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The coach rattled away, over nearly the same ground as that which Oliver had traversed when he first entered London in company with the Dodger; and, turning a different way when it reached the Angel at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house, in a quiet shady street near Pentonville.

Here, a bed was prepared, without loss of time, in which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge carefully and comfortably deposited; and here, he was tended with a kindness and solicitude that knew no bounds. But, for many days, Oliver remained insensible to all the goodness of his new friends.

The sun rose and sank, and rose and sank again, and many times after that; and still the boy lay stretched on his uneasy bed, dwindling away beneath the dry and wasting heat of fever.

The worm does not work more surely on the dead body, than does this slow creeping fire upon the living frame. Weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke at last from what seemed to have been a long and troubled dream.

Feebly raising himself in the bed, with his head resting on his trembling arm, he looked anxiously around. 'What room is this?

Where have I been brought to?' said Oliver. 'This is not the place I went to sleep in.' He uttered these words in a feeble voice, being very faint and weak; but they were overheard at once.

The curtain at the bed's head was hastily drawn back, and a motherly old lady, very neatly and precisely dressed, rose as she undrew it, from an arm-chair close by, in which she had been sitting at needle-work. 'Hush, my dear,' said the old lady softly.

'You must be very quiet, or you will be ill again; and you have been very bad,--as bad as bad could be, pretty nigh.

Lie down again; there's a dear!'

With those words, the old lady very gently placed Oliver's head upon the pillow; and, smoothing back his hair from his forehead, looked so kindly and loving in his face, that he could not help placing his little withered hand in hers, and drawing it round his neck. 'Save us!' said the old lady, with tears in her eyes.

'What a grateful little dear it is.

Pretty creetur!

What would his mother feel if she had sat by him as I have, and could see him now!' 'Perhaps she does see me,' whispered Oliver, folding his hands together; 'perhaps she has sat by me.

I almost feel as if she had.' 'That was the fever, my dear,' said the old lady mildly. 'I suppose it was,' replied Oliver, 'because heaven is a long way off; and they are too happy there, to come down to the bedside of a poor boy.

But if she knew I was ill, she must have pitied me, even there; for she was very ill herself before she died.

She can't know anything about me though,' added Oliver after a moment's silence.

'If she had seen me hurt, it would have made her sorrowful; and her face has always looked sweet and happy, when I have dreamed of her.' The old lady made no reply to this; but wiping her eyes first, and her spectacles, which lay on the counterpane, afterwards, as if they were part and parcel of those features, brought some cool stuff for Oliver to drink; and then, patting him on the cheek, told him he must lie very quiet, or he would be ill again. So, Oliver kept very still; partly because he was anxious to obey the kind old lady in all things; and partly, to tell the truth, because he was completely exhausted with what he had already said.

He soon fell into a gentle doze, from which he was awakened by the light of a candle:

which, being brought near the bed, showed him a gentleman with a very large and loud-ticking gold watch in his hand, who felt his pulse, and said he was a great deal better. 'You _are_ a great deal better, are you not, my dear?' said the gentleman. 'Yes, thank you, sir,' replied Oliver. 'Yes,

I know you are,' said the gentleman:

'You're hungry too, an't you?' 'No, sir,' answered Oliver. 'Hem!' said the gentleman.

'No, I know you're not.

He is not hungry, Mrs. Bedwin,' said the gentleman:

looking very wise. The old lady made a respectful inclination of the head, which seemed to say that she thought the doctor was a very clever man. The doctor appeared much of the same opinion himself. 'You feel sleepy, don't you, my dear?' said the doctor. 'No, sir,' replied Oliver. 'No,' said the doctor, with a very shrewd and satisfied look. 'You're not sleepy.

Nor thirsty.

Are you?' 'Yes, sir, rather thirsty,' answered Oliver. 'Just as I expected, Mrs. Bedwin,' said the doctor.

'It's very natural that he should be thirsty.

You may give him a little tea, ma'am, and some dry toast without any butter.

Don't keep him too warm, ma'am; but be careful that you don't let him be too cold; will you have the goodness?' The old lady dropped a curtsey.

The doctor, after tasting the cool stuff, and expressing a qualified approval of it, hurried away:

his boots creaking in a very important and wealthy manner as he went downstairs. Oliver dozed off again, soon after this; when he awoke, it was nearly twelve o'clock.

