Charles Dickens.

Oliver Twist, Illustrated online

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said the stouter man, smoothing down his hair, and laying a pair of
handcuffs on the table. ‘Oh! Good-evening, master. Can I have a word
or two with you in private, if you please?’

This was addressed to Mr. Losberne, who now made his appearance;
that gentleman, motioning Brittles to retire, brought in the two
ladies, and shut the door.

‘This is the lady of the house,’ said Mr. Losberne, motioning
towards Mrs. Maylie.

Mr. Blathers made a bow. Being desired to sit down, he put his hat
on the floor, and taking a chair, motioned to Duff to do the same.
The latter gentleman, who did not appear quite so much accustomed
to good society, or quite so much at his ease in it - one of the
two - seated himself, after undergoing several muscular affections
of the limbs, and the head of his stick into his mouth, with some
embarrassment.

‘Now, with regard to this here robbery, master,’ said Blathers.
‘What are the circumstances?’

Mr. Losberne, who appeared desirous of gaining time, recounted them
at great length, and with much circumlocution. Messrs. Blathers and
Duff looked very knowing meanwhile, and occasionally exchanged a
nod.

‘I can’t say, for certain, till I see the work, of course,’ said
Blathers; ‘but my opinion at once is, - I don’t mind committing
myself to that extent, - that this wasn’t done by a yokel; eh, Duff?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Duff.

‘And, translating the word yokel for the benefit of the ladies, I
apprehend your meaning to be, that this attempt was not made by a
countryman?’ said Mr. Losberne, with a smile.

‘That’s it, master,’ replied Blathers. ‘This is all about the
robbery, is it?’

‘All,’ replied the doctor.

‘Now, what is this, about this here boy that the servants are
a-talking on?’ said Blathers.

‘Nothing at all,’ replied the doctor. ‘One of the frightened
servants chose to take it into his head, that he had something to do
with this attempt to break into the house; but it’s nonsense: sheer
absurdity.’

‘Wery easy disposed of, if it is,’ remarked Duff.

‘What he says is quite correct,’ observed Blathers, nodding his head
in a confirmatory way, and playing carelessly with the handcuffs, as
if they were a pair of castanets. ‘Who is the boy? What account does
he give of himself? Where did he come from? He didn’t drop out of
the clouds, did he, master?’

‘Of course not,’ replied the doctor, with a nervous glance at the
two ladies. ‘I know his whole history: but we can talk about that
presently. You would like, first, to see the place where the thieves
made their attempt, I suppose?’

‘Certainly,’ rejoined Mr. Blathers. ‘We had better inspect the
premises first, and examine the servants afterwards. That’s the
usual way of doing business.’

Lights were then procured; and Messrs. Blathers and Duff, attended
by the native constable, Brittles, Giles, and everybody else in
short, went into the little room at the end of the passage and
looked out at the window; and afterwards went round by way of the
lawn, and looked in at the window; and after that, had a candle
handed out to inspect the shutter with; and after that, a lantern
to trace the footsteps with; and after that, a pitchfork to poke
the bushes with. This done, amidst the breathless interest of all
beholders, they came in again; and Mr. Giles and Brittles were put
through a melodramatic representation of their share in the previous
night’s adventures: which they performed some six times over:
contradicting each other, in not more than one important respect,
the first time, and in not more than a dozen the last. This
consummation being arrived at, Blathers and Duff cleared the room,
and held a long council together, compared with which, for secrecy
and solemnity, a consultation of great doctors on the knottiest
point in medicine, would be mere child’s play.

Meanwhile, the doctor walked up and down the next room in a very
uneasy state; and Mrs. Maylie and Rose looked on, with anxious
faces.

‘Upon my word,’ he said, making a halt, after a great number of very
rapid turns, ‘I hardly know what to do.’

‘Surely,’ said Rose, ‘the poor child’s story, faithfully repeated to
these men, will be sufficient to exonerate him.’

‘I doubt it, my dear young lady,’ said the doctor, shaking his head.
‘I don’t think it would exonerate him, either with them, or with
legal functionaries of a higher grade. What is he, after all, they
would say? A runaway. Judged by mere worldly considerations and
probabilities, his story is a very doubtful one.’

‘You believe it, surely?’ interrupted Rose.

‘_I_ believe it, strange as it is; and perhaps I may be an old fool
for doing so,’ rejoined the doctor; ‘but I don’t think it is exactly
the tale for a practical police-officer, nevertheless.’

‘Why not?’ demanded Rose.

