字体设置:

For many days, Oliver remained in the Jew's room, picking the marks out of the pocket-handkerchief, (of which a great number were brought home,) and sometimes taking part in the game already described: which the two boys and the Jew played, regularly, every morning. At length, he began to languish for fresh air, and took many occasions of earnestly entreating the old gentleman to allow him to go out to work with his two companions.

Oliver was rendered the more anxious to be actively employed, by what he had seen of the stern morality of the old gentleman's character. Whenever the Dodger or Charley Bates came home at night, empty-handed, he would expatiate with great vehemence on the misery of idle and lazy habits; and would enforce upon them the necessity of an active life, by sending them supperless to bed. On one occasion, indeed, he even went so far as to knock them both down a flight of stairs; but this was carrying out his virtuous precepts to an unusual extent.

At length, one morning, Oliver obtained the permission he had so eagerly sought. There had been no handkerchiefs to work upon, for two or three days, and the dinners had been rather meagre. Perhaps these were reasons for the old gentleman's giving his assent; but, whether they were or no, he told Oliver he might go, and placed him under the joint guardianship of Charley Bates, and his friend the Dodger.

The three boys sallied out; the Dodger with his coat-sleeves tucked up, and his hat cocked, as usual; Master Bates sauntering along with his hands in his pockets; and Oliver between them, wondering where they were going, and what branch of manufacture he would be instructed in, first.

The pace at which they went, was such a very lazy, ill-looking saunter, that Oliver soon began to think his companions were going to deceive the old gentleman, by not going to work at all. The Dodger had a vicious propensity, too, of pulling the caps from the heads of small boys and tossing them down areas; while Charley Bates exhibited some very loose notions concerning the rights of property, by pilfering divers apples and onions from the stalls at the kennel sides, and thrusting them into pockets which were so surprisingly capacious, that they seemed to undermine his whole suit of clothes in every direction. These things looked so bad, that Oliver was on the point of declaring his intention of seeking his way back, in the best way he could; when his thoughts were suddenly directed into another channel, by a very mysterious change of behaviour on the part of the Dodger.

They were just emerging from a narrow court not far from the open square in Clerkenwell, which is yet called, by some strange perversion of terms, 'The Green': when the Dodger made a sudden stop; and, laying his finger on his lip, drew his companions back again, with the greatest caution and circumspection.

'What's the matter?' demanded Oliver.

'Hush!' replied the Dodger. 'Do you see that old cove at the book-stall?'

'The old gentleman over the way?' said Oliver. 'Yes, I see him.'

'He'll do,' said the Doger.

'A prime plant,' observed Master Charley Bates.

Oliver looked from one to the other, with the greatest surprise; but he was not permitted to make any inquiries; for the two boys walked stealthily across the road, and slunk close behind the old gentleman towards whom his attention had been directed. Oliver walked a few paces after them; and, not knowing whether to advance or retire, stood looking on in silent amazement.

The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with a powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar; wore white trousers; and carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had taken up a book from the stall, and there he stood, reading away, as hard as if he were in his elbow-chair, in his own study. It is very possible that he fancied himself there, indeed; for it was plain, from his abstraction, that he saw not the book-stall, nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short, anything but the book itself: which he was reading straight through: turning over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the greatest interest and eagerness.

What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces off, looking on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly go, to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both running away round the corner at full speed!

In an instant the whole mystery of the hankerchiefs, and the watches, and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind.

He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and, not knowing what he did, made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground.

This was all done in a minute's space. In the very instant when Oliver began to run, the old gentleman, putting his hand to his pocket, and missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round. Seeing the boy scudding away at such a rapid pace, he very naturally concluded him to be the depredator; and shouting 'Stop thief!' with all his might, made off after him, book in hand.

But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract public attention by running down the open street, had merely retired into the very first doorway round the corner. They no sooner heard the cry, and saw Oliver running, than, guessing exactly how the matter stood, they issued forth with great promptitude; and, shouting 'Stop thief!' too, joined in the pursuit like good citizens.

Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophers, he was not theoretically acquainted with the beautiful axiom that self-preservation is the first law of nature. If he had been, perhaps he would have been prepared for this. Not being prepared, however, it alarmed him the more; so away he went like the wind, with the old gentleman and the two boys roaring and shouting behind him.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a magic in the sound. The tradesman leaves his counter, and the car-man his waggon; the butcher throws down his tray; the baker his basket; the milkman his pail; the errand-boy his parcels; the school-boy his marbles; the paviour his pickaxe; the child his battledore. Away they run, pell-mell, helter-skelter, slap-dash: tearing, yelling, screaming, knocking down the passengers as they turn the corners, rousing up the dogs, and astonishing the fowls: and streets, squares, and courts, re-echo with the sound.