The old lady tenderly bade him good-night shortly afterwards, and left him in charge of a fat old woman who had just come:

bringing with her, in a little bundle, a small Prayer Book and a large nightcap. Putting the latter on her head and the former on the table, the old woman, after telling Oliver that she had come to sit up with him, drew her chair close to the fire and went off into a series of short naps, chequered at frequent intervals with sundry tumblings forward, and divers moans and chokings. These, however, had no worse effect than causing her to rub her nose very hard, and then fall asleep again. And thus the night crept slowly on.

Oliver lay awake for some time, counting the little circles of light which the reflection of the rushlight-shade threw upon the ceiling; or tracing with his languid eyes the intricate pattern of the paper on the wall. The darkness and the deep stillness of the room were very solemn; as they brought into the boy's mind the thought that death had been hovering there, for many days and nights, and might yet fill it with the gloom and dread of his awful presence, he turned his face upon the pillow, and fervently prayed to Heaven. Gradually, he fell into that deep tranquil sleep which ease from recent suffering alone imparts; that calm and peaceful rest which it is pain to wake from.

Who, if this were death, would be roused again to all the struggles and turmoils of life; to all its cares for the present; its anxieties for the future; more than all, its weary recollections of the past! It had been bright day, for hours, when Oliver opened his eyes; he felt cheerful and happy.

The crisis of the disease was safely past.

He belonged to the world again. In three days' time he was able to sit in an easy-chair, well propped up with pillows; and, as he was still too weak to walk, Mrs. Bedwin had him carried downstairs into the little housekeeper's room, which belonged to her.

Having him set, here, by the fire-side, the good old lady sat herself down too; and, being in a state of considerable delight at seeing him so much better, forthwith began to cry most violently. 'Never mind me, my dear,' said the old lady; 'I'm only having a regular good cry.

There; it's all over now; and I'm quite comfortable.' 'You're very, very kind to me, ma'am,' said Oliver. 'Well, never you mind that, my dear,' said the old lady; 'that's got nothing to do with your broth; and it's full time you had it; for the doctor says Mr. Brownlow may come in to see you this morning; and we must get up our best looks, because the better we look, the more he'll be pleased.'

And with this, the old lady applied herself to warming up, in a little saucepan, a basin full of broth:

strong enough, Oliver thought, to furnish an ample dinner, when reduced to the regulation strength, for three hundred and fifty paupers, at the lowest computation. 'Are you fond of pictures, dear?' inquired the old lady, seeing that Oliver had fixed his eyes, most intently, on a portrait which hung against the wall; just opposite his chair. 'I don't quite know, ma'am,' said Oliver, without taking his eyes from the canvas; 'I have seen so few that I hardly know.

What a beautiful, mild face that lady's is!' 'Ah!' said the old lady, 'painters always make ladies out prettier than they are, or they wouldn't get any custom, child. The man that invented the machine for taking likenesses might have known that would never succeed; it's a deal too honest.

A deal,' said the old lady, laughing very heartily at her own acuteness. 'Is--is that a likeness, ma'am?' said Oliver. 'Yes,' said the old lady, looking up for a moment from the broth; 'that's a portrait.' 'Whose, ma'am?' asked Oliver. 'Why, really, my dear, I don't know,' answered the old lady in a good-humoured manner.

'It's not a likeness of anybody that you or I know, I expect.

It seems to strike your fancy, dear.' 'It is so pretty,' replied Oliver. 'Why, sure you're not afraid of it?' said the old lady: observing in great surprise, the look of awe with which the child regarded the painting. 'Oh no, no,' returned Oliver quickly; 'but the eyes look so sorrowful; and where I sit, they seem fixed upon me.

It makes my heart beat,' added Oliver in a low voice, 'as if it was alive, and wanted to speak to me, but couldn't.' 'Lord save us!' exclaimed the old lady, starting; 'don't talk in that way, child.

You're weak and nervous after your illness. Let me wheel your chair round to the other side; and then you won't see it.

There!' said the old lady, suiting the action to the word; 'you don't see it now, at all events.' Oliver _did_ see it in his mind's eye as distinctly as if he had not altered his position; but he thought it better not to worry the kind old lady; so he smiled gently when she looked at him; and Mrs. Bedwin, satisfied that he felt more comfortable, salted and broke bits of toasted bread into the broth, with all the bustle befitting so solemn a preparation. Oliver got through it with extraordinary expedition.

He had scarcely swallowed the last spoonful, when there came a soft rap at the door.

'Come in,' said the old lady; and in walked Mr. Brownlow. Now, the old gentleman came in as brisk as need be; but, he had no sooner raised his spectacles on his forehead, and thrust his hands behind the skirts of his dressing-gown to take a good long look at Oliver, than his countenance underwent a very great variety of odd contortions.

