IN WHICH A NOTABLE PLAN IS DISCUSSED AND DETERMINED ON
It was a chill, damp, windy night,
when the Jew: buttoning his great-coat tight
round his shrivelled body, and pulling the collar up
over his ears so as completely to obscure the lower
part of his face: emerged from his den.
He paused on the step as the door was locked and
chained behind him; and having listened while the boys
made all secure, and until their retreating footsteps
were no longer audible, slunk down the street as quickly
as he could.
The house to which Oliver had been
conveyed, was in the neighborhood of Whitechapel.
The Jew stopped for an instant at the corner of the
street; and, glancing suspiciously round, crossed the
road, and struck off in the direction of the Spitalfields.
The mud lay thick upon the stones,
and a black mist hung over the streets; the rain fell
sluggishly down, and everything felt cold and clammy
to the touch. It seemed just the night when it
befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad.
As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the
shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old
man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered
in the slime and darkness through which he moved:
crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal
for a meal.
He kept on his course, through many
winding and narrow ways, until he reached Bethnal
Green; then, turning suddenly off to the left, he soon
became involved in a maze of the mean and dirty streets
which abound in that close and densely-populated quarter.
The Jew was evidently too familiar
with the ground he traversed to be at all bewildered,
either by the darkness of the night, or the intricacies
of the way. He hurried through several alleys
and streets, and at length turned into one, lighted
only by a single lamp at the farther end. At
the door of a house in this street, he knocked; having
exchanged a few muttered words with the person who
opened it, he walked upstairs.
A dog growled as he touched the handle
of a room-door; and a man’s voice demanded who
‘Only me, Bill; only me, my
dear,’ said the Jew looking in.
‘Bring in your body then,’
said Sikes. ’Lie down, you stupid brute!
Don’t you know the devil when he’s got
a great-coat on?’
Apparently, the dog had been somewhat
deceived by Mr. Fagin’s outer garment; for as
the Jew unbuttoned it, and threw it over the back of
a chair, he retired to the corner from which he had
risen: wagging his tail as he went, to show
that he was as well satisfied as it was in his nature
‘Well!’ said Sikes.
‘Well, my dear,’ replied the Jew. ’Ah!
The latter recognition was uttered
with just enough of embarrassment to imply a doubt
of its reception; for Mr. Fagin and his young friend
had not met, since she had interfered in behalf of
Oliver. All doubts upon the subject, if he had
any, were speedily removed by the young lady’s
behaviour. She took her feet off the fender,
pushed back her chair, and bade Fagin draw up his,
without saying more about it: for it was a cold
night, and no mistake.
‘It is cold, Nancy dear,’
said the Jew, as he warmed his skinny hands over the
fire. ‘It seems to go right through one,’
added the old man, touching his side.
‘It must be a piercer, if it
finds its way through your heart,’ said Mr.
Sikes. ’Give him something to drink, Nancy.
Burn my body, make haste! It’s enough
to turn a man ill, to see his lean old carcase shivering
in that way, like a ugly ghost just rose from the grave.’
Nancy quickly brought a bottle from
a cupboard, in which there were many: which,
to judge from the diversity of their appearance, were
filled with several kinds of liquids. Sikes pouring
out a glass of brandy, bade the Jew drink it off.
‘Quite enough, quite, thankye,
Bill,’ replied the Jew, putting down the glass
after just setting his lips to it.
‘What! You’re afraid
of our getting the better of you, are you?’
inquired Sikes, fixing his eyes on the Jew. ‘Ugh!’
With a hoarse grunt of contempt, Mr.
Sikes seized the glass, and threw the remainder of
its contents into the ashes: as a preparatory
ceremony to filling it again for himself: which
he did at once.
The Jew glanced round the room, as
his companion tossed down the second glassful; not
in curiousity, for he had seen it often before; but
in a restless and suspicious manner habitual to him.
It was a meanly furnished apartment, with nothing
but the contents of the closet to induce the belief
that its occupier was anything but a working man; and
with no more suspicious articles displayed to view
than two or three heavy bludgeons which stood in a
corner, and a ‘life-preserver’ that hung
over the chimney-piece.
‘There,’ said Sikes, smacking his lips.
‘Now I’m ready.’
‘For business?’ inquired the Jew.
‘For business,’ replied Sikes; ‘so
say what you’ve got to say.’
‘About the crib at Chertsey,
Bill?’ said the Jew, drawing his chair forward,
and speaking in a very low voice.
‘Yes. Wot about it?’ inquired Sikes.
‘Ah! you know what I mean, my
dear,’ said the Jew. ’He knows what
I mean, Nancy; don’t he?’
