Part 4 out of 15
'It is. Why, in the name of Heaven, do you darken it?'
'Give me meat and drink,' he answered sullenly, 'or I dare do more
than that. The very marrow in my bones is cold, with wet and
hunger. I must have warmth and food, and I will have them here.'
'You were the robber on the Chigwell road.'
'And nearly a murderer then.'
'The will was not wanting. There was one came upon me and raised
the hue-and-cry', that it would have gone hard with, but for his
nimbleness. I made a thrust at him.'
'You thrust your sword at HIM!' cried the widow, looking upwards.
'You hear this man! you hear and saw!'
He looked at her, as, with her head thrown back, and her hands
tight clenched together, she uttered these words in an agony of
appeal. Then, starting to his feet as she had done, he advanced
'Beware!' she cried in a suppressed voice, whose firmness stopped
him midway. 'Do not so much as touch me with a finger, or you are
lost; body and soul, you are lost.'
'Hear me,' he replied, menacing her with his hand. 'I, that in the
form of a man live the life of a hunted beast; that in the body am
a spirit, a ghost upon the earth, a thing from which all creatures
shrink, save those curst beings of another world, who will not
leave me;--I am, in my desperation of this night, past all fear but
that of the hell in which I exist from day to day. Give the
alarm, cry out, refuse to shelter me. I will not hurt you. But I
will not be taken alive; and so surely as you threaten me above
your breath, I fall a dead man on this floor. The blood with which
I sprinkle it, be on you and yours, in the name of the Evil Spirit
that tempts men to their ruin!'
As he spoke, he took a pistol from his breast, and firmly clutched
it in his hand.
'Remove this man from me, good Heaven!' cried the widow. 'In thy
grace and mercy, give him one minute's penitence, and strike him
'It has no such purpose,' he said, confronting her. 'It is deaf.
Give me to eat and drink, lest I do that it cannot help my doing,
and will not do for you.'
'Will you leave me, if I do thus much? Will you leave me and
return no more?'
'I will promise nothing,' he rejoined, seating himself at the
table, 'nothing but this--I will execute my threat if you betray
She rose at length, and going to a closet or pantry in the room,
brought out some fragments of cold meat and bread and put them on
the table. He asked for brandy, and for water. These she produced
likewise; and he ate and drank with the voracity of a famished
hound. All the time he was so engaged she kept at the uttermost
distance of the chamber, and sat there shuddering, but with her
face towards him. She never turned her back upon him once; and
although when she passed him (as she was obliged to do in going to
and from the cupboard) she gathered the skirts of her garment about
her, as if even its touching his by chance were horrible to think
of, still, in the midst of all this dread and terror, she kept her
face towards his own, and watched his every movement.
His repast ended--if that can be called one, which was a mere
ravenous satisfying of the calls of hunger--he moved his chair
towards the fire again, and warming himself before the blaze which
had now sprung brightly up, accosted her once more.
'I am an outcast, to whom a roof above his head is often an
uncommon luxury, and the food a beggar would reject is delicate
fare. You live here at your ease. Do you live alone?'
'I do not,' she made answer with an effort.
'Who dwells here besides?'
'One--it is no matter who. You had best begone, or he may find you
here. Why do you linger?'
'For warmth,' he replied, spreading out his hands before the fire.
'For warmth. You are rich, perhaps?'
'Very,' she said faintly. 'Very rich. No doubt I am very rich.'
'At least you are not penniless. You have some money. You were
making purchases to-night.'
'I have a little left. It is but a few shillings.'
'Give me your purse. You had it in your hand at the door. Give it
She stepped to the table and laid it down. He reached across, took
it up, and told the contents into his hand. As he was counting
them, she listened for a moment, and sprung towards him.
'Take what there is, take all, take more if more were there, but go
before it is too late. I have heard a wayward step without, I know
full well. It will return directly. Begone.'
'What do you mean?'
'Do not stop to ask. I will not answer. Much as I dread to touch
you, I would drag you to the door if I possessed the strength,
rather than you should lose an instant. Miserable wretch! fly from
'If there are spies without, I am safer here,' replied the man,
standing aghast. 'I will remain here, and will not fly till the
danger is past.'
'It is too late!' cried the widow, who had listened for the step,
and not to him. 'Hark to that foot upon the ground. Do you
tremble to hear it! It is my son, my idiot son!'
As she said this wildly, there came a heavy knocking at the door.
He looked at her, and she at him.
'Let him come in,' said the man, hoarsely. 'I fear him less than
the dark, houseless night. He knocks again. Let him come in!'
'The dread of this hour,' returned the widow, 'has been upon me all
my life, and I will not. Evil will fall upon him, if you stand eye
to eye. My blighted boy! Oh! all good angels who know the truth--
hear a poor mother's prayer, and spare my boy from knowledge of
'He rattles at the shutters!' cried the man. 'He calls you. That
voice and cry! It was he who grappled with me in the road. Was it
She had sunk upon her knees, and so knelt down, moving her lips,
but uttering no sound. As he gazed upon her, uncertain what to do
or where to turn, the shutters flew open. He had barely time to
catch a knife from the table, sheathe it in the loose sleeve of his
coat, hide in the closet, and do all with the lightning's speed,
when Barnaby tapped at the bare glass, and raised the sash
'Why, who can keep out Grip and me!' he cried, thrusting in his
head, and staring round the room. 'Are you there, mother? How
long you keep us from the fire and light.'
She stammered some excuse and tendered him her hand. But Barnaby
sprung lightly in without assistance, and putting his arms about
her neck, kissed her a hundred times.
'We have been afield, mother--leaping ditches, scrambling through
hedges, running down steep banks, up and away, and hurrying on.
The wind has been blowing, and the rushes and young plants bowing
and bending to it, lest it should do them harm, the cowards--and
Grip--ha ha ha!--brave Grip, who cares for nothing, and when the
wind rolls him over in the dust, turns manfully to bite it--Grip,
bold Grip, has quarrelled with every little bowing twig--thinking,
he told me, that it mocked him--and has worried it like a bulldog.
Ha ha ha!'
The raven, in his little basket at his master's back, hearing this
frequent mention of his name in a tone of exultation, expressed his
sympathy by crowing like a cock, and afterwards running over his
various phrases of speech with such rapidity, and in so many
varieties of hoarseness, that they sounded like the murmurs of a
crowd of people.
'He takes such care of me besides!' said Barnaby. 'Such care,
mother! He watches all the time I sleep, and when I shut my eyes
and make-believe to slumber, he practises new learning softly; but
he keeps his eye on me the while, and if he sees me laugh, though
never so little, stops directly. He won't surprise me till he's
The raven crowed again in a rapturous manner which plainly said,
'Those are certainly some of my characteristics, and I glory in
them.' In the meantime, Barnaby closed the window and secured it,
and coming to the fireplace, prepared to sit down with his face
to the closet. But his mother prevented this, by hastily taking
that side herself, and motioning him towards the other.
'How pale you are to-night!' said Barnaby, leaning on his stick.
'We have been cruel, Grip, and made her anxious!'
Anxious in good truth, and sick at heart! The listener held the
door of his hiding-place open with his hand, and closely watched
her son. Grip--alive to everything his master was unconscious of--
had his head out of the basket, and in return was watching him
intently with his glistening eye.
'He flaps his wings,' said Barnaby, turning almost quickly enough
to catch the retreating form and closing door, 'as if there were
strangers here, but Grip is wiser than to fancy that. Jump then!'
Accepting this invitation with a dignity peculiar to himself, the
bird hopped up on his master's shoulder, from that to his extended
hand, and so to the ground. Barnaby unstrapping the basket and
putting it down in a corner with the lid open, Grip's first care
was to shut it down with all possible despatch, and then to stand
upon it. Believing, no doubt, that he had now rendered it utterly
impossible, and beyond the power of mortal man, to shut him up in
it any more, he drew a great many corks in triumph, and uttered a
corresponding number of hurrahs.
'Mother!' said Barnaby, laying aside his hat and stick, and
returning to the chair from which he had risen, 'I'll tell you
where we have been to-day, and what we have been doing,--shall I?'
She took his hand in hers, and holding it, nodded the word she
could not speak.
'You mustn't tell,' said Barnaby, holding up his finger, 'for it's
a secret, mind, and only known to me, and Grip, and Hugh. We had
the dog with us, but he's not like Grip, clever as he is, and
doesn't guess it yet, I'll wager.--Why do you look behind me so?'
'Did I?' she answered faintly. 'I didn't know I did. Come nearer
'You are frightened!' said Barnaby, changing colour. 'Mother--you
'There's--there's none of this about, is there?' he answered in a
whisper, drawing closer to her and clasping the mark upon his
wrist. 'I am afraid there is, somewhere. You make my hair stand
on end, and my flesh creep. Why do you look like that? Is it in
the room as I have seen it in my dreams, dashing the ceiling and
the walls with red? Tell me. Is it?'
He fell into a shivering fit as he put the question, and shutting
out the light with his hands, sat shaking in every limb until it
had passed away. After a time, he raised his head and looked about
'Is it gone?'
'There has been nothing here,' rejoined his mother, soothing him.
'Nothing indeed, dear Barnaby. Look! You see there are but you
He gazed at her vacantly, and, becoming reassured by degrees, burst
into a wild laugh.
'But let us see,' he said, thoughtfully. 'Were we talking? Was it
you and me? Where have we been?'
'Nowhere but here.'
'Aye, but Hugh, and I,' said Barnaby,--'that's it. Maypole Hugh,
and I, you know, and Grip--we have been lying in the forest, and
among the trees by the road side, with a dark lantern after night
came on, and the dog in a noose ready to slip him when the man came
'The robber; him that the stars winked at. We have waited for him
after dark these many nights, and we shall have him. I'd know him
in a thousand. Mother, see here! This is the man. Look!'
He twisted his handkerchief round his head, pulled his hat upon his
brow, wrapped his coat about him, and stood up before her: so like
the original he counterfeited, that the dark figure peering out
behind him might have passed for his own shadow.
'Ha ha ha! We shall have him,' he cried, ridding himself of the
semblance as hastily as he had assumed it. 'You shall see him,
mother, bound hand and foot, and brought to London at a saddle-
girth; and you shall hear of him at Tyburn Tree if we have luck.
So Hugh says. You're pale again, and trembling. And why DO you
look behind me so?'
