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Chapter 19

  • It was a chill, damp, windy night, when the Jew: buttoning his great-coa_ight round his shrivelled body, and pulling the collar up over his ears so a_ompletely to obscure the lower part of his face: emerged from his den. H_aused on the step as the door was locked and chained behind him; and havin_istened while the boys made all secure, and until their retreating footstep_ere no longer audible, slunk down the street as quickly as he could.
  • The house to which Oliver had been conveyed, was in the neighborhood o_hitechapel. The Jew stopped for an instant at the corner of the street; and, glancing suspiciously round, crossed the road, and struck off in the directio_f the Spitalfields.
  • The mud lay thick upon the stones, and a black mist hung over the streets; th_ain fell sluggishly down, and everything felt cold and clammy to the touch.
  • It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to b_broad. As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of th_alls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal.
  • He kept on his course, through many winding and narrow ways, until he reache_ethnal Green; then, turning suddenly off to the left, he soon became involve_n a maze of the mean and dirty streets which abound in that close an_ensely-populated quarter.
  • The Jew was evidently too familiar with the ground he traversed to be at al_ewildered, either by the darkness of the night, or the intricacies of th_ay. He hurried through several alleys and streets, and at length turned int_ne, lighted only by a single lamp at the farther end. At the door of a hous_n this street, he knocked; having exchanged a few muttered words with th_erson who opened it, he walked upstairs.
  • A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room-door; and a man's voic_emanded who was there.
  • 'Only me, Bill; only me, my dear,' said the Jew looking in.
  • 'Bring in your body then,' said Sikes. 'Lie down, you stupid brute! Don't yo_now the devil when he's got a great-coat on?'
  • Apparently, the dog had been somewhat deceived by Mr. Fagin's outer garment; for as the Jew unbuttoned it, and threw it over the back of a chair, h_etired to the corner from which he had risen: wagging his tail as he went, t_how that he was as well satisfied as it was in his nature to be.
  • 'Well!' said Sikes.
  • 'Well, my dear,' replied the Jew.—'Ah! Nancy.'
  • The latter recognition was uttered with just enough of embarrassment to impl_ doubt of its reception; for Mr. Fagin and his young friend had not met, since she had interfered in behalf of Oliver. All doubts upon the subject, i_e had any, were speedily removed by the young lady's behaviour. She took he_eet off the fender, pushed back her chair, and bade Fagin draw up his, without saying more about it: for it was a cold night, and no mistake.
  • 'It is cold, Nancy dear,' said the Jew, as he warmed his skinny hands over th_ire. 'It seems to go right through one,' added the old man, touching hi_ide.
  • 'It must be a piercer, if it finds its way through your heart,' said Mr.
  • Sikes. 'Give him something to drink, Nancy. Burn my body, make haste! It'_nough to turn a man ill, to see his lean old carcase shivering in that way, like a ugly ghost just rose from the grave.'
  • Nancy quickly brought a bottle from a cupboard, in which there were many: which, to judge from the diversity of their appearance, were filled wit_everal kinds of liquids. Sikes pouring out a glass of brandy, bade the Je_rink it off.
  • 'Quite enough, quite, thankye, Bill,' replied the Jew, putting down the glas_fter just setting his lips to it.
  • 'What! You're afraid of our getting the better of you, are you?' inquire_ikes, fixing his eyes on the Jew. 'Ugh!'
  • With a hoarse grunt of contempt, Mr. Sikes seized the glass, and threw th_emainder of its contents into the ashes: as a preparatory ceremony to fillin_t again for himself: which he did at once.
  • The Jew glanced round the room, as his companion tossed down the secon_lassful; not in curiousity, for he had seen it often before; but in _estless and suspicious manner habitual to him. It was a meanly furnishe_partment, with nothing but the contents of the closet to induce the belie_hat its occupier was anything but a working man; and with no more suspiciou_rticles displayed to view than two or three heavy bludgeons which stood in _orner, and a 'life-preserver' that hung over the chimney-piece.
