Part 6 out of 15
break out, and it does you honour; but when other folks are by, you
must, for your own sake and safety, be as like your usual self as
though you owed me no obligation whatever, and had never stood
within these walls. You comprehend me?'
Hugh understood him perfectly. After a pause he muttered that he
hoped his patron would involve him in no trouble about this last
letter; for he had kept it back solely with the view of pleasing
him. He was continuing in this strain, when Mr Chester with a
most beneficent and patronising air cut him short by saying:
'My good fellow, you have my promise, my word, my sealed bond (for
a verbal pledge with me is quite as good), that I will always
protect you so long as you deserve it. Now, do set your mind at
rest. Keep it at ease, I beg of you. When a man puts himself in
my power so thoroughly as you have done, I really feel as though he
had a kind of claim upon me. I am more disposed to mercy and
forbearance under such circumstances than I can tell you, Hugh. Do
look upon me as your protector, and rest assured, I entreat you,
that on the subject of that indiscretion, you may preserve, as long
as you and I are friends, the lightest heart that ever beat within
a human breast. Fill that glass once more to cheer you on your
road homewards--I am really quite ashamed to think how far you have
to go--and then God bless you for the night.'
'They think,' said Hugh, when he had tossed the liquor down, 'that
I am sleeping soundly in the stable. Ha ha ha! The stable door is
shut, but the steed's gone, master.'
'You are a most convivial fellow,' returned his friend, 'and I love
your humour of all things. Good night! Take the greatest
possible care of yourself, for my sake!'
It was remarkable that during the whole interview, each had
endeavoured to catch stolen glances of the other's face, and had
never looked full at it. They interchanged one brief and hasty
glance as Hugh went out, averted their eyes directly, and so
separated. Hugh closed the double doors behind him, carefully and
without noise; and Mr Chester remained in his easy-chair, with his
gaze intently fixed upon the fire.
'Well!' he said, after meditating for a long time--and said with a
deep sigh and an uneasy shifting of his attitude, as though he
dismissed some other subject from his thoughts, and returned to
that which had held possession of them all the day--the plot
thickens; I have thrown the shell; it will explode, I think, in
eight-and-forty hours, and should scatter these good folks
amazingly. We shall see!'
He went to bed and fell asleep, but had not slept long when he
started up and thought that Hugh was at the outer door, calling in
a strange voice, very different from his own, to be admitted. The
delusion was so strong upon him, and was so full of that vague
terror of the night in which such visions have their being, that he
rose, and taking his sheathed sword in his hand, opened the door,
and looked out upon the staircase, and towards the spot where Hugh
had lain asleep; and even spoke to him by name. But all was dark
and quiet, and creeping back to bed again, he fell, after an hour's
uneasy watching, into a second sleep, and woke no more till
The thoughts of worldly men are for ever regulated by a moral law
of gravitation, which, like the physical one, holds them down to
earth. The bright glory of day, and the silent wonders of a
starlit night, appeal to their minds in vain. There are no signs
in the sun, or in the moon, or in the stars, for their reading.
They are like some wise men, who, learning to know each planet by
its Latin name, have quite forgotten such small heavenly
constellations as Charity, Forbearance, Universal Love, and Mercy,
although they shine by night and day so brightly that the blind may
see them; and who, looking upward at the spangled sky, see nothing
there but the reflection of their own great wisdom and book-
It is curious to imagine these people of the world, busy in
thought, turning their eyes towards the countless spheres that
shine above us, and making them reflect the only images their minds
contain. The man who lives but in the breath of princes, has
nothing his sight but stars for courtiers' breasts. The envious
man beholds his neighbours' honours even in the sky; to the money-
hoarder, and the mass of worldly folk, the whole great universe
above glitters with sterling coin--fresh from the mint--stamped
with the sovereign's head--coming always between them and heaven,
turn where they may. So do the shadows of our own desires stand
between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is
Everything was fresh and gay, as though the world were but that
morning made, when Mr Chester rode at a tranquil pace along the
Forest road. Though early in the season, it was warm and genial
weather; the trees were budding into leaf, the hedges and the grass
were green, the air was musical with songs of birds, and high above
them all the lark poured out her richest melody. In shady spots,
the morning dew sparkled on each young leaf and blade of grass;
and where the sun was shining, some diamond drops yet glistened
brightly, as in unwillingness to leave so fair a world, and have
such brief existence. Even the light wind, whose rustling was as
gentle to the ear as softly-falling water, had its hope and
promise; and, leaving a pleasant fragrance in its track as it went
fluttering by, whispered of its intercourse with Summer, and of his
The solitary rider went glancing on among the trees, from sunlight
into shade and back again, at the same even pace--looking about
him, certainly, from time to time, but with no greater thought of
the day or the scene through which he moved, than that he was
fortunate (being choicely dressed) to have such favourable weather.
He smiled very complacently at such times, but rather as if he were
satisfied with himself than with anything else: and so went riding
on, upon his chestnut cob, as pleasant to look upon as his own
horse, and probably far less sensitive to the many cheerful
influences by which he was surrounded.
In the course of time, the Maypole's massive chimneys rose upon his
view: but he quickened not his pace one jot, and with the same cool
gravity rode up to the tavern porch. John Willet, who was toasting
his red face before a great fire in the bar, and who, with
surpassing foresight and quickness of apprehension, had been
thinking, as he looked at the blue sky, that if that state of
things lasted much longer, it might ultimately become necessary to
leave off fires and throw the windows open, issued forth to hold
his stirrup; calling lustily for Hugh.
'Oh, you're here, are you, sir?' said John, rather surprised by the
quickness with which he appeared. 'Take this here valuable animal
into the stable, and have more than particular care of him if you
want to keep your place. A mortal lazy fellow, sir; he needs a
deal of looking after.'
'But you have a son,' returned Mr Chester, giving his bridle to
Hugh as he dismounted, and acknowledging his salute by a careless
motion of his hand towards his hat. 'Why don't you make HIM
'Why, the truth is, sir,' replied John with great importance, 'that
my son--what, you're a-listening are you, villain?'
'Who's listening?' returned Hugh angrily. 'A treat, indeed, to
hear YOU speak! Would you have me take him in till he's cool?'
'Walk him up and down further off then, sir,' cried old John, 'and
when you see me and a noble gentleman entertaining ourselves with
talk, keep your distance. If you don't know your distance, sir,'
added Mr Willet, after an enormously long pause, during which he
fixed his great dull eyes on Hugh, and waited with exemplary
patience for any little property in the way of ideas that might
come to him, 'we'll find a way to teach you, pretty soon.'
Hugh shrugged his shoulders scornfully, and in his reckless
swaggering way, crossed to the other side of the little green, and
there, with the bridle slung loosely over his shoulder, led the
horse to and fro, glancing at his master every now and then from
under his bushy eyebrows, with as sinister an aspect as one would
desire to see.
Mr Chester, who, without appearing to do so, had eyed him
attentively during this brief dispute, stepped into the porch, and
turning abruptly to Mr Willet, said,
'You keep strange servants, John.'
'Strange enough to look at, sir, certainly,' answered the host;
'but out of doors; for horses, dogs, and the likes of that; there
an't a better man in England than is that Maypole Hugh yonder. He
an't fit for indoors,' added Mr Willet, with the confidential air
of a man who felt his own superior nature. 'I do that; but if that
chap had only a little imagination, sir--'
'He's an active fellow now, I dare swear,' said Mr Chester, in a
musing tone, which seemed to suggest that he would have said the
same had there been nobody to hear him.
'Active, sir!' retorted John, with quite an expression in his face;
'that chap! Hallo there! You, sir! Bring that horse here, and
go and hang my wig on the weathercock, to show this gentleman
whether you're one of the lively sort or not.'
Hugh made no answer, but throwing the bridle to his master, and
snatching his wig from his head, in a manner so unceremonious and
hasty that the action discomposed Mr Willet not a little, though
performed at his own special desire, climbed nimbly to the very
summit of the maypole before the house, and hanging the wig upon
the weathercock, sent it twirling round like a roasting jack.
Having achieved this performance, he cast it on the ground, and
sliding down the pole with inconceivable rapidity, alighted on his
feet almost as soon as it had touched the earth.
'There, sir,' said John, relapsing into his usual stolid state,
'you won't see that at many houses, besides the Maypole, where
there's good accommodation for man and beast--nor that neither,
though that with him is nothing.'
This last remark bore reference to his vaulting on horseback, as
upon Mr Chester's first visit, and quickly disappearing by the
'That with him is nothing,' repeated Mr Willet, brushing his wig
with his wrist, and inwardly resolving to distribute a small charge
for dust and damage to that article of dress, through the various
items of his guest's bill; 'he'll get out of a'most any winder in
the house. There never was such a chap for flinging himself about
and never hurting his bones. It's my opinion, sir, that it's
pretty nearly allowing to his not having any imagination; and that
if imagination could be (which it can't) knocked into him, he'd
never be able to do it any more. But we was a-talking, sir, about
'True, Willet, true,' said his visitor, turning again towards the
landlord with his accustomed serenity of face. 'My good friend,
what about him?'
It has been reported that Mr Willet, previously to making answer,
winked. But as he was never known to be guilty of such lightness
of conduct either before or afterwards, this may be looked upon as
a malicious invention of his enemies--founded, perhaps, upon the
undisputed circumstance of his taking his guest by the third breast
button of his coat, counting downwards from the chin, and pouring
his reply into his ear:
'Sir,' whispered John, with dignity, 'I know my duty. We want no
love-making here, sir, unbeknown to parents. I respect a certain
young gentleman, taking him in the light of a young gentleman; I
respect a certain young lady, taking her in the light of a young
lady; but of the two as a couple, I have no knowledge, sir, none
whatever. My son, sir, is upon his patrole.'
'I thought I saw him looking through the corner window but this
moment,' said Mr Chester, who naturally thought that being on
patrole, implied walking about somewhere.
'No doubt you did, sir,' returned John. 'He is upon his patrole of
honour, sir, not to leave the premises. Me and some friends of
mine that use the Maypole of an evening, sir, considered what was
best to be done with him, to prevent his doing anything unpleasant
in opposing your desires; and we've put him on his patrole. And
what's more, sir, he won't be off his patrole for a pretty long
time to come, I can tell you that.'
When he had communicated this bright idea, which had its origin in
the perusal by the village cronies of a newspaper, containing,
among other matters, an account of how some officer pending the
sentence of some court-martial had been enlarged on parole, Mr
Willet drew back from his guest's ear, and without any visible
alteration of feature, chuckled thrice audibly. This nearest
approach to a laugh in which he ever indulged (and that but seldom
and only on extreme occasions), never even curled his lip or
effected the smallest change in--no, not so much as a slight
wagging of--his great, fat, double chin, which at these times, as
at all others, remained a perfect desert in the broad map of his
face; one changeless, dull, tremendous blank.
