'And he WILL be a sweep, will he?' inquired the old gentleman.
'If we was to bind him to any other trade to-morrow, he'd runaway simultaneous,
your worship,' replied Bumble.
'And this man that's to be his master--you, sir--you'll treat himwell, and feed
him, and do all that sort of thing, will you?'said the old gentleman.
'When I says I will, I means I will,' replied Mr. Gamfielddoggedly.
'You're a rough speaker, my friend, but you look an honest,open-hearted man,'
said the old gentleman: turning hisspectacles in the direction of the candidate
for Oliver'spremium, whose villainous countenance was a regular stampedreceipt for
cruelty. But the magistrate was half blind and halfchildish, so he couldn't reasonably
be expected to discern whatother people did.
'I hope I am, sir,' said Mr. Gamfield, with an ugly leer.
'I have no doubt you are, my friend,' replied the old gentleman: fixing his spectacles
more firmly on his nose, and looking abouthim for the inkstand.
It was the critical moment of Oliver's fate. If the inkstand hadbeen where the
old gentleman though it was, he would have dippedhis pen into it, and signed the
indentures, and Oliver would havebeen straightway hurried off. But, as it chanced
to beimmediately under his nose, it followed, as a matter of course,that he looked
all over his desk for it, without finding it; andhappening in the course of his
search to look straight beforehim, his gaze encountered the pale and terrified face
of OliverTwist: who, despite all the admonitory looks and pinches ofBumble, was
regarding the repulsive countenance of his futuremaster, with a mingled expression
of horror and fear, toopalpable to be mistaken, even by a half-blind magistrate.
The old gentleman stopped, laid down his pen, and looked fromOliver to Mr. Limbkins;
who attempted to take snuff with acheerful and unconcerned aspect.
'My boy!' said the old gentleman, 'you look pale and alarmed.What is the matter?'
'Stand a little away from him, Beadle,' said the othermagistrate: laying aside
the paper, and leaning forward with anexpression of interest. 'Now, boy, tell us
what's the matter: don't be afraid.'
Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayedthat they would
order him back to the dark room-- that they wouldstarve him--beat him--kill him
if they pleased--rather than sendhim away with that dreadful man.
'Well!' said Mr. Bumble, raising his hands and eyes with mostimpressive solemnite.
'Well! of all the artful and designingorphans that ever I see, Oliver, you are one
of the mostbare-facedest.'
'Hold your tongue, Beadle,' said the second old gentleman, whenMr. Bumble had
given vent to this compound adjective.
'I beg your worship's pardon,' said Mr. Bumble, incredulous ofhaving heard aright.
'Did your worship speak to me?'
'Yes. Hold your tongue.'
Mr. Bumble was stupefied with astonishment. A beadle ordered tohold his tongue!
A moral revolution!
The old gentleman in the tortoise-shell spectacles looked at hiscompanion, he
'We refuse to sanction these indentures,' said the old gentleman:
tossing aside the piece of parchment as he spoke.
'I hope,' stammered Mr. Limbkins: 'I hope the magistrates willnot form the opinion
that the authorities have been guilty of anyimproper conduct, on the unsupported
testimony of a child.'
'The magistrates are not called upon to pronounce any opinion onthe matter,'
said the second old gentleman sharply. 'Take theboy back to the workhouse, and treat
him kindly. He seems towant it.'
That same evening, the gentleman in the white waistcoat mostpositively and decidedly
affirmed, not only that Oliver would behung, but that he would be drawn and quartered
into the bargain. Mr. Bumble shook his head with gloomy mystery, and said he wishedhe
might come to good; whereunto Mr. Gamfield replied, that hewished he might come
to him; which, although he agreed with thebeadle in most matters, would seem to
be a wish of a totalyopposite description.
The next morning, the public were once informed that Oliver Twistwas again To
Let, and that five pounds would be paid to anybodywho would take possession of him.
OLIVER, BEING OFFERED ANOTHER PLACE, MAKES HIS FIRST ENTRY INTOPUBLIC LIFE
In great families, when an advantageous place cannot be obtained,either in possession,
reversion, remainder, or expectancy, forthe young man who is growing up, it is a
very general custom tosend him to sea. The board, in imitation of so wise and salutaryan
example, took counsel together on the expediency of shippingoff Oliver Twist, in
some small trading vessel bound to a goodunhealthy port. This suggested itself as
the very best thingthat could possibly be done with him: the probability being,
thatthe skipper would flog him to death, in a playful mood, some dayafter dinner,
or would knock his brains out with an iron bar;both pastimes being, as is pretty
generally known, very favouriteand common recreations among gentleman of that class.
