Last Updated on April 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1238
Fagin rushes through the backstreets to Saffron Hill, an area where he is well known because his boys’ stolen wares are sold there. He asks if Sikes is at the Three Cripples pub, but no one has seen him. Fagin proceeds to the pub but does not find Sikes there. The occupants of the pub are described, and the narrator observes how drunkenness impairs people’s behavior. The way women are tainted in this kind of environment is said to be especially sad. Fagin talks to the landlord of the place, who has seen neither Sikes nor Barney; he adds that they won’t be seen “till it’s all safe.” Fagin asks the landlord to tell Sikes he was looking for him and to come visit him tomorrow.
Fagin then goes over to Sikes’s apartment, where he finds a drunken Nancy. He tells her what has become of Oliver, to which she replies that he is better off dead than among these criminals. Fagin reveals that Oliver is a valuable asset to him, “worth hundreds of pounds,” and Nancy reiterates that she hopes Oliver is dead. Fagin heads back to his own “den,” and as he unlocks the door, a man sneaks up on him. The man is Mr. Monks, and he appears to be someone Fagin answers to. Even though the conversation’s details are not recounted, the narrator observes that “Fagin appeared to be defending himself.”
Monks says the robbery was poorly planned, and Fagin relates that Oliver was not naturally inclined to thieving. Fagin remarks that he needs to be able to scare a boy in order to train him, but he doesn’t seem to have that power over Oliver. Fagin insists that he will try from now on to convert Oliver into a robber. Monks claims to see a woman’s shadow and is very disturbed, but Fagin says it can’t have been anyone, as the boys are all in other parts of the house. Monks dismisses his concern about the shadow, realizes it is getting late, and leaves Fagin’s abode.
The narrative returns to the beadle, Mr. Bumble, who awaits Mrs. Corney’s return. He continues to look around her house, even peeking into her dresser. Mrs. Corney returns, upset and complaining of how “put out” she has been by the dead woman. The two decide to drink an alcoholic peppermint beverage to help Mrs. Corney relax. Bumble begins to hint that maybe the matron would like someone to share her space, and he calls her an angel and kisses her nose. Bumble proposes, and they decide to marry.
Bumble reflects on what it will be like to be master of a workhouse. He passes by the Sowerberry shop to give the undertaker a coffin order, and he sees Noah and Charlotte through the window. Charlotte is feeding Noah oysters, and he is drunk and has his feet up as though he is master of the place. Bumble is offended at their behavior and storms in when Noah tells Charlotte to come over so he can kiss her. Bumble orders Noah to close the shop and sends Charlotte to the basement. The narrator says the story will next return to Oliver in the ditch.
The narrative picks up where it left off in chapter 22, when Sikes and the other robbers were fleeing the house. The men and dogs are chasing Sikes and Toby, and Sikes attempts to haul the injured Oliver as they flee. Eventually, Sikes decides he must leave the boy if he himself wants to survive. He lays Oliver in a ditch and covers him before running for his life. Mr. Giles and Brittles, two servants from the house, stop the chase and call the dogs back. They reflect on the events that have just occurred, remarking everyone was afraid. Giles says he was so upset he could have murdered someone, and they all decide the only thing that stopped their pursuit was having to climb the gate.
Meanwhile, Oliver remains unconscious in the ditch for some time until he realizes he must get up and try to move or else submit to death. As he struggles to walk, he remembers recent events and seems to be hallucinating that his co-conspirators are present. Oliver approaches the house he and the others had tried to rob. He is afraid but has no choice: he must ask for help at the house. Giles and Brittles sit in the kitchen relaying the night’s events to the other housekeepers when they hear a knock on the door. They are nervous to open the door and make sure to intimidate the outsider by making a great noise. Giles opens the door to see only a boy: Oliver. Giles recognizes the boy as the young thief he shot the night before. Brittles sends for a doctor and constable—first to help Oliver recover and then to report his crime. A young lady in the house sees Oliver in his battered state and begs the men to treat him gently. Giles carries the boy upstairs in accordance with the lady’s wishes.
Two ladies are introduced as the women of the house: Miss Rose and Mrs. Maylie. The younger woman is described as a pure, perfect angel. The elder lady asks Giles how long Brittles has been on his errand, and he replies that it has been over an hour. Finally, the doctor arrives and greets Mrs. Maylie with comments on how shocked he is about the previous night’s botched robbery. Rose tells Doctor Losberne he must visit the injured boy upstairs, and he goes up to see his patient. The doctor acknowledges that Giles shot the injured party, and Giles feels that he is being teased. The doctor believes the boy will recover. Giles, who had been previously reluctant to admit he shot a child, acknowledges that the injured criminal is a mere boy, and the doctor assures the ladies they need not fear him.
Rose and Mrs. Maylie are led into Oliver’s sick room, and Rose is brought to tears by his appearance. Mrs. Maylie has trouble believing this child could have been apprenticed by robbers. Similarly, Rose thinks the boy looks too young and innocent to have been corrupted by criminals. She feels sympathy even if he is a criminal, because he is so young and may have never been cared for or treated well. The doctor says he will try to talk Giles and Brittles out of reporting the boy to the constable for the ladies’ sake. The doctor also tells them they should wait until Oliver is strong enough to give an account of his background and of the robbery before they press further with a legal case.
Once Oliver is able to tell his story, even the doctor is moved to tears by his pathetic life. Dr. Losberne attempts to make Giles and Brittles doubt their identification of Oliver as the robber, and they seem to be confused. They are willing to admit to being unsure of Oliver’s guilt when the Bow Street policemen arrive. The servants called for the officers that morning, and the doctor is frustrated that they have come so late. After all, he has seemingly just convinced the men not to reveal Oliver’s identity as the robber.
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