Part 3 out of 15
'Was that his message?' asked the visitor, looking up, but without
the smallest discomposure--or at least without the show of any.
'All but the last words,' Barnaby rejoined. 'He meant those. I
saw that, in his face.'
'This for your pains,' said the other, putting money in his hand,
and glancing at him steadfastly.' This for your pains, sharp
'For Grip, and me, and Hugh, to share among us,' he rejoined,
putting it up, and nodding, as he counted it on his fingers. 'Grip
one, me two, Hugh three; the dog, the goat, the cats--well, we
shall spend it pretty soon, I warn you. Stay.--Look. Do you wise
men see nothing there, now?'
He bent eagerly down on one knee, and gazed intently at the smoke,
which was rolling up the chimney in a thick black cloud. John
Willet, who appeared to consider himself particularly and chiefly
referred to under the term wise men, looked that way likewise, and
with great solidity of feature.
'Now, where do they go to, when they spring so fast up there,'
asked Barnaby; 'eh? Why do they tread so closely on each other's
heels, and why are they always in a hurry--which is what you blame
me for, when I only take pattern by these busy folk about me? More
of 'em! catching to each other's skirts; and as fast as they go,
others come! What a merry dance it is! I would that Grip and I
could frisk like that!'
'What has he in that basket at his back?' asked the guest after a
few moments, during which Barnaby was still bending down to look
higher up the chimney, and earnestly watching the smoke.
'In this?' he answered, jumping up, before John Willet could reply--
shaking it as he spoke, and stooping his head to listen. 'In
this! What is there here? Tell him!'
'A devil, a devil, a devil!' cried a hoarse voice.
'Here's money!' said Barnaby, chinking it in his hand, 'money for a
'Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!' replied the raven, 'keep up your
spirits. Never say die. Bow, wow, wow!'
Mr Willet, who appeared to entertain strong doubts whether a
customer in a laced coat and fine linen could be supposed to have
any acquaintance even with the existence of such unpolite gentry as
the bird claimed to belong to, took Barnaby off at this juncture,
with the view of preventing any other improper declarations, and
quitted the room with his very best bow.
There was great news that night for the regular Maypole customers,
to each of whom, as he straggled in to occupy his allotted seat in
the chimney-corner, John, with a most impressive slowness of
delivery, and in an apoplectic whisper, communicated the fact that
Mr Chester was alone in the large room upstairs, and was waiting
the arrival of Mr Geoffrey Haredale, to whom he had sent a letter
(doubtless of a threatening nature) by the hands of Barnaby, then
and there present.
For a little knot of smokers and solemn gossips, who had seldom any
new topics of discussion, this was a perfect Godsend. Here was a
good, dark-looking mystery progressing under that very roof--
brought home to the fireside, as it were, and enjoyable without the
smallest pains or trouble. It is extraordinary what a zest and
relish it gave to the drink, and how it heightened the flavour of
the tobacco. Every man smoked his pipe with a face of grave and
serious delight, and looked at his neighbour with a sort of quiet
congratulation. Nay, it was felt to be such a holiday and special
night, that, on the motion of little Solomon Daisy, every man
(including John himself) put down his sixpence for a can of flip,
which grateful beverage was brewed with all despatch, and set down
in the midst of them on the brick floor; both that it might simmer
and stew before the fire, and that its fragrant steam, rising up
among them, and mixing with the wreaths of vapour from their pipes,
might shroud them in a delicious atmosphere of their own, and shut
out all the world. The very furniture of the room seemed to
mellow and deepen in its tone; the ceiling and walls looked
blacker and more highly polished, the curtains of a ruddier red;
the fire burnt clear and high, and the crickets in the hearthstone
chirped with a more than wonted satisfaction.
There were present two, however, who showed but little interest in
the general contentment. Of these, one was Barnaby himself, who
slept, or, to avoid being beset with questions, feigned to sleep,
in the chimney-corner; the other, Hugh, who, sleeping too, lay
stretched upon the bench on the opposite side, in the full glare of
the blazing fire.
The light that fell upon this slumbering form, showed it in all its
muscular and handsome proportions. It was that of a young man, of
a hale athletic figure, and a giant's strength, whose sunburnt face
and swarthy throat, overgrown with jet black hair, might have
served a painter for a model. Loosely attired, in the coarsest and
roughest garb, with scraps of straw and hay--his usual bed--
clinging here and there, and mingling with his uncombed locks, he
had fallen asleep in a posture as careless as his dress. The
negligence and disorder of the whole man, with something fierce and
sullen in his features, gave him a picturesque appearance, that
attracted the regards even of the Maypole customers who knew him
well, and caused Long Parkes to say that Hugh looked more like a
poaching rascal to-night than ever he had seen him yet.
'He's waiting here, I suppose,' said Solomon, 'to take Mr
'That's it, sir,' replied John Willet. 'He's not often in the
house, you know. He's more at his ease among horses than men. I
look upon him as a animal himself.'
Following up this opinion with a shrug that seemed meant to say,
'we can't expect everybody to be like us,' John put his pipe into
his mouth again, and smoked like one who felt his superiority over
the general run of mankind.
'That chap, sir,' said John, taking it out again after a time, and
pointing at him with the stem, 'though he's got all his faculties
about him--bottled up and corked down, if I may say so, somewheres
'Very good!' said Parkes, nodding his head. 'A very good
expression, Johnny. You'll be a tackling somebody presently.
You're in twig to-night, I see.'
'Take care,' said Mr Willet, not at all grateful for the
compliment, 'that I don't tackle you, sir, which I shall certainly
endeavour to do, if you interrupt me when I'm making observations.--
That chap, I was a saying, though he has all his faculties about
him, somewheres or another, bottled up and corked down, has no more
imagination than Barnaby has. And why hasn't he?'
The three friends shook their heads at each other; saying by that
action, without the trouble of opening their lips, 'Do you observe
what a philosophical mind our friend has?'
'Why hasn't he?' said John, gently striking the table with his open
hand. 'Because they was never drawed out of him when he was a
boy. That's why. What would any of us have been, if our fathers
hadn't drawed our faculties out of us? What would my boy Joe have
been, if I hadn't drawed his faculties out of him?--Do you mind
what I'm a saying of, gentlemen?'
'Ah! we mind you,' cried Parkes. 'Go on improving of us, Johnny.'
'Consequently, then,' said Mr Willet, 'that chap, whose mother was
hung when he was a little boy, along with six others, for passing
bad notes--and it's a blessed thing to think how many people are
hung in batches every six weeks for that, and such like offences,
as showing how wide awake our government is--that chap that was
then turned loose, and had to mind cows, and frighten birds away,
and what not, for a few pence to live on, and so got on by degrees
to mind horses, and to sleep in course of time in lofts and litter,
instead of under haystacks and hedges, till at last he come to be
hostler at the Maypole for his board and lodging and a annual
trifle--that chap that can't read nor write, and has never had much
to do with anything but animals, and has never lived in any way but
like the animals he has lived among, IS a animal. And,' said Mr
Willet, arriving at his logical conclusion, 'is to be treated
'Willet,' said Solomon Daisy, who had exhibited some impatience at
the intrusion of so unworthy a subject on their more interesting
theme, 'when Mr Chester come this morning, did he order the large
'He signified, sir,' said John, 'that he wanted a large apartment.
'Why then, I'll tell you what,' said Solomon, speaking softly and
with an earnest look. 'He and Mr Haredale are going to fight a
duel in it.'
Everybody looked at Mr Willet, after this alarming suggestion. Mr
Willet looked at the fire, weighing in his own mind the effect
which such an occurrence would be likely to have on the establishment.
'Well,' said John, 'I don't know--I am sure--I remember that when I
went up last, he HAD put the lights upon the mantel-shelf.'
'It's as plain,' returned Solomon, 'as the nose on Parkes's face'--
Mr Parkes, who had a large nose, rubbed it, and looked as if he
considered this a personal allusion--'they'll fight in that room.
You know by the newspapers what a common thing it is for gentlemen
to fight in coffee-houses without seconds. One of 'em will be
wounded or perhaps killed in this house.'
'That was a challenge that Barnaby took then, eh?' said John.
'--Inclosing a slip of paper with the measure of his sword upon it,
I'll bet a guinea,' answered the little man. 'We know what sort of
gentleman Mr Haredale is. You have told us what Barnaby said about
his looks, when he came back. Depend upon it, I'm right. Now,
The flip had had no flavour till now. The tobacco had been of mere
English growth, compared with its present taste. A duel in that
great old rambling room upstairs, and the best bed ordered already
for the wounded man!
'Would it be swords or pistols, now?' said John.
'Heaven knows. Perhaps both,' returned Solomon. 'The gentlemen
wear swords, and may easily have pistols in their pockets--most
likely have, indeed. If they fire at each other without effect,
then they'll draw, and go to work in earnest.'
A shade passed over Mr Willet's face as he thought of broken
windows and disabled furniture, but bethinking himself that one of
the parties would probably be left alive to pay the damage, he
brightened up again.
'And then,' said Solomon, looking from face to face, 'then we shall
have one of those stains upon the floor that never come out. If Mr
Haredale wins, depend upon it, it'll be a deep one; or if he loses,
it will perhaps be deeper still, for he'll never give in unless
he's beaten down. We know him better, eh?'
'Better indeed!' they whispered all together.
'As to its ever being got out again,' said Solomon, 'I tell you it
never will, or can be. Why, do you know that it has been tried, at
a certain house we are acquainted with?'
'The Warren!' cried John. 'No, sure!'
'Yes, sure--yes. It's only known by very few. It has been
whispered about though, for all that. They planed the board away,
but there it was. They went deep, but it went deeper. They put
new boards down, but there was one great spot that came through
still, and showed itself in the old place. And--harkye--draw
nearer--Mr Geoffrey made that room his study, and sits there,
always, with his foot (as I have heard) upon it; and he believes,
through thinking of it long and very much, that it will never fade
until he finds the man who did the deed.'
As this recital ended, and they all drew closer round the fire, the
tramp of a horse was heard without.
'The very man!' cried John, starting up. 'Hugh! Hugh!'
The sleeper staggered to his feet, and hurried after him. John
quickly returned, ushering in with great attention and deference
(for Mr Haredale was his landlord) the long-expected visitor, who
strode into the room clanking his heavy boots upon the floor; and
looking keenly round upon the bowing group, raised his hat in
acknowledgment of their profound respect.
'You have a stranger here, Willet, who sent to me,' he said, in a
voice which sounded naturally stern and deep. 'Where is he?'
