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The events narrated in the last chapter were yet but two days old, when Oliver found himself, at three o'clock in the afternoon, in a travelling-carriage rolling fast towards his native town.

Mrs. Maylie, and Rose, and Mrs. Bedwin, and the good doctor were with him:

and Mr. Brownlow followed in a post-chaise, accompanied by one other person whose name had not been mentioned. They had not talked much upon the way; for Oliver was in a flutter of agitation and uncertainty which deprived him of the power of collecting his thoughts, and almost of speech, and appeared to have scarcely less effect on his companions, who shared it, in at least an equal degree.

He and the two ladies had been very carefully made acquainted by Mr. Brownlow with the nature of the admissions which had been forced from Monks; and although they knew that the object of their present journey was to complete the work which had been so well begun, still the whole matter was enveloped in enough of doubt and mystery to leave them in endurance of the most intense suspense. The same kind friend had, with Mr. Losberne's assistance, cautiously stopped all channels of communication through which they could receive intelligence of the dreadful occurrences that so recently taken place.

'It was quite true,' he said, 'that they must know them before long, but it might be at a better time than the present, and it could not be at a worse.'

So, they travelled on in silence:

each busied with reflections on the object which had brought them together:

and no one disposed to give utterance to the thoughts which crowded upon all. But if Oliver, under these influences, had remained silent while they journeyed towards his birth-place by a road he had never seen, how the whole current of his recollections ran back to old times, and what a crowd of emotions were wakened up in his breast, when they turned into that which he had traversed on foot:

a poor houseless, wandering boy, without a friend to help him, or a roof to shelter his head. 'See there, there!' cried Oliver, eagerly clasping the hand of Rose, and pointing out at the carriage window; 'that's the stile I came over; there are the hedges I crept behind, for fear any one should overtake me and force me back!

Yonder is the path across the fields, leading to the old house where I was a little child!

Oh Dick, Dick, my dear old friend, if I could only see you now!' 'You will see him soon,' replied Rose, gently taking his folded hands between her own.

'You shall tell him how happy you are, and how rich you have grown, and that in all your happiness you have none so great as the coming back to make him happy too.' 'Yes, yes,' said Oliver, 'and we'll--we'll take him away from here, and have him clothed and taught, and send him to some quiet country place where he may grow strong and well,--shall we?' Rose nodded 'yes,' for the boy was smiling through such happy tears that she could not speak. 'You will be kind and good to him, for you are to every one,' said Oliver.

'It will make you cry, I know, to hear what he can tell; but never mind, never mind, it will be all over, and you will smile again--I know that too--to think how changed he is; you did the same with me.

He said "God bless you" to me when I ran away,' cried the boy with a burst of affectionate emotion; 'and I will say "God bless you" now, and show him how I love him for it!' As they approached the town, and at length drove through its narrow streets, it became matter of no small difficulty to restrain the boy within reasonable bounds.

There was Sowerberry's the undertaker's just as it used to be, only smaller and less imposing in appearance than he remembered it--there were all the well-known shops and houses, with almost every one of which he had some slight incident connected--there was Gamfield's cart, the very cart he used to have, standing at the old public-house door--there was the workhouse, the dreary prison of his youthful days, with its dismal windows frowning on the street--there was the same lean porter standing at the gate, at sight of whom Oliver involuntarily shrunk back, and then laughed at himself for being so foolish, then cried, then laughed again--there were scores of faces at the doors and windows that he knew quite well--there was nearly everything as if he had left it but yesterday, and all his recent life had been but a happy dream. But it was pure, earnest, joyful reality.

They drove straight to the door of the chief hotel (which Oliver used to stare up at, with awe, and think a mighty palace, but which had somehow fallen off in grandeur and size); and here was Mr. Grimwig all ready to receive them, kissing the young lady, and the old one too, when they got out of the coach, as if he were the grandfather of the whole party, all smiles and kindness, and not offering to eat his head--no, not once; not even when he contradicted a very old postboy about the nearest road to London, and maintained he knew it best, though he had only come that way once, and that time fast asleep.

There was dinner prepared, and there were bedrooms ready, and everything was arranged as if by magic. Notwithstanding all this, when the hurry of the first half-hour was over, the same silence and constraint prevailed that had marked their journey down.

Mr. Brownlow did not join them at dinner, but remained in a separate room.

The two other gentlemen hurried in and out with anxious faces, and, during the short intervals when they were present, conversed apart.

Once, Mrs. Maylie was called away, and after being absent for nearly an hour, returned with eyes swollen with weeping.

All these things made Rose and Oliver, who were not in any new secrets, nervous and uncomfortable.

They sat wondering, in silence; or, if they exchanged a few words, spoke in whispers, as if they were afraid to hear the sound of their own voices. At length, when nine o'clock had come, and they began to think they were to hear no more that night, Mr. Losberne and Mr. Grimwig entered the room, followed by Mr. Brownlow and a man whom Oliver almost shrieked with surprise to see; for they told him it was his brother, and it was the same man he had met at the market-town, and seen looking in with Fagin at the window of his little room.

Monks cast a look of hate, which, even then, he could not dissemble, at the astonished boy, and sat down near the door.

Mr. Brownlow, who had papers in his hand, walked to a table near which Rose and Oliver were seated. 'This is a painful task,' said he, 'but these declarations, which have been signed in London before many gentlemen, must be in substance repeated here.

I would have spared you the degradation, but we must hear them from your own lips before we part, and you know why.' 'Go on,' said the person addressed, turning away his face. 'Quick.

I have almost done enough, I think.

Don't keep me here.' 'This child,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing Oliver to him, and laying his hand upon his head, 'is your half-brother; the illegitimate son of your father, my dear friend Edwin Leeford, by poor young Agnes Fleming, who died in giving him birth.' 'Yes,' said Monks, scowling at the trembling boy:

the beating of whose heart he might have heard.

'That is the bastard child.' 'The term you use,' said Mr. Brownlow, sternly, 'is a reproach to those long since passed beyond the feeble censure of the world. It reflects disgrace on no one living, except you who use it. Let that pass.

He was born in this town.' 'In the workhouse of this town,' was the sullen reply. 'You have the story there.'

He pointed impatiently to the papers as he spoke. 'I must have it here, too,' said Mr. Brownlow, looking round upon the listeners. 'Listen then!

