Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



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gazing vacantly about him, was suddenly stricken, as it were,
while in the very attitude of rising, into a deep and heavy
sleep. The grasp of his hand relaxed; the upraised arm fell
languidly by his side; and he lay like one in a profound trance.

'The laudanum has taken effect at last,' murmured the girl, as


she rose from the bedside. 'I may be too late, even now.'

She hastily dressed herself in her bonnet and shawl: looking


fearfully round, from time to time, as if, despite the sleeping
draught, she expected every moment to feel the pressure of
Sikes's heavy hand upon her shoulder; then, stooping softly over
the bed, she kissed the robber's lips; and then opening and
closing the room-door with noiseless touch, hurried from the
house.

A watchman was crying half-past nine, down a dark passage through


which she had to pass, in gaining the main thoroughfare.

'Has it long gone the half-hour?' asked the girl.

'It'll strike the hour in another quarter,' said the man:
raising his lantern to her face.

'And I cannot get there in less than an hour or more,' muttered


Nancy: brushing swiftly past him, and gliding rapidly down the
street.

Many of the shops were already closing in the back lanes and


avenues through which she tracked her way, in making from
Spitalfields towards the West-End of London. The clock struck
ten, increasing her impatience. She tore along the narrow
pavement: elbowing the passengers from side to side; and darting
almost under the horses' heads, crossed crowded streets, where
clusters of persons were eagerly watching their opportunity to do
the like.

'The woman is mad!' said the people, turning to look after her as


she rushed away.

When she reached the more wealthy quarter of the town, the


streets were comparatively deserted; and here her headlong
progress excited a still greater curiosity in the stragglers whom
she hurried past. Some quickened their pace behind, as though to
see whither she was hastening at such an unusual rate; and a few
made head upon her, and looked back, surprised at her
undiminished speed; but they fell off one by one; and when she
neared her place of destination, she was alone.

It was a family hotel in a quiet but handsome street near Hyde


Park. As the brilliant light of the lamp which burnt before its
door, guided her to the spot, the clock struck eleven. She had
loitered for a few paces as though irresolute, and making up her
mind to advance; but the sound determined her, and she stepped
into the hall. The porter's seat was vacant. She looked round
with an air of incertitude, and advanced towards the stairs.

'Now, young woman!' said a smartly-dressed female, looking out


from a door behind her, 'who do you want here?'

'A lady who is stopping in this house,' answered the girl.

'A lady!' was the reply, accompanied with a scornful look. 'What
lady?'

'Miss Maylie,' said Nancy.

The young woman, who had by this time, noted her appearance,
replied only by a look of virtuous disdain; and summoned a man to
answer her. To him, Nancy repeated her request.

'What name am I to say?' asked the waiter.

'It's of no use saying any,' replied Nancy.

'Nor business?' said the man.

'No, nor that neither,' rejoined the girl. 'I must see the
lady.'

'Come!' said the man, pushing her towards the door. 'None of


this. Take yourself off.'

'I shall be carried out if I go!' said the girl violently; 'and I


can make that a job that two of you won't like to do. Isn't
there anybody here,' she said, looking round, 'that will see a
simple message carried for a poor wretch like me?'

This appeal produced an effect on a good-tempered-faced man-cook,


who with some of the other servants was looking on, and who
stepped forward to interfere.

'Take it up for her, Joe; can't you?' said this person.

'What's the good?' replied the man. 'You don't suppose the young
lady will see such as her; do you?'

This allusion to Nancy's doubtful character, raised a vast


quantity of chaste wrath in the bosoms of four housemaids, who
remarked, with great fervour, that the creature was a disgrace to
her sex; and strongly advocated her being thrown, ruthlessly,
into the kennel.

'Do what you like with me,' said the girl, turning to the men


again; 'but do what I ask you first, and I ask you to give this
message for God Almighty's sake.'

The soft-hearted cook added his intercession, and the result was


that the man who had first appeared undertook its delivery.

'What's it to be?' said the man, with one foot on the stairs.

'That a young woman earnestly asks to speak to Miss Maylie
alone,' said Nancy; 'and that if the lady will only hear the
first word she has to say, she will know whether to hear her
business, or to have her turned out of doors as an impostor.'

'I say,' said the man, 'you're coming it strong!'

'You give the message,' said the girl firmly; 'and let me hear
the answer.'

The man ran upstairs. Nancy remained, pale and almost


breathless, listening with quivering lip to the very audible
expressions of scorn, of which the chaste housemaids were very
prolific; and of which they became still more so, when the man
returned, and said the young woman was to walk upstairs.

'It's no good being proper in this world,' said the first


housemaid.

'Brass can do better than the gold what has stood the fire,' said


the second.

The third contented herself with wondering 'what ladies was made


of'; and the fourth took the first in a quartette of 'Shameful!'
with which the Dianas concluded.

Regardless of all this: for she had weightier matters at heart:


Nancy followed the man, with trembling limbs, to a small
ante-chamber, lighted by a lamp from the ceiling. Here he left
her, and retired.