‘Because, my pretty cross-examiner,’ replied the doctor: ‘because,
viewed with their eyes, there are many ugly points about it; he
can only prove the parts that look ill, and none of those that
look well. Confound the fellows, they _will_ have the why and the
wherefore, and will take nothing for granted. On his own showing,
you see, he has been the companion of thieves for some time past;
he has been carried to a police-officer, on a charge of picking
a gentleman’s pocket; he has been taken away, forcibly, from that
gentleman’s house, to a place which he cannot describe or point out,
and of the situation of which he has not the remotest idea. He is
brought down to Chertsey, by men who seem to have taken a violent
fancy to him, whether he will or no; and is put through a window to
rob a house; and then, just at the very moment when he is going to
alarm the inmates, and so do the very thing that would set him
all to rights, there rushes into the way, a blundering dog of a
half-bred butler, and shoots him! As if on purpose to prevent his
doing any good for himself! Don’t you see all this?’

‘I see it, of course,’ replied Rose, smiling at the doctor’s
impetuosity; ‘but still I do not see anything in it, to criminate
the poor child.’

‘No,’ replied the doctor; ‘of course not! Bless the bright eyes of
your sex! They never see, whether for good or bad, more than one
side of any question; and that is, always, the one which first
presents itself to them.’

Having given vent to this result of experience, the doctor put his
hands into his pockets, and walked up and down the room with even
greater rapidity than before.

‘The more I think of it,’ said the doctor, ‘the more I see that it
will occasion endless trouble and difficulty if we put these men
in possession of the boy’s real story. I am certain it will not be
believed; and even if they can do nothing to him in the end, still
the dragging it forward, and giving publicity to all the doubts
that will be cast upon it, must interfere, materially, with your
benevolent plan of rescuing him from misery.’

‘Oh! what is to be done?’ cried Rose. ‘Dear, dear! why did they send
for these people?’

‘Why, indeed!’ exclaimed Mrs. Maylie. ‘I would not have had them
here, for the world.’

‘All I know is,’ said Mr. Losberne, at last: sitting down with a
kind of desperate calmness, ‘that we must try and carry it off with
a bold face. The object is a good one, and that must be our
excuse. The boy has strong symptoms of fever upon him, and is in no
condition to be talked to any more; that’s one comfort. We must make
the best of it; and if bad be the best, it is no fault of ours. Come
in!’

‘Well, master,’ said Blathers, entering the room followed by his
colleague, and making the door fast, before he said any more. ‘This
warn’t a put-up thing.’

‘And what the devil’s a put-up thing?’ demanded the doctor,
impatiently.

‘We call it a put-up robbery, ladies,’ said Blathers, turning to
them, as if he pitied their ignorance, but had a contempt for the
doctor’s, ‘when the servants is in it.’

‘Nobody suspected them, in this case,’ said Mrs. Maylie.

‘Wery likely not, ma’am,’ replied Blathers; ‘but they might have
been in it, for all that.’

‘More likely on that wery account,’ said Duff.

‘We find it was a town hand,’ said Blathers, continuing his report;
‘for the style of work is first-rate.’

‘Wery pretty indeed it is,’ remarked Duff, in an undertone.

‘There was two of ‘em in it,’ continued Blathers; ‘and they had a
boy with ‘em; that’s plain from the size of the window. That’s all
to be said at present. We’ll see this lad that you’ve got upstairs
at once, if you please.’

‘Perhaps they will take something to drink first, Mrs. Maylie?’
said the doctor: his face brightening, as if some new thought had
occurred to him.

‘Oh! to be sure!’ exclaimed Rose, eagerly. ‘You shall have it
immediately, if you will.’

‘Why, thank you, miss!’ said Blathers, drawing his coat-sleeve
across his mouth; ‘it’s dry work, this sort of duty. Anythink that’s
handy, miss; don’t put yourself out of the way, on our accounts.’

‘What shall it be?’ asked the doctor, following the young lady to
the sideboard.

‘A little drop of spirits, master, if it’s all the same,’ replied
Blathers. ‘It’s a cold ride from London, ma’am; and I always find
that spirits comes home warmer to the feelings.’

This interesting communication was addressed to Mrs. Maylie, who
received it very graciously. While it was being conveyed to her, the
doctor slipped out of the room.

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Blathers: not holding his wine-glass by the stem,
but grasping the bottom between the thumb and forefinger of his left
hand: and placing it in front of his chest; ‘I have seen a good many
pieces of business like this, in my time, ladies.’

