Oliver Twist HTML version

Chapter 37
Mr. Bumble sat in the workhouse parlour, with his eyes moodily fixed on the cheerless
grate, whence, as it was summer time, no brighter gleam proceeded, than the reflection of
certain sickly rays of the sun, which were sent back from its cold and shining surface. A
paper fly-cage dangled from the ceiling, to which he occasionally raised his eyes in
gloomy thought; and, as the heedless insects hovered round the gaudy net-work, Mr.
Bumble would heave a deep sigh, while a more gloomy shadow overspread his
countenance. Mr. Bumble was meditating; it might be that the insects brought to mind,
some painful passage in his own past life.
Nor was Mr. Bumble's gloom the only thing calculated to awaken a pleasing melancholy
in the bosom of a spectator. There were not wanting other appearances, and those closely
connected with his own person, which announced that a great change had taken place in
the position of his affairs. The laced coat, and the cocked hat; where were they? He still
wore knee-breeches, and dark cotton stockings on his nether limbs; but they were not
THE breeches. The coat was wide-skirted; and in that respect like THE coat, but, oh how
different! The mighty cocked hat was replaced by a modest round one. Mr. Bumble was
no longer a beadle.
There are some promotions in life, which, independent of the more substantial rewards
they offer, require peculiar value and dignity from the coats and waistcoats connected
with them. A field-marshal has his uniform; a bishop his silk apron; a counsellor his silk
gown; a beadle his cocked hat. Strip the bishop of his apron, or the beadle of his hat and
lace; what are they? Men. Mere men. Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are
more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine.
Mr. Bumle had married Mrs. Corney, and was master of the workhouse. Another beadle
had come into power. On him the cocked hat, gold-laced coat, and staff, had all three
'And to-morrow two months it was done!' said Mr. Bumble, with a sigh. 'It seems a age.'
Mr. Bumble might have meant that he had concentrated a whole existence of happiness
into the short space of eight weeks; but the sigh--there was a vast deal of meaning in the
'I sold myself,' said Mr. Bumble, pursuing the same train of relection, 'for six teaspoons, a
pair of sugar-tongs, and a milk-pot; with a small quantity of second-hand furniture, and
twenty pound in money. I went very reasonable. Cheap, dirt cheap!'
'Cheap!' cried a shrill voice in Mr. Bumble's ear: 'you would have been dear at any price;
and dear enough I paid for you, Lord above knows that!'