Part 14 out of 15
indeed. I was forced with two bayonets and I don't know how many
bullets on each side of me, to point you out. If you hadn't been
taken, you'd have been shot; and what a sight that would have been--
a fine young man like you!'
'Will it be a better sight now?' asked Hugh, raising his head, with
such a fierce expression, that the other durst not answer him just
'A deal better,' said Dennis meekly, after a pause. 'First,
there's all the chances of the law, and they're five hundred
strong. We may get off scot-free. Unlikelier things than that
have come to pass. Even if we shouldn't, and the chances fail, we
can but be worked off once: and when it's well done, it's so neat,
so skilful, so captiwating, if that don't seem too strong a word,
that you'd hardly believe it could be brought to sich perfection.
Kill one's fellow-creeturs off, with muskets!--Pah!' and his
nature so revolted at the bare idea, that he spat upon the dungeon
His warming on this topic, which to one unacquainted with his
pursuits and tastes appeared like courage; together with his artful
suppression of his own secret hopes, and mention of himself as
being in the same condition with Hugh; did more to soothe that
ruffian than the most elaborate arguments could have done, or the
most abject submission. He rested his arms upon his knees, and
stooping forward, looked from beneath his shaggy hair at Dennis,
with something of a smile upon his face.
'The fact is, brother,' said the hangman, in a tone of greater
confidence, 'that you got into bad company. The man that was with
you was looked after more than you, and it was him I wanted. As to
me, what have I got by it? Here we are, in one and the same plight.'
'Lookee, rascal,' said Hugh, contracting his brows, 'I'm not
altogether such a shallow blade but I know you expected to get
something by it, or you wouldn't have done it. But it's done, and
you're here, and it will soon be all over with you and me; and I'd
as soon die as live, or live as die. Why should I trouble myself
to have revenge on you? To eat, and drink, and go to sleep, as
long as I stay here, is all I care for. If there was but a little
more sun to bask in, than can find its way into this cursed place,
I'd lie in it all day, and not trouble myself to sit or stand up
once. That's all the care I have for myself. Why should I care
Finishing this speech with a growl like the yawn of a wild beast,
he stretched himself upon the bench again, and closed his eyes once
After looking at him in silence for some moments, Dennis, who was
greatly relieved to find him in this mood, drew the chair towards
his rough couch and sat down near him--taking the precaution,
however, to keep out of the range of his brawny arm.
'Well said, brother; nothing could be better said,' he ventured to
observe. 'We'll eat and drink of the best, and sleep our best, and
make the best of it every way. Anything can be got for money.
Let's spend it merrily.'
'Ay,' said Hugh, coiling himself into a new position.--'Where is it?'
'Why, they took mine from me at the lodge,' said Mr Dennis; 'but
mine's a peculiar case.'
'Is it? They took mine too.'
'Why then, I tell you what, brother,' Dennis began. 'You must look
up your friends--'
'My friends!' cried Hugh, starting up and resting on his hands.
'Where are my friends?'
'Your relations then,' said Dennis.
'Ha ha ha!' laughed Hugh, waving one arm above his head. 'He talks
of friends to me--talks of relations to a man whose mother died the
death in store for her son, and left him, a hungry brat, without a
face he knew in all the world! He talks of this to me!'
'Brother,' cried the hangman, whose features underwent a sudden
change, 'you don't mean to say--'
'I mean to say,' Hugh interposed, 'that they hung her up at Tyburn.
What was good enough for her, is good enough for me. Let them do
the like by me as soon as they please--the sooner the better. Say
no more to me. I'm going to sleep.'
'But I want to speak to you; I want to hear more about that,' said
Dennis, changing colour.
'If you're a wise man,' growled Hugh, raising his head to look at
him with a frown, 'you'll hold your tongue. I tell you I'm going
Dennis venturing to say something more in spite of this caution,
the desperate fellow struck at him with all his force, and missing
him, lay down again with many muttered oaths and imprecations, and
turned his face towards the wall. After two or three ineffectual
twitches at his dress, which he was hardy enough to venture upon,
notwithstanding his dangerous humour, Mr Dennis, who burnt, for
reasons of his own, to pursue the conversation, had no alternative
but to sit as patiently as he could: waiting his further pleasure.
A month has elapsed,--and we stand in the bedchamber of Sir John
Chester. Through the half-opened window, the Temple Garden looks
green and pleasant; the placid river, gay with boat and barge, and
dimpled with the plash of many an oar, sparkles in the distance;
the sky is blue and clear; and the summer air steals gently in,
filling the room with perfume. The very town, the smoky town, is
radiant. High roofs and steeple-tops, wont to look black and
sullen, smile a cheerful grey; every old gilded vane, and ball, and
cross, glitters anew in the bright morning sun; and, high among
them all, St Paul's towers up, showing its lofty crest in burnished
Sir John was breakfasting in bed. His chocolate and toast stood
upon a little table at his elbow; books and newspapers lay ready to
his hand, upon the coverlet; and, sometimes pausing to glance with
an air of tranquil satisfaction round the well-ordered room, and
sometimes to gaze indolently at the summer sky, he ate, and drank,
and read the news luxuriously.
The cheerful influence of the morning seemed to have some effect,
even upon his equable temper. His manner was unusually gay; his
smile more placid and agreeable than usual; his voice more clear
and pleasant. He laid down the newspaper he had been reading;
leaned back upon his pillow with the air of one who resigned
himself to a train of charming recollections; and after a pause,
soliloquised as follows:
'And my friend the centaur, goes the way of his mamma! I am not
surprised. And his mysterious friend Mr Dennis, likewise! I am
not surprised. And my old postman, the exceedingly free-and-easy
young madman of Chigwell! I am quite rejoiced. It's the very best
thing that could possibly happen to him.'
After delivering himself of these remarks, he fell again into his
smiling train of reflection; from which he roused himself at length
to finish his chocolate, which was getting cold, and ring the bell
The new supply arriving, he took the cup from his servant's hand;
and saying, with a charming affability, 'I am obliged to you,
Peak,' dismissed him.
'It is a remarkable circumstance,' he mused, dallying lazily with
the teaspoon, 'that my friend the madman should have been within an
ace of escaping, on his trial; and it was a good stroke of chance
(or, as the world would say, a providential occurrence) that the
brother of my Lord Mayor should have been in court, with other
country justices, into whose very dense heads curiosity had
penetrated. For though the brother of my Lord Mayor was decidedly
wrong; and established his near relationship to that amusing person
beyond all doubt, in stating that my friend was sane, and had, to
his knowledge, wandered about the country with a vagabond parent,
avowing revolutionary and rebellious sentiments; I am not the less
obliged to him for volunteering that evidence. These insane
creatures make such very odd and embarrassing remarks, that they
really ought to be hanged for the comfort of society.'
The country justice had indeed turned the wavering scale against
poor Barnaby, and solved the doubt that trembled in his favour.
Grip little thought how much he had to answer for.
'They will be a singular party,' said Sir John, leaning his head
upon his hand, and sipping his chocolate; 'a very curious party.
The hangman himself; the centaur; and the madman. The centaur
would make a very handsome preparation in Surgeons' Hall, and
would benefit science extremely. I hope they have taken care to
bespeak him.--Peak, I am not at home, of course, to anybody but the
This reminder to his servant was called forth by a knock at the
door, which the man hastened to open. After a prolonged murmur of
question and answer, he returned; and as he cautiously closed the
room-door behind him, a man was heard to cough in the passage.
'Now, it is of no use, Peak,' said Sir John, raising his hand in
deprecation of his delivering any message; 'I am not at home. I
cannot possibly hear you. I told you I was not at home, and my
word is sacred. Will you never do as you are desired?'
Having nothing to oppose to this reproof, the man was about to
withdraw, when the visitor who had given occasion to it, probably
rendered impatient by delay, knocked with his knuckles at the
chamber-door, and called out that he had urgent business with Sir
John Chester, which admitted of no delay.
'Let him in,' said Sir John. 'My good fellow,' he added, when the
door was opened, 'how come you to intrude yourself in this
extraordinary manner upon the privacy of a gentleman? How can you
be so wholly destitute of self-respect as to be guilty of such
'My business, Sir John, is not of a common kind, I do assure you,'
returned the person he addressed. 'If I have taken any uncommon
course to get admission to you, I hope I shall be pardoned on that
'Well! we shall see; we shall see,' returned Sir John, whose face
cleared up when he saw who it was, and whose prepossessing smile
was now restored. 'I am sure we have met before,' he added in his
winning tone, 'but really I forget your name?'
'My name is Gabriel Varden, sir.'
'Varden, of course, Varden,' returned Sir John, tapping his
forehead. 'Dear me, how very defective my memory becomes! Varden
to be sure--Mr Varden the locksmith. You have a charming wife, Mr
Varden, and a most beautiful daughter. They are well?'
Gabriel thanked him, and said they were.
'I rejoice to hear it,' said Sir John. 'Commend me to them when
you return, and say that I wished I were fortunate enough to
convey, myself, the salute which I entrust you to deliver. And
what,' he asked very sweetly, after a moment's pause, 'can I do for
you? You may command me freely.'
'I thank you, Sir John,' said Gabriel, with some pride in his
manner, 'but I have come to ask no favour of you, though I come on
business.--Private,' he added, with a glance at the man who stood
looking on, 'and very pressing business.'
'I cannot say you are the more welcome for being independent, and
having nothing to ask of me,' returned Sir John, graciously, 'for I
should have been happy to render you a service; still, you are
welcome on any terms. Oblige me with some more chocolate, Peak,
and don't wait.'
The man retired, and left them alone.
'Sir John,' said Gabriel, 'I am a working-man, and have been so,
all my life. If I don't prepare you enough for what I have to
tell; if I come to the point too abruptly; and give you a shock,
which a gentleman could have spared you, or at all events lessened
very much; I hope you will give me credit for meaning well. I wish
to be careful and considerate, and I trust that in a straightforward
person like me, you'll take the will for the deed.'
'Mr Varden,' returned the other, perfectly composed under this
exordium; 'I beg you'll take a chair. Chocolate, perhaps, you
don't relish? Well! it IS an acquired taste, no doubt.'
'Sir John,' said Gabriel, who had acknowledged with a bow the
invitation to be seated, but had not availed himself of it. 'Sir
John'--he dropped his voice and drew nearer to the bed--'I am just
now come from Newgate--'
'Good Gad!' cried Sir John, hastily sitting up in bed; 'from
Newgate, Mr Varden! How could you be so very imprudent as to come
from Newgate! Newgate, where there are jail-fevers, and ragged
people, and bare-footed men and women, and a thousand horrors!