'In the great room upstairs, sir,' answered John.
'Show the way. Your staircase is dark, I know. Gentlemen, good
With that, he signed to the landlord to go on before; and went
clanking out, and up the stairs; old John, in his agitation,
ingeniously lighting everything but the way, and making a stumble
at every second step.
'Stop!' he said, when they reached the landing. 'I can announce
myself. Don't wait.'
He laid his hand upon the door, entered, and shut it heavily. Mr
Willet was by no means disposed to stand there listening by
himself, especially as the walls were very thick; so descended,
with much greater alacrity than he had come up, and joined his
There was a brief pause in the state-room of the Maypole, as Mr
Haredale tried the lock to satisfy himself that he had shut the
door securely, and, striding up the dark chamber to where the
screen inclosed a little patch of light and warmth, presented
himself, abruptly and in silence, before the smiling guest.
If the two had no greater sympathy in their inward thoughts than in
their outward bearing and appearance, the meeting did not seem
likely to prove a very calm or pleasant one. With no great
disparity between them in point of years, they were, in every other
respect, as unlike and far removed from each other as two men could
well be. The one was soft-spoken, delicately made, precise, and
elegant; the other, a burly square-built man, negligently dressed,
rough and abrupt in manner, stern, and, in his present mood,
forbidding both in look and speech. The one preserved a calm and
placid smile; the other, a distrustful frown. The new-comer,
indeed, appeared bent on showing by his every tone and gesture his
determined opposition and hostility to the man he had come to meet.
The guest who received him, on the other hand, seemed to feel that
the contrast between them was all in his favour, and to derive a
quiet exultation from it which put him more at his ease than ever.
'Haredale,' said this gentleman, without the least appearance of
embarrassment or reserve, 'I am very glad to see you.'
'Let us dispense with compliments. They are misplaced between us,'
returned the other, waving his hand, 'and say plainly what we have
to say. You have asked me to meet you. I am here. Why do we
stand face to face again?'
'Still the same frank and sturdy character, I see!'
'Good or bad, sir, I am,' returned the other, leaning his arm upon
the chimney-piece, and turning a haughty look upon the occupant of
the easy-chair, 'the man I used to be. I have lost no old likings
or dislikings; my memory has not failed me by a hair's-breadth.
You ask me to give you a meeting. I say, I am here.'
'Our meeting, Haredale,' said Mr Chester, tapping his snuff-box,
and following with a smile the impatient gesture he had made--
perhaps unconsciously--towards his sword, 'is one of conference and
peace, I hope?'
'I have come here,' returned the other, 'at your desire, holding
myself bound to meet you, when and where you would. I have not
come to bandy pleasant speeches, or hollow professions. You are a
smooth man of the world, sir, and at such play have me at a
disadvantage. The very last man on this earth with whom I would
enter the lists to combat with gentle compliments and masked faces,
is Mr Chester, I do assure you. I am not his match at such
weapons, and have reason to believe that few men are.'
'You do me a great deal of honour Haredale,' returned the other,
most composedly, 'and I thank you. I will be frank with you--'
'I beg your pardon--will be what?'
'Hab!' cried Mr Haredale, drawing his breath. 'But don't let me
'So resolved am I to hold this course,' returned the other, tasting
his wine with great deliberation; 'that I have determined not to
quarrel with you, and not to be betrayed into a warm expression or
a hasty word.'
'There again,' said Mr Haredale, 'you have me at a great advantage.
'Is not to be disturbed, when it will serve my purpose, you would
say'--rejoined the other, interrupting him with the same
complacency. 'Granted. I allow it. And I have a purpose to serve
now. So have you. I am sure our object is the same. Let us
attain it like sensible men, who have ceased to be boys some time.--
Do you drink?'
'With my friends,' returned the other.
'At least,' said Mr Chester, 'you will be seated?'
'I will stand,' returned Mr Haredale impatiently, 'on this
dismantled, beggared hearth, and not pollute it, fallen as it is,
with mockeries. Go on.'
'You are wrong, Haredale,' said the other, crossing his legs, and
smiling as he held his glass up in the bright glow of the fire.
'You are really very wrong. The world is a lively place enough, in
which we must accommodate ourselves to circumstances, sail with the
stream as glibly as we can, be content to take froth for substance,
the surface for the depth, the counterfeit for the real coin. I
wonder no philosopher has ever established that our globe itself is
hollow. It should be, if Nature is consistent in her works.'
'YOU think it is, perhaps?'
'I should say,' he returned, sipping his wine, 'there could be no
doubt about it. Well; we, in trifling with this jingling toy, have
had the ill-luck to jostle and fall out. We are not what the world
calls friends; but we are as good and true and loving friends for
all that, as nine out of every ten of those on whom it bestows the
title. You have a niece, and I a son--a fine lad, Haredale, but
foolish. They fall in love with each other, and form what this
same world calls an attachment; meaning a something fanciful and
false like the rest, which, if it took its own free time, would
break like any other bubble. But it may not have its own free
time--will not, if they are left alone--and the question is, shall
we two, because society calls us enemies, stand aloof, and let them
rush into each other's arms, when, by approaching each other
sensibly, as we do now, we can prevent it, and part them?'
'I love my niece,' said Mr Haredale, after a short silence. 'It
may sound strangely in your ears; but I love her.'
'Strangely, my good fellow!' cried Mr Chester, lazily filling his
glass again, and pulling out his toothpick. 'Not at all. I like
Ned too--or, as you say, love him--that's the word among such near
relations. I'm very fond of Ned. He's an amazingly good fellow,
and a handsome fellow--foolish and weak as yet; that's all. But
the thing is, Haredale--for I'll be very frank, as I told you I
would at first--independently of any dislike that you and I might
have to being related to each other, and independently of the
religious differences between us--and damn it, that's important--I
couldn't afford a match of this description. Ned and I couldn't do
it. It's impossible.'
'Curb your tongue, in God's name, if this conversation is to last,'
retorted Mr Haredale fiercely. 'I have said I love my niece. Do
you think that, loving her, I would have her fling her heart away
on any man who had your blood in his veins?'
'You see,' said the other, not at all disturbed, 'the advantage of
being so frank and open. Just what I was about to add, upon my
honour! I am amazingly attached to Ned--quite doat upon him,
indeed--and even if we could afford to throw ourselves away, that
very objection would be quite insuperable.--I wish you'd take some
'Mark me,' said Mr Haredale, striding to the table, and laying his
hand upon it heavily. 'If any man believes--presumes to think--
that I, in word or deed, or in the wildest dream, ever entertained
remotely the idea of Emma Haredale's favouring the suit of any one
who was akin to you--in any way--I care not what--he lies. He
lies, and does me grievous wrong, in the mere thought.'
'Haredale,' returned the other, rocking himself to and fro as in
assent, and nodding at the fire, 'it's extremely manly, and really
very generous in you, to meet me in this unreserved and handsome
way. Upon my word, those are exactly my sentiments, only
expressed with much more force and power than I could use--you know
my sluggish nature, and will forgive me, I am sure.'
'While I would restrain her from all correspondence with your son,
and sever their intercourse here, though it should cause her
death,' said Mr Haredale, who had been pacing to and fro, 'I would
do it kindly and tenderly if I can. I have a trust to discharge,
which my nature is not formed to understand, and, for this reason,
the bare fact of there being any love between them comes upon me
to-night, almost for the first time.'
'I am more delighted than I can possibly tell you,' rejoined Mr
Chester with the utmost blandness, 'to find my own impression so
confirmed. You see the advantage of our having met. We understand
each other. We quite agree. We have a most complete and thorough
explanation, and we know what course to take.--Why don't you taste
your tenant's wine? It's really very good.'
'Pray who,' said Mr Haredale, 'have aided Emma, or your son? Who
are their go-betweens, and agents--do you know?'
'All the good people hereabouts--the neighbourhood in general, I
think,' returned the other, with his most affable smile. 'The
messenger I sent to you to-day, foremost among them all.'
'The idiot? Barnaby?'
'You are surprised? I am glad of that, for I was rather so myself.
Yes. I wrung that from his mother--a very decent sort of woman--
from whom, indeed, I chiefly learnt how serious the matter had
become, and so determined to ride out here to-day, and hold a
parley with you on this neutral ground.--You're stouter than you
used to be, Haredale, but you look extremely well.'
'Our business, I presume, is nearly at an end,' said Mr Haredale,
with an expression of impatience he was at no pains to conceal.
'Trust me, Mr Chester, my niece shall change from this time. I
will appeal,' he added in a lower tone, 'to her woman's heart, her
dignity, her pride, her duty--'
'I shall do the same by Ned,' said Mr Chester, restoring some
errant faggots to their places in the grate with the toe of his
boot. 'If there is anything real in this world, it is those
amazingly fine feelings and those natural obligations which must
subsist between father and son. I shall put it to him on every
ground of moral and religious feeling. I shall represent to him
that we cannot possibly afford it--that I have always looked
forward to his marrying well, for a genteel provision for myself in
the autumn of life--that there are a great many clamorous dogs to
pay, whose claims are perfectly just and right, and who must be
paid out of his wife's fortune. In short, that the very highest
and most honourable feelings of our nature, with every
consideration of filial duty and affection, and all that sort of
thing, imperatively demand that he should run away with an
'And break her heart as speedily as possible?' said Mr Haredale,
drawing on his glove.
'There Ned will act exactly as he pleases,' returned the other,
sipping his wine; 'that's entirely his affair. I wouldn't for the
world interfere with my son, Haredale, beyond a certain point. The
relationship between father and son, you know, is positively quite
a holy kind of bond.--WON'T you let me persuade you to take one
glass of wine? Well! as you please, as you please,' he added,
helping himself again.
'Chester,' said Mr Haredale, after a short silence, during which he
had eyed his smiling face from time to time intently, 'you have the
head and heart of an evil spirit in all matters of deception.'
'Your health!' said the other, with a nod. 'But I have interrupted
'If now,' pursued Mr Haredale, 'we should find it difficult to
separate these young people, and break off their intercourse--if,
for instance, you find it difficult on your side, what course do
you intend to take?'
'Nothing plainer, my good fellow, nothing easier,' returned the
other, shrugging his shoulders and stretching himself more
comfortably before the fire. 'I shall then exert those powers on
which you flatter me so highly--though, upon my word, I don't
deserve your compliments to their full extent--and resort to a few
little trivial subterfuges for rousing jealousy and resentment.
