Part 8 out of 15
'I ask your pardon, Sir John,' said the porter, pulling off his
hat. 'Here's a young man says he wants to speak to you. It's late
for strangers. I thought it best to see that all was right.'
'Aha!' cried Sir John, raising his eyebrows. 'It's you,
messenger, is it? Go in. Quite right, friend. I commend your
prudence highly. Thank you. God bless you. Good night.'
To be commended, thanked, God-blessed, and bade good night by one
who carried 'Sir' before his name, and wrote himself M.P. to boot,
was something for a porter. He withdrew with much humility and
reverence. Sir John followed his late visitor into the dressing-
room, and sitting in his easy-chair before the fire, and moving it
so that he could see him as he stood, hat in hand, beside the door,
looked at him from head to foot.
The old face, calm and pleasant as ever; the complexion, quite
juvenile in its bloom and clearness; the same smile; the wonted
precision and elegance of dress; the white, well-ordered teeth; the
delicate hands; the composed and quiet manner; everything as it
used to be: no mark of age or passion, envy, hate, or discontent:
all unruffled and serene, and quite delightful to behold.
He wrote himself M.P.--but how? Why, thus. It was a proud family--
more proud, indeed, than wealthy. He had stood in danger of
arrest; of bailiffs, and a jail--a vulgar jail, to which the common
people with small incomes went. Gentlemen of ancient houses have
no privilege of exemption from such cruel laws--unless they are of
one great house, and then they have. A proud man of his stock and
kindred had the means of sending him there. He offered--not indeed
to pay his debts, but to let him sit for a close borough until his
own son came of age, which, if he lived, would come to pass in
twenty years. It was quite as good as an Insolvent Act, and
infinitely more genteel. So Sir John Chester was a member of
But how Sir John? Nothing so simple, or so easy. One touch with a
sword of state, and the transformation was effected. John Chester,
Esquire, M.P., attended court--went up with an address--headed a
deputation. Such elegance of manner, so many graces of deportment,
such powers of conversation, could never pass unnoticed. Mr was
too common for such merit. A man so gentlemanly should have been--
but Fortune is capricious--born a Duke: just as some dukes should
have been born labourers. He caught the fancy of the king, knelt
down a grub, and rose a butterfly. John Chester, Esquire, was
knighted and became Sir John.
'I thought when you left me this evening, my esteemed
acquaintance,' said Sir John after a pretty long silence, 'that you
intended to return with all despatch?'
'So I did, master.'
'And so you have?' he retorted, glancing at his watch. 'Is that
what you would say?'
Instead of replying, Hugh changed the leg on which he leant,
shuffled his cap from one hand to the other, looked at the ground,
the wall, the ceiling, and finally at Sir John himself; before
whose pleasant face he lowered his eyes again, and fixed them on
'And how have you been employing yourself in the meanwhile?' quoth
Sir John, lazily crossing his legs. 'Where have you been? what
harm have you been doing?'
'No harm at all, master,' growled Hugh, with humility. 'I have
only done as you ordered.'
'As I WHAT?' returned Sir John.
'Well then,' said Hugh uneasily, 'as you advised, or said I ought,
or said I might, or said that you would do, if you was me. Don't
be so hard upon me, master.'
Something like an expression of triumph in the perfect control he
had established over this rough instrument appeared in the knight's
face for an instant; but it vanished directly, as he said--paring
his nails while speaking:
'When you say I ordered you, my good fellow, you imply that I
directed you to do something for me--something I wanted done--
something for my own ends and purposes--you see? Now I am sure I
needn't enlarge upon the extreme absurdity of such an idea, however
unintentional; so please--' and here he turned his eyes upon him--
'to be more guarded. Will you?'
'I meant to give you no offence,' said Hugh. 'I don't know what to
say. You catch me up so very short.'
'You will be caught up much shorter, my good friend--infinitely
shorter--one of these days, depend upon it,' replied his patron
calmly. 'By-the-bye, instead of wondering why you have been so
long, my wonder should be why you came at all. Why did you?'
'You know, master,' said Hugh, 'that I couldn't read the bill I
found, and that supposing it to be something particular from the
way it was wrapped up, I brought it here.'
'And could you ask no one else to read it, Bruin?' said Sir John.
'No one that I could trust with secrets, master. Since Barnaby
Rudge was lost sight of for good and all--and that's five years
ago--I haven't talked with any one but you.'
'You have done me honour, I am sure.'
'I have come to and fro, master, all through that time, when there
was anything to tell, because I knew that you'd be angry with me if
I stayed away,' said Hugh, blurting the words out, after an
embarrassed silence; 'and because I wished to please you if I
could, and not to have you go against me. There. That's the true
reason why I came to-night. You know that, master, I am sure.'
'You are a specious fellow,' returned Sir John, fixing his eyes
upon him, 'and carry two faces under your hood, as well as the
best. Didn't you give me in this room, this evening, any other
reason; no dislike of anybody who has slighted you lately, on all
occasions, abused you, treated you with rudeness; acted towards
you, more as if you were a mongrel dog than a man like himself?'
'To be sure I did!' cried Hugh, his passion rising, as the other
meant it should; 'and I say it all over now, again. I'd do
anything to have some revenge on him--anything. And when you told
me that he and all the Catholics would suffer from those who joined
together under that handbill, I said I'd make one of 'em, if their
master was the devil himself. I AM one of 'em. See whether I am
as good as my word and turn out to be among the foremost, or no. I
mayn't have much head, master, but I've head enough to remember
those that use me ill. You shall see, and so shall he, and so
shall hundreds more, how my spirit backs me when the time comes.
My bark is nothing to my bite. Some that I know had better have a
wild lion among 'em than me, when I am fairly loose--they had!'
The knight looked at him with a smile of far deeper meaning than
ordinary; and pointing to the old cupboard, followed him with his
eyes while he filled and drank a glass of liquor; and smiled when
his back was turned, with deeper meaning yet.
'You are in a blustering mood, my friend,' he said, when Hugh
confronted him again.
'Not I, master!' cried Hugh. 'I don't say half I mean. I can't.
I haven't got the gift. There are talkers enough among us; I'll be
one of the doers.'
'Oh! you have joined those fellows then?' said Sir John, with an
air of most profound indifference.
'Yes. I went up to the house you told me of; and got put down upon
the muster. There was another man there, named Dennis--'
'Dennis, eh!' cried Sir John, laughing. 'Ay, ay! a pleasant
fellow, I believe?'
'A roaring dog, master--one after my own heart--hot upon the matter
'So I have heard,' replied Sir John, carelessly. 'You don't happen
to know his trade, do you?'
'He wouldn't say,' cried Hugh. 'He keeps it secret.'
'Ha ha!' laughed Sir John. 'A strange fancy--a weakness with some
persons--you'll know it one day, I dare swear.'
'We're intimate already,' said Hugh.
'Quite natural! And have been drinking together, eh?' pursued Sir
John. 'Did you say what place you went to in company, when you
left Lord George's?'
Hugh had not said or thought of saying, but he told him; and this
inquiry being followed by a long train of questions, he related all
that had passed both in and out of doors, the kind of people he had
seen, their numbers, state of feeling, mode of conversation,
apparent expectations and intentions. His questioning was so
artfully contrived, that he seemed even in his own eyes to
volunteer all this information rather than to have it wrested from
him; and he was brought to this state of feeling so naturally, that
when Mr Chester yawned at length and declared himself quite wearied
out, he made a rough kind of excuse for having talked so much.
'There--get you gone,' said Sir John, holding the door open in his
hand. 'You have made a pretty evening's work. I told you not to
do this. You may get into trouble. You'll have an opportunity of
revenging yourself on your proud friend Haredale, though, and for
that, you'd hazard anything, I suppose?'
'I would,' retorted Hugh, stopping in his passage out and looking
back; 'but what do I risk! What do I stand a chance of losing,
master? Friends, home? A fig for 'em all; I have none; they are
nothing to me. Give me a good scuffle; let me pay off old scores
in a bold riot where there are men to stand by me; and then use me
as you like--it don't matter much to me what the end is!'
'What have you done with that paper?' said Sir John.
'I have it here, master.'
'Drop it again as you go along; it's as well not to keep such
things about you.'
Hugh nodded, and touching his cap with an air of as much respect as
he could summon up, departed.
Sir John, fastening the doors behind him, went back to his
dressing-room, and sat down once again before the fire, at which
he gazed for a long time, in earnest meditation.
'This happens fortunately,' he said, breaking into a smile, 'and
promises well. Let me see. My relative and I, who are the most
Protestant fellows in the world, give our worst wishes to the Roman
Catholic cause; and to Saville, who introduces their bill, I have
a personal objection besides; but as each of us has himself for
the first article in his creed, we cannot commit ourselves by
joining with a very extravagant madman, such as this Gordon most
undoubtedly is. Now really, to foment his disturbances in secret,
through the medium of such a very apt instrument as my savage
friend here, may further our real ends; and to express at all
becoming seasons, in moderate and polite terms, a disapprobation of
his proceedings, though we agree with him in principle, will
certainly be to gain a character for honesty and uprightness of
purpose, which cannot fail to do us infinite service, and to raise
us into some importance. Good! So much for public grounds. As to
private considerations, I confess that if these vagabonds WOULD
make some riotous demonstration (which does not appear impossible),
and WOULD inflict some little chastisement on Haredale as a not
inactive man among his sect, it would be extremely agreeable to my
feelings, and would amuse me beyond measure. Good again! Perhaps
When he came to this point, he took a pinch of snuff; then
beginning slowly to undress, he resumed his meditations, by saying
with a smile:
'I fear, I DO fear exceedingly, that my friend is following fast in
the footsteps of his mother. His intimacy with Mr Dennis is very
ominous. But I have no doubt he must have come to that end any
way. If I lend him a helping hand, the only difference is, that he
may, upon the whole, possibly drink a few gallons, or puncheons, or
hogsheads, less in this life than he otherwise would. It's no
business of mine. It's a matter of very small importance!'
So he took another pinch of snuff, and went to bed.
From the workshop of the Golden Key, there issued forth a tinkling
sound, so merry and good-humoured, that it suggested the idea of
some one working blithely, and made quite pleasant music. No man
who hammered on at a dull monotonous duty, could have brought such
cheerful notes from steel and iron; none but a chirping, healthy,
honest-hearted fellow, who made the best of everything, and felt
kindly towards everybody, could have done it for an instant. He
might have been a coppersmith, and still been musical. If he had
sat in a jolting waggon, full of rods of iron, it seemed as if he
would have brought some harmony out of it.