Lest it should be matter of surprise to any, that Mr Willet adopted
this bold course in opposition to one whom he had often
entertained, and who had always paid his way at the Maypole
gallantly, it may be remarked that it was his very penetration and
sagacity in this respect, which occasioned him to indulge in those
unusual demonstrations of jocularity, just now recorded. For Mr
Willet, after carefully balancing father and son in his mental
scales, had arrived at the distinct conclusion that the old
gentleman was a better sort of a customer than the young one.
Throwing his landlord into the same scale, which was already turned
by this consideration, and heaping upon him, again, his strong
desires to run counter to the unfortunate Joe, and his opposition
as a general principle to all matters of love and matrimony, it
went down to the very ground straightway, and sent the light cause
of the younger gentleman flying upwards to the ceiling. Mr
Chester was not the kind of man to be by any means dim-sighted to
Mr Willet's motives, but he thanked him as graciously as if he had
been one of the most disinterested martyrs that ever shone on
earth; and leaving him, with many complimentary reliances on his
great taste and judgment, to prepare whatever dinner he might deem
most fitting the occasion, bent his steps towards the Warren.
Dressed with more than his usual elegance; assuming a gracefulness
of manner, which, though it was the result of long study, sat
easily upon him and became him well; composing his features into
their most serene and prepossessing expression; and setting in
short that guard upon himself, at every point, which denoted that
he attached no slight importance to the impression he was about to
make; he entered the bounds of Miss Haredale's usual walk. He had
not gone far, or looked about him long, when he descried coming
towards him, a female figure. A glimpse of the form and dress as
she crossed a little wooden bridge which lay between them,
satisfied him that he had found her whom he desired to see. He
threw himself in her way, and a very few paces brought them close
He raised his hat from his head, and yielding the path, suffered
her to pass him. Then, as if the idea had but that moment
occurred to him, he turned hastily back and said in an agitated
'I beg pardon--do I address Miss Haredale?'
She stopped in some confusion at being so unexpectedly accosted by
a stranger; and answered 'Yes.'
'Something told me,' he said, LOOKING a compliment to her beauty,
'that it could be no other. Miss Haredale, I bear a name which is
not unknown to you--which it is a pride, and yet a pain to me to
know, sounds pleasantly in your ears. I am a man advanced in life,
as you see. I am the father of him whom you honour and distinguish
above all other men. May I for weighty reasons which fill me with
distress, beg but a minute's conversation with you here?'
Who that was inexperienced in deceit, and had a frank and youthful
heart, could doubt the speaker's truth--could doubt it too, when
the voice that spoke, was like the faint echo of one she knew so
well, and so much loved to hear? She inclined her head, and
stopping, cast her eyes upon the ground.
'A little more apart--among these trees. It is an old man's hand,
Miss Haredale; an honest one, believe me.'
She put hers in it as he said these words, and suffered him to lead
her to a neighbouring seat.
'You alarm me, sir,' she said in a low voice. 'You are not the
bearer of any ill news, I hope?'
'Of none that you anticipate,' he answered, sitting down beside
her. 'Edward is well--quite well. It is of him I wish to speak,
certainly; but I have no misfortune to communicate.'
She bowed her head again, and made as though she would have begged
him to proceed; but said nothing.
'I am sensible that I speak to you at a disadvantage, dear Miss
Haredale. Believe me that I am not so forgetful of the feelings of
my younger days as not to know that you are little disposed to view
me with favour. You have heard me described as cold-hearted,
'I have never, sir,'--she interposed with an altered manner and a
firmer voice; 'I have never heard you spoken of in harsh or
disrespectful terms. You do a great wrong to Edward's nature if
you believe him capable of any mean or base proceeding.'
'Pardon me, my sweet young lady, but your uncle--'
'Nor is it my uncle's nature either,' she replied, with a
heightened colour in her cheek. 'It is not his nature to stab in
the dark, nor is it mine to love such deeds.'
She rose as she spoke, and would have left him; but he detained her
with a gentle hand, and besought her in such persuasive accents to
hear him but another minute, that she was easily prevailed upon to
comply, and so sat down again.
'And it is,' said Mr Chester, looking upward, and apostrophising
the air; 'it is this frank, ingenuous, noble nature, Ned, that you
can wound so lightly. Shame--shame upon you, boy!'
She turned towards him quickly, and with a scornful look and
flashing eyes. There were tears in Mr Chester's eyes, but he
dashed them hurriedly away, as though unwilling that his weakness
should be known, and regarded her with mingled admiration and
'I never until now,' he said, 'believed, that the frivolous actions
of a young man could move me like these of my own son. I never
knew till now, the worth of a woman's heart, which boys so lightly
win, and lightly fling away. Trust me, dear young lady, that I
never until now did know your worth; and though an abhorrence of
deceit and falsehood has impelled me to seek you out, and would
have done so had you been the poorest and least gifted of your sex,
I should have lacked the fortitude to sustain this interview could
I have pictured you to my imagination as you really are.'
Oh! If Mrs Varden could have seen the virtuous gentleman as he
said these words, with indignation sparkling from his eyes--if she
could have heard his broken, quavering voice--if she could have
beheld him as he stood bareheaded in the sunlight, and with
unwonted energy poured forth his eloquence!
With a haughty face, but pale and trembling too, Emma regarded him
in silence. She neither spoke nor moved, but gazed upon him as
though she would look into his heart.
'I throw off,' said Mr Chester, 'the restraint which natural
affection would impose on some men, and reject all bonds but those
of truth and duty. Miss Haredale, you are deceived; you are
deceived by your unworthy lover, and my unworthy son.'
Still she looked at him steadily, and still said not one word.
'I have ever opposed his professions of love for you; you will do
me the justice, dear Miss Haredale, to remember that. Your uncle
and myself were enemies in early life, and if I had sought
retaliation, I might have found it here. But as we grow older, we
grow wiser--bitter, I would fain hope--and from the first, I have
opposed him in this attempt. I foresaw the end, and would have
spared you, if I could.'
'Speak plainly, sir,' she faltered. 'You deceive me, or are
deceived yourself. I do not believe you--I cannot--I should not.'
'First,' said Mr Chester, soothingly, 'for there may be in your
mind some latent angry feeling to which I would not appeal, pray
take this letter. It reached my hands by chance, and by mistake,
and should have accounted to you (as I am told) for my son's not
answering some other note of yours. God forbid, Miss Haredale,'
said the good gentleman, with great emotion, 'that there should be
in your gentle breast one causeless ground of quarrel with him.
You should know, and you will see, that he was in no fault here.'
There appeared something so very candid, so scrupulously
honourable, so very truthful and just in this course something
which rendered the upright person who resorted to it, so worthy of
belief--that Emma's heart, for the first time, sunk within her.
She turned away and burst into tears.
'I would,' said Mr Chester, leaning over her, and speaking in mild
and quite venerable accents; 'I would, dear girl, it were my task
to banish, not increase, those tokens of your grief. My son, my
erring son,--I will not call him deliberately criminal in this, for
men so young, who have been inconstant twice or thrice before, act
without reflection, almost without a knowledge of the wrong they
do,--will break his plighted faith to you; has broken it even now.
Shall I stop here, and having given you this warning, leave it to
be fulfilled; or shall I go on?'
'You will go on, sir,' she answered, 'and speak more plainly yet,
in justice both to him and me.'
'My dear girl,' said Mr Chester, bending over her more
affectionately still; 'whom I would call my daughter, but the Fates
forbid, Edward seeks to break with you upon a false and most
unwarrantable pretence. I have it on his own showing; in his own
hand. Forgive me, if I have had a watch upon his conduct; I am his
father; I had a regard for your peace and his honour, and no better
resource was left me. There lies on his desk at this present
moment, ready for transmission to you, a letter, in which he tells
you that our poverty--our poverty; his and mine, Miss Haredale--
forbids him to pursue his claim upon your hand; in which he offers,
voluntarily proposes, to free you from your pledge; and talks
magnanimously (men do so, very commonly, in such cases) of being in
time more worthy of your regard--and so forth. A letter, to be
plain, in which he not only jilts you--pardon the word; I would
summon to your aid your pride and dignity--not only jilts you, I
fear, in favour of the object whose slighting treatment first
inspired his brief passion for yourself and gave it birth in
wounded vanity, but affects to make a merit and a virtue of the
She glanced proudly at him once more, as by an involuntary impulse,
and with a swelling breast rejoined, 'If what you say be true, he
takes much needless trouble, sir, to compass his design. He's very
tender of my peace of mind. I quite thank him.'
'The truth of what I tell you, dear young lady,' he replied, 'you
will test by the receipt or non-receipt of the letter of which I
speak. Haredale, my dear fellow, I am delighted to see you,
although we meet under singular circumstances, and upon a
melancholy occasion. I hope you are very well.'
At these words the young lady raised her eyes, which were filled
with tears; and seeing that her uncle indeed stood before them, and
being quite unequal to the trial of hearing or of speaking one word
more, hurriedly withdrew, and left them. They stood looking at
each other, and at her retreating figure, and for a long time
neither of them spoke.
'What does this mean? Explain it,' said Mr Haredale at length.
'Why are you here, and why with her?'
'My dear friend,' rejoined the other, resuming his accustomed
manner with infinite readiness, and throwing himself upon the bench
with a weary air, 'you told me not very long ago, at that
delightful old tavern of which you are the esteemed proprietor (and
a most charming establishment it is for persons of rural pursuits
and in robust health, who are not liable to take cold), that I had
the head and heart of an evil spirit in all matters of deception.
I thought at the time; I really did think; you flattered me. But
now I begin to wonder at your discernment, and vanity apart, do
honestly believe you spoke the truth. Did you ever counterfeit
extreme ingenuousness and honest indignation? My dear fellow, you
have no conception, if you never did, how faint the effort makes
Mr Haredale surveyed him with a look of cold contempt. 'You may
evade an explanation, I know,' he said, folding his arms. 'But I
must have it. I can wait.'
