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The old gentleman in the tortoise-shell spectacles looked at his
companion, he nodded significantly.
'We refuse to sanction these indentures,' said the old gentleman:
tossing aside the piece of parchment as he spoke.
'I hope,' stammered Mr. Limbkins: 'I hope the magistrates will
not form the opinion that the authorities have been guilty of any
improper conduct, on the unsupported testimony of a child.'
'The magistrates are not called upon to pronounce any opinion on
the matter,' said the second old gentleman sharply. 'Take the
boy back to the workhouse, and treat him kindly. He seems to
That same evening, the gentleman in the white waistcoat most
positively and decidedly affirmed, not only that Oliver would be
hung, but that he would be drawn and quartered into the bargain.
Mr. Bumble shook his head with gloomy mystery, and said he wished
he might come to good; whereunto Mr. Gamfield replied, that he
wished he might come to him; which, although he agreed with the
beadle in most matters, would seem to be a wish of a totaly
The next morning, the public were once informed that Oliver Twist
was again To Let, and that five pounds would be paid to anybody
who would take possession of him.
OLIVER, BEING OFFERED ANOTHER PLACE, MAKES HIS FIRST ENTRY INTO
In great families, when an advantageous place cannot be obtained,
either in possession, reversion, remainder, or expectancy, for
the young man who is growing up, it is a very general custom to
send him to sea. The board, in imitation of so wise and salutary
an example, took counsel together on the expediency of shipping
off Oliver Twist, in some small trading vessel bound to a good
unhealthy port. This suggested itself as the very best thing
that could possibly be done with him: the probability being, that
the skipper would flog him to death, in a playful mood, some day
after dinner, or would knock his brains out with an iron bar;
both pastimes being, as is pretty generally known, very favourite
and common recreations among gentleman of that class. The more
the case presented itself to the board, in this point of view,
the more manifold the advantages of the step appeared; so, they
came to the conclusion that the only way of providing for Oliver
effectually, was to send him to sea without delay.
Mr. Bumble had been despatched to make various preliminary
inquiries, with the view of finding out some captain or other who
wanted a cabin-boy without any friends; and was returning to the
workhouse to communicate the result of his mission; when he
encountered at the gate, no less a person than Mr. Sowerberry,
the parochial undertaker.
Mr. Sowerberry was a tall gaunt, large-jointed man, attired in a
suit of threadbare black, with darned cotton stockings of the
same colour, and shoes to answer. His features were not
naturally intended to wear a smiling aspect, but he was in
general rather given to professional jocosity. His step was
elastic, and his face betokened inward pleasantry, as he advanced
to Mr. Bumble, and shook him cordially by the hand.
'I have taken the measure of the two women that died last night,
Mr. Bumble,' said the undertaker.
'You'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,' said the beadle, as
he thrust his thumb and forefinger into the proferred snuff-box
of the undertaker: which was an ingenious little model of a
patent coffin. 'I say you'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,'
repeated Mr. Bumble, tapping the undertaker on the shoulder, in a
friendly manner, with his cane.
'Think so?' said the undertaker in a tone which half admitted and
half disputed the probability of the event. 'The prices allowed
by the board are very small, Mr. Bumble.'
'So are the coffins,' replied the beadle: with precisely as near
an approach to a laugh as a great official ought to indulge in.
Mr. Sowerberry was much tickled at this: as of course he ought
to be; and laughed a long time without cessation. 'Well, well,
Mr. Bumble,' he said at length, 'there's no denying that, since
the new system of feeding has come in, the coffins are something
narrower and more shallow than they used to be; but we must have
some profit, Mr. Bumble. Well-seasoned timber is an expensive
article, sir; and all the iron handles come, by canal, from
'Well, well,' said Mr. Bumble, 'every trade has its drawbacks. A
fair profit is, of course, allowable.'
'Of course, of course,' replied the undertaker; 'and if I don't
get a profit upon this or that particular article, why, I make it
up in the long-run, you see--he! he! he!'
'Just so,' said Mr. Bumble.