Tink, tink, tink--clear as a silver bell, and audible at every
pause of the streets' harsher noises, as though it said, 'I don't
care; nothing puts me out; I am resolved to he happy.' Women
scolded, children squalled, heavy carts went rumbling by, horrible
cries proceeded from the lungs of hawkers; still it struck in
again, no higher, no lower, no louder, no softer; not thrusting
itself on people's notice a bit the more for having been outdone by
louder sounds--tink, tink, tink, tink, tink.
It was a perfect embodiment of the still small voice, free from all
cold, hoarseness, huskiness, or unhealthiness of any kind; foot-
passengers slackened their pace, and were disposed to linger near
it; neighbours who had got up splenetic that morning, felt good-
humour stealing on them as they heard it, and by degrees became
quite sprightly; mothers danced their babies to its ringing; still
the same magical tink, tink, tink, came gaily from the workshop of
the Golden Key.
Who but the locksmith could have made such music! A gleam of sun
shining through the unsashed window, and chequering the dark
workshop with a broad patch of light, fell full upon him, as though
attracted by his sunny heart. There he stood working at his anvil,
his face all radiant with exercise and gladness, his sleeves turned
up, his wig pushed off his shining forehead--the easiest, freest,
happiest man in all the world. Beside him sat a sleek cat, purring
and winking in the light, and falling every now and then into an
idle doze, as from excess of comfort. Toby looked on from a tall
bench hard by; one beaming smile, from his broad nut-brown face
down to the slack-baked buckles in his shoes. The very locks that
hung around had something jovial in their rust, and seemed like
gouty gentlemen of hearty natures, disposed to joke on their
infirmities. There was nothing surly or severe in the whole scene.
It seemed impossible that any one of the innumerable keys could fit
a churlish strong-box or a prison-door. Cellars of beer and wine,
rooms where there were fires, books, gossip, and cheering laughter--
these were their proper sphere of action. Places of distrust and
cruelty, and restraint, they would have left quadruple-locked for
Tink, tink, tink. The locksmith paused at last, and wiped his
brow. The silence roused the cat, who, jumping softly down, crept
to the door, and watched with tiger eyes a bird-cage in an opposite
window. Gabriel lifted Toby to his mouth, and took a hearty
Then, as he stood upright, with his head flung back, and his portly
chest thrown out, you would have seen that Gabriel's lower man was
clothed in military gear. Glancing at the wall beyond, there might
have been espied, hanging on their several pegs, a cap and feather,
broadsword, sash, and coat of scarlet; which any man learned in
such matters would have known from their make and pattern to be the
uniform of a serjeant in the Royal East London Volunteers.
As the locksmith put his mug down, empty, on the bench whence it
had smiled on him before, he glanced at these articles with a
laughing eye, and looking at them with his head a little on one
side, as though he would get them all into a focus, said, leaning
on his hammer:
'Time was, now, I remember, when I was like to run mad with the
desire to wear a coat of that colour. If any one (except my
father) had called me a fool for my pains, how I should have fired
and fumed! But what a fool I must have been, sure-ly!'
'Ah!' sighed Mrs Varden, who had entered unobserved. 'A fool
indeed. A man at your time of life, Varden, should know better
'Why, what a ridiculous woman you are, Martha,' said the locksmith,
turning round with a smile.
'Certainly,' replied Mrs V. with great demureness. 'Of course I
am. I know that, Varden. Thank you.'
'I mean--' began the locksmith.
'Yes,' said his wife, 'I know what you mean. You speak quite plain
enough to be understood, Varden. It's very kind of you to adapt
yourself to my capacity, I am sure.'
'Tut, tut, Martha,' rejoined the locksmith; 'don't take offence at
nothing. I mean, how strange it is of you to run down
volunteering, when it's done to defend you and all the other women,
and our own fireside and everybody else's, in case of need.'
'It's unchristian,' cried Mrs Varden, shaking her head.
'Unchristian!' said the locksmith. 'Why, what the devil--'
Mrs Varden looked at the ceiling, as in expectation that the
consequence of this profanity would be the immediate descent of the
four-post bedstead on the second floor, together with the best
sitting-room on the first; but no visible judgment occurring, she
heaved a deep sigh, and begged her husband, in a tone of
resignation, to go on, and by all means to blaspheme as much as
possible, because he knew she liked it.
The locksmith did for a moment seem disposed to gratify her, but he
gave a great gulp, and mildly rejoined:
'I was going to say, what on earth do you call it unchristian for?
Which would be most unchristian, Martha--to sit quietly down and
let our houses be sacked by a foreign army, or to turn out like men
and drive 'em off? Shouldn't I be a nice sort of a Christian, if I
crept into a corner of my own chimney and looked on while a parcel
of whiskered savages bore off Dolly--or you?'
When he said 'or you,' Mrs Varden, despite herself, relaxed into a
smile. There was something complimentary in the idea. 'In such a
state of things as that, indeed--' she simpered.
'As that!' repeated the locksmith. 'Well, that would be the state
of things directly. Even Miggs would go. Some black tambourine-
player, with a great turban on, would be bearing HER off, and,
unless the tambourine-player was proof against kicking and
scratching, it's my belief he'd have the worst of it. Ha ha ha!
I'd forgive the tambourine-player. I wouldn't have him interfered
with on any account, poor fellow.' And here the locksmith laughed
again so heartily, that tears came into his eyes--much to Mrs
Varden's indignation, who thought the capture of so sound a
Protestant and estimable a private character as Miggs by a pagan
negro, a circumstance too shocking and awful for contemplation.
The picture Gabriel had drawn, indeed, threatened serious
consequences, and would indubitably have led to them, but luckily
at that moment a light footstep crossed the threshold, and Dolly,
running in, threw her arms round her old father's neck and hugged
'Here she is at last!' cried Gabriel. 'And how well you look,
Doll, and how late you are, my darling!'
How well she looked? Well? Why, if he had exhausted every
laudatory adjective in the dictionary, it wouldn't have been praise
enough. When and where was there ever such a plump, roguish,
comely, bright-eyed, enticing, bewitching, captivating, maddening
little puss in all this world, as Dolly! What was the Dolly of
five years ago, to the Dolly of that day! How many coachmakers,
saddlers, cabinet-makers, and professors of other useful arts, had
deserted their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and, most of
all, their cousins, for the love of her! How many unknown
gentlemen--supposed to be of mighty fortunes, if not titles--had
waited round the corner after dark, and tempted Miggs the
incorruptible, with golden guineas, to deliver offers of marriage
folded up in love-letters! How many disconsolate fathers and
substantial tradesmen had waited on the locksmith for the same
purpose, with dismal tales of how their sons had lost their
appetites, and taken to shut themselves up in dark bedrooms, and
wandering in desolate suburbs with pale faces, and all because of
Dolly Varden's loveliness and cruelty! How many young men, in all
previous times of unprecedented steadiness, had turned suddenly
wild and wicked for the same reason, and, in an ecstasy of
unrequited love, taken to wrench off door-knockers, and invert the
boxes of rheumatic watchmen! How had she recruited the king's
service, both by sea and land, through rendering desperate his
loving subjects between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five! How
many young ladies had publicly professed, with tears in their eyes,
that for their tastes she was much too short, too tall, too bold,
too cold, too stout, too thin, too fair, too dark--too everything
but handsome! How many old ladies, taking counsel together, had
thanked Heaven their daughters were not like her, and had hoped she
might come to no harm, and had thought she would come to no good,
and had wondered what people saw in her, and had arrived at the
conclusion that she was 'going off' in her looks, or had never come
on in them, and that she was a thorough imposition and a popular
And yet here was this same Dolly Varden, so whimsical and hard to
please that she was Dolly Varden still, all smiles and dimples and
pleasant looks, and caring no more for the fifty or sixty young
fellows who at that very moment were breaking their hearts to marry
her, than if so many oysters had been crossed in love and opened
Dolly hugged her father as has been already stated, and having
hugged her mother also, accompanied both into the little parlour
where the cloth was already laid for dinner, and where Miss Miggs--
a trifle more rigid and bony than of yore--received her with a sort
of hysterical gasp, intended for a smile. Into the hands of that
young virgin, she delivered her bonnet and walking dress (all of a
dreadful, artful, and designing kind), and then said with a laugh,
which rivalled the locksmith's music, 'How glad I always am to be
at home again!'
'And how glad we always are, Doll,' said her father, putting back
the dark hair from her sparkling eyes, 'to have you at home. Give
me a kiss.'
If there had been anybody of the male kind there to see her do it--
but there was not--it was a mercy.
'I don't like your being at the Warren,' said the locksmith, 'I
can't bear to have you out of my sight. And what is the news over
'What news there is, I think you know already,' replied his
daughter. 'I am sure you do though.'
'Ay?' cried the locksmith. 'What's that?'
'Come, come,' said Dolly, 'you know very well. I want you to tell
me why Mr Haredale--oh, how gruff he is again, to be sure!--has
been away from home for some days past, and why he is travelling
about (we know he IS travelling, because of his letters) without
telling his own niece why or wherefore.'
'Miss Emma doesn't want to know, I'll swear,' returned the
'I don't know that,' said Dolly; 'but I do, at any rate. Do tell
me. Why is he so secret, and what is this ghost story, which
nobody is to tell Miss Emma, and which seems to be mixed up with
his going away? Now I see you know by your colouring so.'
'What the story means, or is, or has to do with it, I know no more
than you, my dear,' returned the locksmith, 'except that it's some
foolish fear of little Solomon's--which has, indeed, no meaning in
it, I suppose. As to Mr Haredale's journey, he goes, as I believe--'
'Yes,' said Dolly.
'As I believe,' resumed the locksmith, pinching her cheek, 'on
business, Doll. What it may be, is quite another matter. Read
Blue Beard, and don't be too curious, pet; it's no business of
yours or mine, depend upon that; and here's dinner, which is much
more to the purpose.'
Dolly might have remonstrated against this summary dismissal of the
subject, notwithstanding the appearance of dinner, but at the
mention of Blue Beard Mrs Varden interposed, protesting she could
not find it in her conscience to sit tamely by, and hear her child
recommended to peruse the adventures of a Turk and Mussulman--far
less of a fabulous Turk, which she considered that potentate to be.