CHAPTER XL

A STRANGE INTERVIEW, WHICH IS A SEQUEL TO THE LAST CHAMBER

The girl's life had been squandered in the streets, and among the


most noisome of the stews and dens of London, but there was
something of the woman's original nature left in her still; and
when she heard a light step approaching the door opposite to that
by which she had entered, and thought of the wide contrast which
the small room would in another moment contain, she felt burdened
with the sense of her own deep shame, and shrunk as though she
could scarcely bear the presence of her with whom she had sought
this interview.

But struggling with these better feelings was pride,--the vice of


the lowest and most debased creatures no less than of the high
and self-assured. The miserable companion of thieves and
ruffians, the fallen outcast of low haunts, the associate of the
scourings of the jails and hulks, living within the shadow of the
gallows itself,--even this degraded being felt too proud to
betray a feeble gleam of the womanly feeling which she thought a
weakness, but which alone connected her with that humanity, of
which her wasting life had obliterated so many, many traces when
a very child.

She raised her eyes sufficiently to observe that the figure which


presented itself was that of a slight and beautiful girl; then,
bending them on the ground, she tossed her head with affected
carelessness as she said:

'It's a hard matter to get to see you, lady. If I had taken


offence, and gone away, as many would have done, you'd have been
sorry for it one day, and not without reason either.'

'I am very sorry if any one has behaved harshly to you,' replied


Rose. 'Do not think of that. Tell me why you wished to see me.
I am the person you inquired for.'

The kind tone of this answer, the sweet voice, the gentle manner,


the absence of any accent of haughtiness or displeasure, took the
girl completely by surprise, and she burst into tears.

'Oh, lady, lady!' she said, clasping her hands passionately


before her face, 'if there was more like you, there would be
fewer like me,--there would--there would!'

'Sit down,' said Rose, earnestly. 'If you are in poverty or


affliction I shall be truly glad to relieve you if I can,--I
shall indeed. Sit down.'

'Let me stand, lady,' said the girl, still weeping, 'and do not


speak to me so kindly till you know me better. It is growing
late. Is--is--that door shut?'

'Yes,' said Rose, recoiling a few steps, as if to be nearer


assistance in case she should require it. 'Why?'

'Because,' said the girl, 'I am about to put my life and the


lives of others in your hands. I am the girl that dragged little
Oliver back to old Fagin's on the night he went out from the
house in Pentonville.'

'You!' said Rose Maylie.

'I, lady!' replied the girl. 'I am the infamous creature you
have heard of, that lives among the thieves, and that never from
the first moment I can recollect my eyes and senses opening on
London streets have known any better life, or kinder words than
they have given me, so help me God! Do not mind shrinking openly
from me, lady. I am younger than you would think, to look at me,
but I am well used to it. The poorest women fall back, as I make
my way along the crowded pavement.'

'What dreadful things are these!' said Rose, involuntarily


falling from her strange companion.

'Thank Heaven upon your knees, dear lady,' cried the girl, 'that


you had friends to care for and keep you in your childhood, and
that you were never in the midst of cold and hunger, and riot and
drunkenness, and--and--something worse than all--as I have been
from my cradle. I may use the word, for the alley and the gutter
were mine, as they will be my deathbed.'

'I pity you!' said Rose, in a broken voice. 'It wrings my heart


to hear you!'

'Heaven bless you for your goodness!' rejoined the girl. 'If you


knew what I am sometimes, you would pity me, indeed. But I have
stolen away from those who would surely murder me, if they knew I
had been here, to tell you what I have overheard. Do you know a
man named Monks?'

'No,' said Rose.

'He knows you,' replied the girl; 'and knew you were here, for it
was by hearing him tell the place that I found you out.'

'I never heard the name,' said Rose.

'Then he goes by some other amongst us,' rejoined the girl,
'which I more than thought before. Some time ago, and soon after
Oliver was put into your house on the night of the robbery,
I--suspecting this man--listened to a conversation held between
him and Fagin in the dark. I found out, from what I heard, that
Monks--the man I asked you about, you know--'

'Yes,' said Rose, 'I understand.'

'--That Monks,' pursued the girl, 'had seen him accidently with
two of our boys on the day we first lost him, and had known him
directly to be the same child that he was watching for, though I
couldn't make out why. A bargain was struck with Fagin, that if
Oliver was got back he should have a certain sum; and he was to
have more for making him a thief, which this Monks wanted for
some purpose of his own.

'For what purpose?' asked Rose.

'He caught sight of my shadow on the wall as I listened, in the
hope of finding out,' said the girl; 'and there are not many
people besides me that could have got out of their way in time to
escape discovery. But I did; and I saw him no more till last
night.'

'And what occurred then?'

