Книга Oliver Twist. Содержание - CHAPTER XXXI INVOLVES A CRITICAL POSITION
'I hope you don't mean to say, sir,' said Mr. Giles, trembling, 'that he's going to die. If I thought it, I should never be happy again. I wouldn't cut a boy off: no, not even Brittles here; not for all the plate in the county, sir.'
'That's not the point,' said the doctor, mysteriously. 'Mr.
Giles, are you a Protestant?'
'Yes, sir, I hope so,' faltered Mr. Giles, who had turned very pale.
'And what are you, boy?' said the doctor, turning sharply upon Brittles.
'Lord bless me, sir!' replied Brittles, starting violently; 'I'm the same as Mr. Giles, sir.'
'Then tell me this,' said the doctor, 'both of you, both of you!
Are you going to take upon yourselves to swear, that that boy upstairs is the boy that was put through the little window last night? Out with it! Come! We are prepared for you!'
The doctor, who was universally considered one of the best-tempered creatures on earth, made this demand in such a dreadful tone of anger, that Giles and Brittles, who were considerably muddled by ale and excitement, stared at each other in a state of stupefaction.
'Pay attention to the reply, constable, will you?' said the doctor, shaking his forefinger with great solemnity of manner, and tapping the bridge of his nose with it, to bespeak the exercise of that worthy's utmost acuteness. 'Something may come of this before long.'
The constable looked as wise as he could, and took up his staff of office: which had been reclining indolently in the chimney-corner.
'It's a simple question of identity, you will observe,' said the doctor.
'That's what it is, sir,' replied the constable, coughing with great violence; for he had finished his ale in a hurry, and some of it had gone the wrong way.
'Here's the house broken into,' said the doctor, 'and a couple of men catch one moment's glimpse of a boy, in the midst of gunpowder smoke, and in all the distraction of alarm and darkness. Here's a boy comes to that very same house, next morning, and because he happens to have his arm tied up, these men lay violent hands upon him-by doing which, they place his life in great danger-and swear he is the thief. Now, the question is, whether these men are justified by the fact; if not, in what situation do they place themselves?'
The constable nodded profoundly. He said, if that wasn't law, he would be glad to know what was.
'I ask you again,' thundered the doctor, 'are you, on your solemn oaths, able to identify that boy?'
Brittles looked doubtfully at Mr. Giles; Mr. Giles looked doubtfully at Brittles; the constable put his hand behind his ear, to catch the reply; the two women and the tinker leaned forward to listen; the doctor glanced keenly round; when a ring was heard at the gate, and at the same moment, the sound of wheels.
'It's the runners!' cried Brittles, to all appearance much relieved.
'The what?' exclaimed the doctor, aghast in his turn.
'The Bow Street officers, sir,' replied Brittles, taking up a candle; 'me and Mr. Giles sent for 'em this morning.'
'What?' cried the doctor.
'Yes,' replied Brittles; 'I sent a message up by the coachman, and I only wonder they weren't here before, sir.'
'You did, did you? Then confound your-slow coaches down here; that's all,' said the doctor, walking away.
INVOLVES A CRITICAL POSITION
'Who's that?' inquired Brittles, opening the door a little way, with the chain up, and peeping out, shading the candle with his hand.
'Open the door,' replied a man outside; 'it's the officers from Bow Street, as was sent to to-day.'
Much comforted by this assurance, Brittles opened the door to its full width, and confronted a portly man in a great-coat; who walked in, without saying anything more, and wiped his shoes on the mat, as coolly as if he lived there.
'Just send somebody out to relieve my mate, will you, young man?' said the officer; 'he's in the gig, a-minding the prad. Have you got a coach 'us here, that you could put it up in, for five or ten minutes?'
Brittles replying in the affirmative, and pointing out the building, the portly man stepped back to the garden-gate, and helped his companion to put up the gig: while Brittles lighted them, in a state of great admiration. This done, they returned to the house, and, being shown into a parlour, took off their great-coats and hats, and showed like what they were.
The man who had knocked at the door, was a stout personage of middle height, aged about fifty: with shiny black hair, cropped pretty close; half-whiskers, a round face, and sharp eyes. The other was a red-headed, bony man, in top-boots; with a rather ill-favoured countenance, and a turned-up sinister-looking nose.
'Tell your governor that Blathers and Duff is here, will you?' said the stouter man, smoothing down his hair, and laying a pair of handcuffs on the table. 'Oh! Good-evening, master. Can I have a word or two with you in private, if you please?'
This was addressed to Mr. Losberne, who now made his appearance; that gentleman, motioning Brittles to retire, brought in the two ladies, and shut the door.
'This is the lady of the house,' said Mr. Losberne, motioning towards Mrs. Maylie.
Mr. Blathers made a bow. Being desired to sit down, he put his hat on the floor, and taking a chair, motioned to Duff to do the same. The latter gentleman, who did not appear quite so much accustomed to good society, or quite so much at his ease in it-one of the two-seated himself, after undergoing several muscular affections of the limbs, and the head of his stick into his mouth, with some embarrassment.
'Now, with regard to this here robbery, master,' said Blathers.
'What are the circumstances?'
Mr. Losberne, who appeared desirous of gaining time, recounted them at great length, and with much circumlocution. Messrs.
Blathers and Duff looked very knowing meanwhile, and occasionally exchanged a nod.
'I can't say, for certain, till I see the work, of course,' said Blathers; 'but my opinion at once is,-I don't mind committing myself to that extent,-that this wasn't done by a yokel; eh, Duff?'
'Certainly not,' replied Duff.
'And, translating the word yokel for the benefit of the ladies, I apprehend your meaning to be, that this attempt was not made by a countryman?' said Mr. Losberne, with a smile.
'That's it, master,' replied Blathers. 'This is all about the robbery, is it?'
'All,' replied the doctor.
'Now, what is this, about this here boy that the servants are a-talking on?' said Blathers.
'Nothing at all,' replied the doctor. 'One of the frightened servants chose to take it into his head, that he had something to do with this attempt to break into the house; but it's nonsense: sheer absurdity.'
'Wery easy disposed of, if it is,' remarked Duff.
'What he says is quite correct,' observed Blathers, nodding his head in a confirmatory way, and playing carelessly with the handcuffs, as if they were a pair of castanets. 'Who is the boy?
What account does he give of himself? Where did he come from?
He didn't drop out of the clouds, did he, master?'
'Of course not,' replied the doctor, with a nervous glance at the two ladies. 'I know his whole history: but we can talk about that presently. You would like, first, to see the place where the thieves made their attempt, I suppose?'
'Certainly,' rejoined Mr. Blathers. 'We had better inspect the premises first, and examine the servants afterwards. That's the usual way of doing business.'
Lights were then procured; and Messrs. Blathers and Duff, attended by the native constable, Brittles, Giles, and everybody else in short, went into the little room at the end of the passage and looked out at the window; and afterwards went round by way of the lawn, and looked in at the window; and after that, had a candle handed out to inspect the shutter with; and after that, a lantern to trace the footsteps with; and after that, a pitchfork to poke the bushes with. This done, amidst the breathless interest of all beholders, they came in again; and Mr.