Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



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lessen the mystery.

On the next day, fresh search was made, and the inquiries


renewed; but with no better success. On the day following,
Oliver and Mr. Maylie repaired to the market-town, in the hope of
seeing or hearing something of the men there; but this effort was
equally fruitless. After a few days, the affair began to be
forgotten, as most affairs are, when wonder, having no fresh food
to support it, dies away of itself.

Meanwhile, Rose was rapidly recovering. She had left her room:


was able to go out; and mixing once more with the family, carried
joy into the hearts of all.

But, although this happy change had a visible effect on the


little circle; and although cheerful voices and merry laughter
were once more heard in the cottage; there was at times, an
unwonted restraint upon some there: even upon Rose herself:
which Oliver could not fail to remark. Mrs. Maylie and her son
were often closeted together for a long time; and more than once
Rose appeared with traces of tears upon her face. After Mr.
Losberne had fixed a day for his departure to Chertsey, these
symptoms increased; and it became evident that something was in
progress which affected the peace of the young lady, and of
somebody else besides.

At length, one morning, when Rose was alone in the


breakfast-parlour, Harry Maylie entered; and, with some
hesitation, begged permission to speak with her for a few
moments.

'A few--a very few--will suffice, Rose,' said the young man,


drawing his chair towards her. 'What I shall have to say, has
already presented itself to your mind; the most cherished hopes
of my heart are not unknown to you, though from my lips you have
not heard them stated.'

Rose had been very pale from the moment of his entrance; but that


might have been the effect of her recent illness. She merely
bowed; and bending over some plants that stood near, waited in
silence for him to proceed.

'I--I--ought to have left here, before,' said Harry.

'You should, indeed,' replied Rose. 'Forgive me for saying so,
but I wish you had.'

'I was brought here, by the most dreadful and agonising of all


apprehensions,' said the young man; 'the fear of losing the one
dear being on whom my every wish and hope are fixed. You had
been dying; trembling between earth and heaven. We know that
when the young, the beautiful, and good, are visited with
sickness, their pure spirits insensibly turn towards their bright
home of lasting rest; we know, Heaven help us! that the best and
fairest of our kind, too often fade in blooming.'

There were tears in the eyes of the gentle girl, as these words


were spoken; and when one fell upon the flower over which she
bent, and glistened brightly in its cup, making it more
beautiful, it seemed as though the outpouring of her fresh young
heart, claimed kindred naturally, with the loveliest things in
nature.

'A creature,' continued the young man, passionately, 'a creature


as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels,
fluttered between life and death. Oh! who could hope, when the
distant world to which she was akin, half opened to her view,
that she would return to the sorrow and calamity of this! Rose,
Rose, to know that you were passing away like some soft shadow,
which a light from above, casts upon the earth; to have no hope
that you would be spared to those who linger here; hardly to know
a reason why you should be; to feel that you belonged to that
bright sphere whither so many of the fairest and the best have
winged their early flight; and yet to pray, amid all these
consolations, that you might be restored to those who loved
you--these were distractions almost too great to bear. They were
mine, by day and night; and with them, came such a rushing
torrent of fears, and apprehensions, and selfish regrets, lest
you should die, and never know how devotedly I loved you, as
almost bore down sense and reason in its course. You recovered.
Day by day, and almost hour by hour, some drop of health came
back, and mingling with the spent and feeble stream of life which
circulated languidly within you, swelled it again to a high and
rushing tide. I have watched you change almost from death, to
life, with eyes that turned blind with their eagerness and deep
affection. Do not tell me that you wish I had lost this; for it
has softened my heart to all mankind.'

'I did not mean that,' said Rose, weeping; 'I only wish you had


left here, that you might have turned to high and noble pursuits
again; to pursuits well worthy of you.'

'There is no pursuit more worthy of me: more worthy of the


highest nature that exists: than the struggle to win such a
heart as yours,' said the young man, taking her hand. 'Rose, my
own dear Rose! For years--for years--I have loved you; hoping to
win my way to fame, and then come proudly home and tell you it
had been pursued only for you to share; thinking, in my
daydreams, how I would remind you, in that happy moment, of the
many silent tokens I had given of a boy's attachment, and claim
your hand, as in redemption of some old mute contract that had
been sealed between us! That time has not arrived; but here,
with not fame won, and no young vision realised, I offer you the
heart so long your own, and stake my all upon the words with
which you greet the offer.'

'Your behaviour has ever been kind and noble.' said Rose,


mastering the emotions by which she was agitated. 'As you
believe that I am not insensible or ungrateful, so hear my
answer.'

'It is, that I may endeavour to deserve you; it is, dear Rose?'

'It is,' replied Rose, 'that you must endeavour to forget me; not
as your old and dearly-attached companion, for that would wound
me deeply; but, as the object of your love. Look into the world;
think how many hearts you would be proud to gain, are there.
Confide some other passion to me, if you will; I will be the
truest, warmest, and most faithful friend you have.'

There was a pause, during which, Rose, who had covered her face


with one hand, gave free vent to her tears. Harry still retained
the other.

'And your reasons, Rose,' he said, at length, in a low voice;


'your reasons for this decision?'

'You have a right to know them,' rejoined Rose. 'You can say


nothing to alter my resolution. It is a duty that I must
perform. I owe it, alike to others, and to myself.'

'To yourself?'

'Yes, Harry. I owe it to myself, that I, a friendless,
portionless, girl, with a blight upon my name, should not give
your friends reason to suspect that I had sordidly yielded to
your first passion, and fastened myself, a clog, on all your
hopes and projects. I owe it to you and yours, to prevent you
from opposing, in the warmth of your generous nature, this great
obstacle to your progress in the world.'

'If your inclinations chime with your sense of duty--' Harry


began.

'They do not,' replied Rose, colouring deeply.

'Then you return my love?' said Harry. 'Say but that, dear Rose;
say but that; and soften the bitterness of this hard
disappointment!'

'If I could have done so, without doing heavy wrong to him I


loved,' rejoined Rose, 'I could have--'

'Have received this declaration very differently?' said Harry.


'Do not conceal that from me, at least, Rose.'

'I could,' said Rose. 'Stay!' she added, disengaging her hand,


'why should we prolong this painful interview? Most painful to
me, and yet productive of lasting happiness, notwithstanding; for
it WILL be happiness to know that I once held the high place in
your regard which I now occupy, and every triumph you achieve in
life will animate me with new fortitude and firmness. Farewell,
Harry! As we have met to-day, we meet no more; but in other
relations than those in which this conversation have placed us,
we may be long and happily entwined; and may every blessing that
the prayers of a true and earnest heart can call down from the
source of all truth and sincerity, cheer and prosper you!'