'It is nothing,' she answered. 'I am not quite well. Go you to
bed, dear, and leave me here.'
'To bed!' he answered. 'I don't like bed. I like to lie before
the fire, watching the prospects in the burning coals--the rivers,
hills, and dells, in the deep, red sunset, and the wild faces. I
am hungry too, and Grip has eaten nothing since broad noon. Let us
to supper. Grip! To supper, lad!'
The raven flapped his wings, and, croaking his satisfaction, hopped
to the feet of his master, and there held his bill open, ready for
snapping up such lumps of meat as he should throw him. Of these he
received about a score in rapid succession, without the smallest
'That's all,' said Barnaby.
'More!' cried Grip. 'More!'
But it appearing for a certainty that no more was to be had, he
retreated with his store; and disgorging the morsels one by one
from his pouch, hid them in various corners--taking particular
care, however, to avoid the closet, as being doubtful of the hidden
man's propensities and power of resisting temptation. When he had
concluded these arrangements, he took a turn or two across the room
with an elaborate assumption of having nothing on his mind (but
with one eye hard upon his treasure all the time), and then, and
not till then, began to drag it out, piece by piece, and eat it
with the utmost relish.
Barnaby, for his part, having pressed his mother to eat in vain,
made a hearty supper too. Once during the progress of his meal, he
wanted more bread from the closet and rose to get it. She
hurriedly interposed to prevent him, and summoning her utmost
fortitude, passed into the recess, and brought it out herself.
'Mother,' said Barnaby, looking at her steadfastly as she sat down
beside him after doing so; 'is to-day my birthday?'
'To-day!' she answered. 'Don't you recollect it was but a week or
so ago, and that summer, autumn, and winter have to pass before it
'I remember that it has been so till now,' said Barnaby. 'But I
think to-day must be my birthday too, for all that.'
She asked him why? 'I'll tell you why,' he said. 'I have always
seen you--I didn't let you know it, but I have--on the evening of
that day grow very sad. I have seen you cry when Grip and I were
most glad; and look frightened with no reason; and I have touched
your hand, and felt that it was cold--as it is now. Once, mother
(on a birthday that was, also), Grip and I thought of this after we
went upstairs to bed, and when it was midnight, striking one
o'clock, we came down to your door to see if you were well. You
were on your knees. I forget what it was you said. Grip, what was
it we heard her say that night?'
'I'm a devil!' rejoined the raven promptly.
'No, no,' said Barnaby. 'But you said something in a prayer; and
when you rose and walked about, you looked (as you have done ever
since, mother, towards night on my birthday) just as you do now. I
have found that out, you see, though I am silly. So I say you're
wrong; and this must be my birthday--my birthday, Grip!'
The bird received this information with a crow of such duration as
a cock, gifted with intelligence beyond all others of his kind,
might usher in the longest day with. Then, as if he had well
considered the sentiment, and regarded it as apposite to birthdays,
he cried, 'Never say die!' a great many times, and flapped his
wings for emphasis.
The widow tried to make light of Barnaby's remark, and endeavoured
to divert his attention to some new subject; too easy a task at all
times, as she knew. His supper done, Barnaby, regardless of her
entreaties, stretched himself on the mat before the fire; Grip
perched upon his leg, and divided his time between dozing in the
grateful warmth, and endeavouring (as it presently appeared) to
recall a new accomplishment he had been studying all day.
A long and profound silence ensued, broken only by some change of
position on the part of Barnaby, whose eyes were still wide open
and intently fixed upon the fire; or by an effort of recollection
on the part of Grip, who would cry in a low voice from time to
time, 'Polly put the ket--' and there stop short, forgetting the
remainder, and go off in a doze again.
After a long interval, Barnaby's breathing grew more deep and
regular, and his eyes were closed. But even then the unquiet
spirit of the raven interposed. 'Polly put the ket--' cried Grip,
and his master was broad awake again.
At length Barnaby slept soundly, and the bird with his bill sunk
upon his breast, his breast itself puffed out into a comfortable
alderman-like form, and his bright eye growing smaller and smaller,
really seemed to be subsiding into a state of repose. Now and then
he muttered in a sepulchral voice, 'Polly put the ket--' but very
drowsily, and more like a drunken man than a reflecting raven.
The widow, scarcely venturing to breathe, rose from her seat. The
man glided from the closet, and extinguished the candle.
'--tle on,' cried Grip, suddenly struck with an idea and very much
excited. '--tle on. Hurrah! Polly put the ket-tle on, we'll all
have tea; Polly put the ket-tle on, we'll all have tea. Hurrah,
hurrah, hurrah! I'm a devil, I'm a devil, I'm a ket-tle on, Keep
up your spirits, Never say die, Bow, wow, wow, I'm a devil, I'm a
ket-tle, I'm a--Polly put the ket-tle on, we'll all have tea.'
They stood rooted to the ground, as though it had been a voice from
But even this failed to awaken the sleeper. He turned over towards
the fire, his arm fell to the ground, and his head drooped heavily
upon it. The widow and her unwelcome visitor gazed at him and at
each other for a moment, and then she motioned him towards the
'Stay,' he whispered. 'You teach your son well.'
'I have taught him nothing that you heard to-night. Depart
instantly, or I will rouse him.'
'You are free to do so. Shall I rouse him?'
'You dare not do that.'
'I dare do anything, I have told you. He knows me well, it seems.
At least I will know him.'
'Would you kill him in his sleep?' cried the widow, throwing
herself between them.
'Woman,' he returned between his teeth, as he motioned her aside,
'I would see him nearer, and I will. If you want one of us to kill
the other, wake him.'
With that he advanced, and bending down over the prostrate form,
softly turned back the head and looked into the face. The light of
the fire was upon it, and its every lineament was revealed
distinctly. He contemplated it for a brief space, and hastily
'Observe,' he whispered in the widow's ear: 'In him, of whose
existence I was ignorant until to-night, I have you in my power.
Be careful how you use me. Be careful how you use me. I am
destitute and starving, and a wanderer upon the earth. I may take
a sure and slow revenge.'
'There is some dreadful meaning in your words. I do not fathom it.'
'There is a meaning in them, and I see you fathom it to its very
depth. You have anticipated it for years; you have told me as
much. I leave you to digest it. Do not forget my warning.'
He pointed, as he left her, to the slumbering form, and stealthily
withdrawing, made his way into the street. She fell on her knees
beside the sleeper, and remained like one stricken into stone,
until the tears which fear had frozen so long, came tenderly to her
'Oh Thou,' she cried, 'who hast taught me such deep love for this
one remnant of the promise of a happy life, out of whose
affliction, even, perhaps the comfort springs that he is ever a
relying, loving child to me--never growing old or cold at heart,
but needing my care and duty in his manly strength as in his
cradle-time--help him, in his darkened walk through this sad world,
or he is doomed, and my poor heart is broken!'
Gliding along the silent streets, and holding his course where they
were darkest and most gloomy, the man who had left the widow's
house crossed London Bridge, and arriving in the City, plunged into
the backways, lanes, and courts, between Cornhill and Smithfield;
with no more fixedness of purpose than to lose himself among their
windings, and baffle pursuit, if any one were dogging his steps.
It was the dead time of the night, and all was quiet. Now and then
a drowsy watchman's footsteps sounded on the pavement, or the
lamplighter on his rounds went flashing past, leaving behind a
little track of smoke mingled with glowing morsels of his hot red
link. He hid himself even from these partakers of his lonely walk,
and, shrinking in some arch or doorway while they passed, issued
forth again when they were gone and so pursued his solitary way.
To be shelterless and alone in the open country, hearing the wind
moan and watching for day through the whole long weary night; to
listen to the falling rain, and crouch for warmth beneath the lee
of some old barn or rick, or in the hollow of a tree; are dismal
things--but not so dismal as the wandering up and down where
shelter is, and beds and sleepers are by thousands; a houseless
rejected creature. To pace the echoing stones from hour to hour,
counting the dull chimes of the clocks; to watch the lights
twinkling in chamber windows, to think what happy forgetfulness
each house shuts in; that here are children coiled together in
their beds, here youth, here age, here poverty, here wealth, all
equal in their sleep, and all at rest; to have nothing in common
with the slumbering world around, not even sleep, Heaven's gift to
all its creatures, and be akin to nothing but despair; to feel, by
the wretched contrast with everything on every hand, more utterly
alone and cast away than in a trackless desert; this is a kind of
suffering, on which the rivers of great cities close full many a
time, and which the solitude in crowds alone awakens.
The miserable man paced up and down the streets--so long, so
wearisome, so like each other--and often cast a wistful look
towards the east, hoping to see the first faint streaks of day.
But obdurate night had yet possession of the sky, and his disturbed
and restless walk found no relief.
One house in a back street was bright with the cheerful glare of
lights; there was the sound of music in it too, and the tread of
dancers, and there were cheerful voices, and many a burst of
laughter. To this place--to be near something that was awake and
glad--he returned again and again; and more than one of those who
left it when the merriment was at its height, felt it a check upon
their mirthful mood to see him flitting to and fro like an uneasy
ghost. At last the guests departed, one and all; and then the
house was close shut up, and became as dull and silent as the rest.
His wanderings brought him at one time to the city jail. Instead
of hastening from it as a place of ill omen, and one he had cause
to shun, he sat down on some steps hard by, and resting his chin
upon his hand, gazed upon its rough and frowning walls as though
even they became a refuge in his jaded eyes. He paced it round and
round, came back to the same spot, and sat down again. He did this
often, and once, with a hasty movement, crossed to where some men
were watching in the prison lodge, and had his foot upon the steps
as though determined to accost them. But looking round, he saw
that the day began to break, and failing in his purpose, turned and
He was soon in the quarter he had lately traversed, and pacing to
and fro again as he had done before. He was passing down a mean
street, when from an alley close at hand some shouts of revelry
arose, and there came straggling forth a dozen madcaps, whooping
and calling to each other, who, parting noisily, took different
ways and dispersed in smaller groups.
Hoping that some low place of entertainment which would afford him
a safe refuge might be near at hand, he turned into this court when
they were all gone, and looked about for a half-opened door, or
lighted window, or other indication of the place whence they had
come. It was so profoundly dark, however, and so ill-favoured,
that he concluded they had but turned up there, missing their way,
and were pouring out again when he observed them. With this
impression, and finding there was no outlet but that by which he
had entered, he was about to turn, when from a grating near his
feet a sudden stream of light appeared, and the sound of talking
came. He retreated into a doorway to see who these talkers were,
and to listen to them.
