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6 I say
threadbare black, with darned cotton stockings of the same color, and shoes to answer. His features were not naturally intended to wear a smi. ling aspect, but he was in general rather given to professional jocosity; his step was elastic, and his face betokened inward pleasantry, as he advan. ced to Mr. Bumble and shook him cordially by the hand.
“ I have taken the measure of the two women that died last night, Mr. Bumble,” said the undertaker.
“ You'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry," said the beadle, as he thrust his thumb and forefinger into the proffered snuff-box of the under. taker, which was an ingenious little model of a patent coffin. you'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry," repeated Mr. Bumble tap. ping the undertaker onthe shoulder in friendly manner, with his cane.
“ Think so ?” said the undertaker, in a tone which half admitted and half disputed the probability of the event. “ The prices allowed by the board are very small, Mr. Bumble.”
“ So are the coffins,” replied the beadle, with precisely as near an approach to a laugh as a great official ought to indulge in.
Mr. Sowerberry was much tickled at this, as of course he ought to be, and laughed a long time without cessation. “Well, well, Mr. Bumble," he said at length," there's no denying that, since the new system of feeding has come in, the coffins are something narrower and more shallow than they used to be ; but we must have some profit, Mr. Bumble. Wellseasoned timber is an expensive article, sir; and all the iron handles come by canal from Birminghan.”
“ Well, well,” said Mr. Bumble, “every trade has its drawbacks, and a fair profit is of course allowable."
Of course, of course,” replied the undertaker ; " and if I don't get a profit upon this or that particular article, why, I make it up in the long run, you see-he! he! he !"
“ Just so," said Mr. Bumble.
“ Though Imust say,” continued the undertaker, resuming the current of observation, which the beadle had interrupted," though I must say, Mr. Bumble, that I have to contend against one very great disadvantage, which is, that all the stout people go off the quickest—I mean that the peo. ple who have been better off, and have paid rates for many years, are the first to sink when they come into the house; and let me tell you Mr. Bumble, that three or four inches over one's calculations makes a great hole in one's profits, especially when one has a family to provide for, sir.”
As Mr. Sowerberry said this, with the becoming indignation of an ill. used man, and as Mr. Bumble felt that it rather tended to convey a re. flection on the honor of the parish, the latter gentleman thought it advi sable to change the subject; and Oliver Twist being uppermost in his mind, he made him his theme.
"By the bye,” said Mr. Bumble, "you don't know anybody who wants a boy, do you—a porochial 'prentis, who is at present a deadweight-a millstone, as I may say-round the porochial throat ? Liber. ral terms, Mr. Sowerberry—liberal terms ;-and, as Mr. Bumble spoke, he raised his cane to the bill above him, and gave three distinct raps upon the words " five pounds,” which were printed therein in Roman capitals of gigantic size.
"Gadso!" said the undertaker, taking Mr. Bumble by the gilt-edged lappel of his official coat ; " that's just the very thing I wanted to speak to you about. You know—dear me, what a very elegant button this is, Mr. Bumble; I never noticed it before."
“Yes, I think it is rather pretty," said the beadle, glancing proudly downwards at the large brass buttons which embellished his coat. “The die is the same as the porochial seal,--the Good Samaritan healing the sick and bruised man. The board presented it to me on New Year's morning, Mr. Sowerberry. I put it on, I remember, for the first time, to attend the inquest on that reduced tradesman who died in a doorway at midnight.
“ I recollect,'' said the undertaker. “ The jury brought in Died from exposure to the cold, and want of the common necessaries of life,' -didn't they ?"
Mr. Bumble nodded.
" And they made it a special verdict, I think,” said the undertaker, " by adding some words to the effect that if the relieving officer had
“ Tush-foolery!" interposed the beadle, angrily. “If the board attended to all the nonsense that ignorant jurymen talk, they'd have enough to do."
" Very true," said the undertaker, “they would indeed."
“ Juries,” said Mr. Bumble, grasping his cane tightly, as was his wont when working into a passion,-—"juries is ineddicated, vulgar, grovelling wreiches."
“So they are,” said the undertaker.
“ They haven't no more philosophy nor political economy about 'em than that,” said the beadle, snapping his fingers contemptuously.
“ No more they have,” acquiesced the undertaker.
“And I only wish we'd a jury of the independent sort in the house for a week or two," said the beadle ;-“the rules and regulations of the board would soon bring their spirit down for them.”
“Let 'em alone for that,” replied the undertaker. So saying, he smiled approvingly, to calm the rising wrath of the indignant parish officer.
Mr. Bumble lifted off his cocked-hat, took a handkerchief from the inside of the crown, wiped from his forehead the perspiration which his rage had engendered, fixed the cocked-hat on again; and, turning to the undertaker, said in a calmer voice,
“ Well; what about the boy ?”
