{tocify}

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter

Book

first_page
play_arrow
last_page
00:00
00:00
volume_down_alt volume_up


Chapter 41

From the workshop of the Golden Key, there issued forth a tinkling sound, so merry and good-humoured, that it suggested the idea of some one working blithely, and made quite pleasant music. No man who hammered on at a dull monotonous duty, could have brought such cheerful notes from steel and iron; none but a chirping, healthy, honest-hearted fellow, who made the best of everything, and felt kindly towards everybody, could have done it for an instant. He might have been a coppersmith, and still been musical. If he had sat in a jolting waggon, full of rods of iron, it seemed as if he would have brought some harmony out of it.

Tink, tink, tink—clear as a silver bell, and audible at every pause of the streets’ harsher noises, as though it said, ‘I don’t care; nothing puts me out; I am resolved to be happy.’ Women scolded, children squalled, heavy carts went rumbling by, horrible cries proceeded from the lungs of hawkers; still it struck in again, no higher, no lower, no louder, no softer; not thrusting itself on people’s notice a bit the more for having been outdone by louder sounds—tink, tink, tink, tink, tink.

It was a perfect embodiment of the still small voice, free from all cold, hoarseness, huskiness, or unhealthiness of any kind; foot-passengers slackened their pace, and were disposed to linger near it; neighbours who had got up splenetic that morning, felt good-humour stealing on them as they heard it, and by degrees became quite sprightly; mothers danced their babies to its ringing; still the same magical tink, tink, tink, came gaily from the workshop of the Golden Key.

Who but the locksmith could have made such music! A gleam of sun shining through the unsashed window, and chequering the dark workshop with a broad patch of light, fell full upon him, as though attracted by his sunny heart. There he stood working at his anvil, his face all radiant with exercise and gladness, his sleeves turned up, his wig pushed off his shining forehead—the easiest, freest, happiest man in all the world. Beside him sat a sleek cat, purring and winking in the light, and falling every now and then into an idle doze, as from excess of comfort. Toby looked on from a tall bench hard by; one beaming smile, from his broad nut-brown face down to the slack-baked buckles in his shoes. The very locks that hung around had something jovial in their rust, and seemed like gouty gentlemen of hearty natures, disposed to joke on their infirmities. There was nothing surly or severe in the whole scene. It seemed impossible that any one of the innumerable keys could fit a churlish strong-box or a prison-door. Cellars of beer and wine, rooms where there were fires, books, gossip, and cheering laughter—these were their proper sphere of action. Places of distrust and cruelty, and restraint, they would have left quadruple-locked for ever.

Tink, tink, tink. The locksmith paused at last, and wiped his brow. The silence roused the cat, who, jumping softly down, crept to the door, and watched with tiger eyes a bird-cage in an opposite window. Gabriel lifted Toby to his mouth, and took a hearty draught.

Then, as he stood upright, with his head flung back, and his portly chest thrown out, you would have seen that Gabriel’s lower man was clothed in military gear. Glancing at the wall beyond, there might have been espied, hanging on their several pegs, a cap and feather, broadsword, sash, and coat of scarlet; which any man learned in such matters would have known from their make and pattern to be the uniform of a serjeant in the Royal East London Volunteers.

As the locksmith put his mug down, empty, on the bench whence it had smiled on him before, he glanced at these articles with a laughing eye, and looking at them with his head a little on one side, as though he would get them all into a focus, said, leaning on his hammer:

‘Time was, now, I remember, when I was like to run mad with the desire to wear a coat of that colour. If any one (except my father) had called me a fool for my pains, how I should have fired and fumed! But what a fool I must have been, sure-ly!’

‘Ah!’ sighed Mrs Varden, who had entered unobserved. ‘A fool indeed. A man at your time of life, Varden, should know better now.’

‘Why, what a ridiculous woman you are, Martha,’ said the locksmith, turning round with a smile.

‘Certainly,’ replied Mrs V. with great demureness. ‘Of course I am. I know that, Varden. Thank you.’

‘I mean—’ began the locksmith.

‘Yes,’ said his wife, ‘I know what you mean. You speak quite plain enough to be understood, Varden. It’s very kind of you to adapt yourself to my capacity, I am sure.’

‘Tut, tut, Martha,’ rejoined the locksmith; ‘don’t take offence at nothing. I mean, how strange it is of you to run down volunteering, when it’s done to defend you and all the other women, and our own fireside and everybody else’s, in case of need.’

‘It’s unchristian,’ cried Mrs Varden, shaking her head.

‘Unchristian!’ said the locksmith. ‘Why, what the devil—’

Mrs Varden looked at the ceiling, as in expectation that the consequence of this profanity would be the immediate descent of the four-post bedstead on the second floor, together with the best sitting-room on the first; but no visible judgment occurring, she heaved a deep sigh, and begged her husband, in a tone of resignation, to go on, and by all means to blaspheme as much as possible, because he knew she liked it.

The locksmith did for a moment seem disposed to gratify her, but he gave a great gulp, and mildly rejoined:

‘I was going to say, what on earth do you call it unchristian for? Which would be most unchristian, Martha—to sit quietly down and let our houses be sacked by a foreign army, or to turn out like men and drive ‘em off? Shouldn’t I be a nice sort of a Christian, if I crept into a corner of my own chimney and looked on while a parcel of whiskered savages bore off Dolly—or you?’

When he said ‘or you,’ Mrs Varden, despite herself, relaxed into a smile. There was something complimentary in the idea. ‘In such a state of things as that, indeed—’ she simpered.

‘As that!’ repeated the locksmith. ‘Well, that would be the state of things directly. Even Miggs would go. Some black tambourine-player, with a great turban on, would be bearing HER off, and, unless the tambourine-player was proof against kicking and scratching, it’s my belief he’d have the worst of it. Ha ha ha! I’d forgive the tambourine-player. I wouldn’t have him interfered with on any account, poor fellow.’ And here the locksmith laughed again so heartily, that tears came into his eyes—much to Mrs Varden’s indignation, who thought the capture of so sound a Protestant and estimable a private character as Miggs by a pagan negro, a circumstance too shocking and awful for contemplation.

The picture Gabriel had drawn, indeed, threatened serious consequences, and would indubitably have led to them, but luckily at that moment a light footstep crossed the threshold, and Dolly, running in, threw her arms round her old father’s neck and hugged him tight.

‘Here she is at last!’ cried Gabriel. ‘And how well you look, Doll, and how late you are, my darling!’

How well she looked? Well? Why, if he had exhausted every laudatory adjective in the dictionary, it wouldn’t have been praise enough. When and where was there ever such a plump, roguish, comely, bright-eyed, enticing, bewitching, captivating, maddening little puss in all this world, as Dolly! What was the Dolly of five years ago, to the Dolly of that day! How many coachmakers, saddlers, cabinet-makers, and professors of other useful arts, had deserted their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and, most of all, their cousins, for the love of her! How many unknown gentlemen—supposed to be of mighty fortunes, if not titles—had waited round the corner after dark, and tempted Miggs the incorruptible, with golden guineas, to deliver offers of marriage folded up in love-letters! How many disconsolate fathers and substantial tradesmen had waited on the locksmith for the same purpose, with dismal tales of how their sons had lost their appetites, and taken to shut themselves up in dark bedrooms, and wandering in desolate suburbs with pale faces, and all because of Dolly Varden’s loveliness and cruelty! How many young men, in all previous times of unprecedented steadiness, had turned suddenly wild and wicked for the same reason, and, in an ecstasy of unrequited love, taken to wrench off door-knockers, and invert the boxes of rheumatic watchmen! How had she recruited the king’s service, both by sea and land, through rendering desperate his loving subjects between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five! How many young ladies had publicly professed, with tears in their eyes, that for their tastes she was much too short, too tall, too bold, too cold, too stout, too thin, too fair, too dark—too everything but handsome! How many old ladies, taking counsel together, had thanked Heaven their daughters were not like her, and had hoped she might come to no harm, and had thought she would come to no good, and had wondered what people saw in her, and had arrived at the conclusion that she was ‘going off’ in her looks, or had never come on in them, and that she was a thorough imposition and a popular mistake!

And yet here was this same Dolly Varden, so whimsical and hard to please that she was Dolly Varden still, all smiles and dimples and pleasant looks, and caring no more for the fifty or sixty young fellows who at that very moment were breaking their hearts to marry her, than if so many oysters had been crossed in love and opened afterwards.

Dolly hugged her father as has been already stated, and having hugged her mother also, accompanied both into the little parlour where the cloth was already laid for dinner, and where Miss Miggs—a trifle more rigid and bony than of yore—received her with a sort of hysterical gasp, intended for a smile. Into the hands of that young virgin, she delivered her bonnet and walking dress (all of a dreadful, artful, and designing kind), and then said with a laugh, which rivalled the locksmith’s music, ‘How glad I always am to be at home again!’

‘And how glad we always are, Doll,’ said her father, putting back the dark hair from her sparkling eyes, ‘to have you at home. Give me a kiss.’

If there had been anybody of the male kind there to see her do it—but there was not—it was a mercy.

‘I don’t like your being at the Warren,’ said the locksmith, ‘I can’t bear to have you out of my sight. And what is the news over yonder, Doll?’

‘What news there is, I think you know already,’ replied his daughter. ‘I am sure you do though.’

‘Ay?’ cried the locksmith. ‘What’s that?’

‘Come, come,’ said Dolly, ‘you know very well. I want you to tell me why Mr Haredale—oh, how gruff he is again, to be sure!—has been away from home for some days past, and why he is travelling about (we know he IS travelling, because of his letters) without telling his own niece why or wherefore.’