The light came to the level of the pavement as he did this, and a
man ascended, bearing in his hand a torch. This figure unlocked
and held open the grating as for the passage of another, who
presently appeared, in the form of a young man of small stature and
uncommon self-importance, dressed in an obsolete and very gaudy
'Good night, noble captain,' said he with the torch. 'Farewell,
commander. Good luck, illustrious general!'
In return to these compliments the other bade him hold his tongue,
and keep his noise to himself, and laid upon him many similar
injunctions, with great fluency of speech and sternness of manner.
'Commend me, captain, to the stricken Miggs,' returned the torch-
bearer in a lower voice. 'My captain flies at higher game than
Miggses. Ha, ha, ha! My captain is an eagle, both as respects his
eye and soaring wings. My captain breaketh hearts as other
bachelors break eggs at breakfast.'
'What a fool you are, Stagg!' said Mr Tappertit, stepping on the
pavement of the court, and brushing from his legs the dust he had
contracted in his passage upward.
'His precious limbs!' cried Stagg, clasping one of his ankles.
'Shall a Miggs aspire to these proportions! No, no, my captain.
We will inveigle ladies fair, and wed them in our secret cavern.
We will unite ourselves with blooming beauties, captain.'
'I'll tell you what, my buck,' said Mr Tappertit, releasing his
leg; 'I'll trouble you not to take liberties, and not to broach
certain questions unless certain questions are broached to you.
Speak when you're spoke to on particular subjects, and not
otherways. Hold the torch up till I've got to the end of the
court, and then kennel yourself, do you hear?'
'I hear you, noble captain.'
'Obey then,' said Mr Tappertit haughtily. 'Gentlemen, lead on!'
With which word of command (addressed to an imaginary staff or
retinue) he folded his arms, and walked with surpassing dignity
down the court.
His obsequious follower stood holding the torch above his head, and
then the observer saw for the first time, from his place of
concealment, that he was blind. Some involuntary motion on his
part caught the quick ear of the blind man, before he was conscious
of having moved an inch towards him, for he turned suddenly and
cried, 'Who's there?'
'A man,' said the other, advancing. 'A friend.'
'A stranger!' rejoined the blind man. 'Strangers are not my
friends. What do you do there?'
'I saw your company come out, and waited here till they were gone.
I want a lodging.'
'A lodging at this time!' returned Stagg, pointing towards the dawn
as though he saw it. 'Do you know the day is breaking?'
'I know it,' rejoined the other, 'to my cost. I have been
traversing this iron-hearted town all night.'
'You had better traverse it again,' said the blind man, preparing
to descend, 'till you find some lodgings suitable to your taste. I
don't let any.'
'Stay!' cried the other, holding him by the arm.
'I'll beat this light about that hangdog face of yours (for hangdog
it is, if it answers to your voice), and rouse the neighbourhood
besides, if you detain me,' said the blind man. 'Let me go. Do
'Do YOU hear!' returned the other, chinking a few shillings
together, and hurriedly pressing them into his hand. 'I beg
nothing of you. I will pay for the shelter you give me. Death!
Is it much to ask of such as you! I have come from the country,
and desire to rest where there are none to question me. I am
faint, exhausted, worn out, almost dead. Let me lie down, like a
dog, before your fire. I ask no more than that. If you would be
rid of me, I will depart to-morrow.'
'If a gentleman has been unfortunate on the road,' muttered Stagg,
yielding to the other, who, pressing on him, had already gained a
footing on the steps--'and can pay for his accommodation--'
'I will pay you with all I have. I am just now past the want of
food, God knows, and wish but to purchase shelter. What companion
have you below?'
'Then fasten your grate there, and show me the way. Quick!'
The blind man complied after a moment's hesitation, and they
descended together. The dialogue had passed as hurriedly as the
words could be spoken, and they stood in his wretched room before
he had had time to recover from his first surprise.
'May I see where that door leads to, and what is beyond?' said the
man, glancing keenly round. 'You will not mind that?'
'I will show you myself. Follow me, or go before. Take your
He bade him lead the way, and, by the light of the torch which his
conductor held up for the purpose, inspected all three cellars
narrowly. Assured that the blind man had spoken truth, and that he
lived there alone, the visitor returned with him to the first, in
which a fire was burning, and flung himself with a deep groan upon
the ground before it.
His host pursued his usual occupation without seeming to heed him
any further. But directly he fell asleep--and he noted his falling
into a slumber, as readily as the keenest-sighted man could have
done--he knelt down beside him, and passed his hand lightly but
carefully over his face and person.
His sleep was checkered with starts and moans, and sometimes with a
muttered word or two. His hands were clenched, his brow bent, and
his mouth firmly set. All this, the blind man accurately marked;
and as if his curiosity were strongly awakened, and he had already
some inkling of his mystery, he sat watching him, if the expression
may be used, and listening, until it was broad day.
Dolly Varden's pretty little head was yet bewildered by various
recollections of the party, and her bright eyes were yet dazzled by
a crowd of images, dancing before them like motes in the sunbeams,
among which the effigy of one partner in particular did especially
figure, the same being a young coachmaker (a master in his own
right) who had given her to understand, when he handed her into the
chair at parting, that it was his fixed resolve to neglect his
business from that time, and die slowly for the love of her--
Dolly's head, and eyes, and thoughts, and seven senses, were all in
a state of flutter and confusion for which the party was
accountable, although it was now three days old, when, as she was
sitting listlessly at breakfast, reading all manner of fortunes
(that is to say, of married and flourishing fortunes) in the
grounds of her teacup, a step was heard in the workshop, and Mr
Edward Chester was descried through the glass door, standing among
the rusty locks and keys, like love among the roses--for which apt
comparison the historian may by no means take any credit to
himself, the same being the invention, in a sentimental mood, of
the chaste and modest Miggs, who, beholding him from the doorsteps
she was then cleaning, did, in her maiden meditation, give
utterance to the simile.
The locksmith, who happened at the moment to have his eyes thrown
upward and his head backward, in an intense communing with Toby,
did not see his visitor, until Mrs Varden, more watchful than the
rest, had desired Sim Tappertit to open the glass door and give him
admission--from which untoward circumstance the good lady argued
(for she could deduce a precious moral from the most trifling
event) that to take a draught of small ale in the morning was to
observe a pernicious, irreligious, and Pagan custom, the relish
whereof should be left to swine, and Satan, or at least to Popish
persons, and should be shunned by the righteous as a work of sin
and evil. She would no doubt have pursued her admonition much
further, and would have founded on it a long list of precious
precepts of inestimable value, but that the young gentleman
standing by in a somewhat uncomfortable and discomfited manner
while she read her spouse this lecture, occasioned her to bring it
to a premature conclusion.
'I'm sure you'll excuse me, sir,' said Mrs Varden, rising and
curtseying. 'Varden is so very thoughtless, and needs so much
reminding--Sim, bring a chair here.'
Mr Tappertit obeyed, with a flourish implying that he did so,
'And you can go, Sim,' said the locksmith.
Mr Tappertit obeyed again, still under protest; and betaking
himself to the workshop, began seriously to fear that he might find
it necessary to poison his master, before his time was out.
In the meantime, Edward returned suitable replies to Mrs Varden's
courtesies, and that lady brightened up very much; so that when he
accepted a dish of tea from the fair hands of Dolly, she was
'I am sure if there's anything we can do,--Varden, or I, or Dolly
either,--to serve you, sir, at any time, you have only to say it,
and it shall be done,' said Mrs V.
'I am much obliged to you, I am sure,' returned Edward. 'You
encourage me to say that I have come here now, to beg your good
Mrs Varden was delighted beyond measure.
'It occurred to me that probably your fair daughter might be going
to the Warren, either to-day or to-morrow,' said Edward, glancing
at Dolly; 'and if so, and you will allow her to take charge of this
letter, ma'am, you will oblige me more than I can tell you. The
truth is, that while I am very anxious it should reach its
destination, I have particular reasons for not trusting it to any
other conveyance; so that without your help, I am wholly at a loss.'
'She was not going that way, sir, either to-day, or to-morrow, nor
indeed all next week,' the lady graciously rejoined, 'but we shall
be very glad to put ourselves out of the way on your account, and
if you wish it, you may depend upon its going to-day. You might
suppose,' said Mrs Varden, frowning at her husband, 'from Varden's
sitting there so glum and silent, that he objected to this
arrangement; but you must not mind that, sir, if you please. It's
his way at home. Out of doors, he can be cheerful and talkative
Now, the fact was, that the unfortunate locksmith, blessing his
stars to find his helpmate in such good humour, had been sitting
with a beaming face, hearing this discourse with a joy past all
expression. Wherefore this sudden attack quite took him by
'My dear Martha--' he said.
'Oh yes, I dare say,' interrupted Mrs Varden, with a smile of
mingled scorn and pleasantry. 'Very dear! We all know that.'
'No, but my good soul,' said Gabriel, 'you are quite mistaken. You
are indeed. I was delighted to find you so kind and ready. I
waited, my dear, anxiously, I assure you, to hear what you would
'You waited anxiously,' repeated Mrs V. 'Yes! Thank you, Varden.
You waited, as you always do, that I might bear the blame, if any
came of it. But I am used to it,' said the lady with a kind of
solemn titter, 'and that's my comfort!'
'I give you my word, Martha--' said Gabriel.
'Let me give you MY word, my dear,' interposed his wife with a
Christian smile, 'that such discussions as these between married
people, are much better left alone. Therefore, if you please,
Varden, we'll drop the subject. I have no wish to pursue it. I
could. I might say a great deal. But I would rather not. Pray
don't say any more.'
'I don't want to say any more,' rejoined the goaded locksmith.
'Well then, don't,' said Mrs Varden.
'Nor did I begin it, Martha,' added the locksmith, good-humouredly,
'I must say that.'
'You did not begin it, Varden!' exclaimed his wife, opening her
eyes very wide and looking round upon the company, as though she
would say, You hear this man! 'You did not begin it, Varden! But
you shall not say I was out of temper. No, you did not begin it,
oh dear no, not you, my dear!'
'Well, well,' said the locksmith. 'That's settled then.'
'Oh yes,' rejoined his wife, 'quite. If you like to say Dolly
began it, my dear, I shall not contradict you. I know my duty. I
need know it, I am sure. I am often obliged to bear it in mind,
when my inclination perhaps would be for the moment to forget it.
