فصل 14

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فصل 14

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

The end of the mystery

The next day Oliver travelled with Mr Brownlow, Dr Losberne, Mrs Maylie and Rose back to his birthplace. He had been told a little of his history, and knew that there would be more explanations at the end of this journey. He was anxious and uncertain, wondering what he would hear.

But towards the end of the journey, he began to recognize familiar places, and in great excitement pointed them out to Rose. There was the path he had taken when he had run away. There, across the fields, was the ‘baby farm’. Then, as they drove into the town, he saw the house of Mr Sowerberry the undertaker, and the workhouse that had been his prison.

They stopped at the biggest hotel in the town, and went into their rooms. During dinner Mr Brownlow stayed in a separate room, and the older members of the group went in and out with serious faces. Mrs Maylie came back with her eyes red from crying. All this made Rose and Oliver, who had not been told any new secrets, very nervous and uncomfortable.

At nine o’clock Dr Losberne and Mr Brownlow brought Monks into the room. Oliver was very surprised; this was the same man he had bumped into once outside a pub, and seen another time with Fagin, looking in at him through the window of the country cottage. Oliver was told that Monks was his halt-brother, and the boy stared at him in shock and amazement. Monks looked back at him with hatred.

‘We have the whole story here in these papers,’ said Mr Brownlow, putting them on the table. ‘All we need now is for you to sign them, Monks. And to tell Oliver what happened.’

Monks started hesitantly. My father had arrived in Italy to collect the money he had inherited, when suddenly he fell ill. When he died, we found two papers in his desk. One was a letter to his girl; the other was a will.’

‘What was the letter?’ asked Mr Brownlow.

‘It was written when he was ill, telling the girl how ashamed he was that she was pregnant. He asked her not to remember him as a bad man but as someone who had made a mistake. He reminded her of the day he’d given her the locket and ring.’

Oliver’s tears fell fast as he listened to the story of his father.

‘And what about the will?’ asked Mr Brownlow.

Monks was silent.

‘The will’, continued Mr Brownlow, speaking for him, ‘was in the same spirit as the letter. He talked of the misery of his marriage to his wife, and the evil character of you, Monks, his only son, who had been brought up by your mother to hate him. He left you and your mother an annual income of 800 pound(s). The rest of his property he left to his girl Agnes and to their child, if it were born alive, and if it showed itself to be of a good, kind character. The money would only go to you, Monks, as the older son, if the younger turned out to be as evil as you.’

‘My mother’, said Monks, ‘burnt this will, and never sent the letter. The girl Agnes left her home in secret, so that her pregnancy would not bring shame on her family. I swore to my mother, when she was dying, that if I ever found my half-brother, I would do him all the harm I could. He would feel my hatred like a whip on his back. I paid Fagin to trap Oliver into a life of crime. But then he escaped, and that stupid, interfering girl Nancy talked to you. If I’d had the chance, I would have finished what I’d begun.’ Monks stared at Oliver, and his lips moved in a silent curse.

‘And the locket and ring?’ asked Mr Brownlow.

‘I bought them from Mr and Mrs Bumble, who had stolen them from the nurse, who had stolen them from Agnes, the dead girl. I’ve already told you how I threw them into the river.’

Mr Brownlow turned to Rose. ‘I have one more thing to explain,’ he said to the girl.

‘I don’t know if I have the strength to hear it now,’ she murmured, ‘having heard so much already.’

Mr Brownlow put his hand under her arm. ‘You have a great deal of courage, dear child,’ he said kindly. He turned to Monks. ‘Do you know this young lady, sir?’

‘Yes.’

‘I don’t know you,’ said Rose faintly.

‘The father of poor Agnes had two daughters,’ said Mr Brownlow. ‘What happened to the other one, who was only a young child at the time?’

‘When Agnes disappeared,’ replied Monks, ‘her father changed his name and moved to a lonely place in Wales, where no one would know about the family shame. He died very soon afterwards, and this young daughter was taken in by some poor people. My mother hated Agnes and everybody connected with her. She hunted for this young sister, and made sure that her life would be unhappy. She told the poor people who had taken her in that the girl was illegitimate, and that she came from a bad family with an evil reputation. So the child led a life of miserable poverty - until Mrs Maylie saw her by chance, pitied her, and took her home.’

‘And do you see this young sister now?’ asked Mr Brownlow.

‘Yes. Standing by your side.’

Rose could hardly speak. ‘So… Oliver is my nephew?

‘I can never call you aunt,’ cried Oliver. ‘You’ll always be my own dear sister!’

