Charles Dickens.

Oliver Twist, Illustrated online

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fortunate that the owner of the property declines to prosecute. Let
this be a lesson to you, my man, or the law will overtake you yet.
The boy is discharged. Clear the office!’

‘D - n me!’ cried the old gentleman, bursting out with the rage he
had kept down so long, ‘d - n me! I’ll - ’

‘Clear the office!’ said the magistrate. ‘Officers, do you hear?
Clear the office!’

The mandate was obeyed; and the indignant Mr. Brownlow was conveyed
out, with the book in one hand, and the bamboo cane in the other: in
a perfect phrenzy of rage and defiance. He reached the yard; and his
passion vanished in a moment. Little Oliver Twist lay on his back on
the pavement, with his shirt unbuttoned, and his temples bathed with
water; his face a deadly white; and a cold tremble convulsing his
whole frame.

‘Poor boy, poor boy!’ said Mr. Brownlow, bending over him. ‘Call a
coach, somebody, pray. Directly!’

A coach was obtained, and Oliver having been carefully laid on the
seat, the old gentleman got in and sat himself on the other.

‘May I accompany you?’ said the book-stall keeper, looking in.

‘Bless me, yes, my dear sir,’ said Mr. Brownlow quickly. ‘I forgot
you. Dear, dear! I have this unhappy book still! Jump in. Poor
fellow! There’s no time to lose.’

The book-stall keeper got into the coach; and away they drove.



CHAPTER XII - IN WHICH OLIVER IS TAKEN BETTER CARE OF THAN HE EVER
WAS BEFORE. AND IN WHICH THE NARRATIVE REVERTS TO THE MERRY OLD
GENTLEMAN AND HIS YOUTHFUL FRIENDS.

The coach rattled away, over nearly the same ground as that which
Oliver had traversed when he first entered London in company with
the Dodger; and, turning a different way when it reached the Angel
at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house, in a quiet
shady street near Pentonville. Here, a bed was prepared, without
loss of time, in which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge carefully
and comfortably deposited; and here, he was tended with a kindness
and solicitude that knew no bounds.

But, for many days, Oliver remained insensible to all the goodness
of his new friends. The sun rose and sank, and rose and sank again,
and many times after that; and still the boy lay stretched on his
uneasy bed, dwindling away beneath the dry and wasting heat of
fever. The worm does not work more surely on the dead body, than
does this slow creeping fire upon the living frame.

Weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke at last from what seemed to
have been a long and troubled dream. Feebly raising himself in the
bed, with his head resting on his trembling arm, he looked anxiously
around.

‘What room is this? Where have I been brought to?’ said Oliver.
‘This is not the place I went to sleep in.’

He uttered these words in a feeble voice, being very faint and weak;
but they were overheard at once. The curtain at the bed’s head
was hastily drawn back, and a motherly old lady, very neatly and
precisely dressed, rose as she undrew it, from an arm-chair close
by, in which she had been sitting at needle-work.

‘Hush, my dear,’ said the old lady softly. ‘You must be very quiet,
or you will be ill again; and you have been very bad, - as bad as bad
could be, pretty nigh. Lie down again; there’s a dear!’ With those
words, the old lady very gently placed Oliver’s head upon the
pillow; and, smoothing back his hair from his forehead, looked so
kindly and loving in his face, that he could not help placing his
little withered hand in hers, and drawing it round his neck.

‘Save us!’ said the old lady, with tears in her eyes. ‘What a
grateful little dear it is. Pretty creetur! What would his mother
feel if she had sat by him as I have, and could see him now!’

‘Perhaps she does see me,’ whispered Oliver, folding his hands
together; ‘perhaps she has sat by me. I almost feel as if she had.’

‘That was the fever, my dear,’ said the old lady mildly.

‘I suppose it was,’ replied Oliver, ‘because heaven is a long way
off; and they are too happy there, to come down to the bedside of a
poor boy. But if she knew I was ill, she must have pitied me, even
there; for she was very ill herself before she died. She can’t know
anything about me though,’ added Oliver after a moment’s silence.
‘If she had seen me hurt, it would have made her sorrowful; and her
face has always looked sweet and happy, when I have dreamed of her.’

The old lady made no reply to this; but wiping her eyes first, and
her spectacles, which lay on the counterpane, afterwards, as if they
were part and parcel of those features, brought some cool stuff for
Oliver to drink; and then, patting him on the cheek, told him he
must lie very quiet, or he would be ill again.

