IN WHICH OLIVER IS TAKEN BETTER CARE
OF THAN HE EVER WAS BEFORE. AND IN WHICH THE
NARRATIVE REVERTS TO THE MERRY OLD GENTLEMAN AND HIS
The coach rattled away, over nearly
the same ground as that which Oliver had traversed
when he first entered London in company with the Dodger;
and, turning a different way when it reached the Angel
at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house,
in a quiet shady street near Pentonville. Here,
a bed was prepared, without loss of time, in which
Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge carefully and comfortably
deposited; and here, he was tended with a kindness
and solicitude that knew no bounds.
But, for many days, Oliver remained
insensible to all the goodness of his new friends.
The sun rose and sank, and rose and sank again, and
many times after that; and still the boy lay stretched
on his uneasy bed, dwindling away beneath the dry
and wasting heat of fever. The worm does not
work more surely on the dead body, than does this slow
creeping fire upon the living frame.
Weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke
at last from what seemed to have been a long and troubled
dream. Feebly raising himself in the bed, with
his head resting on his trembling arm, he looked anxiously
‘What room is this? Where
have I been brought to?’ said Oliver. ’This
is not the place I went to sleep in.’
He uttered these words in a feeble
voice, being very faint and weak; but they were overheard
at once. The curtain at the bed’s head
was hastily drawn back, and a motherly old lady, very
neatly and precisely dressed, rose as she undrew it,
from an arm-chair close by, in which she had been
sitting at needle-work.
‘Hush, my dear,’ said
the old lady softly. ’You must be very
quiet, or you will be ill again; and you have been
very bad, as bad as bad could be, pretty
nigh. Lie down again; there’s a dear!’
With those words, the old lady very gently placed
Oliver’s head upon the pillow; and, smoothing
back his hair from his forehead, looked so kindly and
loving in his face, that he could not help placing
his little withered hand in hers, and drawing it round
‘Save us!’ said the old
lady, with tears in her eyes. ’What a grateful
little dear it is. Pretty creetur! What
would his mother feel if she had sat by him as I have,
and could see him now!’
‘Perhaps she does see me,’
whispered Oliver, folding his hands together; ‘perhaps
she has sat by me. I almost feel as if she had.’
‘That was the fever, my dear,’ said the
old lady mildly.
‘I suppose it was,’ replied
Oliver, ’because heaven is a long way off; and
they are too happy there, to come down to the bedside
of a poor boy. But if she knew I was ill, she
must have pitied me, even there; for she was very
ill herself before she died. She can’t
know anything about me though,’ added Oliver
after a moment’s silence. ’If she
had seen me hurt, it would have made her sorrowful;
and her face has always looked sweet and happy, when
I have dreamed of her.’
The old lady made no reply to this;
but wiping her eyes first, and her spectacles, which
lay on the counterpane, afterwards, as if they were
part and parcel of those features, brought some cool
stuff for Oliver to drink; and then, patting him on
the cheek, told him he must lie very quiet, or he
would be ill again.
So, Oliver kept very still; partly
because he was anxious to obey the kind old lady in
all things; and partly, to tell the truth, because
he was completely exhausted with what he had already
said. He soon fell into a gentle doze, from
which he was awakened by the light of a candle:
which, being brought near the bed, showed him a gentleman
with a very large and loud-ticking gold watch in his
hand, who felt his pulse, and said he was a great
‘You are a great deal
better, are you not, my dear?’ said the gentleman.
‘Yes, thank you, sir,’ replied Oliver.
‘Yes, I know you are,’
said the gentleman: ’You’re hungry
too, an’t you?’
‘No, sir,’ answered Oliver.
‘Hem!’ said the gentleman.
’No, I know you’re not. He is not
hungry, Mrs. Bedwin,’ said the gentleman:
looking very wise.
The old lady made a respectful inclination
of the head, which seemed to say that she thought
the doctor was a very clever man. The doctor
appeared much of the same opinion himself.
‘You feel sleepy, don’t you, my dear?’
said the doctor.
‘No, sir,’ replied Oliver.
‘No,’ said the doctor,
with a very shrewd and satisfied look. ’You’re
not sleepy. Nor thirsty. Are you?’
‘Yes, sir, rather thirsty,’ answered Oliver.
‘Just as I expected, Mrs. Bedwin,’
said the doctor. ’It’s very natural
that he should be thirsty. You may give him a
little tea, ma’am, and some dry toast without
any butter. Don’t keep him too warm, ma’am;
but be careful that you don’t let him be too
cold; will you have the goodness?’
