by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Chapter 38 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 38
"Containing an Account of What Passed Between Mr. And Mrs. Bumble and Monks at their Nocturnal Interview"
- Mr. and Mrs. Bumble are walking along the river to get to a little "colony of ruinous houses" (38.1), scattered by the bank.
- They arrive at the agreed-upon house, and Mr. Bumble hesitates slightly.
- A man appears at an upper window, and calls to them that he’ll come down to meet them.
- Mrs. Bumble warns Mr. Bumble not to say too much.
- Monks appears at the door and calls them inside.
- He asks Mr. Bumble if the lady with him is the woman who had spoken with old Sally, and Mr. Bumble replies that it is.
- They start to climb up a ladder to the second floor, when a sudden crack of thunder shakes the building.
- Monks’s face distorts, and goes blank—he excuses it to Mr. Bumble by saying that it’s a fit that the thunder sometimes brings on. (In actual fact, Dickens intends Monks to have symptoms of epilepsy, although, medically speaking, he’s kind of off.)
- They climb the ladder, and sit down at a table with three chairs.
- Monks asks what old Sally had to say to her the night she died, and Mrs. Bumble cuts him off, asking what the information was worth to him.
- After some back-and-forth (Mrs. Bumble drives a hard bargain), Monks agrees to pay twenty-five pounds in gold (as opposed to in banknotes) for the information, even though he doesn’t yet know what it is.
- Mrs. Bumble leans across the table and tells Monks (and Mr. Bumble, who didn’t know the secret before this) what old Sally had confessed to her:
- She was alone with old Sally when she died, and Sally told her that when Oliver’s mother had died, she had robbed the corpse, and had sold the jewel, although Oliver’s mother had begged her to keep it for the sake of the baby.
- And then old Sally had died, without telling Mrs. Bumble where, when, or to whom she had sold it. Or even what it was, other than gold.
- But old Sally had a slip of paper in her hand when she died: a note from a pawnbroker.
- Apparently Sally had sold the jewelry to the pawnbroker, but had scraped together the interest each year so that the pawnbroker would keep it for her, rather than sell it off.
- (Monks is very eager to know where the articles are now.)
- Mrs. Bumble had taken the note, and had redeemed the things from the pawnbroker, and puts them on the table in a little bag.
- The bag contains a gold locket, with two locks of hair inside, and a little gold wedding ring, with the name "Agnes" inscribed inside, along with the date (within a year before Oliver’s birth), but no last name.
- Monks seems relieved.
- Mrs. Bumble wants to know whether what she’s told him can be used against her. Monks says no, and then rapidly opens a trapdoor in the floor just in front of them.
- He says that if he had wanted to, he could have opened it while they were over it (and it drops straight down into the rushing river—the house extends that far over the stream). But fortunately for them, he didn’t want to.
- Then, with the Bumbles as his witnesses, Monks ties a weight to the bag with the jewelry and drops it into the stream below.
- After various threatening remarks to make sure they aren’t planning to tell anyone about what they’ve seen or heard, Monks shows the Bumbles down the ladder and out of the house.
- As soon as they’re gone, Monks calls a servant boy to go upstairs with him, since apparently he hates being alone.
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 38