SHOWING HOW VERY FOND OF OLIVER TWIST,
THE MERRY OLD JEW AND MISS NANCY WERE
In the obscure parlour of a low public-house,
in the filthiest part of Little Saffron Hill; a dark
and gloomy den, where a flaring gas-light burnt all
day in the winter-time; and where no ray of sun ever
shone in the summer: there sat, brooding over
a little pewter measure and a small glass, strongly
impregnated with the smell of liquor, a man in a velveteen
coat, drab shorts, half-boots and stockings, whom even
by that dim light no experienced agent of the police
would have hesitated to recognise as Mr. William Sikes.
At his feet, sat a white-coated, red-eyed dog; who
occupied himself, alternately, in winking at his master
with both eyes at the same time; and in licking a large,
fresh cut on one side of his mouth, which appeared
to be the result of some recent conflict.
‘Keep quiet, you warmint!
Keep quiet!’ said Mr. Sikes, suddenly breaking
silence. Whether his meditations were so intense
as to be disturbed by the dog’s winking, or
whether his feelings were so wrought upon by his reflections
that they required all the relief derivable from kicking
an unoffending animal to allay them, is matter for
argument and consideration. Whatever was the
cause, the effect was a kick and a curse, bestowed
upon the dog simultaneously.
Dogs are not generally apt to revenge
injuries inflicted upon them by their masters; but
Mr. Sikes’s dog, having faults of temper in common
with his owner, and labouring, perhaps, at this moment,
under a powerful sense of injury, made no more ado
but at once fixed his teeth in one of the half-boots.
Having given in a hearty shake, he retired, growling,
under a form; just escaping the pewter measure which
Mr. Sikes levelled at his head.
‘You would, would you?’
said Sikes, seizing the poker in one hand, and deliberately
opening with the other a large clasp-knife, which he
drew from his pocket. ‘Come here, you
born devil! Come here! D’ye hear?’
The dog no doubt heard; because Mr.
Sikes spoke in the very harshest key of a very harsh
voice; but, appearing to entertain some unaccountable
objection to having his throat cut, he remained where
he was, and growled more fiercely than before:
at the same time grasping the end of the poker between
his teeth, and biting at it like a wild beast.
This resistance only infuriated Mr.
Sikes the more; who, dropping on his knees, began
to assail the animal most furiously. The dog
jumped from right to left, and from left to right;
snapping, growling, and barking; the man thrust and
swore, and struck and blasphemed; and the struggle
was reaching a most critical point for one or other;
when, the door suddenly opening, the dog darted out:
leaving Bill Sikes with the poker and the clasp-knife
in his hands.
There must always be two parties to
a quarrel, says the old adage. Mr. Sikes, being
disappointed of the dog’s participation, at once
transferred his share in the quarrel to the new comer.
‘What the devil do you come
in between me and my dog for?’ said Sikes, with
a fierce gesture.
‘I didn’t know, my dear,
I didn’t know,’ replied Fagin, humbly;
for the Jew was the new comer.
‘Didn’t know, you white-livered
thief!’ growled Sikes. ’Couldn’t
you hear the noise?’
‘Not a sound of it, as I’m
a living man, Bill,’ replied the Jew.
‘Oh no! You hear nothing,
you don’t,’ retorted Sikes with a fierce
sneer. ’Sneaking in and out, so as nobody
hears how you come or go! I wish you had been
the dog, Fagin, half a minute ago.’
‘Why?’ inquired the Jew with a forced
’Cause the government, as cares
for the lives of such men as you, as haven’t
half the pluck of curs, lets a man kill a dog how he
likes,’ replied Sikes, shutting up the knife
with a very expressive look; ‘that’s why.’
The Jew rubbed his hands; and, sitting
down at the table, affected to laugh at the pleasantry
of his friend. He was obviously very ill at
‘Grin away,’ said Sikes,
replacing the poker, and surveying him with savage
contempt; ’grin away. You’ll never
have the laugh at me, though, unless it’s behind
a nightcap. I’ve got the upper hand over
you, Fagin; and, d me, I’ll keep it.
There! If I go, you go; so take care of me.’
‘Well, well, my dear,’
said the Jew, ’I know all that; we we have
a mutual interest, Bill, a mutual interest.’
