Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 Next page
'May I accompany you?' said the book-stall keeper, looking in.
'Bless me, yes, my dear sir,' said Mr. Brownlow quickly. 'I
forgot you. Dear, dear! I have this unhappy book still! Jump
in. Poor fellow! There's no time to lose.'
The book-stall keeper got into the coach; and away they drove.
IN WHICH OLIVER IS TAKEN BETTER CARE OF THAN HE EVER WAS BEFORE.
AND IN WHICH THE NARRATIVE REVERTS TO THE MERRY OLD GENTLEMAN AND
HIS YOUTHFUL FRIENDS.
The coach rattled away, over nearly the same ground as that which
Oliver had traversed when he first entered London in company with
the Dodger; and, turning a different way when it reached the
Angel at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house, in a
quiet shady street near Pentonville. Here, a bed was prepared,
without loss of time, in which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge
carefully and comfortably deposited; and here, he was tended with
a kindness and solicitude that knew no bounds.
But, for many days, Oliver remained insensible to all the
goodness of his new friends. The sun rose and sank, and rose and
sank again, and many times after that; and still the boy lay
stretched on his uneasy bed, dwindling away beneath the dry and
wasting heat of fever. The worm does not work more surely on the
dead body, than does this slow creeping fire upon the living
Weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke at last from what seemed to
have been a long and troubled dream. Feebly raising himself in
the bed, with his head resting on his trembling arm, he looked
'What room is this? Where have I been brought to?' said Oliver.
'This is not the place I went to sleep in.'
He uttered these words in a feeble voice, being very faint and
weak; but they were overheard at once. The curtain at the bed's
head was hastily drawn back, and a motherly old lady, very neatly
and precisely dressed, rose as she undrew it, from an arm-chair
close by, in which she had been sitting at needle-work.
'Hush, my dear,' said the old lady softly. 'You must be very
quiet, or you will be ill again; and you have been very bad,--as
bad as bad could be, pretty nigh. Lie down again; there's a
dear!' With those words, the old lady very gently placed
Oliver's head upon the pillow; and, smoothing back his hair from
his forehead, looked so kindly and loving in his face, that he
could not help placing his little withered hand in hers, and
drawing it round his neck.
'Save us!' said the old lady, with tears in her eyes. 'What a
grateful little dear it is. Pretty creetur! What would his
mother feel if she had sat by him as I have, and could see him
'Perhaps she does see me,' whispered Oliver, folding his hands
together; 'perhaps she has sat by me. I almost feel as if she
'That was the fever, my dear,' said the old lady mildly.
'I suppose it was,' replied Oliver, 'because heaven is a long way
off; and they are too happy there, to come down to the bedside of
a poor boy. But if she knew I was ill, she must have pitied me,
even there; for she was very ill herself before she died. She
can't know anything about me though,' added Oliver after a
moment's silence. 'If she had seen me hurt, it would have made
here sorrowful; and her face has always looked sweet and happy,
when I have dreamed of her.'
The old lady made no reply to this; but wiping her eyes first,
and her spectacles, which lay on the counterpane, afterwards, as
if they were part and parcel of those features, brought some cool
stuff for Oliver to drink; and then, patting him on the cheek,
told him he must lie very quiet, or he would be ill again.
So, Oliver kept very still; partly because he was anxious to obey
the kind old lady in all things; and partly, to tell the truth,
because he was completely exhausted with what he had already
said. He soon fell into a gentle doze, from which he was
awakened by the light of a candle: which, being brought near the
bed, showed him a gentleman with a very large and loud-ticking
gold watch in his hand, who felt his pulse, and said he was a
great deal better.
'You ARE a great deal better, are you not, my dear?' said the
'Yes, thank you, sir,' replied Oliver.
'Yes, I know you are,' said the gentleman: 'You're hungry too,
'No, sir,' answered Oliver.
'Hem!' said the gentleman. 'No, I know you're not. He is not
hungry, Mrs. Bedwin,' said the gentleman: looking very wise.
The old lady made a respectful inclination of the head, which
seemed to say that she thought the doctor was a very clever man.
