Charles Dickens.

Oliver Twist, Illustrated online

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garden-gate: and showed him, with great attention and respect, into
the house.

‘Mrs. Mann,’ said Mr. Bumble; not sitting upon, or dropping himself
into a seat, as any common jackanapes would: but letting himself
gradually and slowly down into a chair; ‘Mrs. Mann, ma’am, good
morning.’

‘Well, and good morning to _you_, sir,’ replied Mrs. Mann, with many
smiles; ‘and hoping you find yourself well, sir!’

‘So-so, Mrs. Mann,’ replied the beadle. ‘A porochial life is not a
bed of roses, Mrs. Mann.’

‘Ah, that it isn’t indeed, Mr. Bumble,’ rejoined the lady. And all
the infant paupers might have chorused the rejoinder with great
propriety, if they had heard it.

‘A porochial life, ma’am,’ continued Mr. Bumble, striking the table
with his cane, ‘is a life of worrit, and vexation, and hardihood;
but all public characters, as I may say, must suffer prosecution.’

Mrs. Mann, not very well knowing what the beadle meant, raised her
hands with a look of sympathy, and sighed.

‘Ah! You may well sigh, Mrs. Mann!’ said the beadle.

Finding she had done right, Mrs. Mann sighed again: evidently to the
satisfaction of the public character: who, repressing a complacent
smile by looking sternly at his cocked hat, said,

‘Mrs. Mann, I am going to London.’

‘Lauk, Mr. Bumble!’ cried Mrs. Mann, starting back.

‘To London, ma’am,’ resumed the inflexible beadle, ‘by coach. I
and two paupers, Mrs. Mann! A legal action is a coming on, about
a settlement; and the board has appointed me - me, Mrs. Mann - to
dispose to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell.

And I very much question,’ added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up,
‘whether the Clerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the
wrong box before they have done with me.’

‘Oh! you mustn’t be too hard upon them, sir,’ said Mrs. Mann,
coaxingly.

‘The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves, ma’am,’
replied Mr. Bumble; ‘and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find that they
come off rather worse than they expected, the Clerkinwell Sessions
have only themselves to thank.’

There was so much determination and depth of purpose about the
menacing manner in which Mr. Bumble delivered himself of these
words, that Mrs. Mann appeared quite awed by them. At length she
said,

‘You’re going by coach, sir? I thought it was always usual to send
them paupers in carts.’

‘That’s when they’re ill, Mrs. Mann,’ said the beadle. ‘We put the
sick paupers into open carts in the rainy weather, to prevent their
taking cold.’

‘Oh!’ said Mrs. Mann.

‘The opposition coach contracts for these two; and takes them
cheap,’ said Mr. Bumble. ‘They are both in a very low state, and
we find it would come two pound cheaper to move ‘em than to bury
‘em - that is, if we can throw ‘em upon another parish, which I think
we shall be able to do, if they don’t die upon the road to spite us.
Ha! ha! ha!’

When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little while, his eyes again
encountered the cocked hat; and he became grave.

‘We are forgetting business, ma’am,’ said the beadle; ‘here is your
porochial stipend for the month.’

Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paper, from his
pocket-book; and requested a receipt: which Mrs. Mann wrote.

‘It’s very much blotted, sir,’ said the farmer of infants; ‘but it’s
formal enough, I dare say. Thank you, Mr. Bumble, sir, I am very
much obliged to you, I’m sure.’

Mr. Bumble nodded, blandly, in acknowledgment of Mrs. Mann’s
curtsey; and inquired how the children were.

‘Bless their dear little hearts!’ said Mrs. Mann with emotion,
‘they’re as well as can be, the dears! Of course, except the two
that died last week. And little Dick.’

‘Isn’t that boy no better?’ inquired Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Mann shook her head.

‘He’s a ill-conditioned, wicious, bad-disposed porochial child
that,’ said Mr. Bumble angrily. ‘Where is he?’

‘I’ll bring him to you in one minute, sir,’ replied Mrs. Mann.
‘Here, you Dick!’

After some calling, Dick was discovered. Having had his face put
under the pump, and dried upon Mrs. Mann’s gown, he was led into the
awful presence of Mr. Bumble, the beadle.

The child was pale and thin; his cheeks were sunken; and his eyes
large and bright. The scanty parish dress, the livery of his misery,
hung loosely on his feeble body; and his young limbs had wasted
away, like those of an old man.

