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Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Part 5 out of 15

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and was disposed to take a cheerful review of the occurrences of
the day. But Mrs Varden, whose practical religion (as is not
uncommon) was usually of the retrospective order, cut him short by
declaiming on the sinfulness of such junketings, and holding that
it was high time to go to bed. To bed therefore she withdrew, with
an aspect as grim and gloomy as that of the Maypole's own state
couch; and to bed the rest of the establishment soon afterwards
repaired.

Chapter 23

Twilight had given place to night some hours, and it was high noon
in those quarters of the town in which 'the world' condescended to
dwell--the world being then, as now, of very limited dimensions and
easily lodged--when Mr Chester reclined upon a sofa in his
dressing-room in the Temple, entertaining himself with a book.

He was dressing, as it seemed, by easy stages, and having performed
half the journey was taking a long rest. Completely attired as to
his legs and feet in the trimmest fashion of the day, he had yet
the remainder of his toilet to perform. The coat was stretched,
like a refined scarecrow, on its separate horse; the waistcoat was
displayed to the best advantage; the various ornamental articles of
dress were severally set out in most alluring order; and yet he lay
dangling his legs between the sofa and the ground, as intent upon
his book as if there were nothing but bed before him.

'Upon my honour,' he said, at length raising his eyes to the
ceiling with the air of a man who was reflecting seriously on what
he had read; 'upon my honour, the most masterly composition, the
most delicate thoughts, the finest code of morality, and the most
gentlemanly sentiments in the universe! Ah Ned, Ned, if you would
but form your mind by such precepts, we should have but one common
feeling on every subject that could possibly arise between us!'

This apostrophe was addressed, like the rest of his remarks, to
empty air: for Edward was not present, and the father was quite
alone.

'My Lord Chesterfield,' he said, pressing his hand tenderly upon
the book as he laid it down, 'if I could but have profited by your
genius soon enough to have formed my son on the model you have left
to all wise fathers, both he and I would have been rich men.
Shakespeare was undoubtedly very fine in his way; Milton good,
though prosy; Lord Bacon deep, and decidedly knowing; but the
writer who should be his country's pride, is my Lord Chesterfield.'

He became thoughtful again, and the toothpick was in requisition.

'I thought I was tolerably accomplished as a man of the world,' he
continued, 'I flattered myself that I was pretty well versed in all
those little arts and graces which distinguish men of the world
from boors and peasants, and separate their character from those
intensely vulgar sentiments which are called the national
character. Apart from any natural prepossession in my own favour,
I believed I was. Still, in every page of this enlightened writer,
I find some captivating hypocrisy which has never occurred to me
before, or some superlative piece of selfishness to which I was
utterly a stranger. I should quite blush for myself before this
stupendous creature, if remembering his precepts, one might blush
at anything. An amazing man! a nobleman indeed! any King or Queen
may make a Lord, but only the Devil himself--and the Graces--can
make a Chesterfield.'

Men who are thoroughly false and hollow, seldom try to hide those
vices from themselves; and yet in the very act of avowing them,
they lay claim to the virtues they feign most to despise. 'For,'
say they, 'this is honesty, this is truth. All mankind are like
us, but they have not the candour to avow it.' The more they
affect to deny the existence of any sincerity in the world, the
more they would be thought to possess it in its boldest shape; and
this is an unconscious compliment to Truth on the part of these
philosophers, which will turn the laugh against them to the Day of
Judgment.

Mr Chester, having extolled his favourite author, as above recited,
took up the book again in the excess of his admiration and was
composing himself for a further perusal of its sublime morality,
when he was disturbed by a noise at the outer door; occasioned as
it seemed by the endeavours of his servant to obstruct the entrance
of some unwelcome visitor.

'A late hour for an importunate creditor,' he said, raising his
eyebrows with as indolent an expression of wonder as if the noise
were in the street, and one with which he had not the smallest
possible concern. 'Much after their accustomed time. The usual
pretence I suppose. No doubt a heavy payment to make up tomorrow.
Poor fellow, he loses time, and time is money as the good proverb
says--I never found it out though. Well. What now? You know I am
not at home.'

'A man, sir,' replied the servant, who was to the full as cool and
negligent in his way as his master, 'has brought home the riding-
whip you lost the other day. I told him you were out, but he said
he was to wait while I brought it in, and wouldn't go till I did.'

'He was quite right,' returned his master, 'and you're a blockhead,
possessing no judgment or discretion whatever. Tell him to come
in, and see that he rubs his shoes for exactly five minutes first.'

The man laid the whip on a chair, and withdrew. The master, who
had only heard his foot upon the ground and had not taken the
trouble to turn round and look at him, shut his book, and pursued
the train of ideas his entrance had disturbed.

'If time were money,' he said, handling his snuff-box, 'I would
compound with my creditors, and give them--let me see--how much a
day? There's my nap after dinner--an hour--they're extremely
welcome to that, and to make the most of it. In the morning,
between my breakfast and the paper, I could spare them another
hour; in the evening before dinner say another. Three hours a day.
They might pay themselves in calls, with interest, in twelve
months. I think I shall propose it to them. Ah, my centaur, are
you there?'

'Here I am,' replied Hugh, striding in, followed by a dog, as rough
and sullen as himself; 'and trouble enough I've had to get here.
What do you ask me to come for, and keep me out when I DO come?'

'My good fellow,' returned the other, raising his head a little
from the cushion and carelessly surveying him from top to toe, 'I
am delighted to see you, and to have, in your being here, the very
best proof that you are not kept out. How are you?'

'I'm well enough,' said Hugh impatiently.

'You look a perfect marvel of health. Sit down.'

'I'd rather stand,' said Hugh.

'Please yourself my good fellow,' returned Mr Chester rising,
slowly pulling off the loose robe he wore, and sitting down before
the dressing-glass. 'Please yourself by all means.'

Having said this in the politest and blandest tone possible, he
went on dressing, and took no further notice of his guest, who
stood in the same spot as uncertain what to do next, eyeing him
sulkily from time to time.

'Are you going to speak to me, master?' he said, after a long
silence.

'My worthy creature,' returned Mr Chester, 'you are a little
ruffled and out of humour. I'll wait till you're quite yourself
again. I am in no hurry.'

