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CHAPTER IX

CONTAINING FURTHER PARTICULARS CONCERNING THE PLEASANT OLD
GENTLEMAN, AND HIS HOPEFUL PUPILS

It was late next morning when Oliver awoke, from a sound, long
sleep. There was no other person in the room but the old Jew,
who was boiling some coffee in a saucepan for breakfast, and
whistling softly to himself as he stirred it round and round,
with an iron spoon. He would stop every now and then to listen
when there was the least noise below: and when he had satistified
himself, he would go on whistling and stirring again, as before.

Although Oliver had roused himself from sleep, he was not
thoroughly awake. There is a drowsy state, between sleeping and
waking, when you dream more in five minutes with your eyes half
open, and yourself half conscious of everything that is passing
around you, than you would in five nights with your eyes fast
closed, and your senses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness. At
such time, a mortal knows just enough of what his mind is doing,
to form some glimmering conception of its mighty powers, its
bounding from earth and spurning time and space, when freed from
the restraint of its corporeal associate.

Oliver was precisely in this condition. He saw the Jew with his
half-closed eyes; heard his low whistling; and recognised the
sound of the spoon grating against the saucepan's sides: and yet
the self-same senses were mentally engaged, at the same time, in
busy action with almost everybody he had ever known.

When the coffee was done, the Jew drew the saucepan to the hob.
Standing, then in an irresolute attitude for a few minutes, as if
he did not well know how to employ himself, he turned round and
looked at Oliver, and called him by his name. He did not answer,
and was to all appearances asleep.

After satisfiying himself upon this head, the Jew stepped gently
to the door: which he fastened. He then drew forth: as it
seemed to Oliver, from some trap in the floor: a small box,
which he placed carefully on the table. His eyes glistened as he
raised the lid, and looked in. Dragging an old chair to the
table, he sat down; and took from it a magnificent gold watch,
sparkling with jewels.

'Aha!' said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting
every feature with a hideous grin. 'Clever dogs! Clever dogs!
Staunch to the last! Never told the old parson where they were.
Never poached upon old Fagin! And why should they? It wouldn't
have loosened the knot, or kept the drop up, a minute longer.
No, no, no! Fine fellows! Fine fellows!'

With these, and other muttered reflections of the like nature,
the Jew once more deposited the watch in its place of safety. At
least half a dozen more were severally drawn forth from the same
box, and surveyed with equal pleasure; besides rings, brooches,
bracelet, and other articles of jewellery, of such magnificent
materials, and costly workmanship, that Oliver had no idea, even
of their names.

Having replaced these trinkets, the Jew took out another: so
small that it lay in the palm of his hand. There seemed to be
some very minute inscription on it; for the Jew laid it flat upon
the table, and shading it with his hand, pored over it, long and
earnestly. At length he put it down, as if despairing of
success; and, leaning back in his chair, muttered:

'What a fine thing capital punishment is! Dead men never repent;
dead men never bring awkward stories to light. Ah, it's a fine
thing for the trade! Five of 'em strung up in a row, and none
left to play booty, or turn white-livered!'

As the Jew uttered these words, his bright dark eyes, which had
been staring vacantly before him, fell on Oliver's face; the
boy's eyes were fixed on his in mute curiousity; and although the
recognition was only for an instant--for the briefest space of
time that can possibly be conceived--it was enough to show the
old man that he had been observed.

He closed the lid of the box with a loud crash; and, laying his
hand on a bread knife which was on the table, started furiously
up. He trembled very much though; for, even in his terror,
Oliver could see that the knife quivered in the air.

'What's that?' said the Jew. 'What do you watch me for? Why are
you awake? What have you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick--quick!
for your life.

'I wasn't able to sleep any longer, sir,' replied Oliver, meekly.

'I am very sorry if I have disturbed you, sir.'

'You were not awake an hour ago?' said the Jew, scowling fiercely
on the boy.

'No! No, indeed!' replied Oliver.

'Are you sure?' cried the Jew: with a still fiercer look than
before: and a threatening attitude.

'Upon my word I was not, sir,' replied Oliver, earnestly. 'I was
not, indeed, sir.'

'Tush, tush, my dear!' said the Jew, abruptly resuming his old
manner, and playing with the knife a little, before he laid it
down; as if to induce the belief that he had caught it up, in
mere sport. 'Of course I know that, my dear. I only tried to
frighten you. You're a brave boy. Ha! ha! you're a brave boy,
Oliver.' The Jew rubbed his hands with a chuckle, but glanced
uneasily at the box, notwithstanding.

'Did you see any of these pretty things, my dear?' said the Jew,
laying his hand upon it after a short pause.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Ah!' said the Jew, turning rather pale. 'They--they're mine,
Oliver; my little property. All I have to live upon, in my old
age. The folks call me a miser, my dear. Only a miser; that's
all.'

Oliver thought the old gentleman must be a decided miser to live
in such a dirty place, with so many watches; but, thinking that
perhaps his fondness for the Dodger and the other boys, cost him
a good deal of money, he only cast a deferential look at the Jew,
and asked if he might get up.

'Certainly, my dear, certainly,' replied the old gentleman.
'Stay. There's a pitcher of water in the corner by the door.
Bring it here; and I'll give you a basin to wash in, my dear.'

Oliver got up; walked across the room; and stooped for an instant
to raise the pitcher. When he turned his head, the box was gone.

He had scarcely washed himself, and made everything tidy, by
emptying the basin out of the window, agreeably to the Jew's
directions, when the Dodger returned: accompanied by a very
sprightly young friend, whom Oliver had seen smoking on the
previous night, and who was now formally introduced to him as
Charley Bates. The four sat down, to breakfast, on the coffee,
and some hot rolls and ham which the Dodger had brought home in
the crown of his hat.