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' The cry is taken up by a hundred voices, and the crowd accumulate at every turning. Away they fly, splashing through the mud, and rattling along the pavements: up go the windows, out run the people, onward bear the mob, a whole audience desert Punch in the very thickest of the plot, and, joining the rushing throng, swell the shout, and lend fresh vigour to the cry, 'Stop thief! Stop thief!'

'Stop thief! Stop thief!' There is a passion FOR _hunting_ _something_ deeply implanted in the human breast. One wretched breathless child, panting with exhaustion; terror in his looks; agony in his eyes; large drops of perspiration streaming down his face; strains every nerve to make head upon his pursuers; and as they follow on his track, and gain upon him every instant, they hail his decreasing strength with joy. 'Stop thief!' Ay, stop him for God's sake, were it only in mercy!

Stopped at last! A clever blow. He is down upon the pavement; and the crowd eagerly gather round him: each new comer, jostling and struggling with the others to catch a glimpse. 'Stand aside!' 'Give him a little air!' 'Nonsense! he don't deserve it.' 'Where's the gentleman?' 'Here his is, coming down the street.' 'Make room there for the gentleman!' 'Is this the boy, sir!' 'Yes.'

Oliver lay, covered with mud and dust, and bleeding from the mouth, looking wildly round upon the heap of faces that surrounded him, when the old gentleman was officiously dragged and pushed into the circle by the foremost of the pursuers.

'Yes,' said the gentleman, 'I am afraid it is the boy.'

'Afraid!' murmured the crowd. 'That's a good 'un!'

'Poor fellow!' said the gentleman, 'he has hurt himself.'

'_I_ did that, sir,' said a great lubberly fellow, stepping forward; 'and preciously I cut my knuckle agin' his mouth. I stopped him, sir.'

The follow touched his hat with a grin, expecting something for his pains; but, the old gentleman, eyeing him with an expression of dislike, look anxiously round, as if he contemplated running away himself: which it is very possible he might have attempted to do, and thus have afforded another chase, had not a police officer (who is generally the last person to arrive in such cases) at that moment made his way through the crowd, and seized Oliver by the collar.

'Come, get up,' said the man, roughly.

'It wasn't me indeed, sir. Indeed, indeed, it was two other boys,' said Oliver, clasping his hands passionately, and looking round. 'They are here somewhere.'

'Oh no, they ain't,' said the officer. He meant this to be ironical, but it was true besides; for the Dodger and Charley Bates had filed off down the first convenient court they came to.

'Come, get up!'

'Don't hurt him,' said the old gentleman, compassionately.

'Oh no, I won't hurt him,' replied the officer, tearing his jacket half off his back, in proof thereof. 'Come, I know you; it won't do. Will you stand upon your legs, you young devil?'

Oliver, who could hardly stand, made a shift to raise himself on his feet, and was at once lugged along the streets by the jacket-collar, at a rapid pace. The gentleman walked on with them by the officer's side; and as many of the crowd as could achieve the feat, got a little ahead, and stared back at Oliver from time to time. The boys shouted in triumph; and on they went.

(叙述奥立弗对新伙伴的品格日趋了解,他长了见识但代价高昂。本章不长,但在这部传记中却十分重要。)

好些日子了,奥立弗一直呆在老犹太的屋子里,挑去手帕上的标记(每天都有数不清的手帕带回来),间或也参加前边讲过的那种游戏,那可是两个少年和老犹太每天早晨照例要做的。到后来,他开始感到闷得慌,巴望上外边透透新鲜空气,并且诚心诚意地向老绅士央求过多次,要他让自己与两个伙伴一块儿到外边干活去。

奥立弗对老先生毫不含糊的德性已经有所了解,他越加急切地盼着干点活。夜里,只要机灵鬼或者查理·贝兹空着手回来,费金总是要慷慨激昂地数落好逸恶劳一类坏习惯的可悲之处,连晚饭也不让吃就打发他们睡觉去,以便向他俩灌输勤勉度日的道理。一点不假,有一次,费金甚至闹腾到打得他俩滚下楼梯的地步,但这不过是他的善意规劝发挥得有些过火罢了。