'In short, justifying the means by the end, we are, as a last
resource for tearing them asunder, to resort to treachery and--and
lying,' said Mr Haredale.
'Oh dear no. Fie, fie!' returned the other, relishing a pinch of
snuff extremely. 'Not lying. Only a little management, a little
diplomacy, a little--intriguing, that's the word.'
'I wish,' said Mr Haredale, moving to and fro, and stopping, and
moving on again, like one who was ill at ease, 'that this could
have been foreseen or prevented. But as it has gone so far, and it
is necessary for us to act, it is of no use shrinking or
regretting. Well! I shall second your endeavours to the utmost of
my power. There is one topic in the whole wide range of human
thoughts on which we both agree. We shall act in concert, but
apart. There will be no need, I hope, for us to meet again.'
'Are you going?' said Mr Chester, rising with a graceful indolence.
'Let me light you down the stairs.'
'Pray keep your seat,' returned the other drily, 'I know the way.
So, waving his hand slightly, and putting on his hat as he turned
upon his heel, he went clanking out as he had come, shut the door
behind him, and tramped down the echoing stairs.
'Pah! A very coarse animal, indeed!' said Mr Chester, composing
himself in the easy-chair again. 'A rough brute. Quite a human
John Willet and his friends, who had been listening intently for
the clash of swords, or firing of pistols in the great room, and
had indeed settled the order in which they should rush in when
summoned--in which procession old John had carefully arranged that
he should bring up the rear--were very much astonished to see Mr
Haredale come down without a scratch, call for his horse, and ride
away thoughtfully at a footpace. After some consideration, it was
decided that he had left the gentleman above, for dead, and had
adopted this stratagem to divert suspicion or pursuit.
As this conclusion involved the necessity of their going upstairs
forthwith, they were about to ascend in the order they had agreed
upon, when a smart ringing at the guest's bell, as if he had pulled
it vigorously, overthrew all their speculations, and involved them
in great uncertainty and doubt. At length Mr Willet agreed to go
upstairs himself, escorted by Hugh and Barnaby, as the strongest
and stoutest fellows on the premises, who were to make their
appearance under pretence of clearing away the glasses.
Under this protection, the brave and broad-faced John boldly
entered the room, half a foot in advance, and received an order for
a boot-jack without trembling. But when it was brought, and he
leant his sturdy shoulder to the guest, Mr Willet was observed to
look very hard into his boots as he pulled them off, and, by
opening his eyes much wider than usual, to appear to express some
surprise and disappointment at not finding them full of blood. He
took occasion, too, to examine the gentleman as closely as he
could, expecting to discover sundry loopholes in his person,
pierced by his adversary's sword. Finding none, however, and
observing in course of time that his guest was as cool and
unruffled, both in his dress and temper, as he had been all day,
old John at last heaved a deep sigh, and began to think no duel had
been fought that night.
'And now, Willet,' said Mr Chester, 'if the room's well aired, I'll
try the merits of that famous bed.'
'The room, sir,' returned John, taking up a candle, and nudging
Barnaby and Hugh to accompany them, in case the gentleman should
unexpectedly drop down faint or dead from some internal wound, 'the
room's as warm as any toast in a tankard. Barnaby, take you that
other candle, and go on before. Hugh! Follow up, sir, with the
In this order--and still, in his earnest inspection, holding his
candle very close to the guest; now making him feel extremely warm
about the legs, now threatening to set his wig on fire, and
constantly begging his pardon with great awkwardness and
embarrassment--John led the party to the best bedroom, which was
nearly as large as the chamber from which they had come, and held,
drawn out near the fire for warmth, a great old spectral bedstead,
hung with faded brocade, and ornamented, at the top of each carved
post, with a plume of feathers that had once been white, but with
dust and age had now grown hearse-like and funereal.
'Good night, my friends,' said Mr Chester with a sweet smile,
seating himself, when he had surveyed the room from end to end, in
the easy-chair which his attendants wheeled before the fire. 'Good
night! Barnaby, my good fellow, you say some prayers before you go
to bed, I hope?'
Barnaby nodded. 'He has some nonsense that he calls his prayers,
sir,' returned old John, officiously. 'I'm afraid there an't much
good in em.'
'And Hugh?' said Mr Chester, turning to him.
'Not I,' he answered. 'I know his'--pointing to Barnaby--'they're
well enough. He sings 'em sometimes in the straw. I listen.'
'He's quite a animal, sir,' John whispered in his ear with dignity.
'You'll excuse him, I'm sure. If he has any soul at all, sir, it
must be such a very small one, that it don't signify what he does
or doesn't in that way. Good night, sir!'
The guest rejoined 'God bless you!' with a fervour that was quite
affecting; and John, beckoning his guards to go before, bowed
himself out of the room, and left him to his rest in the Maypole's
If Joseph Willet, the denounced and proscribed of 'prentices, had
happened to be at home when his father's courtly guest presented
himself before the Maypole door--that is, if it had not perversely
chanced to be one of the half-dozen days in the whole year on which
he was at liberty to absent himself for as many hours without
question or reproach--he would have contrived, by hook or crook, to
dive to the very bottom of Mr Chester's mystery, and to come at his
purpose with as much certainty as though he had been his
confidential adviser. In that fortunate case, the lovers would
have had quick warning of the ills that threatened them, and the
aid of various timely and wise suggestions to boot; for all Joe's
readiness of thought and action, and all his sympathies and good
wishes, were enlisted in favour of the young people, and were
staunch in devotion to their cause. Whether this disposition arose
out of his old prepossessions in favour of the young lady, whose
history had surrounded her in his mind, almost from his cradle,
with circumstances of unusual interest; or from his attachment
towards the young gentleman, into whose confidence he had, through
his shrewdness and alacrity, and the rendering of sundry important
services as a spy and messenger, almost imperceptibly glided;
whether they had their origin in either of these sources, or in the
habit natural to youth, or in the constant badgering and worrying
of his venerable parent, or in any hidden little love affair of his
own which gave him something of a fellow-feeling in the matter, it
is needless to inquire--especially as Joe was out of the way, and
had no opportunity on that particular occasion of testifying to his
sentiments either on one side or the other.
It was, in fact, the twenty-fifth of March, which, as most people
know to their cost, is, and has been time out of mind, one of those
unpleasant epochs termed quarter-days. On this twenty-fifth of
March, it was John Willet's pride annually to settle, in hard cash,
his account with a certain vintner and distiller in the city of
London; to give into whose hands a canvas bag containing its exact
amount, and not a penny more or less, was the end and object of a
journey for Joe, so surely as the year and day came round.
This journey was performed upon an old grey mare, concerning whom
John had an indistinct set of ideas hovering about him, to the
effect that she could win a plate or cup if she tried. She never
had tried, and probably never would now, being some fourteen or
fifteen years of age, short in wind, long in body, and rather the
worse for wear in respect of her mane and tail. Notwithstanding
these slight defects, John perfectly gloried in the animal; and
when she was brought round to the door by Hugh, actually retired
into the bar, and there, in a secret grove of lemons, laughed with
'There's a bit of horseflesh, Hugh!' said John, when he had
recovered enough self-command to appear at the door again.
'There's a comely creature! There's high mettle! There's bone!'
There was bone enough beyond all doubt; and so Hugh seemed to
think, as he sat sideways in the saddle, lazily doubled up with his
chin nearly touching his knees; and heedless of the dangling
stirrups and loose bridle-rein, sauntered up and down on the little
green before the door.
'Mind you take good care of her, sir,' said John, appealing from
this insensible person to his son and heir, who now appeared, fully
equipped and ready. 'Don't you ride hard.'
'I should be puzzled to do that, I think, father,' Joe replied,
casting a disconsolate look at the animal.
'None of your impudence, sir, if you please,' retorted old John.
'What would you ride, sir? A wild ass or zebra would be too tame
for you, wouldn't he, eh sir? You'd like to ride a roaring lion,
wouldn't you, sir, eh sir? Hold your tongue, sir.' When Mr
Willet, in his differences with his son, had exhausted all the
questions that occurred to him, and Joe had said nothing at all in
answer, he generally wound up by bidding him hold his tongue.
'And what does the boy mean,' added Mr Willet, after he had stared
at him for a little time, in a species of stupefaction, 'by cocking
his hat, to such an extent! Are you going to kill the wintner, sir?'
'No,' said Joe, tartly; 'I'm not. Now your mind's at ease,
'With a milintary air, too!' said Mr Willet, surveying him from top
to toe; 'with a swaggering, fire-eating, biling-water drinking
sort of way with him! And what do you mean by pulling up the
crocuses and snowdrops, eh sir?'
'It's only a little nosegay,' said Joe, reddening. 'There's no
harm in that, I hope?'
'You're a boy of business, you are, sir!' said Mr Willet,
disdainfully, 'to go supposing that wintners care for nosegays.'
'I don't suppose anything of the kind,' returned Joe. 'Let them
keep their red noses for bottles and tankards. These are going to
Mr Varden's house.'
'And do you suppose HE minds such things as crocuses?' demanded
'I don't know, and to say the truth, I don't care,' said Joe.
'Come, father, give me the money, and in the name of patience let
'There it is, sir,' replied John; 'and take care of it; and mind
you don't make too much haste back, but give the mare a long rest.--
Do you mind?'
'Ay, I mind,' returned Joe. 'She'll need it, Heaven knows.'
'And don't you score up too much at the Black Lion,' said John.
'Mind that too.'
'Then why don't you let me have some money of my own?' retorted
Joe, sorrowfully; 'why don't you, father? What do you send me into
London for, giving me only the right to call for my dinner at the
Black Lion, which you're to pay for next time you go, as if I was
not to be trusted with a few shillings? Why do you use me like
this? It's not right of you. You can't expect me to be quiet
'Let him have money!' cried John, in a drowsy reverie. 'What does
he call money--guineas? Hasn't he got money? Over and above the
tolls, hasn't he one and sixpence?'
'One and sixpence!' repeated his son contemptuously.
'Yes, sir,' returned John, 'one and sixpence. When I was your age,
I had never seen so much money, in a heap. A shilling of it is in
case of accidents--the mare casting a shoe, or the like of that.
The other sixpence is to spend in the diversions of London; and the
diversion I recommend is going to the top of the Monument, and
sitting there. There's no temptation there, sir--no drink--no
young women--no bad characters of any sort--nothing but imagination.
That's the way I enjoyed myself when I was your age, sir.'