Such was the little being who stood trembling beneath Mr. Bumble’s
glance; not daring to lift his eyes from the floor; and dreading
even to hear the beadle’s voice.

‘Can’t you look at the gentleman, you obstinate boy?’ said Mrs.
Mann.

The child meekly raised his eyes, and encountered those of Mr.
Bumble.

‘What’s the matter with you, porochial Dick?’ inquired Mr. Bumble,
with well-timed jocularity.

‘Nothing, sir,’ replied the child faintly.

‘I should think not,’ said Mrs. Mann, who had of course laughed very
much at Mr. Bumble’s humour.

‘You want for nothing, I’m sure.’

‘I should like - ’ faltered the child.

‘Hey-day!’ interposed Mr. Mann, ‘I suppose you’re going to say that
you _do_ want for something, now? Why, you little wretch - ’

‘Stop, Mrs. Mann, stop!’ said the beadle, raising his hand with a
show of authority. ‘Like what, sir, eh?’

‘I should like,’ faltered the child, ‘if somebody that can write,
would put a few words down for me on a piece of paper, and fold it
up and seal it, and keep it for me, after I am laid in the ground.’

‘Why, what does the boy mean?’ exclaimed Mr. Bumble, on whom the
earnest manner and wan aspect of the child had made some impression:
accustomed as he was to such things. ‘What do you mean, sir?’

‘I should like,’ said the child, ‘to leave my dear love to poor
Oliver Twist; and to let him know how often I have sat by myself and
cried to think of his wandering about in the dark nights with nobody
to help him. And I should like to tell him,’ said the child pressing
his small hands together, and speaking with great fervour, ‘that I
was glad to die when I was very young; for, perhaps, if I had lived
to be a man, and had grown old, my little sister who is in Heaven,
might forget me, or be unlike me; and it would be so much happier if
we were both children there together.’

Mr. Bumble surveyed the little speaker, from head to foot, with
indescribable astonishment; and, turning to his companion, said,
‘They’re all in one story, Mrs. Mann. That out-dacious Oliver had
demogalized them all!’

‘I couldn’t have believed it, sir’ said Mrs Mann, holding up her
hands, and looking malignantly at Dick. ‘I never see such a hardened
little wretch!’

‘Take him away, ma’am!’ said Mr. Bumble imperiously. ‘This must be
stated to the board, Mrs. Mann.

‘I hope the gentleman will understand that it isn’t my fault, sir?’
said Mrs. Mann, whimpering pathetically.

‘They shall understand that, ma’am; they shall be acquainted with
the true state of the case,’ said Mr. Bumble. ‘There; take him away,
I can’t bear the sight on him.’

Dick was immediately taken away, and locked up in the coal-cellar.
Mr. Bumble shortly afterwards took himself off, to prepare for his
journey.

At six o’clock next morning, Mr. Bumble: having exchanged his cocked
hat for a round one, and encased his person in a blue great-coat
with a cape to it: took his place on the outside of the coach,
accompanied by the criminals whose settlement was disputed; with
whom, in due course of time, he arrived in London.

He experienced no other crosses on the way, than those which
originated in the perverse behaviour of the two paupers, who
persisted in shivering, and complaining of the cold, in a manner
which, Mr. Bumble declared, caused his teeth to chatter in his head,
and made him feel quite uncomfortable; although he had a great-coat
on.

Having disposed of these evil-minded persons for the night, Mr.
Bumble sat himself down in the house at which the coach stopped; and
took a temperate dinner of steaks, oyster sauce, and porter. Putting
a glass of hot gin-and-water on the chimney-piece, he drew his chair
to the fire; and, with sundry moral reflections on the too-prevalent
sin of discontent and complaining, composed himself to read the
paper.

The very first paragraph upon which Mr. Bumble’s eye rested, was the
following advertisement.

‘FIVE GUINEAS REWARD

‘Whereas a young boy, named Oliver Twist, absconded, or
enticed, on Thursday evening last, from his home, at was
Pentonville; and has not since been heard of. The above
reward will be paid to any person who will give such
information as will lead to the discovery of the said Oliver
Twist, or tend to throw any light upon his previous history,
in which the advertiser is, for many reasons, warmly
interested.’

And then followed a full description of Oliver’s dress, person,
appearance, and disappearance: with the name and address of Mr.
Brownlow at full length.

