'Wot a rum chap you are, Tom!' said Master Bates, highly amused by this declaration.
'Not a bit of it,' replied Mr. Chitling. 'Am I, Fagin?'
'A very clever fellow, my dear,' said Fagin, patting him on the shoulder, and winking to his other pupils.
'And Mr. Crackit is a heavy swell; an't he, Fagin?' asked Tom.
'No doubt at all of that, my dear.'
'And it is a creditable thing to have his acquaintance; an't it, Fagin?' pursued Tom.
'Very much so, indeed, my dear. They're only jealous, Tom, because he won't give it to them.'
'Ah!' cried Tom, triumphantly, 'that's where it is! He has cleaned me out. But I can go and earn some more, when I like; can't I, Fagin?'
'To be sure you can, and the sooner you go the better, Tom; so make up your loss at once, and don't lose any more time. Dodger!
Charley! It's time you were on the lay. Come! It's near ten, and nothing done yet.'
In obedience to this hint, the boys, nodding to Nancy, took up their hats, and left the room; the Dodger and his vivacious friend indulging, as they went, in many witticisms at the expense of Mr. Chitling; in whose conduct, it is but justice to say, there was nothing very conspicuous or peculiar: inasmuch as there are a great number of spirited young bloods upon town, who pay a much higher price than Mr. Chitling for being seen in good society: and a great number of fine gentlemen (composing the good society aforesaid) who established their reputation upon very much the same footing as flash Toby Crackit.
'Now,' said Fagin, when they had left the room, 'I'll go and get you that cash, Nancy. This is only the key of a little cupboard where I keep a few odd things the boys get, my dear. I never lock up my money, for I've got none to lock up, my dear--ha! ha! ha!--none to lock up. It's a poor trade, Nancy, and no thanks; but I'm fond of seeing the young people about me; and I bear it all, I bear it all. Hush!' he said, hastily concealing the key in his breast; 'who's that? Listen!'
The girl, who was sitting at the table with her arms folded, appeared in no way interested in the arrival: or to care whether the person, whoever he was, came or went: until the murmur of a man's voice reached her ears. The instant she caught the sound, she tore off her bonnet and shawl, with the rapidity of lightning, and thrust them under the table. The Jew, turning round immediately afterwards, she muttered a complaint of the heat: in a tone of languor that contrasted, very remarkably, with the extreme haste and violence of this action: which, however, had been unobserved by Fagin, who had his back towards her at the time.
'Bah!' he whispered, as though nettled by the interruption; 'it's the man I expected before; he's coming downstairs. Not a word about the money while he's here, Nance. He won't stop long. Not ten minutes, my dear.'
Laying his skinny forefinger upon his lip, the Jew carried a candle to the door, as a man's step was heard upon the stairs without. He reached it, at the same moment as the visitor, who, coming hastily into the room, was close upon the girl before he observed her.
It was Monks.
'Only one of my young people,' said Fagin, observing that Monks drew back, on beholding a stranger. 'Don't move, Nancy.'
The girl drew closer to the table, and glancing at Monks with an air of careless levity, withdrew her eyes; but as he turned towards Fagin, she stole another look; so keen and searching, and full of purpose, that if there had been any bystander to observe the change, he could hardly have believed the two looks to have proceeded from the same person.
'Any news?' inquired Fagin.
'And--and--good?' asked Fagin, hesitating as though he feared to vex the other man by being too sanguine.
'Not bad, any way,' replied Monks with a smile. 'I have been prompt enough this time. Let me have a word with you.'
The girl drew closer to the table, and made no offer to leave the room, although she could see that Monks was pointing to her.