Charles Dickens.

Oliver Twist, Illustrated online

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A white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty
different places, skulked into the room.

‘Why didn’t you come in afore?’ said the man. ‘You’re getting too
proud to own me afore company, are you? Lie down!’

This command was accompanied with a kick, which sent the animal to
the other end of the room. He appeared well used to it, however; for
he coiled himself up in a corner very quietly, without uttering
a sound, and winking his very ill-looking eyes twenty times in
a minute, appeared to occupy himself in taking a survey of the
apartment.

‘What are you up to? Ill-treating the boys, you covetous,
avaricious, in-sa-ti-a-ble old fence?’ said the man, seating himself
deliberately. ‘I wonder they don’t murder you! I would if I was
them. If I’d been your ‘prentice, I’d have done it long ago,
and - no, I couldn’t have sold you afterwards, for you’re fit for
nothing but keeping as a curiousity of ugliness in a glass bottle,
and I suppose they don’t blow glass bottles large enough.’

‘Hush! hush! Mr. Sikes,’ said the Jew, trembling; ‘don’t speak so
loud!’

‘None of your mistering,’ replied the ruffian; ‘you always mean
mischief when you come that. You know my name: out with it! I shan’t
disgrace it when the time comes.’

‘Well, well, then - Bill Sikes,’ said the Jew, with abject humility.
‘You seem out of humour, Bill.’

‘Perhaps I am,’ replied Sikes; ‘I should think you was rather out of
sorts too, unless you mean as little harm when you throw pewter pots
about, as you do when you blab and - ’

‘Are you mad?’ said the Jew, catching the man by the sleeve, and
pointing towards the boys.

Mr. Sikes contented himself with tying an imaginary knot under his
left ear, and jerking his head over on the right shoulder; a piece
of dumb show which the Jew appeared to understand perfectly.
He then, in cant terms, with which his whole conversation was
plentifully besprinkled, but which would be quite unintelligible if
they were recorded here, demanded a glass of liquor.

‘And mind you don’t poison it,’ said Mr. Sikes, laying his hat upon
the table.

This was said in jest; but if the speaker could have seen the evil
leer with which the Jew bit his pale lip as he turned round to the
cupboard, he might have thought the caution not wholly unnecessary,
or the wish (at all events) to improve upon the distiller’s
ingenuity not very far from the old gentleman’s merry heart.

After swallowing two of three glasses of spirits, Mr. Sikes
condescended to take some notice of the young gentlemen; which
gracious act led to a conversation, in which the cause and manner
of Oliver’s capture were circumstantially detailed, with such
alterations and improvements on the truth, as to the Dodger appeared
most advisable under the circumstances.

‘I’m afraid,’ said the Jew, ‘that he may say something which will
get us into trouble.’

‘That’s very likely,’ returned Sikes with a malicious grin. ‘You’re
blowed upon, Fagin.’

‘And I’m afraid, you see,’ added the Jew, speaking as if he had not
noticed the interruption; and regarding the other closely as he did
so, - ‘I’m afraid that, if the game was up with us, it might be up
with a good many more, and that it would come out rather worse for
you than it would for me, my dear.’

The man started, and turned round upon the Jew. But the old
gentleman’s shoulders were shrugged up to his ears; and his eyes
were vacantly staring on the opposite wall.

There was a long pause. Every member of the respectable coterie
appeared plunged in his own reflections; not excepting the dog, who
by a certain malicious licking of his lips seemed to be meditating
an attack upon the legs of the first gentleman or lady he might
encounter in the streets when he went out.

‘Somebody must find out wot’s been done at the office,’ said Mr.
Sikes in a much lower tone than he had taken since he came in.

The Jew nodded assent.

‘If he hasn’t peached, and is committed, there’s no fear till he
comes out again,’ said Mr. Sikes, ‘and then he must be taken care
on. You must get hold of him somehow.’

Again the Jew nodded.

The prudence of this line of action, indeed, was obvious; but,
unfortunately, there was one very strong objection to its being
adopted. This was, that the Dodger, and Charley Bates, and Fagin,
and Mr. William Sikes, happened, one and all, to entertain a violent
and deeply-rooted antipathy to going near a police-office on any
ground or pretext whatever.

How long they might have sat and looked at each other, in a state
of uncertainty not the most pleasant of its kind, it is difficult
to guess. It is not necessary to make any guesses on the subject,
however; for the sudden entrance of the two young ladies whom Oliver
had seen on a former occasion, caused the conversation to flow
afresh.