'I'll tell you, lady. Last night he came again. Again they went
upstairs, and I, wrapping myself up so that my shadow would not
betray me, again listened at the door. The first words I heard
Monks say were these: "So the only proofs of the boy's identity
lie at the bottom of the river, and the old hag that received
them from the mother is rotting in her coffin." They laughed,
and talked of his success in doing this; and Monks, talking on
about the boy, and getting very wild, said that though he had got
the young devil's money safely know, he'd rather have had it the
other way; for, what a game it would have been to have brought
down the boast of the father's will, by driving him through every
jail in town, and then hauling him up for some capital felony
which Fagin could easily manage, after having made a good profit
of him besides.'

'What is all this!' said Rose.

'The truth, lady, though it comes from my lips,' replied the
girl. 'Then, he said, with oaths common enough in my ears, but
strange to yours, that if he could gratify his hatred by taking
the boy's life without bringing his own neck in danger, he would;
but, as he couldn't, he'd be upon the watch to meet him at every
turn in life; and if he took advantage of his birth and history,
he might harm him yet. "In short, Fagin," he says, "Jew as you
are, you never laid such snares as I'll contrive for my young
brother, Oliver."'

'His brother!' exclaimed Rose.

'Those were his words,' said Nancy, glancing uneasily round, as
she had scarcely ceased to do, since she began to speak, for a
vision of Sikes haunted her perpetually. 'And more. When he
spoke of you and the other lady, and said it seemed contrived by
Heaven, or the devil, against him, that Oliver should come into
your hands, he laughed, and said there was some comfort in that
too, for how many thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds
would you not give, if you had them, to know who your two-legged
spaniel was.'

'You do not mean,' said Rose, turning very pale, 'to tell me that


this was said in earnest?'

'He spoke in hard and angry earnest, if a man ever did,' replied


the girl, shaking her head. 'He is an earnest man when his
hatred is up. I know many who do worse things; but I'd rather
listen to them all a dozen times, than to that Monks once. It is
growing late, and I have to reach home without suspicion of
having been on such an errand as this. I must get back quickly.'

'But what can I do?' said Rose. 'To what use can I turn this


communication without you? Back! Why do you wish to return to
companions you paint in such terrible colors? If you repeat this
information to a gentleman whom I can summon in an instant from
the next room, you can be consigned to some place of safety
without half an hour's delay.'

'I wish to go back,' said the girl. 'I must go back,


because--how can I tell such things to an innocent lady like
you?--because among the men I have told you of, there is one:
the most desperate among them all; that I can't leave: no, not
even to be saved from the life I am leading now.'

'Your having interfered in this dear boy's behalf before,' said


Rose; 'your coming here, at so great a risk, to tell me what you
have heard; your manner, which convinces me of the truth of what
you say; your evident contrition, and sense of shame; all lead me
to believe that you might yet be reclaimed. Oh!' said the
earnest girl, folding her hands as the tears coursed down her
face, 'do not turn a deaf ear to the entreaties of one of your
own sex; the first--the first, I do believe, who ever appealed to
you in the voice of pity and compassion. Do hear my words, and
let me save you yet, for better things.'

'Lady,' cried the girl, sinking on her knees, 'dear, sweet, angel


lady, you ARE the first that ever blessed me with such words as
these, and if I had heard them years ago, they might have turned
me from a life of sin and sorrow; but it is too late, it is too
late!'

'It is never too late,' said Rose, 'for penitence and atonement.'

'It is,' cried the girl, writhing in agony of her mind; 'I cannot
leave him now! I could not be his death.'

'Why should you be?' asked Rose.

'Nothing could save him,' cried the girl. 'If I told others what
I have told you, and led to their being taken, he would be sure
to die. He is the boldest, and has been so cruel!'

'Is it possible,' cried Rose, 'that for such a man as this, you


can resign every future hope, and the certainty of immediate
rescue? It is madness.'

'I don't know what it is,' answered the girl; 'I only know that


it is so, and not with me alone, but with hundreds of others as
bad and wretched as myself. I must go back. Whether it is God's
wrath for the wrong I have done, I do not know; but I am drawn
back to him through every suffering and ill usage; and I should
be, I believe, if I knew that I was to die by his hand at last.'

'What am I to do?' said Rose. 'I should not let you depart from


me thus.'

'You should, lady, and I know you will,' rejoined the girl,


rising. 'You will not stop my going because I have trusted in
your goodness, and forced no promise from you, as I might have
done.'

'Of what use, then, is the communication you have made?' said


Rose. 'This mystery must be investigated, or how will its
disclosure to me, benefit Oliver, whom you are anxious to serve?'

'You must have some kind gentleman about you that will hear it as


a secret, and advise you what to do,' rejoined the girl.

'But where can I find you again when it is necessary?' asked


Rose. 'I do not seek to know where these dreadful people live,
but where will you be walking or passing at any settled period
from this time?'

'Will you promise me that you will have my secret strictly kept,


and come alone, or with the only other person that knows it; and
that I shall not be watched or followed?' asked the girl.

'I promise you solemnly,' answered Rose.

