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'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jew, leaning back in his
'No, not at all,' rejoined Sikes. 'At least it can't be a put-up
job, as we expected.'
'Then it hasn't been properly gone about,' said the Jew, turning
pale with anger. 'Don't tell me!'
'But I will tell you,' retorted Sikes. 'Who are you that's not
to be told? I tell you that Toby Crackit has been hanging about
the place for a fortnight, and he can't get one of the servants
'Do you mean to tell me, Bill,' said the Jew: softening as the
other grew heated: 'that neither of the two men in the house can
be got over?'
'Yes, I do mean to tell you so,' replied Sikes. 'The old lady
has had 'em these twenty years; and if you were to give 'em five
hundred pound, they wouldn't be in it.'
'But do you mean to say, my dear,' remonstrated the Jew, 'that
the women can't be got over?'
'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes.
'Not by flash Toby Crackit?' said the Jew incredulously. 'Think
what women are, Bill,'
'No; not even by flash Toby Crackit,' replied Sikes. 'He says
he's worn sham whiskers, and a canary waistcoat, the whole
blessed time he's been loitering down there, and it's all of no
'He should have tried mustachios and a pair of military trousers,
my dear,' said the Jew.
'So he did,' rejoined Sikes, 'and they warn't of no more use than
the other plant.'
The Jew looked blank at this information. After ruminating for
some minutes with his chin sunk on his breast, he raised his head
and said, with a deep sigh, that if flash Toby Crackit reported
aright, he feared the game was up.
'And yet,' said the old man, dropping his hands on his knees,
'it's a sad thing, my dear, to lose so much when we had set our
hearts upon it.'
'So it is,' said Mr. Sikes. 'Worse luck!'
A long silence ensued; during which the Jew was plunged in deep
thought, with his face wrinkled into an expression of villainy
perfectly demoniacal. Sikes eyed him furtively from time to
time. Nancy, apparently fearful of irritating the housebreaker,
sat with her eyes fixed upon the fire, as if she had been deaf to
all that passed.
'Fagin,' said Sikes, abruptly breaking the stillness that
prevailed; 'is it worth fifty shiners extra, if it's safely done
from the outside?'
'Yes,' said the Jew, as suddenly rousing himself.
'Is it a bargain?' inquired Sikes.
'Yes, my dear, yes,' rejoined the Jew; his eyes glistening, and
every muscle in his face working, with the excitement that the
inquiry had awakened.
'Then,' said Sikes, thrusting aside the Jew's hand, with some
disdain, 'let it come off as soon as you like. Toby and me were
over the garden-wall the night afore last, sounding the panels of
the door and shutters. The crib's barred up at night like a
jail; but there's one part we can crack, safe and softly.'
'Which is that, Bill?' asked the Jew eagerly.
'Why,' whispered Sikes, 'as you cross the lawn--'
'Yes?' said the Jew, bending his head forward, with his eyes
almost starting out of it.
'Umph!' cried Sikes, stopping short, as the girl, scarcely moving
her head, looked suddenly round, and pointed for an instant to
the Jew's face. 'Never mind which part it is. You can't do it
without me, I know; but it's best to be on the safe side when one
deals with you.'
'As you like, my dear, as you like' replied the Jew. 'Is there
no help wanted, but yours and Toby's?'
'None,' said Sikes. 'Cept a centre-bit and a boy. The first
we've both got; the second you must find us.'
'A boy!' exclaimed the Jew. 'Oh! then it's a panel, eh?'
'Never mind wot it is!' replied Sikes. 'I want a boy, and he
musn't be a big 'un. Lord!' said Mr. Sikes, reflectively, 'if
I'd only got that young boy of Ned, the chimbley-sweeper's! He
kept him small on purpose, and let him out by the job. But the
father gets lagged; and then the Juvenile Delinquent Society
comes, and takes the boy away from a trade where he was arning
money, teaches him to read and write, and in time makes a
'prentice of him. And so they go on,' said Mr. Sikes, his wrath
rising with the recollection of his wrongs, 'so they go on; and,
if they'd got money enough (which it's a Providence they
haven't,) we shouldn't have half a dozen boys left in the whole
trade, in a year or two.'
'No more we should,' acquiesed the Jew, who had been considering
during this speech, and had only caught the last sentence.
'What now?' inquired Sikes.
The Jew nodded his head towards Nancy, who was still gazing at
the fire; and intimated, by a sign, that he would have her told
to leave the room. Sikes shrugged his shoulders impatiently, as
if he thought the precaution unnecessary; but complied,
nevertheless, by requesting Miss Nancy to fetch him a jug of
'You don't want any beer,' said Nancy, folding her arms, and
retaining her seat very composedly.
'I tell you I do!' replied Sikes.
'Nonsense,' rejoined the girl coolly, 'Go on, Fagin. I know what
he's going to say, Bill; he needn't mind me.'
The Jew still hesitated. Sikes looked from one to the other in
'Why, you don't mind the old girl, do you, Fagin?' he asked at
length. 'You've known her long enough to trust her, or the
Devil's in it. She ain't one to blab. Are you Nancy?'
'_I_ should think not!' replied the young lady: drawing her
chair up to the table, and putting her elbows upon it.
'No, no, my dear, I know you're not,' said the Jew; 'but--' and
again the old man paused.
'But wot?' inquired Sikes.
'I didn't know whether she mightn't p'r'aps be out of sorts, you
know, my dear, as she was the other night,' replied the Jew.
At this confession, Miss Nancy burst into a loud laugh; and,
swallowing a glass of brandy, shook her head with an air of
defiance, and burst into sundry exclamations of 'Keep the game
a-going!' 'Never say die!' and the like. These seemed to have
the effect of re-assuring both gentlemen; for the Jew nodded his
head with a satisfied air, and resumed his seat: as did Mr. Sikes
'Now, Fagin,' said Nancy with a laugh. 'Tell Bill at once, about
'Ha! you're a clever one, my dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!'
said the Jew, patting her on the neck. 'It WAS about Oliver I
was going to speak, sure enough. Ha! ha! ha!'
'What about him?' demanded Sikes.
'He's the boy for you, my dear,' replied the Jew in a hoarse
whisper; laying his finger on the side of his nose, and grinning
'He!' exclaimed. Sikes.
'Have him, Bill!' said Nancy. 'I would, if I was in your place.
He mayn't be so much up, as any of the others; but that's not
what you want, if he's only to open a door for you. Depend upon
it he's a safe one, Bill.'
'I know he is,' rejoined Fagin. 'He's been in good training
these last few weeks, and it's time he began to work for his
bread. Besides, the others are all too big.'
'Well, he is just the size I want,' said Mr. Sikes, ruminating.
'And will do everything you want, Bill, my dear,' interposed the
Jew; 'he can't help himself. That is, if you frighten him
'Frighten him!' echoed Sikes. 'It'll be no sham frightening,
mind you. If there's anything queer about him when we once get
into the work; in for a penny, in for a pound. You won't see him
alive again, Fagin. Think of that, before you send him. Mark my
words!' said the robber, poising a crowbar, which he had drawn
from under the bedstead.
'I've thought of it all,' said the Jew with energy. 'I've--I've
had my eye upon him, my dears, close--close. Once let him feel
that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he
has been a thief; and he's ours! Ours for his life. Oho! It
couldn't have come about better! The old man crossed his arms