RELATES WHAT OLIVER'S NEW VISITORS THOUGHT OF HIM
With many loquacious assurances that they would be agreeably surprised in the aspect of
the criminal, the doctor drew the young lady's arm through one of him; and offering his
disengaged hand to Mrs. Maylie, led them, with much ceremony and stateliness, upstairs.
'Now,' said the doctor, in a whisper, as he softly turned the handle of a bedroom-door, 'let
us hear what you think of him. He has not been shaved very recently, but he don't look at
all ferocious notwithstanding. Stop, though! Let me first see that he is in visiting order.'
Stepping before them, he looked into the room. Motioning them to advance, he closed the
door when they had entered; and gently drew back the curtains of the bed. Upon it, in lieu
of the dogged, black-visaged ruffian they had expected to behold, there lay a mere child:
worn with pain and exhaustion, and sunk into a deep sleep. His wounded arm, bound and
splintered up, was crossed upon his breast; his head reclined upon the other arm, which
was half hidden by his long hair, as it streamed over the pillow.
The honest gentleman held the curtain in his hand, and looked on, for a minute or so, in
silence. Whilst he was watching the patient thus, the younger lady glided softly past, and
seating herself in a chair by the bedside, gathered Oliver's hair from his face. As she
stooped over him, her tears fell upon his forehead.
The boy stirred, and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassion
had awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection he had never known. Thus, a
strain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower,
or the mention of a familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of
scenes that never were, in this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory
of a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened; which no voluntary
exertion of the mind can ever recall.
'What can this mean?' exclaimed the elder lady. 'This poor child can never have been the
pupil of robbers!'
'Vice,' said the surgeon, replacing the curtain, 'takes up her abode in many temples; and
who can say that a fair outside shell not enshrine her?'
'But at so early an age!' urged Rose.
'My dear young lady,' rejoined the surgeon, mournfully shaking his head; 'crime, like
death, is not confined to the old and withered alone. The youngest and fairest are too
often its chosen victims.'
'But, can you--oh! can you really believe that this delicate boy has been the voluntary
associate of the worst outcasts of society?' said Rose.