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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Part 10 out of 10

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you in the street, was, in itself, almost enough to make you
accompany me hither, in wonder and alarm.'

'I have no brother,' replied Monks. 'You know I was an only
child. Why do you talk to me of brothers? You know that, as
well as I.'

'Attend to what I do know, and you may not,' said Mr. Brownlow.
'I shall interest you by and by. I know that of the wretched
marriage, into which family pride, and the most sordid and
narrowest of all ambition, forced your unhappy father when a mere
boy, you were the sole and most unnatural issue.'

'I don't care for hard names,' interrupted Monks with a jeering
laugh. 'You know the fact, and that's enough for me.'

'But I also know,' pursued the old gentleman, 'the misery, the
slow torture, the protracted anguish of that ill-assorted union.
I know how listlessly and wearily each of that wretched pair
dragged on their heavy chain through a world that was poisoned to
them both. I know how cold formalities were succeeded by open
taunts; how indifference gave place to dislike, dislike to hate,
and hate to loathing, until at last they wrenched the clanking
bond asunder, and retiring a wide space apart, carried each a
galling fragment, of which nothing but death could break the
rivets, to hide it in new society beneath the gayest looks they
could assume. Your mother succeeded; she forgot it soon. But it
rusted and cankered at your father's heart for years.'

'Well, they were separated,' said Monks, 'and what of that?'

'When they had been separated for some time,' returned Mr.
Brownlow, 'and your mother, wholly given up to continental
frivolities, had utterly forgotten the young husband ten good
years her junior, who, with prospects blighted, lingered on at
home, he fell among new friends. This circumstance, at least,
you know already.'

'Not I,' said Monks, turning away his eyes and beating his foot
upon the ground, as a man who is determined to deny everything.
'Not I.'

'Your manner, no less than your actions, assures me that you have
never forgotten it, or ceased to think of it with bitterness,'
returned Mr. Brownlow. 'I speak of fifteen years ago, when you
were not more than eleven years old, and your father but
one-and-thirty--for he was, I repeat, a boy, when _his_ father
ordered him to marry. Must I go back to events which cast a shade
upon the memory of your parent, or will you spare it, and
disclose to me the truth?'

'I have nothing to disclose,' rejoined Monks. 'You must talk on
if you will.'

'These new friends, then,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'were a naval
officer retired from active service, whose wife had died some
half-a-year before, and left him with two children--there had
been more, but, of all their family, happily but two survived.
They were both daughters; one a beautiful creature of nineteen,
and the other a mere child of two or three years old.'

'What's this to me?' asked Monks.

'They resided,' said Mr. Brownlow, without seeming to hear the
interruption, 'in a part of the country to which your father in
his wandering had repaired, and where he had taken up his abode.
Acquaintance, intimacy, friendship, fast followed on each other.
Your father was gifted as few men are. He had his sister's soul
and person. As the old officer knew him more and more, he grew
to love him. I would that it had ended there. His daughter did
the same.'

The old gentleman paused; Monks was biting his lips, with his
eyes fixed upon the floor; seeing this, he immediately resumed:

'The end of a year found him contracted, solemnly contracted, to
that daughter; the object of the first, true, ardent, only
passion of a guileless girl.'

'Your tale is of the longest,' observed Monks, moving restlessly
in his chair.

'It is a true tale of grief and trial, and sorrow, young man,'
returned Mr. Brownlow, 'and such tales usually are; if it were
one of unmixed joy and happiness, it would be very brief. At
length one of those rich relations to strengthen whose interest
and importance your father had been sacrificed, as others are
often--it is no uncommon case--died, and to repair the misery he
had been instrumental in occasioning, left him his panacea for
all griefs--Money. It was necessary that he should immediately
repair to Rome, whither this man had sped for health, and where
he had died, leaving his affairs in great confusion. He went;
was seized with mortal illness there; was followed, the moment
the intelligence reached Paris, by your mother who carried you
with her; he died the day after her arrival, leaving no will--_no will_
--so that the whole property fell to her and you.'

At this part of the recital Monks held his breath, and listened
with a face of intense eagerness, though his eyes were not
directed towards the speaker. As Mr. Brownlow paused, he changed
his position with the air of one who has experienced a sudden
relief, and wiped his hot face and hands.

'Before he went abroad, and as he passed through London on his
way,' said Mr. Brownlow, slowly, and fixing his eyes upon the
other's face, 'he came to me.'

'I never heard of that,' interrupted MOnks in a tone intended to
appear incredulous, but savouring more of disagreeable surprise.

'He came to me, and left with me, among some other things, a
picture--a portrait painted by himself--a likeness of this poor
girl--which he did not wish to leave behind, and could not carry
forward on his hasty journey. He was worn by anxiety and remorse
almost to a shadow; talked in a wild, distracted way, of ruin and
dishonour worked by himself; confided to me his intention to
convert his whole property, at any loss, into money, and, having
settled on his wife and you a portion of his recent acquisition,
to fly the country--I guessed too well he would not fly
alone--and never see it more. Even from me, his old and early
friend, whose strong attachment had taken root in the earth that
covered one most dear to both--even from me he withheld any more
particular confession, promising to write and tell me all, and
after that to see me once again, for the last time on earth.
Alas! _That_ was the last time. I had no letter, and I never saw
him more.'

'I went,' said Mr. Brownlow, after a short pause, 'I went, when
all was over, to the scene of his--I will use the term the world
would freely use, for worldly harshness or favour are now alike
to him--of his guilty love, resolved that if my fears were
realised that erring child should find one heart and home to
shelter and compassionate her. The family had left that part a
week before; they had called in such trifling debts as were
outstanding, discharged them, and left the place by night. Why,
or whither, none can tell.'

