Part 1 out of 15
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'very', as intended by the author.
BARNABY RUDGE - A TALE OF THE RIOTS OF 'EIGHTY
The late Mr Waterton having, some time ago, expressed his opinion
that ravens are gradually becoming extinct in England, I offered
the few following words about my experience of these birds.
The raven in this story is a compound of two great originals, of
whom I was, at different times, the proud possessor. The first was
in the bloom of his youth, when he was discovered in a modest
retirement in London, by a friend of mine, and given to me. He had
from the first, as Sir Hugh Evans says of Anne Page, 'good gifts',
which he improved by study and attention in a most exemplary
manner. He slept in a stable--generally on horseback--and so
terrified a Newfoundland dog by his preternatural sagacity, that he
has been known, by the mere superiority of his genius, to walk off
unmolested with the dog's dinner, from before his face. He was
rapidly rising in acquirements and virtues, when, in an evil hour,
his stable was newly painted. He observed the workmen closely,
saw that they were careful of the paint, and immediately burned to
possess it. On their going to dinner, he ate up all they had left
behind, consisting of a pound or two of white lead; and this
youthful indiscretion terminated in death.
While I was yet inconsolable for his loss, another friend of mine
in Yorkshire discovered an older and more gifted raven at a village
public-house, which he prevailed upon the landlord to part with for
a consideration, and sent up to me. The first act of this Sage,
was, to administer to the effects of his predecessor, by
disinterring all the cheese and halfpence he had buried in the
garden--a work of immense labour and research, to which he devoted
all the energies of his mind. When he had achieved this task, he
applied himself to the acquisition of stable language, in which he
soon became such an adept, that he would perch outside my window
and drive imaginary horses with great skill, all day. Perhaps
even I never saw him at his best, for his former master sent his
duty with him, 'and if I wished the bird to come out very strong,
would I be so good as to show him a drunken man'--which I never
did, having (unfortunately) none but sober people at hand.
But I could hardly have respected him more, whatever the
stimulating influences of this sight might have been. He had not
the least respect, I am sorry to say, for me in return, or for
anybody but the cook; to whom he was attached--but only, I fear, as
a Policeman might have been. Once, I met him unexpectedly, about
half-a-mile from my house, walking down the middle of a public
street, attended by a pretty large crowd, and spontaneously
exhibiting the whole of his accomplishments. His gravity under
those trying circumstances, I can never forget, nor the
extraordinary gallantry with which, refusing to be brought home, he
defended himself behind a pump, until overpowered by numbers. It
may have been that he was too bright a genius to live long, or it
may have been that he took some pernicious substance into his bill,
and thence into his maw--which is not improbable, seeing that he
new-pointed the greater part of the garden-wall by digging out the
mortar, broke countless squares of glass by scraping away the putty
all round the frames, and tore up and swallowed, in splinters, the
greater part of a wooden staircase of six steps and a landing--but
after some three years he too was taken ill, and died before the
kitchen fire. He kept his eye to the last upon the meat as it
roasted, and suddenly. turned over on his back with a sepulchral
cry of 'Cuckoo!' Since then I have been ravenless.
No account of the Gordon Riots having been to my knowledge
introduced into any Work of Fiction, and the subject presenting
very extraordinary and remarkable features, I was led to project
It is unnecessary to say, that those shameful tumults, while they
reflect indelible disgrace upon the time in which they occurred,
and all who had act or part in them, teach a good lesson. That
what we falsely call a religious cry is easily raised by men who
have no religion, and who in their daily practice set at nought the
commonest principles of right and wrong; that it is begotten of
intolerance and persecution; that it is senseless, besotted,
inveterate and unmerciful; all History teaches us. But perhaps we
do not know it in our hearts too well, to profit by even so humble
an example as the 'No Popery' riots of Seventeen Hundred and Eighty.
However imperfectly those disturbances are set forth in the
following pages, they are impartially painted by one who has no
sympathy with the Romish Church, though he acknowledges, as most
men do, some esteemed friends among the followers of its creed.
In the description of the principal outrages, reference has been
had to the best authorities of that time, such as they are; the
account given in this Tale, of all the main features of the Riots,
is substantially correct.
Mr Dennis's allusions to the flourishing condition of his trade in
those days, have their foundation in Truth, and not in the
Author's fancy. Any file of old Newspapers, or odd volume of the
Annual Register, will prove this with terrible ease.
Even the case of Mary Jones, dwelt upon with so much pleasure by
the same character, is no effort of invention. The facts were
stated, exactly as they are stated here, in the House of Commons.
Whether they afforded as much entertainment to the merry gentlemen
assembled there, as some other most affecting circumstances of a
similar nature mentioned by Sir Samuel Romilly, is not recorded.
That the case of Mary Jones may speak the more emphatically for
itself, I subjoin it, as related by SIR WILLIAM MEREDITH in a
speech in Parliament, 'on Frequent Executions', made in 1777.
'Under this act,' the Shop-lifting Act, 'one Mary Jones was
executed, whose case I shall just mention; it was at the time when
press warrants were issued, on the alarm about Falkland Islands.
The woman's husband was pressed, their goods seized for some debts
of his, and she, with two small children, turned into the streets
a-begging. It is a circumstance not to be forgotten, that she was
very young (under nineteen), and most remarkably handsome. She
went to a linen-draper's shop, took some coarse linen off the
counter, and slipped it under her cloak; the shopman saw her, and
she laid it down: for this she was hanged. Her defence was (I have
the trial in my pocket), "that she had lived in credit, and wanted
for nothing, till a press-gang came and stole her husband from her;
but since then, she had no bed to lie on; nothing to give her
children to eat; and they were almost naked; and perhaps she might
have done something wrong, for she hardly knew what she did." The
parish officers testified the truth of this story; but it seems,
there had been a good deal of shop-lifting about Ludgate; an
example was thought necessary; and this woman was hanged for the
comfort and satisfaction of shopkeepers in Ludgate Street. When
brought to receive sentence, she behaved in such a frantic manner,
as proved her mind to he in a distracted and desponding state; and
the child was sucking at her breast when she set out for Tyburn.'
In the year 1775, there stood upon the borders of Epping Forest,
at a distance of about twelve miles from London--measuring from the
Standard in Cornhill,' or rather from the spot on or near to which
the Standard used to be in days of yore--a house of public
entertainment called the Maypole; which fact was demonstrated to
all such travellers as could neither read nor write (and at that
time a vast number both of travellers and stay-at-homes were in
this condition) by the emblem reared on the roadside over against
the house, which, if not of those goodly proportions that Maypoles
were wont to present in olden times, was a fair young ash, thirty
feet in height, and straight as any arrow that ever English yeoman
The Maypole--by which term from henceforth is meant the house, and
not its sign--the Maypole was an old building, with more gable ends
than a lazy man would care to count on a sunny day; huge zig-zag
chimneys, out of which it seemed as though even smoke could not
choose but come in more than naturally fantastic shapes, imparted
to it in its tortuous progress; and vast stables, gloomy, ruinous,
and empty. The place was said to have been built in the days of
King Henry the Eighth; and there was a legend, not only that Queen
Elizabeth had slept there one night while upon a hunting excursion,
to wit, in a certain oak-panelled room with a deep bay window, but
that next morning, while standing on a mounting block before the
door with one foot in the stirrup, the virgin monarch had then and
there boxed and cuffed an unlucky page for some neglect of duty.
The matter-of-fact and doubtful folks, of whom there were a few
among the Maypole customers, as unluckily there always are in every
little community, were inclined to look upon this tradition as
rather apocryphal; but, whenever the landlord of that ancient
hostelry appealed to the mounting block itself as evidence, and
triumphantly pointed out that there it stood in the same place to
that very day, the doubters never failed to be put down by a large
majority, and all true believers exulted as in a victory.
Whether these, and many other stories of the like nature, were true
or untrue, the Maypole was really an old house, a very old house,
perhaps as old as it claimed to be, and perhaps older, which will
sometimes happen with houses of an uncertain, as with ladies of a
certain, age. Its windows were old diamond-pane lattices, its
floors were sunken and uneven, its ceilings blackened by the hand
of time, and heavy with massive beams. Over the doorway was an
ancient porch, quaintly and grotesquely carved; and here on summer
evenings the more favoured customers smoked and drank--ay, and
sang many a good song too, sometimes--reposing on two grim-looking
high-backed settles, which, like the twin dragons of some fairy
tale, guarded the entrance to the mansion.
In the chimneys of the disused rooms, swallows had built their
nests for many a long year, and from earliest spring to latest
autumn whole colonies of sparrows chirped and twittered in the
eaves. There were more pigeons about the dreary stable-yard and
out-buildings than anybody but the landlord could reckon up. The
wheeling and circling flights of runts, fantails, tumblers, and
pouters, were perhaps not quite consistent with the grave and sober
character of the building, but the monotonous cooing, which never
ceased to be raised by some among them all day long, suited it
exactly, and seemed to lull it to rest. With its overhanging
stories, drowsy little panes of glass, and front bulging out and
projecting over the pathway, the old house looked as if it were
nodding in its sleep. Indeed, it needed no very great stretch of
fancy to detect in it other resemblances to humanity. The bricks
of which it was built had originally been a deep dark red, but had
grown yellow and discoloured like an old man's skin; the sturdy
timbers had decayed like teeth; and here and there the ivy, like a
warm garment to comfort it in its age, wrapt its green leaves
closely round the time-worn walls.
It was a hale and hearty age though, still: and in the summer or
autumn evenings, when the glow of the setting sun fell upon the oak
and chestnut trees of the adjacent forest, the old house, partaking
of its lustre, seemed their fit companion, and to have many good
years of life in him yet.
The evening with which we have to do, was neither a summer nor an
autumn one, but the twilight of a day in March, when the wind
howled dismally among the bare branches of the trees, and rumbling
in the wide chimneys and driving the rain against the windows of
the Maypole Inn, gave such of its frequenters as chanced to be
there at the moment an undeniable reason for prolonging their stay,
and caused the landlord to prophesy that the night would certainly
clear at eleven o'clock precisely,--which by a remarkable
coincidence was the hour at which he always closed his house.
