by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Chapter 46 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 46
"The Appointment Kept"
- It’s 11:45 at night, and two people are walking on London Bridge.
- One of them is a woman, who looks as though she’s expecting to meet someone.
- The other is a man, who is following the woman, and keeping pace with her—stopping when she stops, and starting again when she moves.
- She almost sees him when she doubles back, but he avoids her by hiding in the shadows.
- Just after the clock has struck midnight, a coach stops at the end of the bridge.
- A young woman and an older gentleman climb out, and walk towards the bridge.
- Nancy hurries to meet them.
- They start to talk, but Nancy urges them to step off of the main road, and points to some steps nearby.
- The steps go down to the river from the end of the bridge—the bottom two or three steps are wider, and extend beyond the pier at the end of the bridge.
- Noah (since he was the man following her, obviously) hurries down the steps before they get there, and hides himself on the bottom step, around the corner of the pier, so that he can overhear anything people say on the steps without being seen. If you’re confused about this setup, just check out the Cruikshank illustration to this scene.
- The gentleman and the young lady follow Nancy down the steps, and Noah can hear every word they say.
- Nancy is saying that she’s been afraid all day, and can’t stop thinking about death.
- She even imagined coffins passing her in the streets.
- The gentleman tries to assure her that it was just her imagination, but Nancy’s looks are giving him the creeps.
- They ask Nancy why she didn’t come the week before.
- Nancy explains that she was kept by force—by Bill, the man she had told the young lady of before —and that she had only been able to get out to see the lady the first time because she’d drugged him with laudanum.
- She reassures them that none of Fagin’s gang suspects her, or knows that she’s been in communication with them.
- The gentleman tells her that they trust her, but that if they aren’t able to get the secret of Oliver’s birth out of Monks, they want her to betray Fagin to the police, so that they can get the secret out of him.
- Nancy refuses—even though Fagin is the one who corrupted her, she won’t betray him, because that’s the one rule in their gang.
- And besides, she adds—the young lady promised.
- Then they tell her that if she will only tell them where they can get their hands on Monks, the rest of the gang is off the hook.
- She believes them, and explains where and when Monks can be found. She describes the location of the "Three Cripples" pub in great detail, and then describes Monks. He’s pretty easy to pick out: he’s tall and strong, and has "a lurking walk, and […] constantly looks over his shoulder, first on one side and then on the other […] His face is dark, like his hair and eyes, but, although he can’t be more than six or eight and twenty, withered and haggard. His lips are often disfigured with the marks of teeth, for he has desperate fits, and sometimes even bites his hands and covers them with wounds" (46.59).
- At this point in her description, the gentleman looks surprised.
- Nancy finishes up by starting to describe a mark on Monks’s throat—
- But the gentleman already knows what it is—a "broad red mark, like a burn or scald" (46.62).
- Nancy is obviously surprised the gentleman knows him, but he’s too cautious to say more – he says that people often look strangely alike, so it might not be the same person.
- They offer to give her money, or to help her escape from Fagin’s gang, but once again, she refuses.
- Even though they offer her a quiet home in a foreign country, she still refuses. She says she’s "chained to her old life" (46.74).
- The young lady worries about where Nancy will end up if they let her go without helping her, and Nancy reminds her of all the women she’s heard about who have killed themselves off of London Bridge.
- As they part, Nancy asks for something that the young lady had carried, as a kind of talisman against future evil. The young lady gives her a white handkerchief.
- On that cheery note, they say good night and leave the stairs.
- Nancy stays behinds for a few minutes to cry by herself, before picking herself up and walking home.
- Noah takes his opportunity to leave, too, and runs as fast as he can to Fagin’s house.
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 46