For a week after the commission of the impious and profane offence of askin_or more, Oliver remained a close prisoner in the dark and solitary room t_hich he had been consigned by the wisdom and mercy of the board. It appears, at first sight not unreasonable to suppose, that, if he had entertained _ecoming feeling of respect for the prediction of the gentleman in the whit_aistcoat, he would have established that sage individual's propheti_haracter, once and for ever, by tying one end of his pocket-handkerchief to _ook in the wall, and attaching himself to the other. To the performance o_his feat, however, there was one obstacle: namely, that pocket-handkerchief_eing decided articles of luxury, had been, for all future times and ages, removed from the noses of paupers by the express order of the board, i_ouncil assembled: solemnly given and pronounced under their hands and seals.
There was a still greater obstacle in Oliver's youth and childishness. He onl_ried bitterly all day; and, when the long, dismal night came on, spread hi_ittle hands before his eyes to shut out the darkness, and crouching in th_orner, tried to sleep: ever and anon waking with a start and tremble, an_rawing himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even its col_ard surface were a protection in the gloom and loneliness which surrounde_im.
Let it not be supposed by the enemies of 'the system,' that, during the perio_f his solitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, th_leasure of society, or the advantages of religious consolation. As fo_xercise, it was nice cold weather, and he was allowed to perform hi_blutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in the presence o_r. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a tingling sensatio_o pervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane. As for society, h_as carried every other day into the hall where the boys dined, and ther_ociably flogged as a public warning and example. And so for from being denie_he advantages of religious consolation, he was kicked into the same apartmen_very evening at prayer-time, and there permitted to listen to, and consol_is mind with, a general supplication of the boys, containing a specia_lause, therein inserted by authority of the board, in which they entreated t_e made good, virtuous, contented, and obedient, and to be guarded from th_ins and vices of Oliver Twist: whom the supplication distinctly set forth t_e under the exclusive patronage and protection of the powers of wickedness, and an article direct from the manufactory of the very Devil himself.
It chanced one morning, while Oliver's affairs were in this auspicious an_omfortable state, that Mr. Gamfield, chimney-sweep, went his way down th_igh Street, deeply cogitating in his mind his ways and means of payin_ertain arrears of rent, for which his landlord had become rather pressing.
Mr. Gamfield's most sanguine estimate of his finances could not raise the_ithin full five pounds of the desired amount; and, in a species o_rthimetical desperation, he was alternately cudgelling his brains and hi_onkey, when passing the workhouse, his eyes encountered the bill on the gate.
'Wo—o!' said Mr. Gamfield to the donkey.
The donkey was in a state of profound abstraction: wondering, probably, whether he was destined to be regaled with a cabbage-stalk or two when he ha_isposed of the two sacks of soot with which the little cart was laden; so, without noticing the word of command, he jogged onward.
Mr. Gamfield growled a fierce imprecation on the donkey generally, but mor_articularly on his eyes; and, running after him, bestowed a blow on his head, which would inevitably have beaten in any skull but a donkey's. Then, catchin_old of the bridle, he gave his jaw a sharp wrench, by way of gentle reminde_hat he was not his own master; and by these means turned him round. He the_ave him another blow on the head, just to stun him till he came back again.
Having completed these arrangements, he walked up to the gate, to read th_ill.
The gentleman with the white waistcoat was standing at the gate with his hand_ehind him, after having delivered himself of some profound sentiments in th_oard-room. Having witnessed the little dispute between Mr. Gamfield and th_onkey, he smiled joyously when that person came up to read the bill, for h_aw at once that Mr. Gamfield was exactly the sort of master Oliver Twis_anted. Mr. Gamfield smiled, too, as he perused the document; for five pound_as just the sum he had been wishing for; and, as to the boy with which it wa_ncumbered, Mr. Gamfield, knowing what the dietary of the workhouse was, wel_new he would be a nice small pattern, just the very thing for registe_toves. So, he spelt the bill through again, from beginning to end; and then, touching his fur cap in token of humility, accosted the gentleman in the whit_aistcoat.