‘That crack down in the back lane at Edmonton, Blathers,’ said Mr.
Duff, assisting his colleague’s memory.

‘That was something in this way, warn’t it?’ rejoined Mr. Blathers;
‘that was done by Conkey Chickweed, that was.’

‘You always gave that to him’ replied Duff. ‘It was the Family Pet,
I tell you. Conkey hadn’t any more to do with it than I had.’

‘Get out!’ retorted Mr. Blathers; ‘I know better. Do you mind that
time when Conkey was robbed of his money, though? What a start that
was! Better than any novel-book _I_ ever see!’

‘What was that?’ inquired Rose: anxious to encourage any symptoms of
good-humour in the unwelcome visitors.

‘It was a robbery, miss, that hardly anybody would have been down
upon,’ said Blathers. ‘This here Conkey Chickweed - ’

‘Conkey means Nosey, ma’am,’ interposed Duff.

‘Of course the lady knows that, don’t she?’ demanded Mr. Blathers.
‘Always interrupting, you are, partner! This here Conkey Chickweed,
miss, kept a public-house over Battlebridge way, and he had a
cellar, where a good many young lords went to see cock-fighting, and
badger-drawing, and that; and a wery intellectual manner the sports
was conducted in, for I’ve seen ‘em off’en. He warn’t one of the
family, at that time; and one night he was robbed of three hundred
and twenty-seven guineas in a canvas bag, that was stole out of his
bedroom in the dead of night, by a tall man with a black patch
over his eye, who had concealed himself under the bed, and after
committing the robbery, jumped slap out of window: which was only a
story high. He was wery quick about it. But Conkey was quick, too;
for he fired a blunderbuss arter him, and roused the neighbourhood.
They set up a hue-and-cry, directly, and when they came to look
about ‘em, found that Conkey had hit the robber; for there was
traces of blood, all the way to some palings a good distance off;
and there they lost ‘em. However, he had made off with the blunt;
and, consequently, the name of Mr. Chickweed, licensed witler,
appeared in the Gazette among the other bankrupts; and all manner
of benefits and subscriptions, and I don’t know what all, was got
up for the poor man, who was in a wery low state of mind about his
loss, and went up and down the streets, for three or four days, a
pulling his hair off in such a desperate manner that many people was
afraid he might be going to make away with himself. One day he came
up to the office, all in a hurry, and had a private interview with
the magistrate, who, after a deal of talk, rings the bell, and
orders Jem Spyers in (Jem was a active officer), and tells him to
go and assist Mr. Chickweed in apprehending the man as robbed his
house. “I see him, Spyers,” said Chickweed, “pass my house yesterday
morning,” “Why didn’t you up, and collar him!” says Spyers. “I was
so struck all of a heap, that you might have fractured my skull with
a toothpick,” says the poor man; “but we’re sure to have him; for
between ten and eleven o’clock at night he passed again.” Spyers no
sooner heard this, than he put some clean linen and a comb, in his
pocket, in case he should have to stop a day or two; and away he
goes, and sets himself down at one of the public-house windows
behind the little red curtain, with his hat on, all ready to bolt
out, at a moment’s notice. He was smoking his pipe here, late at
night, when all of a sudden Chickweed roars out, “Here he is! Stop
thief! Murder!” Jem Spyers dashes out; and there he sees Chickweed,
a-tearing down the street full cry. Away goes Spyers; on goes
Chickweed; round turns the people; everybody roars out, “Thieves!”
and Chickweed himself keeps on shouting, all the time, like mad.
Spyers loses sight of him a minute as he turns a corner; shoots
round; sees a little crowd; dives in; “Which is the man?” “D - me!”
says Chickweed, “I’ve lost him again!” It was a remarkable
occurrence, but he warn’t to be seen nowhere, so they went back
to the public-house. Next morning, Spyers took his old place, and
looked out, from behind the curtain, for a tall man with a black
patch over his eye, till his own two eyes ached again. At last,
he couldn’t help shutting ‘em, to ease ‘em a minute; and the very
moment he did so, he hears Chickweed a-roaring out, “Here he is!”
Off he starts once more, with Chickweed half-way down the street
ahead of him; and after twice as long a run as the yesterday’s
one, the man’s lost again! This was done, once or twice more, till
one-half the neighbours gave out that Mr. Chickweed had been robbed
by the devil, who was playing tricks with him arterwards; and the
other half, that poor Mr. Chickweed had gone mad with grief.’

‘What did Jem Spyers say?’ inquired the doctor; who had returned to
the room shortly after the commencement of the story.