She held that, in such stirring and tremendous times as those in
which they lived, it would be much more to the purpose if Dolly
became a regular subscriber to the Thunderer, where she would have
an opportunity of reading Lord George Gordon's speeches word for
word, which would be a greater comfort and solace to her, than a
hundred and fifty Blue Beards ever could impart. She appealed in
support of this proposition to Miss Miggs, then in waiting, who
said that indeed the peace of mind she had derived from the perusal
of that paper generally, but especially of one article of the very
last week as ever was, entitled 'Great Britain drenched in gore,'
exceeded all belief; the same composition, she added, had also
wrought such a comforting effect on the mind of a married sister of
hers, then resident at Golden Lion Court, number twenty-sivin,
second bell-handle on the right-hand door-post, that, being in a
delicate state of health, and in fact expecting an addition to her
family, she had been seized with fits directly after its perusal,
and had raved of the Inquisition ever since; to the great
improvement of her husband and friends. Miss Miggs went on to say
that she would recommend all those whose hearts were hardened to
hear Lord George themselves, whom she commended first, in respect
of his steady Protestantism, then of his oratory, then of his eyes,
then of his nose, then of his legs, and lastly of his figure
generally, which she looked upon as fit for any statue, prince, or
angel, to which sentiment Mrs Varden fully subscribed.
Mrs Varden having cut in, looked at a box upon the mantelshelf,
painted in imitation of a very red-brick dwelling-house, with a
yellow roof; having at top a real chimney, down which voluntary
subscribers dropped their silver, gold, or pence, into the parlour;
and on the door the counterfeit presentment of a brass plate,
whereon was legibly inscribed 'Protestant Association:'--and
looking at it, said, that it was to her a source of poignant misery
to think that Varden never had, of all his substance, dropped
anything into that temple, save once in secret--as she afterwards
discovered--two fragments of tobacco-pipe, which she hoped would
not be put down to his last account. That Dolly, she was grieved
to say, was no less backward in her contributions, better loving,
as it seemed, to purchase ribbons and such gauds, than to encourage
the great cause, then in such heavy tribulation; and that she did
entreat her (her father she much feared could not be moved) not to
despise, but imitate, the bright example of Miss Miggs, who flung
her wages, as it were, into the very countenance of the Pope, and
bruised his features with her quarter's money.
'Oh, mim,' said Miggs, 'don't relude to that. I had no intentions,
mim, that nobody should know. Such sacrifices as I can make, are
quite a widder's mite. It's all I have,' cried Miggs with a great
burst of tears--for with her they never came on by degrees--'but
it's made up to me in other ways; it's well made up.'
This was quite true, though not perhaps in the sense that Miggs
intended. As she never failed to keep her self-denial full in Mrs
Varden's view, it drew forth so many gifts of caps and gowns and
other articles of dress, that upon the whole the red-brick house
was perhaps the best investment for her small capital she could
possibly have hit upon; returning her interest, at the rate of
seven or eight per cent in money, and fifty at least in personal
repute and credit.
'You needn't cry, Miggs,' said Mrs Varden, herself in tears; 'you
needn't be ashamed of it, though your poor mistress IS on the same
Miggs howled at this remark, in a peculiarly dismal way, and said
she knowed that master hated her. That it was a dreadful thing to
live in families and have dislikes, and not give satisfactions.
That to make divisions was a thing she could not abear to think of,
neither could her feelings let her do it. That if it was master's
wishes as she and him should part, it was best they should part,
and she hoped he might be the happier for it, and always wished him
well, and that he might find somebody as would meet his
dispositions. It would be a hard trial, she said, to part from
such a missis, but she could meet any suffering when her conscience
told her she was in the rights, and therefore she was willing even
to go that lengths. She did not think, she added, that she could
long survive the separations, but, as she was hated and looked upon
unpleasant, perhaps her dying as soon as possible would be the best
endings for all parties. With this affecting conclusion, Miss
Miggs shed more tears, and sobbed abundantly.
'Can you bear this, Varden?' said his wife in a solemn voice,
laying down her knife and fork.
'Why, not very well, my dear,' rejoined the locksmith, 'but I try
to keep my temper.'
'Don't let there be words on my account, mim,' sobbed Miggs. 'It's
much the best that we should part. I wouldn't stay--oh, gracious
me!--and make dissensions, not for a annual gold mine, and found in
tea and sugar.'
Lest the reader should be at any loss to discover the cause of Miss
Miggs's deep emotion, it may be whispered apart that, happening to
be listening, as her custom sometimes was, when Gabriel and his
wife conversed together, she had heard the locksmith's joke
relative to the foreign black who played the tambourine, and
bursting with the spiteful feelings which the taunt awoke in her
fair breast, exploded in the manner we have witnessed. Matters
having now arrived at a crisis, the locksmith, as usual, and for
the sake of peace and quietness, gave in.
'What are you crying for, girl?' he said. 'What's the matter with
you? What are you talking about hatred for? I don't hate you; I
don't hate anybody. Dry your eyes and make yourself agreeable, in
Heaven's name, and let us all be happy while we can.'
The allied powers deeming it good generalship to consider this a
sufficient apology on the part of the enemy, and confession of
having been in the wrong, did dry their eyes and take it in good
part. Miss Miggs observed that she bore no malice, no not to her
greatest foe, whom she rather loved the more indeed, the greater
persecution she sustained. Mrs Varden approved of this meek and
forgiving spirit in high terms, and incidentally declared as a
closing article of agreement, that Dolly should accompany her to
the Clerkenwell branch of the association, that very night. This
was an extraordinary instance of her great prudence and policy;
having had this end in view from the first, and entertaining a
secret misgiving that the locksmith (who was bold when Dolly was in
question) would object, she had backed Miss Miggs up to this
point, in order that she might have him at a disadvantage. The
manoeuvre succeeded so well that Gabriel only made a wry face, and
with the warning he had just had, fresh in his mind, did not dare
to say one word.
The difference ended, therefore, in Miggs being presented with a
gown by Mrs Varden and half-a-crown by Dolly, as if she had
eminently distinguished herself in the paths of morality and
goodness. Mrs V., according to custom, expressed her hope that
Varden would take a lesson from what had passed and learn more
generous conduct for the time to come; and the dinner being now
cold and nobody's appetite very much improved by what had passed,
they went on with it, as Mrs Varden said, 'like Christians.'
As there was to be a grand parade of the Royal East London
Volunteers that afternoon, the locksmith did no more work; but sat
down comfortably with his pipe in his mouth, and his arm round his
pretty daughter's waist, looking lovingly on Mrs V., from time to
time, and exhibiting from the crown of his head to the sole of his
foot, one smiling surface of good humour. And to be sure, when it
was time to dress him in his regimentals, and Dolly, hanging about
him in all kinds of graceful winning ways, helped to button and
buckle and brush him up and get him into one of the tightest coats
that ever was made by mortal tailor, he was the proudest father in
'What a handy jade it is!' said the locksmith to Mrs Varden, who
stood by with folded hands--rather proud of her husband too--while
Miggs held his cap and sword at arm's length, as if mistrusting
that the latter might run some one through the body of its own
accord; 'but never marry a soldier, Doll, my dear.'
Dolly didn't ask why not, or say a word, indeed, but stooped her
head down very low to tie his sash.
'I never wear this dress,' said honest Gabriel, 'but I think of
poor Joe Willet. I loved Joe; he was always a favourite of mine.
Poor Joe!--Dear heart, my girl, don't tie me in so tight.'
Dolly laughed--not like herself at all--the strangest little laugh
that could be--and held her head down lower still.
'Poor Joe!' resumed the locksmith, muttering to himself; 'I always
wish he had come to me. I might have made it up between them, if
he had. Ah! old John made a great mistake in his way of acting by
that lad--a great mistake.--Have you nearly tied that sash, my
What an ill-made sash it was! There it was, loose again and
trailing on the ground. Dolly was obliged to kneel down, and
recommence at the beginning.
'Never mind young Willet, Varden,' said his wife frowning; 'you
might find some one more deserving to talk about, I think.'
Miss Miggs gave a great sniff to the same effect.
'Nay, Martha,' cried the locksmith, 'don't let us bear too hard
upon him. If the lad is dead indeed, we'll deal kindly by his
'A runaway and a vagabond!' said Mrs Varden.
Miss Miggs expressed her concurrence as before.
'A runaway, my dear, but not a vagabond,' returned the locksmith in
a gentle tone. 'He behaved himself well, did Joe--always--and was
a handsome, manly fellow. Don't call him a vagabond, Martha.'
Mrs Varden coughed--and so did Miggs.
'He tried hard to gain your good opinion, Martha, I can tell you,'
said the locksmith smiling, and stroking his chin. 'Ah! that he
did. It seems but yesterday that he followed me out to the Maypole
door one night, and begged me not to say how like a boy they used
him--say here, at home, he meant, though at the time, I recollect,
I didn't understand. "And how's Miss Dolly, sir?" says Joe,'
pursued the locksmith, musing sorrowfully, 'Ah! Poor Joe!'
'Well, I declare,' cried Miggs. 'Oh! Goodness gracious me!'
'What's the matter now?' said Gabriel, turning sharply to her,
'Why, if here an't Miss Dolly,' said the handmaid, stooping down to
look into her face, 'a-giving way to floods of tears. Oh mim! oh
sir. Raly it's give me such a turn,' cried the susceptible damsel,
pressing her hand upon her side to quell the palpitation of her
heart, 'that you might knock me down with a feather.'
The locksmith, after glancing at Miss Miggs as if he could have
wished to have a feather brought straightway, looked on with a
broad stare while Dolly hurried away, followed by that sympathising
young woman: then turning to his wife, stammered out, 'Is Dolly
ill? Have I done anything? Is it my fault?'
'Your fault!' cried Mrs V. reproachfully. 'There--you had better
make haste out.'
'What have I done?' said poor Gabriel. 'It was agreed that Mr
Edward's name was never to be mentioned, and I have not spoken of
him, have I?'
Mrs Varden merely replied that she had no patience with him, and
bounced off after the other two. The unfortunate locksmith wound
his sash about him, girded on his sword, put on his cap, and walked
'I am not much of a dab at my exercise,' he said under his breath,
'but I shall get into fewer scrapes at that work than at this.
Every man came into the world for something; my department seems to
be to make every woman cry without meaning it. It's rather hard!'
But he forgot it before he reached the end of the street, and went
on with a shining face, nodding to the neighbours, and showering
about his friendly greetings like mild spring rain.
The Royal East London Volunteers made a brilliant sight that day:
formed into lines, squares, circles, triangles, and what not, to
the beating of drums, and the streaming of flags; and performed a
vast number of complex evolutions, in all of which Serjeant Varden
bore a conspicuous share. Having displayed their military prowess
to the utmost in these warlike shows, they marched in glittering
order to the Chelsea Bun House, and regaled in the adjacent taverns
until dark. Then at sound of drum they fell in again, and
returned amidst the shouting of His Majesty's lieges to the place
from whence they came.
