Charles Dickens: Oliver
SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND THERE WAS A SMALL TOWN, WHICH WAS MUCH LIKE ALL the other small towns around the year 1830. In the middle of this town was a building called the workhouse. It was a plain brick building for very poor people. Here they could find shelter or food if they were starving, but only the hungriest and most desperate went there. In the workhouse, a baby boy had just been born. It wasn't clear if the baby would live, because he was having trouble breathing. But after a struggle, the baby breathed, sneezed, and then started to cry as loud as he could.
A young woman raised her pale face from the pillow. In a low voice she said: "Let me see the child, and then die."
"Oh, you must not talk of dying yet!" said the doctor kindly, as he took the baby and gave him to his mother. She kissed her son's forehead with her cold lips. The doctor saw that she was very weak, and left the room to get some more medicine. Meanwhile, the young woman took a gold locket from around her neck, and gave it to the nurse.
"This is the only thing I own," she said. "You must give it to my son when he is older." Then she took one last look at her baby, shivered, and fell back - dead!
Curious, the nurse looked at the locket. She opened it, and saw two locks of hair, and a gold wedding ring. The name "Agnes" was written inside the ring, but there was no last name. When she heard the doctor returning, she quickly dropped the gold locket into her pocket.
"It is all over," the doctor said, after a glance at the young mother. "She was a good-looking woman. Who was she? Where did she come from?"
"She was found lying in the street last night," replied the nurse. "Her shoes were worn out from walking. But we don't know her name, or where she came from, or where she was going." The nurse didn't say anything about the gold locket in her pocket.
The matron of the workhouse picked two letters from the alphabet, O and T, and named the boy Oliver Twist. If the baby had known what his life would be like at the workhouse, he would probably have cried even louder. He was just one of many babies born there, often without names. The government gave the matron, Mrs Corney, a little money to feed each child. But Mrs Corney liked money much more than she liked the miserable children and she kept most of the money for herself.
By the time Oliver was ten years old, he was very thin and short, with a pale but sweet face. One day Mrs Corney called him to speak to him.
"You know you're an orphan - that you have no father or mother, and that you have been brought up by us here?"
"Yes ma'am," said Oliver, shaking with fear.
"You must be taught a useful trade," said the matron.
"Tomorrow morning, you will begin picking oakum."
Picking oakum was taking apart old ropes from ships, so that the fibres could be reused. It was very hard work and Oliver's back hurt and his hands were covered in blisters all the time.
Working all day meant that Oliver was even hungrier by dinner time. However, Mrs Corney had found another way to save money. This was to add a lot of water to the soup. Every day each boy in the orphanage was only allowed one bowl of that watery soup. Oliver was starving. He picked up his empty bowl and went to the cook.
"Please sir, I want some more," he said.
The whole room fell silent. "What!" the cook finally said, angrily. Nobody had ever dared ask for more.
"Please sir," replied Oliver, "I want some more."
The man couldn't say a word. He hit Oliver on the head with the ladle and rushed out to Mrs Corney's office.
"Ungrateful child!" shouted the matron when she was informed about the incident. "That boy will be hanged one day. Lock him up in the basement!"
It was also decided that Oliver would be sent to work as an apprentice. Mrs Corney wanted him away from the workhouse as soon as possible.
The boy, however, had other plans - he was going to run away to London.
ONE COLD MORNING OLIVER GOT UP VERY EARLY AND LEFT THE WORKHOUSE. Looking back from time to time, he walked quickly and did not stop for five miles. He had only a penny and a piece of bread, but he didn't care. In London a boy could earn his own living. London was seventy miles away, but Oliver kept walking. When night came, he went into a meadow and slept under a hay-stack.
The next few days were the same. Oliver's penny bought him one small loaf, but soon he was hungry again. The only food he had eaten in days was some bread and cheese a kind old woman had given him. On the seventh day, Oliver came to a little town. His feet were bleeding and they were covered in dust. Exhausted, he sat down on a step. Hours later, when he looked up, he saw a rather strange boy standing in front of him. He was about thirteen, short for his age, and very dirty. He wore a man's hat and coat, and although he was young, he looked like he knew how to take care of himself. He spoke to Oliver. "Hello my covey! What's the row?" Oliver didn't understand, but he guessed the boy was asking how he was.
"I am very hungry and tired," said Oliver. "I have been walking for seven days." Tears came into his eyes as he spoke.
"Walking for seven days!" exclaimed the boy. "Well, you need to eat. I haven't got much money, but it's enough for some food, my friend. As for my name, they call me the Artful Dodger."
After the Artful Dodger had bought some ham and bread, he asked Oliver where he was going. When he said he was going to London, he asked if he had anywhere to stay there. Oliver said no.
"I know a respectable old gentleman there who will give you a place to live, and food to eat, and not ask for any money at all," the Dodger said.
Oliver had not slept under a roof for a week, so this offer sounded good to him. When they got to London, the Dodger led Oliver along a narrow, muddy street with old and dirty houses. Oliver didn't like that place at all, but then his companion pushed open the door of one of the houses, pulled Oliver in, and called out: "Plummy and slam!"