The old lady dropped a curtsey.
The doctor, after tasting the cool stuff, and expressing
a qualified approval of it, hurried away: his
boots creaking in a very important and wealthy manner
as he went downstairs.
Oliver dozed off again, soon after
this; when he awoke, it was nearly twelve o’clock.
The old lady tenderly bade him good-night shortly
afterwards, and left him in charge of a fat old woman
who had just come: bringing with her, in a little
bundle, a small Prayer Book and a large nightcap.
Putting the latter on her head and the former on the
table, the old woman, after telling Oliver that she
had come to sit up with him, drew her chair close
to the fire and went off into a series of short naps,
chequered at frequent intervals with sundry tumblings
forward, and divers moans and chokings. These,
however, had no worse effect than causing her to rub
her nose very hard, and then fall asleep again.
And thus the night crept slowly on.
Oliver lay awake for some time, counting the little
circles of light which the reflection of the rushlight-shade
threw upon the ceiling; or tracing with his languid
eyes the intricate pattern of the paper on the wall.
The darkness and the deep stillness of the room were
very solemn; as they brought into the boy’s
mind the thought that death had been hovering there,
for many days and nights, and might yet fill it with
the gloom and dread of his awful presence, he turned
his face upon the pillow, and fervently prayed to
Gradually, he fell into that deep
tranquil sleep which ease from recent suffering alone
imparts; that calm and peaceful rest which it is pain
to wake from. Who, if this were death, would
be roused again to all the struggles and turmoils
of life; to all its cares for the present; its anxieties
for the future; more than all, its weary recollections
of the past!
It had been bright day, for hours,
when Oliver opened his eyes; he felt cheerful and
happy. The crisis of the disease was safely past.
He belonged to the world again.
In three days’ time he was able
to sit in an easy-chair, well propped up with pillows;
and, as he was still too weak to walk, Mrs. Bedwin
had him carried downstairs into the little housekeeper’s
room, which belonged to her. Having him set,
here, by the fire-side, the good old lady sat herself
down too; and, being in a state of considerable delight
at seeing him so much better, forthwith began to cry
‘Never mind me, my dear,’
said the old lady; ’I’m only having a regular
good cry. There; it’s all over now; and
I’m quite comfortable.’
‘You’re very, very kind to me, ma’am,’
‘Well, never you mind that,
my dear,’ said the old lady; ’that’s
got nothing to do with your broth; and it’s
full time you had it; for the doctor says Mr. Brownlow
may come in to see you this morning; and we must get
up our best looks, because the better we look, the
more he’ll be pleased.’ And with
this, the old lady applied herself to warming up,
in a little saucepan, a basin full of broth:
strong enough, Oliver thought, to furnish an ample
dinner, when reduced to the regulation strength, for
three hundred and fifty paupers, at the lowest computation.
‘Are you fond of pictures, dear?’
inquired the old lady, seeing that Oliver had fixed
his eyes, most intently, on a portrait which hung
against the wall; just opposite his chair.
‘I don’t quite know, ma’am,’
said Oliver, without taking his eyes from the canvas;
’I have seen so few that I hardly know.
What a beautiful, mild face that lady’s is!’
‘Ah!’ said the old lady,
’painters always make ladies out prettier than
they are, or they wouldn’t get any custom, child.
The man that invented the machine for taking likenesses
might have known that would never succeed; it’s
a deal too honest. A deal,’ said the old
lady, laughing very heartily at her own acuteness.
‘Is is that a likeness, ma’am?’
‘Yes,’ said the old lady,
looking up for a moment from the broth; ‘that’s
‘Whose, ma’am?’ asked Oliver.
‘Why, really, my dear, I don’t
know,’ answered the old lady in a good-humoured
manner. ’It’s not a likeness of anybody
that you or I know, I expect. It seems to strike
your fancy, dear.’
‘It is so pretty,’ replied Oliver.
‘Why, sure you’re not
afraid of it?’ said the old lady: observing
in great surprise, the look of awe with which the
child regarded the painting.
‘Oh no, no,’ returned
Oliver quickly; ’but the eyes look so sorrowful;
and where I sit, they seem fixed upon me. It
makes my heart beat,’ added Oliver in a low
voice, ’as if it was alive, and wanted to speak
to me, but couldn’t.’
‘Lord save us!’ exclaimed
the old lady, starting; ’don’t talk in
that way, child. You’re weak and nervous
after your illness. Let me wheel your chair round
to the other side; and then you won’t see it.