The name of him upon whom the spirit of prophecy thus descended was
John Willet, a burly, large-headed man with a fat face, which
betokened profound obstinacy and slowness of apprehension,
combined with a very strong reliance upon his own merits. It was
John Willet's ordinary boast in his more placid moods that if he
were slow he was sure; which assertion could, in one sense at
least, be by no means gainsaid, seeing that he was in everything
unquestionably the reverse of fast, and withal one of the most
dogged and positive fellows in existence--always sure that what he
thought or said or did was right, and holding it as a thing quite
settled and ordained by the laws of nature and Providence, that
anybody who said or did or thought otherwise must be inevitably and
of necessity wrong.
Mr Willet walked slowly up to the window, flattened his fat nose
against the cold glass, and shading his eyes that his sight might
not be affected by the ruddy glow of the fire, looked abroad. Then
he walked slowly back to his old seat in the chimney-corner, and,
composing himself in it with a slight shiver, such as a man might
give way to and so acquire an additional relish for the warm blaze,
said, looking round upon his guests:
'It'll clear at eleven o'clock. No sooner and no later. Not
before and not arterwards.'
'How do you make out that?' said a little man in the opposite
corner. 'The moon is past the full, and she rises at nine.'
John looked sedately and solemnly at his questioner until he had
brought his mind to bear upon the whole of his observation, and
then made answer, in a tone which seemed to imply that the moon was
peculiarly his business and nobody else's:
'Never you mind about the moon. Don't you trouble yourself about
her. You let the moon alone, and I'll let you alone.'
'No offence I hope?' said the little man.
Again John waited leisurely until the observation had thoroughly
penetrated to his brain, and then replying, 'No offence as YET,'
applied a light to his pipe and smoked in placid silence; now and
then casting a sidelong look at a man wrapped in a loose riding-
coat with huge cuffs ornamented with tarnished silver lace and
large metal buttons, who sat apart from the regular frequenters of
the house, and wearing a hat flapped over his face, which was still
further shaded by the hand on which his forehead rested, looked
There was another guest, who sat, booted and spurred, at some
distance from the fire also, and whose thoughts--to judge from his
folded arms and knitted brows, and from the untasted liquor before
him--were occupied with other matters than the topics under
discussion or the persons who discussed them. This was a young man
of about eight-and-twenty, rather above the middle height, and
though of somewhat slight figure, gracefully and strongly made. He
wore his own dark hair, and was accoutred in a riding dress, which
together with his large boots (resembling in shape and fashion
those worn by our Life Guardsmen at the present day), showed
indisputable traces of the bad condition of the roads. But travel-
stained though he was, he was well and even richly attired, and
without being overdressed looked a gallant gentleman.
Lying upon the table beside him, as he had carelessly thrown them
down, were a heavy riding-whip and a slouched hat, the latter worn
no doubt as being best suited to the inclemency of the weather.
There, too, were a pair of pistols in a holster-case, and a short
riding-cloak. Little of his face was visible, except the long dark
lashes which concealed his downcast eyes, but an air of careless
ease and natural gracefulness of demeanour pervaded the figure, and
seemed to comprehend even those slight accessories, which were all
handsome, and in good keeping.
Towards this young gentleman the eyes of Mr Willet wandered but
once, and then as if in mute inquiry whether he had observed his
silent neighbour. It was plain that John and the young gentleman
had often met before. Finding that his look was not returned, or
indeed observed by the person to whom it was addressed, John
gradually concentrated the whole power of his eyes into one focus,
and brought it to bear upon the man in the flapped hat, at whom he
came to stare in course of time with an intensity so remarkable,
that it affected his fireside cronies, who all, as with one accord,
took their pipes from their lips, and stared with open mouths at
the stranger likewise.
The sturdy landlord had a large pair of dull fish-like eyes, and
the little man who had hazarded the remark about the moon (and who
was the parish-clerk and bell-ringer of Chigwell, a village hard
by) had little round black shiny eyes like beads; moreover this
little man wore at the knees of his rusty black breeches, and on
his rusty black coat, and all down his long flapped waistcoat,
little queer buttons like nothing except his eyes; but so like
them, that as they twinkled and glistened in the light of the fire,
which shone too in his bright shoe-buckles, he seemed all eyes from
head to foot, and to be gazing with every one of them at the
unknown customer. No wonder that a man should grow restless under
such an inspection as this, to say nothing of the eyes belonging to
short Tom Cobb the general chandler and post-office keeper, and
long Phil Parkes the ranger, both of whom, infected by the example
of their companions, regarded him of the flapped hat no less
The stranger became restless; perhaps from being exposed to this
raking fire of eyes, perhaps from the nature of his previous
meditations--most probably from the latter cause, for as he changed
his position and looked hastily round, he started to find himself
the object of such keen regard, and darted an angry and suspicious
glance at the fireside group. It had the effect of immediately
diverting all eyes to the chimney, except those of John Willet, who
finding himself as it were, caught in the fact, and not being (as
has been already observed) of a very ready nature, remained staring
at his guest in a particularly awkward and disconcerted manner.
'Well?' said the stranger.
Well. There was not much in well. It was not a long speech. 'I
thought you gave an order,' said the landlord, after a pause of two
or three minutes for consideration.
The stranger took off his hat, and disclosed the hard features of a
man of sixty or thereabouts, much weatherbeaten and worn by time,
and the naturally harsh expression of which was not improved by a
dark handkerchief which was bound tightly round his head, and,
while it served the purpose of a wig, shaded his forehead, and
almost hid his eyebrows. If it were intended to conceal or divert
attention from a deep gash, now healed into an ugly seam, which
when it was first inflicted must have laid bare his cheekbone, the
object was but indifferently attained, for it could scarcely fail
to be noted at a glance. His complexion was of a cadaverous hue,
and he had a grizzly jagged beard of some three weeks' date. Such
was the figure (very meanly and poorly clad) that now rose from the
seat, and stalking across the room sat down in a corner of the
chimney, which the politeness or fears of the little clerk very
readily assigned to him.
'A highwayman!' whispered Tom Cobb to Parkes the ranger.
'Do you suppose highwaymen don't dress handsomer than that?'
replied Parkes. 'It's a better business than you think for, Tom,
and highwaymen don't need or use to be shabby, take my word for it.'
Meanwhile the subject of their speculations had done due honour to
the house by calling for some drink, which was promptly supplied by
the landlord's son Joe, a broad-shouldered strapping young fellow
of twenty, whom it pleased his father still to consider a little
boy, and to treat accordingly. Stretching out his hands to warm
them by the blazing fire, the man turned his head towards the
company, and after running his eye sharply over them, said in a
voice well suited to his appearance:
'What house is that which stands a mile or so from here?'
'Public-house?' said the landlord, with his usual deliberation.
'Public-house, father!' exclaimed Joe, 'where's the public-house
within a mile or so of the Maypole? He means the great house--the
Warren--naturally and of course. The old red brick house, sir,
that stands in its own grounds--?'
'Aye,' said the stranger.
'And that fifteen or twenty years ago stood in a park five times as
broad, which with other and richer property has bit by bit changed
hands and dwindled away--more's the pity!' pursued the young man.
'Maybe,' was the reply. 'But my question related to the owner.
What it has been I don't care to know, and what it is I can see for
The heir-apparent to the Maypole pressed his finger on his lips,
and glancing at the young gentleman already noticed, who had
changed his attitude when the house was first mentioned, replied in
a lower tone:
'The owner's name is Haredale, Mr Geoffrey Haredale, and'--again he
glanced in the same direction as before--'and a worthy gentleman
Paying as little regard to this admonitory cough, as to the
significant gesture that had preceded it, the stranger pursued his
'I turned out of my way coming here, and took the footpath that
crosses the grounds. Who was the young lady that I saw entering a
carriage? His daughter?'
'Why, how should I know, honest man?' replied Joe, contriving in
the course of some arrangements about the hearth, to advance close
to his questioner and pluck him by the sleeve, 'I didn't see the
young lady, you know. Whew! There's the wind again--AND rain--
well it IS a night!'
Rough weather indeed!' observed the strange man.
'You're used to it?' said Joe, catching at anything which seemed to
promise a diversion of the subject.
'Pretty well,' returned the other. 'About the young lady--has Mr
Haredale a daughter?'
'No, no,' said the young fellow fretfully, 'he's a single
gentleman--he's--be quiet, can't you, man? Don't you see this
talk is not relished yonder?'
Regardless of this whispered remonstrance, and affecting not to
hear it, his tormentor provokingly continued:
'Single men have had daughters before now. Perhaps she may be his
daughter, though he is not married.'
'What do you mean?' said Joe, adding in an undertone as he
approached him again, 'You'll come in for it presently, I know you
'I mean no harm'--returned the traveller boldly, 'and have said
none that I know of. I ask a few questions--as any stranger may,
and not unnaturally--about the inmates of a remarkable house in a
neighbourhood which is new to me, and you are as aghast and
disturbed as if I were talking treason against King George.
Perhaps you can tell me why, sir, for (as I say) I am a stranger,
and this is Greek to me?'
The latter observation was addressed to the obvious cause of Joe
Willet's discomposure, who had risen and was adjusting his riding-
cloak preparatory to sallying abroad. Briefly replying that he
could give him no information, the young man beckoned to Joe, and
handing him a piece of money in payment of his reckoning, hurried
out attended by young Willet himself, who taking up a candle
followed to light him to the house-door.
While Joe was absent on this errand, the elder Willet and his three
companions continued to smoke with profound gravity, and in a deep
silence, each having his eyes fixed on a huge copper boiler that
was suspended over the fire. After some time John Willet slowly
shook his head, and thereupon his friends slowly shook theirs; but
no man withdrew his eyes from the boiler, or altered the solemn
expression of his countenance in the slightest degree.
At length Joe returned--very talkative and conciliatory, as though
with a strong presentiment that he was going to be found fault
'Such a thing as love is!' he said, drawing a chair near the fire,
and looking round for sympathy. 'He has set off to walk to
London,--all the way to London. His nag gone lame in riding out
here this blessed afternoon, and comfortably littered down in our
stable at this minute; and he giving up a good hot supper and our
best bed, because Miss Haredale has gone to a masquerade up in
town, and he has set his heart upon seeing her! I don't think I
could persuade myself to do that, beautiful as she is,--but then
I'm not in love (at least I don't think I am) and that's the whole
'He is in love then?' said the stranger.
