'Oh! God forbid!' exclaimed Oliver, hastily.
'Amen to that, my child!' said the old lady, wringing her hands.
'Surely there is no danger of anything so dreadful?' said Oliver.
'Two hours ago, she was quite well.'
'She is very ill now,' rejoined Mrs. Maylies; 'and will be worse,I am sure. My
dear, dear Rose! Oh, what shall I do withouther!'
She gave way to such great grief, that Oliver, suppressing hisown emotion, ventured
to remonstrate with her; and to beg,earnestly, that, for the sake of the dear young
lady herself, shewould be more calm.
'And consider, ma'am,' said Oliver, as the tears forcedthemselves into his eyes,
despite of his efforts to the contrary.
'Oh! consider how young and good she is, and what pleasure andcomfort she gives
to all about her. I am sure--certain--quitecertain--that, for your sake, who are
so good yourself; and forher own; and for the sake of all she makes so happy; she
will notdie. Heaven will never let her die so young.'
'Hush!' said Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand on Oliver's head. 'Youthink like a
child, poor boy. But you teach me my duty,notwithstanding. I had forgotten it for
a moment, Oliver, but Ihope I may be pardoned, for I am old, and have seen enough
ofillness and death to know the agony of separation from theobjects of our love.
I have seen enough, too, to know that it isnot always the youngest and best who
are spared to those thatlove them; but this should give us comfort in our sorrow;
forHeaven is just; and such things teach us, impressively, thatthere is a brighter
world than this; and that the passage to itis speedy. God's will be done! I love
her; and He know howwell!'
Oliver was surprised to see that as Mrs. Maylie said these words,she checked
her lamentations as though by one effort; and drawingherself up as she spoke, became
composed and firm. He was stillmore astonished to find that this firmness lasted;
and that,under all the care and watching which ensued, Mrs. Maylie wasevery ready
and collected: performing all the duties which haddevolved upon her, steadily, and,
to all external appearances,even cheerfully. But he was young, and did not know
what strongminds are capable of, under trying circumstances. How should he,when
their possessors so seldom know themselves?
An anxious night ensued. When morning came, Mrs. Maylie'spredictions were but
too well verified. Rose was in the firststage of a high and dangerous fever.
'We must be active, Oliver, and not give way to useless grief,'said Mrs. Maylie,
laying her finger on her lip, as she lookedsteadily into his face; 'this letter
must be sent, with allpossible expedition, to Mr. Losberne. It must be carried to
themarket-town: which is not more than four miles off, by thefootpath across the
field: and thence dispatched, by an expresson horseback, straight to Chertsey. The
people at the inn willundertake to do this: and I can trust to you to see it done,
Oliver could make no reply, but looked his anxiety to be gone atonce.
'Here is another letter,' said Mrs. Maylie, pausing to reflect;'but whether to
send it now, or wait until I see how Rose goeson, I scarcely know. I would not forward
it, unless I feared theworst.'
'Is it for Chertsey, too, ma'am?' inquired Oliver; impatient toexecute his commission,
and holding out his trembling hand forthe letter.
'No,' replied the old lady, giving it to him mechanically. Oliver glanced at
it, and saw that it was directed to HarryMaylie, Esquire, at some great lord's house
in the country;where, he could not make out.
'Shall it go, ma'am?' asked Oliver, looking up, impatiently.
'I think not,' replied Mrs. Maylie, taking it back. 'I will waituntil to-morrow.'
With these words, she gave Oliver her purse, and he started off,without more
delay, at the greatest speed he could muster.
Swiftly he ran across the fields, and down the little lanes whichsometimes divided
them: now almost hidden by the high corn oneither side, and now emerging on an open
field, where the mowersand haymakers were busy at their work: nor did he stop once,save
now and then, for a few seconds, to recover breath, until hecame, in a great heat,
and covered with dust, on the littlemarket-place of the market-town.
Here he paused, and looked about for the inn. There were a whitebank, and a red
brewery, and a yellow town-hall; and in onecorner there was a large house, with
all the wood about itpainted green: before which was the sign of 'The George.' Tothis
he hastened, as soon as it caught his eye.