Oliver looked very worn and shadowy from sickness, and made an ineffectual attempt to stand up, out of respect to his benefactor, which terminated in his sinking back into the chair again; and the fact is, if the truth must be told, that Mr. Brownlow's heart, being large enough for any six ordinary old gentlemen of humane disposition, forced a supply of tears into his eyes, by some hydraulic process which we are not sufficiently philosophical to be in a condition to explain. 'Poor boy, poor boy!' said Mr. Brownlow, clearing his throat. 'I'm rather hoarse this morning, Mrs. Bedwin.

I'm afraid I have caught cold.' 'I hope not, sir,' said Mrs. Bedwin.

'Everything you have had, has been well aired, sir.' 'I don't know, Bedwin.

I don't know,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'I rather think I had a damp napkin at dinner-time yesterday; but never mind that.

How do you feel, my dear?' 'Very happy, sir,' replied Oliver.

'And very grateful indeed, sir, for your goodness to me.' 'Good by,' said Mr. Brownlow, stoutly.

'Have you given him any nourishment, Bedwin?

Any slops, eh?' 'He has just had a basin of beautiful strong broth, sir,' replied Mrs. Bedwin:

drawing herself up slightly, and laying strong emphasis on the last word:

to intimate that between slops, and broth will compounded, there existed no affinity or connection whatsoever. 'Ugh!' said Mr. Brownlow, with a slight shudder; 'a couple of glasses of port wine would have done him a great deal more good. Wouldn't they, Tom White, eh?' 'My name is Oliver, sir,' replied the little invalid:

with a look of great astonishment. 'Oliver,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'Oliver what?

Oliver White, eh?' 'No, sir, Twist, Oliver Twist.' 'Queer name!' said the old gentleman.

'What made you tell the magistrate your name was White?' 'I never told him so, sir,' returned Oliver in amazement. This sounded so like a falsehood, that the old gentleman looked somewhat sternly in Oliver's face.

It was impossible to doubt him; there was truth in every one of its thin and sharpened lineaments. 'Some mistake,' said Mr. Brownlow.

But, although his motive for looking steadily at Oliver no longer existed, the old idea of the resemblance between his features and some familiar face came upon him so strongly, that he could not withdraw his gaze. 'I hope you are not angry with me, sir?' said Oliver, raising his eyes beseechingly. 'No, no,' replied the old gentleman.

'Why! what's this?

Bedwin, look there!' As he spoke, he pointed hastily to the picture over Oliver's head, and then to the boy's face.

There was its living copy. The eyes, the head, the mouth; every feature was the same. The expression was, for the instant, so precisely alike, that the minutest line seemed copied with startling accuracy! Oliver knew not the cause of this sudden exclamation; for, not being strong enough to bear the start it gave him, he fainted away.

A weakness on his part, which affords the narrative an opportunity of relieving the reader from suspense, in behalf of the two young pupils of the Merry Old Gentleman; and of recording-- That when the Dodger, and his accomplished friend Master Bates, joined in the hue-and-cry which was raised at Oliver's heels, in consequence of their executing an illegal conveyance of Mr. Brownlow's personal property, as has been already described, they were actuated by a very laudable and becoming regard for themselves; and forasmuch as the freedom of the subject and the liberty of the individual are among the first and proudest boasts of a true-hearted Englishman, so, I need hardly beg the reader to observe, that this action should tend to exalt them in the opinion of all public and patriotic men, in almost as great a degree as this strong proof of their anxiety for their own preservation and safety goes to corroborate and confirm the little code of laws which certain profound and sound-judging philosophers have laid down as the main-springs of all Nature's deeds and actions:

the said philosophers very wisely reducing the good lady's proceedings to matters of maxim and theory:

and, by a very neat and pretty compliment to her exalted wisdom and understanding, putting entirely out of sight any considerations of heart, or generous impulse and feeling. For, these are matters totally beneath a female who is acknowledged by universal admission to be far above the numerous little foibles and weaknesses of her sex. If I wanted any further proof of the strictly philosophical nature of the conduct of these young gentlemen in their very delicate predicament, I should at once find it in the fact (also recorded in a foregoing part of this narrative), of their quitting the pursuit, when the general attention was fixed upon Oliver; and making immediately for their home by the shortest possible cut.

