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'Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked
There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every
'For MORE!' said Mr. Limbkins. 'Compose yourself, Bumble, and
answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more,
after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?'
'He did, sir,' replied Bumble.
'That boy will be hung,' said the gentleman in the white
waistcoat. 'I know that boy will be hung.'
Nobody controverted the prophetic gentleman's opinion. An
animated discussion took place. Oliver was ordered into instant
confinement; and a bill was next morning pasted on the outside of
the gate, offering a reward of five pounds to anybody who would
take Oliver Twist off the hands of the parish. In other words,
five pounds and Oliver Twist were offered to any man or woman who
wanted an apprentice to any trade, business, or calling.
'I never was more convinced of anything in my life,' said the
gentleman in the white waistcoat, as he knocked at the gate and
read the bill next morning: 'I never was more convinced of
anything in my life, than I am that that boy will come to be
As I purpose to show in the sequel whether the white waistcoated
gentleman was right or not, I should perhaps mar the interest of
this narrative (supposing it to possess any at all), if I
ventured to hint just yet, whether the life of Oliver Twist had
this violent termination or no.
RELATES HOW OLIVER TWIST WAS VERY NEAR GETTING A PLACE WHICH
WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A SINECURE
For a week after the commission of the impious and profane
offence of asking for more, Oliver remained a close prisoner in
the dark and solitary room to which he had been consigned by the
wisdom and mercy of the board. It appears, at first sight not
unreasonable to suppose, that, if he had entertained a becoming
feeling of respect for the prediction of the gentleman in the
white waistcoat, he would have established that sage individual's
prophetic character, once and for ever, by tying one end of his
pocket-handkerchief to a hook in the wall, and attaching himself
to the other. To the performance of this feat, however, there
was one obstacle: namely, that pocket-handkerchiefs being
decided articles of luxury, had been, for all future times and
ages, removed from the noses of paupers by the express order of
the board, in council assembled: solemnly given and pronounced
under their hands and seals. There was a still greater obstacle
in Oliver's youth and childishness. He only cried bitterly all
day; and, when the long, dismal night came on, spread his little
hands before his eyes to shut out the darkness, and crouching in
the corner, tried to sleep: ever and anon waking with a start
and tremble, and drawing himself closer and closer to the wall,
as if to feel even its cold hard surface were a protection in the
gloom and loneliness which surrounded him.
Let it not be supposed by the enemies of 'the system,' that,
during the period of his solitary incarceration, Oliver was
denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society, or the
advantages of religious consolation. As for exercise, it was
nice cold weather, and he was allowed to perform his ablutions
every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in the presence of
Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a
tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated applications
of the cane. As for society, he was carried every other day into
the hall where the boys dined, and there sociably flogged as a
public warning and example. And so for from being denied the
advantages of religious consolation, he was kicked into the same
apartment every evening at prayer-time, and there permitted to
listen to, and console his mind with, a general supplication of
the boys, containing a special clause, therein inserted by
authority of the board, in which they entreated to be made good,
virtuous, contented, and obedient, and to be guarded from the
sins and vices of Oliver Twist: whom the supplication distinctly
set forth to be under the exclusive patronage and protection of
the powers of wickedness, and an article direct from the
manufactory of the very Devil himself.
It chanced one morning, while Oliver's affairs were in this
auspicious and confortable state, that Mr. Gamfield,
chimney-sweep, went his way down the High Street, deeply
cogitating in his mind his ways and means of paying certain
arrears of rent, for which his landlord had become rather
pressing. Mr. Gamfield's most sanguine estimate of his finances
could not raise them within full five pounds of the desired
amount; and, in a species of arthimetical desperation, he was
alternately cudgelling his brains and his donkey, when passing
the workhouse, his eyes encountered the bill on the gate.
'Wo--o!' said Mr. Gamfield to the donkey.