The doctor appeared much of the same opinion himself.
'You feel sleepy, don't you, my dear?' said the doctor.
'No, sir,' replied Oliver.
'No,' said the doctor, with a very shrewd and satisfied look.
'You're not sleepy. Nor thirsty. Are you?'
'Yes, sir, rather thirsty,' answered Oliver.
'Just as I expected, Mrs. Bedwin,' said the doctor. 'It's very
natural that he should be thirsty. You may give him a little
tea, ma'am, and some dry toast without any butter. Don't keep
him too warm, ma'am; but be careful that you don't let him be too
cold; will you have the goodness?'
The old lady dropped a curtsey. The doctor, after tasting the
cool stuff, and expressing a qualified approval of it, hurried
away: his boots creaking in a very important and wealthy manner
as he went downstairs.
Oliver dozed off again, soon after this; when he awoke, it was
nearly twelve o'clock. The old lady tenderly bade him good-night
shortly afterwards, and left him in charge of a fat old woman who
had just come: bringing with her, in a little bundle, a small
Prayer Book and a large nightcap. Putting the latter on her head
and the former on the table, the old woman, after telling Oliver
that she had come to sit up with him, drew her chair close to the
fire and went off into a series of short naps, chequered at
frequent intervals with sundry tumblings forward, and divers
moans and chokings. These, however, had no worse effect than
causing her to rub her nose very hard, and then fall asleep
And thus the night crept slowly on. Oliver lay awake for some
time, counting the little circles of light which the reflection
of the rushlight-shade threw upon the ceiling; or tracing with
his languid eyes the intricate pattern of the paper on the wall.
The darkness and the deep stillness of the room were very solemn;
as they brought into the boy's mind the thought that death had
been hovering there, for many days and nights, and might yet fill
it with the gloom and dread of his awful presence, he turned his
face upon the pillow, and fervently prayed to Heaven.
Gradually, he fell into that deep tranquil sleep which ease from
recent suffering alone imparts; that calm and peaceful rest which
it is pain to wake from. Who, if this were death, would be
roused again to all the struggles and turmoils of life; to all
its cares for the present; its anxieties for the future; more
than all, its weary recollections of the past!
It had been bright day, for hours, when Oliver opened his eyes;
he felt cheerful and happy. The crisis of the disease was safely
past. He belonged to the world again.
In three days' time he was able to sit in an easy-chair, well
propped up with pillows; and, as he was still too weak to walk,
Mrs. Bedwin had him carried downstairs into the little
housekeeper's room, which belonged to her. Having him set, here,
by the fire-side, the good old lady sat herself down too; and,
being in a state of considerable delight at seeing him so much
better, forthwith began to cry most violently.
'Never mind me, my dear,' said the old lady; 'I'm only having a
regular good cry. There; it's all over now; and I'm quite
'You're very, very kind to me, ma'am,' said Oliver.
'Well, never you mind that, my dear,' said the old lady; 'that's
got nothing to do with your broth; and it's full time you had it;
for the doctor says Mr. Brownlow may come in to see you this
morning; and we must get up our best looks, because the better we
look, the more he'll be pleased.' And with this, the old lady
applied herself to warming up, in a little saucepan, a basin full
of broth: strong enough, Oliver thought, to furnish an ample
dinner, when reduced to the regulation strength, for three
hundred and fifty paupers, at the lowest computation.
'Are you fond of pictures, dear?' inquired the old lady, seeing
that Oliver had fixed his eyes, most intently, on a portrait
which hung against the wall; just opposite his chair.
'I don't quite know, ma'am,' said Oliver, without taking his eyes
from the canvas; 'I have seen so few that I hardly know. What a
beautiful, mild face that lady's is!'
'Ah!' said the old lady, 'painters always make ladies out
prettier than they are, or they wouldn't get any custom, child.
The man that invented the machine for taking likenesses might
have known that would never succeed; it's a deal too honest. A
deal,' said the old lady, laughing very heartily at her own
'Is--is that a likeness, ma'am?' said Oliver.