‘No, he don’t,’
sneered Mr. Sikes. ’Or he won’t,
and that’s the same thing. Speak out,
and call things by their right names; don’t sit
there, winking and blinking, and talking to me in hints,
as if you warn’t the very first that thought
about the robbery. Wot d’ye mean?’
‘Hush, Bill, hush!’ said
the Jew, who had in vain attempted to stop this burst
of indignation; ’somebody will hear us, my dear.
Somebody will hear us.’
’Let ’em hear!’
said Sikes; ‘I don’t care.’
But as Mr. Sikes DID care, on reflection, he dropped
his voice as he said the words, and grew calmer.
‘There, there,’ said the
Jew, coaxingly. ’It was only my caution,
nothing more. Now, my dear, about that crib at
Chertsey; when is it to be done, Bill, eh? When
is it to be done? Such plate, my dear, such
plate!’ said the Jew: rubbing his hands,
and elevating his eyebrows in a rapture of anticipation.
‘Not at all,’ replied Sikes coldly.
‘Not to be done at all!’ echoed the Jew,
leaning back in his chair.
‘No, not at all,’ rejoined
Sikes. ’At least it can’t be a put-up
job, as we expected.’
‘Then it hasn’t been properly
gone about,’ said the Jew, turning pale with
anger. ‘Don’t tell me!’
‘But I will tell you,’
retorted Sikes. ’Who are you that’s
not to be told? I tell you that Toby Crackit
has been hanging about the place for a fortnight,
and he can’t get one of the servants in line.’
‘Do you mean to tell me, Bill,’
said the Jew: softening as the other grew heated:
’that neither of the two men in the house can
be got over?’
‘Yes, I do mean to tell you
so,’ replied Sikes. ’The old lady
has had ’em these twenty years; and if you were
to give ’em five hundred pound, they wouldn’t
be in it.’
‘But do you mean to say, my
dear,’ remonstrated the Jew, ’that the
women can’t be got over?’
‘Not a bit of it,’ replied Sikes.
‘Not by flash Toby Crackit?’
said the Jew incredulously. ’Think what
women are, Bill,’
‘No; not even by flash Toby
Crackit,’ replied Sikes. ’He says
he’s worn sham whiskers, and a canary waistcoat,
the whole blessed time he’s been loitering down
there, and it’s all of no use.’
’He should have tried mustachios
and a pair of military trousers, my dear,’ said
‘So he did,’ rejoined
Sikes, ’and they warn’t of no more use
than the other plant.’
The Jew looked blank at this information.
After ruminating for some minutes with his chin sunk
on his breast, he raised his head and said, with a
deep sigh, that if flash Toby Crackit reported aright,
he feared the game was up.
‘And yet,’ said the old
man, dropping his hands on his knees, ’it’s
a sad thing, my dear, to lose so much when we had
set our hearts upon it.’
‘So it is,’ said Mr. Sikes. ‘Worse
A long silence ensued; during which
the Jew was plunged in deep thought, with his face
wrinkled into an expression of villainy perfectly
demoniacal. Sikes eyed him furtively from time
to time. Nancy, apparently fearful of irritating
the housebreaker, sat with her eyes fixed upon the
fire, as if she had been deaf to all that passed.
‘Fagin,’ said Sikes, abruptly
breaking the stillness that prevailed; ‘is it
worth fifty shiners extra, if it’s safely done
from the outside?’
‘Yes,’ said the Jew, as suddenly rousing
‘Is it a bargain?’ inquired Sikes.
‘Yes, my dear, yes,’ rejoined
the Jew; his eyes glistening, and every muscle in
his face working, with the excitement that the inquiry
‘Then,’ said Sikes, thrusting
aside the Jew’s hand, with some disdain, ’let
it come off as soon as you like. Toby and me
were over the garden-wall the night afore last, sounding
the panels of the door and shutters. The crib’s
barred up at night like a jail; but there’s one
part we can crack, safe and softly.’
‘Which is that, Bill?’ asked the Jew eagerly.
‘Why,’ whispered Sikes, ‘as you
cross the lawn ’
‘Yes?’ said the Jew, bending
his head forward, with his eyes almost starting out
‘Umph!’ cried Sikes, stopping
short, as the girl, scarcely moving her head, looked
suddenly round, and pointed for an instant to the Jew’s
face. ’Never mind which part it is.
You can’t do it without me, I know; but it’s
best to be on the safe side when one deals with you.’
‘As you like, my dear, as you
like’ replied the Jew. ’Is there
no help wanted, but yours and Toby’s?’
‘None,’ said Sikes.
