Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens



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'I never saw you before,' said Rose faintly.

'I have seen you often,' returned Monks.

'The father of the unhappy Agnes had TWO daughters,' said Mr.
Brownlow. 'What was the fate of the other--the child?'

'The child,' replied Monks, 'when her father died in a strange


place, in a strange name, without a letter, book, or scrap of
paper that yielded the faintest clue by which his friends or
relatives could be traced--the child was taken by some wretched
cottagers, who reared it as their own.'

'Go on,' said Mr. Brownlow, signing to Mrs. Maylie to approach.


'Go on!'

'You couldn't find the spot to which these people had repaired,'


said Monks, 'but where friendship fails, hatred will often force
a way. My mother found it, after a year of cunning search--ay,
and found the child.'

'She took it, did she?'

'No. The people were poor and began to sicken--at least the man
did--of their fine humanity; so she left it with them, giving
them a small present of money which would not last long, and
promised more, which she never meant to send. She didn't quite
rely, however, on their discontent and poverty for the child's
unhappiness, but told the history of the sister's shame, with
such alterations as suited her; bade them take good heed of the
child, for she came of bad blood;; and told them she was
illegitimate, and sure to go wrong at one time or other. The
circumstances countenanced all this; the people believed it; and
there the child dragged on an existence, miserable enough even to
satisfy us, until a widow lady, residing, then, at Chester, saw
the girl by chance, pitied her, and took her home. There was
some cursed spell, I think, against us; for in spite of all our
efforts she remained there and was happy. I lost sight of her,
two or three years ago, and saw her no more until a few months
back.'

'Do you see her now?'

'Yes. Leaning on your arm.'

'But not the less my niece,' cried Mrs. Maylie, folding the


fainting girl in her arms; 'not the less my dearest child. I
would not lose her now, for all the treasures of the world. My
sweet companion, my own dear girl!'

'The only friend I ever had,' cried Rose, clinging to her. 'The


kindest, best of friends. My heart will burst. I cannot bear
all this.'

'You have borne more, and have been, through all, the best and


gentlest creature that ever shed happiness on every one she
knew,' said Mrs. Maylie, embracing her tenderly. 'Come, come, my
love, remember who this is who waits to clasp you in his arms,
poor child! See here--look, look, my dear!'

'Not aunt,' cried Oliver, throwing his arms about her neck; 'I'll


never call her aunt--sister, my own dear sister, that something
taught my heart to love so dearly from the first! Rose, dear,
darling Rose!'

Let the tears which fell, and the broken words which were


exchanged in the long close embrace between the orphans, be
sacred. A father, sister, and mother, were gained, and lost, in
that one moment. Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but
there were no bitter tears: for even grief itself arose so
softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections,
that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all character of pain.

They were a long, long time alone. A soft tap at the door, at


length announced that some one was without. Oliver opened it,
glided away, and gave place to Harry Maylie.

'I know it all,' he said, taking a seat beside the lovely girl.


'Dear Rose, I know it all.'

'I am not here by accident,' he added after a lengthened silence;


'nor have I heard all this to-night, for I knew it
yesterday--only yesterday. Do you guess that I have come to
remind you of a promise?'

'Stay,' said Rose. 'You DO know all.'

'All. You gave me leave, at any time within a year, to renew the
subject of our last discourse.'

'I did.'


'Not to press you to alter your determination,' pursued the young
man, 'but to hear you repeat it, if you would. I was to lay
whatever of station or fortune I might possess at your feet, and
if you still adhered to your former determination, I pledged
myself, by no word or act, to seek to change it.'

'The same reasons which influenced me then, will influence me


know,' said Rose firmly. 'If I ever owed a strict and rigid duty
to her, whose goodness saved me from a life of indigence and
suffering, when should I ever feel it, as I should to-night? It
is a struggle,' said Rose, 'but one I am proud to make; it is a
pang, but one my heart shall bear.'

'The disclosure of to-night,'--Harry began.

'The disclosure of to-night,' replied Rose softly, 'leaves me in
the same position, with reference to you, as that in which I
stood before.'

'You harden your heart against me, Rose,' urged her lover.

'Oh Harry, Harry,' said the young lady, bursting into tears; 'I
wish I could, and spare myself this pain.'

'Then why inflict it on yourself?' said Harry, taking her hand.


'Think, dear Rose, think what you have heard to-night.'

'And what have I heard! What have I heard!' cried Rose. 'That a


sense of his deep disgrace so worked upon my own father that he
shunned all--there, we have said enough, Harry, we have said
enough.'

