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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Part 7 out of 10

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'I think you had better go on to my mother's in the chaise,
Giles,' said he. 'I would rather walk slowly on, so as to gain a
little time before I see her. You can say I am coming.'

'I beg your pardon, Mr. Harry,' said Giles: giving a final
polish to his ruffled countenance with the handkerchief; 'but if
you would leave the postboy to say that, I should be very much
obliged to you. It wouldn't be proper for the maids to see me in
this state, sir; I should never have any more authority with them
if they did.'

'Well,' rejoined Harry Maylie, smiling, 'you can do as you like.
Let him go on with the luggage, if you wish it, and do you follow
with us. Only first exchange that nightcap for some more
appropriate covering, or we shall be taken for madmen.'

Mr. Giles, reminded of his unbecoming costume, snatched off and
pocketed his nightcap; and substituted a hat, of grave and sober
shape, which he took out of the chaise. This done, the postboy
drove off; Giles, Mr. Maylie, and Oliver, followed at their

As they walked along, Oliver glanced from time to time with much
interest and curiosity at the new comer. He seemed about
five-and-twenty years of age, and was of the middle height; his
countenance was frank and handsome; and his demeanor easy and
prepossessing. Notwithstanding the difference between youth and
age, he bore so strong a likeness to the old lady, that Oliver
would have had no great difficulty in imagining their
relationship, if he had not already spoken of her as his mother.

Mrs. Maylie was anxiously waiting to receive her son when he
reached the cottage. The meeting did not take place without
great emotion on both sides.

'Mother!' whispered the young man; 'why did you not write

'I did,' replied Mrs. Maylie; 'but, on reflection, I determined
to keep back the letter until I had heard Mr. Losberne's

'But why,' said the young man, 'why run the chance of that
occurring which so nearly happened? If Rose had--I cannot utter
that word now--if this illness had terminated differently, how
could you ever have forgiven yourself! How could I ever have
know happiness again!'

'If that _had_ been the case, Harry,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'I fear
your happiness would have been effectually blighted, and that
your arrival here, a day sooner or a day later, would have been
of very, very little import.'

'And who can wonder if it be so, mother?' rejoined the young man;
'or why should I say, _if_?--It is--it is--you know it, mother--you
must know it!'

'I know that she deserves the best and purest love the heart of
man can offer,' said Mrs. Maylie; 'I know that the devotion and
affection of her nature require no ordinary return, but one that
shall be deep and lasting. If I did not feel this, and know,
besides, that a changed behaviour in one she loved would break
her heart, I should not feel my task so difficult of performance,
or have to encounter so many struggles in my own bosom, when I
take what seems to me to be the strict line of duty.'

'This is unkind, mother,' said Harry. 'Do you still suppose that
I am a boy ignorant of my own mind, and mistaking the impulses of
my own soul?'

'I think, my dear son,' returned Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand
upon his shoulder, 'that youth has many generous impulses which
do not last; and that among them are some, which, being
gratified, become only the more fleeting. Above all, I think'
said the lady, fixing her eyes on her son's face, 'that if an
enthusiastic, ardent, and ambitious man marry a wife on whose
name there is a stain, which, though it originate in no fault of
hers, may be visited by cold and sordid people upon her, and upon
his children also: and, in exact proportion to his success in the
world, be cast in his teeth, and made the subject of sneers
against him: he may, no matter how generous and good his nature,
one day repent of the connection he formed in early life. And
she may have the pain of knowing that he does so.'

'Mother,' said the young man, impatiently, 'he would be a selfish
brute, unworthy alike of the name of man and of the woman you
describe, who acted thus.'

'You think so now, Harry,' replied his mother.

'And ever will!' said the young man. 'The mental agony I have
suffered, during the last two days, wrings from me the avowal to
you of a passion which, as you well know, is not one of
yesterday, nor one I have lightly formed. On Rose, sweet, gentle
girl! my heart is set, as firmly as ever heart of man was set on
woman. I have no thought, no view, no hope in life, beyond her;
and if you oppose me in this great stake, you take my peace and
happiness in your hands, and cast them to the wind. Mother,
think better of this, and of me, and do not disregard the
happiness of which you seem to think so little.'

'Harry,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'it is because I think so much of warm
and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.
But we have said enough, and more than enough, on this matter,
just now.'

'Let it rest with Rose, then,' interposed Harry. 'You will not
press these overstrained opinions of yours, so far, as to throw
any obstacle in my way?'