Thank you, Varden.' And so, with a mighty show of humility and
forgiveness, she folded her hands, and looked round again, with a
smile which plainly said, 'If you desire to see the first and
foremost among female martyrs, here she is, on view!'
This little incident, illustrative though it was of Mrs Varden's
extraordinary sweetness and amiability, had so strong a tendency to
check the conversation and to disconcert all parties but that
excellent lady, that only a few monosyllables were uttered until
Edward withdrew; which he presently did, thanking the lady of the
house a great many times for her condescension, and whispering in
Dolly's ear that he would call on the morrow, in case there should
happen to be an answer to the note--which, indeed, she knew without
his telling, as Barnaby and his friend Grip had dropped in on the
previous night to prepare her for the visit which was then
Gabriel, who had attended Edward to the door, came back with his
hands in his pockets; and, after fidgeting about the room in a very
uneasy manner, and casting a great many sidelong looks at Mrs
Varden (who with the calmest countenance in the world was five
fathoms deep in the Protestant Manual), inquired of Dolly how she
meant to go. Dolly supposed by the stage-coach, and looked at her
lady mother, who finding herself silently appealed to, dived down
at least another fathom into the Manual, and became unconscious of
all earthly things.
'Martha--' said the locksmith.
'I hear you, Varden,' said his wife, without rising to the surface.
'I am sorry, my dear, you have such an objection to the Maypole and
old John, for otherways as it's a very fine morning, and Saturday's
not a busy day with us, we might have all three gone to Chigwell in
the chaise, and had quite a happy day of it.'
Mrs Varden immediately closed the Manual, and bursting into tears,
requested to be led upstairs.
'What is the matter now, Martha?' inquired the locksmith.
To which Martha rejoined, 'Oh! don't speak to me,' and protested in
agony that if anybody had told her so, she wouldn't have believed
'But, Martha,' said Gabriel, putting himself in the way as she was
moving off with the aid of Dolly's shoulder, 'wouldn't have
believed what? Tell me what's wrong now. Do tell me. Upon my
soul I don't know. Do you know, child? Damme!' cried the
locksmith, plucking at his wig in a kind of frenzy, 'nobody does
know, I verily believe, but Miggs!'
'Miggs,' said Mrs Varden faintly, and with symptoms of approaching
incoherence, 'is attached to me, and that is sufficient to draw
down hatred upon her in this house. She is a comfort to me,
whatever she may be to others.'
'She's no comfort to me,' cried Gabriel, made bold by despair.
'She's the misery of my life. She's all the plagues of Egypt in
'She's considered so, I have no doubt,' said Mrs Varden. 'I was
prepared for that; it's natural; it's of a piece with the rest.
When you taunt me as you do to my face, how can I wonder that you
taunt her behind her back!' And here the incoherence coming on
very strong, Mrs Varden wept, and laughed, and sobbed, and
shivered, and hiccoughed, and choked; and said she knew it was very
foolish but she couldn't help it; and that when she was dead and
gone, perhaps they would be sorry for it--which really under the
circumstances did not appear quite so probable as she seemed to
think--with a great deal more to the same effect. In a word, she
passed with great decency through all the ceremonies incidental to
such occasions; and being supported upstairs, was deposited in a
highly spasmodic state on her own bed, where Miss Miggs shortly
afterwards flung herself upon the body.
The philosophy of all this was, that Mrs Varden wanted to go to
Chigwell; that she did not want to make any concession or
explanation; that she would only go on being implored and entreated
so to do; and that she would accept no other terms. Accordingly,
after a vast amount of moaning and crying upstairs, and much
damping of foreheads, and vinegaring of temples, and hartshorning
of noses, and so forth; and after most pathetic adjurations from
Miggs, assisted by warm brandy-and-water not over-weak, and divers
other cordials, also of a stimulating quality, administered at
first in teaspoonfuls and afterwards in increasing doses, and of
which Miss Miggs herself partook as a preventive measure (for
fainting is infectious); after all these remedies, and many more
too numerous to mention, but not to take, had been applied; and
many verbal consolations, moral, religious, and miscellaneous, had
been super-added thereto; the locksmith humbled himself, and the
end was gained.
'If it's only for the sake of peace and quietness, father,' said
Dolly, urging him to go upstairs.
'Oh, Doll, Doll,' said her good-natured father. 'If you ever have
a husband of your own--'
Dolly glanced at the glass.
'--Well, WHEN you have,' said the locksmith, 'never faint, my
darling. More domestic unhappiness has come of easy fainting,
Doll, than from all the greater passions put together. Remember
that, my dear, if you would be really happy, which you never can
be, if your husband isn't. And a word in your ear, my precious.
Never have a Miggs about you!'
With this advice he kissed his blooming daughter on the cheek, and
slowly repaired to Mrs Varden's room; where that lady, lying all
pale and languid on her couch, was refreshing herself with a sight
of her last new bonnet, which Miggs, as a means of calming her
scattered spirits, displayed to the best advantage at her bedside.
'Here's master, mim,' said Miggs. 'Oh, what a happiness it is
when man and wife come round again! Oh gracious, to think that him
and her should ever have a word together!' In the energy of these
sentiments, which were uttered as an apostrophe to the Heavens in
general, Miss Miggs perched the bonnet on the top of her own head,
and folding her hands, turned on her tears.
'I can't help it,' cried Miggs. 'I couldn't, if I was to be
drownded in 'em. She has such a forgiving spirit! She'll forget
all that has passed, and go along with you, sir--Oh, if it was to
the world's end, she'd go along with you.'
Mrs Varden with a faint smile gently reproved her attendant for
this enthusiasm, and reminded her at the same time that she was far
too unwell to venture out that day.
'Oh no, you're not, mim, indeed you're not,' said Miggs; 'I repeal
to master; master knows you're not, mim. The hair, and motion of
the shay, will do you good, mim, and you must not give way, you
must not raly. She must keep up, mustn't she, sir, for all out
sakes? I was a telling her that, just now. She must remember us,
even if she forgets herself. Master will persuade you, mim, I'm
sure. There's Miss Dolly's a-going you know, and master, and you,
and all so happy and so comfortable. Oh!' cried Miggs, turning on
the tears again, previous to quitting the room in great emotion, 'I
never see such a blessed one as she is for the forgiveness of her
spirit, I never, never, never did. Not more did master neither;
no, nor no one--never!'
For five minutes or thereabouts, Mrs Varden remained mildly opposed
to all her husband's prayers that she would oblige him by taking a
day's pleasure, but relenting at length, she suffered herself to be
persuaded, and granting him her free forgiveness (the merit
whereof, she meekly said, rested with the Manual and not with her),
desired that Miggs might come and help her dress. The handmaid
attended promptly, and it is but justice to their joint exertions
to record that, when the good lady came downstairs in course of
time, completely decked out for the journey, she really looked as
if nothing had happened, and appeared in the very best health
As to Dolly, there she was again, the very pink and pattern of good
looks, in a smart little cherry-coloured mantle, with a hood of
the same drawn over her head, and upon the top of that hood, a
little straw hat trimmed with cherry-coloured ribbons, and worn the
merest trifle on one side--just enough in short to make it the
wickedest and most provoking head-dress that ever malicious
milliner devised. And not to speak of the manner in which these
cherry-coloured decorations brightened her eyes, or vied with her
lips, or shed a new bloom on her face, she wore such a cruel little
muff, and such a heart-rending pair of shoes, and was so
surrounded and hemmed in, as it were, by aggravations of all kinds,
that when Mr Tappettit, holding the horse's head, saw her come out
of the house alone, such impulses came over him to decoy her into
the chaise and drive off like mad, that he would unquestionably
have done it, but for certain uneasy doubts besetting him as to the
shortest way to Gretna Green; whether it was up the street or
down, or up the right-hand turning or the left; and whether,
supposing all the turnpikes to be carried by storm, the blacksmith
in the end would marry them on credit; which by reason of his
clerical office appeared, even to his excited imagination, so
unlikely, that he hesitated. And while he stood hesitating, and
looking post-chaises-and-six at Dolly, out came his master and his
mistress, and the constant Miggs, and the opportunity was gone for
ever. For now the chaise creaked upon its springs, and Mrs Varden
was inside; and now it creaked again, and more than ever, and the
locksmith was inside; and now it bounded once, as if its heart beat
lightly, and Dolly was inside; and now it was gone and its place
was empty, and he and that dreary Miggs were standing in the street
The hearty locksmith was in as good a humour as if nothing had
occurred for the last twelve months to put him out of his way,
Dolly was all smiles and graces, and Mrs Varden was agreeable
beyond all precedent. As they jogged through the streets talking
of this thing and of that, who should be descried upon the pavement
but that very coachmaker, looking so genteel that nobody would have
believed he had ever had anything to do with a coach but riding in
it, and bowing like any nobleman. To be sure Dolly was confused
when she bowed again, and to be sure the cherry-coloured ribbons
trembled a little when she met his mournful eye, which seemed to
say, 'I have kept my word, I have begun, the business is going to
the devil, and you're the cause of it.' There he stood, rooted to
the ground: as Dolly said, like a statue; and as Mrs Varden said,
like a pump; till they turned the corner: and when her father
thought it was like his impudence, and her mother wondered what he
meant by it, Dolly blushed again till her very hood was pale.
But on they went, not the less merrily for this, and there was the
locksmith in the incautious fulness of his heart 'pulling-up' at
all manner of places, and evincing a most intimate acquaintance
with all the taverns on the road, and all the landlords and all the
landladies, with whom, indeed, the little horse was on equally
friendly terms, for he kept on stopping of his own accord. Never
were people so glad to see other people as these landlords and
landladies were to behold Mr Varden and Mrs Varden and Miss Varden;
and wouldn't they get out, said one; and they really must walk
upstairs, said another; and she would take it ill and be quite
certain they were proud if they wouldn't have a little taste of
something, said a third; and so on, that it was really quite a
Progress rather than a ride, and one continued scene of hospitality
from beginning to end. It was pleasant enough to be held in such
esteem, not to mention the refreshments; so Mrs Varden said nothing
at the time, and was all affability and delight--but such a body of
evidence as she collected against the unfortunate locksmith that
day, to be used thereafter as occasion might require, never was got
together for matrimonial purposes.