'Every Sunday night, from eleven until the clock strikes twelve,'
said the girl without hesitation, 'I will walk on London Bridge
if I am alive.'

'Stay another moment,' interposed Rose, as the girl moved


hurriedly towards the door. 'Think once again on your own
condition, and the opportunity you have of escaping from it. You
have a claim on me: not only as the voluntary bearer of this
intelligence, but as a woman lost almost beyond redemption. Will
you return to this gang of robbers, and to this man, when a word
can save you? What fascination is it that can take you back, and
make you cling to wickedness and misery? Oh! is there no chord
in your heart that I can touch! Is there nothing left, to which
I can appeal against this terrible infatuation!'

'When ladies as young, and good, and beautiful as you are,'


replied the girl steadily, 'give away your hearts, love will
carry you all lengths--even such as you, who have home, friends,
other admirers, everything, to fill them. When such as I, who
have no certain roof but the coffinlid, and no friend in sickness
or death but the hospital nurse, set our rotten hearts on any
man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all
our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us? Pity us, lady--pity
us for having only one feeling of the woman left, and for having
that turned, by a heavy judgment, from a comfort and a pride,
into a new means of violence and suffering.'

'You will,' said Rose, after a pause, 'take some money from me,


which may enable you to live without dishonesty--at all events
until we meet again?'

'Not a penny,' replied the girl, waving her hand.

'Do not close your heart against all my efforts to help you,'
said Rose, stepping gently forward. 'I wish to serve you
indeed.'

'You would serve me best, lady,' replied the girl, wringing her


hands, 'if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more
grief to think of what I am, to-night, than I ever did before,
and it would be something not to die in the hell in which I have
lived. God bless you, sweet lady, and send as much happiness on
your head as I have brought shame on mine!'

Thus speaking, and sobbing aloud, the unhappy creature turned


away; while Rose Maylie, overpowered by this extraordinary
interview, which had more the semblance of a rapid dream than an
actual occurance, sank into a chair, and endeavoured to collect
her wandering thoughts.

CHAPTER XLI

CONTAINING FRESH DISCOVERIES, AND SHOWING THAT SUPRISES, LIKE
MISFORTUNES, SELDOM COME ALONE

Her situation was, indeed, one of no common trial and difficulty.

While she felt the most eager and burning desire to penetrate the
mystery in which Oliver's history was enveloped, she could not
but hold sacred the confidence which the miserable woman with
whom she had just conversed, had reposed in her, as a young and
guileless girl. Her words and manner had touched Rose Maylie's
heart; and, mingled with her love for her young charge, and
scarcely less intense in its truth and fervour, was her fond wish
to win the outcast back to repentance and hope.

They purposed remaining in London only three days, prior to


departing for some weeks to a distant part of the coast. It was
now midnight of the first day. What course of action could she
determine upon, which could be adopted in eight-and-forty hours?
Or how could she postpone the journey without exciting suspicion?

Mr. Losberne was with them, and would be for the next two days;


but Rose was too well acquainted with the excellent gentleman's
impetuosity, and foresaw too clearly the wrath with which, in the
first explosion of his indignation, he would regard the
instrument of Oliver's recapture, to trust him with the secret,
when her representations in the girl's behalf could be seconded
by no experienced person. These were all reasons for the
greatest caution and most circumspect behaviour in communicating
it to Mrs. Maylie, whose first impulse would infallibly be to
hold a conference with the worthy doctor on the subject. As to
resorting to any legal adviser, even if she had known how to do
so, it was scarcely to be thought of, for the same reason. Once
the thought occurred to her of seeking assistance from Harry; but
this awakened the recollection of their last parting, and it
seemed unworthy of her to call him back, when--the tears rose to
her eyes as she pursued this train of reflection--he might have
by this time learnt to forget her, and to be happier away.

Disturbed by these different reflections; inclining now to one


course and then to another, and again recoiling from all, as each
successive consideration presented itself to her mind; Rose
passed a sleepless and anxious night. After more communing with
herself next day, she arrived at the desperate conclusion of
consulting Harry.

'If it be painful to him,' she thought, 'to come back here, how


painful it will be to me! But perhaps he will not come; he may
write, or he may come himself, and studiously abstain from
meeting me--he did when he went away. I hardly thought he would;
but it was better for us both.' And here Rose dropped the pen,
and turned away, as though the very paper which was to be her
messenger should not see her weep.

She had taken up the same pen, and laid it down again fifty


times, and had considered and reconsidered the first line of her
letter without writing the first word, when Oliver, who had been
walking in the streets, with Mr. Giles for a body-guard, entered
the room in such breathless haste and violent agitation, as
seemed to betoken some new cause of alarm.

'What makes you look so flurried?' asked Rose, advancing to meet


him.

'I hardly know how; I feel as if I should be choked,' replied the


boy. 'Oh dear! To think that I should see him at last, and you
should be able to know that I have told you the truth!'

'I never thought you had told us anything but the truth,' said


Rose, soothing him. 'But what is this?--of whom do you speak?'