‘The very thing!’ said the Jew. ‘Bet will go; won’t you, my dear?’

‘Wheres?’ inquired the young lady.

‘Only just up to the office, my dear,’ said the Jew coaxingly.

It is due to the young lady to say that she did not positively
affirm that she would not, but that she merely expressed an emphatic
and earnest desire to be ‘blessed’ if she would; a polite and
delicate evasion of the request, which shows the young lady to have
been possessed of that natural good breeding which cannot bear to
inflict upon a fellow-creature, the pain of a direct and pointed
refusal.

The Jew’s countenance fell. He turned from this young lady, who was
gaily, not to say gorgeously attired, in a red gown, green boots,
and yellow curl-papers, to the other female.

‘Nancy, my dear,’ said the Jew in a soothing manner, ‘what do _you_
say?’

‘That it won’t do; so it’s no use a-trying it on, Fagin,’ replied
Nancy.

‘What do you mean by that?’ said Mr. Sikes, looking up in a surly
manner.

‘What I say, Bill,’ replied the lady collectedly.

‘Why, you’re just the very person for it,’ reasoned Mr. Sikes:
‘nobody about here knows anything of you.’

‘And as I don’t want ‘em to, neither,’ replied Nancy in the same
composed manner, ‘it’s rather more no than yes with me, Bill.’

‘She’ll go, Fagin,’ said Sikes.

‘No, she won’t, Fagin,’ said Nancy.

‘Yes, she will, Fagin,’ said Sikes.

And Mr. Sikes was right. By dint of alternate threats, promises,
and bribes, the lady in question was ultimately prevailed upon to
undertake the commission. She was not, indeed, withheld by the same
considerations as her agreeable friend; for, having recently removed
into the neighborhood of Field Lane from the remote but genteel
suburb of Ratcliffe, she was not under the same apprehension of
being recognised by any of her numerous acquaintances.

Accordingly, with a clean white apron tied over her gown, and her
curl-papers tucked up under a straw bonnet, - both articles of dress
being provided from the Jew’s inexhaustible stock, - Miss Nancy
prepared to issue forth on her errand.

‘Stop a minute, my dear,’ said the Jew, producing, a little covered
basket. ‘Carry that in one hand. It looks more respectable, my
dear.’

‘Give her a door-key to carry in her t’other one, Fagin,’ said
Sikes; ‘it looks real and genivine like.’

‘Yes, yes, my dear, so it does,’ said the Jew, hanging a large
street-door key on the forefinger of the young lady’s right hand.

‘There; very good! Very good indeed, my dear!’ said the Jew, rubbing
his hands.

‘Oh, my brother! My poor, dear, sweet, innocent little brother!’
exclaimed Nancy, bursting into tears, and wringing the little basket
and the street-door key in an agony of distress. ‘What has become
of him! Where have they taken him to! Oh, do have pity, and tell me
what’s been done with the dear boy, gentlemen; do, gentlemen, if you
please, gentlemen!’

Having uttered those words in a most lamentable and heart-broken
tone: to the immeasurable delight of her hearers: Miss Nancy paused,
winked to the company, nodded smilingly round, and disappeared.

‘Ah, she’s a clever girl, my dears,’ said the Jew, turning round
to his young friends, and shaking his head gravely, as if in mute
admonition to them to follow the bright example they had just
beheld.

‘She’s a honour to her sex,’ said Mr. Sikes, filling his glass, and
smiting the table with his enormous fist. ‘Here’s her health, and
wishing they was all like her!’

While these, and many other encomiums, were being passed on the
accomplished Nancy, that young lady made the best of her way to the
police-office; whither, notwithstanding a little natural timidity
consequent upon walking through the streets alone and unprotected,
she arrived in perfect safety shortly afterwards.

Entering by the back way, she tapped softly with the key at one
of the cell-doors, and listened. There was no sound within: so she
coughed and listened again. Still there was no reply: so she spoke.

‘Nolly, dear?’ murmured Nancy in a gentle voice; ‘Nolly?’

There was nobody inside but a miserable shoeless criminal, who had
been taken up for playing the flute, and who, the offence against
society having been clearly proved, had been very properly committed
by Mr. Fang to the House of Correction for one month; with the
appropriate and amusing remark that since he had so much breath to
spare, it would be more wholesomely expended on the treadmill than
in a musical instrument. He made no answer: being occupied mentally
bewailing the loss of the flute, which had been confiscated for the
use of the county: so Nancy passed on to the next cell, and knocked
there.

