OLIVER WALKS TO LONDON. HE ENCOUNTERS
ON THE ROAD A STRANGE SORT OF YOUNG GENTLEMAN
Oliver reached the stile at which
the by-path terminated; and once more gained the high-road.
It was eight o’clock now. Though he was
nearly five miles away from the town, he ran, and
hid behind the hedges, by turns, till noon: fearing
that he might be pursued and overtaken. Then
he sat down to rest by the side of the milestone, and
began to think, for the first time, where he had better
go and try to live.
The stone by which he was seated,
bore, in large characters, an intimation that it was
just seventy miles from that spot to London. The
name awakened a new train of ideas in the boy’s
London! that great place! nobody not
even Mr. Bumble could ever find him there!
He had often heard the old men in the workhouse, too,
say that no lad of spirit need want in London; and
that there were ways of living in that vast city,
which those who had been bred up in country parts
had no idea of. It was the very place for a homeless
boy, who must die in the streets unless some one helped
him. As these things passed through his thoughts,
he jumped upon his feet, and again walked forward.
He had diminished the distance between
himself and London by full four miles more, before
he recollected how much he must undergo ere he could
hope to reach his place of destination. As this
consideration forced itself upon him, he slackened
his pace a little, and meditated upon his means of
getting there. He had a crust of bread, a coarse
shirt, and two pairs of stockings, in his bundle.
He had a penny too a gift of Sowerberry’s
after some funeral in which he had acquitted himself
more than ordinarily well in his pocket.
‘A clean shirt,’ thought Oliver, ’is
a very comfortable thing; and so are two pairs of darned
stockings; and so is a penny; but they are small helps
to a sixty-five miles’ walk in winter time.’
But Oliver’s thoughts, like those of most other
people, although they were extremely ready and active
to point out his difficulties, were wholly at a loss
to suggest any feasible mode of surmounting them;
so, after a good deal of thinking to no particular
purpose, he changed his little bundle over to the other
shoulder, and trudged on.
Oliver walked twenty miles that day;
and all that time tasted nothing but the crust of
dry bread, and a few draughts of water, which he begged
at the cottage-doors by the road-side. When the
night came, he turned into a meadow; and, creeping
close under a hay-rick, determined to lie there, till
morning. He felt frightened at first, for the
wind moaned dismally over the empty fields: and
he was cold and hungry, and more alone than he had
ever felt before. Being very tired with his
walk, however, he soon fell asleep and forgot his troubles.
He felt cold and stiff, when he got
up next morning, and so hungry that he was obliged
to exchange the penny for a small loaf, in the very
first village through which he passed. He had
walked no more than twelve miles, when night closed
in again. His feet were sore, and his legs so
weak that they trembled beneath him. Another
night passed in the bleak damp air, made him worse;
when he set forward on his journey next morning he
could hardly crawl along.
He waited at the bottom of a steep
hill till a stage-coach came up, and then begged of
the outside passengers; but there were very few who
took any notice of him: and even those told him
to wait till they got to the top of the hill, and
then let them see how far he could run for a halfpenny.
Poor Oliver tried to keep up with the coach a little
way, but was unable to do it, by reason of his fatigue
and sore feet. When the outsides saw this, they
put their halfpence back into their pockets again,
declaring that he was an idle young dog, and didn’t
deserve anything; and the coach rattled away and left
only a cloud of dust behind.
In some villages, large painted boards
were fixed up: warning all persons who begged
within the district, that they would be sent to jail.
This frightened Oliver very much, and made him glad
to get out of those villages with all possible expedition.
In others, he would stand about the inn-yards, and
look mournfully at every one who passed: a proceeding
which generally terminated in the landlady’s
ordering one of the post-boys who were lounging about,
to drive that strange boy out of the place, for she
was sure he had come to steal something. If he
begged at a farmer’s house, ten to one but they
threatened to set the dog on him; and when he showed
his nose in a shop, they talked about the beadle which
brought Oliver’s heart into his mouth, very
often the only thing he had there, for many hours
In fact, if it had not been for a
good-hearted turnpike-man, and a benevolent old lady,
Oliver’s troubles would have been shortened by
the very same process which had put an end to his
mother’s; in other words, he would most assuredly
have fallen dead upon the king’s highway.
But the turnpike-man gave him a meal of bread and
cheese; and the old lady, who had a shipwrecked grandson
wandering barefoot in some distant part of the earth,
took pity upon the poor orphan, and gave him what little
she could afford and more with
such kind and gentle words, and such tears of sympathy
and compassion, that they sank deeper into Oliver’s
soul, than all the sufferings he had ever undergone.
Early on the seventh morning after
he had left his native place, Oliver limped slowly
into the little town of Barnet. The window-shutters
were closed; the street was empty; not a soul had
awakened to the business of the day. The sun
was rising in all its splendid beauty; but the light
only served to show the boy his own lonesomeness and
desolation, as he sat, with bleeding feet and covered
with dust, upon a door-step.