To this, Joe made no answer, but beckoning Hugh, leaped into the
saddle and rode away; and a very stalwart, manly horseman he
looked, deserving a better charger than it was his fortune to
bestride. John stood staring after him, or rather after the grey
mare (for he had no eyes for her rider), until man and beast had
been out of sight some twenty minutes, when he began to think they
were gone, and slowly re-entering the house, fell into a gentle doze.
The unfortunate grey mare, who was the agony of Joe's life,
floundered along at her own will and pleasure until the Maypole was
no longer visible, and then, contracting her legs into what in a
puppet would have been looked upon as a clumsy and awkward
imitation of a canter, mended her pace all at once, and did it of
her own accord. The acquaintance with her rider's usual mode of
proceeding, which suggested this improvement in hers, impelled her
likewise to turn up a bye-way, leading--not to London, but through
lanes running parallel with the road they had come, and passing
within a few hundred yards of the Maypole, which led finally to an
inclosure surrounding a large, old, red-brick mansion--the same of
which mention was made as the Warren in the first chapter of this
history. Coming to a dead stop in a little copse thereabout, she
suffered her rider to dismount with right goodwill, and to tie her
to the trunk of a tree.
'Stay there, old girl,' said Joe, 'and let us see whether there's
any little commission for me to-day.' So saying, he left her to
browze upon such stunted grass and weeds as happened to grow within
the length of her tether, and passing through a wicket gate,
entered the grounds on foot.
The pathway, after a very few minutes' walking, brought him close
to the house, towards which, and especially towards one particular
window, he directed many covert glances. It was a dreary, silent
building, with echoing courtyards, desolated turret-chambers, and
whole suites of rooms shut up and mouldering to ruin.
The terrace-garden, dark with the shade of overhanging trees, had
an air of melancholy that was quite oppressive. Great iron gates,
disused for many years, and red with rust, drooping on their hinges
and overgrown with long rank grass, seemed as though they tried to
sink into the ground, and hide their fallen state among the
friendly weeds. The fantastic monsters on the walls, green with
age and damp, and covered here and there with moss, looked grim and
desolate. There was a sombre aspect even on that part of the
mansion which was inhabited and kept in good repair, that struck
the beholder with a sense of sadness; of something forlorn and
failing, whence cheerfulness was banished. It would have been
difficult to imagine a bright fire blazing in the dull and darkened
rooms, or to picture any gaiety of heart or revelry that the
frowning walls shut in. It seemed a place where such things had
been, but could be no more--the very ghost of a house, haunting the
old spot in its old outward form, and that was all.
Much of this decayed and sombre look was attributable, no doubt, to
the death of its former master, and the temper of its present
occupant; but remembering the tale connected with the mansion, it
seemed the very place for such a deed, and one that might have been
its predestined theatre years upon years ago. Viewed with
reference to this legend, the sheet of water where the steward's
body had been found appeared to wear a black and sullen character,
such as no other pool might own; the bell upon the roof that had
told the tale of murder to the midnight wind, became a very phantom
whose voice would raise the listener's hair on end; and every
leafless bough that nodded to another, had its stealthy whispering
of the crime.
Joe paced up and down the path, sometimes stopping in affected
contemplation of the building or the prospect, sometimes leaning
against a tree with an assumed air of idleness and indifference,
but always keeping an eye upon the window he had singled out at
first. After some quarter of an hour's delay, a small white hand
was waved to him for an instant from this casement, and the young
man, with a respectful bow, departed; saying under his breath as he
crossed his horse again, 'No errand for me to-day!'
But the air of smartness, the cock of the hat to which John Willet
had objected, and the spring nosegay, all betokened some little
errand of his own, having a more interesting object than a vintner
or even a locksmith. So, indeed, it turned out; for when he had
settled with the vintner--whose place of business was down in some
deep cellars hard by Thames Street, and who was as purple-faced an
old gentleman as if he had all his life supported their arched roof
on his head--when he had settled the account, and taken the
receipt, and declined tasting more than three glasses of old
sherry, to the unbounded astonishment of the purple-faced vintner,
who, gimlet in hand, had projected an attack upon at least a score
of dusty casks, and who stood transfixed, or morally gimleted as it
were, to his own wall--when he had done all this, and disposed
besides of a frugal dinner at the Black Lion in Whitechapel;
spurning the Monument and John's advice, he turned his steps
towards the locksmith's house, attracted by the eyes of blooming
Joe was by no means a sheepish fellow, but, for all that, when he
got to the corner of the street in which the locksmith lived, he
could by no means make up his mind to walk straight to the house.
First, he resolved to stroll up another street for five minutes,
then up another street for five minutes more, and so on until he
had lost full half an hour, when he made a bold plunge and found
himself with a red face and a beating heart in the smoky workshop.
'Joe Willet, or his ghost?' said Varden, rising from the desk at
which he was busy with his books, and looking at him under his
spectacles. 'Which is it? Joe in the flesh, eh? That's hearty.
And how are all the Chigwell company, Joe?'
'Much as usual, sir--they and I agree as well as ever.'
'Well, well!' said the locksmith. 'We must be patient, Joe, and
bear with old folks' foibles. How's the mare, Joe? Does she do
the four miles an hour as easily as ever? Ha, ha, ha! Does she,
Joe? Eh!--What have we there, Joe--a nosegay!'
'A very poor one, sir--I thought Miss Dolly--'
'No, no,' said Gabriel, dropping his voice, and shaking his head,
'not Dolly. Give 'em to her mother, Joe. A great deal better give
'em to her mother. Would you mind giving 'em to Mrs Varden, Joe?'
'Oh no, sir,' Joe replied, and endeavouring, but not with the
greatest possible success, to hide his disappointment. 'I shall be
very glad, I'm sure.'
'That's right,' said the locksmith, patting him on the back. 'It
don't matter who has 'em, Joe?'
'Not a bit, sir.'--Dear heart, how the words stuck in his throat!
'Come in,' said Gabriel. 'I have just been called to tea. She's
in the parlour.'
'She,' thought Joe. 'Which of 'em I wonder--Mrs or Miss?' The
locksmith settled the doubt as neatly as if it had been expressed
aloud, by leading him to the door, and saying, 'Martha, my dear,
here's young Mr Willet.'
Now, Mrs Varden, regarding the Maypole as a sort of human mantrap,
or decoy for husbands; viewing its proprietor, and all who aided
and abetted him, in the light of so many poachers among Christian
men; and believing, moreover, that the publicans coupled with
sinners in Holy Writ were veritable licensed victuallers; was far
from being favourably disposed towards her visitor. Wherefore she
was taken faint directly; and being duly presented with the
crocuses and snowdrops, divined on further consideration that they
were the occasion of the languor which had seized upon her spirits.
'I'm afraid I couldn't bear the room another minute,' said the good
lady, 'if they remained here. WOULD you excuse my putting them out
Joe begged she wouldn't mention it on any account, and smiled
feebly as he saw them deposited on the sill outside. If anybody
could have known the pains he had taken to make up that despised
and misused bunch of flowers!--
'I feel it quite a relief to get rid of them, I assure you,' said
Mrs Varden. 'I'm better already.' And indeed she did appear to
have plucked up her spirits.
Joe expressed his gratitude to Providence for this favourable
dispensation, and tried to look as if he didn't wonder where
'You're sad people at Chigwell, Mr Joseph,' said Mrs V.
'I hope not, ma'am,' returned Joe.
'You're the cruellest and most inconsiderate people in the world,'
said Mrs Varden, bridling. 'I wonder old Mr Willet, having been a
married man himself, doesn't know better than to conduct himself as
he does. His doing it for profit is no excuse. I would rather
pay the money twenty times over, and have Varden come home like a
respectable and sober tradesman. If there is one character,' said
Mrs Varden with great emphasis, 'that offends and disgusts me more
than another, it is a sot.'
'Come, Martha, my dear,' said the locksmith cheerily, 'let us have
tea, and don't let us talk about sots. There are none here, and
Joe don't want to hear about them, I dare say.'
At this crisis, Miggs appeared with toast.
'I dare say he does not,' said Mrs Varden; 'and I dare say you do
not, Varden. It's a very unpleasant subiect, I have no doubt,
though I won't say it's personal'--Miggs coughed--'whatever I may
be forced to think'--Miggs sneezed expressively. 'You never will
know, Varden, and nobody at young Mr Willet's age--you'll excuse
me, sir--can be expected to know, what a woman suffers when she is
waiting at home under such circumstances. If you don't believe me,
as I know you don't, here's Miggs, who is only too often a witness
of it--ask her.'
'Oh! she were very bad the other night, sir, indeed she were, said
Miggs. 'If you hadn't the sweetness of an angel in you, mim, I
don't think you could abear it, I raly don't.'
'Miggs,' said Mrs Varden, 'you're profane.'
'Begging your pardon, mim,' returned Miggs, with shrill rapidity,
'such was not my intentions, and such I hope is not my character,
though I am but a servant.'
'Answering me, Miggs, and providing yourself,' retorted her
mistress, looking round with dignity, 'is one and the same thing.
How dare you speak of angels in connection with your sinful
fellow-beings--mere'--said Mrs Varden, glancing at herself in a
neighbouring mirror, and arranging the ribbon of her cap in a more
becoming fashion--'mere worms and grovellers as we are!'
'I did not intend, mim, if you please, to give offence,' said
Miggs, confident in the strength of her compliment, and developing
strongly in the throat as usual, 'and I did not expect it would be
took as such. I hope I know my own unworthiness, and that I hate
and despise myself and all my fellow-creatures as every practicable
'You'll have the goodness, if you please,' said Mrs Varden,
loftily, 'to step upstairs and see if Dolly has finished dressing,
and to tell her that the chair that was ordered for her will be
here in a minute, and that if she keeps it waiting, I shall send it
away that instant.--I'm sorry to see that you don't take your tea,
Varden, and that you don't take yours, Mr Joseph; though of course
it would be foolish of me to expect that anything that can be had
at home, and in the company of females, would please YOU.'
This pronoun was understood in the plural sense, and included both
gentlemen, upon both of whom it was rather hard and undeserved,
for Gabriel had applied himself to the meal with a very promising
appetite, until it was spoilt by Mrs Varden herself, and Joe had as
great a liking for the female society of the locksmith's house--or
for a part of it at all events--as man could well entertain.
But he had no opportunity to say anything in his own defence, for
at that moment Dolly herself appeared, and struck him quite dumb
with her beauty. Never had Dolly looked so handsome as she did
then, in all the glow and grace of youth, with all her charms
increased a hundredfold by a most becoming dress, by a thousand
little coquettish ways which nobody could assume with a better
grace, and all the sparkling expectation of that accursed party.