The donkey was in a state of profound abstraction: wondering,
probably, whether he was destined to be regaled with a
cabbage-stalk or two when he had disposed of the two sacks of
soot with which the little cart was laden; so, without noticing
the word of command, he jogged onward.
Mr. Gamfield growled a fierce imprecation on the donkey
generally, but more particularly on his eyes; and, running after
him, bestowed a blow on his head, which would inevitably have
beaten in any skull but a donkey's. Then, catching hold of the
bridle, he gave his jaw a sharp wrench, by way of gentle reminder
that he was not his own master; and by these means turned him
round. He then gave him another blow on the head, just to stun
him till he came back again. Having completed these
arrangements, he walked up to the gate, to read the bill.
The gentleman with the white waistcoat was standing at the gate
with his hands behind him, after having delivered himself of some
profound sentiments in the board-room. Having witnessed the
little dispute between Mr. Gamfield and the donkey, he smiled
joyously when that person came up to read the bill, for he saw at
once that Mr. Gamfield was exactly the sort of master Oliver
Twist wanted. Mr. Gamfield smiled, too, as he perused the
document; for five pounds was just the sum he had been wishing
for; and, as to the boy with which it was encumbered, Mr.
Gamfield, knowing what the dietary of the workhouse was, well
knew he would be a nice small pattern, just the very thing for
register stoves. So, he spelt the bill through again, from
beginning to end; and then, touching his fur cap in token of
humility, accosted the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
'This here boy, sir, wot the parish wants to 'prentis,' said Mr.
'Ay, my man,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat, with a
condescending smile. 'What of him?'
'If the parish vould like him to learn a right pleasant trade, in
a good 'spectable chimbley-sweepin' bisness,' said Mr. Gamfield,
'I wants a 'prentis, and I am ready to take him.'
'Walk in,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. Mr.
Gamfield having lingered behind, to give the donkey another blow
on the head, and another wrench of the jaw, as a caution not to
run away in his absence, followed the gentleman with the white
waistcoat into the room where Oliver had first seen him.
'It's a nasty trade,' said Mr. Limbkins, when Gamfield had again
stated his wish.
'Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now,' said
'That's acause they damped the straw afore they lit it in the
chimbley to make 'em come down again,' said Gamfield; 'that's all
smoke, and no blaze; vereas smoke ain't o' no use at all in
making a boy come down, for it only sinds him to sleep, and
that's wot he likes. Boys is wery obstinit, and wery lazy,
Gen'l'men, and there's nothink like a good hot blaze to make 'em
come down vith a run. It's humane too, gen'l'men, acause, even
if they've stuck in the chimbley, roasting their feet makes 'em
struggle to hextricate theirselves.'
The gentleman in the white waistcoat appeared very much amused by
this explanation; but his mirth was speedily checked by a look
from Mr. Limbkins. The board then procedded to converse among
themselves for a few minutes, but in so low a tone, that the
words 'saving of expenditure,' 'looked well in the accounts,'
'have a printed report published,' were alone audible. These
only chanced to be heard, indeed, or account of their being very
frequently repeated with great emphasis.
At length the whispering ceased; and the members of the board,
having resumed their seats and their solemnity, Mr. Limbkins
'We have considered your proposition, and we don't approve of
'Not at all,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
'Decidedly not,' added the other members.
As Mr. Gamfield did happen to labour under the slight imputation
of having bruised three or four boys to death already, it
occurred to him that the board had, perhaps, in some
unaccountable freak, taken it into their heads that this
extraneous circumstance ought to influence their proceedings. It
was very unlike their general mode of doing business, if they
had; but still, as he had no particular wish to revive the
rumour, he twisted his cap in his hands, and walked slowly from
'So you won't let me have him, gen'l'men?' said Mr. Gamfield,
pausing near the door.
'No,' replied Mr. Limbkins; 'at least, as it's a nasty business,
we think you ought to take something less than the premium we
Mr. Gamfield's countenance brightened, as, with a quick step, he
returned to the table, and said,