‘Miss Emma doesn’t want to know, I’ll swear,’ returned the locksmith.

‘I don’t know that,’ said Dolly; ‘but I do, at any rate. Do tell me. Why is he so secret, and what is this ghost story, which nobody is to tell Miss Emma, and which seems to be mixed up with his going away? Now I see you know by your colouring so.’

‘What the story means, or is, or has to do with it, I know no more than you, my dear,’ returned the locksmith, ‘except that it’s some foolish fear of little Solomon’s—which has, indeed, no meaning in it, I suppose. As to Mr Haredale’s journey, he goes, as I believe—’

‘Yes,’ said Dolly.

‘As I believe,’ resumed the locksmith, pinching her cheek, ‘on business, Doll. What it may be, is quite another matter. Read Blue Beard, and don’t be too curious, pet; it’s no business of yours or mine, depend upon that; and here’s dinner, which is much more to the purpose.’

Dolly might have remonstrated against this summary dismissal of the subject, notwithstanding the appearance of dinner, but at the mention of Blue Beard Mrs Varden interposed, protesting she could not find it in her conscience to sit tamely by, and hear her child recommended to peruse the adventures of a Turk and Mussulman—far less of a fabulous Turk, which she considered that potentate to be. She held that, in such stirring and tremendous times as those in which they lived, it would be much more to the purpose if Dolly became a regular subscriber to the Thunderer, where she would have an opportunity of reading Lord George Gordon’s speeches word for word, which would be a greater comfort and solace to her, than a hundred and fifty Blue Beards ever could impart. She appealed in support of this proposition to Miss Miggs, then in waiting, who said that indeed the peace of mind she had derived from the perusal of that paper generally, but especially of one article of the very last week as ever was, entitled ‘Great Britain drenched in gore,’ exceeded all belief; the same composition, she added, had also wrought such a comforting effect on the mind of a married sister of hers, then resident at Golden Lion Court, number twenty-sivin, second bell-handle on the right-hand door-post, that, being in a delicate state of health, and in fact expecting an addition to her family, she had been seized with fits directly after its perusal, and had raved of the Inquisition ever since; to the great improvement of her husband and friends. Miss Miggs went on to say that she would recommend all those whose hearts were hardened to hear Lord George themselves, whom she commended first, in respect of his steady Protestantism, then of his oratory, then of his eyes, then of his nose, then of his legs, and lastly of his figure generally, which she looked upon as fit for any statue, prince, or angel, to which sentiment Mrs Varden fully subscribed.

Mrs Varden having cut in, looked at a box upon the mantelshelf, painted in imitation of a very red-brick dwelling-house, with a yellow roof; having at top a real chimney, down which voluntary subscribers dropped their silver, gold, or pence, into the parlour; and on the door the counterfeit presentment of a brass plate, whereon was legibly inscribed ‘Protestant Association:’—and looking at it, said, that it was to her a source of poignant misery to think that Varden never had, of all his substance, dropped anything into that temple, save once in secret—as she afterwards discovered—two fragments of tobacco-pipe, which she hoped would not be put down to his last account. That Dolly, she was grieved to say, was no less backward in her contributions, better loving, as it seemed, to purchase ribbons and such gauds, than to encourage the great cause, then in such heavy tribulation; and that she did entreat her (her father she much feared could not be moved) not to despise, but imitate, the bright example of Miss Miggs, who flung her wages, as it were, into the very countenance of the Pope, and bruised his features with her quarter’s money.

‘Oh, mim,’ said Miggs, ‘don’t relude to that. I had no intentions, mim, that nobody should know. Such sacrifices as I can make, are quite a widder’s mite. It’s all I have,’ cried Miggs with a great burst of tears—for with her they never came on by degrees—‘but it’s made up to me in other ways; it’s well made up.’

This was quite true, though not perhaps in the sense that Miggs intended. As she never failed to keep her self-denial full in Mrs Varden’s view, it drew forth so many gifts of caps and gowns and other articles of dress, that upon the whole the red-brick house was perhaps the best investment for her small capital she could possibly have hit upon; returning her interest, at the rate of seven or eight per cent in money, and fifty at least in personal repute and credit.

‘You needn’t cry, Miggs,’ said Mrs Varden, herself in tears; ‘you needn’t be ashamed of it, though your poor mistress IS on the same side.’

Miggs howled at this remark, in a peculiarly dismal way, and said she knowed that master hated her. That it was a dreadful thing to live in families and have dislikes, and not give satisfactions. That to make divisions was a thing she could not abear to think of, neither could her feelings let her do it. That if it was master’s wishes as she and him should part, it was best they should part, and she hoped he might be the happier for it, and always wished him well, and that he might find somebody as would meet his dispositions. It would be a hard trial, she said, to part from such a missis, but she could meet any suffering when her conscience told her she was in the rights, and therefore she was willing even to go that lengths. She did not think, she added, that she could long survive the separations, but, as she was hated and looked upon unpleasant, perhaps her dying as soon as possible would be the best endings for all parties. With this affecting conclusion, Miss Miggs shed more tears, and sobbed abundantly.

‘Can you bear this, Varden?’ said his wife in a solemn voice, laying down her knife and fork.

‘Why, not very well, my dear,’ rejoined the locksmith, ‘but I try to keep my temper.’

‘Don’t let there be words on my account, mim,’ sobbed Miggs. ‘It’s much the best that we should part. I wouldn’t stay—oh, gracious me!—and make dissensions, not for a annual gold mine, and found in tea and sugar.’

Lest the reader should be at any loss to discover the cause of Miss Miggs’s deep emotion, it may be whispered apart that, happening to be listening, as her custom sometimes was, when Gabriel and his wife conversed together, she had heard the locksmith’s joke relative to the foreign black who played the tambourine, and bursting with the spiteful feelings which the taunt awoke in her fair breast, exploded in the manner we have witnessed. Matters having now arrived at a crisis, the locksmith, as usual, and for the sake of peace and quietness, gave in.

‘What are you crying for, girl?’ he said. ‘What’s the matter with you? What are you talking about hatred for? I don’t hate you; I don’t hate anybody. Dry your eyes and make yourself agreeable, in Heaven’s name, and let us all be happy while we can.’

The allied powers deeming it good generalship to consider this a sufficient apology on the part of the enemy, and confession of having been in the wrong, did dry their eyes and take it in good part. Miss Miggs observed that she bore no malice, no not to her greatest foe, whom she rather loved the more indeed, the greater persecution she sustained. Mrs Varden approved of this meek and forgiving spirit in high terms, and incidentally declared as a closing article of agreement, that Dolly should accompany her to the Clerkenwell branch of the association, that very night. This was an extraordinary instance of her great prudence and policy; having had this end in view from the first, and entertaining a secret misgiving that the locksmith (who was bold when Dolly was in question) would object, she had backed Miss Miggs up to this point, in order that she might have him at a disadvantage. The manoeuvre succeeded so well that Gabriel only made a wry face, and with the warning he had just had, fresh in his mind, did not dare to say one word.

The difference ended, therefore, in Miggs being presented with a gown by Mrs Varden and half-a-crown by Dolly, as if she had eminently distinguished herself in the paths of morality and goodness. Mrs V., according to custom, expressed her hope that Varden would take a lesson from what had passed and learn more generous conduct for the time to come; and the dinner being now cold and nobody’s appetite very much improved by what had passed, they went on with it, as Mrs Varden said, ‘like Christians.’

As there was to be a grand parade of the Royal East London Volunteers that afternoon, the locksmith did no more work; but sat down comfortably with his pipe in his mouth, and his arm round his pretty daughter’s waist, looking lovingly on Mrs V., from time to time, and exhibiting from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, one smiling surface of good humour. And to be sure, when it was time to dress him in his regimentals, and Dolly, hanging about him in all kinds of graceful winning ways, helped to button and buckle and brush him up and get him into one of the tightest coats that ever was made by mortal tailor, he was the proudest father in all England.

‘What a handy jade it is!’ said the locksmith to Mrs Varden, who stood by with folded hands—rather proud of her husband too—while Miggs held his cap and sword at arm’s length, as if mistrusting that the latter might run some one through the body of its own accord; ‘but never marry a soldier, Doll, my dear.’

Dolly didn’t ask why not, or say a word, indeed, but stooped her head down very low to tie his sash.

‘I never wear this dress,’ said honest Gabriel, ‘but I think of poor Joe Willet. I loved Joe; he was always a favourite of mine. Poor Joe!—Dear heart, my girl, don’t tie me in so tight.’

Dolly laughed—not like herself at all—the strangest little laugh that could be—and held her head down lower still.

‘Poor Joe!’ resumed the locksmith, muttering to himself; ‘I always wish he had come to me. I might have made it up between them, if he had. Ah! old John made a great mistake in his way of acting by that lad—a great mistake.—Have you nearly tied that sash, my dear?’

What an ill-made sash it was! There it was, loose again and trailing on the ground. Dolly was obliged to kneel down, and recommence at the beginning.

‘Never mind young Willet, Varden,’ said his wife frowning; ‘you might find some one more deserving to talk about, I think.’

Miss Miggs gave a great sniff to the same effect.

‘Nay, Martha,’ cried the locksmith, ‘don’t let us bear too hard upon him. If the lad is dead indeed, we’ll deal kindly by his memory.’

‘A runaway and a vagabond!’ said Mrs Varden.

Miss Miggs expressed her concurrence as before.

‘A runaway, my dear, but not a vagabond,’ returned the locksmith in a gentle tone. ‘He behaved himself well, did Joe—always—and was a handsome, manly fellow. Don’t call him a vagabond, Martha.’