'Rather,' replied Joe. 'He'll never be more in love, and may very
easily be less.'
'Silence, sir!' cried his father.
'What a chap you are, Joe!' said Long Parkes.
'Such a inconsiderate lad!' murmured Tom Cobb.
'Putting himself forward and wringing the very nose off his own
father's face!' exclaimed the parish-clerk, metaphorically.
'What HAVE I done?' reasoned poor Joe.
'Silence, sir!' returned his father, 'what do you mean by talking,
when you see people that are more than two or three times your age,
sitting still and silent and not dreaming of saying a word?'
'Why that's the proper time for me to talk, isn't it?' said Joe
'The proper time, sir!' retorted his father, 'the proper time's no
'Ah to be sure!' muttered Parkes, nodding gravely to the other two
who nodded likewise, observing under their breaths that that was
'The proper time's no time, sir,' repeated John Willet; 'when I was
your age I never talked, I never wanted to talk. I listened and
improved myself that's what I did.'
'And you'd find your father rather a tough customer in argeyment,
Joe, if anybody was to try and tackle him,' said Parkes.
'For the matter o' that, Phil!' observed Mr Willet, blowing a long,
thin, spiral cloud of smoke out of the corner of his mouth, and
staring at it abstractedly as it floated away; 'For the matter o'
that, Phil, argeyment is a gift of Natur. If Natur has gifted a
man with powers of argeyment, a man has a right to make the best of
'em, and has not a right to stand on false delicacy, and deny that
he is so gifted; for that is a turning of his back on Natur, a
flouting of her, a slighting of her precious caskets, and a proving
of one's self to be a swine that isn't worth her scattering pearls
The landlord pausing here for a very long time, Mr Parkes naturally
concluded that he had brought his discourse to an end; and
therefore, turning to the young man with some austerity,
'You hear what your father says, Joe? You wouldn't much like to
tackle him in argeyment, I'm thinking, sir.'
'IF,' said John Willet, turning his eyes from the ceiling to the
face of his interrupter, and uttering the monosyllable in capitals,
to apprise him that he had put in his oar, as the vulgar say, with
unbecoming and irreverent haste; 'IF, sir, Natur has fixed upon me
the gift of argeyment, why should I not own to it, and rather glory
in the same? Yes, sir, I AM a tough customer that way. You are
right, sir. My toughness has been proved, sir, in this room many
and many a time, as I think you know; and if you don't know,' added
John, putting his pipe in his mouth again, 'so much the better, for
I an't proud and am not going to tell you.'
A general murmur from his three cronies, and a general shaking of
heads at the copper boiler, assured John Willet that they had had
good experience of his powers and needed no further evidence to
assure them of his superiority. John smoked with a little more
dignity and surveyed them in silence.
'It's all very fine talking,' muttered Joe, who had been fidgeting
in his chair with divers uneasy gestures. 'But if you mean to tell
me that I'm never to open my lips--'
'Silence, sir!' roared his father. 'No, you never are. When your
opinion's wanted, you give it. When you're spoke to, you speak.
When your opinion's not wanted and you're not spoke to, don't you
give an opinion and don't you speak. The world's undergone a nice
alteration since my time, certainly. My belief is that there an't
any boys left--that there isn't such a thing as a boy--that there's
nothing now between a male baby and a man--and that all the boys
went out with his blessed Majesty King George the Second.'
'That's a very true observation, always excepting the young
princes,' said the parish-clerk, who, as the representative of
church and state in that company, held himself bound to the nicest
loyalty. 'If it's godly and righteous for boys, being of the ages
of boys, to behave themselves like boys, then the young princes
must be boys and cannot be otherwise.'
'Did you ever hear tell of mermaids, sir?' said Mr Willet.
'Certainly I have,' replied the clerk.
'Very good,' said Mr Willet. 'According to the constitution of
mermaids, so much of a mermaid as is not a woman must be a fish.
According to the constitution of young princes, so much of a young
prince (if anything) as is not actually an angel, must be godly and
righteous. Therefore if it's becoming and godly and righteous in
the young princes (as it is at their ages) that they should be
boys, they are and must be boys, and cannot by possibility be
This elucidation of a knotty point being received with such marks
of approval as to put John Willet into a good humour, he contented
himself with repeating to his son his command of silence, and
addressing the stranger, said:
'If you had asked your questions of a grown-up person--of me or any
of these gentlemen--you'd have had some satisfaction, and wouldn't
have wasted breath. Miss Haredale is Mr Geoffrey Haredale's
'Is her father alive?' said the man, carelessly.
'No,' rejoined the landlord, 'he is not alive, and he is not dead--'
'Not dead!' cried the other.
'Not dead in a common sort of way,' said the landlord.
The cronies nodded to each other, and Mr Parkes remarked in an
undertone, shaking his head meanwhile as who should say, 'let no
man contradict me, for I won't believe him,' that John Willet was
in amazing force to-night, and fit to tackle a Chief Justice.
The stranger suffered a short pause to elapse, and then asked
abruptly, 'What do you mean?'
'More than you think for, friend,' returned John Willet. 'Perhaps
there's more meaning in them words than you suspect.'
'Perhaps there is,' said the strange man, gruffly; 'but what the
devil do you speak in such mysteries for? You tell me, first, that
a man is not alive, nor yet dead--then, that he's not dead in a
common sort of way--then, that you mean a great deal more than I
think for. To tell you the truth, you may do that easily; for so
far as I can make out, you mean nothing. What DO you mean, I ask
'That,' returned the landlord, a little brought down from his
dignity by the stranger's surliness, 'is a Maypole story, and has
been any time these four-and-twenty years. That story is Solomon
Daisy's story. It belongs to the house; and nobody but Solomon
Daisy has ever told it under this roof, or ever shall--that's
The man glanced at the parish-clerk, whose air of consciousness
and importance plainly betokened him to be the person referred to,
and, observing that he had taken his pipe from his lips, after a
very long whiff to keep it alight, and was evidently about to tell
his story without further solicitation, gathered his large coat
about him, and shrinking further back was almost lost in the gloom
of the spacious chimney-corner, except when the flame, struggling
from under a great faggot, whose weight almost crushed it for the
time, shot upward with a strong and sudden glare, and illumining
his figure for a moment, seemed afterwards to cast it into deeper
obscurity than before.
By this flickering light, which made the old room, with its heavy
timbers and panelled walls, look as if it were built of polished
ebony--the wind roaring and howling without, now rattling the latch
and creaking the hinges of the stout oaken door, and now driving at
the casement as though it would beat it in--by this light, and
under circumstances so auspicious, Solomon Daisy began his tale:
'It was Mr Reuben Haredale, Mr Geoffrey's elder brother--'
Here he came to a dead stop, and made so long a pause that even
John Willet grew impatient and asked why he did not proceed.
'Cobb,' said Solomon Daisy, dropping his voice and appealing to the
post-office keeper; 'what day of the month is this?'
'Of March,' said the clerk, bending forward, 'the nineteenth of
March; that's very strange.'
In a low voice they all acquiesced, and Solomon went on:
'It was Mr Reuben Haredale, Mr Geoffrey's elder brother, that
twenty-two years ago was the owner of the Warren, which, as Joe
has said--not that you remember it, Joe, for a boy like you can't
do that, but because you have often heard me say so--was then a
much larger and better place, and a much more valuable property
than it is now. His lady was lately dead, and he was left with one
child--the Miss Haredale you have been inquiring about--who was
then scarcely a year old.'
Although the speaker addressed himself to the man who had shown so
much curiosity about this same family, and made a pause here as if
expecting some exclamation of surprise or encouragement, the latter
made no remark, nor gave any indication that he heard or was
interested in what was said. Solomon therefore turned to his old
companions, whose noses were brightly illuminated by the deep red
glow from the bowls of their pipes; assured, by long experience, of
their attention, and resolved to show his sense of such indecent
'Mr Haredale,' said Solomon, turning his back upon the strange man,
'left this place when his lady died, feeling it lonely like, and
went up to London, where he stopped some months; but finding that
place as lonely as this--as I suppose and have always heard say--he
suddenly came back again with his little girl to the Warren,
bringing with him besides, that day, only two women servants, and
his steward, and a gardener.'
Mr Daisy stopped to take a whiff at his pipe, which was going out,
and then proceeded--at first in a snuffling tone, occasioned by
keen enjoyment of the tobacco and strong pulling at the pipe, and
afterwards with increasing distinctness:
'--Bringing with him two women servants, and his steward, and a
gardener. The rest stopped behind up in London, and were to follow
next day. It happened that that night, an old gentleman who lived
at Chigwell Row, and had long been poorly, deceased, and an order
came to me at half after twelve o'clock at night to go and toll the
There was a movement in the little group of listeners, sufficiently
indicative of the strong repugnance any one of them would have felt
to have turned out at such a time upon such an errand. The clerk
felt and understood it, and pursued his theme accordingly.
'It WAS a dreary thing, especially as the grave-digger was laid up
in his bed, from long working in a damp soil and sitting down to
take his dinner on cold tombstones, and I was consequently under
obligation to go alone, for it was too late to hope to get any
other companion. However, I wasn't unprepared for it; as the old
gentleman had often made it a request that the bell should be
tolled as soon as possible after the breath was out of his body,
and he had been expected to go for some days. I put as good a face
upon it as I could, and muffling myself up (for it was mortal
cold), started out with a lighted lantern in one hand and the key
of the church in the other.'
At this point of the narrative, the dress of the strange man
rustled as if he had turned himself to hear more distinctly.
Slightly pointing over his shoulder, Solomon elevated his eyebrows
and nodded a silent inquiry to Joe whether this was the case. Joe
shaded his eyes with his hand and peered into the corner, but could
make out nothing, and so shook his head.