It is impossible to tell how Joe hated that party wherever it was,
and all the other people who were going to it, whoever they were.
And she hardly looked at him--no, hardly looked at him. And when
the chair was seen through the open door coming blundering into the
workshop, she actually clapped her hands and seemed glad to go.
But Joe gave her his arm--there was some comfort in that--and
handed her into it. To see her seat herself inside, with her
laughing eyes brighter than diamonds, and her hand--surely she had
the prettiest hand in the world--on the ledge of the open window,
and her little finger provokingly and pertly tilted up, as if it
wondered why Joe didn't squeeze or kiss it! To think how well one
or two of the modest snowdrops would have become that delicate
bodice, and how they were lying neglected outside the parlour
window! To see how Miggs looked on with a face expressive of
knowing how all this loveliness was got up, and of being in the
secret of every string and pin and hook and eye, and of saying it
ain't half as real as you think, and I could look quite as well
myself if I took the pains! To hear that provoking precious little
scream when the chair was hoisted on its poles, and to catch that
transient but not-to-be-forgotten vision of the happy face within--
what torments and aggravations, and yet what delights were these!
The very chairmen seemed favoured rivals as they bore her down the
There never was such an alteration in a small room in a small time
as in that parlour when they went back to finish tea. So dark, so
deserted, so perfectly disenchanted. It seemed such sheer nonsense
to be sitting tamely there, when she was at a dance with more
lovers than man could calculate fluttering about her--with the
whole party doting on and adoring her, and wanting to marry her.
Miggs was hovering about too; and the fact of her existence, the
mere circumstance of her ever having been born, appeared, after
Dolly, such an unaccountable practical joke. It was impossible to
talk. It couldn't be done. He had nothing left for it but to stir
his tea round, and round, and round, and ruminate on all the
fascinations of the locksmith's lovely daughter.
Gabriel was dull too. It was a part of the certain uncertainty of
Mrs Varden's temper, that when they were in this condition, she
should be gay and sprightly.
'I need have a cheerful disposition, I am sure,' said the smiling
housewife, 'to preserve any spirits at all; and how I do it I can
'Ah, mim,' sighed Miggs, 'begging your pardon for the interruption,
there an't a many like you.'
'Take away, Miggs,' said Mrs Varden, rising, 'take away, pray. I
know I'm a restraint here, and as I wish everybody to enjoy
themselves as they best can, I feel I had better go.'
'No, no, Martha,' cried the locksmith. 'Stop here. I'm sure we
shall be very sorry to lose you, eh Joe!' Joe started, and said
'Thank you, Varden, my dear,' returned his wife; 'but I know your
wishes better. Tobacco and beer, or spirits, have much greater
attractions than any I can boast of, and therefore I shall go and
sit upstairs and look out of window, my love. Good night, Mr
Joseph. I'm very glad to have seen you, and I only wish I could
have provided something more suitable to your taste. Remember me
very kindly if you please to old Mr Willet, and tell him that
whenever he comes here I have a crow to pluck with him. Good
Having uttered these words with great sweetness of manner, the good
lady dropped a curtsey remarkable for its condescension, and
And it was for this Joe had looked forward to the twenty-fifth of
March for weeks and weeks, and had gathered the flowers with so
much care, and had cocked his hat, and made himself so smart! This
was the end of all his bold determination, resolved upon for the
hundredth time, to speak out to Dolly and tell her how he loved
her! To see her for a minute--for but a minute--to find her going
out to a party and glad to go; to be looked upon as a common pipe-
smoker, beer-bibber, spirit-guzzler, and tosspot! He bade
farewell to his friend the locksmith, and hastened to take horse at
the Black Lion, thinking as he turned towards home, as many another
Joe has thought before and since, that here was an end to all his
hopes--that the thing was impossible and never could be--that she
didn't care for him--that he was wretched for life--and that the
only congenial prospect left him, was to go for a soldier or a
sailor, and get some obliging enemy to knock his brains out as
soon as possible.
Joe Willet rode leisurely along in his desponding mood, picturing
the locksmith's daughter going down long country-dances, and
poussetting dreadfully with bold strangers--which was almost too
much to bear--when he heard the tramp of a horse's feet behind him,
and looking back, saw a well-mounted gentleman advancing at a
smart canter. As this rider passed, he checked his steed, and
called him of the Maypole by his name. Joe set spurs to the grey
mare, and was at his side directly.
'I thought it was you, sir,' he said, touching his hat. 'A fair
evening, sir. Glad to see you out of doors again.'
The gentleman smiled and nodded. 'What gay doings have been going
on to-day, Joe? Is she as pretty as ever? Nay, don't blush, man.'
'If I coloured at all, Mr Edward,' said Joe, 'which I didn't know I
did, it was to think I should have been such a fool as ever to have
any hope of her. She's as far out of my reach as--as Heaven is.'
'Well, Joe, I hope that's not altogether beyond it,' said Edward,
'Ah!' sighed Joe. 'It's all very fine talking, sir. Proverbs are
easily made in cold blood. But it can't be helped. Are you bound
for our house, sir?'
'Yes. As I am not quite strong yet, I shall stay there to-night,
and ride home coolly in the morning.'
'If you're in no particular hurry,' said Joe after a short silence,
'and will bear with the pace of this poor jade, I shall be glad to
ride on with you to the Warren, sir, and hold your horse when you
dismount. It'll save you having to walk from the Maypole, there
and back again. I can spare the time well, sir, for I am too soon.'
'And so am I,' returned Edward, 'though I was unconsciously riding
fast just now, in compliment I suppose to the pace of my thoughts,
which were travelling post. We will keep together, Joe, willingly,
and be as good company as may be. And cheer up, cheer up, think of
the locksmith's daughter with a stout heart, and you shall win her
Joe shook his head; but there was something so cheery in the
buoyant hopeful manner of this speech, that his spirits rose under
its influence, and communicated as it would seem some new impulse
even to the grey mare, who, breaking from her sober amble into a
gentle trot, emulated the pace of Edward Chester's horse, and
appeared to flatter herself that he was doing his very best.
It was a fine dry night, and the light of a young moon, which was
then just rising, shed around that peace and tranquillity which
gives to evening time its most delicious charm. The lengthened
shadows of the trees, softened as if reflected in still water,
threw their carpet on the path the travellers pursued, and the
light wind stirred yet more softly than before, as though it were
soothing Nature in her sleep. By little and little they ceased
talking, and rode on side by side in a pleasant silence.
'The Maypole lights are brilliant to-night,' said Edward, as they
rode along the lane from which, while the intervening trees were
bare of leaves, that hostelry was visible.
'Brilliant indeed, sir,' returned Joe, rising in his stirrups to
get a better view. 'Lights in the large room, and a fire
glimmering in the best bedchamber? Why, what company can this be
for, I wonder!'
'Some benighted horseman wending towards London, and deterred from
going on to-night by the marvellous tales of my friend the
highwayman, I suppose,' said Edward.
'He must be a horseman of good quality to have such accommodations.
Your bed too, sir--!'
'No matter, Joe. Any other room will do for me. But come--there's
nine striking. We may push on.'
They cantered forward at as brisk a pace as Joe's charger could
attain, and presently stopped in the little copse where he had left
her in the morning. Edward dismounted, gave his bridle to his
companion, and walked with a light step towards the house.
A female servant was waiting at a side gate in the garden-wall, and
admitted him without delay. He hurried along the terrace-walk, and
darted up a flight of broad steps leading into an old and gloomy
hall, whose walls were ornamented with rusty suits of armour,
antlers, weapons of the chase, and suchlike garniture. Here he
paused, but not long; for as he looked round, as if expecting the
attendant to have followed, and wondering she had not done so, a
lovely girl appeared, whose dark hair next moment rested on his
breast. Almost at the same instant a heavy hand was laid upon her
arm, Edward felt himself thrust away, and Mr Haredale stood between
He regarded the young man sternly without removing his hat; with
one hand clasped his niece, and with the other, in which he held
his riding-whip, motioned him towards the door. The young man drew
himself up, and returned his gaze.
'This is well done of you, sir, to corrupt my servants, and enter
my house unbidden and in secret, like a thief!' said Mr Haredale.
'Leave it, sir, and return no more.'
'Miss Haredale's presence,' returned the young man, 'and your
relationship to her, give you a licence which, if you are a brave
man, you will not abuse. You have compelled me to this course,
and the fault is yours--not mine.'
'It is neither generous, nor honourable, nor the act of a true
man, sir,' retorted the other, 'to tamper with the affections of a
weak, trusting girl, while you shrink, in your unworthiness, from
her guardian and protector, and dare not meet the light of day.
More than this I will not say to you, save that I forbid you this
house, and require you to be gone.'
'It is neither generous, nor honourable, nor the act of a true man
to play the spy,' said Edward. 'Your words imply dishonour, and I
reject them with the scorn they merit.'
'You will find,' said Mr Haredale, calmly, 'your trusty go-between
in waiting at the gate by which you entered. I have played no
spy's part, sir. I chanced to see you pass the gate, and
followed. You might have heard me knocking for admission, had you
been less swift of foot, or lingered in the garden. Please to
withdraw. Your presence here is offensive to me and distressful to
my niece.' As he said these words, he passed his arm about the
waist of the terrified and weeping girl, and drew her closer to
him; and though the habitual severity of his manner was scarcely
changed, there was yet apparent in the action an air of kindness
and sympathy for her distress.
'Mr Haredale,' said Edward, 'your arm encircles her on whom I have
set my every hope and thought, and to purchase one minute's
happiness for whom I would gladly lay down my life; this house is
the casket that holds the precious jewel of my existence. Your
niece has plighted her faith to me, and I have plighted mine to
her. What have I done that you should hold me in this light
esteem, and give me these discourteous words?'
'You have done that, sir,' answered Mr Haredale, 'which must he
undone. You have tied a lover'-knot here which must be cut
asunder. Take good heed of what I say. Must. I cancel the bond
between ye. I reject you, and all of your kith and kin--all the
false, hollow, heartless stock.'
'High words, sir,' said Edward, scornfully.
'Words of purpose and meaning, as you will find,' replied the
other. 'Lay them to heart.'