'Another word, Rose,' said Harry. 'Your reason in your own


words. From your own lips, let me hear it!'

'The prospect before you,' answered Rose, firmly, 'is a brilliant


one. All the honours to which great talents and powerful
connections can help men in public life, are in store for you.
But those connections are proud; and I will neither mingle with
such as may hold in scorn the mother who gave me life; nor bring
disgrace or failure on the son of her who has so well supplied
that mother's place. In a word,' said the young lady, turning
away, as her temporary firmness forsook her, 'there is a stain
upon my name, which the world visits on innocent heads. I will
carry it into no blood but my own; and the reproach shall rest
alone on me.'

'One word more, Rose. Dearest Rose! one more!' cried Harry,


throwing himself before her. 'If I had been less--less
fortunate, the world would call it--if some obscure and peaceful
life had been my destiny--if I had been poor, sick,
helpless--would you have turned from me then? Or has my probable
advancement to riches and honour, given this scruple birth?'

'Do not press me to reply,' answered Rose. 'The question does


not arise, and never will. It is unfair, almost unkind, to urge
it.'

'If your answer be what I almost dare to hope it is,' retorted


Harry, 'it will shed a gleam of happiness upon my lonely way, and
light the path before me. It is not an idle thing to do so much,
by the utterance of a few brief words, for one who loves you
beyond all else. Oh, Rose: in the name of my ardent and enduring
attachment; in the name of all I have suffered for you, and all
you doom me to undergo; answer me this one question!'

'Then, if your lot had been differently cast,' rejoined Rose; 'if


you had been even a little, but not so far, above me; if I could
have been a help and comfort to you in any humble scene of peace
and retirement, and not a blot and drawback in ambitious and
distinguished crowds; I should have been spared this trial. I
have every reason to be happy, very happy, now; but then, Harry,
I own I should have been happier.'

Busy recollections of old hopes, cherished as a girl, long ago,


crowded into the mind of Rose, while making this avowal; but they
brought tears with them, as old hopes will when they come back
withered; and they relieved her.

'I cannot help this weakness, and it makes my purpose stronger,'


said Rose, extending her hand. 'I must leave you now, indeed.'

'I ask one promise,' said Harry. 'Once, and only once more,--say


within a year, but it may be much sooner,--I may speak to you
again on this subject, for the last time.'

'Not to press me to alter my right determination,' replied Rose,


with a melancholy smile; 'it will be useless.'

'No,' said Harry; 'to hear you repeat it, if you will--finally


repeat it! I will lay at your feet, whatever of station of
fortune I may possess; and if you still adhere to your present
resolution, will not seek, by word or act, to change it.'

'Then let it be so,' rejoined Rose; 'it is but one pang the more,


and by that time I may be enabled to bear it better.'

She extended her hand again. But the young man caught her to his


bosom; and imprinting one kiss on her beautiful forehead, hurried
from the room.

CHAPTER XXXVI

IS A VERY SHORT ONE, AND MAY APPEAR OF NO GREAT IMPORTANCE IN ITS
PLACE, BUT IT SHOULD BE READ NOTWITHSTANDING, AS A SEQUEL TO THE
LAST, AND A KEY TO ONE THAT WILL FOLLOW WHEN ITS TIME ARRIVES

'And so you are resolved to be my travelling companion this


morning; eh?' said the doctor, as Harry Maylie joined him and
Oliver at the breakfast-table. 'Why, you are not in the same
mind or intention two half-hours together!'

'You will tell me a different tale one of these days,' said


Harry, colouring without any perceptible reason.

'I hope I may have good cause to do so,' replied Mr. Losberne;


'though I confess I don't think I shall. But yesterday morning
you had made up your mind, in a great hurry, to stay here, and to
accompany your mother, like a dutiful son, to the sea-side.
Before noon, you announce that you are going to do me the honour
of accompanying me as far as I go, on your road to London. And
at night, you urge me, with great mystery, to start before the
ladies are stirring; the consequence of which is, that young
Oliver here is pinned down to his breakfast when he ought to be
ranging the meadows after botanical phenomena of all kinds. Too
bad, isn't it, Oliver?'

'I should have been very sorry not to have been at home when you


and Mr. Maylie went away, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'That's a fine fellow,' said the doctor; 'you shall come and see


me when you return. But, to speak seriously, Harry; has any
communication from the great nobs produced this sudden anxiety on
your part to be gone?'

'The great nobs,' replied Harry, 'under which designation, I


presume, you include my most stately uncle, have not communicated
with me at all, since I have been here; nor, at this time of the
year, is it likely that anything would occur to render necessary
my immediate attendance among them.'

'Well,' said the doctor, 'you are a queer fellow. But of course


they will get you into parliament at the election before
Christmas, and these sudden shiftings and changes are no bad
preparation for political life. There's something in that. Good
training is always desirable, whether the race be for place, cup,
or sweepstakes.'

Harry Maylie looked as if he could have followed up this short


dialogue by one or two remarks that would have staggered the
doctor not a little; but he contented himself with saying, 'We
shall see,' and pursued the subject no farther. The post-chaise
drove up to the door shortly afterwards; and Giles coming in for
the luggage, the good doctor bustled out, to see it packed.

'Oliver,' said Harry Maylie, in a low voice, 'let me speak a word


with you.'

Oliver walked into the window-recess to which Mr. Maylie beckoned


him; much surprised at the mixture of sadness and boisterous
spirits, which his whole behaviour displayed.

'You can write well now?' said Harry, laying his hand upon his


arm.

'I hope so, sir,' replied Oliver.

'I shall not be at home again, perhaps for some time; I wish you
would write to me--say once a fort-night: every alternate
Monday: to the General Post Office in London. Will you?'

'Oh! certainly, sir; I shall be proud to do it,' exclaimed


Oliver, greatly delighted with the commission.

'I should like to know how--how my mother and Miss Maylie are,'


said the young man; 'and you can fill up a sheet by telling me
what walks you take, and what you talk about, and whether
she--they, I mean--seem happy and quite well. You understand me?'

'Oh! quite, sir, quite,' replied Oliver.

