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Chapter 13

SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES ARE INTRODUCED TO THE INTELLIGENT READER, CONNECTED WITH WHOM VARIOUS PLEASANT MATTERS ARE RELATED, APPERTAINING TO THIS HISTORY

'Where's Oliver?' said the Jew, rising with a menacing look. 'Where's the boy?'

The young thieves eyed their preceptor as if they were alarmed at his violence; and looked uneasily at each other. But they made no reply.

'What's become of the boy?' said the Jew, seizing the Dodger tightly by the collar, and threatening him with horrid imprecations. 'Speak out, or I'll throttle you!'

Mr. Fagin looked so very much in earnest, that Charley Bates, who deemed it prudent in all cases to be on the safe side, and who conceived it by no means improbable that it might be his turn to be throttled second, dropped upon his knees, and raised a loud, well-sustained, and continuous roar--something between a mad bull and a speaking trumpet.

'Will you speak?' thundered the Jew: shaking the Dodger so much that his keeping in the big coat at all, seemed perfectly miraculous.

'Why, the traps have got him, and that's all about it,' said the Dodger, sullenly. 'Come, let go o' me, will you!' And, swinging himself, at one jerk, clean out of the big coat, which he left in the Jew's hands, the Dodger snatched up the toasting fork, and made a pass at the merry old gentleman's waistcoat; which, if it had taken effect, would have let a little more merriment out than could have been easily replaced.

The Jew stepped back in this emergency, with more agility than could have been anticipated in a man of his apparent decrepitude; and, seizing up the pot, prepared to hurl it at his assailant's head. But Charley Bates, at this moment, calling his attention by a perfectly terrific howl, he suddenly altered its destination, and flung it full at that young gentleman.

'Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!' growled a deep voice. 'Who pitched that 'ere at me? It's well it's the beer, and not the pot, as hit me, or I'd have settled somebody. I might have know'd, as nobody but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew could afford to throw away any drink but water--and not that, unless he done the River Company every quarter. Wot's it all about, Fagin? D--me, if my neck-handkercher an't lined with beer! Come in, you sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping outside for, as if you was ashamed of your master! Come in!'

The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves;--the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a beard of three days' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.

'Come in, d'ye hear?' growled this engaging ruffian.

A white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty different places, skulked into the room.

'Why didn't you come in afore?' said the man. 'You're getting too proud to own me afore company, are you? Lie down!'

This command was accompanied with a kick, which sent the animal to the other end of the room. He appeared well used to it, however; for he coiled himself up in a corner very quietly, without uttering a sound, and winking his very ill-looking eyes twenty times in a minute, appeared to occupy himself in taking a survey of the apartment.

'What are you up to? Ill-treating the boys, you covetous, avaricious, in-sa-ti-a-ble old fence?' said the man, seating himself deliberately. 'I wonder they don't murder you! I would if I was them. If I'd been your 'prentice, I'd have done it long ago, and--no, I couldn't have sold you afterwards, for you're fit for nothing but keeping as a curiousity of ugliness in a glass bottle, and I suppose they don't blow glass bottles large enough.'

'Hush! hush! Mr. Sikes,' said the Jew, trembling; 'don't speak so loud!'

'None of your mistering,' replied the ruffian; 'you always mean mischief when you come that. You know my name: out with it! I shan't disgrace it when the time comes.'

'Well, well, then--Bill Sikes,' said the Jew, with abject humility. 'You seem out of humour, Bill.'

'Perhaps I am,' replied Sikes; 'I should think you was rather out of sorts too, unless you mean as little harm when you throw pewter pots about, as you do when you blab and--'

'Are you mad?' said the Jew, catching the man by the sleeve, and pointing towards the boys.

Mr. Sikes contented himself with tying an imaginary knot under his left ear, and jerking his head over on the right shoulder; a piece of dumb show which the Jew appeared to understand perfectly. He then, in cant terms, with which his whole conversation was plentifully besprinkled, but which would be quite unintelligible if they were recorded here, demanded a glass of liquor.

'And mind you don't poison it,' said Mr. Sikes, laying his hat upon the table.

This was said in jest; but if the speaker could have seen the evil leer with which the Jew bit his pale lip as he turned round to the cupboard, he might have thought the caution not wholly unnecessary, or the wish (at all events) to improve upon the distiller's ingenuity not very far from the old gentleman's merry heart.

