'Ho, ho, there!' cried a tremulous voice in the rear. 'Pincher!Neptune! Come
here, come here!'
The dogs, who, in common with their masters, seemed to have noparticular relish
for the sport in which they were engaged,readily answered to the command. Three
men, who had by this timeadvanced some distance into the field, stopped to take
'My advice, or, leastways, I should say, my ORDERS, is,' said thefattest man
of the party, 'that we 'mediately go home again.'
'I am agreeable to anything which is agreeable to Mr. Giles,'said a shorter man;
who was by no means of a slim figure, and whowas very pale in the face, and very
polite: as frightened menfrequently are.
'I shouldn't wish to appear ill-mannered, gentlemen,' said thethird, who had
called the dogs back, 'Mr. Giles ought to know.'
'Certainly,' replied the shorter man; 'and whatever Mr. Gilessays, it isn't our
place to contradict him. No, no, I know mysitiwation! Thank my stars, I know my
sitiwation.' To tell thetruth, the little man DID seem to know his situation, and
to knowperfectly well that it was by no means a desirable one; for histeeth chattered
in his head as he spoke.
'You are afraid, Brittles,' said Mr. Giles.
'I an't,' said Brittles.
'You are,' said Giles.
'You're a falsehood, Mr. Giles,' said Brittles.
'You're a lie, Brittles,' said Mr. Giles.
Now, these four retorts arose from Mr. Giles's taunt; and Mr.Giles's taunt had
arisen from his indignation at having theresponsibility of going home again, imposed
upon himself undercover of a compliment. The third man brought the dispute to aclose,
'I'll tell you what it is, gentlemen,' said he, 'we're allafraid.'
'Speak for yourself, sir,' said Mr. Giles, who was the palest ofthe party.
'So I do,' replied the man. 'It's natural and proper to beafraid, under such
circumstances. I am.'
'So am I,' said Brittles; 'only there's no call to tell a man heis, so bounceably.'
These frank admissions softened Mr. Giles, who at once owned thatHE was afraid;
upon which, they all three faced about, and ranback again with the completest unanimity,
until Mr. Giles (whohad the shortest wind of the party, as was encumbered with apitchfork)
most handsomely insisted on stopping, to make anapology for his hastiness of speech.
'But it's wonderful,' said Mr. Giles, when he had explained,'what a man will
do, when his blood is up. I should havecommitted murder--I know I should--if we'd
caught one of themrascals.'
As the other two were impressed with a similar presentiment; andas their blood,
like his, had all gone down again; somespeculation ensued upon the cause of this
sudden change in theirtemperament.
'I know what it was,' said Mr. Giles; 'it was the gate.'
'I shouldn't wonder if it was,' exclaimed Brittles, catching atthe idea.
'You may depend upon it,' said Giles, 'that that gate stopped theflow of the
excitement. I felt all mine suddenly going away, asI was climbing over it.'
By a remarkable coincidence, the other two had been visited withthe same unpleasant
sensation at that precise moment. It wasquite obvious, therefore, that it was the
gate; especially asthere was no doubt regarding the time at which the change hadtaken
place, because all three remembered that they had come insight of the robbers at
the instant of its occurance.
This dialogue was held between the two men who had surprised theburglars, and
a travelling tinker who had been sleeping in anouthouse, and who had been roused,
together with his two mongrelcurs, to join in the pursuit. Mr. Giles acted in the
doublecapacity of butler and steward to the old lady of the mansion;Brittles was
a lad of all-work: who, having entered her service amere child, was treated as a
promising young boy still, though hewas something past thirty.
Encouraging each other with such converse as this; but, keepingvery close together,
notwithstanding, and looking apprehensivelyround, whenever a fresh gust rattled
through the boughs; thethree men hurried back to a tree, behind which they had lefttheir
lantern, lest its light should inform the thieves in whatdirection to fire. Catching
up the light, they made the best oftheir way home, at a good round trot; and long
after their duskyforms had ceased to be discernible, the light might have beenseen
twinkling and dancing in the distance, like some exhalationof the damp and gloomy
atmosphere through which it was swiftlyborne.
