« ZurückWeiter »
we all are, and pity yer very much. But yer must know, work’us, your mother was a regular right-down bad 'un.
“What did you say?" inquired Oliver, looking up very quickly.
“A regular right-down bad’un, work’us," replied Noah, coolly; "and it's a great deal better, work’us, that she died when she did, or else she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung, which is more likely than either, isn't it ?”
Crimson with fury, Oliver started up, overthrew chair and table, seized Noah by the throat, shook him in the violence of his rage till his teeth chattered in his head, and collecting his whole force into one heavy blow, felled him to the ground.
A minute ago the boy had looked the quiet, mild, dejected creature that harsh treatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last ; the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire. His breast heaved, his attitude was erect, his eye bright and vivid, and his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly tormentor that lay crouching at his feet, and defied him with an energy he had never known before.
“He'll murder me?" blubbered Noah. “ Charlot:e! missis ! here's the new boy a.murdering me! Help! help! Oliver's gone mad! Char-lotte !"
Noah's shouts were responded to by a loud scream from Charlotte, and a louder from Mrs. Sowerberry; the former of whom rushed into the kitchen by a side-door, while the latter paused on the staircase till she was quite certain that it was consistent with the preservation of human life to come further down.
"Oh, you little wretch !" screamed Charlotte, seizing Oliver with her utmost force, which was about equal to that of a moderately strong man in particular good training,—“Oh, you little un.grate-ful, mur-de-rous, hor-rid villain!" and between every syllable Charlotte gave Oliver a blow with all her might, and accompanied it with a scream for the benefit of society.
Charlotte's fist was by no means a light one; but, lest it should not be effectual in calming Oliver's wrath, Mrs. Sowerberry plunged into the kitchen, and assisted to hold him with one hand, while she scratched his face with the other; and in this favorable position of affairs, Noah rose from the ground, and pommelled him from behind.
This was rather too violent exercise to last long; so, when they were all three wearied out, and could tear and beat no longer, they dragged Oliver, struggling and shouting, but nothing daunted, into the dust-cellar, and there locked him up; and this being done, Mrs. Sowerberry sunk into a chair and burst into tears.
“Bless her, she's going off!” said Charlotte. “A glass of water, , Noah, dear. Make haste.”
"Oh, Charlotte,” said Mrs. Sowerberry, speaking as well as she could through a deficiency of breath and a sufficiency of cold water, which Noah had poured over her head and shoulders, —" Oh, Charlotte, what a mercy we have not been all murdered in our beds !""
“Ah, mercy, indeed, ma'am,” was the reply. "I only hope this'll teach master not to have any more of these dreadful creatures that are born to be murderers and robbers from their very cradle. Poor Noah! he was all but killed ma'am, when I came in."
" Ah, poor fellow !” said Mrs. Sowerberry, looking piteously on the charity.boy.
Noah, whose top waistcoat button might have been somewhat on a level with the crown of Oliver's head, rubbed his eyes with the inside of his wrists while this commisseration was bestowed upon him, and per. formed some very audible tears and sniffs. “What's to be done !” exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.
- Your master's not at home,—there's not a man in the house, and he'll kick that door down in ten minutes.” Oliver's vigorous plunges against the bit of timber in question rendered this occurrence highly probable.
“ Dear, dear! I don't know, marm,” said Charlotte, “ unless we send for the police officers."
" Or the millingtary,” suggested Mr. Claypole.
“ No, no," said Mr. Sowerberry, bethinking herself of Oliver's old friend; “run to Mr. Bumble, Noah, and tell him to come here directly, and not to lose a minute; never mind your cap.-make haste. You can hold a knife to that black eye as you run along, and it'll keep the swelling down.” Noah stopped to make no reply, but started off at his fullest speed;
much it astonished the people who were out walking, to see a charity-boy tearing through the streets pell-mell, with no cap on his head, and a clasp-knife at his eye.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
OLIVER CONTINUES REFRACTORY.
Noah CLAYPOLE ran along the streets at his swiftest pace, and paused not once for breath until he reached the workhouse gate. Having rested here, for a minute or so, to collect a good burst of sobs and an imposing show of tears and terror, he knocked loudly at the wicket, and presented such a rueful face to the aged pauper who opened it, that even he, who saw nothing but rueful faces about him at the best of times, started back in astonishment.