Peak, bring the camphor, quick! Heaven and earth, Mr Varden, my
dear, good soul, how COULD you come from Newgate?'
Gabriel returned no answer, but looked on in silence while Peak
(who had entered with the hot chocolate) ran to a drawer, and
returning with a bottle, sprinkled his master's dressing-gown and
the bedding; and besides moistening the locksmith himself,
plentifully, described a circle round about him on the carpet.
When he had done this, he again retired; and Sir John, reclining in
an easy attitude upon his pillow, once more turned a smiling face
towards his visitor.
'You will forgive me, Mr Varden, I am sure, for being at first a
little sensitive both on your account and my own. I confess I was
startled, notwithstanding your delicate exordium. Might I ask you
to do me the favour not to approach any nearer?--You have really
come from Newgate!'
The locksmith inclined his head.
'In-deed! And now, Mr Varden, all exaggeration and embellishment
apart,' said Sir John Chester, confidentially, as he sipped his
chocolate, 'what kind of place IS Newgate?'
'A strange place, Sir John,' returned the locksmith, 'of a sad and
doleful kind. A strange place, where many strange things are heard
and seen; but few more strange than that I come to tell you of.
The case is urgent. I am sent here.'
'Not--no, no--not from the jail?'
'Yes, Sir John; from the jail.'
'And my good, credulous, open-hearted friend,' said Sir John,
setting down his cup, and laughing,--'by whom?'
'By a man called Dennis--for many years the hangman, and to-morrow
morning the hanged,' returned the locksmith.
Sir John had expected--had been quite certain from the first--that
he would say he had come from Hugh, and was prepared to meet him on
that point. But this answer occasioned him a degree of
astonishment, which, for the moment, he could not, with all his
command of feature, prevent his face from expressing. He quickly
subdued it, however, and said in the same light tone:
'And what does the gentleman require of me? My memory may be at
fault again, but I don't recollect that I ever had the pleasure of
an introduction to him, or that I ever numbered him among my
personal friends, I do assure you, Mr Varden.'
'Sir John,' returned the locksmith, gravely, 'I will tell you, as
nearly as I can, in the words he used to me, what he desires that
you should know, and what you ought to know without a moment's loss
Sir John Chester settled himself in a position of greater repose,
and looked at his visitor with an expression of face which seemed
to say, 'This is an amusing fellow! I'll hear him out.'
'You may have seen in the newspapers, sir,' said Gabriel, pointing
to the one which lay by his side, 'that I was a witness against
this man upon his trial some days since; and that it was not his
fault I was alive, and able to speak to what I knew.'
'MAY have seen!' cried Sir John. 'My dear Mr Varden, you are quite
a public character, and live in all men's thoughts most deservedly.
Nothing can exceed the interest with which I read your testimony,
and remembered that I had the pleasure of a slight acquaintance
with you.---I hope we shall have your portrait published?'
'This morning, sir,' said the locksmith, taking no notice of these
compliments, 'early this morning, a message was brought to me from
Newgate, at this man's request, desiring that I would go and see
him, for he had something particular to communicate. I needn't
tell you that he is no friend of mine, and that I had never seen
him, until the rioters beset my house.'
Sir John fanned himself gently with the newspaper, and nodded.
'I knew, however, from the general report,' resumed Gabriel, 'that
the order for his execution to-morrow, went down to the prison
last night; and looking upon him as a dying man, I complied with
'You are quite a Christian, Mr Varden,' said Sir John; 'and in that
amiable capacity, you increase my desire that you should take a
'He said,' continued Gabriel, looking steadily at the knight, 'that
he had sent to me, because he had no friend or companion in the
whole world (being the common hangman), and because he believed,
from the way in which I had given my evidence, that I was an honest
man, and would act truly by him. He said that, being shunned by
every one who knew his calling, even by people of the lowest and
most wretched grade, and finding, when he joined the rioters, that
the men he acted with had no suspicion of it (which I believe is
true enough, for a poor fool of an old 'prentice of mine was one of
them), he had kept his own counsel, up to the time of his being
taken and put in jail.'
'Very discreet of Mr Dennis,' observed Sir John with a slight yawn,
though still with the utmost affability, 'but--except for your
admirable and lucid manner of telling it, which is perfect--not
very interesting to me.'
'When,' pursued the locksmith, quite unabashed and wholly
regardless of these interruptions, 'when he was taken to the jail,
he found that his fellow-prisoner, in the same room, was a young
man, Hugh by name, a leader in the riots, who had been betrayed and
given up by himself. From something which fell from this unhappy
creature in the course of the angry words they had at meeting, he
discovered that his mother had suffered the death to which they
both are now condemned.--The time is very short, Sir John.'
The knight laid down his paper fan, replaced his cup upon the table
at his side, and, saving for the smile that lurked about his mouth,
looked at the locksmith with as much steadiness as the locksmith
looked at him.
'They have been in prison now, a month. One conversation led to
many more; and the hangman soon found, from a comparison of time,
and place, and dates, that he had executed the sentence of the law
upon this woman, himself. She had been tempted by want--as so many
people are--into the easy crime of passing forged notes. She was
young and handsome; and the traders who employ men, women, and
children in this traffic, looked upon her as one who was well
adapted for their business, and who would probably go on without
suspicion for a long time. But they were mistaken; for she was
stopped in the commission of her very first offence, and died for
it. She was of gipsy blood, Sir John--'
It might have been the effect of a passing cloud which obscured the
sun, and cast a shadow on his face; but the knight turned deadly
pale. Still he met the locksmith's eye, as before.
'She was of gipsy blood, Sir John,' repeated Gabriel, 'and had a
high, free spirit. This, and her good looks, and her lofty manner,
interested some gentlemen who were easily moved by dark eyes; and
efforts were made to save her. They might have been successful, if
she would have given them any clue to her history. But she never
would, or did. There was reason to suspect that she would make an
attempt upon her life. A watch was set upon her night and day; and
from that time she never spoke again--'
Sir John stretched out his hand towards his cup. The locksmith
going on, arrested it half-way.
--'Until she had but a minute to live. Then she broke silence, and
said, in a low firm voice which no one heard but this executioner,
for all other living creatures had retired and left her to her
fate, "If I had a dagger within these fingers and he was within my
reach, I would strike him dead before me, even now!" The man asked
"Who?" She said, "The father of her boy."'
Sir John drew back his outstretched hand, and seeing that the
locksmith paused, signed to him with easy politeness and without
any new appearance of emotion, to proceed.
'It was the first word she had ever spoken, from which it could be
understood that she had any relative on earth. "Was the child
alive?" he asked. "Yes." He asked her where it was, its name, and
whether she had any wish respecting it. She had but one, she said.
It was that the boy might live and grow, in utter ignorance of his
father, so that no arts might teach him to be gentle and
forgiving. When he became a man, she trusted to the God of their
tribe to bring the father and the son together, and revenge her
through her child. He asked her other questions, but she spoke no
more. Indeed, he says, she scarcely said this much, to him, but
stood with her face turned upwards to the sky, and never looked
towards him once.'
Sir John took a pinch of snuff; glanced approvingly at an elegant
little sketch, entitled 'Nature,' on the wall; and raising his eyes
to the locksmith's face again, said, with an air of courtesy and
patronage, 'You were observing, Mr Varden--'
'That she never,' returned the locksmith, who was not to be
diverted by any artifice from his firm manner, and his steady gaze,
'that she never looked towards him once, Sir John; and so she died,
and he forgot her. But, some years afterwards, a man was
sentenced to die the same death, who was a gipsy too; a sunburnt,
swarthy fellow, almost a wild man; and while he lay in prison,
under sentence, he, who had seen the hangman more than once while
he was free, cut an image of him on his stick, by way of braving
death, and showing those who attended on him, how little he cared
or thought about it. He gave this stick into his hands at Tyburn,
and told him then, that the woman I have spoken of had left her own
people to join a fine gentleman, and that, being deserted by him,
and cast off by her old friends, she had sworn within her own proud
breast, that whatever her misery might be, she would ask no help of
any human being. He told him that she had kept her word to the
last; and that, meeting even him in the streets--he had been fond
of her once, it seems--she had slipped from him by a trick, and he
never saw her again, until, being in one of the frequent crowds at
Tyburn, with some of his rough companions, he had been driven
almost mad by seeing, in the criminal under another name, whose
death he had come to witness, herself. Standing in the same place
in which she had stood, he told the hangman this, and told him,
too, her real name, which only her own people and the gentleman for
whose sake she had left them, knew. That name he will tell again,
Sir John, to none but you.'
'To none but me!' exclaimed the knight, pausing in the act of
raising his cup to his lips with a perfectly steady hand, and
curling up his little finger for the better display of a brilliant
ring with which it was ornamented: 'but me!--My dear Mr Varden,
how very preposterous, to select me for his confidence! With you
at his elbow, too, who are so perfectly trustworthy!'
'Sir John, Sir John,' returned the locksmith, 'at twelve tomorrow,
these men die. Hear the few words I have to add, and do not hope
to deceive me; for though I am a plain man of humble station, and
you are a gentleman of rank and learning, the truth raises me to
your level, and I KNOW that you anticipate the disclosure with
which I am about to end, and that you believe this doomed man,
Hugh, to be your son.'
'Nay,' said Sir John, bantering him with a gay air; 'the wild
gentleman, who died so suddenly, scarcely went as far as that, I
'He did not,' returned the locksmith, 'for she had bound him by
some pledge, known only to these people, and which the worst among
them respect, not to tell your name: but, in a fantastic pattern on
the stick, he had carved some letters, and when the hangman asked
it, he bade him, especially if he should ever meet with her son in
after life, remember that place well.'
The knight finished his cup of chocolate with an appearance of
infinite relish, and carefully wiped his lips upon his
'Sir John,' said the locksmith, 'this is all that has been told to
me; but since these two men have been left for death, they have
conferred together closely. See them, and hear what they can add.
See this Dennis, and learn from him what he has not trusted to me.
If you, who hold the clue to all, want corroboration (which you do
not), the means are easy.'
'And to what,' said Sir John Chester, rising on his elbow, after
smoothing the pillow for its reception; 'my dear, good-natured,
estimable Mr Varden--with whom I cannot be angry if I would--to
what does all this tend?'