Although I do not mean to assert that it is usually the practice of renowned and learned sages, to shorten the road to any great conclusion (their course indeed being rather to lengthen the distance, by various circumlocutions and discursive staggerings, like unto those in which drunken men under the pressure of a too mighty flow of ideas, are prone to indulge); still, I do mean to say, and do say distinctly, that it is the invariable practice of many mighty philosophers, in carrying out their theories, to evince great wisdom and foresight in providing against every possible contingency which can be supposed at all likely to affect themselves.

Thus, to do a great right, you may do a little wrong; and you may take any means which the end to be attained, will justify; the amount of the right, or the amount of the wrong, or indeed the distinction between the two, being left entirely to the philosopher concerned, to be settled and determined by his clear, comprehensive, and impartial view of his own particular case. It was not until the two boys had scoured, with great rapidity, through a most intricate maze of narrow streets and courts, that they ventured to halt beneath a low and dark archway.

Having remained silent here, just long enough to recover breath to speak, Master Bates uttered an exclamation of amusement and delight; and, bursting into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, flung himself upon a doorstep, and rolled thereon in a transport of mirth. 'What's the matter?' inquired the Dodger. 'Ha! ha! ha!' roared Charley Bates. 'Hold your noise,' remonstrated the Dodger, looking cautiously round.

'Do you want to be grabbed, stupid?' 'I can't help it,' said Charley, 'I can't help it!

To see him splitting away at that pace, and cutting round the corners, and knocking up again' the posts, and starting on again as if he was made of iron as well as them, and me with the wipe in my pocket, singing out arter him--oh, my eye!' The vivid imagination of Master Bates presented the scene before him in too strong colours.

As he arrived at this apostrophe, he again rolled upon the door-step, and laughed louder than before. 'What'll Fagin say?' inquired the Dodger; taking advantage of the next interval of breathlessness on the part of his friend to propound the question. 'What?' repeated Charley Bates. 'Ah, what?' said the Dodger. 'Why, what should he say?' inquired Charley:

stopping rather suddenly in his merriment; for the Dodger's manner was impressive.

'What should he say?' Mr. Dawkins whistled for a couple of minutes; then, taking off his hat, scratched his head, and nodded thrice. 'What do you mean?' said Charley. 'Toor rul lol loo, gammon and spinnage, the frog he wouldn't, and high cockolorum,' said the Dodger:

with a slight sneer on his intellectual countenance. This was explanatory, but not satisfactory.

Master Bates felt it so; and again said, 'What do you mean?' The Dodger made no reply; but putting his hat on again, and gathering the skirts of his long-tailed coat under his arm, thrust his tongue into his cheek, slapped the bridge of his nose some half-dozen times in a familiar but expressive manner, and turning on his heel, slunk down the court.

Master Bates followed, with a thoughtful countenance. The noise of footsteps on the creaking stairs, a few minutes after the occurrence of this conversation, roused the merry old gentleman as he sat over the fire with a saveloy and a small loaf in his hand; a pocket-knife in his right; and a pewter pot on the trivet.

There was a rascally smile on his white face as he turned round, and looking sharply out from under his thick red eyebrows, bent his ear towards the door, and listened. 'Why, how's this?' muttered the Jew:

changing countenance; 'only two of 'em?

Where's the third?

They can't have got into trouble.

Hark!' The footsteps approached nearer; they reached the landing. The door was slowly opened; and the Dodger and Charley Bates entered, closing it behind them.

(在这一章里,奥立弗得到前所未有的悉心照料,回头接着谈那位快活的老绅士和他的那一帮年轻朋友。)

马车辚辚,沿着与当初奥立弗由机灵鬼陪着首次进入伦敦几乎完全相同的一条路驶去,过了爱灵顿街的安琪儿酒家便折向另一条路,一直开到本顿维尔附近一条幽静的林阴道才停了下来。在这里,布朗罗先生亲自督阵,立刻安排好一张床,把小家伙安顿得十分周到舒适。在这里,他受到了无微不至的殷切照料。

然而,日子一天天过去,奥立弗对一班新朋友的精心照料却始终漠然不知。太阳升起来,落下去,又升起来,又落下去,数不清多少天过去了。这孩子依然直挺挺地躺在那张来之不易的床上,经受着热病的熬煎,一天天变得消瘦。蛆虫蚕食死尸也不如用慢悠悠的文火烤干活人来得那么有把握。

这一天,瘦骨嶙峋、苍白如纸的奥立弗终于醒过来了,仿佛刚刚做完一场漫长的噩梦似的。他从床上吃力地欠起身来,头搭拉在颤抖的肩上,焦虑不安地望了望四周。

“这是什么地方?我这是在哪儿?”奥立弗说,“这不是我睡觉的地方。”