'I would rather you did not mention it to them,' said Harry,
hurrying over his words; 'because it might make my mother anxious
to write to me oftener, and it is a trouble and worry to her.
Let is be a secret between you and me; and mind you tell me
everything! I depend upon you.'

Oliver, quite elated and honoured by a sense of his importance,


faithfully promised to be secret and explicit in his
communications. Mr. Maylie took leave of him, with many
assurances of his regard and protection.

The doctor was in the chaise; Giles (who, it had been arranged,


should be left behind) held the door open in his hand; and the
women-servants were in the garden, looking on. Harry cast one
slight glance at the latticed window, and jumped into the
carriage.

'Drive on!' he cried, 'hard, fast, full gallop! Nothing short of


flying will keep pace with me, to-day.'

'Halloa!' cried the doctor, letting down the front glass in a


great hurry, and shouting to the postillion; 'something very
short of flyng will keep pace with me. Do you hear?'

Jingling and clattering, till distance rendered its noise


inaudible, and its rapid progress only perceptible to the eye,
the vehicle wound its way along the road, almost hidden in a
cloud of dust: now wholly disappearing, and now becoming visible
again, as intervening objects, or the intricacies of the way,
permitted. It was not until even the dusty cloud was no longer
to be seen, that the gazers dispersed.

And there was one looker-on, who remained with eyes fixed upon


the spot where the carriage had disappeared, long after it was
many miles away; for, behind the white curtain which had shrouded
her from view when Harry raised his eyes towards the window, sat
Rose herself.

'He seems in high spirits and happy,' she said, at length. 'I


feared for a time he might be otherwise. I was mistaken. I am
very, very glad.'

Tears are signs of gladness as well as grief; but those which


coursed down Rose's face, as she sat pensively at the window,
still gazing in the same direction, seemed to tell more of sorrow
than of joy.

CHAPTER XXXVII

IN WHICH THE READER MAY PERCEIVE A CONTRAST, NOT UNCOMMON IN
MATRIMONIAL CASES

Mr. Bumble sat in the workhouse parlour, with his eyes moodily


fixed on the cheerless grate, whence, as it was summer time, no
brighter gleam proceeded, than the reflection of certain sickly
rays of the sun, which were sent back from its cold and shining
surface. A paper fly-cage dangled from the ceiling, to which he
occasionally raised his eyes in gloomy thought; and, as the
heedless insects hovered round the gaudy net-work, Mr. Bumble
would heave a deep sigh, while a more gloomy shadow overspread
his countenance. Mr. Bumble was meditating; it might be that the
insects brought to mind, some painful passage in his own past
life.

Nor was Mr. Bumble's gloom the only thing calculated to awaken a


pleasing melancholy in the bosom of a spectator. There were not
wanting other appearances, and those closely connected with his
own person, which announced that a great change had taken place
in the position of his affairs. The laced coat, and the cocked
hat; where were they? He still wore knee-breeches, and dark
cotton stockings on his nether limbs; but they were not THE
breeches. The coat was wide-skirted; and in that respect like
THE coat, but, oh how different! The mighty cocked hat was
replaced by a modest round one. Mr. Bumble was no longer a
beadle.

There are some promotions in life, which, independent of the more


substantial rewards they offer, require peculiar value and
dignity from the coats and waistcoats connected with them. A
field-marshal has his uniform; a bishop his silk apron; a
counsellor his silk gown; a beadle his cocked hat. Strip the
bishop of his apron, or the beadle of his hat and lace; what are
they? Men. Mere men. Dignity, and even holiness too,
sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some
people imagine.

Mr. Bumle had married Mrs. Corney, and was master of the


workhouse. Another beadle had come into power. On him the
cocked hat, gold-laced coat, and staff, had all three descended.

'And to-morrow two months it was done!' said Mr. Bumble, with a


sigh. 'It seems a age.'

Mr. Bumble might have meant that he had concentrated a whole


existence of happiness into the short space of eight weeks; but
the sigh--there was a vast deal of meaning in the sigh.

'I sold myself,' said Mr. Bumble, pursuing the same train of


relection, 'for six teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a
milk-pot; with a small quantity of second-hand furniture, and
twenty pound in money. I went very reasonable. Cheap, dirt
cheap!'

'Cheap!' cried a shrill voice in Mr. Bumble's ear: 'you would


have been dear at any price; and dear enough I paid for you, Lord
above knows that!'

Mr. Bumble turned, and encountered the face of his interesting


consort, who, imperfectly comprehending the few words she had
overheard of his complaint, had hazarded the foregoing remark at
a venture.

'Mrs. Bumble, ma'am!' said Mr. Bumble, with a sentimental


sternness.

'Well!' cried the lady.

'Have the goodness to look at me,' said Mr. Bumble, fixing his
eyes upon her. (If she stands such a eye as that,' said Mr.
Bumble to himself, 'she can stand anything. It is a eye I never
knew to fail with paupers. If it fails with her, my power is
gone.')

Whether an exceedingly small expansion of eye be sufficient to


quell paupers, who, being lightly fed, are in no very high
condition; or whether the late Mrs. Corney was particularly proof
against eagle glances; are matters of opinion. The matter of
fact, is, that the matron was in no way overpowered by Mr.
Bumble's scowl, but, on the contrary, treated it with great
disdain, and even raised a laugh threreat, which sounded as
though it were genuine.

On hearing this most unexpected sound, Mr. Bumble looked, first


incredulous, and afterwards amazed. He then relapsed into his
former state; nor did he rouse himself until his attention was
again awakened by the voice of his partner.

'Are you going to sit snoring there, all day?' inquired Mrs.


Bumble.

'I am going to sit here, as long as I think proper, ma'am,'


rejoined Mr. Bumble; 'and although I was NOT snoring, I shall
snore, gape, sneeze, laugh, or cry, as the humour strikes me;
such being my prerogative.'

'Your PREROGATIVE!' sneered Mrs. Bumble, with ineffable contempt.

'I said the word, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble. 'The prerogative of a
man is to command.'

'And what's the prerogative of a woman, in the name of Goodness?'


cried the relict of Mr. Corney deceased.

'To obey, ma'am,' thundered Mr. Bumble. 'Your late unfortunate


husband should have taught it you; and then, perhaps, he might
have been alive now. I wish he was, poor man!'

Mrs. Bumble, seeing at a glance, that the decisive moment had now


arrived, and that a blow struck for the mastership on one side or
other, must necessarily be final and conclusive, no sooner heard
this allusion to the dead and gone, than she dropped into a
chair, and with a loud scream that Mr. Bumble was a hard-hearted
brute, fell into a paroxysm of tears.

But, tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble's


soul; his heart was waterproof. Like washable beaver hats that
improve with rain, his nerves were rendered stouter and more
vigorous, by showers of tears, which, being tokens of weakness,
and so far tacit admissions of his own power, please and exalted
him. He eyed his good lady with looks of great satisfaction, and
begged, in an encouraging manner, that she should cry her
hardest: the exercise being looked upon, by the faculty, as
stronly conducive to health.

'It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes,


and softens down the temper,' said Mr. Bumble. 'So cry away.'

As he discharged himself of this pleasantry, Mr. Bumble took his


hat from a peg, and putting it on, rather rakishly, on one side,
as a man might, who felt he had asserted his superiority in a
becoming manner, thrust his hands into his pockets, and sauntered
towards the door, with much ease and waggishness depicted in his
whole appearance.

Now, Mrs. Corney that was, had tried the tears, because they were


less troublesome than a manual assault; but, she was quite
prepared to make trial of the latter mode of proceeding, as Mr.
Bumble was not long in discovering.

The first proof he experienced of the fact, was conveyed in a


hollow sound, immediately succeeded by the sudden flying off of
his hat to the opposite end of the room. This preliminary
proceeding laying bare his head, the expert lady, clasping him
tightly round the throat with one hand, inflicted a shower of
blows (dealt with singular vigour and dexterity) upon it with the
other. This done, she created a little variety by scratching his
face, and tearing his hair; and, having, by this time, inflicted
as much punishment as she deemed necessary for the offence, she
pushed him over a chair, which was luckily well situated for the
purpose: and defied him to talk about his prerogative again, if
he dared.

'Get up!' said Mrs. Bumble, in a voice of command. 'And take


yourself away from here, unless you want me to do something
desperate.'

Mr. Bumble rose with a very rueful countenance: wondering much


what something desperate might be. Picking up his hat, he looked
towards the door.

'Are you going?' demanded Mr. Bumble.

'Certainly, my dear, certainly,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, making a
quicker motion towards the door. 'I didn't intend to--I'm going,
my dear! You are so very violent, that really I--'

At this instant, Mrs. Bumble stepped hastily forward to replace


the carpet, which had been kicked up in the scuffle. 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 propensity for bullying: 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 official 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 a 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 on people; and that men
who ran away from their wives, leaving them chargeable to the
parish, ought, in justice to be visited with no punishment at
all, but rather rewarded as meritorious individuals who had
suffered much; Mr. Bumble came to a room where some of the female
paupers were usually employed in washing the parish linen: when
the sound of voices in conversation, now proceeded.

'Hem!' said Mr. Bumble, summoning up all his native dignity.


'These women at least shall continue to respect the prerogative.
Hallo! hallo there! What do you mean by this noise, you
hussies?'

With these words, Mr. Bumble opened the door, and walked in with


a very fierce and angry manner: which was at once exchanged for
a most humiliated and cowering air, as his eyes unexpectedly
rested on the form of his lady wife.

'My dear,' said Mr. Bumble, 'I didn't know you were here.'

'Didn't know I was here!' repeated Mrs. Bumble. 'What do YOU do
here?'

'I thought they were talking rather too much to be doing their


work properly, my dear,' replied Mr. Bumble: glancing
distractedly at a couple of old women at the wash-tub, who were
comparing notes of admiration at the workhouse-master's humility.

'YOU thought they were talking too much?' said Mrs. Bumble. 'What


business is it of yours?'

'Why, my dear--' urged Mr. Bumble submissively.

'What business is it of yours?' demanded Mrs. Bumble, again.

'It's very true, you're matron here, my dear,' submitted Mr.


Bumble; 'but I thought you mightn't be in the way just then.'

'I'll tell you what, Mr. Bumble,' returned his lady. 'We don't


want any of your interference. You're a great deal too fond of
poking your nose into things that don't concern you, making
everybody in the house laugh, the moment your back is turned, and
making yourself look like a fool every hour in the day. Be off;
come!'

Mr. Bumble, seeing with excruciating feelings, the delight of the


two old paupers, who were tittering together most rapturously,
hesitated for an instant. Mrs. Bumble, whose patience brooked no
delay, caught up a bowl of soap-suds, and motioning him towards
the door, ordered him instantly to depart, on pain of receiving
the contents upon his portly person.

What could Mr. Bumble do? He looked dejectedly round, and slunk


away; and, as he reached the door, the titterings of the paupers
broke into a shrill chuckle of irrepressible delight. It wanted
but this. He was degraded in their eyes; he had lost caste and
station before the very paupers; he had fallen from all the
height and pomp of beadleship, to the lowest depth of the most
snubbed hen-peckery.

'All in two months!' said Mr. Bumble, filled with dismal


thoughts. 'Two months! No more than two months ago, I was not
only my own master, but everybody else's, so far as the porochial
workhouse was concerned, and now!--'

It was too much. Mr. Bumble boxed the ears of the boy who opened


the gate for him (for he had reached the portal in his reverie);
and walked, distractedly, into the street.

He walked up one street, and down another, until exercise had


abated the first passion of his grief; and then the revulsion of
feeling made him thirsty. He passed a great many public-houses;
but, at length paused before one in a by-way, whose parlour, as
he gathered from a hasty peep over the blinds, was deserted, save
by one solitary customer. It began to rain, heavily, at the
moment. This determined him. Mr. Bumble stepped in; and
ordering something to drink, as he passed the bar, entered the
apartment into which he had looked from the street.

The man who was seated there, was tall and dark, and wore a large


cloak. He had the air of a stranger; and seemed, by a certain
haggardness in his look, as well as by the dusty soils on his
dress, to have travelled some distance. He eyed Bumble askance,
as he entered, but scarcely deigned to nod his head in
acknowledgment of his salutation.

Mr. Bumble had quite dignity enough for two; supposing even that


the stranger had been more familiar: so he drank his
gin-and-water in silence, and read the paper with great show of
pomp and circumstance.

It so happened, however: as it will happen very often, when men


fall into company under such circumstances: that Mr. Bumble
felt, every now and then, a powerful inducement, which he could
not resist, to steal a look at the stranger: and that whenever
he did so, he withdrew his eyes, in some confusion, to find that
the stranger was at that moment stealing a look at him. Mr.
Bumble's awkwardness was enhanced by the very remarkable
expression of the stranger's eye, which was keen and bright, but
shadowed by a scowl of distrust and suspicion, unlike anything he
had ever observed before, and repulsive to behold.