This behaviour had its intended effect. It humbled and abashed the
man, and made him still more irresolute and uncertain. Hard words
he could have returned, violence he would have repaid with
interest; but this cool, complacent, contemptuous, self-possessed
reception, caused him to feel his inferiority more completely than
the most elaborate arguments. Everything contributed to this
effect. His own rough speech, contrasted with the soft persuasive
accents of the other; his rude bearing, and Mr Chester's polished
manner; the disorder and negligence of his ragged dress, and the
elegant attire he saw before him; with all the unaccustomed
luxuries and comforts of the room, and the silence that gave him
leisure to observe these things, and feel how ill at ease they made
him; all these influences, which have too often some effect on
tutored minds and become of almost resistless power when brought to
bear on such a mind as his, quelled Hugh completely. He moved by
little and little nearer to Mr Chester's chair, and glancing over
his shoulder at the reflection of his face in the glass, as if
seeking for some encouragement in its expression, said at length,
with a rough attempt at conciliation,

'ARE you going to speak to me, master, or am I to go away?'

'Speak you,' said Mr Chester, 'speak you, good fellow. I have
spoken, have I not? I am waiting for you.'

'Why, look'ee, sir,' returned Hugh with increased embarrassment,
'am I the man that you privately left your whip with before you
rode away from the Maypole, and told to bring it back whenever he
might want to see you on a certain subject?'

'No doubt the same, or you have a twin brother,' said Mr Chester,
glancing at the reflection of his anxious face; 'which is not
probable, I should say.'

'Then I have come, sir,' said Hugh, 'and I have brought it back,
and something else along with it. A letter, sir, it is, that I
took from the person who had charge of it.' As he spoke, he laid
upon the dressing-table, Dolly's lost epistle. The very letter
that had cost her so much trouble.

'Did you obtain this by force, my good fellow?' said Mr Chester,
casting his eye upon it without the least perceptible surprise or
pleasure.

'Not quite,' said Hugh. 'Partly.'

'Who was the messenger from whom you took it?'

'A woman. One Varden's daughter.'

'Oh indeed!' said Mr Chester gaily. 'What else did you take from
her?'

'What else?'

'Yes,' said the other, in a drawling manner, for he was fixing a
very small patch of sticking plaster on a very small pimple near
the corner of his mouth. 'What else?'

'Well a kiss,' replied Hugh, after some hesitation.

'And what else?'

'Nothing.'

'I think,' said Mr Chester, in the same easy tone, and smiling
twice or thrice to try if the patch adhered--'I think there was
something else. I have heard a trifle of jewellery spoken of--a
mere trifle--a thing of such little value, indeed, that you may
have forgotten it. Do you remember anything of the kind--such as a
bracelet now, for instance?'

Hugh with a muttered oath thrust his hand into his breast, and
drawing the bracelet forth, wrapped in a scrap of hay, was about to
lay it on the table likewise, when his patron stopped his hand and
bade him put it up again.

'You took that for yourself my excellent friend,' he said, 'and may
keep it. I am neither a thief nor a receiver. Don't show it to
me. You had better hide it again, and lose no time. Don't let me
see where you put it either,' he added, turning away his head.

'You're not a receiver!' said Hugh bluntly, despite the increasing
awe in which he held him. 'What do you call THAT, master?'
striking the letter with his heavy hand.

'I call that quite another thing,' said Mr Chester coolly. 'I
shall prove it presently, as you will see. You are thirsty, I
suppose?'

Hugh drew his sleeve across his lips, and gruffly answered yes.

'Step to that closet and bring me a bottle you will see there, and
a glass.'

He obeyed. His patron followed him with his eyes, and when his
back was turned, smiled as he had never done when he stood beside
the mirror. On his return he filled the glass, and bade him drink.
That dram despatched, he poured him out another, and another.

'How many can you bear?' he said, filling the glass again.

'As many as you like to give me. Pour on. Fill high. A bumper
with a bead in the middle! Give me enough of this,' he added, as
he tossed it down his hairy throat, 'and I'll do murder if you ask
me!'

'As I don't mean to ask you, and you might possibly do it without
being invited if you went on much further,' said Mr Chester with
great composure, we will stop, if agreeable to you, my good friend,
at the next glass. You were drinking before you came here.'

'I always am when I can get it,' cried Hugh boisterously, waving
the empty glass above his head, and throwing himself into a rude
dancing attitude. 'I always am. Why not? Ha ha ha! What's so
good to me as this? What ever has been? What else has kept away
the cold on bitter nights, and driven hunger off in starving times?
What else has given me the strength and courage of a man, when men
would have left me to die, a puny child? I should never have had a
man's heart but for this. I should have died in a ditch. Where's
he who when I was a weak and sickly wretch, with trembling legs and
fading sight, bade me cheer up, as this did? I never knew him; not
I. I drink to the drink, master. Ha ha ha!'

'You are an exceedingly cheerful young man,' said Mr Chester,
putting on his cravat with great deliberation, and slightly moving
his head from side to side to settle his chin in its proper place.
'Quite a boon companion.'

'Do you see this hand, master,' said Hugh, 'and this arm?' baring
the brawny limb to the elbow. 'It was once mere skin and bone, and
would have been dust in some poor churchyard by this time, but for
the drink.'

'You may cover it,' said Mr Chester, 'it's sufficiently real in
your sleeve.'

'I should never have been spirited up to take a kiss from the proud
little beauty, master, but for the drink,' cried Hugh. 'Ha ha ha!
It was a good one. As sweet as honeysuckle, I warrant you. I
thank the drink for it. I'll drink to the drink again, master.
Fill me one more. Come. One more!'

'You are such a promising fellow,' said his patron, putting on his
waistcoat with great nicety, and taking no heed of this request,
'that I must caution you against having too many impulses from the
drink, and getting hung before your time. What's your age?'

'I don't know.'

'At any rate,' said Mr Chester, 'you are young enough to escape
what I may call a natural death for some years to come. How can
you trust yourself in my hands on so short an acquaintance, with a
halter round your neck? What a confiding nature yours must be!'

Hugh fell back a pace or two and surveyed him with a look of
mingled terror, indignation, and surprise. Regarding himself in
the glass with the same complacency as before, and speaking as
smoothly as if he were discussing some pleasant chit-chat of the
town, his patron went on:

'Robbery on the king's highway, my young friend, is a very
dangerous and ticklish occupation. It is pleasant, I have no
doubt, while it lasts; but like many other pleasures in this
transitory world, it seldom lasts long. And really if in the
ingenuousness of youth, you open your heart so readily on the
subject, I am afraid your career will be an extremely short one.'

'How's this?' said Hugh. 'What do you talk of master? Who was it
set me on?'

'Who?' said Mr Chester, wheeling sharply round, and looking full
at him for the first time. 'I didn't hear you. Who was it?'

Hugh faltered, and muttered something which was not audible.

'Who was it? I am curious to know,' said Mr Chester, with
surpassing affability. 'Some rustic beauty perhaps? But be
cautious, my good friend. They are not always to be trusted. Do
take my advice now, and be careful of yourself.' With these words
he turned to the glass again, and went on with his toilet.

