。， Oliver was frightened at the sight of so many gentlemen, whichmade him tremble: and the beadle gave him another tap behind,which made him cry. These two causes made him answer in a verylow and hesitating voice; whereupon a gentleman in a whitewaistcoat said he was a fool. Which was a capital way of raisinghis spirits, and putting him quite at his ease.
Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair andtable; seized Noah by the throat; shook him, in the violence ofhis rage, till his teeth chattered in his head; and collectinghis whole force into one heavy blow, felled him to the ground.。，
'It's a lie!' said Oliver.。， The members of this board were very sage, deep, philosophicalmen; and when they came to turn their attention to the workhouse,they found out at once, what ordinary folks would nver havediscovered--the poor people liked it! It was a regular place ofpublic entertainment for the poorer classes; a tavern where therewas nothing to pay; a public breakfast, dinner, tea, and supperall the year round; a brick and mortar elysium, where it was allplay and no work. 'Oho!' said the board, looking very knowing;'we are the fellows to set this to rights; we'll stop it all, inno time.' So, they established the rule, that all poor peopleshould have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, notthey), of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or bya quick one out of it. With this view, they contracted with thewater-works to lay on an unlimited supply of water; and with acorn-factor to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal;and issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice aweek, and half a roll of Sundays. They made a great many otherwise and humane regulations, having reference to the ladies,which it is not necessary to repeat; kindly undertook to divorcepoor married people, in consequence of the great expense of asuit in Doctors' Commons; and, instead of compelling a man tosupport his family, as they had theretofore done, took his familyaway from him, and made him a bachelor! There is no saying howmany applicants for relief, under these last two heads, mighthave started up in all classes of society, if it had not beencoupled with the workhouse; but the board were long-headed men,and had provided for this difficulty. The relief was inseparablefrom the workhouse and the gruel; and that frightened people.
Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was anorphan, left to the tender mercies of church-wardens andoverseers, perhaps he would have cried the louder.。， Mr. Gamfield gave an arch look at the faces round the table, and,observing a smile on all of them, gradually broke into a smilehimself. The bargain was made. Mr. Bumble, was at onceinstructed that Oliver Twist and his indentures were to beconveyed before the magistrate, for signature and approval, thatvery afternoon.
'Oh, don't tell me what you were going to say,' interposed Mrs.Sowerberry. 'I am nobody; don't consult me, pray. _I_ don'twant to intrude upon your secrets.' As Mrs. Sowerberry saidthis, she gave an hysterical laugh, which threatened violentconsequences.。，
。， 'Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have,sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on 'em deadexcept two, and them in the wurkus with me, she'll know betterthan to take on in that way, bless her dear heart! Think what itis to be a mother, there's a dear young lamb do.'
'Yes, sir,' replied Noah. 'And please, sir, missis wants to knowwhether Mr. Bumble can spare time to step up there, directly, andflog him-- 'cause master's out.'。， 'Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now,' saidanother gentleman.
'Now, Bill!' said Sowerberry to the grave-digger. 'Fill up!'。， An answer so different from the one he had expected to elicit,and was in the habit of receiving, staggered Mr. Bumble not alittle. He stepped back from the keyhole; drew himself up to hisfull height; and looked from one to another of the threebystanders, in mute astonishment.
， 'Bless him!' interposed Mrs. Mann, inflaming her left eye withthe corner of her apron.。， This seemed to be some watchword or signal that all was right;for the light of a feeble candle gleamed on the wall at theremote end of the passage; and a man's face peeped out, fromwhere a balustrade of the old kitchen staircase had been brokenaway.