‘Humph,’ said Sikes, as
if he thought the interest lay rather more on the
Jew’s side than on his. ‘Well, what
have you got to say to me?’
‘It’s all passed safe
through the melting-pot,’ replied Fagin, ’and
this is your share. It’s rather more than
it ought to be, my dear; but as I know you’ll
do me a good turn another time, and ’
‘Stow that gammon,’ interposed
the robber, impatiently. ’Where is it?
‘Yes, yes, Bill; give me time,
give me time,’ replied the Jew, soothingly.
‘Here it is! All safe!’ As he spoke,
he drew forth an old cotton handkerchief from his
breast; and untying a large knot in one corner, produced
a small brown-paper packet. Sikes, snatching
it from him, hastily opened it; and proceeded to count
the sovereigns it contained.
‘This is all, is it?’ inquired Sikes.
‘All,’ replied the Jew.
’You haven’t opened the
parcel and swallowed one or two as you come along,
have you?’ inquired Sikes, suspiciously.
’Don’t put on an injured look at the question;
you’ve done it many a time. Jerk the tinkler.’
These words, in plain English, conveyed
an injunction to ring the bell. It was answered
by another Jew: younger than Fagin, but nearly
as vile and repulsive in appearance.
Bill Sikes merely pointed to the empty
measure. The Jew, perfectly understanding the
hint, retired to fill it: previously exchanging
a remarkable look with Fagin, who raised his eyes
for an instant, as if in expectation of it, and shook
his head in reply; so slightly that the action would
have been almost imperceptible to an observant third
person. It was lost upon Sikes, who was stooping
at the moment to tie the boot-lace which the dog had
torn. Possibly, if he had observed the brief
interchange of signals, he might have thought that
it boded no good to him.
‘Is anybody here, Barney?’
inquired Fagin; speaking, now that that Sikes was
looking on, without raising his eyes from the ground.
‘Dot a shoul,’ replied
Barney; whose words: whether they came from the
heart or not: made their way through the nose.
‘Nobody?’ inquired Fagin,
in a tone of surprise: which perhaps might mean
that Barney was at liberty to tell the truth.
‘Dobody but Biss Dadsy,’ replied Barney.
‘Nancy!’ exclaimed Sikes.
’Where? Strike me blind, if I don’t
honour that ‘ere girl, for her native talents.’
‘She’s bid havid a plate
of boiled beef id the bar,’ replied Barney.
‘Send her here,’ said
Sikes, pouring out a glass of liquor. ’Send
Barney looked timidly at Fagin, as
if for permission; the Jew remaining silent, and not
lifting his eyes from the ground, he retired; and
presently returned, ushering in Nancy; who was decorated
with the bonnet, apron, basket, and street-door key,
‘You are on the scent, are you,
Nancy?’ inquired Sikes, proffering the glass.
‘Yes, I am, Bill,’ replied
the young lady, disposing of its contents; ’and
tired enough of it I am, too. The young brat’s
been ill and confined to the crib; and ’
‘Ah, Nancy, dear!’ said Fagin, looking
Now, whether a peculiar contraction
of the Jew’s red eye-brows, and a half closing
of his deeply-set eyes, warned Miss Nancy that she
was disposed to be too communicative, is not a matter
of much importance. The fact is all we need care
for here; and the fact is, that she suddenly checked
herself, and with several gracious smiles upon Mr.
Sikes, turned the conversation to other matters.
In about ten minutes’ time, Mr. Fagin was seized
with a fit of coughing; upon which Nancy pulled her
shawl over her shoulders, and declared it was time
to go. Mr. Sikes, finding that he was walking
a short part of her way himself, expressed his intention
of accompanying her; they went away together, followed,
at a little distant, by the dog, who slunk out of a
back-yard as soon as his master was out of sight.
The Jew thrust his head out of the
room door when Sikes had left it; looked after him
as we walked up the dark passage; shook his clenched
fist; muttered a deep curse; and then, with a horrible
grin, reseated himself at the table; where he was
soon deeply absorbed in the interesting pages of the
Meanwhile, Oliver Twist, little dreaming
that he was within so very short a distance of the
merry old gentleman, was on his way to the book-stall.