Mrs Varden coughed—and so did Miggs.

‘He tried hard to gain your good opinion, Martha, I can tell you,’ said the locksmith smiling, and stroking his chin. ‘Ah! that he did. It seems but yesterday that he followed me out to the Maypole door one night, and begged me not to say how like a boy they used him—say here, at home, he meant, though at the time, I recollect, I didn’t understand. “And how’s Miss Dolly, sir?” says Joe,’ pursued the locksmith, musing sorrowfully, ‘Ah! Poor Joe!’

‘Well, I declare,’ cried Miggs. ‘Oh! Goodness gracious me!’

‘What’s the matter now?’ said Gabriel, turning sharply to her.

‘Why, if here an’t Miss Dolly,’ said the handmaid, stooping down to look into her face, ‘a-giving way to floods of tears. Oh mim! oh sir. Raly it’s give me such a turn,’ cried the susceptible damsel, pressing her hand upon her side to quell the palpitation of her heart, ‘that you might knock me down with a feather.’

The locksmith, after glancing at Miss Miggs as if he could have wished to have a feather brought straightway, looked on with a broad stare while Dolly hurried away, followed by that sympathising young woman: then turning to his wife, stammered out, ‘Is Dolly ill? Have I done anything? Is it my fault?’

‘Your fault!’ cried Mrs V. reproachfully. ‘There—you had better make haste out.’

‘What have I done?’ said poor Gabriel. ‘It was agreed that Mr Edward’s name was never to be mentioned, and I have not spoken of him, have I?’

Mrs Varden merely replied that she had no patience with him, and bounced off after the other two. The unfortunate locksmith wound his sash about him, girded on his sword, put on his cap, and walked out.

‘I am not much of a dab at my exercise,’ he said under his breath, ‘but I shall get into fewer scrapes at that work than at this. Every man came into the world for something; my department seems to be to make every woman cry without meaning it. It’s rather hard!’

But he forgot it before he reached the end of the street, and went on with a shining face, nodding to the neighbours, and showering about his friendly greetings like mild spring rain.






Chapter 42

The Royal East London Volunteers made a brilliant sight that day: formed into lines, squares, circles, triangles, and what not, to the beating of drums, and the streaming of flags; and performed a vast number of complex evolutions, in all of which Serjeant Varden bore a conspicuous share. Having displayed their military prowess to the utmost in these warlike shows, they marched in glittering order to the Chelsea Bun House, and regaled in the adjacent taverns until dark. Then at sound of drum they fell in again, and returned amidst the shouting of His Majesty’s lieges to the place from whence they came.

The homeward march being somewhat tardy,—owing to the un-soldierlike behaviour of certain corporals, who, being gentlemen of sedentary pursuits in private life and excitable out of doors, broke several windows with their bayonets, and rendered it imperative on the commanding officer to deliver them over to a strong guard, with whom they fought at intervals as they came along,—it was nine o’clock when the locksmith reached home. A hackney-coach was waiting near his door; and as he passed it, Mr Haredale looked from the window and called him by his name.

‘The sight of you is good for sore eyes, sir,’ said the locksmith, stepping up to him. ‘I wish you had walked in though, rather than waited here.’

‘There is nobody at home, I find,’ Mr Haredale answered; ‘besides, I desired to be as private as I could.’

‘Humph!’ muttered the locksmith, looking round at his house. ‘Gone with Simon Tappertit to that precious Branch, no doubt.’

Mr Haredale invited him to come into the coach, and, if he were not tired or anxious to go home, to ride with him a little way that they might have some talk together. Gabriel cheerfully complied, and the coachman mounting his box drove off.

‘Varden,’ said Mr Haredale, after a minute’s pause, ‘you will be amazed to hear what errand I am on; it will seem a very strange one.’

‘I have no doubt it’s a reasonable one, sir, and has a meaning in it,’ replied the locksmith; ‘or it would not be yours at all. Have you just come back to town, sir?’

‘But half an hour ago.’

‘Bringing no news of Barnaby, or his mother?’ said the locksmith dubiously. ‘Ah! you needn’t shake your head, sir. It was a wild-goose chase. I feared that, from the first. You exhausted all reasonable means of discovery when they went away. To begin again after so long a time has passed is hopeless, sir—quite hopeless.’

‘Why, where are they?’ he returned impatiently. ‘Where can they be? Above ground?’

‘God knows,’ rejoined the locksmith, ‘many that I knew above it five years ago, have their beds under the grass now. And the world is a wide place. It’s a hopeless attempt, sir, believe me. We must leave the discovery of this mystery, like all others, to time, and accident, and Heaven’s pleasure.’

‘Varden, my good fellow,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘I have a deeper meaning in my present anxiety to find them out, than you can fathom. It is not a mere whim; it is not the casual revival of my old wishes and desires; but an earnest, solemn purpose. My thoughts and dreams all tend to it, and fix it in my mind. I have no rest by day or night; I have no peace or quiet; I am haunted.’

His voice was so altered from its usual tones, and his manner bespoke so much emotion, that Gabriel, in his wonder, could only sit and look towards him in the darkness, and fancy the expression of his face.

‘Do not ask me,’ continued Mr Haredale, ‘to explain myself. If I were to do so, you would think me the victim of some hideous fancy. It is enough that this is so, and that I cannot—no, I can not—lie quietly in my bed, without doing what will seem to you incomprehensible.’

‘Since when, sir,’ said the locksmith after a pause, ‘has this uneasy feeling been upon you?’

Mr Haredale hesitated for some moments, and then replied: ‘Since the night of the storm. In short, since the last nineteenth of March.’

As though he feared that Varden might express surprise, or reason with him, he hastily went on:

‘You will think, I know, I labour under some delusion. Perhaps I do. But it is not a morbid one; it is a wholesome action of the mind, reasoning on actual occurrences. You know the furniture remains in Mrs Rudge’s house, and that it has been shut up, by my orders, since she went away, save once a-week or so, when an old neighbour visits it to scare away the rats. I am on my way there now.’

‘For what purpose?’ asked the locksmith.

‘To pass the night there,’ he replied; ‘and not to-night alone, but many nights. This is a secret which I trust to you in case of any unexpected emergency. You will not come, unless in case of strong necessity, to me; from dusk to broad day I shall be there. Emma, your daughter, and the rest, suppose me out of London, as I have been until within this hour. Do not undeceive them. This is the errand I am bound upon. I know I may confide it to you, and I rely upon your questioning me no more at this time.’

With that, as if to change the theme, he led the astounded locksmith back to the night of the Maypole highwayman, to the robbery of Edward Chester, to the reappearance of the man at Mrs Rudge’s house, and to all the strange circumstances which afterwards occurred. He even asked him carelessly about the man’s height, his face, his figure, whether he was like any one he had ever seen—like Hugh, for instance, or any man he had known at any time—and put many questions of that sort, which the locksmith, considering them as mere devices to engage his attention and prevent his expressing the astonishment he felt, answered pretty much at random.

At length, they arrived at the corner of the street in which the house stood, where Mr Haredale, alighting, dismissed the coach. ‘If you desire to see me safely lodged,’ he said, turning to the locksmith with a gloomy smile, ‘you can.’

Gabriel, to whom all former marvels had been nothing in comparison with this, followed him along the narrow pavement in silence. When they reached the door, Mr Haredale softly opened it with a key he had about him, and closing it when Varden entered, they were left in thorough darkness.

They groped their way into the ground-floor room. Here Mr Haredale struck a light, and kindled a pocket taper he had brought with him for the purpose. It was then, when the flame was full upon him, that the locksmith saw for the first time how haggard, pale, and changed he looked; how worn and thin he was; how perfectly his whole appearance coincided with all that he had said so strangely as they rode along. It was not an unnatural impulse in Gabriel, after what he had heard, to note curiously the expression of his eyes. It was perfectly collected and rational;—so much so, indeed, that he felt ashamed of his momentary suspicion, and drooped his own when Mr Haredale looked towards him, as if he feared they would betray his thoughts.

‘Will you walk through the house?’ said Mr Haredale, with a glance towards the window, the crazy shutters of which were closed and fastened. ‘Speak low.’

There was a kind of awe about the place, which would have rendered it difficult to speak in any other manner. Gabriel whispered ‘Yes,’ and followed him upstairs.

Everything was just as they had seen it last. There was a sense of closeness from the exclusion of fresh air, and a gloom and heaviness around, as though long imprisonment had made the very silence sad. The homely hangings of the beds and windows had begun to droop; the dust lay thick upon their dwindling folds; and damps had made their way through ceiling, wall, and floor. The boards creaked beneath their tread, as if resenting the unaccustomed intrusion; nimble spiders, paralysed by the taper’s glare, checked the motion of their hundred legs upon the wall, or dropped like lifeless things upon the ground; the death-watch ticked; and the scampering feet of rats and mice rattled behind the wainscot.

As they looked about them on the decaying furniture, it was strange to find how vividly it presented those to whom it had belonged, and with whom it was once familiar. Grip seemed to perch again upon his high-backed chair; Barnaby to crouch in his old favourite corner by the fire; the mother to resume her usual seat, and watch him as of old. Even when they could separate these objects from the phantoms of the mind which they invoked, the latter only glided out of sight, but lingered near them still; for then they seemed to lurk in closets and behind the doors, ready to start out and suddenly accost them in well-remembered tones.

They went downstairs, and again into the room they had just now left. Mr Haredale unbuckled his sword and laid it on the table, with a pair of pocket pistols; then told the locksmith he would light him to the door.

‘But this is a dull place, sir,’ said Gabriel lingering; ‘may no one share your watch?’