There!’ said the old lady, suiting the action
to the word; ’you don’t see it now, at
Oliver did see it in his mind’s
eye as distinctly as if he had not altered his position;
but he thought it better not to worry the kind old
lady; so he smiled gently when she looked at him; and
Mrs. Bedwin, satisfied that he felt more comfortable,
salted and broke bits of toasted bread into the broth,
with all the bustle befitting so solemn a preparation.
Oliver got through it with extraordinary expedition.
He had scarcely swallowed the last spoonful, when
there came a soft rap at the door. ‘Come
in,’ said the old lady; and in walked Mr. Brownlow.
Now, the old gentleman came in as
brisk as need be; but, he had no sooner raised his
spectacles on his forehead, and thrust his hands behind
the skirts of his dressing-gown to take a good long
look at Oliver, than his countenance underwent a very
great variety of odd contortions. Oliver looked
very worn and shadowy from sickness, and made an ineffectual
attempt to stand up, out of respect to his benefactor,
which terminated in his sinking back into the chair
again; and the fact is, if the truth must be told,
that Mr. Brownlow’s heart, being large enough
for any six ordinary old gentlemen of humane disposition,
forced a supply of tears into his eyes, by some hydraulic
process which we are not sufficiently philosophical
to be in a condition to explain.
‘Poor boy, poor boy!’
said Mr. Brownlow, clearing his throat. ’I’m
rather hoarse this morning, Mrs. Bedwin. I’m
afraid I have caught cold.’
‘I hope not, sir,’ said
Mrs. Bedwin. ’Everything you have had,
has been well aired, sir.’
‘I don’t know, Bedwin.
I don’t know,’ said Mr. Brownlow; ’I
rather think I had a damp napkin at dinner-time yesterday;
but never mind that. How do you feel, my dear?’
‘Very happy, sir,’ replied
Oliver. ’And very grateful indeed, sir,
for your goodness to me.’
‘Good by,’ said Mr. Brownlow,
stoutly. ’Have you given him any nourishment,
Bedwin? Any slops, eh?’
‘He has just had a basin of
beautiful strong broth, sir,’ replied Mrs. Bedwin:
drawing herself up slightly, and laying strong emphasis
on the last word: to intimate that between slops,
and broth will compounded, there existed no affinity
or connection whatsoever.
‘Ugh!’ said Mr. Brownlow,
with a slight shudder; ’a couple of glasses
of port wine would have done him a great deal more
good. Wouldn’t they, Tom White, eh?’
‘My name is Oliver, sir,’
replied the little invalid: with a look of great
‘Oliver,’ said Mr. Brownlow;
‘Oliver what? Oliver White, eh?’
‘No, sir, Twist, Oliver Twist.’
‘Queer name!’ said the
old gentleman. ’What made you tell the
magistrate your name was White?’
‘I never told him so, sir,’ returned Oliver
This sounded so like a falsehood,
that the old gentleman looked somewhat sternly in
Oliver’s face. It was impossible to doubt
him; there was truth in every one of its thin and
‘Some mistake,’ said Mr.
Brownlow. But, although his motive for looking
steadily at Oliver no longer existed, the old idea
of the resemblance between his features and some familiar
face came upon him so strongly, that he could not
withdraw his gaze.
‘I hope you are not angry with
me, sir?’ said Oliver, raising his eyes beseechingly.
‘No, no,’ replied the
old gentleman. ’Why! what’s this?
Bedwin, look there!’
As he spoke, he pointed hastily to
the picture over Oliver’s head, and then to
the boy’s face. There was its living copy.
The eyes, the head, the mouth; every feature was the
same. The expression was, for the instant, so
precisely alike, that the minutest line seemed copied
with startling accuracy!
Oliver knew not the cause of this
sudden exclamation; for, not being strong enough to
bear the start it gave him, he fainted away.
A weakness on his part, which affords the narrative
an opportunity of relieving the reader from suspense,
in behalf of the two young pupils of the Merry Old
Gentleman; and of recording
That when the Dodger, and his accomplished
friend Master Bates, joined in the hue-and-cry which
was raised at Oliver’s heels, in consequence
of their executing an illegal conveyance of Mr. Brownlow’s
personal property, as has been already described,
they were actuated by a very laudable and becoming
regard for themselves; and forasmuch as the freedom
of the subject and the liberty of the individual are
among the first and proudest boasts of a true-hearted
Englishman, so, I need hardly beg the reader to observe,
that this action should tend to exalt them in the
opinion of all public and patriotic men, in almost
as great a degree as this strong proof of their anxiety
for their own preservation and safety goes to corroborate
and confirm the little code of laws which certain
profound and sound-judging philosophers have laid
down as the main-springs of all Nature’s deeds
and actions: the said philosophers very wisely
reducing the good lady’s proceedings to matters
of maxim and theory: and, by a very neat and
pretty compliment to her exalted wisdom and understanding,
putting entirely out of sight any considerations of
heart, or generous impulse and feeling. For,
these are matters totally beneath a female who is acknowledged
by universal admission to be far above the numerous
little foibles and weaknesses of her sex.