When they had encountered each other's glance several times in


this way, the stranger, in a harsh, deep voice, broke silence.

'Were you looking for me,' he said, 'when you peered in at the


window?'

'Not that I am aware of, unless you're Mr. --' Here Mr. Bumble


stopped short; for he was curious to know the stranger's name,
and thought in his impatience, he might supply the blank.

'I see you were not,' said the stranger; and expression of quiet


sarcasm playing about his mouth; 'or you have known my name. You
don't know it. I would recommend you not to ask for it.'

'I meant no harm, young man,' observed Mr. Bumble, majestically.

'And have done none,' said the stranger.

Another silence succeeded this short dialogue: which was again


broken by the stranger.

'I have seen you before, I think?' said he. 'You were


differently dressed at that time, and I only passed you in the
street, but I should know you again. You were beadle here, once;
were you not?'

'I was,' said Mr. Bumble, in some surprise; 'porochial beadle.'

'Just so,' rejoined the other, nodding his head. 'It was in that
character I saw you. What are you now?'

'Master of the workhouse,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, slowly and


impressively, to check any undue familiarity the stranger might
otherwise assume. 'Master of the workhouse, young man!'

'You have the same eye to your own interest, that you always had,


I doubt not?' resumed the stranger, looking keenly into Mr.
Bumble's eyes, as he raised them in astonishment at the question.

'Don't scruple to answer freely, man. I know you pretty well,


you see.'

'I suppose, a married man,' replied Mr. Bumble, shading his eyes


with his hand, and surveying the stranger, from head to foot, in
evident perplexity, 'is not more averse to turning an honest
penny when he can, than a single one. Porochial officers are not
so well paid that they can afford to refuse any little extra fee,
when it comes to them in a civil and proper manner.'

The stranger smiled, and nodded his head again: as much to say,


he had not mistaken his man; then rang the bell.

'Fill this glass again,' he said, handing Mr. Bumble's empty


tumbler to the landlord. 'Let it be strong and hot. You like it
so, I suppose?'

'Not too strong,' replied Mr. Bumble, with a delicate cough.

'You understand what that means, landlord!' said the stranger,
drily.

The host smiled, disappeared, and shortly afterwards returned


with a steaming jorum: of which, the first gulp brought the water
into Mr. Bumble's eyes.

'Now listen to me,' said the stranger, after closing the door and


window. 'I came down to this place, to-day, to find you out;
and, by one of those chances which the devil throws in the way of
his friends sometimes, you walked into the very room I was
sitting in, while you were uppermost in my mind. I want some
information from you. I don't ask you to give it for mothing,
slight as it is. Put up that, to begin with.'

As he spoke, he pushed a couple of sovereigns across the table to


his companion, carefully, as though unwilling that the chinking
of money should be heard without. When Mr. Bumble had
scrupulously examined the coins, to see that they were genuine,
and had put them up, with much satisfaction, in his
waistcoat-pocket, he went on:

'Carry your memory back--let me see--twelve years, last winter.'

'It's a long time,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Very good. I've done it.'

'The scene, the workhouse.'

'Good!'

'And the time, night.'



'Yes.'

'And the place, the crazy hole, wherever it was, in which


miserable drabs brought forth the life and health so often denied
to themselves--gave birth to puling children for the parish to
rear; and hid their shame, rot 'em in the grave!'

'The lying-in room, I suppose?' said Mr. Bumble, not quite


following the stranger's excited description.

'Yes,' said the stranger. 'A boy was born there.'

'A many boys,' observed Mr. Bumble, shaking his head,
despondingly.

'A murrain on the young devils!' cried the stranger; 'I speak of


one; a meek-looking, pale-faced boy, who was apprenticed down
here, to a coffin-maker--I wish he had made his coffin, and
screwed his body in it--and who afterwards ran away to London, as
it was supposed.

'Why, you mean Oliver! Young Twist!' said Mr. Bumble; 'I


remember him, of course. There wasn't a obstinater young
rascal--'

'It's not of him I want to hear; I've heard enough of him,' said


the stranger, stopping Mr. Bumble in the outset of a tirade on
the subject of poor Oliver's vices. 'It's of a woman; the hag
that nursed his mother. Where is she?'

'Where is she?' said Mr. Bumble, whom the gin-and-water had


rendered facetious. 'It would be hard to tell. There's no
midwifery there, whichever place she's gone to; so I suppose
she's out of employment, anyway.'

'What do you mean?' demanded the stranger, sternly.

'That she died last winter,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

The man looked fixedly at him when he had given this information,


and although he did not withdraw his eyes for some time
afterwards, his gaze gradually became vacant and abstracted, and
he seemed lost in thought. For some time, he appeared doubtful
whether he ought to be relieved or disappointed by the
intelligence; but at length he breathed more freely; and
withdrawing his eyes, observed that it was no great matter. With
that he rose, as if to depart.

But Mr. Bumble was cunning enough; and he at once saw that an


opportunity was opened, for the lucrative disposal of some secret
in the possession of his better half. He well remembered the
night of old Sally's death, which the occurrences of that day had
given him good reason to recollect, as the occasion on which he
had proposed to Mrs. Corney; and although that lady had never
confided to him the disclosure of which she had been the solitary
witness, he had heard enough to know that it related to something
that had occurred in the old woman's attendance, as workhouse
nurse, upon the young mother of Oliver Twist. Hastily calling
this circumstance to mind, he informed the stranger, with an air
of mystery, that one woman had been closeted with the old
harridan shortly before she died; and that she could, as he had
reason to believe, throw some light on the subject of his
inquiry.

'How can I find her?' said the stranger, thrown off his guard;


and plainly showing that all his fears (whatever they were) were
aroused afresh by the intelligence.

'Only through me,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.

'When?' cried the stranger, hastily.

'To-morrow,' rejoined Bumble.

'At nine in the evening,' said the stranger, producing a scrap of
paper, and writing down upon it, an obscure address by the
water-side, in characters that betrayed his agitation; 'at nine
in the evening, bring her to me there. I needn't tell you to be
secret. It's your interest.'

With these words, he led the way to the door, after stopping to


pay for the liquor that had been drunk. Shortly remarking that
their roads were different, he departed, without more ceremony
than an emphatic repetition of the hour of appointment for the
following night.