'I take you for a man, Sir John, and I suppose it tends to some
pleading of natural affection in your breast,' returned the
locksmith. 'I suppose to the straining of every nerve, and the
exertion of all the influence you have, or can make, in behalf of
your miserable son, and the man who has disclosed his existence to
you. At the worst, I suppose to your seeing your son, and
awakening him to a sense of his crime and danger. He has no such
sense now. Think what his life must have been, when he said in my
hearing, that if I moved you to anything, it would be to hastening
his death, and ensuring his silence, if you had it in your power!'
'And have you, my good Mr Varden,' said Sir John in a tone of mild
reproof, 'have you really lived to your present age, and remained
so very simple and credulous, as to approach a gentleman of
established character with such credentials as these, from
desperate men in their last extremity, catching at any straw? Oh
dear! Oh fie, fie!'
The locksmith was going to interpose, but he stopped him:
'On any other subject, Mr Varden, I shall be delighted--I shall be
charmed--to converse with you, but I owe it to my own character not
to pursue this topic for another moment.'
'Think better of it, sir, when I am gone,' returned the locksmith;
'think better of it, sir. Although you have, thrice within as many
weeks, turned your lawful son, Mr Edward, from your door, you may
have time, you may have years to make your peace with HIM, Sir
John: but that twelve o'clock will soon be here, and soon be past
'I thank you very much,' returned the knight, kissing his delicate
hand to the locksmith, 'for your guileless advice; and I only wish,
my good soul, although your simplicity is quite captivating, that
you had a little more worldly wisdom. I never so much regretted
the arrival of my hairdresser as I do at this moment. God bless
you! Good morning! You'll not forget my message to the ladies, Mr
Varden? Peak, show Mr Varden to the door.'
Gabriel said no more, but gave the knight a parting look, and left
him. As he quitted the room, Sir John's face changed; and the
smile gave place to a haggard and anxious expression, like that of
a weary actor jaded by the performance of a difficult part. He
rose from his bed with a heavy sigh, and wrapped himself in his
'So she kept her word,' he said, 'and was constant to her threat!
I would I had never seen that dark face of hers,--I might have read
these consequences in it, from the first. This affair would make a
noise abroad, if it rested on better evidence; but, as it is, and
by not joining the scattered links of the chain, I can afford to
slight it.--Extremely distressing to be the parent of such an
uncouth creature! Still, I gave him very good advice. I told him
he would certainly be hanged. I could have done no more if I had
known of our relationship; and there are a great many fathers who
have never done as much for THEIR natural children.--The
hairdresser may come in, Peak!'
The hairdresser came in; and saw in Sir John Chester (whose
accommodating conscience was soon quieted by the numerous
precedents that occurred to him in support of his last
observation), the same imperturbable, fascinating, elegant
gentleman he had seen yesterday, and many yesterdays before.
As the locksmith walked slowly away from Sir John Chester's
chambers, he lingered under the trees which shaded the path, almost
hoping that he might be summoned to return. He had turned back
thrice, and still loitered at the corner, when the clock struck
It was a solemn sound, and not merely for its reference to to-
morrow; for he knew that in that chime the murderer's knell was
rung. He had seen him pass along the crowded street, amidst the
execration of the throng; and marked his quivering lip, and
trembling limbs; the ashy hue upon his face, his clammy brow, the
wild distraction of his eye--the fear of death that swallowed up
all other thoughts, and gnawed without cessation at his heart and
brain. He had marked the wandering look, seeking for hope, and
finding, turn where it would, despair. He had seen the remorseful,
pitiful, desolate creature, riding, with his coffin by his side, to
the gibbet. He knew that, to the last, he had been an unyielding,
obdurate man; that in the savage terror of his condition he had
hardened, rather than relented, to his wife and child; and that the
last words which had passed his white lips were curses on them as
Mr Haredale had determined to be there, and see it done. Nothing
but the evidence of his own senses could satisfy that gloomy thirst
for retribution which had been gathering upon him for so many
years. The locksmith knew this, and when the chimes had ceased to
vibrate, hurried away to meet him.
'For these two men,' he said, as he went, 'I can do no more.
Heaven have mercy on them!--Alas! I say I can do no more for them,
but whom can I help? Mary Rudge will have a home, and a firm
friend when she most wants one; but Barnaby--poor Barnaby--willing
Barnaby--what aid can I render him? There are many, many men of
sense, God forgive me,' cried the honest locksmith, stopping in a
narrow count to pass his hand across his eyes, 'I could better
afford to lose than Barnaby. We have always been good friends, but
I never knew, till now, how much I loved the lad.'
There were not many in the great city who thought of Barnaby that
day, otherwise than as an actor in a show which was to take place
to-morrow. But if the whole population had had him in their minds,
and had wished his life to be spared, not one among them could have
done so with a purer zeal or greater singleness of heart than the
Barnaby was to die. There was no hope. It is not the least evil
attendant upon the frequent exhibition of this last dread
punishment, of Death, that it hardens the minds of those who deal
it out, and makes them, though they be amiable men in other
respects, indifferent to, or unconscious of, their great
responsibility. The word had gone forth that Barnaby was to die.
It went forth, every month, for lighter crimes. It was a thing so
common, that very few were startled by the awful sentence, or
cared to question its propriety. Just then, too, when the law had
been so flagrantly outraged, its dignity must be asserted. The
symbol of its dignity,--stamped upon every page of the criminal
statute-book,--was the gallows; and Barnaby was to die.
They had tried to save him. The locksmith had carried petitions
and memorials to the fountain-head, with his own hands. But the
well was not one of mercy, and Barnaby was to die.
From the first his mother had never left him, save at night; and
with her beside him, he was as usual contented. On this last day,
he was more elated and more proud than he had been yet; and when
she dropped the book she had been reading to him aloud, and fell
upon his neck, he stopped in his busy task of folding a piece of
crape about his hat, and wondered at her anguish. Grip uttered a
feeble croak, half in encouragement, it seemed, and half in
remonstrance, but he wanted heart to sustain it, and lapsed
abruptly into silence.
With them who stood upon the brink of the great gulf which none can
see beyond, Time, so soon to lose itself in vast Eternity, rolled
on like a mighty river, swollen and rapid as it nears the sea. It
was morning but now; they had sat and talked together in a dream;
and here was evening. The dreadful hour of separation, which even
yesterday had seemed so distant, was at hand.
They walked out into the courtyard, clinging to each other, but not
speaking. Barnaby knew that the jail was a dull, sad, miserable
place, and looked forward to to-morrow, as to a passage from it to
something bright and beautiful. He had a vague impression too,
that he was expected to be brave--that he was a man of great
consequence, and that the prison people would be glad to make him
weep. He trod the ground more firmly as he thought of this, and
bade her take heart and cry no more, and feel how steady his hand
was. 'They call me silly, mother. They shall see to-morrow!'
Dennis and Hugh were in the courtyard. Hugh came forth from his
cell as they did, stretching himself as though he had been
sleeping. Dennis sat upon a bench in a corner, with his knees and
chin huddled together, and rocked himself to and fro like a person
in severe pain.
The mother and son remained on one side of the court, and these two
men upon the other. Hugh strode up and down, glancing fiercely
every now and then at the bright summer sky, and looking round,
when he had done so, at the walls.
'No reprieve, no reprieve! Nobody comes near us. There's only the
night left now!' moaned Dennis faintly, as he wrung his hands. 'Do
you think they'll reprieve me in the night, brother? I've known
reprieves come in the night, afore now. I've known 'em come as
late as five, six, and seven o'clock in the morning. Don't you
think there's a good chance yet,--don't you? Say you do. Say you
do, young man,' whined the miserable creature, with an imploring
gesture towards Barnaby, 'or I shall go mad!'
'Better be mad than sane, here,' said Hugh. 'GO mad.'
'But tell me what you think. Somebody tell me what he thinks!'
cried the wretched object,--so mean, and wretched, and despicable,
that even Pity's self might have turned away, at sight of such a
being in the likeness of a man--'isn't there a chance for me,--
isn't there a good chance for me? Isn't it likely they may be
doing this to frighten me? Don't you think it is? Oh!' he almost
shrieked, as he wrung his hands, 'won't anybody give me comfort!'
'You ought to be the best, instead of the worst,' said Hugh,
stopping before him. 'Ha, ha, ha! See the hangman, when it comes
home to him!'
'You don't know what it is,' cried Dennis, actually writhing as he
spoke: 'I do. That I should come to be worked off! I! I! That I
'And why not?' said Hugh, as he thrust back his matted hair to get
a better view of his late associate. 'How often, before I knew
your trade, did I hear you talking of this as if it was a treat?'
'I an't unconsistent,' screamed the miserable creature; 'I'd talk
so again, if I was hangman. Some other man has got my old
opinions at this minute. That makes it worse. Somebody's longing
to work me off. I know by myself that somebody must be!'
'He'll soon have his longing,' said Hugh, resuming his walk.
'Think of that, and be quiet.'
Although one of these men displayed, in his speech and bearing, the
most reckless hardihood; and the other, in his every word and
action, testified such an extreme of abject cowardice that it was
humiliating to see him; it would be difficult to say which of them
would most have repelled and shocked an observer. Hugh's was the
dogged desperation of a savage at the stake; the hangman was
reduced to a condition little better, if any, than that of a hound
with the halter round his neck. Yet, as Mr Dennis knew and could
have told them, these were the two commonest states of mind in
persons brought to their pass. Such was the wholesome growth of
the seed sown by the law, that this kind of harvest was usually
looked for, as a matter of course.
In one respect they all agreed. The wandering and uncontrollable
train of thought, suggesting sudden recollections of things distant
and long forgotten and remote from each other--the vague restless
craving for something undefined, which nothing could satisfy--the
swift flight of the minutes, fusing themselves into hours, as if by
enchantment--the rapid coming of the solemn night--the shadow of
death always upon them, and yet so dim and faint, that objects the
meanest and most trivial started from the gloom beyond, and forced
themselves upon the view--the impossibility of holding the mind,
even if they had been so disposed, to penitence and preparation, or
of keeping it to any point while one hideous fascination tempted it
away--these things were common to them all, and varied only in
their outward tokens.
'Fetch me the book I left within--upon your bed,' she said to
Barnaby, as the clock struck. 'Kiss me first.'
He looked in her face, and saw there, that the time was come.
After a long embrace, he tore himself away, and ran to bring it to
her; bidding her not stir till he came back. He soon returned, for
a shriek recalled him,--but she was gone.
He ran to the yard-gate, and looked through. They were carrying
her away. She had said her heart would break. It was better so.
'Don't you think,' whimpered Dennis, creeping up to him, as he
stood with his feet rooted to the ground, gazing at the blank
walls--'don't you think there's still a chance? It's a dreadful
end; it's a terrible end for a man like me. Don't you think
there's a chance? I don't mean for you, I mean for me. Don't let
HIM hear us (meaning Hugh); 'he's so desperate.'
