'Not exactly that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow, laughing; 'but we mustproceed gently
and with great care.'
'Gentleness and care,' exclaimed the doctor. 'I'd send them oneand all to--'
'Never mind where,' interposed Mr. Brownlow. 'But reflectwhether sending them
anywhere is likely to attain the object wehave in view.'
'What object?' asked the doctor.
'Simply, the discovery of Oliver's parentage, and regaining forhim the inheritance
of which, if this story be true, he has beenfraudulently deprived.'
'Ah!' said Mr. Losberne, cooling himself with hispocket-handkerchief; 'I almost
'You see,' pursued Mr. Brownlow; 'placing this poor girl entirelyout of the question,
and supposing it were possible to bringthese scoundrels to justice without compromising
her safety, whatgood should we bring about?'
'Hanging a few of them at least, in all probability,' suggestedthe doctor, 'and
transporting the rest.'
'Very good,' replied Mr. Brownlow, smiling; 'but no doubt theywill bring that
about for themselves in the fulness of time, andif we step in to forestall them,
it seems to me that we shall beperforming a very Quixotic act, in direct opposition
to our owninterest--or at least to Oliver's, which is the same thing.'
'How?' inquired the doctor.
'Thus. It is quite clear that we shall have extreme difficultyin getting to the
bottom of this mystery, unless we can bringthis man, Monks, upon his knees. That
can only be done bystratagem, and by catching him when he is not surrounded by thesepeople.
For, suppose he were apprehended, we have no proofagainst him. He is not even (so
far as we know, or as the factsappear to us) concerned with the gang in any of their
robberies. If he were not discharged, it is very unlikely that he couldreceive any
further punishment than being committed to prison asa rogue and vagabond; and of
course ever afterwards his mouthwould be so obstinately closed that he might as
well, for ourpurposes, be deaf, dumb, blind, and an idiot.'
'Then,' said the doctor impetuously, 'I put it to you again,whether you think
it reasonable that this promise to the girlshould be considered binding; a promise
made with the best andkindest intentions, but really--'
'Do not discuss the point, my dear young lady, pray,' said Mr.Brownlow, interrupting
Rose as she was about to speak. 'Thepromise shall be kept. I don't think it will,
in the slightestdegree, interfere with our proceedings. But, before we canresolve
upon any precise course of action, it will be necessaryto see the girl; to ascertain
from her whether she will point outthis Monks, on the understanding that he is to
be dealt with byus, and not by the law; or, if she will not, or cannot do that,to
procure from her such an account of his haunts and descriptionof his person, as
will enable us to identify him. She cannot beseen until next Sunday night; this
is Tuesday. I would suggestthat in the meantime, we remain perfectly quiet, and
keep thesematters secret even from Oliver himself.'
Although Mr. Loseberne received with many wry faces a proposalinvolving a delay
of five whole days, he was fain to admit thatno better course occurred to him just
then; and as both Rose andMrs. Maylie sided very strongly with Mr. Brownlow, thatgentleman's
proposition was carried unanimously.
'I should like,' he said, 'to call in the aid of my friendGrimwig. He is a strange
creature, but a shrewd one, and mightprove of material assistance to us; I should
say that he was breda lawyer, and quitted the Bar in disgust because he had only
onebrief and a motion of course, in twenty years, though whetherthat is recommendation
or not, you must determine foryourselves.'
'I have no objection to your calling in your friend if I may callin mine,' said
'We must put it to the vote,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'who may hebe?'
'That lady's son, and this young lady's--very old friend,' saidthe doctor, motioning
towards Mrs. Maylie, and concluding with anexpressive glance at her niece.
Rose blushed deeply, but she did not make any audible objectionto this motion
(possibly she felt in a hopeless minority); andHarry Maylie and Mr. Grimwig were
accordingly added to thecommittee.
'We stay in town, of course,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'while thereremains the slightest
prospect of prosecuting this inquiry with achance of success. I will spare neither
trouble nor expense inbehalf of the object in which we are all so deeply interested,and
I am content to remain here, if it be for twelve months, solong as you assure me
that any hope remains.'