In course of time--and in course of a pretty long time too, for
these agreeable interruptions delayed them not a little,--they
arrived upon the skirts of the Forest, and riding pleasantly on
among the trees, came at last to the Maypole, where the locksmith's
cheerful 'Yoho!' speedily brought to the porch old John, and after
him young Joe, both of whom were so transfixed at sight of the
ladies, that for a moment they were perfectly unable to give them
any welcome, and could do nothing but stare.
It was only for a moment, however, that Joe forgot himself, for
speedily reviving he thrust his drowsy father aside--to Mr Willet's
mighty and inexpressible indignation--and darting out, stood ready
to help them to alight. It was necessary for Dolly to get out
first. Joe had her in his arms;--yes, though for a space of time
no longer than you could count one in, Joe had her in his arms.
Here was a glimpse of happiness!
It would be difficult to describe what a flat and commonplace
affair the helping Mrs Varden out afterwards was, but Joe did it,
and did it too with the best grace in the world. Then old John,
who, entertaining a dull and foggy sort of idea that Mrs Varden
wasn't fond of him, had been in some doubt whether she might not
have come for purposes of assault and battery, took courage, hoped
she was well, and offered to conduct her into the house. This
tender being amicably received, they marched in together; Joe and
Dolly followed, arm-in-arm, (happiness again!) and Varden brought
up the rear.
Old John would have it that they must sit in the bar, and nobody
objecting, into the bar they went. All bars are snug places, but
the Maypole's was the very snuggest, cosiest, and completest bar,
that ever the wit of man devised. Such amazing bottles in old
oaken pigeon-holes; such gleaming tankards dangling from pegs at
about the same inclination as thirsty men would hold them to their
lips; such sturdy little Dutch kegs ranged in rows on shelves; so
many lemons hanging in separate nets, and forming the fragrant
grove already mentioned in this chronicle, suggestive, with goodly
loaves of snowy sugar stowed away hard by, of punch, idealised
beyond all mortal knowledge; such closets, such presses, such
drawers full of pipes, such places for putting things away in
hollow window-seats, all crammed to the throat with eatables,
drinkables, or savoury condiments; lastly, and to crown all, as
typical of the immense resources of the establishment, and its
defiances to all visitors to cut and come again, such a stupendous
It is a poor heart that never rejoices--it must have been the
poorest, weakest, and most watery heart that ever beat, which would
not have warmed towards the Maypole bar. Mrs Varden's did
directly. She could no more have reproached John Willet among
those household gods, the kegs and bottles, lemons, pipes, and
cheese, than she could have stabbed him with his own bright
carving-knife. The order for dinner too--it might have soothed a
savage. 'A bit of fish,' said John to the cook, 'and some lamb
chops (breaded, with plenty of ketchup), and a good salad, and a
roast spring chicken, with a dish of sausages and mashed potatoes,
or something of that sort.' Something of that sort! The resources
of these inns! To talk carelessly about dishes, which in
themselves were a first-rate holiday kind of dinner, suitable to
one's wedding-day, as something of that sort: meaning, if you can't
get a spring chicken, any other trifle in the way of poultry will
do--such as a peacock, perhaps! The kitchen too, with its great
broad cavernous chimney; the kitchen, where nothing in the way of
cookery seemed impossible; where you could believe in anything to
eat, they chose to tell you of. Mrs Varden returned from the
contemplation of these wonders to the bar again, with a head quite
dizzy and bewildered. Her housekeeping capacity was not large
enough to comprehend them. She was obliged to go to sleep. Waking
was pain, in the midst of such immensity.
Dolly in the meanwhile, whose gay heart and head ran upon other
matters, passed out at the garden door, and glancing back now and
then (but of course not wondering whether Joe saw her), tripped
away by a path across the fields with which she was well
acquainted, to discharge her mission at the Warren; and this
deponent hath been informed and verily believes, that you might
have seen many less pleasant objects than the cherry-coloured
mantle and ribbons, as they went fluttering along the green meadows
in the bright light of the day, like giddy things as they were.
The proud consciousness of her trust, and the great importance she
derived from it, might have advertised it to all the house if she
had had to run the gauntlet of its inhabitants; but as Dolly had
played in every dull room and passage many and many a time, when a
child, and had ever since been the humble friend of Miss Haredale,
whose foster-sister she was, she was as free of the building as the
young lady herself. So, using no greater precaution than holding
her breath and walking on tiptoe as she passed the library door,
she went straight to Emma's room as a privileged visitor.
It was the liveliest room in the building. The chamber was sombre
like the rest for the matter of that, but the presence of youth and
beauty would make a prison cheerful (saving alas! that confinement
withers them), and lend some charms of their own to the gloomiest
scene. Birds, flowers, books, drawing, music, and a hundred such
graceful tokens of feminine loves and cares, filled it with more of
life and human sympathy than the whole house besides seemed made to
hold. There was heart in the room; and who that has a heart, ever
fails to recognise the silent presence of another!
Dolly had one undoubtedly, and it was not a tough one either,
though there was a little mist of coquettishness about it, such as
sometimes surrounds that sun of life in its morning, and slightly
dims its lustre. Thus, when Emma rose to greet her, and kissing
her affectionately on the cheek, told her, in her quiet way, that
she had been very unhappy, the tears stood in Dolly's eyes, and she
felt more sorry than she could tell; but next moment she happened
to raise them to the glass, and really there was something there so
exceedingly agreeable, that as she sighed, she smiled, and felt
'I have heard about it, miss,' said Dolly, 'and it's very sad
indeed, but when things are at the worst they are sure to mend.'
'But are you sure they are at the worst?' asked Emma with a smile.
'Why, I don't see how they can very well be more unpromising than
they are; I really don't,' said Dolly. 'And I bring something to
'Not from Edward?'
Dolly nodded and smiled, and feeling in her pockets (there were
pockets in those days) with an affectation of not being able to
find what she wanted, which greatly enhanced her importance, at
length produced the letter. As Emma hastily broke the seal and
became absorbed in its contents, Dolly's eyes, by one of those
strange accidents for which there is no accounting, wandered to the
glass again. She could not help wondering whether the coach-maker
suffered very much, and quite pitied the poor man.
It was a long letter--a very long letter, written close on all four
sides of the sheet of paper, and crossed afterwards; but it was not
a consolatory letter, for as Emma read it she stopped from time to
time to put her handkerchief to her eyes. To be sure Dolly
marvelled greatly to see her in so much distress, for to her
thinking a love affair ought to be one of the best jokes, and the
slyest, merriest kind of thing in life. But she set it down in her
own mind that all this came from Miss Haredale's being so constant,
and that if she would only take on with some other young gentleman--
just in the most innocent way possible, to keep her first lover up
to the mark--she would find herself inexpressibly comforted.
'I am sure that's what I should do if it was me,' thought Dolly.
'To make one's sweetheart miserable is well enough and quite right,
but to be made miserable one's self is a little too much!'
However it wouldn't do to say so, and therefore she sat looking on
in silence. She needed a pretty considerable stretch of patience,
for when the long letter had been read once all through it was read
again, and when it had been read twice all through it was read
again. During this tedious process, Dolly beguiled the time in the
most improving manner that occurred to her, by curling her hair on
her fingers, with the aid of the looking-glass before mentioned,
and giving it some killing twists.
Everything has an end. Even young ladies in love cannot read their
letters for ever. In course of time the packet was folded up, and
it only remained to write the answer.
But as this promised to be a work of time likewise, Emma said she
would put it off until after dinner, and that Dolly must dine with
her. As Dolly had made up her mind to do so beforehand, she
required very little pressing; and when they had settled this
point, they went to walk in the garden.
They strolled up and down the terrace walks, talking incessantly--
at least, Dolly never left off once--and making that quarter of the
sad and mournful house quite gay. Not that they talked loudly or
laughed much, but they were both so very handsome, and it was such
a breezy day, and their light dresses and dark curls appeared so
free and joyous in their abandonment, and Emma was so fair, and
Dolly so rosy, and Emma so delicately shaped, and Dolly so plump,
and--in short, there are no flowers for any garden like such
flowers, let horticulturists say what they may, and both house and
garden seemed to know it, and to brighten up sensibly.
After this, came the dinner and the letter writing, and some more
talking, in the course of which Miss Haredale took occasion to
charge upon Dolly certain flirtish and inconstant propensities,
which accusations Dolly seemed to think very complimentary indeed,
and to be mightily amused with. Finding her quite incorrigible in
this respect, Emma suffered her to depart; but not before she had
confided to her that important and never-sufficiently-to-be-taken-
care-of answer, and endowed her moreover with a pretty little
bracelet as a keepsake. Having clasped it on her arm, and again
advised her half in jest and half in earnest to amend her roguish
ways, for she knew she was fond of Joe at heart (which Dolly
stoutly denied, with a great many haughty protestations that she
hoped she could do better than that indeed! and so forth), she bade
her farewell; and after calling her back to give her more
supplementary messages for Edward, than anybody with tenfold the
gravity of Dolly Varden could be reasonably expected to remember,
at length dismissed her.
Dolly bade her good bye, and tripping lightly down the stairs
arrived at the dreaded library door, and was about to pass it again
on tiptoe, when it opened, and behold! there stood Mr Haredale.
Now, Dolly had from her childhood associated with this gentleman
the idea of something grim and ghostly, and being at the moment
conscience-stricken besides, the sight of him threw her into such a
flurry that she could neither acknowledge his presence nor run
away, so she gave a great start, and then with downcast eyes stood
still and trembled.
'Come here, girl,' said Mr Haredale, taking her by the hand. 'I
want to speak to you.'
'If you please, sir, I'm in a hurry,' faltered Dolly, 'and--you
have frightened me by coming so suddenly upon me, sir--I would
rather go, sir, if you'll be so good as to let me.'
'Immediately,' said Mr Haredale, who had by this time led her into
the room and closed the door. You shall go directly. You have
just left Emma?'
'Yes, sir, just this minute.--Father's waiting for me, sir, if
you'll please to have the goodness--'
I know. I know,' said Mr Haredale. 'Answer me a question. What
did you bring here to-day?'
'Bring here, sir?' faltered Dolly.
'You will tell me the truth, I am sure. Yes.'
Dolly hesitated for a little while, and somewhat emboldened by his
manner, said at last, 'Well then, sir. It was a letter.'
'From Mr Edward Chester, of course. And you are the bearer of the
Dolly hesitated again, and not being able to decide upon any other
course of action, burst into tears.
