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'Humph,' said Sikes, as if he though the interest lay rather more
on the Jew's side than on his. 'Well, what have you got to say
'It's all passed safe through the melting-pot,' replied Fagin,
'and this is your share. It's rather more than it ought to be,
my dear; but as I know you'll do me a good turn another time,
'Stow that gammon,' interposed the robber, impatiently. 'Where is
it? Hand over!'
'Yes, yes, Bill; give me time, give me time,' replied the Jew,
soothingly. 'Here it is! All safe!' As he spoke, he drew forth
an old cotton handkerchief from his breast; and untying a large
knot in one corner, produced a small brown-paper packet. Sikes,
snatching it from him, hastily opened it; and proceeded to count
the sovereigns it contained.
'This is all, is it?' inquired Sikes.
'All,' replied the Jew.
'You haven't opened the parcel and swallowed one or two as you
come along, have you?' inquired Sikes, suspiciously. 'Don't put
on an injured look at the question; you've done it many a time.
Jerk the tinkler.'
These words, in plain English, conveyed an injunction to ring the
bell. It was answered by another Jew: younger than Fagin, but
nearly as vile and repulsive in appearance.
Bill Sikes merely pointed to the empty measure. The Jew,
perfectly understanding the hint, retired to fill it: previously
exchanging a remarkable look with Fagin, who raised his eyes for
an instant, as if in expectation of it, and shook his head in
reply; so slightly that the action would have been almost
imperceptible to an observant third person. It was lost upon
Sikes, who was stooping at the moment to tie the boot-lace which
the dog had torn. Possibly, if he had observed the brief
interchange of signals, he might have thought that it boded no
good to him.
'Is anybody here, Barney?' inquired Fagin; speaking, now that
that Sikes was looking on, without raising his eyes from the
'Dot a shoul,' replied Barney; whose words: whether they came
from the heart or not: made their way through the nose.
'Nobody?' inquired Fagin, in a tone of surprise: which perhaps
might mean that Barney was at liberty to tell the truth.
'Dobody but Biss Dadsy,' replied Barney.
'Nancy!' exclaimed Sikes. 'Where? Strike me blind, if I don't
honour that 'ere girl, for her native talents.'
'She's bid havid a plate of boiled beef id the bar,' replied
'Send her here,' said Sikes, pouring out a glass of liquor. 'Send
Barney looked timidly at Fagin, as if for permission; the Jew
reamining silent, and not lifting his eyes from the ground, he
retired; and presently returned, ushering in Nancy; who was
decorated with the bonnet, apron, basket, and street-door key,
'You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?' inquired Sikes,
proffering the glass.
'Yes, I am, Bill,' replied the young lady, disposing of its
contents; 'and tired enough of it I am, too. The young brat's
been ill and confined to the crib; and--'
'Ah, Nancy, dear!' said Fagin, looking up.
Now, whether a peculiar contraction of the Jew's red eye-brows,
and a half closing of his deeply-set eyes, warned Miss Nancy that
she was disposed to be too communicative, is not a matter of much
importance. The fact is all we need care for here; and the fact
is, that she suddenly checked herself, and with several gracious
smiles upon Mr. Sikes, turned the conversation to other matters.
In about ten minutes' time, Mr. Fagin was seized with a fit of
coughing; upon which Nancy pulled her shawl over her shoulders,
and declared it was time to go. Mr. Sikes, finding that he was
walking a short part of her way himself, expressed his intention
of accompanying her; they went away together, followed, at a
little distant, by the dog, who slunk out of a back-yard as soon
as his master was out of sight.
The Jew thrust his head out of the room door when Sikes had left
it; looked after him as we walked up the dark passage; shook his
clenched fist; muttered a deep curse; and then, with a horrible
grin, reseated himself at the table; where he was soon deeply
absorbed in the interesting pages of the Hue-and-Cry.
