WHEREIN OLIVER IS DELIVERED OVER TO MR. WILLIAM SIKES.
When Oliver awoke in the morning he was a good deal surprised to find that a new pair of shoes with strong thick soles had been placed at his bedside, and that his old ones had been removed. At first he was pleased with the discovery, hoping that it might be the forerunner of his release; but such thoughts were quickly dispelled on his sitting down to breakfast alone with the Jew, who told him, in a tone and manner which increased his alarm, that he was to be taken to the residence of Bill Sikes that night.
“To—to—stop there, sir?” asked Oliver, anxiously.
“No, no, my dear, not to stop there,” replied the Jew. “We shouldn’t like to lose you. Don’t be afraid, Oliver, you shall come back to us again. Ha! ha! ha! We wont be so cruel as to send you away, my dear. Oh no, no!”
The old man, who was stooping over the fire toasting a piece of bread, looked round as he bantered Oliver thus, and chuckled as if to shew that he knew he would still be very glad to get away if he could.
“I suppose,” said the Jew, fixing his eyes on Oliver, “you want to know what you’re going to Bill’s for—eh, my dear?”
Oliver coloured involuntarily to find that the old thief had been reading his thoughts; but boldly said, “Yes, he did want to know.”
“Why, do you think?” inquired Fagin, parrying the question.
“Indeed I don’t know, sir,” replied Oliver.
“Bah!” said the Jew, turning away with a disappointed countenance from a close perusal of the boy’s face. “Wait till Bill tells you, then.”
The Jew seemed much vexed by Oliver’s not expressing any greater curiosity on the subject; but the truth is, that, although he felt very anxious, he was too much confused by the earnest cunning of Fagin’s looks, and his own speculations, to make any further inquiries just then. He had no other opportunity; for the Jew remained very surly and silent till night, when he prepared to go abroad.
“You may burn a candle,” said the Jew, putting one upon the table; “and here’s a book for you to read till they come to fetch you. Good night!”
“Good night, sir!” replied Oliver, softly.
The Jew walked to the door, looking over his shoulder at the boy as he went, and, suddenly stopping, called him by his name.
Oliver looked up; the Jew, pointing to the candle, motioned him to light it. He did so; and, as he placed the candlestick upon the table, saw that the Jew was gazing fixedly at him with lowering and contracted brows from the dark end of the room.
“Take heed, Oliver! take heed!” said the old man, shaking his right hand before him in a warning manner. “He’s a rough man, and thinks nothing of blood when his own is up. Whatever falls out, say nothing, and do what he bids you. Mind!” Placing a strong emphasis on the last word, he suffered his features gradually to resolve themselves into a ghastly grin; and, nodding his head, left the room.
Oliver leant his head upon his hand when the old man disappeared, and pondered with a trembling heart on the words he had just heard. The more he thought of the Jew’s admonition, the more he was at a loss to divine its real purpose and meaning. He could think of no bad object to be attained by sending him to Sikes which would not be equally well answered by his remaining with Fagin; and after meditating for a long time, concluded that he had been selected to perform some ordinary menial offices for the housebreaker, until another boy better suited for his purpose could be engaged. He was too well accustomed to suffering, and had suffered too much where he was, to bewail the prospect of a change very severely. He remained lost in thought for some minutes, and then with a heavy sigh snuffed the candle, and taking up the book which the Jew had left with him, began to read.
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