You!' returned Monks.

'His father being taken ill at Rome, was joined by his wife, my mother, from whom he had been long separated, who went from Paris and took me with her--to look after his property, for what I know, for she had no great affection for him, nor he for her.

He knew nothing of us, for his senses were gone, and he slumbered on till next day, when he died.

Among the papers in his desk, were two, dated on the night his illness first came on, directed to yourself'; he addressed himself to Mr. Brownlow; 'and enclosed in a few short lines to you, with an intimation on the cover of the package that it was not to be forwarded till after he was dead.

One of these papers was a letter to this girl Agnes; the other a will.' 'What of the letter?' asked Mr. Brownlow. 'The letter?--A sheet of paper crossed and crossed again, with a penitent confession, and prayers to God to help her.

He had palmed a tale on the girl that some secret mystery--to be explained one day--prevented his marrying her just then; and so she had gone on, trusting patiently to him, until she trusted too far, and lost what none could ever give her back.

She was, at that time, within a few months of her confinement.

He told her all he had meant to do, to hide her shame, if he had lived, and prayed her, if he died, not to curse his memory, or think the consequences of their sin would be visited on her or their young child; for all the guilt was his.

He reminded her of the day he had given her the little locket and the ring with her christian name engraved upon it, and a blank left for that which he hoped one day to have bestowed upon her--prayed her yet to keep it, and wear it next her heart, as she had done before--and then ran on, wildly, in the same words, over and over again, as if he had gone distracted.

I believe he had.' 'The will,' said Mr. Brownlow, as Oliver's tears fell fast. Monks was silent. 'The will,' said Mr. Brownlow, speaking for him, 'was in the same spirit as the letter.

He talked of miseries which his wife had brought upon him; of the rebellious disposition, vice, malice, and premature bad passions of you his only son, who had been trained to hate him; and left you, and your mother, each an annuity of eight hundred pounds.

The bulk of his property he divided into two equal portions--one for Agnes Fleming, and the other for their child, if it should be born alive, and ever come of age.

If it were a girl, it was to inherit the money unconditionally; but if a boy, only on the stipulation that in his minority he should never have stained his name with any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardice, or wrong.

He did this, he said, to mark his confidence in the other, and his conviction--only strengthened by approaching death--that the child would share her gentle heart, and noble nature.

If he were disappointed in this expectation, then the money was to come to you:

for then, and not till then, when both children were equal, would he recognise your prior claim upon his purse, who had none upon his heart, but had, from an infant, repulsed him with coldness and aversion.' 'My mother,' said Monks, in a louder tone, 'did what a woman should have done.

She burnt this will.

The letter never reached its destination; but that, and other proofs, she kept, in case they ever tried to lie away the blot.

The girl's father had the truth from her with every aggravation that her violent hate--I love her for it now--could add.

Goaded by shame and dishonour he fled with his children into a remote corner of Wales, changing his very name that his friends might never know of his retreat; and here, no great while afterwards, he was found dead in his bed.

The girl had left her home, in secret, some weeks before; he had searched for her, on foot, in every town and village near; it was on the night when he returned home, assured that she had destroyed herself, to hide her shame and his, that his old heart broke.' There was a short silence here, until Mr. Brownlow took up the thread of the narrative. 'Years after this,' he said, 'this man's--Edward Leeford's--mother came to me.

He had left her, when only eighteen; robbed her of jewels and money; gambled, squandered, forged, and fled to London:

where for two years he had associated with the lowest outcasts.

She was sinking under a painful and incurable disease, and wished to recover him before she died.

Inquiries were set on foot, and strict searches made. They were unavailing for a long time, but ultimately successful; and he went back with her to France.' 'There she died,' said Monks, 'after a lingering illness; and, on her death-bed, she bequeathed these secrets to me, together with her unquenchable and deadly hatred of all whom they involved--though she need not have left me that, for I had inherited it long before.

She would not believe that the girl had destroyed herself, and the child too, but was filled with the impression that a male child had been born, and was alive.

I swore to her, if ever it crossed my path, to hunt it down; never to let it rest; to pursue it with the bitterest and most unrelenting animosity; to vent upon it the hatred that I deeply felt, and to spit upon the empty vaunt of that insulting will by draggin it, if I could, to the very gallows-foot.

She was right. He came in my way at last.

I began well; and, but for babbling drabs, I would have finished as I began!' As the villain folded his arms tight together, and muttered curses on himself in the impotence of baffled malice, Mr. Brownlow turned to the terrified group beside him, and explained that the Jew, who had been his old accomplice and confidant, had a large reward for keeping Oliver ensnared:

of which some part was to be given up, in the event of his being rescued:

and that a dispute on this head had led to their visit to the country house for the purpose of identifying him. 'The locket and ring?' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Monks. 'I bought them from the man and woman I told you of, who stole them from the nurse, who stole them from the corpse,' answered Monks without raising his eyes.

'You know what became of them.' Mr. Brownlow merely nodded to Mr. Grimwig, who disappearing with great alacrity, shortly returned, pushing in Mrs. Bumble, and dragging her unwilling consort after him. 'Do my hi's deceive me!' cried Mr. Bumble, with ill-feigned enthusiasm, 'or is that little Oliver?

Oh O-li-ver, if you know'd how I've been a-grieving for you--' 'Hold your tongue, fool,' murmured Mrs. Bumble. 'Isn't natur, natur, Mrs. Bumble?' remonstrated the workhouse master.

'Can't I be supposed to feel--_I_ as brought him up porochially--when I see him a-setting here among ladies and gentlemen of the very affablest description!

I always loved that boy as if he'd been my--my--my own grandfather,' said Mr. Bumble, halting for an appropriate comparison.

'Master Oliver, my dear, you remember the blessed gentleman in the white waistcoat?

Ah! he went to heaven last week, in a oak coffin with plated handles, Oliver.' 'Come, sir,' said Mr. Grimwig, tartly; 'suppress your feelings.' 'I will do my endeavours, sir,' replied Mr. Bumble.

'How do you do, sir?

I hope you are very well.' This salutation was addressed to Mr. Brownlow, who had stepped up to within a short distance of the respectable couple.

