It was a cheerless morning when they
got into the street; blowing and raining hard; and
the clouds looking dull and stormy. The night
had been very wet: large pools of water had collected
in the road: and the kennels were overflowing.
There was a faint glimmering of the coming day in
the sky; but it rather aggravated than relieved the
gloom of the scene: the sombre light only serving
to pale that which the street lamps afforded, without
shedding any warmer or brighter tints upon the wet
house-tops, and dreary streets. There appeared
to be nobody stirring in that quarter of the town;
the windows of the houses were all closely shut; and
the streets through which they passed, were noiseless
By the time they had turned into the
Bethnal Green Road, the day had fairly begun to break.
Many of the lamps were already extinguished; a few
country waggons were slowly toiling on, towards London;
now and then, a stage-coach, covered with mud, rattled
briskly by: the driver bestowing, as he passed,
an admonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner who, by
keeping on the wrong side of the road, had endangered
his arriving at the office, a quarter of a minute
after his time. The public-houses, with gas-lights
burning inside, were already open. By degrees,
other shops began to be unclosed, and a few scattered
people were met with. Then, came straggling
groups of labourers going to their work; then, men
and women with fish-baskets on their heads; donkey-carts
laden with vegetables; chaise-carts filled with live-stock
or whole carcasses of meat; milk-women with pails;
an unbroken concourse of people, trudging out with
various supplies to the eastern suburbs of the town.
As they approached the City, the noise and traffic
gradually increased; when they threaded the streets
between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled
into a roar of sound and bustle. It was as light
as it was likely to be, till night came on again,
and the busy morning of half the London population
Turning down Sun Street and Crown
Street, and crossing Finsbury square, Mr. Sikes struck,
by way of Chiswell Street, into Barbican: thence
into Long Lane, and so into Smithfield; from which
latter place arose a tumult of discordant sounds that
filled Oliver Twist with amazement.
It was market-morning. The ground
was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire;
a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking
bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which
seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily
above. All the pens in the centre of the large
area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded
into the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied
up to posts by the gutter side were long lines of
beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen,
butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers,
and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together
in a mass; the whistling of drovers, the barking dogs,
the bellowing and plunging of the oxen, the bleating
of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs, the
cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling
on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of voices,
that issued from every public-house; the crowding,
pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the
hideous and discordant dim that resounded from every
corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid,
and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and
bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning
and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the
Mr. Sikes, dragging Oliver after him,
elbowed his way through the thickest of the crowd,
and bestowed very little attention on the numerous
sights and sounds, which so astonished the boy.
He nodded, twice or thrice, to a passing friend;
and, resisting as many invitations to take a morning
dram, pressed steadily onward, until they were clear
of the turmoil, and had made their way through Hosier
Lane into Holborn.
’Now, young ‘un!’
said Sikes, looking up at the clock of St. Andrew’s
Church, ’hard upon seven! you must step out.
Come, don’t lag behind already, Lazy-legs!’
Mr. Sikes accompanied this speech
with a jerk at his little companion’s wrist;
Oliver, quickening his pace into a kind of trot between
a fast walk and a run, kept up with the rapid strides
of the house-breaker as well as he could.
They held their course at this rate,
until they had passed Hyde Park corner, and were on
their way to Kensington: when Sikes relaxed his
pace, until an empty cart which was at some little
distance behind, came up. Seeing ‘Hounslow’
written on it, he asked the driver with as much civility
as he could assume, if he would give them a lift as
far as Isleworth.
‘Jump up,’ said the man. ‘Is
that your boy?’
‘Yes; he’s my boy,’
replied Sikes, looking hard at Oliver, and putting
his hand abstractedly into the pocket where the pistol
‘Your father walks rather too
quick for you, don’t he, my man?’ inquired
the driver: seeing that Oliver was out of breath.
‘Not a bit of it,’ replied
Sikes, interposing. ’He’s used to
Here, take hold of my hand, Ned. In with you!’
Thus addressing Oliver, he helped
him into the cart; and the driver, pointing to a heap
of sacks, told him to lie down there, and rest himself.
As they passed the different mile-stones,
Oliver wondered, more and more, where his companion
meant to take him. Kensington, Hammersmith,
Chiswick, Kew Bridge, Brentford, were all passed; and
yet they went on as steadily as if they had only just
begun their journey. At length, they came to
a public-house called the Coach and Horses; a little
way beyond which, another road appeared to run off.
And here, the cart stopped.
Sikes dismounted with great precipitation,
holding Oliver by the hand all the while; and lifting
him down directly, bestowed a furious look upon him,
and rapped the side-pocket with his fist, in a significant
‘Good-bye, boy,’ said the man.
‘He’s sulky,’ replied
Sikes, giving him a shake; ’he’s sulky.
A young dog! Don’t mind him.’
‘Not I!’ rejoined the
other, getting into his cart. ’It’s
a fine day, after all.’ And he drove away.
Sikes waited until he had fairly gone;
and then, telling Oliver he might look about him if
he wanted, once again led him onward on his journey.