  • 'There,' said Sikes, smacking his lips. 'Now I'm ready.'
  • 'For business?' inquired the Jew.
  • 'For business,' replied Sikes; 'so say what you've got to say.'
  • 'About the crib at Chertsey, Bill?' said the Jew, drawing his chair forward, and speaking in a very low voice.
  • 'Yes. Wot about it?' inquired Sikes.
  • 'Ah! you know what I mean, my dear,' said the Jew. 'He knows what I mean, Nancy; don't he?'
  • 'No, he don't,' sneered Mr. Sikes. 'Or he won't, and that's the same thing.
  • Speak out, and call things by their right names; don't sit there, winking an_linking, and talking to me in hints, as if you warn't the very first tha_hought about the robbery. Wot d'ye mean?'
  • 'Hush, Bill, hush!' said the Jew, who had in vain attempted to stop this burs_f indignation; 'somebody will hear us, my dear. Somebody will hear us.'
  • 'Let 'em hear!' said Sikes; 'I don't care.' But as Mr. Sikes DID care, o_eflection, he dropped his voice as he said the words, and grew calmer.
  • 'There, there,' said the Jew, coaxingly. 'It was only my caution, nothin_ore. Now, my dear, about that crib at Chertsey; when is it to be done, Bill, eh? When is it to be done? Such plate, my dear, such plate!' said the Jew: rubbing his hands, and elevating his eyebrows in a rapture of anticipation.
  • 'Not at all,' replied Sikes coldly.
  • 'Not to be done at all!' echoed the Jew, leaning back in his chair.
  • 'No, not at all,' rejoined Sikes. 'At least it can't be a put-up job, as w_xpected.'
  • 'Then it hasn't been properly gone about,' said the Jew, turning pale wit_nger. 'Don't tell me!'
  • 'But I will tell you,' retorted Sikes. 'Who are you that's not to be told? _ell you that Toby Crackit has been hanging about the place for a fortnight, and he can't get one of the servants in line.'
  • 'Do you mean to tell me, Bill,' said the Jew: softening as the other gre_eated: '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 'e_hese twenty years; and if you were to give 'em five hundred pound, the_ouldn't be in it.'
  • 'But do you mean to say, my dear,' remonstrated the Jew, 'that the women can'_e got over?'
  • 'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes.
  • 'Not by flash Toby Crackit?' said the Jew incredulously. 'Think what wome_re, Bill,'
  • 'No; not even by flash Toby Crackit,' replied Sikes. 'He says he's worn sha_hiskers, and a canary waistcoat, the whole blessed time he's been loiterin_own there, and it's all of no use.'
  • '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 othe_lant.'
  • The Jew looked blank at this information. After ruminating for some minute_ith his chin sunk on his breast, he raised his head and said, with a dee_igh, 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 sa_hing, 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, wit_is face wrinkled into an expression of villainy perfectly demoniacal. Sike_yed him furtively from time to time. Nancy, apparently fearful of irritatin_he housebreaker, sat with her eyes fixed upon the fire, as if she had bee_eaf to all that passed.
  • 'Fagin,' said Sikes, abruptly breaking the stillness that prevailed; 'is i_orth 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 muscl_n his face working, with the excitement that the inquiry had awakened.
  • 'Then,' said Sikes, thrusting aside the Jew's hand, with some disdain, 'let i_ome off as soon as you like. Toby and me were over the garden-wall the nigh_fore last, sounding the panels of the door and shutters. The crib's barred u_t 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 startin_ut 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. 'Neve_ind which part it is. You can't do it without me, I know; but it's best to b_n 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 o_ed, the chimbley-sweeper's! He kept him small on purpose, and let him out b_he job. But the father gets lagged; and then the Juvenile Delinquent Societ_omes, and takes the boy away from a trade where he was earning money, teache_im to read and write, and in time makes a 'prentice of him. And so they g_n,' said Mr. Sikes, his wrath rising with the recollection of his wrongs, 's_hey go on; and, if they'd got money enough (which it's a Providence the_aven't,) we shouldn't have half a dozen boys left in the whole trade, in _ear or two.'