一天早晨,渴望已久的奥立弗终于得到了允许,两三天以来,需要加工的手帕已经没有了,伙食也变得相当糟糕。或许是出于这两个原因吧,老先生答应了他的请求,管它是不是呢,反正老先生告诉奥立弗可以去,并把他置于查理·贝兹和机灵鬼这一对哥们的共同监护之下。

三个孩子出发了。跟往常一样,机灵鬼把衣袖卷得高高的,帽子歪戴着。贝兹少爷双手插在口袋里,一路上挺悠闲。奥立弗走在中间,心里琢磨着他们这是在上哪儿去,自己先要学的是哪一行手艺。

他们走路时的步态非常懒散,十分难看,纯粹是闲荡,奥立弗不多一会儿就意识到,两个同伴存心哄骗老先生,根本不是去干活的。再说,机灵鬼有一种坏习惯,他老是把别的小孩头上的帽子抓起来,仍得远远的;查理·贝兹则在财产所有权方面表现出某些概念含混不清,从路边的摊子上连偷带拿,将好些苹果、洋葱塞进衣袋里,他的几个衣袋大得出奇,好像他浑身衣服下四面八方都有夹层似的。这些事看上去太丢人了,奥立弗刚想尽量婉转地宣布自己要想办法回去了,就在这时候,机灵鬼的举动发生了一个神秘的变化,将他的思路骤然引向了另一个方面。

这当儿,他们正从克拉肯韦尔广场附近一个小巷里走出来,真奇怪,名称改来改去,到现在还有人管这个广场叫“绿地”,机灵鬼猛然站住,将指头贴在嘴上,一边轻手轻脚地拉着两个同伴退后几步。

“什么事?”奥立弗问道。

“嘘!”机灵鬼回答,“看见书摊边上那个老家伙了没有?”

“是街对面那位老先生?”奥立弗说,“是的,看见了。”

“他正合适。”机灵鬼说道。

“姿势蛮好。”查理·贝兹少爷仔细看了看。

奥立弗惊奇不置地看看这一位,又看看那一位,但已经无法再问什么了,两个少年鬼鬼祟祟地溜过马路,往奥立弗已经注意到的那位老绅士身后靠去。奥立弗跟着他们走了几步,因为不知道应该上前还是退后,便站住了,他不敢出声,只是望着那边发呆。

老先生面容非常可敬,头上抹着发粉,戴一副金边眼镜,深绿色外套配黑色的天鹅绒衬领,白裤子,胳膊下夹着一根精致的竹手杖。他从摊子上取了一本书,站在原地看了起来,就好像是坐在自己书斋的安乐椅里边一般。老绅士本人的确很可能也是这种感觉。照他那副出神的样子来看,他眼睛里显然没有书摊,没有街道,也没注意到那帮孩子,一句话,什么都抛到脑后去了,心思全在他正在一字一句读的那本书上,读到一页的末行,又照老样子从

的顶行开始,兴致勃勃认认真真地读下去。

奥立弗站在几步开外,眼睛睁得再大不过了,他看到机灵鬼把手伸进老绅士的衣袋,从里边掏出一张手帕。他又看见机灵鬼把东西递给查理·贝兹,最后,他俩一溜烟地转过街角跑掉了,此时,他感到何等的恐惧与惊慌啊。

刹那间,金表、珠宝、老犹太,整个的谜全涌人了孩子的脑海。他迟疑了一下,由于害怕,血液在浑身血管里奔泻,他感到自己仿佛置身于熊熊燃烧的烈火中,接着,慌乱恐惧之下,他自己也不知道是怎么回事,便撩起脚尖,没命地跑开了。

这一切都发生在短短的一分钟里边。就在奥立弗开始跑的一瞬间,那位老绅士把手伸进日袋里,没有摸到手绢,猛然掉过头来。他见一个孩子以这么快的速度向前飞跑,自然认定那就是偷东西的人了。他使出全身力气,呼喊着“抓贼啊!”,便拿着书追了上去。

不过,吆喝着抓贼,抓贼的并不只是这位老绅士一个人。机灵鬼和贝兹少爷不希望满街跑引起公众注意,俩人一拐过街角,就躲进第一个门洞里去了。不多一会儿,他们听到了叫喊声,又看见奥立弗跑过去,便分毫不差地猜到了随后发生的事情,俩人极为敏捷地蹦了出来,高呼着“抓贼啊!”跟诚实的市民们一样参加了追捕。