'I will not,' rejoined Mrs. Maylie; 'but I would have you

'I _have_ considered!' was the impatient reply; 'Mother, I have
considered, years and years. I have considered, ever since I
have been capable of serious reflection. My feelings remain
unchanged, as they ever will; and why should I suffer the pain of
a delay in giving them vent, which can be productive of no
earthly good? No! Before I leave this place, Rose shall hear

'She shall,' said Mrs. Maylie.

'There is something in your manner, which would almost imply that
she will hear me coldly, mother,' said the young man.

'Not coldly,' rejoined the old lady; 'far from it.'

'How then?' urged the young man. 'She has formed no other

'No, indeed,' replied his mother; 'you have, or I mistake, too
strong a hold on her affections already. What I would say,'
resumed the old lady, stopping her son as he was about to speak,
'is this. Before you stake your all on this chance; before you
suffer yourself to be carried to the highest point of hope;
reflect for a few moments, my dear child, on Rose's history, and
consider what effect the knowledge of her doubtful birth may have
on her decision: devoted as she is to us, with all the intensity
of her noble mind, and with that perfect sacrifice of self which,
in all matters, great or trifling, has always been her

'What do you mean?'

'That I leave you to discover,' replied Mrs. Maylie. 'I must go
back to her. God bless you!'

'I shall see you again to-night?' said the young man, eagerly.

'By and by,' replied the lady; 'when I leave Rose.'

'You will tell her I am here?' said Harry.

'Of course,' replied Mrs. Maylie.

'And say how anxious I have been, and how much I have suffered,
and how I long to see her. You will not refuse to do this,

'No,' said the old lady; 'I will tell her all.' And pressing her
son's hand, affectionately, she hastened from the room.

Mr. Losberne and Oliver had remained at another end of the
apartment while this hurried conversation was proceeding. The
former now held out his hand to Harry Maylie; and hearty
salutations were exchanged between them. The doctor then
communicated, in reply to multifarious questions from his young
friend, a precise account of his patient's situation; which was
quite as consolatory and full of promise, as Oliver's statement
had encouraged him to hope; and to the whole of which, Mr. Giles,
who affected to be busy about the luggage, listened with greedy

'Have you shot anything particular, lately, Giles?' inquired the
doctor, when he had concluded.

'Nothing particular, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, colouring up to the

'Nor catching any thieves, nor identifying any house-breakers?'
said the doctor.

'None at all, sir,' replied Mr. Giles, with much gravity.

'Well,' said the doctor, 'I am sorry to hear it, because you do
that sort of thing admirably. Pray, how is Brittles?'

'The boy is very well, sir,' said Mr. Giles, recovering his usual
tone of patronage; 'and sends his respectful duty, sir.'

'That's well,' said the doctor. 'Seeing you here, reminds me,
Mr. Giles, that on the day before that on which I was called away
so hurriedly, I executed, at the request of your good mistress, a
small commission in your favour. Just step into this corner a
moment, will you?'

Mr. Giles walked into the corner with much importance, and some
wonder, and was honoured with a short whispering conference with
the doctor, on the termination of which, he made a great many
bows, and retired with steps of unusual stateliness. The subject
matter of this conference was not disclosed in the parlour, but
the kitchen was speedily enlightened concerning it; for Mr. Giles
walked straight thither, and having called for a mug of ale,
announced, with an air of majesty, which was highly effective,
that it had pleased his mistress, in consideration of his gallant
behaviour on the occasion of that attempted robbery, to deposit,
in the local savings-bank, the sum of five-and-twenty pounds, for
his sole use and benefit. At this, the two women-servants lifted
up their hands and eyes, and supposed that Mr. Giles, pulling out
his shirt-frill, replied, 'No, no'; and that if they observed
that he was at all haughty to his inferiors, he would thank them
to tell him so. And then he made a great many other remarks, no
less illustrative of his humility, which were received with equal
favour and applause, and were, withal, as original and as much to
the purpose, as the remarks of great men commonly are.

