Excerpt from Chapter 10
The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with
a powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a bottle-green
coat with a black velvet collar; wore white trousers; and carried a
smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had taken up a book from the stall,
and there he stood, reading away, as hard as if he were in his
elbow-chair, in his own study. It is very possible that he fancied
himself there, indeed; for it was plain, from his abstraction, that he
saw not the book-stall, nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short,
anything but the book itself: which he was reading straight through:
turning over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at
the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the greatest
interest and eagerness.
What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces
off, looking on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly
go, to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's pocket,
and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the same to
Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both, running away round the
corner at full speed.
In an instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs, and
the watches, and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind.
He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all his
veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then,
confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and, not knowing what he
did, made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground.
This was all done in a minute's space. In the very instant
when Oliver began to run, the old gentleman, putting his hand to his
pocket, and missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round. Seeing the
boy scudding away at such a rapid pace, he very naturally concluded him
to be the depredator; and, shouting "Stop thief!" with all his might,
made off after him, book in hand.
But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised
the hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract
public attention by running down the open street, had merely retired
into the very first doorway round the corner. They no sooner heard the
cry, and saw Oliver running, than, guessing exactly how the matter
stood, they issued forth with great promptitude; and, shouting "Stop
thief!" too, joined in the pursuit like good citizens.
Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophers, he
was not theoretically acquainted with the beautiful axiom that
self-preservation is the first law of nature. If he had been, perhaps
he would have been prepared for this. Not being prepared, however, it
alarmed him the more; so away he went like the wind, with the old
gentleman and the two boys roaring and shouting behind him.
"Stop thief! Stop thief!" There is a magic in the sound.
The tradesman leaves his counter, and the carman his waggon; the
butcher throws down his tray; the baker his basket; the milkman his
pail; the errand-boy his parcels; the schoolboy his marbles; the
paviour his pickaxe; the child his battledore. Away they run,
pell-mell, helter-skelter, slap-dash: tearing, yelling, screaming,
knocking down the passengers as they turn the corners, rousing up the
dogs, and astonishing the fowls: and streets, squares, and courts,
re-echo with the sound.
"Stop thief! Stop thief!" The cry is taken up by a hundred
voices, and the crowd accumulate at every turning. Away they fly,
splashing through the mud, and rattling along the pavements: up go the
windows, out run the people, onward bear the mob, a whole audience
desert Punch in the very thickest of the plot, and, joining the rushing
throng, swell the shout, and lend fresh vigour to the cry, "Stop thief!
"Stop thief! Stop thief!" There is a passion for hunting
something deeply implanted in the human breast. One wretched breathless
child, panting with exhaustion; terror in his looks; agony in his eyes;
large drops of perspiration streaming down his face; strains every
nerve to make head upon his pursuers; and as they follow on his track,
and gain upon him every instant, they hail his decreasing strength with
still louder shouts, and whoop and scream with joy. "Stop thief!" Ay,
stop him for God's sake, were it only in mercy! Stopped at last! A
clever blow. He is down upon the pavement.
elbow : coude; eagerness : avidité, enthousiasme; pace : pas;
thence : old form of there; behold : voir; tingle : fourmiller; heel :
talon; scud : filer; hue and cry : à cor et à cri;
try : plateau; battledore: raquette; fowl : volaille; helter-skelter :
en bousculade; slap-dash : en désordre; mud : boue; mob, throng,
crowd : foule, audience : le public; Punch : Guignol (spectacle) ;
swell : enfler; breast : la poitrine (ici , le coeur); wretched :
infortuné; strain: tender (v); hail : la grèle (n); mercy
: pitié .
A déduire des images et du contexte :
stall, elbow-chair, study, fancy (v) , leaf, handkerchief, issued
forth, pail, marble, splash (v), panting, drop (n), stream (v), make
head, hail (v), blow.