Monks drew his breath yet more freely, and looked round with a
smile of triumph.

'When your brother,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing nearer to the
other's chair, 'When your brother: a feeble, ragged, neglected
child: was cast in my way by a stronger hand than chance, and
rescued by me from a life of vice and infamy--'

'What?' cried Monks.

'By me,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'I told you I should interest you
before long. I say by me--I see that your cunning associate
suppressed my name, although for ought he knew, it would be quite
strange to your ears. When he was rescued by me, then, and lay
recovering from sickness in my house, his strong resemblance to
this picture I have spoken of, struck me with astonishment. Even
when I first saw him in all his dirt and misery, there was a
lingering expression in his face that came upon me like a glimpse
of some old friend flashing on one in a vivid dream. I need not
tell you he was snared away before I knew his history--'

'Why not?' asked Monks hastily.

'Because you know it well.'

'I!'

'Denial to me is vain,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'I shall show you
that I know more than that.'

'You--you--can't prove anything against me,' stammered Monks. 'I
defy you to do it!'

'We shall see,' returned the old gentleman with a searching
glance. 'I lost the boy, and no efforts of mine could recover
him. Your mother being dead, I knew that you alone could solve
the mystery if anybody could, and as when I had last heard of you
you were on your own estate in the West Indies--whither, as you
well know, you retired upon your mother's death to escape the
consequences of vicious courses here--I made the voyage. You had
left it, months before, and were supposed to be in London, but no
one could tell where. I returned. Your agents had no clue to
your residence. You came and went, they said, as strangely as
you had ever done: sometimes for days together and sometimes not
for months: keeping to all appearance the same low haunts and
mingling with the same infamous herd who had been your associates
when a fierce ungovernable boy. I wearied them with new
applications. I paced the streets by night and day, but until
two hours ago, all my efforts were fruitless, and I never saw you
for an instant.'

'And now you do see me,' said Monks, rising boldly, 'what then?
Fraud and robbery are high-sounding words--justified, you think,
by a fancied resemblance in some young imp to an idle daub of a
dead man's Brother! You don't even know that a child was born of
this maudlin pair; you don't even know that.'

'I _did not_,' replied Mr. Brownlow, rising too; 'but within the
last fortnight I have learnt it all. You have a brother; you
know it, and him. There was a will, which your mother destroyed,
leaving the secret and the gain to you at her own death. It
contained a reference to some child likely to be the result of
this sad connection, which child was born, and accidentally
encountered by you, when your suspicions were first awakened by
his resemblance to your father. You repaired to the place of his
birth. There existed proofs--proofs long suppressed--of his birth
and parentage. Those proofs were destroyed by you, and now, in
your own words to your accomplice the Jew, "_the only proofs of the
boy's identity lie at the bottom of the river, and the old hag
that received them from the mother is rotting in her coffin_."
Unworthy son, coward, liar,--you, who hold your councils with
thieves and murderers in dark rooms at night,--you, whose plots
and wiles have brought a violent death upon the head of one worth
millions such as you,--you, who from your cradle were gall and
bitterness to your own father's heart, and in whom all evil
passions, vice, and profligacy, festered, till they found a vent
in a hideous disease which had made your face an index even to
your mind--you, Edward Leeford, do you still brave me!'

'No, no, no!' returned the coward, overwhelmed by these
accumulated charges.

'Every word!' cried the gentleman, 'every word that has passed
between you and this detested villain, is known to me. Shadows
on the wall have caught your whispers, and brought them to my
ear; the sight of the persecuted child has turned vice itself,
and given it the courage and almost the attributes of virtue.
Murder has been done, to which you were morally if not really a
party.'

'No, no,' interposed Monks. 'I--I knew nothing of that; I was
going to inquire the truth of the story when you overtook me. I
didn't know the cause. I thought it was a common quarrel.'

'It was the partial disclosure of your secrets,' replied Mr.
Brownlow. 'Will you disclose the whole?'

'Yes, I will.'

'Set your hand to a statement of truth and facts, and repeat it
before witnesses?'

'That I promise too.'

'Remain quietly here, until such a document is drawn up, and
proceed with me to such a place as I may deem most advisable, for
the purpose of attesting it?'

'If you insist upon that, I'll do that also,' replied Monks.

'You must do more than that,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Make
restitution to an innocent and unoffending child, for such he is,
although the offspring of a guilty and most miserable love. You
have not forgotten the provisions of the will. Carry them into
execution so far as your brother is concerned, and then go where
you please. In this world you need meet no more.'

While Monks was pacing up and down, meditating with dark and evil
looks on this proposal and the possibilities of evading it: torn
by his fears on the one hand and his hatred on the other: the
door was hurriedly unlocked, and a gentleman (Mr. Losberne)
entered the room in violent agitation.

'The man will be taken,' he cried. 'He will be taken to-night!'

'The murderer?' asked Mr. Brownlow.

'Yes, yes,' replied the other. 'His dog has been seen lurking
about some old haunt, and there seems little doubt that his master
either is, or will be, there, under cover of the darkness. Spies
are hovering about in every direction. I have spoken to the men
who are charged with his capture, and they tell me he cannot
escape. A reward of a hundred pounds is proclaimed by Government
to-night.'

'I will give fifty more,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'and proclaim it
with my own lips upon the spot, if I can reach it. Where is Mr.
Maylie?'

'Harry? As soon as he had seen your friend here, safe in a coach
with you, he hurried off to where he heard this,' replied the
doctor, 'and mounting his horse sallied forth to join the first
party at some place in the outskirts agreed upon between them.'

'Fagin,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'what of him?'

'When I last heard, he had not been taken, but he will be, or is,
by this time. They're sure of him.'

'Have you made up your mind?' asked Mr. Brownlow, in a low voice,
of Monks.

