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“ Plummy and slam !" was the reply.
This seemed to be some watchword or signal that it was all right; for the light of a feeble candle gleamed upon the wall at the farther end of the passage, and a man's face peeped out from where a balustrade of the kitchen staircase had been broken away.
“There's two on you,” said the man, thrusting the candle farther out, and shading his eyes with his hand. “ Who's the t'other one ?"
“A new pall,” replied Jack, pulling Oliver forward.
“Yes, he's a sortin' the wipes. Up with you !" The candle was drawn back, and the face disappeared.
Oliver, groping his way with one hand, and with the other firmly grasped by his companion, ascended with much difficulty the dark and broken stairs which his conductor mounted with an ease and expedition that showed he was well acquainted with them. He threw open
the door of a back-room, and drew Oliver in after him.
The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age and dirt. There was a deal-table before the fire, upon which was a candle stuck in a ginger-beer bottle ; two or three pewter pots, a loaf and but. ter, and a plate. In a frying.pan which was on the fire, and which was secured to the mantel.shelf by a string, some sausages were cook. ing; and standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villanous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown,
with his throat bare, and seemed to be dividing his attention between the frying pan and a clothes-horse, over which a great number of silk handkerchiefs were hanging. Several rough beds made of old sacks were huddled side by side on the floor : and seated round the table were four or five boys, none older than the Dodger, smoking long clay pipes and drinking spirits with all the air of middle aged men. These all crowded about their associate as he whispered a few words to the Jew, and then turned round and grinned at Oliver, as did the Jew himself
, toasting-fork in hand. “This is him, Fagin,” said Jack Dawkins ; “my friend, Oliver Twist.”
The Jew grinned; and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him by the hand, and hoped he should have the honor of his intimate ac. quaintance. Upon this, the young gentlemen with the pipes came round him, and shook both his hands very hard,--especially the one in which he held his litttle bundle. One young gentleman was very an. xious to hang up his cap for him ; and another was so obliging as to put his hands in his pockets, in order that, as he was very tired, he might not have the trouble of emptying them when he went to bed. These civilities would probably have been extended much further, but for a liberal exercise of the Jew's toasting.fork on the heads and shoul. ders of the affectionate youths who offered them.
“We are very glad to see you, Oliver,-very,” said the Jew. “ Dodger, take off the sausages, and draw a tub near the fire for Oliver. Ah, you're a staring at the pocket-hankerchiefs ! eh, my dear? There are a good many of 'em, aint there? We've just looked 'em out ready for the wash ; that's all, Oliver ; that's all. Ha ! ha! ha!"
The latter part of this speech was hailed by a boisterous shout from all the hopeful pupils of the merry old gentleman, in the midst of which they went to supper.
Oliver ate his share; and the Jew then mixed him a glass of hot gin and water, telling him he must drink it off directly, because another gentleman wanted the tumbler. Oliver did as he was desired. Almost instantly afterwards, he felt himself gently lifted on to one of the sacks, and then he sunk into a deep sleep.
CHAPTER THE NINTH,
CONTAINING FURTHER PATICULARS CONCERNING THE PLEASANT OLD GENTLEMAN,
AND HIS HOPEFUL PUPILS.
It was late next morning when Oliver awoke from a sound, long sleep. There was nobody in the room beside, but the old Jew, who was boiling some coffee in a saucepan for breakfast, and whistling softly to himself, as he stirred it round and round with an iron spoon. He would stop every now and then to listen, when there was the least noise below; and, when he had satisfied himself, he would go on whist. ling and stirring again, as before.
Although Oliver had roused himself from sleep, he was not thorough. ly awake. There is a drowsy, heavy state, between sleeping and wa. king, when your dream more in five minutes with your eyes half openand yourself half conscious of every thing that is passing around you, than you would in five nights with your eyes fast closed, and your sen. ses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness. At such times, a mortal knows just enough of what his mind is doing to form some glimmering conception of its mighty powers, its bounding from earth and spurning time and space, when freed from the irksome restraint of its corporeal asso. ciate.
Oliver was precisely in the condition I have described. He saw the Jew with his half-closed eyes, heard his low whistling, and recognised the sound of the spoon grating against the saucepan's sides ; and yet the self-same senses were mentally engaged at the same time, in busy action with almost every body he had ever known.
When the coffee was done, the Jew drew the saucepan to the hob, and, standing in an irresolute attitude for a few minutes, as if he did not well know how to employ himself, turned round and looked at Oliver, and called him by his nanie. He did not answer, and was to all ap. pearance asleep.
After satisfying himself upon this head, the Jew stepped gently to the door, which he fastened; he then drew forth, as it seemed to Oliver,
l from some trap in the floor, a small box, which he placed carefully on the table. His eyes glistened as he raised the lid and looked in. Drag. ging an old chair to the table, he sat down and took from it a magnif. cent gold watch, sparkling with diamonds.
“Aha!” said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting ev. ery feature with a hideous grin, “ Clever dogs! clever dogs! Staunch to the last! Never told the old parson where they were ; never peach. ed upon old Fagin. And why should they? It wouldn't have loosened the knot, or kept the drop up a minute longer. No, no, no! Fine fello:vs ! fine fellows !"
With these and other muttered reflections of the like nature, the Jew once more deposited the watch in its place of safety. At least half a dozen more were severally drawn forth from the same box, and survey
ed with equal pleasure ; besides rings, brooches, bracelets, and other articles of jewelry, of such magnificent materials and costly workman. ship that Oliver had no idea even of their names.
