
and was forced along them, at a pace which rendered the few cries he dared
to give utterance to, unintelligible.
At length they turned into a very filthy street, and stopped at an
apparently untenanted house into which Bill Sikes and Nancy led Oliver,
and there, were his old friends, Charley Bates, the Dodger, and Fagin.
They greeted Oliver with cheers, and at once rifled his pockets of the
five-pound note, and relieved him of the books,--although Oliver pleaded
that the books and money be sent back to Mr. Brownlow. When he found that
all pleading and resistance were useless, he jumped suddenly to his feet
and tore wildly from the room, uttering shrieks for help which made the
bare old house echo to the roof, and then attempted to dart through the
door, opened for a moment, but he was instantly caught, while Sikes' dog
would have sprung upon him, except for Nancy's intervention. She was
struck with Oliver's pallor and great grief and tried to shield him from
violence. But it was of little avail. He was beaten by the Jew, and then
led off by Master Bates into an adjacent kitchen to go to bed. His new
clothes were taken from him and he was given the identical old suit which
he had so congratulated himself upon leaving off at Mr. Brownlow's, and
the accidental display of which to Fagin, by the Jew who purchased them,
had been the first clue to Oliver's whereabouts.
For a week or so the boy was kept locked up, but after that the Jew left
him at liberty to wander about the house; which was a weird, ghostlike
place, with the mouldering shutters fast closed, and no evidence from
outside that it sheltered human creatures. Oliver was constantly with
Charley Bates and the Dodger, who played the old game with the Jew every
day. At times Fagin entertained the boys with stories of robberies he had
committed in his younger days, which made Oliver laugh heartily, and show
that he was amused in spite of his better feelings. In short, the wily old
Jew had the boy in his toils, and hoped gradually to instil into his soul
the poison which would blacken it and change its hue forever.
Meanwhile Fagin, Bill Sikes, and Nancy were arranging a plot in which poor
Oliver was to play a notable part. One morning he found to his surprise, a
pair of stout new shoes by his bedside, and at breakfast Fagin told him
that he was to be taken to the residence of Bill Sikes that night, but no
reason for this was given. Fagin then left him and presently Nancy came
in, looking pale and ill. She came from Sikes to take Oliver to him. Her
countenance was agitated and she trembled.
"I have saved you from being ill-used once, and I will again; and I do
now," she said, "for those who would have fetched you if I had not, would
have been far more rough than me. 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. I have promised for your being quiet; if you are not, you will harm
youself and perhaps be my death. Hush! Give me your hand! Make haste!"
Blowing out the light, she drew Oliver hastily after her, out, and into a
hackney-cabriolet. The driver wanted no directions, but lashed his horse
into full speed, and presently they were in a strange house. There, with
Nancy and Sikes, Oliver remained until an early hour the next morning,
when the three set out, whither or for what Oliver did not know, but
before they started Sikes drew out a pistol, and holding it close to
Oliver's temple said, "If you speak a word while you're out of doors, with
me, except when I speak to you, that loading will be in your head without
notice!" And Oliver did not doubt the statement.
In the gray dawn of a cheerless morning the trio started off, and by
continual tramping, and an occasional lift from a carter reached a public
house where they lingered for some hours, and then went on again until the
next night. They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had
expected; but still kept walking on, in mud and darkness, until they came
in sight of the lights of a town. Then they stopped for a time at a
solitary, dilapidated house, where they were met by other men. The party
then crossed a bridge and were soon in the little town of Chertsey. There
was nobody abroad. They had cleared the town as the church-bell struck
two. After walking about a quarter of a mile, they stopped before a
detached house surrounded by a wall: to the top of which one of the men,
Toby Crackit, climbed in a twinkling.
"The boy next!" said Toby. "Hoist him up; I'll catch hold of him."
Before Oliver had time to look round, Sikes had caught him under the arms;
and he and Toby were lying on the grass, on the other side of the wall.
Sikes followed, and they stole towards the house. Now, for the first time
Oliver realised that robbery, if not murder, was the object of the
expedition. In vain he pleaded that they let him go,--he was answered only
by oaths, while the robbers were busy opening a little window not far from
the ground at the back of the house, which was just large enough to admit
Oliver. Toby planted himself firmly with his head against the wall beneath
the window, then Sikes, mounting upon him, put Oliver through the window
with his feet first, and without leaving hold of his collar, planted him
safely on the floor inside.
"Take this lantern," whispered Sikes, looking into the room, "You see the
stairs afore you; go up softly and unfasten the street door."
Oliver, more dead than alive gasped out, "Yes." Sikes then 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. "Directly I leave go of you, do your
"What's that?" whispered the other man.
"Nothing," said Sikes,--"_Now_!"
In the short time he had to collect his senses, Oliver had resolved that,
whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one effort to dart up
stairs and to alarm the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at
once, but stealthily.
"Come back!" suddenly cried Sikes aloud. "_Back! Back!"_
Scared by the sudden breaking of the stillness 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
smoke--a crash somewhere,--and he staggered back.
Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and had Oliver
by the collar before the smoke had cleared away. He fired his pistol after
the men, 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,
the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground
at a rapid pace. Then the noises grew confused in the distance; and the
boy saw or heard no more. Bill Sikes had him on his back scudding like the
wind. Oliver's head hung down, and he was deadly cold. The pursuers were
close upon Sikes' heels. He dropped the boy in a ditch and fled.
Hours afterwards Oliver came to himself, and found his left arm rudely
bandaged hung useless at his side. He was so weak that he could scarcely
move. Trembling from cold and exhaustion he made an effort to stand
upright, but fell back, groaning with pain. Then a creeping stupor came
over him, warning him that if he lay there he must surely die. So he got
upon his feet, and stumbling on, dizzy and half unconscious, drew near to
the very house which caused him to shudder with horror at the memory of
last night's dreadful scene.
