But the old gentleman could recall no one countenance of which Oliver's features bore a trace. So, he heaved a sigh over the recollections he had awakened; and being, happily for himself, an absent old gentleman, buried them again in the pages of the musty book.
He was roused by a touch on the shoulder, and a request from the man with the keys to follow him into the office. He closed his book hastily; and was at once ushered into the imposing presence of the renowned Mr. Fang.
The office was a front parlour, with a panelled wall. Mr. Fang sat behind a bar, at the upper end; and on one side the door was a sort of wooden pen in which poor little Oliver was already deposited: trembling very much at the awfulness of the scene.
Mr. Fang was a lean, long-backed, stiff-necked, middle-sized man, with no great quantity of hair, and what he had, growing on the back and sides of his head. His face was stern, and much flushed. If he were really not in the habit of drinking rather more than was exactly good for him, he might have brought an action against his countenance for libel, and have recovered heavy damages.
The old gentleman bowed respectfully; and advancing to the magistrate's desk, said, suiting the action to the word, That is my name and address, sir. He then withdrew a pace or two; and with another polite and gentlemanly inclination of the head, waited to be questioned.
Now, it so happened that Mr. Fang was at that moment perusing a leading article in a newspaper of the morning, adverting to some recent decision of his, and commending him, for the three hundred and fiftieth time, to the special and particular notice of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He was out of temper; and he looked up with an angry scowl.
Who are you? said Mr. Fang.
The old gentleman pointed, with some surprise, to his card.
Officer! said Mr. Fang, tossing the card contemptuously away with the newspaper. Who is this fellow?
My name, sir, said the old gentleman, speaking like a gentleman, my name, sir, is Brownlow. Permit me to inquire the name of the magistrate who offers a gratuitous and unprovoked insult to a respectable person, under the protection of the bench. Saying this, Mr. Brownlow looked round the office as if in search of some person who would afford him the required information.
Officer! said Mr. Fang, throwing the paper on one side, what's this fellow charged with?
He's not charged at all, your worship, replied the officer. He appears against the boy, your worship.
His worship knew this perfectly well; but it was a good annoyance, and a safe one.
Appears against the boy, does he? said Fang, surveying Mr. Brownlow contemptuously from head to foot. Swear him!
Before I am sworn, I must beg to say one word, said Mr. Brownlow: and that is, that I really never, without actual experience, could have believed
Hold your tongue, sir! said Mr. Fang, peremptorily.
I will not. sir! replied the old gentleman.
Hold your tongue this instant, or I'll have you turned out of the office! said Mr. Fang. You're an insolent, impertinent fellow. How dare you bully a magistrate!
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