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Chapter 3

  • 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.