‘Well!’ cried a faint and feeble voice.

‘Is there a little boy here?’ inquired Nancy, with a preliminary
sob.

‘No,’ replied the voice; ‘God forbid.’

This was a vagrant of sixty-five, who was going to prison for _not_
playing the flute; or, in other words, for begging in the streets,
and doing nothing for his livelihood. In the next cell was another
man, who was going to the same prison for hawking tin saucepans
without license; thereby doing something for his living, in defiance
of the Stamp-office.

But, as neither of these criminals answered to the name of Oliver,
or knew anything about him, Nancy made straight up to the bluff
officer in the striped waistcoat; and with the most piteous wailings
and lamentations, rendered more piteous by a prompt and efficient
use of the street-door key and the little basket, demanded her own
dear brother.

‘I haven’t got him, my dear,’ said the old man.

‘Where is he?’ screamed Nancy, in a distracted manner.

‘Why, the gentleman’s got him,’ replied the officer.

‘What gentleman! Oh, gracious heavens! What gentleman?’ exclaimed
Nancy.

In reply to this incoherent questioning, the old man informed the
deeply affected sister that Oliver had been taken ill in the office,
and discharged in consequence of a witness having proved the robbery
to have been committed by another boy, not in custody; and that the
prosecutor had carried him away, in an insensible condition, to his
own residence: of and concerning which, all the informant knew was,
that it was somewhere in Pentonville, he having heard that word
mentioned in the directions to the coachman.

In a dreadful state of doubt and uncertainty, the agonised young
woman staggered to the gate, and then, exchanging her faltering walk
for a swift run, returned by the most devious and complicated route
she could think of, to the domicile of the Jew.

Mr. Bill Sikes no sooner heard the account of the expedition
delivered, than he very hastily called up the white dog, and,
putting on his hat, expeditiously departed: without devoting any
time to the formality of wishing the company good-morning.

‘We must know where he is, my dears; he must be found,’ said the
Jew greatly excited. ‘Charley, do nothing but skulk about, till you
bring home some news of him! Nancy, my dear, I must have him found.
I trust to you, my dear, - to you and the Artful for everything!
Stay, stay,’ added the Jew, unlocking a drawer with a shaking hand;
‘there’s money, my dears. I shall shut up this shop to-night. You’ll
know where to find me! Don’t stop here a minute. Not an instant, my
dears!’

With these words, he pushed them from the room: and carefully
double-locking and barring the door behind them, drew from its place
of concealment the box which he had unintentionally disclosed
to Oliver. Then, he hastily proceeded to dispose the watches and
jewellery beneath his clothing.

A rap at the door startled him in this occupation. ‘Who’s there?’ he
cried in a shrill tone.

‘Me!’ replied the voice of the Dodger, through the key-hole.

‘What now?’ cried the Jew impatiently.

‘Is he to be kidnapped to the other ken, Nancy says?’ inquired the
Dodger.

‘Yes,’ replied the Jew, ‘wherever she lays hands on him. Find him,
find him out, that’s all. I shall know what to do next; never fear.’

The boy murmured a reply of intelligence: and hurried downstairs
after his companions.

‘He has not peached so far,’ said the Jew as he pursued his
occupation. ‘If he means to blab us among his new friends, we may
stop his mouth yet.’



CHAPTER XIV - COMPRISING FURTHER PARTICULARS OF OLIVER’S STAY AT
MR. BROWNLOW’S, WITH THE REMARKABLE PREDICTION WHICH ONE MR. GRIMWIG
UTTERED CONCERNING HIM, WHEN HE WENT OUT ON AN ERRAND

Oliver soon recovering from the fainting-fit into which Mr.
Brownlow’s abrupt exclamation had thrown him, the subject of the
picture was carefully avoided, both by the old gentleman and Mrs.
Bedwin, in the conversation that ensued: which indeed bore no
reference to Oliver’s history or prospects, but was confined to such
topics as might amuse without exciting him. He was still too weak to
get up to breakfast; but, when he came down into the housekeeper’s
room next day, his first act was to cast an eager glance at the
wall, in the hope of again looking on the face of the beautiful
lady. His expectations were disappointed, however, for the picture
had been removed.

‘Ah!’ said the housekeeper, watching the direction of Oliver’s eyes.
‘It is gone, you see.’

‘I see it is ma’am,’ replied Oliver. ‘Why have they taken it away?’