'I have seen the gentleman,' replied Oliver, scarcely able to


articulate, 'the gentleman who was so good to me--Mr. Brownlow,
that we have so often talked about.'

'Where?' asked Rose.

'Getting out of a coach,' replied Oliver, shedding tears of
delight, 'and going into a house. I didn't speak to him--I
couldn't speak to him, for he didn't see me, and I trembled so,
that I was not able to go up to him. But Giles asked, for me,
whether he lived there, and they said he did. Look here,' said
Oliver, opening a scrap of paper, 'here it is; here's where he
lives--I'm going there directly! Oh, dear me, dear me! What
shall I do when I come to see him and hear him speak again!'

With her attention not a little distracted by these and a great


many other incoherent exclamations of joy, Rose read the address,
which was Craven Street, in the Strand. She very soon determined
upon turning the discovery to account.

'Quick!' she said. 'Tell them to fetch a hackney-coach, and be


ready to go with me. I will take you there directly, without a
minute's loss of time. I will only tell my aunt that we are
going out for an hour, and be ready as soon as you are.'

Oliver needed no prompting to despatch, and in little more than


five minutes they were on their way to Craven Street. When they
arrived there, Rose left Oliver in the coach, under pretence of
preparing the old gentleman to receive him; and sending up her
card by the servant, requested to see Mr. Brownlow on very
pressing business. The servant soon returned, to beg that she
would walk upstairs; and following him into an upper room, Miss
Maylie was presented to an elderly gentleman of benevolent
appearance, in a bottle-green coat. At no great distance from
whom, was seated another old gentleman, in nankeen breeches and
gaiters; who did not look particularly benevolent, and who was
sitting with his hands clasped on the top of a thick stick, and
his chin propped thereupon.

'Dear me,' said the gentleman, in the bottle-green coat, hastily


rising with great politeness, 'I beg your pardon, young lady--I
imagined it was some importunate person who--I beg you will
excuse me. Be seated, pray.'

'Mr. Brownlow, I believe, sir?' said Rose, glancing from the


other gentleman to the one who had spoken.

'That is my name,' said the old gentleman. 'This is my friend,


Mr. Grimwig. Grimwig, will you leave us for a few minutes?'

'I believe,' interposed Miss Maylie, 'that at this period of our


interview, I need not give that gentleman the trouble of going
away. If I am correctly informed, he is cognizant of the
business on which I wish to speak to you.'

Mr. Brownlow inclined his head. Mr. Grimwig, who had made one


very stiff bow, and risen from his chair, made another very stiff
bow, and dropped into it again.

'I shall surprise you very much, I have no doubt,' said Rose,


naturally embarrassed; 'but you once showed great benevolence and
goodness to a very dear young friend of mine, and I am sure you
will take an interest in hearing of him again.'

'Indeed!' said Mr. Brownlow.

'Oliver Twist you knew him as,' replied Rose.

The words no sooner escaped her lips, than Mr. Grimwig, who had


been affecting to dip into a large book that lay on the table,
upset it with a great crash, and falling back in his chair,
discharged from his features every expression but one of
unmitigated wonder, and indulged in a prolonged and vacant stare;
then, as if ashamed of having betrayed so much emotion, he jerked
himself, as it were, by a convulsion into his former attitude,
and looking out straight before him emitted a long deep whistle,
which seemed, at last, not to be discharged on empty air, but to
die away in the innermost recesses of his stomach.

Mr. Browlow was no less surprised, although his astonishment was


not expressed in the same eccentric manner. He drew his chair
nearer to Miss Maylie's, and said,

'Do me the favour, my dear young lady, to leave entirely out of


the question that goodness and benevolence of which you speak,
and of which nobody else knows anything; and if you have it in
your power to produce any evidence which will alter the
unfavourable opinion I was once induced to entertain of that poor
child, in Heaven's name put me in possession of it.'

'A bad one! I'll eat my head if he is not a bad one,' growled


Mr. Grimwig, speaking by some ventriloquial power, without moving
a muscle of his face.

'He is a child of a noble nature and a warm heart,' said Rose,


colouring; 'and that Power which has thought fit to try him
beyond his years, has planted in his breast affections and
feelings which would do honour to many who have numbered his days
six times over.'

'I'm only sixty-one,' said Mr. Grimwig, with the same rigid face.

'And, as the devil's in it if this Oliver is not twelve years old
at least, I don't see the application of that remark.'

'Do not heed my friend, Miss Maylie,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'he does


not mean what he says.'

'Yes, he does,' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'No, he does not,' said Mr. Brownlow, obviously rising in wrath
as he spoke.

'He'll eat his head, if he doesn't,' growled Mr. Grimwig.

'He would deserve to have it knocked off, if he does,' said Mr.
Brownlow.

'And he'd uncommonly like to see any man offer to do it,'


responded Mr. Grimwig, knocking his stick upon the floor.

Having gone thus far, the two old gentlemen severally took snuff,


and afterwards shook hands, according to their invariable custom.

