Summary and Analysis
One warm evening, after Oliver and the ladies have returned from their customary stroll, Rose is overcome by a fit of uncontrollable weeping. She makes a courageous effort to compose herself but is soon forced to admit: "I fear I am ill, aunt." Yet as the girl goes to her room, she seems to have rallied somewhat. Nevertheless, Mrs. Maylie feels certain that her niece's condition is serious and will become worse. The worried old lady tries to control herself.
The next morning, Rose is in the grip of a dangerous fever. Mrs. Maylie writes two letters. One, summoning Mr. Losberne from Chertsey, is to be sent at once, but she decides to wait before sending the other, addressed to "Harry Maylie, Esquire."
Oliver takes the Losberne letter and speeds four miles through the fields to the nearest village. At the inn, the message to the doctor is entrusted to a special express rider.
As Oliver hurries away, he accidentally collides with a tall man wearing a cloak. The stranger snarls at the boy and then falls down in convulsions. Oliver calls help, and the man is carried into the inn. The distress at the cottage of Rose's illness drives the incident from Oliver's mind.
Rose is much worse, and the local practitioner has given her up. Before midnight, the girl becomes delirious. Oliver spends a night filled with suspense and terror. The following day is a time of anxious waiting. Mr. Losberne comes but can only commiserate: "It is hard; so young; so much beloved; but there is very little hope."
The next day, Oliver sits in the local graveyard and prays for Rose. It seems incredible that one so young and good should die while on all sides vibrant life thrives under the sunny sky. But the paradox is confirmed by the sound of the church bell tolling for the funeral of some other young person. The sorrowing boy returns home and joins Mrs. Maylie's vigil in the parlor. The patient is in a deep sleep that will end either in death or recovery. Hours later, Mr. Losberne enters to announce that Rose has survived the crisis and will live.
Oliver goes outdoors and relieves the strain of anxiety with a flood of tears. A post-chaise comes up the road at full speed. The horses are stopped and Giles bellows out of the window at Oliver for news. The boy convinces him and the other passenger, Mrs. Maylie's son Harry, that Rose is out of danger.
As he greets his mother, Harry reproaches her for not writing sooner, for the old lady had not sent her letter to him until Mr. Losberne had stated his opinion. Harry now tells his mother about his deep and unshakable love for Rose. Mrs. Maylie responds by expressing her belief that the most devoted attachment is vulnerable if the wife, even though innocent, is open to scandal. This has no effect on Harry, who brushes all argument aside and vows that he will declare his feelings to Rose within two days. Now the old lady reminds him that Rose may refuse him on account of "her doubtful birth."
Mr. Losberne teases Giles a bit in his characteristic manner and then takes the butler aside to confide to him that Mrs. Maylie had deposited twenty-five pounds in a bank for him in recognition of his brave conduct on the night the robbery was foiled. The entire household pass the evening in a spirit of good-natured gratitude.
The next day, Oliver finds the world once again happy and colorful. He is no longer alone on his morning excursions but is accompanied by Harry, who energetically gathers flowers for Rose.
Being left more to himself now, Oliver applies himself diligently to his studies. One evening, after an active day, he begins to doze over his book. In a half-awake state, he dreams that he is in Fagin's house again. In the dream, Fagin points at Oliver, seeming to say to another man with him, "It is he, sure enough." The other man agrees words of fierce hatred. Oliver awakens in a fright. There at the ground-floor window stand Fagin and the man Oliver had encountered in the inn yard. Mutual recognition is instantaneous. The sinister pair vanish as Oliver calls for help.
Harry Maylie responds to Oliver's alarm and crosses the hedge to run after the intruders. Giles and Mr. Losberne join the chase. But the fugitives cannot be seen, and there is no trace of their movements. Darkness forces abandonment of the search. Giles makes a futile attempt in the village to pick up clues about the men. The efforts are repeated the next day, still without results, and interest in the incident wanes.
Rose quickly regains her health and resumes her place in the family life. Still there is a quality of tension in the atmosphere. Harry and his mother have long private sessions. Rose frequently appears to have been crying, and her uneasiness increases after Mr. Losberne sets the day for his departure.
Finally, Harry Maylie brings matters into the open and declares his love to Rose in a long, impassioned oration. Her first reaction is to wish that he'd left sooner to find some work worthy of his abilities. Harry tells her that all he has ever wanted was to win her love. Rose is firm; she tells Harry that he must cease to think of her as an object of love.
When pressed for reasons, Rose raises the objections of her unsuitability to be the wife of a man who aspires to rise in the world. She admits that her decision comes from the mind and not from the heart. Rose also concedes that if Harry were not so far above her in station and prospects, things would be different. Before they part, he convinces Rose to allow him to propose to her again within a year's time or less.
While Mr. Losberne, Harry Maylie, and Oliver are at breakfast, the doctor chides Harry for repeatedly changing his plans. The young man has at last made up his mind to leave with the doctor without seeing the ladies that morning.
Harry has private words with Oliver. The young gentleman says that he will not be at home for a while and asks Oliver to write to him about every two weeks, addressed to the general post office in London. Harry wants to know how his mother and Rose are, but he wishes to keep his location secret. The boy proudly accepts the trust.
Harry glances at Rose's window, gets into the carriage, and moves off with great speed. Rose watches from behind the curtains, weeping.
While the setting in most parts of the book is in keeping with the tenor of the action, in this section contrast is employed with poignant effect. Rose is in the prime of her life and has been flourishing like the springtime flowers. It is a painful incongruity that the blooming girl should be singled out for death at this time. Oliver finds the threatening calamity impossible to deal with until the funeral of a young person in the graveyard teaches him that no life is safe.
The arrival of Harry Maylie on the scene marks the beginning of a romantic subplot. Coming as it does late in the book, this line of action can be of only secondary importance, but it will at least gratify one of the expectations of many readers. Bringing Harry and Rose together does, however, serve to indicate the existence of yet another mystery. On the surface of things, there has been no sign why Rose should not be a suitable wife for Mrs. Maylie's son. The reader wants to know what secrets are in force here.
These chapters brim with the mysterious. Monks was not described on the occasion of his nocturnal meeting with Fagin, but the sentiments he expressed then and the disordered behavior of the strange man in the inn yard make it pretty certain that they were the same person. The appearance of Fagin with the mysterious stranger at Oliver's window revives terror and ends the boy's illusion of security. He now knows that Fagin has tracked him down again, and that fact must be reckoned with.
It is not encouraging to Oliver's position that no evidence could be found to confirm the appearance of Fagin and the stranger. The incident repeats some of the characteristics of the Chertsey Bridge episode. As Mr. Losberne observed when he undertook to shelter Oliver from the police, "he can only prove the parts that look ill, and none of those that look well."
There may be some question of how long Oliver's benefactors will continue to believe him and offer him protection. The three months of idyllic country life are now a thing of the past. Oliver knows that his old enemies are still active.