After swallowing two of three glasses of spirits, Mr. Sikes condescended to take some notice of the young gentlemen; which gracious act led to a conversation, in which the cause and manner of Oliver's capture were circumstantially detailed, with such alterations and improvements on the truth, as to the Dodger appeared most advisable under the circumstances.

'I'm afraid,' said the Jew, 'that he may say something which will get us into trouble.'

'That's very likely,' returned Sikes with a malicious grin. 'You're blowed upon, Fagin.'

'And I'm afraid, you see,' added the Jew, speaking as if he had not noticed the interruption; and regarding the other closely as he did so,--'I'm afraid that, if the game was up with us, it might be up with a good many more, and that it would come out rather worse for you than it would for me, my dear.'

The man started, and turned round upon the Jew. But the old gentleman's shoulders were shrugged up to his ears; and his eyes were vacantly staring on the opposite wall.

There was a long pause. Every member of the respectable coterie appeared plunged in his own reflections; not excepting the dog, who by a certain malicious licking of his lips seemed to be meditating an attack upon the legs of the first gentleman or lady he might encounter in the streets when he went out.

'Somebody must find out wot's been done at the office,' said Mr. Sikes in a much lower tone than he had taken since he came in.

The Jew nodded assent.

'If he hasn't peached, and is committed, there's no fear till he comes out again,' said Mr. Sikes, 'and then he must be taken care on. You must get hold of him somehow.'

Again the Jew nodded.

The prudence of this line of action, indeed, was obvious; but, unfortunately, there was one very strong objection to its being adopted. This was, that the Dodger, and Charley Bates, and Fagin, and Mr. William Sikes, happened, one and all, to entertain a violent and deeply-rooted antipathy to going near a police-office on any ground or pretext whatever.

How long they might have sat and looked at each other, in a state of uncertainty not the most pleasant of its kind, it is difficult to guess. It is not necessary to make any guesses on the subject, however; for the sudden entrance of the two young ladies whom Oliver had seen on a former occasion, caused the conversation to flow afresh.

'The very thing!' said the Jew. 'Bet will go; won't you, my dear?'

'Wheres?' inquired the young lady.

'Only just up to the office, my dear,' said the Jew coaxingly.

It is due to the young lady to say that she did not positively affirm that she would not, but that she merely expressed an emphatic and earnest desire to be 'blessed' if she would; a polite and delicate evasion of the request, which shows the young lady to have been possessed of that natural good breeding which cannot bear to inflict upon a fellow-creature, the pain of a direct and pointed refusal.

The Jew's countenance fell. He turned from this young lady, who was gaily, not to say gorgeously attired, in a red gown, green boots, and yellow curl-papers, to the other female.

'Nancy, my dear,' said the Jew in a soothing manner, 'what do YOU say?'

'That it won't do; so it's no use a-trying it on, Fagin,' replied Nancy.

'What do you mean by that?' said Mr. Sikes, looking up in a surly manner.

'What I say, Bill,' replied the lady collectedly.

'Why, you're just the very person for it,' reasoned Mr. Sikes: 'nobody about here knows anything of you.'

'And as I don't want 'em to, neither,' replied Nancy in the same composed manner, 'it's rather more no than yes with me, Bill.'

'She'll go, Fagin,' said Sikes.

'No, she won't, Fagin,' said Nancy.

'Yes, she will, Fagin,' said Sikes.

And Mr. Sikes was right. By dint of alternate threats, promises, and bribes, the lady in question was ultimately prevailed upon to undertake the commission. She was not, indeed, withheld by the same considerations as her agreeable friend; for, having recently removed into the neighborhood of Field Lane from the remote but genteel suburb of Ratcliffe, she was not under the same apprehension of being recognised by any of her numerous acquaintances.

Accordingly, with a clean white apron tied over her gown, and her curl-papers tucked up under a straw bonnet,--both articles of dress being provided from the Jew's inexhaustible stock,--Miss Nancy prepared to issue forth on her errand.

'Stop a minute, my dear,' said the Jew, producing, a little covered basket. 'Carry that in one hand. It looks more respectable, my dear.'