'It was just such a night as this; blowing a hurricane, raining
heavily, and very dark--I often think now, darker than I ever saw
it before or since; that may be my fancy, but the houses were all
close shut and the folks in doors, and perhaps there is only one
other man who knows how dark it really was. I got into the church,
chained the door back so that it should keep ajar--for, to tell the
truth, I didn't like to be shut in there alone--and putting my
lantern on the stone seat in the little corner where the bell-rope
is, sat down beside it to trim the candle.
'I sat down to trim the candle, and when I had done so I could not
persuade myself to get up again, and go about my work. I don't
know how it was, but I thought of all the ghost stories I had ever
heard, even those that I had heard when I was a boy at school, and
had forgotten long ago; and they didn't come into my mind one after
another, but all crowding at once, like. I recollected one story
there was in the village, how that on a certain night in the year
(it might be that very night for anything I knew), all the dead
people came out of the ground and sat at the heads of their own
graves till morning. This made me think how many people I had
known, were buried between the church-door and the churchyard gate,
and what a dreadful thing it would be to have to pass among them
and know them again, so earthy and unlike themselves. I had known
all the niches and arches in the church from a child; still, I
couldn't persuade myself that those were their natural shadows
which I saw on the pavement, but felt sure there were some ugly
figures hiding among 'em and peeping out. Thinking on in this
way, I began to think of the old gentleman who was just dead, and I
could have sworn, as I looked up the dark chancel, that I saw him
in his usual place, wrapping his shroud about him and shivering as
if he felt it cold. All this time I sat listening and listening,
and hardly dared to breathe. At length I started up and took the
bell-rope in my hands. At that minute there rang--not that bell,
for I had hardly touched the rope--but another!
'I heard the ringing of another bell, and a deep bell too, plainly.
It was only for an instant, and even then the wind carried the
sound away, but I heard it. I listened for a long time, but it
rang no more. I had heard of corpse candles, and at last I
persuaded myself that this must be a corpse bell tolling of itself
at midnight for the dead. I tolled my bell--how, or how long, I
don't know--and ran home to bed as fast as I could touch the
'I was up early next morning after a restless night, and told the
story to my neighbours. Some were serious and some made light of
it; I don't think anybody believed it real. But, that morning, Mr
Reuben Haredale was found murdered in his bedchamber; and in his
hand was a piece of the cord attached to an alarm-bell outside the
roof, which hung in his room and had been cut asunder, no doubt by
the murderer, when he seized it.
'That was the bell I heard.
'A bureau was found opened, and a cash-box, which Mr Haredale had
brought down that day, and was supposed to contain a large sum of
money, was gone. The steward and gardener were both missing and
both suspected for a long time, but they were never found, though
hunted far and wide. And far enough they might have looked for
poor Mr Rudge the steward, whose body--scarcely to be recognised by
his clothes and the watch and ring he wore--was found, months
afterwards, at the bottom of a piece of water in the grounds, with
a deep gash in the breast where he had been stabbed with a knife.
He was only partly dressed; and people all agreed that he had been
sitting up reading in his own room, where there were many traces of
blood, and was suddenly fallen upon and killed before his master.
Everybody now knew that the gardener must be the murderer, and
though he has never been heard of from that day to this, he will
be, mark my words. The crime was committed this day two-and-twenty
years--on the nineteenth of March, one thousand seven hundred and
fifty-three. On the nineteenth of March in some year--no matter
when--I know it, I am sure of it, for we have always, in some
strange way or other, been brought back to the subject on that day
ever since--on the nineteenth of March in some year, sooner or
later, that man will be discovered.'
'A strange story!' said the man who had been the cause of the
narration.--'Stranger still if it comes about as you predict. Is
A question so unexpected, nettled Solomon Daisy not a little. By
dint of relating the story very often, and ornamenting it
(according to village report) with a few flourishes suggested by
the various hearers from time to time, he had come by degrees to
tell it with great effect; and 'Is that all?' after the climax, was
not what he was accustomed to.
'Is that all?' he repeated, 'yes, that's all, sir. And enough
too, I think.'
'I think so too. My horse, young man! He is but a hack hired from
a roadside posting house, but he must carry me to London to-
'To-night!' said Joe.
'To-night,' returned the other. 'What do you stare at? This
tavern would seem to be a house of call for all the gaping idlers
of the neighbourhood!'
At this remark, which evidently had reference to the scrutiny he
had undergone, as mentioned in the foregoing chapter, the eyes of
John Willet and his friends were diverted with marvellous rapidity
to the copper boiler again. Not so with Joe, who, being a
mettlesome fellow, returned the stranger's angry glance with a
steady look, and rejoined:
'It is not a very bold thing to wonder at your going on to-night.
Surely you have been asked such a harmless question in an inn
before, and in better weather than this. I thought you mightn't
know the way, as you seem strange to this part.'
'The way--' repeated the other, irritably.
'Yes. DO you know it?'
'I'll--humph!--I'll find it,' replied the nian, waving his hand and
turning on his heel. 'Landlord, take the reckoning here.'
John Willet did as he was desired; for on that point he was seldom
slow, except in the particulars of giving change, and testing the
goodness of any piece of coin that was proffered to him, by the
application of his teeth or his tongue, or some other test, or in
doubtful cases, by a long series of tests terminating in its
rejection. The guest then wrapped his garments about him so as to
shelter himself as effectually as he could from the rough weather,
and without any word or sign of farewell betook himself to the
stableyard. Here Joe (who had left the room on the conclusion of
their short dialogue) was protecting himself and the horse from the
rain under the shelter of an old penthouse roof.
'He's pretty much of my opinion,' said Joe, patting the horse upon
the neck. 'I'll wager that your stopping here to-night would
please him better than it would please me.'
'He and I are of different opinions, as we have been more than once
on our way here,' was the short reply.
'So I was thinking before you came out, for he has felt your spurs,
The stranger adjusted his coat-collar about his face, and made no
'You'll know me again, I see,' he said, marking the young fellow's
earnest gaze, when he had sprung into the saddle.
'The man's worth knowing, master, who travels a road he don't know,
mounted on a jaded horse, and leaves good quarters to do it on such
a night as this.'
'You have sharp eyes and a sharp tongue, I find.'
'Both I hope by nature, but the last grows rusty sometimes for
want of using.'
'Use the first less too, and keep their sharpness for your
sweethearts, boy,' said the man.
So saying he shook his hand from the bridle, struck him roughly on
the head with the butt end of his whip, and galloped away; dashing
through the mud and darkness with a headlong speed, which few badly
mounted horsemen would have cared to venture, even had they been
thoroughly acquainted with the country; and which, to one who knew
nothing of the way he rode, was attended at every step with great
hazard and danger.
The roads, even within twelve miles of London, were at that time
ill paved, seldom repaired, and very badly made. The way this
rider traversed had been ploughed up by the wheels of heavy
waggons, and rendered rotten by the frosts and thaws of the
preceding winter, or possibly of many winters. Great holes and
gaps had been worn into the soil, which, being now filled with
water from the late rains, were not easily distinguishable even by
day; and a plunge into any one of them might have brought down a
surer-footed horse than the poor beast now urged forward to the
utmost extent of his powers. Sharp flints and stones rolled from
under his hoofs continually; the rider could scarcely see beyond
the animal's head, or farther on either side than his own arm
would have extended. At that time, too, all the roads in the
neighbourhood of the metropolis were infested by footpads or
highwaymen, and it was a night, of all others, in which any evil-
disposed person of this class might have pursued his unlawful
calling with little fear of detection.
Still, the traveller dashed forward at the same reckless pace,
regardless alike of the dirt and wet which flew about his head, the
profound darkness of the night, and the probability of encountering
some desperate characters abroad. At every turn and angle, even
where a deviation from the direct course might have been least
expected, and could not possibly be seen until he was close upon
it, he guided the bridle with an unerring hand, and kept the middle
of the road. Thus he sped onward, raising himself in the stirrups,
leaning his body forward until it almost touched the horse's neck,
and flourishing his heavy whip above his head with the fervour of a
There are times when, the elements being in unusual commotion,
those who are bent on daring enterprises, or agitated by great
thoughts, whether of good or evil, feel a mysterious sympathy with
the tumult of nature, and are roused into corresponding violence.
In the midst of thunder, lightning, and storm, many tremendous
deeds have been committed; men, self-possessed before, have given
a sudden loose to passions they could no longer control. The
demons of wrath and despair have striven to emulate those who ride
the whirlwind and direct the storm; and man, lashed into madness
with the roaring winds and boiling waters, has become for the time
as wild and merciless as the elements themselves.
Whether the traveller was possessed by thoughts which the fury of
the night had heated and stimulated into a quicker current, or was
merely impelled by some strong motive to reach his journey's end,
on he swept more like a hunted phantom than a man, nor checked his
pace until, arriving at some cross roads, one of which led by a
longer route to the place whence he had lately started, he bore
down so suddenly upon a vehicle which was coming towards him, that
in the effort to avoid it he well-nigh pulled his horse upon his
haunches, and narrowly escaped being thrown.
'Yoho!' cried the voice of a man. 'What's that? Who goes there?'
'A friend!' replied the traveller.
'A friend!' repeated the voice. 'Who calls himself a friend and
rides like that, abusing Heaven's gifts in the shape of horseflesh,
and endangering, not only his own neck (which might be no great
matter) but the necks of other people?'
'You have a lantern there, I see,' said the traveller dismounting,
'lend it me for a moment. You have wounded my horse, I think, with
your shaft or wheel.'
'Wounded him!' cried the other, 'if I haven't killed him, it's no
fault of yours. What do you mean by galloping along the king's
highway like that, eh?'
'Give me the light,' returned the traveller, snatching it from his
hand, 'and don't ask idle questions of a man who is in no mood for
'If you had said you were in no mood for talking before, I should
perhaps have been in no mood for lighting,' said the voice.
'Hows'ever as it's the poor horse that's damaged and not you, one
of you is welcome to the light at all events--but it's not the
The traveller returned no answer to this speech, but holding the
light near to his panting and reeking beast, examined him in limb
and carcass. Meanwhile, the other man sat very composedly in his
vehicle, which was a kind of chaise with a depository for a large
bag of tools, and watched his proceedings with a careful eye.