'You alarm yourself without cause,' said Mr Haredale. 'Why are you
so foolish? Surely you can answer me. You know that I have but
to put the question to Emma and learn the truth directly. Have you
the answer with you?'
Dolly had what is popularly called a spirit of her own, and being
now fairly at bay, made the best of it.
'Yes, sir,' she rejoined, trembling and frightened as she was.
'Yes, sir, I have. You may kill me if you please, sir, but I won't
give it up. I'm very sorry,--but I won't. There, sir.'
'I commend your firmness and your plain-speaking,' said Mr
Haredale. 'Rest assured that I have as little desire to take your
letter as your life. You are a very discreet messenger and a good
Not feeling quite certain, as she afterwards said, whether he might
not be 'coming over her' with these compliments, Dolly kept as far
from him as she could, cried again, and resolved to defend her
pocket (for the letter was there) to the last extremity.
'I have some design,' said Mr Haredale after a short silence,
during which a smile, as he regarded her, had struggled through
the gloom and melancholy that was natural to his face, 'of
providing a companion for my niece; for her life is a very lonely
one. Would you like the office? You are the oldest friend she
has, and the best entitled to it.'
'I don't know, sir,' answered Dolly, not sure but he was bantering
her; 'I can't say. I don't know what they might wish at home. I
couldn't give an opinion, sir.'
'If your friends had no objection, would you have any?' said Mr
Haredale. 'Come. There's a plain question; and easy to answer.'
'None at all that I know of sir,' replied Dolly. 'I should be very
glad to be near Miss Emma of course, and always am.'
'That's well,' said Mr Haredale. 'That is all I had to say. You
are anxious to go. Don't let me detain you.'
Dolly didn't let him, nor did she wait for him to try, for the
words had no sooner passed his lips than she was out of the room,
out of the house, and in the fields again.
The first thing to be done, of course, when she came to herself and
considered what a flurry she had been in, was to cry afresh; and
the next thing, when she reflected how well she had got over it,
was to laugh heartily. The tears once banished gave place to the
smiles, and at last Dolly laughed so much that she was fain to lean
against a tree, and give vent to her exultation. When she could
laugh no longer, and was quite tired, she put her head-dress to
rights, dried her eyes, looked back very merrily and triumphantly
at the Warren chimneys, which were just visible, and resumed her
The twilight had come on, and it was quickly growing dusk, but the
path was so familiar to her from frequent traversing that she
hardly thought of this, and certainly felt no uneasiness at being
left alone. Moreover, there was the bracelet to admire; and when
she had given it a good rub, and held it out at arm's length, it
sparkled and glittered so beautifully on her wrist, that to look at
it in every point of view and with every possible turn of the arm,
was quite an absorbing business. There was the letter too, and it
looked so mysterious and knowing, when she took it out of her
pocket, and it held, as she knew, so much inside, that to turn it
over and over, and think about it, and wonder how it began, and how
it ended, and what it said all through, was another matter of
constant occupation. Between the bracelet and the letter, there
was quite enough to do without thinking of anything else; and
admiring each by turns, Dolly went on gaily.
As she passed through a wicket-gate to where the path was narrow,
and lay between two hedges garnished here and there with trees, she
heard a rustling close at hand, which brought her to a sudden stop.
She listened. All was very quiet, and she went on again--not
absolutely frightened, but a little quicker than before perhaps,
and possibly not quite so much at her ease, for a check of that
kind is startling.
She had no sooner moved on again, than she was conscious of the
same sound, which was like that of a person tramping stealthily
among bushes and brushwood. Looking towards the spot whence it
appeared to come, she almost fancied she could make out a crouching
figure. She stopped again. All was quiet as before. On she went
once more--decidedly faster now--and tried to sing softly to
herself. It must he the wind.
But how came the wind to blow only when she walked, and cease when
she stood still? She stopped involuntarily as she made the
reflection, and the rustling noise stopped likewise. She was
really frightened now, and was yet hesitating what to do, when the
bushes crackled and snapped, and a man came plunging through them,
close before her.
It was for the moment an inexpressible relief to Dolly, to
recognise in the person who forced himself into the path so
abruptly, and now stood directly in her way, Hugh of the Maypole,
whose name she uttered in a tone of delighted surprise that came
from her heart.
'Was it you?' she said, 'how glad I am to see you! and how could
you terrify me so!'
In answer to which, he said nothing at all, but stood quite still,
looking at her.
'Did you come to meet me?' asked Dolly.
Hugh nodded, and muttered something to the effect that he had been
waiting for her, and had expected her sooner.
'I thought it likely they would send,' said Dolly, greatly
reassured by this.
'Nobody sent me,' was his sullen answer. 'I came of my own
The rough bearing of this fellow, and his wild, uncouth appearance,
had often filled the girl with a vague apprehension even when other
people were by, and had occasioned her to shrink from him
involuntarily. The having him for an unbidden companion in so
solitary a place, with the darkness fast gathering about them,
renewed and even increased the alarm she had felt at first.
If his manner had been merely dogged and passively fierce, as
usual, she would have had no greater dislike to his company than
she always felt--perhaps, indeed, would have been rather glad to
have had him at hand. But there was something of coarse bold
admiration in his look, which terrified her very much. She glanced
timidly towards him, uncertain whether to go forward or retreat,
and he stood gazing at her like a handsome satyr; and so they
remained for some short time without stirring or breaking silence.
At length Dolly took courage, shot past him, and hurried on.
'Why do you spend so much breath in avoiding me?' said Hugh,
accommodating his pace to hers, and keeping close at her side.
'I wish to get back as quickly as I can, and you walk too near me,
'Too near!' said Hugh, stooping over her so that she could feel his
breath upon her forehead. 'Why too near? You're always proud to
'I am proud to no one. You mistake me,' answered Dolly. 'Fall
back, if you please, or go on.'
'Nay, mistress,' he rejoined, endeavouring to draw her arm through
his, 'I'll walk with you.'
She released herself and clenching her little hand, struck him with
right good will. At this, Maypole Hugh burst into a roar of
laughter, and passing his arm about her waist, held her in his
strong grasp as easily as if she had been a bird.
'Ha ha ha! Well done, mistress! Strike again. You shall beat my
face, and tear my hair, and pluck my beard up by the roots, and
welcome, for the sake of your bright eyes. Strike again, mistress.
Do. Ha ha ha! I like it.'
'Let me go,' she cried, endeavouring with both her hands to push
him off. 'Let me go this moment.'
'You had as good be kinder to me, Sweetlips,' said Hugh. 'You had,
indeed. Come. Tell me now. Why are you always so proud? I
don't quarrel with you for it. I love you when you're proud. Ha
ha ha! You can't hide your beauty from a poor fellow; that's a
She gave him no answer, but as he had not yet checked her progress,
continued to press forward as rapidly as she could. At length,
between the hurry she had made, her terror, and the tightness of
his embrace, her strength failed her, and she could go no further.
'Hugh,' cried the panting girl, 'good Hugh; if you will leave me I
will give you anything--everything I have--and never tell one word
of this to any living creature.'
'You had best not,' he answered. 'Harkye, little dove, you had
best not. All about here know me, and what I dare do if I have a
mind. If ever you are going to tell, stop when the words are on
your lips, and think of the mischief you'll bring, if you do, upon
some innocent heads that you wouldn't wish to hurt a hair of.
Bring trouble on me, and I'll bring trouble and something more on
them in return. I care no more for them than for so many dogs; not
so much--why should I? I'd sooner kill a man than a dog any day.
I've never been sorry for a man's death in all my life, and I have
for a dog's.'
There was something so thoroughly savage in the manner of these
expressions, and the looks and gestures by which they were
accompanied, that her great fear of him gave her new strength, and
enabled her by a sudden effort to extricate herself and run fleetly
from him. But Hugh was as nimble, strong, and swift of foot, as
any man in broad England, and it was but a fruitless expenditure of
energy, for he had her in his encircling arms again before she had
gone a hundred yards.
'Softly, darling--gently--would you fly from rough Hugh, that loves
you as well as any drawing-room gallant?'
'I would,' she answered, struggling to free herself again. 'I
'A fine for crying out,' said Hugh. 'Ha ha ha! A fine, pretty
one, from your lips. I pay myself! Ha ha ha!'
'Help! help! help!' As she shrieked with the utmost violence she
could exert, a shout was heard in answer, and another, and another.
'Thank Heaven!' cried the girl in an ecstasy. 'Joe, dear Joe, this
Her assailant paused, and stood irresolute for a moment, but the
shouts drawing nearer and coming quick upon them, forced him to a
speedy decision. He released her, whispered with a menacing look,
'Tell HIM: and see what follows!' and leaping the hedge, was gone
in an instant. Dolly darted off, and fairly ran into Joe Willet's
'What is the matter? are you hurt? what was it? who was it? where
is he? what was he like?' with a great many encouraging expressions
and assurances of safety, were the first words Joe poured forth.
But poor little Dolly was so breathless and terrified that for some
time she was quite unable to answer him, and hung upon his
shoulder, sobbing and crying as if her heart would break.
Joe had not the smallest objection to have her hanging on his
shoulder; no, not the least, though it crushed the cherry-coloured
ribbons sadly, and put the smart little hat out of all shape. But
he couldn't bear to see her cry; it went to his very heart. He
tried to console her, bent over her, whispered to her--some say
kissed her, but that's a fable. At any rate he said all the kind
and tender things he could think of and Dolly let him go on and
didn't interrupt him once, and it was a good ten minutes before she
was able to raise her head and thank him.
'What was it that frightened you?' said Joe.
A man whose person was unknown to her had followed her, she
answered; he began by begging, and went on to threats of robbery,
which he was on the point of carrying into execution, and would
have executed, but for Joe's timely aid. The hesitation and
confusion with which she said this, Joe attributed to the fright
she had sustained, and no suspicion of the truth occurred to him
for a moment.
'Stop when the words are on your lips.' A hundred times that
night, and very often afterwards, when the disclosure was rising
to her tongue, Dolly thought of that, and repressed it. A deeply
rooted dread of the man; the conviction that his ferocious nature,
once roused, would stop at nothing; and the strong assurance that
if she impeached him, the full measure of his wrath and vengeance
would be wreaked on Joe, who had preserved her; these were
considerations she had not the courage to overcome, and inducements
to secrecy too powerful for her to surmount.