The homeward march being somewhat tardy,--owing to the un-
soldierlike behaviour of certain corporals, who, being gentlemen of
sedentary pursuits in private life and excitable out of doors,
broke several windows with their bayonets, and rendered it
imperative on the commanding officer to deliver them over to a
strong guard, with whom they fought at intervals as they came
along,--it was nine o'clock when the locksmith reached home. A
hackney-coach was waiting near his door; and as he passed it, Mr
Haredale looked from the window and called him by his name.
'The sight of you is good for sore eyes, sir,' said the locksmith,
stepping up to him. 'I wish you had walked in though, rather than
'There is nobody at home, I find,' Mr Haredale answered; 'besides,
I desired to be as private as I could.'
'Humph!' muttered the locksmith, looking round at his house.
'Gone with Simon Tappertit to that precious Branch, no doubt.'
Mr Haredale invited him to come into the coach, and, if he were not
tired or anxious to go home, to ride with him a little way that
they might have some talk together. Gabriel cheerfully complied,
and the coachman mounting his box drove off.
'Varden,' said Mr Haredale, after a minute's pause, 'you will be
amazed to hear what errand I am on; it will seem a very strange
'I have no doubt it's a reasonable one, sir, and has a meaning in
it,' replied the locksmith; 'or it would not be yours at all. Have
you just come back to town, sir?'
'But half an hour ago.'
'Bringing no news of Barnaby, or his mother?' said the locksmith
dubiously. 'Ah! you needn't shake your head, sir. It was a wild-
goose chase. I feared that, from the first. You exhausted all
reasonable means of discovery when they went away. To begin again
after so long a time has passed is hopeless, sir--quite hopeless.'
'Why, where are they?' he returned impatiently. 'Where can they
be? Above ground?'
'God knows,' rejoined the locksmith, 'many that I knew above it
five years ago, have their beds under the grass now. And the world
is a wide place. It's a hopeless attempt, sir, believe me. We
must leave the discovery of this mystery, like all others, to time,
and accident, and Heaven's pleasure.'
'Varden, my good fellow,' said Mr Haredale, 'I have a deeper
meaning in my present anxiety to find them out, than you can
fathom. It is not a mere whim; it is not the casual revival of my
old wishes and desires; but an earnest, solemn purpose. My
thoughts and dreams all tend to it, and fix it in my mind. I have
no rest by day or night; I have no peace or quiet; I am haunted.'
His voice was so altered from its usual tones, and his manner
bespoke so much emotion, that Gabriel, in his wonder, could only
sit and look towards him in the darkness, and fancy the expression
of his face.
'Do not ask me,' continued Mr Haredale, 'to explain myself. If I
were to do so, you would think me the victim of some hideous fancy.
It is enough that this is so, and that I cannot--no, I can not--lie
quietly in my bed, without doing what will seem to you
'Since when, sir,' said the locksmith after a pause, 'has this
uneasy feeling been upon you?'
Mr Haredale hesitated for some moments, and then replied: 'Since
the night of the storm. In short, since the last nineteenth of
As though he feared that Varden might express surprise, or reason
with him, he hastily went on:
'You will think, I know, I labour under some delusion. Perhaps I
do. But it is not a morbid one; it is a wholesome action of the
mind, reasoning on actual occurrences. You know the furniture
remains in Mrs Rudge's house, and that it has been shut up, by my
orders, since she went away, save once a-week or so, when an old
neighbour visits it to scare away the rats. I am on my way there
'For what purpose?' asked the locksmith.
'To pass the night there,' he replied; 'and not to-night alone, but
many nights. This is a secret which I trust to you in case of any
unexpected emergency. You will not come, unless in case of strong
necessity, to me; from dusk to broad day I shall be there. Emma,
your daughter, and the rest, suppose me out of London, as I have
been until within this hour. Do not undeceive them. This is the
errand I am bound upon. I know I may confide it to you, and I rely
upon your questioning me no more at this time.'
With that, as if to change the theme, he led the astounded
locksmith back to the night of the Maypole highwayman, to the
robbery of Edward Chester, to the reappearance of the man at Mrs
Rudge's house, and to all the strange circumstances which
afterwards occurred. He even asked him carelessly about the man's
height, his face, his figure, whether he was like any one he had
ever seen--like Hugh, for instance, or any man he had known at any
time--and put many questions of that sort, which the locksmith,
considering them as mere devices to engage his attention and
prevent his expressing the astonishment he felt, answered pretty
much at random.
At length, they arrived at the corner of the street in which the
house stood, where Mr Haredale, alighting, dismissed the coach.
'If you desire to see me safely lodged,' he said, turning to the
locksmith with a gloomy smile, 'you can.'
Gabriel, to whom all former marvels had been nothing in comparison
with this, followed him along the narrow pavement in silence. When
they reached the door, Mr Haredale softly opened it with a key he
had about him, and closing it when Varden entered, they were left
in thorough darkness.
They groped their way into the ground-floor room. Here Mr
Haredale struck a light, and kindled a pocket taper he had brought
with him for the purpose. It was then, when the flame was full
upon him, that the locksmith saw for the first time how haggard,
pale, and changed he looked; how worn and thin he was; how
perfectly his whole appearance coincided with all that he had said
so strangely as they rode along. It was not an unnatural impulse
in Gabriel, after what he had heard, to note curiously the
expression of his eyes. It was perfectly collected and rational;--
so much so, indeed, that he felt ashamed of his momentary
suspicion, and drooped his own when Mr Haredale looked towards him,
as if he feared they would betray his thoughts.
'Will you walk through the house?' said Mr Haredale, with a glance
towards the window, the crazy shutters of which were closed and
fastened. 'Speak low.'
There was a kind of awe about the place, which would have rendered
it difficult to speak in any other manner. Gabriel whispered
'Yes,' and followed him upstairs.
Everything was just as they had seen it last. There was a sense of
closeness from the exclusion of fresh air, and a gloom and
heaviness around, as though long imprisonment had made the very
silence sad. The homely hangings of the beds and windows had begun
to droop; the dust lay thick upon their dwindling folds; and damps
had made their way through ceiling, wall, and floor. The boards
creaked beneath their tread, as if resenting the unaccustomed
intrusion; nimble spiders, paralysed by the taper's glare, checked
the motion of their hundred legs upon the wall, or dropped like
lifeless things upon the ground; the death-watch ticked; and the
scampering feet of rats and mice rattled behind the wainscot.
As they looked about them on the decaying furniture, it was strange
to find how vividly it presented those to whom it had belonged, and
with whom it was once familiar. Grip seemed to perch again upon
his high-backed chair; Barnaby to crouch in his old favourite
corner by the fire; the mother to resume her usual seat, and watch
him as of old. Even when they could separate these objects from
the phantoms of the mind which they invoked, the latter only glided
out of sight, but lingered near them still; for then they seemed to
lurk in closets and behind the doors, ready to start out and
suddenly accost them in well-remembered tones.
They went downstairs, and again into the room they had just now
left. Mr Haredale unbuckled his sword and laid it on the table,
with a pair of pocket pistols; then told the locksmith he would
light him to the door.
'But this is a dull place, sir,' said Gabriel lingering; 'may no
one share your watch?'
He shook his head, and so plainly evinced his wish to be alone,
that Gabriel could say no more. In another moment the locksmith
was standing in the street, whence he could see that the light once
more travelled upstairs, and soon returning to the room below,
shone brightly through the chinks of the shutters.
If ever man were sorely puzzled and perplexed, the locksmith was,
that night. Even when snugly seated by his own fireside, with Mrs
Varden opposite in a nightcap and night-jacket, and Dolly beside
him (in a most distracting dishabille) curling her hair, and
smiling as if she had never cried in all her life and never could--
even then, with Toby at his elbow and his pipe in his mouth, and
Miggs (but that perhaps was not much) falling asleep in the
background, he could not quite discard his wonder and uneasiness.
So in his dreams--still there was Mr Haredale, haggard and
careworn, listening in the solitary house to every sound that
stirred, with the taper shining through the chinks until the day
should turn it pale and end his lonely watching.
Next morning brought no satisfaction to the locksmith's thoughts,
nor next day, nor the next, nor many others. Often after nightfall
he entered the street, and turned his eyes towards the well-known
house; and as surely as he did so, there was the solitary light,
still gleaming through the crevices of the window-shutter, while
all within was motionless, noiseless, cheerless, as a grave.
Unwilling to hazard Mr Haredale's favour by disobeying his strict
injunction, he never ventured to knock at the door or to make his
presence known in any way. But whenever strong interest and
curiosity attracted him to the spot--which was not seldom--the
light was always there.
If he could have known what passed within, the knowledge would have
yielded him no clue to this mysterious vigil. At twilight, Mr
Haredale shut himself up, and at daybreak he came forth. He never
missed a night, always came and went alone, and never varied his
proceedings in the least degree.
The manner of his watch was this. At dusk, he entered the house in
the same way as when the locksmith bore him company, kindled a
light, went through the rooms, and narrowly examined them. That
done, he returned to the chamber on the ground-floor, and laying
his sword and pistols on the table, sat by it until morning.
He usually had a book with him, and often tried to read, but never
fixed his eyes or thoughts upon it for five minutes together. The
slightest noise without doors, caught his ear; a step upon the
pavement seemed to make his heart leap.
He was not without some refreshment during the long lonely hours;
generally carrying in his pocket a sandwich of bread and meat, and
a small flask of wine. The latter diluted with large quantities of
water, he drank in a heated, feverish way, as though his throat
were dried; but he scarcely ever broke his fast, by so much as a
crumb of bread.
If this voluntary sacrifice of sleep and comfort had its origin, as
the locksmith on consideration was disposed to think, in any
superstitious expectation of the fulfilment of a dream or vision
connected with the event on which he had brooded for so many years,
and if he waited for some ghostly visitor who walked abroad when
men lay sleeping in their beds, he showed no trace of fear or
wavering. His stern features expressed inflexible resolution; his
brows were puckered, and his lips compressed, with deep and settled
purpose; and when he started at a noise and listened, it was not
with the start of fear but hope, and catching up his sword as
though the hour had come at last, he would clutch it in his tight-
clenched hand, and listen with sparkling eyes and eager looks,
until it died away.
These disappointments were numerous, for they ensued on almost
every sound, but his constancy was not shaken. Still, every night
he was at his post, the same stern, sleepless, sentinel; and still
night passed, and morning dawned, and he must watch again.
This went on for weeks; he had taken a lodging at Vauxhall in which
to pass the day and rest himself; and from this place, when the
tide served, he usually came to London Bridge from Westminster by
water, in order that he might avoid the busy streets.
