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fury as the man on horseback, who, throwing himself out of the
saddle, and bursting through the crowd as if he were parting
water, cried, beneath the window, in a voice that rose above all
others, 'Twenty guineas to the man who brings a ladder!'
The nearest voices took up the cry, and hundreds echoed it. Some
called for ladders, some for sledge-hammers; some ran with
torches to and fro as if to seek them, and still came back and
roared again; some spent their breath in impotent curses and
execrations; some pressed forward with the ecstasy of madmen, and
thus impeded the progress of those below; some among the boldest
attempted to climb up by the water-spout and crevices in the
wall; and all waved to and fro, in the darkness beneath, like a
field of corn moved by an angry wind: and joined from time to
time in one loud furious roar.
'The tide,' cried the murderer, as he staggered back into the
room, and shut the faces out, 'the tide was in as I came up.
Give me a rope, a long rope. They're all in front. I may drop
into the Folly Ditch, and clear off that way. Give me a rope, or
I shall do three more murders and kill myself.
The panic-stricken men pointed to where such articles were kept;
the murderer, hastily selecting the longest and strongest cord,
hurried up to the house-top.
All the window in the rear of the house had been long ago bricked
up, except one small trap in the room where the boy was locked,
and that was too small even for the passage of his body. But,
from this aperture, he had never ceased to call on those without,
to guard the back; and thus, when the murderer emerged at last on
the house-top by the door in the roof, a loud shout proclaimed
the fact to those in front, who immediately began to pour round,
pressing upon each other in an unbroken stream.
He planted a board, which he had carried up with him for the
purpose, so firmly against the door that it must be matter of
great difficulty to open it from the inside; and creeping over
the tiles, looked over the low parapet.
The water was out, and the ditch a bed of mud.
The crowd had been hushed during these few moments, watching his
motions and doubtful of his purpose, but the instant they
perceived it and knew it was defeated, they raised a cry of
triumphant execration to which all their previous shouting had
been whispers. Again and again it rose. Those who were at too
great a distance to know its meaning, took up the sound; it
echoed and re-echoed; it seemed as though the whole city had
poured its population out to curse him.
On pressed the people from the front--on, on, on, in a strong
struggling current of angry faces, with here and there a glaring
torch to lighten them up, and show them out in all their wrath
and passion. The houses on the opposite side of the ditch had
been entered by the mob; sashes were thrown up, or torn bodily
out; there were tiers and tiers of faces in every window; cluster
upon cluster of people clinging to every house-top. Each little
bridge (and there were three in sight) bent beneath the weight of
the crowd upon it. Still the current poured on to find some nook
or hole from which to vent their shouts, and only for an instant
see the wretch.
'They have him now,' cried a man on the nearest bridge. 'Hurrah!'
The crowd grew light with uncovered heads; and again the shout
'I will give fifty pounds,' cried an old gentleman from the same
quarter, 'to the man who takes him alive. I will remain here,
till he come to ask me for it.'
There was another roar. At this moment the word was passed among
the crowd that the door was forced at last, and that he who had
first called for the ladder had mounted into the room. The
stream abruptly turned, as this intelligence ran from mouth to
mouth; and the people at the windows, seeing those upon the
bridges pouring back, quitted their stations, and running into
the street, joined the concourse that now thronged pell-mell to
the spot they had left: each man crushing and striving with his
neighbor, and all panting with impatience to get near the door,
and look upon the criminal as the officers brought him out. The
cries and shrieks of those who were pressed almost to
suffocation, or trampled down and trodden under foot in the
confusion, were dreadful; the narrow ways were completely blocked
up; and at this time, between the rush of some to regain the
space in front of the house, and the unavailing struggles of
others to extricate themselves from the mass, the immediate
attention was distracted from the murderer, although the
universal eagerness for his capture was, if possible, increased.
The man had shrunk down, thoroughly quelled by the ferocity of
the crowd, and the impossibility of escape; but seeing this
sudden change with no less rapidity than it had occurred, he
sprang upon his feet, determined to make one last effort for his
life by dropping into the ditch, and, at the risk of being
stifled, endeavouring to creep away in the darkness and
Roused into new strength and energy, and stimulated by the noise
within the house which announced that an entrance had really been
effected, he set his foot against the stack of chimneys, fastened
one end of the rope tightly and firmly round it, and with the
other made a strong running noose by the aid of his hands and
teeth almost in a second. He could let himself down by the cord
to within a less distance of the ground than his own height, and
had his knife ready in his hand to cut it then and drop.
At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head
previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pits, and when the old
gentleman before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing
of the bridge as to resist the force of the crowd, and retain his
position) earnestly warned those about him that the man was about
to lower himself down--at that very instant the murderer, looking
behind him on the roof, threw his arms above his head, and
uttered a yell of terror.
'The eyes again!' he cried in an unearthly screech.
Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and
tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up
with his weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it
speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden
jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with
the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.
The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely.
The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy,
thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called
to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake.
A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and
forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting
himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man's shoulders.
Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over
as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his
AFFORDING AN EXPLANATION OF MORE MYSTERIES THAN ONE, AND
COMPREHENDING A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE WITH NO WORD OF SETTLEMENT
The events narrated in the last chapter were yet but two days
old, when Oliver found himself, at three o'clock in the
afternoon, in a travelling-carriage rolling fast towards his
native town. Mrs. Maylie, and Rose, and Mrs. Bedwin, and the
good doctor were with him: and Mr. Brownlow followed in a
post-chaise, accompanied by one other person whose name had not
They had not talked much upon the way; for Oliver was in a
flutter of agitation and uncertainty which deprived him of the
power of collecting his thoughts, and almost of speech, and
appeared to have scarcely less effect on his companions, who
shared it, in at least an equal degree. He and the two ladies
had been very carefully made acquainted by Mr. Brownlow with the
nature of the admissions which had been forced from Monks; and
although they knew that the object of their present journey was
to complete the work which had been so well begun, still the
whole matter was enveloped in enough of doubt and mystery to
leave them in endurance of the most intense suspense.
The same kind friend had, with Mr. Losberne's assistance,
cautiously stopped all channels of communication through which
they could receive intelligence of the dreadful occurrences that
so recently taken place. 'It was quite true,' he said, 'that
they must know them before long, but it might be at a better time
than the present, and it could not be at a worse.' So, they
travelled on in silence: each busied with reflections on the
object which had brought them together: and no one disposed to
give utterance to the thoughts which crowded upon all.
But if Oliver, under these influences, had remained silent while
they journeyed towards his birth-place by a road he had never
seen, how the whole current of his recollections ran back to old
times, and what a crowd of emotions were wakened up in his
breast, when they turned into that which he had traversed on
foot: a poor houseless, wandering boy, without a friend to help
him, or a roof to shelter his head.
'See there, there!' cried Oliver, eagerly clasping the hand of
Rose, and pointing out at the carriage window; 'that's the stile
I came over; there are the hedges I crept behind, for fear any
one should overtake me and force me back! Yonder is the path
across the fields, leading to the old house where I was a little
child! Oh Dick, Dick, my dear old friend, if I could only see
'You will see him soon,' replied Rose, gently taking his folded
hands between her own. 'You shall tell him how happy you are,
and how rich you have grown, and that in all your happiness you
have none so great as the coming back to make him happy too.'
'Yes, yes,' said Oliver, 'and we'll--we'll take him away from
here, and have him clothed and taught, and send him to some quiet
country place where he may grow strong and well,--shall we?'
Rose nodded 'yes,' for the boy was smiling through such happy