This seemed to be a secret code, because an unseen voice told them to enter. The room was black with age and dirt and an old man was cooking sausages in a corner. He had unwashed red hair and was wearing a dirty old shirt. The table was set for dinner, and there was also a large pile of purses on it.
"Fagin," said the Dodger to the old man, "This is my new friend, Oliver Twist."
"We are very glad to see you, Oliver, very," said Fagin, and smiled. They had dinner together. Fagin seemed to like the Artful Dodger very much, and praised him for being a hard worker. Oliver realised this was because the Dodger had brought home the pile of purses on the table. The Dodger must make purses, he thought. Oliver asked if he could learn how to make purses, too. For some reason, Fagin and the Dodger laughed very hard.
"Certainly, my dear Oliver. In a few days, the Dodger will show you how."
Some days later, the Dodger and Oliver set off for a rich part of London. The Dodger walked very slowly, looking around. He didn't seem very keen to get to work. Then, as they entered a square, he suddenly grabbed Oliver's arm and pointed.
"Do you see that old man by the bookstall?" Oliver looked and saw an old gentleman reading a book. "He'll do," said the Dodger.
Oliver had no idea what he was talking about. The Dodger slowly walked towards the old gentleman. Watching in amazement, Oliver saw the Dodger put his hand into the gentleman's pocket, and pull out a purse, which he then put into his own pocket! Busy reading his book, the man took no notice of what had happened.
Suddenly Oliver understood everything. His new friends Fagin and the Dodger were thieves and pickpockets! Shocked, Oliver turned and ran. At the same instant, the old man by the bookstall put his hand in his pocket and realised that his purse was missing. When he saw Oliver running, he cried out "Stop thief!"
AS SOON AS THE PEOPLE NEARBY HEARD THE CRY "STOP THIEF!" THEY STARTED chasing poor Oliver. Oliver ran as fast as he could and the people ran after him. Finally, someone knocked him down, and he fell to the ground bleeding. "The boy is hurt!" said the old gentleman, bending over Oliver.
"Hurt or not, I will take him to the police magistrate," said a policeman who had just arrived at the scene. "You must come with us, sir," he told the old gentleman. The Artful Dodger was nowhere to be seen.
"So this is the young thief," the police magistrate said.
"It was not me, sir," Oliver said desperately, "It was someone else."
But the magistrate ignored him. "Are you the person who was robbed?" he asked the o!d gentleman.
The old gentleman looked at Oliver. The boy was pale and scared, but he did not 1 jok guilty. "Yes, I am," he said, "but I am not sure that this is the boy who took the purse." He kept wondering, "Where have I seen this face before? There is something very familiar about it!"
Then suddenly, the owner of the bookstall rushed in. "You have the wrong boy!" he shouted, out of breath from running. "I saw the thief."
"Then this child did not commit the crime!" the old gentleman said, relieved. But at that moment Oliver fainted. "He is ill!" the old gentleman cried. "He needs a doctor!" The police magistrate allowed the old gentleman, whose name was Mr Brownlow, to take Oliver to his house to take care of him.
Mr Brownlow was a retired lawyer. He had never married and he lived alone, enjoying the company of books and old friends. Every room in his house contained paintings and other things that he had collected through a long and interesting life.
Oliver was carried into one of these rooms, and a doctor came to examine him.
"You are safe now," said Mr Brownlow. "Rest until you feel better." Oliver was surprised to hear a kind voice. Mr Brownlow ordered some hot soup for Oliver. "You must be hungry," he said. The soup was thick and rich. Oliver thought that one bowl of that soup could feed a dozen orphans in the workhouse, with enough water added to it.
After Oliver had rested, he began to notice the room he was in. It was a comfortable room, full of paintings. One was the portrait of a young woman. She was very pretty, and she looked kind and loving. "But her eyes are so sad," thought Oliver, "they make me sad too." Just then, Mr Brownlow entered, and saw Oliver's face beside the face in the portrait. Oliver's eyes, head, mouth, and in fact his whole face, and even his expression, was an exact copy of the woman's face in the painting!
"Good heavens!" cried out Mr Brownlow. "What's this!"
Oliver, at these words, collapsed again. Mr Brownlow quickly went over to him.
"The boy is still very weak, and I must not worry him by asking too many questions. But I wonder what his story is," Mr Brownlow thought, as he tried to bring Oliver round. He also decided to take the painting down so as not to upset Oliver again.
As the days went by, Oliver became healthier than he had ever been. He appreciated Mr Brownlow's help and he wanted to be useful to the kind old man in any way he could. One day Mr. Brownlow needed to return some books to the bookseller, and Oliver asked to be allowed to take them back, since he knew the place. Mr Brownlow didn't want to let him out of the house on his own, but he finally agreed.
Oliver happily set out with the books. As he approached the square, however, he saw a young woman walking towards him. Suddenly she cried out: "My brother! My poor dear darling brother!" She threw her arms around him tightly and she cried, "You naughty boy! How could you run away?"