Now then,' said the officer, who had been lounging in and out with
his hands in his pockets, and yawning as if he were in the last
extremity for some subject of interest: 'it's time to turn in,
'Not yet,' cried Dennis, 'not yet. Not for an hour yet.'
'I say,--your watch goes different from what it used to,' returned
the man. 'Once upon a time it was always too fast. It's got the
other fault now.'
'My friend,' cried the wretched creature, falling on his knees, 'my
dear friend--you always were my dear friend--there's some mistake.
Some letter has been mislaid, or some messenger has been stopped
upon the way. He may have fallen dead. I saw a man once, fall
down dead in the street, myself, and he had papers in his pocket.
Send to inquire. Let somebody go to inquire. They never will hang
me. They never can.--Yes, they will,' he cried, starting to his
feet with a terrible scream. 'They'll hang me by a trick, and keep
the pardon back. It's a plot against me. I shall lose my life!'
And uttering another yell, he fell in a fit upon the ground.
'See the hangman when it comes home to him!' cried Hugh again, as
they bore him away--'Ha ha ha! Courage, bold Barnaby, what care
we? Your hand! They do well to put us out of the world, for if we
got loose a second time, we wouldn't let them off so easy, eh?
Another shake! A man can die but once. If you wake in the night,
sing that out lustily, and fall asleep again. Ha ha ha!'
Barnaby glanced once more through the grate into the empty yard;
and then watched Hugh as he strode to the steps leading to his
sleeping-cell. He heard him shout, and burst into a roar of
laughter, and saw him flourish his hat. Then he turned away
himself, like one who walked in his sleep; and, without any sense
of fear or sorrow, lay down on his pallet, listening for the clock
to strike again.
The time wore on. The noises in the streets became less frequent
by degrees, until silence was scarcely broken save by the bells in
church towers, marking the progress--softer and more stealthy
while the city slumbered--of that Great Watcher with the hoary
head, who never sleeps or rests. In the brief interval of darkness
and repose which feverish towns enjoy, all busy sounds were hushed;
and those who awoke from dreams lay listening in their beds, and
longed for dawn, and wished the dead of the night were past.
Into the street outside the jail's main wall, workmen came
straggling at this solemn hour, in groups of two or three, and
meeting in the centre, cast their tools upon the ground and spoke
in whispers. Others soon issued from the jail itself, bearing on
their shoulders planks and beams: these materials being all brought
forth, the rest bestirred themselves, and the dull sound of hammers
began to echo through the stillness.
Here and there among this knot of labourers, one, with a lantern or
a smoky link, stood by to light his fellows at their work; and by
its doubtful aid, some might be dimly seen taking up the pavement
of the road, while others held great upright posts, or fixed them
in the holes thus made for their reception. Some dragged slowly
on, towards the rest, an empty cart, which they brought rumbling
from the prison-yard; while others erected strong barriers across
the street. All were busily engaged. Their dusky figures moving
to and fro, at that unusual hour, so active and so silent, might
have been taken for those of shadowy creatures toiling at midnight
on some ghostly unsubstantial work, which, like themselves, would
vanish with the first gleam of day, and leave but morning mist and
While it was yet dark, a few lookers-on collected, who had plainly
come there for the purpose and intended to remain: even those who
had to pass the spot on their way to some other place, lingered,
and lingered yet, as though the attraction of that were
irresistible. Meanwhile the noise of saw and mallet went on
briskly, mingled with the clattering of boards on the stone
pavement of the road, and sometimes with the workmen's voices as
they called to one another. Whenever the chimes of the
neighbouring church were heard--and that was every quarter of an
hour--a strange sensation, instantaneous and indescribable, but
perfectly obvious, seemed to pervade them all.
Gradually, a faint brightness appeared in the east, and the air,
which had been very warm all through the night, felt cool and
chilly. Though there was no daylight yet, the darkness was
diminished, and the stars looked pale. The prison, which had been
a mere black mass with little shape or form, put on its usual
aspect; and ever and anon a solitary watchman could be seen upon
its roof, stopping to look down upon the preparations in the
street. This man, from forming, as it were, a part of the jail,
and knowing or being supposed to know all that was passing within,
became an object of as much interest, and was as eagerly looked
for, and as awfully pointed out, as if he had been a spirit.
By and by, the feeble light grew stronger, and the houses with
their signboards and inscriptions, stood plainly out, in the dull
grey morning. Heavy stage waggons crawled from the inn-yard
opposite; and travellers peeped out; and as they rolled sluggishly
away, cast many a backward look towards the jail. And now, the
sun's first beams came glancing into the street; and the night's
work, which, in its various stages and in the varied fancies of the
lookers-on had taken a hundred shapes, wore its own proper form--a
scaffold, and a gibbet.
As the warmth of the cheerful day began to shed itself upon the
scanty crowd, the murmur of tongues was heard, shutters were thrown
open, and blinds drawn up, and those who had slept in rooms over
against the prison, where places to see the execution were let at
high prices, rose hastily from their beds. In some of the houses,
people were busy taking out the window-sashes for the better
accommodation of spectators; in others, the spectators were already
seated, and beguiling the time with cards, or drink, or jokes among
themselves. Some had purchased seats upon the house-tops, and
were already crawling to their stations from parapet and garret-
window. Some were yet bargaining for good places, and stood in
them in a state of indecision: gazing at the slowly-swelling crowd,
and at the workmen as they rested listlessly against the scaffold--
affecting to listen with indifference to the proprietor's eulogy of
the commanding view his house afforded, and the surpassing
cheapness of his terms.
A fairer morning never shone. From the roofs and upper stories of
these buildings, the spires of city churches and the great
cathedral dome were visible, rising up beyond the prison, into the
blue sky, and clad in the colour of light summer clouds, and
showing in the clear atmosphere their every scrap of tracery and
fretwork, and every niche and loophole. All was brightness and
promise, excepting in the street below, into which (for it yet lay
in shadow) the eye looked down as into a dark trench, where, in the
midst of so much life, and hope, and renewal of existence, stood
the terrible instrument of death. It seemed as if the very sun
forbore to look upon it.
But it was better, grim and sombre in the shade, than when, the day
being more advanced, it stood confessed in the full glare and glory
of the sun, with its black paint blistering, and its nooses
dangling in the light like loathsome garlands. It was better in
the solitude and gloom of midnight with a few forms clustering
about it, than in the freshness and the stir of morning: the centre
of an eager crowd. It was better haunting the street like a
spectre, when men were in their beds, and influencing perchance the
city's dreams, than braving the broad day, and thrusting its
obscene presence upon their waking senses.
Five o'clock had struck--six--seven--and eight. Along the two main
streets at either end of the cross-way, a living stream had now
set in, rolling towards the marts of gain and business. Carts,
coaches, waggons, trucks, and barrows, forced a passage through the
outskirts of the throng, and clattered onward in the same
direction. Some of these which were public conveyances and had
come from a short distance in the country, stopped; and the driver
pointed to the gibbet with his whip, though he might have spared
himself the pains, for the heads of all the passengers were turned
that way without his help, and the coach-windows were stuck full of
staring eyes. In some of the carts and waggons, women might be
seen, glancing fearfully at the same unsightly thing; and even
little children were held up above the people's heads to see what
kind of a toy a gallows was, and learn how men were hanged.
Two rioters were to die before the prison, who had been concerned
in the attack upon it; and one directly afterwards in Bloomsbury
Square. At nine o'clock, a strong body of military marched into
the street, and formed and lined a narrow passage into Holborn,
which had been indifferently kept all night by constables. Through
this, another cart was brought (the one already mentioned had been
employed in the construction of the scaffold), and wheeled up to
the prison-gate. These preparations made, the soldiers stood at
ease; the officers lounged to and fro, in the alley they had made,
or talked together at the scaffold's foot; and the concourse,
which had been rapidly augmenting for some hours, and still
received additions every minute, waited with an impatience which
increased with every chime of St Sepulchre's clock, for twelve at
Up to this time they had been very quiet, comparatively silent,
save when the arrival of some new party at a window, hitherto
unoccupied, gave them something new to look at or to talk of. But,
as the hour approached, a buzz and hum arose, which, deepening
every moment, soon swelled into a roar, and seemed to fill the air.
No words or even voices could be distinguished in this clamour, nor
did they speak much to each other; though such as were better
informed upon the topic than the rest, would tell their neighbours,
perhaps, that they might know the hangman when he came out, by his
being the shorter one: and that the man who was to suffer with him
was named Hugh: and that it was Barnaby Rudge who would be hanged
in Bloomsbury Square.
The hum grew, as the time drew near, so loud, that those who were
at the windows could not hear the church-clock strike, though it
was close at hand. Nor had they any need to hear it, either, for
they could see it in the people's faces. So surely as another
quarter chimed, there was a movement in the crowd--as if something
had passed over it--as if the light upon them had been changed--in
which the fact was readable as on a brazen dial, figured by a
Three quarters past eleven! The murmur now was deafening, yet
every man seemed mute. Look where you would among the crowd, you
saw strained eyes and lips compressed; it would have been difficult
for the most vigilant observer to point this way or that, and say
that yonder man had cried out. It were as easy to detect the
motion of lips in a sea-shell.
Three quarters past eleven! Many spectators who had retired from
the windows, came back refreshed, as though their watch had just
begun. Those who had fallen asleep, roused themselves; and every
person in the crowd made one last effort to better his position--
which caused a press against the sturdy barriers that made them
bend and yield like twigs. The officers, who until now had kept
together, fell into their several positions, and gave the words of
command. Swords were drawn, muskets shouldered, and the bright
steel winding its way among the crowd, gleamed and glittered in the
sun like a river. Along this shining path, two men came hurrying
on, leading a horse, which was speedily harnessed to the cart at
the prison-door. Then, a profound silence replaced the tumult that
had so long been gathering, and a breathless pause ensued. Every
window was now choked up with heads; the house-tops teemed with
people--clinging to chimneys, peering over gable-ends, and holding
on where the sudden loosening of any brick or stone would dash them
down into the street. The church tower, the church roof, the
church yard, the prison leads, the very water-spouts and
lampposts--every inch of room--swarmed with human life.
At the first stroke of twelve the prison-bell began to toll. Then
the roar--mingled now with cries of 'Hats off!' and 'Poor fellows!'
and, from some specks in the great concourse, with a shriek or
groan--burst forth again. It was terrible to see--if any one in
that distraction of excitement could have seen--the world of eager
eyes, all strained upon the scaffold and the beam.
