Oliver Twist 108


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‚Now then, where are the witnesses?‘ said the clerk.

‚Ah! that’s right,‘ added the Dodger. ‚Where are they? I should like to see ‚em.‘

This wish was immediately gratified, for a policeman stepped forward who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an unknown gentleman in a crowd, and indeed take a handkerchief therefrom, which, being a very old one, he deliberately put back again, after trying it on his own countenance. For this reason, he took the Dodger into custody as soon as he could get near him, and the said Dodger, being searched, had upon his person a silver snuff-box, with the owner’s name engraved upon the lid. This gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court Guide, and being then and there present, swore that the snuff-box was his, and that he had missed it on the previous day, the moment he had disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to. He had also remarked a young gentleman in the throng, particularly active in making his way about, and that young gentleman was the prisoner before him.

‚Have you anything to ask this witness, boy?‘ said the magistrate.

‚I wouldn’t abase myself by descending to hold no conversation with him,‘ replied the Dodger.

‚Have you anything to say at all?‘

‚Do you hear his worship ask if you’ve anything to say?‘ inquired the jailer, nudging the silent Dodger with his elbow.

‚I beg your pardon,‘ said the Dodger, looking up with an air of abstraction. ‚Did you redress yourself to me, my man?‘

‚I never see such an out-and-out young wagabond, your worship,‘ observed the officer with a grin. ‚Do you mean to say anything, you young shaver?‘

‚No,‘ replied the Dodger, ’not here, for this ain’t the shop for justice: besides which, my attorney is a-breakfasting this morning with the Wice President of the House of Commons; but I shall have something to say elsewhere, and so will he, and so will a wery numerous and ’spectable circle of acquaintance as’ll make them beaks wish they’d never been born, or that they’d got their footmen to hang ‚em up to their own hat-pegs, afore they let ‚em come out this morning to try it on upon me. I’ll–‚

‚There! He’s fully committed!‘ interposed the clerk. ‚Take him away.‘

‚Come on,‘ said the jailer.

‚Oh ah! I’ll come on,‘ replied the Dodger, brushing his hat with the palm of his hand. ‚Ah! (to the Bench) it’s no use your looking frightened; I won’t show you no mercy, not a ha’porth of it. _You’ll_ pay for this, my fine fellers. I wouldn’t be you for something! I wouldn’t go free, now, if you was to fall down on your knees and ask me. Here, carry me off to prison! Take me away!‘

With these last words, the Dodger suffered himself to be led off by the collar; threatening, till he got into the yard, to make a parliamentary business of it; and then grinning in the officer’s face, with great glee and self-approval.

Having seen him locked up by himself in a little cell, Noah made the best of his way back to where he had left Master Bates. After waiting here some time, he was joined by that young gentleman, who had prudently abstained from showing himself until he had looked carefully abroad from a snug retreat, and ascertained that his new friend had not been followed by any impertinent person.

The two hastened back together, to bear to Mr. Fagin the animating news that the Dodger was doing full justice to his bringing-up, and establishing for himself a glorious reputation.

CHAPTER XLIV

THE TIME ARRIVES FOR NANCY TO REDEEM HER PLEDGE TO ROSE MAYLIE. SHE FAILS.

Adept as she was, in all the arts of cunning and dissimulation, the girl Nancy could not wholly conceal the effect which the knowledge of the step she had taken, wrought upon her mind. She remembered that both the crafty Jew and the brutal Sikes had confided to her schemes, which had been hidden from all others: in the full confidence that she was trustworthy and beyond the reach of their suspicion. Vile as those schemes were, desperate as were their originators, and bitter as were her feelings towards Fagin, who had led her, step by step, deeper and deeper down into an abyss of crime and misery, whence was no escape; still, there were times when, even towards him, she felt some relenting, lest her disclosure should bring him within the iron grasp he had so long eluded, and he should fall at last–richly as he merited such a fate–by her hand.

But, these were the mere wanderings of a mind unable wholly to detach itself from old companions and associations, though enabled to fix itself steadily on one object, and resolved not to be turned aside by any consideration. Her fears for Sikes would have been more powerful inducements to recoil while there was yet time; but she had stipulated that her secret should be rigidly kept, she had dropped no clue which could lead to his discovery, she had refused, even for his sake, a refuge from all the guilt and wretchedness that encompasses her–and what more could she do! She was resolved.

Though all her mental struggles terminated in this conclusion, they forced themselves upon her, again and again, and left their traces too. She grew pale and thin, even within a few days. At times, she took no heed of what was passing before her, or no part in conversations where once, she would have been the loudest. At other times, she laughed without merriment, and was noisy without a moment afterwards–she sat silent and dejected, brooding with her head upon her hands, while the very effort by which she roused herself, told, more forcibly than even these indications, that she was ill at ease, and that her thoughts were occupied with matters very different and distant from those in the course of discussion by her companions.

It was Sunday night, and the bell of the nearest church struck the hour. Sikes and the Jew were talking, but they paused to listen. The girl looked up from the low seat on which she crouched, and listened too. Eleven.

‚An hour this side of midnight,‘ said Sikes, raising the blind to look out and returning to his seat. ‚Dark and heavy it is too. A good night for business this.‘

‚Ah!‘ replied Fagin. ‚What a pity, Bill, my dear, that there’s none quite ready to be done.‘

‚You’re right for once,‘ replied Sikes gruffly. ‚It is a pity, for I’m in the humour too.‘

Fagin sighed, and shook his head despondingly.

‚We must make up for lost time when we’ve got things into a good train. That’s all I know,‘ said Sikes.

‚That’s the way to talk, my dear,‘ replied Fagin, venturing to pat him on the shoulder. ‚It does me good to hear you.‘

‚Does you good, does it!‘ cried Sikes. ‚Well, so be it.‘

‚Ha! ha! ha!‘ laughed Fagin, as if he were relieved by even this concession. ‚You’re like yourself to-night, Bill. Quite like yourself.‘


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