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Chapter 11

  • The offence had been committed within the district, and indeed in th_mmediate neighborhood of, a very notorious metropolitan police office. Th_rowd had only the satisfaction of accompanying Oliver through two or thre_treets, and down a place called Mutton Hill, when he was led beneath a lo_rchway, and up a dirty court, into this dispensary of summary justice, by th_ack way. It was a small paved yard into which they turned; and here the_ncountered a stout man with a bunch of whiskers on his face, and a bunch o_eys in his hand.
  • 'What's the matter now?' said the man carelessly.
  • 'A young fogle-hunter,' replied the man who had Oliver in charge.
  • 'Are you the party that's been robbed, sir?' inquired the man with the keys.
  • 'Yes, I am,' replied the old gentleman; 'but I am not sure that this bo_ctually took the handkerchief. I—I would rather not press the case.'
  • 'Must go before the magistrate now, sir,' replied the man. 'His worship wil_e disengaged in half a minute. Now, young gallows!'
  • This was an invitation for Oliver to enter through a door which he unlocked a_e spoke, and which led into a stone cell. Here he was searched; and nothin_eing found upon him, locked up.
  • This cell was in shape and size something like an area cellar, only not s_ight. It was most intolerably dirty; for it was Monday morning; and it ha_een tenanted by six drunken people, who had been locked up, elsewhere, sinc_aturday night. But this is little. In our station-houses, men and women ar_very night confined on the most trivial charges—the word is worth noting—i_ungeons, compared with which, those in Newgate, occupied by the mos_trocious felons, tried, found guilty, and under sentence of death, ar_alaces. Let any one who doubts this, compare the two.
  • The old gentleman looked almost as rueful as Oliver when the key grated in th_ock. He turned with a sigh to the book, which had been the innocent cause o_ll this disturbance.
  • 'There is something in that boy's face,' said the old gentleman to himself a_e walked slowly away, tapping his chin with the cover of the book, in _houghtful manner; 'something that touches and interests me. _Can_ he b_nnocent? He looked like—Bye the bye,' exclaimed the old gentleman, haltin_ery abruptly, and staring up into the sky, 'Bless my soul!—where have I see_omething like that look before?'
  • After musing for some minutes, the old gentleman walked, with the sam_editative face, into a back anteroom opening from the yard; and there, retiring into a corner, called up before his mind's eye a vast amphitheatre o_aces over which a dusky curtain had hung for many years. 'No,' said the ol_entleman, shaking his head; 'it must be imagination.
  • He wandered over them again. He had called them into view, and it was not eas_o replace the shroud that had so long concealed them. There were the faces o_riends, and foes, and of many that had been almost strangers peerin_ntrusively from the crowd; there were the faces of young and blooming girl_hat were now old women; there were faces that the grave had changed an_losed upon, but which the mind, superior to its power, still dressed in thei_ld freshness and beauty, calling back the lustre of the eyes, the brightnes_f the smile, the beaming of the soul through its mask of clay, and whisperin_f beauty beyond the tomb, changed but to be heightened, and taken from eart_nly to be set up as a light, to shed a soft and gentle glow upon the path t_eaven.
  • But the old gentleman could recall no one countenance of which Oliver'_eatures bore a trace. So, he heaved a sigh over the recollections h_wakened; and being, happily for himself, an absent old gentleman, buried the_gain in the pages of the musty book.
  • He was roused by a touch on the shoulder, and a request from the man with th_eys to follow him into the office. He closed his book hastily; and was a_nce ushered into the imposing presence of the renowned Mr. Fang.
  • The office was a front parlour, with a panelled wall. Mr. Fang sat behind _ar, at the upper end; and on one side the door was a sort of wooden pen i_hich poor little Oliver was already deposited; trembling very much at th_wfulness of the scene.
  • Mr. Fang was a lean, long-backed, stiff-necked, middle-sized man, with n_reat quantity of hair, and what he had, growing on the back and sides of hi_ead. His face was stern, and much flushed. If he were really not in the habi_f drinking rather more than was exactly good for him, he might have brough_ction against his countenance for libel, and have recovered heavy damages.
  • The old gentleman bowed respectfully; and advancing to the magistrate's desk, said, suiting the action to the word, 'That is my name and address, sir.' H_hen withdrew a pace or two; and, with another polite and gentlemanl_nclination of the head, waited to be questioned.
  • Now, it so happened that Mr. Fang was at that moment perusing a leadin_rticle in a newspaper of the morning, adverting to some recent decision o_is, and commending him, for the three hundred and fiftieth time, to th_pecial and particular notice of the Secretary of State for the Hom_epartment. He was out of temper; and he looked up with an angry scowl.
  • 'Who are you?' said Mr. Fang.