Within, in the kitchen all the servants were gathered round the fire
discussing the attempted burglary. While Mr. Giles, the butler, was giving
his version of the affair, there came a timid knock. They opened the door
cautiously and beheld poor little Oliver Twist, speechless and exhausted,
who raised his heavy eyes and mutely solicited their compassion. Instantly
there was an outcry, and Oliver was seized by one leg and one arm, lugged
into the hall, and laid on the floor. "Here he is!" bawled Giles up the
staircase; "here's one of the thieves, ma'am! Here's a thief, miss!
Wounded, miss. I shot him, miss; and Brittles held the light!" There was
great confusion then, all the servants talking at once, but the sound of a
sweet voice from above quelled the commotion. On learning that a wounded
thief was lying in the house, the voice directed that he be instantly
carried up-stairs to the room of Mr. Giles, and a doctor be summoned; and
so for the second time in his short, tragic existence, Oliver fell into
kind hands at a moment when all hope had left his breast. He was now in
the home of Mrs. Maylie, a finely preserved, bright-eyed, elderly lady,
and her fair young adopted niece, Rose.
The attempted burglary had greatly shocked them both, and the fact that
one of the robbers was in the house added to their nervousness. So when
Dr. Losberne came, and begged them to accompany him to the patient's room,
they dreaded to comply with the request, but finally yielded to his
demand. What was their astonishment when the bed-curtains were drawn
aside, instead of a black-visaged ruffian, to see a mere child, worn with
pain, and sunk into a deep sleep. His wounded arm bound and splintered up,
was crossed upon his breast. His head reclined upon the other arm, which
was half hidden by his long hair, as it streamed over the pillow. The boy
smiled in his sleep as at a pleasant dream, when Rose bent tenderly over
him, while the older lady and the Doctor discussed the probability of the
child's having been the tool of robbers. Fearing that the doctor might
influence her aunt to send the boy away, Rose pleaded that he be kept and
cared for; it was finally decided that when Oliver awoke he should be
examined as to his past life, and if the result seemed satisfactory, he
should remain. But not until evening was he able to be questioned. He then
told them all his simple history. It was a solemn thing to hear the feeble
voice of the sick child recounting a weary catalogue of evils and
calamities which hard men had brought upon him, and his hearers were
profoundly moved by the recital. His pillow was smoothed by gentle hands
that night and he slept as sleep the calm and happy.
On the following day, officers who had heard of the burglary, and that a
thief was prisoner in the Maylie house, came from London to arrest him,
but Dr. Losberne and Mrs. Maylie shielded him, and their joint bail was
accepted for the boy's appearance in court if it should ever be required.
With the Maylies Oliver remained, and thanks to their tender care,
gradually throve and prospered, although it was long weeks before he was
quite himself again. Many times he spoke to the two sweet ladies of his
gratitude to them, saying that he only desired to serve them always. To
this they responded that he should go with them to the country, and there
could serve them in a hundred ways.
Only one cloud was on Oliver's sky. He longed to go to Mr. Brownlow and
tell him the true story of his seeming ingratitude. So as soon as he was
sufficiently recovered, Dr. Losberne drove him out to the place where he
said Mr. Brownlow resided. They hastened to the house, but alas! it was
empty. There was a bill in the window, "To Let" and upon inquiring, they
found that Mr. Brownlow, Mr. Grimwig, and Mrs. Bedwin had gone to the West
The disappointment was a cruel one, for all through his sickness Oliver
had anticipated the delight of seeing his first benefactor, and clearing
himself of guilt, but now that was impossible.
In a fortnight the Maylies went to the country, and Oliver, whose life had
been spent in squalid crowds, seemed to enter on a new existence there.
The sky and the balmy air, the woods and glistening water, the rose and
honeysuckle, were each a daily joy to him. Every morning he went to a
white-haired old gentleman who taught him to read better and to write,
then he would walk and talk with Rose and Mrs. Maylie, and so three happy
months glided away.
In the summer Rose was taken down with a terrible fever, and anxiety hung
like a cloud over the cottage where she was so dear, but at length the
danger passed and the loving hearts grew lighter again.
Meanwhile a man named Monks,--a friend of Fagin's--had by chance seen
Oliver, had been strangely excited and angered at sight of him, and after
carefully learning some details of the boy's history, had gone to the
beadle at the workhouse where Oliver began life, and by dint of bribes,
had extorted information concerning Oliver's mother, which only one person
knew. Satisfied with what he learned, Monks conferred with Fagin, telling
some facts about Oliver which caused Nancy, who happened to overhear them,
to become terror-stricken.
As soon as she could, she stole away from her companions, out towards the
West End of London, to a hotel where the Maylies were then boarding, and
which she had heard Monks mention. Nancy was such a ragged object that she
found it difficult to have her name carried up to Rose Maylie, but at
length she succeeded, and was ushered into the sweet young lady's
presence, where she quickly related what she had come to tell. That Monks
had accidentally seen Oliver, and found out where he was living, and with
whom;--that a bargain had been struck with Fagin that he should have a
certain sum of money if Oliver were brought back, and a still larger
amount if the boy could be made a thief. Nancy then went on to tell that
Monks spoke of Oliver as his young brother, and boasted that the proofs of
the boy's identity lay at the bottom of the river--that he, Monks, had
money which by right should have been shared with Oliver, and that his one
desire was to take the boy's life.
These disclosures made Rose Maylie turn pale, and ask many questions, from
which she discovered that Nancy's confession was actuated by a real liking
for Oliver and a fierce hatred for the man Monks. Her tale finished, and
refusing money, or help of any kind, Nancy went as swiftly as she had
come, and when she left, Rose sank into a chair completely overcome by
what she had heard.
Of course the matter was too serious to pass over, and the next day, as
Rose was trying to decide upon a course of action, Oliver settled it for
her, by rushing in with breathless haste, and exclaiming, "I have seen the
gentleman--the gentleman who was so good to me--Mr. Brownlow!"
"Where?" asked Rose.
"Going into a house," replied Oliver. "And Giles asked, for me, whether he
lived there, and they said he did. Look here," producing a scrap of paper,
"here it is; here's where he lives--I'm going there directly! OH, DEAR ME!
DEAR ME! what shall I do when I come to hear him speak again!"