So, Oliver kept very still; partly because he was anxious to obey
the kind old lady in all things; and partly, to tell the truth,
because he was completely exhausted with what he had already said.
He soon fell into a gentle doze, from which he was awakened by the
light of a candle: which, being brought near the bed, showed him a
gentleman with a very large and loud-ticking gold watch in his hand,
who felt his pulse, and said he was a great deal better.

‘You _are_ a great deal better, are you not, my dear?’ said the
gentleman.

‘Yes, thank you, sir,’ replied Oliver.

‘Yes, I know you are,’ said the gentleman: ‘You’re hungry too, an’t
you?’

‘No, sir,’ answered Oliver.

‘Hem!’ said the gentleman. ‘No, I know you’re not. He is not hungry,
Mrs. Bedwin,’ said the gentleman: looking very wise.

The old lady made a respectful inclination of the head, which seemed
to say that she thought the doctor was a very clever man. The doctor
appeared much of the same opinion himself.

‘You feel sleepy, don’t you, my dear?’ said the doctor.

‘No, sir,’ replied Oliver.

‘No,’ said the doctor, with a very shrewd and satisfied look.
‘You’re not sleepy. Nor thirsty. Are you?’

‘Yes, sir, rather thirsty,’ answered Oliver.

‘Just as I expected, Mrs. Bedwin,’ said the doctor. ‘It’s very
natural that he should be thirsty. You may give him a little tea,
ma’am, and some dry toast without any butter. Don’t keep him too
warm, ma’am; but be careful that you don’t let him be too cold; will
you have the goodness?’

The old lady dropped a curtsey. The doctor, after tasting the cool
stuff, and expressing a qualified approval of it, hurried away: his
boots creaking in a very important and wealthy manner as he went
downstairs.

Oliver dozed off again, soon after this; when he awoke, it was
nearly twelve o’clock. The old lady tenderly bade him good-night
shortly afterwards, and left him in charge of a fat old woman who
had just come: bringing with her, in a little bundle, a small Prayer
Book and a large nightcap. Putting the latter on her head and the
former on the table, the old woman, after telling Oliver that she
had come to sit up with him, drew her chair close to the fire
and went off into a series of short naps, chequered at frequent
intervals with sundry tumblings forward, and divers moans and
chokings. These, however, had no worse effect than causing her to
rub her nose very hard, and then fall asleep again.

And thus the night crept slowly on. Oliver lay awake for some time,
counting the little circles of light which the reflection of the
rushlight-shade threw upon the ceiling; or tracing with his languid
eyes the intricate pattern of the paper on the wall. The darkness
and the deep stillness of the room were very solemn; as they brought
into the boy’s mind the thought that death had been hovering there,
for many days and nights, and might yet fill it with the gloom and
dread of his awful presence, he turned his face upon the pillow, and
fervently prayed to Heaven.

Gradually, he fell into that deep tranquil sleep which ease from
recent suffering alone imparts; that calm and peaceful rest which it
is pain to wake from. Who, if this were death, would be roused again
to all the struggles and turmoils of life; to all its cares for
the present; its anxieties for the future; more than all, its weary
recollections of the past!

It had been bright day, for hours, when Oliver opened his eyes; he
felt cheerful and happy. The crisis of the disease was safely past.
He belonged to the world again.

In three days’ time he was able to sit in an easy-chair, well
propped up with pillows; and, as he was still too weak to walk,
Mrs. Bedwin had him carried downstairs into the little housekeeper’s
room, which belonged to her. Having him set, here, by the fire-side,
the good old lady sat herself down too; and, being in a state of
considerable delight at seeing him so much better, forthwith began
to cry most violently.

‘Never mind me, my dear,’ said the old lady; ‘I’m only having
a regular good cry. There; it’s all over now; and I’m quite
comfortable.’

‘You’re very, very kind to me, ma’am,’ said Oliver.

‘Well, never you mind that, my dear,’ said the old lady; ‘that’s got
nothing to do with your broth; and it’s full time you had it; for
the doctor says Mr. Brownlow may come in to see you this morning;
and we must get up our best looks, because the better we look, the
more he’ll be pleased.’ And with this, the old lady applied herself
to warming up, in a little saucepan, a basin full of broth: strong
enough, Oliver thought, to furnish an ample dinner, when reduced to
the regulation strength, for three hundred and fifty paupers, at the
lowest computation.