'Well,' said the Jew, glancing slyly at Oliver, and addressing
himself to the Dodger, 'I hope you've been at work this morning,
my dears?'

'Hard,' replied the Dodger.

'As nails,' added Charley Bates.

'Good boys, good boys!' said the Jew. 'What have you got,
Dodger?'

'A couple of pocket-books,' replied that young gentlman.

'Lined?' inquired the Jew, with eagerness.

'Pretty well,' replied the Dodger, producing two pocket-books;
one green, and the other red.

'Not so heavy as they might be,' said the Jew, after looking at
the insides carefully; 'but very neat and nicely made. Ingenious
workman, ain't he, Oliver?'

'Very indeed, sir,' said Oliver. At which Mr. Charles Bates
laughed uproariously; very much to the amazement of Oliver, who
saw nothing to laugh at, in anything that had passed.

'And what have you got, my dear?' said Fagin to Charley Bates.

'Wipes,' replied Master Bates; at the same time producing four
pocket-handkerchiefs.

'Well,' said the Jew, inspecting them closely; 'they're very good
ones, very. You haven't marked them well, though, Charley; so
the marks shall be picked out with a needle, and we'll teach
Oliver how to do it. Shall us, Oliver, eh? Ha! ha! ha!'

'If you please, sir,' said Oliver.

'You'd like to be able to make pocket-handkerchiefs as easy as
Charley Bates, wouldn't you, my dear?' said the Jew.

'Very much, indeed, if you'll teach me, sir,' replied Oliver.

Master Bates saw something so exquisitely ludicrous in this
reply, that he burst into another laugh; which laugh, meeting the
coffee he was drinking, and carrying it down some wrong channel,
very nearly terminated in his premature suffocation.

'He is so jolly green!' said Charley when he recovered, as an
apology to the company for his unpolite behaviour.

The Dodger said nothing, but he smoothed Oliver's hair over his
eyes, and said he'd know better, by and by; upon which the old
gentleman, observing Oliver's colour mounting, changed the
subject by asking whether there had been much of a crowd at the
execution that morning? This made him wonder more and more; for
it was plain from the replies of the two boys that they had both
been there; and Oliver naturally wondered how they could possibly
have found time to be so very industrious.

When the breakfast was cleared away; the merry old gentlman and
the two boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which
was performed in this way. The merry old gentleman, placing a
snuff-box in one pocket of his trousers, a note-case in the
other, and a watch in his waistcoat pocket, with a guard-chain
round his neck, and sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt:
buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his spectacle-case
and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the room
with a stick, in imitation of the manner in which old gentlmen
walk about the streets any hour in the day. Sometimes he stopped
at the fire-place, and sometimes at the door, making believe that
he was staring with all his might into shop-windows. At such
times, he would look constantly round him, for fear of thieves,
and would keep slapping all his pockets in turn, to see that he
hadn't lost anything, in such a very funny and natural manner,
that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face. All this
time, the two boys followed him closely about: getting out of
his sight, so nimbly, every time he turned round, that it was
impossible to follow their motions. At last, the Dodger trod
upon his toes, or ran upon his boot accidently, while Charley
Bates stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they
took from him, with the most extraordinary rapidity, snuff-box,
note-case, watch-guard, chain, shirt-pin, pocket-handkerchief,
even the spectacle-case. If the old gentlman felt a hand in any
one of his pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game
began all over again.

When this game had been played a great many times, a couple of
young ladies called to see the young gentleman; one of whom was
named Bet, and the other Nancy. They wore a good deal of hair,
not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about
the shoes and stockings. They were not exactly pretty, perhaps;
but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked
quite stout and hearty. Being remarkably free and agreeable in
their manners, Oliver thought them very nice girls indeed. As
there is no doubt they were.

The visitors stopped a long time. Spirits were produced, in
consequence of one of the young ladies complaining of a coldness
in her inside; and the conversation took a very convivial and
improving turn. At length, Charley Bates expressed his opinion
that it was time to pad the hoof. This, it occurred to Oliver,
must be French for going out; for directly afterwards, the
Dodger, and Charley, and the two young ladies, went away
together, having been kindly furnished by the amiable old Jew
with money to spend.

'There, my dear,' said Fagin. 'That's a pleasant life, isn't it?

They have gone out for the day.'

'Have they done work, sir?' inquired Oliver.

'Yes,' said the Jew; 'that is, unless they should unexpectedly
come across any, when they are out; and they won't neglect it, if
they do, my dear, depend upon it. Make 'em your models, my dear.

Make 'em your models,' tapping the fire-shovel on the hearth to
add force to his words; 'do everything they bid you, and take
their advice in all matters--especially the Dodger's, my dear.
He'll be a great man himself, and will make you one too, if you
take pattern by him.--Is my handkerchief hanging out of my
pocket, my dear?' said the Jew, stopping short.

'Yes, sir,' said Oliver.

'See if you can take it out, without my feeling it; as you saw
them do, when we were at play this morning.'

Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one hand, as he had
seen the Dodger hold it, and drew the handkerchief lighty out of
it with the other.

'Is it gone?' cried the Jew.

'Here it is, sir,' said Oliver, showing it in his hand.

'You're a clever boy, my dear,' said the playful old gentleman,
patting Oliver on the head approvingly. 'I never saw a sharper
lad. Here's a shilling for you. If you go on, in this way,
you'll be the greatest man of the time. And now come here, and
I'll show you how to take the marks out of the handkerchiefs.'

Oliver wondered what picking the old gentleman's pocket in play,
had to do with his chances of being a great man. But, thinking
that the Jew, being so much his senior, must know best, he
followed him quietly to the table, and was soon deeply involved
in his new study.





Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction

England - Social life and customs - 19th century
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