'Yes,' he replied. 'You--you--will be secret with me?'

'I will. Remain here till I return. It is your only hope of
safety.'

They left the room, and the door was again locked.

'What have you done?' asked the doctor in a whisper.

'All that I could hope to do, and even more. Coupling the poor
girl's intelligence with my previous knowledge, and the result of
our good friend's inquiries on the spot, I left him no loophole
of escape, and laid bare the whole villainy which by these lights
became plain as day. Write and appoint the evening after
to-morrow, at seven, for the meeting. We shall be down there, a
few hours before, but shall require rest: especially the young
lady, who _may_ have greater need of firmness than either you or I
can quite foresee just now. But my blood boils to avenge this
poor murdered creature. Which way have they taken?'

'Drive straight to the office and you will be in time,' replied
Mr. Losberne. 'I will remain here.'

The two gentlemen hastily separated; each in a fever of
excitement wholly uncontrollable.

CHAPTER L

THE PURSUIT AND ESCAPE

Near to that part of the Thames on which the church at
Rotherhithe abuts, where the buildings on the banks are dirtiest
and the vessels on the river blackest with the dust of colliers
and the smoke of close-built low-roofed houses, there exists the
filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many
localities that are hidden in London, wholly unknown, even by
name, to the great mass of its inhabitants.

To reach this place, the visitor has to penetrate through a maze
of close, narrow, and muddy streets, thronged by the roughest and
poorest of waterside people, and devoted to the traffic they may
be supposed to occasion. The cheapest and least delicate
provisions are heaped in the shops; the coarsest and commonest
articles of wearing apparel dangle at the salesman's door, and
stream from the house-parapet and windows. Jostling with
unemployed labourers of the lowest class, ballast-heavers,
coal-whippers, brazen women, ragged children, and the raff and
refuse of the river, he makes his way with difficulty along,
assailed by offensive sights and smells from the narrow alleys
which branch off on the right and left, and deafened by the clash
of ponderous waggons that bear great piles of merchandise from
the stacks of warehouses that rise from every corner. Arriving,
at length, in streets remoter and less-frequented than those
through which he has passed, he walks beneath tottering
house-fronts projecting over the pavement, dismantled walls that
seem to totter as he passes, chimneys half crushed half
hesitating to fall, windows guarded by rusty iron bars that time
and dirt have almost eaten away, every imaginable sign of
desolation and neglect.

In such a neighborhood, beyond Dockhead in the Borough of
Southwark, stands Jacob's Island, surrounded by a muddy ditch,
six or eight feet deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide
is in, once called Mill Pond, but known in the days of this story
as Folly Ditch. It is a creek or inlet from the Thames, and can
always be filled at high water by opening the sluices at the Lead
Mills from which it took its old name. At such times, a
stranger, looking from one of the wooden bridges thrown across it
at Mill Lane, will see the inhabitants of the houses on either
side lowering from their back doors and windows, buckets, pails,
domestic utensils of all kinds, in which to haul the water up;
and when his eye is turned from these operations to the houses
themselves, his utmost astonishment will be excited by the scene
before him. Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a
dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime
beneath; windows, broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on
which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so small, so
filthy, so confined, that the air would seem too tainted even for
the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers
thrusting themselves out above the mud, and threatening to fall
into it--as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying
foundations; every repulsive lineament of poverty, every
loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage; all these
ornament the banks of Folly Ditch.

In Jacob's Island, the warehouses are roofless and empty; the
walls are crumbling down; the windows are windows no more; the
doors are falling into the streets; the chimneys are blackened,
but they yield no smoke. Thirty or forty years ago, before
losses and chancery suits came upon it, it was a thriving place;
but now it is a desolate island indeed. The houses have no
owners; they are broken open, and entered upon by those who have
the courage; and there they live, and there they die. They must
have powerful motives for a secret residence, or be reduced to a
destitute condition indeed, who seek a refuge in Jacob's Island.

In an upper room of one of these houses--a detached house of fair
size, ruinous in other respects, but strongly defended at door
and window: of which house the back commanded the ditch in
manner already described--there were assembled three men, who,
regarding each other every now and then with looks expressive of
perplexity and expectation, sat for some time in profound and
gloomy silence. One of these was Toby Crackit, another Mr.
Chitling, and the third a robber of fifty years, whose nose had
been almost beaten in, in some old scuffle, and whose face bore a
frightful scar which might probably be traced to the same
occasion. This man was a returned transport, and his name was
Kags.

'I wish,' said Toby turning to Mr. Chitling, 'that you had picked
out some other crib when the two old ones got too warm, and had
not come here, my fine feller.'

'Why didn't you, blunder-head!' said Kags.

'Well, I thought you'd have been a little more glad to see me
than this,' replied Mr. Chitling, with a melancholy air.

'Why, look'e, young gentleman,' said Toby, 'when a man keeps
himself so very ex-clusive as I have done, and by that means has
a snug house over his head with nobody a prying and smelling
about it, it's rather a startling thing to have the honour of a
wisit from a young gentleman (however respectable and pleasant a
person he may be to play cards with at conweniency) circumstanced
as you are.'

'Especially, when the exclusive young man has got a friend
stopping with him, that's arrived sooner than was expected from
foreign parts, and is too modest to want to be presented to the
Judges on his return,' added Mr. Kags.

There was a short silence, after which Toby Crackit, seeming to
abandon as hopeless any further effort to maintain his usual
devil-may-care swagger, turned to Chitling and said,

'When was Fagin took then?'

'Just at dinner-time--two o'clock this afternoon. Charley and I
made our lucky up the wash-us chimney, and Bolter got into the
empty water-butt, head downwards; but his legs were so precious
long that they stuck out at the top, and so they took him too.'