'Give her a door-key to carry in her t'other one, Fagin,' said Sikes; 'it looks real and genivine like.'

'Yes, yes, my dear, so it does,' said the Jew, hanging a large street-door key on the forefinger of the young lady's right hand.

'There; very good! Very good indeed, my dear!' said the Jew, rubbing his hands.

'Oh, my brother! My poor, dear, sweet, innocent little brother!' exclaimed Nancy, bursting into tears, and wringing the little basket and the street-door key in an agony of distress. 'What has become of him! Where have they taken him to! Oh, do have pity, and tell me what's been done with the dear boy, gentlemen; do, gentlemen, if you please, gentlemen!'

Having uttered those words in a most lamentable and heart-broken tone: to the immeasurable delight of her hearers: Miss Nancy paused, winked to the company, nodded smilingly round, and disappeared.

'Ah, she's a clever girl, my dears,' said the Jew, turning round to his young friends, and shaking his head gravely, as if in mute admonition to them to follow the bright example they had just beheld.

'She's a honour to her sex,' said Mr. Sikes, filling his glass, and smiting the table with his enormous fist. 'Here's her health, and wishing they was all like her!'

While these, and many other encomiums, were being passed on the accomplished Nancy, that young lady made the best of her way to the police-office; whither, notwithstanding a little natural timidity consequent upon walking through the streets alone and unprotected, she arrived in perfect safety shortly afterwards.

Entering by the back way, she tapped softly with the key at one of the cell-doors, and listened. There was no sound within: so she coughed and listened again. Still there was no reply: so she spoke.

'Nolly, dear?' murmured Nancy in a gentle voice; 'Nolly?'

There was nobody inside but a miserable shoeless criminal, who had been taken up for playing the flute, and who, the offence against society having been clearly proved, had been very properly committed by Mr. Fang to the House of Correction for one month; with the appropriate and amusing remark that since he had so much breath to spare, it would be more wholesomely expended on the treadmill than in a musical instrument. He made no answer: being occupied mentally bewailing the loss of the flute, which had been confiscated for the use of the county: so Nancy passed on to the next cell, and knocked there.

'Well!' cried a faint and feeble voice.

'Is there a little boy here?' inquired Nancy, with a preliminary sob.

'No,' replied the voice; 'God forbid.'

This was a vagrant of sixty-five, who was going to prison for _not_ playing the flute; or, in other words, for begging in the streets, and doing nothing for his livelihood. In the next cell was another man, who was going to the same prison for hawking tin saucepans without license; thereby doing something for his living, in defiance of the Stamp-office.

But, as neither of these criminals answered to the name of Oliver, or knew anything about him, Nancy made straight up to the bluff officer in the striped waistcoat; and with the most piteous wailings and lamentations, rendered more piteous by a prompt and efficient use of the street-door key and the little basket, demanded her own dear brother.

'I haven't got him, my dear,' said the old man.

'Where is he?' screamed Nancy, in a distracted manner.

'Why, the gentleman's got him,' replied the officer.

'What gentleman! Oh, gracious heavens! What gentleman?' exclaimed Nancy.

In reply to this incoherent questioning, the old man informed the deeply affected sister that Oliver had been taken ill in the office, and discharged in consequence of a witness having proved the robbery to have been committed by another boy, not in custody; and that the prosecutor had carried him away, in an insensible condition, to his own residence: of and concerning which, all the informant knew was, that it was somewhere in Pentonville, he having heard that word mentioned in the directions to the coachman.

In a dreadful state of doubt and uncertainty, the agonised young woman staggered to the gate, and then, exchanging her faltering walk for a swift run, returned by the most devious and complicated route she could think of, to the domicile of the Jew.

Mr. Bill Sikes no sooner heard the account of the expedition delivered, than he very hastily called up the white dog, and, putting on his hat, expeditiously departed: without devoting any time to the formality of wishing the company good-morning.

'We must know where he is, my dears; he must be found,' said the Jew greatly excited. 'Charley, do nothing but skulk about, till you bring home some news of him! Nancy, my dear, I must have him found. I trust to you, my dear,--to you and the Artful for everything! Stay, stay,' added the Jew, unlocking a drawer with a shaking hand; 'there's money, my dears. I shall shut up this shop to-night. You'll know where to find me! Don't stop here a minute. Not an instant, my dears!'