One evening, shortly before twilight, he came his accustomed road
upon the river's bank, intending to pass through Westminster Hall
into Palace Yard, and there take boat to London Bridge as usual.
There was a pretty large concourse of people assembled round the
Houses of Parliament, looking at the members as they entered and
departed, and giving vent to rather noisy demonstrations of
approval or dislike, according to their known opinions. As he made
his way among the throng, he heard once or twice the No-Popery cry,
which was then becoming pretty familiar to the ears of most men;
but holding it in very slight regard, and observing that the idlers
were of the lowest grade, he neither thought nor cared about it,
but made his way along, with perfect indifference.
There were many little knots and groups of persons in Westminster
Hall: some few looking upward at its noble ceiling, and at the rays
of evening light, tinted by the setting sun, which streamed in
aslant through its small windows, and growing dimmer by degrees,
were quenched in the gathering gloom below; some, noisy passengers,
mechanics going home from work, and otherwise, who hurried quickly
through, waking the echoes with their voices, and soon darkening
the small door in the distance, as they passed into the street
beyond; some, in busy conference together on political or private
matters, pacing slowly up and down with eyes that sought the
ground, and seeming, by their attitudes, to listen earnestly from
head to foot. Here, a dozen squabbling urchins made a very Babel
in the air; there, a solitary man, half clerk, half mendicant,
paced up and down with hungry dejection in his look and gait; at
his elbow passed an errand-lad, swinging his basket round and
round, and with his shrill whistle riving the very timbers of the
roof; while a more observant schoolboy, half-way through, pocketed
his ball, and eyed the distant beadle as he came looming on. It
was that time of evening when, if you shut your eyes and open them
again, the darkness of an hour appears to have gathered in a
second. The smooth-worn pavement, dusty with footsteps, still
called upon the lofty walls to reiterate the shuffle and the tread
of feet unceasingly, save when the closing of some heavy door
resounded through the building like a clap of thunder, and drowned
all other noises in its rolling sound.
Mr Haredale, glancing only at such of these groups as he passed
nearest to, and then in a manner betokening that his thoughts were
elsewhere, had nearly traversed the Hall, when two persons before
him caught his attention. One of these, a gentleman in elegant
attire, carried in his hand a cane, which he twirled in a jaunty
manner as he loitered on; the other, an obsequious, crouching,
fawning figure, listened to what he said--at times throwing in a
humble word himself--and, with his shoulders shrugged up to his
ears, rubbed his hands submissively, or answered at intervals by an
inclination of the head, half-way between a nod of acquiescence,
and a bow of most profound respect.
In the abstract there was nothing very remarkable in this pair, for
servility waiting on a handsome suit of clothes and a cane--not to
speak of gold and silver sticks, or wands of office--is common
enough. But there was that about the well-dressed man, yes, and
about the other likewise, which struck Mr Haredale with no pleasant
feeling. He hesitated, stopped, and would have stepped aside and
turned out of his path, but at the moment, the other two faced
about quickly, and stumbled upon him before he could avoid them.
The gentleman with the cane lifted his hat and had begun to tender
an apology, which Mr Haredale had begun as hastily to acknowledge
and walk away, when he stopped short and cried, 'Haredale! Gad
bless me, this is strange indeed!'
'It is,' he returned impatiently; 'yes--a--'
'My dear friend,' cried the other, detaining him, 'why such great
speed? One minute, Haredale, for the sake of old acquaintance.'
'I am in haste,' he said. 'Neither of us has sought this meeting.
Let it be a brief one. Good night!'
'Fie, fie!' replied Sir John (for it was he), 'how very churlish!
We were speaking of you. Your name was on my lips--perhaps you
heard me mention it? No? I am sorry for that. I am really
sorry.--You know our friend here, Haredale? This is really a most
The friend, plainly very ill at ease, had made bold to press Sir
John's arm, and to give him other significant hints that he was
desirous of avoiding this introduction. As it did not suit Sir
John's purpose, however, that it should be evaded, he appeared
quite unconscious of these silent remonstrances, and inclined his
hand towards him, as he spoke, to call attention to him more
The friend, therefore, had nothing for it, but to muster up the
pleasantest smile he could, and to make a conciliatory bow, as Mr
Haredale turned his eyes upon him. Seeing that he was recognised,
he put out his hand in an awkward and embarrassed manner, which was
not mended by its contemptuous rejection.
'Mr Gashford!' said Haredale, coldly. 'It is as I have heard then.
You have left the darkness for the light, sir, and hate those whose
opinions you formerly held, with all the bitterness of a renegade.
You are an honour, sir, to any cause. I wish the one you espouse
at present, much joy of the acquisition it has made.'
The secretary rubbed his hands and bowed, as though he would disarm
his adversary by humbling himself before him. Sir John Chester
again exclaimed, with an air of great gaiety, 'Now, really, this is
a most remarkable meeting!' and took a pinch of snuff with his
'Mr Haredale,' said Gashford, stealthily raising his eyes, and
letting them drop again when they met the other's steady gaze, is
too conscientious, too honourable, too manly, I am sure, to attach
unworthy motives to an honest change of opinions, even though it
implies a doubt of those he holds himself. Mr Haredale is too
just, too generous, too clear-sighted in his moral vision, to--'
'Yes, sir?' he rejoined with a sarcastic smile, finding the
secretary stopped. 'You were saying'--
Gashford meekly shrugged his shoulders, and looking on the ground
again, was silent.
'No, but let us really,' interposed Sir John at this juncture, 'let
us really, for a moment, contemplate the very remarkable character
of this meeting. Haredale, my dear friend, pardon me if I think
you are not sufficiently impressed with its singularity. Here we
stand, by no previous appointment or arrangement, three old
schoolfellows, in Westminster Hall; three old boarders in a
remarkably dull and shady seminary at Saint Omer's, where you,
being Catholics and of necessity educated out of England, were
brought up; and where I, being a promising young Protestant at that
time, was sent to learn the French tongue from a native of Paris!'
'Add to the singularity, Sir John,' said Mr Haredale, 'that some of
you Protestants of promise are at this moment leagued in yonder
building, to prevent our having the surpassing and unheard-of
privilege of teaching our children to read and write--here--in this
land, where thousands of us enter your service every year, and to
preserve the freedom of which, we die in bloody battles abroad, in
heaps: and that others of you, to the number of some thousands as
I learn, are led on to look on all men of my creed as wolves and
beasts of prey, by this man Gashford. Add to it besides the bare
fact that this man lives in society, walks the streets in broad
day--I was about to say, holds up his head, but that he does not--
and it will be strange, and very strange, I grant you.'
'Oh! you are hard upon our friend,' replied Sir John, with an
engaging smile. 'You are really very hard upon our friend!'
'Let him go on, Sir John,' said Gashford, fumbling with his gloves.
'Let him go on. I can make allowances, Sir John. I am honoured
with your good opinion, and I can dispense with Mr Haredale's. Mr
Haredale is a sufferer from the penal laws, and I can't expect his
'You have so much of my favour, sir,' retorted Mr Haredale, with a
bitter glance at the third party in their conversation, 'that I am
glad to see you in such good company. You are the essence of your
great Association, in yourselves.'
'Now, there you mistake,' said Sir John, in his most benignant way.
'There--which is a most remarkable circumstance for a man of your
punctuality and exactness, Haredale--you fall into error. I don't
belong to the body; I have an immense respect for its members, but
I don't belong to it; although I am, it is certainly true, the
conscientious opponent of your being relieved. I feel it my duty
to be so; it is a most unfortunate necessity; and cost me a bitter
struggle.--Will you try this box? If you don't object to a
trifling infusion of a very chaste scent, you'll find its flavour
'I ask your pardon, Sir John,' said Mr Haredale, declining the
proffer with a motion of his hand, 'for having ranked you among the
humble instruments who are obvious and in all men's sight. I
should have done more justice to your genius. Men of your capacity
plot in secrecy and safety, and leave exposed posts to the duller
'Don't apologise, for the world,' replied Sir John sweetly; 'old
friends like you and I, may be allowed some freedoms, or the deuce
is in it.'
Gashford, who had been very restless all this time, but had not
once looked up, now turned to Sir John, and ventured to mutter
something to the effect that he must go, or my lord would perhaps
'Don't distress yourself, good sir,' said Mr Haredale, 'I'll take
my leave, and put you at your ease--' which he was about to do
without ceremony, when he was stayed by a buzz and murmur at the
upper end of the hall, and, looking in that direction, saw Lord
George Gordon coming in, with a crowd of people round him.
There was a lurking look of triumph, though very differently
expressed, in the faces of his two companions, which made it a
natural impulse on Mr Haredale's part not to give way before this
leader, but to stand there while he passed. He drew himself up
and, clasping his hands behind him, looked on with a proud and
scornful aspect, while Lord George slowly advanced (for the press
was great about him) towards the spot where they were standing.
He had left the House of Commons but that moment, and had come
straight down into the Hall, bringing with him, as his custom was,
intelligence of what had been said that night in reference to the
Papists, and what petitions had been presented in their favour, and
who had supported them, and when the bill was to be brought in, and
when it would be advisable to present their own Great Protestant
petition. All this he told the persons about him in a loud voice,
and with great abundance of ungainly gesture. Those who were
nearest him made comments to each other, and vented threats and
murmurings; those who were outside the crowd cried, 'Silence,' and
Stand back,' or closed in upon the rest, endeavouring to make a
forcible exchange of places: and so they came driving on in a very
disorderly and irregular way, as it is the manner of a crowd to do.
When they were very near to where the secretary, Sir John, and Mr
Haredale stood, Lord George turned round and, making a few remarks
of a sufliciently violent and incoherent kind, concluded with the
usual sentiment, and called for three cheers to back it. While
these were in the act of being given with great energy, he
extricated himself from the press, and stepped up to Gashford's
side. Both he and Sir John being well known to the populace, they
fell back a little, and left the four standing together.
'Mr Haredale, Lord George,' said Sir John Chester, seeing that the
nobleman regarded him with an inquisitive look. 'A Catholic
gentleman unfortunately--most unhappily a Catholic--but an esteemed
acquaintance of mine, and once of Mr Gashford's. My dear Haredale,
this is Lord George Gordon.'
'I should have known that, had I been ignorant of his lordship's
person,' said Mr Haredale. 'I hope there is but one gentleman in
England who, addressing an ignorant and excited throng, would speak
of a large body of his fellow-subjects in such injurious language
as I heard this moment. For shame, my lord, for shame!'
'I cannot talk to you, sir,' replied Lord George in a loud voice,
and waving his hand in a disturbed and agitated manner; 'we have
nothing in common.'