'Though I must say,' continued the undertaker, resuming the
current of observations which the beadle had interrupted: 'though
I must say, Mr. Bumble, that I have to contend against one very
great disadvantage: which is, that all the stout people go off
the quickest. The people who have been better off, and have paid
rates for many years, are the first to sink when they come into
the house; and let me tell you, Mr. Bumble, that three or four
inches over one's calculation makes a great hole in one's
profits: especially when one has a family to provide for, sir.'
As Mr. Sowerberry said this, with the becoming indignation of an
ill-used man; and as Mr. Bumble felt that it rather tended to
convey a reflection on the honour of the parish; the latter
gentleman thought it advisable to change the subject. Oliver
Twist being uppermost in his mind, he made him his theme.
'By the bye,' said Mr. Bumble, 'you don't know anybody who wants
a boy, do you? A porochial 'prentis, who is at present a
dead-weight; a millstone, as I may say, round the porochial
throat? Liberal terms, Mr. Sowerberry, liberal terms?' As Mr.
Bumble spoke, he raised his cane to the bill above him, and gave
three distinct raps upon the words 'five pounds': which were
printed thereon in Roman capitals of gigantic size.
'Gadso!' said the undertaker: taking Mr. Bumble by the
gilt-edged lappel of his official coat; 'that's just the very
thing I wanted to speak to you about. You know--dear me, what a
very elegant button this is, Mr. Bumble! I never noticed it
'Yes, I think it rather pretty,' said the beadle, glancing
proudly downwards at the large brass buttons which embellished
his coat. 'The die is the same as the porochial seal--the Good
Samaritan healing the sick and bruised man. The board presented
it to me on Newyear's morning, Mr. Sowerberry. I put it on, I
remember, for the first time, to attend the inquest on that
reduced tradesman, who died in a doorway at midnight.'
'I recollect,' said the undertaker. 'The jury brought it in,
"Died from exposure to the cold, and want of the common
necessaries of life," didn't they?'
Mr. Bumble nodded.
'And they made it a special verdict, I think,' said the
undertaker, 'by adding some words to the effect, that if the
relieving officer had--'
'Tush! Foolery!' interposed the beadle. 'If the board attended
to all the nonsense that ignorant jurymen talk, they'd have
enough to do.'
'Very true,' said the undertaker; 'they would indeed.'
'Juries,' said Mr. Bumble, grasping his cane tightly, as was his
wont when working into a passion: 'juries is ineddicated,
vulgar, grovelling wretches.'
'So they are,' said the undertaker.
'They haven't no more philosophy nor political economy about 'em
than that,' said the beadle, snapping his fingers contemptuously.
'No more they have,' acquiesced the undertaker.
'I despise 'em,' said the beadle, growing very red in the face.
'So do I,' rejoined the undertaker.
'And I only wish we'd a jury of the independent sort, in the
house for a week or two,' said the beadle; 'the rules and
regulations of the board would soon bring their spirit down for
'Let 'em alone for that,' replied the undertaker. So saying, he
smiled, approvingly: to calm the rising wrath of the indignant
Mr Bumble lifted off his cocked hat; took a handkerchief from the
inside of the crown; wiped from his forehead the perspiration
which his rage had engendered; fixed the cocked hat on again;
and, turning to the undertaker, said in a calmer voice:
'Well; what about the boy?'
'Oh!' replied the undertaker; why, you know, Mr. Bumble, I pay a
good deal towards the poor's rates.'
'Hem!' said Mr. Bumble. 'Well?'
'Well,' replied the undertaker, 'I was thinking that if I pay so
much towards 'em, I've a right to get as much out of 'em as I
can, Mr. Bumble; and so--I think I'll take the boy myself.'
Mr. Bumble grasped the undertaker by the arm, and led him into
the building. Mr. Sowerberry was closeted with the board for
five minutes; and it was arranged that Oliver should go to him
that evening 'upon liking'--a phrase which means, in the case of
a parish apprentice, that if the master find, upon a short trial,