'And Bet?'

'Poor Bet! She went to see the Body, to speak to who it was,'
replied Chitling, his countenance falling more and more, 'and
went off mad, screaming and raving, and beating her head against
the boards; so they put a strait-weskut on her and took her to
the hospital--and there she is.'

'Wot's come of young Bates?' demanded Kags.

'He hung about, not to come over here afore dark, but he'll be
here soon,' replied Chitling. 'There's nowhere else to go to
now, for the people at the Cripples are all in custody, and the
bar of the ken--I went up there and see it with my own eyes--is
filled with traps.'

'This is a smash,' observed Toby, biting his lips. 'There's more
than one will go with this.'

'The sessions are on,' said Kags: 'if they get the inquest over,
and Bolter turns King's evidence: as of course he will, from
what he's said already: they can prove Fagin an accessory before
the fact, and get the trial on on Friday, and he'll swing in six
days from this, by G--!'

'You should have heard the people groan,' said Chitling; 'the
officers fought like devils, or they'd have torn him away. He
was down once, but they made a ring round him, and fought their
way along. You should have seen how he looked about him, all
muddy and bleeding, and clung to them as if they were his dearest
friends. I can see 'em now, not able to stand upright with the
pressing of the mob, and draggin him along amongst 'em; I can see
the people jumping up, one behind another, and snarling with
their teeth and making at him; I can see the blood upon his hair
and beard, and hear the cries with which the women worked
themselves into the centre of the crowd at the street corner, and
swore they'd tear his heart out!'

The horror-stricken witness of this scene pressed his hands upon
his ears, and with his eyes closed got up and paced violently to
and fro, like one distracted.

While he was thus engaged, and the two men sat by in silence with
their eyes fixed upon the floor, a pattering noise was heard upon
the stairs, and Sikes's dog bounded into the room. They ran to
the window, downstairs, and into the street. The dog had jumped
in at an open window; he made no attempt to follow them, nor was
his master to be seen.

'What's the meaning of this?' said Toby when they had returned.
'He can't be coming here. I--I--hope not.'

'If he was coming here, he'd have come with the dog,' said Kags,
stooping down to examine the animal, who lay panting on the
floor. 'Here! Give us some water for him; he has run himself
faint.'

'He's drunk it all up, every drop,' said Chitling after watching
the dog some time in silence. 'Covered with mud--lame--half
blind--he must have come a long way.'

'Where can he have come from!' exclaimed Toby. 'He's been to the
other kens of course, and finding them filled with strangers come
on here, where he's been many a time and often. But where can he
have come from first, and how comes he here alone without the
other!'

'He'--(none of them called the murderer by his old name)--'He
can't have made away with himself. What do you think?' said
Chitling.

Toby shook his head.

'If he had,' said Kags, 'the dog 'ud want to lead us away to
where he did it. No. I think he's got out of the country, and
left the dog behind. He must have given him the slip somehow, or
he wouldn't be so easy.'

This solution, appearing the most probable one, was adopted as
the right; the dog, creeping under a chair, coiled himself up to
sleep, without more notice from anybody.

It being now dark, the shutter was closed, and a candle lighted
and placed upon the table. The terrible events of the last two
days had made a deep impression on all three, increased by the
danger and uncertainty of their own position. They drew their
chairs closer together, starting at every sound. They spoke
little, and that in whispers, and were as silent and awe-stricken
as if the remains of the murdered woman lay in the next room.

They had sat thus, some time, when suddenly was heard a hurried
knocking at the door below.

'Young Bates,' said Kags, looking angrily round, to check the
fear he felt himself.

The knocking came again. No, it wasn't he. He never knocked
like that.

Crackit went to the window, and shaking all over, drew in his
head. There was no need to tell them who it was; his pale face
was enough. The dog too was on the alert in an instant, and ran
whining to the door.

'We must let him in,' he said, taking up the candle.

'Isn't there any help for it?' asked the other man in a hoarse
voice.

'None. He _must_ come in.'

'Don't leave us in the dark,' said Kags, taking down a candle
from the chimney-piece, and lighting it, with such a trembling
hand that the knocking was twice repeated before he had finished.

Crackit went down to the door, and returned followed by a man
with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and
another tied over his head under his hat. He drew them slowly
off. Blanched face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three
days' growth, wasted flesh, short thick breath; it was the very
ghost of Sikes.

He laid his hand upon a chair which stood in the middle of the
room, but shuddering as he was about to drop into it, and seeming
to glance over his shoulder, dragged it back close to the
wall--as close as it would go--and ground it against it--and sat
down.

Not a word had been exchanged. He looked from one to another in
silence. If an eye were furtively raised and met his, it was
instantly averted. When his hollow voice broke silence, they all
three started. They seemed never to have heard its tones before.

'How came that dog here?' he asked.

'Alone. Three hours ago.'

'To-night's paper says that Fagin's took. Is it true, or a lie?'

'True.'

They were silent again.

'Damn you all!' said Sikes, passing his hand across his forehead.

'Have you nothing to say to me?'

There was an uneasy movement among them, but nobody spoke.

'You that keep this house,' said Sikes, turning his face to
Crackit, 'do you mean to sell me, or to let me lie here till this
hunt is over?'

'You may stop here, if you think it safe,' returned the person
addressed, after some hesitation.

Sikes carried his eyes slowly up the wall behind him: rather
trying to turn his head than actually doing it: and said,
'Is--it--the body--is it buried?'

They shook their heads.

'Why isn't it!' he retorted with the same glance behind him.
'Wot do they keep such ugly things above the ground for?--Who's
that knocking?'

Crackit intimated, by a motion of his hand as he left the room,
that there was nothing to fear; and directly came back with
Charley Bates behind him. Sikes sat opposite the door, so that
the moment the boy entered the room he encountered his figure.