He inquired, as he pointed to Monks, 'Do you know that person?' 'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble flatly. 'Perhaps _you_ don't?' said Mr. Brownlow, addressing her spouse. 'I never saw him in all my life,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Nor sold him anything, perhaps?' 'No,' replied Mrs. Bumble. 'You never had, perhaps, a certain gold locket and ring?' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Certainly not,' replied the matron.

'Why are we brought here to answer to such nonsense as this?' Again Mr. Brownlow nodded to Mr. Grimwig; and again that gentleman limped away with extraordinary readiness.

But not again did he return with a stout man and wife; for this time, he led in two palsied women, who shook and tottered as they walked. 'You shut the door the night old Sally died,' said the foremost one, raising her shrivelled hand, 'but you couldn't shut out the sound, nor stop the chinks.' 'No, no,' said the other, looking round her and wagging her toothless jaws.

'No, no, no.' 'We heard her try to tell you what she'd done, and saw you take a paper from her hand, and watched you too, next day, to the pawnbroker's shop,' said the first. 'Yes,' added the second, 'and it was a "locket and gold ring." We found out that, and saw it given you.

We were by.

Oh! we were by.' 'And we know more than that,' resumed the first, 'for she told us often, long ago, that the young mother had told her that, feeling she should never get over it, she was on her way, at the time that she was taken ill, to die near the grave of the father of the child.' 'Would you like to see the pawnbroker himself?' asked Mr. Grimwig with a motion towards the door. 'No,' replied the woman; 'if he--she pointed to Monks--'has been coward enough to confess, as I see he has, and you have sounded all these hags till you have found the right ones, I have nothing more to say.

I _did_ sell them, and they're where you'll never get them.

What then?' 'Nothing,' replied Mr. Brownlow, 'except that it remains for us to take care that neither of you is employed in a situation of trust again.

You may leave the room.' 'I hope,' said Mr. Bumble, looking about him with great ruefulness, as Mr. Grimwig disappeared with the two old women: 'I hope that this unfortunate little circumstance will not deprive me of my porochial office?' 'Indeed it will,' replied Mr. Brownlow.

'You may make up your mind to that, and think yourself well off besides.' 'It was all Mrs. Bumble.

She _would_ do it,' urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round to ascertain that his partner had left the room. 'That is no excuse,' replied Mr. Brownlow.

'You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and indeed are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.' 'If the law supposes that,' said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, 'the law is a ass--a idiot.

If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience--by experience.' Laying great stress on the repetition of these two words, Mr. Bumble fixed his hat on very tight, and putting his hands in his pockets, followed his helpmate downstairs. 'Young lady,' said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Rose, 'give me your hand.

Do not tremble.

You need not fear to hear the few remaining words we have to say.' 'If they have--I do not know how they can, but if they have--any reference to me,' said Rose, 'pray let me hear them at some other time.

I have not strength or spirits now.' 'Nay,' returned the old gentlman, drawing her arm through his; 'you have more fortitude than this, I am sure.

Do you know this young lady, sir?' 'Yes,' replied Monks. 'I never saw you before,' said Rose faintly. 'I have seen you often,' returned Monks. 'The father of the unhappy Agnes had _two_ daughters,' said Mr. Brownlow.

'What was the fate of the other--the child?' 'The child,' replied Monks, 'when her father died in a strange place, in a strange name, without a letter, book, or scrap of paper that yielded the faintest clue by which his friends or relatives could be traced--the child was taken by some wretched cottagers, who reared it as their own.' 'Go on,' said Mr. Brownlow, signing to Mrs. Maylie to approach. 'Go on!' 'You couldn't find the spot to which these people had repaired,' said Monks, 'but where friendship fails, hatred will often force a way.

My mother found it, after a year of cunning search--ay, and found the child.' 'She took it, did she?' 'No.

The people were poor and began to sicken--at least the man did--of their fine humanity; so she left it with them, giving them a small present of money which would not last long, and promised more, which she never meant to send.

She didn't quite rely, however, on their discontent and poverty for the child's unhappiness, but told the history of the sister's shame, with such alterations as suited her; bade them take good heed of the child, for she came of bad blood; and told them she was illegitimate, and sure to go wrong at one time or other.

The circumstances countenanced all this; the people believed it; and there the child dragged on an existence, miserable enough even to satisfy us, until a widow lady, residing, then, at Chester, saw the girl by chance, pitied her, and took her home.

There was some cursed spell, I think, against us; for in spite of all our efforts she remained there and was happy.

I lost sight of her, two or three years ago, and saw her no more until a few months back.' 'Do you see her now?' 'Yes.

Leaning on your arm.' 'But not the less my niece,' cried Mrs. Maylie, folding the fainting girl in her arms; 'not the less my dearest child.

I would not lose her now, for all the treasures of the world.

My sweet companion, my own dear girl!' 'The only friend I ever had,' cried Rose, clinging to her. 'The kindest, best of friends.

My heart will burst.

I cannot bear all this.' 'You have borne more, and have been, through all, the best and gentlest creature that ever shed happiness on every one she knew,' said Mrs. Maylie, embracing her tenderly. 'Come, come, my love, remember who this is who waits to clasp you in his arms, poor child!

See here--look, look, my dear!' 'Not aunt,' cried Oliver, throwing his arms about her neck; 'I'll never call her aunt--sister, my own dear sister, that something taught my heart to love so dearly from the first!

Rose, dear, darling Rose!' Let the tears which fell, and the broken words which were exchanged in the long close embrace between the orphans, be sacred.

A father, sister, and mother, were gained, and lost, in that one moment.

Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but there were no bitter tears:

for even grief itself arose so softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections, that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all character of pain. They were a long, long time alone.

A soft tap at the door, at length announced that some one was without.

Oliver opened it, glided away, and gave place to Harry Maylie. 'I know it all,' he said, taking a seat beside the lovely girl. 'Dear Rose, I know it all.' 'I am not here by accident,' he added after a lengthened silence; 'nor have I heard all this to-night, for I knew it yesterday--only yesterday.

Do you guess that I have come to remind you of a promise?' 'Stay,' said Rose.

'You _do_ know all.' 'All.