The morethe case presented itself to the board, in this point of view,the more manifold
the advantages of the step appeared; so, theycame to the conclusion that the only
way of providing for Olivereffectually, was to send him to sea without delay.
Mr. Bumble had been despatched to make various preliminaryinquiries, with the
view of finding out some captain or other whowanted a cabin-boy without any friends;
and was returning to theworkhouse to communicate the result of his mission; when
heencountered at the gate, no less a person than Mr. Sowerberry,the parochial undertaker.
Mr. Sowerberry was a tall gaunt, large-jointed man, attired in asuit of threadbare
black, with darned cotton stockings of thesame colour, and shoes to answer. His
features were notnaturally intended to wear a smiling aspect, but he was ingeneral
rather given to professional jocosity. His step waselastic, and his face betokened
inward pleasantry, as he advancedto Mr. Bumble, and shook him cordially by the hand.
'I have taken the measure of the two women that died last night,Mr. Bumble,'
said the undertaker.
'You'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,' said the beadle, ashe thrust his
thumb and forefinger into the proferred snuff-boxof the undertaker: which was an
ingenious little model of apatent coffin. 'I say you'll make your fortune, Mr. Sowerberry,'repeated
Mr. Bumble, tapping the undertaker on the shoulder, in afriendly manner, with his
'Think so?' said the undertaker in a tone which half admitted andhalf disputed
the probability of the event. 'The prices allowedby the board are very small, Mr.
'So are the coffins,' replied the beadle: with precisely as nearan approach to
a laugh as a great official ought to indulge in.
Mr. Sowerberry was much tickled at this: as of course he oughtto be; and laughed
a long time without cessation. 'Well, well,Mr. Bumble,' he said at length, 'there's
no denying that, sincethe new system of feeding has come in, the coffins are somethingnarrower
and more shallow than they used to be; but we must havesome profit, Mr. Bumble.
Well-seasoned timber is an expensivearticle, sir; and all the iron handles come,
by canal, fromBirmingham.'
'Well, well,' said Mr. Bumble, 'every trade has its drawbacks. Afair profit is,
of course, allowable.'
'Of course, of course,' replied the undertaker; 'and if I don'tget a profit upon
this or that particular article, why, I make itup in the long-run, you see--he!
'Just so,' said Mr. Bumble.
'Though I must say,' continued the undertaker, resuming thecurrent of observations
which the beadle had interrupted: 'thoughI must say, Mr. Bumble, that I have to
contend against one verygreat disadvantage: which is, that all the stout people
go offthe quickest. The people who have been better off, and have paidrates for
many years, are the first to sink when they come intothe house; and let me tell
you, Mr. Bumble, that three or fourinches over one's calculation makes a great hole
in one'sprofits: especially when one has a family to provide for, sir.'
As Mr. Sowerberry said this, with the becoming indignation of anill-used man;
and as Mr. Bumble felt that it rather tended toconvey a reflection on the honour
of the parish; the lattergentleman thought it advisable to change the subject. OliverTwist
being uppermost in his mind, he made him his theme.
'By the bye,' said Mr. Bumble, 'you don't know anybody who wantsa boy, do you?
A porochial 'prentis, who is at present adead-weight; a millstone, as I may say,
round the porochialthroat? Liberal terms, Mr. Sowerberry, liberal terms?' As Mr.Bumble
spoke, he raised his cane to the bill above him, and gavethree distinct raps upon
the words 'five pounds': which wereprinted thereon in Roman capitals of gigantic
'Gadso!' said the undertaker: taking Mr. Bumble by thegilt-edged lappel of his
official coat; 'that's just the verything I wanted to speak to you about. You know--dear
me, what avery elegant button this is, Mr. Bumble! I never noticed itbefore.'