The looker-on was a round, red-faced, sturdy yeoman, with a double
chin, and a voice husky with good living, good sleeping, good
humour, and good health. He was past the prime of life, but Father
Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none
of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have
used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but
leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour. With
such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow's
hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in
the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.
The person whom the traveller had so abruptly encountered was of
this kind: bluff, hale, hearty, and in a green old age: at peace
with himself, and evidently disposed to be so with all the world.
Although muffled up in divers coats and handkerchiefs--one of
which, passed over his crown, and tied in a convenient crease of
his double chin, secured his three-cornered hat and bob-wig from
blowing off his head--there was no disguising his plump and
comfortable figure; neither did certain dirty finger-marks upon
his face give it any other than an odd and comical expression,
through which its natural good humour shone with undiminished
'He is not hurt,' said the traveller at length, raising his head
and the lantern together.
'You have found that out at last, have you?' rejoined the old man.
'My eyes have seen more light than yours, but I wouldn't change
'What do you mean?'
'Mean! I could have told you he wasn't hurt, five minutes ago.
Give me the light, friend; ride forward at a gentler pace; and good
In handing up the lantern, the man necessarily cast its rays full
on the speaker's face. Their eyes met at the instant. He suddenly
dropped it and crushed it with his foot.
'Did you never see a locksmith before, that you start as if you had
come upon a ghost?' cried the old man in the chaise, 'or is this,'
he added hastily, thrusting his hand into the tool basket and
drawing out a hammer, 'a scheme for robbing me? I know these
roads, friend. When I travel them, I carry nothing but a few
shillings, and not a crown's worth of them. I tell you plainly, to
save us both trouble, that there's nothing to be got from me but a
pretty stout arm considering my years, and this tool, which, mayhap
from long acquaintance with, I can use pretty briskly. You shall
not have it all your own way, I promise you, if you play at that
game. With these words he stood upon the defensive.
'I am not what you take me for, Gabriel Varden,' replied the other.
'Then what and who are you?' returned the locksmith. 'You know my
name, it seems. Let me know yours.'
'I have not gained the information from any confidence of yours,
but from the inscription on your cart which tells it to all the
town,' replied the traveller.
'You have better eyes for that than you had for your horse, then,'
said Varden, descending nimbly from his chaise; 'who are you? Let
me see your face.'
While the locksmith alighted, the traveller had regained his
saddle, from which he now confronted the old man, who, moving as
the horse moved in chafing under the tightened rein, kept close
'Let me see your face, I say.'
'No masquerading tricks,' said the locksmith, 'and tales at the
club to-morrow, how Gabriel Varden was frightened by a surly voice
and a dark night. Stand--let me see your face.'
Finding that further resistance would only involve him in a
personal struggle with an antagonist by no means to be despised,
the traveller threw back his coat, and stooping down looked
steadily at the locksmith.
Perhaps two men more powerfully contrasted, never opposed each
other face to face. The ruddy features of the locksmith so set off
and heightened the excessive paleness of the man on horseback, that
he looked like a bloodless ghost, while the moisture, which hard
riding had brought out upon his skin, hung there in dark and heavy
drops, like dews of agony and death. The countenance of the old
locksmith lighted up with the smile of one expecting to detect in
this unpromising stranger some latent roguery of eye or lip, which
should reveal a familiar person in that arch disguise, and spoil
his jest. The face of the other, sullen and fierce, but shrinking
too, was that of a man who stood at bay; while his firmly closed
jaws, his puckered mouth, and more than all a certain stealthy
motion of the hand within his breast, seemed to announce a
desperate purpose very foreign to acting, or child's play.
Thus they regarded each other for some time, in silence.
'Humph!' he said when he had scanned his features; 'I don't know
'Don't desire to?'--returned the other, muffling himself as before.
'I don't,' said Gabriel; 'to be plain with you, friend, you don't
carry in your countenance a letter of recommendation.'
'It's not my wish,' said the traveller. 'My humour is to be
'Well,' said the locksmith bluntly, 'I think you'll have your
'I will, at any cost,' rejoined the traveller. 'In proof of it,
lay this to heart--that you were never in such peril of your life
as you have been within these few moments; when you are within
five minutes of breathing your last, you will not be nearer death
than you have been to-night!'
'Aye!' said the sturdy locksmith.
'Aye! and a violent death.'
'From whose hand?'
'From mine,' replied the traveller.
With that he put spurs to his horse, and rode away; at first
plashing heavily through the mire at a smart trot, but gradually
increasing in speed until the last sound of his horse's hoofs died
away upon the wind; when he was again hurrying on at the same
furious gallop, which had been his pace when the locksmith first
Gabriel Varden remained standing in the road with the broken
lantern in his hand, listening in stupefied silence until no sound
reached his ear but the moaning of the wind, and the fast-falling
rain; when he struck himself one or two smart blows in the breast
by way of rousing himself, and broke into an exclamation of
'What in the name of wonder can this fellow be! a madman? a
highwayman? a cut-throat? If he had not scoured off so fast, we'd
have seen who was in most danger, he or I. I never nearer death
than I have been to-night! I hope I may be no nearer to it for a
score of years to come--if so, I'll be content to be no farther
from it. My stars!--a pretty brag this to a stout man--pooh,
Gabriel resumed his seat, and looked wistfully up the road by which
the traveller had come; murmuring in a half whisper:
'The Maypole--two miles to the Maypole. I came the other road from
the Warren after a long day's work at locks and bells, on purpose
that I should not come by the Maypole and break my promise to
Martha by looking in--there's resolution! It would be dangerous to
go on to London without a light; and it's four miles, and a good
half mile besides, to the Halfway-House; and between this and that
is the very place where one needs a light most. Two miles to the
Maypole! I told Martha I wouldn't; I said I wouldn't, and I
Repeating these two last words very often, as if to compensate for
the little resolution he was going to show by piquing himself on
the great resolution he had shown, Gabriel Varden quietly turned
back, determining to get a light at the Maypole, and to take
nothing but a light.
When he got to the Maypole, however, and Joe, responding to his
well-known hail, came running out to the horse's head, leaving the
door open behind him, and disclosing a delicious perspective of
warmth and brightness--when the ruddy gleam of the fire, streaming
through the old red curtains of the common room, seemed to bring
with it, as part of itself, a pleasant hum of voices, and a
fragrant odour of steaming grog and rare tobacco, all steeped as
it were in the cheerful glow--when the shadows, flitting across the
curtain, showed that those inside had risen from their snug seats,
and were making room in the snuggest corner (how well he knew that
corner!) for the honest locksmith, and a broad glare, suddenly
streaming up, bespoke the goodness of the crackling log from which
a brilliant train of sparks was doubtless at that moment whirling
up the chimney in honour of his coming--when, superadded to these
enticements, there stole upon him from the distant kitchen a gentle
sound of frying, with a musical clatter of plates and dishes, and a
savoury smell that made even the boisterous wind a perfume--Gabriel
felt his firmness oozing rapidly away. He tried to look stoically
at the tavern, but his features would relax into a look of
fondness. He turned his head the other way, and the cold black
country seemed to frown him off, and drive him for a refuge into
its hospitable arms.
'The merciful man, Joe,' said the locksmith, 'is merciful to his
beast. I'll get out for a little while.'
And how natural it was to get out! And how unnatural it seemed for
a sober man to be plodding wearily along through miry roads,
encountering the rude buffets of the wind and pelting of the rain,
when there was a clean floor covered with crisp white sand, a well
swept hearth, a blazing fire, a table decorated with white cloth,
bright pewter flagons, and other tempting preparations for a well-
cooked meal--when there were these things, and company disposed to
make the most of them, all ready to his hand, and entreating him to
Such were the locksmith's thoughts when first seated in the snug
corner, and slowly recovering from a pleasant defect of vision--
pleasant, because occasioned by the wind blowing in his eyes--which
made it a matter of sound policy and duty to himself, that he
should take refuge from the weather, and tempted him, for the same
reason, to aggravate a slight cough, and declare he felt but
poorly. Such were still his thoughts more than a full hour
afterwards, when, supper over, he still sat with shining jovial
face in the same warm nook, listening to the cricket-like chirrup
of little Solomon Daisy, and bearing no unimportant or slightly
respected part in the social gossip round the Maypole fire.
'I wish he may be an honest man, that's all,' said Solomon, winding
up a variety of speculations relative to the stranger, concerning
whom Gabriel had compared notes with the company, and so raised a
grave discussion; 'I wish he may be an honest man.'
'So we all do, I suppose, don't we?' observed the locksmith.
'I don't,' said Joe.
'No!' cried Gabriel.
'No. He struck me with his whip, the coward, when he was mounted
and I afoot, and I should be better pleased that he turned out what
I think him.'
'And what may that be, Joe?'
'No good, Mr Varden. You may shake your head, father, but I say no
good, and will say no good, and I would say no good a hundred times
over, if that would bring him back to have the drubbing he
'Hold your tongue, sir,' said John Willet.
'I won't, father. It's all along of you that he ventured to do
what he did. Seeing me treated like a child, and put down like a
fool, HE plucks up a heart and has a fling at a fellow that he
thinks--and may well think too--hasn't a grain of spirit. But he's
mistaken, as I'll show him, and as I'll show all of you before
'Does the boy know what he's a saying of!' cried the astonished
'Father,' returned Joe, 'I know what I say and mean, well--better
than you do when you hear me. I can bear with you, but I cannot
bear the contempt that your treating me in the way you do, brings
upon me from others every day. Look at other young men of my age.
