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It was a happy time. The days were peaceful and serene; the
nights brought with them neither fear nor care; no languishing in
a wretched prison, or associating with wretched men; nothing but
pleasant and happy thoughts. Every morning he went to a
white-headed old gentleman, who lived near the little church:
who taught him to read better, and to write: and who spoke so
kindly, and took such pains, that Oliver could never try enough
to please him. Then, he would walk with Mrs. Maylie and Rose,
and hear them talk of books; or perhaps sit near them, in some
shady place, and listen whilst the young lady read: which he
could have done, until it grew too dark to see the letters.
Then, he had his own lesson for the next day to prepare; and at
this, he would work hard, in a little room which looked into the
garden, till evening came slowly on, when the ladies would walk
out again, and he with them: listening with such pleasure to all
they said: and so happy if they wanted a flower that he could
climb to reach, or had forgotten anything he could run to fetch:
that he could never be quick enought about it. When it became
quite dark, and they returned home, the young lady would sit down
to the piano, and play some pleasant air, or sing, in a low and
gentle voice, some old song which it pleased her aunt to hear.
There would be no candles lighted at such times as these; and
Oliver would sit by one of the windows, listening to the sweet
music, in a perfect rapture.
And when Sunday came, how differently the day was spent, from any
way in which he had ever spent it yet! and how happily too; like
all the other days in that most happy time! There was the little
church, in the morning, with the green leaves fluttering at the
windows: the birds singing without: and the sweet-smelling air
stealing in at the low porch, and filling the homely building
with its fragrance. The poor people were so neat and clean, and
knelt so reverently in prayer, that it seemed a pleasure, not a
tedious duty, their assembling there together; and though the
singing might be rude, it was real, and sounded more musical (to
Oliver's ears at least) than any he had ever heard in church
before. Then, there were the walks as usual, and many calls at
the clean houses of the labouring men; and at night, Oliver read
a chapter or two from the Bible, which he had been studying all
the week, and in the performance of which duty he felt more proud
and pleased, than if he had been the clergyman himself.
In the morning, Oliver would be a-foot by six o'clock, roaming
the fields, and plundering the hedges, far and wide, for nosegays
of wild flowers, with which he would return laden, home; and
which it took great care and consideration to arrange, to the
best advantage, for the embellishment of the breakfast-table.
There was fresh groundsel, too, for Miss Maylie's birds, with
which Oliver, who had been studying the subject under the able
tuition of the village clerk, would decorate the cages, in the
most approved taste. When the birds were made all spruce and
smart for the day, there was usually some little commission of
charity to execute in the village; or, failing that, there was
rare cricket-playing, sometimes, on the green; or, failing that,
there was always something to do in the garden, or about the
plants, to which Oliver (who had studied this science also, under
the same master, who was a gardener by trade,) applied himself
with hearty good-will, until Miss Rose made her appearance: when
there were a thousand commendations to be bestowed on all he had
So three months glided away; three months which, in the life of
the most blessed and favoured of mortals, might have been
unmingled happiness, and which, in Oliver's were true felicity.
With the purest and most amiable generousity on one side; and the
truest, warmest, soul-felt gratitude on the other; it is no
wonder that, by the end of that short time, Oliver Twist had
become completely domesticated with the old lady and her niece,
and that the fervent attachment of his young and sensitive heart,
was repaid by their pride in, and attachment to, himself.
WHEREIN THE HAPPINESS OF OLIVER AND HIS FRIENDS, EXPERIENCES A
Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came. If the village had been
beautiful at first it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of
its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and
bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and
health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty
ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where
was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide
prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched beyond. The
earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her
richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the
year; all things were glad and flourishing.
Still, the same quiet life went on at the little cottage, and the
same cheerful serenity prevailed among its inmates. Oliver had
long since grown stout and healthy; but health or sickness made
no difference in his warm feelings of a great many people. He
was still the same gentle, attached, affectionate creature that
he had been when pain and suffering had wasted his strength, and
when he was dependent for every slight attention, and comfort on
those who tended him.