Hugh would have answered him that he, the questioner himself had
set him on, but the words stuck in his throat. The consummate art
with which his patron had led him to this point, and managed the
whole conversation, perfectly baffled him. He did not doubt that
if he had made the retort which was on his lips when Mr Chester
turned round and questioned him so keenly, he would straightway
have given him into custody and had him dragged before a justice
with the stolen property upon him; in which case it was as certain
he would have been hung as it was that he had been born. The
ascendency which it was the purpose of the man of the world to
establish over this savage instrument, was gained from that time.
Hugh's submission was complete. He dreaded him beyond description;
and felt that accident and artifice had spun a web about him, which
at a touch from such a master-hand as his, would bind him to the
gallows.

With these thoughts passing through his mind, and yet wondering at
the very same time how he who came there rioting in the confidence
of this man (as he thought), should be so soon and so thoroughly
subdued, Hugh stood cowering before him, regarding him uneasily
from time to time, while he finished dressing. When he had done
so, he took up the letter, broke the seal, and throwing himself
back in his chair, read it leisurely through.

'Very neatly worded upon my life! Quite a woman's letter, full of
what people call tenderness, and disinterestedness, and heart, and
all that sort of thing!'

As he spoke, he twisted it up, and glancing lazily round at Hugh as
though he would say 'You see this?' held it in the flame of the
candle. When it was in a full blaze, he tossed it into the grate,
and there it smouldered away.

'It was directed to my son,' he said, turning to Hugh, 'and you did
quite right to bring it here. I opened it on my own
responsibility, and you see what I have done with it. Take this,
for your trouble.'

Hugh stepped forward to receive the piece of money he held out to
him. As he put it in his hand, he added:

'If you should happen to find anything else of this sort, or to
pick up any kind of information you may think I would like to have,
bring it here, will you, my good fellow?'

This was said with a smile which implied--or Hugh thought it did--
'fail to do so at your peril!' He answered that he would.

'And don't,' said his patron, with an air of the very kindest
patronage, 'don't be at all downcast or uneasy respecting that
little rashness we have been speaking of. Your neck is as safe in
my hands, my good fellow, as though a baby's fingers clasped it, I
assure you.--Take another glass. You are quieter now.'

Hugh accepted it from his hand, and looking stealthily at his
smiling face, drank the contents in silence.

'Don't you--ha, ha!--don't you drink to the drink any more?' said
Mr Chester, in his most winning manner.

'To you, sir,' was the sullen answer, with something approaching to
a bow. 'I drink to you.'

'Thank you. God bless you. By the bye, what is your name, my good
soul? You are called Hugh, I know, of course--your other name?'

'I have no other name.'

'A very strange fellow! Do you mean that you never knew one, or
that you don't choose to tell it? Which?'

'I'd tell it if I could,' said Hugh, quickly. 'I can't. I have
been always called Hugh; nothing more. I never knew, nor saw, nor
thought about a father; and I was a boy of six--that's not very
old--when they hung my mother up at Tyburn for a couple of thousand
men to stare at. They might have let her live. She was poor
enough.'

'How very sad!' exclaimed his patron, with a condescending smile.
'I have no doubt she was an exceedingly fine woman.'

'You see that dog of mine?' said Hugh, abruptly.

'Faithful, I dare say?' rejoined his patron, looking at him through
his glass; 'and immensely clever? Virtuous and gifted animals,
whether man or beast, always are so very hideous.'

'Such a dog as that, and one of the same breed, was the only living
thing except me that howled that day,' said Hugh. 'Out of the two
thousand odd--there was a larger crowd for its being a woman--the
dog and I alone had any pity. If he'd have been a man, he'd have
been glad to be quit of her, for she had been forced to keep him
lean and half-starved; but being a dog, and not having a man's
sense, he was sorry.'

'It was dull of the brute, certainly,' said Mr Chester, 'and very
like a brute.'

Hugh made no rejoinder, but whistling to his dog, who sprung up at
the sound and came jumping and sporting about him, bade his
sympathising friend good night.

'Good night; he returned. 'Remember; you're safe with me--quite
safe. So long as you deserve it, my good fellow, as I hope you
always will, you have a friend in me, on whose silence you may
rely. Now do be careful of yourself, pray do, and consider what
jeopardy you might have stood in. Good night! bless you!'

Hugh truckled before the hidden meaning of these words as much as
such a being could, and crept out of the door so submissively and
subserviently--with an air, in short, so different from that with
which he had entered--that his patron on being left alone, smiled
more than ever.

'And yet,' he said, as he took a pinch of snuff, 'I do not like
their having hanged his mother. The fellow has a fine eye, and I
am sure she was handsome. But very probably she was coarse--red-
nosed perhaps, and had clumsy feet. Aye, it was all for the best,
no doubt.'

With this comforting reflection, he put on his coat, took a
farewell glance at the glass, and summoned his man, who promptly
attended, followed by a chair and its two bearers.

'Foh!' said Mr Chester. 'The very atmosphere that centaur has
breathed, seems tainted with the cart and ladder. Here, Peak.
Bring some scent and sprinkle the floor; and take away the chair he
sat upon, and air it; and dash a little of that mixture upon me. I
am stifled!'

The man obeyed; and the room and its master being both purified,
nothing remained for Mr Chester but to demand his hat, to fold it
jauntily under his arm, to take his seat in the chair and be
carried off; humming a fashionable tune.

Chapter 24

How the accomplished gentleman spent the evening in the midst of a
dazzling and brilliant circle; how he enchanted all those with
whom he mingled by the grace of his deportment, the politeness of
his manner, the vivacity of his conversation, and the sweetness of
his voice; how it was observed in every corner, that Chester was a
man of that happy disposition that nothing ruffled him, that he was
one on whom the world's cares and errors sat lightly as his dress,
and in whose smiling face a calm and tranquil mind was constantly
reflected; how honest men, who by instinct knew him better,
bowed down before him nevertheless, deferred to his every word, and
courted his favourable notice; how people, who really had good in
them, went with the stream, and fawned and flattered, and approved,
and despised themselves while they did so, and yet had not the
courage to resist; how, in short, he was one of those who are
received and cherished in society (as the phrase is) by scores who
individually would shrink from and be repelled by the object of
their lavish regard; are things of course, which will suggest
themselves. Matter so commonplace needs but a passing glance, and
there an end.

The despisers of mankind--apart from the mere fools and mimics, of
that creed--are of two sorts. They who believe their merit
neglected and unappreciated, make up one class; they who receive
adulation and flattery, knowing their own worthlessness, compose
the other. Be sure that the coldest-hearted misanthropes are ever
of this last order.