Meanwhile, Oliver Twist, little dreaming that he was within so
very short a distance of the merry old gentleman, was on his way
to the book-stall. When he got into Clerkenwell, he accidently
turned down a by-street which was not exactly in his way; but not
discovering his mistake until he had got half-way down it, and
knowing it must lead in the right direction, he did not think it
worth while to turn back; and so marched on, as quickly as he
could, with the books under his arm.
He was walking along, thinking how happy and contented he ought
to feel; and how much he would give for only one look at poor
little Dick, who, starved and beaten, might be weeping bitterly
at that very moment; when he was startled by a young woman
screaming out very loud. 'Oh, my dear brother!' And he had
hardly looked up, to see what the matter was, when he was stopped
by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.
'Don't,' cried Oliver, struggling. 'Let go of me. Who is it?
What are you stopping me for?'
The only reply to this, was a great number of loud lamentations
from the young woman who had embraced him; and who had a little
basket and a street-door key in her hand.
'Oh my gracious!' said the young woman, 'I have found him! Oh!
Oliver! Oliver! Oh you naughty boy, to make me suffer such
distress on your account! Come home, dear, come. Oh, I've found
him. Thank gracious goodness heavins, I've found him!' With
these incoherent exclamations, the young woman burst into another
fit of crying, and got so dreadfully hysterical, that a couple of
women who came up at the moment asked a butcher's boy with a
shiny head of hair anointed with suet, who was also looking on,
whether he didn't think he had better run for the doctor. To
which, the butcher's boy: who appeared of a lounging, not to say
indolent disposition: replied, that he thought not.
'Oh, no, no, never mind,' said the young woman, grasping Oliver's
hand; 'I'm better now. Come home directly, you cruel boy!
'Oh, ma'am,' replied the young woman, 'he ran away, near a month
ago, from his parents, who are hard-working and respectable
people; and went and joined a set of thieves and bad characters;
and almost broke his mother's heart.'
'Young wretch!' said one woman.
'Go home, do, you little brute,' said the other.
'I am not,' replied Oliver, greatly alarmed. 'I don't know her.
I haven't any sister, or father and mother either. I'm an
orphan; I live at Pentonville.'
'Only hear him, how he braves it out!' cried the young woman.
'Why, it's Nancy!' exclaimed Oliver; who now saw her face for the
first time; and started back, in irrepressible astonishment.
'You see he knows me!' cried Nancy, appealing to the bystanders.
'He can't help himself. Make him come home, there's good people,
or he'll kill his dear mother and father, and break my heart!'
'What the devil's this?' said a man, bursting out of a beer-shop,
with a white dog at his heels; 'young Oliver! Come home to your
poor mother, you young dog! Come home directly.'
'I don't belong to them. I don't know them. Help! help! cried
Oliver, struggling in the man's powerful grasp.
'Help!' repeated the man. 'Yes; I'll help you, you young rascal!
What books are these? You've been a stealing 'em, have you?
Give 'em here.' With these words, the man tore the volumes from
his grasp, and struck him on the head.
'That's right!' cried a looker-on, from a garret-window. 'That's
the only way of bringing him to his senses!'
'To be sure!' cried a sleepy-faced carpenter, casting an
approving look at the garret-window.
'It'll do him good!' said the two women.
'And he shall have it, too!' rejoined the man, administering
another blow, and seizing Oliver by the collar. 'Come on, you
young villain! Here, Bull's-eye, mind him, boy! Mind him!'
Weak with recent illness; stupified by the blows and the
suddenness of the attack; terrified by the fierce growling of the
dog, and the brutality of the man; overpowered by the conviction
of the bystanders that he really was the hardened little wretch
he was described to be; what could one poor child do! Darkness
had set in; it was a low neighborhood; no help was near;
resistance was useless. In another moment he was dragged into a
labyrinth of dark narrow courts, and was forced along them at a
pace which rendered the few cries he dared to give utterance to,
unintelligible. It was of little moment, indeed, whether they
were intelligible or no; for there was nobody to care for them,
had they been ever so plain.
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