他身体极度衰弱,说这番话的声音非常低,但立刻有人听见了。床头的帘子一下子撩开了,一位衣着整洁、面容慈祥的老太太从紧靠床边的一张扶手椅里站起来,她先前就坐在那儿做针线活。

“嘘,亲爱的,”老太太和蔼地说,“你可得保持安静,要不你又会生病的,你病得可不轻——别提病得有多厉害了,真够玄的。还是躺下吧,真是好孩子。”老太太一边说,一边轻轻地把奥立弗的头搁到枕头上,将他额前的头发拨到一边。她望着奥立弗,显得那样慈祥,充满爱心,他忍不住伸出一只瘦弱的小手,搭在她的手上,还把她的手拉过来勾住自己的脖子。

“哟。”老太太眼里噙着泪珠说道,“真是个知恩图报的小家伙,可爱的小把戏。要是他母亲和我一样坐在他身边,这会儿也能看见他的话,会怎么想啊。”

“说不定她真的看得见我呢,”奥立弗双手合在一起,低声说道,“也许她就坐在我身边,我感觉得到。”

“那是因为你在发烧,亲爱的。”老太太温和地说。

“我想也是,”奥立弗回答,“天国离这儿太远了,他们在那儿欢欢喜喜,不会来到一个苦孩子的床边。不过只要妈妈知道我病了,即使她是在那儿,也一定会惦记我,她临死以前病得可厉害了。她一点都不知道我的情形。”奥立弗沉默了一会儿,又说道,“要是她知道我吃了苦头,肯定很伤心,每次我梦见她的时候,她的脸总是又好看又快乐。”

老太太对此没有口答,先擦了擦自己的眼睛,随后又擦了一下放在床罩上的眼镜,仿佛眼镜也是脸上的重要部位似的。她替奥立弗取来一些清凉饮料,要他喝下去,然后拍了拍他的脸颊,告诉他必须安安静静地躺着,要不又会生病了。

于是奥立弗安安静静地躺在床上,这一方面是由于他打定主意,在任何事情上都要听这位好心老太太的话,另一方面呢,说真的,刚才说了那么一番话,他已经筋疲力尽,不多一会儿就打起盹儿来。不知什么时候,一支点亮的蜡烛移近床边,他醒过来,只见烛光里有一位绅士手里握着一只嘀嗒作响的大号金表,搭了搭他的脉搏,说他已经好得多了。

“我亲爱的,你感觉好得多了,是吗?”这位绅士说。

“先生,是的,谢谢你。”奥立弗答道。

“喏,我心里有数,你也感到饿了,是吗?”

“不饿,先生。”奥立弗回答。

“唔。是啊,我知道你还没感觉饿。贝德温太太,他不饿。”这位看上去十分渊博的绅士说道。

老太太很有礼貌地点了一下头,意思好像是她也认为大夫是个非常渊博的人,大夫本人看来也很有同感。

“你还是很困,想睡觉,我亲爱的,是不是?”大夫说道。

“不,先生。”奥立弗回答。

“是那么回事,”大夫带着一副非常干练而又心满意足的神气说,“不想再睡了,也不感到口渴,是吗?”

“不,先生,有点渴。”奥立弗答道。

“和我估计的一样,贝德温太太,”大夫说道,“他感到口渴是很自然的。太太,你可以给他一点茶,外加一点面包,不要抹奶油。别让他睡得过于暖和了,太太,但更要注意别让他感觉到太冷,你懂这个意思吧?”

老太太又点了点头,大夫尝了一下清凉饮料,表示认可,便匆匆离去了。下楼的功夫,他的靴子叽嘎叽嘎直响,俨然一副大亨贵人的派头。

过了一会儿,奥立弗又迷迷糊糊睡着了,醒来时已经差不多十二点。贝德温太太慈爱地同他道了一声晚安,把他移交给刚来的一位胖胖的老太婆照看,老太婆随身带着一个小包袱,里边放着一部开本不大的祈祷书和一项大睡帽。老太婆戴上睡帽,将祈祷书放在桌子上,告诉奥立弗,自己是来跟他作伴的。老太婆说着把椅子拉到壁炉边上,管自接二连三地打起瞌睡来。她时不时地向前点头哈腰,嘴里咿哩呜噜发出各种声响,忽而又呛得接不上气,连瞌睡也吓跑了,不过,这一切并没有什么不良影响,她顶多也就是使劲揉一揉鼻子,便又陷入了沉睡。