They ran into each other’s arms, both of them crying in their happiness. A father, sister and mother had been lost and gained, and it was too much for one evening. They stood for a long time in silence, and the others left them alone.

The court was full of faces; from every corner, all eyes were on one man - Fagin. In front of him, behind, above, below - he seemed surrounded by staring eyes. Not one of the faces showed any sympathy towards him; all were determined that he should hang. At last, there was a cry of ‘Silence!’, and everyone looked towards the door. The jury returned, and passed close to Fagin. He could tell nothing from their faces; they could have been made of stone. Then there was complete stillness - not a whisper, not a breath… Guilty. The whole court rang with a great shout, echoing through all the rooms as the crowd ran out of the building to tell all the people waiting outside. The news was that he would die on Monday.

Fagin thought of nothing but death that night. He began to remember all the people he had ever known who had been hanged. He could hardly count them. They might have sat in the same prison cell as he was now. He thought about death by hanging - the rope, the cloth bag over the head, the sudden change from strong men to bundles of clothes, hanging at the end of a rope.

As his last night came, despair seized Fagin’s evil soul. He could not sit still, and hurried up and down his small cell, gasping with terror, his eyes flashing with hate and anger. Then he lay trembling on his stone bed and listened to the clock striking the hours. Where would he be when those hours came round again?

In the middle of that Sunday night, Mr Brownlow and Oliver were allowed to enter the prison. Several strong doors were unlocked, and eventually they entered Fagin’s cell. The old robber was sitting on the bed, whispering to himself, his face more like a trapped animal’s than a human’s.

‘You have some papers, Fagin,’ said Mr Brownlow quietly, ‘which were given to you by Monks to look after.’

‘It’s a lie!’ replied Fagin, not looking at him. ‘I haven’t got any.’

‘For the love of God,’ said Mr Brownlow, very seriously, ‘don’t lie to us now, on the night before your death. You know that Sikes is dead and Monks has confessed. Where are the papers?’

‘I’ll tell you, Oliver,’ said Fagin. ‘Come here.’ He whispered to him. ‘They’re in a bag up the chimney in the front room at the top of the house. But I want to talk to you, my dear.’

‘Yes,’ said Oliver. ‘Will you pray with me?’

‘Outside, outside,’ said Fagin, pushing the boy in front of him towards the door. ‘Say I’ve gone to sleep - they’ll believe you. You can take me out with you when you go.’ The old man’s eyes shone with a mad light.

‘It’s no good,’ said Mr Brownlow’, taking Oliver’s hand. ‘He’s gone too far, and we can never reach him now.’

The cell door opened, and as the visitors left, Fagin started struggling and fighting with his guards, screaming so loudly that the prison walls rang with the sound.

They left the prison building in the grey light of dawn. Outside in the street, huge crowds were already gathering, joking and laughing, and pushing to get the best places near the great black platform, where the rope hung ready for its morning’s work.

Less than three months later, Rose married Harry Maylie. For her sake. Harry had abandoned his political ambitions, and had become a simple man of the church. There was no longer any mystery about Rose’s birth, but even if there had been, Harry would not have cared. They lived next to the church in a peaceful village. Mrs Maylie went to live with them, and spent the rest of her days in quiet contentment.

Mr Brownlow adopted Oliver as his son. They moved to a house in the same quiet village, and were just as happy. Dr Losberne discovered suddenly that the air in Chertsey did not suit him. In less than three months he, too, had moved -to a cottage just outside the village, where he took up gardening and fishing with great energy and enthusiasm.

Mr Brownlow suggested that half the remaining money from the will should be given to Monks and the other half to Oliver, although by law it should all have gone to Oliver alone. Oliver was glad to accept the suggestion. Monks went off with his money to the other side of the world, where he spent it quickly and was soon in prison for another act of fraud. In prison he became ill and died. The remaining members of Fagin’s gang died in similar ways in other distant countries, all except Charley Bates, who turned his back on his past life of crime and lived honestly, as a farmer.

Noah Claypole was given a free pardon for telling the police about Fagin. He soon became employed as an informer for the police, spying on people and telling the police about anyone who had broken the law. Mr and Mrs Bumble lost their jobs and became poorer and poorer, eventually living in poverty in the same workhouse that they had once managed.

In that quiet country village, the years passed peacefully. Mr Brownlow filled the mind of his adopted son with knowledge, and as he watched the boy grow up, he was reminded more and more of his old friend, Oliver’s father. The two orphans, Rose and Oliver, led lives that were truly happy. The hardships that they had once suffered had left no bitterness in their gentle souls, and all their lives they showed the mercy and kindness to others that God himself shows to all things that breathe.

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