'We have much in common--many things--all that the Almighty gave
us,' said Mr Haredale; 'and common charity, not to say common sense
and common decency, should teach you to refrain from these
proceedings. If every one of those men had arms in their hands at
this moment, as they have them in their heads, I would not leave
this place without telling you that you disgrace your station.'
'I don't hear you, sir,' he replied in the same manner as before;
'I can't hear you. It is indifferent to me what you say. Don't
retort, Gashford,' for the secretary had made a show of wishing to
do so; 'I can hold no communion with the worshippers of idols.'
As he said this, he glanced at Sir John, who lifted his hands and
eyebrows, as if deploring the intemperate conduct of Mr Haredale,
and smiled in admiration of the crowd and of their leader.
'HE retort!' cried Haredale. 'Look you here, my lord. Do you know
Lord George replied by laying his hand upon the shoulder of his
cringing secretary, and viewing him with a smile of confidence.
'This man,' said Mr Haredale, eyeing him from top to toe, 'who in
his boyhood was a thief, and has been from that time to this, a
servile, false, and truckling knave: this man, who has crawled and
crept through life, wounding the hands he licked, and biting those
he fawned upon: this sycophant, who never knew what honour, truth,
or courage meant; who robbed his benefactor's daughter of her
virtue, and married her to break her heart, and did it, with
stripes and cruelty: this creature, who has whined at kitchen
windows for the broken food, and begged for halfpence at our chapel
doors: this apostle of the faith, whose tender conscience cannot
bear the altars where his vicious life was publicly denounced--Do
you know this man?'
'Oh, really--you are very, very hard upon our friend!' exclaimed
'Let Mr Haredale go on,' said Gashford, upon whose unwholesome face
the perspiration had broken out during this speech, in blotches of
wet; 'I don't mind him, Sir John; it's quite as indifferent to me
what he says, as it is to my lord. If he reviles my lord, as you
have heard, Sir John, how can I hope to escape?'
'Is it not enough, my lord,' Mr Haredale continued, 'that I, as
good a gentleman as you, must hold my property, such as it is, by a
trick at which the state connives because of these hard laws; and
that we may not teach our youth in schools the common principles of
right and wrong; but must we be denounced and ridden by such men as
this! Here is a man to head your No-Popery cry! For shame. For
The infatuated nobleman had glanced more than once at Sir John
Chester, as if to inquire whether there was any truth in these
statements concerning Gashford, and Sir John had as often plainly
answered by a shrug or look, 'Oh dear me! no.' He now said, in the
same loud key, and in the same strange manner as before:
'I have nothing to say, sir, in reply, and no desire to hear
anything more. I beg you won't obtrude your conversation, or these
personal attacks, upon me. I shall not be deterred from doing my
duty to my country and my countrymen, by any such attempts, whether
they proceed from emissaries of the Pope or not, I assure you.
They had walked on a few paces while speaking, and were now at the
Hall-door, through which they passed together. Mr Haredale,
without any leave-taking, turned away to the river stairs, which
were close at hand, and hailed the only boatman who remained there.
But the throng of people--the foremost of whom had heard every word
that Lord George Gordon said, and among all of whom the rumour had
been rapidly dispersed that the stranger was a Papist who was
bearding him for his advocacy of the popular cause--came pouring
out pell-mell, and, forcing the nobleman, his secretary, and Sir
John Chester on before them, so that they appeared to be at their
head, crowded to the top of the stairs where Mr Haredale waited
until the boat was ready, and there stood still, leaving him on a
little clear space by himself.
They were not silent, however, though inactive. At first some
indistinct mutterings arose among them, which were followed by a
hiss or two, and these swelled by degrees into a perfect storm.
Then one voice said, 'Down with the Papists!' and there was a
pretty general cheer, but nothing more. After a lull of a few
moments, one man cried out, 'Stone him;' another, 'Duck him;'
another, in a stentorian voice, 'No Popery!' This favourite cry
the rest re-echoed, and the mob, which might have been two hundred
strong, joined in a general shout.
Mr Haredale had stood calmly on the brink of the steps, until they
made this demonstration, when he looked round contemptuously, and
walked at a slow pace down the stairs. He was pretty near the
boat, when Gashford, as if without intention, turned about, and
directly afterwards a great stone was thrown by some hand, in the
crowd, which struck him on the head, and made him stagger like a
The blood sprung freely from the wound, and trickled down his coat.
He turned directly, and rushing up the steps with a boldness and
passion which made them all fall back, demanded:
'Who did that? Show me the man who hit me.'
Not a soul moved; except some in the rear who slunk off, and,
escaping to the other side of the way, looked on like indifferent
'Who did that?' he repeated. 'Show me the man who did it. Dog,
was it you? It was your deed, if not your hand--I know you.'
He threw himself on Gashford as he said the words, and hurled him
to the ground. There was a sudden motion in the crowd, and some
laid hands upon him, but his sword was out, and they fell off
'My lord--Sir John,'--he cried, 'draw, one of you--you are
responsible for this outrage, and I look to you. Draw, if you are
gentlemen.' With that he struck Sir John upon the breast with the
flat of his weapon, and with a burning face and flashing eyes stood
upon his guard; alone, before them all.
For an instant, for the briefest space of time the mind can readily
conceive, there was a change in Sir John's smooth face, such as no
man ever saw there. The next moment, he stepped forward, and laid
one hand on Mr Haredale's arm, while with the other he endeavoured
to appease the crowd.
'My dear friend, my good Haredale, you are blinded with passion--
it's very natural, extremely natural--but you don't know friends
'I know them all, sir, I can distinguish well--' he retorted,
almost mad with rage. 'Sir John, Lord George--do you hear me? Are
'Never mind, sir,' said a man, forcing his way between and pushing
him towards the stairs with friendly violence, 'never mind asking
that. For God's sake, get away. What CAN you do against this
number? And there are as many more in the next street, who'll be
round dfrectly,'--indeed they began to pour in as he said the
words--'you'd be giddy from that cut, in the first heat of a
scuffle. Now do retire, sir, or take my word for it you'll be
worse used than you would be if every man in the crowd was a woman,
and that woman Bloody Mary. Come, sir, make haste--as quick as you
Mr Haredale, who began to turn faint and sick, felt how sensible
this advice was, and descended the steps with his unknown friend's
assistance. John Grueby (for John it was) helped him into the
boat, and giving her a shove off, which sent her thirty feet into
the tide, bade the waterman pull away like a Briton; and walked up
again as composedly as if he had just landed.
There was at first a slight disposition on the part of the mob to
resent this interference; but John looking particularly strong and
cool, and wearing besides Lord George's livery, they thought better
of it, and contented themselves with sending a shower of small
missiles after the boat, which plashed harmlessly in the water;
for she had by this time cleared the bridge, and was darting
swiftly down the centre of the stream.
From this amusement, they proceeded to giving Protestant knocks at
the doors of private houses, breaking a few lamps, and assaulting
some stray constables. But, it being whispered that a detachment
of Life Guards had been sent for, they took to their heels with
great expedition, and left the street quite clear.
When the concourse separated, and, dividing into chance clusters,
drew off in various directions, there still remained upon the scene
of the late disturbance, one man. This man was Gashford, who,
bruised by his late fall, and hurt in a much greater degree by the
indignity he had undergone, and the exposure of which he had been
the victim, limped up and down, breathing curses and threats of
It was not the secretary's nature to waste his wrath in words.
While he vented the froth of his malevolence in those effusions, he
kept a steady eye on two men, who, having disappeared with the rest
when the alarm was spread, had since returned, and were now visible
in the moonlight, at no great distance, as they walked to and fro,
and talked together.
He made no move towards them, but waited patiently on the dark side
of the street, until they were tired of strolling backwards and
forwards and walked away in company. Then he followed, but at some
distance: keeping them in view, without appearing to have that
object, or being seen by them.
They went up Parliament Street, past Saint Martin's church, and
away by Saint Giles's to Tottenham Court Road, at the back of
which, upon the western side, was then a place called the Green
Lanes. This was a retired spot, not of the choicest kind, leading
into the fields. Great heaps of ashes; stagnant pools, overgrown
with rank grass and duckweed; broken turnstiles; and the upright
posts of palings long since carried off for firewood, which menaced
all heedless walkers with their jagged and rusty nails; were the
leading features of the landscape: while here and there a donkey,
or a ragged horse, tethered to a stake, and cropping off a wretched
meal from the coarse stunted turf, were quite in keeping with the
scene, and would have suggested (if the houses had not done so,
sufficiently, of themselves) how very poor the people were who
lived in the crazy huts adjacent, and how foolhardy it might prove
for one who carried money, or wore decent clothes, to walk that way
alone, unless by daylight.
Poverty has its whims and shows of taste, as wealth has. Some of
these cabins were turreted, some had false windows painted on their
rotten walls; one had a mimic clock, upon a crazy tower of four
feet high, which screened the chimney; each in its little patch of
ground had a rude seat or arbour. The population dealt in bones,
in rags, in broken glass, in old wheels, in birds, and dogs.
These, in their several ways of stowage, filled the gardens; and
shedding a perfume, not of the most delicious nature, in the air,
filled it besides with yelps, and screams, and howling.
Into this retreat, the secretary followed the two men whom he had
held in sight; and here he saw them safely lodged, in one of the
meanest houses, which was but a room, and that of small dimensions.
He waited without, until the sound of their voices, joined in a
discordant song, assured him they were making merry; and then
approaching the door, by means of a tottering plank which crossed
the ditch in front, knocked at it with his hand.
'Muster Gashfordl' said the man who opened it, taking his pipe from
his mouth, in evident surprise. 'Why, who'd have thought of this
here honour! Walk in, Muster Gashford--walk in, sir.'
Gashford required no second invitation, and entered with a gracious
air. There was a fire in the rusty grate (for though the spring
was pretty far advanced, the nights were cold), and on a stool
beside it Hugh sat smoking. Dennis placed a chair, his only one,
for the secretary, in front of the hearth; and took his seat again
upon the stool he had left when he rose to give the visitor
'What's in the wind now, Muster Gashford?' he said, as he resumed
his pipe, and looked at him askew. 'Any orders from head-quarters?
Are we going to begin? What is it, Muster Gashford?'
'Oh, nothing, nothing,' rejoined the secretary, with a friendly nod
to Hugh. 'We have broken the ice, though. We had a little spurt
'A very little one,' growled the hangman. 'Not half enough for me.'
'Nor me neither!' cried Hugh. 'Give us something to do with life
in it--with life in it, master. Ha, ha!'
