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He disengaged himself from the old woman's grasp, and dragging Oliver after hinn hurried away.
The next day, (the family having been meanwhile relieved with a half-quartern loaf and a piece of cheese, left with them by Mr. Bumble himself,) Oliver and his master returned to the miserable abode, where Mr. Bumble had already arrived, accompanied by four men from the workhouse, who were to act as bearers. * An old black cloak had been thrown over
the rags of the old woman and the man; the bare coffin having been screwed down, was then hoisted on the shoulders of the bearers, and carried down stairs into the street.
“Now, you must put your best leg foremost, old lady,” whispered Sowerberry in the old woman's ear; “we are rather late, and it won't do to keep the clergyman waiting. Move on, my men,-as quick as
Thus directed, the bearers trotted on, under their light burden, and the two mourners kept as near them as they could. Mr. Bumble and Sowerberry walked at a good smart pace in front; and Oliver, whose legs were not as long as his master's, ran by the side.
There was not so great a necessity for hurrying as Mr. Sowerberry had anticipated, however; for when they reached the obscure corner of the churchyard in which the nettles grew, and the parish graves were made the clergyman had not arrived, and the clerk, who was sitting by the vestry-room fire, seemed to think it by no means impro. bable that it might be an hour or so before he came. So they set the bier down on the brink of the grave; and the two mourners waited patiently in the damp clay with a cold rain drizzling down, while the ragged boys, whom the spectacle had attracted into the churchyard, played a noisy game at hide-and-seek among the tombstones, or varied their amusements by jumping backwards and forwards over the coffin. Mr. Sowerberry and Bumble, being personal friends of the clerk, sat by the fire with him, and read the paper.
At length, after the lapse of something more than an hour, Mr. Bum. ble, and Sowerberry, and the clerk, were seen running towards the grave; and immediately afterwards the clergyman appeared, putting on his surplice as he came along. Mr. Burnble then threshed a boy or two, to keep up appearances; and the reverend gentleman, having read as much of the burial service as could be compressed into four minutes, gave his surplice to the clerk, and ran away again.
“Now, Bill,” said Sowerberry to the grave.digger, "fill up." It was no very difficult task, for the grave was so full that the
upper. most coffin was within a few feet of the surface. The grave-digger shovelled in the earth, stamped it loosely down with his feet, shouldered his spade, and walked off, followed by the boys, who murmured very loud complaints at the fun being over so soon.
“Come, my good fellow," said Bumble, tapping the man on the back, “they want to shut up the yard."
The man, who had never once moved since he had taken his station by the grave side, started, raised his head, stared at the person who had addressed him, walked forward for a few paces, and then fell down in a fit. The crazy old woman was loo much occupied in bewailing the loss of her cloak (which the undertaker had taken off) to pay him any attention ; so they threw a can of cold water over him, and when he came to, saw him safely out of the churchyard, locked the gate, and departed on their different ways.
“Well, Oliver," said Sowerberry, as they walked home,“ how do
you like it ?”
Pretty well, thank you, sir," replied Oliver, with considerable hesitation. “Not very much, sir.”
" Ah, you'll get used to it in time, Oliver," said Sowerberry. "Noth. ing when you are used to it, my boy.”
Oliver wondered in his own mind whether it had taken a very long time to get Mr. Sowerberry used to it; but he thought it better not to ask the question, and walked back to the shop, thinking over all he had seen and heard.
CHAPTER THE SIXTH.
OLIVER, BEING GOADED BY THE TAUNTS OF NOAH, ROUSES INTO ACTION, AND RATHER
It was a nice sickly season just at this time. In commercial phrase, coffins were looking up; and, in the course of a few weeks, Oliver had acquired a great deal of experience. The success of Mr. Sowerberry's ingenious speculation exceeded even his most sanguine hopes. The oldest inhabitants recollected no period at which measles had been so prevalent, or so fatal to infant existence; and many were the mourn. ful processions which little Oliver headed in a hat-band reaching down to his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the mo. thers in the town. As Oliver accompanied his master in most of his adult expeditions too, in order that he might acquire that equanimity of demeanour and full command of nerve which are so essential to a finished undertaker, he had many opportunities of observing the beautiful resignation and fortitude with which some strong-minded people bear their trial and losses.