Above stairs, the remainder of the evening passed cheerfully
away; for the doctor was in high spirits; and however fatigued or
thoughtful Harry Maylie might have been at first, he was not
proof against the worthy gentleman's good humour, which displayed
itself in a great variety of sallies and professional
recollections, and an abundance of small jokes, which struck
Oliver as being the drollest things he had ever heard, and caused
him to laugh proportionately; to the evident satisfaction of the
doctor, who laughed immoderately at himself, and made Harry laugh
almost as heartily, by the very force of sympathy. So, they were
as pleasant a party as, under the circumstances, they could well
have been; and it was late before they retired, with light and
thankful hearts, to take that rest of which, after the doubt and
suspense they had recently undergone, they stood much in need.

Oliver rose next morning, in better heart, and went about his
usual occupations, with more hope and pleasure than he had known
for many days. The birds were once more hung out, to sing, in
their old places; and the sweetest wild flowers that could be
found, were once more gathered to gladden Rose with their beauty.
The melancholy which had seemed to the sad eyes of the anxious
boy to hang, for days past, over every object, beautiful as all
were, was dispelled by magic. The dew seemed to sparkle more
brightly on the green leaves; the air to rustle among them with a
sweeter music; and the sky itself to look more blue and bright.
Such is the influence which the condition of our own thoughts,
exercise, even over the appearance of external objects. Men who
look on nature, and their fellow-men, and cry that all is dark
and gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are
reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real
hues are delicate, and need a clearer vision.

It is worthy of remark, and Oliver did not fail to note it at the
time, that his morning expeditions were no longer made alone.
Harry Maylie, after the very first morning when he met Oliver
coming laden home, was seized with such a passion for flowers,
and displayed such a taste in their arrangement, as left his
young companion far behind. If Oliver were behindhand in these
respects, he knew where the best were to be found; and morning
after morning they scoured the country together, and brought home
the fairest that blossomed. The window of the young lady's
chamber was opened now; for she loved to feel the rich summer air
stream in, and revive her with its freshness; but there always
stood in water, just inside the lattice, one particular little
bunch, which was made up with great care, every morning. Oliver
could not help noticing that the withered flowers were never
thrown away, although the little vase was regularly replenished;
nor, could he help observing, that whenever the doctor came into
the garden, he invariably cast his eyes up to that particular
corner, and nodded his head most expressively, as he set forth on
his morning's walk. Pending these observations, the days were
flying by; and Rose was rapidly recovering.

Nor did Oliver's time hang heavy on his hands, although the young
lady had not yet left her chamber, and there were no evening
walks, save now and then, for a short distance, with Mrs. Maylie.
He applied himself, with redoubled assiduity, to the instructions
of the white-headed old gentleman, and laboured so hard that his
quick progress surprised even himself. It was while he was
engaged in this pursuit, that he was greatly startled and
distressed by a most unexpected occurrence.

The little room in which he was accustomed to sit, when busy at
his books, was on the ground-floor, at the back of the house. It
was quite a cottage-room, with a lattice-window: around which
were clusters of jessamine and honeysuckle, that crept over the
casement, and filled the place with their delicious perfume. It
looked into a garden, whence a wicket-gate opened into a small
paddock; all beyond, was fine meadow-land and wood. There was no
other dwelling near, in that direction; and the prospect it
commanded was very extensive.

One beautiful evening, when the first shades of twilight were
beginning to settle upon the earth, Oliver sat at this window,
intent upon his books. He had been poring over them for some
time; and, as the day had been uncommonly sultry, and he had
exerted himself a great deal, it is no disparagement to the
authors, whoever they may have been, to say, that gradually and
by slow degrees, he fell asleep.

There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes, which,
while it holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a
sense of things about it, and enable it to ramble at its
pleasure. So far as an overpowering heaviness, a prostration of
strength, and an utter inability to control our thoughts or power
of motion, can be called sleep, this is it; and yet, we have a
consciousness of all that is going on about us, and, if we dream
at such a time, words which are really spoken, or sounds which
really exist at the moment, accommodate themselves with
surprising readiness to our visions, until reality and
imagination become so strangely blended that it is afterwards
almost matter of impossibility to separate the two. Nor is this,
the most striking phenomenon incidental to such a state. It is
an undoubted fact, that although our senses of touch and sight be
for the time dead, yet our sleeping thoughts, and the visionary
scenes that pass before us, will be influenced and materially
influenced, by the _mere silent presence_ of some external object;
which may not have been near us when we closed our eyes: and of
whose vicinity we have had no waking consciousness.

