Oliver Twist – Day 166 of 173

‘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.

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