He shook his head, and so plainly evinced his wish to be alone, that Gabriel could say no more. In another moment the locksmith was standing in the street, whence he could see that the light once more travelled upstairs, and soon returning to the room below, shone brightly through the chinks of the shutters.

If ever man were sorely puzzled and perplexed, the locksmith was, that night. Even when snugly seated by his own fireside, with Mrs Varden opposite in a nightcap and night-jacket, and Dolly beside him (in a most distracting dishabille) curling her hair, and smiling as if she had never cried in all her life and never could—even then, with Toby at his elbow and his pipe in his mouth, and Miggs (but that perhaps was not much) falling asleep in the background, he could not quite discard his wonder and uneasiness. So in his dreams—still there was Mr Haredale, haggard and careworn, listening in the solitary house to every sound that stirred, with the taper shining through the chinks until the day should turn it pale and end his lonely watching.






Chapter 43

Next morning brought no satisfaction to the locksmith’s thoughts, nor next day, nor the next, nor many others. Often after nightfall he entered the street, and turned his eyes towards the well-known house; and as surely as he did so, there was the solitary light, still gleaming through the crevices of the window-shutter, while all within was motionless, noiseless, cheerless, as a grave. Unwilling to hazard Mr Haredale’s favour by disobeying his strict injunction, he never ventured to knock at the door or to make his presence known in any way. But whenever strong interest and curiosity attracted him to the spot—which was not seldom—the light was always there.

If he could have known what passed within, the knowledge would have yielded him no clue to this mysterious vigil. At twilight, Mr Haredale shut himself up, and at daybreak he came forth. He never missed a night, always came and went alone, and never varied his proceedings in the least degree.

The manner of his watch was this. At dusk, he entered the house in the same way as when the locksmith bore him company, kindled a light, went through the rooms, and narrowly examined them. That done, he returned to the chamber on the ground-floor, and laying his sword and pistols on the table, sat by it until morning.

He usually had a book with him, and often tried to read, but never fixed his eyes or thoughts upon it for five minutes together. The slightest noise without doors, caught his ear; a step upon the pavement seemed to make his heart leap.

He was not without some refreshment during the long lonely hours; generally carrying in his pocket a sandwich of bread and meat, and a small flask of wine. The latter diluted with large quantities of water, he drank in a heated, feverish way, as though his throat were dried; but he scarcely ever broke his fast, by so much as a crumb of bread.

If this voluntary sacrifice of sleep and comfort had its origin, as the locksmith on consideration was disposed to think, in any superstitious expectation of the fulfilment of a dream or vision connected with the event on which he had brooded for so many years, and if he waited for some ghostly visitor who walked abroad when men lay sleeping in their beds, he showed no trace of fear or wavering. His stern features expressed inflexible resolution; his brows were puckered, and his lips compressed, with deep and settled purpose; and when he started at a noise and listened, it was not with the start of fear but hope, and catching up his sword as though the hour had come at last, he would clutch it in his tight-clenched hand, and listen with sparkling eyes and eager looks, until it died away.

These disappointments were numerous, for they ensued on almost every sound, but his constancy was not shaken. Still, every night he was at his post, the same stern, sleepless, sentinel; and still night passed, and morning dawned, and he must watch again.

This went on for weeks; he had taken a lodging at Vauxhall in which to pass the day and rest himself; and from this place, when the tide served, he usually came to London Bridge from Westminster by water, in order that he might avoid the busy streets.

One evening, shortly before twilight, he came his accustomed road upon the river’s bank, intending to pass through Westminster Hall into Palace Yard, and there take boat to London Bridge as usual. There was a pretty large concourse of people assembled round the Houses of Parliament, looking at the members as they entered and departed, and giving vent to rather noisy demonstrations of approval or dislike, according to their known opinions. As he made his way among the throng, he heard once or twice the No-Popery cry, which was then becoming pretty familiar to the ears of most men; but holding it in very slight regard, and observing that the idlers were of the lowest grade, he neither thought nor cared about it, but made his way along, with perfect indifference.

There were many little knots and groups of persons in Westminster Hall: some few looking upward at its noble ceiling, and at the rays of evening light, tinted by the setting sun, which streamed in aslant through its small windows, and growing dimmer by degrees, were quenched in the gathering gloom below; some, noisy passengers, mechanics going home from work, and otherwise, who hurried quickly through, waking the echoes with their voices, and soon darkening the small door in the distance, as they passed into the street beyond; some, in busy conference together on political or private matters, pacing slowly up and down with eyes that sought the ground, and seeming, by their attitudes, to listen earnestly from head to foot. Here, a dozen squabbling urchins made a very Babel in the air; there, a solitary man, half clerk, half mendicant, paced up and down with hungry dejection in his look and gait; at his elbow passed an errand-lad, swinging his basket round and round, and with his shrill whistle riving the very timbers of the roof; while a more observant schoolboy, half-way through, pocketed his ball, and eyed the distant beadle as he came looming on. It was that time of evening when, if you shut your eyes and open them again, the darkness of an hour appears to have gathered in a second. The smooth-worn pavement, dusty with footsteps, still called upon the lofty walls to reiterate the shuffle and the tread of feet unceasingly, save when the closing of some heavy door resounded through the building like a clap of thunder, and drowned all other noises in its rolling sound.

Mr Haredale, glancing only at such of these groups as he passed nearest to, and then in a manner betokening that his thoughts were elsewhere, had nearly traversed the Hall, when two persons before him caught his attention. One of these, a gentleman in elegant attire, carried in his hand a cane, which he twirled in a jaunty manner as he loitered on; the other, an obsequious, crouching, fawning figure, listened to what he said—at times throwing in a humble word himself—and, with his shoulders shrugged up to his ears, rubbed his hands submissively, or answered at intervals by an inclination of the head, half-way between a nod of acquiescence, and a bow of most profound respect.

In the abstract there was nothing very remarkable in this pair, for servility waiting on a handsome suit of clothes and a cane—not to speak of gold and silver sticks, or wands of office—is common enough. But there was that about the well-dressed man, yes, and about the other likewise, which struck Mr Haredale with no pleasant feeling. He hesitated, stopped, and would have stepped aside and turned out of his path, but at the moment, the other two faced about quickly, and stumbled upon him before he could avoid them.

The gentleman with the cane lifted his hat and had begun to tender an apology, which Mr Haredale had begun as hastily to acknowledge and walk away, when he stopped short and cried, ‘Haredale! Gad bless me, this is strange indeed!’

‘It is,’ he returned impatiently; ‘yes—a—’

‘My dear friend,’ cried the other, detaining him, ‘why such great speed? One minute, Haredale, for the sake of old acquaintance.’

‘I am in haste,’ he said. ‘Neither of us has sought this meeting. Let it be a brief one. Good night!’

‘Fie, fie!’ replied Sir John (for it was he), ‘how very churlish! We were speaking of you. Your name was on my lips—perhaps you heard me mention it? No? I am sorry for that. I am really sorry.—You know our friend here, Haredale? This is really a most remarkable meeting!’

The friend, plainly very ill at ease, had made bold to press Sir John’s arm, and to give him other significant hints that he was desirous of avoiding this introduction. As it did not suit Sir John’s purpose, however, that it should be evaded, he appeared quite unconscious of these silent remonstrances, and inclined his hand towards him, as he spoke, to call attention to him more particularly.

The friend, therefore, had nothing for it, but to muster up the pleasantest smile he could, and to make a conciliatory bow, as Mr Haredale turned his eyes upon him. Seeing that he was recognised, he put out his hand in an awkward and embarrassed manner, which was not mended by its contemptuous rejection.

‘Mr Gashford!’ said Haredale, coldly. ‘It is as I have heard then. You have left the darkness for the light, sir, and hate those whose opinions you formerly held, with all the bitterness of a renegade. You are an honour, sir, to any cause. I wish the one you espouse at present, much joy of the acquisition it has made.’

The secretary rubbed his hands and bowed, as though he would disarm his adversary by humbling himself before him. Sir John Chester again exclaimed, with an air of great gaiety, ‘Now, really, this is a most remarkable meeting!’ and took a pinch of snuff with his usual self-possession.

‘Mr Haredale,’ said Gashford, stealthily raising his eyes, and letting them drop again when they met the other’s steady gaze, ‘is too conscientious, too honourable, too manly, I am sure, to attach unworthy motives to an honest change of opinions, even though it implies a doubt of those he holds himself. Mr Haredale is too just, too generous, too clear-sighted in his moral vision, to—’

‘Yes, sir?’ he rejoined with a sarcastic smile, finding the secretary stopped. ‘You were saying’—

Gashford meekly shrugged his shoulders, and looking on the ground again, was silent.

‘No, but let us really,’ interposed Sir John at this juncture, ‘let us really, for a moment, contemplate the very remarkable character of this meeting. Haredale, my dear friend, pardon me if I think you are not sufficiently impressed with its singularity. Here we stand, by no previous appointment or arrangement, three old schoolfellows, in Westminster Hall; three old boarders in a remarkably dull and shady seminary at Saint Omer’s, where you, being Catholics and of necessity educated out of England, were brought up; and where I, being a promising young Protestant at that time, was sent to learn the French tongue from a native of Paris!’

‘Add to the singularity, Sir John,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘that some of you Protestants of promise are at this moment leagued in yonder building, to prevent our having the surpassing and unheard-of privilege of teaching our children to read and write—here—in this land, where thousands of us enter your service every year, and to preserve the freedom of which, we die in bloody battles abroad, in heaps: and that others of you, to the number of some thousands as I learn, are led on to look on all men of my creed as wolves and beasts of prey, by this man Gashford. Add to it besides the bare fact that this man lives in society, walks the streets in broad day—I was about to say, holds up his head, but that he does not—and it will be strange, and very strange, I grant you.’