One beautiful night, when they had taken a longer walk than was
customary with them: for the day had been unusually warm, and
there was a brilliant moon, and a light wind had sprung up, which
was unusually refreshing. Rose had been in high spirits, too,
and they had walked on, in merry conversation, until they had far
exceeded their ordinary bounds. Mrs. Maylie being fatigued, they
returned more slowly home. The young lady merely throwing off
her simple bonnet, sat down to the piano as usual. After running
abstractedly over the keys for a few minutes, she fell into a low
and very solemn air; and as she played it, they heard a sound as
if she were weeping.
'Rose, my dear!' said the elder lady.
Rose made no reply, but played a little quicker, as though the
words had roused her from some painful thoughts.
'Rose, my love!' cried Mrs. Maylie, rising hastily, and bending
over her. 'What is this? In tears! My dear child, what
'Nothing, aunt; nothing,' replied the young lady. 'I don't know
what it is; I can't describe it; but I feel--'
'Not ill, my love?' interposed Mrs. Maylie.
'No, no! Oh, not ill!' replied Rose: shuddering as though some
deadly chillness were passing over her, while she spoke; 'I shall
be better presently. Close the window, pray!'
Oliver hastened to comply with her request. The young lady,
making an effort to recover her cheerfulness, strove to play some
livelier tune; but her fingers dropped powerless over the keys.
Covering her face with her hands, she sank upon a sofa, and gave
vent to the tears which she was now unable to repress.
'My child!' said the elderly lady, folding her arms about her, 'I
never saw you so before.'
'I would not alarm you if I could avoid it,' rejoined Rose; 'but
indeed I have tried very hard, and cannot help this. I fear I AM
She was, indeed; for, when candles were brought, they saw that in
the very short time which had elapsed since their return home,
the hue of her countenance had changed to a marble whiteness.
Its expression had lost nothing of its beauty; but it was
changed; and there was an anxious haggard look about the gentle
face, which it had never worn before. Another minute, and it was
suffused with a crimson flush: and a heavy wildness came over
the soft blue eye. Again this disappeared, like the shadow
thrown by a passing cloud; and she was once more deadly pale.
Oliver, who watched the old lady anxiously, observed that she was
alarmed by these appearances; and so in truth, was he; but seeing
that she affected to make light of them, he endeavoured to do the
same, and they so far succeeded, that when Rose was persuaded by
her aunt to retire for the night, she was in better spirits; and
appeared even in better health: assuring them that she felt
certain she should rise in the morning, quite well.
'I hope,' said Oliver, when Mrs. Maylie returned, 'that nothing
is the matter? She don't look well to-night, but--'
The old lady motioned to him not to speak; and sitting herself
down in a dark corner of the room, remained silent for some time.
At length, she said, in a trembling voice:
'I hope not, Oliver. I have been very happy with her for some
years: too happy, perhaps. It may be time that I should meet
with some misfortune; but I hope it is not this.'
'What?' inquired Oliver.
'The heavy blow,' said the old lady, 'of losing the dear girl who
has so long been my comfort and happiness.'
'Oh! God forbid!' exclaimed Oliver, hastily.
'Amen to that, my child!' said the old lady, wringing her hands.
'Surely there is no danger of anything so dreadful?' said Oliver.
'Two hours ago, she was quite well.'
'She is very ill now,' rejoined Mrs. Maylies; 'and will be worse,
I am sure. My dear, dear Rose! Oh, what shall I do without
She gave way to such great grief, that Oliver, suppressing his
own emotion, ventured to remonstrate with her; and to beg,
earnestly, that, for the sake of the dear young lady herself, she
would be more calm.
'And consider, ma'am,' said Oliver, as the tears forced
themselves into his eyes, despite of his efforts to the contrary.
'Oh! consider how young and good she is, and what pleasure and
comfort she gives to all about her. I am sure--certain--quite
certain--that, for your sake, who are so good yourself; and for
her own; and for the sake of all she makes so happy; she will not
die. Heaven will never let her die so young.'