'Why, you wouldn't,' said the secretary, with his worst expression
of face, and in his mildest tones, 'have anything to do, with--with
death in it?'
'I don't know that,' replied Hugh. 'I'm open to orders. I don't
care; not I.'
'Nor I!' vociferated Dennis.
'Brave fellows!' said the secretary, in as pastor-like a voice as
if he were commending them for some uncommon act of valour and
generosity. 'By the bye'--and here he stopped and warmed his
hands: then suddenly looked up--'who threw that stone to-day?'
Mr Dennis coughed and shook his head, as who should say, 'A mystery
indeed!' Hugh sat and smoked in silence.
'It was well done!' said the secretary, warming his hands again.
'I should like to know that man.'
'Would you?' said Dennis, after looking at his face to assure
himself that he was serious. 'Would you like to know that man,
'I should indeed,' replied the secretary.
'Why then, Lord love you,' said the hangman, in his hoarest
chuckle, as he pointed with his pipe to Hugh, 'there he sits.
That's the man. My stars and halters, Muster Gashford,' he added
in a whisper, as he drew his stool close to him and jogged him with
his elbow, 'what a interesting blade he is! He wants as much
holding in as a thorough-bred bulldog. If it hadn't been for me
to-day, he'd have had that 'ere Roman down, and made a riot of it,
in another minute.'
'And why not?' cried Hugh in a surly voice, as he overheard this
last remark. 'Where's the good of putting things off? Strike
while the iron's hot; that's what I say.'
'Ah!' retorted Dennis, shaking his head, with a kind of pity for
his friend's ingenuous youth; 'but suppose the iron an't hot,
brother! You must get people's blood up afore you strike, and have
'em in the humour. There wasn't quite enough to provoke 'em to-
day, I tell you. If you'd had your way, you'd have spoilt the fun
to come, and ruined us.'
'Dennis is quite right,' said Gashford, smoothly. 'He is
perfectly correct. Dennis has great knowledge of the world.'
'I ought to have, Muster Gashford, seeing what a many people I've
helped out of it, eh?' grinned the hangman, whispering the words
behind his hand.
The secretary laughed at this jest as much as Dennis could desire,
and when he had done, said, turning to Hugh:
'Dennis's policy was mine, as you may have observed. You saw, for
instance, how I fell when I was set upon. I made no resistance. I
did nothing to provoke an outbreak. Oh dear no!'
'No, by the Lord Harry!' cried Dennis with a noisy laugh, 'you went
down very quiet, Muster Gashford--and very flat besides. I thinks
to myself at the time "it's all up with Muster Gashford!" I never
see a man lay flatter nor more still--with the life in him--than
you did to-day. He's a rough 'un to play with, is that 'ere
Papist, and that's the fact.'
The secretary's face, as Dennis roared with laughter, and turned
his wrinkled eyes on Hugh who did the like, might have furnished a
study for the devil's picture. He sat quite silent until they
were serious again, and then said, looking round:
'We are very pleasant here; so very pleasant, Dennis, that but for
my lord's particular desire that I should sup with him, and the
time being very near at hand, I should he inclined to stay, until
it would be hardly safe to go homeward. I come upon a little
business--yes, I do--as you supposed. It's very flattering to you;
being this. If we ever should be obliged--and we can't tell, you
know--this is a very uncertain world'--
'I believe you, Muster Gashford,' interposed the hangman with a
grave nod. 'The uncertainties as I've seen in reference to this
here state of existence, the unexpected contingencies as have come
about!--Oh my eye!' Feeling the subject much too vast for
expression, he puffed at his pipe again, and looked the rest.
'I say,' resumed the secretary, in a slow, impressive way; 'we
can't tell what may come to pass; and if we should be obliged,
against our wills, to have recourse to violence, my lord (who has
suffered terribly to-day, as far as words can go) consigns to you
two--bearing in mind my recommendation of you both, as good staunch
men, beyond all doubt and suspicion--the pleasant task of
punishing this Haredale. You may do as you please with him, or
his, provided that you show no mercy, and no quarter, and leave no
two beams of his house standing where the builder placed them. You
may sack it, burn it, do with it as you like, but it must come
down; it must be razed to the ground; and he, and all belonging to
him, left as shelterless as new-born infants whom their mothers
have exposed. Do you understand me?' said Gashford, pausing, and
pressing his hands together gently.
'Understand you, master!' cried Hugh. 'You speak plain now. Why,
this is hearty!'
'I knew you would like it,' said Gashford, shaking him by the hand;
'I thought you would. Good night! Don't rise, Dennis: I would
rather find my way alone. I may have to make other visits here,
and it's pleasant to come and go without disturbing you. I can
find my way perfectly well. Good night!'
He was gone, and had shut the door behind him. They looked at each
other, and nodded approvingly: Dennis stirred up the fire.
'This looks a little more like business!' he said.
'Ay, indeed!' cried Hugh; 'this suits me!'
'I've heerd it said of Muster Gashford,' said the hangman, 'that
he'd a surprising memory and wonderful firmness--that he never
forgot, and never forgave.--Let's drink his health!'
Hugh readily complied--pouring no liquor on the floor when he drank
this toast--and they pledged the secretary as a man after their own
hearts, in a bumper.
While the worst passions of the worst men were thus working in the
dark, and the mantle of religion, assumed to cover the ugliest
deformities, threatened to become the shroud of all that was good
and peaceful in society, a circumstance occurred which once more
altered the position of two persons from whom this history has long
been separated, and to whom it must now return.
In a small English country town, the inhabitants of which supported
themselves by the labour of their hands in plaiting and preparing
straw for those who made bonnets and other articles of dress and
ornament from that material,--concealed under an assumed name, and
living in a quiet poverty which knew no change, no pleasures, and
few cares but that of struggling on from day to day in one great
toil for bread,--dwelt Barnaby and his mother. Their poor cottage
had known no stranger's foot since they sought the shelter of its
roof five years before; nor had they in all that time held any
commerce or communication with the old world from which they had
fled. To labour in peace, and devote her labour and her life to
her poor son, was all the widow sought. If happiness can be said
at any time to be the lot of one on whom a secret sorrow preys, she
was happy now. Tranquillity, resignation, and her strong love of
him who needed it so much, formed the small circle of her quiet
joys; and while that remained unbroken, she was contented.
For Barnaby himself, the time which had flown by, had passed him
like the wind. The daily suns of years had shed no brighter gleam
of reason on his mind; no dawn had broken on his long, dark night.
He would sit sometimes--often for days together on a low seat by
the fire or by the cottage door, busy at work (for he had learnt
the art his mother plied), and listening, God help him, to the
tales she would repeat, as a lure to keep him in her sight. He had
no recollection of these little narratives; the tale of yesterday
was new to him upon the morrow; but he liked them at the moment;
and when the humour held him, would remain patiently within doors,
hearing her stories like a little child, and working cheerfully
from sunrise until it was too dark to see.
At other times,--and then their scanty earnings were barely
sufficient to furnish them with food, though of the coarsest sort,--
he would wander abroad from dawn of day until the twilight
deepened into night. Few in that place, even of the children,
could be idle, and he had no companions of his own kind. Indeed
there were not many who could have kept up with him in his rambles,
had there been a legion. But there were a score of vagabond dogs
belonging to the neighbours, who served his purpose quite as well.
With two or three of these, or sometimes with a full half-dozen
barking at his heels, he would sally forth on some long expedition
that consumed the day; and though, on their return at nightfall,
the dogs would come home limping and sore-footed, and almost spent
with their fatigue, Barnaby was up and off again at sunrise with
some new attendants of the same class, with whom he would return in
like manner. On all these travels, Grip, in his little basket at
his master's back, was a constant member of the party, and when
they set off in fine weather and in high spirits, no dog barked
louder than the raven.
Their pleasures on these excursions were simple enough. A crust of
bread and scrap of meat, with water from the brook or spring,
sufficed for their repast. Barnaby's enjoyments were, to walk, and
run, and leap, till he was tired; then to lie down in the long
grass, or by the growing corn, or in the shade of some tall tree,
looking upward at the light clouds as they floated over the blue
surface of the sky, and listening to the lark as she poured out her
brilliant song. There were wild-flowers to pluck--the bright red
poppy, the gentle harebell, the cowslip, and the rose. There were
birds to watch; fish; ants; worms; hares or rabbits, as they darted
across the distant pathway in the wood and so were gone: millions
of living things to have an interest in, and lie in wait for, and
clap hands and shout in memory of, when they had disappeared. In
default of these, or when they wearied, there was the merry
sunlight to hunt out, as it crept in aslant through leaves and
boughs of trees, and hid far down--deep, deep, in hollow places--
like a silver pool, where nodding branches seemed to bathe and
sport; sweet scents of summer air breathing over fields of beans or
clover; the perfume of wet leaves or moss; the life of waving
trees, and shadows always changing. When these or any of them
tired, or in excess of pleasing tempted him to shut his eyes, there
was slumber in the midst of all these soft delights, with the
gentle wind murmuring like music in his ears, and everything around
melting into one delicious dream.
Their hut--for it was little more--stood on the outskirts of the
town, at a short distance from the high road, but in a secluded
place, where few chance passengers strayed at any season of the
year. It had a plot of garden-ground attached, which Barnaby, in
fits and starts of working, trimmed, and kept in order. Within
doors and without, his mother laboured for their common good; and
hail, rain, snow, or sunshine, found no difference in her.
Though so far removed from the scenes of her past life, and with so
little thought or hope of ever visiting them again, she seemed to
have a strange desire to know what happened in the busy world. Any
old newspaper, or scrap of intelligence from London, she caught at
with avidity. The excitement it produced was not of a pleasurable
kind, for her manner at such times expressed the keenest anxiety
and dread; but it never faded in the least degree. Then, and in
stormy winter nights, when the wind blew loud and strong, the old
expression came into her face, and she would be seized with a fit
of trembling, like one who had an ague. But Barnaby noted little
of this; and putting a great constraint upon herself, she usually
recovered her accustomed manner before the change had caught his
Grip was by no means an idle or unprofitable member of the humble
household. Partly by dint of Barnaby's tuition, and partly by
pursuing a species of self-instruction common to his tribe, and
exerting his powers of observation to the utmost, he had acquired a
degree of sagacity which rendered him famous for miles round. His
conversational powers and surprising performances were the
universal theme: and as many persons came to see the wonderful
raven, and none left his exertions unrewarded--when he condescended
to exhibit, which was not always, for genius is capricious--his
earnings formed an important item in the common stock. Indeed, the
bird himself appeared to know his value well; for though he was
perfectly free and unrestrained in the presence of Barnaby and his
mother, he maintained in public an amazing gravity, and never
stooped to any other gratuitous performances than biting the ankles
of vagabond boys (an exercise in which he much delighted), killing
a fowl or two occasionally, and swallowing the dinners of various
neighbouring dogs, of whom the boldest held him in great awe and
Time had glided on in this way, and nothing had happened to disturb
or change their mode of life, when, one summer's night in June,
they were in their little garden, resting from the labours of the
day. The widow's work was yet upon her knee, and strewn upon the
ground about her; and Barnaby stood leaning on his spade, gazing at
the brightness in the west, and singing softly to himself.
