Oliver Twist HTML version

Chapter 6
The month's trial over, Oliver was formally apprenticed. It was a nice sickly season just
at this time. In commercial phrase, coffins were looking up; and, in the course of a few
weeks, Oliver acquired a great deal of experience. The success of Mr. Sowerberry's
ingenious speculation, exceeded even his most sanguine hopes. The oldest inhabitants
recollected no period at which measles had been so prevalent, or so fatal to infant
existence; and many were the mournful processions which little Oliver headed, in a hat-
band reaching down to his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the
mothers in the town. As Oliver accompanied his master in most of his adult expeditions
too, in order that he might acquire that equanimity of demeanour and full command of
nerve which was essential to a finished undertaker, he had many opportunities of
observing the beautiful resignation and fortitude with which some strong-minded people
bear their trials and losses.
For instance; when Sowerberry had an order for the burial of some rich old lady or
gentleman, who was surrounded by a great number of nephews and nieces, who had been
perfectly inconsolable during the previous illness, and whose grief had been wholly
irrepressible even on the most public occasions, they would be as happy among
themselves as need be--quite cheerful and contented--conversing together with as much
freedom and gaiety, as if nothing whatever had happened to disturb them. Husbands, too,
bore the loss of their wives with the most heroic calmness. Wives, again, put on weeds
for their husbands, as if, so far from grieving in the garb of sorrow, they had made up
their minds to render it as becoming and attractive as possible. It was observable, too, that
ladies and gentlemen who were in passions of anguish during the ceremony of interment,
recovered almost as soon as they reached home, and became quite composed before the
tea-drinking was over. All this was very pleasant and improving to see; and Oliver beheld
it with great admiration.
That Oliver Twist was moved to resignation by the example of these good people, I
cannot, although I am his biographer, undertake to affirm with any degree of confidence;
but I can most distinctly say, that for many months he continued meekly to submit to the
domination and ill-treatment of Noah Claypole: who used him far worse than before, now
that his jealousy was roused by seeing the new boy promoted to the black stick and
hatband, while he, the old one, remained stationary in the muffin-cap and leathers.
Charlotte treated him ill, because Noah did; and Mrs. Sowerberry was his decided enemy,
because Mr. Sowerberry was disposed to be his friend; so, between these three on one
side, and a glut of funerals on the other, Oliver was not altogether as comfortable as the
hungry pig was, when he was shut up, by mistake, in the grain department of a brewery.
And now, I come to a very important passage in Oliver's history; for I have to record an
act, slight and unimportant perhaps in appearance, but which indirectly produced a
material change in all his future prospects and proceedings.