就这样,长夜慢慢逝去。奥立弗醒了一些时间了,他忽而数一数透过灯心草蜡烛罩子投射到天花板上的一个个小光圈,忽而又睡眼朦胧地望着墙壁上复杂的壁纸图案。屋子里幽暗而又寂静,一派庄严肃穆的气氛,这孩子不禁想到,无数个日日夜夜以来,死神一直在这里流连徘徊,可怕的死亡来过了,也许处处都留下了它那阴森可怕的痕迹,奥立弗转过脸,伏在枕头上,热烈地祈祷上苍。

逐渐地,他进入了谧宁的睡乡,这是一种只有大病初愈的人才能享受到的安宁,一种宁静祥和的休憩,令人舍不得醒来。即便这就是死亡,谁又愿意再度被唤醒,起来面对人生的一切争斗纷扰,一切近忧远虑,而在这一切之上的是,谁愿意再去回首痛苦的往事。

当奥立弗睁开双眼的时候,已经日上三竿了。他感到神清气爽,心情舒畅。这场大病的危机安然度过了,他重又回到了尘世。

整整三天,他只能坐在一张安乐椅里,舒舒坦坦地靠在枕头上。他身体依然过于衰弱,不能行走,女管家贝德温太太叫人把他抱到楼下的小房间,这间屋子是属于她的。好心的老太太将奥立弗安顿在壁炉边上,自己也坐了下来,眼见奥立弗身体好多了,她本来还高高兴兴的,却立刻哇哇大哭起来。

“别见怪,我亲爱的,”老太太说,“我是欢喜才哭的,这是常有的事。你瞧,没事了,真够舒坦的。”

“你对我太好了,太太。”奥立弗说。

“嗳,你可千万别在意,我亲爱的,”老太太说道,“你还是喝你的肉汤吧,顶好这就把汤喝下去。大夫说布朗罗先生今天上午要来看你,咱们得好好打点一下,咱气色越好,他越高兴。”老太太说着,盛上满满一碗肉汤,倒进一口小炖锅里热一热——真浓啊,奥立弗思忖道,要是按规定的浓度掺水,少说也够三百五十个贫民美美地吃一顿了。

“你喜欢图画吗,亲爱的?”老太太见奥立弗目不转睛,看着对面墙上正对着他的椅子挂着的一幅肖像画,就问道。

“我一点也不懂,太太,”奥立弗的目光依然没有离开那张油画。“我压根没看过几张画,什么都不懂,那位太太的脸多漂亮,多和气啊。”

“哦。”老太太说道,“孩子,画家总是把女士们画得比她们原来的样子更漂亮,要不,就找不到主顾啦。发明照相机的人没准知道那一套根本行不通,这买卖太诚实了,这买卖。”老太太对自己的机智大为欣赏,开心地笑了起来。

“那——是不是一张画像,太太?”奥立弗说。

“是的,”说话间,老太太的眼睛离开了肉汤,她抬起头来。“是一张画像。”

“太太,是谁的?”奥立弗问道。

“噢,说实话,孩子,我也不知道,”贝德温太太笑吟吟地答道,“我琢磨,不管是你还是我,都不认识那上边的人。你倒像是挺喜欢那张画,亲爱的。”

“画得真好看。”奥立弗应道。

“哟,敢情你没叫它吓着吧?”老太太发现奥立弗带着一脸敬畏的神情凝视着那张画,不禁大为惊异。

“喔,没有,没有。”奥立弗赶紧回过头来。“只是那双眼睛看上去像是要哭,随便我坐在哪儿,都好像在望着我一样,弄得我的心都快蹦出来了。”奥立弗小声地补充道,“像是真的,还想跟我说话呢,只是说不出来。”

“上帝保佑。”老太太嚷嚷着,站了起来。“孩子,你可别那么说。你病刚好,身体虚弱,难保没点疑神疑鬼的。来,我把你的椅子调个个儿,你就看不见了,行啦。”老太太嘴里说着,果真这么做了。“现在看不见了,再怎么也看不见了。”

然而,奥立弗透过自己的心扉,把那张肖像看得如此真切,仿佛他坐的方向全然不曾改变似的。不过,他想还是别再让这位好心的老太太操心才好,所以当老太太打量他的时候,他温顺地笑了笑。贝德温太太看见他比刚才大有起色,这才心满意足。她往汤里放了些盐,把几片烤面包掰碎加了进去,准备工作如此重要,自然要忙乎一阵。奥立弗以超乎寻常的速度喝完了汤。他刚吞下最后一匙肉汤,门上便响起轻轻的敲门声。“请进。”贝德温太太说道,进来的是布朗罗先生。