Have they no liberty, no will, no right to speak? Are they obliged
to sit mumchance, and to be ordered about till they are the
laughing-stock of young and old? I am a bye-word all over
Chigwell, and I say--and it's fairer my saying so now, than waiting
till you are dead, and I have got your money--I say, that before
long I shall be driven to break such bounds, and that when I do, it
won't be me that you'll have to blame, but your own self, and no
John Willet was so amazed by the exasperation and boldness of his
hopeful son, that he sat as one bewildered, staring in a ludicrous
manner at the boiler, and endeavouring, but quite ineffectually, to
collect his tardy thoughts, and invent an answer. The guests,
scarcely less disturbed, were equally at a loss; and at length,
with a variety of muttered, half-expressed condolences, and pieces
of advice, rose to depart; being at the same time slightly muddled
The honest locksmith alone addressed a few words of coherent and
sensible advice to both parties, urging John Willet to remember
that Joe was nearly arrived at man's estate, and should not be
ruled with too tight a hand, and exhorting Joe himself to bear with
his father's caprices, and rather endeavour to turn them aside by
temperate remonstrance than by ill-timed rebellion. This advice
was received as such advice usually is. On John Willet it made
almost as much impression as on the sign outside the door, while
Joe, who took it in the best part, avowed himself more obliged than
he could well express, but politely intimated his intention
nevertheless of taking his own course uninfluenced by anybody.
'You have always been a very good friend to me, Mr Varden,' he
said, as they stood without, in the porch, and the locksmith was
equipping himself for his journey home; 'I take it very kind of
you to say all this, but the time's nearly come when the Maypole
and I must part company.'
'Roving stones gather no moss, Joe,' said Gabriel.
'Nor milestones much,' replied Joe. 'I'm little better than one
here, and see as much of the world.'
'Then, what would you do, Joe?' pursued the locksmith, stroking
his chin reflectively. 'What could you be? Where could you go,
'I must trust to chance, Mr Varden.'
'A bad thing to trust to, Joe. I don't like it. I always tell my
girl when we talk about a husband for her, never to trust to
chance, but to make sure beforehand that she has a good man and
true, and then chance will neither make her nor break her. What
are you fidgeting about there, Joe? Nothing gone in the harness, I
'No no,' said Joe--finding, however, something very engrossing to
do in the way of strapping and buckling--'Miss Dolly quite well?'
'Hearty, thankye. She looks pretty enough to be well, and good
'She's always both, sir'--
'So she is, thank God!'
'I hope,' said Joe after some hesitation, 'that you won't tell this
story against me--this of my having been beat like the boy they'd
make of me--at all events, till I have met this man again and
settled the account. It'll be a better story then.'
'Why who should I tell it to?' returned Gabriel. 'They know it
here, and I'm not likely to come across anybody else who would care
'That's true enough,' said the young fellow with a sigh. 'I quite
forgot that. Yes, that's true!'
So saying, he raised his face, which was very red,--no doubt from
the exertion of strapping and buckling as aforesaid,--and giving
the reins to the old man, who had by this time taken his seat,
sighed again and bade him good night.
'Good night!' cried Gabriel. 'Now think better of what we have
just been speaking of; and don't be rash, there's a good fellow! I
have an interest in you, and wouldn't have you cast yourself away.
Returning his cheery farewell with cordial goodwill, Joe Willet
lingered until the sound of wheels ceased to vibrate in his ears,
and then, shaking his head mournfully, re-entered the house.
Gabriel Varden went his way towards London, thinking of a great
many things, and most of all of flaming terms in which to relate
his adventure, and so account satisfactorily to Mrs Varden for
visiting the Maypole, despite certain solemn covenants between
himself and that lady. Thinking begets, not only thought, but
drowsiness occasionally, and the more the locksmith thought, the
more sleepy he became.
A man may be very sober--or at least firmly set upon his legs on
that neutral ground which lies between the confines of perfect
sobriety and slight tipsiness--and yet feel a strong tendency to
mingle up present circumstances with others which have no manner of
connection with them; to confound all consideration of persons,
things, times, and places; and to jumble his disjointed thoughts
together in a kind of mental kaleidoscope, producing combinations
as unexpected as they are transitory. This was Gabriel Varden's
state, as, nodding in his dog sleep, and leaving his horse to
pursue a road with which he was well acquainted, he got over the
ground unconsciously, and drew nearer and nearer home. He had
roused himself once, when the horse stopped until the turnpike gate
was opened, and had cried a lusty 'good night!' to the toll-
keeper; but then he awoke out of a dream about picking a lock in
the stomach of the Great Mogul, and even when he did wake, mixed up
the turnpike man with his mother-in-law who had been dead twenty
years. It is not surprising, therefore, that he soon relapsed, and
jogged heavily along, quite insensible to his progress.
And, now, he approached the great city, which lay outstretched
before him like a dark shadow on the ground, reddening the sluggish
air with a deep dull light, that told of labyrinths of public ways
and shops, and swarms of busy people. Approaching nearer and
nearer yet, this halo began to fade, and the causes which produced
it slowly to develop themselves. Long lines of poorly lighted
streets might be faintly traced, with here and there a lighter
spot, where lamps were clustered round a square or market, or round
some great building; after a time these grew more distinct, and the
lamps themselves were visible; slight yellow specks, that seemed to
be rapidly snuffed out, one by one, as intervening obstacles hid
them from the sight. Then, sounds arose--the striking of church
clocks, the distant bark of dogs, the hum of traffic in the
streets; then outlines might be traced--tall steeples looming in
the air, and piles of unequal roofs oppressed by chimneys; then,
the noise swelled into a louder sound, and forms grew more distinct
and numerous still, and London--visible in the darkness by its own
faint light, and not by that of Heaven--was at hand.
The locksmith, however, all unconscious of its near vicinity, still
jogged on, half sleeping and half waking, when a loud cry at no
great distance ahead, roused him with a start.
For a moment or two he looked about him like a man who had been
transported to some strange country in his sleep, but soon
recognising familiar objects, rubbed his eyes lazily and might have
relapsed again, but that the cry was repeated--not once or twice or
thrice, but many times, and each time, if possible, with increased
vehemence. Thoroughly aroused, Gabriel, who was a bold man and not
easily daunted, made straight to the spot, urging on his stout
little horse as if for life or death.
The matter indeed looked sufficiently serious, for, coming to the
place whence the cries had proceeded, he descried the figure of a
man extended in an apparently lifeless state upon the pathway,
and, hovering round him, another person with a torch in his hand,
which he waved in the air with a wild impatience, redoubling
meanwhile those cries for help which had brought the locksmith to
'What's here to do?' said the old man, alighting. 'How's this--
The bearer of the torch shook his long loose hair back from his
eyes, and thrusting his face eagerly into that of the locksmith,
fixed upon him a look which told his history at once.
'You know me, Barnaby?' said Varden.
He nodded--not once or twice, but a score of times, and that with a
fantastic exaggeration which would have kept his head in motion for
an hour, but that the locksmith held up his finger, and fixing his
eye sternly upon him caused him to desist; then pointed to the body
with an inquiring look.
'There's blood upon him,' said Barnaby with a shudder. 'It makes
'How came it there?' demanded Varden.
'Steel, steel, steel!' he replied fiercely, imitating with his hand
the thrust of a sword.
'Is he robbed?' said the locksmith.
Barnaby caught him by the arm, and nodded 'Yes;' then pointed
towards the city.
'Oh!' said the old man, bending over the body and looking round as
he spoke into Barnaby's pale face, strangely lighted up by
something that was NOT intellect. 'The robber made off that way,
did he? Well, well, never mind that just now. Hold your torch
this way--a little farther off--so. Now stand quiet, while I try
to see what harm is done.'
With these words, he applied himself to a closer examination of the
prostrate form, while Barnaby, holding the torch as he had been
directed, looked on in silence, fascinated by interest or
curiosity, but repelled nevertheless by some strong and secret
horror which convulsed him in every nerve.
As he stood, at that moment, half shrinking back and half bending
forward, both his face and figure were full in the strong glare of
the link, and as distinctly revealed as though it had been broad
day. He was about three-and-twenty years old, and though rather
spare, of a fair height and strong make. His hair, of which he had
a great profusion, was red, and hanging in disorder about his face
and shoulders, gave to his restless looks an expression quite
unearthly--enhanced by the paleness of his complexion, and the
glassy lustre of his large protruding eyes. Startling as his
aspect was, the features were good, and there was something even
plaintive in his wan and haggard aspect. But, the absence of the
soul is far more terrible in a living man than in a dead one; and
in this unfortunate being its noblest powers were wanting.
His dress was of green, clumsily trimmed here and there--apparently
by his own hands--with gaudy lace; brightest where the cloth was
most worn and soiled, and poorest where it was at the best. A pair
of tawdry ruffles dangled at his wrists, while his throat was
nearly bare. He had ornamented his hat with a cluster of peacock's
feathers, but they were limp and broken, and now trailed
negligently down his back. Girt to his side was the steel hilt of
an old sword without blade or scabbard; and some particoloured ends
of ribands and poor glass toys completed the ornamental portion of
his attire. The fluttered and confused disposition of all the
motley scraps that formed his dress, bespoke, in a scarcely less
degree than his eager and unsettled manner, the disorder of his
mind, and by a grotesque contrast set off and heightened the more
impressive wildness of his face.
'Barnaby,' said the locksmith, after a hasty but careful
inspection, 'this man is not dead, but he has a wound in his side,
and is in a fainting-fit.'
'I know him, I know him!' cried Barnaby, clapping his hands.
'Know him?' repeated the locksmith.
'Hush!' said Barnaby, laying his fingers upon his lips. 'He went
out to-day a wooing. I wouldn't for a light guinea that he should
never go a wooing again, for, if he did, some eyes would grow dim
that are now as bright as--see, when I talk of eyes, the stars come
out! Whose eyes are they? If they are angels' eyes, why do they
look down here and see good men hurt, and only wink and sparkle all
'Now Heaven help this silly fellow,' murmured the perplexed
locksmith; 'can he know this gentleman? His mother's house is not
far off; I had better see if she can tell me who he is. Barnaby,
my man, help me to put him in the chaise, and we'll ride home
'I can't touch him!' cried the idiot falling back, and shuddering
as with a strong spasm; he's bloody!'
'It's in his nature, I know,' muttered the locksmith, 'it's cruel
to ask him, but I must have help. Barnaby--good Barnaby--dear
Barnaby--if you know this gentleman, for the sake of his life and
everybody's life that loves him, help me to raise him and lay him
'Cover him then, wrap him close--don't let me see it--smell it--
hear the word. Don't speak the word--don't!'
'No, no, I'll not. There, you see he's covered now. Gently. Well
done, well done!'
