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BOOK THE FIRST.
Wherein this history reverts to Mr. Fagin Wherein the happiness of Oliver and his
97 friends experiences a sudden check .... 128
In which a mysterious character appears Contains some introductory particulars rela-
tive to a young gentleman who now
Is a short one, and may appear of no great
BOOK THE FIRST.
CHAPTER THE FIRST
gasping on a little flock mattress, rather Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born, the next, the balance being decidedly in
unequally poised between this world and and of the circumstances attending his Birth.
favour of the latter. Now, if during this AMONG other public buildings in a cer- brief period Oliver had been surrounded tain town which shall be nameless, is one by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, which is common to most towns great or experienced nurses, and doctors of prosmall, to wit, a workhouse; and in this work- found wisdom, he would most inevitably house there was born on a day and date and indubitably have been killed in no which I need not trouble myself to repeat, time. There being nobody by, however, inasmuch as it can be of no possible conse- but a pauper old woman, who was renquence to the reader, in this stage of the dered rather misty by an unwonted allowbusiness at all events, the item of mortal- ance of beer, and a parish surgeon who ity whose name is prefixed to the head of did such matters by contract, Oliver and this chapter. For a long time after he nature fought out the point between them. was ushered into this world of sorrow and The result
was, that, after a few struggles, trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained Oliver breathed, sneezed, and proceeded a matter of considerable doubt whether to advertise to the inmates of the workthe child would survive to bear any name house the fact of a new burden having at all; in which case it is somewhat more been imposed upon the parish, by setting than probable that these memoirs would up as loud a cry as could reasonably have never have appeared, or, if they had, being been expected from a male infant who had comprised within a couple of pages, they not been possessed of that very useful apwould have possessed the inestimable pendage, a voice, for a much longer space merit of being the most concise and faith of time than three minutes and a quarter. ful specimen of biography extant in the As Oliver gave this first testimony of literature of any age or country: Although the free and proper action of his lungs, I am not disposed to maintain that the the patchwork coverlet, which was carebeing born in a workhouse is in itself the lessly flung over the iron bedstead, rusmost fortunate and enviable circumstance tled, the pale face of a young female was chat can possibly befal a human being, I raised feebly from the pillow; and a faint do mean to say that in this particular voice imperfectly articulated the words instance it was the best thing for Oliver Let me see the child, and die.” Twist that could by possibility have oc- The surgeon had been sitting with his curred. The fact is, that there was con- face turned towards the fire, giving the siderable difficulty in inducing Oliver to palms of his hands a warm, and a rub, take upon himself the office of respiration, alternately; but as the young woman -a troublesome practice, but one which spoke, he rose, and, advancing to the eustom has rendered necessary to our bed's head, said with more kindness than easy existence,—and for some time he lay might have been expected of him
“Oh, you must not talk about dying, dress young Oliver Twist was! Wrapped yet."
in the blanket which had hitherto formed • Lor bless her dear heart, no!" inter- his only ring, he might have been the posed the nurse, hastily depositing in her child of a nobleman or a beggar;-it pocket a green glass bottle, the contents would have been hard for the haughtiest of which she had been tasting in a corner stranger to have fixed his station in sociewith evident satisfaction. “Lor bless her ty. But now he was enveloped in the dear heart, when she has lived as long as old calico robes, that had grown yellow in I have, sir, and had thirteen children of the same service; he was badged and her own, and all on 'em dead except two, ticketed, and fell into his place at onceand them in the wurkus with me, she'll a parish child—the orphan of a workhouse know better than to take on in that way, the humble, half-starved drudge—to be bless her dear heart! Think what it is cuffed and buffeted through the world, to be a mother, there's a dear young despised by all, and pitied by none. lamb, do.”
Oliver cried lustily. If he could have Apparently this consolatory perspective known that he was an orphan, left to the of a mother's prospects failed in producing tender mercies of churchwardens and its due effect. The patient shook her overseers, perhaps he would have cried head, and stretched out her hand towards the louder. the child.
The surgeon deposited it in her arms. She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead, passed her hands nver her face, gazed wildly round, shud
CHAPTER THE SECOND dered, fell back-and died. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the
Treats of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, blood had frozen for ever.
and Board. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been For the next eight or ten months, Olistrangers too long.
ver was the victim of a systematic course “It's all over, Mrs. Thingummy,” said of treachery and deception — he was the surgeon, at last.
brought up by hand. The hungry and “Ah, poor dear; so it is!" said the destitute situation of the infant orphan nurse, picking up the cork of the green was duly reported by the workhouse bottle which had fallen out on the pillow authorities to the parish authorities. The as she stooped to take up the child. “Poor parish authorities inquired with dignity dear!"
of the workhouse authorities, whether “ You needn't mind sending up to me, there was no female then domiciled in if the child cries, nurse," said the surgeon, “ the house" who was in a situation to imputting on his gloves with great delib part to Oliver the consolation and noureration. " It's very likely it will be ishment of which he stood in need. The troublesome. Give it a little gruel if it workhouse authorities replied with huis.”. He put on his hat, and pausing by mility that there was not. Upon this, the the bed-side on his way to the door, added, parish authorities magnanimously and hu“She was a good looking girl too; where manely resolved, that Oliver should be did she come from ?"