喏,老绅士步履轻快地走了进来,这是可想而知的,但不多一会儿,他便把眼镜支到额头上,双手反插在晨衣后摆里,久久地,仔仔细细地端详起奥立弗来,脸上出现种种奇怪的抽动。大病初愈的奥立弗显得非常樵瘁,一副弱不禁风的样子。出于对恩人的尊敬,他强打精神想站起来,结果还是没能站稳,又跌坐在椅子上。事实上,如果一定要实话实说,布朗罗先生胸襟十分宽阔,比起一般心地慈善、气质淳厚的绅士来,他一个当得上六个。他的心通过某种水压作用将两汪热泪送进了他的眼眶,说起这种程序,由于我们在哲学方面不能算是博大精深,是无法作出解释的。

“可怜的孩子,可怜的孩子。”布朗罗先生说着清了清喉咙。“贝德温太太,今天早晨我声音有点沙哑,恐怕是伤风了。”

“但愿不是,先生,”贝德温太太说道,“你所有的衣服都是晾干了的,先生。”

“不知道,贝德温,不知道怎么搞的,”布朗罗先生说道,“我倒宁可认为是因为昨天吃晚饭用了一张潮湿的餐巾,不过没关系。你感觉怎么样,我的孩子?”

“很快活,先生,”奥立弗回答,“您对我太好了,先生,真不知道怎么感谢您。”

“真是乖孩子,”布朗罗先生胸有成竹地说,“贝德温,你替他加了补品没有?哪怕是流质的,喏?”

“他刚喝了一碗味道鲜美的浓汤。”贝德温太太略微欠起身来,特意在最后一个词上加重了语气,意思是一般的流质与精心烹制的肉汤根本不可同日而语。

“啊。”布朗罗先生的身体微微抖了一下。“喝两杯红葡萄酒对他要有益得多。是不是,汤姆·怀特,晤?”

“我叫奥立弗,先生。”小病人显出一副大为诧异的样子回答。

“奥立弗,”布朗罗先生推敲着。“奥立弗什么?是叫奥立弗·怀特,嗯?”

“不,先生,是退斯特,奥立弗·退斯特。”

“这名字真怪。”老绅士说道,“那你怎么告诉推事你叫怀特呢?”

“我从来没有这样说,先生。”奥立弗感到莫名其妙。

这话听上去很像是在胡编,老绅士望着奥立弗的面孔,多少带了点愠色。对他是不可能产生怀疑的,他那副瘦削清癯的相貌特征处处都显示出诚实。

“这肯定搞错了。”布朗罗先生说道。然而,尽管促使他不住地端详奥立弗的动机已不复存在,那个旧有的念头却又一次袭来,奥立弗的长相与某一张熟识的面孔太相似了,这意识来势迅猛,他那专注的眼光一时竟收不回来。

“先生,求您别生我的气,好吗?”奥立弗恳求地抬起了双眼。

“不,不,”老绅士答道,“嗨。那是谁的画像?贝德温,你瞧那儿。”

他一边说,一边忙不迭地指指奥立弗头顶上的肖像画,又指了指孩子的脸。奥立弗的长相活脱脱就是那幅肖像的翻版。那双眼睛、头型、嘴,每一个特征都一模一样。那一瞬间的神态又是那样逼真,连最细微的线条也仿佛是以一种惊人的准确笔法临摹下来的。

奥立弗不明白这番突如其来的惊呼是怎么回事。因为承受不住这一阵惊诧,他昏了过去。他这一晕过去,替笔者提供了一个机会,可以回过头去表一表那位快活老绅士的两个小门徒,以解读者悬念,且说——

当时,机灵鬼和他那位手艺高超的朋友贝兹少爷非法侵占布朗罗先生的私人财物,结果导致了对奥立弗的一场大喊大叫的追捕,他俩也参加了这场追捕,这一点前边已经叙述过了。他们这样做,是基于一种非常值得钦佩而又十分得体的想法,那就是只顾自己。既然国民自主和个人自由是任何一个纯正的英国人最值得骄傲的东西,本人简直无需提请读者注意,这一行动自然会大大抬高他俩在所有公民和爱国人士心目中的身价。同样,他们只关心自己平安无事这一铁证,完全足以使一部小小的法典得以确立,受到公认,某些博古通今、驰名遐迩的哲人将这部法典定为一切本能行为的主要动机。这班哲学家非常精明,将本能的一切行为归纳成格言和理论,又巧妙地对本性的高度智慧和悟性做了一番不着痕迹的恭维,便把良心上的考虑,或者高尚的冲动和感情,全都扔到不知什么地方去了。说起来,这些东西毕竟不能与本性相提并论,世所公认,本能远比人所难免的种种瑕疵、弱点要高尚得多。