'Not at all. Not at all, my good fellow. You shall not wait a
moment,' returned his friend, as he lazily crossed his legs. 'The
simplest thing in the world. It lies in a nutshell. Ned has
written her a letter--a boyish, honest, sentimental composition,
which remains as yet in his desk, because he hasn't had the heart
to send it. I have taken a liberty, for which my parental
affection and anxiety are a sufficient excuse, and possessed
myself of the contents. I have described them to your niece (a
most enchanting person, Haredale; quite an angelic creature), with
a little colouring and description adapted to our purpose. It's
done. You may be quite easy. It's all over. Deprived of their
adherents and mediators; her pride and jealousy roused to the
utmost; with nobody to undeceive her, and you to confirm me; you
will find that their intercourse will close with her answer. If
she receives Ned's letter by to-morrow noon, you may date their
parting from to-morrow night. No thanks, I beg; you owe me none.
I have acted for myself; and if I have forwarded our compact with
all the ardour even you could have desired, I have done so
'I curse the compact, as you call it, with my whole heart and
soul,' returned the other. 'It was made in an evil hour. I have
bound myself to a lie; I have leagued myself with you; and though I
did so with a righteous motive, and though it cost me such an
effort as haply few men know, I hate and despise myself for the
'You are very warm,' said Mr Chester with a languid smile.
'I AM warm. I am maddened by your coldness. 'Death, Chester, if
your blood ran warmer in your veins, and there were no restraints
upon me, such as those that hold and drag me back--well; it is
done; you tell me so, and on such a point I may believe you. When
I am most remorseful for this treachery, I will think of you and
your marriage, and try to justify myself in such remembrances, for
having torn asunder Emma and your son, at any cost. Our bond is
cancelled now, and we may part.'
Mr Chester kissed his hand gracefully; and with the same tranquil
face he had preserved throughout--even when he had seen his
companion so tortured and transported by his passion that his whole
frame was shaken--lay in his lounging posture on the seat and
watched him as he walked away.
'My scapegoat and my drudge at school,' he said, raising his head
to look after him; 'my friend of later days, who could not keep his
mistress when he had won her, and threw me in her way to carry off
the prize; I triumph in the present and the past. Bark on, ill-
favoured, ill-conditioned cur; fortune has ever been with me--I
like to hear you.'
The spot where they had met, was in an avenue of trees. Mr
Haredale not passing out on either hand, had walked straight on.
He chanced to turn his head when at some considerable distance, and
seeing that his late companion had by that time risen and was
looking after him, stood still as though he half expected him to
follow and waited for his coming up.
'It MAY come to that one day, but not yet,' said Mr Chester,
waving his hand, as though they were the best of friends, and
turning away. 'Not yet, Haredale. Life is pleasant enough to me;
dull and full of heaviness to you. No. To cross swords with such
a man--to indulge his humour unless upon extremity--would be weak
For all that, he drew his sword as he walked along, and in an
absent humour ran his eye from hilt to point full twenty times.
But thoughtfulness begets wrinkles; remembering this, he soon put
it up, smoothed his contracted brow, hummed a gay tune with greater
gaiety of manner, and was his unruffled self again.
A homely proverb recognises the existence of a troublesome class of
persons who, having an inch conceded them, will take an ell. Not
to quote the illustrious examples of those heroic scourges of
mankind, whose amiable path in life has been from birth to death
through blood, and fire, and ruin, and who would seem to have
existed for no better purpose than to teach mankind that as the
absence of pain is pleasure, so the earth, purged of their
presence, may be deemed a blessed place--not to quote such mighty
instances, it will be sufficient to refer to old John Willet.
Old John having long encroached a good standard inch, full measure,
on the liberty of Joe, and having snipped off a Flemish ell in the
matter of the parole, grew so despotic and so great, that his
thirst for conquest knew no bounds. The more young Joe submitted,
the more absolute old John became. The ell soon faded into
nothing. Yards, furlongs, miles arose; and on went old John in the
pleasantest manner possible, trimming off an exuberance in this
place, shearing away some liberty of speech or action in that, and
conducting himself in his small way with as much high mightiness
and majesty, as the most glorious tyrant that ever had his statue
reared in the public ways, of ancient or of modern times.
As great men are urged on to the abuse of power (when they need
urging, which is not often), by their flatterers and dependents, so
old John was impelled to these exercises of authority by the
applause and admiration of his Maypole cronies, who, in the
intervals of their nightly pipes and pots, would shake their heads
and say that Mr Willet was a father of the good old English sort;
that there were no new-fangled notions or modern ways in him; that
he put them in mind of what their fathers were when they were boys;
that there was no mistake about him; that it would be well for the
country if there were more like him, and more was the pity that
there were not; with many other original remarks of that nature.
Then they would condescendingly give Joe to understand that it was
all for his good, and he would be thankful for it one day; and in
particular, Mr Cobb would acquaint him, that when he was his age,
his father thought no more of giving him a parental kick, or a box
on the ears, or a cuff on the head, or some little admonition of
that sort, than he did of any other ordinary duty of life; and he
would further remark, with looks of great significance, that but
for this judicious bringing up, he might have never been the man he
was at that present speaking; which was probable enough, as he was,
beyond all question, the dullest dog of the party. In short,
between old John and old John's friends, there never was an
unfortunate young fellow so bullied, badgered, worried, fretted,
and brow-beaten; so constantly beset, or made so tired of his life,
as poor Joe Willet.
This had come to be the recognised and established state of things;
but as John was very anxious to flourish his supremacy before the
eyes of Mr Chester, he did that day exceed himself, and did so
goad and chafe his son and heir, that but for Joe's having made a
solemn vow to keep his hands in his pockets when they were not
otherwise engaged, it is impossible to say what he might have done
with them. But the longest day has an end, and at length Mr
Chester came downstairs to mount his horse, which was ready at the
As old John was not in the way at the moment, Joe, who was sitting
in the bar ruminating on his dismal fate and the manifold
perfections of Dolly Varden, ran out to hold the guest's stirrup
and assist him to mount. Mr Chester was scarcely in the saddle,
and Joe was in the very act of making him a graceful bow, when old
John came diving out of the porch, and collared him.
'None of that, sir,' said John, 'none of that, sir. No breaking of
patroles. How dare you come out of the door, sir, without leave?
You're trying to get away, sir, are you, and to make a traitor of
yourself again? What do you mean, sir?'
'Let me go, father,' said Joe, imploringly, as he marked the smile
upon their visitor's face, and observed the pleasure his disgrace
afforded him. 'This is too bad. Who wants to get away?'
'Who wants to get away!' cried John, shaking him. 'Why you do,
sir, you do. You're the boy, sir,' added John, collaring with one
band, and aiding the effect of a farewell bow to the visitor with
the other, 'that wants to sneak into houses, and stir up
differences between noble gentlemen and their sons, are you, eh?
Hold your tongue, sir.'
Joe made no effort to reply. It was the crowning circumstance of
his degradation. He extricated himself from his father's grasp,
darted an angry look at the departing guest, and returned into the
'But for her,' thought Joe, as he threw his arms upon a table in
the common room, and laid his head upon them, 'but for Dolly, who I
couldn't bear should think me the rascal they would make me out to
be if I ran away, this house and I should part to-night.'
It being evening by this time, Solomon Daisy, Tom Cobb, and Long
Parkes, were all in the common room too, and had from the window
been witnesses of what had just occurred. Mr Willet joining them
soon afterwards, received the compliments of the company with great
composure, and lighting his pipe, sat down among them.
'We'll see, gentlemen,' said John, after a long pause, 'who's the
master of this house, and who isn't. We'll see whether boys are to
govern men, or men are to govern boys.'
'And quite right too,' assented Solomon Daisy with some approving
nods; 'quite right, Johnny. Very good, Johnny. Well said, Mr
Willet. Brayvo, sir.'
John slowly brought his eyes to bear upon him, looked at him for a
long time, and finally made answer, to the unspeakable
consternation of his hearers, 'When I want encouragement from you,
sir, I'll ask you for it. You let me alone, sir. I can get on
without you, I hope. Don't you tackle me, sir, if you please.'
'Don't take it ill, Johnny; I didn't mean any harm,' pleaded the
'Very good, sir,' said John, more than usually obstinate after his
late success. 'Never mind, sir. I can stand pretty firm of
myself, sir, I believe, without being shored up by you.' And
having given utterance to this retort, Mr Willet fixed his eyes
upon the boiler, and fell into a kind of tobacco-trance.
The spirits of the company being somewhat damped by this
embarrassing line of conduct on the part of their host, nothing
more was said for a long time; but at length Mr Cobb took upon
himself to remark, as he rose to knock the ashes out of his pipe,
that he hoped Joe would thenceforth learn to obey his father in all
things; that he had found, that day, he was not one of the sort of
men who were to be trifled with; and that he would recommend him,
poetically speaking, to mind his eye for the future.
'I'd recommend you, in return,' said Joe, looking up with a flushed
face, 'not to talk to me.'
'Hold your tongue, sir,' cried Mr Willet, suddenly rousing himself,
and turning round.
'I won't, father,' cried Joe, smiting the table with his fist, so
that the jugs and glasses rung again; 'these things are hard enough
to bear from you; from anybody else I never will endure them any
more. Therefore I say, Mr Cobb, don't talk to me.'
'Why, who are you,' said Mr Cobb, sneeringly, 'that you're not to
be talked to, eh, Joe?'
To which Joe returned no answer, but with a very ominous shake of
the head, resumed his old position, which he would have peacefully
preserved until the house shut up at night, but that Mr Cobb,
stimulated by the wonder of the company at the young man's
presumption, retorted with sundry taunts, which proved too much for
flesh and blood to bear. Crowding into one moment the vexation and
the wrath of years, Joe started up, overturned the table, fell upon
his long enemy, pummelled him with all his might and main, and
finished by driving him with surprising swiftness against a heap of
spittoons in one corner; plunging into which, head foremost, with a
tremendous crash, he lay at full length among the ruins, stunned
and motionless. Then, without waiting to receive the compliments
of the bystanders on the victory be had won, he retreated to his
own bedchamber, and considering himself in a state of siege, piled
all the portable furniture against the door by way of barricade.
'I have done it now,' said Joe, as he sat down upon his bedstead
and wiped his heated face. 'I knew it would come at last. The
Maypole and I must part company. I'm a roving vagabond--she hates
me for evermore--it's all over!'
Pondering on his unhappy lot, Joe sat and listened for a long
time, expecting every moment to hear their creaking footsteps on
the stairs, or to be greeted by his worthy father with a summons to
capitulate unconditionally, and deliver himself up straightway.
But neither voice nor footstep came; and though some distant
echoes, as of closing doors and people hurrying in and out of
rooms, resounding from time to time through the great passages, and
penetrating to his remote seclusion, gave note of unusual commotion
downstairs, no nearer sound disturbed his place of retreat, which
seemed the quieter for these far-off noises, and was as dull and
full of gloom as any hermit's cell.