"I am not your brother!" Oliver tried to say, but he could not get out of the woman's arms. She dragged him down another street, and then into a house. In the dark, he saw his old friends waiting for him, Fagin and the Artful Dodger!
"WELCOME BACK, DEAR OLIVER," FAGIN SAID MOCKINGLY. "THANK YOU FOR bringing him home again, Nancy," he added to the young woman who had kidnapped Oliver. Nancy was about twenty and very pretty. Like the Artful Dodger, she had been one of Fagin's pupils. She was very good at lying and deceiving people.
Oliver knew he was in trouble, but spoke up bravely. "Please let me return these books! I owe this to Mr Brownlow. He took me in, and fed me, and was so good to me. Keep me here with you forever, but let me take them back! He will think I have stolen them!"
"No, it took a lot of effort to find you and bring you back, and I shall keep the books as payment," Fagin said.
Before Oliver could reply, there was a call of "Plummy and Slam!" "Open the door, Nancy, dear," Fagin said. "And Oliver, you sit in the corner and don't make any trouble. Or Bill Sikes will deal with you!" He laughed nastily, pointing at the door.
Bill Sikes was thirty-five, a big, strong man. His trousers were muddy, and he wore a dirty handkerchief around his neck. A white dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty places was following him. "Hurry up!" Sikes said to the dog, and gave him a kick.
"Good day, Bill dear," said Fagin in a friendly tone to this unpleasant man. "Very cold day, isn't it?"
"Yes," said Sikes unpleasantly, "as cold as your heart."
"Hush now, Mr Sikes," Fagin said gently. Mr Sikes was in a very bad temper. He was a professional burglar who often worked with Fagin, so they began to discuss a house burglary that Sikes had been planning.
"There's a big problem," said Sikes. "We've got nobody to help us from the inside. The servants are all very loyal to their mistress."
"That is unfortunate," said Fagin. "But isn't there another way to break in? Remember, the precious gold plate is in there!"
"There is a way," Sikes said, "but I will need a boy. A small boy will be able to crawl through a window and unlock the door for us."
"That is no problem at all dear," Fagin said, looking at Oliver. "I have the perfect boy for the job!"
Oliver realised that Fagin meant him. Terrified, he jumped up and ran to the door, banging on it and screaming for help. Bill Sikes' dog got to his feet, growling.
"Keep the dog back, Bill!" Nancy said suddenly, taking Bill Sikes' arm. "He'll tear the boy to pieces!"
"That would serve him right!" Sikes shouted. "Let go of my arm or you'll be very
Nancy usually obeyed Sikes, but not now. With Oliver, she felt something she had not felt for a long time: pity for someone who was weak. She shouted at Sikes. "No! You'll have to kill me first!"
Fagin and the Dodger dragged Oliver back to his chair. "So you thought you would get away, didn't you," Fagin said to him, picking up a club.
Nancy let go of Sikes and grabbed the club. "No! I brought the boy here, but I won't let you hurt him!" she cried. "You'll make him a thief and a liar, just like you made me. Isn't that bad enough?" And saying this, Nancy burst into tears.
Sikes seized Nancy roughly and she fainted.
Now, Oliver didn't have any chance to escape. They kept him locked in the house. He kept thinking of Mr Brownlow. If only he could find him again!
MEANWHILE, MR BROWNLOW WAITED FOR OLIVER TO RETURN. As THE TIME passed however, he realised that Oliver was not coming home. He finally got up, and went to look at the painting that he had put away after Oliver had fainted. Lost in thought, he looked into the woman's eyes. Long ago in his youth he had a close friend, Edwin Leeford. Edwin had fallen in love with a young woman, and the couple planned to marry. Then one of Edwin's relatives in Italy had died suddenly, leaving him a lot of money and he had to go there for his inheritance. Before he left, he brought the painting of his fiancee to Mr Brownlow, asking him to take good care of it while he was away. Sadly, however, Edwin never returned. He caught a fever in Italy and died. What happened to his young fiancee was a mystery. Mr Brownlow had tried to find her, but she had disappeared.
It was this woman who looked so much like Oliver. Was Oliver the key to the mystery? Mr Brownlow decided to do his best to find out. So he made a poster, offering a reward to anyone who could tell him anything about Oliver Twist. He put this poster up around London and in nearby towns, too. Then one day, a woman came to the door, saying she had information about Oliver.
Unfortunately, the woman was Mrs Corney from the workhouse, who disliked Oliver so much that she made him sound very bad. She ended by saying how rude and ungrateful he had been to her by running away.
Mr Brownlow was disappointed. He put five pounds on the table. "Thank you for your information," he said, "but I would have given twice as much to hear something good about the boy!" If Mrs Corney had known this before, she might have told a different story. But it was too late for that now. Mr Brownlow was very upset, and he wondered if Oliver was a bad person after all, and not worth his attention.
Oliver, meanwhile, was taking a journey with Bill Sikes. Sikes had taken the boy along to help with the burglary he had planned. After travelling all day, they came to a small village outside London. Sikes wrapped a dark shawl round his neck and put on a black cloak. He took a heavy bag with tools and at about one-thirty in the morning, they set out in the darkness.