Mr. Bumble opened his eyes; read the advertisement, slowly and
carefully, three several times; and in something more than five
minutes was on his way to Pentonville: having actually, in his
excitement, left the glass of hot gin-and-water, untasted.

‘Is Mr. Brownlow at home?’ inquired Mr. Bumble of the girl who
opened the door.

To this inquiry the girl returned the not uncommon, but rather
evasive reply of ‘I don’t know; where do you come from?’

Mr. Bumble no sooner uttered Oliver’s name, in explanation of his
errand, than Mrs. Bedwin, who had been listening at the parlour
door, hastened into the passage in a breathless state.

‘Come in, come in,’ said the old lady: ‘I knew we should hear of
him. Poor dear! I knew we should! I was certain of it. Bless his
heart! I said so all along.’

Having heard this, the worthy old lady hurried back into the parlour
again; and seating herself on a sofa, burst into tears. The girl,
who was not quite so susceptible, had run upstairs meanwhile;
and now returned with a request that Mr. Bumble would follow her
immediately: which he did.

He was shown into the little back study, where sat Mr. Brownlow and
his friend Mr. Grimwig, with decanters and glasses before them. The
latter gentleman at once burst into the exclamation:

‘A beadle. A parish beadle, or I’ll eat my head.’

‘Pray don’t interrupt just now,’ said Mr. Brownlow. ‘Take a seat,
will you?’

Mr. Bumble sat himself down; quite confounded by the oddity of Mr.
Grimwig’s manner. Mr. Brownlow moved the lamp, so as to obtain an
uninterrupted view of the beadle’s countenance; and said, with a
little impatience, ‘Now, sir, you come in consequence of having seen
the advertisement?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mr. Bumble.

‘And you _are_ a beadle, are you not?’ inquired Mr. Grimwig.

‘I am a porochial beadle, gentlemen,’ rejoined Mr. Bumble proudly.

‘Of course,’ observed Mr. Grimwig aside to his friend, ‘I knew he
was. A beadle all over!’

Mr. Brownlow gently shook his head to impose silence on his friend,
and resumed:

‘Do you know where this poor boy is now?’

‘No more than nobody,’ replied Mr. Bumble.

‘Well, what _do_ you know of him?’ inquired the old gentleman. ‘Speak
out, my friend, if you have anything to say. What _do_ you know of
him?’

‘You don’t happen to know any good of him, do you?’ said Mr.
Grimwig, caustically; after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble’s
features.

Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head
with portentous solemnity.

‘You see?’ said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr. Brownlow.

Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble’s pursed-up
countenance; and requested him to communicate what he knew regarding
Oliver, in as few words as possible.

Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his arms;
inclined his head in a retrospective manner; and, after a few
moments’ reflection, commenced his story.

It would be tedious if given in the beadle’s words: occupying, as it
did, some twenty minutes in the telling; but the sum and substance
of it was, that Oliver was a foundling, born of low and vicious
parents. That he had, from his birth, displayed no better qualities
than treachery, ingratitude, and malice. That he had terminated his
brief career in the place of his birth, by making a sanguinary
and cowardly attack on an unoffending lad, and running away in the
night-time from his master’s house. In proof of his really being the
person he represented himself, Mr. Bumble laid upon the table the
papers he had brought to town. Folding his arms again, he then
awaited Mr. Brownlow’s observations.

‘I fear it is all too true,’ said the old gentleman sorrowfully,
after looking over the papers. ‘This is not much for your
intelligence; but I would gladly have given you treble the money, if
it had been favourable to the boy.’

It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of this
information at an earlier period of the interview, he might have
imparted a very different colouring to his little history. It was
too late to do it now, however; so he shook his head gravely, and,
pocketing the five guineas, withdrew.

Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes; evidently
so much disturbed by the beadle’s tale, that even Mr. Grimwig
forbore to vex him further.

At length he stopped, and rang the bell violently.

‘Mrs. Bedwin,’ said Mr. Brownlow, when the housekeeper appeared;
‘that boy, Oliver, is an imposter.’

‘It can’t be, sir. It cannot be,’ said the old lady energetically.

‘I tell you he is,’ retorted the old gentleman. ‘What do you mean by
can’t be? We have just heard a full account of him from his birth;
and he has been a thorough-paced little villain, all his life.’

‘I never will believe it, sir,’ replied the old lady, firmly.
‘Never!’

