Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



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stream abruptly turned, as this intelligence ran from mouth to
mouth; and the people at the windows, seeing those upon the
bridges pouring back, quitted their stations, and running into
the street, joined the concourse that now thronged pell-mell to
the spot they had left: each man crushing and striving with his
neighbor, and all panting with impatience to get near the door,
and look upon the criminal as the officers brought him out. The
cries and shrieks of those who were pressed almost to
suffocation, or trampled down and trodden under foot in the
confusion, were dreadful; the narrow ways were completely blocked
up; and at this time, between the rush of some to regain the
space in front of the house, and the unavailing struggles of
others to extricate themselves from the mass, the immediate
attention was distracted from the murderer, although the
universal eagerness for his capture was, if possible, increased.

The man had shrunk down, thoroughly quelled by the ferocity of


the crowd, and the impossibility of escape; but seeing this
sudden change with no less rapidity than it had occurred, he
sprang upon his feet, determined to make one last effort for his
life by dropping into the ditch, and, at the risk of being
stifled, endeavouring to creep away in the darkness and
confusion.

Roused into new strength and energy, and stimulated by the noise


within the house which announced that an entrance had really been
effected, he set his foot against the stack of chimneys, fastened
one end of the rope tightly and firmly round it, and with the
other made a strong running noose by the aid of his hands and
teeth almost in a second. He could let himself down by the cord
to within a less distance of the ground than his own height, and
had his knife ready in his hand to cut it then and drop.

At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head


previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pits, and when the old
gentleman before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing
of the bridge as to resist the force of the crowd, and retain his
position) earnestly warned those about him that the man was about
to lower himself down--at that very instant the murderer, looking
behind him on the roof, threw his arms above his head, and
uttered a yell of terror.

'The eyes again!' he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and
tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up
with his weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it
speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden
jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with
the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely.


The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy,
thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called
to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake.

A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and


forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting
himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man's shoulders.
Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over
as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his
brains.

CHAPTER LI

AFFORDING AN EXPLANATION OF MORE MYSTERIES THAN ONE, AND
COMPREHENDING A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE WITH NO WORD OF SETTLEMENT
OR PIN-MONEY

The events narrated in the last chapter were yet but two days


old, when Oliver found himself, at three o'clock in the
afternoon, in a travelling-carriage rolling fast towards his
native town. Mrs. Maylie, and Rose, and Mrs. Bedwin, and the
good doctor were with him: and Mr. Brownlow followed in a
post-chaise, accompanied by one other person whose name had not
been mentioned.

They had not talked much upon the way; for Oliver was in a


flutter of agitation and uncertainty which deprived him of the
power of collecting his thoughts, and almost of speech, and
appeared to have scarcely less effect on his companions, who
shared it, in at least an equal degree. He and the two ladies
had been very carefully made acquainted by Mr. Brownlow with the
nature of the admissions which had been forced from Monks; and
although they knew that the object of their present journey was
to complete the work which had been so well begun, still the
whole matter was enveloped in enough of doubt and mystery to
leave them in endurance of the most intense suspense.

The same kind friend had, with Mr. Losberne's assistance,


cautiously stopped all channels of communication through which
they could receive intelligence of the dreadful occurrences that
so recently taken place. 'It was quite true,' he said, 'that
they must know them before long, but it might be at a better time
than the present, and it could not be at a worse.' So, they
travelled on in silence: each busied with reflections on the
object which had brought them together: and no one disposed to
give utterance to the thoughts which crowded upon all.

But if Oliver, under these influences, had remained silent while


they journeyed towards his birth-place by a road he had never
seen, how the whole current of his recollections ran back to old
times, and what a crowd of emotions were wakened up in his
breast, when they turned into that which he had traversed on
foot: a poor houseless, wandering boy, without a friend to help
him, or a roof to shelter his head.

'See there, there!' cried Oliver, eagerly clasping the hand of


Rose, and pointing out at the carriage window; 'that's the stile
I came over; there are the hedges I crept behind, for fear any
one should overtake me and force me back! Yonder is the path
across the fields, leading to the old house where I was a little
child! Oh Dick, Dick, my dear old friend, if I could only see
you now!'

'You will see him soon,' replied Rose, gently taking his folded


hands between her own. 'You shall tell him how happy you are,
and how rich you have grown, and that in all your happiness you
have none so great as the coming back to make him happy too.'

'Yes, yes,' said Oliver, 'and we'll--we'll take him away from


here, and have him clothed and taught, and send him to some quiet
country place where he may grow strong and well,--shall we?'