‘It has been taken down, child, because Mr. Brownlow said, that as
it seemed to worry you, perhaps it might prevent your getting well,
you know,’ rejoined the old lady.

‘Oh, no, indeed. It didn’t worry me, ma’am,’ said Oliver. ‘I liked
to see it. I quite loved it.’

‘Well, well!’ said the old lady, good-humouredly; ‘you get well as
fast as ever you can, dear, and it shall be hung up again. There! I
promise you that! Now, let us talk about something else.’

This was all the information Oliver could obtain about the picture
at that time. As the old lady had been so kind to him in his
illness, he endeavoured to think no more of the subject just then;
so he listened attentively to a great many stories she told him,
about an amiable and handsome daughter of hers, who was married to
an amiable and handsome man, and lived in the country; and about a
son, who was clerk to a merchant in the West Indies; and who was,
also, such a good young man, and wrote such dutiful letters home
four times a-year, that it brought the tears into her eyes to talk
about them. When the old lady had expatiated, a long time, on the
excellences of her children, and the merits of her kind good
husband besides, who had been dead and gone, poor dear soul! just
six-and-twenty years, it was time to have tea. After tea she began
to teach Oliver cribbage: which he learnt as quickly as she could
teach: and at which game they played, with great interest and
gravity, until it was time for the invalid to have some warm wine
and water, with a slice of dry toast, and then to go cosily to bed.

They were happy days, those of Oliver’s recovery. Everything was
so quiet, and neat, and orderly; everybody so kind and gentle; that
after the noise and turbulence in the midst of which he had always
lived, it seemed like Heaven itself. He was no sooner strong enough
to put his clothes on, properly, than Mr. Brownlow caused a complete
new suit, and a new cap, and a new pair of shoes, to be provided for
him. As Oliver was told that he might do what he liked with the old
clothes, he gave them to a servant who had been very kind to him,
and asked her to sell them to a Jew, and keep the money for herself.
This she very readily did; and, as Oliver looked out of the parlour
window, and saw the Jew roll them up in his bag and walk away, he
felt quite delighted to think that they were safely gone, and that
there was now no possible danger of his ever being able to wear them
again. They were sad rags, to tell the truth; and Oliver had never
had a new suit before.

One evening, about a week after the affair of the picture, as he was
sitting talking to Mrs. Bedwin, there came a message down from Mr.
Brownlow, that if Oliver Twist felt pretty well, he should like to
see him in his study, and talk to him a little while.

‘Bless us, and save us! Wash your hands, and let me part your hair
nicely for you, child,’ said Mrs. Bedwin. ‘Dear heart alive! If we
had known he would have asked for you, we would have put you a clean
collar on, and made you as smart as sixpence!’

Oliver did as the old lady bade him; and, although she lamented
grievously, meanwhile, that there was not even time to crimp the
little frill that bordered his shirt-collar; he looked so delicate
and handsome, despite that important personal advantage, that she
went so far as to say: looking at him with great complacency from
head to foot, that she really didn’t think it would have been
possible, on the longest notice, to have made much difference in him
for the better.

Thus encouraged, Oliver tapped at the study door. On Mr. Brownlow
calling to him to come in, he found himself in a little back room,
quite full of books, with a window, looking into some pleasant
little gardens. There was a table drawn up before the window, at
which Mr. Brownlow was seated reading. When he saw Oliver, he pushed
the book away from him, and told him to come near the table, and sit
down. Oliver complied; marvelling where the people could be found
to read such a great number of books as seemed to be written to make
the world wiser. Which is still a marvel to more experienced people
than Oliver Twist, every day of their lives.

‘There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?’ said Mr.
Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the
shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling.

‘A great number, sir,’ replied Oliver. ‘I never saw so many.’

‘You shall read them, if you behave well,’ said the old gentleman
kindly; ‘and you will like that, better than looking at the
outsides, - that is, some cases; because there are books of which the
backs and covers are by far the best parts.’

‘I suppose they are those heavy ones, sir,’ said Oliver, pointing to
some large quartos, with a good deal of gilding about the binding.

‘Not always those,’ said the old gentleman, patting Oliver on the
head, and smiling as he did so; ‘there are other equally heavy ones,
though of a much smaller size. How should you like to grow up a
clever man, and write books, eh?’

‘I think I would rather read them, sir,’ replied Oliver.

‘What! wouldn’t you like to be a book-writer?’ said the old
gentleman.