With these words, he pushed them from the room: and carefully double-locking and barring the door behind them, drew from its place of concealment the box which he had unintentionally disclosed to Oliver. Then, he hastily proceeded to dispose the watches and jewellery beneath his clothing.

A rap at the door startled him in this occupation. 'Who's there?' he cried in a shrill tone.

'Me!' replied the voice of the Dodger, through the key-hole.

'What now?' cried the Jew impatiently.

'Is he to be kidnapped to the other ken, Nancy says?' inquired the Dodger.

'Yes,' replied the Jew, 'wherever she lays hands on him. Find him, find him out, that's all. I shall know what to do next; never fear.'

The boy murmured a reply of intelligence: and hurried downstairs after his companions.

'He has not peached so far,' said the Jew as he pursued his occupation. 'If he means to blab us among his new friends, we may stop his mouth yet.'


   “奥立弗哪儿去了?”犹太人杀气腾腾地站了起来,说道,“那小子在哪儿?”

    两个小扒手呆呆地望着自己的师傅,似乎被他的火气吓了一跳,彼此忐忑不安地看了一眼,没有回答。

    “那孩子怎么啦?”费金一边死死揪住机灵鬼的衣领,一边用可怕的诅咒恐吓他。“说啊,不然我掐死你。”

    费金先生的神气全然不像是在开玩笑,查理贝兹一向认为不管出现什么情况,明哲保身都是上策,估计第二个被掐死的肯定就是自己了,他立刻跪倒在地,发出一阵响亮的、绵延不绝的嚎叫――既像是发了疯的公牛叫,又像传声筒里的说话声。

    “你说不说?”费金暴跳如雷,狠命地摇拽着机灵鬼,那件宽宽大大的外套居然没把他人整个抖出来,真是不可思议。

    “唷,他给逮住了,就这么回事,”机灵鬼沮丧地说,“喂,你放手啊,你放不放?”机灵鬼晃了一下,一使劲挣脱了身子,将肥大的外套留在了费金手里。机灵鬼猛地抓起烤面包的叉子,照着这位快活老绅士的背心就是一下,这一下要是叉中了的话,管保叫他损失不少乐子,决不是轻而易举就能恢复过来的。

    在这千钧一发之际,费金往后一闪便躲开了,真叫人猜不透,他表面上衰老不堪,这一进一退之间却十分敏捷。他抓起白锡锅,准备冲着敌方头上砸过去。就在这时候,查理贝兹发出一声恐怖万分的嚎叫,岔开了他的注意力,他突然改变了目标,把锅子照准那一位小绅士摔去。

    “嗬,风风火火的,还真来劲哩。”一个低沉的嗓音忿忿不平地说,“是谁把啤酒往我身上乱泼?幸好砸在我身上的是啤酒,不是那口锅,不然我可得找谁算账了。我就知道,除了一个无法无天、坐地分赃的混账犹太上老财,恐怕谁也破费不起,抓起饮料乱设,大不了也就是泼水――那也得每个季度骗自来水公司一回。费金,到底是怎么回事?妈的,如果我围脖儿上沾的不是啤酒的话,哼哼。进来呀,你这个鬼头鬼脑的杂种,还不肯进来,总不成还替你家主人害臊。进来!”

    发这一通牢骚的是一个年约三十五六岁,长得壮壮实实的汉子。此人穿一件黑色平绒外套,淡褐色马裤脏兮兮的,半长统靴,铅灰色套袜里裹着两条粗腿,腿肚上肌肉鼓得高高的――这两条腿,又是这样一副装束,看上去总让人觉得是一件尚未完工的半成品,单缺一副脚镣作为装饰。他戴着一顶灰色帽子,脖子上裹了一条龌龊的蓝白花围巾,一边说话,一边用长长的、已经磨破的围巾角擦去脸上的啤酒。啤酒擦掉了,一张呆板的宽脸膛露了出来,胡子已经三天没刮,两只阴沉的眼睛,有一只眼睛周围什么颜色都有,那是最近挨了一击留下的。

