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enough, neither. You may keep the books, if you're fond of reading; and if not you can sell 'em."
"They're very pretty," said Charley Bates, who with sundry grimaces had been affecting to read one of the volumes in question; "beautiful writing, ins't it, Oliver ?" and at sight of the dismayed look with which Oliver regarded his tormentors, Master Bates, who was blessed with a lively sense of the ludicrous, fell into another ecstacy more boiserous than the first.
"They belong to the old gentleman," said Oliver, wringing his hands, —“to the good, kind old gentleman who took me into his house, and had me nursed when I was near dying of the fever. Oh, pray send them back; send him back the books and money! Keep me here all my life long; but pray, pray send them back! He'll think I stole them; the old lady, all of them that were so kind to me, will think I stole them. Oh, do have mercy upon me, and send them back!"
With these words, which were uttered with all the energy of passionate grief, Oliver fell upon his knees at the Jew's feet, and beat his hands together in perfect desperation. "The boy's right," remarked Fagin, looking covertly round, and knitting his shaggy eyebrows into a hard knot. You're right Oliver, you're right; they will think you have stolen 'em. Ha! ha!" chuckled the Jew, rubbing his hands; "it couldn't have happened better if we had chosen our time!"
"Of course it couldn't," replied Sikes; "I know'd that directly I see him coming through Clerkenwell with the books under his arm. It's all right enough. They're soft-hearted psalm-singers, or they wouldn't have took him in at all, and they'll ask no questions arter him, fear they should be obliged to prosecute, and so get him lagged. He's safe enough."
Oliver had looked from one to the other while these words were being spoken, as if he were bewildered and could scarcely understand what passed; but when Bill Sikes concluded, he jumped suddenly to his feet, and tore wildly from the room, uttering shrieks for help that made the bare old house echo to the roof.
"Keep back the dog, Bill!" cried Nancy, springing before the door, and closing it as the Jew and his two pupils darted out in pursuit ; "Keep back the dog; he'll tear the boy to pieces."
"Serve him right!" cried Sikes, struggling to disengage himself from the girl's grasp. "Stand off from me, or I'll split your skull against
"I don't care for that, Bill; I don't care for that," screamed the girl, struggling violently with the man : the child shan't be torn down by the dog, unless you kill me first."
"Shan't he!" said Sikes, setting his teeth fiercely. "I'll soon do. that, if you don't keep off."
The housebreaker flung the girl from him to the further end of the room, just as the Jew and the two boys returned, dragging Oliver among them.
"What's the matter here?" said the Jew, looking round.
"The girl's gone mad, I think," replied Sikes, savagely.
"No she hasn't," said Nancy, pale and breathless from the scuffle; "no, she hasn't, Fagin don't think it."
"Then keep quiet, will you?" said the Jew with a threatening look.
"No, I won't do that either," replied Nancy, speaking very loud. "Come, what do you think of that ?"
Mr. Fagin was sufficiently well acquainted with the manners and customs of that particular species of humanity to which Miss Nancy belonged, to feel tolerably certain that it would be rather unsafe to pro. long any conversation with her at present. With the view of diverting the attention of the company, he turned to Oliver.
"So you wanted to get away, my dear, did you?" said the Jew, taking up a jagged and knotted club which lay in a corner of the fireplace; "eh?"
Oliver made no reply, but he watched the Jew's motions and breathed quickly.
"Wanted to get assistance,-called for the police, did you?" sneered the Jew catching the boy by the arm. "We'll cure you of that, my
The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the club, and was raising it for a second, when the girl, rushing forwards, wrested it from his hand, and flung it into the fire with a force that brought some of the glowing coals whirling out into the room.
"I won't stand by and see it done, Fagin," cried the girl. "You've got the boy, and what more would you have? Let him be-let him be, or I shall put that mark on some of you that will bring me to the gallows before my time!"
The girl stamped her foot violently on the floor as she vented this threat; and with her lips compressed, and her hands clenched, looked alternately at the Jew and the other robber, her face quite colourless from the passion of rage into which she had gradually worked herself. "Why, Nancy!" said the Jew in a soothing tone, after a pause, during which he and Mr. Sikes had stared at one another in a disconcerted manner, "you-you're more clever than ever to-night. Ha! ha! my dear, you are acting beautifully."