If I wanted any further proof of the
strictly philosophical nature of the conduct of these
young gentlemen in their very delicate predicament,
I should at once find it in the fact (also recorded
in a foregoing part of this narrative), of their quitting
the pursuit, when the general attention was fixed
upon Oliver; and making immediately for their home
by the shortest possible cut. Although I do not
mean to assert that it is usually the practice of
renowned and learned sages, to shorten the road to
any great conclusion (their course indeed being rather
to lengthen the distance, by various circumlocutions
and discursive staggerings, like unto those in which
drunken men under the pressure of a too mighty flow
of ideas, are prone to indulge); still, I do mean
to say, and do say distinctly, that it is the invariable
practice of many mighty philosophers, in carrying out
their theories, to evince great wisdom and foresight
in providing against every possible contingency which
can be supposed at all likely to affect themselves.
Thus, to do a great right, you may do a little wrong;
and you may take any means which the end to be attained,
will justify; the amount of the right, or the amount
of the wrong, or indeed the distinction between the
two, being left entirely to the philosopher concerned,
to be settled and determined by his clear, comprehensive,
and impartial view of his own particular case.
It was not until the two boys had
scoured, with great rapidity, through a most intricate
maze of narrow streets and courts, that they ventured
to halt beneath a low and dark archway. Having
remained silent here, just long enough to recover
breath to speak, Master Bates uttered an exclamation
of amusement and delight; and, bursting into an uncontrollable
fit of laughter, flung himself upon a doorstep, and
rolled thereon in a transport of mirth.
‘What’s the matter?’ inquired the
‘Ha! ha! ha!’ roared Charley Bates.
‘Hold your noise,’ remonstrated
the Dodger, looking cautiously round. ‘Do
you want to be grabbed, stupid?’
‘I can’t help it,’
said Charley, ’I can’t help it! To
see him splitting away at that pace, and cutting round
the corners, and knocking up again’ the posts,
and starting on again as if he was made of iron as
well as them, and me with the wipe in my pocket, singing
out arter him oh, my eye!’ The vivid
imagination of Master Bates presented the scene before
him in too strong colours. As he arrived at this
apostrophe, he again rolled upon the door-step, and
laughed louder than before.
‘What’ll Fagin say?’
inquired the Dodger; taking advantage of the next
interval of breathlessness on the part of his friend
to propound the question.
‘What?’ repeated Charley Bates.
‘Ah, what?’ said the Dodger.
‘Why, what should he say?’
inquired Charley: stopping rather suddenly in
his merriment; for the Dodger’s manner was impressive.
’What should he say?’
Mr. Dawkins whistled for a couple
of minutes; then, taking off his hat, scratched his
head, and nodded thrice.
‘What do you mean?’ said Charley.
’Toor rul lol loo, gammon and
spinnage, the frog he wouldn’t, and high cockolorum,’
said the Dodger: with a slight sneer on his intellectual
This was explanatory, but not satisfactory.
Master Bates felt it so; and again said, ‘What
do you mean?’
The Dodger made no reply; but putting
his hat on again, and gathering the skirts of his
long-tailed coat under his arm, thrust his tongue
into his cheek, slapped the bridge of his nose some
half-dozen times in a familiar but expressive manner,
and turning on his heel, slunk down the court.
Master Bates followed, with a thoughtful countenance.
The noise of footsteps on the creaking
stairs, a few minutes after the occurrence of this
conversation, roused the merry old gentleman as he
sat over the fire with a saveloy and a small loaf in
his hand; a pocket-knife in his right; and a pewter
pot on the trivet. There was a rascally smile
on his white face as he turned round, and looking
sharply out from under his thick red eyebrows, bent
his ear towards the door, and listened.
‘Why, how’s this?’
muttered the Jew: changing countenance; ’only
two of ’em? Where’s the third?
They can’t have got into trouble. Hark!’
The footsteps approached nearer; they
reached the landing. The door was slowly opened;
and the Dodger and Charley Bates entered, closing it