It came on darker and darker. The old-fashioned furniture of the
chamber, which was a kind of hospital for all the invalided
movables in the house, grew indistinct and shadowy in its many
shapes; chairs and tables, which by day were as honest cripples as
need be, assumed a doubtful and mysterious character; and one old
leprous screen of faded India leather and gold binding, which had
kept out many a cold breath of air in days of yore and shut in many
a jolly face, frowned on him with a spectral aspect, and stood at
full height in its allotted corner, like some gaunt ghost who
waited to be questioned. A portrait opposite the window--a queer,
old grey-eyed general, in an oval frame--seemed to wink and doze as
the light decayed, and at length, when the last faint glimmering
speck of day went out, to shut its eyes in good earnest, and fall
sound asleep. There was such a hush and mystery about everything,
that Joe could not help following its example; and so went off into
a slumber likewise, and dreamed of Dolly, till the clock of
Chigwell church struck two.
Still nobody came. The distant noises in the house had ceased, and
out of doors all was quiet; save for the occasional barking of some
deep-mouthed dog, and the shaking of the branches by the night
wind. He gazed mournfully out of window at each well-known object
as it lay sleeping in the dim light of the moon; and creeping back
to his former seat, thought about the late uproar, until, with long
thinking of, it seemed to have occurred a month ago. Thus, between
dozing, and thinking, and walking to the window and looking out,
the night wore away; the grim old screen, and the kindred chairs
and tables, began slowly to reveal themselves in their accustomed
forms; the grey-eyed general seemed to wink and yawn and rouse
himself; and at last he was broad awake again, and very
uncomfortable and cold and haggard he looked, in the dull grey
light of morning.
The sun had begun to peep above the forest trees, and already flung
across the curling mist bright bars of gold, when Joe dropped from
his window on the ground below, a little bundle and his trusty
stick, and prepared to descend himself.
It was not a very difficult task; for there were so many
projections and gable ends in the way, that they formed a series of
clumsy steps, with no greater obstacle than a jump of some few feet
at last. Joe, with his stick and bundle on his shoulder, quickly
stood on the firm earth, and looked up at the old Maypole, it might
be for the last time.
He didn't apostrophise it, for he was no great scholar. He didn't
curse it, for he had little ill-will to give to anything on earth.
He felt more affectionate and kind to it than ever he had done in
all his life before, so said with all his heart, 'God bless you!'
as a parting wish, and turned away.
He walked along at a brisk pace, big with great thoughts of going
for a soldier and dying in some foreign country where it was very
hot and sandy, and leaving God knows what unheard-of wealth in
prize-money to Dolly, who would be very much affected when she came
to know of it; and full of such youthful visions, which were
sometimes sanguine and sometimes melancholy, but always had her for
their main point and centre, pushed on vigorously until the noise
of London sounded in his ears, and the Black Lion hove in sight.
It was only eight o'clock then, and very much astonished the Black
Lion was, to see him come walking in with dust upon his feet at
that early hour, with no grey mare to bear him company. But as he
ordered breakfast to be got ready with all speed, and on its being
set before him gave indisputable tokens of a hearty appetite, the
Lion received him, as usual, with a hospitable welcome; and treated
him with those marks of distinction, which, as a regular customer,
and one within the freemasonry of the trade, he had a right to
This Lion or landlord,--for he was called both man and beast, by
reason of his having instructed the artist who painted his sign, to
convey into the features of the lordly brute whose effigy it bore,
as near a counterpart of his own face as his skill could compass
and devise,--was a gentleman almost as quick of apprehension, and
of almost as subtle a wit, as the mighty John himself. But the
difference between them lay in this: that whereas Mr Willet's
extreme sagacity and acuteness were the efforts of unassisted
nature, the Lion stood indebted, in no small amount, to beer; of
which he swigged such copious draughts, that most of his faculties
were utterly drowned and washed away, except the one great faculty
of sleep, which he retained in surprising perfection. The creaking
Lion over the house-door was, therefore, to say the truth, rather a
drowsy, tame, and feeble lion; and as these social representatives
of a savage class are usually of a conventional character (being
depicted, for the most part, in impossible attitudes and of
unearthly colours), he was frequently supposed by the more ignorant
and uninformed among the neighbours, to be the veritable portrait
of the host as he appeared on the occasion of some great funeral
ceremony or public mourning.
'What noisy fellow is that in the next room?' said Joe, when he had
disposed of his breakfast, and had washed and brushed himself.
'A recruiting serjeant,' replied the Lion.
Joe started involuntarily. Here was the very thing he had been
dreaming of, all the way along.
'And I wish,' said the Lion, 'he was anywhere else but here. The
party make noise enough, but don't call for much. There's great
cry there, Mr Willet, but very little wool. Your father wouldn't
like 'em, I know.'
Perhaps not much under any circumstances. Perhaps if he could have
known what was passing at that moment in Joe's mind, he would have
liked them still less.
'Is he recruiting for a--for a fine regiment?' said Joe, glancing
at a little round mirror that hung in the bar.
'I believe he is,' replied the host. 'It's much the same thing,
whatever regiment he's recruiting for. I'm told there an't a deal
of difference between a fine man and another one, when they're shot
through and through.'
'They're not all shot,' said Joe.
'No,' the Lion answered, 'not all. Those that are--supposing it's
done easy--are the best off in my opinion.'
'Ah!' retorted Joe, 'but you don't care for glory.'
'For what?' said the Lion.
'No,' returned the Lion, with supreme indifference. 'I don't.
You're right in that, Mr Willet. When Glory comes here, and calls
for anything to drink and changes a guinea to pay for it, I'll give
it him for nothing. It's my belief, sir, that the Glory's arms
wouldn't do a very strong business.'
These remarks were not at all comforting. Joe walked out, stopped
at the door of the next room, and listened. The serjeant was
describing a military life. It was all drinking, he said, except
that there were frequent intervals of eating and love-making. A
battle was the finest thing in the world--when your side won it--
and Englishmen always did that. 'Supposing you should be killed,
sir?' said a timid voice in one corner. 'Well, sir, supposing you
should be,' said the serjeant, 'what then? Your country loves you,
sir; his Majesty King George the Third loves you; your memory is
honoured, revered, respected; everybody's fond of you, and grateful
to you; your name's wrote down at full length in a book in the War
Office. Damme, gentlemen, we must all die some time, or another,
The voice coughed, and said no more.
Joe walked into the room. A group of half-a-dozen fellows had
gathered together in the taproom, and were listening with greedy
ears. One of them, a carter in a smockfrock, seemed wavering and
disposed to enlist. The rest, who were by no means disposed,
strongly urged him to do so (according to the custom of mankind),
backed the serjeant's arguments, and grinned among themselves. 'I
say nothing, boys,' said the serjeant, who sat a little apart,
drinking his liquor. 'For lads of spirit'--here he cast an eye on
Joe--'this is the time. I don't want to inveigle you. The king's
not come to that, I hope. Brisk young blood is what we want; not
milk and water. We won't take five men out of six. We want top-
sawyers, we do. I'm not a-going to tell tales out of school, but,
damme, if every gentleman's son that carries arms in our corps,
through being under a cloud and having little differences with his
relations, was counted up'--here his eye fell on Joe again, and so
good-naturedly, that Joe beckoned him out. He came directly.
'You're a gentleman, by G--!' was his first remark, as he slapped
him on the back. 'You're a gentleman in disguise. So am I. Let's
swear a friendship.'
Joe didn't exactly do that, but he shook hands with him, and
thanked him for his good opinion.
'You want to serve,' said his new friend. 'You shall. You were
made for it. You're one of us by nature. What'll you take to
'Nothing just now,' replied Joe, smiling faintly. 'I haven't quite
made up my mind.'
'A mettlesome fellow like you, and not made up his mind!' cried
the serjeant. 'Here--let me give the bell a pull, and you'll make
up your mind in half a minute, I know.'
'You're right so far'--answered Joe, 'for if you pull the bell
here, where I'm known, there'll be an end of my soldiering
inclinations in no time. Look in my face. You see me, do you?'
'I do,' replied the serjeant with an oath, 'and a finer young
fellow or one better qualified to serve his king and country, I
never set my--' he used an adjective in this place--'eyes on.
'Thank you,' said Joe, 'I didn't ask you for want of a compliment,
but thank you all the same. Do I look like a sneaking fellow or a
The serjeant rejoined with many choice asseverations that he
didn't; and that if his (the serjeant's) own father were to say he
did, he would run the old gentleman through the body cheerfully,
and consider it a meritorious action.
Joe expressed his obligations, and continued, 'You can trust me
then, and credit what I say. I believe I shall enlist in your
regiment to-night. The reason I don't do so now is, because I
don't want until to-night, to do what I can't recall. Where shall
I find you, this evening?'
His friend replied with some unwillingness, and after much
ineffectual entreaty having for its object the immediate settlement
of the business, that his quarters would be at the Crooked Billet
in Tower Street; where he would be found waking until midnight, and
sleeping until breakfast time to-morrow.
'And if I do come--which it's a million to one, I shall--when will
you take me out of London?' demanded Joe.
'To-morrow morning, at half after eight o'clock,' replied the
serjeant. 'You'll go abroad--a country where it's all sunshine and
plunder--the finest climate in the world.'
'To go abroad,' said Joe, shaking hands with him, 'is the very
thing I want. You may expect me.'
'You're the kind of lad for us,' cried the serjeant, holding Joe's
hand in his, in the excess of his admiration. 'You're the boy to
push your fortune. I don't say it because I bear you any envy, or
would take away from the credit of the rise you'll make, but if I
had been bred and taught like you, I'd have been a colonel by this
'Tush, man!' said Joe, 'I'm not so young as that. Needs must when
the devil drives; and the devil that drives me is an empty pocket
and an unhappy home. For the present, good-bye.'
'For king and country!' cried the serjeant, flourishing his cap.
'For bread and meat!' cried Joe, snapping his fingers. And so they
He had very little money in his pocket; so little indeed, that
after paying for his breakfast (which he was too honest and perhaps
too proud to score up to his father's charge) he had but a penny
left. He had courage, notwithstanding, to resist all the
affectionate importunities of the serjeant, who waylaid him at
the door with many protestations of eternal friendship, and did in
particular request that he would do him the favour to accept of
only one shilling as a temporary accommodation. Rejecting his
offers both of cash and credit, Joe walked away with stick and
bundle as before, bent upon getting through the day as he best
could, and going down to the locksmith's in the dusk of the
evening; for it should go hard, he had resolved, but he would have
a parting word with charming Dolly Varden.