The hollow murmuring was heard within the jail as plainly as
without. The three were brought forth into the yard, together, as
it resounded through the air. They knew its import well.
'D'ye hear?' cried Hugh, undaunted by the sound. 'They expect us!
I heard them gathering when I woke in the night, and turned over on
t'other side and fell asleep again. We shall see how they welcome
the hangman, now that it comes home to him. Ha, ha, ha!'
The Ordinary coming up at this moment, reproved him for his
indecent mirth, and advised him to alter his demeanour.
'And why, master?' said Hugh. 'Can I do better than bear it
easily? YOU bear it easily enough. Oh! never tell me,' he cried,
as the other would have spoken, 'for all your sad look and your
solemn air, you think little enough of it! They say you're the
best maker of lobster salads in London. Ha, ha! I've heard that,
you see, before now. Is it a good one, this morning--is your hand
in? How does the breakfast look? I hope there's enough, and to
spare, for all this hungry company that'll sit down to it, when the
'I fear,' observed the clergyman, shaking his head, 'that you are
'You're right. I am,' rejoined Hugh sternly. 'Be no hypocrite,
master! You make a merry-making of this, every month; let me be
merry, too. If you want a frightened fellow there's one that'll
suit you. Try your hand upon him.'
He pointed, as he spoke, to Dennis, who, with his legs trailing on
the ground, was held between two men; and who trembled so, that all
his joints and limbs seemed racked by spasms. Turning from this
wretched spectacle, he called to Barnaby, who stood apart.
'What cheer, Barnaby? Don't be downcast, lad. Leave that to HIM.'
'Bless you,' cried Barnaby, stepping lightly towards him, 'I'm not
frightened, Hugh. I'm quite happy. I wouldn't desire to live now,
if they'd let me. Look at me! Am I afraid to die? Will they see
Hugh gazed for a moment at his face, on which there was a strange,
unearthly smile; and at his eye, which sparkled brightly; and
interposing between him and the Ordinary, gruffly whispered to the
'I wouldn't say much to him, master, if I was you. He may spoil
your appetite for breakfast, though you ARE used to it.'
He was the only one of the three who had washed or trimmed himself
that morning. Neither of the others had done so, since their doom
was pronounced. He still wore the broken peacock's feathers in his
hat; and all his usual scraps of finery were carefully disposed
about his person. His kindling eye, his firm step, his proud and
resolute bearing, might have graced some lofty act of heroism; some
voluntary sacrifice, born of a noble cause and pure enthusiasm;
rather than that felon's death.
But all these things increased his guilt. They were mere
assumptions. The law had declared it so, and so it must be. The
good minister had been greatly shocked, not a quarter of an hour
before, at his parting with Grip. For one in his condition, to
fondle a bird!--The yard was filled with people; bluff civic
functionaries, officers of justice, soldiers, the curious in such
matters, and guests who had been bidden as to a wedding. Hugh
looked about him, nodded gloomily to some person in authority, who
indicated with his hand in what direction he was to proceed; and
clapping Barnaby on the shoulder, passed out with the gait of a
They entered a large room, so near to the scaffold that the voices
of those who stood about it, could be plainly heard: some
beseeching the javelin-men to take them out of the crowd: others
crying to those behind, to stand back, for they were pressed to
death, and suffocating for want of air.
In the middle of this chamber, two smiths, with hammers, stood
beside an anvil. Hugh walked straight up to them, and set his foot
upon it with a sound as though it had been struck by a heavy
weapon. Then, with folded arms, he stood to have his irons knocked
off: scowling haughtily round, as those who were present eyed him
narrowly and whispered to each other.
It took so much time to drag Dennis in, that this ceremony was over
with Hugh, and nearly over with Barnaby, before he appeared. He no
sooner came into the place he knew so well, however, and among
faces with which he was so familiar, than he recovered strength and
sense enough to clasp his hands and make a last appeal.
'Gentlemen, good gentlemen,' cried the abject creature, grovelling
down upon his knees, and actually prostrating himself upon the
stone floor: 'Governor, dear governor--honourable sheriffs--worthy
gentlemen--have mercy upon a wretched man that has served His
Majesty, and the Law, and Parliament, for so many years, and don't--
don't let me die--because of a mistake.'
'Dennis,' said the governor of the jail, 'you know what the course
is, and that the order came with the rest. You know that we could
do nothing, even if we would.'
'All I ask, sir,--all I want and beg, is time, to make it sure,'
cried the trembling wretch, looking wildly round for sympathy.
'The King and Government can't know it's me; I'm sure they can't
know it's me; or they never would bring me to this dreadful
slaughterhouse. They know my name, but they don't know it's the
same man. Stop my execution--for charity's sake stop my execution,
gentlemen--till they can be told that I've been hangman here, nigh
thirty year. Will no one go and tell them?' he implored, clenching
his hands and glaring round, and round, and round again--'will no
charitable person go and tell them!'
'Mr Akerman,' said a gentleman who stood by, after a moment's
pause, 'since it may possibly produce in this unhappy man a better
frame of mind, even at this last minute, let me assure him that he
was well known to have been the hangman, when his sentence was
'--But perhaps they think on that account that the punishment's not
so great,' cried the criminal, shuffling towards this speaker on
his knees, and holding up his folded hands; 'whereas it's worse,
it's worse a hundred times, to me than any man. Let them know
that, sir. Let them know that. They've made it worse to me by
giving me so much to do. Stop my execution till they know that!'
The governor beckoned with his hand, and the two men, who had
supported him before, approached. He uttered a piercing cry:
'Wait! Wait. Only a moment--only one moment more! Give me a last
chance of reprieve. One of us three is to go to Bloomsbury Square.
Let me be the one. It may come in that time; it's sure to come.
In the Lord's name let me be sent to Bloomsbury Square. Don't hang
me here. It's murder.'
They took him to the anvil: but even then he could he heard above
the clinking of the smiths' hammers, and the hoarse raging of the
crowd, crying that he knew of Hugh's birth--that his father was
living, and was a gentleman of influence and rank--that he had
family secrets in his possession--that he could tell nothing unless
they gave him time, but must die with them on his mind; and he
continued to rave in this sort until his voice failed him, and he
sank down a mere heap of clothes between the two attendants.
It was at this moment that the clock struck the first stroke of
twelve, and the bell began to toll. The various officers, with the
two sheriffs at their head, moved towards the door. All was ready
when the last chime came upon the ear.
They told Hugh this, and asked if he had anything to say.
'To say!' he cried. 'Not I. I'm ready.--Yes,' he added, as his
eye fell upon Barnaby, 'I have a word to say, too. Come hither,
There was, for the moment, something kind, and even tender,
struggling in his fierce aspect, as he wrung his poor companion by
'I'll say this,' he cried, looking firmly round, 'that if I had ten
lives to lose, and the loss of each would give me ten times the
agony of the hardest death, I'd lay them all down--ay, I would,
though you gentlemen may not believe it--to save this one. This
one,' he added, wringing his hand again, 'that will be lost through
'Not through you,' said the idiot, mildly. 'Don't say that. You
were not to blame. You have always been very good to me.--Hugh, we
shall know what makes the stars shine, NOW!'
'I took him from her in a reckless mood, and didn't think what harm
would come of it,' said Hugh, laying his hand upon his head, and
speaking in a lower voice. 'I ask her pardon; and his.--Look
here,' he added roughly, in his former tone. 'You see this lad?'
They murmured 'Yes,' and seemed to wonder why he asked.
'That gentleman yonder--' pointing to the clergyman--'has often in
the last few days spoken to me of faith, and strong belief. You
see what I am--more brute than man, as I have been often told--but
I had faith enough to believe, and did believe as strongly as any
of you gentlemen can believe anything, that this one life would be
spared. See what he is!--Look at him!'
Barnaby had moved towards the door, and stood beckoning him to
'If this was not faith, and strong belief!' cried Hugh, raising
his right arm aloft, and looking upward like a savage prophet whom
the near approach of Death had filled with inspiration, 'where are
they! What else should teach me--me, born as I was born, and
reared as I have been reared--to hope for any mercy in this
hardened, cruel, unrelenting place! Upon these human shambles, I,
who never raised this hand in prayer till now, call down the wrath
of God! On that black tree, of which I am the ripened fruit, I do
invoke the curse of all its victims, past, and present, and to
come. On the head of that man, who, in his conscience, owns me for
his son, I leave the wish that he may never sicken on his bed of
down, but die a violent death as I do now, and have the night-wind
for his only mourner. To this I say, Amen, amen!'
His arm fell downward by his side; he turned; and moved towards
them with a steady step, the man he had been before.
'There is nothing more?' said the governor.
Hugh motioned Barnaby not to come near him (though without looking
in the direction where he stood) and answered, 'There is nothing
'--Unless,' said Hugh, glancing hurriedly back,--'unless any
person here has a fancy for a dog; and not then, unless he means to
use him well. There's one, belongs to me, at the house I came
from, and it wouldn't be easy to find a better. He'll whine at
first, but he'll soon get over that.--You wonder that I think about
a dog just now, he added, with a kind of laugh. 'If any man
deserved it of me half as well, I'd think of HIM.'
He spoke no more, but moved onward in his place, with a careless
air, though listening at the same time to the Service for the Dead,
with something between sullen attention, and quickened curiosity.
As soon as he had passed the door, his miserable associate was
carried out; and the crowd beheld the rest.
Barnaby would have mounted the steps at the same time--indeed he
would have gone before them, but in both attempts he was
restrained, as he was to undergo the sentence elsewhere. In a few
minutes the sheriffs reappeared, the same procession was again
formed, and they passed through various rooms and passages to
another door--that at which the cart was waiting. He held down his
head to avoid seeing what he knew his eyes must otherwise
encounter, and took his seat sorrowfully,--and yet with something
of a childish pride and pleasure,--in the vehicle. The officers
fell into their places at the sides, in front and in the rear; the
sheriffs' carriages rolled on; a guard of soldiers surrounded the
whole; and they moved slowly forward through the throng and
pressure toward Lord Mansfield's ruined house.
It was a sad sight--all the show, and strength, and glitter,
assembled round one helpless creature--and sadder yet to note, as
he rode along, how his wandering thoughts found strange
encouragement in the crowded windows and the concourse in the
streets; and how, even then, he felt the influence of the bright
sky, and looked up, smiling, into its deep unfathomable blue. But
there had been many such sights since the riots were over--some so
moving in their nature, and so repulsive too, that they were far
more calculated to awaken pity for the sufferers, than respect for
that law whose strong arm seemed in more than one case to be as
wantonly stretched forth now that all was safe, as it had been
basely paralysed in time of danger.