On glancing at the address, the parochial functionary observed


that it contained no name. The stranger had not gone far, so he
made after him to ask it.

'What do you want?' cried the man. turning quickly round, as


Bumble touched him on the arm. 'Following me?'

'Only to ask a question,' said the other, pointing to the scrap


of paper. 'What name am I to ask for?'

'Monks!' rejoined the man; and strode hastily, away.


CHAPTER XXXVIII

CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED BETWEEN MR. AND MRS. BUMBLE,
AND MR. MONKS, AT THEIR NOCTURNAL INTERVIEW

It was a dull, close, overcast summer evening. The clouds, which


had been threatening all day, spread out in a dense and sluggish
mass of vapour, already yielded large drops of rain, and seemed
to presage a violent thunder-storm, when Mr. and Mrs. Bumble,
turning out of the main street of the town, directed their course
towards a scattered little colony of ruinous houses, distant from
it some mile and a-half, or thereabouts, and erected on a low
unwholesome swamp, bordering upon the river.

They were both wrapped in old and shabby outer garments, which


might, perhaps, serve the double purpose of protecting their
persons from the rain, and sheltering them from observation. The
husband carried a lantern, from which, however, no light yet
shone; and trudged on, a few paces in front, as though--the way
being dirty--to give his wife the benefit of treading in his
heavy footprints. They went on, in profound silence; every now
and then, Mr. Bumble relaxed his pace, and turned his head as if
to make sure that his helpmate was following; then, discovering
that she was close at his heels, he mended his rate of walking,
and proceeded, at a considerable increase of speed, towards their
place of destination.

This was far from being a place of doubtful character; for it had


long been known as the residence of none but low ruffians, who,
under various pretences of living by their labour, subsisted
chiefly on plunder and crime. It was a collection of mere
hovels: some, hastily built with loose bricks: others, of old
worm-eaten ship-timber: jumbled together without any attempt at
order or arrangement, and planted, for the most part, within a
few feet of the river's bank. A few leaky boats drawn up on the
mud, and made fast to the dwarf wall which skirted it: and here
and there an oar or coil of rope: appeared, at first, to
indicate that the inhabitants of these miserable cottages pursued
some avocation on the river; but a glance at the shattered and
useless condition of the articles thus displayed, would have led
a passer-by, without much difficulty, to the conjecture that they
were disposed there, rather for the preservation of appearances,
than with any view to their being actually employed.

In the heart of this cluster of huts; and skirting the river,


which its upper stories overhung; stood a large building,
formerly used as a manufactory of some kind. It had, in its day,
probably furnished employment to the inhabitants of the
surrounding tenements. But it had long since gone to ruin. The
rat, the worm, and the action of the damp, had weakened and
rotted the piles on which it stood; and a considerable portion of
the building had already sunk down into the water; while the
remainder, tottering and bending over the dark stream, seemed to
wait a favourable opportunity of following its old companion, and
involving itself in the same fate.

It was before this ruinous building that the worthy couple


paused, as the first peal of distant thunder reverberated in the
air, and the rain commenced pouring violently down.

'The place should be somewhere here,' said Bumble, consulting a


scrap of paper he held in his hand.

'Halloa there!' cried a voice from above.

Following the sound, Mr. Bumble raised his head and descried a
man looking out of a door, breast-high, on the second story.

'Stand still, a minute,' cried the voice; 'I'll be with you


directly.' With which the head disappeared, and the door closed.

'Is that the man?' asked Mr. Bumble's good lady.

Mr. Bumble nodded in the affirmative.

'Then, mind what I told you,' said the matron: 'and be careful to


say as little as you can, or you'll betray us at once.'

Mr. Bumble, who had eyed the building with very rueful looks, was


apparently about to express some doubts relative to the
advisability of proceeding any further with the enterprise just
then, when he was prevented by the appearance of Monks: w ho
opened a small door, near which they stood, and beckoned them
inwards.

'Come in!' he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the


ground. 'Don't keep me here!'

The woman, who had hesitated at first, walked boldly in, without


any other invitation. Mr. Bumble, who was ashamed or afraid to
lag behind, followed: obviously very ill at ease and with
scarcely any of that remarkable dignity which was usually his
chief characteristic.

'What the devil made you stand lingering there, in the wet?' said


Monks, turning round, and addressing Bumble, after he had bolted
the door behind them.

'We--we were only cooling ourselves,' stammered Bumble, looking


apprehensively about him.

'Cooling yourselves!' retorted Monks. 'Not all the rain that


ever fell, or ever will fall, will put as much of hell's fire
out, as a man can carry about with him. You won't cool yourself
so easily; don't think it!'

With this agreeable speech, Monks turned short upon the matron,


and bent his gaze upon her, till even she, who was not easily
cowed, was fain to withdraw her eyes, and turn them them towards
the ground.

'This is the woman, is it?' demanded Monks.

'Hem! That is the woman,' replied Mr. Bumble, mindful of his
wife's caution.

'You think women never can keep secrets, I suppose?' said the


matron, interposing, and returning, as she spoke, the searching
look of Monks.

'I know they will always keep ONE till it's found out,' said


Monks.

'And what may that be?' asked the matron.

'The loss of their own good name,' replied Monks. 'So, by the
same rule, if a woman's a party to a secret that might hang or
transport her, I'm not afraid of her telling it to anybody; not
I! Do you understand, mistress?'

'No,' rejoined the matron, slightly colouring as she spoke.

'Of course you don't!' said Monks. 'How should you?'

Bestowing something half-way between a smile and a frown upon his


two companions, and again beckoning them to follow him, the man
hastened across the apartment, which was of considerable extent,
but low in the roof. He was preparing to ascend a steep
staircase, or rather ladder, leading to another floor of
warehouses above: when a bright flash of lightning streamed down
the aperture, and a peal of thunder followed, which shook the
crazy building to its centre.

'Hear it!' he cried, shrinking back. 'Hear it! Rolling and


crashing on as if it echoed through a thousand caverns where the
devils were hiding from it. I hate the sound!'

He remained silent for a few moments; and then, removing his


hands suddenly from his face, showed, to the unspeakable
discomposure of Mr. Bumble, that it was much distorted and
discoloured.

'These fits come over me, now and then,' said Monks, observing


his alarm; 'and thunder sometimes brings them on. Don't mind me
now; it's all over for this once.'