He spoke to a postboy who was dozing under the gateway; and who,after hearing
what he wanted, referred him to the ostler; whoafter hearing all he had to say again,
referred him to thelandlord; who was a tall gentleman in a blue neckcloth, a whitehat,
drab breeches, and boots with tops to match, leaning againsta pump by the stable-door,
picking his teeth with a silvertoothpick.
This gentleman walked with much deliberation into the bar to makeout the bill:
which took a long time making out: and after itwas ready, and paid, a horse had
to be saddled, and a man to bedressed, which took up ten good minutes more. Meanwhile
Oliverwas in such a desperate state of impatience and anxiety, that hefelt as if
he could have jumped upon the horse himself, andgalloped away, full tear, to the
next stage. At length, all wasready; and the little parcel having been handed up,
with manyinjunctions and entreaties for its speedy delivery, the man setspurs to
his horse, and rattling over the uneven paving of themarket-place, was out of the
town, and galloping along theturnpike-road, in a couple of minutes.
As it was something to feel certain that assistance was sent for,and that no
time had been lost, Oliver hurried up the inn-yard,with a somewhat lighter heart.
He was turning out of the gatewaywhen he accidently stumbled against a tall man
wrapped in acloak, who was at that moment coming out of the inn door.
'Hah!' cried the man, fixing his eyes on Oliver, and suddenlyrecoiling. 'What
the devil's this?'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Oliver; 'I was in a great hurry toget home, and
didn't see you were coming.'
'Death!' muttered the man to himself, glaring at the boy with hislarge dark eyes.
'Who would have thought it! Grind him to ashes!
He'd start up from a stone coffin, to come in my way!'
'I am sorry,' stammered Oliver, confused by the strange man'swild look. 'I hope
I have not hurt you!'
'Rot you!' murmured the man, in a horrible passion; between hisclenched teeth;
'if I had only had the courage to say the word, Imight have been free of you in
a night. Curses on your head, andblack death on your heart, you imp! What are you
The man shook his fist, as he uttered these words incoherently. He advanced towards
Oliver, as if with the intention of aiming ablow at him, but fell violently on the
ground: writhing andfoaming, in a fit.
Oliver gazed, for a moment, at the struggles of the madman (forsuch he supposed
him to be); and then darted into the house forhelp. Having seen him safely carried
into the hotel, he turnedhis face homewards, running as fast as he could, to make
up forlost time: and recalling with a great deal of astonishment andsome fear, the
extraordinary behaviour of the person from whom hehad just parted.
The circumstance did not dwell in his recollection long, however:
for when he reached the cottage, there was enough to occupy hismind, and to drive
all considerations of self completely from hismemory.
Rose Maylie had rapidly grown worse; before mid-night she wasdelirious. A medical
practitioner, who resided on the spot, wasin constant attendance upon her; and after
first seeing thepatient, he had taken Mrs. Maylie aside, and pronounced herdisorder
to be one of a most alarming nature. 'In fact,' he said,'it would be little short
of a miracle, if she recovered.'
How often did Oliver start from his bed that night, and stealingout, with noiseless
footstep, to the staircase, listen for theslightest sound from the sick chamber!
How often did a trembleshake his frame, and cold drops of terror start upon his
brow,when a sudden trampling of feet caused him to fear that somethingtoo dreadful
to think of, had even then occurred! And what hadbeen the fervency of all the prayers
he had ever muttered,compared with those he poured forth, now, in the agony andpassion
of his supplication for the life and health of the gentlecreature, who was tottering
on the deep grave's verge!
Oh! the suspense, the fearful, acute suspense, of standing idlyby while the life
of one we dearly love, is trembling in thebalance! Oh! the racking thoughts that
crowd upon the mind, andmake the heart beat violently, and the breath come thick,
by theforce of the images they conjure up before it; the DESPERATEANXIETY TO BE
DOING SOMETHING to relieve the pain, or lessen thedanger, which we have no power
to alleviate; the sinking of souland spirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessnessproduces;
what tortures can equal these; what reflections orendeavours can, in the full tide
and fever of the time, allaythem!
Morning came; and the little cottage was lonely and still. Peoplespoke in whispers;
anxious faces appeared at the gate, from timeto time; women and children went away
in tears. All the livelongday, and for hours after it had grown dark, Oliver paced
softlyup and down the garden, raising his eyes every instant to thesick chamber,
and shuddering to see the darkened window, lookingas if death lay stretched inside.