He went out by Islington and so on to Highgate, and sat on many
stones and gates, but there were no voices in the bells to bid him
turn. Since the time of noble Whittington, fair flower of
merchants, bells have come to have less sympathy with humankind.
They only ring for money and on state occasions. Wanderers have
increased in number; ships leave the Thames for distant regions,
carrying from stem to stern no other cargo; the bells are silent;
they ring out no entreaties or regrets; they are used to it and
have grown worldly.
Joe bought a roll, and reduced his purse to the condition (with a
difference) of that celebrated purse of Fortunatus, which,
whatever were its favoured owner's necessities, had one unvarying
amount in it. In these real times, when all the Fairies are dead
and buried, there are still a great many purses which possess that
quality. The sum-total they contain is expressed in arithmetic by
a circle, and whether it be added to or multiplied by its own
amount, the result of the problem is more easily stated than any
known in figures.
Evening drew on at last. With the desolate and solitary feeling of
one who had no home or shelter, and was alone utterly in the world
for the first time, he bent his steps towards the locksmith's
house. He had delayed till now, knowing that Mrs Varden sometimes
went out alone, or with Miggs for her sole attendant, to lectures
in the evening; and devoutly hoping that this might be one of her
nights of moral culture.
He had walked up and down before the house, on the opposite side of
the way, two or three times, when as he returned to it again, he
caught a glimpse of a fluttering skirt at the door. It was
Dolly's--to whom else could it belong? no dress but hers had such a
flow as that. He plucked up his spirits, and followed it into the
workshop of the Golden Key.
His darkening the door caused her to look round. Oh that face!
'If it hadn't been for that,' thought Joe, 'I should never have
walked into poor Tom Cobb. She's twenty times handsomer than ever.
She might marry a Lord!'
He didn't say this. He only thought it--perhaps looked it also.
Dolly was glad to see him, and was SO sorry her father and mother
were away from home. Joe begged she wouldn't mention it on any
Dolly hesitated to lead the way into the parlour, for there it was
nearly dark; at the same time she hesitated to stand talking in the
workshop, which was yet light and open to the street. They had got
by some means, too, before the little forge; and Joe having her
hand in his (which he had no right to have, for Dolly only gave it
him to shake), it was so like standing before some homely altar
being married, that it was the most embarrassing state of things in
'I have come,' said Joe, 'to say good-bye--to say good-bye for I
don't know how many years; perhaps for ever. I am going abroad.'
Now this was exactly what he should not have said. Here he was,
talking like a gentleman at large who was free to come and go and
roam about the world at pleasure, when that gallant coachmaker had
vowed but the night before that Miss Varden held him bound in
adamantine chains; and had positively stated in so many words that
she was killing him by inches, and that in a fortnight more or
thereabouts he expected to make a decent end and leave the business
to his mother.
Dolly released her hand and said 'Indeed!' She remarked in the
same breath that it was a fine night, and in short, betrayed no
more emotion than the forge itself.
'I couldn't go,' said Joe, 'without coming to see you. I hadn't
the heart to.'
Dolly was more sorry than she could tell, that he should have taken
so much trouble. It was such a long way, and he must have such a
deal to do. And how WAS Mr Willet--that dear old gentleman--
'Is this all you say!' cried Joe.
All! Good gracious, what did the man expect! She was obliged to
take her apron in her hand and run her eyes along the hem from
corner to corner, to keep herself from laughing in his face;--not
because his gaze confused her--not at all.
Joe had small experience in love affairs, and had no notion how
different young ladies are at different times; he had expected to
take Dolly up again at the very point where he had left her after
that delicious evening ride, and was no more prepared for such an
alteration than to see the sun and moon change places. He had
buoyed himself up all day with an indistinct idea that she would
certainly say 'Don't go,' or 'Don't leave us,' or 'Why do you go?'
or 'Why do you leave us?' or would give him some little
encouragement of that sort; he had even entertained the possibility
of her bursting into tears, of her throwing herself into his arms,
of her falling down in a fainting fit without previous word or
sign; but any approach to such a line of conduct as this, had been
so far from his thoughts that he could only look at her in silent
Dolly in the meanwhile, turned to the corners of her apron, and
measured the sides, and smoothed out the wrinkles, and was as
silent as he. At last after a long pause, Joe said good-bye.
'Good-bye'--said Dolly--with as pleasant a smile as if he were
going into the next street, and were coming back to supper; 'good-
'Come,' said Joe, putting out both hands, 'Dolly, dear Dolly, don't
let us part like this. I love you dearly, with all my heart and
soul; with as much truth and earnestness as ever man loved woman in
this world, I do believe. I am a poor fellow, as you know--poorer
now than ever, for I have fled from home, not being able to bear it
any longer, and must fight my own way without help. You are
beautiful, admired, are loved by everybody, are well off and happy;
and may you ever be so! Heaven forbid I should ever make you
otherwise; but give me a word of comfort. Say something kind to
me. I have no right to expect it of you, I know, but I ask it
because I love you, and shall treasure the slightest word from you
all through my life. Dolly, dearest, have you nothing to say to
No. Nothing. Dolly was a coquette by nature, and a spoilt child.
She had no notion of being carried by storm in this way. The
coachmaker would have been dissolved in tears, and would have knelt
down, and called himself names, and clasped his hands, and beat his
breast, and tugged wildly at his cravat, and done all kinds of
poetry. Joe had no business to be going abroad. He had no right
to be able to do it. If he was in adamantine chains, he couldn't.
'I have said good-bye,' said Dolly, 'twice. Take your arm away
directly, Mr Joseph, or I'll call Miggs.'
'I'll not reproach you,' answered Joe, 'it's my fault, no doubt. I
have thought sometimes that you didn't quite despise me, but I was
a fool to think so. Every one must, who has seen the life I have
led--you most of all. God bless you!'
He was gone, actually gone. Dolly waited a little while, thinking
he would return, peeped out at the door, looked up the street and
down as well as the increasing darkness would allow, came in again,
waited a little longer, went upstairs humming a tune, bolted
herself in, laid her head down on her bed, and cried as if her
heart would break. And yet such natures are made up of so many
contradictions, that if Joe Willet had come back that night, next
day, next week, next month, the odds are a hundred to one she would
have treated him in the very same manner, and have wept for it
afterwards with the very same distress.
She had no sooner left the workshop than there cautiously peered
out from behind the chimney of the forge, a face which had already
emerged from the same concealment twice or thrice, unseen, and
which, after satisfying itself that it was now alone, was followed
by a leg, a shoulder, and so on by degrees, until the form of Mr
Tappertit stood confessed, with a brown-paper cap stuck negligently
on one side of its head, and its arms very much a-kimbo.
'Have my ears deceived me,' said the 'prentice, 'or do I dream! am
I to thank thee, Fortun', or to cus thee--which?'
He gravely descended from his elevation, took down his piece of
looking-glass, planted it against the wall upon the usual bench,
twisted his head round, and looked closely at his legs.
'If they're a dream,' said Sim, 'let sculptures have such wisions,
and chisel 'em out when they wake. This is reality. Sleep has no
such limbs as them. Tremble, Willet, and despair. She's mine!
With these triumphant expressions, he seized a hammer and dealt a
heavy blow at a vice, which in his mind's eye represented the
sconce or head of Joseph Willet. That done, he burst into a peal
of laughter which startled Miss Miggs even in her distant kitchen,
and dipping his head into a bowl of water, had recourse to a jack-
towel inside the closet door, which served the double purpose of
smothering his feelings and drying his face.
Joe, disconsolate and down-hearted, but full of courage too, on
leaving the locksmith's house made the best of his way to the
Crooked Billet, and there inquired for his friend the serjeant,
who, expecting no man less, received him with open arms. In the
course of five minutes after his arrival at that house of
entertainment, he was enrolled among the gallant defenders of his
native land; and within half an hour, was regaled with a steaming
supper of boiled tripe and onions, prepared, as his friend assured
him more than once, at the express command of his most Sacred
Majesty the King. To this meal, which tasted very savoury after
his long fasting, he did ample justice; and when he had followed it
up, or down, with a variety of loyal and patriotic toasts, he was
conducted to a straw mattress in a loft over the stable, and
locked in there for the night.
The next morning, he found that the obliging care of his martial
friend had decorated his hat with sundry particoloured streamers,
which made a very lively appearance; and in company with that
officer, and three other military gentlemen newly enrolled, who
were under a cloud so dense that it only left three shoes, a boot,
and a coat and a half visible among them, repaired to the
riverside. Here they were joined by a corporal and four more
heroes, of whom two were drunk and daring, and two sober and
penitent, but each of whom, like Joe, had his dusty stick and
bundle. The party embarked in a passage-boat bound for Gravesend,
whence they were to proceed on foot to Chatham; the wind was in
their favour, and they soon left London behind them, a mere dark
mist--a giant phantom in the air.
Misfortunes, saith the adage, never come singly. There is little
doubt that troubles are exceedingly gregarious in their nature, and
flying in flocks, are apt to perch capriciously; crowding on the
heads of some poor wights until there is not an inch of room left
on their unlucky crowns, and taking no more notice of others who
offer as good resting-places for the soles of their feet, than if
they had no existence. It may have happened that a flight of
troubles brooding over London, and looking out for Joseph Willet,
whom they couldn't find, darted down haphazard on the first young
man that caught their fancy, and settled on him instead. However
this may be, certain it is that on the very day of Joe's departure
they swarmed about the ears of Edward Chester, and did so buzz and
flap their wings, and persecute him, that he was most profoundly
It was evening, and just eight o'clock, when he and his father,
having wine and dessert set before them, were left to themselves
for the first time that day. They had dined together, but a third
person had been present during the meal, and until they met at
table they had not seen each other since the previous night.
Edward was reserved and silent. Mr Chester was more than usually
gay; but not caring, as it seemed, to open a conversation with one
whose humour was so different, he vented the lightness of his
spirit in smiles and sparkling looks, and made no effort to awaken
his attention. So they remained for some time: the father lying on
a sofa with his accustomed air of graceful negligence; the son
seated opposite to him with downcast eyes, busied, it was plain,
with painful and uneasy thoughts.
'My dear Edward,' said Mr Chester at length, with a most engaging
laugh, 'do not extend your drowsy influence to the decanter.
Suffer THAT to circulate, let your spirits be never so stagnant.'
Edward begged his pardon, passed it, and relapsed into his former
'You do wrong not to fill your glass,' said Mr Chester, holding up
his own before the light. 'Wine in moderation--not in excess, for
that makes men ugly--has a thousand pleasant influences. It
brightens the eye, improves the voice, imparts a new vivacity to
one's thoughts and conversation: you should try it, Ned.'