'Lay you then, these,' said Edward. 'Your cold and sullen temper,
which chills every breast about you, which turns affection into
fear, and changes duty into dread, has forced us on this secret
course, repugnant to our nature and our wish, and far more foreign,
sir, to us than you. I am not a false, a hollow, or a heartless
man; the character is yours, who poorly venture on these injurious
terms, against the truth, and under the shelter whereof I reminded
you just now. You shall not cancel the bond between us. I will
not abandon this pursuit. I rely upon your niece's truth and
honour, and set your influence at nought. I leave her with a
confidence in her pure faith, which you will never weaken, and with
no concern but that I do not leave her in some gentler care.'
With that, he pressed her cold hand to his lips, and once more
encountering and returning Mr Haredale's steady look, withdrew.
A few words to Joe as he mounted his horse sufficiently explained
what had passed, and renewed all that young gentleman's despondency
with tenfold aggravation. They rode back to the Maypole without
exchanging a syllable, and arrived at the door with heavy hearts.
Old John, who had peeped from behind the red curtain as they rode
up shouting for Hugh, was out directly, and said with great
importance as he held the young man's stirrup,
'He's comfortable in bed--the best bed. A thorough gentleman; the
smilingest, affablest gentleman I ever had to do with.'
'Who, Willet?' said Edward carelessly, as he dismounted.
'Your worthy father, sir,' replied John. 'Your honourable,
'What does he mean?' said Edward, looking with a mixture of alarm
and doubt, at Joe.
'What DO you mean?' said Joe. 'Don't you see Mr Edward doesn't
'Why, didn't you know of it, sir?' said John, opening his eyes
wide. 'How very singular! Bless you, he's been here ever since
noon to-day, and Mr Haredale has been having a long talk with him,
and hasn't been gone an hour.'
'My father, Willet!'
'Yes, sir, he told me so--a handsome, slim, upright gentleman, in
green-and-gold. In your old room up yonder, sir. No doubt you
can go in, sir,' said John, walking backwards into the road and
looking up at the window. 'He hasn't put out his candles yet, I
Edward glanced at the window also, and hastily murmuring that he
had changed his mind--forgotten something--and must return to
London, mounted his horse again and rode away; leaving the Willets,
father and son, looking at each other in mute astonishment.
At noon next day, John Willet's guest sat lingering over his
breakfast in his own home, surrounded by a variety of comforts,
which left the Maypole's highest flight and utmost stretch of
accommodation at an infinite distance behind, and suggested
comparisons very much to the disadvantage and disfavour of that
In the broad old-fashioned window-seat--as capacious as many modern
sofas, and cushioned to serve the purpose of a luxurious settee--in
the broad old-fashioned window-seat of a roomy chamber, Mr Chester
lounged, very much at his ease, over a well-furnished breakfast-
table. He had exchanged his riding-coat for a handsome morning-
gown, his boots for slippers; had been at great pains to atone for
the having been obliged to make his toilet when he rose without the
aid of dressing-case and tiring equipage; and, having gradually
forgotten through these means the discomforts of an indifferent
night and an early ride, was in a state of perfect complacency,
indolence, and satisfaction.
The situation in which he found himself, indeed, was particularly
favourable to the growth of these feelings; for, not to mention the
lazy influence of a late and lonely breakfast, with the additional
sedative of a newspaper, there was an air of repose about his place
of residence peculiar to itself, and which hangs about it, even in
these times, when it is more bustling and busy than it was in days
There are, still, worse places than the Temple, on a sultry day,
for basking in the sun, or resting idly in the shade. There is yet
a drowsiness in its courts, and a dreamy dulness in its trees and
gardens; those who pace its lanes and squares may yet hear the
echoes of their footsteps on the sounding stones, and read upon its
gates, in passing from the tumult of the Strand or Fleet Street,
'Who enters here leaves noise behind.' There is still the plash of
falling water in fair Fountain Court, and there are yet nooks and
corners where dun-haunted students may look down from their dusty
garrets, on a vagrant ray of sunlight patching the shade of the
tall houses, and seldom troubled to reflect a passing stranger's
form. There is yet, in the Temple, something of a clerkly monkish
atmosphere, which public offices of law have not disturbed, and
even legal firms have failed to scare away. In summer time, its
pumps suggest to thirsty idlers, springs cooler, and more
sparkling, and deeper than other wells; and as they trace the
spillings of full pitchers on the heated ground, they snuff the
freshness, and, sighing, cast sad looks towards the Thames, and
think of baths and boats, and saunter on, despondent.
It was in a room in Paper Buildings--a row of goodly tenements,
shaded in front by ancient trees, and looking, at the back, upon
the Temple Gardens--that this, our idler, lounged; now taking up
again the paper he had laid down a hundred times; now trifling with
the fragments of his meal; now pulling forth his golden toothpick,
and glancing leisurely about the room, or out at window into the
trim garden walks, where a few early loiterers were already pacing
to and fro. Here a pair of lovers met to quarrel and make up;
there a dark-eyed nursery-maid had better eyes for Templars than
her charge; on this hand an ancient spinster, with her lapdog in a
string, regarded both enormities with scornful sidelong looks; on
that a weazen old gentleman, ogling the nursery-maid, looked with
like scorn upon the spinster, and wondered she didn't know she was
no longer young. Apart from all these, on the river's margin two
or three couple of business-talkers walked slowly up and down in
earnest conversation; and one young man sat thoughtfully on a
'Ned is amazingly patient!' said Mr Chester, glancing at this last-
named person as he set down his teacup and plied the golden
toothpick, 'immensely patient! He was sitting yonder when I began
to dress, and has scarcely changed his posture since. A most
As he spoke, the figure rose, and came towards him with a rapid
'Really, as if he had heard me,' said the father, resuming his
newspaper with a yawn. 'Dear Ned!'
Presently the room-door opened, and the young man entered; to whom
his father gently waved his hand, and smiled.
'Are you at leisure for a little conversation, sir?' said Edward.
'Surely, Ned. I am always at leisure. You know my constitution.--
Have you breakfasted?'
'Three hours ago.'
'What a very early dog!' cried his father, contemplating him from
behind the toothpick, with a languid smile.
'The truth is,' said Edward, bringing a chair forward, and seating
himself near the table, 'that I slept but ill last night, and was
glad to rise. The cause of my uneasiness cannot but be known to
you, sir; and it is upon that I wish to speak.'
'My dear boy,' returned his father, 'confide in me, I beg. But you
know my constitution--don't be prosy, Ned.'
'I will be plain, and brief,' said Edward.
'Don't say you will, my good fellow,' returned his father, crossing
his legs, 'or you certainly will not. You are going to tell me'--
'Plainly this, then,' said the son, with an air of great concern,
'that I know where you were last night--from being on the spot,
indeed--and whom you saw, and what your purpose was.'
'You don't say so!' cried his father. 'I am delighted to hear it.
It saves us the worry, and terrible wear and tear of a long
explanation, and is a great relief for both. At the very house!
Why didn't you come up? I should have been charmed to see you.'
'I knew that what I had to say would be better said after a night's
reflection, when both of us were cool,' returned the son.
''Fore Gad, Ned,' rejoined the father, 'I was cool enough last
night. That detestable Maypole! By some infernal contrivance of
the builder, it holds the wind, and keeps it fresh. You remember
the sharp east wind that blew so hard five weeks ago? I give you
my honour it was rampant in that old house last night, though out
of doors there was a dead calm. But you were saying'--
'I was about to say, Heaven knows how seriously and earnestly, that
you have made me wretched, sir. Will you hear me gravely for a
'My dear Ned,' said his father, 'I will hear you with the patience
of an anchorite. Oblige me with the milk.'
'I saw Miss Haredale last night,' Edward resumed, when he had
complied with this request; 'her uncle, in her presence,
immediately after your interview, and, as of course I know, in
consequence of it, forbade me the house, and, with circumstances of
indignity which are of your creation I am sure, commanded me to
leave it on the instant.'
'For his manner of doing so, I give you my honour, Ned, I am not
accountable,' said his father. 'That you must excuse. He is a
mere boor, a log, a brute, with no address in life.--Positively a
fly in the jug. The first I have seen this year.'
Edward rose, and paced the room. His imperturbable parent sipped
'Father,' said the young man, stopping at length before him, 'we
must not trifle in this matter. We must not deceive each other, or
ourselves. Let me pursue the manly open part I wish to take, and
do not repel me by this unkind indifference.'
'Whether I am indifferent or no,' returned the other, 'I leave you,
my dear boy, to judge. A ride of twenty-five or thirty miles,
through miry roads--a Maypole dinner--a tete-a-tete with Haredale,
which, vanity apart, was quite a Valentine and Orson business--a
Maypole bed--a Maypole landlord, and a Maypole retinue of idiots
and centaurs;--whether the voluntary endurance of these things
looks like indifference, dear Ned, or like the excessive anxiety,
and devotion, and all that sort of thing, of a parent, you shall
determine for yourself.'
'I wish you to consider, sir,' said Edward, 'in what a cruel
situation I am placed. Loving Miss Haredale as I do'--
'My dear fellow,' interrupted his father with a compassionate
smile, 'you do nothing of the kind. You don't know anything about
it. There's no such thing, I assure you. Now, do take my word for
it. You have good sense, Ned,--great good sense. I wonder you
should be guilty of such amazing absurdities. You really surprise
'I repeat,' said his son firmly, 'that I love her. You have
interposed to part us, and have, to the extent I have just now told
you of, succeeded. May I induce you, sir, in time, to think more
favourably of our attachment, or is it your intention and your
fixed design to hold us asunder if you can?'
'My dear Ned,' returned his father, taking a pinch of snuff and
pushing his box towards him, 'that is my purpose most undoubtedly.'
'The time that has elapsed,' rejoined his son, 'since I began to
know her worth, has flown in such a dream that until now I have
hardly once paused to reflect upon my true position. What is it?
From my childhood I have been accustomed to luxury and idleness,
and have been bred as though my fortune were large, and my
expectations almost without a limit. The idea of wealth has been
familiarised to me from my cradle. I have been taught to look upon
those means, by which men raise themselves to riches and
distinction, as being beyond my heeding, and beneath my care. I
have been, as the phrase is, liberally educated, and am fit for
nothing. I find myself at last wholly dependent upon you, with no
resource but in your favour. In this momentous question of my life
we do not, and it would seem we never can, agree. I have shrunk
instinctively alike from those to whom you have urged me to pay
court, and from the motives of interest and gain which have
rendered them in your eyes visible objects for my suit. If there
never has been thus much plain-speaking between us before, sir, the
fault has not been mine, indeed. If I seem to speak too plainly
now, it is, believe me father, in the hope that there may be a
franker spirit, a worthier reliance, and a kinder confidence
between us in time to come.'