‘Oh! you are hard upon our friend,’ replied Sir John, with an engaging smile. ‘You are really very hard upon our friend!’

‘Let him go on, Sir John,’ said Gashford, fumbling with his gloves. ‘Let him go on. I can make allowances, Sir John. I am honoured with your good opinion, and I can dispense with Mr Haredale’s. Mr Haredale is a sufferer from the penal laws, and I can’t expect his favour.’

‘You have so much of my favour, sir,’ retorted Mr Haredale, with a bitter glance at the third party in their conversation, ‘that I am glad to see you in such good company. You are the essence of your great Association, in yourselves.’

‘Now, there you mistake,’ said Sir John, in his most benignant way. ‘There—which is a most remarkable circumstance for a man of your punctuality and exactness, Haredale—you fall into error. I don’t belong to the body; I have an immense respect for its members, but I don’t belong to it; although I am, it is certainly true, the conscientious opponent of your being relieved. I feel it my duty to be so; it is a most unfortunate necessity; and cost me a bitter struggle.—Will you try this box? If you don’t object to a trifling infusion of a very chaste scent, you’ll find its flavour exquisite.’

‘I ask your pardon, Sir John,’ said Mr Haredale, declining the proffer with a motion of his hand, ‘for having ranked you among the humble instruments who are obvious and in all men’s sight. I should have done more justice to your genius. Men of your capacity plot in secrecy and safety, and leave exposed posts to the duller wits.’

‘Don’t apologise, for the world,’ replied Sir John sweetly; ‘old friends like you and I, may be allowed some freedoms, or the deuce is in it.’

Gashford, who had been very restless all this time, but had not once looked up, now turned to Sir John, and ventured to mutter something to the effect that he must go, or my lord would perhaps be waiting.

‘Don’t distress yourself, good sir,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘I’ll take my leave, and put you at your ease—’ which he was about to do without ceremony, when he was stayed by a buzz and murmur at the upper end of the hall, and, looking in that direction, saw Lord George Gordon coming in, with a crowd of people round him.

There was a lurking look of triumph, though very differently expressed, in the faces of his two companions, which made it a natural impulse on Mr Haredale’s part not to give way before this leader, but to stand there while he passed. He drew himself up and, clasping his hands behind him, looked on with a proud and scornful aspect, while Lord George slowly advanced (for the press was great about him) towards the spot where they were standing.

He had left the House of Commons but that moment, and had come straight down into the Hall, bringing with him, as his custom was, intelligence of what had been said that night in reference to the Papists, and what petitions had been presented in their favour, and who had supported them, and when the bill was to be brought in, and when it would be advisable to present their own Great Protestant petition. All this he told the persons about him in a loud voice, and with great abundance of ungainly gesture. Those who were nearest him made comments to each other, and vented threats and murmurings; those who were outside the crowd cried, ‘Silence,’ and ‘Stand back,’ or closed in upon the rest, endeavouring to make a forcible exchange of places: and so they came driving on in a very disorderly and irregular way, as it is the manner of a crowd to do.

When they were very near to where the secretary, Sir John, and Mr Haredale stood, Lord George turned round and, making a few remarks of a sufficiently violent and incoherent kind, concluded with the usual sentiment, and called for three cheers to back it. While these were in the act of being given with great energy, he extricated himself from the press, and stepped up to Gashford’s side. Both he and Sir John being well known to the populace, they fell back a little, and left the four standing together.

‘Mr Haredale, Lord George,’ said Sir John Chester, seeing that the nobleman regarded him with an inquisitive look. ‘A Catholic gentleman unfortunately—most unhappily a Catholic—but an esteemed acquaintance of mine, and once of Mr Gashford’s. My dear Haredale, this is Lord George Gordon.’

‘I should have known that, had I been ignorant of his lordship’s person,’ said Mr Haredale. ‘I hope there is but one gentleman in England who, addressing an ignorant and excited throng, would speak of a large body of his fellow-subjects in such injurious language as I heard this moment. For shame, my lord, for shame!’

‘I cannot talk to you, sir,’ replied Lord George in a loud voice, and waving his hand in a disturbed and agitated manner; ‘we have nothing in common.’

‘We have much in common—many things—all that the Almighty gave us,’ said Mr Haredale; ‘and common charity, not to say common sense and common decency, should teach you to refrain from these proceedings. If every one of those men had arms in their hands at this moment, as they have them in their heads, I would not leave this place without telling you that you disgrace your station.’

‘I don’t hear you, sir,’ he replied in the same manner as before; ‘I can’t hear you. It is indifferent to me what you say. Don’t retort, Gashford,’ for the secretary had made a show of wishing to do so; ‘I can hold no communion with the worshippers of idols.’

As he said this, he glanced at Sir John, who lifted his hands and eyebrows, as if deploring the intemperate conduct of Mr Haredale, and smiled in admiration of the crowd and of their leader.

‘HE retort!’ cried Haredale. ‘Look you here, my lord. Do you know this man?’

Lord George replied by laying his hand upon the shoulder of his cringing secretary, and viewing him with a smile of confidence.

‘This man,’ said Mr Haredale, eyeing him from top to toe, ‘who in his boyhood was a thief, and has been from that time to this, a servile, false, and truckling knave: this man, who has crawled and crept through life, wounding the hands he licked, and biting those he fawned upon: this sycophant, who never knew what honour, truth, or courage meant; who robbed his benefactor’s daughter of her virtue, and married her to break her heart, and did it, with stripes and cruelty: this creature, who has whined at kitchen windows for the broken food, and begged for halfpence at our chapel doors: this apostle of the faith, whose tender conscience cannot bear the altars where his vicious life was publicly denounced—Do you know this man?’

‘Oh, really—you are very, very hard upon our friend!’ exclaimed Sir John.

‘Let Mr Haredale go on,’ said Gashford, upon whose unwholesome face the perspiration had broken out during this speech, in blotches of wet; ‘I don’t mind him, Sir John; it’s quite as indifferent to me what he says, as it is to my lord. If he reviles my lord, as you have heard, Sir John, how can I hope to escape?’

‘Is it not enough, my lord,’ Mr Haredale continued, ‘that I, as good a gentleman as you, must hold my property, such as it is, by a trick at which the state connives because of these hard laws; and that we may not teach our youth in schools the common principles of right and wrong; but must we be denounced and ridden by such men as this! Here is a man to head your No-Popery cry! For shame. For shame!’

The infatuated nobleman had glanced more than once at Sir John Chester, as if to inquire whether there was any truth in these statements concerning Gashford, and Sir John had as often plainly answered by a shrug or look, ‘Oh dear me! no.’ He now said, in the same loud key, and in the same strange manner as before:

‘I have nothing to say, sir, in reply, and no desire to hear anything more. I beg you won’t obtrude your conversation, or these personal attacks, upon me. I shall not be deterred from doing my duty to my country and my countrymen, by any such attempts, whether they proceed from emissaries of the Pope or not, I assure you. Come, Gashford!’

They had walked on a few paces while speaking, and were now at the Hall-door, through which they passed together. Mr Haredale, without any leave-taking, turned away to the river stairs, which were close at hand, and hailed the only boatman who remained there.

But the throng of people—the foremost of whom had heard every word that Lord George Gordon said, and among all of whom the rumour had been rapidly dispersed that the stranger was a Papist who was bearding him for his advocacy of the popular cause—came pouring out pell-mell, and, forcing the nobleman, his secretary, and Sir John Chester on before them, so that they appeared to be at their head, crowded to the top of the stairs where Mr Haredale waited until the boat was ready, and there stood still, leaving him on a little clear space by himself.

They were not silent, however, though inactive. At first some indistinct mutterings arose among them, which were followed by a hiss or two, and these swelled by degrees into a perfect storm. Then one voice said, ‘Down with the Papists!’ and there was a pretty general cheer, but nothing more. After a lull of a few moments, one man cried out, ‘Stone him;’ another, ‘Duck him;’ another, in a stentorian voice, ‘No Popery!’ This favourite cry the rest re-echoed, and the mob, which might have been two hundred strong, joined in a general shout.

Mr Haredale had stood calmly on the brink of the steps, until they made this demonstration, when he looked round contemptuously, and walked at a slow pace down the stairs. He was pretty near the boat, when Gashford, as if without intention, turned about, and directly afterwards a great stone was thrown by some hand, in the crowd, which struck him on the head, and made him stagger like a drunken man.

The blood sprung freely from the wound, and trickled down his coat. He turned directly, and rushing up the steps with a boldness and passion which made them all fall back, demanded:

‘Who did that? Show me the man who hit me.’

Not a soul moved; except some in the rear who slunk off, and, escaping to the other side of the way, looked on like indifferent spectators.

‘Who did that?’ he repeated. ‘Show me the man who did it. Dog, was it you? It was your deed, if not your hand—I know you.’

He threw himself on Gashford as he said the words, and hurled him to the ground. There was a sudden motion in the crowd, and some laid hands upon him, but his sword was out, and they fell off again.

‘My lord—Sir John,’—he cried, ‘draw, one of you—you are responsible for this outrage, and I look to you. Draw, if you are gentlemen.’ With that he struck Sir John upon the breast with the flat of his weapon, and with a burning face and flashing eyes stood upon his guard; alone, before them all.

