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'Well, what DO you know of him?' inquired the old gentleman.
'Speak out, my friend, if you have anything to say. What DO you
know of him?'
'You don't happen to know any good of him, do you?' said Mr.
Grimwig, caustically; after an attentive perusal of Mr. Bumble's
Mr. Bumble, catching at the inquiry very quickly, shook his head
with portentous solemnity.
'You see?' said Mr. Grimwig, looking triumphantly at Mr.
Mr. Brownlow looked apprehensively at Mr. Bumble's pursed-up
countenance; and requested him to communicate what he knew
regarding Oliver, in as few words as possible.
Mr. Bumble put down his hat; unbuttoned his coat; folded his
arms; inclined his head in a retrospective manner; and, after a
few moments' reflection, commenced his story.
It would be tedious if given in the beadle's words: occupying,
as it did, some twenty minutes in the telling; but the sum and
substance of it was, that Oliver was a foundling, born of low and
vicious parents. That he had, from his birth, displayed no
better qualities than treachery, ingratitude, and malice. That
he had terminated his brief career in the place of his birth, by
making a sanguinary and cowardly attack on an unoffending lad,
and running away in the night-time from his master's house. In
proof of his really being the person he represented himself, Mr.
Bumble laid upon the table the papers he had brought to town.
Folding his arms again, he then awaited Mr. Brownlow's
'I fear it is all too true,' said the old gentleman sorrowfully,
after looking over the papers. 'This is not much for your
intelligence; but I would gladly have given you treble the money,
if it had been favourable to the boy.'
It is not improbable that if Mr. Bumble had been possessed of
this information at an earlier period of the interview, he might
have imparted a very different colouring to his little history.
It was too late to do it now, however; so he shook his head
gravely, and, pocketing the five guineas, withdrew.
Mr. Brownlow paced the room to and fro for some minutes;
evidently so much disturbed by the beadle's tale, that even Mr.
Grimwig forbore to vex him further.
At length he stopped, and rang the bell violently.
'Mrs. Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow, when the housekeeper appeared;
'that boy, Oliver, is an imposter.'
'It can't be, sir. It cannot be,' said the old lady
'I tell you he is,' retorted the old gentleman. 'What do you
mean by can't be? We have just heard a full account of him from
his birth; and he has been a thorough-paced little villain, all
'I never will believe it, sir,' replied the old lady, firmly.
'You old women never believe anything but quack-doctors, and
lying story-books,' growled Mr. Grimwig. 'I knew it all along.
Why didn't you take my advise in the beginning; you would if he
hadn't had a fever, I suppose, eh? He was interesting, wasn't
he? Interesting! Bah!' And Mr. Grimwig poked the fire with a
'He was a dear, grateful, gentle child, sir,' retorted Mrs.
Bedwin, indignantly. 'I know what children are, sir; and have
done these forty years; and people who can't say the same,
shouldn't say anything about them. That's my opinion!'
This was a hard hit at Mr. Grimwig, who was a bachelor. As it
extorted nothing from that gentleman but a smile, the old lady
tossed her head, and smoothed down her apron preparatory to
another speech, when she was stopped by Mr. Brownlow.
'Silence!' said the old gentleman, feigning an anger he was far
from feeling. 'Never let me hear the boy's name again. I rang
to tell you that. Never. Never, on any pretence, mind! You may
leave the room, Mrs. Bedwin. Remember! I am in earnest.'
There were sad hearts at Mr. Brownlow's that night.
Oliver's heart sank within him, when he thought of his good
friends; it was well for him that he could not know what they had
heard, or it might have broken outright.