Oliver knew, perfectly well, that he was in his own little room;
that his books were lying on the table before him; that the sweet
air was stirring among the creeping plants outside. And yet he
was asleep. Suddenly, the scene changed; the air became close
and confined; and he thought, with a glow of terror, that he was
in the Jew's house again. There sat the hideous old man, in his
accustomed corner, pointing at him, and whispering to another
man, with his face averted, who sat beside him.

'Hush, my dear!' he thought he heard the Jew say; 'it is he, sure
enough. Come away.'

'He!' the other man seemed to answer; 'could I mistake him, think
you? If a crowd of ghosts were to put themselves into his exact
shape, and he stood amongst them, there is something that would
tell me how to point him out. If you buried him fifty feet deep,
and took me across his grave, I fancy I should know, if there
wasn't a mark above it, that he lay buried there?'

The man seemed to say this, with such dreadful hatred, that
Oliver awoke with the fear, and started up.

Good Heaven! what was that, which sent the blood tingling to his
heart, and deprived him of his voice, and of power to move!
There--there--at the window--close before him--so close, that he
could have almost touched him before he started back: with his
eyes peering into the room, and meeting his: there stood the
Jew! And beside him, white with rage or fear, or both, were the
scowling features of the man who had accosted him in the

It was but an instant, a glance, a flash, before his eyes; and
they were gone. But they had recognised him, and he them; and
their look was as firmly impressed upon his memory, as if it had
been deeply carved in stone, and set before him from his birth.
He stood transfixed for a moment; then, leaping from the window
into the garden, called loudly for help.



When the inmates of the house, attracted by Oliver's cries,
hurried to the spot from which they proceeded, they found him,
pale and agitated, pointing in the direction of the meadows
behind the house, and scarcely able to articulate the words, 'The
Jew! the Jew!'

Mr. Giles was at a loss to comprehend what this outcry meant; but
Harry Maylie, whose perceptions were something quicker, and who
had heard Oliver's history from his mother, understood it at

'What direction did he take?' he asked, catching up a heavy stick
which was standing in a corner.

'That,' replied Oliver, pointing out the course the man had
taken; 'I missed them in an instant.'

'Then, they are in the ditch!' said Harry. 'Follow! And keep as
near me, as you can.' So saying, he sprang over the hedge, and
darted off with a speed which rendered it matter of exceeding
difficulty for the others to keep near him.

Giles followed as well as he could; and Oliver followed too; and
in the course of a minute or two, Mr. Losberne, who had been out
walking, and just then returned, tumbled over the hedge after
them, and picking himself up with more agility than he could have
been supposed to possess, struck into the same course at no
contemptible speed, shouting all the while, most prodigiously, to
know what was the matter.

On they all went; nor stopped they once to breathe, until the
leader, striking off into an angle of the field indicated by
Oliver, began to search, narrowly, the ditch and hedge adjoining;
which afforded time for the remainder of the party to come up;
and for Oliver to communicate to Mr. Losberne the circumstances
that had led to so vigorous a pursuit.

The search was all in vain. There were not even the traces of
recent footsteps, to be seen. They stood now, on the summit of a
little hill, commanding the open fields in every direction for
three or four miles. There was the village in the hollow on the
left; but, in order to gain that, after pursuing the track Oliver
had pointed out, the men must have made a circuit of open ground,
which it was impossible they could have accomplished in so short
a time. A thick wood skirted the meadow-land in another
direction; but they could not have gained that covert for the
same reason.

'It must have been a dream, Oliver,' said Harry Maylie.

'Oh no, indeed, sir,' replied Oliver, shuddering at the very
recollection of the old wretch's countenance; 'I saw him too
plainly for that. I saw them both, as plainly as I see you now.'

'Who was the other?' inquired Harry and Mr. Losberne, together.

'The very same man I told you of, who came so suddenly upon me at
the inn,' said Oliver. 'We had our eyes fixed full upon each
other; and I could swear to him.'

'They took this way?' demanded Harry: 'are you sure?'

'As I am that the men were at the window,' replied Oliver,
pointing down, as he spoke, to the hedge which divided the
cottage-garden from the meadow. 'The tall man leaped over, just
there; and the Jew, running a few paces to the right, crept
through that gap.'

The two gentlemen watched Oliver's earnest face, as he spoke, and
looking from him to each other, seemed to feel satisfied of the
accuracy of what he said. Still, in no direction were there any
appearances of the trampling of men in hurried flight. The grass
was long; but it was trodden down nowhere, save where their own
feet had crushed it. The sides and brinks of the ditches were of
damp clay; but in no one place could they discern the print of
men's shoes, or the slightest mark which would indicate that any
feet had pressed the ground for hours before.