'Yes, I think it rather pretty,' said the beadle, glancingproudly downwards at
the large brass buttons which embellishedhis coat. 'The die is the same as the porochial
seal--the GoodSamaritan healing the sick and bruised man. The board presentedit
to me on Newyear's morning, Mr. Sowerberry. I put it on, Iremember, for the first
time, to attend the inquest on thatreduced tradesman, who died in a doorway at midnight.'
'I recollect,' said the undertaker. 'The jury brought it in,"Died from exposure
to the cold, and want of the commonnecessaries of life," didn't they?'
Mr. Bumble nodded.
'And they made it a special verdict, I think,' said theundertaker, 'by adding
some words to the effect, that if therelieving officer had--'
'Tush! Foolery!' interposed the beadle. 'If the board attendedto all the nonsense
that ignorant jurymen talk, they'd haveenough to do.'
'Very true,' said the undertaker; 'they would indeed.'
'Juries,' said Mr. Bumble, grasping his cane tightly, as was hiswont when working
into a passion: 'juries is ineddicated,vulgar, grovelling wretches.'
'So they are,' said the undertaker.
'They haven't no more philosophy nor political economy about 'emthan that,' said
the beadle, snapping his fingers contemptuously.
'No more they have,' acquiesced the undertaker.
'I despise 'em,' said the beadle, growing very red in the face.
'So do I,' rejoined the undertaker.
'And I only wish we'd a jury of the independent sort, in thehouse for a week
or two,' said the beadle; 'the rules andregulations of the board would soon bring
their spirit down for'em.'
'Let 'em alone for that,' replied the undertaker. So saying, hesmiled, approvingly:
to calm the rising wrath of the indignantparish officer.
Mr Bumble lifted off his cocked hat; took a handkerchief from theinside of the
crown; wiped from his forehead the perspirationwhich his rage had engendered; fixed
the cocked hat on again;and, turning to the undertaker, said in a calmer voice:
'Well; what about the boy?'
'Oh!' replied the undertaker; why, you know, Mr. Bumble, I pay agood deal towards
the poor's rates.'
'Hem!' said Mr. Bumble. 'Well?'
'Well,' replied the undertaker, 'I was thinking that if I pay somuch towards
'em, I've a right to get as much out of 'em as Ican, Mr. Bumble; and so--I think
I'll take the boy myself.'
Mr. Bumble grasped the undertaker by the arm, and led him intothe building. Mr.
Sowerberry was closeted with the board forfive minutes; and it was arranged that
Oliver should go to himthat evening 'upon liking'--a phrase which means, in the
case ofa parish apprentice, that if the master find, upon a short trial,that he
can get enough work out of a boy without putting too muchfood into him, he shall
have him for a term of years, to do whathe likes with.
When little Oliver was taken before 'the gentlemen' that evening;and informed
that he was to go, that night, as general house-ladto a coffin-maker's; and that
if he complained of his situation,or ever came back to the parish again, he would
be sent to sea,there to be drowned, or knocked on the head, as the case mightbe,
he evinced so little emotion, that they by common consentpronounced him a hardened
young rascal, and orered Mr. Bumble toremove him forthwith.
Now, although it was very natural that the board, of all peoplein the world,
should feel in a great state of virtuousastonishment and horror at the smallest
tokens of want of feelingon the part of anybody, they were rather out, in this particularinstance.
The simple fact was, that Oliver, instead ofpossessing too little feeling, possessed
rather too much; and wasin a fair way of being reduced, for life, to a state of
brutalstupidity and sullenness by the ill usage he had received. Heheard the news
of his destination, in perfect silence; and,having had his luggage put into his
hand--which was not verydifficult to carry, inasmuch as it was all comprised within
thelimits of a brown paper parcel, about half a foot square by threeinches deep--he
pulled his cap over his eyes; and once moreattaching himself to Mr. Bumble's coat
cuff, was led away by thatdignitary to a new scene of suffering.
For some time, Mr. Bumble drew Oliver along, without notice orremark; for the
beadle carried his head very erect, as a beadlealways should: and, it being a windy
day, little Oliver wascompletely enshrouded by the skirts of Mr. Bumble's coat as
theyblew open, and disclosed to great advantage his flapped waistcoatand drab plush
knee-breeches. As they drew near to theirdestination, however, Mr. Bumble thought
it expedient to lookdown, and see that the boy was in good order for inspection
byhis new master: which he accordingly did, with a fit andbecoming air of gracious