Mr Chester sat up in bed next morning, sipping his coffee, and
remembering with a kind of contemptuous satisfaction how he had
shone last night, and how he had been caressed and courted, when
his servant brought in a very small scrap of dirty paper, tightly
sealed in two places, on the inside whereof was inscribed in pretty
large text these words: 'A friend. Desiring of a conference.
Immediate. Private. Burn it when you've read it.'

'Where in the name of the Gunpowder Plot did you pick up this?'
said his master.

It was given him by a person then waiting at the door, the man
replied.

'With a cloak and dagger?' said Mr Chester.

With nothing more threatening about him, it appeared, than a
leather apron and a dirty face. 'Let him come in.' In he came--Mr
Tappertit; with his hair still on end, and a great lock in his
hand, which he put down on the floor in the middle of the chamber
as if he were about to go through some performances in which it was
a necessary agent.

'Sir,' said Mr Tappertit with a low bow, 'I thank you for this
condescension, and am glad to see you. Pardon the menial office in
which I am engaged, sir, and extend your sympathies to one, who,
humble as his appearance is, has inn'ard workings far above his
station.'

Mr Chester held the bed-curtain farther back, and looked at him
with a vague impression that he was some maniac, who had not only
broken open the door of his place of confinement, but had brought
away the lock. Mr Tappertit bowed again, and displayed his legs to
the best advantage.

'You have heard, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, laying his hand upon his
breast, 'of G. Varden Locksmith and bell-hanger and repairs neatly
executed in town and country, Clerkenwell, London?'

'What then?' asked Mr Chester.

'I'm his 'prentice, sir.'

'What THEN?'

'Ahem!' said Mr Tappertit. 'Would you permit me to shut the door,
sir, and will you further, sir, give me your honour bright, that
what passes between us is in the strictest confidence?'

Mr Chester laid himself calmly down in bed again, and turning a
perfectly undisturbed face towards the strange apparition, which
had by this time closed the door, begged him to speak out, and to
be as rational as he could, without putting himself to any very
great personal inconvenience.

'In the first place, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, producing a small
pocket-handkerchief and shaking it out of the folds, 'as I have not
a card about me (for the envy of masters debases us below that
level) allow me to offer the best substitute that circumstances
will admit of. If you will take that in your own hand, sir, and
cast your eye on the right-hand corner,' said Mr Tappertit,
offering it with a graceful air, 'you will meet with my
credentials.'

'Thank you,' answered Mr Chester, politely accepting it, and
turning to some blood-red characters at one end. '"Four. Simon
Tappertit. One." Is that the--'

'Without the numbers, sir, that is my name,' replied the 'prentice.
'They are merely intended as directions to the washerwoman, and
have no connection with myself or family. YOUR name, sir,' said Mr
Tappertit, looking very hard at his nightcap, 'is Chester, I
suppose? You needn't pull it off, sir, thank you. I observe E. C.
from here. We will take the rest for granted.'

'Pray, Mr Tappertit,' said Mr Chester, 'has that complicated piece
of ironmongery which you have done me the favour to bring with you,
any immediate connection with the business we are to discuss?'

'It has not, sir,' rejoined the 'prentice. 'It's going to be
fitted on a ware'us-door in Thames Street.'

'Perhaps, as that is the case,' said Mr Chester, 'and as it has a
stronger flavour of oil than I usually refresh my bedroom with, you
will oblige me so far as to put it outside the door?'

'By all means, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, suiting the action to the
word.

'You'll excuse my mentioning it, I hope?'

'Don't apologise, sir, I beg. And now, if you please, to
business.'

During the whole of this dialogue, Mr Chester had suffered nothing
but his smile of unvarying serenity and politeness to appear upon
his face. Sim Tappertit, who had far too good an opinion of
himself to suspect that anybody could be playing upon him, thought
within himself that this was something like the respect to which he
was entitled, and drew a comparison from this courteous demeanour
of a stranger, by no means favourable to the worthy locksmith.

'From what passes in our house,' said Mr Tappertit, 'I am aware,
sir, that your son keeps company with a young lady against your
inclinations. Sir, your son has not used me well.'

'Mr Tappertit,' said the other, 'you grieve me beyond description.'

'Thank you, sir,' replied the 'prentice. 'I'm glad to hear you say
so. He's very proud, sir, is your son; very haughty.'

'I am afraid he IS haughty,' said Mr Chester. 'Do you know I was
really afraid of that before; and you confirm me?'

'To recount the menial offices I've had to do for your son, sir,'
said Mr Tappertit; 'the chairs I've had to hand him, the coaches
I've had to call for him, the numerous degrading duties, wholly
unconnected with my indenters, that I've had to do for him, would
fill a family Bible. Besides which, sir, he is but a young man
himself and I do not consider "thank'ee Sim," a proper form of
address on those occasions.'

'Mr Tappertit, your wisdom is beyond your years. Pray go on.'

'I thank you for your good opinion, sir,' said Sim, much gratified,
'and will endeavour so to do. Now sir, on this account (and
perhaps for another reason or two which I needn't go into) I am on
your side. And what I tell you is this--that as long as our people
go backwards and forwards, to and fro, up and down, to that there
jolly old Maypole, lettering, and messaging, and fetching and
carrying, you couldn't help your son keeping company with that
young lady by deputy,--not if he was minded night and day by all
the Horse Guards, and every man of 'em in the very fullest
uniform.'

Mr Tappertit stopped to take breath after this, and then started
fresh again.

'Now, sir, I am a coming to the point. You will inquire of me,
"how is this to he prevented?" I'll tell you how. If an honest,
civil, smiling gentleman like you--'

'Mr Tappertit--really--'

'No, no, I'm serious,' rejoined the 'prentice, 'I am, upon my soul.
If an honest, civil, smiling gentleman like you, was to talk but
ten minutes to our old woman--that's Mrs Varden--and flatter her up
a bit, you'd gain her over for ever. Then there's this point got--
that her daughter Dolly,'--here a flush came over Mr Tappertit's
face--'wouldn't be allowed to be a go-between from that time
forward; and till that point's got, there's nothing ever will
prevent her. Mind that.'

'Mr Tappertit, your knowledge of human nature--'

'Wait a minute,' said Sim, folding his arms with a dreadful
calmness. 'Now I come to THE point. Sir, there is a villain at
that Maypole, a monster in human shape, a vagabond of the deepest
dye, that unless you get rid of and have kidnapped and carried off
at the very least--nothing less will do--will marry your son to
that young woman, as certainly and as surely as if he was the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself. He will, sir, for the hatred and
malice that he bears to you; let alone the pleasure of doing a bad
action, which to him is its own reward. If you knew how this chap,
this Joseph Willet--that's his name--comes backwards and forwards
to our house, libelling, and denouncing, and threatening you, and
how I shudder when I hear him, you'd hate him worse than I do,--
worse than I do, sir,' said Mr Tappertit wildly, putting his hair
up straighter, and making a crunching noise with his teeth; 'if
sich a thing is possible.'