With her attention not a little distracted by these exclamations of joy,
an idea came to Rose, and she determined upon turning this discovery to
"Quick!" she said, "tell them to fetch a hackney-coach, and be ready to go
with me. I will take you to see Mr. Brownlow directly."
Oliver needed no urging and they were soon on their way to Craven Street.
When they arrived, Rose left Oliver in the coach, and sending up her card,
requested to see Mr. Brownlow on business. She was shown up stairs, and
presented to Mr. Brownlow, an elderly gentleman of benevolent appearance,
in a bottle-green coat, and with him was his friend, Mr. Grimwig. Rose
began at once upon her errand, to the great amazement of the two old
gentlemen. She related in a few natural words all that had befallen Oliver
since he left Mr. Brownlow's house, concluding with the assurance that his
only sorrow for many months had been the not being able to meet with his
former benefactor and friend.
"Thank God!" said Mr. Brownlow. "This is great happiness to me; great
happiness! But why not have brought him?"
"He is waiting in a coach at the door," replied Rose.
"At this door!" cried Mr. Brownlow. With which he hurried down the stairs,
without another word, and came back with Oliver. Then Mrs. Bedwin was sent
for. "God be good to me!" she cried, embracing him; "it is my innocent
boy! He would come back--I knew he would! How well he looks, and how like
a gentleman's son he is dressed again! Where have you been, this long,
Running on thus,--now holding Oliver from her, now clasping him to her and
passing her fingers through his hair, the good soul laughed and wept upon
his neck by turns.
Leaving Oliver with her, Mr. Brownlow led Rose into another room, by her
request, and she narrated her interview with Nancy, which occasioned Mr.
Brownlow no small amount of perplexity and surprise. After a long
consultation they decided to take Mrs. Maylie and Dr. Losberne into their
confidence, also Mr. Grimwig, thus forming a committee for the purpose of
guarding the young lad from further entanglement in the plots of villains.
Through Nancy, with whom Rose had another interview, the man Monks was
tracked, and finally captured by Mr. Brownlow, who to his sorrow, found
that the villain was the erring son of his oldest friend, and his name of
Monks only an assumed one. Facing him in a room of his own house, to which
Monks had been brought,--Mr. Brownlow charged the man with one crime after
The father of Monks had two children who were half brothers, Monks and
Oliver Twist. The father died suddenly, leaving in Mr. Brownlow's home the
portrait of Oliver's mother, which was hanging in the house-keeper's room.
The striking likeness between this portrait and Oliver had led Mr.
Brownlow to recognise the boy as the child of his dear old friend. Then,
just when he had determined to adopt Oliver, the boy had disappeared, and
all efforts to find him had proved unavailing. Mr. Brownlow knew that,
although the mother and father were dead, the elder brother was alive, and
at once commenced a search for him. Now he had discovered him in the man
Monks, the friend of thieves and murderers, and by a chance clue he found
also that there had been a will, dividing the property between the two
brothers. That will had been destroyed, together with all proofs of
Oliver's parentage, so that Monks might have the entire property. Fearing
discovery, Monks had bargained with Fagin to keep the child a thief or to
kill him outright.
This revelation of his crime in all its terrible details, told in clear
cutting tones by Mr. Brownlow, while his eyes never left the man's face,
overwhelmed the coward Monks. He stood convicted, and confessed his guilt.
Then, because the man was son of his old friend, Mr. Brownlow was
"Will you set your hand to a statement of truth and facts, and repeat it
before witnesses?" he asked.
"That I promise," said Monks.
"Remain quietly here until such a document is drawn up, and proceed with
me to such a place as I may deem advisable, to attest it?"
To this also Monks agreed.
"You must do more than that," said Mr. Brownlow; "Make restitution to
Oliver. You have not forgotten the provisions of the will. Carry them into
execution so far as your brother is concerned, and then go where you
please. In this world you need meet no more."
To this also, at length Monks gave fearing assent.
A few days later Oliver found himself in a travelling carriage rolling
fast towards his native town, with the Maylies, Mrs. Bedwin, Dr. Losberne,
and Mr. Grimwig, while Mr. Brownlow followed in a post-chaise with Monks.
Oliver was much excited, for he had been told of the disclosures of Monks,
which, together with journeying over a road which he had last travelled on
foot, a poor houseless, wandering boy, without a friend, or a roof to
shelter his head, caused his heart to beat violently and his breath to
come in quick gasps.
"See there, there!" he cried, "that's the stile I came over; there are the
hedges I crept behind, for fear anyone should overtake me and force me
As they approached the town, and drove through its narrow streets, it
became matter of no small difficulty to restrain the boy within reasonable
bounds. There was the undertaker's just as it used to be, only less
imposing in appearance than he remembered it. There was the workhouse, the
dreary prison of his youthful days; there was the same lean porter
standing at the gate. There was nearly everything as if he had left it but
yesterday, and all his recent life had been a happy dream.
They drove at once to the hotel where Mr. Brownlow joined them with Monks,
and there in the presence of the whole party, the wretched man made his
full confession of guilt, and surrendered one half of the property--about
three thousand pounds--to his half-brother, upon whom even as he spoke, he
cast looks of hatred so violent that Oliver trembled. From some details of
his confession it was also discovered that Rose Maylie, who was only an
adopted niece of Mrs. Maylie, had been the sister of Oliver's mother, and
was therefore the boy's aunt, the first blood relation, except Monks, that
he had ever possessed.
"Not aunt," cried Oliver, throwing his arms about her neck, "I'll never
call her _aunt_. Sister, my own, dear sister, that something taught my
heart to love so dearly from the first, Rose! dear, darling Rose!" And in
Rose's close embrace, the boy found compensation for all his past sadness.
The only link to his old life which remained was soon broken. Fagin had
been captured too, sentenced to death, and was in prison awaiting the
fulfilment of his doom. In his possession he had papers relating to
Oliver's parentage, and the boy went with Mr. Brownlow to the prison to
try to recover them. With Mr. Brownlow, Fagin was obstinately silent, but
to Oliver he whispered where they could be found, and then begged and
prayed the boy to help him escape justice, and sent up cry after cry that
rang in Oliver's ears for months afterwards.