尽管奥立弗受过一班哲学家的熏陶,然而在理论上,他对于自我保护乃天地间第一法则这一条美妙的格言却一无所知,如果他知道这一点,或许就会对这类事有所准备了。他完全没有了主意,便越发惊慌,他一阵风似地朝前奔去,那位老绅土,还有机灵鬼和贝兹两人,吼声震天地在后面追。

“抓贼啊!抓贼啊!”这喊声里蕴藏着一种魔力。听到喊声,生意人离开了柜台,车夫丢下了自己的马车,屠户扔掉了托盘,面包师抛下了篮子,送牛奶的撂下了提桶,跑腿的扔下了要送的东西,学童顾不上打弹子,铺路工人摔掉了鹤嘴锄,小孩子把球板扔到了一边。大家一齐追了上来,杂沓纷乱,你推我挤:扭扯着,喊的喊,叫的叫,拐弯时撞倒了行人,闹腾得鸡飞狗跳。大街小巷,广场院落,喊声四处回荡。

“抓贼啊!抓贼啊!”上百人齐声响应。每转过一个街口,人群便会增大一轮。他们一路飞跑,踩得泥浆四溅,人行道咚咚直响。木偶戏正演到节骨眼上,全体观众却丢下了主角潘趣,打开窗户跑出门来,人们一拥而上,加入了奋勇争先的人群,齐呼“抓贼啊!抓贼啊!”,给这喊声里注入了新的活力。

“抓贼啊!抓贼啊!”人类胸怀中向来就有一种极为根深蒂固的征服欲。一个快要憋过气去的苦孩子,为了抢在追兵的前头,累得气喘咻咻,满脸恐惧,眼含痛苦,大滴大滴的汗珠顺着脸颊滚下来,每一根神经都绷得紧紧的。人们赶上来了,一步步逼近了,眼看他渐渐没有力气了,吆喝却更加起劲,四处欢声雷动。“抓贼啊!”嗨,即使是出于怜悯,看在上帝分上,也务请逮住他。

终于抓住了。多美妙的一击。他倒在人行道上。人们按捺不住地团团围住他,刚赶到的争先恐后往里挤,都想瞅一眼。“一边请请。”“让他透点空气吧。”“胡扯。他根本不配。”“那位先生呢?”“喏,朝这边街上来了。”“替这位先生让个地方。”“先生,是这孩子吗?”“是的。”

奥立弗倒在地上,浑身糊满了污泥尘土,嘴里淌血,两眼惊慌地打量着围在身边的无数面孔,这时候,那位老绅士叫跑在头里的那班人热情地拖着推着让进了圈子。

“是的,”老绅士说,“恐怕就是这个孩子。”

“恐怕!”人群低声咕哝着,“真是妙极了。”

“可怜的孩子,”老绅士说道,“他受伤了。”

“先生,是我把他撂倒的,”一个粗手大脚的家伙凑上来,“我一拳打在他嘴上,手都碰伤了。是我逮住他的,先生。”

那家伙咧嘴笑了笑,碰了一下自己的帽子,巴望着替自己的一番劳苦捞点什么。老绅士厌恶地扫了他一眼,又忐忑不安地向周围看了看,似乎想竟自离去。要不是这当儿有一位警官挤进人群(遇上这类案子,警官老是最后一个到场),一把揪住奥立弗的衣领,他很可能已经那样做了,从而发生另一次追逐。

“喂,起来。”警官粗声嘎气地说。

“先生,不是我。真的,真的,是另外两个孩子。”奥立弗两手紧紧地扣在一起,回头看了看,说道,“他们就在附近哪个地方。”

“不,不,他们不在罗,”警官本来想说句反话,可偏偏说中了。机灵鬼和查理·贝兹早就钻进遇到的头一个大杂院逃之夭夭。“喂,起来。”

“您别伤着他了。”老绅士同情地说。

“喔,不,我不会的。”警官答应着,一把便将奥立弗的外套几乎从背上扯了下来,以此作为证明。“哼,我可知道你们这一套,别想骗我。你倒是起不起来,你这小混蛋?”

奥立弗挣扎着爬起来,站都站不稳,当下便被人揪住外套衣领快步沿街拖走了。老绅士走在警官身边。这帮人当中,凡是有本事的都抢先几步,不时回过头来,看看奥立弗。孩子们发出胜利的欢呼声,朝前走去。