“Oh!" replied the undertaker ; "why, you know, Mr. Bumble, I pay a good deal towards the poor's rates.”
“ Hem !” said Mr. Bumble. “ Well ?''
“Well," replied the undertaker, “I was thinking that if I paid so much towards 'em, I've a right to get as much out of 'em as I can, Mr. Bumble; and so—and so— I think I'll take the boy myself.”
Mr. Bumble grasped the undertaker by the arm, and led him into the building. Mr. Sowerberry was closeted with the board for five minutes, and then it was arranged that Oliver should go to him that evening “upon liking,”- phrase which means, in the case of a parish apprentice, that if the master find, upon a short trial, that he can get enough work out of a boy without putting too much food in him, he shall have him for a term of years to do what he likes with.
When little Oliver was taken before “the gentlemen” that evening, and informed that he was to go that night as general house-lad to a coffin-maker's, and that if he complained of his situation, or ever came VOL. 1.
back to the parish again, he would be sent to sea, there to be drowned, or knocked on the head, as the case might be, he evinced so little emo. tion, that they by common consent pronounced him a hardened young rascal, and ordered Mr. Bumble to remove him forthwith.
Now, although it was very natural that the board, of all ole in the world, should feel in a great state of virtuous astonishment and horror at the smallest tokens of want of feeling on the part of any body, they were rather out in this particular instance. The simple fact was, that Oliver, instead of possessing too little feeling, possessed rather too much, and was in a fair way of being reduced to a state of brutal stupidiy, and sullepness for life, by the ill usage he had received. He heard the news of his destination in perfect silence; and having had his luggage put into his hand-which was not very difficult to carry, inasmuch as it was all comprised within the limits of a brown paper parcel, about half a foot square by three inches deep-he pulled his cap over his eyes, and once more attaching himself to Mr. Bumble's coat-cuff, was led away by that dignitary to a new scene of suffering.
For some time Mr. Bumble drew Oliver along without notice or remark, for the beadle carried his head very erect, as a beadle always should; and it being a windy day, little Oliver was completely en. shrouded by the skirts of Mr. Bumble's coat, as they blew open, and disclosed to great advantage his flapped-waistcoat and drab plush knee breeches. As they drew near to their destination, however, Mr. Bum. ble thought it expedient to look down and see that the boy was in good order for inspection by his new master, which he accordingly did, with a fit of becoming air of gracious patronage.
“ Oliver !” said Mr. Bumble.
Although Oliver did as he was desired at once, and passed the back of his unoccupied hand briskly over his eyes, he left a tear in them when he looked up at his conductor. As Mr. Bumble gazed sternly upon him, it rolled down his cheek. It was followed by another, and another. The child made a strong effort, but it was an unsuccessful one; and, withdrawing his other hand from Mr. Bumble's, he covered his face with both, and wept till tears sprung out from between his thin and bony fingers.
“ Well !" exclaimed Mr. Bumble, stopping short, and darting at his little charge a look of intense malignity,—" well
, of all the ungrateful. lest and worst-disposed boys as ever I see, Oliver, you are the
“No, no, sir,” sobbed Oliver, clinging to the hand which held the well-known cane; “no, no, sir; I will be good indeed; indeed, in. deed, I will, sir !" I am a very little boy, sir; and it is so—0~
“So what ?" inquired Mr. Bumble in amazement. "So lonely, sir-so very lonely," cried the child. “Every body
Oh! sir, don't be cross to me. I feel as if I had been cut here, sir, and it was all bleeding away ;' and the child beat his hand upon his heart, and looked into his companion's face with tears of real agony.
Mr. Bumble regarded Oliver's piteous and helpless look with some astonishment for a few seconds, hemmed three or four times in a husky manner, and after muttering something about" that troublesome cough," bid Oliver dry his eyes and be a good boy ; and, once more taking his hand,walked on with him in silence.
The undertaker had just put up the shutters of his shop, and was making some entries in his day-book by the light of a most appropri. ately dismal candle, when Mr. Bumble entered.
“Aha !'' said the undertaker, looking up from the book, and pausing in the middle of a word ; " is that you, Bumble ?" “ No one else, Mr. Sowerberry," replied the beadle. “Here, I've
, brought the boy.” Oliver made a bow.
"Oh, that's the boy, is it?" said the undertaker, raising the candle above his head to get a full glimpse of Oliver.
“Mrs. Sowerberry, will you come here a moment, my dear ?”
Mrs. Sowerberry emerged from a little room behind the shop, and presented the form of a short, thin, squeezed-up woman, with a vixenish countenance.
My dear," said Mr. Sowerberry, deferentially, “ this is the boy from the workhouse that I told you of.” Oliver bowed again.