两位处于这么一种极其微妙的境地中的小绅士在品格特性方面富有严谨的哲理,倘若需要更进一步的佐证,笔者信手便可以举出他们退出追捕这一事实(本书前边一部分已经讲了),人们当时的注意力都集中在奥立弗身上,他俩立刻抄最近便的捷路溜了回去。尽管我并不打算断言,取捷径也是那班声望赫赫、博学多才的哲人在得出什么伟大的结论时常有的作派——他们的路程的确因迂回曲折,举步磕磕绊绊而拉长了一些,这就和那班有一肚子念头憋不住的醉汉一开口就滔滔不绝一样——但我的确想指出,并且要明确指出,许多哲学大师在实施他们的理论时都表现出了深谋远虑,他们能够排除一切可能出现的、完全可以估计到的、于他们不利的偶然因素。因此,为了大是,不拘小非,只要能达到目的,任何手段都无可非议。是耶?非耶?抑或二者之间到底有多大区别,统统留给当事的哲学家,让他根据自己的特殊情况,作出头脑清醒、综合平衡、公平不倚的判断。

两个少年以极快的速度跑掉了,穿过无数迷宫一般错综复杂的狭窄街道和院落,才大着胆子在一个低矮昏暗的拱道下边歇一歇。两人一声不响地呆了一会儿,刚刚透过气,能讲出话来,贝兹少爷便发出一声喜滋滋的感叹,紧接着爆发出一阵无法遏制的大笑,他倒在一个台阶上,笑得直打滚。

“什么事儿?”机灵鬼问。

“哈哈哈!”查理·贝兹笑声如雷。

“别出声,”机灵鬼细心地看了看周围,劝道,“笨蛋,你想给捉进去了不是?”

“笑死我了,”查理说,“笑死我了。你想想,他没命地跑,一闪就转过街角去了,再一下撞到电线杆子上,爬起来又跑,活像他跟电线杆一样也是用铁做的,可我呢,抹嘴儿插在口袋里,大喊大叫地在后边追他——呃,我的妈唷。”贝兹少爷的想像力十分生动,将刚才的场景稍许有些过火地展现了出来。说到这儿,他又在台阶上打起滚来,笑得比先前更欢了。

“费金会怎么说?”机灵鬼趁伙伴又一次停下来喘气时把这个问题提了出来。

“怎么说?”查理·贝兹重复道。

“是啊,怎么说?”机灵鬼说。

“嗨,他能怎么说?”查理见机灵鬼全然不是说着玩的,满心欢喜顿时化为乌有。“他能怎么说?”

达金斯先生管自吹了一会儿口哨,跟着把帽子摘下来,搔了搔头,脑袋接连点了三下。

“你是什么意思?”查理说道。

“吐噜罗噜,腊肉烧菠菜,他又不是青蛙。”机灵鬼聪明的脸上挂着一丝淡淡的嘲笑,说道。

这就算解释,然而并不令人满意。贝兹少爷也有这种感觉,便又问了一句:“你是什么意思?”

机灵鬼没有回答,只是重新戴上帽子,把拖着长尾巴的外套下摆拉起来塞在腋下,用舌头顶了顶腮帮子,摆出一副亲昵而又意味深长的神气,用手在鼻梁上拍了五六下,向后一转,拐进一条胡同,贝兹少爷若有所思地跟了上去。

上述这番对话进行之后不过几分钟,那位快活老绅士听到楼梯上响起一阵嘎嘎作响的脚步声,不由得一惊,此刻他正坐在壁炉旁,左手拿着一条干香肠和一小片面包,右手握一把小刀,壁炉的三角铁架上搁着一只白锡锅。他回过头来,苍白的脸上露出一道狰狞的笑容,一双眼睛从棕红色的浓眉底下灼灼地往外看去。他把耳朵侧向门口,专注地谛听着。

“嗨,怎么回事?”老犹太的脸色变了,喃喃地说,“只回来两个?还有一个哪儿去了?他们出不了事的,听听。”

脚步声越来越近,到楼梯口了。房门缓缓地推开,机灵鬼与查理·贝兹走了进来,又随手把门关上了。