'My good fellow,' said his smiling father, 'you quite affect me.
Go on, my dear Edward, I beg. But remember your promise. There is
great earnestness, vast candour, a manifest sincerity in all you
say, but I fear I observe the faintest indications of a tendency to
'I am very sorry, sir.'
'I am very sorry, too, Ned, but you know that I cannot fix my mind
for any long period upon one subject. If you'll come to the point
at once, I'll imagine all that ought to go before, and conclude it
said. Oblige me with the milk again. Listening, invariably makes
'What I would say then, tends to this,' said Edward. 'I cannot
bear this absolute dependence, sir, even upon you. Time has been
lost and opportunity thrown away, but I am yet a young man, and may
retrieve it. Will you give me the means of devoting such abilities
and energies as I possess, to some worthy pursuit? Will you let me
try to make for myself an honourable path in life? For any term
you please to name--say for five years if you will--I will pledge
myself to move no further in the matter of our difference without
your fall concurrence. During that period, I will endeavour
earnestly and patiently, if ever man did, to open some prospect for
myself, and free you from the burden you fear I should become if I
married one whose worth and beauty are her chief endowments. Will
you do this, sir? At the expiration of the term we agree upon, let
us discuss this subject again. Till then, unless it is revived by
you, let it never be renewed between us.'
'My dear Ned,' returned his father, laying down the newspaper at
which he had been glancing carelessly, and throwing himself back in
the window-seat, 'I believe you know how very much I dislike what
are called family affairs, which are only fit for plebeian
Christmas days, and have no manner of business with people of our
condition. But as you are proceeding upon a mistake, Ned--
altogether upon a mistake--I will conquer my repugnance to entering
on such matters, and give you a perfectly plain and candid answer,
if you will do me the favour to shut the door.'
Edward having obeyed him, he took an elegant little knife from his
pocket, and paring his nails, continued:
'You have to thank me, Ned, for being of good family; for your
mother, charming person as she was, and almost broken-hearted, and
so forth, as she left me, when she was prematurely compelled to
become immortal--had nothing to boast of in that respect.'
'Her father was at least an eminent lawyer, sir,' said Edward.
'Quite right, Ned; perfectly so. He stood high at the bar, had a
great name and great wealth, but having risen from nothing--I have
always closed my eyes to the circumstance and steadily resisted its
contemplation, but I fear his father dealt in pork, and that his
business did once involve cow-heel and sausages--he wished to marry
his daughter into a good family. He had his heart's desire, Ned.
I was a younger son's younger son, and I married her. We each had
our object, and gained it. She stepped at once into the politest
and best circles, and I stepped into a fortune which I assure you
was very necessary to my comfort--quite indispensable. Now, my
good fellow, that fortune is among the things that have been. It
is gone, Ned, and has been gone--how old are you? I always
'Are you indeed?' cried his father, raising his eyelids in a
languishing surprise. 'So much! Then I should say, Ned, that as
nearly as I remember, its skirts vanished from human knowledge,
about eighteen or nineteen years ago. It was about that time when
I came to live in these chambers (once your grandfather's, and
bequeathed by that extremely respectable person to me), and
commenced to live upon an inconsiderable annuity and my past
'You are jesting with me, sir,' said Edward.
'Not in the slightest degree, I assure you,' returned his father
with great composure. 'These family topics are so extremely dry,
that I am sorry to say they don't admit of any such relief. It is
for that reason, and because they have an appearance of business,
that I dislike them so very much. Well! You know the rest. A
son, Ned, unless he is old enough to be a companion--that is to
say, unless he is some two or three and twenty--is not the kind of
thing to have about one. He is a restraint upon his father, his
father is a restraint upon him, and they make each other mutually
uncomfortable. Therefore, until within the last four years or so--
I have a poor memory for dates, and if I mistake, you will correct
me in your own mind--you pursued your studies at a distance, and
picked up a great variety of accomplishments. Occasionally we
passed a week or two together here, and disconcerted each other as
only such near relations can. At last you came home. I candidly
tell you, my dear boy, that if you had been awkward and overgrown,
I should have exported you to some distant part of the world.'
'I wish with all my soul you had, sir,' said Edward.
'No you don't, Ned,' said his father coolly; 'you are mistaken, I
assure you. I found you a handsome, prepossessing, elegant
fellow, and I threw you into the society I can still command.
Having done that, my dear fellow, I consider that I have provided
for you in life, and rely upon your doing something to provide for
me in return.'
'I do not understand your meaning, sir.'
'My meaning, Ned, is obvious--I observe another fly in the cream-
jug, but have the goodness not to take it out as you did the first,
for their walk when their legs are milky, is extremely ungraceful
and disagreeable--my meaning is, that you must do as I did; that
you must marry well and make the most of yourself.'
'A mere fortune-hunter!' cried the son, indignantly.
'What in the devil's name, Ned, would you be!' returned the father.
'All men are fortune-hunters, are they not? The law, the church,
the court, the camp--see how they are all crowded with fortune-
hunters, jostling each other in the pursuit. The stock-exchange,
the pulpit, the counting-house, the royal drawing-room, the
senate,--what but fortune-hunters are they filled with? A fortune-
hunter! Yes. You ARE one; and you would be nothing else, my dear
Ned, if you were the greatest courtier, lawyer, legislator,
prelate, or merchant, in existence. If you are squeamish and
moral, Ned, console yourself with the reflection that at the very
worst your fortune-hunting can make but one person miserable or
unhappy. How many people do you suppose these other kinds of
huntsmen crush in following their sport--hundreds at a step? Or
The young man leant his head upon his hand, and made no answer.
'I am quite charmed,' said the father rising, and walking slowly to
and fro--stopping now and then to glance at himself in the mirror,
or survey a picture through his glass, with the air of a
connoisseur, 'that we have had this conversation, Ned, unpromising
as it was. It establishes a confidence between us which is quite
delightful, and was certainly necessary, though how you can ever
have mistaken our positions and designs, I confess I cannot
understand. I conceived, until I found your fancy for this girl,
that all these points were tacitly agreed upon between us.'
'I knew you were embarrassed, sir,' returned the son, raising his
head for a moment, and then falling into his former attitude, 'but
I had no idea we were the beggared wretches you describe. How
could I suppose it, bred as I have been; witnessing the life you
have always led; and the appearance you have always made?'
'My dear child,' said the father--'for you really talk so like a
child that I must call you one--you were bred upon a careful
principle; the very manner of your education, I assure you,
maintained my credit surprisingly. As to the life I lead, I must
lead it, Ned. I must have these little refinements about me. I
have always been used to them, and I cannot exist without them.
They must surround me, you observe, and therefore they are here.
With regard to our circumstances, Ned, you may set your mind at
rest upon that score. They are desperate. Your own appearance is
by no means despicable, and our joint pocket-money alone devours
our income. That's the truth.'
'Why have I never known this before? Why have you encouraged me,
sir, to an expenditure and mode of life to which we have no right
'My good fellow,' returned his father more compassionately than
ever, 'if you made no appearance, how could you possibly succeed in
the pursuit for which I destined you? As to our mode of life,
every man has a right to live in the best way he can; and to make
himself as comfortable as he can, or he is an unnatural scoundrel.
Our debts, I grant, are very great, and therefore it the more
behoves you, as a young man of principle and honour, to pay them
off as speedily as possible.'
'The villain's part,' muttered Edward, 'that I have unconsciously
played! I to win the heart of Emma Haredale! I would, for her
sake, I had died first!'
'I am glad you see, Ned,' returned his father, 'how perfectly self-
evident it is, that nothing can be done in that quarter. But apart
from this, and the necessity of your speedily bestowing yourself
on another (as you know you could to-morrow, if you chose), I wish
you'd look upon it pleasantly. In a religious point of view alone,
how could you ever think of uniting yourself to a Catholic, unless
she was amazingly rich? You ought to be so very Protestant,
coming of such a Protestant family as you do. Let us be moral,
Ned, or we are nothing. Even if one could set that objection
aside, which is impossible, we come to another which is quite
conclusive. The very idea of marrying a girl whose father was
killed, like meat! Good God, Ned, how disagreeable! Consider the
impossibility of having any respect for your father-in-law under
such unpleasant circumstances--think of his having been "viewed" by
jurors, and "sat upon" by coroners, and of his very doubtful
position in the family ever afterwards. It seems to me such an
indelicate sort of thing that I really think the girl ought to have
been put to death by the state to prevent its happening. But I
tease you perhaps. You would rather be alone? My dear Ned, most
willingly. God bless you. I shall be going out presently, but we
shall meet to-night, or if not to-night, certainly to-morrow.
Take care of yourself in the mean time, for both our sakes. You
are a person of great consequence to me, Ned--of vast consequence
indeed. God bless you!'
With these words, the father, who had been arranging his cravat in
the glass, while he uttered them in a disconnected careless manner,
withdrew, humming a tune as he went. The son, who had appeared so
lost in thought as not to hear or understand them, remained quite
still and silent. After the lapse of half an hour or so, the elder
Chester, gaily dressed, went out. The younger still sat with his
head resting on his hands, in what appeared to be a kind of stupor.
A series of pictures representing the streets of London in the
night, even at the comparatively recent date of this tale, would
present to the eye something so very different in character from
the reality which is witnessed in these times, that it would be
difficult for the beholder to recognise his most familiar walks in
the altered aspect of little more than half a century ago.
They were, one and all, from the broadest and best to the narrowest
and least frequented, very dark. The oil and cotton lamps, though
regularly trimmed twice or thrice in the long winter nights, burnt
feebly at the best; and at a late hour, when they were unassisted
by the lamps and candles in the shops, cast but a narrow track of
doubtful light upon the footway, leaving the projecting doors and
house-fronts in the deepest gloom. Many of the courts and lanes
were left in total darkness; those of the meaner sort, where one
glimmering light twinkled for a score of houses, being favoured in
no slight degree. Even in these places, the inhabitants had often
good reason for extinguishing their lamp as soon as it was lighted;
and the watch being utterly inefficient and powerless to prevent
them, they did so at their pleasure. Thus, in the lightest
thoroughfares, there was at every turn some obscure and dangerous
spot whither a thief might fly or shelter, and few would care to
follow; and the city being belted round by fields, green lanes,
waste grounds, and lonely roads, dividing it at that time from the
suburbs that have joined it since, escape, even where the pursuit
was hot, was rendered easy.
