Shrinking to the furthest corner of the seat, he demanded to know what they wanted there.
'Steady,' said the turnkey, still holding him down. 'Now, sir, tell him what you want. Quick, if you please, for he grows worse as the time gets on.'
'You have some papers,' said Mr. Brownlow advancing, 'which were placed in your hands, for better security, by a man called Monks.'
'It's all a lie together,' replied Fagin. 'I haven't one--not one.'
'For the love of God,' said Mr. Brownlow solemnly, 'do not say that now, upon the very verge of death; but tell me where they are. You know that Sikes is dead; that Monks has confessed; that there is no hope of any further gain. Where are those papers?'
'Oliver,' cried Fagin, beckoning to him. 'Here, here! Let me whisper to you.'
'I am not afraid,' said Oliver in a low voice, as he relinquished Mr. Brownlow's hand.
'The papers,' said Fagin, drawing Oliver towards him, 'are in a canvas bag, in a hole a little way up the chimney in the top front-room. I want to talk to you, my dear. I want to talk to you.'
'Yes, yes,' returned Oliver. 'Let me say a prayer. Do! Let me say one prayer. Say only one, upon your knees, with me, and we will talk till morning.'
'Outside, outside,' replied Fagin, pushing the boy before him towards the door, and looking vacantly over his head. 'Say I've gone to sleep--they'll believe you. You can get me out, if you take me so. Now then, now then!'
'Oh! God forgive this wretched man!' cried the boy with a burst of tears.
'That's right, that's right,' said Fagin. 'That'll help us on. This door first. If I shake and tremble, as we pass the gallows, don't you mind, but hurry on. Now, now, now!'
'Have you nothing else to ask him, sir?' inquired the turnkey.
'No other question,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'If I hoped we could recall him to a sense of his position--'
'Nothing will do that, sir,' replied the man, shaking his head. 'You had better leave him.'
The door of the cell opened, and the attendants returned.
'Press on, press on,' cried Fagin. 'Softly, but not so slow. Faster, faster!'
The men laid hands upon him, and disengaging Oliver from his grasp, held him back. He struggled with the power of desperation, for an instant; and then sent up cry upon cry that penetrated even those massive walls, and rang in their ears until they reached the open yard.
It was some time before they left the prison. Oliver nearly swooned after this frightful scene, and was so weak that for an hour or more, he had not the strength to walk.
Day was dawning when they again emerged. A great multitude had already assembled; the windows were filled with people, smoking and playing cards to beguile the time; the crowd were pushing, quarrelling, joking. Everything told of life and animation, but one dark cluster of objects in the centre of all--the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death.
The fortunes of those who have figured in this tale are nearly closed. The little that remains to their historian to relate, is told in few and simple words.