Chapters 21–25 Summary
Oliver and Sikes travel through harsh conditions of rain and wind as they walk the streets of London. They pass through a crowded portion of town during a “market-morning,” and Oliver feels overwhelmed by the activity and by Sikes’s brisk pace. They hire a cart to take them part of the way, and Sikes calls Oliver “Ned” when he helps the boy into the vehicle. They pass several villages before stopping at a pub where they eat dinner. Sikes strikes up a conversation with a fellow drinker, and the man agrees to let them ride with him to the next destination. Once the cart stops and lets them off, they continue to walk through a threatening scene that frightens Oliver. He suspects that Sikes has brought him here to murder him, but instead they enter a dilapidated old house.
Toby yells a greeting when they enter the house, and he orders Barney to meet them in the hallway. Sikes brings Oliver in to introduce him to their co-conspirators. As other characters have done, Toby remarks that Oliver’s face is an asset to him in his thievery, because he looks so innocent. Sikes orders Oliver to rest because they will be waking him up later in the night to help with the robbery. Toby, Barney, and Sikes make sure they have all of the necessary equipment for their mission and prepare Oliver to head out to the house.
The party reaches the target, and Toby tells Oliver that they will hoist him up through a small window. At this point, Oliver finally realizes that he is part of a robbery. He begs them not to involve him in this crime, but they refuse his plea. Oliver is put through the window, and he is then directed to go down to the front door and open it for his companions. Sikes points the gun at him to remind him if he deters from the plan, he will be shot. Oliver, scared, hears a shout and drops his lantern. This draws the attention of the house’s occupants, and shots are fired between the thieves and the inhabitants. Oliver has been shot in the arm and loses consciousness as he is carried away by the robbers in their flight.
The narrative shifts to a scene in Mrs. Corney’s house. She is the matron of Oliver’s former workhouse and is visited by Bumble while making tea. Mrs. Corney struggles with her teapot and laments the loss of her husband many years ago; she is apparently lonely, so she welcomes the visit of the parish beadle. The two converse about how ungrateful the poor are, commiserating that when you give them something, they always want more. Bumble asks to stay for tea and the matron obliges. The two seem to be flirting and move their chairs closer together to talk. Bumble goes so far as to put his arm around Mrs. Corney’s waist before they are interrupted. An old, poor lady comes in to tell Mrs. Corney that a woman named Sally is about to die and wants to impart some information to the matron before she does. Mrs. Corney curses, feeling inconvenienced by this request, but she leaves to visit Sally. Left alone, Bumble looks around Mrs. Corney’s kitchen and counts her furniture and belongings.
Sally is described as being very old and decrepit, but her face takes on a sort of childish innocence as she awaits death. A young apprentice...
(The entire section is 903 words.)