Thus speaking, he led the way up the ladder; and hastily closing


the window-shutter of the room into which it led, lowered a
lantern which hung at the end of a rope and pulley passed through
one of the heavy beams in the ceiling: and which cast a dim
light upon an old table and three chairs that were placed beneath
it.

'Now,' said Monks, when they had all three seated themselves,


'the sooner we come to our business, the better for all. The
woman know what it is, does she?'

The question was addressed to Bumble; but his wife anticipated


the reply, by intimating that she was perfectly acquainted with
it.

'He is right in saying that you were with this hag the night she


died; and that she told you something--'

'About the mother of the boy you named,' replied the matron


interrupting him. 'Yes.'

'The first question is, of what nature was her communication?'


said Monks.

'That's the second,' observed the woman with much deliberation.


'The first is, what may the communication be worth?'

'Who the devil can tell that, without knowing of what kind it


is?' asked Monks.

'Nobody better than you, I am persuaded,' answered Mrs. Bumble:


who did not want for spirit, as her yoke-fellow could abundantly
testify.

'Humph!' said Monks significantly, and with a look of eager


inquiry; 'there may be money's worth to get, eh?'

'Perhaps there may,' was the composed reply.

'Something that was taken from her,' said Monks. 'Something that
she wore. Something that--'

'You had better bid,' interrupted Mrs. Bumble. 'I have heard


enough, already, to assure me that you are the man I ought to
talk to.'

Mr. Bumble, who had not yet been admitted by his better half into


any greater share of the secret than he had originally possessed,
listened to this dialogue with outstretched neck and distended
eyes: which he directed towards his wife and Monks, by turns, in
undisguised astonishment; increased, if possible, when the latter
sternly demanded, what sum was required for the disclosure.

'What's it worth to you?' asked the woman, as collectedly as


before.

'It may be nothing; it may be twenty pounds,' replied Monks.


'Speak out, and let me know which.'

'Add five pounds to the sum you have named; give me


five-and-twenty pounds in gold,' said the woman; 'and I'll tell
you all I know. Not before.'

'Five-and-twenty pounds!' exclaimed Monks, drawing back.

'I spoke as plainly as I could,' replied Mrs. Bumble. 'It's not
a large sum, either.'

'Not a large sum for a paltry secret, that may be nothing when


it's told!' cried Monks impatiently; 'and which has been lying
dead for twelve years past or more!'

'Such matters keep well, and, like good wine, often double their


value in course of time,' answered the matron, still preserving
the resolute indifference she had assumed. 'As to lying dead,
there are those who will lie dead for twelve thousand years to
come, or twelve million, for anything you or I know, who will
tell strange tales at last!'

'What if I pay it for nothing?' asked Monks, hesitating.

'You can easily take it away again,' replied the matron. 'I am
but a woman; alone here; and unprotected.'

'Not alone, my dear, nor unprotected, neither,' submitted Mr.


Bumble, in a voice tremulous with fear: '_I_ am here, my dear.
And besides,' said Mr. Bumble, his teeth chattering as he spoke,
'Mr. Monks is too much of a gentleman to attempt any violence on
porochial persons. Mr. Monks is aware that I am not a young man,
my dear, and also that I am a little run to seed, as I may say;
bu he has heerd: I say I have no doubt Mr. Monks has heerd, my
dear: that I am a very determined officer, with very uncommon
strength, if I'm once roused. I only want a little rousing;
that's all.'

As Mr. Bumble spoke, he made a melancholy feint of grasping his


lantern with fierce determination; and plainly showed, by the
alarmed expression of every feature, that he DID want a little
rousing, and not a little, prior to making any very warlike
demonstration: unless, indeed, against paupers, or other person
or persons trained down for the purpose.

'You are a fool,' said Mrs. Bumble, in reply; 'and had better


hold your tongue.'

'He had better have cut it out, before he came, if he can't speak


in a lower tone,' said Monks, grimly. 'So! He's your husband,
eh?'

'He my husband!' tittered the matron, parrying the question.

'I thought as much, when you came in,' rejoined Monks, marking
the angry glance which the lady darted at her spouse as she
spoke. 'So much the better; I have less hesitation in dealing
with two people, when I find that there's only one will between
them. I'm in earnest. See here!'

He thrust his hand into a side-pocket; and producing a canvas


bag, told out twenty-five sovereigns on the table, and pushed
them over to the woman.

'Now,' he said, 'gather them up; and when this cursed peal of


thunder, which I feel is coming up to break over the house-top,
is gone, let's hear your story.'

The thunder, which seemed in fact much nearer, and to shiver and


break almost over their heads, having subsided, Monks, raising
his face from the table, bent forward to listen to what the woman
should say. The faces of the three nearly touched, as the two
men leant over the small table in their eagerness to hear, and
the woman also leant forward to render her whisper audible. The
sickly rays of the suspended lantern falling directly upon them,
aggravated the paleness and anxiety of their countenances: which,
encircled by the deepest gloom and darkness, looked ghastly in
the extreme.

'When this woman, that we called old Sally, died,' the matron


began, 'she and I were alone.'

'Was there no one by?' asked Monks, in the same hollow whisper;


'No sick wretch or idiot in some other bed? No one who could
hear, and might, by possibility, understand?'

'Not a soul,' replied the woman; 'we were alone. _I_ stood alone


beside the body when death came over it.'

'Good,' said Monks, regarding her attentively. 'Go on.'

'She spoke of a young creature,' resumed the matron, 'who had
brought a child into the world some years before; not merely in
the same room, but in the same bed, in which she then lay dying.'

'Ay?' said Monks, with quivering lip, and glancing over his


shoulder, 'Blood! How things come about!'

'The child was the one you named to him last night,' said the


matron, nodding carelessly towards her husband; 'the mother this
nurse had robbed.'

'In life?' asked Monks.

'In death,' replied the woman, with something like a shudder.
'She stole from the corpse, when it had hardly turned to one,
that which the dead mother had prayed her, with her last breath,
to keep for the infant's sake.'

'She sold it,' cried Monks, with desperate eagerness; 'did she


sell it? Where? When? To whom? How long before?'

'As she told me, with great difficulty, that she had done this,'


said the matron, 'she fell back and died.'

'Without saying more?' cried Monks, in a voice which, from its


very suppression, seemed only the more furious. 'It's a lie!
I'll not be played with. She said more. I'll tear the life out
of you both, but I'll know what it was.'