'This here boy, sir, wot the parish wants to 'prentis,' said Mr. Gamfield.
'Ay, my man,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat, with a condescendin_mile. 'What of him?'
'If the parish vould like him to learn a right pleasant trade, in a good
'spectable chimbley-sweepin' bisness,' said Mr. Gamfield, 'I wants a 'prentis, and I am ready to take him.'
'Walk in,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. Mr. Gamfield havin_ingered behind, to give the donkey another blow on the head, and anothe_rench of the jaw, as a caution not to run away in his absence, followed th_entleman with the white waistcoat into the room where Oliver had first see_im.
'It's a nasty trade,' said Mr. Limbkins, when Gamfield had again stated hi_ish.
'Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now,' said anothe_entleman.
'That's acause they damped the straw afore they lit it in the chimbley to make
'em come down again,' said Gamfield; 'that's all smoke, and no blaze; verea_moke ain't o' no use at all in making a boy come down, for it only sinds hi_o sleep, and that's wot he likes. Boys is wery obstinit, and wery lazy, Gen'l'men, and there's nothink like a good hot blaze to make 'em come dow_ith a run. It's humane too, gen'l'men, acause, even if they've stuck in th_himbley, roasting their feet makes 'em struggle to hextricate theirselves.'
The gentleman in the white waistcoat appeared very much amused by thi_xplanation; but his mirth was speedily checked by a look from Mr. Limbkins.
The board then proceeded to converse among themselves for a few minutes, bu_n so low a tone, that the words 'saving of expenditure,' 'looked well in th_ccounts,' 'have a printed report published,' were alone audible. These onl_hanced to be heard, indeed, or account of their being very frequentl_epeated with great emphasis.
At length the whispering ceased; and the members of the board, having resume_heir seats and their solemnity, Mr. Limbkins said:
'We have considered your proposition, and we don't approve of it.'
'Not at all,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
'Decidedly not,' added the other members.
As Mr. Gamfield did happen to labour under the slight imputation of havin_ruised three or four boys to death already, it occurred to him that the boar_ad, perhaps, in some unaccountable freak, taken it into their heads that thi_xtraneous circumstance ought to influence their proceedings. It was ver_nlike their general mode of doing business, if they had; but still, as he ha_o particular wish to revive the rumour, he twisted his cap in his hands, an_alked slowly from the table.
'So you won't let me have him, gen'l'men?' said Mr. Gamfield, pausing near th_oor.
'No,' replied Mr. Limbkins; 'at least, as it's a nasty business, we think yo_ught to take something less than the premium we offered.'
Mr. Gamfield's countenance brightened, as, with a quick step, he returned t_he table, and said,
'What'll you give, gen'l'men? Come! Don't be too hard on a poor man. What'l_ou give?'
'I should say, three pound ten was plenty,' said Mr. Limbkins.
'Ten shillings too much,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
'Come!' said Gamfield; 'say four pound, gen'l'men. Say four pound, and you'v_ot rid of him for good and all. There!'
'Three pound ten,' repeated Mr. Limbkins, firmly.
'Come! I'll split the diff'erence, gen'l'men,' urged Gamfield. 'Three poun_ifteen.'
'Not a farthing more,' was the firm reply of Mr. Limbkins.
'You're desperate hard upon me, gen'l'men,' said Gamfield, wavering.
'Pooh! pooh! nonsense!' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. 'He'd b_heap with nothing at all, as a premium. Take him, you silly fellow! He's jus_he boy for you. He wants the stick, now and then: it'll do him good; and hi_oard needn't come very expensive, for he hasn't been overfed since he wa_orn. Ha! ha! ha!'
Mr. Gamfield gave an arch look at the faces round the table, and, observing _mile on all of them, gradually broke into a smile himself. The bargain wa_ade. Mr. Bumble, was at once instructed that Oliver Twist and his indenture_ere to be conveyed before the magistrate, for signature and approval, tha_ery afternoon.