But youth and sorrow are seldom companions for long, and our last glimpse
of Oliver is of a boy as thoroughly happy as one often is. He is now the
adopted son of the good Mr. Brownlow. Removing with him and Mrs. Bedwin to
within a mile of the Maylies' home, Mr. Brownlow gratified the only
remaining wish of Oliver's warm and earnest heart, and as the happy days
go swiftly by, the past becomes the shadow of a dream.
Several times a year Mr. Grimwig visits in the neighbourhood, and it is a
favourite joke for Mr. Brownlow to rally him on his old prophecy
concerning Oliver, and to remind him of the night on which they sat with
the watch between them awaiting his return. But Mr. Grimwig contends that
he was right in the main, and in proof thereof remarks that Oliver _did
not come back after all_,--which always calls forth a laugh on his side,
and increases his good humour.
[Illustration: TOMMY TRADDLES.]
Poor Traddles! In a tight sky-blue suit that made his arms and legs like
German sausages, or roly-poly puddings, and with his hair standing
upright, giving him the expression of a fretful porcupine, he was the
merriest and most miserable of all the boys at Mr. Creakle's school,
called Salem House. I never think of him without a strange disposition to
laugh, and yet with tears in my eyes.
He was always being caned--I think he was caned every day in the half-year
I spent at Salem House, except one holiday Monday when he was only ruler'd
on both hands--and was always going to write to his uncle about it, and
never did. After laying his head on the desk for a little while, he would
cheer up somehow, begin to laugh again, and draw skeletons all over his
slate, before his eyes were dry. I used at first to wonder what comfort
Traddles found in drawing skeletons; and for some time looked upon him as
a sort of a hermit, who reminded himself by those symbols of mortality
that caning couldn't last for ever. But I believe he only did it because
they were easy, and didn't want any features.
He was very honourable, Traddles was; and held it as a solemn duty in the
boys to stand by one another. He suffered for this code of honour on
several occasions. One evening we had a great spread up in our room after
time for lights to be down, and we all got happily out of it but Traddles.
He was too unfortunate even to come through a supper like anybody else. He
was taken ill in the night--quite prostrate he was--in consequence of
Crab; and after being drugged to an extent which Demple (whose father was
a doctor) said was enough to undermine a horse's constitution, received a
caning and six chapters of Greek Testament for refusing to confess.
At another time, when Steerforth (who was the only parlour-boarder and the
lion of the school) laughed in church, the Beadle, who thought the
offender was Traddles, took _him_ out. I see him now, going away in
custody, despised by the congregation. He never said who was the real
offender, although he smarted for it next day, and was imprisoned so many
hours that he came forth with a whole churchyardful of skeletons swarming
all over his Latin dictionary. But he had his reward. Steerforth said
there was nothing of the sneak in Traddles, and we all felt that to be the
On still a third occasion during my half-year at Salem House I have a
vivid recollection of Traddles in distress; that time for siding with the
down-trodden under-teacher, Mr. Mell, in a heated discussion between that
gentleman and Steerforth.
The discussion took place on a Saturday which should have properly been a
half-holiday, but as Mr. Creakle was indisposed, and the noise in the
playground would have disturbed him; and the weather was not favourable
for going out walking, we were ordered into school in the afternoon, and
set some lighter tasks than usual; and Mr. Mell, a pale, delicately-built,
little man, was detailed to keep us in order, which he tried in vain to
Boys started in and out of their places, playing at puss-in-the-corner
with other boys; there were laughing boys, singing boys, talking boys,
dancing boys, howling boys; boys shuffled with their feet, boys whirled
about him, grinning, making faces, mimicking him behind his back and
before his eyes: mimicking his poverty, his boots, his coat, his mother,
every thing belonging to him that they should have had consideration for.
"Silence!" cried Mr. Mell, suddenly rising up, and striking his desk with
the book. "What does this mean! It's impossible to bear it. It's
maddening. How can you do it to me, boys?"
The boys all stopped, some suddenly surprised, some half afraid, and some
Steerforth alone remained in his lounging position, hands in his pockets,
and looked at Mr. Mell with his mouth shut up as if he were whistling,
when Mr. Mell looked at him.
"Silence, Mr. Steerforth!" said Mr. Mell.
"Silence yourself," said Steerforth, turning red. "Whom are you talking
"Sit down!" said Mr. Mell.
"Sit down yourself!" said Steerforth, "and mind your business."
There was a titter and some applause; but Mr. Mell was so white, that
silence immediately succeeded.
"When you make use of your position of favouritism, here, sir," pursued
Mr. Mell, with his lip trembling very much, "to insult a gentleman----"
"A what?--where is he?" said Steerforth.
Here somebody cried out, "Shame, J. Steerforth! Too bad!" It was Traddles;
whom Mr. Mell instantly discomfited by bidding him to hold his tongue,----
"--to insult one who is not fortunate in life, sir, and who never gave you
the least offence, and the many reasons for not insulting whom you are old
enough and wise enough to understand," said Mr. Mell, with his lip
trembling more and more, "you commit a mean and base action. You can sit
down or stand up as you please, sir."
"I tell you what, Mr. Mell," said Steerforth, coming forward, "once for
all. When you take the liberty of calling me mean or base, or anything of
that sort, you are an impudent beggar. You are always a beggar, you know;
but when you do that, you are an impudent beggar."
Had Mr. Creakle not entered the room at that moment, there is no knowing
what might have happened, for the highest pitch of excitement had been
reached by combatants and lookers-on.
Both Steerforth and the under-teacher at once turned to Mr. Creakle,
pouring out in his attentive ear the story of the burning wrong to which
each had subjected the other, and the end of the whole affair was that Mr.
Mell--having discovered that Mr. Creakle's veneration for money, and fear
of offending his head-pupil, far outweighed any consideration for the
teacher's feelings,--taking his flute and a few books from his desk, and
leaving the key in it for his successor, went out of the school, with his
property under his arm.