'She didn't utter another word,' said the woman, to all


appearance unmoved (as Mr. Bumble was very far from being) by the
strange man's violence; 'but she clutched my gown, violently,
with one hand, which was partly closed; and when I saw that she
was dead, and so removed the hand by force, I found it clasped a
scrap of dirty paper.'

'Which contained--' interposed Monks, stretching forward.

'Nothing,' replied the woman; 'it was a pawnbroker's duplicate.'

'For what?' demanded Monks.

'In good time I'll tell you.' said the woman. 'I judge that she
had kept the trinket, for some time, in the hope of turning it to
better account; and then had pawned it; and had saved or scraped
together money to pay the pawnbroker's interest year by year, and
prevent its running out; so that if anything came of it, it could
still be redeemed. Nothing had come of it; and, as I tell you,
she died with the scrap of paper, all worn and tattered, in her
hand. The time was out in two days; I thought something might
one day come of it too; and so redeemed the pledge.'

'Where is it now?' asked Monks quickly.

'THERE,' replied the woman. And, as if glad to be relieved of
it, she hastily threw upon the table a small kid bag scarcely
large enough for a French watch, which Monks pouncing upon, tore
open with trembling hands. It contained a little gold locket:
in which were two locks of hair, and a plain gold wedding-ring.

'It has the word "Agnes" engraved on the inside,' said the woman.

'There is a blank left for the surname; and then follows the
date; which is within a year before the child was born. I found
out that.'

'And this is all?' said Monks, after a close and eager scrutiny


of the contents of the little packet.

'All,' replied the woman.

Mr. Bumble drew a long breath, as if he were glad to find that
the story was over, and no mention made of taking the
five-and-twenty pounds back again; and now he took courage to
wipe the perspiration which had been trickling over his nose,
unchecked, during the whole of the previous dialogue.

'I know nothing of the story, beyond what I can guess at,' said


his wife addressing Monks, after a short silence; 'and I want to
know nothing; for it's safer not. But I may ask you two
questions, may I?'

'You may ask,' said Monks, with some show of surprise; 'but


whether I answer or not is another question.'

'--Which makes three,' observed Mr. Bumble, essaying a stroke of


facetiousness.

'Is that what you expected to get from me?' demanded the matron.

'It is,' replied Monks. 'The other question?'

'What do you propose to do with it? Can it be used against me?'

'Never,' rejoined Monks; 'nor against me either. See here! But
don't move a step forward, or your life is not worth a bulrush.'

With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and


pulling an iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large
trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused
that gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great
precipitation.

'Look down,' said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf.


'Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when
you were seated over it, if that had been my game.'

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr.


Bumble himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same.
The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly
on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its
plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There
had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing
round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet
remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed
from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its
headlong course.

'If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be


to-morrow morning?' said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro
in the dark well.

'Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides,' replied


Bumble, recoiling at the thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had


hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had
formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped
it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove
the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone.

The three looking into each other's faces, seemed to breathe more


freely.

'There!' said Monks, closing the trap-door, which fell heavily


back into its former position. 'If the sea ever gives up its
dead, as books say it will, it will keep its gold and silver to
itself, and that trash among it. We have nothing more to say,
and may break up our pleasant party.'

'By all means,' observed Mr. Bumble, with great alacrity.

'You'll keep a quiet tongue in your head, will you?' said Monks,
with a threatening look. 'I am not afraid of your wife.'

'You may depend upon me, young man,' answered Mr. Bumble, bowing


himself gradually towards the ladder, with excessive politeness.
'On everybody's account, young man; on my own, you know, Mr.
Monks.'

'I am glad, for your sake, to hear it,' remarked Monks. 'Light


your lantern! And get away from here as fast as you can.'

It was fortunate that the conversation terminated at this point,


or Mr. Bumble, who had bowed himself to within six inches of the
ladder, would infallibly have pitched headlong into the room
below. He lighted his lantern from that which Monks had detached
from the rope, and now carried in his hand; and making no effort
to prolong the discourse, descended in silence, followed by his
wife. Monks brought up the rear, after pausing on the steps to
satisfy himself that there were no other sounds to be heard than
the beating of the rain without, and the rushing of the water.

They traversed the lower room, slowly, and with caution; for


Monks started at every shadow; and Mr. Bumble, holding his
lantern a foot above the ground, walked not only with remarkable
care, but with a marvellously light step for a gentleman of his
figure: looking nervously about him for hidden trap-doors. The
gate at which they had entered, was softly unfastened and opened
by Monks; merely exchanging a nod with their mysterious
acquaintance, the married couple emerged into the wet and
darkness outside.

They were no sooner gone, than Monks, who appeared to entertain


an invincible repugnance to being left alone, called to a boy who
had been hidden somewhere below. Bidding him go first, and bear
the light, he returned to the chamber he had just quitted.

CHAPTER XXXIX

INTRODUCES SOME RESPECTABLE CHARACTERS WITH WHOM THE READER IS
ALREADY ACQUAINTED, AND SHOWS HOW MONKS AND THE JEW LAID THEIR
WORTHY HEADS TOGETHER

On the evening following that upon which the three worthies


mentioned in the last chapter, disposed of their little matter of
business as therein narrated, Mr. William Sikes, awakening from a
nap, drowsily growled forth an inquiry what time of night it was.

The room in which Mr. Sikes propounded this question, was not one


of those he had tenanted, previous to the Chertsey expedition,
although it was in the same quarter of the town, and was situated
at no great distance from his former lodgings. It was not, in
appearance, so desirable a habitation as his old quarters: being
a mean and badly-furnished apartment, of very limited size;
lighted only by one small window in the shelving roof, and
abutting on a close and dirty lane. Nor were there wanting other
indications of the good gentleman's having gone down in the world
of late: for a great scarcity of furniture, and total absence of
comfort, together with the disappearance of all such small
moveables as spare clothes and linen, bespoke a state of extreme
poverty; while the meagre and attenuated condition of Mr. Sikes
himself would have fully confirmed these symptoms, if they had
stood in any need of corroboration.

The housebreaker was lying on the bed, wrapped in his white


great-coat, by way of dressing-gown, and displaying a set of
features in no degree improved by the cadaverous hue of illness,
and the addition of a soiled nightcap, and a stiff, black beard
of a week's growth. The dog sat at the bedside: now eyeing his
master with a wistful look, and now pricking his ears, and
uttering a low growl as some noise in the street, or in the lower
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