'A brave evening, mother! If we had, chinking in our pockets, but
a few specks of that gold which is piled up yonder in the sky, we
should be rich for life.'
'We are better as we are,' returned the widow with a quiet smile.
'Let us be contented, and we do not want and need not care to have
it, though it lay shining at our feet.'
'Ay!' said Barnaby, resting with crossed arms on his spade, and
looking wistfully at the sunset, that's well enough, mother; but
gold's a good thing to have. I wish that I knew where to find it.
Grip and I could do much with gold, be sure of that.'
'What would you do?' she asked.
'What! A world of things. We'd dress finely--you and I, I mean;
not Grip--keep horses, dogs, wear bright colours and feathers, do
no more work, live delicately and at our ease. Oh, we'd find uses
for it, mother, and uses that would do us good. I would I knew
where gold was buried. How hard I'd work to dig it up!'
'You do not know,' said his mother, rising from her seat and laying
her hand upon his shoulder, 'what men have done to win it, and how
they have found, too late, that it glitters brightest at a
distance, and turns quite dim and dull when handled.'
'Ay, ay; so you say; so you think,' he answered, still looking
eagerly in the same direction. 'For all that, mother, I should
like to try.'
'Do you not see,' she said, 'how red it is? Nothing bears so many
stains of blood, as gold. Avoid it. None have such cause to hate
its name as we have. Do not so much as think of it, dear love. It
has brought such misery and suffering on your head and mine as few
have known, and God grant few may have to undergo. I would rather
we were dead and laid down in our graves, than you should ever come
to love it.'
For a moment Barnaby withdrew his eyes and looked at her with
wonder. Then, glancing from the redness in the sky to the mark
upon his wrist as if he would compare the two, he seemed about to
question her with earnestness, when a new object caught his
wandering attention, and made him quite forgetful of his purpose.
This was a man with dusty feet and garments, who stood, bare-
headed, behind the hedge that divided their patch of garden from
the pathway, and leant meekly forward as if he sought to mingle
with their conversation, and waited for his time to speak. His
face was turned towards the brightness, too, but the light that
fell upon it showed that he was blind, and saw it not.
'A blessing on those voices!' said the wayfarer. 'I feel the
beauty of the night more keenly, when I hear them. They are like
eyes to me. Will they speak again, and cheer the heart of a poor
'Have you no guide?' asked the widow, after a moment's pause.
'None but that,' he answered, pointing with his staff towards the
sun; 'and sometimes a milder one at night, but she is idle now.'
'Have you travelled far?'
'A weary way and long,' rejoined the traveller as he shook his
head. 'A weary, weary, way. I struck my stick just now upon the
bucket of your well--be pleased to let me have a draught of water,
'Why do you call me lady?' she returned. 'I am as poor as you.'
'Your speech is soft and gentle, and I judge by that,' replied the
man. 'The coarsest stuffs and finest silks, are--apart from the
sense of touch--alike to me. I cannot judge you by your dress.'
'Come round this way,' said Barnaby, who had passed out at the
garden-gate and now stood close beside him. 'Put your hand in
mine. You're blind and always in the dark, eh? Are you frightened
in the dark? Do you see great crowds of faces, now? Do they grin
'Alas!' returned the other, 'I see nothing. Waking or sleeping,
Barnaby looked curiously at his eyes, and touching them with his
fingers, as an inquisitive child might, led him towards the house.
'You have come a long distance, 'said the widow, meeting him at the
door. 'How have you found your way so far?'
'Use and necessity are good teachers, as I have heard--the best of
any,' said the blind man, sitting down upon the chair to which
Barnaby had led him, and putting his hat and stick upon the red-
tiled floor. 'May neither you nor your son ever learn under them.
They are rough masters.'
'You have wandered from the road, too,' said the widow, in a tone
'Maybe, maybe,' returned the blind man with a sigh, and yet with
something of a smile upon his face, 'that's likely. Handposts and
milestones are dumb, indeed, to me. Thank you the more for this
rest, and this refreshing drink!'
As he spoke, he raised the mug of water to his mouth. It was
clear, and cold, and sparkling, but not to his taste nevertheless,
or his thirst was not very great, for he only wetted his lips and
put it down again.
He wore, hanging with a long strap round his neck, a kind of scrip
or wallet, in which to carry food. The widow set some bread and
cheese before him, but he thanked her, and said that through the
kindness of the charitable he had broken his fast once since
morning, and was not hungry. When he had made her this reply, he
opened his wallet, and took out a few pence, which was all it
appeared to contain.
'Might I make bold to ask,' he said, turning towards where Barnaby
stood looking on, 'that one who has the gift of sight, would lay
this out for me in bread to keep me on my way? Heaven's blessing
on the young feet that will bestir themselves in aid of one so
helpless as a sightless man!'
Barnaby looked at his mother, who nodded assent; in another moment
he was gone upon his charitable errand. The blind man sat
listening with an attentive face, until long after the sound of his
retreating footsteps was inaudible to the widow, and then said,
suddenly, and in a very altered tone:
'There are various degrees and kinds of blindness, widow. There
is the connubial blindness, ma'am, which perhaps you may have
observed in the course of your own experience, and which is a kind
of wilful and self-bandaging blindness. There is the blindness of
party, ma'am, and public men, which is the blindness of a mad bull
in the midst of a regiment of soldiers clothed in red. There is
the blind confidence of youth, which is the blindness of young
kittens, whose eyes have not yet opened on the world; and there is
that physical blindness, ma'am, of which I am, contrairy to my own
desire, a most illustrious example. Added to these, ma'am, is that
blindness of the intellect, of which we have a specimen in your
interesting son, and which, having sometimes glimmerings and
dawnings of the light, is scarcely to be trusted as a total
darkness. Therefore, ma'am, I have taken the liberty to get him
out of the way for a short time, while you and I confer together,
and this precaution arising out of the delicacy of my sentiments
towards yourself, you will excuse me, ma'am, I know.'
Having delivered himself of this speech with many flourishes of
manner, he drew from beneath his coat a flat stone bottle, and
holding the cork between his teeth, qualified his mug of water with
a plentiful infusion of the liquor it contained. He politely
drained the bumper to her health, and the ladies, and setting it
down empty, smacked his lips with infinite relish.
'I am a citizen of the world, ma'am,' said the blind man, corking
his bottle, 'and if I seem to conduct myself with freedom, it is
therefore. You wonder who I am, ma'am, and what has brought me
here. Such experience of human nature as I have, leads me to that
conclusion, without the aid of eyes by which to read the movements
of your soul as depicted in your feminine features. I will
satisfy your curiosity immediately, ma'am; immediately.' With
that he slapped his bottle on its broad back, and having put it
under his garment as before, crossed his legs and folded his hands,
and settled himself in his chair, previous to proceeding any
The change in his manner was so unexpected, the craft and
wickedness of his deportment were so much aggravated by his
condition--for we are accustomed to see in those who have lost a
human sense, something in its place almost divine--and this
alteration bred so many fears in her whom he addressed, that she
could not pronounce one word. After waiting, as it seemed, for
some remark or answer, and waiting in vain, the visitor resumed:
'Madam, my name is Stagg. A friend of mine who has desired the
honour of meeting with you any time these five years past, has
commissioned me to call upon you. I should be glad to whisper that
gentleman's name in your ear.--Zounds, ma'am, are you deaf? Do you
hear me say that I should be glad to whisper my friend's name in
'You need not repeat it,' said the widow, with a stifled groan; 'I
see too well from whom you come.'
'But as a man of honour, ma'am,' said the blind man, striking
himself on the breast, 'whose credentials must not be disputed, I
take leave to say that I WILL mention that gentleman's name. Ay,
ay,' he added, seeming to catch with his quick ear the very motion
of her hand, 'but not aloud. With your leave, ma'am, I desire the
favour of a whisper.'
She moved towards him, and stooped down. He muttered a word in her
ear; and, wringing her hands, she paced up and down the room like
one distracted. The blind man, with perfect composure, produced
his bottle again, mixed another glassful; put it up as before; and,
drinking from time to time, followed her with his face in silence.
'You are slow in conversation, widow,' he said after a time,
pausing in his draught. 'We shall have to talk before your son.'
'What would you have me do?' she answered. 'What do you want?'
'We are poor, widow, we are poor,' he retorted, stretching out his
right hand, and rubbing his thumb upon its palm.
'Poor!' she cried. 'And what am I?'
'Comparisons are odious,' said the blind man. 'I don't know, I
don't care. I say that we are poor. My friend's circumstances are
indifferent, and so are mine. We must have our rights, widow, or
we must be bought off. But you know that, as well as I, so where
is the use of talking?'
She still walked wildly to and fro. At length, stopping abruptly
before him, she said:
'Is he near here?'
'He is. Close at hand.'
'Then I am lost!'
'Not lost, widow,' said the blind man, calmly; 'only found. Shall
I call him?'
'Not for the world,' she answered, with a shudder.
'Very good,' he replied, crossing his legs again, for he had made
as though he would rise and walk to the door. 'As you please,
widow. His presence is not necessary that I know of. But both he
and I must live; to live, we must eat and drink; to eat and drink,
we must have money:--I say no more.'
'Do you know how pinched and destitute I am?' she retorted. 'I do
not think you do, or can. If you had eyes, and could look around
you on this poor place, you would have pity on me. Oh! let your
heart be softened by your own affliction, friend, and have some
sympathy with mine.'
The blind man snapped his fingers as he answered:
'--Beside the question, ma'am, beside the question. I have the
softest heart in the world, but I can't live upon it. Many a
gentleman lives well upon a soft head, who would find a heart of
the same quality a very great drawback. Listen to me. This is a
matter of business, with which sympathies and sentiments have
nothing to do. As a mutual friend, I wish to arrange it in a
satisfactory manner, if possible; and thus the case stands.--If you
are very poor now, it's your own choice. You have friends who, in
case of need, are always ready to help you. My friend is in a more
destitute and desolate situation than most men, and, you and he
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