‘Jem Spyers,’ resumed the officer, ‘for a long time said nothing at
all, and listened to everything without seeming to, which showed he
understood his business. But, one morning, he walked into the bar,
and taking out his snuffbox, says “Chickweed, I’ve found out who
done this here robbery.” “Have you?” said Chickweed. “Oh, my dear
Spyers, only let me have wengeance, and I shall die contented! Oh,
my dear Spyers, where is the villain!” “Come!” said Spyers, offering
him a pinch of snuff, “none of that gammon! You did it yourself.” So
he had; and a good bit of money he had made by it, too; and nobody
would never have found it out, if he hadn’t been so precious
anxious to keep up appearances!’ said Mr. Blathers, putting down his
wine-glass, and clinking the handcuffs together.

‘Very curious, indeed,’ observed the doctor. ‘Now, if you please,
you can walk upstairs.’

‘If _you_ please, sir,’ returned Mr. Blathers. Closely following Mr.
Losberne, the two officers ascended to Oliver’s bedroom; Mr. Giles
preceding the party, with a lighted candle.

Oliver had been dozing; but looked worse, and was more feverish than
he had appeared yet. Being assisted by the doctor, he managed to sit
up in bed for a minute or so; and looked at the strangers without at
all understanding what was going forward - in fact, without seeming
to recollect where he was, or what had been passing.

‘This,’ said Mr. Losberne, speaking softly, but with great vehemence
notwithstanding, ‘this is the lad, who, being accidently wounded by
a spring-gun in some boyish trespass on Mr. What-d’ ye-call-him’s
grounds, at the back here, comes to the house for assistance this
morning, and is immediately laid hold of and maltreated, by that
ingenious gentleman with the candle in his hand: who has placed his
life in considerable danger, as I can professionally certify.’

Messrs. Blathers and Duff looked at Mr. Giles, as he was thus
recommended to their notice. The bewildered butler gazed from them
towards Oliver, and from Oliver towards Mr. Losberne, with a most
ludicrous mixture of fear and perplexity.

‘You don’t mean to deny that, I suppose?’ said the doctor, laying
Oliver gently down again.

‘It was all done for the - for the best, sir,’ answered Giles. ‘I am
sure I thought it was the boy, or I wouldn’t have meddled with him.
I am not of an inhuman disposition, sir.’

‘Thought it was what boy?’ inquired the senior officer.

‘The housebreaker’s boy, sir!’ replied Giles. ‘They - they certainly
had a boy.’

‘Well? Do you think so now?’ inquired Blathers.

‘Think what, now?’ replied Giles, looking vacantly at his
questioner.

‘Think it’s the same boy, Stupid-head?’ rejoined Blathers,
impatiently.

‘I don’t know; I really don’t know,’ said Giles, with a rueful
countenance. ‘I couldn’t swear to him.’

‘What do you think?’ asked Mr. Blathers.

‘I don’t know what to think,’ replied poor Giles. ‘I don’t think it
is the boy; indeed, I’m almost certain that it isn’t. You know it
can’t be.’

‘Has this man been a-drinking, sir?’ inquired Blathers, turning to
the doctor.

‘What a precious muddle-headed chap you are!’ said Duff, addressing
Mr. Giles, with supreme contempt.

Mr. Losberne had been feeling the patient’s pulse during this
short dialogue; but he now rose from the chair by the bedside, and
remarked, that if the officers had any doubts upon the subject, they
would perhaps like to step into the next room, and have Brittles
before them.

Acting upon this suggestion, they adjourned to a neighbouring
apartment, where Mr. Brittles, being called in, involved himself
and his respected superior in such a wonderful maze of fresh
contradictions and impossibilities, as tended to throw no particular
light on anything, but the fact of his own strong mystification;
except, indeed, his declarations that he shouldn’t know the real
boy, if he were put before him that instant; that he had only taken
Oliver to be he, because Mr. Giles had said he was; and that Mr.
Giles had, five minutes previously, admitted in the kitchen, that he
began to be very much afraid he had been a little too hasty.

Among other ingenious surmises, the question was then raised,
whether Mr. Giles had really hit anybody; and upon examination of
the fellow pistol to that which he had fired, it turned out to
have no more destructive loading than gunpowder and brown paper: a
discovery which made a considerable impression on everybody but the
doctor, who had drawn the ball about ten minutes before. Upon no
one, however, did it make a greater impression than on Mr. Giles
himself; who, after labouring, for some hours, under the fear of
having mortally wounded a fellow-creature, eagerly caught at this
new idea, and favoured it to the utmost. Finally, the officers,
without troubling themselves very much about Oliver, left the
Chertsey constable in the house, and took up their rest for that
night in the town; promising to return the next morning.