  • The old gentleman pointed, with some surprise, to his card.
  • 'Officer!' said Mr. Fang, tossing the card contemptuously away with th_ewspaper. 'Who is this fellow?'
  • 'My name, sir,' said the old gentleman, speaking _like_ a gentleman, 'my name, sir, is Brownlow. Permit me to inquire the name of the magistrate who offers _ratuitous and unprovoked insult to a respectable person, under the protectio_f the bench.' Saying this, Mr. Brownlow looked around the office as if i_earch of some person who would afford him the required information.
  • 'Officer!' said Mr. Fang, throwing the paper on one side, 'what's this fello_harged with?'
  • 'He's not charged at all, your worship,' replied the officer. 'He appear_gainst this boy, your worship.'
  • His worship knew this perfectly well; but it was a good annoyance, and a saf_ne.
  • 'Appears against the boy, does he?' said Mr. Fang, surveying Mr. Brownlo_ontemptuously from head to foot. 'Swear him!'
  • 'Before I am sworn, I must beg to say one word,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'and tha_s, that I really never, without actual experience, could have believed—'
  • 'Hold your tongue, sir!' said Mr. Fang, peremptorily.
  • 'I will not, sir!' replied the old gentleman.
  • 'Hold your tongue this instant, or I'll have you turned out of the office!'
  • said Mr. Fang. 'You're an insolent impertinent fellow. How dare you bully _agistrate!'
  • 'What!' exclaimed the old gentleman, reddening.
  • 'Swear this person!' said Fang to the clerk. 'I'll not hear another word.
  • Swear him.'
  • Mr. Brownlow's indignation was greatly roused; but reflecting perhaps, that h_ight only injure the boy by giving vent to it, he suppressed his feelings an_ubmitted to be sworn at once.
  • 'Now,' said Fang, 'what's the charge against this boy? What have you got t_ay, sir?'
  • 'I was standing at a bookstall—' Mr. Brownlow began.
  • 'Hold your tongue, sir,' said Mr. Fang. 'Policeman! Where's the policeman?
  • Here, swear this policeman. Now, policeman, what is this?'
  • The policeman, with becoming humility, related how he had taken the charge; how he had searched Oliver, and found nothing on his person; and how that wa_ll he knew about it.
  • 'Are there any witnesses?' inquired Mr. Fang.
  • 'None, your worship,' replied the policeman.
  • Mr. Fang sat silent for some minutes, and then, turning round to th_rosecutor, said in a towering passion.
  • 'Do you mean to state what your complaint against this boy is, man, or do yo_ot? You have been sworn. Now, if you stand there, refusing to give evidence, I'll punish you for disrespect to the bench; I will, by—'
  • By what, or by whom, nobody knows, for the clerk and jailor coughed very loud, just at the right moment; and the former dropped a heavy book upon the floor, thus preventing the word from being heard—accidently, of course.
  • With many interruptions, and repeated insults, Mr. Brownlow contrived to stat_is case; observing that, in the surprise of the moment, he had run after th_oy because he had saw him running away; and expressing his hope that, if th_agistrate should believe him, although not actually the thief, to b_onnected with the thieves, he would deal as leniently with him as justic_ould allow.
  • 'He has been hurt already,' said the old gentleman in conclusion. 'And _ear,' he added, with great energy, looking towards the bar, 'I really fea_hat he is ill.'
  • 'Oh! yes, I dare say!' said Mr. Fang, with a sneer. 'Come, none of your trick_ere, you young vagabond; they won't do. What's your name?'
  • Oliver tried to reply but his tongue failed him. He was deadly pale; and th_hole place seemed turning round and round.
  • 'What's your name, you hardened scoundrel?' demanded Mr. Fang. 'Officer, what's his name?'
  • This was addressed to a bluff old fellow, in a striped waistcoat, who wa_tanding by the bar. He bent over Oliver, and repeated the inquiry; bu_inding him really incapable of understanding the question; and knowing tha_is not replying would only infuriate the magistrate the more, and add to th_everity of his sentence; he hazarded a guess.
  • 'He says his name's Tom White, your worship,' said the kind-hearted thief- taker.
  • 'Oh, he won't speak out, won't he?' said Fang. 'Very well, very well. Wher_oes he live?'
  • 'Where he can, your worship,' replied the officer; again pretending to receiv_liver's answer.
  • 'Has he any parents?' inquired Mr. Fang.
  • 'He says they died in his infancy, your worship,' replied the officer: hazarding the usual reply.
  • At this point of the inquiry, Oliver raised his head; and, looking round wit_mploring eyes, murmured a feeble prayer for a draught of water.
  • 'Stuff and nonsense!' said Mr. Fang: 'don't try to make a fool of me.'
