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Charles Dickens > Oliver Twist > Chapter XXXVI

Oliver Twist

Chapter XXXVI


'And so you are resolved to be my travelling companion this
morning; eh?' said the doctor, as Harry Maylie joined him and
Oliver at the breakfast-table. 'Why, you are not in the same
mind or intention two half-hours together!'

'You will tell me a different tale one of these days,' said
Harry, colouring without any perceptible reason.

'I hope I may have good cause to do so,' replied Mr. Losberne;
'though I confess I don't think I shall. But yesterday morning
you had made up your mind, in a great hurry, to stay here, and to
accompany your mother, like a dutiful son, to the sea-side.
Before noon, you announce that you are going to do me the honour
of accompanying me as far as I go, on your road to London. And
at night, you urge me, with great mystery, to start before the
ladies are stirring; the consequence of which is, that young
Oliver here is pinned down to his breakfast when he ought to be
ranging the meadows after botanical phenomena of all kinds. Too
bad, isn't it, Oliver?'

'I should have been very sorry not to have been at home when you
and Mr. Maylie went away, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'That's a fine fellow,' said the doctor; 'you shall come and see
me when you return. But, to speak seriously, Harry; has any
communication from the great nobs produced this sudden anxiety on
your part to be gone?'

'The great nobs,' replied Harry, 'under which designation, I
presume, you include my most stately uncle, have not communicated
with me at all, since I have been here; nor, at this time of the
year, is it likely that anything would occur to render necessary
my immediate attendance among them.'

'Well,' said the doctor, 'you are a queer fellow. But of course
they will get you into parliament at the election before
Christmas, and these sudden shiftings and changes are no bad
preparation for political life. There's something in that. Good
training is always desirable, whether the race be for place, cup,
or sweepstakes.'

Harry Maylie looked as if he could have followed up this short
dialogue by one or two remarks that would have staggered the
doctor not a little; but he contented himself with saying, 'We
shall see,' and pursued the subject no farther. The post-chaise
drove up to the door shortly afterwards; and Giles coming in for
the luggage, the good doctor bustled out, to see it packed.

'Oliver,' said Harry Maylie, in a low voice, 'let me speak a word
with you.'

Oliver walked into the window-recess to which Mr. Maylie beckoned
him; much surprised at the mixture of sadness and boisterous
spirits, which his whole behaviour displayed.

'You can write well now?' said Harry, laying his hand upon his

'I hope so, sir,' replied Oliver.

'I shall not be at home again, perhaps for some time; I wish you
would write to me--say once a fort-night: every alternate
Monday: to the General Post Office in London. Will you?'

'Oh! certainly, sir; I shall be proud to do it,' exclaimed
Oliver, greatly delighted with the commission.

'I should like to know how--how my mother and Miss Maylie are,'
said the young man; 'and you can fill up a sheet by telling me
what walks you take, and what you talk about, and whether
she--they, I mean--seem happy and quite well. You understand me?'

'Oh! quite, sir, quite,' replied Oliver.

'I would rather you did not mention it to them,' said Harry,
hurrying over his words; 'because it might make my mother anxious
to write to me oftener, and it is a trouble and worry to her.
Let is be a secret between you and me; and mind you tell me
everything! I depend upon you.'

Oliver, quite elated and honoured by a sense of his importance,
faithfully promised to be secret and explicit in his
communications. Mr. Maylie took leave of him, with many
assurances of his regard and protection.

The doctor was in the chaise; Giles (who, it had been arranged,
should be left behind) held the door open in his hand; and the
women-servants were in the garden, looking on. Harry cast one
slight glance at the latticed window, and jumped into the

'Drive on!' he cried, 'hard, fast, full gallop! Nothing short of
flying will keep pace with me, to-day.'

'Halloa!' cried the doctor, letting down the front glass in a
great hurry, and shouting to the postillion; 'something very
short of flyng will keep pace with me. Do you hear?'

Jingling and clattering, till distance rendered its noise
inaudible, and its rapid progress only perceptible to the eye,
the vehicle wound its way along the road, almost hidden in a
cloud of dust: now wholly disappearing, and now becoming visible
again, as intervening objects, or the intricacies of the way,
permitted. It was not until even the dusty cloud was no longer
to be seen, that the gazers dispersed.

And there was one looker-on, who remained with eyes fixed upon
the spot where the carriage had disappeared, long after it was
many miles away; for, behind the white curtain which had shrouded
her from view when Harry raised his eyes towards the window, sat
Rose herself.

'He seems in high spirits and happy,' she said, at length. 'I
feared for a time he might be otherwise. I was mistaken. I am
very, very glad.'

Tears are signs of gladness as well as grief; but those which
coursed down Rose's face, as she sat pensively at the window,
still gazing in the same direction, seemed to tell more of sorrow
than of joy.

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