'Now, Miss Maylie,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'to return to the subject


in which your humanity is so much interested. Will you let me
know what intelligence you have of this poor child: allowing me
to promise that I exhausted every means in my power of
discovering him, and that since I have been absent from this
country, my first impression that he had imposed upon me, and had
been persuaded by his former associates to rob me, has been
considerably shaken.'

Rose, who had had time to collect her thoughts, at once related,


in a few natural words, all that had befallen Oliver since he
left Mr. Brownlow's house; reserving Nancy's information for that
gentleman's private ear, and concluding with the assurance that
his only sorrow, for some months past, had been not being able to
meet with his former benefactor and friend.

'Thank God!' said the old gentleman. 'This is great happiness to


me, great happiness. But you have not told me where he is now,
Miss Maylie. You must pardon my finding fault with you,--but why
not have brought him?'

'He is waiting in a coach at the door,' replied Rose.

'At this door!' cried the old gentleman. With which he hurried
out of the room, down the stairs, up the coachsteps, and into the
coach, without another word.

When the room-door closed behind him, Mr. Grimwig lifted up his


head, and converting one of the hind legs of his chair into a
pivot, described three distinct circles with the assistance of
his stick and the table; stitting in it all the time. After
performing this evolution, he rose and limped as fast as he could
up and down the room at least a dozen times, and then stopping
suddenly before Rose, kissed her without the slightest preface.

'Hush!' he said, as the young lady rose in some alarm at this


unusual proceeding. 'Don't be afraid. I'm old enough to be your
grandfather. You're a sweet girl. I like you. Here they are!'

In fact, as he threw himself at one dexterous dive into his


former seat, Mr. Brownlow returned, accompanied by Oliver, whom
Mr. Grimwig received very graciously; and if the gratification of
that moment had been the only reward for all her anxiety and care
in Oliver's behalf, Rose Maylie would have been well repaid.

'There is somebody else who should not be forgotten, by the bye,'


said Mr. Brownlow, ringing the bell. 'Send Mrs. Bedwin here, if
you please.'

The old housekeeper answered the summons with all dispatch; and


dropping a curtsey at the door, waited for orders.

'Why, you get blinder every day, Bedwin,' said Mr. Brownlow,


rather testily.

'Well, that I do, sir,' replied the old lady. 'People's eyes, at


my time of life, don't improve with age, sir.'

'I could have told you that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but put on


your glasses, and see if you can't find out what you were wanted
for, will you?'

The old lady began to rummage in her pocket for her spectacles.


But Oliver's patience was not proof against this new trial; and
yielding to his first impulse, he sprang into her arms.

'God be good to me!' cried the old lady, embracing him; 'it is my


innocent boy!'

'My dear old nurse!' cried Oliver.

'He would come back--I knew he would,' said the old lady, holding
him in her arms. 'How well he looks, and how like a gentleman's
son he is dressed again! Where have you been, this long, long
while? Ah! the same sweet face, but not so pale; the same soft
eye, but not so sad. I have never forgotten them or his quiet
smile, but have seen them every day, side by side with those of
my own dear children, dead and gone since I was a lightsome young
creature.' Running on thus, and now holding Oliver from her to
mark how he had grown, now clasping him to her and passing her
fingers fondly through his hair, the good soul laughed and wept
upon his neck by turns.

Leaving her and Oliver to compare notes at leisure, Mr. Brownlow


led the way into another room; and there, heard from Rose a full
narration of her interview with Nancy, which occasioned him no
little surprise and perplexity. Rose also explained her reasons
for not confiding in her friend Mr. Losberne in the first
instance. The old gentleman considered that she had acted
prudently, and readily undertook to hold solemn conference with
the worthy doctor himself. To afford him an early opportunity
for the execution of this design, it was arranged that he should
call at the hotel at eight o'clock that evening, and that in the
meantime Mrs. Maylie should be cautiously informed of all that
had occurred. These preliminaries adjusted, Rose and Oliver
returned home.

Rose had by no means overrated the measure of the good doctor's


wrath. Nancy's history was no sooner unfolded to him, than he
poured forth a shower of mingled threats and execrations;
threatened to make her the first victim of the combined ingenuity
of Messrs. Blathers and Duff; and actually put on his hat
preparatory to sallying forth to obtain the assistance of those
worthies. And, doubtless, he would, in this first outbreak, have
carried the intention into effect without a moment's
consideration of the consequences, if he had not been restrained,
in part, by corresponding violence on the side of Mr. Brownlow,
who was himself of an irascible temperament, and party by such
arguments and representations as seemed best calculated to
dissuade him from his hotbrained purpose.

'Then what the devil is to be done?' said the impetuous doctor,


when they had rejoined the two ladies. 'Are we to pass a vote of
thanks to all these vagabonds, male and female, and beg them to
accept a hundred pounds, or so, apiece, as a trifling mark of our
esteem, and some slight acknowledgment of their kindness to
Oliver?'