Mr. Creakle then made a speech, in which he thanked Steerforth for
asserting (though perhaps too warmly) the independence and respectability
of Salem House; and which he wound up by shaking hands with Steerforth;
while we gave three cheers--I did not quite know what for, but I supposed
for Steerforth, and joined in them, though I felt miserable. Mr. Creakle
then caned Tommy Traddles for being discovered in tears, instead of
cheers, and went away leaving us to ourselves.
Steerforth was very angry with Traddles, and said he was glad he had
caught it. Poor Traddles, who had passed the stage of lying with his head
upon the desk, and was relieving himself as usual with a burst of
skeletons, said he didn't care. Mr. Mell was ill-used.
"Who has ill-used him, you girl?" said Steerforth.
"Why, you have," returned Traddles.
"What have I done?" said Steerforth.
"What have you done?" retorted Traddles. "Hurt his feelings and lost him
"His feelings!" repeated Steerforth, disdainfully. "His feelings will soon
get the better of it, I'll be bound. His feelings are not like yours, Miss
Traddles! As to his situation--which was a precious one, wasn't it?--do
you suppose I am not going to write home and take care that he gets some
We all thought this intention very noble in Steerforth, whose mother was a
rich widow, and, it was said, would do anything he asked her. We were all
very glad to see Traddles so put down, and exalted Steerforth to the
skies, and none of us appreciated at that time that our hero, J.
Steerforth was very, very small indeed, as to character, in comparison to
funny, unfortunate Tommy Traddles.
Years later, when Salem House was only a memory, and we were both men,
Traddles and I met again. He had the same simple character and good temper
as of old, and had, too, some of his old unlucky fortune, which clung to
him always; yet notwithstanding that--as all of his trouble came from
good-natured meddling with other people's affairs, for their benefit, I am
not at all certain that I would not risk my chance of success--in the
broadest meaning of that word--in the next world surely, if not in this,
against all the Steerforths living, if I were Tommy Traddles.
Poor Traddles?--No, happy Traddles!
They were certainly the very oddest pair that ever the moon shone
on,--Stony Durdles and the boy "Deputy."
Durdles was a stone-mason, from which occupation, undoubtedly, came his
nickname "Stony," and Deputy was a hideous small boy hired by Durdles to
pelt him home if he found him out too late at night, which duty the boy
faithfully performed. In all the length and breadth of Cloisterham there
was no more noted man than the stone-mason, Durdles, not, I regret to say,
on account of his virtues, but rather because of his talent for remaining
out late at night, and not being able to guide his steps homeward. There
is a coarser term which might have been applied to this talent of Durdles,
but we have nothing to do with that, here and now; what we desire is an
introduction to the small boy who is Durdles's shadow.
One night, John Jasper, choir-master in Cloisterham Cathedral, on his way
home through the Close, is brought to a standstill by the spectacle of
Stony Durdles, dinner-bundle and all, leaning against the iron railing of
the burial-ground, while a hideous small boy in rags flings stones at him,
in the moonlight. Sometimes the stones hit him, and sometimes they miss
him, but Durdles seems indifferent to either fortune. The hideous small
boy, on the contrary, whenever he hits Durdles, blows a whistle of triumph
through a jagged gap in the front of his mouth, where half his teeth are
wanting; and whenever he misses him, yelps out, "Mulled agin!" and tries
to atone for the failure by taking a more correct and vicious aim.
"What are you doing to the man?" demands Jasper.
"Makin' a cock-shy of him," replies the hideous small boy.
"Give me those stones in your hand."
"Yes, I'll give 'em you down your throat, if you come a ketchin' hold of
me," says the small boy, shaking himself loose from Jasper's touch, and
backing. "I'll smash your eye if you don't look out!"
"What has the man done to you?"
"He won't go home."
"What is that to you?"
"He gives me a 'apenny to pelt him home if I ketches him out too late,"
says the boy. And then chants, like a little savage, half stumbling, and
half dancing, among the rags and laces of his dilapidated boots,----
_Widdy widdy wen!
I--ke--ches--'im out--ar--ter ten,
Widdy widdy wy!
Widdy widdy Wakecock warning!_
--with a sweeping emphasis on the last word, and one more shot at Durdles.
The bit of doggerel is evidently a sign which Durdles understands to mean
either that he must prove himself able to stand clear of the shots, or
betake himself immediately homeward, but he does not stir.
John Jasper crosses over to the railing where the Stony One is still
"Do you know this thing, this child?" he asks.
"Deputy," says Durdles, with a nod.
"Is that its--his--name?"
"Deputy," assents Durdles, whereupon the small boy feels called upon to
speak for himself.
"I'm man-servant up at the Travellers Twopenny in Gas Works Garding," he
explains. "All us man-servants at Travellers Lodgings is named Deputy, but
I never pleads to no name, mind yer. When they says to me in the Lockup,
'What's your name?' I says to 'em 'find out.' Likewise when they says,
'What's your religion?' I says, 'find out'!" After delivering himself of
this speech, he withdraws into the road and taking aim, he resumes:----
_Widdy widdy wen!
"Hold your hand!" cries Jasper, "and don't throw while I stand so near
him, or I'll kill you! Come Durdles, let me walk home with you to-night.
Shall I carry your bundle?"
"Not on any account," replies Durdles, adjusting it, and continuing to
talk in a rambling way, as he and Jasper walk on together.
"This creature, Deputy, is behind us," says Jasper, looking back. "Is he
to follow us?"
The relations between Durdles and Deputy seem to be of a capricious kind,
for on Durdles turning to look at the boy, Deputy makes a wide circuit
into the road and stands on the defensive.
"You never cried Widdy Warning before you begun tonight," cries Durdles,
unexpectedly reminded of, or imagining an injury.
"Yer lie; I did," says Deputy, in his only polite form of contradiction,
whereupon Durdles turns back again and forgets the offence as unexpectedly
as he had recalled it, and says to Jasper, in reference to Deputy.
"Own brother, sir, to Peter, the Wild Boy! But I gave him an object in
"At which he takes aim?" Mr. Jasper suggests.