Late that night, Mr. Losbernearrived. 'It is hard,' said the good doctor, turning
away as hespoke; 'so young; so much beloved; but there is very littlehope.'
Another morning. The sun shone brightly; as brightly as if itlooked upon no misery
or care; and, with every leaf and flower infull bloom about her; with life, and
health, and sounds andsights of joy, surrounding her on every side: the fair youngcreature
lay, wasting fast. Oliver crept away to the oldchurchyard, and sitting down on one
of the green mounds, wept andprayed for her, in silence.
There was such peace and beauty in the scene; so much ofbrightness and mirth
in the sunny landscape; such blithesomemusic in the songs of the summer birds; such
freedom in the rapidflight of the rook, careering overhead; so much of life andjoyousness
in all; that, when the boy raised his aching eyes, andlooked about, the thought
instinctively occurred to him, thatthis was not a time for death; that Rose could
surely never diewhen humbler things were all so glad and gay; that graves werefor
cold and cheerless winter: not for sunlight and fragrance. He almost thought that
shrouds were for the old and shrunken; andthat they never wrapped the young and
graceful form in theirghastly folds.
A knell from the church bell broke harshly on these youthfulthoughts. Another!
Again! It was tolling for the funeralservice. A group of humble mourners entered
the gate: wearingwhite favours; for the corpse was young. They stood uncovered bya
grave; and there was a mother--a mother once--among the weepingtrain. But the sun
shone brightly, and the birds sang on.
Oliver turned homeward, thinking on the many kindnesses he hadreceived from the
young lady, and wishing that the time couldcome again, that he might never cease
showing her how gratefuland attached he was. He had no cause for self-reproach on
thescore of neglect, or want of thought, for he had been devoted toher service;
and yet a hundred little occasions rose up beforehim, on which he fancied he might
have been more zealous, andmore earnest, and wished he had been. We need be careful
how wedeal with those about us, when every death carries to some smallcircle of
survivors, thoughts of so much omitted, and so littledone--of so many things forgotten,
and so many more which mighthave been repaired! There is no remorse so deep as that
which isunavailing; if we would be spared its tortures, let us rememberthis, in
When he reached home Mrs. Maylie was sitting in the littleparlour. Oliver's heart
sand at sight of her; for she had neverleft the bedside of her niece; and he trembled
to think whatchange could have driven her away. He learnt that she had falleninto
a deep sleep, from which she would waken, either to recoveryand life, or to bid
them farewell, and die.
They sat, listening, and afraid to speak, for hours. Theuntasted meal was removed,
with looks which showed that theirthoughts were elsewhere, they watched the sun
as he sank lowerand lower, and, at length, cast over sky and earth thosebrilliant
hues which herald his departure. Their quick earscaught the sound of an approaching
footstep. They bothinvoluntarily darted to the door, as Mr. Losberne entered.
'What of Rose?' cried the old lady. 'Tell me at once! I canbear it; anything
but suspense! Oh!, tell me! in the name ofHeaven!'
'You must compose yourself,' said the doctor supporting her. 'Becalm, my dear
'Let me go, in God's name! My dear child! She is dead! She isdying!'
'No!' cried the doctor, passionately. 'As He is good andmerciful, she will live
to bless us all, for years to come.'
The lady fell upon her knees, and tried to fold her handstogether; but the energy
which had supported her so long, fled upto Heaven with her first thanksgiving; and
she sank into thefriendly arms which were extended to receive her.
CONTAINS SOME INTRODUCTORY PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO A YOUNGGENTLEMAN WHO NOW ARRIVES
UPON THE SCENE; AND A NEW ADVENTUREWHICH HAPPENED TO OLIVER
It was almost too much happiness to bear. Oliver felt stunnedand stupefied by
the unexpected intelligence; he could not weep,or speak, or rest. He had scarcely
the power of understandinganything that had passed, until, after a long ramble in
the quietevening air, a burst of tears came to his relief, and he seemedto awaken,
all at once, to a full sense of the joyful change thathad occurred, and the almost
insupportable load of anguish whichhad been taken from his breast.