'Toby,' said the boy falling back, as Sikes turned his eyes
towards him, 'why didn't you tell me this, downstairs?'

There had been something so tremendous in the shrinking off of
the three, that the wretched man was willing to propitiate even
this lad. Accordingly he nodded, and made as though he would
shake hands with him.

'Let me go into some other room,' said the boy, retreating still
farther.

'Charley!' said Sikes, stepping forward. 'Don't you--don't you
know me?'

'Don't come nearer me,' answered the boy, still retreating, and
looking, with horror in his eyes, upon the murderer's face. 'You
monster!'

The man stopped half-way, and they looked at each other; but
Sikes's eyes sunk gradually to the ground.

'Witness you three,' cried the boy shaking his clenched fist, and
becoming more and more excited as he spoke. 'Witness you
three--I'm not afraid of him--if they come here after him, I'll
give him up; I will. I tell you out at once. He may kill me for
it if he likes, or if he dares, but if I am here I'll give him
up. I'd give him up if he was to be boiled alive. Murder!
Help! If there's the pluck of a man among you three, you'll help
me. Murder! Help! Down with him!'

Pouring out these cries, and accompanying them with violent
gesticulation, the boy actually threw himself, single-handed,
upon the strong man, and in the intensity of his energy and the
suddenness of his surprise, brought him heavily to the ground.

The three spectators seemed quite stupefied. They offered no
interference, and the boy and man rolled on the ground together;
the former, heedless of the blows that showered upon him,
wrenching his hands tighter and tighter in the garments about the
murderer's breast, and never ceasing to call for help with all
his might.

The contest, however, was too unequal to last long. Sikes had
him down, and his knee was on his throat, when Crackit pulled him
back with a look of alarm, and pointed to the window. There were
lights gleaming below, voices in loud and earnest conversation,
the tramp of hurried footsteps--endless they seemed in
number--crossing the nearest wooden bridge. One man on horseback
seemed to be among the crowd; for there was the noise of hoofs
rattling on the uneven pavement. The gleam of lights increased;
the footsteps came more thickly and noisily on. Then, came a
loud knocking at the door, and then a hoarse murmur from such a
multitude of angry voices as would have made the boldest quail.

'Help!' shrieked the boy in a voice that rent the air.

'He's here! Break down the door!'

'In the King's name,' cried the voices without; and the hoarse
cry arose again, but louder.

'Break down the door!' screamed the boy. 'I tell you they'll
never open it. Run straight to the room where the light is.
Break down the door!'

Strokes, thick and heavy, rattled upon the door and lower
window-shutters as he ceased to speak, and a loud huzzah burst
from the crowd; giving the listener, for the first time, some
adequate idea of its immense extent.

'Open the door of some place where I can lock this screeching
Hell-babe,' cried Sikes fiercely; running to and fro, and
dragging the boy, now, as easily as if he were an empty sack.
'That door. Quick!' He flung him in, bolted it, and turned the
key. 'Is the downstairs door fast?'

'Double-locked and chained,' replied Crackit, who, with the other
two men, still remained quite helpless and bewildered.

'The panels--are they strong?'

'Lined with sheet-iron.'

'And the windows too?'

'Yes, and the windows.'

'Damn you!' cried the desperate ruffian, throwing up the sash and
menacing the crowd. 'Do your worst! I'll cheat you yet!'

Of all the terrific yells that ever fell on mortal ears, none
could exceed the cry of the infuriated throng. Some shouted to
those who were nearest to set the house on fire; others roared to
the officers to shoot him dead. Among them all, none showed such
fury as the man on horseback, who, throwing himself out of the
saddle, and bursting through the crowd as if he were parting
water, cried, beneath the window, in a voice that rose above all
others, 'Twenty guineas to the man who brings a ladder!'

The nearest voices took up the cry, and hundreds echoed it. Some
called for ladders, some for sledge-hammers; some ran with
torches to and fro as if to seek them, and still came back and
roared again; some spent their breath in impotent curses and
execrations; some pressed forward with the ecstasy of madmen, and
thus impeded the progress of those below; some among the boldest
attempted to climb up by the water-spout and crevices in the
wall; and all waved to and fro, in the darkness beneath, like a
field of corn moved by an angry wind: and joined from time to
time in one loud furious roar.

'The tide,' cried the murderer, as he staggered back into the
room, and shut the faces out, 'the tide was in as I came up.
Give me a rope, a long rope. They're all in front. I may drop
into the Folly Ditch, and clear off that way. Give me a rope, or
I shall do three more murders and kill myself.'

The panic-stricken men pointed to where such articles were kept;
the murderer, hastily selecting the longest and strongest cord,
hurried up to the house-top.

All the window in the rear of the house had been long ago bricked
up, except one small trap in the room where the boy was locked,
and that was too small even for the passage of his body. But,
from this aperture, he had never ceased to call on those without,
to guard the back; and thus, when the murderer emerged at last on
the house-top by the door in the roof, a loud shout proclaimed
the fact to those in front, who immediately began to pour round,
pressing upon each other in an unbroken stream.

He planted a board, which he had carried up with him for the
purpose, so firmly against the door that it must be matter of
great difficulty to open it from the inside; and creeping over
the tiles, looked over the low parapet.

The water was out, and the ditch a bed of mud.

The crowd had been hushed during these few moments, watching his
motions and doubtful of his purpose, but the instant they
perceived it and knew it was defeated, they raised a cry of
triumphant execration to which all their previous shouting had
been whispers. Again and again it rose. Those who were at too
great a distance to know its meaning, took up the sound; it
echoed and re-echoed; it seemed as though the whole city had
poured its population out to curse him.

