Yes, sir, replied Noah. And please, sir, missis wants to know whether Mr. Bumble can spare time to step up there, directly, and flog him 'cause master's out.
Certainly, my boy; certainly, said the gentleman in the white waistcoat: smiling benignly, and patting Noah's head, which was about three inches higher than his own. You're a good boy a very good boy. Here's a penny for you. Bumble, just step up to Sowerberry's with your cane, and see what's best to be done. Don't spare him, Bumble.
No, I will not, sir, replied the beadle: adjusting the wax-end which was twisted round the bottom of his cane, for purposes of parochial flagellation.
Tell Sowerberry not to spare him either. They'll never do anything with him, without stripes and bruises, said the gentleman in the white waistcoat.
I'll take care, sir, replied the beadle. And the cocked hat and cane having been, by this time, adjusted to their owner's satisfaction, Mr. Bumble and Noah Claypole betook themselves with all speed to the undertaker's shop.
Here the position of affairs had not at all improved. Sowerberry had not yet returned, and Oliver continued to kick, with undiminished vigour, at the cellar-door. The accounts of his ferocity, as related by Mrs. Sowerberry and Charlotte, were of so startling a nature, that Mr. Bumble judged it prudent to parley, before opening the door. With this view he gave a kick at the outside, by way of prelude; and, then, applying his mouth to the keyhole, said, in a deep and impressive tone:
Come; you let me out! replied Oliver, from the inside.
Do you know this here voice, Oliver? said Mr. Bumble.
Yes, replied Oliver.
Ain't you afraid of it, sir? Ain't you a-trembling while I speak, sir? said Mr. Bumble.
No! replied Oliver, boldly.
An answer so different from the one he had expected to elicit, and was in the habit of receiving, staggered Mr. Bumble not a little. He stepped back from the keyhole; drew himself up to his full height; and looked from one to another of the three by-standers, in mute astonishment.
Oh, you know, Mr. Bumble, he must be mad, said Mrs. Sowerberry. No boy in half his senses could venture to speak so to you.
It's not Madness, ma'am, replied Mr. Bumble, after a few moments of deep meditation. It's Meat.
What? exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.
Meat, ma'am, meat, replied Bumble, with stern emphasis. You've over-fed him, ma'am. You've raised a artificial soul and spirit in him, ma'am, unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs. Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It's quite enough that we let 'em have live bodies. If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma'am, this would never have happened.
Dear, dear! ejaculated Mrs. Sowerberry, piously raising her eyes to the kitchen ceiling: this comes of being liberal!
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