‘Are you fond of pictures, dear?’ inquired the old lady, seeing that
Oliver had fixed his eyes, most intently, on a portrait which hung
against the wall; just opposite his chair.

‘I don’t quite know, ma’am,’ said Oliver, without taking his eyes
from the canvas; ‘I have seen so few that I hardly know. What a
beautiful, mild face that lady’s is!’

‘Ah!’ said the old lady, ‘painters always make ladies out prettier
than they are, or they wouldn’t get any custom, child. The man that
invented the machine for taking likenesses might have known that
would never succeed; it’s a deal too honest. A deal,’ said the old
lady, laughing very heartily at her own acuteness.

‘Is - is that a likeness, ma’am?’ said Oliver.

‘Yes,’ said the old lady, looking up for a moment from the broth;
‘that’s a portrait.’

‘Whose, ma’am?’ asked Oliver.

‘Why, really, my dear, I don’t know,’ answered the old lady in a
good-humoured manner. ‘It’s not a likeness of anybody that you or I
know, I expect. It seems to strike your fancy, dear.’

‘It is so pretty,’ replied Oliver.

‘Why, sure you’re not afraid of it?’ said the old lady: observing
in great surprise, the look of awe with which the child regarded the
painting.

‘Oh no, no,’ returned Oliver quickly; ‘but the eyes look so
sorrowful; and where I sit, they seem fixed upon me. It makes my
heart beat,’ added Oliver in a low voice, ‘as if it was alive, and
wanted to speak to me, but couldn’t.’

‘Lord save us!’ exclaimed the old lady, starting; ‘don’t talk in
that way, child. You’re weak and nervous after your illness. Let me
wheel your chair round to the other side; and then you won’t see
it. There!’ said the old lady, suiting the action to the word; ‘you
don’t see it now, at all events.’

Oliver _did_ see it in his mind’s eye as distinctly as if he had not
altered his position; but he thought it better not to worry the
kind old lady; so he smiled gently when she looked at him; and Mrs.
Bedwin, satisfied that he felt more comfortable, salted and broke
bits of toasted bread into the broth, with all the bustle befitting
so solemn a preparation. Oliver got through it with extraordinary
expedition. He had scarcely swallowed the last spoonful, when there
came a soft rap at the door. ‘Come in,’ said the old lady; and in
walked Mr. Brownlow.

Now, the old gentleman came in as brisk as need be; but, he had no
sooner raised his spectacles on his forehead, and thrust his hands
behind the skirts of his dressing-gown to take a good long look at
Oliver, than his countenance underwent a very great variety of odd
contortions. Oliver looked very worn and shadowy from sickness,
and made an ineffectual attempt to stand up, out of respect to his
benefactor, which terminated in his sinking back into the chair
again; and the fact is, if the truth must be told, that Mr.
Brownlow’s heart, being large enough for any six ordinary old
gentlemen of humane disposition, forced a supply of tears into
his eyes, by some hydraulic process which we are not sufficiently
philosophical to be in a condition to explain.

‘Poor boy, poor boy!’ said Mr. Brownlow, clearing his throat. ‘I’m
rather hoarse this morning, Mrs. Bedwin. I’m afraid I have caught
cold.’

‘I hope not, sir,’ said Mrs. Bedwin. ‘Everything you have had, has
been well aired, sir.’

‘I don’t know, Bedwin. I don’t know,’ said Mr. Brownlow; ‘I rather
think I had a damp napkin at dinner-time yesterday; but never mind
that. How do you feel, my dear?’

‘Very happy, sir,’ replied Oliver. ‘And very grateful indeed, sir,
for your goodness to me.’

‘Good by,’ said Mr. Brownlow, stoutly. ‘Have you given him any
nourishment, Bedwin? Any slops, eh?’

‘He has just had a basin of beautiful strong broth, sir,’ replied
Mrs. Bedwin: drawing herself up slightly, and laying strong emphasis
on the last word: to intimate that between slops, and broth will
compounded, there existed no affinity or connection whatsoever.

‘Ugh!’ said Mr. Brownlow, with a slight shudder; ‘a couple of
glasses of port wine would have done him a great deal more good.
Wouldn’t they, Tom White, eh?’

‘My name is Oliver, sir,’ replied the little invalid: with a look of
great astonishment.

‘Oliver,’ said Mr. Brownlow; ‘Oliver what? Oliver White, eh?’