'Not exactly that,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow, laughing; 'but we must


proceed gently and with great care.'

'Gentleness and care,' exclaimed the doctor. 'I'd send them one


and all to--'

'Never mind where,' interposed Mr. Brownlow. 'But reflect


whether sending them anywhere is likely to attain the object we
have in view.'

'What object?' asked the doctor.

'Simply, the discovery of Oliver's parentage, and regaining for
him the inheritance of which, if this story be true, he has been
fraudulently deprived.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Losberne, cooling himself with his


pocket-handkerchief; 'I almost forgot that.'

'You see,' pursued Mr. Brownlow; 'placing this poor girl entirely


out of the question, and supposing it were possible to bring
these scoundrels to justice without compromising her safety, what
good should we bring about?'

'Hanging a few of them at least, in all probability,' suggested


the doctor, 'and transporting the rest.'

'Very good,' replied Mr. Brownlow, smiling; 'but no doubt they


will bring that about for themselves in the fulness of time, and
if we step in to forestall them, it seems to me that we shall be
performing a very Quixotic act, in direct opposition to our own
interest--or at least to Oliver's, which is the same thing.'

'How?' inquired the doctor.

'Thus. It is quite clear that we shall have extreme difficulty
in getting to the bottom of this mystery, unless we can bring
this man, Monks, upon his knees. That can only be done by
stratagem, and by catching him when he is not surrounded by these
people. For, suppose he were apprehended, we have no proof
against him. He is not even (so far as we know, or as the facts
appear to us) concerned with the gang in any of their robberies.
If he were not discharged, it is very unlikely that he could
receive any further punishment than being committed to prison as
a rogue and vagabond; and of course ever afterwards his mouth
would be so obstinately closed that he might as well, for our
purposes, be deaf, dumb, blind, and an idiot.'

'Then,' said the doctor impetuously, 'I put it to you again,


whether you think it reasonable that this promise to the girl
should be considered binding; a promise made with the best and
kindest intentions, but really--'

'Do not discuss the point, my dear young lady, pray,' said Mr.


Brownlow, interrupting Rose as she was about to speak. 'The
promise shall be kept. I don't think it will, in the slightest
degree, interfere with our proceedings. But, before we can
resolve upon any precise course of action, it will be necessary
to see the girl; to ascertain from her whether she will point out
this Monks, on the understanding that he is to be dealt with by
us, and not by the law; or, if she will not, or cannot do that,
to procure from her such an account of his haunts and description
of his person, as will enable us to identify him. She cannot be
seen until next Sunday night; this is Tuesday. I would suggest
that in the meantime, we remain perfectly quiet, and keep these
matters secret even from Oliver himself.'

Although Mr. Loseberne received with many wry faces a proposal


involving a delay of five whole days, he was fain to admit that
no better course occurred to him just then; and as both Rose and
Mrs. Maylie sided very strongly with Mr. Brownlow, that
gentleman's proposition was carried unanimously.

'I should like,' he said, 'to call in the aid of my friend


Grimwig. He is a strange creature, but a shrewd one, and might
prove of material assistance to us; I should say that he was bred
a lawyer, and quitted the Bar in disgust because he had only one
brief and a motion of course, in twenty years, though whether
that is recommendation or not, you must determine for
yourselves.'

'I have no objection to your calling in your friend if I may call


in mine,' said the doctor.

'We must put it to the vote,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'who may he


be?'

'That lady's son, and this young lady's--very old friend,' said


the doctor, motioning towards Mrs. Maylie, and concluding with an
expressive glance at her niece.

Rose blushed deeply, but she did not make any audible objection


to this motion (possibly she felt in a hopeless minority); and
Harry Maylie and Mr. Grimwig were accordingly added to the
committee.

'We stay in town, of course,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'while there


remains the slightest prospect of prosecuting this inquiry with a
chance of success. I will spare neither trouble nor expense in
behalf of the object in which we are all so deeply interested,
and I am content to remain here, if it be for twelve months, so
long as you assure me that any hope remains.'

'Good!' rejoined Mr. Brownlow. 'And as I see on the faces about


me, a disposition to inquire how it happened that I was not in
the way to corroborate Oliver's tale, and had so suddenly left
the kingdom, let me stipulate that I shall be asked no questions
until such time as I may deem it expedient to forestall them by
telling my own story. Believe me, I make this request with good
reason, for I might otherwise excite hopes destined never to be
realised, and only increase difficulties and disappointments
already quite numerous enough. Come! Supper has been announced,
and young Oliver, who is all alone in the next room, will have
begun to think, by this time, that we have wearied of his
company, and entered into some dark conspiracy to thrust him
forth upon the world.'

With these words, the old gentleman gave his hand to Mrs. Maylie,


and escorted her into the supper-room. Mr. Losberne followed,
leading Rose; and the council was, for the present, effectually
broken up.