You gave me leave, at any time within a year, to renew the subject of our last discourse.' 'I did.' 'Not to press you to alter your determination,' pursued the young man, 'but to hear you repeat it, if you would. I was to lay whatever of station or fortune I might possess at your feet, and if you still adhered to your former determination, I pledged myself, by no word or act, to seek to change it.' 'The same reasons which influenced me then, will influence me now,' said Rose firmly.

'If I ever owed a strict and rigid duty to her, whose goodness saved me from a life of indigence and suffering, when should I ever feel it, as I should to-night?

It is a struggle,' said Rose, 'but one I am proud to make; it is a pang, but one my heart shall bear.' 'The disclosure of to-night,'--Harry began. 'The disclosure of to-night,' replied Rose softly, 'leaves me in the same position, with reference to you, as that in which I stood before.' 'You harden your heart against me, Rose,' urged her lover. 'Oh Harry, Harry,' said the young lady, bursting into tears; 'I wish I could, and spare myself this pain.' 'Then why inflict it on yourself?' said Harry, taking her hand. 'Think, dear Rose, think what you have heard to-night.' 'And what have I heard!

What have I heard!' cried Rose. 'That a sense of his deep disgrace so worked upon my own father that he shunned all--there, we have said enough, Harry, we have said enough.' 'Not yet, not yet,' said the young man, detaining her as she rose.

'My hopes, my wishes, prospects, feeling:

every thought in life except my love for you:

have undergone a change.

I offer you, now, no distinction among a bustling crowd; no mingling with a world of malice and detraction, where the blood is called into honest cheeks by aught but real disgrace and shame; but a home--a heart and home--yes, dearest Rose, and those, and those alone, are all I have to offer.' 'What do you mean!' she faltered. 'I mean but this--that when I left you last, I left you with a firm determination to level all fancied barriers between yourself and me; resolved that if my world could not be yours, I would make yours mine; that no pride of birth should curl the lip at you, for I would turn from it.

This I have done.

Those who have shrunk from me because of this, have shrunk from you, and proved you so far right.

Such power and patronage:

such relatives of influence and rank:

as smiled upon me then, look coldly now; but there are smiling fields and waving trees in England's richest county; and by one village church--mine, Rose, my own!--there stands a rustic dwelling which you can make me prouder of, than all the hopes I have renounced, measured a thousandfold.

This is my rank and station now, and here I lay it down!'

* * * * * * * 'It's a trying thing waiting supper for lovers,' said Mr. Grimwig, waking up, and pulling his pocket-handkerchief from over his head. Truth to tell, the supper had been waiting a most unreasonable time.

Neither Mrs. Maylie, nor Harry, nor Rose (who all came in together), could offer a word in extenuation. 'I had serious thoughts of eating my head to-night,' said Mr. Grimwig, 'for I began to think I should get nothing else.

I'll take the liberty, if you'll allow me, of saluting the bride that is to be.' Mr. Grimwig lost no time in carrying this notice into effect upon the blushing girl; and the example, being contagious, was followed both by the doctor and Mr. Brownlow:

some people affirm that Harry Maylie had been observed to set it, orginally, in a dark room adjoining; but the best authorities consider this downright scandal:

he being young and a clergyman. 'Oliver, my child,' said Mrs. Maylie, 'where have you been, and why do you look so sad?

There are tears stealing down your face at this moment.

What is the matter?' It is a world of disappointment:

often to the hopes we most cherish, and hopes that do our nature the greatest honour. Poor Dick was dead!

(本章要解开好几个疑团,并议成一门只字不提财礼的亲事。)

在上一章叙述的事件发生之后两天,下午三点钟光景,奥立弗登上一辆旅行马车,朝着他出生的小城飞驶而去。和他同行的有梅莱夫人。露丝、贝德温太太,还有那位好心的大夫。布朗罗先生和一个隐名埋姓的人乘的是后边一辆驿车。

一路上,他们谈的不多。奥立弗激动得心里卜卜直跳,他不敢相信,无法整理自己的思绪,几乎连话都说不出来,几个同行的人受到的影响显然也几乎不在他之下,至少是一样。布朗罗先生在迫使孟可司招供之后,已经小心翼翼地把事情的实质告诉了他和那两位女士。尽管大家都知道这次旅行的目的是要让一开始就很顺利的工作圆满结束,整个事情却仍然笼罩在疑云迷雾之中,足够使他们一直放心不下。

这位好心的朋友在罗斯伯力先生的帮助下,谨慎地切断了所有的消息渠道,让他们无法得知最近发生的种种可怕的事件。他说:“一点不假,要不了多久他们准会知道的,那也比目前好一些,反正不会更糟。”于是乎,他们一路上默不作声,各人都在琢磨把大家聚到一块儿来的这件事,谁也不愿意把萦绕在心头的想法说出来。

如果说,当马车沿着奥立弗从未见过的一条大路朝他的出生地驶去的时候,奥立弗在这些思绪影响下还能一直保持沉默的话,到了他们折进他曾徒步走过的那条路——他当时是一个可怜的流浪儿,上无片瓦,无家可归,又没有朋友相助——有多少往事涌进他的记忆,又有多少复杂的感触在他胸中苏醒过来。

“瞧那儿,那儿!”奥立弗急切地抓住露丝的手,指着车窗外边,嚷着说。“那个阻挡牲口的栅栏是我爬过的,我偷偷地在那些篱笆后边走,生怕有人照我扑过来,把我抓回去。再过去有一条小路穿过田野,通往我小时候呆过的老房子。啊,狄克,狄克,亲爱的老朋友,真想现在就能见到他!”

“你很快就要见到他了,”露丝轻轻握住他合在一块儿的小手,答道。“你可以告诉他,你变得多么幸福,多么富有,告诉他,在一切幸福当中,你最大的幸福就是回来让他也得到幸福。”

“是啊,是啊。”奥立弗说道,“我们还要——我们把他从这儿带走,给他新衣服穿,教他念书,还要送他到乡下安静的地方,让他长得非常结实——对吗?”