"Dear me !" said the undertaker's wife, “ he's very small.”
“Why, he is rather small," replied Mr. Bumble, looking at Oliver as if it were his fault that he wasn't bigger ; "he is small—there's no denying it. But he'll grow, Mrs. Sowerberry, he'll grow.”
"Ah! I dare say he will,” replied the lady pettishly,“ on our victuals and our drink. I see no saving in parish children, not I; for they always cost more to keep than they're worth : however, men always think they know best. There, get down stairs, little bag o bones." With this, the undertaker's wife opened a side door, and pushed Oliver down
steep flight of stairs into a stone cell, damp and dark, and forming the ante-room to the coal.cellar, and denominated “the kitchen," wherein sat a slatternly girl in shoes down at heel, and blue worsted stockings very much out of repair.
* Here, Charlotte," said Mrs. Sowerberry, who had followed Oliver down, "give this boy some of the cold bits that were put by for Trip : he hasn't come home since ihe morning, so he may go without 'em. "I dare say he isn't too dainty to eat 'em-are you, boy ?”
Oliver, whose eyes had glistened at the mention of meat, and who was trembling with eagerness to derour it, replied in the negative; and a plateful of coarse broken victuals was set before him.
I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose meat and drink turn to gall within him, whose blood is ice, and whose heart is iron, could have seen Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands that the dog had neglected, and witnessed the horrible avidity with which he tore the bits asunder with all the ferocity of famine, there is only one thing I should like better; and that would be to see him making the same sort of meal himself, with the same relish.
“ Well,” said the undertaker's wife, when Oliver had finished his supper, which she had regarded in silent horror, and with fearful auguries of his future appetite, " have you done ?"
There being nothing eatable within his reach, Oliver replied in the affirmative.
“Then come with me,” said Mrs. Sowerberry, taking up a dim and dirty lamp, and leading the way up stairs ; your bed's under the
" ' counter. You won't mind sleeping among the coffins, I suppose ? but it doesn't much matter whether you will or not, for where else. Oliver lingered no longer, but meekly followed his new mistress.
Come ; don't keep me here all night.»; 4 Won't sleep any
CHAPTER THE FIFTH.
OLIVER MINGLES WITH NEW ASSOCIATES, AND, GOING TO A FUNERAL FOR THE FIRST TIME, FORMS AN UNFAVORABLE NOTION OF HIS
OLIVER, being left to himself in the undertaker's shop, set the lamp down on a workman's bench, and gazed timidly about him with a feeling of awe and dread, which many people a good deal older than Oliver will be at no loss to understand. An unfinished coffin on black tressels, which stood in the middle of the shop, looked so gloomy and death-like, that a cold tremble came over him every time his eyes wander. ed in the direction of the dismal object, from which he almost expected to see some frightful form slowly rear its head to drive him mad with terror. Against the wall were ranged in regular array a long row of elm boards cut into the same shape, and looking in the dim light like high-shouldered ghosts, with their hands in their breeches-pockets. Coffin-plates, elm-chips, bright-headed nails, and shreds of black cloth, lay scatterd on the floor; and the wall above the counter was orna. mented with a lively representation of two mutes in very stiff neckcloths, on duty at a large private door, with a hearse drawn by four black steeds approaching in the distance. The shop was close and hot, and the atmosphere seemed tainted with the smell of coffins. The recess beneath the counter in which his flock-mattress was thrust, looked like a grave.
Nor were these the only dismal feelings which depressed Oliver. He was alone in a strange place; and we all know how chilled and desolate the best of us will sometimes feel in such a situation. The boy had no friends to care for him. The regret of no recent separation was fresh in his mind; the absence of no loved and well-remembered face sunk heavily into his heart. But his heart was heavy, notwithstanding; and he wished, as he crept into his narrow bed, that that were his coffin, and that he could be laid in a calm and lasting sleep in the churchyard ground, with the tall grass waving gently above his head, and the sound of the old deep bell to soothe him in his sleep.
Oliver was awakened in the morning by a loud kicking at the outside of the shop.door, which, before he could huddle on his clothes, was re. peated in an angry and impetuous manner about twenty-five times; and, when he began to undo the chain, the legs left off their volleys, and a voice began
“ Open the door, will yer ?” cried the voice which belonged to the legs which had kicked at the door.
" I will directly, sir," replied Oliver, undoing the chain, and turning
“I suppose yer the new boy, a’nt yer ?" said the voice through the key-hole.
“Yes, sir," replied Oliver.
“ Then I'll whop yer when I get in,” said the voice ; “you just see if I don't, that's all
, my work’us brat!” and, having made ihis obliging promise, the voice began to whistle.
Oliver had been too often subjected to the process to which the very