The air grew colder, as day came slowly on; and the mist rolledalong the ground
like a dense cloud of smoke. The grass was wet;the pathways, and low places, were
all mire and water; the dampbreath of an unwholesome wind went languidly by, with
a hollowmoaning. Still, Oliver lay motionless and insensible on the spotwhere Sikes
had left him.
Morning drew on apace. The air become more sharp and piercing,as its first dull
hue--the death of night, rather than the birthof day--glimmered faintly in the sky.
The objects which hadlooked dim and terrible in the darkness, grew more and moredefined,
and gradually resolved into their familiar shapes. Therain came down, thick and
fast, and pattered noisily among theleafless bushes. But, Oliver felt it not, as
it beat againsthim; for he still lay stretched, helpless and unconscious, on hisbed
At length, a low cry of pain broke the stillness that prevailed;and uttering
it, the boy awoke. His left arm, rudely bandaged ina shawl, hung heavy and useless
at his side; the bandage wassaturated with blood. He was so weak, that he could
scarcelyraise himself into a sitting posture; when he had done so, helooked feebly
round for help, and groaned with pain. Tremblingin every joint, from cold and exhaustion,
he made an effort tostand upright; but, shuddering from head to foot, fell prostrateon
After a short return of the stupor in which he had been so longplunged, Oliver:
urged by a creeping sickness at his heart,which seemed to warn him that if he lay
there, he must surelydie: got upon his feet, and essayed to walk. His head was dizzy,and
he staggered to and from like a drunken man. But he kept up,nevertheless, and, with
his head drooping languidly on hisbreast, went stumbling onward, he knew not whither.
And now, hosts of bewildering and confused ideas came crowding onhis mind. He
seemed to be still walking between Sikes andCrackit, who were angrily disputing--for
the very words theysaid, sounded in his ears; and when he caught his own attention,as
it were, by making some violent effort to save himself fromfalling, he found that
he was talking to them. Then, he was alonewith Sikes, plodding on as on the previous
day; and as shadowypeople passed them, he felt the robber's grasp upon his wrist.
Suddenly, he started back at the report of firearms; there roseinto the air, loud
cries and shouts; lights gleamed before hiseyes; all was noise and tumult, as some
unseen hand bore himhurriedly away. Through all these rapid visions, there ran anundefined,
uneasy conscious of pain, which wearied and tormentedhim incessantly.
Thus he staggered on, creeping, almost mechanically, between thebars of gates,
or through hedge-gaps as they came in his way,until he reached a road. Here the
rain began to fall so heavily,that it roused him.
He looked about, and saw that at no great distance there was ahouse, which perhaps
he could reach. Pitying his condition, theymight have compassion on him; and if
they did not, it would bebetter, he thought, to die near human beings, than in the
lonelyopen fields. He summoned up all his strength for one last trial,and bent his
faltering steps towards it.
As he drew nearer to this house, a feeling come over him that hehad seen it before.
He remembered nothing of its details; butthe shape and aspect of the building seemed
familiar to him.
That garden wall! On the grass inside, he had fallen on hisknees last night,
and prayed the two men's mercy. It was thevery house they had attempted to rob.
Oliver felt such fear come over him when he recognised the place,that, for the
instant, he forgot the agony of his wound, andthought only of flight. Flight! He
could scarcely stand: andif he were in full possession of all the best powers of
hisslight and youthful frame, whither could he fly? He pushedagainst the garden-gate;
it was unlocked, and swung open on itshinges. He tottered across the lawn; climbed
the steps; knockedfaintly at the door; and, his whole strength failing him, sunkdown
against one of the pillars of the little portico.
It happened that about this time, Mr. Giles, Brittles, and thetinker, were recruiting
themselves, after the fatigues andterrors of the night, with tea and sundries, in
the kitchen. Notthat it was Mr. Giles's habit to admit to too great familiaritythe
humbler servants: towards whom it was rather his wont todeport himself with a lofty
affability, which, while itgratified, could not fail to remind them of his superior
positionin society. But, death, fires, and burglary, make all menequals; so Mr.
Giles sat with his legs stretched out before thekitchen fender, leaning his left
arm on the table, while, withhis right, he illustrated a circumstantial and minute
account ofthe robbery, to which his bearers (but especially the cook andhousemaid,
who were of the party) listened with breathlessinterest.