In pursuance of this determination, little Oliver, to his excessiv_stonishment, was released from bondage, and ordered to put himself into _lean shirt. He had hardly achieved this very unusual gymnastic performance, when Mr. Bumble brought him, with his own hands, a basin of gruel, and th_oliday allowance of two ounces and a quarter of bread. At this tremendou_ight, Oliver began to cry very piteously: thinking, not unnaturally, that th_oard must have determined to kill him for some useful purpose, or they neve_ould have begun to fatten him up in that way.
'Don't make your eyes red, Oliver, but eat your food and be thankful,' sai_r. Bumble, in a tone of impressive pomposity. 'You're a going to be made a
'prentice of, Oliver.'
'A prentice, sir!' said the child, trembling.
'Yes, Oliver,' said Mr. Bumble. 'The kind and blessed gentleman which is s_any parents to you, Oliver, when you have none of your own: are a going to
'prentice' you: and to set you up in life, and make a man of you: although th_xpense to the parish is three pound ten!—three pound ten, Oliver!—sevent_hillins—one hundred and forty sixpences!—and all for a naughty orphan whic_obody can't love.'
As Mr. Bumble paused to take breath, after delivering this address in an awfu_oice, the tears rolled down the poor child's face, and he sobbed bitterly.
'Come,' said Mr. Bumble, somewhat less pompously, for it was gratifying to hi_eelings to observe the effect his eloquence had produced; 'Come, Oliver! Wip_our eyes with the cuffs of your jacket, and don't cry into your gruel; that'_ very foolish action, Oliver.' It certainly was, for there was quite enoug_ater in it already.
On their way to the magistrate, Mr. Bumble instructed Oliver that all he woul_ave to do, would be to look very happy, and say, when the gentleman asked hi_f he wanted to be apprenticed, that he should like it very much indeed; bot_f which injunctions Oliver promised to obey: the rather as Mr. Bumble thre_n a gentle hint, that if he failed in either particular, there was no tellin_hat would be done to him. When they arrived at the office, he was shut up i_ little room by himself, and admonished by Mr. Bumble to stay there, until h_ame back to fetch him.
There the boy remained, with a palpitating heart, for half an hour. At th_xpiration of which time Mr. Bumble thrust in his head, unadorned with th_ocked hat, and said aloud:
'Now, Oliver, my dear, come to the gentleman.' As Mr. Bumble said this, he pu_n a grim and threatening look, and added, in a low voice, 'Mind what I tol_ou, you young rascal!'
Oliver stared innocently in Mr. Bumble's face at this somewhat contradictor_tyle of address; but that gentleman prevented his offering any remar_hereupon, by leading him at once into an adjoining room: the door of whic_as open. It was a large room, with a great window. Behind a desk, sat two ol_entleman with powdered heads: one of whom was reading the newspaper; whil_he other was perusing, with the aid of a pair of tortoise-shell spectacles, _mall piece of parchment which lay before him. Mr. Limbkins was standing i_ront of the desk on one side; and Mr. Gamfield, with a partially washed face, on the other; while two or three bluff-looking men, in top-boots, wer_ounging about.
The old gentleman with the spectacles gradually dozed off, over the little bi_f parchment; and there was a short pause, after Oliver had been stationed b_r. Bumble in front of the desk.
'This is the boy, your worship,' said Mr. Bumble.
The old gentleman who was reading the newspaper raised his head for a moment, and pulled the other old gentleman by the sleeve; whereupon, the last- mentioned old gentleman woke up.
'Oh, is this the boy?' said the old gentleman.
'This is him, sir,' replied Mr. Bumble. 'Bow to the magistrate, my dear.'
Oliver roused himself, and made his best obeisance. He had been wondering, with his eyes fixed on the magistrates' powder, whether all boards were bor_ith that white stuff on their heads, and were boards from thenceforth on tha_ccount.
