Oliver Twist HTML version

Chapter 40
The girl's life had been squandered in the streets, and among the most noisome of the
stews and dens of London, but there was something of the woman's original nature left in
her still; and when she heard a light step approaching the door opposite to that by which
she had entered, and thought of the wide contrast which the small room would in another
moment contain, she felt burdened with the sense of her own deep shame, and shrunk as
though she could scarcely bear the presence of her with whom she had sought this
But struggling with these better feelings was pride,--the vice of the lowest and most
debased creatures no less than of the high and self-assured. The miserable companion of
thieves and ruffians, the fallen outcast of low haunts, the associate of the scourings of the
jails and hulks, living within the shadow of the gallows itself,--even this degraded being
felt too proud to betray a feeble gleam of the womanly feeling which she thought a
weakness, but which alone connected her with that humanity, of which her wasting life
had obliterated so many, many traces when
a very child.
She raised her eyes sufficiently to observe that the figure which presented itself was that
of a slight and beautiful girl; then, bending them on the ground, she tossed her head with
affected carelessness as she said:
'It's a hard matter to get to see you, lady. If I had taken offence, and gone away, as many
would have done, you'd have been sorry for it one day, and not without reason either.'
'I am very sorry if any one has behaved harshly to you,' replied Rose. 'Do not think of
that. Tell me why you wished to see me. I am the person you inquired for.'
The kind tone of this answer, the sweet voice, the gentle manner, the absence of any
accent of haughtiness or displeasure, took the girl completely by surprise, and she burst
into tears.
'Oh, lady, lady!' she said, clasping her hands passionately before her face, 'if there was
more like you, there would be fewer like me,--there would--there would!'
'Sit down,' said Rose, earnestly. 'If you are in poverty or affliction I shall be truly glad to
relieve you if I can,--I shall indeed. Sit down.'
'Let me stand, lady,' said the girl, still weeping, 'and do not speak to me so kindly till you
know me better. It is growing late. Is--is--that door shut?'
'Yes,' said Rose, recoiling a few steps, as if to be nearer assistance in case she should
require it. 'Why?'