  • 'No more we should,' acquiesced the Jew, who had been considering during thi_peech, and had only caught the last sentence. 'Bill!'
  • 'What now?' inquired Sikes.
  • The Jew nodded his head towards Nancy, who was still gazing at the fire; an_ntimated, by a sign, that he would have her told to leave the room. Sike_hrugged his shoulders impatiently, as if he thought the precautio_nnecessary; but complied, nevertheless, by requesting Miss Nancy to fetch hi_ jug of beer.
  • 'You don't want any beer,' said Nancy, folding her arms, and retaining he_eat very composedly.
  • 'I tell you I do!' replied Sikes.
  • 'Nonsense,' rejoined the girl coolly, 'Go on, Fagin. I know what he's going t_ay, Bill; he needn't mind me.'
  • The Jew still hesitated. Sikes looked from one to the other in some surprise.
  • 'Why, you don't mind the old girl, do you, Fagin?' he asked at length. 'You'v_nown her long enough to trust her, or the Devil's in it. She ain't one t_lab. Are you Nancy?'
  • '_I_ should think not!' replied the young lady: drawing her chair up to th_able, and putting her elbows upon it.
  • 'No, no, my dear, I know you're not,' said the Jew; 'but—' and again the ol_an paused.
  • 'But wot?' inquired Sikes.
  • 'I didn't know whether she mightn't p'r'aps be out of sorts, you know, m_ear, as she was the other night,' replied the Jew.
  • At this confession, Miss Nancy burst into a loud laugh; and, swallowing _lass of brandy, shook her head with an air of defiance, and burst into sundr_xclamations of 'Keep the game a-going!' 'Never say die!' and the like. Thes_eemed to have the effect of re-assuring both gentlemen; for the Jew nodde_is head with a satisfied air, and resumed his seat: as did Mr. Sike_ikewise.
  • 'Now, Fagin,' said Nancy with a laugh. 'Tell Bill at once, about Oliver!'
  • 'Ha! you're a clever one, my dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!' said th_ew, patting her on the neck. 'It WAS about Oliver I was going to speak, sur_nough. Ha! ha! ha!'
  • 'What about him?' demanded Sikes.
  • 'He's the boy for you, my dear,' replied the Jew in a hoarse whisper; layin_is finger on the side of his nose, and grinning frightfully.
  • 'He!' exclaimed. Sikes.
  • 'Have him, Bill!' said Nancy. 'I would, if I was in your place. He mayn't b_o much up, as any of the others; but that's not what you want, if he's onl_o 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 fe_eeks, and it's time he began to work for his bread. Besides, the others ar_ll 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; 'h_an't help himself. That is, if you frighten him enough.'
  • 'Frighten him!' echoed Sikes. 'It'll be no sham frightening, mind you. I_here's anything queer about him when we once get into the work; in for _enny, 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, whic_e had drawn from under the bedstead.
  • 'I've thought of it all,' said the Jew with energy. 'I've—I've had my eye upo_im, my dears, close—close. Once let him feel that he is one of us; once fil_is mind with the idea that he has been a thief; and he's ours! Ours for hi_ife. Oho! It couldn't have come about better! The old man crossed his arm_pon his breast; and, drawing his head and shoulders into a heap, literall_ugged himself for joy.
  • 'Ours!' said Sikes. 'Yours, you mean.'
  • 'Perhaps I do, my dear,' said the Jew, with a shrill chuckle. 'Mine, if yo_ike, Bill.'
  • 'And wot,' said Sikes, scowling fiercely on his agreeable friend, 'wot make_ou take so much pains about one chalk-faced kid, when you know there ar_ifty boys snoozing about Common Garden every night, as you might pick an_hoose from?'
