Oliver did as the old lady bade him; and, although she lamented grievously, meanwhile, that there was not even time to crimp the little frill that bordered his shirt-collar; he looked so delicate and handsome, despite that important personal advantage, that she went so far as to say: looking at him with great complacency from head to foot, that she really didn't think it would have been possible, on the longest notice, to have made much difference in him for the better.
Thus encouraged, Oliver tapped at the study door. On Mr. Brownlow calling to him to come in, he found himself in a little back room, quite full of books, with a window, looking into some pleasant little gardens. There was a table drawn up before the window, at which Mr. Brownlow was seated reading. When he saw Oliver, he pushed the book away from him, and told him to come near the table, and sit down. Oliver complied; marvelling where the people could be found to read such a great number of books as seemed to be written to make the world wiser. Which is still a marvel to more experienced people than Oliver Twist, every day of their lives.
There are a good many books, are there not, my boy? said Mr. Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling.
A great number, sir, replied Oliver. I never saw so many.
You shall read them, if you behave well, said the old gentleman kindly; and you will like that, better than looking at the outsides, that is, in some cases; because there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.
I suppose they are those heavy ones, sir, said Oliver, pointing to some large quartos, with a good deal of gilding about the binding.
Not always those, said the old gentleman, patting Oliver on the head, and smiling as he did so; there are other equally heavy ones, though of a much smaller size. How should you like to grow up a clever man, and write books, eh?
I think I would rather read them, sir, replied Oliver.
What! wouldn't you like to be a book-writer? said the old gentleman.
Oliver considered a little while; and at last said, he should think it would be a much better thing to be a book-seller; upon which the old gentleman laughed heartily, and declared he had said a very good thing. Which Oliver felt glad to have done, though he by no means knew what it was.
Well, well, said the old gentleman, composing his features. Don't be afraid! We won't make an author of you, while there's an honest trade to be learnt, or brick-making to turn to.
Thank you, sir, said Oliver. At the earnest manner of his reply, the old gentleman laughed again; and said something about a curious instinct, which Oliver, not understanding, paid no very great attention to.
Now, said Mr. Brownlow, speaking if possible in a kinder, but at the same time in a much more serious manner, than Oliver had ever known him assume yet, I want you to pay great attention, my boy, to what I am going to say. I shall talk to you without any reserve; because I am sure you are as well able to understand me, as many older persons would be.
Oh, don't tell me you are going to send me away, sir, pray! exclaimed Oliver, alarmed at the serious tone of the old gentleman's commencement! Don't turn me out of doors to wander in the streets again. Let me stay here, and be a servant. Don't send me back to the wretched place I came from. Have mercy upon a poor boy, sir!
My dear child, said the old gentleman, moved by the warmth of Oliver's sudden appeal; you need not be afraid of my deserting you, unless you give me cause.
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