HAS AN INTRODUCTORY ACCOUNT OF THE
INMATES OF THE HOUSE, TO WHICH OLIVER RESORTED
In a handsome room: though its
furniture had rather the air of old-fashioned comfort,
than of modern elegance: there sat two ladies
at a well-spread breakfast-table. Mr. Giles,
dressed with scrupulous care in a full suit of black,
was in attendance upon them. He had taken his
station some half-way between the side-board and the
breakfast-table; and, with his body drawn up to its
full height, his head thrown back, and inclined the
merest trifle on one side, his left leg advanced,
and his right hand thrust into his waist-coat, while
his left hung down by his side, grasping a waiter,
looked like one who laboured under a very agreeable
sense of his own merits and importance.
Of the two ladies, one was well advanced
in years; but the high-backed oaken chair in which
she sat, was not more upright than she. Dressed
with the utmost nicety and precision, in a quaint mixture
of by-gone costume, with some slight concessions to
the prevailing taste, which rather served to point
the old style pleasantly than to impair its effect,
she sat, in a stately manner, with her hands folded
on the table before her. Her eyes (and age had
dimmed but little of their brightness) were attentively
upon her young companion.
The younger lady was in the lovely
bloom and spring-time of womanhood; at that age, when,
if ever angels be for God’s good purposes enthroned
in mortal forms, they may be, without impiety, supposed
to abide in such as hers.
She was not past seventeen.
Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould; so mild and
gentle; so pure and beautiful; that earth seemed not
her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions.
The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue
eye, and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely
of her age, or of the world; and yet the changing
expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand
lights that played about the face, and left no shadow
there; above all, the smile, the cheerful, happy smile,
were made for Home, and fireside peace and happiness.
She was busily engaged in the little
offices of the table. Chancing to raise her eyes
as the elder lady was regarding her, she playfully
put back her hair, which was simply braided on her
forehead; and threw into her beaming look, such an
expression of affection and artless loveliness, that
blessed spirits might have smiled to look upon her.
‘And Brittles has been gone
upwards of an hour, has he?’ asked the old lady,
after a pause.
‘An hour and twelve minutes,
ma’am,’ replied Mr. Giles, referring to
a silver watch, which he drew forth by a black ribbon.
‘He is always slow,’ remarked the old
‘Brittles always was a slow
boy, ma’am,’ replied the attendant.
And seeing, by the bye, that Brittles had been a slow
boy for upwards of thirty years, there appeared no
great probability of his ever being a fast one.
‘He gets worse instead of better,
I think,’ said the elder lady.
’It is very inexcusable in him
if he stops to play with any other boys,’ said
the young lady, smiling.
Mr. Giles was apparently considering
the propriety of indulging in a respectful smile himself,
when a gig drove up to the garden-gate: out of
which there jumped a fat gentleman, who ran straight
up to the door: and who, getting quickly into
the house by some mysterious process, burst into the
room, and nearly overturned Mr. Giles and the breakfast-table
‘I never heard of such a thing!’
exclaimed the fat gentleman. ’My dear Mrs.
Maylie bless my soul in the silence
of the night, too I never heard
of such a thing!’
With these expressions of condolence,
the fat gentleman shook hands with both ladies, and
drawing up a chair, inquired how they found themselves.
‘You ought to be dead; positively
dead with the fright,’ said the fat gentleman.
’Why didn’t you send? Bless me,
my man should have come in a minute; and so would
I; and my assistant would have been delighted; or
anybody, I’m sure, under such circumstances.
Dear, dear! So unexpected! In the silence
of the night, too!’
The doctor seemed expecially troubled
by the fact of the robbery having been unexpected,
and attempted in the night-time; as if it were the
established custom of gentlemen in the housebreaking
way to transact business at noon, and to make an appointment,
by post, a day or two previous.
‘And you, Miss Rose,’
said the doctor, turning to the young lady, ‘I ’
‘Oh! very much so, indeed,’
said Rose, interrupting him; ’but there is a
poor creature upstairs, whom aunt wishes you to see.’
‘Ah! to be sure,’ replied
the doctor, ’so there is. That was your
handiwork, Giles, I understand.’
Mr. Giles, who had been feverishly
putting the tea-cups to rights, blushed very red,
and said that he had had that honour.
‘Honour, eh?’ said the
doctor; ’well, I don’t know; perhaps it’s
as honourable to hit a thief in a back kitchen, as
to hit your man at twelve paces. Fancy that
he fired in the air, and you’ve fought a duel,
Mr. Giles, who thought this light
treatment of the matter an unjust attempt at diminishing
his glory, answered respectfully, that it was not
for the like of him to judge about that; but he rather
thought it was no joke to the opposite party.
‘Gad, that’s true!’
said the doctor. ’Where is he? Show
me the way. I’ll look in again, as I come
down, Mrs. Maylie. That’s the little window
that he got in at, eh? Well, I couldn’t
have believed it!’
Talking all the way, he followed Mr.
Giles upstairs; and while he is going upstairs, the
reader may be informed, that Mr. Losberne, a surgeon
in the neighbourhood, known through a circuit of ten
miles round as ‘the doctor,’ had grown
fat, more from good-humour than from good living:
and was as kind and hearty, and withal as eccentric
an old bachelor, as will be found in five times that
space, by any explorer alive.
The doctor was absent, much longer
than either he or the ladies had anticipated.
A large flat box was fetched out of the gig; and a
bedroom bell was rung very often; and the servants
ran up and down stairs perpetually; from which tokens
it was justly concluded that something important was
going on above. At length he returned; and in
reply to an anxious inquiry after his patient; looked
very mysterious, and closed the door, carefully.
‘This is a very extraordinary
thing, Mrs. Maylie,’ said the doctor, standing
with his back to the door, as if to keep it shut.
‘He is not in danger, I hope?’ said the
’Why, that would not
be an extraordinary thing, under the circumstances,’
replied the doctor; ’though I don’t think
he is. Have you seen the thief?’
‘No,’ rejoined the old lady.
‘Nor heard anything about him?’
’I beg your pardon, ma’am,
interposed Mr. Giles; ’but I was going to tell
you about him when Doctor Losberne came in.’
The fact was, that Mr. Giles had not,
at first, been able to bring his mind to the avowal,
that he had only shot a boy. Such commendations
had been bestowed upon his bravery, that he could not,
for the life of him, help postponing the explanation
for a few delicious minutes; during which he had flourished,
in the very zenith of a brief reputation for undaunted
‘Rose wished to see the man,’
said Mrs. Maylie, ’but I wouldn’t hear
‘Humph!’ rejoined the
doctor. ’There is nothing very alarming
in his appearance. Have you any objection to
see him in my presence?’
‘If it be necessary,’
replied the old lady, ‘certainly not.’
‘Then I think it is necessary,’
said the doctor; ’at all events, I am quite
sure that you would deeply regret not having done so,
if you postponed it. He is perfectly quiet and
comfortable now. Allow me Miss Rose,
will you permit me? Not the slightest fear, I
pledge you my honour!’