For an instant, for the briefest space of time the mind can readily conceive, there was a change in Sir John’s smooth face, such as no man ever saw there. The next moment, he stepped forward, and laid one hand on Mr Haredale’s arm, while with the other he endeavoured to appease the crowd.

‘My dear friend, my good Haredale, you are blinded with passion—it’s very natural, extremely natural—but you don’t know friends from foes.’

‘I know them all, sir, I can distinguish well—’ he retorted, almost mad with rage. ‘Sir John, Lord George—do you hear me? Are you cowards?’

‘Never mind, sir,’ said a man, forcing his way between and pushing him towards the stairs with friendly violence, ‘never mind asking that. For God’s sake, get away. What CAN you do against this number? And there are as many more in the next street, who’ll be round directly,’—indeed they began to pour in as he said the words—‘you’d be giddy from that cut, in the first heat of a scuffle. Now do retire, sir, or take my word for it you’ll be worse used than you would be if every man in the crowd was a woman, and that woman Bloody Mary. Come, sir, make haste—as quick as you can.’

Mr Haredale, who began to turn faint and sick, felt how sensible this advice was, and descended the steps with his unknown friend’s assistance. John Grueby (for John it was) helped him into the boat, and giving her a shove off, which sent her thirty feet into the tide, bade the waterman pull away like a Briton; and walked up again as composedly as if he had just landed.

There was at first a slight disposition on the part of the mob to resent this interference; but John looking particularly strong and cool, and wearing besides Lord George’s livery, they thought better of it, and contented themselves with sending a shower of small missiles after the boat, which plashed harmlessly in the water; for she had by this time cleared the bridge, and was darting swiftly down the centre of the stream.

From this amusement, they proceeded to giving Protestant knocks at the doors of private houses, breaking a few lamps, and assaulting some stray constables. But, it being whispered that a detachment of Life Guards had been sent for, they took to their heels with great expedition, and left the street quite clear.






Chapter 44

When the concourse separated, and, dividing into chance clusters, drew off in various directions, there still remained upon the scene of the late disturbance, one man. This man was Gashford, who, bruised by his late fall, and hurt in a much greater degree by the indignity he had undergone, and the exposure of which he had been the victim, limped up and down, breathing curses and threats of vengeance.

It was not the secretary’s nature to waste his wrath in words. While he vented the froth of his malevolence in those effusions, he kept a steady eye on two men, who, having disappeared with the rest when the alarm was spread, had since returned, and were now visible in the moonlight, at no great distance, as they walked to and fro, and talked together.

He made no move towards them, but waited patiently on the dark side of the street, until they were tired of strolling backwards and forwards and walked away in company. Then he followed, but at some distance: keeping them in view, without appearing to have that object, or being seen by them.

They went up Parliament Street, past Saint Martin’s church, and away by Saint Giles’s to Tottenham Court Road, at the back of which, upon the western side, was then a place called the Green Lanes. This was a retired spot, not of the choicest kind, leading into the fields. Great heaps of ashes; stagnant pools, overgrown with rank grass and duckweed; broken turnstiles; and the upright posts of palings long since carried off for firewood, which menaced all heedless walkers with their jagged and rusty nails; were the leading features of the landscape: while here and there a donkey, or a ragged horse, tethered to a stake, and cropping off a wretched meal from the coarse stunted turf, were quite in keeping with the scene, and would have suggested (if the houses had not done so, sufficiently, of themselves) how very poor the people were who lived in the crazy huts adjacent, and how foolhardy it might prove for one who carried money, or wore decent clothes, to walk that way alone, unless by daylight.

Poverty has its whims and shows of taste, as wealth has. Some of these cabins were turreted, some had false windows painted on their rotten walls; one had a mimic clock, upon a crazy tower of four feet high, which screened the chimney; each in its little patch of ground had a rude seat or arbour. The population dealt in bones, in rags, in broken glass, in old wheels, in birds, and dogs. These, in their several ways of stowage, filled the gardens; and shedding a perfume, not of the most delicious nature, in the air, filled it besides with yelps, and screams, and howling.

Into this retreat, the secretary followed the two men whom he had held in sight; and here he saw them safely lodged, in one of the meanest houses, which was but a room, and that of small dimensions. He waited without, until the sound of their voices, joined in a discordant song, assured him they were making merry; and then approaching the door, by means of a tottering plank which crossed the ditch in front, knocked at it with his hand.

‘Muster Gashford!’ said the man who opened it, taking his pipe from his mouth, in evident surprise. ‘Why, who’d have thought of this here honour! Walk in, Muster Gashford—walk in, sir.’

Gashford required no second invitation, and entered with a gracious air. There was a fire in the rusty grate (for though the spring was pretty far advanced, the nights were cold), and on a stool beside it Hugh sat smoking. Dennis placed a chair, his only one, for the secretary, in front of the hearth; and took his seat again upon the stool he had left when he rose to give the visitor admission.

‘What’s in the wind now, Muster Gashford?’ he said, as he resumed his pipe, and looked at him askew. ‘Any orders from head-quarters? Are we going to begin? What is it, Muster Gashford?’

‘Oh, nothing, nothing,’ rejoined the secretary, with a friendly nod to Hugh. ‘We have broken the ice, though. We had a little spurt to-day—eh, Dennis?’

‘A very little one,’ growled the hangman. ‘Not half enough for me.’

‘Nor me neither!’ cried Hugh. ‘Give us something to do with life in it—with life in it, master. Ha, ha!’

‘Why, you wouldn’t,’ said the secretary, with his worst expression of face, and in his mildest tones, ‘have anything to do, with—with death in it?’

‘I don’t know that,’ replied Hugh. ‘I’m open to orders. I don’t care; not I.’

‘Nor I!’ vociferated Dennis.

‘Brave fellows!’ said the secretary, in as pastor-like a voice as if he were commending them for some uncommon act of valour and generosity. ‘By the bye’—and here he stopped and warmed his hands: then suddenly looked up—‘who threw that stone to-day?’

Mr Dennis coughed and shook his head, as who should say, ‘A mystery indeed!’ Hugh sat and smoked in silence.

‘It was well done!’ said the secretary, warming his hands again. ‘I should like to know that man.’

‘Would you?’ said Dennis, after looking at his face to assure himself that he was serious. ‘Would you like to know that man, Muster Gashford?’

‘I should indeed,’ replied the secretary.

‘Why then, Lord love you,’ said the hangman, in his hoarest chuckle, as he pointed with his pipe to Hugh, ‘there he sits. That’s the man. My stars and halters, Muster Gashford,’ he added in a whisper, as he drew his stool close to him and jogged him with his elbow, ‘what a interesting blade he is! He wants as much holding in as a thorough-bred bulldog. If it hadn’t been for me to-day, he’d have had that ‘ere Roman down, and made a riot of it, in another minute.’

‘And why not?’ cried Hugh in a surly voice, as he overheard this last remark. ‘Where’s the good of putting things off? Strike while the iron’s hot; that’s what I say.’

‘Ah!’ retorted Dennis, shaking his head, with a kind of pity for his friend’s ingenuous youth; ‘but suppose the iron an’t hot, brother! You must get people’s blood up afore you strike, and have ‘em in the humour. There wasn’t quite enough to provoke ‘em to-day, I tell you. If you’d had your way, you’d have spoilt the fun to come, and ruined us.’

‘Dennis is quite right,’ said Gashford, smoothly. ‘He is perfectly correct. Dennis has great knowledge of the world.’

‘I ought to have, Muster Gashford, seeing what a many people I’ve helped out of it, eh?’ grinned the hangman, whispering the words behind his hand.

The secretary laughed at this jest as much as Dennis could desire, and when he had done, said, turning to Hugh:

‘Dennis’s policy was mine, as you may have observed. You saw, for instance, how I fell when I was set upon. I made no resistance. I did nothing to provoke an outbreak. Oh dear no!’

‘No, by the Lord Harry!’ cried Dennis with a noisy laugh, ‘you went down very quiet, Muster Gashford—and very flat besides. I thinks to myself at the time “it’s all up with Muster Gashford!” I never see a man lay flatter nor more still—with the life in him—than you did to-day. He’s a rough ‘un to play with, is that ‘ere Papist, and that’s the fact.’

The secretary’s face, as Dennis roared with laughter, and turned his wrinkled eyes on Hugh who did the like, might have furnished a study for the devil’s picture. He sat quite silent until they were serious again, and then said, looking round:

‘We are very pleasant here; so very pleasant, Dennis, that but for my lord’s particular desire that I should sup with him, and the time being very near at hand, I should be inclined to stay, until it would be hardly safe to go homeward. I come upon a little business—yes, I do—as you supposed. It’s very flattering to you; being this. If we ever should be obliged—and we can’t tell, you know—this is a very uncertain world’—

‘I believe you, Muster Gashford,’ interposed the hangman with a grave nod. ‘The uncertainties as I’ve seen in reference to this here state of existence, the unexpected contingencies as have come about!—Oh my eye!’ Feeling the subject much too vast for expression, he puffed at his pipe again, and looked the rest.

‘I say,’ resumed the secretary, in a slow, impressive way; ‘we can’t tell what may come to pass; and if we should be obliged, against our wills, to have recourse to violence, my lord (who has suffered terribly to-day, as far as words can go) consigns to you two—bearing in mind my recommendation of you both, as good staunch men, beyond all doubt and suspicion—the pleasant task of punishing this Haredale. You may do as you please with him, or his, provided that you show no mercy, and no quarter, and leave no two beams of his house standing where the builder placed them. You may sack it, burn it, do with it as you like, but it must come down; it must be razed to the ground; and he, and all belonging to him, left as shelterless as new-born infants whom their mothers have exposed. Do you understand me?’ said Gashford, pausing, and pressing his hands together gently.