They placed him in the carriage with great ease, for Barnaby was
strong and active, but all the time they were so occupied he
shivered from head to foot, and evidently experienced an ecstasy of
This accomplished, and the wounded man being covered with Varden's
own greatcoat which he took off for the purpose, they proceeded
onward at a brisk pace: Barnaby gaily counting the stars upon his
fingers, and Gabriel inwardly congratulating himself upon having an
adventure now, which would silence Mrs Varden on the subject of the
Maypole, for that night, or there was no faith in woman.
In the venerable suburb--it was a suburb once--of Clerkenwell,
towards that part of its confines which is nearest to the Charter
House, and in one of those cool, shady Streets, of which a few,
widely scattered and dispersed, yet remain in such old parts of the
metropolis,--each tenement quietly vegetating like an ancient
citizen who long ago retired from business, and dozing on in its
infirmity until in course of time it tumbles down, and is replaced
by some extravagant young heir, flaunting in stucco and ornamental
work, and all the vanities of modern days,--in this quarter, and in
a street of this description, the business of the present chapter
At the time of which it treats, though only six-and-sixty years
ago, a very large part of what is London now had no existence.
Even in the brains of the wildest speculators, there had sprung up
no long rows of streets connecting Highgate with Whitechapel, no
assemblages of palaces in the swampy levels, nor little cities in
the open fields. Although this part of town was then, as now,
parcelled out in streets, and plentifully peopled, it wore a
different aspect. There were gardens to many of the houses, and
trees by the pavement side; with an air of freshness breathing up
and down, which in these days would be sought in vain. Fields were
nigh at hand, through which the New River took its winding course,
and where there was merry haymaking in the summer time. Nature was
not so far removed, or hard to get at, as in these days; and
although there were busy trades in Clerkenwell, and working
jewellers by scores, it was a purer place, with farm-houses nearer
to it than many modern Londoners would readily believe, and lovers'
walks at no great distance, which turned into squalid courts, long
before the lovers of this age were born, or, as the phrase goes,
In one of these streets, the cleanest of them all, and on the shady
side of the way--for good housewives know that sunlight damages
their cherished furniture, and so choose the shade rather than its
intrusive glare--there stood the house with which we have to deal.
It was a modest building, not very straight, not large, not tall;
not bold-faced, with great staring windows, but a shy, blinking
house, with a conical roof going up into a peak over its garret
window of four small panes of glass, like a cocked hat on the head
of an elderly gentleman with one eye. It was not built of brick or
lofty stone, but of wood and plaster; it was not planned with a
dull and wearisome regard to regularity, for no one window matched
the other, or seemed to have the slightest reference to anything
The shop--for it had a shop--was, with reference to the first
floor, where shops usually are; and there all resemblance between
it and any other shop stopped short and ceased. People who went in
and out didn't go up a flight of steps to it, or walk easily in
upon a level with the street, but dived down three steep stairs,
as into a cellar. Its floor was paved with stone and brick, as
that of any other cellar might be; and in lieu of window framed and
glazed it had a great black wooden flap or shutter, nearly breast
high from the ground, which turned back in the day-time, admitting
as much cold air as light, and very often more. Behind this shop
was a wainscoted parlour, looking first into a paved yard, and
beyond that again into a little terrace garden, raised some feet
above it. Any stranger would have supposed that this wainscoted
parlour, saving for the door of communication by which he had
entered, was cut off and detached from all the world; and indeed
most strangers on their first entrance were observed to grow
extremely thoughtful, as weighing and pondering in their minds
whether the upper rooms were only approachable by ladders from
without; never suspecting that two of the most unassuming and
unlikely doors in existence, which the most ingenious mechanician
on earth must of necessity have supposed to be the doors of
closets, opened out of this room--each without the smallest
preparation, or so much as a quarter of an inch of passage--upon
two dark winding flights of stairs, the one upward, the other
downward, which were the sole means of communication between that
chamber and the other portions of the house.
With all these oddities, there was not a neater, more scrupulously
tidy, or more punctiliously ordered house, in Clerkenwell, in
London, in all England. There were not cleaner windows, or whiter
floors, or brighter Stoves, or more highly shining articles of
furniture in old mahogany; there was not more rubbing, scrubbing,
burnishing and polishing, in the whole street put together. Nor
was this excellence attained without some cost and trouble and
great expenditure of voice, as the neighbours were frequently
reminded when the good lady of the house overlooked and assisted in
its being put to rights on cleaning days--which were usually from
Monday morning till Saturday night, both days inclusive.
Leaning against the door-post of this, his dwelling, the locksmith
stood early on the morning after he had met with the wounded man,
gazing disconsolately at a great wooden emblem of a key, painted in
vivid yellow to resemble gold, which dangled from the house-front,
and swung to and fro with a mournful creaking noise, as if
complaining that it had nothing to unlock. Sometimes, he looked
over his shoulder into the shop, which was so dark and dingy with
numerous tokens of his trade, and so blackened by the smoke of a
little forge, near which his 'prentice was at work, that it would
have been difficult for one unused to such espials to have
distinguished anything but various tools of uncouth make and shape,
great bunches of rusty keys, fragments of iron, half-finished
locks, and such like things, which garnished the walls and hung in
clusters from the ceiling.
After a long and patient contemplation of the golden key, and many
such backward glances, Gabriel stepped into the road, and stole a
look at the upper windows. One of them chanced to be thrown open
at the moment, and a roguish face met his; a face lighted up by the
loveliest pair of sparkling eyes that ever locksmith looked upon;
the face of a pretty, laughing, girl; dimpled and fresh, and
healthful--the very impersonation of good-humour and blooming
'Hush!' she whispered, bending forward and pointing archly to the
window underneath. 'Mother is still asleep.'
'Still, my dear,' returned the locksmith in the same tone. 'You
talk as if she had been asleep all night, instead of little more
than half an hour. But I'm very thankful. Sleep's a blessing--no
doubt about it.' The last few words he muttered to himself.
'How cruel of you to keep us up so late this morning, and never
tell us where you were, or send us word!' said the girl.
'Ah Dolly, Dolly!' returned the locksmith, shaking his head, and
smiling, 'how cruel of you to run upstairs to bed! Come down to
breakfast, madcap, and come down lightly, or you'll wake your
mother. She must be tired, I am sure--I am.'
Keeping these latter words to himself, and returning his
daughter's nod, he was passing into the workshop, with the smile
she had awakened still beaming on his face, when he just caught
sight of his 'prentice's brown paper cap ducking down to avoid
observation, and shrinking from the window back to its former
place, which the wearer no sooner reached than he began to hammer
'Listening again, Simon!' said Gabriel to himself. 'That's bad.
What in the name of wonder does he expect the girl to say, that I
always catch him listening when SHE speaks, and never at any other
time! A bad habit, Sim, a sneaking, underhanded way. Ah! you may
hammer, but you won't beat that out of me, if you work at it till
your time's up!'
So saying, and shaking his head gravely, he re-entered the
workshop, and confronted the subject of these remarks.
'There's enough of that just now,' said the locksmith. 'You
needn't make any more of that confounded clatter. Breakfast's
'Sir,' said Sim, looking up with amazing politeness, and a peculiar
little bow cut short off at the neck, 'I shall attend you
'I suppose,' muttered Gabriel, 'that's out of the 'Prentice's
Garland or the 'Prentice's Delight, or the 'Prentice's Warbler, or
the Prentice's Guide to the Gallows, or some such improving
textbook. Now he's going to beautify himself--here's a precious
Quite unconscious that his master was looking on from the dark
corner by the parlour door, Sim threw off the paper cap, sprang
from his seat, and in two extraordinary steps, something between
skating and minuet dancing, bounded to a washing place at the other
end of the shop, and there removed from his face and hands all
traces of his previous work--practising the same step all the time
with the utmost gravity. This done, he drew from some concealed
place a little scrap of looking-glass, and with its assistance
arranged his hair, and ascertained the exact state of a little
carbuncle on his nose. Having now completed his toilet, he placed
the fragment of mirror on a low bench, and looked over his shoulder
at so much of his legs as could be reflected in that small compass,
with the greatest possible complacency and satisfaction.
Sim, as he was called in the locksmith's family, or Mr Simon
Tappertit, as he called himself, and required all men to style him
out of doors, on holidays, and Sundays out,--was an old-fashioned,
thin-faced, sleek-haired, sharp-nosed, small-eyed little fellow,
very little more than five feet high, and thoroughly convinced in
his own mind that he was above the middle size; rather tall, in
fact, than otherwise. Of his figure, which was well enough formed,
though somewhat of the leanest, he entertained the highest
admiration; and with his legs, which, in knee-breeches, were
perfect curiosities of littleness, he was enraptured to a degree
amounting to enthusiasm. He also had some majestic, shadowy ideas,
which had never been quite fathomed by his intimate friends,
concerning the power of his eye. Indeed he had been known to go so
far as to boast that he could utterly quell and subdue the
haughtiest beauty by a simple process, which he termed 'eyeing her
over;' but it must be added, that neither of this faculty, nor of
the power he claimed to have, through the same gift, of vanquishing
and heaving down dumb animals, even in a rabid state, had he ever
furnished evidence which could be deemed quite satisfactory and
It may be inferred from these premises, that in the small body of
Mr Tappertit there was locked up an ambitious and aspiring soul.
As certain liquors, confined in casks too cramped in their
dimensions, will ferment, and fret, and chafe in their
imprisonment, so the spiritual essence or soul of Mr Tappertit
would sometimes fume within that precious cask, his body, until,
with great foam and froth and splutter, it would force a vent, and
carry all before it. It was his custom to remark, in reference to
any one of these occasions, that his soul had got into his head;
and in this novel kind of intoxication many scrapes and mishaps
befell him, which he had frequently concealed with no small
difficulty from his worthy master.