‘You old women never believe anything but quack-doctors, and lying
story-books,’ growled Mr. Grimwig. ‘I knew it all along. Why didn’t
you take my advise in the beginning; you would if he hadn’t had a
fever, I suppose, eh? He was interesting, wasn’t he? Interesting!
Bah!’ And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a flourish.

‘He was a dear, grateful, gentle child, sir,’ retorted Mrs. Bedwin,
indignantly. ‘I know what children are, sir; and have done these
forty years; and people who can’t say the same, shouldn’t say
anything about them. That’s my opinion!’

This was a hard hit at Mr. Grimwig, who was a bachelor. As it
extorted nothing from that gentleman but a smile, the old lady
tossed her head, and smoothed down her apron preparatory to another
speech, when she was stopped by Mr. Brownlow.

‘Silence!’ said the old gentleman, feigning an anger he was far from
feeling. ‘Never let me hear the boy’s name again. I rang to tell you
that. Never. Never, on any pretence, mind! You may leave the room,
Mrs. Bedwin. Remember! I am in earnest.’

There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow’s that night.

Oliver’s heart sank within him, when he thought of his good friends;
it was well for him that he could not know what they had heard, or
it might have broken outright.



CHAPTER XVIII - HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY
OF HIS REPUTABLE FRIENDS

About noon next day, when the Dodger and Master Bates had gone out
to pursue their customary avocations, Mr. Fagin took the opportunity
of reading Oliver a long lecture on the crying sin of ingratitude;
of which he clearly demonstrated he had been guilty, to no ordinary
extent, in wilfully absenting himself from the society of his
anxious friends; and, still more, in endeavouring to escape from
them after so much trouble and expense had been incurred in his
recovery. Mr. Fagin laid great stress on the fact of his having
taken Oliver in, and cherished him, when, without his timely aid,
he might have perished with hunger; and he related the dismal and
affecting history of a young lad whom, in his philanthropy, he had
succoured under parallel circumstances, but who, proving unworthy of
his confidence and evincing a desire to communicate with the police,
had unfortunately come to be hanged at the Old Bailey one morning.
Mr. Fagin did not seek to conceal his share in the catastrophe,
but lamented with tears in his eyes that the wrong-headed and
treacherous behaviour of the young person in question, had rendered
it necessary that he should become the victim of certain
evidence for the crown: which, if it were not precisely true, was
indispensably necessary for the safety of him (Mr. Fagin) and a few
select friends. Mr. Fagin concluded by drawing a rather disagreeable
picture of the discomforts of hanging; and, with great friendliness
and politeness of manner, expressed his anxious hopes that he
might never be obliged to submit Oliver Twist to that unpleasant
operation.

Little Oliver’s blood ran cold, as he listened to the Jew’s words,
and imperfectly comprehended the dark threats conveyed in them. That
it was possible even for justice itself to confound the innocent
with the guilty when they were in accidental companionship, he
knew already; and that deeply-laid plans for the destruction of
inconveniently knowing or over-communicative persons, had been
really devised and carried out by the Jew on more occasions than
one, he thought by no means unlikely, when he recollected the
general nature of the altercations between that gentleman and Mr.
Sikes: which seemed to bear reference to some foregone conspiracy
of the kind. As he glanced timidly up, and met the Jew’s searching
look, he felt that his pale face and trembling limbs were neither
unnoticed nor unrelished by that wary old gentleman.

The Jew, smiling hideously, patted Oliver on the head, and said,
that if he kept himself quiet, and applied himself to business, he
saw they would be very good friends yet. Then, taking his hat, and
covering himself with an old patched great-coat, he went out, and
locked the room-door behind him.

And so Oliver remained all that day, and for the greater part of
many subsequent days, seeing nobody, between early morning and
midnight, and left during the long hours to commune with his own
thoughts. Which, never failing to revert to his kind friends, and
the opinion they must long ago have formed of him, were sad indeed.

After the lapse of a week or so, the Jew left the room-door
unlocked; and he was at liberty to wander about the house.

It was a very dirty place. The rooms upstairs had great high wooden
chimney-pieces and large doors, with panelled walls and cornices to
the ceiling; which, although they were black with neglect and dust,
were ornamented in various ways. From all of these tokens Oliver
concluded that a long time ago, before the old Jew was born, it
had belonged to better people, and had perhaps been quite gay and
handsome: dismal and dreary as it looked now.