Oliver was terrified when he saw the house that was their target. He started walking more slowly. Sikes realised that he was hesitating, and he pulled out his pistol and pointed it at him: "Go on, or I'll shoot you." Trembling, Oliver crossed the lawn with Sikes.
Sikes took an iron bar and quietly forced open a small window. The opening was too small for a man, but Oliver could fit through it easily. "Now listen," whispered Sikes. "Take this lantern, go up the stairs in front of you, along the hall, and then unlock the front door and let me in. And keep quiet!" he added with a threatening look. "Do you understand?"
"Yes," Oliver said, as Sikes lifted him through the window.
"Sssh! I heard something!" Sikes suddenly said. "No, it's nothing," he said a while later. "Let's get to work!"
Oliver was now in the house, trying to get used to the darkness around him.
Suddenly Sikes cried aloud: "Back! Back!" Startled, Oliver saw a light at the top of the stairs, and two men. There was a flash - a loud noise - smoke - a crash somewhere, and he went back to the window. Sikes pulled him out.
"Blood! They shot you!" He said. "We've got to get out of here!" As they fled from the house, Oliver heard shouts and shots from guns, and he realised that he was being carried away. Then a cold deadly feeling crept over him, and he lost consciousness.
Sikes ran as fast as he could, but carrying Oliver slowed him down. Behind him, he saw the men chasing him. They seemed to be coming closer. He dropped Oliver in a ditch and covered him with his cloak. Then he ran as fast as he could.
THE MORNING WAS COLD AND WET. A MIST LAY ON THE FIELDS, AND THE RAIN fell softly. Oliver lay in the ditch half awake, his arm broken. He tried to get up, but he was dizzy and he fell down again. He had a feeling that if he didn't move, he would die.
So he rose, feeling like he was in a dream. He crossed the fields and came to a road. Further down he saw a house. Oliver decided to go there for help. It wasn't until he got close to the house that he realised it was the same house he had broken into! Terrified, Oliver thought of running away. But he had no strength left to run, so he forced himself to go forward and knock on the door. Then he collapsed.
Inside, the people of the house had been awake since the break-in. Two of the servants sat in the kitchen with their guns on the table. There was also the mistress of the house, Mrs Maylie, an elderly widow, and a beautiful young woman called Rose. Rose was an orphan whom Mrs Maylie had adopted. When they heard the knock, they all jumped with fright. Finally, they agreed to all go and see who was at the door so early in the morning. When they opened it, they saw Oliver lying on the step.
"It is a child!" cried Rose. "He is hurt; we must help him!"
"Wait!" cried one of the servants. "That is the boy who was with the burglars!" Mrs Maylie said: "Nevertheless, he is very young, and he is very ill. We must help him first and find out his story later."
Oliver was carried to a warm room and put to bed. He was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. Rose and Mrs Maylie stayed by his bed.
"What are we going to do?" Rose asked. "The boy can't be a criminal! He is too young!"
Mrs Maylie sighed. "The young as well as the old can die, and the young as well as the old can be criminals."
"Perhaps the robbers forced him to come with them," Rose said. "Perhaps he never had a mother to love or protect him! Is it right for us to send him to prison, where he will meet worse people? Think of me! I was an orphan, but you took me in and raised me like your own child. But if you hadn't, I might have been in the same position as this boy." As she said this, Rose began to cry.
Mrs Maylie took Rose in her arms and held her. "My dear girl," she said, "I wouldn't harm a hair on his head."
At that moment Oliver woke up. Slowly he told Rose and Mrs Maylie his story about the workhouse, the thieves, Mr Brownlow, and finally about the robbery. When he finished he was so tired that he fell asleep.
"Do you believe his story?" Rose asked Mrs Maylie.
"I do," she replied, "but a policeman might not believe it. So I think we should not tell the police about Oliver. We'll just take care of him till he is better."
Oliver needed a lot of care to get well. In addition to his broken arm, he had caught a fever after lying outside in the rain. But slowly he felt stronger, and the first thing he did was to thank Rose.
"Oh, you will have many chances to thank me," Rose said.
"I will be glad to do something for you," Oliver said.
Oliver liked living with Rose and Mrs Maylie. They liked to read books and play music, or just talk and laugh together. Rose offered to teach Oliver to read, and he agreed. Surrounded by happiness and love, Oliver thought less and less of his old life with Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Nancy, and Sikes.
TWO DAYS AFTER THE BURGLARY, SlKES HAD NOT YET COME TO SEE FAGIN, SO Fagin went to his house. Nancy answered the door. "Bill was here last night," she told Fagin, "but he left this morning, and I don't know where he went."
"Was Oliver with him?" Fagin asked. Nancy said no. "He lost the boy! That stupid, useless fool!" Fagin cried, suddenly very angry.
Nancy looked at him. "Are you worried about Oliver?" she asked. "I think he is better off dead than he is with you/And I hope I shall never see him again." She looked in Fagin's eyes. "His innocence reminds me of how wicked I am, and how wicked you are, too."
Fagin look at her angrily. "I don't like your attitude," he told Nancy. "And tell Sikes he must find the boy, otherwise he's in trouble!"