’Cept a centre-bit and a boy. The first
we’ve both got; the second you must find us.’
‘A boy!’ exclaimed the Jew. ‘Oh!
then it’s a panel, eh?’
‘Never mind wot it is!’
replied Sikes. ’I want a boy, and he musn’t
be a big ‘un. Lord!’ said Mr. Sikes,
reflectively, ’if I’d only got that young
boy of Ned, the chimbley-sweeper’s! He
kept him small on purpose, and let him out by the
job. But the father gets lagged; and then the
Juvenile Delinquent Society comes, and takes the boy
away from a trade where he was earning money, teaches
him to read and write, and in time makes a ‘prentice
of him. And so they go on,’ said Mr. Sikes,
his wrath rising with the recollection of his wrongs,
’so they go on; and, if they’d got money
enough (which it’s a Providence they haven’t,)
we shouldn’t have half a dozen boys left in the
whole trade, in a year or two.’
‘No more we should,’ acquiesced
the Jew, who had been considering during this speech,
and had only caught the last sentence. ‘Bill!’
‘What now?’ inquired Sikes.
The Jew nodded his head towards Nancy,
who was still gazing at the fire; and intimated, by
a sign, that he would have her told to leave the room.
Sikes shrugged his shoulders impatiently, as if he
thought the precaution unnecessary; but complied,
nevertheless, by requesting Miss Nancy to fetch him
a jug of beer.
‘You don’t want any beer,’
said Nancy, folding her arms, and retaining her seat
‘I tell you I do!’ replied Sikes.
‘Nonsense,’ rejoined the
girl coolly, ’Go on, Fagin. I know what
he’s going to say, Bill; he needn’t mind
The Jew still hesitated. Sikes
looked from one to the other in some surprise.
‘Why, you don’t mind the
old girl, do you, Fagin?’ he asked at length.
’You’ve known her long enough to trust
her, or the Devil’s in it. She ain’t
one to blab. Are you Nancy?’
‘I should think not!’
replied the young lady: drawing her chair up
to the table, and putting her elbows upon it.
‘No, no, my dear, I know you’re
not,’ said the Jew; ‘but ’
and again the old man paused.
‘But wot?’ inquired Sikes.
’I didn’t know whether
she mightn’t p’r’aps be out of sorts,
you know, my dear, as she was the other night,’
replied the Jew.
At this confession, Miss Nancy burst
into a loud laugh; and, swallowing a glass of brandy,
shook her head with an air of defiance, and burst
into sundry exclamations of ‘Keep the game a-going!’
‘Never say die!’ and the like.
These seemed to have the effect of re-assuring both
gentlemen; for the Jew nodded his head with a satisfied
air, and resumed his seat: as did Mr. Sikes likewise.
‘Now, Fagin,’ said Nancy
with a laugh. ’Tell Bill at once, about
‘Ha! you’re a clever one,
my dear: the sharpest girl I ever saw!’
said the Jew, patting her on the neck. ’It
WAS about Oliver I was going to speak, sure enough.
Ha! ha! ha!’
‘What about him?’ demanded Sikes.
‘He’s the boy for you,
my dear,’ replied the Jew in a hoarse whisper;
laying his finger on the side of his nose, and grinning
‘He!’ exclaimed. Sikes.
‘Have him, Bill!’ said
Nancy. ’I would, if I was in your place.
He mayn’t be so much up, as any of the others;
but that’s not what you want, if he’s
only to open a door for you. Depend upon it he’s
a safe one, Bill.’
‘I know he is,’ rejoined
Fagin. ’He’s been in good training
these last few weeks, and it’s time he began
to work for his bread. Besides, the others are
all too big.’
‘Well, he is just the size I
want,’ said Mr. Sikes, ruminating.
‘And will do everything you
want, Bill, my dear,’ interposed the Jew; ‘he
can’t help himself. That is, if you frighten
‘Frighten him!’ echoed
Sikes. ’It’ll be no sham frightening,
mind you. If there’s anything queer about
him when we once get into the work; in for a penny,
in for a pound. You won’t see him alive
again, Fagin. Think of that, before you send
him. Mark my words!’ said the robber,
poising a crowbar, which he had drawn from under the
‘I’ve thought of it all,’
said the Jew with energy. ’I’ve I’ve
had my eye upon him, my dears, close close.
Once let him feel that he is one of us; once fill
his mind with the idea that he has been a thief; and
he’s ours! Ours for his life. Oho!
It couldn’t have come about better! The
old man crossed his arms upon his breast; and, drawing
his head and shoulders into a heap, literally hugged
himself for joy.