'Well,' said the old gentleman, 'I suppose he's fond of chimney-sweeping?'
'He doats on it, your worship,' replied Bumble; giving Oliver a sly pinch, t_ntimate that he had better not say he didn't.
'And he _will_ be a sweep, will he?' inquired the old gentleman.
'If we was to bind him to any other trade to-morrow, he'd run awa_imultaneous, your worship,' replied Bumble.
'And this man that's to be his master—you, sir—you'll treat him well, and fee_im, and do all that sort of thing, will you?' said the old gentleman.
'When I says I will, I means I will,' replied Mr. Gamfield doggedly.
'You're a rough speaker, my friend, but you look an honest, open-hearted man,'
said the old gentleman: turning his spectacles in the direction of th_andidate for Oliver's premium, whose villainous countenance was a regula_tamped receipt for cruelty. But the magistrate was half blind and hal_hildish, so he couldn't reasonably be expected to discern what other peopl_id.
'I hope I am, sir,' said Mr. Gamfield, with an ugly leer.
'I have no doubt you are, my friend,' replied the old gentleman: fixing hi_pectacles more firmly on his nose, and looking about him for the inkstand.
It was the critical moment of Oliver's fate. If the inkstand had been wher_he old gentleman thought it was, he would have dipped his pen into it, an_igned the indentures, and Oliver would have been straightway hurried off.
But, as it chanced to be immediately under his nose, it followed, as a matte_f course, that he looked all over his desk for it, without finding it; an_appening in the course of his search to look straight before him, his gaz_ncountered the pale and terrified face of Oliver Twist: who, despite all th_dmonitory looks and pinches of Bumble, was regarding the repulsiv_ountenance of his future master, with a mingled expression of horror an_ear, too palpable to be mistaken, even by a half-blind magistrate.
The old gentleman stopped, laid down his pen, and looked from Oliver to Mr.
Limbkins; who attempted to take snuff with a cheerful and unconcerned aspect.
'My boy!' said the old gentleman, 'you look pale and alarmed. What is th_atter?'
'Stand a little away from him, Beadle,' said the other magistrate: layin_side the paper, and leaning forward with an expression of interest. 'Now, boy, tell us what's the matter: don't be afraid.'
Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayed that the_ould order him back to the dark room—that they would starve him—beat him—kil_im if they pleased—rather than send him away with that dreadful man.
'Well!' said Mr. Bumble, raising his hands and eyes with most impressiv_olemnity. 'Well! of all the artful and designing orphans that ever I see, Oliver, you are one of the most bare-facedest.'
'Hold your tongue, Beadle,' said the second old gentleman, when Mr. Bumble ha_iven vent to this compound adjective.
'I beg your worship's pardon,' said Mr. Bumble, incredulous of having hear_right. 'Did your worship speak to me?'
'Yes. Hold your tongue.'
Mr. Bumble was stupefied with astonishment. A beadle ordered to hold hi_ongue! A moral revolution!
The old gentleman in the tortoise-shell spectacles looked at his companion, h_odded significantly.
'We refuse to sanction these indentures,' said the old gentleman: tossin_side the piece of parchment as he spoke.
'I hope,' stammered Mr. Limbkins: 'I hope the magistrates will not form th_pinion that the authorities have been guilty of any improper conduct, on th_nsupported 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 want it.'
That same evening, the gentleman in the white waistcoat most positively an_ecidedly affirmed, not only that Oliver would be hung, but that he would b_rawn and quartered into the bargain. Mr. Bumble shook his head with gloom_ystery, and said he wished he might come to good; whereunto Mr. Gamfiel_eplied, that he wished he might come to him; which, although he agreed wit_he beadle in most matters, would seem to be a wish of a totally opposit_escription.
The next morning, the public were once informed that Oliver Twist was again T_et, and that five pounds would be paid to anybody who would take possessio_f him.