    “进来,你听见了没有?”这位引人注目的煞神咆哮起来。

    一只毛蓬蓬的白狗躲躲闪闪地跑进来,脸上带着二十来处伤痕裂口。

    “你先前干吗不进来?”那汉子说道,“你也太骄傲了,当着大家连我都不认了,是不是啊?躺下吧。”

    这道命令伴随着一脚,把那畜生打发到了屋子的另一头。然而,狗显然已经习以为常,它悄无声息地蜷在角落里,没发出一点响动,一双贼眼一分钟约莫眨巴了二十次,看样子正在考察这间屋子。

    “你人什么?在虐待这些孩子吗,你这个贪得无厌,贪――心――不――足的老守财奴?”汉子大大咧咧地坐了下来。“我真纳闷,他们怎么没有杀了你。我要是他们,准会于掉你。我要是你徒弟的话,早这么做了,嗯――不,宰了以后你就卖不出去了,你还就值当一件丑不可耐的古董,装在玻璃瓶里,就是他们恐怕吹不出这么大的瓶子。”

    “嘘,嘘!赛克斯先生,”老犹太浑身直哆嗦,说道,“不要说那么大声。”

    “什么先生不先生的,”那恶棍回答,“你来这一手,从来就没安过好心。你知道我名字,只管叫我的名字。时候一到,我不会丢人现眼的。”

    “好了,好了,那――比尔赛克斯,”费金低声下气地说,“你好像不太高兴,比尔。”

    “很可能,”赛克斯回答,“我看你也不怎么舒坦,除非你不把到处乱摔白锡锅当回事,就跟你胡说――”

    “你疯了吗?”费金扯了一把赛克斯的衣袖,指了指那两个少年。

    赛克斯先生打住话头,在右耳下边做了一个打结的动作,头一偏倒在右边肩膀上――老犹太对这类哑剧显然心领神会。接下来,赛克斯照着帮口里的说法,要了一杯酒。他的话里这类玩意儿多的是,如果一一记录下来,恐怕谁也看不懂。

    “你可留神,别往里边下毒。”赛克斯先生说着,把帽子放在桌上。

    这话是说着玩的,可说话人如果看见老犹太咬着惨白的嘴唇朝柜橱转过身去时那邪恶的一瞥,大概会想到这一警告并非纯属多余,或者说,希望对酿酒师傅的绝活略加改进的这种想法(措词且不论)在老绅士的乐天派心怀中并不是一点也没有。

    两三杯烧酒下肚,赛克斯先生亲自对二位小绅士做了一番垂询,这一善举引起一番谈话,谈话间奥立弗被捕的起因与经过都给详详细细讲了出来,顺便也作了若干修改加工,机灵鬼认为在这种场合进行一些修改是很有必要的。

    “我担心,”费金说道,“他会讲出一些事,把我们也搭进去。”

    “很有可能,”赛克斯恶狠狠地咧嘴笑了笑。“你倒霉了,费金。”

    “你瞧,我是有些担心,”老犹太仿佛对这一番打岔毫不在意似的,说话时眼睛紧紧盯着对方。“我担心的是,如果那场把戏牵连上我们,事儿可就闹大了,况且这档子事对你比对我更为不妙,我亲爱的。”

    赛克斯身子一震,朝费金转过身来。可老绅士只是把肩膀耸得快碰着耳朵了,两眼出神地盯着对面墙壁。

    话头中断了好一会儿,这可敬的一伙中的每一名成员似乎都各自陷入了沉思。连那只狗也不例外,它多少有些狠巴巴地舔了舔嘴唇,像是正在盘算,到了外边怎么着也要一口咬住在街上遇见的第一位先生或者女士的脚脖子。

    “得有人到局子里去打听打听。”赛克斯先生的嗓门比进门以后低了许多。

    费金点点头,表示赞成。

    “只要他没有招供,给判了刑,在他出来之前就不用犯愁,”赛克斯先生说道,“到时候可得看住了。你一定要想办法把他抓在手心里。”

    老犹太又点了一下头。

    一点不假,这一行动方案显然十分周密。不幸的是,采纳起来却存在着一个极大的障碍。那就是,碰巧机灵鬼、查理贝兹,还有费金和威廉赛克斯先生,个个都对靠近警察局抱有一种强烈的、根深蒂固的反感,不管是有什么理由或者借口都不想去。

    他们就这样坐着,面面相觑,这种心中没底的情况肯定是最令人不愉快的了,很难猜测他们到底要坐多久。不过,倒也无需作此推测了,因为奥立弗以前见过一次的那两位小姐这时飘然莅临,谈话顿时再度活跃起来。

    “来得真巧。”费金说话了,“蓓特会去的,是不是啊,我亲爱的?”

