Brownlow and Oliver appeared at the wicket, and presented an order of admission to the prisoner, signed by one of the sheriffs. They were immediately admitted into the lodge.
'Is the young gentleman to come too, sir?' said the man whose duty it was to conduct them. 'It's not a sight for children, sir.'
'It is not indeed, my friend,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but my business with this man is intimately connected with him; and as this child has seen him in the full career of his success and villainy, I think it as well--even at the cost of some pain and fear--that he should see him now.'
These few words had been said apart, so as to be inaudible to Oliver. The man touched his hat; and glancing at Oliver with some curiousity, opened another gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and led them on, through dark and winding ways, towards the cells.
'This,' said the man, stopping in a gloomy passage where a couple of workmen were making some preparations in profound silence--'this is the place he passes through. If you step this way, you can see the door he goes out at.'
He led them into a stone kitchen, fitted with coppers for dressing the prison food, and pointed to a door. There was an open grating above it, through which came the sound of men's voices, mingled with the noise of hammering, and the throwing down of boards. There were putting up the scaffold.
From this place, they passed through several strong gates, opened by other turnkeys from the inner side; and, having entered an open yard, ascended a flight of narrow steps, and came into a passage with a row of strong doors on the left hand. Motioning them to remain where they were, the turnkey knocked at one of these with his bunch of keys. The two attendants, after a little whispering, came out into the passage, stretching themselves as if glad of the temporary relief, and motioned the visitors to follow the jailer into the cell. They did so.
The condemned criminal was seated on his bed, rocking himself from side to side, with a countenance more like that of a snared beast than the face of a man. His mind was evidently wandering to his old life, for he continued to mutter, without appearing conscious of their presence otherwise than as a part of his vision.
'Good boy, Charley--well done--' he mumbled. 'Oliver, too, ha! ha! ha! Oliver too--quite the gentleman now--quite the--take that boy away to bed!'
The jailer took the disengaged hand of Oliver; and, whispering him not to be alarmed, looked on without speaking.
'Take him away to bed!' cried Fagin. 'Do you hear me, some of you? He has been the--the--somehow the cause of all this. It's worth the money to bring him up to it--Bolter's throat, Bill; never mind the girl--Bolter's throat as deep as you can cut. Saw his head off!'
'Fagin,' said the jailer.
'That's me!' cried the Jew, falling instantly, into the attitude of listening he had assumed upon his trial. 'An old man, my Lord; a very old, old man!'
'Here,' said the turnkey, laying his hand upon his breast to keep him down. 'Here's somebody wants to see you, to ask you some questions, I suppose. Fagin, Fagin! Are you a man?'
'I shan't be one long,' he replied, looking up with a face retaining no human expression but rage and terror. 'Strike them all dead! What right have they to butcher me?'
As he spoke he caught sight of Oliver and Mr. Brownlow.