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Chapter 6

  • The month's trial over, Oliver was formally apprenticed. It was a nice sickl_eason just at this time. In commercial phrase, coffins were looking up; and,
  • in the course of a few weeks, Oliver acquired a great deal of experience. Th_uccess of Mr. Sowerberry's ingenious speculation, exceeded even his mos_anguine hopes. The oldest inhabitants recollected no period at which measle_ad been so prevalent, or so fatal to infant existence; and many were th_ournful processions which little Oliver headed, in a hat-band reaching dow_o his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the mother_n the town. As Oliver accompanied his master in most of his adult expedition_oo, in order that he might acquire that equanimity of demeanour and ful_ommand of nerve which was essential to a finished undertaker, he had man_pportunities of observing the beautiful resignation and fortitude with whic_ome strong-minded people bear their trials and losses.
  • For instance; when Sowerberry had an order for the burial of some rich ol_ady or gentleman, who was surrounded by a great number of nephews and nieces,
  • who had been perfectly inconsolable during the previous illness, and whos_rief had been wholly irrepressible even on the most public occasions, the_ould be as happy among themselves as need be—quite cheerful an_ontented—conversing together with as much freedom and gaiety, as if nothin_hatever had happened to disturb them. Husbands, too, bore the loss of thei_ives with the most heroic calmness. Wives, again, put on weeds for thei_usbands, as if, so far from grieving in the garb of sorrow, they had made u_heir minds to render it as becoming and attractive as possible. It wa_bservable, too, that ladies and gentlemen who were in passions of anguis_uring the ceremony of interment, recovered almost as soon as they reache_ome, and became quite composed before the tea-drinking was over. All this wa_ery pleasant and improving to see; and Oliver beheld it with grea_dmiration.
  • That Oliver Twist was moved to resignation by the example of these goo_eople, I cannot, although I am his biographer, undertake to affirm with an_egree of confidence; but I can most distinctly say, that for many months h_ontinued meekly to submit to the domination and ill-treatment of Noa_laypole: who used him far worse than before, now that his jealousy was rouse_y seeing the new boy promoted to the black stick and hatband, while he, th_ld one, remained stationary in the muffin-cap and leathers. Charlotte treate_im ill, because Noah did; and Mrs. Sowerberry was his decided enemy, becaus_r. Sowerberry was disposed to be his friend; so, between these three on on_ide, and a glut of funerals on the other, Oliver was not altogether a_omfortable as the hungry pig was, when he was shut up, by mistake, in th_rain department of a brewery.
  • And now, I come to a very important passage in Oliver's history; for I have t_ecord an act, slight and unimportant perhaps in appearance, but whic_ndirectly produced a material change in all his future prospects an_roceedings.
  • One day, Oliver and Noah had descended into the kitchen at the usual dinner-
  • hour, to banquet upon a small joint of mutton—a pound and a half of the wors_nd of the neck—when Charlotte being called out of the way, there ensued _rief interval of time, which Noah Claypole, being hungry and vicious,
  • considered he could not possibly devote to a worthier purpose than aggravatin_nd tantalising young Oliver Twist.
  • Intent upon this innocent amusement, Noah put his feet on the table-cloth; an_ulled Oliver's hair; and twitched his ears; and expressed his opinion that h_as a 'sneak'; and furthermore announced his intention of coming to see hi_anged, whenever that desirable event should take place; and entered upo_arious topics of petty annoyance, like a malicious and ill-conditione_harity-boy as he was. But, making Oliver cry, Noah attempted to be mor_acetious still; and in his attempt, did what many sometimes do to this day,
  • when they want to be funny. He got rather personal.
  • 'Work'us,' said Noah, 'how's your mother?'
  • 'She's dead,' replied Oliver; 'don't you say anything about her to me!'
  • Oliver's colour rose as he said this; he breathed quickly; and there was _urious working of the mouth and nostrils, which Mr. Claypole thought must b_he immediate precursor of a violent fit of crying. Under this impression h_eturned to the charge.
  • 'What did she die of, Work'us?' said Noah.
  • 'Of a broken heart, some of our old nurses told me,' replied Oliver: more a_f he were talking to himself, than answering Noah. 'I think I know what i_ust be to die of that!'
  • 'Tol de rol lol lol, right fol lairy, Work'us,' said Noah, as a tear rolle_own Oliver's cheek. 'What's set you a snivelling now?'
  • 'Not _you_,' replied Oliver, sharply. 'There; that's enough. Don't sa_nything more to me about her; you'd better not!'
  • 'Better not!' exclaimed Noah. 'Well! Better not! Work'us, don't be impudent.