'A little private vengeance in this, Mr Tappertit?'

'Private vengeance, sir, or public sentiment, or both combined--
destroy him,' said Mr Tappertit. 'Miggs says so too. Miggs and me
both say so. We can't bear the plotting and undermining that takes
place. Our souls recoil from it. Barnaby Rudge and Mrs Rudge are
in it likewise; but the villain, Joseph Willet, is the ringleader.
Their plottings and schemes are known to me and Miggs. If you want
information of 'em, apply to us. Put Joseph Willet down, sir.
Destroy him. Crush him. And be happy.'

With these words, Mr Tappertit, who seemed to expect no reply, and
to hold it as a necessary consequence of his eloquence that his
hearer should be utterly stunned, dumbfoundered, and overwhelmed,
folded his arms so that the palm of each hand rested on the
opposite shoulder, and disappeared after the manner of those
mysterious warners of whom he had read in cheap story-books.

'That fellow,' said Mr Chester, relaxing his face when he was
fairly gone, 'is good practice. I HAVE some command of my
features, beyond all doubt. He fully confirms what I suspected,
though; and blunt tools are sometimes found of use, where sharper
instruments would fail. I fear I may be obliged to make great
havoc among these worthy people. A troublesome necessity! I
quite feel for them.'

With that he fell into a quiet slumber:--subsided into such a
gentle, pleasant sleep, that it was quite infantine.

Chapter 25

Leaving the favoured, and well-received, and flattered of the
world; him of the world most worldly, who never compromised himself
by an ungentlemanly action, and never was guilty of a manly one; to
lie smilingly asleep--for even sleep, working but little change in
his dissembling face, became with him a piece of cold, conventional
hypocrisy--we follow in the steps of two slow travellers on foot,
making towards Chigwell.

Barnaby and his mother. Grip in their company, of course.

The widow, to whom each painful mile seemed longer than the last,
toiled wearily along; while Barnaby, yielding to every inconstant
impulse, fluttered here and there, now leaving her far behind, now
lingering far behind himself, now darting into some by-lane or path
and leaving her to pursue her way alone, until he stealthily
emerged again and came upon her with a wild shout of merriment, as
his wayward and capricious nature prompted. Now he would call to
her from the topmost branch of some high tree by the roadside; now
using his tall staff as a leaping-pole, come flying over ditch or
hedge or five-barred gate; now run with surprising swiftness for a
mile or more on the straight road, and halting, sport upon a patch
of grass with Grip till she came up. These were his delights; and
when his patient mother heard his merry voice, or looked into his
flushed and healthy face, she would not have abated them by one sad
word or murmur, though each had been to her a source of suffering
in the same degree as it was to him of pleasure.

It is something to look upon enjoyment, so that it be free and
wild and in the face of nature, though it is but the enjoyment of
an idiot. It is something to know that Heaven has left the
capacity of gladness in such a creature's breast; it is something
to be assured that, however lightly men may crush that faculty in
their fellows, the Great Creator of mankind imparts it even to his
despised and slighted work. Who would not rather see a poor idiot
happy in the sunlight, than a wise man pining in a darkened jail!

Ye men of gloom and austerity, who paint the face of Infinite
Benevolence with an eternal frown; read in the Everlasting Book,
wide open to your view, the lesson it would teach. Its pictures
are not in black and sombre hues, but bright and glowing tints; its
music--save when ye drown it--is not in sighs and groans, but songs
and cheerful sounds. Listen to the million voices in the summer
air, and find one dismal as your own. Remember, if ye can, the
sense of hope and pleasure which every glad return of day awakens
in the breast of all your kind who have not changed their nature;
and learn some wisdom even from the witless, when their hearts are
lifted up they know not why, by all the mirth and happiness it
brings.

The widow's breast was full of care, was laden heavily with secret
dread and sorrow; but her boy's gaiety of heart gladdened her, and
beguiled the long journey. Sometimes he would bid her lean upon
his arm, and would keep beside her steadily for a short distance;
but it was more his nature to be rambling to and fro, and she
better liked to see him free and happy, even than to have him near
her, because she loved him better than herself.

She had quitted the place to which they were travelling, directly
after the event which had changed her whole existence; and for two-
and-twenty years had never had courage to revisit it. It was her
native village. How many recollections crowded on her mind when it
appeared in sight!

Two-and-twenty years. Her boy's whole life and history. The last
time she looked back upon those roofs among the trees, she carried
him in her arms, an infant. How often since that time had she sat
beside him night and day, watching for the dawn of mind that never
came; how had she feared, and doubted, and yet hoped, long after
conviction forced itself upon her! The little stratagems she had
devised to try him, the little tokens he had given in his childish
way--not of dulness but of something infinitely worse, so ghastly
and unchildlike in its cunning--came back as vividly as if but
yesterday had intervened. The room in which they used to be; the
spot in which his cradle stood; he, old and elfin-like in face, but
ever dear to her, gazing at her with a wild and vacant eye, and
crooning some uncouth song as she sat by and rocked him; every
circumstance of his infancy came thronging back, and the most
trivial, perhaps, the most distinctly.

His older childhood, too; the strange imaginings he had; his terror
of certain senseless things--familiar objects he endowed with life;
the slow and gradual breaking out of that one horror, in which,
before his birth, his darkened intellect began; how, in the midst
of all, she had found some hope and comfort in his being unlike
another child, and had gone on almost believing in the slow
development of his mind until he grew a man, and then his childhood
was complete and lasting; one after another, all these old thoughts
sprung up within her, strong after their long slumber and bitterer
than ever.

She took his arm and they hurried through the village street. It
was the same as it was wont to be in old times, yet different too,
and wore another air. The change was in herself, not it; but she
never thought of that, and wondered at its alteration, and where it
lay, and what it was.

The people all knew Barnaby, and the children of the place came
flocking round him--as she remembered to have done with their
fathers and mothers round some silly beggarman, when a child
herself. None of them knew her; they passed each well-remembered
house, and yard, and homestead; and striking into the fields, were
soon alone again.

The Warren was the end of their journey. Mr Haredale was walking
in the garden, and seeing them as they passed the iron gate,
unlocked it, and bade them enter that way.

'At length you have mustered heart to visit the old place,' he said
to the widow. 'I am glad you have.'

'For the first time, and the last, sir,' she replied.

'The first for many years, but not the last?'

'The very last.'

'You mean,' said Mr Haredale, regarding her with some surprise,
'that having made this effort, you are resolved not to persevere
and are determined to relapse? This is unworthy of you. I have
often told you, you should return here. You would be happier here
than elsewhere, I know. As to Barnaby, it's quite his home.'