CHAPTER XLII

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE OF OLIVER'S, EXHIBITING DECIDED MARKS OF
GENIUS, BECOMES A PUBLIC CHARACTER IN THE METROPOLIS

Upon the night when Nancy, having lulled Mr. Sikes to sleep,


hurried on her self-imposed mission to Rose Maylie, there
advanced towards London, by the Great North Road, two persons,
upon whom it is expedient that this history should bestow some
attention.

They were a man and woman; or perhaps they would be better


described as a male and female: for the former was one of those
long-limbed, knock-kneed, shambling, bony people, to whom it is
difficult to assign any precise age,--looking as they do, when
they are yet boys, like undergrown men, and when they are almost
men, like overgrown boys. The woman was young, but of a robust
and hardy make, as she need have been to bear the weight of the
heavy bundle which was strapped to her back. Her companion was
not encumbered with much luggage, as there merely dangled from a
stick which he carried over his shoulder, a small parcel wrapped
in a common handkerchief, and apparently light enough. This
circumstance, added to the length of his legs, which were of
unusual extent, enabled him with much ease to keep some
half-dozen paces in advance of his companion, to whom he
occasionally turned with an impatient jerk of the head: as if
reproaching her tardiness, and urging her to greater exertion.

Thus, they had toiled along the dusty road, taking little heed of


any object within sight, save when they stepped aside to allow a
wider passage for the mail-coaches which were whirling out of
town, until they passed through Highgate archway; when the
foremost traveller stopped and called impatiently to his
companion,

'Come on, can't yer? What a lazybones yer are, Charlotte.'

'It's a heavy load, I can tell you,' said the female, coming up,
almost breathless with fatigue.

'Heavy! What are yer talking about? What are yer made for?'


rejoined the male traveller, changing his own little bundle as he
spoke, to the other shoulder. 'Oh, there yer are, resting again!

Well, if yer ain't enough to tire anybody's patience out, I don't


know what is!'

'Is it much farther?' asked the woman, resting herself against a


bank, and looking up with the perspiration streaming from her
face.

'Much farther! Yer as good as there,' said the long-legged


tramper, pointing out before him. 'Look there! Those are the
lights of London.'

'They're a good two mile off, at least,' said the woman


despondingly.

'Never mind whether they're two mile off, or twenty,' said Noah


Claypole; for he it was; 'but get up and come on, or I'll kick
yer, and so I give yer notice.'

As Noah's red nose grew redder with anger, and as he crossed the


road while speaking, as if fully prepared to put his threat into
execution, the woman rose without any further remark, and trudged
onward by his side.

'Where do you mean to stop for the night, Noah?' she asked, after


they had walked a few hundred yards.

'How should I know?' replied Noah, whose temper had been


considerably impaired by walking.

'Near, I hope,' said Charlotte.

'No, not near,' replied Mr. Claypole. 'There! Not near; so
don't think it.'

'Why not?'

'When I tell yer that I don't mean to do a thing, that's enough,
without any why or because either,' replied Mr. Claypole with
dignity.

'Well, you needn't be so cross,' said his companion.

'A pretty thing it would be, wouldn't it to go and stop at the
very first public-house outside the town, so that Sowerberry, if
he come up after us, might poke in his old nose, and have us
taken back in a cart with handcuffs on,' said Mr. Claypole in a
jeering tone. 'No! I shall go and lose myself among the
narrowest streets I can find, and not stop till we come to the
very out-of-the-wayest house I can set eyes on. 'Cod, yer may
thanks yer stars I've got a head; for if we hadn't gone, at
first, the wrong road a purpose, and come back across country,
yer'd have been locked up hard and fast a week ago, my lady. And
serve yer right for being a fool.'

'I know I ain't as cunning as you are,' replied Charlotte; 'but


don't put all the blame on me, and say I should have been locked
up. You would have been if I had been, any way.'

'Yer took the money from the till, yer know yer did,' said Mr.


Claypole.

'I took it for you, Noah, dear,' rejoined Charlotte.

'Did I keep it?' asked Mr. Claypole.

'No; you trusted in me, and let me carry it like a dear, and so


you are,' said the lady, chucking him under the chin, and drawing
her arm through his.

This was indeed the case; but as it was not Mr. Claypole's habit


to repose a blind and foolish confidence in anybody, it should be
observed, in justice to that gentleman, that he had trusted
Charlotte to this extent, in order that, if they were pursued,
the money might be found on her: which would leave him an
opportunity of asserting his innocence of any theft, and would
greatly facilitate his chances of escape. Of course, he entered
at this juncture, into no explanation of his motives, and they
walked on very lovingly together.

In pursuance of this cautious plan, Mr. Claypole went on, without


halting, until he arrived at the Angel at Islington, where he
wisely judged, from the crowd of passengers and numbers of
vehicles, that London began in earnest. Just pausing to observe
which appeared the most crowded streets, and consequently the
most to be avoided, he crossed into Saint John's Road, and was
soon deep in the obscurity of the intricate and dirty ways,
which, lying between Gray's Inn Lane and Smithfield, render that
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