‘Ours!’ said Sikes. ‘Yours,
‘Perhaps I do, my dear,’
said the Jew, with a shrill chuckle. ’Mine,
if you like, Bill.’
‘And wot,’ said Sikes,
scowling fiercely on his agreeable friend, ’wot
makes you take so much pains about one chalk-faced
kid, when you know there are fifty boys snoozing about
Common Garden every night, as you might pick and choose
‘Because they’re of no
use to me, my dear,’ replied the Jew, with some
confusion, ’not worth the taking. Their
looks convict ’em when they get into trouble,
and I lose ’em all. With this boy, properly
managed, my dears, I could do what I couldn’t
with twenty of them. Besides,’ said the
Jew, recovering his self-possession, ’he has
us now if he could only give us leg-bail again; and
he must be in the same boat with us. Never mind
how he came there; it’s quite enough for my power
over him that he was in a robbery; that’s all
I want. Now, how much better this is, than being
obliged to put the poor leetle boy out of the way which
would be dangerous, and we should lose by it besides.’
‘When is it to be done?’
asked Nancy, stopping some turbulent exclamation on
the part of Mr. Sikes, expressive of the disgust with
which he received Fagin’s affectation of humanity.
‘Ah, to be sure,’ said
the Jew; ‘when is it to be done, Bill?’
‘I planned with Toby, the night
arter to-morrow,’ rejoined Sikes in a surly
voice, ‘if he heerd nothing from me to the contrairy.’
‘Good,’ said the Jew; ‘there’s
‘No,’ rejoined Sikes.
‘It’s all arranged about bringing off
the swag, is it?’ asked the Jew.
‘And about ’
‘Oh, ah, it’s all planned,’
rejoined Sikes, interrupting him. ’Never
mind particulars. You’d better bring the
boy here to-morrow night. I shall get off the
stone an hour arter daybreak. Then you hold your
tongue, and keep the melting-pot ready, and that’s
all you’ll have to do.’
After some discussion, in which all
three took an active part, it was decided that Nancy
should repair to the Jew’s next evening when
the night had set in, and bring Oliver away with her;
Fagin craftily observing, that, if he evinced any
disinclination to the task, he would be more willing
to accompany the girl who had so recently interfered
in his behalf, than anybody else. It was also
solemnly arranged that poor Oliver should, for the
purposes of the contemplated expedition, be unreservedly
consigned to the care and custody of Mr. William Sikes;
and further, that the said Sikes should deal with him
as he thought fit; and should not be held responsible
by the Jew for any mischance or evil that might be
necessary to visit him: it being understood that,
to render the compact in this respect binding, any
representations made by Mr. Sikes on his return should
be required to be confirmed and corroborated, in all
important particulars, by the testimony of flash Toby
These preliminaries adjusted, Mr.
Sikes proceeded to drink brandy at a furious rate,
and to flourish the crowbar in an alarming manner;
yelling forth, at the same time, most unmusical snatches
of song, mingled with wild exécrations.
At length, in a fit of professional enthusiasm, he
insisted upon producing his box of housebreaking tools:
which he had no sooner stumbled in with, and opened
for the purpose of explaining the nature and properties
of the various implements it contained, and the peculiar
beauties of their construction, than he fell over
the box upon the floor, and went to sleep where he
‘Good-night, Nancy,’ said
the Jew, muffling himself up as before.
Their eyes met, and the Jew scrutinised
her, narrowly. There was no flinching about
the girl. She was as true and earnest in the
matter as Toby Crackit himself could be.
The Jew again bade her good-night,
and, bestowing a sly kick upon the prostrate form
of Mr. Sikes while her back was turned, groped downstairs.
‘Always the way!’ muttered
the Jew to himself as he turned homeward. ’The
worst of these women is, that a very little thing serves
to call up some long-forgotten feeling; and, the best
of them is, that it never lasts. Ha! ha!
The man against the child, for a bag of gold!’
Beguiling the time with these pleasant
reflections, Mr. Fagin wended his way, through mud
and mire, to his gloomy abode: where the Dodger
was sitting up, impatiently awaiting his return.
‘Is Oliver a-bed? I want
to speak to him,’ was his first remark as they
descended the stairs.
‘Hours ago,’ replied the
Dodger, throwing open a door. ‘Here he
The boy was lying, fast asleep, on
a rude bed upon the floor; so pale with anxiety, and
sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he
looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud
and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has
just departed; when a young and gentle spirit has,
but an instant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of
the world has not had time to breathe upon the changing
dust it hallowed.
‘Not now,’ said the Jew,
turning softly away. ‘To-morrow. To-morrow.’