With the next morning, there came a rumour, that two men and a boy
were in the cage at Kingston, who had been apprehended over night
under suspicious circumstances; and to Kingston Messrs. Blathers and
Duff journeyed accordingly. The suspicious circumstances, however,
resolving themselves, on investigation, into the one fact, that they
had been discovered sleeping under a haystack; which, although a
great crime, is only punishable by imprisonment, and is, in the
merciful eye of the English law, and its comprehensive love of
all the King’s subjects, held to be no satisfactory proof, in the
absence of all other evidence, that the sleeper, or sleepers, have
committed burglary accompanied with violence, and have therefore
rendered themselves liable to the punishment of death; Messrs.
Blathers and Duff came back again, as wise as they went.

In short, after some more examination, and a great deal more
conversation, a neighbouring magistrate was readily induced to
take the joint bail of Mrs. Maylie and Mr. Losberne for Oliver’s
appearance if he should ever be called upon; and Blathers and Duff,
being rewarded with a couple of guineas, returned to town with
divided opinions on the subject of their expedition: the latter
gentleman on a mature consideration of all the circumstances,
inclining to the belief that the burglarious attempt had originated
with the Family Pet; and the former being equally disposed to
concede the full merit of it to the great Mr. Conkey Chickweed.

Meanwhile, Oliver gradually throve and prospered under the united
care of Mrs. Maylie, Rose, and the kind-hearted Mr. Losberne. If
fervent prayers, gushing from hearts overcharged with gratitude,
be heard in heaven - and if they be not, what prayers are! - the
blessings which the orphan child called down upon them, sunk into
their souls, diffusing peace and happiness.



CHAPTER XXXII - OF THE HAPPY LIFE OLIVER BEGAN TO LEAD WITH HIS
KIND FRIENDS

Oliver’s ailings were neither slight nor few. In addition to the
pain and delay attendant on a broken limb, his exposure to the wet
and cold had brought on fever and ague: which hung about him for
many weeks, and reduced him sadly. But, at length, he began, by slow
degrees, to get better, and to be able to say sometimes, in a few
tearful words, how deeply he felt the goodness of the two sweet
ladies, and how ardently he hoped that when he grew strong and well
again, he could do something to show his gratitude; only something,
which would let them see the love and duty with which his breast
was full; something, however slight, which would prove to them that
their gentle kindness had not been cast away; but that the poor boy
whom their charity had rescued from misery, or death, was eager to
serve them with his whole heart and soul.

‘Poor fellow!’ said Rose, when Oliver had been one day feebly
endeavouring to utter the words of thankfulness that rose to his
pale lips; ‘you shall have many opportunities of serving us, if you
will. We are going into the country, and my aunt intends that you
shall accompany us. The quiet place, the pure air, and all the
pleasure and beauties of spring, will restore you in a few days. We
will employ you in a hundred ways, when you can bear the trouble.’

‘The trouble!’ cried Oliver. ‘Oh! dear lady, if I could but work for
you; if I could only give you pleasure by watering your flowers, or
watching your birds, or running up and down the whole day long, to
make you happy; what would I give to do it!’

‘You shall give nothing at all,’ said Miss Maylie, smiling; ‘for, as
I told you before, we shall employ you in a hundred ways; and if you
only take half the trouble to please us, that you promise now, you
will make me very happy indeed.’

‘Happy, ma’am!’ cried Oliver; ‘how kind of you to say so!’

‘You will make me happier than I can tell you,’ replied the young
lady. ‘To think that my dear good aunt should have been the means of
rescuing any one from such sad misery as you have described to us,
would be an unspeakable pleasure to me; but to know that the object
of her goodness and compassion was sincerely grateful and attached,
in consequence, would delight me, more than you can well imagine. Do
you understand me?’ she inquired, watching Oliver’s thoughtful face.

‘Oh yes, ma’am, yes!’ replied Oliver eagerly; ‘but I was thinking
that I am ungrateful now.’

‘To whom?’ inquired the young lady.

‘To the kind gentleman, and the dear old nurse, who took so much
care of me before,’ rejoined Oliver. ‘If they knew how happy I am,
they would be pleased, I am sure.’

‘I am sure they would,’ rejoined Oliver’s benefactress; ‘and Mr.


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Online LibraryCharles DickensOliver Twist, Illustrated → online text (page 21 of 25)