Having replaced these trinkets, the Jew took out another, so small that it lay in the palm of his hand. There seemed to be some very mi. nute inscription on it, for the Jew laid it flat upon the table, ant, shading it with his hand, pored over it long and earnestly. At length heset it down as if despairing of success, and, leaning back in his chair, mutte red,
“ What a fine thing capital punishment is ! Dead men never repent; dead men never bring awkward stories to light. The prospect of the gallows, too, makes them hardy and bold. Ah, it's a fine thing for the trade! Five of them strung up in a row, and none left to pay booty or turn white-livered !”
As the Jew uttered these words, his bright dark eyes which had been staring vacantly before him, fell on Oliver's face ; the boy's eyes were fixed on his in mute curiosity, and although the recognition was only for an instant-for the briefest space of time that can possibly be con. ceived,—it was enough to show the old man that he had been observed. He closed the lid of the box with a loud crash, and, laying his hand on a bread-knife which was on the table, started furiously up. He trem. bled very much though ; for even in his terror, Oliver could see that the knife quivered in the air,
“ What's that?" said the Jew. “What do you watch me for? Why are you awake? What huve you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick -quick! for your life !"
“I was’nt able to sleep any longer, sir," replied Oliver meekly. “I am very sorry if I have disturbed you, sir,"
“You were not awake an hour ago ?" sa.d the Jew, scowling fiercely on the boy.
“ No-no, indeed, sir," replied Oliver.
" Are you sure ?'' cried the Jew, with a still fiercer look than before, and a threatening attitude.
"Upon my word I was not, sir," replied Oliver, earnestly. “I was not, indeed, sir."
“ Tush, tush, my dear!" said the Jew, suddenly resuming his old manner, and playing with the knife a little before he laid it down, as if to induce the belief that he had caught it up in mere sport. “Of course I know that, my dear. I only tried to frighten you. You're a brave boy. Ha! ha! you're a brave boy, Oliver !" and the Jew rub. hed his hands with a chuckle, but looked uneasily at the box notwithstanding.
“ Did you see any of these pretty things, my dear?" said the Jew, laying his hand upon it after a short pause. “ Yes, sir," replied Oliver.
“ Ah!” said the Jew, turning rather pale. “ They—they're mine, Oliver; my little property. All I have to live upon in my old age. The folks call me a miser, my dear,—only a miser; that's all.”
Oliver thought the old gentleman must be a decided miser to live in such a dirty place, with so many watches ; but, thinking that perhaps his fondness for the Dodger and the other boys cost him a good deal of money, he only cast a deferential look at the Jew, and asked if he might get up
"Certainly, my dear,-certainly," replied the old gentleman. “ Stay.
There's a pitcher of water in the corner by the door. Bring it here, and I'll give you a basin to wash in, my dear."
Oliver got up, walked across the room, and stopped for one instant to raise the pitcher. When he turned his head, the box was gone,
He had scarcely washed himself and made every thing tidy by emptying the basin out of the window, agreeably to the Jews' direct ons, than the Dodger returned, accompanied by a very sprightly young friend whom Oliver had seen smoking on the previous night, and who was now formally introduced to him as Charley Bates. The four then sat down to breakfast off the coffee and some hot rolls and ham which the Dodger had brought home in the crown of his hat.
"Well," said the Jew, glancing slyly at Oliver, and addressing him. self to the Dodger, “I hope you've been at work this morning, my dears."
Hard,” replied the Dodger. “ As nails," added Charley Bates.
“Good boys, good boys!" said the Jew. What have you got, Dodger ?"
A couple of pocket books," replied that young gentleman. “ Lined?" inquired the Jew with trembling eagerness.
“ Preity weli,” replied the Dodger, producing two pocket-books, one green and the other red.
“ Not so heavy as they might be," said the Jew, after looking at the insides carefully ; " but very neat and nicely made. Ingenious workman, ain't he, Oliver?”
Very, indeed, sir,” said Oliver. At which Mr. Charles Bates laugh. ed uproariously, very much to the amazement of Oliver, who saw no. thing to laugh at, in any thing that had passed.
“ And what have you got, my dear ?" said Fagin to Charley Bates.
“ Wipes,” replied Master Bates ; at the same time producing four pocket.handkerchiefs.
“ Well," said the Jew, inspecting them closely; "they're very good ones,—very. You haven't marked them well, though Charley ; so the marks shall be picked out with a needle, and we'll teach Oliver how to do it. Shull us, Oliver, eh?-Ha! ha! ha!"
“ If you please, sir," said Oliver.
6. You'd like to be able to make pocket-handkerchiefs as easy as Charley Bates, wouldn't you, my dear ?" said the Jew.
“Very much indeed, if you'll teach me, sir," replied Oliver.
Master Bates saw something so exquisitely ludicrous in this reply that he burst into another laugh; which laugh meeting the coffee he was drinking, and carrying it down some wrong channel, very nearly ter. minated in his premature suffocation.
“ He is so jolly green,” said Charley when he recovered, as an apo. logy to the company for for his unpolite behaviour.
The Dodger said nothing, but he smoothed Oliver's hair down over his eyes, and said he'd know better by-and-by ; upon which the old gentleman observing Oliver's colour mounting, changed the subject by asking whether their had been much of a crowd at the execution that morning. This made him wonder more and more, for it was plain from the replies of the two boys that they had both been there ; and Oliver naturally wondered how they could possibly have found time to be so very industrious.
When the breakfast was cleared away, the merry old gentleman and