Sim Tappertit, among the other fancies upon which his before-
mentioned soul was for ever feasting and regaling itself (and which
fancies, like the liver of Prometheus, grew as they were fed
upon), had a mighty notion of his order; and had been heard by the
servant-maid openly expressing his regret that the 'prentices no
longer carried clubs wherewith to mace the citizens: that was his
strong expression. He was likewise reported to have said that in
former times a stigma had been cast upon the body by the execution
of George Barnwell, to which they should not have basely
submitted, but should have demanded him of the legislature--
temperately at first; then by an appeal to arms, if necessary--to
be dealt with as they in their wisdom might think fit. These
thoughts always led him to consider what a glorious engine the
'prentices might yet become if they had but a master spirit at
their head; and then he would darkly, and to the terror of his
hearers, hint at certain reckless fellows that he knew of, and at a
certain Lion Heart ready to become their captain, who, once afoot,
would make the Lord Mayor tremble on his throne.
In respect of dress and personal decoration, Sim Tappertit was no
less of an adventurous and enterprising character. He had been
seen, beyond dispute, to pull off ruffles of the finest quality at
the corner of the street on Sunday nights, and to put them
carefully in his pocket before returning home; and it was quite
notorious that on all great holiday occasions it was his habit to
exchange his plain steel knee-buckles for a pair of glittering
paste, under cover of a friendly post, planted most conveniently
in that same spot. Add to this that he was in years just twenty,
in his looks much older, and in conceit at least two hundred; that
he had no objection to be jested with, touching his admiration of
his master's daughter; and had even, when called upon at a certain
obscure tavern to pledge the lady whom he honoured with his love,
toasted, with many winks and leers, a fair creature whose Christian
name, he said, began with a D--;--and as much is known of Sim
Tappertit, who has by this time followed the locksmith in to
breakfast, as is necessary to be known in making his acquaintance.
It was a substantial meal; for, over and above the ordinary tea
equipage, the board creaked beneath the weight of a jolly round of
beef, a ham of the first magnitude, and sundry towers of buttered
Yorkshire cake, piled slice upon slice in most alluring order.
There was also a goodly jug of well-browned clay, fashioned into
the form of an old gentleman, not by any means unlike the
locksmith, atop of whose bald head was a fine white froth answering
to his wig, indicative, beyond dispute, of sparkling home-brewed
ale. But, better far than fair home-brewed, or Yorkshire cake, or
ham, or beef, or anything to eat or drink that earth or air or
water can supply, there sat, presiding over all, the locksmith's
rosy daughter, before whose dark eyes even beef grew insignificant,
and malt became as nothing.
Fathers should never kiss their daughters when young men are by.
It's too much. There are bounds to human endurance. So thought
Sim Tappertit when Gabriel drew those rosy lips to his--those lips
within Sim's reach from day to day, and yet so far off. He had a
respect for his master, but he wished the Yorkshire cake might
'Father,' said the locksmith's daughter, when this salute was over,
and they took their seats at table, 'what is this I hear about last
'All true, my dear; true as the Gospel, Doll.'
'Young Mr Chester robbed, and lying wounded in the road, when you
'Ay--Mr Edward. And beside him, Barnaby, calling for help with all
his might. It was well it happened as it did; for the road's a
lonely one, the hour was late, and, the night being cold, and poor
Barnaby even less sensible than usual from surprise and fright, the
young gentleman might have met his death in a very short time.'
'I dread to think of it!' cried his daughter with a shudder. 'How
did you know him?'
'Know him!' returned the locksmith. 'I didn't know him--how could
I? I had never seen him, often as I had heard and spoken of him.
I took him to Mrs Rudge's; and she no sooner saw him than the truth
'Miss Emma, father--If this news should reach her, enlarged upon as
it is sure to be, she will go distracted.'
'Why, lookye there again, how a man suffers for being good-
natured,' said the locksmith. 'Miss Emma was with her uncle at the
masquerade at Carlisle House, where she had gone, as the people at
the Warren told me, sorely against her will. What does your
blockhead father when he and Mrs Rudge have laid their heads
together, but goes there when he ought to be abed, makes interest
with his friend the doorkeeper, slips him on a mask and domino,
and mixes with the masquers.'
'And like himself to do so!' cried the girl, putting her fair arm
round his neck, and giving him a most enthusiastic kiss.
'Like himself!' repeated Gabriel, affecting to grumble, but
evidently delighted with the part he had taken, and with her
praise. 'Very like himself--so your mother said. However, he
mingled with the crowd, and prettily worried and badgered he was, I
warrant you, with people squeaking, "Don't you know me?" and "I've
found you out," and all that kind of nonsense in his ears. He
might have wandered on till now, but in a little room there was a
young lady who had taken off her mask, on account of the place
being very warm, and was sitting there alone.'
'And that was she?' said his daughter hastily.
'And that was she,' replied the locksmith; 'and I no sooner
whispered to her what the matter was--as softly, Doll, and with
nearly as much art as you could have used yourself--than she gives
a kind of scream and faints away.'
'What did you do--what happened next?' asked his daughter. 'Why,
the masks came flocking round, with a general noise and hubbub, and
I thought myself in luck to get clear off, that's all,' rejoined
the locksmith. 'What happened when I reached home you may guess,
if you didn't hear it. Ah! Well, it's a poor heart that never
rejoices.--Put Toby this way, my dear.'
This Toby was the brown jug of which previous mention has been
made. Applying his lips to the worthy old gentleman's benevolent
forehead, the locksmith, who had all this time been ravaging among
the eatables, kept them there so long, at the same time raising the
vessel slowly in the air, that at length Toby stood on his head
upon his nose, when he smacked his lips, and set him on the table
again with fond reluctance.
Although Sim Tappertit had taken no share in this conversation, no
part of it being addressed to him, he had not been wanting in such
silent manifestations of astonishment, as he deemed most compatible
with the favourable display of his eyes. Regarding the pause which
now ensued, as a particularly advantageous opportunity for doing
great execution with them upon the locksmith's daughter (who he had
no doubt was looking at him in mute admiration), he began to screw
and twist his face, and especially those features, into such
extraordinary, hideous, and unparalleled contortions, that Gabriel,
who happened to look towards him, was stricken with amazement.
'Why, what the devil's the matter with the lad?' cried the
locksmith. 'Is he choking?'
'Who?' demanded Sim, with some disdain.
'Who? Why, you,' returned his master. 'What do you mean by making
those horrible faces over your breakfast?'
'Faces are matters of taste, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, rather
discomfited; not the less so because he saw the locksmith's
'Sim,' rejoined Gabriel, laughing heartily. 'Don't be a fool, for
I'd rather see you in your senses. These young fellows,' he added,
turning to his daughter, 'are always committing some folly or
another. There was a quarrel between Joe Willet and old John last
night though I can't say Joe was much in fault either. He'll be
missing one of these mornings, and will have gone away upon some
wild-goose errand, seeking his fortune.--Why, what's the matter,
Doll? YOU are making faces now. The girls are as bad as the boys
'It's the tea,' said Dolly, turning alternately very red and very
white, which is no doubt the effect of a slight scald--'so very hot.'
Mr Tappertit looked immensely big at a quartern loaf on the table,
and breathed hard.
'Is that all?' returned the locksmith. 'Put some more milk in it.--
Yes, I am sorry for Joe, because he is a likely young fellow, and
gains upon one every time one sees him. But he'll start off,
you'll find. Indeed he told me as much himself!'
'Indeed!' cried Dolly in a faint voice. 'In-deed!'
'Is the tea tickling your throat still, my dear?' said the
But, before his daughter could make him any answer, she was taken
with a troublesome cough, and it was such a very unpleasant cough,
that, when she left off, the tears were starting in her bright
eyes. The good-natured locksmith was still patting her on the back
and applying such gentle restoratives, when a message arrived from
Mrs Varden, making known to all whom it might concern, that she
felt too much indisposed to rise after her great agitation and
anxiety of the previous night; and therefore desired to be
immediately accommodated with the little black teapot of strong
mixed tea, a couple of rounds of buttered toast, a middling-sized
dish of beef and ham cut thin, and the Protestant Manual in two
volumes post octavo. Like some other ladies who in remote ages
flourished upon this globe, Mrs Varden was most devout when most
ill-tempered. Whenever she and her husband were at unusual
variance, then the Protestant Manual was in high feather.
Knowing from experience what these requests portended, the
triumvirate broke up; Dolly, to see the orders executed with all
despatch; Gabriel, to some out-of-door work in his little chaise;
and Sim, to his daily duty in the workshop, to which retreat he
carried the big look, although the loaf remained behind.
Indeed the big look increased immensely, and when he had tied his
apron on, became quite gigantic. It was not until he had several
times walked up and down with folded arms, and the longest strides
be could take, and had kicked a great many small articles out of
his way, that his lip began to curl. At length, a gloomy derision
came upon his features, and he smiled; uttering meanwhile with
supreme contempt the monosyllable 'Joe!'
'I eyed her over, while he talked about the fellow,' he said, 'and
that was of course the reason of her being confused. Joe!'
He walked up and down again much quicker than before, and if
possible with longer strides; sometimes stopping to take a glance
at his legs, and sometimes to jerk out, and cast from him, another
'Joe!' In the course of a quarter of an hour or so he again
assumed the paper cap and tried to work. No. It could not be
'I'll do nothing to-day,' said Mr Tappertit, dashing it down again,
'but grind. I'll grind up all the tools. Grinding will suit my
present humour well. Joe!'
Whirr-r-r-r. The grindstone was soon in motion; the sparks were
flying off in showers. This was the occupation for his heated
'Something will come of this!' said Mr Tappertit, pausing as if in
triumph, and wiping his heated face upon his sleeve. 'Something
will come of this. I hope it mayn't be human gore!'
As soon as the business of the day was over, the locksmith sallied
forth, alone, to visit the wounded gentleman and ascertain the
progress of his recovery. The house where he had left him was in a
by-street in Southwark, not far from London Bridge; and thither he
hied with all speed, bent upon returning with as little delay as
might be, and getting to bed betimes.
The evening was boisterous--scarcely better than the previous night
had been. It was not easy for a stout man like Gabriel to keep his
legs at the street corners, or to make head against the high wind,
which often fairly got the better of him, and drove him back some
paces, or, in defiance of all his energy, forced him to take
shelter in an arch or doorway until the fury of the gust was spent.
Occasionally a hat or wig, or both, came spinning and trundling
past him, like a mad thing; while the more serious spectacle of
falling tiles and slates, or of masses of brick and mortar or
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