Two cripples--both mere boys--one with a leg of wood, one who
dragged his twisted limbs along by the help of a crutch, were
hanged in this same Bloomsbury Square. As the cart was about to
glide from under them, it was observed that they stood with their
faces from, not to, the house they had assisted to despoil; and
their misery was protracted that this omission might be remedied.
Another boy was hanged in Bow Street; other young lads in various
quarters of the town. Four wretched women, too, were put to
death. In a word, those who suffered as rioters were, for the most
part, the weakest, meanest, and most miserable among them. It was
a most exquisite satire upon the false religious cry which had led
to so much misery, that some of these people owned themselves to be
Catholics, and begged to be attended by their own priests.
One young man was hanged in Bishopsgate Street, whose aged grey-
headed father waited for him at the gallows, kissed him at its foot
when he arrived, and sat there, on the ground, till they took him
down. They would have given him the body of his child; but he had
no hearse, no coffin, nothing to remove it in, being too poor--and
walked meekly away beside the cart that took it back to prison,
trying, as he went, to touch its lifeless hand.
But the crowd had forgotten these matters, or cared little about
them if they lived in their memory: and while one great multitude
fought and hustled to get near the gibbet before Newgate, for a
parting look, another followed in the train of poor lost Barnaby,
to swell the throng that waited for him on the spot.
On this same day, and about this very hour, Mr Willet the elder sat
smoking his pipe in a chamber at the Black Lion. Although it was
hot summer weather, Mr Willet sat close to the fire. He was in a
state of profound cogitation, with his own thoughts, and it was his
custom at such times to stew himself slowly, under the impression
that that process of cookery was favourable to the melting out of
his ideas, which, when he began to simmer, sometimes oozed forth so
copiously as to astonish even himself.
Mr Willet had been several thousand times comforted by his friends
and acquaintance, with the assurance that for the loss he had
sustained in the damage done to the Maypole, he could 'come upon
the county.' But as this phrase happened to bear an unfortunate
resemblance to the popular expression of 'coming on the parish,' it
suggested to Mr Willet's mind no more consolatory visions than
pauperism on an extensive scale, and ruin in a capacious aspect.
Consequently, he had never failed to receive the intelligence with
a rueful shake of the head, or a dreary stare, and had been always
observed to appear much more melancholy after a visit of condolence
than at any other time in the whole four-and-twenty hours.
It chanced, however, that sitting over the fire on this particular
occasion--perhaps because he was, as it were, done to a turn;
perhaps because he was in an unusually bright state of mind;
perhaps because he had considered the subject so long; perhaps
because of all these favouring circumstances, taken together--it
chanced that, sitting over the fire on this particular occasion, Mr
Willet did, afar off and in the remotest depths of his intellect,
perceive a kind of lurking hint or faint suggestion, that out of
the public purse there might issue funds for the restoration of the
Maypole to its former high place among the taverns of the earth.
And this dim ray of light did so diffuse itself within him, and did
so kindle up and shine, that at last he had it as plainly and
visibly before him as the blaze by which he sat; and, fully
persuaded that he was the first to make the discovery, and that he
had started, hunted down, fallen upon, and knocked on the head, a
perfectly original idea which had never presented itself to any
other man, alive or dead, he laid down his pipe, rubbed his hands,
and chuckled audibly.
'Why, father!' cried Joe, entering at the moment, 'you're in
'It's nothing partickler,' said Mr Willet, chuckling again. 'It's
nothing at all partickler, Joseph. Tell me something about the
Salwanners.' Having preferred this request, Mr Willet chuckled a
third time, and after these unusual demonstrations of levity, he
put his pipe in his mouth again.
'What shall I tell you, father?' asked Joe, laying his hand upon
his sire's shoulder, and looking down into his face. 'That I have
come back, poorer than a church mouse? You know that. That I have
come back, maimed and crippled? You know that.'
'It was took off,' muttered Mr Willet,with his eyes upon the fire,
'at the defence of the Salwanners, in America, where the war is.'
'Quite right,' returned Joe, smiling, and leaning with his
remaining elbow on the back of his father's chair; 'the very
subject I came to speak to you about. A man with one arm, father,
is not of much use in the busy world.'
This was one of those vast propositions which Mr Willet had never
considered for an instant, and required time to 'tackle.'
Wherefore he made no answer.
'At all events,' said Joe, 'he can't pick and choose his means of
earning a livelihood, as another man may. He can't say "I will
turn my hand to this," or "I won't turn my hand to that," but must
take what he can do, and be thankful it's no worse.--What did you
Mr Willet had been softly repeating to himself, in a musing tone,
the words 'defence of the Salwanners:' but he seemed embarrassed at
having been overheard, and answered 'Nothing.'
'Now look here, father.--Mr Edward has come to England from the
West Indies. When he was lost sight of (I ran away on the same
day, father), he made a voyage to one of the islands, where a
school-friend of his had settled; and, finding him, wasn't too
proud to be employed on his estate, and--and in short, got on well,
and is prospering, and has come over here on business of his own,
and is going back again speedily. Our returning nearly at the
same time, and meeting in the course of the late troubles, has been
a good thing every way; for it has not only enabled us to do old
friends some service, but has opened a path in life for me which I
may tread without being a burden upon you. To be plain, father, he
can employ me; I have satisfied myself that I can be of real use to
him; and I am going to carry my one arm away with him, and to make
the most of it.
In the mind's eye of Mr Willet, the West Indies, and indeed all
foreign countries, were inhabited by savage nations, who were
perpetually burying pipes of peace, flourishing tomahawks, and
puncturing strange patterns in their bodies. He no sooner heard
this announcement, therefore, than he leaned back in his chair,
took his pipe from his lips, and stared at his son with as much
dismay as if he already beheld him tied to a stake, and tortured
for the entertainment of a lively population. In what form of
expression his feelings would have found a vent, it is impossible
to say. Nor is it necessary: for, before a syllable occurred to
him, Dolly Varden came running into the room, in tears, threw
herself on Joe's breast without a word of explanation, and clasped
her white arms round his neck.
'Dolly!' cried Joe. 'Dolly!'
'Ay, call me that; call me that always,' exclaimed the locksmith's
little daughter; 'never speak coldly to me, never be distant, never
again reprove me for the follies I have long repented, or I shall
'I reprove you!' said Joe.
'Yes--for every kind and honest word you uttered, went to my heart.
For you, who have borne so much from me--for you, who owe your
sufferings and pain to my caprice--for you to be so kind--so noble
to me, Joe--'
He could say nothing to her. Not a syllable. There was an odd
sort of eloquence in his one arm, which had crept round her waist:
but his lips were mute.
'If you had reminded me by a word--only by one short word,' sobbed
Dolly, clinging yet closer to him, 'how little I deserved that you
should treat me with so much forbearance; if you had exulted only
for one moment in your triumph, I could have borne it better.'
'Triumph!' repeated Joe, with a smile which seemed to say, 'I am a
pretty figure for that.'
'Yes, triumph,' she cried, with her whole heart and soul in her
earnest voice, and gushing tears; 'for it is one. I am glad to
think and know it is. I wouldn't be less humbled, dear--I wouldn't
be without the recollection of that last time we spoke together in
this place--no, not if I could recall the past, and make our
Did ever lover look as Joe looked now!
'Dear Joe,' said Dolly, 'I always loved you--in my own heart I
always did, although I was so vain and giddy. I hoped you would
come back that night. I made quite sure you would. I prayed for
it on my knees. Through all these long, long years, I have never
once forgotten you, or left off hoping that this happy time might
The eloquence of Joe's arm surpassed the most impassioned language;
and so did that of his lips--yet he said nothing, either.
'And now, at last,' cried Dolly, trembling with the fervour of her
speech, 'if you were sick, and shattered in your every limb; if you
were ailing, weak, and sorrowful; if, instead of being what you
are, you were in everybody's eyes but mine the wreck and ruin of a
man; I would be your wife, dear love, with greater pride and joy,
than if you were the stateliest lord in England!'
'What have I done,' cried Joe, 'what have I done to meet with this
'You have taught me,' said Dolly, raising her pretty face to his,
'to know myself, and your worth; to be something better than I
was; to be more deserving of your true and manly nature. In years
to come, dear Joe, you shall find that you have done so; for I will
be, not only now, when we are young and full of hope, but when we
have grown old and weary, your patient, gentle, never-tiring
wife. I will never know a wish or care beyond our home and you,
and I will always study how to please you with my best affection
and my most devoted love. I will: indeed I will!'
Joe could only repeat his former eloquence--but it was very much to
'They know of this, at home,' said Dolly. 'For your sake, I would
leave even them; but they know it, and are glad of it, and are as
proud of you as I am, and as full of gratitude.--You'll not come
and see me as a poor friend who knew me when I was a girl, will
you, dear Joe?'
Well, well! It don't matter what Joe said in answer, but he said a
great deal; and Dolly said a great deal too: and he folded Dolly in
his one arm pretty tight, considering that it was but one; and
Dolly made no resistance: and if ever two people were happy in this
world--which is not an utterly miserable one, with all its faults--
we may, with some appearance of certainty, conclude that they
To say that during these proceedings Mr Willet the elder underwent
the greatest emotions of astonishment of which our common nature is
susceptible--to say that he was in a perfect paralysis of surprise,
and that he wandered into the most stupendous and theretofore
unattainable heights of complicated amazement--would be to shadow
forth his state of mind in the feeblest and lamest terms. If a
roc, an eagle, a griffin, a flying elephant, a winged sea-horse,
had suddenly appeared, and, taking him on its back, carried him
bodily into the heart of the 'Salwanners,' it would have been to
him as an everyday occurrence, in comparison with what he now
beheld. To be sitting quietly by, seeing and hearing these things;
to be completely overlooked, unnoticed, and disregarded, while his
son and a young lady were talking to each other in the most
impassioned manner, kissing each other, and making themselves in
all respects perfectly at home; was a position so tremendous, so
inexplicable, so utterly beyond the widest range of his capacity of
comprehension, that he fell into a lethargy of wonder, and could no
more rouse himself than an enchanted sleeper in the first year of
his fairy lease, a century long.
'Father,' said Joe, presenting Dolly. 'You know who this is?'
Mr Willet looked first at her, then at his son, then back again at
Dolly, and then made an ineffectual effort to extract a whiff from
his pipe, which had gone out long ago.