'Good!' rejoined Mr. Brownlow. 'And as I see on the faces aboutme, a disposition
to inquire how it happened that I was not inthe way to corroborate Oliver's tale,
and had so suddenly leftthe kingdom, let me stipulate that I shall be asked no questionsuntil
such time as I may deem it expedient to forestall them bytelling my own story. Believe
me, I make this request with goodreason, for I might otherwise excite hopes destined
never to berealised, and only increase difficulties and disappointmentsalready quite
numerous enough. Come! Supper has been announced,and young Oliver, who is all alone
in the next room, will havebegun to think, by this time, that we have wearied of
hiscompany, and entered into some dark conspiracy to thrust himforth upon the world.'
With these words, the old gentleman gave his hand to Mrs. Maylie,and escorted
her into the supper-room. Mr. Losberne followed,leading Rose; and the council was,
for the present, effectuallybroken up.
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE OF OLIVER'S, EXHIBITING DECIDED MARKS OFGENIUS, BECOMES A
PUBLIC CHARACTER IN THE METROPOLIS
Upon the night when Nancy, having lulled Mr. Sikes to sleep,hurried on her self-imposed
mission to Rose Maylie, thereadvanced towards London, by the Great North Road, two
persons,upon whom it is expedient that this history should bestow someattention.
They were a man and woman; or perhaps they would be betterdescribed as a male
and female: for the former was one of thoselong-limbed, knock-kneed, shambling,
bony people, to whom it isdifficult to assign any precise age,--looking as they
do, whenthey are yet boys, like undergrown men, and when they are almostmen, like
overgrown boys. The woman was young, but of a robustand hardy make, as she need
have been to bear the weight of theheavy bundle which was strapped to her back.
Her companion wasnot encumbered with much luggage, as there merely dangled from
astick which he carried over his shoulder, a small parcel wrappedin a common handkerchief,
and apparently light enough. Thiscircumstance, added to the length of his legs,
which were ofunusual extent, enabled him with much ease to keep somehalf-dozen paces
in advance of his companion, to whom heoccasionally turned with an impatient jerk
of the head: as ifreproaching her tardiness, and urging her to greater exertion.
Thus, they had toiled along the dusty road, taking little heed ofany object within
sight, save when they stepped aside to allow awider passage for the mail-coaches
which were whirling out oftown, until they passed through Highgate archway; when
theforemost traveller stopped and called impatiently to hiscompanion,
'Come on, can't yer? What a lazybones yer are, Charlotte.'
'It's a heavy load, I can tell you,' said the female, coming up,almost breathless
'Heavy! What are yer talking about? What are yer made for?'rejoined the male
traveller, changing his own little bundle as hespoke, to the other shoulder. 'Oh,
there yer are, resting again!
Well, if yer ain't enough to tire anybody's patience out, I don'tknow what is!'
'Is it much farther?' asked the woman, resting herself against abank, and looking
up with the perspiration streaming from herface.
'Much farther! Yer as good as there,' said the long-leggedtramper, pointing out
before him. 'Look there! Those are thelights of London.'
'They're a good two mile off, at least,' said the womandespondingly.
'Never mind whether they're two mile off, or twenty,' said NoahClaypole; for
he it was; 'but get up and come on, or I'll kickyer, and so I give yer notice.'
As Noah's red nose grew redder with anger, and as he crossed theroad while speaking,
as if fully prepared to put his threat intoexecution, the woman rose without any
further remark, and trudgedonward by his side.
'Where do you mean to stop for the night, Noah?' she asked, afterthey had walked
a few hundred yards.
'How should I know?' replied Noah, whose temper had beenconsiderably impaired
'Near, I hope,' said Charlotte.
'No, not near,' replied Mr. Claypole. 'There! Not near; sodon't think it.'
'When I tell yer that I don't mean to do a thing, that's enough,without any why
or because either,' replied Mr. Claypole withdignity.
'Well, you needn't be so cross,' said his companion.
'A pretty thing it would be, wouldn't it to go and stop at thevery first public-house
outside the town, so that Sowerberry, ifhe come up after us, might poke in his old
nose, and have ustaken back in a cart with handcuffs on,' said Mr. Claypole in ajeering
tone. 'No! I shall go and lose myself among thenarrowest streets I can find, and
not stop till we come to thevery out-of-the-wayest house I can set eyes on. 'Cod,
yer maythanks yer stars I've got a head; for if we hadn't gone, atfirst, the wrong
road a purpose, and come back across country,yer'd have been locked up hard and
fast a week ago, my lady. Andserve yer right for being a fool.'