露丝只是点了点头,那孩子流淌着幸福的泪水,她一时说不出话来。

“你一定会对他非常好的,因为你对每个人都是那样,”奥立弗说道,“听到他讲的事,我知道,会让你大哭一场。可是不要紧,不要紧的,一切都会过去——这我知道 ——想到他会有多么大的变化,你又会笑起来的,你对我就是这样的。我逃走的时候,他对我说‘上帝保佑你’,”奥立弗哭喊着,内心的感情迸发出来,“现在,该我说‘上帝保信你’了,我还要告诉他,因为这句话,我是多么爱他。”

他们终于到了镇上,马车行驶在狭窄的街道上,这时要让奥立弗不要过于兴奋竟成了一件相当困难的事情。那边是苏尔伯雷的棺材铺,跟过去一模一样,只是看上去比他记忆中的要小一些,也没有那么威风了——还是那些早已熟知的店铺和房子,其中的几乎每一家他都去办过一些小事——那是甘菲尔的大车,就是这辆车,停在那家老字号的酒馆门口——那就是济贫院,他童年时代可怕的牢笼,它那些黑洞洞的窗户好像正愁眉苦脸地望着街上——站在大门口的还是那个瘦弱的看门人,奥立弗一看见他便不由自主地往后一缩,接着又笑自已竟会蠢到这种地步,哭了一阵子,又笑了——门口和窗口有许多面孔都是他十分熟悉的——差不多每一样东西都在,就好像他不过是昨天才离开这里,而他整个的新生活只是一场美梦罢了。

然而,这完全是不折不扣的、令人愉快的现实。他们照直开往那家头号旅馆的门口(奥立弗以前就诚惶诚恐地瞻仰过这家旅馆,以为它是一座巍峨的宫殿,可现在不知怎么的就不如以前那样堂皇、雄伟了)。在这里,格林维格先生做好了接待他们的一切准备。他们走下马车,他吻了吻露丝小姐,又吻了一下老太太,仿佛他是所有人的老爷爷一样。他笑容满面,和蔼可亲,没有提到要把自己的脑袋吃下去——是的,他一次也没有打这个赌,哪怕是在和一位老资格的邮差争论走哪条路去伦敦最近的时候也没有提起,他一口咬定自己才最清楚,尽管那条路他只走过一次,而那一次又睡得很沉。晚餐己经开出,卧室收拾停当,一切都像变戏法似地安排好了。

尽管如此,开初半小时的忙乱过去了,这时,他们一路上出现的那种沉默与拘谨又蔓延开来。布朗罗先生没和他们共进晚餐,而是单独呆在一个房间里。另外有两位绅士匆匆而来,又匆匆离去,两个人在那个短暂的间隔里也是在一旁交谈,神色十分焦虑。有一次,梅莱太太被叫了出去,过了差不多一个小时才回来,当时她的眼睛都哭肿了。露丝和奥立弗本来就对最近揭露出的秘密一无所知,现在又是这种情况,弄得他俩神经紧张,很是不安。他俩默默地坐着发愣。即使偶尔交谈几句,声音也压得很低,好像连他们自己的声音也害怕听见似的。

好容易到了九点钟,他们还以为当天晚上再也听不到什么消息的时候,罗斯伯力先生与格林维格先生走进房间,后边跟着布朗罗先生和一个男人,奥立弗一见此人便大吃一惊,险些叫出声来。原来这正是自己在集市上撞见,后来又看到跟费金一块儿打自己那间小屋的窗口往里张望的那个人。他们告诉他,这人是他的哥哥。孟可司将仇恨的目光投向惊奇不置的奥立弗,在门边坐了下来,即使到了现在,他也掩饰不住这种仇恨。布朗罗先生手里拿着几份文件,走到露丝和奥立弗已经端坐一旁的那张桌子跟前。

“这是一桩苦差事,”他说道,“这些声明本来已经在伦敦当着许多绅士的面签过字了,可还是得在这儿把要点重申一下。我并不是存心要让你丢人现眼,不过,在大家分手以前,还得听你亲口念一遍,原因你是知道的。”

“说下去,”被点到的那个人把脸转到一边,说道,“快一点。我大概也做得差不多了,不要再为难我了。”

“这个孩子,”布朗罗先生把奥立弗拉到身旁,一只手搭在他的头上,说道,“是你的异母兄弟。是你父亲、我的好朋友埃德温·黎福特的非婚生儿子,可怜他母亲,小艾格尼丝·弗莱明,生下他就死了。”

“是啊,”孟可司瞪眼怒视着颤栗不止的奥立弗,也许他已经听见那孩子的心在卜卜直跳。“那正是他们的私生子。”

“你用这个字眼,”布朗罗先生严厉地说,“是在侮辱那些早已超脱于世间的流言蜚语之外的人,除了你以外,不会使任何一个活着的人蒙受耻辱。这些都不提了。他是不是在这个镇上出生的?”

“在本镇的济贫院,”回答的口气相当阴沉,“你那儿不是写着嘛。”说话的时候,他不耐烦地指了指那些文件。

“我要在这儿证实一下。”布朗罗先生环顾着室内的听众,说道。

“那就听着!你们!”孟可司回答,“他父亲在罗马病倒后,他们夫妻早就分居了,他妻子,也就是我母亲,带着我从巴黎赶去——想料理一下他的财产。据我所知,她对他没什么感情,而他对我母亲也是一样。他一点也没认出我们,他已经失去知觉,一直昏昏沉沉,第二天就死了。他的书桌里放着一些文件,当中有两份是他刚发病的那天晚上写的,封套上写着寄给你本人,”他转向布朗罗先生说道,“他给你写了短短几行就封起来,文件封套上还有一个说明,要等到他死了以后才发出去。那些文件当中有一封信,是给那个名叫艾格尼丝的姑娘的,另一个是份遗嘱。”

“信是怎么写的?”布朗罗先生问道。

“信?——只有一张纸,上边涂了又涂,有忏悔的告白,有祈求上帝拯救她的祷告。他向那姑娘编了一段假话,说他有一个不为人知的秘密——总有一天会揭开的——所以自己当时没有娶她。她还是一如既往,对他深信不疑,直到信任过了头,失去了谁也无法再交还给她的东西。当时,她还有几个月就要分娩。他把自己的打算统统告诉了她,只要他还活着,就不会让她名誉扫地。万一他死了,也求她不要诅咒他的亡灵,或者认为他们的罪孽会给她或是他们幼小的孩子招来惩罚,因为一切罪过都是他的。他提醒她别忘了自己某一天送给她的那个小金盒和那枚戒指。戒指上边刻有她的名字,旁边留下的空白准备刻上他希望有朝一日能奉献给她的姓氏——求她把盒子保存好,挂在贴胸的地方,就像从前一样——接下来还是那些话,一遍一遍,疯疯癫癫地重复,像是神经错乱似的。他脑子肯定出毛病了。”