'Not yet, not yet,' said the young man, detaining her as she


rose. 'My hopes, my wishes, prospects, feeling: every thought
in life except my love for you: have undergone a change. I
offer you, now, no distinction among a bustling crowd; no
mingling with a world of malice and detraction, where the blood
is called into honest cheeks by aught but real disgrace and
shame; but a home--a heart and home--yes, dearest Rose, and
those, and those alone, are all I have to offer.'

'What do you mean!' she faltered.

'I mean but this--that when I left you last, I left you with a
firm determination to level all fancied barriers between yourself
and me; resolved that if my world could not be yours, I would
make yours mine; that no pride of birth should curl the lip at
you, for I would turn from it. This I have done. Those who have
shrunk from me because of this, have shrunk from you, and proved
you so far right. Such power and patronage: such relatives of
influence and rank: as smiled upon me then, look coldly now; but
there are smiling fields and waving trees in England's richest
county; and by one village church--mine, Rose, my own!--there
stands a rustic dwelling which you can make me prouder of, than
all the hopes I have renounced, measured a thousandfold. This is
my rank and station now, and here I lay it down!'

* * * * * * *

'It's a trying thing waiting supper for lovers,' said Mr.
Grimwig, waking up, and pulling his pocket-handkerchief from over
his head.

Truth to tell, the supper had been waiting a most unreasonable


time. Neither Mrs. Maylie, nor Harry, nor Rose (who all came in
together), could offer a word in extenuation.

'I had serious thoughts of eating my head to-night,' said Mr.


Grimwig, 'for I began to think I should get nothing else. I'll
take the liberty, if you'll allow me, of saluting the bride that
is to be.'

Mr. Grimwig lost no time in carrying this notice into effect upon


the blushing girl; and the example, being contagious, was
followed both by the doctor and Mr. Brownlow: some people affirm
that Harry Maylie had been observed to set it, orginally, in a
dark room adjoining; but the best authorities consider this
downright scandal: he being young and a clergyman.

'Oliver, my child,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'where have you been, and


why do you look so sad? There are tears stealing down your face
at this moment. What is the matter?'

It is a world of disappointment: often to the hopes we most


cherish, and hopes that do our nature the greatest honour.

Poor Dick was dead!


CHAPTER LII

FAGIN'S LAST NIGHT ALIVE

The court was paved, from floor to roof, with human faces.


Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. From
the rail before the dock, away into the sharpest angle of the
smallest corner in the galleries, all looks were fixed upon one
man--Fagin. Before him and behind: above, below, on the right
and on the left: he seemed to stand surrounded by a firmament,
all bright with gleaming eyes.

He stood there, in all this glare of living light, with one hand


resting on the wooden slab before him, the other held to his ear,
and his head thrust forward to enable him to catch with greater
distinctness every word that fell from the presiding judge, who
was delivering his charge to the jury. At times, he turned his
eyes sharply upon them to observe the effect of the slightest
featherweight in his favour; and when the points against him were
stated with terrible distinctness, looked towards his counsel, in
mute appeal that he would, even then, urge something in his
behalf. Beyond these manifestations of anxiety, he stirred not
hand or foot. He had scarcely moved since the trial began; and
now that the judge ceased to speak, he still remained in the same
strained attitude of close attention, with his gaze ben on him,
as though he listened still.

A slight bustle in the court, recalled him to himself. Looking


round, he saw that the juryman had turned together, to consider
their verdict. As his eyes wandered to the gallery, he could see
the people rising above each other to see his face: some hastily
applying their glasses to their eyes: and others whispering
their neighbours with looks expressive of abhorrence. A few
there were, who seemed unmindful of him, and looked only to the
jury, in impatient wonder how they could delay. But in no one
face--not even among the women, of whom there were many
there--could he read the faintest sympathy with himself, or any
feeling but one of all-absorbing interest that he should be
condemned.

As he saw all this in one bewildered glance, the deathlike


stillness came again, and looking back he saw that the jurymen
had turned towards the judge. Hush!

They only sought permission to retire.

He looked, wistfully, into their faces, one by one when they
passed out, as though to see which way the greater number leant;
but that was fruitless. The jailed touched him on the shoulder.
He followed mechanically to the end of the dock, and sat down on
a chair. The man pointed it out, or he would not have seen it.

He looked up into the gallery again. Some of the people were


eating, and some fanning themselves with handkerchiefs; for the
crowded place was very hot. There was one young man sketching
his face in a little note-book. He wondered whether it was like,
and looked on when the artist broke his pencil-point, and made
another with his knife, as any idle spectator might have done.

In the same way, when he turned his eyes towards the judge, his


mind began to busy itself with the fashion of his dress, and what
it cost, and how he put it on. There was an old fat gentleman on
the bench, too, who had gone out, some half an hour before, and
now come back. He wondered within himself whether this man had
been to get his dinner, what he had had, and where he had had it;
and pursued this train of careless thought until some new object
caught his eye and roused another.