Oliver considered a little while; and at last said, he should think
it would be a much better thing to be a book-seller; upon which the
old gentleman laughed heartily, and declared he had said a very good
thing. Which Oliver felt glad to have done, though he by no means
knew what it was.

‘Well, well,’ said the old gentleman, composing his features. ‘Don’t
be afraid! We won’t make an author of you, while there’s an honest
trade to be learnt, or brick-making to turn to.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Oliver. At the earnest manner of his reply,
the old gentleman laughed again; and said something about a curious
instinct, which Oliver, not understanding, paid no very great
attention to.

‘Now,’ said Mr. Brownlow, speaking if possible in a kinder, but at
the same time in a much more serious manner, than Oliver had ever
known him assume yet, ‘I want you to pay great attention, my boy,
to what I am going to say. I shall talk to you without any reserve;
because I am sure you are well able to understand me, as many older
persons would be.’

‘Oh, don’t tell you are going to send me away, sir, pray!’
exclaimed Oliver, alarmed at the serious tone of the old gentleman’s
commencement! ‘Don’t turn me out of doors to wander in the streets
again. Let me stay here, and be a servant. Don’t send me back to the
wretched place I came from. Have mercy upon a poor boy, sir!’

‘My dear child,’ said the old gentleman, moved by the warmth of
Oliver’s sudden appeal; ‘you need not be afraid of my deserting you,
unless you give me cause.’

‘I never, never will, sir,’ interposed Oliver.

‘I hope not,’ rejoined the old gentleman. ‘I do not think you ever
will. I have been deceived, before, in the objects whom I have
endeavoured to benefit; but I feel strongly disposed to trust you,
nevertheless; and I am more interested in your behalf than I
can well account for, even to myself. The persons on whom I have
bestowed my dearest love, lie deep in their graves; but, although
the happiness and delight of my life lie buried there too, I have
not made a coffin of my heart, and sealed it up, forever, on my best
affections. Deep affliction has but strengthened and refined them.’

As the old gentleman said this in a low voice: more to himself
than to his companion: and as he remained silent for a short time
afterwards: Oliver sat quite still.

‘Well, well!’ said the old gentleman at length, in a more cheerful
tone, ‘I only say this, because you have a young heart; and knowing
that I have suffered great pain and sorrow, you will be more
careful, perhaps, not to wound me again. You say you are an orphan,
without a friend in the world; all the inquiries I have been able to
make, confirm the statement. Let me hear your story; where you come
from; who brought you up; and how you got into the company in which
I found you. Speak the truth, and you shall not be friendless while
I live.’

Oliver’s sobs checked his utterance for some minutes; when he was on
the point of beginning to relate how he had been brought up at
the farm, and carried to the workhouse by Mr. Bumble, a peculiarly
impatient little double-knock was heard at the street-door: and the
servant, running upstairs, announced Mr. Grimwig.

‘Is he coming up?’ inquired Mr. Brownlow.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied the servant. ‘He asked if there were any muffins
in the house; and, when I told him yes, he said he had come to tea.’

Mr. Brownlow smiled; and, turning to Oliver, said that Mr. Grimwig
was an old friend of his, and he must not mind his being a little
rough in his manners; for he was a worthy creature at bottom, as he
had reason to know.

‘Shall I go downstairs, sir?’ inquired Oliver.

‘No,’ replied Mr. Brownlow, ‘I would rather you remained here.’

At this moment, there walked into the room: supporting himself by a
thick stick: a stout old gentleman, rather lame in one leg, who
was dressed in a blue coat, striped waistcoat, nankeen breeches and
gaiters, and a broad-brimmed white hat, with the sides turned up
with green. A very small-plaited shirt frill stuck out from his
waistcoat; and a very long steel watch-chain, with nothing but a
key at the end, dangled loosely below it. The ends of his white
neckerchief were twisted into a ball about the size of an orange;
the variety of shapes into which his countenance was twisted, defy
description. He had a manner of screwing his head on one side when
he spoke; and of looking out of the corners of his eyes at the same
time: which irresistibly reminded the beholder of a parrot. In this
attitude, he fixed himself, the moment he made his appearance; and,
holding out a small piece of orange-peel at arm’s length, exclaimed,
in a growling, discontented voice.

‘Look here! do you see this! Isn’t it a most wonderful and
extraordinary thing that I can’t call at a man’s house but I find



Online LibraryCharles DickensOliver Twist, Illustrated → online text (page 9 of 25)