For instance, when Sowerberry had an order for the burial of some rich old lady or gentleman, who was surrounded by a great number of nephews and nieces, who had been perfectly inconsolable during the previous illness, and whose grief had been wholly irrepressible even on the most public occasions, they would be as happy among themselves as need be-quite cheerful and contented, conversing together with as much freedom and gaiety as if nothing whatever had happened to disturb them.. Husbands, too, bore the loss of their wives with the most heroic calmness; and wives, again, put on weeds for their husbands, as if, so far from grieving in the garb of sorrow, they had made up
their minds to render it as becoming and attractive as possible. observable, too, that ladies and gentlemen who were in passions of anguish during the ceremony of interment, recovered almost as soon as they reached home, and became quite composed before the tea-drinking
Al! this was very pleasant and improving to see; and Oliver beheld it with great admiration.
That Oliver Twist was moved to resignation by the example of these good people, I cannot, although I am his biographer, undertake to affirm with any degree of confidence; but I can most distinctly say, that for some weeks he continued meekly to submit to the domination and ill-treatment of Noah Claypole, who used him far worse than ever, now that his jealousy was roused by seeing the new boy promoted to the black stick and hat-band, while he, the old one, remained stationary
in the muffin.cap and leathers. Charlotte treated him badly because Noah did; and Mrs. Sowerberry was his decided enemy because Mr. Sowerberry was disposed to be his friend: so, between these three on one side, and a glut of funerals on the other, Oliver was not altogether as comfortable as the hungry pig was, when he was shut up by mistake in the grain department of a brewery.
And now I come to a very important passage in Oliver's history, for I have to record an act, slight and unimportant perhaps in appearance, but which indirectly produced a most material change in all his future prospects and proceedings.
One day Oliver and Noah had descended into the kitchen, at the usual dinner-hour, to banquet upon a small joint of mutton—a pound and a half of the worst end of the neck; when, Charlotte being called out of the way, there ensued a brief interval of time, which Noah Claypole, being hungry and vicious, considered he could not possibly devote to a worthier purpose than aggravating and tantalizing young Oliver Twist.
Intent upon this innocent amusement, Noah put his feet on the table. cloth, and pulled Oliver's hair, and twitched his ears, and expressed his opinion that he was a “sneak,” and furthermore announced his inten. tion of coming to see him hung whenever that desirable event should take place, and entered upon various other topics of petty annoyance, like a malicious and ill-conditioned charity-boy as he was. But, none of these taunts producing the desired effect of making Oliver cry, Noah attempted to be more facetious still, and in this attempt did what many small wits, with far greater reputations than Noah notwithstanding, do to this day when they want to be funny ;-he got rather personal.
“ Work’us,” said Noah, “ how's your mother ?” “She's dead,” replied Oliver ; " don't you say anything about her to
Oliver's colour rose as he said this; he breathed quickly, and there was a curious working of the mouth and nostrils, which Mr. Claypole thought must be the immediate precursor of a violent fit of crying. Under this impression he returned to the charge.
" What did she die of, work’us ?" said Noah.
“Of a broken heart, some of our old nurses told me," replied Oliver, more as if he were talking to himself than answering Noah. “I think I know what it must be to die of that !''
“Tol de rol lol lol, right for lairy, work’us,” said Noah,' as a tear rolled down Oliver's cheek. What's set you a snivelling now?". “ Not you,” replied Oliver, hastily brushing the tear away.
“ Don't think it."
“Oh! not me, eh ?" sneered Noah. "No, not you,” replied Oliver sharply. “There ; that's enough.
. Don't say anything more to me about her; you'd better not!"
“ Better not!" exclaimed Noah, “ Well! better not? work'us ; don't be impudent. Your mother, too! She was a nice 'un, she was. Oh, Lor!" And here Noah nodded his head expressively, and curled up as much of his small red nose as muscular action could collect together for the occasion.
“ Yer know, work’us," continued Noah, emboldened by Oliver's silence, and speaking in a jeering tone of affected pity-of all tones the most annoying—“Yer know, work’us, it carn't be helped now, and of course yer couldn't help it then, and I'm very sorry for it, and I'm sure