‘No, sir, Twist, Oliver Twist.’

‘Queer name!’ said the old gentleman. ‘What made you tell the
magistrate your name was White?’

‘I never told him so, sir,’ returned Oliver in amazement.

This sounded so like a falsehood, that the old gentleman looked
somewhat sternly in Oliver’s face. It was impossible to doubt him;
there was truth in every one of its thin and sharpened lineaments.

‘Some mistake,’ said Mr. Brownlow. But, although his motive for
looking steadily at Oliver no longer existed, the old idea of the
resemblance between his features and some familiar face came upon
him so strongly, that he could not withdraw his gaze.

‘I hope you are not angry with me, sir?’ said Oliver, raising his
eyes beseechingly.

‘No, no,’ replied the old gentleman. ‘Why! what’s this? Bedwin, look
there!’

As he spoke, he pointed hastily to the picture over Oliver’s head,
and then to the boy’s face. There was its living copy. The eyes, the
head, the mouth; every feature was the same. The expression was,
for the instant, so precisely alike, that the minutest line seemed
copied with startling accuracy!

Oliver knew not the cause of this sudden exclamation; for, not being
strong enough to bear the start it gave him, he fainted away. A
weakness on his part, which affords the narrative an opportunity
of relieving the reader from suspense, in behalf of the two young
pupils of the Merry Old Gentleman; and of recording -

That when the Dodger, and his accomplished friend Master Bates,
joined in the hue-and-cry which was raised at Oliver’s heels,
in consequence of their executing an illegal conveyance of Mr.
Brownlow’s personal property, as has been already described, they
were actuated by a very laudable and becoming regard for themselves;
and forasmuch as the freedom of the subject and the liberty of the
individual are among the first and proudest boasts of a true-hearted
Englishman, so, I need hardly beg the reader to observe, that this
action should tend to exalt them in the opinion of all public and
patriotic men, in almost as great a degree as this strong proof
of their anxiety for their own preservation and safety goes to
corroborate and confirm the little code of laws which certain
profound and sound-judging philosophers have laid down as
the main-springs of all Nature’s deeds and actions: the said
philosophers very wisely reducing the good lady’s proceedings
to matters of maxim and theory: and, by a very neat and pretty
compliment to her exalted wisdom and understanding, putting entirely
out of sight any considerations of heart, or generous impulse and
feeling. For, these are matters totally beneath a female who is
acknowledged by universal admission to be far above the numerous
little foibles and weaknesses of her sex.

If I wanted any further proof of the strictly philosophical nature
of the conduct of these young gentlemen in their very delicate
predicament, I should at once find it in the fact (also recorded in
a foregoing part of this narrative), of their quitting the pursuit,
when the general attention was fixed upon Oliver; and making
immediately for their home by the shortest possible cut. Although
I do not mean to assert that it is usually the practice of renowned
and learned sages, to shorten the road to any great conclusion
(their course indeed being rather to lengthen the distance, by
various circumlocutions and discursive staggerings, like unto those
in which drunken men under the pressure of a too mighty flow of
ideas, are prone to indulge); still, I do mean to say, and do
say distinctly, that it is the invariable practice of many mighty
philosophers, in carrying out their theories, to evince great wisdom
and foresight in providing against every possible contingency which
can be supposed at all likely to affect themselves. Thus, to do a
great right, you may do a little wrong; and you may take any means
which the end to be attained, will justify; the amount of the right,
or the amount of the wrong, or indeed the distinction between the
two, being left entirely to the philosopher concerned, to be settled
and determined by his clear, comprehensive, and impartial view of
his own particular case.

It was not until the two boys had scoured, with great rapidity,
through a most intricate maze of narrow streets and courts, that
they ventured to halt beneath a low and dark archway. Having
remained silent here, just long enough to recover breath to speak,
Master Bates uttered an exclamation of amusement and delight; and,
bursting into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, flung himself upon
a doorstep, and rolled thereon in a transport of mirth.

‘What’s the matter?’ inquired the Dodger.

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ roared Charley Bates.

‘Hold your noise,’ remonstrated the Dodger, looking cautiously
round. ‘Do you want to be grabbed, stupid?’

‘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 again’ the posts, and starting on again as if he was
made of iron as well as them, 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. As he
arrived at this apostrophe, he again rolled upon the door-step, and
laughed louder than before.