"That is it, sir," returns Durdles; "at which he takes aim. I took him in
hand and gave him an object. What was he before? A destroyer. What work
did he do? Nothing but destruction. What did he earn by it? Short terms in
Cloisterham jail. Not a person, not a piece of property, not a winder, not
a horse, nor a dog, nor a cat, nor a bird, nor a fowl, nor a pig, but that
he stoned for want of an enlightened object. I put that enlightened object
before him, and now he can turn his honest halfpenny by the three pennorth
"I wonder he has no competitors."
"He has plenty, Mr. Jasper, but he stones 'em all away."
"He still keeps behind us," repeats Jasper, looking back, "is he to follow
"We can't help going round by the Travellers Twopenny, if we go the short
way, which is the back way," Durdles answers, "and we'll drop him there."
So they go on; Deputy attentive to every movement of the Stony One, until
at length nearly at their destination Durdles whistles, and
calls--"Holloa, you Deputy!"
"Widdy!" is Deputy's shrill response, standing off again.
"Catch that ha'penny. And don't let me see any more of you to-night, after
we come to the Travellers Twopenny."
"Warning!" returns Deputy, having caught the halfpenny, and appearing by
this mystic word to express his assent to the arrangement, then off he
Such was the occupation of the small boy, Deputy, night after night, week
after week, month after month, during the year when we catch a glimpse of
him, and it is reasonable to suppose that the remainder of his life, after
we lose sight of him was spent, in making a cock-shy of everything that
came in his way, whether Durdles or inanimate objects. When he had nothing
living to stone, I believe that he used to stone the dead, through the
railing of the churchyard. He found this a relishing and piquing pursuit;
firstly, because their resting place is supposed to be sacred, and,
secondly, because the tall headstones are sufficiently like themselves to
justify the delicious fancy that they are hurt when hit.
We have nothing told us to support the theory that Deputy's life ever
changed in its routine of work, and I am sure you agree with me that there
were never an odder pair than the two: Durdles, the stone-mason, and
Deputy, his servant.
Perhaps you will be in Cloisterham at some not far distant time; if so,
wander out at night in the old graveyard, when the moon is up, and in
among the cathedral crypts, if you can gain access to them; and see if
from some shadowy corner of lane or building does not start out before you
the wraith of the hideous small boy, Deputy, eluding your touch, and
chanting as he dances in front of you the old song which was the badge of
his office as the keeper of Durdles,----
_Widdy widdy wen!
Widdy widdy wy!
Widdy widdy Wakecock Warning!_
[Illustration: DOTHEBOYS HALL.]
"Education.--At Mr. Wackford Squeers's Academy, Dotheboys Hall, at the
delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire, Youth are
boarded, clothed, booked, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all
necessaries, instructed in all languages living and dead, mathematics,
orthography geometry, astronomy, trigonometry, the use of the globes,
algebra, single stick (if required), writing, arithmetic, fortification,
and every other branch of classical literature. Terms, twenty guineas per
annum. No extras, no vacations, and diet unparalleled. Mr. Squeers is in
town, and attends daily from one till four, at the Saracen's Head, Snow
Hill. N.B. An able assistant wanted. Annual salary L5. A Master of Arts
would be preferred."
When this advertisement in the "London Herald" came to the notice of Mr.
Nicholas Nickleby, then in search of a position as teacher, it seemed to
be the opening for which he was looking, and the next day he hastened to
the Saracen's Head, Snow Hill, to have an interview with Mr. Wackford
Mr. Squeers's appearance was not prepossessing. He had but one eye, and
the popular prejudice runs in favour of two. The blank side of his face
was much wrinkled and puckered up, which gave him a very sinister
appearance, especially when he smiled. His hair was very flat and shiny,
save at the ends, where it was brushed stiffly up from a low protruding
forehead, which assorted well with his harsh voice and coarse manner. He
was about two or three and fifty, and a trifle below the middle size; he
wore a white neckerchief and a suit of scholastic black; but his coat
sleeves being a great deal too long, and his trousers a great deal too
short, he appeared ill at ease in his clothes.
In the corner of the room with Mr. Squeers was a very small deal trunk,
tied round with a scanty piece of cord, and on the trunk was perched--his
lace-up half-boots and corduroy trousers dangling in the air--a diminutive
boy, with his shoulders drawn up to his ears, and his hands planted on his
knees, who glanced timidly at the schoolmaster from time to time, with
evident dread and apprehension, and at last gave a violent sneeze.
"Halloa, sir!" growled the schoolmaster, turning round. "What's that,
"Nothing, please sir," said the little boy.
"Nothing, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Squeers.
"Please, sir, I sneezed," rejoined the boy, trembling till the little
trunk shook under him.
"Oh! sneezed, did you?" retorted Mr. Squeers. "Then what did you say
'nothing' for, sir?"
In default of a better answer to this question, the little boy screwed a
couple of knuckles into each of his eyes and began to cry; wherefore Mr.
Squeers knocked him off the trunk with a blow on one side of his face, and
knocked him on again with a blow on the other.
"Wait till I get you down into Yorkshire, my young gentleman," said Mr.
Squeers, "and then I'll give you the rest. Will you hold that noise, sir?"
"Ye-ye-yes," sobbed the little boy, rubbing his face very hard.
"Then do so at once, sir," said Squeers. "Do you hear?"
As this admonition was accompanied with a threatening gesture, and uttered
with a savage aspect, the little boy rubbed his face harder, and between
alternately sniffing and choking, gave no further vent to his emotions.
"Mr. Squeers," said the waiter, at this juncture; "here's a gentleman
asking for you."
"Show the gentleman in, Richard," replied Mr. Squeers, in a soft voice.
"Put your handkerchief in your pocket, you little scoundrel, or I'll
murder you when the gentleman goes."