    “去哪儿?”蓓特小姐问。

    “到局子里跑一趟,我亲爱的。”犹太人诱戏道。

    应该为这位小姐说句公道话,她并没有直截了当承认自己不想去,只是表达了一个热切而强烈的愿望:要去的话,她宁可“挨雷劈”,用一个客气而又巧妙的适词,避开了正面回答。据此看来,这位小姐天生具有良好的教养,不忍心叫一位人类同胞蒙受断然拒绝、当面开销的痛苦。

    费金的脸色沉了下来,视线离开了这位身穿绛色长大衣、绿色靴子,头上夹着黄色卷发纸的小姐,她虽然说不上雍容华贵,倒也打扮得花枝招展。费金转向另一位姑娘。

    “南希,亲爱的,”费金用哄小孩的口气说,“你说怎么样呢?””

    “我说这办法行不通。试都不用试,费金。”南希回答。

    “你这是什么意思?”赛克斯先生板着面孔,眼睛往上一抬。

    “我就是这个意思,比尔。”小姐不紧不慢地说。

    “唔,你恰好是最合适的人,”赛克斯先生解释说,“这附近没有一个人知道你的底细。”

    “我也并不希罕他们知道,”南希仍旧十分泰然。“比尔,我看多一事不如少一事。”

    “她会去的,费金。”赛克斯说道。

    “不,费金,她不去。”南希说道。

    “噢,她会去的,费金。”赛克斯说。

    赛克斯先生终归说中了。经过轮番的恐吓哄骗,发誓许愿,这位小姐最后还是屈服了,接受了任务。说实话,她的考虑跟她那位好朋友不一样,因为她最近刚从虽说远一些但却相当体面的拉特克里佛郊区转移到菲尔胡同附近,她才不担心叫自己那些数不清的熟人认出来呢。

    于是,一条洁白的围裙系到了她的长大衣外边,一顶软帽遮住了满头的卷发纸,这两样东西都是从费金的取用不尽的存货中拿出来的――南希小姐准备出门办事了。

    “等一下,我亲爱的,”费金一边说,一边拿出一只盖着的小篮子。“用一只手拎住这个,看上去更像规矩人,我亲爱的。”

    “费金,给她一把大门钥匙,挂在另外一只手上,”赛克斯说,“看上去才体面,像那么回事。”

    “对,对,亲爱的,是那么回事,”费金将一把临街大门的大钥匙挂在姑娘右手食指上。“得,好极了。真是好极了,我亲爱的。”费金搓着手说。

    “喔,我的弟弟啊。我可怜的、可亲的、可爱的、天真的小弟啊。”南希放声大哭,一边痛不欲生地将那只篮子和大门钥匙绞来绞去。“不知道他到底怎么样了。他们把他带到哪儿去了?啊,可怜可怜吧,先生们,告诉我吧,这可爱的孩子到底怎么了,求求你们,先生,行行好,先生。”

    南希小姐说了这一段声调极其哀痛,令人心碎欲裂的台词,在场的几位听得乐不可支,她停下来,向伙伴们眨了眨眼,微笑着面面俱到地点点头,走了出去。

    “啊。真是个伶俐的丫头,诸位好人儿。”老犹太说着,朝一班年轻朋友转过身来,一本正经地摇了摇头,像是在用这无声的劝告,要他们向刚刚看到的那个光辉榜样学着点儿似的。

    “说得上是娘们中的大角色了,”赛克斯先生斟满自己的酒杯,大拳头往桌上一捶,说道,“这一杯祝她健康,但愿她们个个都像她。”

    正当诸如此类的赞颂言词纷纷加到才艺出众的南希头上的时候,这位小姐正全速赶往警察局,尽管孤身一人穿过大街,什么保护也没有,她不免显出了一点固有的胆怯,但仍然过了不多久就太太平平地到了。

    她从警察局后边那条路走了进去,用钥匙在一堵牢门上轻轻敲了敲,谛听着。里边没有响动。她咳了两声,又听了听。她依然没见有回音,便开口说道。

    “诺利在吗,喂?”南希小声地说,话音十分柔和。“诺利在不在?”