On pressed the people from the front--on, on, on, in a strong
struggling current of angry faces, with here and there a glaring
torch to lighten them up, and show them out in all their wrath
and passion. The houses on the opposite side of the ditch had
been entered by the mob; sashes were thrown up, or torn bodily
out; there were tiers and tiers of faces in every window; cluster
upon cluster of people clinging to every house-top. Each little
bridge (and there were three in sight) bent beneath the weight of
the crowd upon it. Still the current poured on to find some nook
or hole from which to vent their shouts, and only for an instant
see the wretch.

'They have him now,' cried a man on the nearest bridge. 'Hurrah!'

The crowd grew light with uncovered heads; and again the shout
uprose.

'I will give fifty pounds,' cried an old gentleman from the same
quarter, 'to the man who takes him alive. I will remain here,
till he come to ask me for it.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely.
The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy,
thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called
to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake.

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

CHAPTER LI

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

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

They had not talked much upon the way; for Oliver was in a
flutter of agitation and uncertainty which deprived him of the
power of collecting his thoughts, and almost of speech, and
appeared to have scarcely less effect on his companions, who
shared it, in at least an equal degree. He and the two ladies
had been very carefully made acquainted by Mr. Brownlow with the
nature of the admissions which had been forced from Monks; and
although they knew that the object of their present journey was
to complete the work which had been so well begun, still the
whole matter was enveloped in enough of doubt and mystery to
leave them in endurance of the most intense suspense.

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

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

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

'You will see him soon,' replied Rose, gently taking his folded
hands between her own. 'You shall tell him how happy you are,
and how rich you have grown, and that in all your happiness you
have none so great as the coming back to make him happy too.'

'Yes, yes,' said Oliver, 'and we'll--we'll take him away from
here, and have him clothed and taught, and send him to some quiet
country place where he may grow strong and well,--shall we?'

Rose nodded 'yes,' for the boy was smiling through such happy
tears that she could not speak.

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

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

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

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

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

'This is a painful task,' said he, 'but these declarations, which
have been signed in London before many gentlemen, must be in
substance repeated here. I would have spared you the
degradation, but we must hear them from your own lips before we
part, and you know why.'

'Go on,' said the person addressed, turning away his face.
'Quick. I have almost done enough, I think. Don't keep me
here.'

'This child,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing Oliver to him, and
laying his hand upon his head, 'is your half-brother; the
illegitimate son of your father, my dear friend Edwin Leeford, by
poor young Agnes Fleming, who died in giving him birth.'

'Yes,' said Monks, scowling at the trembling boy: the beating of
whose heart he might have heard. 'That is the bastard child.'

'The term you use,' said Mr. Brownlow, sternly, 'is a reproach to
those long since passed beyond the feeble censure of the world.
It reflects disgrace on no one living, except you who use it.
Let that pass. He was born in this town.'

'In the workhouse of this town,' was the sullen reply. 'You have
the story there.' He pointed impatiently to the papers as he
spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

Monks was silent.

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

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

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

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

'There she died,' said Monks, 'after a lingering illness; and, on
her death-bed, she bequeathed these secrets to me, together with
her unquenchable and deadly hatred of all whom they
involved--though she need not have left me that, for I had
inherited it long before. She would not believe that the girl
had destroyed herself, and the child too, but was filled with the
impression that a male child had been born, and was alive. I
swore to her, if ever it crossed my path, to hunt it down; never
to let it rest; to pursue it with the bitterest and most
unrelenting animosity; to vent upon it the hatred that I deeply
felt, and to spit upon the empty vaunt of that insulting will by
draggin it, if I could, to the very gallows-foot. She was right.
He came in my way at last. I began well; and, but for babbling
drabs, I would have finished as I began!'

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

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

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

Mr. Brownlow merely nodded to Mr. Grimwig, who disappearing with
great alacrity, shortly returned, pushing in Mrs. Bumble, and
dragging her unwilling consort after him.

'Do my hi's deceive me!' cried Mr. Bumble, with ill-feigned
enthusiasm, 'or is that little Oliver? Oh O-li-ver, if you
know'd how I've been a-grieving for you--'

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

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

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

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

This salutation was addressed to Mr. Brownlow, who had stepped up
to within a short distance of the respectable couple. He
inquired, as he pointed to Monks,

'Do you know that person?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble flatly.

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

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

'Nor sold him anything, perhaps?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble.

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

'Certainly not,' replied the matron. 'Why are we brought here to
answer to such nonsense as this?'

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

'You shut the door the night old Sally died,' said the foremost
one, raising her shrivelled hand, 'but you couldn't shut out the
sound, nor stop the chinks.'

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

'We heard her try to tell you what she'd done, and saw you take a
paper from her hand, and watched you too, next day, to the
pawnbroker's shop,' said the first.

'Yes,' added the second, 'and it was a "locket and gold ring."
We found out that, and saw it given you. We were by. Oh! we
were by.'

'And we know more than that,' resumed the first, 'for she told us
often, long ago, that the young mother had told her that, feeling
she should never get over it, she was on her way, at the time
that she was taken ill, to die near the grave of the father of
the child.'

'Would you like to see the pawnbroker himself?' asked Mr. Grimwig
with a motion towards the door.

'No,' replied the woman; 'if he--she pointed to Monks--'has been
coward enough to confess, as I see he has, and you have sounded
all these hags till you have found the right ones, I have nothing
more to say. I _did_ sell them, and they're where you'll never get
them. What then?'

'Nothing,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'except that it remains for us
to take care that neither of you is employed in a situation of
trust again. You may leave the room.'

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

'Indeed it will,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'You may make up your
mind to that, and think yourself well off besides.'

'It was all Mrs. Bumble. She _would_ do it,' urged Mr. Bumble;
first looking round to ascertain that his partner had left the
room.