'It was about half-past tow,' said Mr. Giles, 'or I wouldn'tswear that it mightn't
have been a little nearer three, when Iwoke up, and, turning round in my bed, as
it might be so, (hereMr. Giles turned round in his chair, and pulled the corner
of thetable-cloth over him to imitate bed-clothes,) I fancied I heerd anoise.'
At this point of the narrative the cook turned pale, and askedthe housemaid to
shut the door: who asked Brittles, who asked thetinker, who pretended not to hear.
'--Heerd a noise,' continued Mr. Giles. 'I says, at first, "Thisis illusion";
and was composing myself off to sleep, when I heerdthe noise again, distinct.'
'What sort of a noise?' asked the cook.
'A kind of a busting noise,' replied Mr. Giles, looking roundhim.
'More like the noise of powdering a iron bar on a nutmeg-grater,'suggested Brittles.
'It was, when you HEERD it, sir,' rejoined Mr. Giles; 'but, atthis time, it had
a busting sound. I turned down the clothes';continued Giles, rolling back the table-cloth,
'sat up in bed;and listened.'
The cook and housemaid simultaneously ejaculated 'Lor!' and drewtheir chairs
'I heerd it now, quite apparent,' resumed Mr. Giles. '"Somebody,"I says, "is
forcing of a door, or window; what's to be done? I'll call up that poor lad, Brittles,
and save him from beingmurdered in his bed; or his throat," I says, "may be cut
from hisright ear to his left, without his ever knowing it."'
Here, all eyes were turned upon Brittles, who fixed his upon thespeaker, and
stared at him, with his mouth wide open, and hisface expressive of the most unmitigated
'I tossed off the clothes,' said Giles, throwing away thetable-cloth, and looking
very hard at the cook and housemaid,'got softly out of bed; drew on a pair of--'
'Ladies present, Mr. Giles,' murmured the tinker.
'--Of SHOES, sir,' said Giles, turning upon him, and laying greatemphasis on
the word; 'seized the loaded pistol that always goesupstairs with the plate-basket;
and walked on tiptoes to hisroom. "Brittles," I says, when I had woke him, "don't
'So you did,' observed Brittles, in a low voice.
'"We're dead men, I think, Brittles," I says,' continued Giles;'"but don't be
'WAS he frightened?' asked the cook.
'Not a bit of it,' replied Mr. Giles. 'He was as firm--ah!pretty near as firm
as I was.'
'I should have died at once, I'm sure, if it had been me,'observed the housemaid.
'You're a woman,' retorted Brittles, plucking up a little.
'Brittles is right,' said Mr. Giles, nodding his head,approvingly; 'from a woman,
nothing else was to be expected. We,being men, took a dark lantern that was standing
on Brittle'shob, and groped our way downstairs in the pitch dark,--as itmight be
Mr. Giles had risen from his seat, and taken two steps with hiseyes shut, to
accompany his description with appropriate action,when he started violently, in
common with the rest of thecompany, and hurried back to his chair. The cook and
'It was a knock,' said Mr. Giles, assuming perfect serenity.'Open the door, somebody.'
'It seems a strange sort of a thing, a knock coming at such atime in the morning,'
said Mr. Giles, surveying the pale faceswhich surrounded him, and looking very blank
himself; 'but thedoor must be opened. Do you hear, somebody?'
Mr. Giles, as he spoke, looked at Brittles; but that young man,being naturally
modest, probably considered himself nobody, andso held that the inquiry could not
have any application to him;at all events, he tendered no reply. Mr. Giles directed
anappealing glance at the tinker; but he had suddenly fallenasleep. The women were
out of the question.
'If Brittles would rather open the door, in the presence ofwitnesses,' said Mr.
Giles, after a short silence, 'I am ready tomake one.'
'So am I,' said the tinker, waking up, as suddenly as he hadfallen asleep.
Brittles capitualated on these terms; and the party beingsomewhat re-assured
by the discovery (made on throwing open theshutters) that it was now broad day,
took their way upstairs;with the dogs in front. The two women, who were afraid to
staybelow, brought up the rear. By the advice of Mr. Giles, they alltalked very
loud, to warn any evil-disposed person outside, thatthey were strong in numbers;
and by a master-stoke of policy,originating in the brain of the same ingenious gentleman,
thedogs' tails were well pinched, in the hall, to make them barksavagely.