Page:Oliver Twist (1838) vol. 2.djvu/314

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294
Oliver Twist.

forward to replace the carpet, which had been kicked up in the scuffle, and Mr. Bumble immediately darted out of the room without bestowing another thought on his unfinished sentence, leaving the late Mrs. Corney in full possession of the field.

Mr. Bumble was fairly taken by surprise, and fairly beaten. He had a decided bullying propensity, derived no inconsiderable pleasure from the exercise of petty cruelty, and consequently was (it is needless to say) a coward. This is by no means a disparagement to his character; for many oflfcial personages, who are held in high respect and admiration, are the victims of similar infirmities. The remark is made, indeed, rather in his favour than otherwise, and with the view of impressing the reader with a just sense of his qualifications for office.

But the measure of his degradation was not yet full. After making a tour of the house, and thinking for the first time that the poor-laws really were too hard upon people, and that men who ran away from their wives, leaving them chargeable to the parish, ought in justice to be