Joe, for his part, was a great deal too happy to inquire very
curiously into the matter; and Dolly being yet too tremulous to
walk without assistance, they went forward very slowly, and in his
mind very pleasantly, until the Maypole lights were near at hand,
twinkling their cheerful welcome, when Dolly stopped suddenly and
with a half scream exclaimed,
'What letter?' cried Joe.
'That I was carrying--I had it in my hand. My bracelet too,' she
said, clasping her wrist. 'I have lost them both.'
'Do you mean just now?' said Joe.
'Either I dropped them then, or they were taken from me,' answered
Dolly, vainly searching her pocket and rustling her dress. 'They
are gone, both gone. What an unhappy girl I am!' With these words
poor Dolly, who to do her justice was quite as sorry for the loss
of the letter as for her bracelet, fell a-crying again, and
bemoaned her fate most movingly.
Joe tried to comfort her with the assurance that directly he had
housed her in the Maypole, he would return to the spot with a
lantern (for it was now quite dark) and make strict search for the
missing articles, which there was great probability of his finding,
as it was not likely that anybody had passed that way since, and
she was not conscious that they had been forcibly taken from her.
Dolly thanked him very heartily for this offer, though with no
great hope of his quest being successful; and so with many
lamentations on her side, and many hopeful words on his, and much
weakness on the part of Dolly and much tender supporting on the
part of Joe, they reached the Maypole bar at last, where the
locksmith and his wife and old John were yet keeping high festival.
Mr Willet received the intelligence of Dolly's trouble with that
surprising presence of mind and readiness of speech for which he
was so eminently distinguished above all other men. Mrs Varden
expressed her sympathy for her daughter's distress by scolding her
roundly for being so late; and the honest locksmith divided himself
between condoling with and kissing Dolly, and shaking hands
heartily with Joe, whom he could not sufficiently praise or thank.
In reference to this latter point, old John was far from agreeing
with his friend; for besides that he by no means approved of an
adventurous spirit in the abstract, it occurred to him that if his
son and heir had been seriously damaged in a scuffle, the
consequences would assuredly have been expensive and inconvenient,
and might perhaps have proved detrimental to the Maypole business.
Wherefore, and because he looked with no favourable eye upon young
girls, but rather considered that they and the whole female sex
were a kind of nonsensical mistake on the part of Nature, he took
occasion to retire and shake his head in private at the boiler;
inspired by which silent oracle, he was moved to give Joe various
stealthy nudges with his elbow, as a parental reproof and gentle
admonition to mind his own business and not make a fool of himself.
Joe, however, took down the lantern and lighted it; and arming
himself with a stout stick, asked whether Hugh was in the stable.
'He's lying asleep before the kitchen fire, sir,' said Mr Willet.
'What do you want him for?'
'I want him to come with me to look after this bracelet and
letter,' answered Joe. 'Halloa there! Hugh!'
Dolly turned pale as death, and felt as if she must faint
forthwith. After a few moments, Hugh came staggering in,
stretching himself and yawning according to custom, and presenting
every appearance of having been roused from a sound nap.
'Here, sleepy-head,' said Joe, giving him the lantern. 'Carry
this, and bring the dog, and that small cudgel of yours. And woe
betide the fellow if we come upon him.'
'What fellow?' growled Hugh, rubbing his eyes and shaking himself.
'What fellow?' returned Joe, who was in a state of great valour and
bustle; 'a fellow you ought to know of and be more alive about.
It's well for the like of you, lazy giant that you are, to be
snoring your time away in chimney-corners, when honest men's
daughters can't cross even our quiet meadows at nightfall without
being set upon by footpads, and frightened out of their precious
'They never rob me,' cried Hugh with a laugh. 'I have got nothing
to lose. But I'd as lief knock them at head as any other men. How
many are there?'
'Only one,' said Dolly faintly, for everybody looked at her.
'And what was he like, mistress?' said Hugh with a glance at young
Willet, so slight and momentary that the scowl it conveyed was lost
on all but her. 'About my height?'
'Not--not so tall,' Dolly replied, scarce knowing what she said.
'His dress,' said Hugh, looking at her keenly, 'like--like any of
ours now? I know all the people hereabouts, and maybe could give a
guess at the man, if I had anything to guide me.'
Dolly faltered and turned paler yet; then answered that he was
wrapped in a loose coat and had his face hidden by a handkerchief
and that she could give no other description of him.
'You wouldn't know him if you saw him then, belike?' said Hugh with
a malicious grin.
'I should not,' answered Dolly, bursting into tears again. 'I
don't wish to see him. I can't bear to think of him. I can't talk
about him any more. Don't go to look for these things, Mr Joe,
pray don't. I entreat you not to go with that man.'
'Not to go with me!' cried Hugh. 'I'm too rough for them all.
They're all afraid of me. Why, bless you mistress, I've the
tenderest heart alive. I love all the ladies, ma'am,' said Hugh,
turning to the locksmith's wife.
Mrs Varden opined that if he did, he ought to be ashamed of
himself; such sentiments being more consistent (so she argued) with
a benighted Mussulman or wild Islander than with a stanch
Protestant. Arguing from this imperfect state of his morals, Mrs
Varden further opined that he had never studied the Manual. Hugh
admitting that he never had, and moreover that he couldn't read,
Mrs Varden declared with much severity, that he ought to he even
more ashamed of himself than before, and strongly recommended him
to save up his pocket-money for the purchase of one, and further to
teach himself the contents with all convenient diligence. She was
still pursuing this train of discourse, when Hugh, somewhat
unceremoniously and irreverently, followed his young master out,
and left her to edify the rest of the company. This she proceeded
to do, and finding that Mr Willet's eyes were fixed upon her with
an appearance of deep attention, gradually addressed the whole of
her discourse to him, whom she entertained with a moral and
theological lecture of considerable length, in the conviction that
great workings were taking place in his spirit. The simple truth
was, however, that Mr Willet, although his eyes were wide open and
he saw a woman before him whose head by long and steady looking at
seemed to grow bigger and bigger until it filled the whole bar, was
to all other intents and purposes fast asleep; and so sat leaning
back in his chair with his hands in his pockets until his son's
return caused him to wake up with a deep sigh, and a faint
impression that he had been dreaming about pickled pork and greens--
a vision of his slumbers which was no doubt referable to the
circumstance of Mrs Varden's having frequently pronounced the word
'Grace' with much emphasis; which word, entering the portals of Mr
Willet's brain as they stood ajar, and coupling itself with the
words 'before meat,' which were there ranging about, did in time
suggest a particular kind of meat together with that description of
vegetable which is usually its companion.
The search was wholly unsuccessful. Joe had groped along the path
a dozen times, and among the grass, and in the dry ditch, and in
the hedge, but all in vain. Dolly, who was quite inconsolable for
her loss, wrote a note to Miss Haredale giving her the same account
of it that she had given at the Maypole, which Joe undertook to
deliver as soon as the family were stirring next day. That done,
they sat down to tea in the bar, where there was an uncommon
display of buttered toast, and--in order that they might not grow
faint for want of sustenance, and might have a decent halting-
place or halfway house between dinner and supper--a few savoury
trifles in the shape of great rashers of broiled ham, which being
well cured, done to a turn, and smoking hot, sent forth a tempting
and delicious fragrance.
Mrs Varden was seldom very Protestant at meals, unless it happened
that they were underdone, or overdone, or indeed that anything
occurred to put her out of humour. Her spirits rose considerably
on beholding these goodly preparations, and from the nothingness of
good works, she passed to the somethingness of ham and toast with
great cheerfulness. Nay, under the influence of these wholesome
stimulants, she sharply reproved her daughter for being low and
despondent (which she considered an unacceptable frame of mind),
and remarked, as she held her own plate for a fresh supply, that it
would be well for Dolly, who pined over the loss of a toy and a
sheet of paper, if she would reflect upon the voluntary sacrifices
of the missionaries in foreign parts who lived chiefly on salads.
The proceedings of such a day occasion various fluctuations in the
human thermometer, and especially in instruments so sensitively and
delicately constructed as Mrs Varden. Thus, at dinner Mrs V. stood
at summer heat; genial, smiling, and delightful. After dinner, in
the sunshine of the wine, she went up at least half-a-dozen
degrees, and was perfectly enchanting. As its effect subsided, she
fell rapidly, went to sleep for an hour or so at temperate, and
woke at something below freezing. Now she was at summer heat
again, in the shade; and when tea was over, and old John, producing
a bottle of cordial from one of the oaken cases, insisted on her
sipping two glasses thereof in slow succession, she stood steadily
at ninety for one hour and a quarter. Profiting by experience, the
locksmith took advantage of this genial weather to smoke his pipe
in the porch, and in consequence of this prudent management, he was
fully prepared, when the glass went down again, to start homewards
The horse was accordingly put in, and the chaise brought round to
the door. Joe, who would on no account be dissuaded from escorting
them until they had passed the most dreary and solitary part of the
road, led out the grey mare at the same time; and having helped
Dolly into her seat (more happiness!) sprung gaily into the saddle.
Then, after many good nights, and admonitions to wrap up, and
glancing of lights, and handing in of cloaks and shawls, the chaise
rolled away, and Joe trotted beside it--on Dolly's side, no doubt,
and pretty close to the wheel too.
It was a fine bright night, and for all her lowness of spirits
Dolly kept looking up at the stars in a manner so bewitching (and
SHE knew it!) that Joe was clean out of his senses, and plainly
showed that if ever a man were--not to say over head and ears, but
over the Monument and the top of Saint Paul's in love, that man was
himself. The road was a very good one; not at all a jolting road,
or an uneven one; and yet Dolly held the side of the chaise with
one little hand, all the way. If there had been an executioner
behind him with an uplifted axe ready to chop off his head if he
touched that hand, Joe couldn't have helped doing it. From putting
his own hand upon it as if by chance, and taking it away again
after a minute or so, he got to riding along without taking it off
at all; as if he, the escort, were bound to do that as an important
part of his duty, and had come out for the purpose. The most
curious circumstance about this little incident was, that Dolly
didn't seem to know of it. She looked so innocent and unconscious
when she turned her eyes on Joe, that it was quite provoking.
She talked though; talked about her fright, and about Joe's coming
up to rescue her, and about her gratitude, and about her fear that
she might not have thanked him enough, and about their always being
friends from that time forth--and about all that sort of thing.