'Ah father!' cried his son, 'if--'
'My good fellow,' interposed the parent hastily, as he set down his
glass, and raised his eyebrows with a startled and horrified
expression, 'for Heaven's sake don't call me by that obsolete and
ancient name. Have some regard for delicacy. Am I grey, or
wrinkled, do I go on crutches, have I lost my teeth, that you adopt
such a mode of address? Good God, how very coarse!'
'I was about to speak to you from my heart, sir,' returned Edward,
'in the confidence which should subsist between us; and you check
me in the outset.'
'Now DO, Ned, DO not,' said Mr Chester, raising his delicate hand
imploringly, 'talk in that monstrous manner. About to speak from
your heart. Don't you know that the heart is an ingenious part of
our formation--the centre of the blood-vessels and all that sort of
thing--which has no more to do with what you say or think, than
your knees have? How can you be so very vulgar and absurd? These
anatomical allusions should be left to gentlemen of the medical
profession. They are really not agreeable in society. You quite
surprise me, Ned.'
'Well! there are no such things to wound, or heal, or have regard
for. I know your creed, sir, and will say no more,' returned his
'There again,' said Mr Chester, sipping his wine, 'you are wrong.
I distinctly say there are such things. We know there are. The
hearts of animals--of bullocks, sheep, and so forth--are cooked and
devoured, as I am told, by the lower classes, with a vast deal of
relish. Men are sometimes stabbed to the heart, shot to the heart;
but as to speaking from the heart, or to the heart, or being warm-
hearted, or cold-hearted, or broken-hearted, or being all heart, or
having no heart--pah! these things are nonsense, Ned.'
'No doubt, sir,' returned his son, seeing that he paused for him to
speak. 'No doubt.'
'There's Haredale's niece, your late flame,' said Mr Chester, as a
careless illustration of his meaning. 'No doubt in your mind she
was all heart once. Now she has none at all. Yet she is the same
person, Ned, exactly.'
'She is a changed person, sir,' cried Edward, reddening; 'and
changed by vile means, I believe.'
'You have had a cool dismissal, have you?' said his father. 'Poor
Ned! I told you last night what would happen.--May I ask you for
'She has been tampered with, and most treacherously deceived,'
cried Edward, rising from his seat. 'I never will believe that the
knowledge of my real position, given her by myself, has worked this
change. I know she is beset and tortured. But though our contract
is at an end, and broken past all redemption; though I charge upon
her want of firmness and want of truth, both to herself and me; I
do not now, and never will believe, that any sordid motive, or her
own unbiassed will, has led her to this course--never!'
'You make me blush,' returned his father gaily, 'for the folly of
your nature, in which--but we never know ourselves--I devoutly hope
there is no reflection of my own. With regard to the young lady
herself, she has done what is very natural and proper, my dear
fellow; what you yourself proposed, as I learn from Haredale; and
what I predicted--with no great exercise of sagacity--she would do.
She supposed you to be rich, or at least quite rich enough; and
found you poor. Marriage is a civil contract; people marry to
better their worldly condition and improve appearances; it is an
affair of house and furniture, of liveries, servants, equipage, and
so forth. The lady being poor and you poor also, there is an end
of the matter. You cannot enter upon these considerations, and
have no manner of business with the ceremony. I drink her health
in this glass, and respect and honour her for her extreme good
sense. It is a lesson to you. Fill yours, Ned.'
'It is a lesson,' returned his son, 'by which I hope I may never
profit, and if years and experience impress it on--'
'Don't say on the heart,' interposed his father.
'On men whom the world and its hypocrisy have spoiled,' said Edward
warmly, 'Heaven keep me from its knowledge.'
'Come, sir,' returned his father, raising himself a little on the
sofa, and looking straight towards him; 'we have had enough of
this. Remember, if you please, your interest, your duty, your
moral obligations, your filial affections, and all that sort of
thing, which it is so very delightful and charming to reflect upon;
or you will repent it.'
'I shall never repent the preservation of my self-respect, sir,'
said Edward. 'Forgive me if I say that I will not sacrifice it at
your bidding, and that I will not pursue the track which you would
have me take, and to which the secret share you have had in this
late separation tends.'
His father rose a little higher still, and looking at him as though
curious to know if he were quite resolved and earnest, dropped
gently down again, and said in the calmest voice--eating his nuts
'Edward, my father had a son, who being a fool like you, and, like
you, entertaining low and disobedient sentiments, he disinherited
and cursed one morning after breakfast. The circumstance occurs to
me with a singular clearness of recollection this evening. I
remember eating muffins at the time, with marmalade. He led a
miserable life (the son, I mean) and died early; it was a happy
release on all accounts; he degraded the family very much. It is a
sad circumstance, Edward, when a father finds it necessary to
resort to such strong measures.
'It is,' replied Edward, 'and it is sad when a son, proffering him
his love and duty in their best and truest sense, finds himself
repelled at every turn, and forced to disobey. Dear father,' he
added, more earnestly though in a gentler tone, 'I have reflected
many times on what occurred between us when we first discussed this
subject. Let there be a confidence between us; not in terms, but
truth. Hear what I have to say.'
'As I anticipate what it is, and cannot fail to do so, Edward,'
returned his father coldly, 'I decline. I couldn't possibly. I am
sure it would put me out of temper, which is a state of mind I
can't endure. If you intend to mar my plans for your establishment
in life, and the preservation of that gentility and becoming pride,
which our family have so long sustained--if, in short, you are
resolved to take your own course, you must take it, and my curse
with it. I am very sorry, but there's really no alternative.'
'The curse may pass your lips,' said Edward, 'but it will be but
empty breath. I do not believe that any man on earth has greater
power to call one down upon his fellow--least of all, upon his own
child--than he has to make one drop of rain or flake of snow fall
from the clouds above us at his impious bidding. Beware, sir, what
'You are so very irreligious, so exceedingly undutiful, so horribly
profane,' rejoined his father, turning his face lazily towards
him, and cracking another nut, 'that I positively must interrupt
you here. It is quite impossible we can continue to go on, upon
such terms as these. If you will do me the favour to ring the
bell, the servant will show you to the door. Return to this roof
no more, I beg you. Go, sir, since you have no moral sense
remaining; and go to the Devil, at my express desire. Good day.'
Edward left the room without another word or look, and turned his
back upon the house for ever.
The father's face was slightly flushed and heated, but his manner
was quite unchanged, as he rang the bell again, and addressed the
servant on his entrance.
'Peak--if that gentleman who has just gone out--'
'I beg your pardon, sir, Mr Edward?'
'Were there more than one, dolt, that you ask the question?--If
that gentleman should send here for his wardrobe, let him have it,
do you hear? If he should call himself at any time, I'm not at
home. You'll tell him so, and shut the door.'
So, it soon got whispered about, that Mr Chester was very
unfortunate in his son, who had occasioned him great grief and
sorrow. And the good people who heard this and told it again,
marvelled the more at his equanimity and even temper, and said what
an amiable nature that man must have, who, having undergone so
much, could be so placid and so calm. And when Edward's name was
spoken, Society shook its head, and laid its finger on its lip, and
sighed, and looked very grave; and those who had sons about his
age, waxed wrathful and indignant, and hoped, for Virtue's sake,
that he was dead. And the world went on turning round, as usual,
for five years, concerning which this Narrative is silent.
One wintry evening, early in the year of our Lord one thousand
seven hundred and eighty, a keen north wind arose as it grew dark,
and night came on with black and dismal looks. A bitter storm of
sleet, sharp, dense, and icy-cold, swept the wet streets, and
rattled on the trembling windows. Signboards, shaken past
endurance in their creaking frames, fell crashing on the pavement;
old tottering chimneys reeled and staggered in the blast; and many
a steeple rocked again that night, as though the earth were
It was not a time for those who could by any means get light and
warmth, to brave the fury of the weather. In coffee-houses of the
better sort, guests crowded round the fire, forgot to be political,
and told each other with a secret gladness that the blast grew
fiercer every minute. Each humble tavern by the water-side, had
its group of uncouth figures round the hearth, who talked of
vessels foundering at sea, and all hands lost; related many a
dismal tale of shipwreck and drowned men, and hoped that some they
knew were safe, and shook their heads in doubt. In private
dwellings, children clustered near the blaze; listening with timid
pleasure to tales of ghosts and goblins, and tall figures clad in
white standing by bed-sides, and people who had gone to sleep in
old churches and being overlooked had found themselves alone there
at the dead hour of the night: until they shuddered at the thought
of the dark rooms upstairs, yet loved to hear the wind moan too,
and hoped it would continue bravely. From time to time these happy
indoor people stopped to listen, or one held up his finger and
cried 'Hark!' and then, above the rumbling in the chimney, and the
fast pattering on the glass, was heard a wailing, rushing sound,
which shook the walls as though a giant's hand were on them; then a
hoarse roar as if the sea had risen; then such a whirl and tumult
that the air seemed mad; and then, with a lengthened howl, the
waves of wind swept on, and left a moment's interval of rest.
Cheerily, though there were none abroad to see it, shone the
Maypole light that evening. Blessings on the red--deep, ruby,
glowing red--old curtain of the window; blending into one rich
stream of brightness, fire and candle, meat, drink, and company,
and gleaming like a jovial eye upon the bleak waste out of doors!
Within, what carpet like its crunching sand, what music merry as
its crackling logs, what perfume like its kitchen's dainty breath,
what weather genial as its hearty warmth! Blessings on the old
house, how sturdily it stood! How did the vexed wind chafe and
roar about its stalwart roof; how did it pant and strive with its
wide chimneys, which still poured forth from their hospitable
throats, great clouds of smoke, and puffed defiance in its face;
how, above all, did it drive and rattle at the casement, emulous to
extinguish that cheerful glow, which would not be put down and
seemed the brighter for the conflict!
The profusion too, the rich and lavish bounty, of that goodly
tavern! It was not enough that one fire roared and sparkled on its
spacious hearth; in the tiles which paved and compassed it, five
hundred flickering fires burnt brightly also. It was not enough
that one red curtain shut the wild night out, and shed its cheerful
influence on the room. In every saucepan lid, and candlestick, and
vessel of copper, brass, or tin that hung upon the walls, were
countless ruddy hangings, flashing and gleaming with every motion
of the blaze, and offering, let the eye wander where it might,
interminable vistas of the same rich colour. The old oak
wainscoting, the beams, the chairs, the seats, reflected it in a
deep, dull glimmer. There were fires and red curtains in the very
eyes of the drinkers, in their buttons, in their liquor, in the
pipes they smoked.