'That is no excuse,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'You were present on
the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and indeed are
the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law
supposes that your wife acts under your direction.'

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

Laying great stress on the repetition of these two words, Mr.
Bumble fixed his hat on very tight, and putting his hands in his
pockets, followed his helpmate downstairs.

'Young lady,' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Rose, 'give me your
hand. Do not tremble. You need not fear to hear the few
remaining words we have to say.'

'If they have--I do not know how they can, but if they have--any
reference to me,' said Rose, 'pray let me hear them at some other
time. I have not strength or spirits now.'

'Nay,' returned the old gentlman, drawing her arm through his;
'you have more fortitude than this, I am sure. Do you know this
young lady, sir?'

'Yes,' replied Monks.

'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
now,' 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 bent 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 jailer 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, through 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;
never mind the girl--Bolter's throat as deep as you can cut. Saw
his head off!'

'Fagin,' said the jailer.

'That's me!' cried the Jew, falling instantly, into the attitude
of listening he had assumed upon his trial. 'An old man, my
Lord; a very old, old man!'

'Here,' said the turnkey, laying his hand upon his breast to keep
him down. 'Here's somebody wants to see you, to ask you some
questions, I suppose. Fagin, Fagin! Are you a man?'

'I shan't be one long,' he replied, looking up with a face
retaining no human expression but rage and terror. 'Strike them
all dead! What right have they to butcher me?'

As he spoke he caught sight of Oliver and Mr. Brownlow. Shrinking
to the furthest corner of the seat, he demanded to know what they
wanted there.

'Steady,' said the turnkey, still holding him down. 'Now, sir,
tell him what you want. Quick, if you please, for he grows worse
as the time gets on.'

'You have some papers,' said Mr. Brownlow advancing, 'which were
placed in your hands, for better security, by a man called
Monks.'

'It's all a lie together,' replied Fagin. 'I haven't one--not
one.'

'For the love of God,' said Mr. Brownlow solemnly, 'do not say
that now, upon the very verge of death; but tell me where they
are. You know that Sikes is dead; that Monks has confessed; that
there is no hope of any further gain. Where are those papers?'

'Oliver,' cried Fagin, beckoning to him. 'Here, here! Let me
whisper to you.'

'I am not afraid,' said Oliver in a low voice, as he relinquished
Mr. Brownlow's hand.

'The papers,' said Fagin, drawing Oliver towards him, 'are in a
canvas bag, in a hole a little way up the chimney in the top
front-room. I want to talk to you, my dear. I want to talk to
you.'

'Yes, yes,' returned Oliver. 'Let me say a prayer. Do! Let me
say one prayer. Say only one, upon your knees, with me, and we
will talk till morning.'

'Outside, outside,' replied Fagin, pushing the boy before him
towards the door, and looking vacantly over his head. 'Say I've
gone to sleep--they'll believe you. You can get me out, if you
take me so. Now then, now then!'

'Oh! God forgive this wretched man!' cried the boy with a burst
of tears.

'That's right, that's right,' said Fagin. 'That'll help us on.
This door first. If I shake and tremble, as we pass the gallows,
don't you mind, but hurry on. Now, now, now!'

'Have you nothing else to ask him, sir?' inquired the turnkey.

'No other question,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'If I hoped we could
recall him to a sense of his position--'

'Nothing will do that, sir,' replied the man, shaking his head.
'You had better leave him.'

The door of the cell opened, and the attendants returned.

'Press on, press on,' cried Fagin. 'Softly, but not so slow.
Faster, faster!'

The men laid hands upon him, and disengaging Oliver from his
grasp, held him back. He struggled with the power of
desperation, for an instant; and then sent up cry upon cry that
penetrated even those massive walls, and rang in their ears until
they reached the open yard.

It was some time before they left the prison. Oliver nearly
swooned after this frightful scene, and was so weak that for an
hour or more, he had not the strength to walk.

Day was dawning when they again emerged. A great multitude had
already assembled; the windows were filled with people, smoking
and playing cards to beguile the time; the crowd were pushing,
quarrelling, joking. Everything told of life and animation, but
one dark cluster of objects in the centre of all--the black stage,
the cross-beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death.

CHAPTER LIII

AND LAST

The fortunes of those who have figured in this tale are nearly
closed. The little that remains to their historian to relate, is
told in few and simple words.

Before three months had passed, Rose Fleming and Harry Maylie
were married in the village church which was henceforth to be the
scene of the young clergyman's labours; on the same day they
entered into possession of their new and happy home.

Mrs. Maylie took up her abode with her son and daughter-in-law,
to enjoy, during the tranquil remainder of her days, the greatest
felicity that age and worth can know--the contemplation of the
happiness of those on whom the warmest affections and tenderest
cares of a well-spent life, have been unceasingly bestowed.

It appeared, on full and careful investigation, that if the wreck
of property remaining in the custody of Monks (which had never
prospered either in his hands or in those of his mother) were
equally divided between himself and Oliver, it would yield, to
each, little more than three thousand pounds. By the provisions
of his father's will, Oliver would have been entitled to the
whole; but Mr. Brownlow, unwilling to deprive the elder son of
the opportunity of retrieving his former vices and pursuing an
honest career, proposed this mode of distribution, to which his
young charge joyfully acceded.

Monks, still bearing that assumed name, retired with his portion
to a distant part of the New World; where, having quickly
squandered it, he once more fell into his old courses, and, after
undergoing a long confinement for some fresh act of fraud and
knavery, at length sunk under an attack of his old disorder, and
died in prison. As far from home, died the chief remaining
members of his friend Fagin's gang.