Spiders had built their webs in the angles of the walls and
ceilings; and sometimes, when Oliver walked softly into a room, the
mice would scamper across the floor, and run back terrified to their
holes. With these exceptions, there was neither sight nor sound of
any living thing; and often, when it grew dark, and he was tired of
wandering from room to room, he would crouch in the corner of the
passage by the street-door, to be as near living people as he could;
and would remain there, listening and counting the hours, until the
Jew or the boys returned.

In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed: the bars
which held them were screwed tight into the wood; the only light
which was admitted, stealing its way through round holes at the
top: which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with strange
shadows. There was a back-garret window with rusty bars outside,
which had no shutter; and out of this, Oliver often gazed with a
melancholy face for hours together; but nothing was to be descried
from it but a confused and crowded mass of housetops, blackened
chimneys, and gable-ends. Sometimes, indeed, a grizzly head might be
seen, peering over the parapet-wall of a distant house; but it was
quickly withdrawn again; and as the window of Oliver’s observatory
was nailed down, and dimmed with the rain and smoke of years, it
was as much as he could do to make out the forms of the different
objects beyond, without making any attempt to be seen or
heard, - which he had as much chance of being, as if he had lived
inside the ball of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that
evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to
evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do
him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him);
and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver to
assist him in his toilet, straightway.

Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have
some faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate
those about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any objection
in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed his readiness;
and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat upon the table so
that he could take his foot in his laps, he applied himself to
a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as ‘japanning his
trotter-cases.’ The phrase, rendered into plain English, signifieth,
cleaning his boots.

Whether it was the sense of freedom and independence which a
rational animal may be supposed to feel when he sits on a table in
an easy attitude smoking a pipe, swinging one leg carelessly to and
fro, and having his boots cleaned all the time, without even the
past trouble of having taken them off, or the prospective misery of
putting them on, to disturb his reflections; or whether it was the
goodness of the tobacco that soothed the feelings of the Dodger,
or the mildness of the beer that mollified his thoughts; he was
evidently tinctured, for the nonce, with a spice of romance and
enthusiasm, foreign to his general nature. He looked down on Oliver,
with a thoughtful countenance, for a brief space; and then, raising
his head, and heaving a gentle sign, said, half in abstraction, and
half to Master Bates:

‘What a pity it is he isn’t a prig!’

‘Ah!’ said Master Charles Bates; ‘he don’t know what’s good for
him.’

The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley Bates.
They both smoked, for some seconds, in silence.

‘I suppose you don’t even know what a prig is?’ said the Dodger
mournfully.

‘I think I know that,’ replied Oliver, looking up. ‘It’s a the - ;
you’re one, are you not?’ inquired Oliver, checking himself.

‘I am,’ replied the Dodger. ‘I’d scorn to be anything else.’ Mr.
Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cock, after delivering this
sentiment, and looked at Master Bates, as if to denote that he would
feel obliged by his saying anything to the contrary.

‘I am,’ repeated the Dodger. ‘So’s Charley. So’s Fagin. So’s Sikes.
So’s Nancy. So’s Bet. So we all are, down to the dog. And he’s the
downiest one of the lot!’

‘And the least given to peaching,’ added Charley Bates.

‘He wouldn’t so much as bark in a witness-box, for fear of
committing himself; no, not if you tied him up in one, and left him
there without wittles for a fortnight,’ said the Dodger.

‘Not a bit of it,’ observed Charley.

‘He’s a rum dog. Don’t he look fierce at any strange cove that
laughs or sings when he’s in company!’ pursued the Dodger. ‘Won’t
he growl at all, when he hears a fiddle playing! And don’t he hate
other dogs as ain’t of his breed! Oh, no!’

‘He’s an out-and-out Christian,’ said Charley.

This was merely intended as a tribute to the animal’s abilities, but
it was an appropriate remark in another sense, if Master Bates
had only known it; for there are a good many ladies and gentlemen,
claiming to be out-and-out Christians, between whom, and Mr. Sikes’
dog, there exist strong and singular points of resemblance.

‘Well, well,’ said the Dodger, recurring to the point from which
they had strayed: with that mindfulness of his profession which
influenced all his proceedings. ‘This hasn’t go anything to do with


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Online LibraryCharles DickensOliver Twist, Illustrated → online text (page 12 of 25)