- Why, what's the matter with the boy ?" said the old pauper.
“ Mr. Bumble ! Mr. Bumble !" cried Noah, with well-affected dismay, and in tones so loud and agitated that they not only caught the ear of Mr. Bumble himself, who happened to be hard by, but alarmed him so much that he rushed into the yard without his cocked-hat,—which is a very curious and remarkable circumstance, as showing that even a beadle, acted upon by a sudden and powerful impulse, may be afflicted with a momentary visitation of loss of self-possession, and forgetfulness of personal dignity.
“Oh, Mr. Bumble, sir !" said Noah; “Oliver, sir,-Oliver has
“What? what?” interposed Mr. Bumble with a gleam of pleasure in his metallic eyes.
“ Not run away ; he hasn't run away ; has he, Noah ?"
“No, sir, no; not run away, sir, but he's turned wicious," replied Noah. " He tried to murder me, sir ; and then he tried to murder Charlotte, and then missis. Oh, what dreadful pain it is! such agony, please sir!" and here Noah writhed and twisted his body into an exten. sive variety of eel-like positions; thereby giving Mr. Bumble to understand that, from the violent and sanguinary onset of Oliver Twist, he
had sustained severe internal injury and damage, from which he was at that speaking suffering the acutest torture.
When Noah saw that the intelligence he communicated perfectly paralysed Mr. Bumble, he imparted additional effect thereunto, by bé. wailing his dreadful wounds ten times louder than before : and, when he observed a gentleman in a white waistcoat crossing the yard, he was more tragic in his lamentations than ever, rightly conceiving it highly expedient to attract the notice, and rouse the indignation of the gentleman aforesaid.
The gentleman's notice was very soon attracted; for he had not walked three paces when he turned angrily round, and inquired what that young cur was howling for, and why Mr. Bumble did not favour him with something which would render the series of vocular exclama. tions so designated, an involuntary process.
“It's a poor boy from the free school, sir," replied Mr. Bumble, “who has been nearly murdered-all but murdered, sir,- by young Twist.”
• By Jove !” exclaimed the gentleman in the white waistcoat, stopping short.“ I knew it! I felt a strange presentiment from the very first, that that audacious young savage would come to be hung !"
“ He has likewise attempted, sir, to murder the female servant,” said Mr. Bumble, with a face of ashy paleness.
“ And his missis,” interposed Mr. Claypole. * And his master, too, I think you said, Noah,” added Mr. Bumble.
“ No, he's out, or he would have murdered him," replied Noah. “He said he wanted 10—”
“Ah! said he wanted to—did he, my boy ?" inquired the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
“ Yes, sir," replied Noah ; "and, please sir, missis wants to know whether Mr. Bumble can spare time to step up there directly and flog him, 'cause master's out."
* Certainly, my boy; certainly," said the gentleman in the white waistcoat, smiling benignly, and patting Noah's head, which was about three inches higher than his own. " You're a good boy—a very good boy. Here's a penny for you. Bumble, just step up to Sowerberry's
ne, and see what's best to be done. Don't spare him, Bumble."
“No, I will not, sir,” replied the beadle, adjusting the wax-end which was twisted round the bottom of his cane for purposes of paro. chial flagellation.
“ Tell Sowerberry not to spare him, either. They'll never do any thing with him without stripes and bruises," said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
“I'll take care, sir," replied the beadle. And the cocked hat and cane having been by this time adjusted to their owner's satisfaction, Mr. Bumble and Noah Claypole betook themselves with all speed to the undertaker's shop.
Here the position of affairs had not at all improved, for Sowerberry had not yet returned, and Oliver continued to kick with undiminished vigour at the cellar door. The accounts of his ferocity, as related by Mrs. Sowerberry and Charlotte, were of so startling a nature that Mr. Bumble judged it prudent to parley before opening the door : with this view, he gave a kick at the outside, by way of prelude, and then apply. ing his mouth to the key-hole, said, in a deep and impressive tone,