Rose nodded 'yes,' for the boy was smiling through such happy


tears that she could not speak.

'You will be kind and good to him, for you are to every one,'


said Oliver. 'It will make you cry, I know, to hear what he can
tell; but never mind, never mind, it will be all over, and you
will smile again--I know that too--to think how changed he is;
you did the same with me. He said "God bless you" to me when I
ran away,' cried the boy with a burst of affectionate emotion;
'and I will say "God bless you" now, and show him how I love him
for it!'

As they approached the town, and at length drove through its


narrow streets, it became matter of no small difficulty to
restrain the boy within reasonable bounds. There was
Sowerberry's the undertaker's just as it used to be, only smaller
and less imposing in appearance than he remembered it--there were
all the well-known shops and houses, with almost every one of
which he had some slight incident connected--there was Gamfield's
cart, the very cart he used to have, standing at the old
public-house door--there was the workhouse, the dreary prison of
his youthful days, with its dismal windows frowning on the
street--there was the same lean porter standing at the gate, at
sight of whom Oliver involuntarily shrunk back, and then laughed
at himself for being so foolish, then cried, then laughed
again--there were scores of faces at the doors and windows that
he knew quite well--there was nearly everything as if he had left
it but yesterday, and all his recent life had been but a happy
dream.

But it was pure, earnest, joyful reality. They drove straight to


the door of the chief hotel (which Oliver used to stare up at,
with awe, and think a mighty palace, but which had somehow fallen
off in grandeur and size); and here was Mr. Grimwig all ready to
receive them, kissing the young lady, and the old one too, when
they got out of the coach, as if he were the grandfather of the
whole party, all smiles and kindness, and not offering to eat his
head--no, not once; not even when he contradicted a very old
postboy about the nearest road to London, and maintained he knew
it best, though he had only come that way once, and that time
fast asleep. There was dinner prepared, and there were bedrooms
ready, and everything was arranged as if by magic.

Notwithstanding all this, when the hurry of the first half-hour


was over, the same silence and constraint prevailed that had
marked their journey down. Mr. Brownlow did not join them at
dinner, but remained in a separate room. The two other gentlemen
hurried in and out with anxious faces, and, during the short
intervals when they were present, conversed apart. Once, Mrs.
Maylie was called away, and after being absent for nearly an
hour, returned with eyes swollen with weeping. All these things
made Rose and Oliver, who were not in any new secrets, nervous
and uncomfortable. They sat wondering, in silence; or, if they
exchanged a few words, spoke in whispers, as if they were afraid
to hear the sound of their own voices.

At length, when nine o'clock had come, and they began to think


they were to hear no more that night, Mr. Losberne and Mr.
Grimwig entered the room, followed by Mr. Brownlow and a man whom
Oliver almost shrieked with surprise to see; for they told him it
was his brother, and it was the same man he had met at the
market-town, and seen looking in with Fagin at the window of his
little room. Monks cast a look of hate, which, even then, he
could not dissemble, at the astonished boy, and sat down near the
door. Mr. Brownlow, who had papers in his hand, walked to a
table near which Rose and Oliver were seated.

'This is a painful task,' said he, 'but these declarations, which


have been signed in London before many gentlemen, must be
substance repeated here. I would have spared you the
degradation, but we must hear them from your own lips before we
part, and you know why.'

'Go on,' said the person addressed, turning away his face.


'Quick. I have almost done enough, I think. Don't keep me
here.'

'This child,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing Oliver to him, and


laying his hand upon his head, 'is your half-brother; the
illegitimate son of your father, my dear friend Edwin Leeford, by
poor young Agnes Fleming, who died in giving him birth.'

'Yes,' said Monks, scowling at the trembling boy: the beating of


whose heart he might have heard. 'That is the bastard child.'

'The term you use,' said Mr. Brownlow, sternly, 'is a reproach to


those long since passed beyong the feeble censure of the world.
It reflects disgrace on no one living, except you who use it.
Let that pass. He was born in this town.'

'In the workhouse of this town,' was the sullen reply. 'You have


the story there.' He pointed impatiently to the papers as he
spoke.

'I must have it here, too,' said Mr. Brownlow, looking round upon


the listeners.

'Listen then! You!' returned Monks. 'His father being taken ill


at Rome, was joined by his wife, my mother, from whom he had been
long separated, who went from Paris and took me with her--to look
after his property, for what I know, for she had no great
affection for him, nor he for her. He knew nothing of us, for
his senses were gone, and he slumbered on till next day, when he
died. Among the papers in his desk, were two, dated on the night
his illness first came on, directed to yourself'; he addressed
himself to Mr. Brownlow; 'and enclosed in a few short lines to
you, with an intimation on the cover of the package that it was
not to be forwarded till after he was dead. One of these papers
was a letter to this girl Agnes; the other a will.'