  • 'I think he really is ill, your worship,' remonstrated the officer.
  • 'I know better,' said Mr. Fang.
  • 'Take care of him, officer,' said the old gentleman, raising his hand_nstinctively; 'he'll fall down.'
  • 'Stand away, officer,' cried Fang; 'let him, if he likes.'
  • Oliver availed himself of the kind permission, and fell to the floor in _ainting fit. The men in the office looked at each other, but no one dared t_tir.
  • 'I knew he was shamming,' said Fang, as if this were incontestable proof o_he fact. 'Let him lie there; he'll soon be tired of that.'
  • 'How do you propose to deal with the case, sir?' inquired the clerk in a lo_oice.
  • 'Summarily,' replied Mr. Fang. 'He stands committed for three months—har_abour of course. Clear the office.'
  • The door was opened for this purpose, and a couple of men were preparing t_arry the insensible boy to his cell; when an elderly man of decent but poo_ppearance, clad in an old suit of black, rushed hastily into the office, an_dvanced towards the bench.
  • 'Stop, stop! don't take him away! For Heaven's sake stop a moment!' cried th_ew comer, breathless with haste.
  • Although the presiding Genii in such an office as this, exercise a summary an_rbitrary power over the liberties, the good name, the character, almost th_ives, of Her Majesty's subjects, expecially of the poorer class; an_lthough, within such walls, enough fantastic tricks are daily played to mak_he angels blind with weeping; they are closed to the public, save through th_edium of the daily press.[Footnote: Or were virtually, then.] Mr. Fang wa_onsequently not a little indignant to see an unbidden guest enter in suc_rreverent disorder.
  • 'What is this? Who is this? Turn this man out. Clear the office!' cried Mr.
  • Fang.
  • 'I _will_ speak,' cried the man; 'I will not be turned out. I saw it all. _eep the book-stall. I demand to be sworn. I will not be put down. Mr. Fang, you must hear me. You must not refuse, sir.'
  • The man was right. His manner was determined; and the matter was growin_ather too serious to be hushed up.
  • 'Swear the man,' growled Mr. Fang. with a very ill grace. 'Now, man, what hav_ou got to say?'
  • 'This,' said the man: 'I saw three boys: two others and the prisoner here: loitering on the opposite side of the way, when this gentleman was reading.
  • The robbery was committed by another boy. I saw it done; and I saw that thi_oy was perfectly amazed and stupified by it.' Having by this time recovered _ittle breath, the worthy book-stall keeper proceeded to relate, in a mor_oherent manner the exact circumstances of the robbery.
  • 'Why didn't you come here before?' said Fang, after a pause.
  • 'I hadn't a soul to mind the shop,' replied the man. 'Everybody who could hav_elped me, had joined in the pursuit. I could get nobody till five minute_go; and I've run here all the way.'
  • 'The prosecutor was reading, was he?' inquired Fang, after another pause.
  • 'Yes,' replied the man. 'The very book he has in his hand.'
  • 'Oh, that book, eh?' said Fang. 'Is it paid for?'
  • 'No, it is not,' replied the man, with a smile.
  • 'Dear me, I forgot all about it!' exclaimed the absent old gentleman, innocently.
  • 'A nice person to prefer a charge against a poor boy!' said Fang, with _omical effort to look humane. 'I consider, sir, that you have obtaine_ossession of that book, under very suspicious and disreputable circumstances; and you may think yourself very fortunate that the owner of the propert_eclines to prosecute. Let this be a lesson to you, my man, or the law wil_vertake you yet. The boy is discharged. Clear the office!'
  • 'D—n me!' cried the old gentleman, bursting out with the rage he had kept dow_o long, 'd—n me! I'll—'
  • 'Clear the office!' said the magistrate. 'Officers, do you hear? Clear th_ffice!'
  • The mandate was obeyed; and the indignant Mr. Brownlow was conveyed out, wit_he book in one hand, and the bamboo cane in the other: in a perfect phrenz_f rage and defiance. He reached the yard; and his passion vanished in _oment. Little Oliver Twist lay on his back on the pavement, with his shir_nbuttoned, and his temples bathed with water; his face a deadly white; and _old tremble convulsing his whole frame.
  • 'Poor boy, poor boy!' said Mr. Brownlow, bending over him. 'Call a coach, somebody, pray. Directly!'
  • A coach was obtained, and Oliver having been carefully laid on the seat, th_ld gentleman got in and sat himself on the other.
  • 'May I accompany you?' said the book-stall keeper, looking in.
  • 'Bless me, yes, my dear sir,' said Mr. Brownlow quickly. 'I forgot you. Dear, dear! I have this unhappy book still! Jump in. Poor fellow! There's no time t_ose.'
  • The book-stall keeper got into the coach; and away they drove.