It is no wonder that with these favouring circumstances in full and
constant operation, street robberies, often accompanied by cruel
wounds, and not unfrequently by loss of life, should have been of
nightly occurrence in the very heart of London, or that quiet folks
should have had great dread of traversing its streets after the
shops were closed. It was not unusual for those who wended home
alone at midnight, to keep the middle of the road, the better to
guard against surprise from lurking footpads; few would venture to
repair at a late hour to Kentish Town or Hampstead, or even to
Kensington or Chelsea, unarmed and unattended; while he who had
been loudest and most valiant at the supper-table or the tavern,
and had but a mile or so to go, was glad to fee a link-boy to
escort him home.
There were many other characteristics--not quite so disagreeable--
about the thoroughfares of London then, with which they had been
long familiar. Some of the shops, especially those to the eastward
of Temple Bar, still adhered to the old practice of hanging out a
sign; and the creaking and swinging of these boards in their iron
frames on windy nights, formed a strange and mournfal concert for
the ears of those who lay awake in bed or hurried through the
streets. Long stands of hackney-chairs and groups of chairmen,
compared with whom the coachmen of our day are gentle and polite,
obstructed the way and filled the air with clamour; night-cellars,
indicated by a little stream of light crossing the pavement, and
stretching out half-way into the road, and by the stifled roar of
voices from below, yawned for the reception and entertainment of
the most abandoned of both sexes; under every shed and bulk small
groups of link-boys gamed away the earnings of the day; or one more
weary than the rest, gave way to sleep, and let the fragment of his
torch fall hissing on the puddled ground.
Then there was the watch with staff and lantern crying the hour,
and the kind of weather; and those who woke up at his voice and
turned them round in bed, were glad to hear it rained, or snowed,
or blew, or froze, for very comfort's sake. The solitary passenger
was startled by the chairmen's cry of 'By your leave there!' as two
came trotting past him with their empty vehicle--carried backwards
to show its being disengaged--and hurried to the nearest stand.
Many a private chair, too, inclosing some fine lady, monstrously
hooped and furbelowed, and preceded by running-footmen bearing
flambeaux--for which extinguishers are yet suspended before the
doors of a few houses of the better sort--made the way gay and
light as it danced along, and darker and more dismal when it had
passed. It was not unusual for these running gentry, who carried
it with a very high hand, to quarrel in the servants' hall while
waiting for their masters and mistresses; and, falling to blows
either there or in the street without, to strew the place of
skirmish with hair-powder, fragments of bag-wigs, and scattered
nosegays. Gaming, the vice which ran so high among all classes
(the fashion being of course set by the upper), was generally the
cause of these disputes; for cards and dice were as openly used,
and worked as much mischief, and yielded as much excitement below
stairs, as above. While incidents like these, arising out of drums
and masquerades and parties at quadrille, were passing at the west
end of the town, heavy stagecoaches and scarce heavier waggons were
lumbering slowly towards the city, the coachmen, guard, and
passengers, armed to the teeth, and the coach--a day or so perhaps
behind its time, but that was nothing--despoiled by highwaymen; who
made no scruple to attack, alone and single-handed, a whole caravan
of goods and men, and sometimes shot a passenger or two, and were
sometimes shot themselves, as the case might be. On the morrow,
rumours of this new act of daring on the road yielded matter for a
few hours' conversation through the town, and a Public Progress of
some fine gentleman (half-drunk) to Tyburn, dressed in the newest
fashion, and damning the ordinary with unspeakable gallantry and
grace, furnished to the populace, at once a pleasant excitement and
a wholesome and profound example.
Among all the dangerous characters who, in such a state of society,
prowled and skulked in the metropolis at night, there was one man
from whom many as uncouth and fierce as he, shrunk with an
involuntary dread. Who he was, or whence he came, was a question
often asked, but which none could answer. His name was unknown, he
had never been seen until within about eight days or thereabouts,
and was equally a stranger to the old ruffians, upon whose haunts
he ventured fearlessly, as to the young. He could be no spy, for
he never removed his slouched hat to look about him, entered into
conversation with no man, heeded nothing that passed, listened to
no discourse, regarded nobody that came or went. But so surely as
the dead of night set in, so surely this man was in the midst of
the loose concourse in the night-cellar where outcasts of every
grade resorted; and there he sat till morning.
He was not only a spectre at their licentious feasts; a something
in the midst of their revelry and riot that chilled and haunted
them; but out of doors he was the same. Directly it was dark, he
was abroad--never in company with any one, but always alone; never
lingering or loitering, but always walking swiftly; and looking (so
they said who had seen him) over his shoulder from time to time,
and as he did so quickening his pace. In the fields, the lanes,
the roads, in all quarters of the town--east, west, north, and
south--that man was seen gliding on like a shadow. He was always
hurrying away. Those who encountered him, saw him steal past,
caught sight of the backward glance, and so lost him in the
This constant restlessness, and flitting to and fro, gave rise to
strange stories. He was seen in such distant and remote places, at
times so nearly tallying with each other, that some doubted whether
there were not two of them, or more--some, whether he had not
unearthly means of travelling from spot to spot. The footpad
hiding in a ditch had marked him passing like a ghost along its
brink; the vagrant had met him on the dark high-road; the beggar
had seen him pause upon the bridge to look down at the water, and
then sweep on again; they who dealt in bodies with the surgeons
could swear he slept in churchyards, and that they had beheld him
glide away among the tombs on their approach. And as they told
these stories to each other, one who had looked about him would
pull his neighbour by the sleeve, and there he would be among them.
At last, one man--he was one of those whose commerce lay among the
graves--resolved to question this strange companion. Next night,
when he had eat his poor meal voraciously (he was accustomed to do
that, they had observed, as though he had no other in the day),
this fellow sat down at his elbow.
'A black night, master!'
'It is a black night.'
'Blacker than last, though that was pitchy too. Didn't I pass you
near the turnpike in the Oxford Road?'
'It's like you may. I don't know.'
'Come, come, master,' cried the fellow, urged on by the looks of
his comrades, and slapping him on the shoulder; 'be more
companionable and communicative. Be more the gentleman in this
good company. There are tales among us that you have sold yourself
to the devil, and I know not what.'
'We all have, have we not?' returned the stranger, looking up. 'If
we were fewer in number, perhaps he would give better wages.'
'It goes rather hard with you, indeed,' said the fellow, as the
stranger disclosed his haggard unwashed face, and torn clothes.
'What of that? Be merry, master. A stave of a roaring song now'--
'Sing you, if you desire to hear one,' replied the other, shaking
him roughly off; 'and don't touch me if you're a prudent man; I
carry arms which go off easily--they have done so, before now--and
make it dangerous for strangers who don't know the trick of them,
to lay hands upon me.'
'Do you threaten?' said the fellow.
'Yes,' returned the other, rising and turning upon him, and looking
fiercely round as if in apprehension of a general attack.
His voice, and look, and bearing--all expressive of the wildest
recklessness and desperation--daunted while they repelled the
bystanders. Although in a very different sphere of action now,
they were not without much of the effect they had wrought at the
'I am what you all are, and live as you all do,' said the man
sternly, after a short silence. 'I am in hiding here like the
rest, and if we were surprised would perhaps do my part with the
best of ye. If it's my humour to be left to myself, let me have
it. Otherwise,'--and here he swore a tremendous oath--'there'll be
mischief done in this place, though there ARE odds of a score
A low murmur, having its origin perhaps in a dread of the man and
the mystery that surrounded him, or perhaps in a sincere opinion on
the part of some of those present, that it would be an inconvenient
precedent to meddle too curiously with a gentleman's private
affairs if he saw reason to conceal them, warned the fellow who
had occasioned this discussion that he had best pursue it no
further. After a short time the strange man lay down upon a bench
to sleep, and when they thought of him again, they found he was
Next night, as soon as it was dark, he was abroad again and
traversing the streets; he was before the locksmith's house more
than once, but the family were out, and it was close shut. This
night he crossed London Bridge and passed into Southwark. As he
glided down a bye street, a woman with a little basket on her arm,
turned into it at the other end. Directly he observed her, he
sought the shelter of an archway, and stood aside until she had
passed. Then he emerged cautiously from his hiding-place, and
She went into several shops to purchase various kinds of household
necessaries, and round every place at which she stopped he hovered
like her evil spirit; following her when she reappeared. It was
nigh eleven o'clock, and the passengers in the streets were
thinning fast, when she turned, doubtless to go home. The phantom
still followed her.
She turned into the same bye street in which he had seen her first,
which, being free from shops, and narrow, was extremely dark. She
quickened her pace here, as though distrustful of being stopped,
and robbed of such trifling property as she carried with her. He
crept along on the other side of the road. Had she been gifted
with the speed of wind, it seemed as if his terrible shadow would
have tracked her down.
At length the widow--for she it was--reached her own door, and,
panting for breath, paused to take the key from her basket. In a
flush and glow, with the haste she had made, and the pleasure of
being safe at home, she stooped to draw it out, when, raising her
head, she saw him standing silently beside her: the apparition of
His hand was on her mouth, but that was needless, for her tongue
clove to its roof, and her power of utterance was gone. 'I have
been looking for you many nights. Is the house empty? Answer me.
Is any one inside?'
She could only answer by a rattle in her throat.
'Make me a sign.'
She seemed to indicate that there was no one there. He took the
key, unlocked the door, carried her in, and secured it carefully
It was a chilly night, and the fire in the widow's parlour had
burnt low. Her strange companion placed her in a chair, and
stooping down before the half-extinguished ashes, raked them
together and fanned them with his hat. From time to time he
glanced at her over his shoulder, as though to assure himself of
her remaining quiet and making no effort to depart; and that done,
busied himself about the fire again.
It was not without reason that he took these pains, for his dress
was dank and drenched with wet, his jaws rattled with cold, and he
shivered from head to foot. It had rained hard during the previous
night and for some hours in the morning, but since noon it had been
fine. Wheresoever he had passed the hours of darkness, his
condition sufficiently betokened that many of them had been spent
beneath the open sky. Besmeared with mire; his saturated clothes
clinging with a damp embrace about his limbs; his beard unshaven,
his face unwashed, his meagre cheeks worn into deep hollows,--a
more miserable wretch could hardly be, than this man who now
cowered down upon the widow's hearth, and watched the struggling
flame with bloodshot eyes.
She had covered her face with her hands, fearing, as it seemed, to
look towards him. So they remained for some short time in silence.
Glancing round again, he asked at length:
'Is this your house?'