They turned round to the left, a short
way past the public-house; and then, taking a right-hand
road, walked on for a long time: passing many
large gardens and gentlemen’s houses on both
sides of the way, and stopping for nothing but a little
beer, until they reached a town. Here against
the wall of a house, Oliver saw written up in pretty
large letters, ‘Hampton.’ They lingered
about, in the fields, for some hours. At length
they came back into the town; and, turning into an
old public-house with a defaced sign-board, ordered
some dinner by the kitchen fire.
The kitchen was an old, low-roofed
room; with a great beam across the middle of the ceiling,
and benches, with high backs to them, by the fire;
on which were seated several rough men in smock-frocks,
drinking and smoking. They took no notice of
Oliver; and very little of Sikes; and, as Sikes took
very little notice of them, he and his young comrade
sat in a corner by themselves, without being much troubled
by their company.
They had some cold meat for dinner,
and sat so long after it, while Mr. Sikes indulged
himself with three or four pipes, that Oliver began
to feel quite certain they were not going any further.
Being much tired with the walk, and getting up so
early, he dozed a little at first; then, quite overpowered
by fatigue and the fumes of the tobacco, fell asleep.
It was quite dark when he was awakened
by a push from Sikes. Rousing himself sufficiently
to sit up and look about him, he found that worthy
in close fellowship and communication with a labouring
man, over a pint of ale.
‘So, you’re going on to
Lower Halliford, are you?’ inquired Sikes.
‘Yes, I am,’ replied the
man, who seemed a little the worse or better,
as the case might be for drinking; ’and
not slow about it neither. My horse hasn’t
got a load behind him going back, as he had coming
up in the mornin’; and he won’t be long
a-doing of it. Here’s luck to him.
Ecod! he’s a good ‘un!’
‘Could you give my boy and me
a lift as far as there?’ demanded Sikes, pushing
the ale towards his new friend.
‘If you’re going directly,
I can,’ replied the man, looking out of the
pot. ‘Are you going to Halliford?’
‘Going on to Shepperton,’ replied Sikes.
‘I’m your man, as far
as I go,’ replied the other. ’Is
all paid, Becky?’
‘Yes, the other gentleman’s paid,’
replied the girl.
‘I say!’ said the man, with tipsy gravity;
‘that won’t do, you know.’
‘Why not?’ rejoined Sikes.
’You’re a-going to accommodate us, and
wot’s to prevent my standing treat for a pint
or so, in return?’
The stranger reflected upon this argument,
with a very profound face; having done so, he seized
Sikes by the hand: and declared he was a real
good fellow. To which Mr. Sikes replied, he was
joking; as, if he had been sober, there would have
been strong reason to suppose he was.
After the exchange of a few more compliments,
they bade the company good-night, and went out; the
girl gathering up the pots and glasses as they did
so, and lounging out to the door, with her hands full,
to see the party start.
The horse, whose health had been drunk
in his absence, was standing outside: ready
harnessed to the cart. Oliver and Sikes got in
without any further ceremony; and the man to whom
he belonged, having lingered for a minute or two ‘to
bear him up,’ and to defy the hostler and the
world to produce his equal, mounted also. Then,
the hostler was told to give the horse his head; and,
his head being given him, he made a very unpleasant
use of it: tossing it into the air with great
disdain, and running into the parlour windows over
the way; after performing those feats, and supporting
himself for a short time on his hind-legs, he started
off at great speed, and rattled out of the town right
The night was very dark. A damp
mist rose from the river, and the marshy ground about;
and spread itself over the dreary fields. It
was piercing cold, too; all was gloomy and black.
Not a word was spoken; for the driver had grown sleepy;
and Sikes was in no mood to lead him into conversation.
Oliver sat huddled together, in a corner of the cart;
bewildered with alarm and apprehension; and figuring
strange objects in the gaunt trees, whose branches
waved grimly to and fro, as if in some fantastic joy
at the desolation of the scene.
As they passed Sunbury Church, the
clock struck seven. There was a light in the
ferry-house window opposite: which streamed across
the road, and threw into more sombre shadow a dark
yew-tree with graves beneath it. There was a
dull sound of falling water not far off; and the leaves
of the old tree stirred gently in the night wind.
It seemed like quiet music for the repose of the
Sunbury was passed through, and they
came again into the lonely road. Two or three
miles more, and the cart stopped. Sikes alighted,
took Oliver by the hand, and they once again walked
They turned into no house at Shepperton,
as the weary boy had expected; but still kept walking
on, in mud and darkness, through gloomy lanes and
over cold open wastes, until they came within sight
of the lights of a town at no great distance.
On looking intently forward, Oliver saw that the
water was just below them, and that they were coming
to the foot of a bridge.
Sikes kept straight on, until they
were close upon the bridge; then turned suddenly down
a bank upon the left.
‘The water!’ thought Oliver,
turning sick with fear. ’He has brought
me to this lonely place to murder me!’
He was about to throw himself on the
ground, and make one struggle for his young life,
when he saw that they stood before a solitary house:
all ruinous and decayed. There was a window on
each side of the dilapidated entrance; and one story
above; but no light was visible. The house was
dark, dismantled: and the all appearance, uninhabited.
Sikes, with Oliver’s hand still
in his, softly approached the low porch, and raised
the latch. The door yielded to the pressure,
and they passed in together.