And when Joe said, not friends he hoped, Dolly was quite surprised,
and said not enemies she hoped; and when Joe said, couldn't they be
something much better than either, Dolly all of a sudden found out
a star which was brighter than all the other stars, and begged to
call his attention to the same, and was ten thousand times more
innocent and unconscious than ever.
In this manner they travelled along, talking very little above a
whisper, and wishing the road could be stretched out to some dozen
times its natural length--at least that was Joe's desire--when, as
they were getting clear of the forest and emerging on the more
frequented road, they heard behind them the sound of a horse's feet
at a round trot, which growing rapidly louder as it drew nearer,
elicited a scream from Mrs Varden, and the cry 'a friend!' from the
rider, who now came panting up, and checked his horse beside them.
'This man again!' cried Dolly, shuddering.
'Hugh!' said Joe. 'What errand are you upon?'
'I come to ride back with you,' he answered, glancing covertly at
the locksmith's daughter. 'HE sent me.
'My father!' said poor Joe; adding under his breath, with a very
unfilial apostrophe, 'Will he never think me man enough to take
care of myself!'
'Aye!' returned Hugh to the first part of the inquiry. 'The roads
are not safe just now, he says, and you'd better have a companion.'
'Ride on then,' said Joe. 'I'm not going to turn yet.'
Hugh complied, and they went on again. It was his whim or humour
to ride immediately before the chaise, and from this position he
constantly turned his head, and looked back. Dolly felt that he
looked at her, but she averted her eyes and feared to raise them
once, so great was the dread with which he had inspired her.
This interruption, and the consequent wakefulness of Mrs Varden,
who had been nodding in her sleep up to this point, except for a
minute or two at a time, when she roused herself to scold the
locksmith for audaciously taking hold of her to prevent her nodding
herself out of the chaise, put a restraint upon the whispered
conversation, and made it difficult of resumption. Indeed, before
they had gone another mile, Gabriel stopped at his wife's desire,
and that good lady protested she would not hear of Joe's going a
step further on any account whatever. It was in vain for Joe to
protest on the other hand that he was by no means tired, and would
turn back presently, and would see them safely past such a point,
and so forth. Mrs Varden was obdurate, and being so was not to be
overcome by mortal agency.
'Good night--if I must say it,' said Joe, sorrowfully.
'Good night,' said Dolly. She would have added, 'Take care of that
man, and pray don't trust him,' but he had turned his horse's head,
and was standing close to them. She had therefore nothing for it
but to suffer Joe to give her hand a gentle squeeze, and when the
chaise had gone on for some distance, to look back and wave it, as
he still lingered on the spot where they had parted, with the tall
dark figure of Hugh beside him.
What she thought about, going home; and whether the coach-maker
held as favourable a place in her meditations as he had occupied in
the morning, is unknown. They reached home at last--at last, for
it was a long way, made none the shorter by Mrs Varden's grumbling.
Miggs hearing the sound of wheels was at the door immediately.
'Here they are, Simmun! Here they are!' cried Miggs, clapping her
hands, and issuing forth to help her mistress to alight. 'Bring a
chair, Simmun. Now, an't you the better for it, mim? Don't you
feel more yourself than you would have done if you'd have stopped
at home? Oh, gracious! how cold you are! Goodness me, sir, she's
a perfect heap of ice.'
'I can't help it, my good girl. You had better take her in to the
fire,' said the locksmith.
'Master sounds unfeeling, mim,' said Miggs, in a tone of
commiseration, 'but such is not his intentions, I'm sure. After
what he has seen of you this day, I never will believe but that he
has a deal more affection in his heart than to speak unkind. Come
in and sit yourself down by the fire; there's a good dear--do.'
Mrs Varden complied. The locksmith followed with his hands in his
pockets, and Mr Tappertit trundled off with the chaise to a
'Martha, my dear,' said the locksmith, when they reached the
parlour, 'if you'll look to Dolly yourself or let somebody else do
it, perhaps it will be only kind and reasonable. She has been
frightened, you know, and is not at all well to-night.'
In fact, Dolly had thrown herself upon the sofa, quite regardless
of all the little finery of which she had been so proud in the
morning, and with her face buried in her hands was crying very
At first sight of this phenomenon (for Dolly was by no means
accustomed to displays of this sort, rather learning from her
mother's example to avoid them as much as possible) Mrs Varden
expressed her belief that never was any woman so beset as she; that
her life was a continued scene of trial; that whenever she was
disposed to be well and cheerful, so sure were the people around
her to throw, by some means or other, a damp upon her spirits; and
that, as she had enjoyed herself that day, and Heaven knew it was
very seldom she did enjoy herself so she was now to pay the
penalty. To all such propositions Miggs assented freely. Poor
Dolly, however, grew none the better for these restoratives, but
rather worse, indeed; and seeing that she was really ill, both Mrs
Varden and Miggs were moved to compassion, and tended her in
But even then, their very kindness shaped itself into their usual
course of policy, and though Dolly was in a swoon, it was rendered
clear to the meanest capacity, that Mrs Varden was the sufferer.
Thus when Dolly began to get a little better, and passed into that
stage in which matrons hold that remonstrance and argument may be
successfully applied, her mother represented to her, with tears in
her eyes, that if she had been flurried and worried that day, she
must remember it was the common lot of humanity, and in especial of
womankind, who through the whole of their existence must expect no
less, and were bound to make up their minds to meek endurance and
patient resignation. Mrs Varden entreated her to remember that one
of these days she would, in all probability, have to do violence to
her feelings so far as to be married; and that marriage, as she
might see every day of her life (and truly she did) was a state
requiring great fortitude and forbearance. She represented to her
in lively colours, that if she (Mrs V.) had not, in steering her
course through this vale of tears, been supported by a strong
principle of duty which alone upheld and prevented her from
drooping, she must have been in her grave many years ago; in which
case she desired to know what would have become of that errant
spirit (meaning the locksmith), of whose eye she was the very
apple, and in whose path she was, as it were, a shining light and
Miss Miggs also put in her word to the same effect. She said that
indeed and indeed Miss Dolly might take pattern by her blessed
mother, who, she always had said, and always would say, though she
were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for it next minute, was
the mildest, amiablest, forgivingest-spirited, longest-sufferingest
female as ever she could have believed; the mere narration of whose
excellencies had worked such a wholesome change in the mind of her
own sister-in-law, that, whereas, before, she and her husband lived
like cat and dog, and were in the habit of exchanging brass
candlesticks, pot-lids, flat-irons, and other such strong
resentments, they were now the happiest and affectionatest couple
upon earth; as could be proved any day on application at Golden
Lion Court, number twenty-sivin, second bell-handle on the right-
hand doorpost. After glancing at herself as a comparatively
worthless vessel, but still as one of some desert, she besought her
to bear in mind that her aforesaid dear and only mother was of a
weakly constitution and excitable temperament, who had constantly
to sustain afflictions in domestic life, compared with which
thieves and robbers were as nothing, and yet never sunk down or
gave way to despair or wrath, but, in prize-fighting phraseology,
always came up to time with a cheerful countenance, and went in to
win as if nothing had happened. When Miggs finished her solo, her
mistress struck in again, and the two together performed a duet to
the same purpose; the burden being, that Mrs Varden was persecuted
perfection, and Mr Varden, as the representative of mankind in that
apartment, a creature of vicious and brutal habits, utterly
insensible to the blessings he enjoyed. Of so refined a character,
indeed, was their talent of assault under the mask of sympathy,
that when Dolly, recovering, embraced her father tenderly, as in
vindication of his goodness, Mrs Varden expressed her solemn hope
that this would be a lesson to him for the remainder of his life,
and that he would do some little justice to a woman's nature ever
afterwards--in which aspiration Miss Miggs, by divers sniffs and
coughs, more significant than the longest oration, expressed her
But the great joy of Miggs's heart was, that she not only picked up
a full account of what had happened, but had the exquisite delight
of conveying it to Mr Tappertit for his jealousy and torture. For
that gentleman, on account of Dolly's indisposition, had been
requested to take his supper in the workshop, and it was conveyed
thither by Miss Miggs's own fair hands.
'Oh Simmun!' said the young lady, 'such goings on to-day! Oh,
gracious me, Simmun!'
Mr Tappertit, who was not in the best of humours, and who
disliked Miss Miggs more when she laid her hand on her heart and
panted for breath than at any other time, as her deficiency of
outline was most apparent under such circumstances, eyed her over
in his loftiest style, and deigned to express no curiosity
'I never heard the like, nor nobody else,' pursued Miggs. 'The
idea of interfering with HER. What people can see in her to make
it worth their while to do so, that's the joke--he he he!'
Finding there was a lady in the case, Mr Tappertit haughtily
requested his fair friend to be more explicit, and demanded to know
what she meant by 'her.'
'Why, that Dolly,' said Miggs, with an extremely sharp emphasis on
the name. 'But, oh upon my word and honour, young Joseph Willet is
a brave one; and he do deserve her, that he do.'
'Woman!' said Mr Tappertit, jumping off the counter on which he was
'My stars, Simmun!' cried Miggs, in affected astonishment. 'You
frighten me to death! What's the matter?'
'There are strings,' said Mr Tappertit, flourishing his bread-and-
cheese knife in the air, 'in the human heart that had better not be
wibrated. That's what's the matter.'
'Oh, very well--if you're in a huff,' cried Miggs, turning away.
'Huff or no huff,' said Mr Tappertit, detaining her by the wrist.
'What do you mean, Jezebel? What were you going to say? Answer
Notwithstanding this uncivil exhortation, Miggs gladly did as she
was required; and told him how that their young mistress, being
alone in the meadows after dark, had been attacked by three or four
tall men, who would have certainly borne her away and perhaps
murdered her, but for the timely arrival of Joseph Willet, who with
his own single hand put them all to flight, and rescued her; to the
lasting admiration of his fellow-creatures generally, and to the
eternal love and gratitude of Dolly Varden.
'Very good,' said Mr Tappertit, fetching a long breath when the
tale was told, and rubbing his hair up till it stood stiff and
straight on end all over his head. 'His days are numbered.'
'I tell you,' said the 'prentice, 'his days are numbered. Leave
me. Get along with you.'
Miggs departed at his bidding, but less because of his bidding than
because she desired to chuckle in secret. When she had given vent
to her satisfaction, she returned to the parlour; where the
locksmith, stimulated by quietness and Toby, had become talkative,
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