‘What’ll Fagin say?’ inquired the Dodger; taking advantage of
the next interval of breathlessness on the part of his friend to
propound the question.

‘What?’ repeated Charley Bates.

‘Ah, what?’ said the Dodger.

‘Why, what should he say?’ inquired Charley: stopping rather
suddenly in his merriment; for the Dodger’s manner was impressive.
‘What should he say?’

Mr. Dawkins whistled for a couple of minutes; then, taking off his
hat, scratched his head, and nodded thrice.

‘What do you mean?’ said Charley.

‘Toor rul lol loo, gammon and spinnage, the frog he wouldn’t,
and high cockolorum,’ said the Dodger: with a slight sneer on his
intellectual countenance.

This was explanatory, but not satisfactory. Master Bates felt it so;
and again said, ‘What do you mean?’

The Dodger made no reply; but putting his hat on again, and
gathering the skirts of his long-tailed coat under his arm, thrust
his tongue into his cheek, slapped the bridge of his nose some
half-dozen times in a familiar but expressive manner, and turning
on his heel, slunk down the court. Master Bates followed, with a
thoughtful countenance.

The noise of footsteps on the creaking stairs, a few minutes after
the occurrence of this conversation, roused the merry old gentleman
as he sat over the fire with a saveloy and a small loaf in his hand;
a pocket-knife in his right; and a pewter pot on the trivet. There
was a rascally smile on his white face as he turned round, and
looking sharply out from under his thick red eyebrows, bent his ear
towards the door, and listened.

‘Why, how’s this?’ muttered the Jew: changing countenance; ‘only two
of ‘em? Where’s the third? They can’t have got into trouble. Hark!’

The footsteps approached nearer; they reached the landing. The door
was slowly opened; and the Dodger and Charley Bates entered, closing
it behind them.



CHAPTER XIII - SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES ARE INTRODUCED TO THE
INTELLIGENT READER, CONNECTED WITH WHOM VARIOUS PLEASANT MATTERS ARE
RELATED, APPERTAINING TO THIS HISTORY

‘Where’s Oliver?’ said the Jew, rising with a menacing look.
‘Where’s the boy?’

The young thieves eyed their preceptor as if they were alarmed at
his violence; and looked uneasily at each other. But they made no
reply.

‘What’s become of the boy?’ said the Jew, seizing the Dodger tightly
by the collar, and threatening him with horrid imprecations. ‘Speak
out, or I’ll throttle you!’

Mr. Fagin looked so very much in earnest, that Charley Bates, who
deemed it prudent in all cases to be on the safe side, and who
conceived it by no means improbable that it might be his turn to
be throttled second, dropped upon his knees, and raised a loud,
well-sustained, and continuous roar - something between a mad bull
and a speaking trumpet.

‘Will you speak?’ thundered the Jew: shaking the Dodger so much that
his keeping in the big coat at all, seemed perfectly miraculous.

‘Why, the traps have got him, and that’s all about it,’ said the
Dodger, sullenly. ‘Come, let go o’ me, will you!’ And, swinging
himself, at one jerk, clean out of the big coat, which he left in
the Jew’s hands, the Dodger snatched up the toasting fork, and made
a pass at the merry old gentleman’s waistcoat; which, if it had
taken effect, would have let a little more merriment out than could
have been easily replaced.

The Jew stepped back in this emergency, with more agility than could
have been anticipated in a man of his apparent decrepitude; and,
seizing up the pot, prepared to hurl it at his assailant’s head. But
Charley Bates, at this moment, calling his attention by a perfectly
terrific howl, he suddenly altered its destination, and flung it
full at that young gentleman.

‘Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!’ growled a deep voice.
‘Who pitched that ‘ere at me? It’s well it’s the beer, and not the
pot, as hit me, or I’d have settled somebody. I might have know’d,
as nobody but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew
could afford to throw away any drink but water - and not that, unless
he done the River Company every quarter. Wot’s it all about, Fagin?
D - me, if my neck-handkercher an’t lined with beer! Come in, you
sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping outside for, as if you was
ashamed of your master! Come in!’

The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of
about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled
drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which
inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves; - the kind
of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and
incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had
a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his
neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from
his face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad
heavy countenance with a beard of three days’ growth, and two
scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured
symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.

‘Come in, d’ye hear?’ growled this engaging ruffian.



Online LibraryCharles DickensOliver Twist, Illustrated → online text (page 8 of 25)