'There is nothing unusual in that,' said the gentleman. 'They have passed me often.'
'Real ones,' rejoined the girl. 'This was not.'
There was something so uncommon in her manner, that the flesh of the concealed listener crept as he heard the girl utter these words, and the blood chilled within him. He had never experienced a greater relief than in hearing the sweet voice of the young lady as she begged her to be calm, and not allow herself to become the prey of such fearful fancies.
'Speak to her kindly,' said the young lady to her companion. 'Poor creature! She seems to need it.'
'Your haughty religious people would have held their heads up to see me as I am to-night, and preached of flames and vengeance,' cried the girl. 'Oh, dear lady, why ar'n't those who claim to be God's own folks as gentle and as kind to us poor wretches as you, who, having youth, and beauty, and all that they have lost, might be a little proud instead of so much humbler?'
'Ah!' said the gentleman. 'A Turk turns his face, after washing it well, to the East, when he says his prayers; these good people, after giving their faces such a rub against the World as to take the smiles off, turn with no less regularity, to the darkest side of Heaven. Between the Mussulman and the Pharisee, commend me to the first!'
These words appeared to be addressed to the young lady, and were perhaps uttered with the view of affording Nancy time to recover herself. The gentleman, shortly afterwards, addressed himself to her.
'You were not here last Sunday night,' he said.
'I couldn't come,' replied Nancy; 'I was kept by force.'
'Him that I told the young lady of before.'
'You were not suspected of holding any communication with anybody on the subject which has brought us here to-night, I hope?' asked the old gentleman.
'No,' replied the girl, shaking her head. 'It's not very easy for me to leave him unless he knows why; I couldn't give him a drink of laudanum before I came away.'
'Did he awake before you returned?' inquired the gentleman.
'No; and neither he nor any of them suspect me.'
'Good,' said the gentleman. 'Now listen to me.'
'I am ready,' replied the girl, as he paused for a moment.
'This young lady,' the gentleman began, 'has communicated to me, and to some other friends who can be safely trusted, what you told her nearly a fortnight since. I confess to you that I had doubts, at first, whether you were to be implicitly relied upon, but now I firmly believe you are.'
'I am,' said the girl earnestly.
'I repeat that I firmly believe it. To prove to you that I am disposed to trust you, I tell you without reserve, that we propose to extort the secret, whatever it may be, from the fear of this man Monks. But if — if — ' said the gentleman, 'he cannot be secured, or, if secured, cannot be acted upon as we wish, you must deliver up the Jew.'
'Fagin,' cried the girl, recoiling.
'That man must be delivered up by you,' said the gentleman.
'I will not do it! I will never do it!' replied the girl. 'Devil that he is, and worse than devil as he has been to me, I will never do that.'
'You will not?' said the gentleman, who seemed fully prepared for this answer.
'Never!' returned the girl.
'Tell me why?'
'For one reason,' rejoined the girl firmly, 'for one reason, that the lady knows and will stand by me in, I know she will, for I have her promise: and for this other reason, besides, that, bad life as he has led, I have led a bad life too; there are many of us who have kept the same courses together, and I'll not turn upon them, who might — any of them — have turned upon me, but didn't, bad as they are.'
'Then,' said the gentleman, quickly, as if this had been the point he had been aiming to attain; 'put Monks into my hands, and leave him to me to deal with.'
'What if he turns against the others?'
'I promise you that in that case, if the truth is forced from him, there the matter will rest; there must be circumstances in Oliver's little history which it would be painful to drag before the public eye, and if the truth is once elicited, they shall go scot free.'
'And if it is not?' suggested the girl.
'Then,' pursued the gentleman, 'this Fagin shall not be brought to justice without your consent. In such a case I could show you reasons, I think, which would induce you to yield it.'
'Have I the lady's promise for that?' asked the girl.
'You have,' replied Rose. 'My true and faithful pledge.'
'Monks would never learn how you knew what you do?' said the girl, after a short pause.
'Never,' replied the gentleman. 'The intelligence should be brought to bear upon him, that he could never even guess.'
'I have been a liar, and among liars from a little child,' said the girl after another interval of silence, 'but I will take your words.'
After receiving an assurance from both, that she might safely do so, she proceeded in a voice so low that it was often difficult for the listener to discover even the purport of what she said, to describe, by name and situation, the public-house whence she had been followed that night. From the manner in which she occasionally paused, it appeared as if the gentleman were making some hasty notes of the information she communicated. When she had thoroughly explained the localities of the place, the best position from which to watch it without exciting observation, and the night and hour on which Monks was most in the habit of frequenting it, she seemed to consider for a few moments, for the purpose of recalling his features and appearances more forcibly to her recollection.