'Come near the fire, Noah,' said Charlotte. 'I saved a nicelittle bit of bacon for you from master's breakfast. Oliver,shut that door at Mister Noah's back, and take them bits thatI've put out on the cover of the bread-pan. There's your tea;take it away to that box, and drink it there, and make haste, forthey'll want you to mind the shop. D'ye hear?'。， 'Pull that cap off your eyes, and hold up your head, sir.'
。， 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.
As the atrocity presented itself to Mr. Bumble's mind in fullforce, he struck the counter sharply with his cane, and becameflushed with indignation.。， The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, inhis cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauperassistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was servedout; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The grueldisappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver;while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he wasdesperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose fromthe table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand,said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:
Mr. Bumble had been despatched to make various preliminaryinquiries, with the view of finding out some captain or other whowanted a cabin-boy without any friends; and was returning to theworkhouse to communicate the result of his mission; when heencountered at the gate, no less a person than Mr. Sowerberry,the parochial undertaker.。，
。， 'No, I will not, sir,' replied the beadle. And the cocked hatand cane having been, by this time, adjusted to their owner'ssatisfaction, Mr. Bumble and Noah Claypole betook themselves withall speed to the undertaker's shop.
， Oliver's colour rose as he said this; he breathed quickly; andthere was a curious working of the mouth and nostrils, which Mr.Claypole thought must be the immediate precursor of a violent fitof crying. Under this impression he returned to the charge.。， 'Now, Oliver, my dear, come to the gentleman.' As Mr. Bumblesaid this, he put on a grim and threatening look, and added, in alow voice, 'Mind what I told you, you young rascal!'