“ farmed,” or, in other words, that he “She was brought here last night,” re- should be despatched to a branch-workplied the old woman, “ by the overseer's house some three miles off, where twenty order. She was found lying in the street; or thirty other juvenile offenders against she had walked some distance, for her the poor-laws rolled about the floor all shoes were worn to pieces; but where day, without the inconvenience of too she came from, or where she was going much food, or too much clothing, under to, nobody knows."
the parental superintendence of an elderly The surgeon leant over the body, and female who received the culprits at and raised the left hand. “The old story," he for the consideration of sevenpence-halfsaid, shaking his head : “no wedding-ring, penny per small head per week. Seven[ see. Ah! good night.”
pence-halfpenny's worth per week is a The medical gentleman walked away good round diet for a child; a great deal to dinner and the nurse, having once may be got for sevenpence-halfpennymore applied herself to the green bottle, quite enough to overload its stomach, and sat down on a low chair before the fire, make it uncomfortable. The elderly feAnd proceeded to dress the infant.
male was a woman of wisdom and expeAnd what an example of the power of rience; she knew what was good for children, and she had a very accurate per- , when they went; and what more would ception of what was good for herself. So, the people have ? she appropriated the greater part of the It cannot be expected that this system weekly stipend to her own use, and con- of farming would produce any very ex. signed the rising parochial generation to traordinary or luxuriant crop. Oliver even a shorter allowance than was origin- Twist's eighth birth-day found him a pale, ally provided for them; thereby finding thin child, somewhat diminutive in sta in the lowest depth a deeper still, and ture, and decidedly small in circumferproving herself a very great experimental ence. But nature or inheritance had imphilosopher.
planted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver's Everybody knows the story of another breast; it had plenty of room to expand, experimental philosopher, who had a great thanks to the spare diet of the establishtheory about a horse being able to live ment; and perhaps to this circumstance without eating, and who demonstrated it may be attributed his having any eighth so well, that he got his own horse down birth-day at all. Be this as it may, howto a straw a day, and would most unques- ever it was his eighth birth-day; and he tionably have rendered him a very spirited was keeping it in the coal-cellar with a and rampacious animal upon nothing at select party of two other young gentleall, if he hadn't died, just four-and-twenty men, who, after participating with him in hours before he was to have had his first a sound threshing, had been locked up comfortable bait of air. Unfortunately therein, for atrociously presuming to be for the experimental philosophy of the fe- hungry, when Mrs. Mann, the good lady male to whose protecting care Oliver of the house, was unexpectedly startled Twist was delivered over, a similar result by the apparition of Mr. Bumble the beausually attended the operation of her sys- dle, striving to undo the wicket of the tem; for just at the very moment when a garden-gate. child had contrived to exist upon the “Goodness gracious! is that you, Mr. smallest possible portion of the weakest Bumble, sir?" said Mrs. Mann, thrusting possible food, it did perversely happen in her head out of the window in well-affecteight and a half cases out of ten, either ed ecstacies of joy. “ (Susan, take Olithat it sickened from want and cold, or ver and them two brats up stairs, and fell into the fire from neglect, or got wash 'em directly.) – My heart alive! smothered by accident; in any one of Mr. Bumble, how glad I am to see you which cases, the miserable little being sure-ly!" was usually summoned into another world, Now Mr. Bumble was a fat man, and a and there gathered to the fathers which choleric one; so, instead of responding to it had never known in this.
this open-hearted salutation in a kindred Occasionally, when there was some spirit, he gave the little wicket a tremenmore than usually interesting inquest dous shake, and then bestowed upon it a upon à parish child who had been over- kick, which could have emanated from no looked in turning up a bedstead, or inad-leg but a beadle's. vertently 'scalded to death when there Lor, only think,” said Mrs. Mann, runhappened to be a washing, (though the ning out for the three boys had been relatter accident was very scarce,-any- moved by this time,-"only think of that? thing approaching to a washing being of That I should have forgotten that the gate rare occurrence in the farm,) the jury was bolted on the inside, on account of would take it into their heads to ask trou- them dear children! Walk in, sir; walk blesome questions, or the parishioners in, pray, Mr. Bumble; do, sir.” would rebelliously affix their signatures Although this invitation was accompato a remonstrance: but these impertinen- nied with a curtsey that might have softces were speedily checked by the evi- ened the heart of a churchwarden, it by dence of the surgeon, and the testimony no means mollified the beadle. of the beadle; the former of whom had “Do you think this respectful or proper always opened the body, and found no conduct, Mrs. Mann,” inquired Mr. Bum. thing inside (which was very probable ble, grasping his cane,
“ to keep indeed), and the latter of whom invaria- parish officers a-waiting at your garden bly swore whatever the parish wanted, gate, when they come here on porochial which was very self-devotional. Besides, business connected with the porochial or. the board made periodical pilgrimages to phans? Are you aware, Mrs. Mann, that the farm, and always sent the beadle the you are, as I may say, a porochial dele. day before, to say they were coming. The gate, and a stipendiary?” children were neat and clean to behold, " I'm sure, Mr. Bumble, that I was only