“说说遗嘱的情况。”布朗罗先生说道,奥立弗此时已是泪如泉涌。

孟可司一言不发。

“遗嘱的大意和那封信是一样的,”布朗罗先生替他说道,“上边谈到了妻子给他带来的不幸,还谈到你顽劣的性格,歹毒的心肠和过早形成的邪恶欲望,你是他唯一的儿子,可你受到的调教就是仇恨自己的父亲。他给你和你母亲各留下了八百英镑的年金。他把大部分财产分为相等的两份:一份给艾格尼丝·弗莱明,另一份给他们的孩子,只要孩子能平安生下来,并达到法定成年期。假如是个女孩,那笔钱的继承是无条件的。但如果是男孩,就有一个条件,就是说,他在未成年期间绝对不能以任何不名誉的、下作的、怯懦的或是违法的行为玷污他的姓氏。他说,立下这样的遗嘱,是为了表明他对孩子母亲的信任和他自己的信念——随着死亡的逼近,这种信念反而增强了——他相信孩子一定会继承她高尚的心胸和品性。万一他希望落空,到时候这笔钱就归你,因为到了那个时候,也只有到了两个儿子都成了一路货的时候,他才承认你有权优先申请他的财产,而你过去没把任何人放在心上,从小就以冷漠和厌恶来打击他。”

“我母亲,”孟可司提高了嗓门, “做了一个女人应该做的事。她烧掉了这份遗嘱。那封信也永远到不了收信人手里。她把那封信和别的一些证据留下了,担心他们俩会想尽办法赖掉这桩丑事。那姑娘的父亲从我母亲那里知道了真相,她怀着刻骨仇恨——我到现在还为此而爱她——尽量夸张,火上浇油。那个作父亲的遭到这样的羞辱,便带着两个女儿躲到威尔士一个偏僻的角落,甚至改名换姓,叫那班朋友压根儿打听不到他隐居的地方,在那儿,没过多久就发现他死在床上。几个星期以前,那姑娘已经悄悄离家出走了。那个作父亲的去找过她,双脚走遍了附近的每一个村镇。就在回到家里的那天晚上,他认定女儿自杀了,为的是掩盖她自己的羞愧和父亲的耻辱,他那颗老年人的心也碎了。”

房间里一片沉寂。稍停,布朗罗先生接上了故事的线索。

“几年以后,”他说道,“这个人——爱德华·黎福特——的母亲来找我。儿子才十八岁,就把她的珠宝和现款席卷而去。他赌博成性,漫天使钱,造假作弊,后来逃到伦敦去了。他在伦敦最最下流的社会渣滓当中鬼混了两年。他母亲得了一种痛苦的不治之症,身体一天不如一天,却还指望临死以前把儿子找回来。她派人四处打听,仔细寻访,很长一段时间都没有结果,但最后还是找到了。他就跟着他母亲去了法国。”

“她的病一直拖着,后来死在法国,”孟可司说道,“临终时,她把这些秘密,连同她对这些秘密牵涉到的每一个人的仇恨,那种压抑不住的刻骨仇恨,一块儿传给了我——尽管她犯不着这样做,因为我早就继承下来了。她不相信那姑娘会自杀,连孩子一块儿毁了,却总感觉有一个男孩生下来了,并且还活着。我向她发誓,只要一碰上小家伙,我就要穷追到底,让他一刻也不得安宁,一定要狠狠地收拾他,决不手软,我要把满腹的仇恨发泄在他头上,如果办得到的话,我要一直把他拖到绞刑架下,往那份侮辱人的遗嘱上吐唾沫,那上边全是空口瞎吹的大话。她没说错。我终于碰上他了。开头还挺不错,要不是因为那个满口胡话的婊子,我已经把事办妥了。”

这恶棍紧抱双臂,怀着无处发泄的怨恨,嘟嘟哝哝地咒骂自己无能。布朗罗先生转过身来,在座的一个个听得心惊肉跳,他解释说,犹太人费金向来就是他盂可司的老搭档、知心人,得到很大一笔酬金,条件就是将奥立弗引入陷阱,万一他被救出去了,必须退还部分报酬,两人在这个问题上曾发生争执,也才有了他们的乡村别墅之行,目的是为了认定那是不是奥立弗。

“小金盒和戒指呢?”布朗罗先生转向孟可司,问道。

“我从我告诉过你的那一男一女那儿把东西买下来了,他们是从看护那儿偷来的,看护又是从死人身上偷去的,”孟可司眼睛都没有抬一下,答道,“后来的情况你已经知道了。”

布朗罗先生朝格林维格先生略一点头,后者极为敏捷地走出去,很快又带着两个人回来了,前边推着的是邦布尔太太,后边拖着的是她的满心不乐意的丈夫。

“我该不是眼花了吧。”邦布尔先生大叫一声,故作热情的表演实在拙劣,“那不是小奥立弗吗?哦,奥——立——弗,你不知道我多替你难过——”

“住嘴,蠢货!”邦布尔太太咕哝了一句。

“这是人之常情,人之常情,邦布尔太太,不是吗?”济贫院院长另有看法,“我就不能感到高兴——是我代表教区把他带大了——现在看见他和这些非常和蔼可亲的女十先生们在一起,我能不高兴吗?我一直很喜欢那个孩子,就好像他是我的——我的——我的亲爷爷一样,”邦布尔先生顿了一下,才找到这样一个恰当的比方, “奥立弗少爷,我亲爱的,你还记不记得那位好福气的白背心绅士?啊他上礼拜升天了,用了一口栎木棺材,把手是镀金的,奥立弗。”

“得了吧,老兄,”格林维格先生尖刻地说,“克制一下你的感情。”

“先生,我尽量就是了,”邦布尔先生回答,“你好吗,先生?希望你非常之健康。”

这一问候是冲着布朗罗先生发出的,因为他已经走到离这可敬的一对儿很近的地方。他指了一下孟可司,问道:“你们认识那个人吗?”