‘Understand you, master!’ cried Hugh. ‘You speak plain now. Why, this is hearty!’

‘I knew you would like it,’ said Gashford, shaking him by the hand; ‘I thought you would. Good night! Don’t rise, Dennis: I would rather find my way alone. I may have to make other visits here, and it’s pleasant to come and go without disturbing you. I can find my way perfectly well. Good night!’

He was gone, and had shut the door behind him. They looked at each other, and nodded approvingly: Dennis stirred up the fire.

‘This looks a little more like business!’ he said.

‘Ay, indeed!’ cried Hugh; ‘this suits me!’

‘I’ve heerd it said of Muster Gashford,’ said the hangman, ‘that he’d a surprising memory and wonderful firmness—that he never forgot, and never forgave.—Let’s drink his health!’

Hugh readily complied—pouring no liquor on the floor when he drank this toast—and they pledged the secretary as a man after their own hearts, in a bumper.






Chapter 45

While the worst passions of the worst men were thus working in the dark, and the mantle of religion, assumed to cover the ugliest deformities, threatened to become the shroud of all that was good and peaceful in society, a circumstance occurred which once more altered the position of two persons from whom this history has long been separated, and to whom it must now return.

In a small English country town, the inhabitants of which supported themselves by the labour of their hands in plaiting and preparing straw for those who made bonnets and other articles of dress and ornament from that material,—concealed under an assumed name, and living in a quiet poverty which knew no change, no pleasures, and few cares but that of struggling on from day to day in one great toil for bread,—dwelt Barnaby and his mother. Their poor cottage had known no stranger’s foot since they sought the shelter of its roof five years before; nor had they in all that time held any commerce or communication with the old world from which they had fled. To labour in peace, and devote her labour and her life to her poor son, was all the widow sought. If happiness can be said at any time to be the lot of one on whom a secret sorrow preys, she was happy now. Tranquillity, resignation, and her strong love of him who needed it so much, formed the small circle of her quiet joys; and while that remained unbroken, she was contented.

For Barnaby himself, the time which had flown by, had passed him like the wind. The daily suns of years had shed no brighter gleam of reason on his mind; no dawn had broken on his long, dark night. He would sit sometimes—often for days together on a low seat by the fire or by the cottage door, busy at work (for he had learnt the art his mother plied), and listening, God help him, to the tales she would repeat, as a lure to keep him in her sight. He had no recollection of these little narratives; the tale of yesterday was new to him upon the morrow; but he liked them at the moment; and when the humour held him, would remain patiently within doors, hearing her stories like a little child, and working cheerfully from sunrise until it was too dark to see.

At other times,—and then their scanty earnings were barely sufficient to furnish them with food, though of the coarsest sort,—he would wander abroad from dawn of day until the twilight deepened into night. Few in that place, even of the children, could be idle, and he had no companions of his own kind. Indeed there were not many who could have kept up with him in his rambles, had there been a legion. But there were a score of vagabond dogs belonging to the neighbours, who served his purpose quite as well. With two or three of these, or sometimes with a full half-dozen barking at his heels, he would sally forth on some long expedition that consumed the day; and though, on their return at nightfall, the dogs would come home limping and sore-footed, and almost spent with their fatigue, Barnaby was up and off again at sunrise with some new attendants of the same class, with whom he would return in like manner. On all these travels, Grip, in his little basket at his master’s back, was a constant member of the party, and when they set off in fine weather and in high spirits, no dog barked louder than the raven.

Their pleasures on these excursions were simple enough. A crust of bread and scrap of meat, with water from the brook or spring, sufficed for their repast. Barnaby’s enjoyments were, to walk, and run, and leap, till he was tired; then to lie down in the long grass, or by the growing corn, or in the shade of some tall tree, looking upward at the light clouds as they floated over the blue surface of the sky, and listening to the lark as she poured out her brilliant song. There were wild-flowers to pluck—the bright red poppy, the gentle harebell, the cowslip, and the rose. There were birds to watch; fish; ants; worms; hares or rabbits, as they darted across the distant pathway in the wood and so were gone: millions of living things to have an interest in, and lie in wait for, and clap hands and shout in memory of, when they had disappeared. In default of these, or when they wearied, there was the merry sunlight to hunt out, as it crept in aslant through leaves and boughs of trees, and hid far down—deep, deep, in hollow places—like a silver pool, where nodding branches seemed to bathe and sport; sweet scents of summer air breathing over fields of beans or clover; the perfume of wet leaves or moss; the life of waving trees, and shadows always changing. When these or any of them tired, or in excess of pleasing tempted him to shut his eyes, there was slumber in the midst of all these soft delights, with the gentle wind murmuring like music in his ears, and everything around melting into one delicious dream.

Their hut—for it was little more—stood on the outskirts of the town, at a short distance from the high road, but in a secluded place, where few chance passengers strayed at any season of the year. It had a plot of garden-ground attached, which Barnaby, in fits and starts of working, trimmed, and kept in order. Within doors and without, his mother laboured for their common good; and hail, rain, snow, or sunshine, found no difference in her.

Though so far removed from the scenes of her past life, and with so little thought or hope of ever visiting them again, she seemed to have a strange desire to know what happened in the busy world. Any old newspaper, or scrap of intelligence from London, she caught at with avidity. The excitement it produced was not of a pleasurable kind, for her manner at such times expressed the keenest anxiety and dread; but it never faded in the least degree. Then, and in stormy winter nights, when the wind blew loud and strong, the old expression came into her face, and she would be seized with a fit of trembling, like one who had an ague. But Barnaby noted little of this; and putting a great constraint upon herself, she usually recovered her accustomed manner before the change had caught his observation.

Grip was by no means an idle or unprofitable member of the humble household. Partly by dint of Barnaby’s tuition, and partly by pursuing a species of self-instruction common to his tribe, and exerting his powers of observation to the utmost, he had acquired a degree of sagacity which rendered him famous for miles round. His conversational powers and surprising performances were the universal theme: and as many persons came to see the wonderful raven, and none left his exertions unrewarded—when he condescended to exhibit, which was not always, for genius is capricious—his earnings formed an important item in the common stock. Indeed, the bird himself appeared to know his value well; for though he was perfectly free and unrestrained in the presence of Barnaby and his mother, he maintained in public an amazing gravity, and never stooped to any other gratuitous performances than biting the ankles of vagabond boys (an exercise in which he much delighted), killing a fowl or two occasionally, and swallowing the dinners of various neighbouring dogs, of whom the boldest held him in great awe and dread.

Time had glided on in this way, and nothing had happened to disturb or change their mode of life, when, one summer’s night in June, they were in their little garden, resting from the labours of the day. The widow’s work was yet upon her knee, and strewn upon the ground about her; and Barnaby stood leaning on his spade, gazing at the brightness in the west, and singing softly to himself.

‘A brave evening, mother! If we had, chinking in our pockets, but a few specks of that gold which is piled up yonder in the sky, we should be rich for life.’

‘We are better as we are,’ returned the widow with a quiet smile. ‘Let us be contented, and we do not want and need not care to have it, though it lay shining at our feet.’

‘Ay!’ said Barnaby, resting with crossed arms on his spade, and looking wistfully at the sunset, ‘that’s well enough, mother; but gold’s a good thing to have. I wish that I knew where to find it. Grip and I could do much with gold, be sure of that.’

‘What would you do?’ she asked.

‘What! A world of things. We’d dress finely—you and I, I mean; not Grip—keep horses, dogs, wear bright colours and feathers, do no more work, live delicately and at our ease. Oh, we’d find uses for it, mother, and uses that would do us good. I would I knew where gold was buried. How hard I’d work to dig it up!’

‘You do not know,’ said his mother, rising from her seat and laying her hand upon his shoulder, ‘what men have done to win it, and how they have found, too late, that it glitters brightest at a distance, and turns quite dim and dull when handled.’

‘Ay, ay; so you say; so you think,’ he answered, still looking eagerly in the same direction. ‘For all that, mother, I should like to try.’

‘Do you not see,’ she said, ‘how red it is? Nothing bears so many stains of blood, as gold. Avoid it. None have such cause to hate its name as we have. Do not so much as think of it, dear love. It has brought such misery and suffering on your head and mine as few have known, and God grant few may have to undergo. I would rather we were dead and laid down in our graves, than you should ever come to love it.’

For a moment Barnaby withdrew his eyes and looked at her with wonder. Then, glancing from the redness in the sky to the mark upon his wrist as if he would compare the two, he seemed about to question her with earnestness, when a new object caught his wandering attention, and made him quite forgetful of his purpose.

This was a man with dusty feet and garments, who stood, bare-headed, behind the hedge that divided their patch of garden from the pathway, and leant meekly forward as if he sought to mingle with their conversation, and waited for his time to speak. His face was turned towards the brightness, too, but the light that fell upon it showed that he was blind, and saw it not.

‘A blessing on those voices!’ said the wayfarer. ‘I feel the beauty of the night more keenly, when I hear them. They are like eyes to me. Will they speak again, and cheer the heart of a poor traveller?’

‘Have you no guide?’ asked the widow, after a moment’s pause.

‘None but that,’ he answered, pointing with his staff towards the sun; ‘and sometimes a milder one at night, but she is idle now.’

‘Have you travelled far?’

‘A weary way and long,’ rejoined the traveller as he shook his head. ‘A weary, weary, way. I struck my stick just now upon the bucket of your well—be pleased to let me have a draught of water, lady.’

‘Why do you call me lady?’ she returned. ‘I am as poor as you.’

