A great uproar ensues. The board of well-fed gentlemen who administer the workhouse hypocritically offer five pounds to any person wishing to take on the boy as an apprentice. A brutal chimney sweep almost claims Oliver. However, when he begs despairingly not to be sent away with "that dreadful man", a kindly old magistrate refuses to sign the indentures. Later, Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker employed by the parish, takes Oliver into his service. He treats Oliver better, and because of the boy's sorrowful countenance, uses him as a mourner at children's funerals. However, Mr. Sowerberry is in an unhappy marriage, and his wife takes an immediate dislike to Oliver – primarily because her husband seems to like him – and loses few opportunities to underfeed and mistreat him. He also suffers torment at the hands of Noah Claypole, an oafish but bullying fellow apprentice and "charity boy" who is jealous of Oliver's promotion to mute, and Charlotte, the Sowerberrys' maidservant, who is in love with Noah.
While attempting to bait Oliver, Noah insults Oliver's biological mother, in which he calls her "a regular right-down bad ‘un". Oliver flies into a rage, attacking and even beating the much bigger boy. Mrs. Sowerberry takes Noah's side, helps him to subdue, punching, and beating Oliver, and later compels her husband and Mr. Bumble, who has been sent for in the aftermath of the fight, into beating Oliver again. Once Oliver is sent to his room for the night, he does something that he had not done since babyhood – he breaks down and weeps. Alone that night, Oliver finally decides to run away, and, "He remembered to have seen the waggons, as they went out, toiling up the hill. He took the same route," until a well-placed milestone sets his wandering feet towards London.