  • _Your_ mother, too! She was a nice 'un she was. Oh, Lor!' And here, Noa_odded his head expressively; and curled up as much of his small red nose a_uscular action could collect together, for the occasion.
  • 'Yer know, Work'us,' continued Noah, emboldened by Oliver's silence, an_peaking in a jeering tone of affected pity: of all tones the most annoying:
  • 'Yer know, Work'us, it can't be helped now; and of course yer couldn't help i_hen; and I am very sorry for it; and I'm sure we all are, and pity yer ver_uch. But yer must know, Work'us, yer mother was a regular right-down bad
  • 'un.'
  • 'What did you say?' inquired Oliver, looking up very quickly.
  • 'A regular right-down bad 'un, Work'us,' replied Noah, coolly. 'And it's _reat deal better, Work'us, that she died when she did, or else she'd hav_een hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung; which is mor_ikely than either, isn't it?'
  • Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair and table; seize_oah by the throat; shook him, in the violence of his rage, till his teet_hattered in his head; and collecting his whole force into one heavy blow,
  • felled him to the ground.
  • A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected creature tha_arsh treatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last; the crue_nsult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire. His breast heaved; hi_ttitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid; his whole person changed, as h_tood glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now lay crouching at his feet;
  • and defied him with an energy he had never known before.
  • 'He'll murder me!' blubbered Noah. 'Charlotte! missis! Here's the new boy _urdering of me! Help! help! Oliver's gone mad! Char—lotte!'
  • Noah's shouts were responded to, by a loud scream from Charlotte, and a loude_rom Mrs. Sowerberry; the former of whom rushed into the kitchen by a side-
  • door, while the latter paused on the staircase till she was quite certain tha_t was consistent with the preservation of human life, to come further down.
  • 'Oh, you little wretch!' screamed Charlotte: seizing Oliver with her utmos_orce, which was about equal to that of a moderately strong man i_articularly good training. 'Oh, you little un-grate-ful, mur-de-rous, hor-ri_illain!' And between every syllable, Charlotte gave Oliver a blow with al_er might: accompanying it with a scream, for the benefit of society.
  • Charlotte's fist was by no means a light one; but, lest it should not b_ffectual in calming Oliver's wrath, Mrs. Sowerberry plunged into the kitchen,
  • and assisted to hold him with one hand, while she scratched his face with th_ther. In this favourable position of affairs, Noah rose from the ground, an_ommelled him behind.
  • This was rather too violent exercise to last long. When they were all wearie_ut, and could tear and beat no longer, they dragged Oliver, struggling an_houting, but nothing daunted, into the dust-cellar, and there locked him up.
  • This being done, Mrs. Sowerberry sunk into a chair, and burst into tears.
  • 'Bless her, she's going off!' said Charlotte. 'A glass of water, Noah, dear.
  • Make haste!'
  • 'Oh! Charlotte,' said Mrs. Sowerberry: speaking as well as she could, throug_ deficiency of breath, and a sufficiency of cold water, which Noah had poure_ver her head and shoulders. 'Oh! Charlotte, what a mercy we have not all bee_urdered in our beds!'
  • 'Ah! mercy indeed, ma'am,' was the reply. I only hope this'll teach master no_o have any more of these dreadful creatures, that are born to be murderer_nd robbers from their very cradle. Poor Noah! He was all but killed, ma'am,
  • when I come in.'
  • 'Poor fellow!' said Mrs. Sowerberry: looking piteously on the charity-boy.
  • Noah, whose top waistcoat-button might have been somewhere on a level with th_rown of Oliver's head, rubbed his eyes with the inside of his wrists whil_his commiseration was bestowed upon him, and performed some affecting tear_nd sniffs.
  • 'What's to be done!' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry. 'Your master's not at home;
  • there's not a man in the house, and he'll kick that door down in ten minutes.'
  • Oliver's vigorous plunges against the bit of timber in question, rendered thi_ccurance highly probable.
  • 'Dear, dear! I don't know, ma'am,' said Charlotte, 'unless we send for th_olice-officers.'
  • 'Or the millingtary,' suggested Mr. Claypole.
  • 'No, no,' said Mrs. Sowerberry: bethinking herself of Oliver's old friend.
  • 'Run to Mr. Bumble, Noah, and tell him to come here directly, and not to los_ minute; never mind your cap! Make haste! You can hold a knife to that blac_ye, as you run along. It'll keep the swelling down.'
  • Noah stopped to make no reply, but started off at his fullest speed; and ver_uch it astonished the people who were out walking, to see a charity-bo_earing through the streets pell-mell, with no cap on his head, and a clasp-
  • knife at his eye.