'Say a word, father, if it's only "how d'ye do,"' urged Joe.
'Certainly, Joseph,' answered Mr Willet. 'Oh yes! Why not?'
'To be sure,' said Joe. 'Why not?'
'Ah!' replied his father. 'Why not?' and with this remark, which
he uttered in a low voice as though he were discussing some grave
question with himself, he used the little finger--if any of his
fingers can be said to have come under that denomination--of his
right hand as a tobacco-stopper, and was silent again.
And so he sat for half an hour at least, although Dolly, in the
most endearing of manners, hoped, a dozen times, that he was not
angry with her. So he sat for half an hour, quite motionless, and
looking all the while like nothing so much as a great Dutch Pin or
Skittle. At the expiration of that period, he suddenly, and
without the least notice, burst (to the great consternation of the
young people) into a very loud and very short laugh; and
repeating, 'Certainly, Joseph. Oh yes! Why not?' went out for a
Old John did not walk near the Golden Key, for between the Golden
Key and the Black Lion there lay a wilderness of streets--as
everybody knows who is acquainted with the relative bearings of
Clerkenwell and Whitechapel--and he was by no means famous for
pedestrian exercises. But the Golden Key lies in our way, though
it was out of his; so to the Golden Key this chapter goes.
The Golden Key itself, fair emblem of the locksmith's trade, had
been pulled down by the rioters, and roughly trampled under foot.
But, now, it was hoisted up again in all the glory of a new coat of
paint, and shewed more bravely even than in days of yore. Indeed
the whole house-front was spruce and trim, and so freshened up
throughout, that if there yet remained at large any of the rioters
who had been concerned in the attack upon it, the sight of the old,
goodly, prosperous dwelling, so revived, must have been to them as
gall and wormwood.
The shutters of the shop were closed, however, and the window-
blinds above were all pulled down, and in place of its usual
cheerful appearance, the house had a look of sadness and an air of
mourning; which the neighbours, who in old days had often seen poor
Barnaby go in and out, were at no loss to understand. The door
stood partly open; but the locksmith's hammer was unheard; the cat
sat moping on the ashy forge; all was deserted, dark, and silent.
On the threshold of this door, Mr Haredale and Edward Chester met.
The younger man gave place; and both passing in with a familiar
air, which seemed to denote that they were tarrying there, or were
well-accustomed to go to and fro unquestioned, shut it behind them.
Entering the old back-parlour, and ascending the flight of stairs,
abrupt and steep, and quaintly fashioned as of old, they turned
into the best room; the pride of Mrs Varden's heart, and erst the
scene of Miggs's household labours.
'Varden brought the mother here last evening, he told me?' said Mr
'She is above-stairs now--in the room over here,' Edward rejoined.
'Her grief, they say, is past all telling. I needn't add--for that
you know beforehand, sir--that the care, humanity, and sympathy of
these good people have no bounds.'
'I am sure of that. Heaven repay them for it, and for much more!
Varden is out?'
'He returned with your messenger, who arrived almost at the moment
of his coming home himself. He was out the whole night--but that
of course you know. He was with you the greater part of it?'
'He was. Without him, I should have lacked my right hand. He is
an older man than I; but nothing can conquer him.'
'The cheeriest, stoutest-hearted fellow in the world.'
'He has a right to be. He has a right to he. A better creature
never lived. He reaps what he has sown--no more.'
'It is not all men,' said Edward, after a moment's hesitation, 'who
have the happiness to do that.'
'More than you imagine,' returned Mr Haredale. 'We note the
harvest more than the seed-time. You do so in me.'
In truth his pale and haggard face, and gloomy bearing, had so far
influenced the remark, that Edward was, for the moment, at a loss
to answer him.
'Tut, tut,' said Mr Haredale, ''twas not very difficult to read a
thought so natural. But you are mistaken nevertheless. I have
had my share of sorrows--more than the common lot, perhaps, but I
have borne them ill. I have broken where I should have bent; and
have mused and brooded, when my spirit should have mixed with all
God's great creation. The men who learn endurance, are they who
call the whole world, brother. I have turned FROM the world, and I
pay the penalty.'
Edward would have interposed, but he went on without giving him
'It is too late to evade it now. I sometimes think, that if I had
to live my life once more, I might amend this fault--not so much, I
discover when I search my mind, for the love of what is right, as
for my own sake. But even when I make these better resolutions, I
instinctively recoil from the idea of suffering again what I have
undergone; and in this circumstance I find the unwelcome assurance
that I should still be the same man, though I could cancel the
past, and begin anew, with its experience to guide me.'
'Nay, you make too sure of that,' said Edward.
'You think so,' Mr Haredale answered, 'and I am glad you do. I
know myself better, and therefore distrust myself more. Let us
leave this subject for another--not so far removed from it as it
might, at first sight, seem to be. Sir, you still love my niece,
and she is still attached to you.'
'I have that assurance from her own lips,' said Edward, 'and you
know--I am sure you know--that I would not exchange it for any
blessing life could yield me.'
'You are frank, honourable, and disinterested,' said Mr Haredale;
'you have forced the conviction that you are so, even on my once-
jaundiced mind, and I believe you. Wait here till I come back.'
He left the room as he spoke; but soon returned with his niece.
'On that first and only time,' he said, looking from the one to the
other, 'when we three stood together under her father's roof, I
told you to quit it, and charged you never to return.'
'It is the only circumstance arising out of our love,' observed
Edward, 'that I have forgotten.'
'You own a name,' said Mr Haredale, 'I had deep reason to remember.
I was moved and goaded by recollections of personal wrong and
injury, I know, but, even now I cannot charge myself with having,
then, or ever, lost sight of a heartfelt desire for her true
happiness; or with having acted--however much I was mistaken--with
any other impulse than the one pure, single, earnest wish to be to
her, as far as in my inferior nature lay, the father she had lost.'
'Dear uncle,' cried Emma, 'I have known no parent but you. I have
loved the memory of others, but I have loved you all my life.
Never was father kinder to his child than you have been to me,
without the interval of one harsh hour, since I can first
'You speak too fondly,' he answered, 'and yet I cannot wish you
were less partial; for I have a pleasure in hearing those words,
and shall have in calling them to mind when we are far asunder,
which nothing else could give me. Bear with me for a moment
longer, Edward, for she and I have been together many years; and
although I believe that in resigning her to you I put the seal upon
her future happiness, I find it needs an effort.'
He pressed her tenderly to his bosom, and after a minute's pause,
'I have done you wrong, sir, and I ask your forgiveness--in no
common phrase, or show of sorrow; but with earnestness and
sincerity. In the same spirit, I acknowledge to you both that the
time has been when I connived at treachery and falsehood--which if
I did not perpetrate myself, I still permitted--to rend you two
'You judge yourself too harshly,' said Edward. 'Let these things
'They rise in judgment against me when I look back, and not now for
the first time,' he answered. 'I cannot part from you without your
full forgiveness; for busy life and I have little left in common
now, and I have regrets enough to carry into solitude, without
addition to the stock.'
'You bear a blessing from us both,' said Emma. 'Never mingle
thoughts of me--of me who owe you so much love and duty--with
anything but undying affection and gratitude for the past, and
bright hopes for the future.'
'The future,' returned her uncle, with a melancholy smile, 'is a
bright word for you, and its image should be wreathed with
cheerful hopes. Mine is of another kind, but it will be one of
peace, and free, I trust, from care or passion. When you quit
England I shall leave it too. There are cloisters abroad; and now
that the two great objects of my life are set at rest, I know no
better home. You droop at that, forgetting that I am growing old,
and that my course is nearly run. Well, we will speak of it again--
not once or twice, but many times; and you shall give me cheerful
'And you will take it?' asked his niece.
'I'll listen to it,' he answered, with a kiss, 'and it will have
its weight, be certain. What have I left to say? You have, of
late, been much together. It is better and more fitting that the
circumstances attendant on the past, which wrought your separation,
and sowed between you suspicion and distrust, should not be entered
on by me.'
'Much, much better,' whispered Emma.
'I avow my share in them,' said Mr Haredale, 'though I held it, at
the time, in detestation. Let no man turn aside, ever so slightly,
from the broad path of honour, on the plausible pretence that he is
justified by the goodness of his end. All good ends can he worked
out by good means. Those that cannot, are bad; and may be counted
so at once, and left alone.'
He looked from her to Edward, and said in a gentler tone:
'In goods and fortune you are now nearly equal. I have been her
faithful steward, and to that remnant of a richer property which my
brother left her, I desire to add, in token of my love, a poor
pittance, scarcely worth the mention, for which I have no longer
any need. I am glad you go abroad. Let our ill-fated house
remain the ruin it is. When you return, after a few thriving
years, you will command a better, and a more fortunate one. We are
Edward took his extended hand, and grasped it heartily.
'You are neither slow nor cold in your response,' said Mr Haredale,
doing the like by him, 'and when I look upon you now, and know you,
I feel that I would choose you for her husband. Her father had a
generous nature, and you would have pleased him well. I give her
to you in his name, and with his blessing. If the world and I part
in this act, we part on happier terms than we have lived for many a
He placed her in his arms, and would have left the room, but that
he was stopped in his passage to the door by a great noise at a
distance, which made them start and pause.
It was a loud shouting, mingled with boisterous acclamations, that
rent the very air. It drew nearer and nearer every moment, and
approached so rapidly, that, even while they listened, it burst
into a deafening confusion of sounds at the street corner.
'This must be stopped--quieted,' said Mr Haredale, hastily. 'We
should have foreseen this, and provided against it. I will go out
to them at once.'
But, before he could reach the door, and before Edward could catch
up his hat and follow him, they were again arrested by a loud
shriek from above-stairs: and the locksmith's wife, bursting in,
and fairly running into Mr Haredale's arms, cried out:
'She knows it all, dear sir!--she knows it all! We broke it out to
her by degrees, and she is quite prepared.' Having made this
communication, and furthermore thanked Heaven with great fervour
and heartiness, the good lady, according to the custom of matrons,
on all occasions of excitement, fainted away directly.
They ran to the window, drew up the sash, and looked into the
crowded street. Among a dense mob of persons, of whom not one was
for an instant still, the locksmith's ruddy face and burly form
could be descried, beating about as though he was struggling with a
rough sea. Now, he was carried back a score of yards, now onward
nearly to the door, now back again, now forced against the opposite
houses, now against those adjoining his own: now carried up a
flight of steps, and greeted by the outstretched hands of half a
hundred men, while the whole tumultuous concourse stretched their
throats, and cheered with all their might. Though he was really in
a fair way to be torn to pieces in the general enthusiasm, the
locksmith, nothing discomposed, echoed their shouts till he was as
hoarse as they, and in a glow of joy and right good-humour, waved
his hat until the daylight shone between its brim and crown.
