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Chapter 21

  • It was a cheerless morning when they got into the street; blowing and rainin_ard; and the clouds looking dull and stormy. The night had been very wet: large pools of water had collected in the road: and the kennels wer_verflowing. There was a faint glimmering of the coming day in the sky; but i_ather aggravated than relieved the gloom of the scene: the sombre light onl_erving to pale that which the street lamps afforded, without shedding an_armer or brighter tints upon the wet house-tops, and dreary streets. Ther_ppeared to be nobody stirring in that quarter of the town; the windows of th_ouses were all closely shut; and the streets through which they passed, wer_oiseless and empty.
  • By the time they had turned into the Bethnal Green Road, the day had fairl_egun to break. Many of the lamps were already extinguished; a few countr_aggons were slowly toiling on, towards London; now and then, a stage-coach, covered with mud, rattled briskly by: the driver bestowing, as he passed, an_dmonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner who, by keeping on the wrong side o_he road, had endangered his arriving at the office, a quarter of a minut_fter his time. The public-houses, with gas-lights burning inside, wer_lready open. By degrees, other shops began to be unclosed, and a fe_cattered people were met with. Then, came straggling groups of labourer_oing to their work; then, men and women with fish-baskets on their heads; donkey-carts laden with vegetables; chaise-carts filled with live-stock o_hole carcasses of meat; milk-women with pails; an unbroken concourse o_eople, trudging out with various supplies to the eastern suburbs of the town.
  • As they approached the City, the noise and traffic gradually increased; whe_hey threaded the streets between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelle_nto a roar of sound and bustle. It was as light as it was likely to be, til_ight came on again, and the busy morning of half the London population ha_egun.
  • Turning down Sun Street and Crown Street, and crossing Finsbury square, Mr.
  • Sikes struck, by way of Chiswell Street, into Barbican: thence into Long Lane, and so into Smithfield; from which latter place arose a tumult of discordan_ounds that filled Oliver Twist with amazement.
  • It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filt_nd mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of th_attle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as man_emporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were filled wit_heep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; th_histling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of th_xen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs, the cries o_awkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bell_nd roar of voices, that issued from every public-house; the crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and discordan_im that resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, an_ursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning and bewilderin_cene, which quite confounded the senses.
  • Mr. Sikes, dragging Oliver after him, elbowed his way through the thickest o_he crowd, and bestowed very little attention on the numerous sights an_ounds, which so astonished the boy. He nodded, twice or thrice, to a passin_riend; and, resisting as many invitations to take a morning dram, presse_teadily onward, until they were clear of the turmoil, and had made their wa_hrough Hosier Lane into Holborn.
  • 'Now, young 'un!' said Sikes, looking up at the clock of St. Andrew's Church,
  • 'hard upon seven! you must step out. Come, don't lag behind already, Lazy- legs!'
  • Mr. Sikes accompanied this speech with a jerk at his little companion's wrist; Oliver, quickening his pace into a kind of trot between a fast walk and a run, kept up with the rapid strides of the house-breaker as well as he could.
  • They held their course at this rate, until they had passed Hyde Park corner, and were on their way to Kensington: when Sikes relaxed his pace, until a_mpty cart which was at some little distance behind, came up. Seeing
  • 'Hounslow' written on it, he asked the driver with as much civility as h_ould assume, if he would give them a lift as far as Isleworth.
  • 'Jump up,' said the man. 'Is that your boy?'
  • 'Yes; he's my boy,' replied Sikes, looking hard at Oliver, and putting hi_and abstractedly into the pocket where the pistol was.
  • 'Your father walks rather too quick for you, don't he, my man?' inquired th_river: seeing that Oliver was out of breath.
  • 'Not a bit of it,' replied Sikes, interposing. 'He's used to it.
  • Here, take hold of my hand, Ned. In with you!'
  • Thus addressing Oliver, he helped him into the cart; and the driver, pointin_o a heap of sacks, told him to lie down there, and rest himself.
  • As they passed the different mile-stones, Oliver wondered, more and more, where his companion meant to take him. Kensington, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Ke_ridge, Brentford, were all passed; and yet they went on as steadily as i_hey had only just begun their journey. At length, they came to a public-hous_alled the Coach and Horses; a little way beyond which, another road appeare_o run off. And here, the cart stopped.
  • Sikes dismounted with great precipitation, holding Oliver by the hand all th_hile; and lifting him down directly, bestowed a furious look upon him, an_apped the side-pocket with his fist, in a significant manner.
  • 'Good-bye, boy,' said the man.
  • 'He's sulky,' replied Sikes, giving him a shake; 'he's sulky. A young dog!
  • Don't mind him.'
  • 'Not I!' rejoined the other, getting into his cart. 'It's a fine day, afte_ll.' And he drove away.
  • Sikes waited until he had fairly gone; and then, telling Oliver he might loo_bout him if he wanted, once again led him onward on his journey.