    这间屋子里关着一个倒霉的犯人,连鞋也没穿,他是因为吹长笛被关起来的,扰乱社会治安的指控业已查证清楚,范昂先生做了极其适当的判决:交感化院关一个月。范昂先生十分中肯而又风趣地指出,既然他力气多得没地方使,消磨在踏车上总比用在一种乐器上来得更卫生一些。这名犯人没有回答,还在一门心思地痛惜失去了笛子,那东西已经叫郡里充公了。于是南希来到下一间牢房,敲了敲门。

    “唉。”一个有气无力的声音叫道。

    “这儿关着一个小男孩吗?”南希的话音里带上了作为开场白的硬咽。

    “没有,”那声音答道,“没那事。”

    这是一个六十五岁的流浪者,他进监狱是因为不吹笛子,换句话说,是因为不干活糊口,沿街乞讨被抓了进来。再下一间关的是另一个男人,罪名是无照兜销铁锅,他为求生计,竟目无印花税税务局,那还有个不进监狱的?

    可是,这些囚犯听见叫奥立弗没有一个应声,也压根没有听说过他。南希径直找到那位穿条纹背心的憨厚警官,以最最凄苦的悲叹哀泣,请求他归还自己的******,大门钥匙和那只小篮子的作用立竿见影,使她显得更为楚楚动人。

    “我没有抓他啊,亲爱的。”老人说道。

    “那他在哪儿呢?”南希心烦意乱地哭喊着说。

    “嗨,那位绅士把他带走了。”警察回答。

    “什么绅士?啊,谢天谢地。什么绅士?”南希嚷了起来。

    在答复这一番东扯西拉的询问时,老人告诉这位装得活灵活现的姐姐,奥立弗在警察局里得了病,对证结果证明,偷东西的是另一个小孩,不是在押的一个,那位起诉人见他不省人事,就把他带到自己的住所去了,至于具体地点,这名警察只知道是在本顿维尔附近一个什么地方,他听见有人在叫马车的当儿提到过这个地名。

    苦恼的姑娘怀着满腹疑窦,蹒跚着朝大门走去,一出门,踌躇不定的步履顿时变为矫健轻捷的小跑,她煞费苦心地拣了一条最最迂回曲折的途径,回到费金的住所。

    比尔赛克斯一听到这次探险的报告,立刻忙不迭地叫醒那只白狗,戴上帽子,连在礼节上向同伴道声早安都顾不上,便匆匆离去。

    “非得弄清楚他在哪儿不可,宝贝儿,一定要把他找到,”费金激动不己地说,“查理,你什么事也别做了,各处逛逛去,听到他的消息赶紧带回来。南希,亲爱的,我一定要找到他。我相信你,亲爱的――在所有的事情上都信任你和机灵鬼。等等,等等,”老犹太补充说,他一只手哆嗦着,拉开抽屉。“宝贝儿,拿点钱去,今儿晚上铺子得关一关,你们知道上哪儿找我。一分钟也别多待,赶紧走,宝贝儿。”

    他一边说,一边把他们推出房间,随后小心翼翼地在门上加了双锁,插上门闩,从暗处取出那一个在奥立弗面前不慎暴露过的匣子,手忙脚乱地把金表和珠宝往衣服里塞。

    门上有人重重地敲了一下,忙乱中他给吓了一跳。“谁呀?”他厉声叫道。

    “是我。”透过锁眼传来机灵鬼的声音。

    “又怎么啦?”费金不耐烦地嚷了起来。

    “南希说,找到他是不是带到另一个窝去?”机灵鬼问道。

    “不错,”费金回答,“不管她在哪儿找到他都成。一定要找到他,把他找出来,就这么回事,往后咋办我心里有数,别怕。”

    这孩子低声答应一句“知道了”,便匆匆下楼追赶同伴们去了。

    “到现在为止他还没供出来,”说着,费金继续忙自己的事。“他要是存心在一帮子新朋友里边把我们吐出去,就得堵住他的嘴。”



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