"Why is that?" Nancy wondered.
"I'll tell you," roared Fagin. "Oliver Twist is worth hundreds of pounds to me, and now maybe - " Fagin stopped suddenly. Quickly he said goodbye to Nancy and told her to let him know immediately if she saw Oliver.
Nancy was curious. Why was Oliver worth hundreds of pounds to Fagin? She felt that a big secret surrounded the boy, so she put on her bonnet and shawl and followed Fagin.
Fagin reached home and he was opening his door, when a man in a black cloak came out of the shadows and tapped him on the shoulder.
Fagin jumped with fright. Then he recognised the man. "Monks dear," he said, "I am sorry if I kept you waiting." "Hurry up and let me in," the man called Monks ordered Fagin. "I must talk to you in private." He looked nervous and kept looking over his shoulder. Fagin opened the door and went ahead into the dark house. Monks followed him, and the door suddenly slammed shut behind them. "Is there anyone else here?" asked Monks.
"No one but ourselves. That must have been the wind," said Fagin, returning with a candle.
"Then tell me," hissed Monks. "Is it true that Oliver Twist escaped?" Fagin looked worried. "It was an accident. Sikes had no idea how important he was."
"I pay you hundreds of pounds,"shouted Monks, "and still you let that cursed boy get away! I told you, he must not be seen or recognised by anyone! Why couldn't you keep him locked up in here?"
"He is not like the other boys," Fagin replied. "He thinks stealing is wrong, and so he keeps trying to run away from us. I had to force him to do one very bad thing, to make him one of us. Then he would not try to run away anymore, because he would be afraid of the police."
"You must find him immediately and bring him back," said Monks firmly. "Where was he last seen?"
"At a house owned by a family called Maylie," said Fagin. "Sikes left him in a field close by. He cannot have gone very far."
"I will go there myself, and look for him," said Monks. "I will find everyone who knows anything about him, and-" Suddenly he jumped to his feet. "What's that? You said there was no one else here!"
"There isn't," Fagin said, getting up. "What did you see?"
"A shadow on the wall,"said Monks, trembling with fear. "A woman in a bonnet and shawl!"
"Impossible," said Fagin, "but we can search the house." So they did, but they found no one. Monks was puzzled. "I must have imagined it", he finally said and left.
ONE CLOUDY SUMMER DAY, MRS CORNEY SET OFF TO AN APPOINTMENT. The neighbourhood she went to was one of the worst in London. It was close to the river, and the houses were filthy. Nobody went there except the worst criminals who needed a place to hide. Mrs Corney stopped in front of an old factory built over the river. As she knocked on the door, thunder roared and it began to rain.
Monks opened the door. "Let us get straight down to business," he said. "You know something about the nurse who was with Oliver Twist's mother the day she died. What is it? Here, take twenty-five pounds."
The thunder shook the old building. When the noise stopped, Mrs Corney began. "Some weeks ago, the nurse died. On her deathbed, she confessed that she had stolen something from Oliver's mother." Monks listened eagerly. "A gold locket. The mother asked the nurse to give it to her son, but the nurse decided to sell it instead. Before she died, she told me her secret because she felt guilty. I found the locket and got it back. Here it is!" Mrs Corney pulled out the little gold locket and put it on the table.
Monks seized it. "Don't move," he told Mrs Corney. Then he suddenly reached down to the floor and opened a trapdoor onto the river below. Monks dropped the locket through the trapdoor into the black, fast-moving water.
"There," Monks said. "The sea will keep this secret safe. We do not need to worry about it anymore."
Back at Mrs Maylie's house, the happy days continued. The weather was warm, and the hills and woods were green. Oliver went out early every morning and collected pretty flowers for Rose. She was always delighted when she saw them and Oliver loved her praise. After all, nobody had ever praised him for anything before. For those three months, Oliver felt like he lived in paradise.
One beautiful summer evening, Rose, Oliver and Mrs Maylie went for a long walk. When they returned, Rose went to the piano to play a song for them. To their surprise, she played a very sad tune.
"Rose, are you alright?" Mrs Maylie asked.
"Oh yes!" Rose said, trying to laugh. "I will play something happy now." Then suddenly she burst into tears. "I am sorry!" she said. "I tried not to show it, but I am afraid I feel very ill."
Mrs Maylie told Rose to go to bed immediately, and Oliver hoped she would feel better in the morning. But the next morning Rose was much worse. She had a very bad fever and Mrs Maylie was very worried.
"I must stay with her," she said. "Oliver, you must go to town without delay and bring the doctor. And please post this letter to my son, Harry, in London. He must come at once!"
Oliver ran as fast as he could. When he reached the town, he gave the doctor the address, and felt a little better when he saw him start for the house at once. Then he went to the post office to send the letter. After that, as he was running back home, he accidentally ran into a man in a long black cloak. "There you are, you little monster!" the man shouted.
"Sorry, sir," Oliver said quickly. "I am in a hurry." But the man still seemed very angry.
"I should kill you! What are you doing here?" he shouted, and walked towards Oliver.
