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The doctor seemed expecially troubled by the fact of the robbery
having been unexpected, and attempted in the night-time; as if it
were the established custom of gentlemen in the housebreaking way
to transact business at noon, and to make an appointment, by
post, a day or two previous.
'And you, Miss Rose,' said the doctor, turning to the young lady,
'Oh! very much so, indeed,' said Rose, interrupting him; 'but
there is a poor creature upstairs, whom aunt wishes you to see.'
'Ah! to be sure,' replied the doctor, 'so there is. That was
your handiwork, Giles, I understand.'
Mr. Giles, who had been feverishly putting the tea-cups to
rights, blushed very red, and said that he had had that honour.
'Honour, eh?' said the doctor; 'well, I don't know; perhaps it's
as honourable to hit a thief in a back kitchen, as to hit your
man at twelve paces. Fancy that he fired in the air, and you've
fought a duel, Giles.'
Mr. Giles, who thought this light treatment of the matter an
unjust attempt at diminishing his glory, answered respectfully,
that it was not for the like of him to judge about that; but he
rather thought it was no joke to the opposite party.
'Gad, that's true!' said the doctor. 'Where is he? Show me the
way. I'll look in again, as I come down, Mrs. Maylie. That's
the little window that he got in at, eh? Well, I couldn't have
Talking all the way, he followed Mr. Giles upstairs; and while he
is going upstairs, the reader may be informed, that Mr. Losberne,
a surgeon in the neighbourhood, known through a circuit of ten
miles round as 'the doctor,' had grown fat, more from good-humour
than from good living: and was as kind and hearty, and withal as
eccentric an old bachelor, as will be found in five times that
space, by any explorer alive.
The doctor was absent, much longer than either he or the ladies
had anticipated. A large flat box was fetched out of the gig;
and a bedroom bell was rung very often; and the servants ran up
and down stairs perpetually; from which tokens it was justly
concluded that something important was going on above. At length
he returned; and in reply to an anxious inquiry after his
patient; looked very mysterious, and closed the door, carefully.
'This is a very extraordinary thing, Mrs. Maylie,' said the
doctor, standing with his back to the door, as if to keep it
'He is not in danger, I hope?' said the old lady.
'Why, that would NOT be an extraordinary thing, under the
circumstances,' replied the doctor; 'though I don't think he is.
Have you seen the thief?'
'No,' rejoined the old lady.
'Nor heard anything about him?'
'I beg your pardon, ma'am, interposed Mr. Giles; 'but I was going
to tell you about him when Doctor Losberne came in.'
The fact was, that Mr. Giles had not, at first, been able to
bring his mind to the avowal, that he had only shot a boy. Such
commendations had been bestowed upon his bravery, that he could
not, for the life of him, help postponing the explanation for a
few delicious minutes; during which he had flourished, in the
very zenith of a brief reputation for undaunted courage.
'Rose wished to see the man,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'but I wouldn't
hear of it.'
'Humph!' rejoined the doctor. 'There is nothing very alarming in
his appearance. Have you any objection to see him in my
'If it be necessary,' replied the old lady, 'certainly not.'
'Then I think it is necessary,' said the doctor; 'at all events,
I am quite sure that you would deeply regret not having done so,
if you postponed it. He is perfectly quiet and comfortable now.
Allow me--Miss Rose, will you permit me? Not the slightest fear,
I pledge you my honour!'
RELATES WHAT OLIVER'S NEW VISITORS THOUGHT OF HIM
With many loquacious assurances that they would be agreeably
surprised in the aspect of the criminal, the doctor drew the
young lady's arm through one of him; and offering his disengaged
hand to Mrs. Maylie, led them, with much ceremony and
'Now,' said the doctor, in a whisper, as he softly turned the
handle of a bedroom-door, 'let us hear what you think of him. He
has not been shaved very recently, but he don't look at all
ferocious notwithstanding. Stop, though! Let me first see that
he is in visiting order.'
Stepping before them, he looked into the room. Motioning them to
advance, he closed the door when they had entered; and gently
drew back the curtains of the bed. Upon it, in lieu of the
dogged, black-visaged ruffian they had expected to behold, there
lay a mere child: worn with pain and exhaustion, and sunk into a
deep sleep. His wounded arm, bound and splintered up, was
crossed upon his breast; his head reclined upon the other arm,
which was half hidden by his long hair, as it streamed over the
The honest gentleman held the curtain in his hand, and looked on,
for a minute or so, in silence. Whilst he was watching the
patient thus, the younger lady glided softly past, and seating
herself in a chair by the bedside, gathered Oliver's hair from
his face. As she stooped over him, her tears fell upon his
The boy stirred, and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks
of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love
and affection he had never known. Thus, a strain of gentle
music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour
of a flower, or the mention of a familiar word, will sometimes
call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes that never were, in
this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory of
a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened;
which no voluntary exertion of the mind can ever recall.
'What can this mean?' exclaimed the elder lady. 'This poor child
can never have been the pupil of robbers!'
'Vice,' said the surgeon, replacing the curtain, 'takes up her
abode in many temples; and who can say that a fair outside shell
not enshrine her?'
'But at so early an age!' urged Rose.
'My dear young lady,' rejoined the surgeon, mournfully shaking
his head; 'crime, like death, is not confined to the old and
withered alone. The youngest and fairest are too often its
'But, can you--oh! can you really believe that this delicate boy
has been the voluntary associate of the worst outcasts of
society?' said Rose.
The surgeon shook his head, in a manner which intimated that he
feared it was very possible; and observing that they might
disturb the patient, led the way into an adjoining apartment.
'But even if he has been wicked,' pursued Rose, 'think how young
he is; think that he may never have known a mother's love, or the
comfort of a home; that ill-usage and blows, or the want of
bread, may have driven him to herd with men who have forced him
to guilt. Aunt, dear aunt, for mercy's sake, think of this,
before you let them drag this sick child to a prison, which in
any case must be the grave of all his chances of amendment. Oh!
as you love me, and know that I have never felt the want of
parents in your goodness and affection, but that I might have
done so, and might have been equally helpless and unprotected
with this poor child, have pity upon him before it is too late!'
'My dear love,' said the elder lady, as she folded the weeping
girl to her bosom, 'do you think I would harm a hair of his
'Oh, no!' replied Rose, eagerly.
'No, surely,' said the old lady; 'my days are drawing to their
close: and may mercy be shown to me as I show it to others!
What can I do to save him, sir?'
'Let me think, ma'am,' said the doctor; 'let me think.'
Mr. Losberne thrust his hands into his pockets, and took several
turns up and down the room; often stopping, and balancing himself
on his toes, and frowning frightfully. After various
exclamations of 'I've got it now' and 'no, I haven't,' and as
many renewals of the walking and frowning, he at length made a
dead halt, and spoke as follows:
'I think if you give me a full and unlimited commission to bully
Giles, and that little boy, Brittles, I can manage it. Giles is
a faithful fellow and an old servant, I know; but you can make it
up to him in a thousand ways, and reward him for being such a
good shot besides. You don't object to that?'
'Unless there is some other way of preserving the child,' replied
'There is no other,' said the doctor. 'No other, take my word
'Then my aunt invests you with full power,' said Rose, smiling
through her tears; 'but pray don't be harder upon the poor