The schoolmaster had scarcely uttered these words in a fierce whisper,
when the stranger entered. Affecting not to see him, Mr. Squeers feigned
to be intent upon mending a pen, and offering benevolent advice to his
"My dear child," said Mr. Squeers, "All people have their trials. This
early trial of yours that is fit to make your little heart burst, and your
very eyes come out of your head with crying, what is it? Less than
nothing. You are leaving your friends, but you will have a father in me,
my dear, and a mother in Mrs. Squeers. At the delightful village of
Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire, where youth are boarded,
clothed, booked, washed, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all
Here the waiting stranger interrupted with inquiries about sending his
boys to Mr. Squeers, and before he and Mr. Squeers had finished their
talk, Nicholas Nickleby entered. He briefly stated his desire for a
position, his having seen Mr. Squeers's "Herald" advertisement, and, after
more or less questioning and examination from the schoolmaster, Nicholas
was engaged as assistant master for Dotheboys Hall, and it was settled
that he was to go by coach with Mr. Squeers at eight o'clock the next
When he arrived, punctually at the appointed hour, he found that learned
gentleman sitting at breakfast, with five little boys, whom he was to take
down with him, ranged in a row on the opposite seat. Mr. Squeers had
before him a small measure of coffee, a plate of hot toast, and a cold
round of beef, but he was at that moment intent on preparing breakfast for
the little boys.
"This is twopenn'orth of milk, is it waiter?" said Mr. Squeers.
"That's twopenn'orth, sir," replied the waiter.
"What a rare article milk is, to be sure, in London!" said Mr. Squeers,
with a sigh. "Just fill that mug up with lukewarm water, William, will
"To the wery top, sir?" inquired the waiter. "Why, the milk will be
"Never you mind that," replied Mr. Squeers. "Serve it right for being so
dear. You ordered that thick bread and butter for three, did you?"
"Coming directly, sir."
"You needn't hurry yourself," said Squeers, "there's plenty of time.
Conquer your passions, boys, and don't be eager after vittles." As he
uttered this moral precept, Mr. Squeers took a large bite out of the cold
beef, and recognised Nicholas.
"Sit down, Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers. "Here we are, a breakfasting, you
Nicholas did _not_ see that anybody was breakfasting, except Mr. Squeers;
but he bowed with all becoming reverence, and looked as cheerful as he
"Oh, that's the milk and water, is it, William?" said Mr. Squeers. "Very
good; don't forget the bread and butter presently."
At this fresh mention of the bread and butter, the five little boys looked
very eager, and followed the waiter out, with their eyes; meanwhile Mr.
Squeers tasted the milk and water.
"Ah," said that gentleman, smacking his lips, "here's richness! Think of
the many beggars and orphans in the streets that would be glad of this,
little boys. A shocking thing hunger is, isn't it, Mr. Nickleby?"
"Very shocking, sir," said Nicholas.
"When I say number one," pursued Mr. Squeers, putting the mug before the
children, "the boy on the left hand nearest the window may take a drink;
and when I say number two, the boy next him will go in, and so till we
come to number five, which is the last boy. Are you ready?"
"Yes, sir," cried all the little boys with great eagerness.
"That's right," said Squeers, calmly getting on with his breakfast; "keep
ready till I tell you to begin. Subdue your appetites, my dears, and
you've conquered human natur. This is the way we inculcate strength of
mind, Mr. Nickleby," said the schoolmaster, turning to Nicholas.
Nicholas murmured something--he knew not what--in reply; and the little
boys, dividing their gaze between the mug, the bread and butter (which by
this time had arrived) and every morsel which Mr. Squeers took into his
mouth, remained with strained eyes in torments of expectation.
"Thank God for a good breakfast," said Squeers when he had finished.
"Number one may take a drink."
Number one seized the mug ravenously, and had just drunk enough to make
him wish for more, when Mr. Squeers gave the signal for number two, who
gave up at the same interesting moment to number three; and the process
was repeated until the milk and water terminated with number five.
"And now," said the schoolmaster, dividing the bread and butter for three
into as many portions as there were children, "you had better look sharp
with your breakfast, for the horn will blow in a minute or two, and then
every boy leaves off."
Permission being thus given to fall to, the boys began to eat voraciously,
and in desperate haste; while the schoolmaster (who was in high good
humour after his meal) looked smilingly on. In a very short time the horn
"I thought it wouldn't be long," said Squeers, jumping up and producing a
little basket from under the seat; "put what you haven't had time to eat,
in here, boys. You'll want it on the road!"
Nicholas was considerably startled by these very economical arrangements;
but he had no time to reflect upon them, for the little boys had to be got
up to the top of the coach, and their boxes had to be brought out and put
in, and Mr. Squeers's luggage was to be seen carefully deposited in the
boot, and all these offices were in his department.
Presently, however, the coach was off, and they had started on their long
trip, made doubly long by the severity of the weather, which caused them
to be detained several times; so it was not until six o'clock the
following night, that he and Mr. Squeers, and the little boys, were all
put down together at the George and New Inn, Greta Bridge.
"Is it much farther to Dotheboys Hall, sir?" asked Nicholas, when they had
started off, the little boys in one vehicle, he and Mr. Squeers in
"About three mile from here," replied Squeers. "But you needn't call it a
Hall down here. The fact is, it ain't a Hall," observed Squeers, drily.
"Oh, indeed!" said Nicholas, whom this piece of intelligence much
"No," replied Squeers. "We call it a Hall up in London, because it sounds
better, but they don't know it by that name in these parts. A man may call
his house an island if he likes; there's no act of Parliament against
that, I believe?"
"I believe not, sir," rejoined Nicholas.
Squeers eyed his companion slily at the conclusion of this little
dialogue, and finding that he had grown thoughtful and appeared in nowise
disposed to volunteer any observations, contented himself with lashing the
pony until they reached their journey's end.
"Jump out," said Squeers. "Hallo there! Come and put this horse up. Be
quick, will you!"
While the schoolmaster was uttering these and other impatient cries,
Nicholas had time to observe that the school was a long, cold-looking
house, one story high, with a few straggling outbuildings behind, and a
barn and stable adjoining. Mr. Squeers had dismounted, and after ordering
the boy, whom he called Smike, to see to the pony, and to take care that
he hadn't any more corn that night, he told Nicholas to wait at the front
door a minute, while he went round and let him in.
A host of unpleasant misgivings, which had been crowding upon Nicholas
during the whole journey, thronged into his mind. His great distance from
home, and the impossibility of reaching it, except on foot, should he feel
ever so anxious, presented itself to him in most alarming colours; and as
he looked up at the dreary house and dark windows, and upon the wild
country round, covered with snow, he felt a depression of heart and spirit
which he never had experienced before.