Oliver was frightened. He had never seen this strange man before. Why did he want to kill him? But before he could do anything, the man fell down in a fit. Oliver ran away as fast as he could. When he got home, he forgot what had happened, because he was very concerned about Rose. The doctor told Oliver and Mrs Maylie that the girl might not survive the night.
What a terrible night that was! Nobody did anything, they just sat and waited. Oliver was so afraid that he could not speak.
In the early morning the doctor came in."It is alright," he said gently. "The fever has gone down and Rose will be alright." It was the best news Oliver had ever heard.
OLIVER FELT SUCH JOY THAT HE ALMOST COULDN'T BEAR IT. ROSE WAS GOING to live, and even the sun seemed to shine brighter because of it. He went out and picked the biggest bunch of flowers for her that he ever had. As he returned to the house, he saw a carriage pulling up. A young man jumped out. "Is she better or worse?" he cried.
"Better, much better!" Oliver said, happy to give good news. He saw his own joy reflected in the young man's face. He was about twenty-three, tall and handsome. Oliver realised that this was Mrs Maylie's son, Harry, whom he had posted the letter to.
Harry stayed with them waiting for Rose to recover. He insisted on coming with Oliver to pick flowers for Rose. Oliver liked him, and he noticed Rose did too. She never threw out the flowers that Harry brought, but kept them even after they had dried out. Indeed, most people who met Harry liked him. He planned to become a politician and be elected to Parliament. Those who knew him agreed that he would probably succeed very soon.
Day by day, Rose became stronger. But Oliver noticed that sometimes she looked unhappy. Harry noticed this too, and he spoke to his mother about it.
"I must talk to Rose," he said. "I love her. I've wanted to tell her so all my life, but I was waiting till I became rich or famous or successful. But now I see how foolish it is to wait. If she had - I can't say the word - if she had not gotten better, I would have lost my chance forever.
You can't imagine how I suffered, thinking of that!"
Mrs Maylie was quiet. "I suppose you have suffered," she finally said.
"You suppose I have!" cried Harry. "How can you doubt it! I did - I did - you must know it!"
"Listen, Harry, Rose deserves someone who will love her all her life," Mrs Maylie replied. "You think you like her right now. But after you are elected to Parliament, you will meet many beautiful and interesting women. You may regret marrying someone like Rose, who is a poor orphan and used to a simple life. If you change your mind, you will break her heart."
"I would never regret it," exclaimed Harry, hurt by the idea. "I will talk to her. I am sure she feels the same way I do." And so Harry went to Rose, and asked to speak with her.
"I think you know what I am going to say," he began. "You know how I feel when I am around you, even though I have not put it into words." Rose knew. A tear fell from her eye.
"I came here because of a terrible fear, the worst I have ever known," Harry continued. "It was the fear of losing the woman whom I have loved my whole life. You were dying, and all my hopes and dreams were dying with you. And then, like a miracle, you began to get better. As your health returned, the world became beautiful to me again. Rose, dear Rose, I love you! I have loved you ever since we were children."
"You have always been kind and good to me," said Rose, filled with emotion. "Please hear my answer, and don't think I am ungrateful."
"Your answer is that I may try to deserve you, isn't it, Rose?" Harry said eagerly.
"My answer is that you must forget me," Rose said. "I cannot marry you, because there is a scandal connected with my family."
"But Rose," said Harry, "A scandal doesn't matter to me! I love you!"
"It does matter," said Rose, "because people gossip. Everybody says you will soon be elected to Parliament. Many people will support you, but others will be jealous and try to disgrace you. If I marry you, they will learn of my past and use it against you."
"I don't understand," said Harry. So Rose told him her story.
"My mother died shortly after I was born. I had one sister, who was much older than me. When I was five years old, and my sister was about nineteen, she met a man who was living in the country. He was quiet and didn't have many friends, but my sister got along well with him. Soon, they fell in love. They planned to marry, but then my sister's fiance had to go abroad suddenly. There he died of a fever. To make things worse, a woman came to visit my father and sister. She told them that she was that man's wife and they had a son! Naturally, my sister was devastated. Then she discovered she was going to have a child. One night she ran away and we never saw her again. My father died shortly after that, believing she had killed herself."
Rose paused after telling this sad story. "You see, I cannot be the wife of a politician,
Harry. People will talk about my family's past!"
Harry knew he couldn't change Rose's mind, so finally he said, "I will leave now, but, I will come back later and see if you still feel the same." Early the next morning, Harry left for London. Afterwards, Oliver found Rose alone, crying bitterly. She tried to smile when she saw him, but she still looked unhappy and restless. Oliver did not know what to do, but fortunately he soon thought of a new project. This was to go to London to find Mr Brownlow and apologise to him. Rose agreed enthusiastically, and they set off for the city.
BACK IN LONDON, BILL SIKES WAS SICK AND NANCY WAS TAKING CARE OF HIM. She didn't have any money, so she had to ask Fagin. She sat down to talk to him, when there was a cry of "Plummy and Slam!" It was Monks' voice! While Fagin went to the door, Nancy took off her bonnet and shawl and hid them under the table.