'And Grip's,' said Barnaby, holding the basket open. The raven
hopped gravely out, and perching on his shoulder and addressing
himself to Mr Haredale, cried--as a hint, perhaps, that some
temperate refreshment would be acceptable--'Polly put the ket-tle
on, we'll all have tea!'

'Hear me, Mary,' said Mr Haredale kindly, as he motioned her to
walk with him towards the house. 'Your life has been an example of
patience and fortitude, except in this one particular which has
often given me great pain. It is enough to know that you were
cruelly involved in the calamity which deprived me of an only
brother, and Emma of her father, without being obliged to suppose
(as I sometimes am) that you associate us with the author of our
joint misfortunes.'

'Associate you with him, sir!' she cried.

'Indeed,' said Mr Haredale, 'I think you do. I almost believe
that because your husband was bound by so many ties to our
relation, and died in his service and defence, you have come in
some sort to connect us with his murder.'

'Alas!' she answered. 'You little know my heart, sir. You little
know the truth!'

'It is natural you should do so; it is very probable you may,
without being conscious of it,' said Mr Haredale, speaking more to
himself than her. 'We are a fallen house. Money, dispensed with
the most lavish hand, would be a poor recompense for sufferings
like yours; and thinly scattered by hands so pinched and tied as
ours, it becomes a miserable mockery. I feel it so, God knows,' he
added, hastily. 'Why should I wonder if she does!'

'You do me wrong, dear sir, indeed,' she rejoined with great
earnestness; 'and yet when you come to hear what I desire your
leave to say--'

'I shall find my doubts confirmed?' he said, observing that she
faltered and became confused. 'Well!'

He quickened his pace for a few steps, but fell back again to her
side, and said:

'And have you come all this way at last, solely to speak to me?'

She answered, 'Yes.'

'A curse,' he muttered, 'upon the wretched state of us proud
beggars, from whom the poor and rich are equally at a distance; the
one being forced to treat us with a show of cold respect; the other
condescending to us in their every deed and word, and keeping more
aloof, the nearer they approach us.--Why, if it were pain to you
(as it must have been) to break for this slight purpose the chain
of habit forged through two-and-twenty years, could you not let me
know your wish, and beg me to come to you?'

'There was not time, sir,' she rejoined. 'I took my resolution
but last night, and taking it, felt that I must not lose a day--a
day! an hour--in having speech with you.'

They had by this time reached the house. Mr Haredale paused for a
moment, and looked at her as if surprised by the energy of her
manner. Observing, however, that she took no heed of him, but
glanced up, shuddering, at the old walls with which such horrors
were connected in her mind, he led her by a private stair into his
library, where Emma was seated in a window, reading.

The young lady, seeing who approached, hastily rose and laid aside
her book, and with many kind words, and not without tears, gave her
a warm and earnest welcome. But the widow shrunk from her embrace
as though she feared her, and sunk down trembling on a chair.

'It is the return to this place after so long an absence,' said
Emma gently. 'Pray ring, dear uncle--or stay--Barnaby will run
himself and ask for wine--'

'Not for the world,' she cried. 'It would have another taste--I
could not touch it. I want but a minute's rest. Nothing but
that.'

Miss Haredale stood beside her chair, regarding her with silent
pity. She remained for a little time quite still; then rose and
turned to Mr Haredale, who had sat down in his easy chair, and was
contemplating her with fixed attention.

The tale connected with the mansion borne in mind, it seemed, as
has been already said, the chosen theatre for such a deed as it had
known. The room in which this group were now assembled--hard by
the very chamber where the act was done--dull, dark, and sombre;
heavy with worm-eaten books; deadened and shut in by faded
hangings, muffling every sound; shadowed mournfully by trees whose
rustling boughs gave ever and anon a spectral knocking at the
glass; wore, beyond all others in the house, a ghostly, gloomy air.
Nor were the group assembled there, unfitting tenants of the spot.
The widow, with her marked and startling face and downcast eyes; Mr
Haredale stern and despondent ever; his niece beside him, like, yet
most unlike, the picture of her father, which gazed reproachfully
down upon them from the blackened wall; Barnaby, with his vacant
look and restless eye; were all in keeping with the place, and
actors in the legend. Nay, the very raven, who had hopped upon the
table and with the air of some old necromancer appeared to be
profoundly studying a great folio volume that lay open on a desk,
was strictly in unison with the rest, and looked like the embodied
spirit of evil biding his time of mischief.

'I scarcely know,' said the widow, breaking silence, 'how to begin.
You will think my mind disordered.'

'The whole tenor of your quiet and reproachless life since you were
last here,' returned Mr Haredale, mildly, 'shall bear witness for
you. Why do you fear to awaken such a suspicion? You do not speak
to strangers. You have not to claim our interest or consideration
for the first time. Be more yourself. Take heart. Any advice or
assistance that I can give you, you know is yours of right, and
freely yours.'

'What if I came, sir,' she rejoined, 'I who have but one other
friend on earth, to reject your aid from this moment, and to say
that henceforth I launch myself upon the world, alone and
unassisted, to sink or swim as Heaven may decree!'

'You would have, if you came to me for such a purpose,' said Mr
Haredale calmly, 'some reason to assign for conduct so
extraordinary, which--if one may entertain the possibility of
anything so wild and strange--would have its weight, of course.'

'That, sir,' she answered, 'is the misery of my distress. I can
give no reason whatever. My own bare word is all that I can offer.
It is my duty, my imperative and bounden duty. If I did not
discharge it, I should be a base and guilty wretch. Having said
that, my lips are sealed, and I can say no more.'

As though she felt relieved at having said so much, and had nerved
herself to the remainder of her task, she spoke from this time with
a firmer voice and heightened courage.

'Heaven is my witness, as my own heart is--and yours, dear young
lady, will speak for me, I know--that I have lived, since that time
we all have bitter reason to remember, in unchanging devotion, and
gratitude to this family. Heaven is my witness that go where I
may, I shall preserve those feelings unimpaired. And it is my
witness, too, that they alone impel me to the course I must take,
and from which nothing now shall turn me, as I hope for mercy.'

'These are strange riddles,' said Mr Haredale.

'In this world, sir,' she replied, 'they may, perhaps, never be
explained. In another, the Truth will be discovered in its own
good time. And may that time,' she added in a low voice, 'be far
distant!'

'Let me be sure,' said Mr Haredale, 'that I understand you, for I
am doubtful of my own senses. Do you mean that you are resolved
voluntarily to deprive yourself of those means of support you have
received from us so long--that you are determined to resign the
annuity we settled on you twenty years ago--to leave house, and
home, and goods, and begin life anew--and this, for some secret
reason or monstrous fancy which is incapable of explanation, which
only now exists, and has been dormant all this time? In the name
of God, under what delusion are you labouring?'