Not that, all this time, his mind was, for an instant, free from


one oppressive overwhelming sense of the grave that opened at his
feet; it was ever present to him, but in a vague and general way,
and he could not fix his thoughts upon it. Thus, even while he
trembled, and turned burning hot at the idea of speedy death, he
fell to counting the iron spikes before him, and wondering how
the head of one had been broken off, and whether they would mend
it, or leave it as it was. Then, he thought of all the horrors
of the gallows and the scaffold--and stopped to watch a man
sprinkling the floor to cool it--and then went on to think again.

At length there was a cry of silence, and a breathless look from


all towards the door. The jury returned, and passed him close.
He could glean nothing from their faces; they might as well have
been of stone. Perfect stillness ensued--not a rustle--not a
breath--Guilty.

The building rang with a tremendous shout, and another, and


another, and then it echoed loud groans, that gathered strength
as they swelled out, like angry thunder. It was a peal of joy
from the populace outside, greeting the news that he would die on
Monday.

The noise subsided, and he was asked if he had anything to say


why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. He had
resumed his listening attitude, and looked intently at his
questioner while the demand was made; but it was twice repeated
before he seemed to hear it, and then he only muttered that he
was an old man--an old man--and so, dropping into a whisper, was
silent again.

The judge assumed the black cap, and the prisoner still stood


with the same air and gesture. A woman in the gallery, uttered
some exclamation, called forth by this dread solemnity; he looked
hastily up as if angry at the interruption, and bent forward yet
more attentively. The address was solemn and impressive; the
sentence fearful to hear. But he stood, like a marble figure,
without the motion of a nerve. His haggard face was still thrust
forward, his under-jaw hanging down, and his eyes staring out
before him, when the jailer put his hand upon his arm, and
beckoned him away. He gazed stupidly about him for an instant,
and obeyed.

They led him through a paved room under the court, where some


prisoners were waiting till their turns came, and others were
talking to their friends, who crowded round a grate which looked
into the open yard. There was nobody there to speak to HIM; but,
as he passed, the prisoners fell back to render him more visible
to the people who were clinging to the bars: and they assailed
him with opprobrious names, and screeched and hissed. He shook
his fist, and would have spat upon them; but his conductors
hurried him on, through a gloomy passage lighted by a few dim
lamps, into the interior of the prison.

Here, he was searched, that he might not have about him the means


of anticipating the law; this ceremony performed, they led him to
one of the condemned cells, and left him there--alone.

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door, which served for


seat and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the
ground, tried to collect his thoughts. After awhile, he began to
remember a few disjointed fragments of what the judge had said:
though it had seemed to him, at the time, that he could not hear
a word. These gradually fell into their proper places, and by
degrees suggested more: so that in a little time he had the
whole, almost as it was delivered. To be hanged by the neck,
till he was dead--that was the end. To be hanged by the neck
till he was dead.

As it came on very dark, he began to think of all the men he had


known who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his
means. They rose up, in such quick succession, that he could
hardly count them. He had seen some of them die,--and had joked
too, because they died with prayers upon their lips. With what a
rattling noise the drop went down; and how suddenly they changed,
from strong and vigorous men to dangling heaps of clothes!

Some of them might have inhabited that very cell--sat upon that


very spot. It was very dark; why didn't they bring a light? The
cell had been built for many years. Scores of men must have
passed their last hours there. It was like sitting in a vault
strewn with dead bodies--the cap, the noose, the pinioned arms,
the faces that he knew, even beneath that hideous veil.--Light,
light!

At length, when his hands were raw with beating against the heavy


door and walls, two men appeared: one bearing a candle, which he
thrust into an iron candlestick fixed against the wall: the
other dragging in a mattress on which to pass the night; for the
prisoner was to be left alone no more.

Then came the night--dark, dismal, silent night. Other watchers


are glad to hear this church-clock strike, for they tell of life
and coming day. To him they brought despair. The boom of every
iron bell came laden with the one, deep, hollow sound--Death.
What availed the noise and bustle of cheerful morning, which
penetrated even there, to him? It was another form of knell,
with mockery added to the warning.

The day passed off. Day? There was no day; it was gone as soon


as come--and night came on again; night so long, and yet so
short; long in its dreadful silence, and short in its fleeting
hours. At one time he raved and blasphemed; and at another
howled and tore his hair. Venerable men of his own persuasion
had come to pray beside him, but he had driven them away with
curses. They renewed their charitable efforts, and he beat them
off.

Saturday night. He had only one night more to live. And as he


thought of this, the day broke--Sunday.

