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by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Chapter 48 Summary
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"The Flight of Sikes" The chapter opens by saying that of all the crimes ever committed in London, this was the worst. The sun streams in the window—the body of the murdered woman looks "ghastly" in the bright light of day. He hadn’t moved since he’d finished it—once the body had moaned and moved, and he’d beaten it in terror until it stopped. At one point he threw a rug over the corpse, but that only made it more terrifying. He lights a fire, and thrusts the club into it—there’s human hair on it that shrivels up and burns off of the end of the club. That terrifies him, too. He washes himself off, but there are spots on his clothes that he can’t get off. Even the dog’s feet are bloody. All this while, he hasn’t turned his back on the corpse. He drags the dog, and backs out the door, locking it behind him. He looks back up at the window where the corpse is lying, then whistles to the dog, and walks away. He doesn’t know where to go. He walks up to the north end of the city, and into the suburbs. He falls asleep under a hedge for a little while, and then gets up again and keeps moving. He needs to get something to eat, but he doesn’t want to go anywhere too public. He remembers a little village not far out of town and heads in that direction, but not at a steady pace. But once he gets there, he feels like everyone is suspicious of him, so he leaves again and wanders aimlessly some more. It’s 9 o’clock before he finally arrives at Hatfield, another little town, and goes into the pub. He eats and drinks alone in a corner. A man selling some kind of stain remover comes in and starts hawking his product. He needs someone to demonstrate its power, so he grabs Sikes’s hat, which has a stain (of blood) on it, and offers to take it out. Sikes is terrified by this reminder, grabs his hat in a rage, and runs out of the pub. He sees the post arrive from London, and loiters around the guys unloading it and overhears them discussing the dreadful murder that had recently taken place in Spitalfields. Sikes keeps walking, but he feels like he’s being followed by the shape of the corpse. Every time he turns around to look for the ghost, he feels like it slips behind him again before he can catch a glimpse of it. He’s in an "agony of fear" (48.39)—every time he tries to lie down to catch some sleep, he feels like he can see the corpse’s eyes staring at him. Then, as he’s lying there in a cold sweat, trying to sleep, he hears shouting in the distance. There’s a huge fire at a nearby farm. Sikes is inspired to action—he doesn’t mind the danger, but throws himself right into the thick of the crowd fighting the fire. Miraculously, he isn’t injured at all, and he works like crazy until the fire’s out. The others share their breakfast with him, but then Sikes overhears them discussing the murder in London, and where the murderer has likely hidden himself, so he turns away by himself. He lays himself down in a lane and has a bit of a nap, before wandering off again. He suddenly decides to go back to London—he could get money from Fagin, and then escape to France. But he’s afraid his dog will give him away. He decides to drown the dog, but the dog figures out what he’s thinking before he can do it. The dog runs off, so Sikes keeps walking by himself.
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