'As I am deeply thankful,' she made answer, 'for the kindness of
those, alive and dead, who have owned this house; and as I would
not have its roof fall down and crush me, or its very walls drip
blood, my name being spoken in their hearing; I never will again
subsist upon their bounty, or let it help me to subsistence. You
do not know,' she added, suddenly, 'to what uses it may be applied;
into what hands it may pass. I do, and I renounce it.'

'Surely,' said Mr Haredale, 'its uses rest with you.'

'They did. They rest with me no longer. It may be--it IS--devoted
to purposes that mock the dead in their graves. It never can
prosper with me. It will bring some other heavy judgement on the
head of my dear son, whose innocence will suffer for his mother's
guilt.'

'What words are these!' cried Mr Haredale, regarding her with
wonder. 'Among what associates have you fallen? Into what guilt
have you ever been betrayed?'

'I am guilty, and yet innocent; wrong, yet right; good in
intention, though constrained to shield and aid the bad. Ask me no
more questions, sir; but believe that I am rather to be pitied than
condemned. I must leave my house to-morrow, for while I stay
there, it is haunted. My future dwelling, if I am to live in
peace, must be a secret. If my poor boy should ever stray this
way, do not tempt him to disclose it or have him watched when he
returns; for if we are hunted, we must fly again. And now this
load is off my mind, I beseech you--and you, dear Miss Haredale,
too--to trust me if you can, and think of me kindly as you have
been used to do. If I die and cannot tell my secret even then (for
that may come to pass), it will sit the lighter on my breast in
that hour for this day's work; and on that day, and every day until
it comes, I will pray for and thank you both, and trouble you no
more.

With that, she would have left them, but they detained her, and
with many soothing words and kind entreaties, besought her to
consider what she did, and above all to repose more freely upon
them, and say what weighed so sorely on her mind. Finding her deaf
to their persuasions, Mr Haredale suggested, as a last resource,
that she should confide in Emma, of whom, as a young person and one
of her own sex, she might stand in less dread than of himself.
From this proposal, however, she recoiled with the same
indescribable repugnance she had manifested when they met. The
utmost that could be wrung from her was, a promise that she would
receive Mr Haredale at her own house next evening, and in the mean
time reconsider her determination and their dissuasions--though any
change on her part, as she told them, was quite hopeless. This
condition made at last, they reluctantly suffered her to depart,
since she would neither eat nor drink within the house; and she,
and Barnaby, and Grip, accordingly went out as they had come, by
the private stair and garden-gate; seeing and being seen of no one
by the way.

It was remarkable in the raven that during the whole interview he
had kept his eye on his book with exactly the air of a very sly
human rascal, who, under the mask of pretending to read hard, was
listening to everything. He still appeared to have the
conversation very strongly in his mind, for although, when they
were alone again, he issued orders for the instant preparation of
innumerable kettles for purposes of tea, he was thoughtful, and
rather seemed to do so from an abstract sense of duty, than with
any regard to making himself agreeable, or being what is commonly
called good company.

They were to return by the coach. As there was an interval of
full two hours before it started, and they needed rest and some
refreshment, Barnaby begged hard for a visit to the Maypole. But
his mother, who had no wish to be recognised by any of those who
had known her long ago, and who feared besides that Mr Haredale
might, on second thoughts, despatch some messenger to that place of
entertainment in quest of her, proposed to wait in the churchyard
instead. As it was easy for Barnaby to buy and carry thither such
humble viands as they required, he cheerfully assented, and in the
churchyard they sat down to take their frugal dinner.

Here again, the raven was in a highly reflective state; walking up
and down when he had dined, with an air of elderly complacency
which was strongly suggestive of his having his hands under his
coat-tails; and appearing to read the tombstones with a very
critical taste. Sometimes, after a long inspection of an epitaph,
he would strop his beak upon the grave to which it referred, and
cry in his hoarse tones, 'I'm a devil, I'm a devil, I'm a devil!'
but whether he addressed his observations to any supposed person
below, or merely threw them off as a general remark, is matter of
uncertainty.

It was a quiet pretty spot, but a sad one for Barnaby's mother; for
Mr Reuben Haredale lay there, and near the vault in which his ashes
rested, was a stone to the memory of her own husband, with a brief
inscription recording how and when he had lost his life. She sat
here, thoughtful and apart, until their time was out, and the
distant horn told that the coach was coming.

Barnaby, who had been sleeping on the grass, sprung up quickly at
the sound; and Grip, who appeared to understand it equally well,
walked into his basket straightway, entreating society in general
(as though he intended a kind of satire upon them in connection
with churchyards) never to say die on any terms. They were soon on
the coach-top and rolling along the road.

It went round by the Maypole, and stopped at the door. Joe was
from home, and Hugh came sluggishly out to hand up the parcel that
it called for. There was no fear of old John coming out. They
could see him from the coach-roof fast asleep in his cosy bar. It
was a part of John's character. He made a point of going to sleep
at the coach's time. He despised gadding about; he looked upon
coaches as things that ought to be indicted; as disturbers of the
peace of mankind; as restless, bustling, busy, horn-blowing
contrivances, quite beneath the dignity of men, and only suited to
giddy girls that did nothing but chatter and go a-shopping. 'We
know nothing about coaches here, sir,' John would say, if any
unlucky stranger made inquiry touching the offensive vehicles; 'we
don't book for 'em; we'd rather not; they're more trouble than
they're worth, with their noise and rattle. If you like to wait
for 'em you can; but we don't know anything about 'em; they may
call and they may not--there's a carrier--he was looked upon as
quite good enough for us, when I was a boy.'

She dropped her veil as Hugh climbed up, and while he hung behind,
and talked to Barnaby in whispers. But neither he nor any other
person spoke to her, or noticed her, or had any curiosity about
her; and so, an alien, she visited and left the village where she
had been born, and had lived a merry child, a comely girl, a happy
wife--where she had known all her enjoyment of life, and had
entered on its hardest sorrows.

Chapter 26

'And you're not surprised to hear this, Varden?' said Mr Haredale.
'Well! You and she have always been the best friends, and you
should understand her if anybody does.'

'I ask your pardon, sir,' rejoined the locksmith. 'I didn't say I
understood her. I wouldn't have the presumption to say that of any
woman. It's not so easily done. But I am not so much surprised,
sir, as you expected me to be, certainly.'

'May I ask why not, my good friend?'

'I have seen, sir,' returned the locksmith with evident reluctance,
'I have seen in connection with her, something that has filled me
with distrust and uneasiness. She has made bad friends, how, or
when, I don't know; but that her house is a refuge for one robber
and cut-throat at least, I am certain. There, sir! Now it's out.'