"Now, then!" cried Squeers, poking his head out at the front door, "Where
are you, Nickleby?"
"Here, sir," replied Nicholas.
"Come in, then," said Squeers, "the wind blows in, at this door, fit to
knock a man off his legs."
Nicholas sighed, and hurried in. Mr. Squeers ushered him into a small
parlour scantily furnished with a few chairs, a yellow map hung against
the wall, and a couple of tables; one of which bore some preparations for
supper. Mrs. Squeers then came in, and was duly made acquainted with
Nicholas, and after some conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Squeers, a
young servant girl brought in a Yorkshire pie, which being set upon the
table, the boy Smike appeared with a jug of ale.
Mr. Squeers meanwhile was emptying his great-coat pockets of letters to
different boys, which he had brought down. Smike glanced, with an anxious
and timid expression, at the papers, as if with a sickly hope that one
among them might relate to him. The look was a very painful one, and went
to Nicholas's heart at once; for it told a sad history. He considered the
boy more attentively, and was surprised to observe the extraordinary
mixture of garments which formed his dress. Although he could not have
been less than eighteen or nineteen years old, and was tall for that age,
he wore a skeleton suit, which, though most absurdly short in the arms and
legs, was quite wide enough for his attenuated frame. In order that the
lower part of his legs might be in keeping with this singular dress, he
had a very large pair of boots, originally made for tops, but now too
patched and tattered for a beggar. He was lame, and as he feigned to be
busy arranging the table, glanced at the letters with a look so keen, and
yet so dispirited and hopeless that Nicholas could hardly bear to watch
"What are you bothering about there, Smike?" cried Mrs. Squeers; "let the
things alone, can't you?"
"Eh," said Squeers, looking up. "Oh, it's you, is it?"
"Yes, sir," replied the youth, pressing his hands together, as though to
control, by force, the nervous wandering of his fingers. "Is there----"
"Well!" said Squeers.
"Have you--did anybody--has nothing been heard--about me?"
"Not a word," resumed Squeers, "and never will be. Now, this is a pretty
sort of thing, isn't it, that you should have been left here, all these
years, and no money paid after the first six--nor no notice taken, nor no
clue to be got who you belong to? It's a pretty sort of thing that I
should have to feed a great fellow like you, and never hope to get one
penny for it, isn't it?"
The boy put his hand to his head as if he were making an effort to
recollect something, and then, looking vacantly at his questioner,
gradually broke into a smile, and limped away.
The following morning, when Nicholas appeared downstairs, Mrs. Squeers was
in a state of great excitement.
"I can't find the school spoon anywhere," she said anxiously.
"Never mind it, my dear," observed Squeers in a soothing manner; "it's of
"No consequence? Why, how you talk!" retorted Mrs. Squeers sharply, "isn't
it brimstone morning?"
"I forgot, my dear," rejoined Squeers; "yes, it certainly is. We purify
the boys' bloods now and then, Nickleby."
"Oh! nonsense," rejoined Mrs. Squeers. "If the young man comes to be a
teacher here, let him understand, at once, that we don't want any foolery
about the boys. They have the brimstone and treacle, partly because if
they hadn't something or other in the way of medicine they 'd be always
ailing and giving a world of trouble, and partly because it spoils their
appetites and comes cheaper than breakfast and dinner. So, it does them
good and us good at the same time, and that's fair enough, I'm sure!"
"But come," said Squeers, "let's go to the schoolroom; and lend me a hand
with my school-coat, will you?"
Nicholas assisted his master to put on an old fustian shooting jacket, and
Squeers, arming himself with his cane, led the way across a yard, to a
door in the rear of the house.
"There," said the schoolmaster, as they stepped in together; "this is our
The "shop" was a bare and dirty room, with a couple of windows, whereof a
tenth part might be of glass, the remainder being stopped up with old
copybooks and paper. There were a couple of long, old rickety desks, cut
and notched, and inked, and damaged, in every possible way; two or three
forms; a detached desk for Squeers; and another for his assistant. The
ceiling was supported, like that of a barn, by cross beams and rafters;
and the walls were so stained and discoloured, that it was impossible to
tell whether they had ever been touched with paint or whitewash.
But the pupils! How the last faint traces of hope faded from the mind of
Nicholas as he looked in dismay around! There were pale and haggard faces,
lank and bony figures, boys of stunted growth; little faces which should
have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering;
vicious-faced boys, brooding with leaden eyes, with every kindly sympathy
and affection blasted in its birth, with every young and healthy feeling
flogged and starved down.
And yet this scene, painful as it was, had its grotesque features. Mrs.
Squeers stood at one of the desks, presiding over an immense basin of
brimstone and treacle, of which delicious compound she administered a
large instalment to each boy in succession: using for the purpose a common
wooden spoon, which widened every young gentleman's mouth considerably:
they being all obliged, under heavy corporal penalties, to take in the
whole of the bowl at a gasp.
In another corner, huddled together for companionship, were the little
boys who had arrived on the preceding night: at no great distance from
these was seated the juvenile son and heir of Mr. Squeers, Wackford by
name--a striking likeness of his father--kicking, with great vigour, under
the hands of Smike, who was fitting upon him a pair of new boots that bore
a most suspicious resemblance to those which the least of the little boys
had worn on the journey down--as the little boy himself seemed to think,
for he was regarding the appropriation with a look of rueful amazement.
"Now," said Squeers, giving the desk a great rap with his cane, which made
half the little boys nearly jump out of their boots, "is that physicking
"Just over," said Mrs. Squeers, choking the last boy in her hurry, and
tapping the crown of his head with the spoon to restore him. "Here, you
Smike; take away now. Look sharp!"
Smike shuffled out with the basin, and Mrs. Squeers, hurried out after him
into a wash-house where there were a number of little wooden bowls which
were arranged upon a board. Into these bowls, Mrs. Squeers poured a brown
composition, which was called porridge. A minute wedge of brown bread was
inserted in each bowl, and when they had eaten their porridge by means of
it, the boys ate the bread itself, and had finished their breakfast;