'What of the letter?' asked Mr. Brownlow.

'The letter?--A sheet of paper crossed and crossed again, with a
penitent confession, and prayers to God to help her. He had
palmed a tale on the girl that some secret mystery--to be
explained one day--prevented his marrying her just then; and so
she had gone on, trusting patiently to him, until she trusted too
far, and lost what none could ever give her back. She was, at
that time, within a few months of her confinement. He told her
all he had meant to do, to hide her shame, if he had lived, and
prayed her, if he died, not to curse him memory, or think the
consequences of their sin would be visited on her or their young
child; for all the guilt was his. He reminded her of the day he
had given her the little locket and the ring with her christian
name engraved upon it, and a blank left for that which he hoped
one day to have bestowed upon her--prayed her yet to keep it, and
wear it next her heart, as she had done before--and then ran on,
wildly, in the same words, over and over again, as if he had gone
distracted. I believe he had.'

'The will,' said Mr. Brownlow, as Oliver's tears fell fast.

Monks was silent.

'The will,' said Mr. Brownlow, speaking for him, 'was in the same


spirit as the letter. He talked of miseries which his wife had
brought upon him; of the rebellious disposition, vice, malice,
and premature bad passions of you his only son, who had been
trained to hate him; and left you, and your mother, each an
annuity of eight hundred pounds. The bulk of his property he
divided into two equal portions--one for Agnes Fleming, and the
other for their child, it it should be born alive, and ever come
of age. If it were a girl, it was to inherit the money
unconditionally; but if a boy, only on the stipulation that in
his minority he should never have stained his name with any
public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardice, or wrong. He did
this, he said, to mark his confidence in the other, and his
conviction--only strengthened by approaching death--that the
child would share her gentle heart, and noble nature. If he were
disappointed in this expectation, then the money was to come to
you: for then, and not till then, when both children were equal,
would he recognise your prior claim upon his purse, who had none
upon his heart, but had, from an infant, repulsed him with
coldness and aversion.'

'My mother,' said Monks, in a louder tone, 'did what a woman


should have done. She burnt this will. The letter never reached
its destination; but that, and other proofs, she kept, in case
they ever tried to lie away the blot. The girl's father had the
truth from her with every aggravation that her violent hate--I
love her for it now--could add. Goaded by shame and dishonour he
fled with his children into a remote corner of Wales, changing
his very name that his friends might never know of his retreat;
and here, no great while afterwards, he was found dead in his
bed. The girl had left her home, in secret, some weeks before;
he had searched for her, on foot, in every town and village near;
it was on the night when he returned home, assured that she had
destroyed herself, to hide her shame and his, that his old heart
broke.'

There was a short silence here, until Mr. Brownlow took up the


thread of the narrative.

'Years after this,' he said, 'this man's--Edward


Leeford's--mother came to me. He had left her, when only
eighteen; robbed her of jewels and money; gambled, squandered,
forged, and fled to London: where for two years he had
associated with the lowest outcasts. She was sinking under a
painful and incurable disease, and wished to recover him before
she died. Inquiries were set on foot, and strict searches made.
They were unavailing for a long time, but ultimately successful;
and he went back with her to France.

'There she died,' said Monks, 'after a lingering illness; and, on


her death-bed, she bequeathed these secrets to me, together with
her unquenchable and deadly hatred of all whom they
involved--though she need not have left me that, for I had
inherited it long before. She would not believe that the girl
had destroyed herself, and the child too, but was filled with the
impression that a male child had been born, and was alive. I
swore to her, if ever it crossed my path, to hunt it down; never
to let it rest; to pursue it with the bitterest and most
unrelenting animosity; to vent upon it the hatred that I deeply
felt, and to spit upon the empty vaunt of that insulting will by
draggin it, if I could, to the very gallows-foot. She was right.

He came in my way at last. I began well; and, but for babbling


drabs, I would have finished as I began!'

As the villain folded his arms tight together, and muttered


curses on himself in the impotence of baffled malice, Mr.
Brownlow turned to the terrified group beside him, and explained
that the Jew, who had been his old accomplice and confidant, had
a large reward for keeping Oliver ensnared: of which some part
was to be given up, in the event of his being rescued: and that
a dispute on this head had led to their visit to the country
house for the purpose of identifying him.

'The locket and ring?' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Monks.