“不认识。”邦布尔太太矢口否认。

“你可能也不认识吧?”布朗罗先生问她的老公。

“我一辈子也没见过他。”邦布尔先生说。

“或许,也不曾把什么东西卖给他?”

“没有。”邦布尔太太回答。

“或许,你们根本就不曾有过一个小金盒和一只戒指吧?”

“那还用说。”女总管答道,“你干吗把我们带到这儿,是来回答诸如此类胡扯的吗?”

布朗罗先生又一次朝格林维格先生点了点头,那位绅士又一次一瘸一拐地走了出去,动作异常敏捷。这一次他带回来的不是一对身强体壮的夫妻,而是两个患病风症的老太婆,她俩摇摇晃晃地走进来,浑身直哆嗦。

“老沙而死的那个晚上,你关上了门,”走在前边的一个颤巍巍地抬起一只手,说道,“可你关不住响声,也堵不住门缝。”

“说得对,说得对,”另一个望望四周,努了努她那没有牙齿的嘴巴,说道,“说得对。”

“我们听见老沙丽拼命想把她干的好事告诉你,瞧见你从她手中接过一张纸,第二天我们还盯你的梢,看见你走进当铺去了。”头一个说。

“是啊,”第二个补充说,“那是‘一个小金盒和一枚戒指’。我们都打听清楚了,看见东西交给了你。我们当时就在旁边。哦!就在旁边。”

“我们知道的可不光是那档子事,”头一个接着说道,“很久以前,她就经常向我们说起,那个年轻妈妈对她讲过,她感到自己熬不过去了,她本来要到孩子他爸的坟跟前去,死也要死在那里,不曾想路上病倒了。”

“你们要不要见一见当铺老板本人?”格林维格先生做了一个要往门口去的动作,问道。

“不,”女总管回答,“既然他——”她指了指孟可司——“胆小鬼,他居然承认了,我看他什么都招了,你又向这些丑八怪都打听过,找到了这两个合适的证人,我也没什么多说的。我的确把那两样东西给卖了;东西你是永远也找不着的了,那又怎么样?”

“不怎么样,”布朗罗先生答道,“不过有件事倒是需要我们过问一下,你们俩今后再也不能担任负责的职务了。你们可以走了。”

“我希望,”格林维格先生带着两个老妇人出去了,邦布尔先生看看四周,哭丧着脸说,“我希望,不至于因为这一件不幸的小事革掉我的教区公职,是吗?”

“革职是免不了的,”布朗罗先生回答,“你还是死了那条心吧,这对你们已经很便宜了。”

“这全怪邦布尔太太,她非要这么干。”邦布尔先生先回头望了一眼,确信自己的搭档已经离开房间,这才连称冤枉。

“这不成其为理由,”布朗罗先生答道,“销毁那两件首饰的时候,你在场,而且照法律的眼光来看,两者之中,你的罪责的确更严重。因为法律认为你妻子的行为是受你的指使。”

“要是法律这样认为,”邦布尔先生把帽子夹在两只手中间使劲地搓,说道,“法律就是一头蠢驴——一个白痴,如果这就是法律的眼光,那么法律准是个单身汉。我但愿法律落到最坏的下场,只有亲身体验过了,睁开眼睛了,才明白丈夫能不能支配妻子——这要靠亲身体验。”

邦布尔先生加重语气,把最后几个字重复了一遍,紧紧地戴上帽子,双手插在口袋里,跟着他的贤内助下楼去了。

“小姐,”布朗罗先生转向露丝说道,“把手伸给我。不要发抖。你用不着害怕,听一听我们不得不讲的最后几句话。”

“你的话要是和我有关——我不知道这怎么可能,可如果——还是另找时间告诉我吧。我现在既没有力气,也打不起精神。”

“不,”老先生挽起她的胳臂,回答说,“我相信你的毅力不止这么一点。先生,你认识这位小姐吗?”

“认识。”孟可司回答。

“我从来没见过你。”露丝有气无力地回答。

“我经常看见你。”孟可司答道。

“不幸的艾格尼丝,她父亲有两个女儿,”布朗罗先先生说道,“另外一个命运如何——那个小女儿?”

“那个小女儿,”孟可司回答,“当时她父亲死在异乡,用的又是一个陌生的名字,没有留下一封信,一个本子,一张纸片,没留下一点点线索可以用来查找他的朋友或亲属——那孩子叫一户穷苦农民领走了,他们把孩子当成自个儿的收养下来。”

“说下去,”布朗罗先生说道,朝梅莱太太递了个眼色,要她上前边来,“说啊。”

“那户人家后来搬走了,你就是去找也是找不到的,”孟可司说道,“不过,在友谊无能为力的地方,仇恨往往大行其道。我母亲经过一年的明查暗访,找到了那个地方——嘿,并且找到了那个孩子。”

“她把孩子带走了?”

“没有。那家人很穷,已经开始对自己的善心有点烦了——至少那个男的是如此。因此,我母亲要他们把孩子留下,给了他们一点钱,那点钱也维持不了多久,答应以后再寄些钱来,她根本就没打算再寄。不过她还是不太放心,生怕他们那些个牢骚和穷困把孩子整得不够惨,我母亲就把她姐姐的丑事抖落出去,说的时候想怎么编就怎么编,嘱咐他们对那孩子要提防着点,因为她出身下贱。还说她是个私生子,将来什么时候肯定会走上邪路。所有这些话和实际情况全都吻合,他们就相信了。孩子在那儿活得很凄惨,连我们都感到满意,后来,一位当时住在契斯特的富孀偶然看见了那个女孩子,觉得她怪可怜的,才把她带到自己家里。我总觉得这中间有某种该死的魔力在跟我们作对。我们虽然什么办法都想尽了,可她始终呆在那儿,日子过得挺快活。我没看见她有两三年了,直到几个月以前才又见到她。”

“你现在看见她了吗?”

