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I have told you, and led to their being taken, he would be sure
to die. He is the boldest, and has been so cruel!'
'Is it possible,' cried Rose, 'that for such a man as this, you
can resign every future hope, and the certainty of immediate
rescue? It is madness.'
'I don't know what it is,' answered the girl; 'I only know that
it is so, and not with me alone, but with hundreds of others as
bad and wretched as myself. I must go back. Whether it is God's
wrath for the wrong I have done, I do not know; but I am drawn
back to him through every suffering and ill usage; and I should
be, I believe, if I knew that I was to die by his hand at last.'
'What am I to do?' said Rose. 'I should not let you depart from
'You should, lady, and I know you will,' rejoined the girl,
rising. 'You will not stop my going because I have trusted in
your goodness, and forced no promise from you, as I might have
'Of what use, then, is the communication you have made?' said
Rose. 'This mystery must be investigated, or how will its
disclosure to me, benefit Oliver, whom you are anxious to serve?'
'You must have some kind gentleman about you that will hear it as
a secret, and advise you what to do,' rejoined the girl.
'But where can I find you again when it is necessary?' asked
Rose. 'I do not seek to know where these dreadful people live,
but where will you be walking or passing at any settled period
from this time?'
'Will you promise me that you will have my secret strictly kept,
and come alone, or with the only other person that knows it; and
that I shall not be watched or followed?' asked the girl.
'I promise you solemnly,' answered Rose.
'Every Sunday night, from eleven until the clock strikes twelve,'
said the girl without hesitation, 'I will walk on London Bridge
if I am alive.'
'Stay another moment,' interposed Rose, as the girl moved
hurriedly towards the door. 'Think once again on your own
condition, and the opportunity you have of escaping from it. You
have a claim on me: not only as the voluntary bearer of this
intelligence, but as a woman lost almost beyond redemption. Will
you return to this gang of robbers, and to this man, when a word
can save you? What fascination is it that can take you back, and
make you cling to wickedness and misery? Oh! is there no chord
in your heart that I can touch! Is there nothing left, to which
I can appeal against this terrible infatuation!'
'When ladies as young, and good, and beautiful as you are,'
replied the girl steadily, 'give away your hearts, love will
carry you all lengths--even such as you, who have home, friends,
other admirers, everything, to fill them. When such as I, who
have no certain roof but the coffinlid, and no friend in sickness
or death but the hospital nurse, set our rotten hearts on any
man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all
our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us? Pity us, lady--pity
us for having only one feeling of the woman left, and for having
that turned, by a heavy judgment, from a comfort and a pride,
into a new means of violence and suffering.'
'You will,' said Rose, after a pause, 'take some money from me,
which may enable you to live without dishonesty--at all events
until we meet again?'
'Not a penny,' replied the girl, waving her hand.
'Do not close your heart against all my efforts to help you,'
said Rose, stepping gently forward. 'I wish to serve you
'You would serve me best, lady,' replied the girl, wringing her
hands, 'if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more
grief to think of what I am, to-night, than I ever did before,
and it would be something not to die in the hell in which I have
lived. God bless you, sweet lady, and send as much happiness on
your head as I have brought shame on mine!'
Thus speaking, and sobbing aloud, the unhappy creature turned
away; while Rose Maylie, overpowered by this extraordinary
interview, which had more the semblance of a rapid dream than an
actual occurance, sank into a chair, and endeavoured to collect
her wandering thoughts.
CONTAINING FRESH DISCOVERIES, AND SHOWING THAT SUPRISES, LIKE
MISFORTUNES, SELDOM COME ALONE
Her situation was, indeed, one of no common trial and difficulty.
While she felt the most eager and burning desire to penetrate the
mystery in which Oliver's history was enveloped, she could not
but hold sacred the confidence which the miserable woman with
whom she had just conversed, had reposed in her, as a young and
guileless girl. Her words and manner had touched Rose Maylie's
heart; and, mingled with her love for her young charge, and
scarcely less intense in its truth and fervour, was her fond wish
to win the outcast back to repentance and hope.