But in all the bandyings from hand to hand, and strivings to and
fro, and sweepings here and there, which--saving that he looked
more jolly and more radiant after every struggle--troubled his
peace of mind no more than if he had been a straw upon the water's
surface, he never once released his firm grasp of an arm, drawn
tight through his. He sometimes turned to clap this friend upon
the back, or whisper in his ear a word of staunch encouragement, or
cheer him with a smile; but his great care was to shield him from
the pressure, and force a passage for him to the Golden Key.
Passive and timid, scared, pale, and wondering, and gazing at the
throng as if he were newly risen from the dead, and felt himself a
ghost among the living, Barnaby--not Barnaby in the spirit, but in
flesh and blood, with pulses, sinews, nerves, and beating heart,
and strong affections--clung to his stout old friend, and followed
where he led.
And thus, in course of time, they reached the door, held ready for
their entrance by no unwilling hands. Then slipping in, and
shutting out the crowd by main force, Gabriel stood between Mr
Haredale and Edward Chester, and Barnaby, rushing up the stairs,
fell upon his knees beside his mother's bed.
'Such is the blessed end, sir,' cried the panting locksmith, to Mr
Haredale, 'of the best day's work we ever did. The rogues! it's
been hard fighting to get away from 'em. I almost thought, once or
twice, they'd have been too much for us with their kindness!'
They had striven, all the previous day, to rescue Barnaby from his
impending fate. Failing in their attempts, in the first quarter
to which they addressed themselves, they renewed them in another.
Failing there, likewise, they began afresh at midnight; and made
their way, not only to the judge and jury who had tried him, but to
men of influence at court, to the young Prince of Wales, and even
to the ante-chamber of the King himself. Successful, at last, in
awakening an interest in his favour, and an inclination to inquire
more dispassionately into his case, they had had an interview with
the minister, in his bed, so late as eight o'clock that morning.
The result of a searching inquiry (in which they, who had known the
poor fellow from his childhood, did other good service, besides
bringing it about) was, that between eleven and twelve o'clock, a
free pardon to Barnaby Rudge was made out and signed, and entrusted
to a horse-soldier for instant conveyance to the place of
execution. This courier reached the spot just as the cart appeared
in sight; and Barnaby being carried back to jail, Mr Haredale,
assured that all was safe, had gone straight from Bloomsbury Square
to the Golden Key, leaving to Gabriel the grateful task of bringing
him home in triumph.
'I needn't say,' observed the locksmith, when he had shaken hands
with all the males in the house, and hugged all the females, five-
and-forty times, at least, 'that, except among ourselves, I didn't
want to make a triumph of it. But, directly we got into the street
we were known, and this hubbub began. Of the two,' he added, as he
wiped his crimson face, 'and after experience of both, I think I'd
rather be taken out of my house by a crowd of enemies, than
escorted home by a mob of friends!'
It was plain enough, however, that this was mere talk on Gabriel's
part, and that the whole proceeding afforded him the keenest
delight; for the people continuing to make a great noise without,
and to cheer as if their voices were in the freshest order, and
good for a fortnight, he sent upstairs for Grip (who had come home
at his master's back, and had acknowledged the favours of the
multitude by drawing blood from every finger that came within his
reach), and with the bird upon his arm presented himself at the
first-floor window, and waved his hat again until it dangled by a
shred, between his finger and thumb. This demonstration having
been received with appropriate shouts, and silence being in some
degree restored, he thanked them for their sympathy; and taking the
liberty to inform them that there was a sick person in the house,
proposed that they should give three cheers for King George, three
more for Old England, and three more for nothing particular, as a
closing ceremony. The crowd assenting, substituted Gabriel Varden
for the nothing particular; and giving him one over, for good
measure, dispersed in high good-humour.
What congratulations were exchanged among the inmates at the Golden
Key, when they were left alone; what an overflowing of joy and
happiness there was among them; how incapable it was of expression
in Barnaby's own person; and how he went wildly from one to
another, until he became so far tranquillised, as to stretch
himself on the ground beside his mother's couch and fall into a
deep sleep; are matters that need not be told. And it is well they
happened to be of this class, for they would be very hard to tell,
were their narration ever so indispensable.
Before leaving this bright picture, it may be well to glance at a
dark and very different one which was presented to only a few eyes,
that same night.
The scene was a churchyard; the time, midnight; the persons, Edward
Chester, a clergyman, a grave-digger, and the four bearers of a
homely coffin. They stood about a grave which had been newly dug,
and one of the bearers held up a dim lantern,--the only light
there--which shed its feeble ray upon the book of prayer. He
placed it for a moment on the coffin, when he and his companions
were about to lower it down. There was no inscription on the lid.
The mould fell solemnly upon the last house of this nameless man;
and the rattling dust left a dismal echo even in the accustomed
ears of those who had borne it to its resting-place. The grave was
filled in to the top, and trodden down. They all left the spot
'You never saw him, living?' asked the clergyman, of Edward.
'Often, years ago; not knowing him for my brother.'
'Never. Yesterday, he steadily refused to see me. It was urged
upon him, many times, at my desire.'
'Still he refused? That was hardened and unnatural.'
'Do you think so?'
'I infer that you do not?'
'You are right. We hear the world wonder, every day, at monsters
of ingratitude. Did it never occur to you that it often looks for
monsters of affection, as though they were things of course?'
They had reached the gate by this time, and bidding each other good
night, departed on their separate ways.
That afternoon, when he had slept off his fatigue; had shaved, and
washed, and dressed, and freshened himself from top to toe; when he
had dined, comforted himself with a pipe, an extra Toby, a nap in
the great arm-chair, and a quiet chat with Mrs Varden on everything
that had happened, was happening, or about to happen, within the
sphere of their domestic concern; the locksmith sat himself down at
the tea-table in the little back-parlour: the rosiest, cosiest,
merriest, heartiest, best-contented old buck, in Great Britain or
out of it.
There he sat, with his beaming eye on Mrs V., and his shining face
suffused with gladness, and his capacious waistcoat smiling in
every wrinkle, and his jovial humour peeping from under the table
in the very plumpness of his legs; a sight to turn the vinegar of
misanthropy into purest milk of human kindness. There he sat,
watching his wife as she decorated the room with flowers for the
greater honour of Dolly and Joseph Willet, who had gone out
walking, and for whom the tea-kettle had been singing gaily on the
hob full twenty minutes, chirping as never kettle chirped before;
for whom the best service of real undoubted china, patterned with
divers round-faced mandarins holding up broad umbrellas, was now
displayed in all its glory; to tempt whose appetites a clear,
transparent, juicy ham, garnished with cool green lettuce-leaves
and fragrant cucumber, reposed upon a shady table, covered with a
snow-white cloth; for whose delight, preserves and jams, crisp
cakes and other pastry, short to eat, with cunning twists, and
cottage loaves, and rolls of bread both white and brown, were all
set forth in rich profusion; in whose youth Mrs V. herself had
grown quite young, and stood there in a gown of red and white:
symmetrical in figure, buxom in bodice, ruddy in cheek and lip,
faultless in ankle, laughing in face and mood, in all respects
delicious to behold--there sat the locksmith among all and every
these delights, the sun that shone upon them all: the centre of the
system: the source of light, heat, life, and frank enjoyment in the
bright household world.
And when had Dolly ever been the Dolly of that afternoon? To see
how she came in, arm-in-arm with Joe; and how she made an effort
not to blush or seem at all confused; and how she made believe she
didn't care to sit on his side of the table; and how she coaxed the
locksmith in a whisper not to joke; and how her colour came and
went in a little restless flutter of happiness, which made her do
everything wrong, and yet so charmingly wrong that it was better
than right!--why, the locksmith could have looked on at this (as he
mentioned to Mrs Varden when they retired for the night) for four-
and-twenty hours at a stretch, and never wished it done.
The recollections, too, with which they made merry over that long
protracted tea! The glee with which the locksmith asked Joe if he
remembered that stormy night at the Maypole when he first asked
after Dolly--the laugh they all had, about that night when she was
going out to the party in the sedan-chair--the unmerciful manner in
which they rallied Mrs Varden about putting those flowers outside
that very window--the difficulty Mrs Varden found in joining the
laugh against herself, at first, and the extraordinary perception
she had of the joke when she overcame it--the confidential
statements of Joe concerning the precise day and hour when he was
first conscious of being fond of Dolly, and Dolly's blushing
admissions, half volunteered and half extorted, as to the time from
which she dated the discovery that she 'didn't mind' Joe--here was
an exhaustless fund of mirth and conversation.
Then, there was a great deal to be said regarding Mrs Varden's
doubts, and motherly alarms, and shrewd suspicions; and it appeared
that from Mrs Varden's penetration and extreme sagacity nothing had
ever been hidden. She had known it all along. She had seen it
from the first. She had always predicted it. She had been aware
of it before the principals. She had said within herself (for she
remembered the exact words) 'that young Willet is certainly
looking after our Dolly, and I must look after HIM.' Accordingly,
she had looked after him, and had observed many little
circumstances (all of which she named) so exceedingly minute that
nobody else could make anything out of them even now; and had, it
seemed from first to last, displayed the most unbounded tact and
most consummate generalship.
Of course the night when Joe WOULD ride homeward by the side of the
chaise, and when Mrs Varden WOULD insist upon his going back again,
was not forgotten--nor the night when Dolly fainted on his name
being mentioned--nor the times upon times when Mrs Varden, ever
watchful and prudent, had found her pining in her own chamber. In
short, nothing was forgotten; and everything by some means or other
brought them back to the conclusion, that that was the happiest
hour in all their lives; consequently, that everything must have
occurred for the best, and nothing could be suggested which would
have made it better.
While they were in the full glow of such discourse as this, there
came a startling knock at the door, opening from the street into
the workshop, which had been kept closed all day that the house
might be more quiet. Joe, as in duty bound, would hear of nobody
but himself going to open it; and accordingly left the room for
It would have been odd enough, certainly, if Joe had forgotten the
way to this door; and even if he had, as it was a pretty large one
and stood straight before him, he could not easily have missed it.
But Dolly, perhaps because she was in the flutter of spirits before
mentioned, or perhaps because she thought he would not be able to
open it with his one arm--she could have had no other reason--
hurried out after him; and they stopped so long in the passage--no
doubt owing to Joe's entreaties that she would not expose herself
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