When he got into Clerkenwell, he accidently turned
down a by-street which was not exactly in his way;
but not discovering his mistake until he had got half-way
down it, and knowing it must lead in the right direction,
he did not think it worth while to turn back; and
so marched on, as quickly as he could, with the books
under his arm.
He was walking along, thinking how
happy and contented he ought to feel; and how much
he would give for only one look at poor little Dick,
who, starved and beaten, might be weeping bitterly
at that very moment; when he was startled by a young
woman screaming out very loud. ’Oh, my
dear brother!’ And he had hardly looked up,
to see what the matter was, when he was stopped by
having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.
‘Don’t,’ cried Oliver,
struggling. ’Let go of me. Who is
it? What are you stopping me for?’
The only reply to this, was a great
number of loud lamentations from the young woman who
had embraced him; and who had a little basket and a
street-door key in her hand.
‘Oh my gracious!’ said
the young woman, ’I have found him! Oh!
Oliver! Oliver! Oh you naughty boy, to
make me suffer such distress on your account!
Come home, dear, come. Oh, I’ve found
him. Thank gracious goodness heavins, I’ve
found him!’ With these incoherent exclamations,
the young woman burst into another fit of crying, and
got so dreadfully hysterical, that a couple of women
who came up at the moment asked a butcher’s
boy with a shiny head of hair anointed with suet, who
was also looking on, whether he didn’t think
he had better run for the doctor. To which,
the butcher’s boy: who appeared of a lounging,
not to say indolent disposition: replied, that
he thought not.
‘Oh, no, no, never mind,’
said the young woman, grasping Oliver’s hand;
‘I’m better now. Come home directly,
you cruel boy! Come!’
‘Oh, ma’am,’ replied
the young woman, ’he ran away, near a month ago,
from his parents, who are hard-working and respectable
people; and went and joined a set of thieves and bad
characters; and almost broke his mother’s heart.’
‘Young wretch!’ said one woman.
‘Go home, do, you little brute,’ said
‘I am not,’ replied Oliver,
greatly alarmed. ’I don’t know her.
I haven’t any sister, or father and mother either.
I’m an orphan; I live at Pentonville.’
‘Only hear him, how he braves it out!’
cried the young woman.
‘Why, it’s Nancy!’
exclaimed Oliver; who now saw her face for the first
time; and started back, in irrepressible astonishment.
‘You see he knows me!’
cried Nancy, appealing to the bystanders. ’He
can’t help himself. Make him come home,
there’s good people, or he’ll kill his
dear mother and father, and break my heart!’
‘What the devil’s this?’
said a man, bursting out of a beer-shop, with a white
dog at his heels; ’young Oliver! Come home
to your poor mother, you young dog! Come home
‘I don’t belong to them.
I don’t know them. Help! help!’
cried Oliver, struggling in the man’s powerful
‘Help!’ repeated the man.
’Yes; I’ll help you, you young rascal!
What books are these? You’ve
been a stealing ’em, have you? Give ’em
here.’ With these words, the man tore the
volumes from his grasp, and struck him on the head.
cried a looker-on, from a garret-window. ’That’s
the only way of bringing him to his senses!’
‘To be sure!’ cried a
sleepy-faced carpenter, casting an approving look
at the garret-window.
‘It’ll do him good!’ said the two
‘And he shall have it, too!’
rejoined the man, administering another blow, and
seizing Oliver by the collar. ’Come on,
you young villain! Here, Bull’s-eye, mind
him, boy! Mind him!’
Weak with recent illness; stupified
by the blows and the suddenness of the attack; terrified
by the fierce growling of the dog, and the brutality
of the man; overpowered by the conviction of the bystanders
that he really was the hardened little wretch he was
described to be; what could one poor child do!
Darkness had set in; it was a low neighborhood; no
help was near; resistance was useless. In another
moment he was dragged into a labyrinth of dark narrow
courts, and was forced along them at a pace which
rendered the few cries he dared to give utterance
to, unintelligible. It was of little moment,
indeed, whether they were intelligible or no; for
there was nobody to care for them, had they been ever
The gas-lamps were lighted; Mrs. Bedwin
was waiting anxiously at the open door; the servant
had run up the street twenty times to see if there
were any traces of Oliver; and still the two old gentlemen
sat, perseveringly, in the dark parlour, with the
watch between them.