had firmly resolved that, whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one effort to dart up stairs from the hall, and alarm the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at once, but stealthily.

'Come back!' suddenly cried Sikes aloud. 'Back! back!'

Scared by the sudden breaking of the dead stillness of the place, and by a loud cry which followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall, and knew not whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated -- a light appeared -- a vision of two terrified half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes -- a flash -- a loud noise -- a smoke -- a crash somewhere, but where he knew not, -- and he staggered back.

Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and had him by the collar before the smoke had cleared away. He fired his own pistol after the men, who were already retreating; and dragged the boy up.

'Clasp your arm tighter,' said Sikes, as he drew him through the window. 'Give me a shawl here. They've hit him. Quick! How the boy bleeds!'

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of fire-arms, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And then, the noises grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept over the boy's heart; and he saw or heard no more.


CHAPTER XXIII
Which contains the substance of a pleasant conversation between Mr. Bumble and a lady; and shows that even a beadle may be susceptible on some points

THE night was bitter cold. The snow lay on the ground frozen into a hard thick crust, so that only the heaps that

-202-

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