  • They turned round to the left, a short way past the public-house; and then, taking a right-hand road, walked on for a long time: passing many larg_ardens and gentlemen's houses on both sides of the way, and stopping fo_othing but a little beer, until they reached a town. Here against the wall o_ house, Oliver saw written up in pretty large letters, 'Hampton.' The_ingered about, in the fields, for some hours. At length they came back int_he town; and, turning into an old public-house with a defaced sign-board, ordered some dinner by the kitchen fire.
  • The kitchen was an old, low-roofed room; with a great beam across the middl_f the ceiling, and benches, with high backs to them, by the fire; on whic_ere seated several rough men in smock-frocks, drinking and smoking. They too_o notice of Oliver; and very little of Sikes; and, as Sikes took very littl_otice of them, he and his young comrade sat in a corner by themselves, without being much troubled by their company.
  • They had some cold meat for dinner, and sat so long after it, while Mr. Sike_ndulged himself with three or four pipes, that Oliver began to feel quit_ertain they were not going any further. Being much tired with the walk, an_etting up so early, he dozed a little at first; then, quite overpowered b_atigue and the fumes of the tobacco, fell asleep.
  • It was quite dark when he was awakened by a push from Sikes. Rousing himsel_ufficiently to sit up and look about him, he found that worthy in clos_ellowship and communication with a labouring man, over a pint of ale.
  • 'So, you're going on to Lower Halliford, are you?' inquired Sikes.
  • 'Yes, I am,' replied the man, who seemed a little the worse—or better, as th_ase might be—for drinking; 'and not slow about it neither. My horse hasn'_ot a load behind him going back, as he had coming up in the mornin'; and h_on't be long a-doing of it. Here's luck to him. Ecod! he's a good 'un!'
  • 'Could you give my boy and me a lift as far as there?' demanded Sikes, pushin_he ale towards his new friend.
  • 'If you're going directly, I can,' replied the man, looking out of the pot.
  • 'Are you going to Halliford?'
  • 'Going on to Shepperton,' replied Sikes.
  • 'I'm your man, as far as I go,' replied the other. 'Is all paid, Becky?'
  • 'Yes, the other gentleman's paid,' replied the girl.
  • 'I say!' said the man, with tipsy gravity; 'that won't do, you know.'
  • 'Why not?' rejoined Sikes. 'You're a-going to accommodate us, and wot's t_revent my standing treat for a pint or so, in return?'
  • The stranger reflected upon this argument, with a very profound face; havin_one so, he seized Sikes by the hand: and declared he was a real good fellow.
  • To which Mr. Sikes replied, he was joking; as, if he had been sober, ther_ould have been strong reason to suppose he was.
  • After the exchange of a few more compliments, they bade the company good- night, and went out; the girl gathering up the pots and glasses as they di_o, and lounging out to the door, with her hands full, to see the party start.
  • The horse, whose health had been drunk in his absence, was standing outside: ready harnessed to the cart. Oliver and Sikes got in without any furthe_eremony; and the man to whom he belonged, having lingered for a minute or two
  • 'to bear him up,' and to defy the hostler and the world to produce his equal, mounted also. Then, the hostler was told to give the horse his head; and, hi_ead being given him, he made a very unpleasant use of it: tossing it into th_ir with great disdain, and running into the parlour windows over the way; after performing those feats, and supporting himself for a short time on hi_ind-legs, he started off at great speed, and rattled out of the town righ_allantly.
  • The night was very dark. A damp mist rose from the river, and the marsh_round about; and spread itself over the dreary fields. It was piercing cold, too; all was gloomy and black. Not a word was spoken; for the driver had grow_leepy; and Sikes was in no mood to lead him into conversation. Oliver sa_uddled together, in a corner of the cart; bewildered with alarm an_pprehension; and figuring strange objects in the gaunt trees, whose branche_aved grimly to and fro, as if in some fantastic joy at the desolation of th_cene.
  • As they passed Sunbury Church, the clock struck seven. There was a light i_he ferry-house window opposite: which streamed across the road, and thre_nto more sombre shadow a dark yew-tree with graves beneath it. There was _ull sound of falling water not far off; and the leaves of the old tre_tirred gently in the night wind. It seemed like quiet music for the repose o_he dead.
  • Sunbury was passed through, and they came again into the lonely road. Two o_hree miles more, and the cart stopped. Sikes alighted, took Oliver by th_and, and they once again walked on.
  • They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had expected; bu_till kept walking on, in mud and darkness, through gloomy lanes and over col_pen wastes, until they came within sight of the lights of a town at no grea_istance. On looking intently forward, Oliver saw that the water was jus_elow them, and that they were coming to the foot of a bridge.
  • Sikes kept straight on, until they were close upon the bridge; then turne_uddenly down a bank upon the left.
  • 'The water!' thought Oliver, turning sick with fear. 'He has brought me t_his lonely place to murder me!'
  • He was about to throw himself on the ground, and make one struggle for hi_oung life, when he saw that they stood before a solitary house: all ruinou_nd decayed. There was a window on each side of the dilapidated entrance; an_ne story above; but no light was visible. The house was dark, dismantled: an_he all appearance, uninhabited.
  • Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch, an_aised the latch. The door yielded to the pressure, and they passed i_ogether.