“看见了。就靠在你肩上。”

“可跟我自己的孩子也差不离啊。”梅莱太太一把抱住马上就要晕厥过去的露丝姑娘,大声说道,“一点也不比我最宝贝的孩子差。就是把世上的一切财富都给我,我也不会丢下她,我可爱的伙伴,我的宝贝妞妞。”

“你一直就是我唯一的亲人,”露丝依偎着她,哭喊道,“最体贴,最要好的朋友。我的心都要炸开了,这一切我真承受不起了。”

“更多的事你都承受住了,你一向就是最善良、最温柔的姑娘,总是把幸福抛给认识的每一个人,”梅莱太太慈爱地抱住她,说道,“来,过来啊,我的宝贝,想想是谁还等着把你搂在怀里,苦命的孩子。瞧这儿——你瞧,他来了,我亲爱的。”

“你不是姨妈,”’奥立弗伸出双臂,搂住露丝的脖子,喊叫着。“我永远也不叫她姨妈——我要叫姐姐,我亲爱的好姐姐,一开始就有个什么东西在教我,我的心才爱得这样深。露丝,可亲可爱的露丝姐姐。”

两个孤儿长时间地紧紧拥抱,泪水滚滚流淌,相互讲出一些不连贯的话语,让我们将这些泪水和话语献给上帝吧。转瞬之间,他俩都知道了各自的父亲、姐姐、母亲是谁。欢乐与忧伤交汇在命运的杯子里,然而其中绝没有辛酸的眼泪:因为就连忧伤本身也已冲淡,又裹在了那样甜蜜、亲切的回忆之中,失去了所有的苦涩,成了一种庄严的快慰。

有很长很长一段时间,屋子里只剩下他们俩。门上轻轻响起一阵敲门声,告诉他们门外有人。奥立弗打开门,溜了出去,让哈利·梅莱取代了他的位置。

“我什么都知道了,”他在心爱的姑娘身边坐下,说道,“亲爱的露丝,一切我都知道了。”

“我不是偶然上这儿来的,”在一阵长时间的沉默之后,他又说道,“也不是今天晚上才听说这一切,我昨天就知道了——也不过就是昨天。你猜到了,我来是要向你重提一个许诺的,对吗?”

“等一等,”露丝说道,“你到底还是什么都明白了。”

“一切都明白了。你答应过我,一年之内的任何时间重提我们最后一次谈到的事情。”

“我答应过。”

“我不是要逼迫你改变主意,”年轻人苦苦相劝,“只是想听你重复一遍,如果你愿意的话。我说过,无论我能够获得何种地位或是财产,都要统统放在你的脚下,要是你依然固守从前的决定,我亲口起过誓,决不用言语或者行动去想法加以改变。”

“当初影响我的那些理由,现在同样影响着我,”露丝坚定地说,“你母亲一片好心,把我从贫穷苦难的生活中救出来,如果说我对她负有一种不可忽视的责任,我的感觉还有什么时候能像今天晚上这样强烈?这是一场斗争,”露丝说道,“但却是我引为骄傲的一场斗争。这是一种痛苦,但我的心甘愿承受。”

“今晚揭露的真相——”哈利又想说话。

“今晚揭露的真相,”露丝轻声接过话头,“对于你的问题,仍然没有改变我以前所坚持的立场。”

“你对我真是狠心,露丝。”她的心上人急了。

“哦,哈利,哈利,”年轻的姑娘失声痛哭,“我多么想由我自己来承担这种痛苦,可我做不到。”

“你干吗要让痛苦来折磨你自己?”哈利握住她的一只手,说道,“想想吧,亲爱的露丝,想一想你今晚听到的事。”

“我听见什么了!我听见什么了!”露丝哭喊着,“无非是说,我的亲生父亲因为受不了奇耻大辱而避开所有的人——行了,我们说得够多了,哈利,说得够多了。”

“不,还没有,还没有,”露丝站起来,年轻人拦住了她,说道,“我的希望,我的抱负,前程,感情——我对生活的所有看法都发生了变化,只有我对你的爱情没有变。现在,我要奉献给你的,绝非芸芸众生之间的显赫名声,也不是和充满怨恨与诽谤的世道同流合污,在这个世道,正直的人抬不起头,往往并不是因为他们真正干了什么可耻的事。我献给你的不过是一个家——一颗心和一个家——是的,最最亲爱的露丝,我能够奉献给你的是这些,只有这些。”

“你这是什么意思?”她结结巴巴地说。

“我的意思无非是——我前次离开你的时候,作出了一个无可改变的决定,我要填平你我之间凭空想像出来的一切鸿沟。我横下一条心,如果我的天地不能成为你的天地,就把你的天地变成我的天地,决不让你受到门第观念的撤嘴嘲笑,因为我会抛弃它。这我已经做到了。那些因此而远离我的人也正是远离你的人,这证明你是对的。当初对我笑脸相迎的那些权贵、恩人,那些权势大、地位高的亲戚,现在对我冷眼相看。可是,在英格兰最富庶的一个郡里,有的是含笑的田野和随风摇曳的树林,有一所乡村教堂——那是我的教堂,露丝,我自己的——那里有一所带田园风味的房子,有了你,我会对这个家感到骄傲,看得比我所抛弃的一切希望还要骄傲一千倍。这就是我现在的身份和地位,我把这些都交给你!”

“等相爱的人一起共进晚餐可真叫人不好受。”格林维格先生从瞌睡中醒来,拉开盖在头上的手帕,说道。

说真的,晚餐已经开出来很久,耽误的时间长得超出情理。但无论是梅莱夫人,还是哈利、露丝(他们仨一块儿走了进来),都只字不提表示情有可原的话。

“今儿晚上我真恨不得把自己脑袋吃下去,”格林维格先生说,“因为我估计别的东西我是吃不着了。如果你们不反对的话,我可要不揣冒昧,吻一下未来的新娘表示祝贺。”

格林维格先生毫不迟疑,立刻将这一番警告付诸行动,吻了一下涨红了脸的露丝姑娘。在这个榜样的感染下,大夫和布朗罗先生二人也相继仿效。有人声称看见哈利·梅莱刚才在隔壁一间黑屋子首开先例。可是最具权威的人士认为这纯属诽谤,因为他还年轻,又是一位牧师。

“奥立弗,我的孩子,”梅莱太太说道,“你上哪儿去了,干吗你看上去那样伤心?这功夫眼泪还顺着脸偷偷淌个没完,出什么事了?”

这是一个希望动辄破灭的世界,对于我们极为珍视的希望,可以给我们的天性带来最高荣誉的希望,经常都是这样。

可怜的狄克死了。