Mr Willet sat in what had been his accustomed place five years
before, with his eyes on the eternal boiler; and had sat there
since the clock struck eight, giving no other signs of life than
breathing with a loud and constant snore (though he was wide
awake), and from time to time putting his glass to his lips, or
knocking the ashes out of his pipe, and filling it anew. It was
now half-past ten. Mr Cobb and long Phil Parkes were his
companions, as of old, and for two mortal hours and a half, none of
the company had pronounced one word.
Whether people, by dint of sitting together in the same place and
the same relative positions, and doing exactly the same things for
a great many years, acquire a sixth sense, or some unknown power of
influencing each other which serves them in its stead, is a
question for philosophy to settle. But certain it is that old
John Willet, Mr Parkes, and Mr Cobb, were one and all firmly of
opinion that they were very jolly companions--rather choice spirits
than otherwise; that they looked at each other every now and then
as if there were a perpetual interchange of ideas going on among
them; that no man considered himself or his neighbour by any means
silent; and that each of them nodded occasionally when he caught
the eye of another, as if he would say, 'You have expressed
yourself extremely well, sir, in relation to that sentiment, and I
quite agree with you.'
The room was so very warm, the tobacco so very good, and the fire
so very soothing, that Mr Willet by degrees began to doze; but as
he had perfectly acquired, by dint of long habit, the art of
smoking in his sleep, and as his breathing was pretty much the
same, awake or asleep, saving that in the latter case he sometimes
experienced a slight difficulty in respiration (such as a carpenter
meets with when he is planing and comes to a knot), neither of his
companions was aware of the circumstance, until he met with one of
these impediments and was obliged to try again.
'Johnny's dropped off,' said Mr Parkes in a whisper.
'Fast as a top,' said Mr Cobb.
Neither of them said any more until Mr Willet came to another knot--
one of surpassing obduracy--which bade fair to throw him into
convulsions, but which he got over at last without waking, by an
effort quite superhuman.
'He sleeps uncommon hard,' said Mr Cobb.
Mr Parkes, who was possibly a hard-sleeper himself, replied with
some disdain, 'Not a bit on it;' and directed his eyes towards a
handbill pasted over the chimney-piece, which was decorated at the
top with a woodcut representing a youth of tender years running
away very fast, with a bundle over his shoulder at the end of a
stick, and--to carry out the idea--a finger-post and a milestone
beside him. Mr Cobb likewise turned his eyes in the same
direction, and surveyed the placard as if that were the first time
he had ever beheld it. Now, this was a document which Mr Willet
had himself indited on the disappearance of his son Joseph,
acquainting the nobility and gentry and the public in general with
the circumstances of his having left his home; describing his dress
and appearance; and offering a reward of five pounds to any person
or persons who would pack him up and return him safely to the
Maypole at Chigwell, or lodge him in any of his Majesty's jails
until such time as his father should come and claim him. In this
advertisement Mr Willet had obstinately persisted, despite the
advice and entreaties of his friends, in describing his son as a
'young boy;' and furthermore as being from eighteen inches to a
couple of feet shorter than he really was; two circumstances which
perhaps accounted, in some degree, for its never having been
productive of any other effect than the transmission to Chigwell
at various times and at a vast expense, of some five-and-forty
runaways varying from six years old to twelve.
Mr Cobb and Mr Parkes looked mysteriously at this composition, at
each other, and at old John. From the time he had pasted it up
with his own hands, Mr Willet had never by word or sign alluded to
the subject, or encouraged any one else to do so. Nobody had the
least notion what his thoughts or opinions were, connected with it;
whether he remembered it or forgot it; whether he had any idea that
such an event had ever taken place. Therefore, even while he
slept, no one ventured to refer to it in his presence; and for such
sufficient reasons, these his chosen friends were silent now.
Mr Willet had got by this time into such a complication of knots,
that it was perfectly clear he must wake or die. He chose the
former alternative, and opened his eyes.
'If he don't come in five minutes,' said John, 'I shall have supper
The antecedent of this pronoun had been mentioned for the last time
at eight o'clock. Messrs Parkes and Cobb being used to this style
of conversation, replied without difficulty that to be sure Solomon
was very late, and they wondered what had happened to detain him.
'He an't blown away, I suppose,' said Parkes. 'It's enough to
carry a man of his figure off his legs, and easy too. Do you hear
it? It blows great guns, indeed. There'll be many a crash in the
Forest to-night, I reckon, and many a broken branch upon the ground
'It won't break anything in the Maypole, I take it, sir,' returned
old John. 'Let it try. I give it leave--what's that?'
'The wind,' cried Parkes. 'It's howling like a Christian, and has
been all night long.'
'Did you ever, sir,' asked John, after a minute's contemplation,
'hear the wind say "Maypole"?'
'Why, what man ever did?' said Parkes.
'Nor "ahoy," perhaps?' added John.
'No. Nor that neither.'
'Very good, sir,' said Mr Willet, perfectly unmoved; 'then if that
was the wind just now, and you'll wait a little time without
speaking, you'll hear it say both words very plain.'
Mr Willet was right. After listening for a few moments, they could
clearly hear, above the roar and tumult out of doors, this shout
repeated; and that with a shrillness and energy, which denoted that
it came from some person in great distress or terror. They looked
at each other, turned pale, and held their breath. No man stirred.
It was in this emergency that Mr Willet displayed something of that
strength of mind and plenitude of mental resource, which rendered
him the admiration of all his friends and neighbours. After
looking at Messrs Parkes and Cobb for some time in silence, he
clapped his two hands to his cheeks, and sent forth a roar which
made the glasses dance and rafters ring--a long-sustained,
discordant bellow, that rolled onward with the wind, and startling
every echo, made the night a hundred times more boisterous--a deep,
loud, dismal bray, that sounded like a human gong. Then, with
every vein in his head and face swollen with the great exertion,
and his countenance suffused with a lively purple, he drew a little
nearer to the fire, and turning his back upon it, said with dignity:
'If that's any comfort to anybody, they're welcome to it. If it
an't, I'm sorry for 'em. If either of you two gentlemen likes to
go out and see what's the matter, you can. I'm not curious,
While he spoke the cry drew nearer and nearer, footsteps passed the
window, the latch of the door was raised, it opened, was violently
shut again, and Solomon Daisy, with a lighted lantern in his hand,
and the rain streaming from his disordered dress, dashed into the
A more complete picture of terror than the little man presented, it
would be difficult to imagine. The perspiration stood in beads
upon his face, his knees knocked together, his every limb trembled,
the power of articulation was quite gone; and there he stood,
panting for breath, gazing on them with such livid ashy looks, that
they were infected with his fear, though ignorant of its occasion,
and, reflecting his dismayed and horror-stricken visage, stared
back again without venturing to question him; until old John
Willet, in a fit of temporary insanity, made a dive at his cravat,
and, seizing him by that portion of his dress, shook him to and fro
until his very teeth appeared to rattle in his head.
'Tell us what's the matter, sir,' said John, 'or I'll kill you.
Tell us what's the matter, sir, or in another second I'll have your
head under the biler. How dare you look like that? Is anybody a-
following of you? What do you mean? Say something, or I'll be the
death of you, I will.'
Mr Willet, in his frenzy, was so near keeping his word to the very
letter (Solomon Daisy's eyes already beginning to roll in an
alarming manner, and certain guttural sounds, as of a choking man,
to issue from his throat), that the two bystanders, recovering in
some degree, plucked him off his victim by main force, and placed
the little clerk of Chigwell in a chair. Directing a fearful gaze
all round the room, he implored them in a faint voice to give him
some drink; and above all to lock the house-door and close and bar
the shutters of the room, without a moment's loss of time. The
latter request did not tend to reassure his hearers, or to fill
them with the most comfortable sensations; they complied with it,
however, with the greatest expedition; and having handed him a
bumper of brandy-and-water, nearly boiling hot, waited to hear what
he might have to tell them.
'Oh, Johnny,' said Solomon, shaking him by the hand. 'Oh, Parkes.
Oh, Tommy Cobb. Why did I leave this house to-night! On the
nineteenth of March--of all nights in the year, on the nineteenth
They all drew closer to the fire. Parkes, who was nearest to the
door, started and looked over his shoulder. Mr Willet, with great
indignation, inquired what the devil he meant by that--and then
said, 'God forgive me,' and glanced over his own shoulder, and came
a little nearer.
'When I left here to-night,' said Solomon Daisy, 'I little thought
what day of the month it was. I have never gone alone into the
church after dark on this day, for seven-and-twenty years. I have
heard it said that as we keep our birthdays when we are alive, so
the ghosts of dead people, who are not easy in their graves, keep
the day they died upon.--How the wind roars!'
Nobody spoke. All eyes were fastened on Solomon.
'I might have known,' he said, 'what night it was, by the foul
weather. There's no such night in the whole year round as this is,
always. I never sleep quietly in my bed on the nineteenth of
'Go on,' said Tom Cobb, in a low voice. 'Nor I neither.'
Solomon Daisy raised his glass to his lips; put it down upon the
floor with such a trembling hand that the spoon tinkled in it like
a little bell; and continued thus:
'Have I ever said that we are always brought back to this subject
in some strange way, when the nineteenth of this month comes round?
Do you suppose it was by accident, I forgot to wind up the church-
clock? I never forgot it at any other time, though it's such a
clumsy thing that it has to be wound up every day. Why should it
escape my memory on this day of all others?
'I made as much haste down there as I could when I went from here,
but I had to go home first for the keys; and the wind and rain
being dead against me all the way, it was pretty well as much as I
could do at times to keep my legs. I got there at last, opened the
church-door, and went in. I had not met a soul all the way, and
you may judge whether it was dull or not. Neither of you would
bear me company. If you could have known what was to come, you'd
have been in the right.
'The wind was so strong, that it was as much as I could do to shut
the church-door by putting my whole weight against it; and even as
it was, it burst wide open twice, with such strength that any of
you would have sworn, if you had been leaning against it, as I was,
that somebody was pushing on the other side. However, I got the
key turned, went into the belfry, and wound up the clock--which was
very near run down, and would have stood stock-still in half an
'As I took up my lantern again to leave the church, it came upon me
all at once that this was the nineteenth of March. It came upon me
with a kind of shock, as if a hand had struck the thought upon my
forehead; at the very same moment, I heard a voice outside the
tower--rising from among the graves.'