Mr. Brownlow adopted Oliver as his son. Removing with him and
the old housekeeper to within a mile of the parsonage-house,
where his dear friends resided, he gratified the only remaining
wish of Oliver's warm and earnest heart, and thus linked together
a little society, whose condition approached as nearly to one of
perfect happiness as can ever be known in this changing world.

Soon after the marriage of the young people, the worthy doctor
returned to Chertsey, where, bereft of the presence of his old
friends, he would have been discontented if his temperament had
admitted of such a feeling; and would have turned quite peevish
if he had known how. For two or three months, he contented
himself with hinting that he feared the air began to disagree
with him; then, finding that the place really no longer was, to
him, what it had been, he settled his business on his assistant,
took a bachelor's cottage outside the village of which his young
friend was pastor, and instantaneously recovered. Here he took
to gardening, planting, fishing, carpentering, and various other
pursuits of a similar kind: all undertaken with his
characteristic impetuosity. In each and all he has since become
famous throughout the neighborhood, as a most profound authority.

Before his removal, he had managed to contract a strong
friendship for Mr. Grimwig, which that eccentric gentleman
cordially reciprocated. He is accordingly visited by Mr. Grimwig
a great many times in the course of the year. On all such
occasions, Mr. Grimwig plants, fishes, and carpenters, with great
ardour; doing everything in a very singular and unprecedented
manner, but always maintaining with his favourite asseveration,
that his mode is the right one. On Sundays, he never fails to
criticise the sermon to the young clergyman's face: always
informing Mr. Losberne, in strict confidence afterwards, that he
considers it an excellent performance, but deems it as well not
to say so. It is a standing and very favourite joke, for Mr.
Brownlow to rally him on his old prophecy concerning Oliver, and
to remind him of the night on which they sat with the watch
between them, waiting his return; but Mr. Grimwig contends that
he was right in the main, and, in proof thereof, remarks that
Oliver did not come back after all; which always calls forth a
laugh on his side, and increases his good humour.

Mr. Noah Claypole: receiving a free pardon from the Crown in
consequence of being admitted approver against Fagin: and
considering his profession not altogether as safe a one as he
could wish: was, for some little time, at a loss for the means
of a livelihood, not burdened with too much work. After some
consideration, he went into business as an Informer, in which
calling he realises a genteel subsistence. His plan is, to walk
out once a week during church time attended by Charlotte in
respectable attire. The lady faints away at the doors of
charitable publicans, and the gentleman being accommodated with
three-penny worth of brandy to restore her, lays an information
next day, and pockets half the penalty. Sometimes Mr. Claypole
faints himself, but the result is the same.

Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, deprived of their situations, were gradually
reduced to great indigence and misery, and finally became paupers
in that very same workhouse in which they had once lorded it over
others. Mr. Bumble has been heard to say, that in this reverse
and degradation, he has not even spirits to be thankful for being
separated from his wife.

As to Mr. Giles and Brittles, they still remain in their old
posts, although the former is bald, and the last-named boy quite
grey. They sleep at the parsonage, but divide their attentions
so equally among its inmates, and Oliver and Mr. Brownlow, and
Mr. Losberne, that to this day the villagers have never been able
to discover to which establishment they properly belong.

Master Charles Bates, appalled by Sikes's crime, fell into a
train of reflection whether an honest life was not, after all,
the best. Arriving at the conclusion that it certainly was, he
turned his back upon the scenes of the past, resolved to amend it
in some new sphere of action. He struggled hard, and suffered
much, for some time; but, having a contented disposition, and a
good purpose, succeeded in the end; and, from being a farmer's
drudge, and a carrier's lad, he is now the merriest young grazier
in all Northamptonshire.

And now, the hand that traces these words, falters, as it
approaches the conclusion of its task; and would weave, for a
little longer space, the thread of these adventures.

I would fain linger yet with a few of those among whom I have so
long moved, and share their happiness by endeavouring to depict
it. I would show Rose Maylie in all the bloom and grace of early
womanhood, shedding on her secluded path in life soft and gentle
light, that fell on all who trod it with her, and shone into
their hearts. I would paint her the life and joy of the
fire-side circle and the lively summer group; I would follow her
through the sultry fields at noon, and hear the low tones of her
sweet voice in the moonlit evening walk; I would watch her in all
her goodness and charity abroad, and the smiling untiring
discharge of domestic duties at home; I would paint her and her
dead sister's child happy in their love for one another, and
passing whole hours together in picturing the friends whom they
had so sadly lost; I would summon before me, once again, those
joyous little faces that clustered round her knee, and listen to
their merry prattle; I would recall the tones of that clear
laugh, and conjure up the sympathising tear that glistened in the
soft blue eye. These, and a thousand looks and smiles, and turns
of thought and speech--I would fain recall them every one.

How Mr. Brownlow went on, from day to day, filling the mind of
his adopted child with stores of knowledge, and becoming attached
to him, more and more, as his nature developed itself, and showed
the thriving seeds of all he wished him to become--how he traced
in him new traits of his early friend, that awakened in his own
bosom old remembrances, melancholy and yet sweet and
soothing--how the two orphans, tried by adversity, remembered its
lessons in mercy to others, and mutual love, and fervent thanks
to Him who had protected and preserved them--these are all
matters which need not to be told. I have said that they were
truly happy; and without strong affection and humanity of heart,
and gratitude to that Being whose code is Mercy, and whose great
attribute is Benevolence to all things that breathe, happiness
can never be attained.

Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white
marble tablet, which bears as yet but one word: 'AGNES.' There
is no coffin in that tomb; and may it be many, many years, before
another name is placed above it! But, if the spirits of the Dead
ever come back to earth, to visit spots hallowed by the love--the
love beyond the grave--of those whom they knew in life, I believe
that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook.
I believe it none the less because that nook is in a Church, and
she was weak and erring.

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