They purposed remaining in London only three days, prior to
departing for some weeks to a distant part of the coast. It was
now midnight of the first day. What course of action could she
determine upon, which could be adopted in eight-and-forty hours?
Or how could she postpone the journey without exciting suspicion?
Mr. Losberne was with them, and would be for the next two days;
but Rose was too well acquainted with the excellent gentleman's
impetuosity, and foresaw too clearly the wrath with which, in the
first explosion of his indignation, he would regard the
instrument of Oliver's recapture, to trust him with the secret,
when her representations in the girl's behalf could be seconded
by no experienced person. These were all reasons for the
greatest caution and most circumspect behaviour in communicating
it to Mrs. Maylie, whose first impulse would infallibly be to
hold a conference with the worthy doctor on the subject. As to
resorting to any legal adviser, even if she had known how to do
so, it was scarcely to be thought of, for the same reason. Once
the thought occurred to her of seeking assistance from Harry; but
this awakened the recollection of their last parting, and it
seemed unworthy of her to call him back, when--the tears rose to
her eyes as she pursued this train of reflection--he might have
by this time learnt to forget her, and to be happier away.
Disturbed by these different reflections; inclining now to one
course and then to another, and again recoiling from all, as each
successive consideration presented itself to her mind; Rose
passed a sleepless and anxious night. After more communing with
herself next day, she arrived at the desperate conclusion of
'If it be painful to him,' she thought, 'to come back here, how
painful it will be to me! But perhaps he will not come; he may
write, or he may come himself, and studiously abstain from
meeting me--he did when he went away. I hardly thought he would;
but it was better for us both.' And here Rose dropped the pen,
and turned away, as though the very paper which was to be her
messenger should not see her weep.
She had taken up the same pen, and laid it down again fifty
times, and had considered and reconsidered the first line of her
letter without writing the first word, when Oliver, who had been
walking in the streets, with Mr. Giles for a body-guard, entered
the room in such breathless haste and violent agitation, as
seemed to betoken some new cause of alarm.
'What makes you look so flurried?' asked Rose, advancing to meet
'I hardly know how; I feel as if I should be choked,' replied the
boy. 'Oh dear! To think that I should see him at last, and you
should be able to know that I have told you the truth!'
'I never thought you had told us anything but the truth,' said
Rose, soothing him. 'But what is this?--of whom do you speak?'
'I have seen the gentleman,' replied Oliver, scarcely able to
articulate, 'the gentleman who was so good to me--Mr. Brownlow,
that we have so often talked about.'
'Where?' asked Rose.
'Getting out of a coach,' replied Oliver, shedding tears of
delight, 'and going into a house. I didn't speak to him--I
couldn't speak to him, for he didn't see me, and I trembled so,
that I was not able to go up to him. But Giles asked, for me,
whether he lived there, and they said he did. Look here,' said
Oliver, opening a scrap of paper, 'here it is; here's where he
lives--I'm going there directly! Oh, dear me, dear me! What
shall I do when I come to see him and hear him speak again!'
With her attention not a little distracted by these and a great
many other incoherent exclamations of joy, Rose read the address,
which was Craven Street, in the Strand. She very soon determined
upon turning the discovery to account.
'Quick!' she said. 'Tell them to fetch a hackney-coach, and be
ready to go with me. I will take you there directly, without a
minute's loss of time. I will only tell my aunt that we are
going out for an hour, and be ready as soon as you are.'
Oliver needed no prompting to despatch, and in little more than
five minutes they were on their way to Craven Street. When they
arrived there, Rose left Oliver in the coach, under pretence of
preparing the old gentleman to receive him; and sending up her
card by the servant, requested to see Mr. Brownlow on very
pressing business. The servant soon returned, to beg that she
would walk upstairs; and following him into an upper room, Miss
Maylie was presented to an elderly gentleman of benevolent
appearance, in a bottle-green coat. At no great distance from
whom, was seated another old gentleman, in nankeen breeches and
gaiters; who did not look particularly benevolent, and who was
sitting with his hands clasped on the top of a thick stick, and
his chin propped thereupon.