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'He'--(none of them called the murderer by his old name)--'He
can't have made away with himself. What do you think?' said
Toby shook his head.
'If he had,' said Kags, 'the dog 'ud want to lead us away to
where he did it. No. I think he's got out of the country, and
left the dog behind. He must have given him the slip somehow, or
he wouldn't be so easy.'
This solution, appearing the most probable one, was adopted as
the right; the dog, creeping under a chair, coiled himself up to
sleep, without more notice from anybody.
It being now dark, the shutter was closed, and a candle lighted
and placed upon the table. The terrible events of the last two
days had made a deep impression on all three, increased by the
danger and uncertainty of their own position. They drew their
chairs closer together, starting at every sound. They spoke
little, and that in whispers, and were as silent and awe-stricken
as if the remains of the murdered woman lay in the next room.
They had sat thus, some time, when suddenly was heard a hurried
knocking at the door below.
'Young Bates,' said Kags, looking angrily round, to check the
fear he felt himself.
The knocking came again. No, it wasn't he. He never knocked
Crackit went to the window, and shaking all over, drew in his
head. There was no need to tell them who it was; his pale face
was enough. The dog too was on the alert in an instant, and ran
whining to the door.
'We must let him in,' he said, taking up the candle.
'Isn't there any help for it?' asked the other man in a hoarse
'None. He MUST come in.'
'Don't leave us in the dark,' said Kags, taking down a candle
from the chimney-piece, and lighting it, with such a trembling
hand that the knocking was twice repeated before he had finished.
Crackit went down to the door, and returned followed by a man
with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and
another tied over his head under his hat. He drew them slowly
off. Blanched face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three
days' growth, wasted flesh, short thick breath; it was the very
ghost of Sikes.
He laid his hand upon a chair which stood in the middle of the
room, but shuddering as he was about to drop into it, and seeming
to glance over his shoulder, dragged it back close to the
wall--as close as it would go--and ground it against it--and sat
Not a word had been exchanged. He looked from one to another in
silence. If an eye were furtively raised and met his, it was
instantly averted. When his hollow voice broke silence, they all
three started. They seemed never to have heard its tones before.
'How came that dog here?' he asked.
'Alone. Three hours ago.'
'To-night's paper says that Fagin's took. Is it true, or a lie?'
They were silent again.
'Damn you all!' said Sikes, passing his hand across his forehead.
'Have you nothing to say to me?'
There was an uneasy movement among them, but nobody spoke.
'You that keep this house,' said Sikes, turning his face to
Crackit, 'do you mean to sell me, or to let me lie here till this
hunt is over?'
'You may stop here, if you think it safe,' returned the person
addressed, after some hesitation.
Sikes carried his eyes slowly up the wall behind him: rather
trying to turn his head than actually doing it: and said,
'Is--it--the body--is it buried?'
They shook their heads.
'Why isn't it!' he retorted with the same glance behind him.
'Wot do they keep such ugly things above the ground for?--Who's
Crackit intimated, by a motion of his hand as he left the room,
that there was nothing to fear; and directly came back with
Charley Bates behind him. Sikes sat opposite the door, so that
the moment the boy entered the room he encountered his figure.
'Toby,' said the boy falling back, as Sikes turned his eyes
towards him, 'why didn't you tell me this, downstairs?'
There had been something so tremendous in the shrinking off of
the three, that the wretched man was willing to propitiate even
this lad. Accordingly he nodded, and made as though he would
shake hands with him.
'Let me go into some other room,' said the boy, retreating still
'Charley!' said Sikes, stepping forward. 'Don't you--don't you
'Don't come nearer me,' answered the boy, still retreating, and
looking, with horror in his eyes, upon the murderer's face. 'You
The man stopped half-way, and they looked at each other; but
Sikes's eyes sunk gradually to the ground.
'Witness you three,' cried the boy shaking his clenched fist, and
becoming more and more excited as he spoke. 'Witness you
three--I'm not afraid of him--if they come here after him, I'll
give him up; I will. I tell you out at once. He may kill me for
it if he likes, or if he dares, but if I am here I'll give him
up. I'd give him up if he was to be boiled alive. Murder!
Help! If there's the pluck of a man among you three, you'll help
me. Murder! Help! Down with him!'
Pouring out these cries, and accompanying them with violent
gesticulation, the boy actually threw himself, single-handed,
upon the strong man, and in the intensity of his energy and the
suddenness of his surprise, brought him heavily to the ground.
The three spectators seemed quite stupefied. They offered no
interference, and the boy and man rolled on the ground together;
the former, heedless of the blows that showered upon him,
wrenching his hands tighter and tighter in the garments about the
murderer's breast, and never ceasing to call for help with all
The contest, however, was too unequal to last long. Sikes had
him down, and his knee was on his throat, when Crackit pulled him
back with a look of alarm, and pointed to the window. There were
lights gleaming below, voices in loud and earnest conversation,
the tramp of hurried footsteps--endless they seemed in
number--crossing the nearest wooden bridge. One man on horseback
seemed to be among the crowd; for there was the noise of hoofs
rattling on the uneven pavement. The gleam of lights increased;
the footsteps came more thickly and noisily on. Then, came a
loud knocking at the door, and then a hoarse murmur from such a
multitude of angry voices as would have made the boldest quail.
'Help!' shrieked the boy in a voice that rent the air.
'He's here! Break down the door!'
'In the King's name,' cried the voices without; and the hoarse
cry arose again, but louder.
'Break down the door!' screamed the boy. 'I tell you they'll
never open it. Run straight to the room where the light is.
Break down the door!'
Strokes, thick and heavy, rattled upon the door and lower
window-shutters as he ceased to speak, and a loud huzzah burst
from the crowd; giving the listener, for the first time, some
adequate idea of its immense extent.
'Open the door of some place where I can lock this screeching
Hell-babe,' cried Sikes fiercely; running to and fro, and
dragging the boy, now, as easily as if he were an empty sack.
'That door. Quick!' He flung him in, bolted it, and turned the
key. 'Is the downstairs door fast?'
'Double-locked and chained,' replied Crackit, who, with the other
two men, still remained quite helpless and bewildered.
'The panels--are they strong?'
'Lined with sheet-iron.'
'And the windows too?'
'Yes, and the windows.'
'Damn you!' cried the desperate ruffian, throwing up the sash and
menacing the crowd. 'Do your worst! I'll cheat you yet!'
Of all the terrific yells that ever fell on mortal ears, none
could exceed the cry of the infuriated throng. Some shouted to
those who were nearest to set the house on fire; others roared to
the officers to shoot him dead. Among them all, none showed such