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Oliver Twist

Chapter 3
For a week after the commission of the impious and profane offence of asking for more,
Oliver remained a close prisoner in the dark and solitary room to which he had been
consigned by the wisdom and mercy of the board. It appears, at first sight not
unreasonable to suppose, that, if he had entertained a becoming feeling of respect for the
prediction of the gentleman in the white waistcoat, he would have established that sage
individual's prophetic character, once and for ever, by tying one end of his pocket-
handkerchief to a hook in the wall, and attaching himself to the other. To the performance
of this feat, however, there was one obstacle: namely, that pocket-handkerchiefs being
decided articles of luxury, had been, for all future times and ages, removed from the
noses of paupers by the express order of the board, in council assembled: solemnly given
and pronounced under their hands and seals. There was a still greater obstacle in Oliver's
youth and childishness. He only cried bitterly all day; and, when the long, dismal night
came on, spread his little hands before his eyes to shut out the darkness, and crouching in
the corner, tried to sleep: ever and anon waking with a start and tremble, and drawing
himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even its cold hard surface were a
protection in the gloom and loneliness which surrounded him.
Let it not be supposed by the enemies of 'the system,' that, during the period of his
solitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society,
or the advantages of religious consolation. As for exercise, it was nice cold weather, and
he was allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard,
in the presence of Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a tingling
sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane. As for society, he
was carried every other day into the hall where the boys dined, and there sociably flogged
as a public warning and example. And so for from being denied the advantages of
religious consolation, he was kicked into the same apartment every evening at prayer-
time, and there permitted to listen to, and console his mind with, a general supplication of
the boys, containing a special clause, therein inserted by authority of the board, in which
they entreated to be made good, virtuous, contented, and obedient, and to be guarded
from the sins and vices of Oliver Twist: whom the supplication distinctly set forth to be
under the exclusive patronage and protection of the powers of wickedness, and an article
direct from the manufactory of the very Devil himself.
It chanced one morning, while Oliver's affairs were in this auspicious and confortable
state, that Mr. Gamfield, chimney-sweep, went his way down the High Street, deeply
cogitating in his mind his ways and means of paying certain arrears of rent, for which his
landlord had become rather pressing. Mr. Gamfield's most sanguine estimate of his
finances could not raise them within full five pounds of the desired amount; and, in a
species of arthimetical desperation, he was alternately cudgelling his brains and his
donkey, when passing the workhouse, his eyes encountered the bill on the gate.