It was not until the night of this last awful day, that a


withering sense of his helpless, desperate state came in its full
intensity upon his blighted soul; not that he had ever held any
defined or positive hope of mercy, but that he had never been
able to consider more than the dim probability of dying so soon.
He had spoken little to either of the two men, who relieved each
other in their attendance upon him; and they, for their parts,
made no effort to rouse his attention. He had sat there, awake,
but dreaming. Now, he started up, every minute, and with gasping
mouth and burning skin, hurried to and fro, in such a paroxysm of
fear and wrath that even they--used to such sights--recoiled from
him with horror. He grew so terrible, at last, in all the
tortures of his evil conscience, that one man could not bear to
sit there, eyeing him alone; and so the two kept watch together.

He cowered down upon his stone bed, and thought of the past. He


had been wounded with some missiles from the crowd on the day of
his capture, and his head was bandaged with a linen cloth. His
red hair hung down upon his bloodless face; his beard was torn,
and twisted into knots; his eyes shone with a terrible light; his
unwashed flesh crackled with the fever that burnt him up.
Eight--nine--then. If it was not a trick to frighten him, and
those were the real hours treading on each other's heels, where
would he be, when they came round again! Eleven! Another
struck, before the voice of the previous hour had ceased to
vibrate. At eight, he would be the only mourner in his own
funeral train; at eleven--

Those dreadful walls of Newgate, which have hidden so much misery


and such unspeakable anguish, not only from the eyes, but, too
often, and too long, from the thoughts, of men, never held so
dread a spectacle as that. The few who lingered as they passed,
and wondered what the man was doing who was to be hanged
to-morrow, would have slept but ill that night, if they could
have seen him.

From early in the evening until nearly midnight, little groups of


two and three presented themselves at the lodge-gate, and
inquired, with anxious faces, whether any reprieve had been
received. These being answered in the negative, communicated the
welcome intelligence to clusters in the street, who pointed out
to one another the door from which he must come out, and showed
where the scaffold would be built, and, walking with unwilling
steps away, turned back to conjure up the scene. By degrees they
fell off, one by one; and, for an hour, in the dead of night, the
street was left to solitude and darkness.

The space before the prison was cleared, and a few strong


barriers, painted black, had been already thrown across the road
to break the pressure of the expected crowd, when Mr. Brownlow
and Oliver appeared at the wicket, and presented an order of
admission to the prisoner, signed by one of the sheriffs. They
were immediately admitted into the lodge.

'Is the young gentleman to come too, sir?' said the man whose


duty it was to conduct them. 'It's not a sight for children,
sir.'

'It is not indeed, my friend,' rejoined Mr. Brownlow; 'but my


business with this man is intimately connected with him; and as
this child has seen him in the full career of his success and
villainy, I think it as well--even at the cost of some pain and
fear--that he should see him now.'

These few words had been said apart, so as to be inaudible to


Oliver. The man touched his hat; and glancing at Oliver with
some curiousity, opened another gate, opposite to that by which
they had entered, and led them on, through dark and winding ways,
towards the cells.

'This,' said the man, stopping in a gloomy passage where a couple


of workmen were making some preparations in profound
silence--'this is the place he passes through. If you step this
way, you can see the door he goes out at.'

He led them into a stone kitchen, fitted with coppers for


dressing the prison food, and pointed to a door. There was an
open grating above it, throught which came the sound of men's
voices, mingled with the noise of hammering, and the throwing
down of boards. There were putting up the scaffold.

From this place, they passed through several strong gates, opened


by other turnkeys from the inner side; and, having entered an
open yard, ascended a flight of narrow steps, and came into a
passage with a row of strong doors on the left hand. Motioning
them to remain where they were, the turnkey knocked at one of
these with his bunch of keys. The two attendants, after a little
whispering, came out into the passage, stretching themselves as
if glad of the temporary relief, and motioned the visitors to
follow the jailer into the cell. They did so.

The condemned criminal was seated on his bed, rocking himself


from side to side, with a countenance more like that of a snared
beast than the face of a man. His mind was evidently wandering
to his old life, for he continued to mutter, without appearing
conscious of their presence otherwise than as a part of his
vision.

'Good boy, Charley--well done--' he mumbled. 'Oliver, too, ha!


ha! ha! Oliver too--quite the gentleman now--quite the--take
that boy away to bed!'

The jailer took the disengaged hand of Oliver; and, whispering


him not to be alarmed, looked on without speaking.

'Take him away to bed!' cried Fagin. 'Do you hear me, some of


you? He has been the--the--somehow the cause of all this. It's
worth the money to bring him up to it--Bolter's throat, Bill;
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