Fagin showed Monks in and the two men went into another room to talk privately. As soon as the door closed, Nancy crept close and listened at the keyhole. They were talking about Oliver! After a few minutes she had heard all she wanted. When Monks left, Nancy persuaded Fagin to give her some money to buy food and she set off for home. On her way there, she thought of a plan. Nancy knew how angry Sikes could get if he knew what she was going to do. She poured Sikes a drink, putting a drug in it and when he was asleep, she left the house. She headed for the hotel that Monks had mentioned.
The hotel was for wealthy people and Nancy was embarrassed because she was poor and shabby. But she walked bravely up to the doorman and asked for Miss Rose Maylie. "Tell her I must speak to her alone", she said." She tried to ignore the servants who were making fun of her clothes.
Rose agreed to see Nancy when she said that she had information about Oliver. She showed her into a private room and greeted her respectfully. Nancy was touched by her kindness.
"Do you know a man called Monks?" Nancy began. Rose did not. "Well, he knows you," she continued, "and he also knows Oliver. Oliver is not the poor orphan you think he is! Monks knows Oliver's true identity, but he is trying to hide it." Nancy paused. "I was an orphan too, but I had only criminals to care for me. My life is ruined, but I hope Oliver can be happier than I was."
"Please tell me what you know," Rose said kindly, "and I will help you in any way I can."
"This is what I heard Monks say," said Nancy. "First he called Oliver his brother. Then he said that he had destroyed the only proof of Oliver's identity. This was a gold locket that belonged to Oliver's mother." Rose listened in astonishment. "There's more," said Nancy. "Monks said that now he could keep all of Oliver's money. That's all I know, and I don't understand it, but I am sure it is the truth." She paused. "Monks has been following you. He knows where you live and where you are now. That's how I found you."
"I am glad you told me this," Rose said, "but I don't know what to do about it. I must think it over. Can you come and see me again?"
"I don't dare come back here," Nancy said. "The thieves will be very angry if they find out what I have told you." Even now she felt afraid. "But I will take a walk on London Bridge at eleven o'clock every night. You can find me there. Now I must
"One more thing," Rose said. "You don't have to go back to those criminals. Stay here with me, and I will keep you safe!"
Tears came to Nancy's eyes. "I cannot," she said. "The people I live with may frighten you, but they are the only family I have". She said goodbye quickly and ran home through the dark streets.
Rose didn't sleep that night. She wondered what she should do next. Morning came, and still Rose did not know what to do. Then Oliver came running in, terribly excited. "I saw him!" he said, out of breath.
"Saw who?" Rose asked, surprised.
"Mr Brownlow!" cried Oliver. "He was getting out of a coach, and going into a house! Oh, I am so happy to see him again! I want to talk to him as soon as possible."
ROSE SUDDENLY DECIDED WHAT SHE WOULD DO. SHE WOULD TELL MR BROWNLOW what Nancy had said. He was a good man and he had been kind to Oliver. He would help them. Immediately, they set off for his house. Oliver waited in the coach while Rose went to talk to Mr Brownlow.
She was shown into a comfortable room, where the old gentleman sat, reading a book. He rose quickly and greeted Rose, quite surprised by her visit.
"What I have to say may surprise you," Rose said, "but you once showed great kindness to a young friend of mine, and I thought you would like to hear about him again. His name is Oliver Twist!"
Rose told Mr Brownlow about the burglary and how Oliver had come to her and Mrs Maylie. Then, she told him what Nancy had said. To her surprise, Mr Brownlow seemed to understand exactly what she was talking about!
"When I first saw Oliver," he explained, "I thought he might be connected with a mystery from my past. What you have said confirms my suspicions."
"Do you know this man Monks, then?" Rose asked.
"I do," said Mr Brownlow, "although that is not his real name. We must find him and discover what he knows about Oliver. Nancy will be able to help us. I will come with you tonight when you go to meet her."
At Fagin's place, Nancy was very nervous and only thought of her next meeting with Rose Maylie. Fagin noticed that she looked at the clock often, and knew that something was going on.
"She is going to meet someone," he thought to himself. Fagin called one of his boys and asked him to follow Nancy. At a quarter to eleven, she started for London Bridge. The boy followed in the shadows.
He saw Nancy meet a young woman and an old gentleman on the bridge. The old gentleman asked her about Monks and then he asked her where he could be found. Nancy described Fagin's place, but asked that the other thieves not be arrested. "They may be wicked people," she said, "but they are all I have." The young lady and the gentleman promised to leave the other thieves alone. The young woman asked Nancy to return with them, but she refused. Finally, they left Nancy on the bridge, and went on their way. The boy saw Nancy return home. Quickly he went to Fagin's house, and told him what he had heard.
Fagin didn't sleep that night. It did not matter to him that Nancy had asked for mercy for him and Sikes. He did not trust her. He was full of anger and hatred. Then he heard the password, "Plummy and slam!"
It was Sikes. Fagin looked at him with an evil smile.
"Bill," he said, pointing to where the Dodger lay asleep, "if that boy was going to give us up to the police, what would you do?"
