No, surely, said the old lady; my days are drawing to their close; and may mercy be shown to me as I show it to others! What can I do to save him, sir?
Let me think, ma'am, said the doctor; let me think.
Mr. Losberne thrust his hands into his pockets, and took several turns up and down the room; often stopping, and balancing himself on his toes, and frowning frightfully. After various exclamations of I've got it now and no, I haven't, and as many renewals of the walking and frowning, he at length made a dead halt, and spoke as follows:
I think if you give me a full and unlimited commission to bully Giles, and that little boy, Brittles, I can manage it. Giles is a faithful fellow and an old servant, I know; but you can make it up to him in a thousand ways, and reward him for being such a good shot besides. You don't object to that?
Unless there is some other way of preserving the child, replied Mrs. Maylie.
There is no other, said the doctor. No other, take my word for it.
Then my aunt invests you with full power, said Rose, smiling through her tears; but pray don't be harder upon the poor fellows than is indispensably necessary.
You seem to think, retorted the doctor, that everybody is disposed to be hard-hearted to-day, except yourself, Miss Rose. I only hope, for the sake of the rising male sex generally, that you may be found in as vulnerable and softhearted a mood by the first eligible young fellow who appeals to your compassion; and I wish I were a young fellow, that I might avail myself, on the spot, of such a favourable opportunity for doing so, as the present.
You are as great a boy as poor Brittles himself, returned Rose, blushing.
Well, said the doctor, laughing heartily, that is no very difficult matter. But to return to this boy. The great point of our agreement is yet to come. He will wake in an hour or so, I dare say; and although I have told that thickheaded constable-fellow down stairs that he mustn't be moved or spoken to, on peril of his life, I think we may converse with him without danger. Now I make this stipulation that I shall examine him in your presence, and that, if, from what he says, we judge, and I can show to the satisfaction of your cool reason, that he is a real and thorough bad one (which is more than possible), he shall be left to his fate, without any farther interference on my part, at all events.
Oh no, aunt! entreated Rose.
Oh yes, aunt! said the doctor. Is it a bargain?
He cannot be hardened in vice, said Rose; It is impossible.
Very good, retorted the doctor; then so much the more reason for acceding to my proposition.
Finally the treaty was entered into; and the parties thereunto sat down to wait, with some impatience, until Oliver should awake.
The patience of the two ladies was destined to undergo a longer trial than Mr. Losberne had led them to expect; for hour after hour passed on, and still Oliver slumbered heavily. It was evening, indeed, before the kind-hearted doctor brought them the intelligence, that he was at length sufficiently restored to be spoken to. The boy was very ill, he said, and weak from the loss of blood; but his mind was so troubled with anxiety to disclose something, that he deemed it better to give him the opportunity, than to insist upon his remaining quiet until next morning: which he should otherwise have done.
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