'This is strange!' said Harry.

'Strange?' echoed the doctor. 'Blathers and Duff, themselves,
could make nothing of it.'

Notwithstanding the evidently useless nature of their search,
they did not desist until the coming on of night rendered its
further prosecution hopeless; and even then, they gave it up with
reluctance. Giles was dispatched to the different ale-houses in
the village, furnished with the best description Oliver could
give of the appearance and dress of the strangers. Of these, the
Jew was, at all events, sufficiently remarkable to be remembered,
supposing he had been seen drinking, or loitering about; but
Giles returned without any intelligence, calculated to dispel or
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

'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

'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

'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

'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

'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

'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.



'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

'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 it 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

'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 flying 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.



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

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

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. Bumble 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!' 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

'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

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 thereat, 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.

'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, pleased 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
strongly 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

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 Mrs. 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

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

'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;

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

'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; an 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,

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 nothing,
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.'


'And the time, night.'


'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,

'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

'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

'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.



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: who
opened a small door, near which they stood, and beckoned them

'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 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

'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

'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

'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

'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

'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

'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,

'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

'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

'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

'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.

'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.



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
part of the house, attracted his attention. Seated by the
window, busily engaged in patching an old waistcoat which formed
a portion of the robber's ordinary dress, was a female: so pale
and reduced with watching and privation, that there would have
been considerable difficulty in recognising her as the same Nancy
who has already figured in this tale, but for the voice in which
she replied to Mr. Sikes's question.

'Not long gone seven,' said the girl. 'How do you feel to-night,

'As weak as water,' replied Mr. Sikes, with an imprecation on his
eyes and limbs. 'Here; lend us a hand, and let me get off this
thundering bed anyhow.'

Illness had not improved Mr. Sikes's temper; for, as the girl
raised him up and led him to a chair, he muttered various curses
on her awkwardness, and struck her.

'Whining are you?' said Sikes. 'Come! Don't stand snivelling
there. If you can't do anything better than that, cut off
altogether. D'ye hear me?'

'I hear you,' replied the girl, turning her face aside, and
forcing a laugh. 'What fancy have you got in your head now?'

'Oh! you've thought better of it, have you?' growled Sikes,
marking the tear which trembled in her eye. 'All the better for
you, you have.'

'Why, you don't mean to say, you'd be hard upon me to-night,
Bill,' said the girl, laying her hand upon his shoulder.

'No!' cried Mr. Sikes. 'Why not?'

'Such a number of nights,' said the girl, with a touch of woman's
tenderness, which communicated something like sweetness of tone,
even to her voice: 'such a number of nights as I've been patient
with you, nursing and caring for you, as if you had been a child:
and this the first that I've seen you like yourself; you wouldn't
have served me as you did just now, if you'd thought of that,
would you? Come, come; say you wouldn't.'

'Well, then,' rejoined Mr. Sikes, 'I wouldn't. Why, damme, now,
the girls's whining again!'

'It's nothing,' said the girl, throwing herself into a chair.
'Don't you seem to mind me. It'll soon be over.'

'What'll be over?' demanded Mr. Sikes in a savage voice. 'What
foolery are you up to, now, again? Get up and bustle about, and
don't come over me with your woman's nonsense.'

At any other time, this remonstrance, and the tone in which it
was delivered, would have had the desired effect; but the girl
being really weak and exhausted, dropped her head over the back
of the chair, and fainted, before Mr. Sikes could get out a few
of the appropriate oaths with which, on similar occasions, he was
accustomed to garnish his threats. Not knowing, very well, what
to do, in this uncommon emergency; for Miss Nancy's hysterics
were usually of that violent kind which the patient fights and
struggles out of, without much assistance; Mr. Sikes tried a
little blasphemy: and finding that mode of treatment wholly
ineffectual, called for assistance.

'What's the matter here, my dear?' said Fagin, looking in.

'Lend a hand to the girl, can't you?' replied Sikes impatiently.
'Don't stand chattering and grinning at me!'

With an exclamation of surprise, Fagin hastened to the girl's
assistance, while Mr. John Dawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger),
who had followed his venerable friend into the room, hastily
deposited on the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and
snatching a bottle from the grasp of Master Charles Bates who
came close at his heels, uncorked it in a twinkling with his
teeth, and poured a portion of its contents down the patient's
throat: previously taking a taste, himself, to prevent mistakes.

'Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellows, Charley,' said
Mr. Dawkins; 'and you slap her hands, Fagin, while Bill undoes
the petticuts.'

These united restoratives, administered with great energy:
especially that department consigned to Master Bates, who
appeared to consider his share in the proceedings, a piece of
unexampled pleasantry: were not long in producing the desired
effect. The girl gradually recovered her senses; and, staggering
to a chair by the bedside, hid her face upon the pillow: leaving
Mr. Sikes to confront the new comers, in some astonishment at
their unlooked-for appearance.

'Why, what evil wind has blowed you here?' he asked Fagin.

'No evil wind at all, my dear, for evil winds blow nobody any
good; and I've brought something good with me, that you'll be
glad to see. Dodger, my dear, open the bundle; and give Bill the
little trifles that we spent all our money on, this morning.'

In compliance with Mr. Fagin's request, the Artful untied this
bundle, which was of large size, and formed of an old
table-cloth; and handed the articles it contained, one by one, to
Charley Bates: who placed them on the table, with various
encomiums on their rarity and excellence.

'Sitch a rabbit pie, Bill,' exclaimed that young gentleman,
disclosing to view a huge pasty; 'sitch delicate creeturs, with
sitch tender limbs, Bill, that the wery bones melt in your mouth,
and there's no occasion to pick 'em; half a pound of seven and
six-penny green, so precious strong that if you mix it with
biling water, it'll go nigh to blow the lid of the tea-pot off; a
pound and a half of moist sugar that the niggers didn't work at
all at, afore they got it up to sitch a pitch of goodness,--oh
no! Two half-quartern brans; pound of best fresh; piece of
double Glo'ster; and, to wind up all, some of the richest sort
you ever lushed!'

Uttering this last panegyric, Master Bates produced, from one of
his extensive pockets, a full-sized wine-bottle, carefully
corked; while Mr. Dawkins, at the same instant, poured out a
wine-glassful of raw spirits from the bottle he carried: which
the invalid tossed down his throat without a moment's hesitation.

'Ah!' said Fagin, rubbing his hands with great satisfaction.
'You'll do, Bill; you'll do now.'

'Do!' exclaimed Mr. Sikes; 'I might have been done for, twenty
times over, afore you'd have done anything to help me. What do
you mean by leaving a man in this state, three weeks and more,
you false-hearted wagabond?'

'Only hear him, boys!' said Fagin, shrugging his shoulders. 'And
us come to bring him all these beau-ti-ful things.'

'The things is well enough in their way,' observed Mr. Sikes: a
little soothed as he glanced over the table; 'but what have you
got to say for yourself, why you should leave me here, down in
the mouth, health, blunt, and everything else; and take no more
notice of me, all this mortal time, than if I was that 'ere
dog.--Drive him down, Charley!'

'I never see such a jolly dog as that,' cried Master Bates, doing
as he was desired. 'Smelling the grub like a old lady a going to
market! He'd make his fortun' on the stage that dog would, and
rewive the drayma besides.'

'Hold your din,' cried Sikes, as the dog retreated under the bed:
still growling angrily. 'What have you got to say for yourself,
you withered old fence, eh?'

'I was away from London, a week and more, my dear, on a plant,'
replied the Jew.

'And what about the other fortnight?' demanded Sikes. 'What
about the other fortnight that you've left me lying here, like a
sick rat in his hole?'

'I couldn't help it, Bill. I can't go into a long explanation
before company; but I couldn't help it, upon my honour.'

'Upon your what?' growled Sikes, with excessive disgust. 'Here!
Cut me off a piece of that pie, one of you boys, to take the
taste of that out of my mouth, or it'll choke me dead.'

'Don't be out of temper, my dear,' urged Fagin, submissively. 'I
have never forgot you, Bill; never once.'

'No! I'll pound it that you han't,' replied Sikes, with a bitter
grin. 'You've been scheming and plotting away, every hour that I
have laid shivering and burning here; and Bill was to do this;
and Bill was to do that; and Bill was to do it all, dirt cheap,
as soon as he got well: and was quite poor enough for your work.
If it hadn't been for the girl, I might have died.'

'There now, Bill,' remonstrated Fagin, eagerly catching at the

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