The word "police" made Sikes furious. "I'd kill him!"
Fagin smiled again. "And what if I did it," he asked. "What would you do if I did it?"
"You!" said Sikes in disgust. "I would smash your head."
Suddenly Fagin jumped up and screamed in Sikes face. "Well, it's not me, and it's not the Dodger - it's Nancy who has betrayed us!"
Sikes stared at him, shocked, and then he rushed out of the door. When he got home, Nancy was still in bed.
"Get up!" he said rudely. He grabbed her by the throat and dragged her across the room.
"Did you think I wouldn't find out?" he screamed. "You were followed!"
"Listen to me!" cried Nancy, "We have both been wicked people, but we can change! Think of it! We could go to a foreign country, far from here, and start a new life!"
Sikes grabbed his pistol. Then he realised the the shot would be heard and with all his strength he beat the barrel against Nancy's face. She fell to her knees, and then Sikes lifted a club and struck her down.
OF ALL THE CRIMES COMMITTED IN LONDON THAT NIGHT, SlKES HAD COMMITTED the worst. The sun rose slowly and it shone through Sikes' window onto Nancy's dead body. Sikes realised the dreadful thing he had done. He could not bear to look at Nancy, so he ran away and disappeared.
A day after the murder, a coach pulled up at Mr Brownlow's house. Mr Brownlow got out with a man in a black cloak - Monks - following him.
"How dare you kidnap me off the street!" Monks protested.
"I know that you are partly responsible for the death of a woman called Nancy," Mr Brownlow replied sternly. "If you don't come with me, and tell me everything you know about Oliver Twist, I will give you up to the police! And then you know what will happen." Monks did know - he would be hanged. So he finally agreed. Rose and Oliver were called in to listen.
"My real name is Edward Leeford," Monks said. "I am the son of Edwin Leeford." Edwin of course was Mr Brownlow's old friend. "My father had been forced to marry my mother, and there was no love between them. My parents separated when I was a boy. I went to live with my mother, and my father continued to live alone." Monks spoke angrily. His unhappy childhood had made him a lonely, angry man. He had looked for friends among the criminals in society, which was how he had met Fagin.
Mr Brownlow continued the story. "After separating from his wife, Edwin met a young woman called Agnes. They fell in love, and Edwin planned to go to America with Agnes where nobody knew about his past. There they could start a new life and be happy. But then his rich uncle died in Italy and he had to go there to claim his inheritance. While he was there, he caught a fever and died."
Very pale, Rose looked at Mr Brownlow, then at Oliver. "Did Agnes have a sister?" she asked.
"She did," said Mr Brownlow. "A very young sister. You! When Agnes discovered she was going to have a baby, she felt she had disgraced her family. She left them and gave birth to Oliver in a workhouse. The only identification she had was a gold locket with her name in it, and the wedding ring Edwin hoped to put on her finger one day. We all know what happened to the locket." Mr Brownlow looked at Monks severely.
But Rose and Oliver did not think of the lost locket, for they had found something more important. "Then Oliver is my sister's son - my nephew!" cried Rose, getting to her feet.
Oliver ran to Rose, throwing his arms around her. "To me, you will always be a sister," he said.
Monks watched in disgust. He looked at Mr Brownlow. "What else do you need to know - so I can get out of here!"
"Why did you want to hide Oliver's identity?" Mr Brownlow asked.
Monks made a face. "When she heard that my father had died, my mother went to Italy. As his wife, she believed that she would get the inheritance. But she found out that he had made another will - leaving half of the money to a woman called Agnes. Mother destroyed that will, of course. Then she went and found Agnes' family and told them that she was Edwin's wife. They had no idea he was married. While my mother was there, she realised that Agnes was going to have a child. And this child would take my money away! She told me this and I never forgot it. I found Oliver and
tried to make sure nobody ever finds out the truth about him. That's why I destroyed the locket." He glared at Oliver. "I wish I had killed him when I had the chance!"
"It is too late for that," said Mr Brownlow. "Now we all know the truth and you must give Oliver his half of the inheritance. Then you will go to a far away country and never bother any of us again."
Mr Brownlow's solution was agreed upon by everybody. Oliver did not much care about the money - he had found a family!
The only sad part was Nancy's terrible murder.
"They will find the man who did it," Mr Brownlow said. And he was right. A few days later, Sikes was found hiding in a slum, and while trying to escape from a window, he died. Fagin was also arrested, and hanged for his crimes and the Artful Dodger was put in prison.
A few weeks later, Harry visited Rose. She was very nervous, but she noticed that he looked very happy. "Don't try to make me change my mind, Harry," Rose said. "I still feel the same way as before."
Harry smiled. "I am the one who has changed his mind," he said. "I realised that you are more important to me than anything else. So I am going to be the vicar in a small town. And if you want, I would like you to join me there."
So Harry and Rose married and they went to live in the country. Mr Brownlow adopted Oliver. They were all very happy that they had found each other. In a corner of the churchyard near the cemetery, Harry and Rose put up a white marble gravestone, with one word on it: "Agnes." This way, her spirit finally found peace and a home near her most loved ones.