By degrees, the shutters were opened;
the window-blinds were drawn up; and people began
passing to and fro. Some few stopped to gaze
at Oliver for a moment or two, or turned round to
stare at him as they hurried by; but none relieved
him, or troubled themselves to inquire how he came
there. He had no heart to beg. And there
He had been crouching on the step
for some time: wondering at the great number
of public-houses (every other house in Barnet was a
tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly at the
coaches as they passed through, and thinking how strange
it seemed that they could do, with ease, in a few
hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage
and determination beyond his years to accomplish:
when he was roused by observing that a boy, who had
passed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned,
and was now surveying him most earnestly from the
opposite side of the way. He took little heed
of this at first; but the boy remained in the same
attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver
raised his head, and returned his steady look.
Upon this, the boy crossed over; and walking close
up to Oliver, said,
‘Hullo, my covey! What’s the row?’
The boy who addressed this inquiry
to the young wayfarer, was about his own age:
but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had
even seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed,
common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as
one would wish to see; but he had about him all the
airs and manners of a man. He was short of his
age: with rather bow-legs, and little, sharp,
ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his
head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every
moment and would have done so, very often,
if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and
then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought
it back to its old place again. He wore a man’s
coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He
had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to
get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with
the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets
of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them.
He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering
a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or
something less, in the bluchers.
‘Hullo, my covey! What’s
the row?’ said this strange young gentleman
‘I am very hungry and tired,’
replied Oliver: the tears standing in his eyes
as he spoke. ’I have walked a long way.
I have been walking these seven days.’
‘Walking for sivin days!’
said the young gentleman. ’Oh, I see.
Beak’s order, eh? But,’ he added,
noticing Oliver’s look of surprise, ’I
suppose you don’t know what a beak is, my flash
Oliver mildly replied, that he had
always heard a bird’s mouth described by the
term in question.
‘My eyes, how green!’
exclaimed the young gentleman. ’Why, a beak’s
a madgst’rate; and when you walk by a beak’s
order, it’s not straight forerd, but always
agoing up, and niver a coming down agin. Was
you never on the mill?’
‘What mill?’ inquired Oliver.
’What mill! Why, the
mill the mill as takes up so little room
that it’ll work inside a Stone Jug; and always
goes better when the wind’s low with people,
than when it’s high; acos then they can’t
get workmen. But come,’ said the young
gentleman; ’you want grub, and you shall have
it. I’m at low-water-mark myself only
one bob and a magpie; but, as far as it goes, I’ll
fork out and stump. Up with you on your pins.
There! Now then! ‘Morrice!’
Assisting Oliver to rise, the young
gentleman took him to an adjacent chandler’s
shop, where he purchased a sufficiency of ready-dressed
ham and a half-quartern loaf, or, as he himself expressed
it, ’a fourpenny bran!’ the ham being
kept clean and preserved from dust, by the ingenious
expedient of making a hole in the loaf by pulling out
a portion of the crumb, and stuffing it therein.
Taking the bread under his arm, the young gentlman
turned into a small public-house, and led the way
to a tap-room in the rear of the premises. Here,
a pot of beer was brought in, by direction of the
mysterious youth; and Oliver, falling to, at his new
friend’s bidding, made a long and hearty meal,
during the progress of which the strange boy eyed him
from time to time with great attention.
‘Going to London?’ said
the strange boy, when Oliver had at length concluded.
‘Got any lodgings?’
The strange boy whistled; and put
his arms into his pockets, as far as the big coat-sleeves
would let them go.
‘Do you live in London?’ inquired Oliver.
‘Yes. I do, when I’m
at home,’ replied the boy. ’I suppose
you want some place to sleep in to-night, don’t
‘I do, indeed,’ answered
Oliver. ’I have not slept under a roof since
I left the country.’
‘Don’t fret your eyelids
on that score,’ said the young gentleman.
’I’ve got to be in London to-night; and
I know a ’spectable old gentleman as lives there,
wot’ll give you lodgings for nothink, and never
ask for the change that is, if any genelman
he knows interduces you. And don’t he know
me? Oh, no! Not in the least! By no
means. Certainly not!’
The young gentleman smiled, as if
to intimate that the latter fragments of discourse
were playfully ironical; and finished the beer as he
This unexpected offer of shelter was
too tempting to be resisted; especially as it was
immediately followed up, by the assurance that the
old gentleman referred to, would doubtless provide
Oliver with a comfortable place, without loss of time.
This led to a more friendly and confidential dialogue;
from which Oliver discovered that his friend’s
name was Jack Dawkins, and that he was a peculiar pet
and protege of the elderly gentleman before mentioned.
Mr. Dawkin’s appearance did
not say a vast deal in favour of the comforts which
his patron’s interest obtained for those whom
he took under his protection; but, as he had a rather
flightly and dissolute mode of conversing, and furthermore
avowed that among his intimate friends he was better
known by the sobriquet of ‘The Artful Dodger,’
Oliver concluded that, being of a dissipated and careless
turn, the moral precepts of his benefactor had hitherto
been thrown away upon him. Under this impression,
he secretly resolved to cultivate the good opinion
of the old gentleman as quickly as possible; and, if
he found the Dodger incorrigible, as he more than
half suspected he should, to decline the honour of
his farther acquaintance.
