Fagin raised his right hand, and shook his trembling forefinger in the air; but his passion was so great, that the power of speech was for the moment gone.
‚Damme!‘ said Sikes, feeling in his breast with a look of alarm. ‚He’s gone mad. I must look to myself here.‘
‚No, no,‘ rejoined Fagin, finding his voice. ‚It’s not–you’re not the person, Bill. I’ve no–no fault to find with you.‘
‚Oh, you haven’t, haven’t you?‘ said Sikes, looking sternly at him, and ostentatiously passing a pistol into a more convenient pocket. ‚That’s lucky–for one of us. Which one that is, don’t matter.‘
‚I’ve got that to tell you, Bill,‘ said Fagin, drawing his chair nearer, ‚will make you worse than me.‘
‚Aye?‘ returned the robber with an incredulous air. ‚Tell away! Look sharp, or Nance will think I’m lost.‘
‚Lost!‘ cried Fagin. ‚She has pretty well settled that, in her own mind, already.‘
Sikes looked with an aspect of great perplexity into the Jew’s face, and reading no satisfactory explanation of the riddle there, clenched his coat collar in his huge hand and shook him soundly.
‚Speak, will you!‘ he said; ‚or if you don’t, it shall be for want of breath. Open your mouth and say wot you’ve got to say in plain words. Out with it, you thundering old cur, out with it!‘
‚Suppose that lad that’s laying there–‚ Fagin began.
Sikes turned round to where Noah was sleeping, as if he had not previously observed him. ‚Well!‘ he said, resuming his former position.
‚Suppose that lad,‘ pursued Fagin, ‚was to peach–to blow upon us all–first seeking out the right folks for the purpose, and then having a meeting with ‚em in the street to paint our likenesses, describe every mark that they might know us by, and the crib where we might be most easily taken. Suppose he was to do all this, and besides to blow upon a plant we’ve all been in, more or less–of his own fancy; not grabbed, trapped, tried, earwigged by the parson and brought to it on bread and water,–but of his own fancy; to please his own taste; stealing out at nights to find those most interested against us, and peaching to them. Do you hear me?‘ cried the Jew, his eyes flashing with rage. ‚Suppose he did all this, what then?‘
‚What then!‘ replied Sikes; with a tremendous oath. ‚If he was left alive till I came, I’d grind his skull under the iron heel of my boot into as many grains as there are hairs upon his head.‘
‚What if I did it!‘ cried Fagin almost in a yell. ‚I, that knows so much, and could hang so many besides myself!‘
‚I don’t know,‘ replied Sikes, clenching his teeth and turning white at the mere suggestion. ‚I’d do something in the jail that ‚ud get me put in irons; and if I was tried along with you, I’d fall upon you with them in the open court, and beat your brains out afore the people. I should have such strength,‘ muttered the robber, poising his brawny arm, ‚that I could smash your head as if a loaded waggon had gone over it.‘
‚Would I!‘ said the housebreaker. ‚Try me.‘
‚If it was Charley, or the Dodger, or Bet, or–‚
‚I don’t care who,‘ replied Sikes impatiently. ‚Whoever it was, I’d serve them the same.‘
Fagin looked hard at the robber; and, motioning him to be silent, stooped over the bed upon the floor, and shook the sleeper to rouse him. Sikes leant forward in his chair: looking on with his hands upon his knees, as if wondering much what all this questioning and preparation was to end in.
‚Bolter, Bolter! Poor lad!‘ said Fagin, looking up with an expression of devilish anticipation, and speaking slowly and with marked emphasis. ‚He’s tired–tired with watching for her so long,–watching for _her_, Bill.‘
‚Wot d’ye mean?‘ asked Sikes, drawing back.
Fagin made no answer, but bending over the sleeper again, hauled him into a sitting posture. When his assumed name had been repeated several times, Noah rubbed his eyes, and, giving a heavy yawn, looked sleepily about him.
‚Tell me that again–once again, just for him to hear,‘ said the Jew, pointing to Sikes as he spoke.
‚Tell yer what?‘ asked the sleepy Noah, shaking himself pettishly.
‚That about– _Nancy_,‘ said Fagin, clutching Sikes by the wrist, as if to prevent his leaving the house before he had heard enough. ‚You followed her?‘
‚To London Bridge?‘
‚Where she met two people.‘