HOW OLIVER PASSED HIS TIME IN THE IMPROVING SOCIETY OF HIS
About noon next day, when the Dodger and Master Bates had gone
out to pursue their customary avocations, Mr. Fagin took the
opportunity of reading Oliver a long lecture on the crying sin of
ingratitude; of which he clearly demonstrated he had been guilty,
to no ordinary extent, in wilfully absenting himself from the
society of his anxious friends; and, still more, in endeavouring
to escape from them after so much trouble and expense had been
incurred in his recovery. Mr. Fagin laid great stress on the fact
of his having taken Oliver in, and cherished him, when, without
his timely aid, he might have perished with hunger; and he
related the dismal and affecting history of a young lad whom, in
his philanthropy, he had succoured under parallel circumstances,
but who, proving unworthy of his confidence and evincing a desire
to communicate with the police, had unfortunately come to be
hanged at the Old Bailey one morning. Mr. Fagin did not seek to
conceal his share in the catastrophe, but lamented with tears in
his eyes that the wrong-headed and treacherous behaviour of the
young person in question, had rendered it necessary that he
should become the victim of certain evidence for the crown:
which, if it were not precisely true, was indispensably necessary
for the safety of him (Mr. Fagin) and a few select friends. Mr.
Fagin concluded by drawing a rather disagreeable picture of the
discomforts of hanging; and, with great friendliness and
politeness of manner, expressed his anxious hopes that he might
never be obliged to submit Oliver Twist to that unpleasant
Little Oliver's blood ran cold, as he listened to the Jew's
words, and imperfectly comprehended the dark threats conveyed in
them. That it was possible even for justice itself to confound
the innocent with the guilty when they were in accidental
companionship, he knew already; and that deeply-laid plans for
the destruction of inconveniently knowing or over-communicative
persons, had been really devised and carried out by the Jew on
more occasions than one, he thought by no means unlikely, when he
recollected the general nature of the altercations between that
gentleman and Mr. Sikes: which seemed to bear reference to some
foregone conspiracy of the kind. As he glanced timidly up, and
met the Jew's searching look, he felt that his pale face and
trembling limbs were neither unnoticed nor unrelished by that
wary old gentleman.
The Jew, smiling hideously, patted Oliver on the head, and said,
that if he kept himself quiet, and applied himself to business,
he saw they would be very good friends yet. Then, taking his
hat, and covering himself with an old patched great-coat, he went
out, and locked the room-door behind him.
And so Oliver remained all that day, and for the greater part of
many subsequent days, seeing nobody, between early morning and
midnight, and left during the long hours to commune with his own
thoughts. Which, never failing to revert to his kind friends,
and the opinion they must long ago have formed of him, were sad
After the lapse of a week or so, the Jew left the room-door
unlocked; and he was at liberty to wander about the house.
It was a very dirty place. The rooms upstairs had great high
wooden chimney-pieces and large doors, with panelled walls and
cornices to the ceiling; which, although they were black with
neglect and dust, were ornamented in various ways. From all of
these tokens Oliver concluded that a long time ago, before the
old Jew was born, it had belonged to better people, and had
perhaps been quite gay and handsome: dismal and dreary as it
Spiders had built their webs in the angles of the walls and
ceilings; and sometimes, when Oliver walked softly into a room,
the mice would scamper across the floor, and run back terrified
to their holes. With these exceptions, there was neither sight
nor sound of any living thing; and often, when it grew dark, and
he was tired of wandering from room to room, he would crouch in
the corner of the passage by the street-door, to be as near
living people as he could; and would remain there, listening and
counting the hours, until the Jew or the boys returned.
In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed: the
bars which held them were screwed tight into the wood; the only
light which was admitted, stealing its way through round holes at
the top: which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with
strange shadows. There was a back-garret window with rusty bars
outside, which had no shutter; and out of this, Oliver often
gazed with a melancholy face for hours together; but nothing was
to be descried from it but a confused and crowded mass of
housetops, blackened chimneys, and gable-ends. Sometimes,
indeed, a grizzly head might be seen, peering over the
parapet-wall of a distant house; but it was quickly withdrawn
again; and as the window of Oliver's observatory was nailed down,
and dimmed with the rain and smoke of years, it was as much as he
could do to make out the forms of the different objects beyond,
without making any attempt to be seen or heard,--which he had as
much chance of being, as if he had lived inside the ball of St.
One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that
evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to
evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do
him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him);
and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver
to assist him in his toilet, straightway.