"Am I!" said the girl. Take care I don't overdo it: you will be the worse for it, Fagin, if I do; and so I tell you in good time to keep clear of me."
There is something about a roused woman, especially if she add to all her other strong passions the fierce impulses of recklessness and despair, which few men like to provoke. The Jew saw that it would be hopeless to affect any further mistake regarding the reality of Miss Nancy's rage; and, shrinking involuntarily back, a few paces, cast a glance, half imploring and half-cowardly, at Sikes, as if to hint that he was the fittest person to pursue the dialogue.
Mr. Sikes thus mutely appealed to, and possibly feeling his personal pride and influence interested in the immediate reduction of Miss Nancy to reason, gave utterance to about a couple of score of curses and threats, the rapid delivery of which reflected great credit on the fertility of his invention. As they produced no visible effect on the object against whom they were discharged, however, he resorted to more tangible arguments.
"What do you mean by this?" said Sikes, backing the inquiry with a very common imprecation concerning the most beautiful of human features, which, if it were heard above, only once out of every fifty thousand times it is uttered below, would render blindness as common a disorder as measles; "what do you mean by it? Burn my body! do you know who you are, and what you are?"
Oh, yes, I know all about it," replied the girl, laughing hysterically, and shaking her head from side to side with a poor assumption of indifference.
"Well, then, keep quiet," rejoined Sikes with a growl like that he was accustomed to use when addressing his dog, "or I'll quiet you for a good long time to come."
The girl laughed again, even less composedly than before, and, dart. ing a hasty look at Sikes, turned her face aside, and bit her lip till the blood came.
"You're a nice one," added Sikes, as he surveyed her with a contemptuous air, "to take up the humane and genteel side! A pretty subject for the child, as you call him, to make a friend of!"
"God Almighty help me, I am !" cried the girl passionately; "and I wish I had been struck dead in the street, or changed places with them we passed so near to-night, before I had lent a hand in bringing him here. He's a thief, a liar, a devil, all that's bad, from this night forth; isn't that enough for the old wretch without blows?"
"Come, come, Sikes," said the Jew, appealing to him in a remon. stratory tone, and motioning towards the boys, who were eagerly attentive to all that passed; we must have civil words,-civil words,
"Civil words!" cried the girl, whose passion was frightful to see. "Civil words, you villain! Yes; yes you deserve 'em from me. thieved for you when I was a child not half as old as this (pointing to Oliver). I have been in the same trade, and in the same service, for twelve years since; don't you know it? Speak out! don't you know it?" "Well, well!" replied the Jew, with an attempt at pacification; "and, if you have, it's your living!"
"Ah, it is!" returned the girl, not speaking, but pouring out the words in one continuous and vehement scream. "It is my living, and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; and you're the wretch that drove me to them long ago, and that'll keep me there day and night, day and night, till I die!"
"I shall do you a mischief!" interposed the Jew, goaded by these reproaches; "a mischief worse than that, if you say much more!"
The girl said nothing more; but, tearing her hair and dress in a transport of phrensy, made such a rush at the Jew as would probably have left signal marks of her revenge upon him, had not her wrists been seized by Sikes at the right moment; upon which she made a few ineffectual struggles, and fainted.
"She's all right now," said Sikes, laying her down in a corner. "She's uncommon strong in the arms when she's up in this way."
The Jew wiped his forehead, and smiled, as if it were a relief to have the disturbance over; but neither he, nor Sikes, nor the dog, nor the boys, seemed to consider it in any other light than a common occurrence incidental to business.
"It's the worst of having to do with women," said the Jew, replacing the club; "but they're clever, and we can't get on in our line without 'em.-Charley, show Oliver to bed."
"I suppose he'd better not wear his best clothes to-morrow, Fagin, had he?" inquired Charley Bates.
Certainly not,” replied the Jew, reciprocating the grin with which Charley put the question.
Master Bates, apparently much delighted with his commission, took