As John Dawkins objected to their
entering London before nightfall, it was nearly eleven
o’clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington.
They crossed from the Angel into St. John’s Road;
struck down the small street which terminates at Sadler’s
Wells Theatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice
Row; down the little court by the side of the workhouse;
across the classic ground which once bore the name
of Hockley-in-the-Hole; thence into Little Saffron
Hill; and so into Saffron Hill the Great: along
which the Dodger scudded at a rapid pace, directing
Oliver to follow close at his heels.
Although Oliver had enough to occupy
his attention in keeping sight of his leader, he could
not help bestowing a few hasty glances on either side
of the way, as he passed along. A dirtier or
more wretched place he had never seen. The street
was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated
with filthy odours.
There were a good many small shops;
but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of
children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling
in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside.
The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general
blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in
them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with
might and main. Covered ways and yards, which
here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed
little knots of houses, where drunken men and women
were positively wallowing in filth; and from several
of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously
emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed
or harmless errands.
Oliver was just considering whether
he hadn’t better run away, when they reached
the bottom of the hill. His conductor, catching
him by the arm, pushed open the door of a house near
Field Lane; and drawing him into the passage, closed
it behind them.
‘Now, then!’ cried a voice
from below, in reply to a whistle from the Dodger.
‘Plummy and slam!’ was the reply.
This seemed to be some watchword or
signal that all was right; for the light of a feeble
candle gleamed on the wall at the remote end of the
passage; and a man’s face peeped out, from where
a balustrade of the old kitchen staircase had been
‘There’s two on you,’
said the man, thrusting the candle farther out, and
shielding his eyes with his hand. ‘Who’s
the t’other one?’
‘A new pal,’ replied Jack
Dawkins, pulling Oliver forward.
‘Where did he come from?’
‘Greenland. Is Fagin upstairs?’
‘Yes, he’s a sortin’
the wipes. Up with you!’ The candle was
drawn back, and the face disappeared.
Oliver, groping his way with one hand,
and having the other firmly grasped by his companion,
ascended with much difficulty the dark and broken
stairs: which his conductor mounted with an ease
and expedition that showed he was well acquainted
He threw open the door of a back-room,
and drew Oliver in after him.
The walls and ceiling of the room
were perfectly black with age and dirt. There
was a deal table before the fire: upon which were
a candle, stuck in a ginger-beer bottle, two or three
pewter pots, a loaf and butter, and a plate.
In a frying-pan, which was on the fire, and which
was secured to the mantelshelf by a string, some sausages
were cooking; and standing over them, with a toasting-fork
in his hand, was a very old shrivelled Jew, whose
villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured
by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed
in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare; and
seemed to be dividing his attention between the frying-pan
and the clothes-horse, over which a great number of
silk handkerchiefs were hanging. Several rough
beds made of old sacks, were huddled side by side
on the floor. Seated round the table were four
or five boys, none older than the Dodger, smoking
long clay pipes, and drinking spirits with the air
of middle-aged men. These all crowded about their
associate as he whispered a few words to the Jew;
and then turned round and grinned at Oliver.
So did the Jew himself, toasting-fork in hand.
‘This is him, Fagin,’
said Jack Dawkins;’my friend Oliver Twist.’
The Jew grinned; and, making a low
obeisance to Oliver, took him by the hand, and hoped
he should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance.
Upon this, the young gentleman with the pipes came
round him, and shook both his hands very hard especially
the one in which he held his little bundle.
One young gentleman was very anxious to hang up his
cap for him; and another was so obliging as to put
his hands in his pockets, in order that, as he was
very tired, he might not have the trouble of emptying
them, himself, when he went to bed. These civilities
would probably be extended much farther, but for a
liberal exercise of the Jew’s toasting-fork
on the heads and shoulders of the affectionate youths
who offered them.
‘We are very glad to see you,
Oliver, very,’ said the Jew. ’Dodger,
take off the sausages; and draw a tub near the fire
for Oliver. Ah, you’re a-staring at the
pocket-handkerchiefs! eh, my dear. There are a
good many of ’em, ain’t there? We’ve
just looked ’em out, ready for the wash; that’s
all, Oliver; that’s all. Ha! ha! ha!’
The latter part of this speech, was
hailed by a boisterous shout from all the hopeful
pupils of the merry old gentleman. In the midst
of which they went to supper.
Oliver ate his share, and the Jew
then mixed him a glass of hot gin-and-water:
telling him he must drink it off directly, because
another gentleman wanted the tumbler. Oliver did
as he was desired. Immediately afterwards he
felt himself gently lifted on to one of the sacks;
and then he sunk into a deep sleep.