'I know I ain't as cunning as you are,' replied Charlotte; 'butdon't put all
the blame on me, and say I should have been lockedup. You would have been if I had
been, any way.'
'Yer took the money from the till, yer know yer did,' said Mr.Claypole.
'I took it for you, Noah, dear,' rejoined Charlotte.
'Did I keep it?' asked Mr. Claypole.
'No; you trusted in me, and let me carry it like a dear, and soyou are,' said
the lady, chucking him under the chin, and drawingher arm through his.
This was indeed the case; but as it was not Mr. Claypole's habitto repose a blind
and foolish confidence in anybody, it should beobserved, in justice to that gentleman,
that he had trustedCharlotte to this extent, in order that, if they were pursued,the
money might be found on her: which would leave him anopportunity of asserting his
innocence of any theft, and wouldgreatly facilitate his chances of escape. Of course,
he enteredat this juncture, into no explanation of his motives, and theywalked on
very lovingly together.
In pursuance of this cautious plan, Mr. Claypole went on, withouthalting, until
he arrived at the Angel at Islington, where hewisely judged, from the crowd of passengers
and numbers ofvehicles, that London began in earnest. Just pausing to observewhich
appeared the most crowded streets, and consequently themost to be avoided, he crossed
into Saint John's Road, and wassoon deep in the obscurity of the intricate and dirty
ways,which, lying between Gray's Inn Lane and Smithfield, render thatpart of the
town one of the lowest and worst that improvement hasleft in the midst of London.
Through these streets, Noah Claypole walked, dragging Charlotteafter him; now
stepping into the kennel to embrace at a glancethe whole external character of some
small public-house; nowjogging on again, as some fancied appearance induced him
tobelieve it too public for his purpose. At length, he stopped infront of one, more
humble in appearance and more dirty than anyhe had yet seen; and, having crossed
over and surveyed it fromthe opposite pavement, graciously announced his intention
ofputting up there, for the night.
'So give us the bundle,' said Noah, unstrapping it from thewoman's shoulders,
and slinging it over his own; 'and don't yerspeak, except when yer spoke to. What's
the name of thehouse--t-h-r--three what?'
'Cripples,' said Charlotte.
'Three Cripples,' repeated Noah, 'and a very good sign too. Now,then! Keep close
at my heels, and come along.' With theseinjunctions, he pushed the rattling door
with his shoulder, andentered the house, followed by his companion.
There was nobody in the bar but a young Jew, who, with his twoelbows on the counter,
was reading a dirty newspaper. He staredvery hard at Noah, and Noah stared very
hard at him.
If Noah had been attired in his charity-boy's dress, there mighthave been some
reason for the Jew opening his eyes so wide; butas he had discarded the coat and
badge, and wore a shortsmock-frock over his leathers, there seemed no particular
reasonfor his appearance exciting so much attention in a public-house.
'Is this the Three Cripples?' asked Noah.
'That is the dabe of this 'ouse,' replied the Jew.
'A gentleman we met on the road, coming up from the country,recommended us here,'
said Noah, nudging Charlotte, perhaps tocall her attention to this most ingenious
device for attractingrespect, and perhaps to warn her to betray no surprise. 'We
wantto sleep here to-night.'
'I'b dot certaid you cad,' said Barney, who was the attendantsprite; 'but I'll
'Show us the tap, and give us a bit of cold meat and a drop ofbeer while yer
inquiring, will yer?' said Noah.
Barney complied by ushering them into a small back-room, andsetting the required
viands before them; having done which, heinformed the travellers that they could
be lodged that night, andleft the amiable couple to their refreshment.
Now, this back-room was immediately behind the bar, and somesteps lower, so that
any person connected with the house,undrawing a small curtain which concealed a
single pane of glassfixed in the wall of the last-named apartment, about five feetfrom
its flooring, could not only look down upon any guests inthe back-room without any
great hazard of being observed (theglass being in a dark angle of the wall, between
which and alarge upright beam the observer had to thrust himself), butcould, by
applying his ear to the partition, ascertain withtolerable distinctness, their subject
of conversation. Thelandlord of the house had not withdrawn his eye from this placeof
espial for five minutes, and Barney had only just returnedfrom making the communication
above related, when Fagin, in thecourse of his evening's business, came into the
bar to inquireafter some of his young pupils.