Here old John precipitately interrupted the speaker, and begged
that if Mr Parkes (who was seated opposite to him and was staring
directly over his head) saw anything, he would have the goodness
to mention it. Mr Parkes apologised, and remarked that he was only
listening; to which Mr Willet angrily retorted, that his listening
with that kind of expression in his face was not agreeable, and
that if he couldn't look like other people, he had better put his
pocket-handkerchief over his head. Mr Parkes with great submission
pledged himself to do so, if again required, and John Willet
turning to Solomon desired him to proceed. After waiting until a
violent gust of wind and rain, which seemed to shake even that
sturdy house to its foundation, had passed away, the little man
'Never tell me that it was my fancy, or that it was any other sound
which I mistook for that I tell you of. I heard the wind whistle
through the arches of the church. I heard the steeple strain and
creak. I heard the rain as it came driving against the walls. I
felt the bells shake. I saw the ropes sway to and fro. And I
heard that voice.'
'What did it say?' asked Tom Cobb.
'I don't know what; I don't know that it spoke. It gave a kind of
cry, as any one of us might do, if something dreadful followed us
in a dream, and came upon us unawares; and then it died off:
seeming to pass quite round the church.'
'I don't see much in that,' said John, drawing a long breath, and
looking round him like a man who felt relieved.
'Perhaps not,' returned his friend, 'but that's not all.'
'What more do you mean to say, sir, is to come?' asked John,
pausing in the act of wiping his face upon his apron. 'What are
you a-going to tell us of next?'
'What I saw.'
'Saw!' echoed all three, bending forward.
'When I opened the church-door to come out,' said the little man,
with an expression of face which bore ample testimony to the
sincerity of his conviction, 'when I opened the church-door to come
out, which I did suddenly, for I wanted to get it shut again before
another gust of wind came up, there crossed me--so close, that by
stretching out my finger I could have touched it--something in the
likeness of a man. It was bare-headed to the storm. It turned its
face without stopping, and fixed its eyes on mine. It was a ghost--
'Whose?' they all three cried together.
In the excess of his emotion (for he fell back trembling in his
chair, and waved his hand as if entreating them to question him no
further), his answer was lost on all but old John Willet, who
happened to be seated close beside him.
'Who!' cried Parkes and Tom Cobb, looking eagerly by turns at
Solomon Daisy and at Mr Willet. 'Who was it?'
'Gentlemen,' said Mr Willet after a long pause, 'you needn't ask.
The likeness of a murdered man. This is the nineteenth of March.'
A profound silence ensued.
'If you'll take my advice,' said John, 'we had better, one and all,
keep this a secret. Such tales would not be liked at the Warren.
Let us keep it to ourselves for the present time at all events, or
we may get into trouble, and Solomon may lose his place. Whether
it was really as he says, or whether it wasn't, is no matter.
Right or wrong, nobody would believe him. As to the probabilities,
I don't myself think,' said Mr Willet, eyeing the corners of the
room in a manner which showed that, like some other philosophers,
he was not quite easy in his theory, 'that a ghost as had been a
man of sense in his lifetime, would be out a-walking in such
weather--I only know that I wouldn't, if I was one.'
But this heretical doctrine was strongly opposed by the other
three, who quoted a great many precedents to show that bad weather
was the very time for such appearances; and Mr Parkes (who had had
a ghost in his family, by the mother's side) argued the matter with
so much ingenuity and force of illustration, that John was only
saved from having to retract his opinion by the opportune
appearance of supper, to which they applied themselves with a
dreadful relish. Even Solomon Daisy himself, by dint of the
elevating influences of fire, lights, brandy, and good company, so
far recovered as to handle his knife and fork in a highly
creditable manner, and to display a capacity both of eating and
drinking, such as banished all fear of his having sustained any
lasting injury from his fright.
Supper done, they crowded round the fire again, and, as is common
on such occasions, propounded all manner of leading questions
calculated to surround the story with new horrors and surprises.
But Solomon Daisy, notwithstanding these temptations, adhered so
steadily to his original account, and repeated it so often, with
such slight variations, and with such solemn asseverations of its
truth and reality, that his hearers were (with good reason) more
astonished than at first. As he took John Willet's view of the
matter in regard to the propriety of not bruiting the tale abroad,
unless the spirit should appear to him again, in which case it
would be necessary to take immediate counsel with the clergyman, it
was solemnly resolved that it should be hushed up and kept quiet.
And as most men like to have a secret to tell which may exalt their
own importance, they arrived at this conclusion with perfect
As it was by this time growing late, and was long past their usual
hour of separating, the cronies parted for the night. Solomon
Daisy, with a fresh candle in his lantern, repaired homewards under
the escort of long Phil Parkes and Mr Cobb, who were rather more
nervous than himself. Mr Willet, after seeing them to the door,
returned to collect his thoughts with the assistance of the boiler,
and to listen to the storm of wind and rain, which had not yet
abated one jot of its fury.
Before old John had looked at the boiler quite twenty minutes, he
got his ideas into a focus, and brought them to bear upon Solomon
Daisy's story. The more he thought of it, the more impressed he
became with a sense of his own wisdom, and a desire that Mr
Haredale should be impressed with it likewise. At length, to the
end that he might sustain a principal and important character in
the affair; and might have the start of Solomon and his two
friends, through whose means he knew the adventure, with a variety
of exaggerations, would be known to at least a score of people, and
most likely to Mr Haredale himself, by breakfast-time to-morrow; he
determined to repair to the Warren before going to bed.
'He's my landlord,' thought John, as he took a candle in his hand,
and setting it down in a corner out of the wind's way, opened a
casement in the rear of the house, looking towards the stables.
'We haven't met of late years so often as we used to do--changes
are taking place in the family--it's desirable that I should stand
as well with them, in point of dignity, as possible--the whispering
about of this here tale will anger him--it's good to have
confidences with a gentleman of his natur', and set one's-self
right besides. Halloa there! Hugh--Hugh. Hal-loa!'
When he had repeated this shout a dozen times, and startled every
pigeon from its slumbers, a door in one of the ruinous old
buildings opened, and a rough voice demanded what was amiss now,
that a man couldn't even have his sleep in quiet.
'What! Haven't you sleep enough, growler, that you're not to be
knocked up for once?' said John.
'No,' replied the voice, as the speaker yawned and shook himself.
'Not half enough.'
'I don't know how you CAN sleep, with the wind a bellowsing and
roaring about you, making the tiles fly like a pack of cards,' said
John; 'but no matter for that. Wrap yourself up in something or
another, and come here, for you must go as far as the Warren with
me. And look sharp about it.'
Hugh, with much low growling and muttering, went back into his
lair; and presently reappeared, carrying a lantern and a cudgel,
and enveloped from head to foot in an old, frowzy, slouching horse-
cloth. Mr Willet received this figure at the back-door, and
ushered him into the bar, while he wrapped himself in sundry
greatcoats and capes, and so tied and knotted his face in shawls
and handkerchiefs, that how he breathed was a mystery.
'You don't take a man out of doors at near midnight in such weather,
without putting some heart into him, do you, master?' said Hugh.
'Yes I do, sir,' returned Mr Willet. 'I put the heart (as you call
it) into him when he has brought me safe home again, and his
standing steady on his legs an't of so much consequence. So hold
that light up, if you please, and go on a step or two before, to
show the way.'
Hugh obeyed with a very indifferent grace, and a longing glance at
the bottles. Old John, laying strict injunctions on his cook to
keep the doors locked in his absence, and to open to nobody but
himself on pain of dismissal, followed him into the blustering
darkness out of doors.
The way was wet and dismal, and the night so black, that if Mr
Willet had been his own pilot, he would have walked into a deep
horsepond within a few hundred yards of his own house, and would
certainly have terminated his career in that ignoble sphere of
action. But Hugh, who had a sight as keen as any hawk's, and,
apart from that endowment, could have found his way blindfold to
any place within a dozen miles, dragged old John along, quite deaf
to his remonstrances, and took his own course without the slightest
reference to, or notice of, his master. So they made head against
the wind as they best could; Hugh crushing the wet grass beneath
his heavy tread, and stalking on after his ordinary savage
fashion; John Willet following at arm's length, picking his
steps, and looking about him, now for bogs and ditches, and now
for such stray ghosts as might be wandering abroad, with looks of
as much dismay and uneasiness as his immovable face was capable of
At length they stood upon the broad gravel-walk before the Warren-
house. The building was profoundly dark, and none were moving near
it save themselves. From one solitary turret-chamber, however,
there shone a ray of light; and towards this speck of comfort in
the cold, cheerless, silent scene, Mr Willet bade his pilot lead
'The old room,' said John, looking timidly upward; 'Mr Reuben's own
apartment, God be with us! I wonder his brother likes to sit
there, so late at night--on this night too.'
'Why, where else should he sit?' asked Hugh, holding the lantern to
his breast, to keep the candle from the wind, while he trimmed it
with his fingers. 'It's snug enough, an't it?'
'Snug!' said John indignantly. 'You have a comfortable idea of
snugness, you have, sir. Do you know what was done in that room,
'Why, what is it the worse for that!' cried Hugh, looking into
John's fat face. 'Does it keep out the rain, and snow, and wind,
the less for that? Is it less warm or dry, because a man was
killed there? Ha, ha, ha! Never believe it, master. One man's no
such matter as that comes to.'
Mr Willet fixed his dull eyes on his follower, and began--by a
species of inspiration--to think it just barely possible that he
was something of a dangerous character, and that it might be
advisable to get rid of him one of these days. He was too prudent
to say anything, with the journey home before him; and therefore
turned to the iron gate before which this brief dialogue had
passed, and pulled the handle of the bell that hung beside it. The
turret in which the light appeared being at one corner of the
building, and only divided from the path by one of the garden-
walks, upon which this gate opened, Mr Haredale threw up the
window directly, and demanded who was there.
'Begging pardon, sir,' said John, 'I knew you sat up late, and made
bold to come round, having a word to say to you.'
'Willet--is it not?'
'Of the Maypole--at your service, sir.'
Mr Haredale closed the window, and withdrew. He presently appeared
at a door in the bottom of the turret, and coming across the
garden-walk, unlocked the gate and let them in.
'You are a late visitor, Willet. What is the matter?'
'Nothing to speak of, sir,' said John; 'an idle tale, I thought you
ought to know of; nothing more.'
'Let your man go forward with the lantern, and give me your hand.
The stairs are crooked and narrow. Gently with your light, friend.
You swing it like a censer.'
Hugh, who had already reached the turret, held it more steadily,
and ascended first, turning round from time to time to shed his
light downward on the steps. Mr Haredale following next, eyed his
lowering face with no great favour; and Hugh, looking down on him,
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