'I bought them from the man and woman I told you of, who stole
them from the nurse, who stole them from the corpse,' answered
Monks without raising his eyes. 'You know what became of them.'

Mr. Brownlow merely nodded to Mr. Grimwig, who disappearing with


great alacrity, shortly returned, pushing in Mrs. Bumble, and
dragging her unwilling consort after him.

'Do my hi's deceive me!' cried Mr. Bumble, with ill-feigned


enthusiasm, 'or is that little Oliver? Oh O-li-ver, if you
know'd how I've been a-grieving for you--'

'Hold your tongue, fool,' murmured Mrs. Bumble.

'Isn't natur, natur, Mrs. Bumble?' remonstrated the workhouse
master. 'Can't I be supposed to feel--_I_ as brought him up
porochially--when I see him a-setting here among ladies and
gentlemen of the very affablest description! I always loved that
boy as if he'd been my--my--my own grandfather,' said Mr. Bumble,
halting for an appropriate comparison. 'Master Oliver, my dear,
you remember the blessed gentleman in the white waistcoat? Ah!
he went to heaven last week, in a oak coffin with plated handles,
Oliver.'

'Come, sir,' said Mr. Grimwig, tartly; 'suppress your feelings.'

'I will do my endeavours, sir,' replied Mr. Bumble. 'How do you
do, sir? I hope you are very well.'

This salutation was addressed to Mr. Brownlow, who had stepped up


to within a short distance of the respectable couple. He
inquired, as he pointed to Monks,

'Do you know that person?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble flatly.

'Perhaps YOU don't?' said Mr. Brownlow, addressing her spouse.

'I never saw him in all my life,' said Mr. Bumble.

'Nor sold him anything, perhaps?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble.

'You never had, perhaps, a certain gold locket and ring?' said


Mr. Brownlow.

'Certainly not,' replied the matron. 'Why are we brought here to


answer to such nonsense as this?'

Again Mr. Brownlow nodded to Mr. Grimwig; and again that


gentleman limped away with extraordinary readiness. But not
again did he return with a stout man and wife; for this time, he
led in two palsied women, who shook and tottered as they walked.

'You shut the door the night old Sally died,' said the foremost


one, raising her shrivelled hand, 'but you couldn't shut out the
sound, nor stop the chinks.'

'No, no,' said the other, looking round her and wagging her


toothless jaws. 'No, no, no.'

'We heard her try to tell you what she'd done, and saw you take a


paper from her hand, and watched you too, next day, to the
pawnbroker's shop,' said the first.

'Yes,' added the second, 'and it was a "locket and gold ring."


We found out that, and saw it given you. We were by. Oh! we
were by.'

'And we know more than that,' resumed the first, 'for she told us


often, long ago, that the young mother had told her that, feeling
she should never get over it, she was on her way, at the time
that she was taken ill, to die near the grave of the father of
the child.'

'Would you like to see the pawnbroker himself?' asked Mr. Grimwig


with a motion towards the door.

'No,' replied the woman; 'if he--she pointed to Monks--'has been


coward enough to confess, as I see he had, and you have sounded
all these hags till you have found the right ones, I have nothing
more to say. I DID sell them, and they're where you'll never get
them. What then?'

'Nothing,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'except that it remains for us


to take care that neither of you is employed in a situation of
trust again. You may leave the room.'

'I hope,' said Mr. Bumble, looking about him with great


ruefulness, as Mr. Grimwig disappeared with the two old women:
'I hope that this unfortunate little circumstance will not
deprive me of my porochial office?'

'Indeed it will,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'You may make up your


mind to that, and think yourself well off besides.'

'It was all Mrs. Bumble. She WOULD do it,' urged Mr. Bumble;


first looking round to ascertain that his partner had left the
room.

'That is no excuse,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'You were present on


the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and indeed are
the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law
supposes that your wife acts under your direction.'

'If the law supposes that,' said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat


emphatically in both hands, 'the law is a ass--a idiot. If
that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I
wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience--by
experience.'

Laying great stress on the repetition of these two words, Mr.


Bumble fixed his hat on very tight, and putting his hands in his
pockets, followed his helpmate downstairs.

'Young lady,' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Rose, 'give me your


hand. Do not tremble. You need not fear to hear the few
remaining words we have to say.'

'If they have--I do not know how they can, but if they have--any


reference to me,' said Rose, 'pray let me hear them at some other
time. I have not strength or spirits now.'

'Nay,' returned the old gentlman, drawing her arm through his;


'you have more fortitude than this, I am sure. Do you know this
young lady, sir?'

'Yes,' replied Monks.

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