  • 'Because they're of no use to me, my dear,' replied the Jew, with som_onfusion, 'not worth the taking. Their looks convict 'em when they get int_rouble, and I lose 'em all. With this boy, properly managed, my dears, _ould do what I couldn't with twenty of them. Besides,' said the Jew, recovering his self-possession, 'he has us now if he could only give us leg- bail again; and he must be in the same boat with us. Never mind how he cam_here; it's quite enough for my power over him that he was in a robbery; that's all I want. Now, how much better this is, than being obliged to put th_oor leetle boy out of the way—which would be dangerous, and we should lose b_t besides.'
  • 'When is it to be done?' asked Nancy, stopping some turbulent exclamation o_he part of Mr. Sikes, expressive of the disgust with which he receive_agin's affectation of humanity.
  • 'Ah, to be sure,' said the Jew; 'when is it to be done, Bill?'
  • 'I planned with Toby, the night arter to-morrow,' rejoined Sikes in a surl_oice, 'if he heerd nothing from me to the contrairy.'
  • 'Good,' said the Jew; 'there's no moon.'
  • 'No,' rejoined Sikes.
  • 'It's all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?' asked the Jew.
  • Sikes nodded.
  • 'And about—'
  • 'Oh, ah, it's all planned,' rejoined Sikes, interrupting him. 'Never min_articulars. You'd better bring the boy here to-morrow night. I shall get of_he stone an hour arter daybreak. Then you hold your tongue, and keep th_elting-pot ready, and that's all you'll have to do.'
  • After some discussion, in which all three took an active part, it was decide_hat Nancy should repair to the Jew's next evening when the night had set in, and bring Oliver away with her; Fagin craftily observing, that, if he evince_ny disinclination to the task, he would be more willing to accompany the gir_ho had so recently interfered in his behalf, than anybody else. It was als_olemnly arranged that poor Oliver should, for the purposes of th_ontemplated expedition, be unreservedly consigned to the care and custody o_r. William Sikes; and further, that the said Sikes should deal with him as h_hought fit; and should not be held responsible by the Jew for any mischanc_r evil that might be necessary to visit him: it being understood that, t_ender the compact in this respect binding, any representations made by Mr.
  • Sikes on his return should be required to be confirmed and corroborated, i_ll important particulars, by the testimony of flash Toby Crackit.
  • These preliminaries adjusted, Mr. Sikes proceeded to drink brandy at a furiou_ate, and to flourish the crowbar in an alarming manner; yelling forth, at th_ame time, most unmusical snatches of song, mingled with wild execrations. A_ength, in a fit of professional enthusiasm, he insisted upon producing hi_ox of housebreaking tools: which he had no sooner stumbled in with, an_pened for the purpose of explaining the nature and properties of the variou_mplements it contained, and the peculiar beauties of their construction, tha_e fell over the box upon the floor, and went to sleep where he fell.
  • 'Good-night, Nancy,' said the Jew, muffling himself up as before.
  • 'Good-night.'
  • Their eyes met, and the Jew scrutinised her, narrowly. There was no flinchin_bout the girl. She was as true and earnest in the matter as Toby Cracki_imself could be.
  • The Jew again bade her good-night, and, bestowing a sly kick upon th_rostrate form of Mr. Sikes while her back was turned, groped downstairs.
  • 'Always the way!' muttered the Jew to himself as he turned homeward. 'Th_orst of these women is, that a very little thing serves to call up some long- forgotten feeling; and, the best of them is, that it never lasts. Ha! ha! Th_an against the child, for a bag of gold!'
  • Beguiling the time with these pleasant reflections, Mr. Fagin wended his way, through mud and mire, to his gloomy abode: where the Dodger was sitting up, impatiently awaiting his return.
  • 'Is Oliver a-bed? I want to speak to him,' was his first remark as the_escended the stairs.
  • 'Hours ago,' replied the Dodger, throwing open a door. 'Here he is!'
  • The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so pale wit_nxiety, and sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he looked lik_eath; not death as it shows in shroud and coffin, but in the guise it wear_hen life has just departed; when a young and gentle spirit has, but a_nstant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of the world has not had time t_reathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.
  • 'Not now,' said the Jew, turning softly away. 'To-morrow. To-morrow.'