‘Your speech is soft and gentle, and I judge by that,’ replied the man. ‘The coarsest stuffs and finest silks, are—apart from the sense of touch—alike to me. I cannot judge you by your dress.’

‘Come round this way,’ said Barnaby, who had passed out at the garden-gate and now stood close beside him. ‘Put your hand in mine. You’re blind and always in the dark, eh? Are you frightened in the dark? Do you see great crowds of faces, now? Do they grin and chatter?’

‘Alas!’ returned the other, ‘I see nothing. Waking or sleeping, nothing.’

Barnaby looked curiously at his eyes, and touching them with his fingers, as an inquisitive child might, led him towards the house.

‘You have come a long distance,’ said the widow, meeting him at the door. ‘How have you found your way so far?’

‘Use and necessity are good teachers, as I have heard—the best of any,’ said the blind man, sitting down upon the chair to which Barnaby had led him, and putting his hat and stick upon the red-tiled floor. ‘May neither you nor your son ever learn under them. They are rough masters.’

‘You have wandered from the road, too,’ said the widow, in a tone of pity.

‘Maybe, maybe,’ returned the blind man with a sigh, and yet with something of a smile upon his face, ‘that’s likely. Handposts and milestones are dumb, indeed, to me. Thank you the more for this rest, and this refreshing drink!’

As he spoke, he raised the mug of water to his mouth. It was clear, and cold, and sparkling, but not to his taste nevertheless, or his thirst was not very great, for he only wetted his lips and put it down again.

He wore, hanging with a long strap round his neck, a kind of scrip or wallet, in which to carry food. The widow set some bread and cheese before him, but he thanked her, and said that through the kindness of the charitable he had broken his fast once since morning, and was not hungry. When he had made her this reply, he opened his wallet, and took out a few pence, which was all it appeared to contain.

‘Might I make bold to ask,’ he said, turning towards where Barnaby stood looking on, ‘that one who has the gift of sight, would lay this out for me in bread to keep me on my way? Heaven’s blessing on the young feet that will bestir themselves in aid of one so helpless as a sightless man!’

Barnaby looked at his mother, who nodded assent; in another moment he was gone upon his charitable errand. The blind man sat listening with an attentive face, until long after the sound of his retreating footsteps was inaudible to the widow, and then said, suddenly, and in a very altered tone:

‘There are various degrees and kinds of blindness, widow. There is the connubial blindness, ma’am, which perhaps you may have observed in the course of your own experience, and which is a kind of wilful and self-bandaging blindness. There is the blindness of party, ma’am, and public men, which is the blindness of a mad bull in the midst of a regiment of soldiers clothed in red. There is the blind confidence of youth, which is the blindness of young kittens, whose eyes have not yet opened on the world; and there is that physical blindness, ma’am, of which I am, contrairy to my own desire, a most illustrious example. Added to these, ma’am, is that blindness of the intellect, of which we have a specimen in your interesting son, and which, having sometimes glimmerings and dawnings of the light, is scarcely to be trusted as a total darkness. Therefore, ma’am, I have taken the liberty to get him out of the way for a short time, while you and I confer together, and this precaution arising out of the delicacy of my sentiments towards yourself, you will excuse me, ma’am, I know.’

Having delivered himself of this speech with many flourishes of manner, he drew from beneath his coat a flat stone bottle, and holding the cork between his teeth, qualified his mug of water with a plentiful infusion of the liquor it contained. He politely drained the bumper to her health, and the ladies, and setting it down empty, smacked his lips with infinite relish.

‘I am a citizen of the world, ma’am,’ said the blind man, corking his bottle, ‘and if I seem to conduct myself with freedom, it is therefore. You wonder who I am, ma’am, and what has brought me here. Such experience of human nature as I have, leads me to that conclusion, without the aid of eyes by which to read the movements of your soul as depicted in your feminine features. I will satisfy your curiosity immediately, ma’am; immediately.’ With that he slapped his bottle on its broad back, and having put it under his garment as before, crossed his legs and folded his hands, and settled himself in his chair, previous to proceeding any further.

The change in his manner was so unexpected, the craft and wickedness of his deportment were so much aggravated by his condition—for we are accustomed to see in those who have lost a human sense, something in its place almost divine—and this alteration bred so many fears in her whom he addressed, that she could not pronounce one word. After waiting, as it seemed, for some remark or answer, and waiting in vain, the visitor resumed:

‘Madam, my name is Stagg. A friend of mine who has desired the honour of meeting with you any time these five years past, has commissioned me to call upon you. I should be glad to whisper that gentleman’s name in your ear.—Zounds, ma’am, are you deaf? Do you hear me say that I should be glad to whisper my friend’s name in your ear?’

‘You need not repeat it,’ said the widow, with a stifled groan; ‘I see too well from whom you come.’

‘But as a man of honour, ma’am,’ said the blind man, striking himself on the breast, ‘whose credentials must not be disputed, I take leave to say that I WILL mention that gentleman’s name. Ay, ay,’ he added, seeming to catch with his quick ear the very motion of her hand, ‘but not aloud. With your leave, ma’am, I desire the favour of a whisper.’

She moved towards him, and stooped down. He muttered a word in her ear; and, wringing her hands, she paced up and down the room like one distracted. The blind man, with perfect composure, produced his bottle again, mixed another glassful; put it up as before; and, drinking from time to time, followed her with his face in silence.

‘You are slow in conversation, widow,’ he said after a time, pausing in his draught. ‘We shall have to talk before your son.’

‘What would you have me do?’ she answered. ‘What do you want?’

‘We are poor, widow, we are poor,’ he retorted, stretching out his right hand, and rubbing his thumb upon its palm.

‘Poor!’ she cried. ‘And what am I?’

‘Comparisons are odious,’ said the blind man. ‘I don’t know, I don’t care. I say that we are poor. My friend’s circumstances are indifferent, and so are mine. We must have our rights, widow, or we must be bought off. But you know that, as well as I, so where is the use of talking?’

She still walked wildly to and fro. At length, stopping abruptly before him, she said:

‘Is he near here?’

‘He is. Close at hand.’

‘Then I am lost!’

‘Not lost, widow,’ said the blind man, calmly; ‘only found. Shall I call him?’

‘Not for the world,’ she answered, with a shudder.

‘Very good,’ he replied, crossing his legs again, for he had made as though he would rise and walk to the door. ‘As you please, widow. His presence is not necessary that I know of. But both he and I must live; to live, we must eat and drink; to eat and drink, we must have money:—I say no more.’

‘Do you know how pinched and destitute I am?’ she retorted. ‘I do not think you do, or can. If you had eyes, and could look around you on this poor place, you would have pity on me. Oh! let your heart be softened by your own affliction, friend, and have some sympathy with mine.’

The blind man snapped his fingers as he answered:

‘—Beside the question, ma’am, beside the question. I have the softest heart in the world, but I can’t live upon it. Many a gentleman lives well upon a soft head, who would find a heart of the same quality a very great drawback. Listen to me. This is a matter of business, with which sympathies and sentiments have nothing to do. As a mutual friend, I wish to arrange it in a satisfactory manner, if possible; and thus the case stands.—If you are very poor now, it’s your own choice. You have friends who, in case of need, are always ready to help you. My friend is in a more destitute and desolate situation than most men, and, you and he being linked together in a common cause, he naturally looks to you to assist him. He has boarded and lodged with me a long time (for as I said just now, I am very soft-hearted), and I quite approve of his entertaining this opinion. You have always had a roof over your head; he has always been an outcast. You have your son to comfort and assist you; he has nobody at all. The advantages must not be all one side. You are in the same boat, and we must divide the ballast a little more equally.’

She was about to speak, but he checked her, and went on.

‘The only way of doing this, is by making up a little purse now and then for my friend; and that’s what I advise. He bears you no malice that I know of, ma’am: so little, that although you have treated him harshly more than once, and driven him, I may say, out of doors, he has that regard for you that I believe even if you disappointed him now, he would consent to take charge of your son, and to make a man of him.’

He laid a great stress on these latter words, and paused as if to find out what effect they had produced. She only answered by her tears.

‘He is a likely lad,’ said the blind man, thoughtfully, ‘for many purposes, and not ill-disposed to try his fortune in a little change and bustle, if I may judge from what I heard of his talk with you to-night.—Come. In a word, my friend has pressing necessity for twenty pounds. You, who can give up an annuity, can get that sum for him. It’s a pity you should be troubled. You seem very comfortable here, and it’s worth that much to remain so. Twenty pounds, widow, is a moderate demand. You know where to apply for it; a post will bring it you.—Twenty pounds!’

She was about to answer him again, but again he stopped her.

‘Don’t say anything hastily; you might be sorry for it. Think of it a little while. Twenty pounds—of other people’s money—how easy! Turn it over in your mind. I’m in no hurry. Night’s coming on, and if I don’t sleep here, I shall not go far. Twenty pounds! Consider of it, ma’am, for twenty minutes; give each pound a minute; that’s a fair allowance. I’ll enjoy the air the while, which is very mild and pleasant in these parts.’

With these words he groped his way to the door, carrying his chair with him. Then seating himself, under a spreading honeysuckle, and stretching his legs across the threshold so that no person could pass in or out without his knowledge, he took from his pocket a pipe, flint, steel and tinder-box, and began to smoke. It was a lovely evening, of that gentle kind, and at that time of year, when the twilight is most beautiful. Pausing now and then to let his smoke curl slowly off, and to sniff the grateful fragrance of the flowers, he sat there at his ease—as though the cottage were his proper dwelling, and he had held undisputed possession of it all his life—waiting for the widow’s answer and for Barnaby’s return.