'Varden!'

'My own eyes, sir, are my witnesses, and for her sake I would be
willingly half-blind, if I could but have the pleasure of
mistrusting 'em. I have kept the secret till now, and it will go
no further than yourself, I know; but I tell you that with my own
eyes--broad awake--I saw, in the passage of her house one evening
after dark, the highwayman who robbed and wounded Mr Edward
Chester, and on the same night threatened me.'

'And you made no effort to detain him?' said Mr Haredale quickly.

'Sir,' returned the locksmith, 'she herself prevented me--held me,
with all her strength, and hung about me until he had got clear
off.' And having gone so far, he related circumstantially all that
had passed upon the night in question.

This dialogue was held in a low tone in the locksmith's little
parlour, into which honest Gabriel had shown his visitor on his
arrival. Mr Haredale had called upon him to entreat his company to
the widow's, that he might have the assistance of his persuasion
and influence; and out of this circumstance the conversation had
arisen.

'I forbore,' said Gabriel, 'from repeating one word of this to
anybody, as it could do her no good and might do her great harm. I
thought and hoped, to say the truth, that she would come to me, and
talk to me about it, and tell me how it was; but though I have
purposely put myself in her way more than once or twice, she has
never touched upon the subject--except by a look. And indeed,'
said the good-natured locksmith, 'there was a good deal in the
look, more than could have been put into a great many words. It
said among other matters "Don't ask me anything" so imploringly,
that I didn't ask her anything. You'll think me an old fool, I
know, sir. If it's any relief to call me one, pray do.'

'I am greatly disturbed by what you tell me,' said Mr Haredale,
after a silence. 'What meaning do you attach to it?'

The locksmith shook his head, and looked doubtfully out of window
at the failing light.

'She cannot have married again,' said Mr Haredale.

'Not without our knowledge surely, sir.'

'She may have done so, in the fear that it would lead, if known, to
some objection or estrangement. Suppose she married incautiously--
it is not improbable, for her existence has been a lonely and
monotonous one for many years--and the man turned out a ruffian,
she would be anxious to screen him, and yet would revolt from his
crimes. This might be. It bears strongly on the whole drift of
her discourse yesterday, and would quite explain her conduct. Do
you suppose Barnaby is privy to these circumstances?'

'Quite impossible to say, sir,' returned the locksmith, shaking his
head again: 'and next to impossible to find out from him. If what
you suppose is really the case, I tremble for the lad--a notable
person, sir, to put to bad uses--'

'It is not possible, Varden,' said Mr Haredale, in a still lower
tone of voice than he had spoken yet, 'that we have been blinded
and deceived by this woman from the beginning? It is not possible
that this connection was formed in her husband's lifetime, and led
to his and my brother's--'

'Good God, sir,' cried Gabriel, interrupting him, 'don't entertain
such dark thoughts for a moment. Five-and-twenty years ago, where
was there a girl like her? A gay, handsome, laughing, bright-eyed
damsel! Think what she was, sir. It makes my heart ache now, even
now, though I'm an old man, with a woman for a daughter, to think
what she was and what she is. We all change, but that's with Time;
Time does his work honestly, and I don't mind him. A fig for Time,
sir. Use him well, and he's a hearty fellow, and scorns to have
you at a disadvantage. But care and suffering (and those have
changed her) are devils, sir--secret, stealthy, undermining devils--
who tread down the brightest flowers in Eden, and do more havoc in
a month than Time does in a year. Picture to yourself for one
minute what Mary was before they went to work with her fresh heart
and face--do her that justice--and say whether such a thing is
possible.'

'You're a good fellow, Varden,' said Mr Haredale, 'and are quite
right. I have brooded on that subject so long, that every breath
of suspicion carries me back to it. You are quite right.'

'It isn't, sir,' cried the locksmith with brightened eyes, and
sturdy, honest voice; 'it isn't because I courted her before Rudge,
and failed, that I say she was too good for him. She would have
been as much too good for me. But she WAS too good for him; he
wasn't free and frank enough for her. I don't reproach his memory
with it, poor fellow; I only want to put her before you as she
really was. For myself, I'll keep her old picture in my mind; and
thinking of that, and what has altered her, I'll stand her friend,
and try to win her back to peace. And damme, sir,' cried Gabriel,
'with your pardon for the word, I'd do the same if she had married
fifty highwaymen in a twelvemonth; and think it in the Protestant
Manual too, though Martha said it wasn't, tooth and nail, till
doomsday!'

If the dark little parlour had been filled with a dense fog, which,
clearing away in an instant, left it all radiance and brightness,
it could not have been more suddenly cheered than by this outbreak
on the part of the hearty locksmith. In a voice nearly as full and
round as his own, Mr Haredale cried 'Well said!' and bade him come
away without more parley. The locksmith complied right willingly;
and both getting into a hackney coach which was waiting at the
door, drove off straightway.

They alighted at the street corner, and dismissing their
conveyance, walked to the house. To their first knock at the door
there was no response. A second met with the like result. But in
answer to the third, which was of a more vigorous kind, the parlour
window-sash was gently raised, and a musical voice cried:

'Haredale, my dear fellow, I am extremely glad to see you. How
very much you have improved in your appearance since our last
meeting! I never saw you looking better. HOW do you do?'

Mr Haredale turned his eyes towards the casement whence the voice
proceeded, though there was no need to do so, to recognise the
speaker, and Mr Chester waved his hand, and smiled a courteous
welcome.

'The door will be opened immediately,' he said. 'There is nobody
but a very dilapidated female to perform such offices. You will
excuse her infirmities? If she were in a more elevated station of
society, she would be gouty. Being but a hewer of wood and drawer
of water, she is rheumatic. My dear Haredale, these are natural
class distinctions, depend upon it.'

Mr Haredale, whose face resumed its lowering and distrustful look
the moment he heard the voice, inclined his head stiffly, and
turned his back upon the speaker.

'Not opened yet,' said Mr Chester. 'Dear me! I hope the aged soul
has not caught her foot in some unlucky cobweb by the way. She is
there at last! Come in, I beg!'

Mr Haredale entered, followed by the locksmith. Turning with a
look of great astonishment to the old woman who had opened the
door, he inquired for Mrs Rudge--for Barnaby. They were both gone,
she replied, wagging her ancient head, for good. There was a
gentleman in the parlour, who perhaps could tell them more. That
was all SHE knew.

'Pray, sir,' said Mr Haredale, presenting himself before this new
tenant, 'where is the person whom I came here to see?'

'My dear friend,' he returned, 'I have not the least idea.'

'Your trifling is ill-timed,' retorted the other in a suppressed
tone and voice, 'and its subject ill-chosen. Reserve it for those
who are your friends, and do not expend it on me. I lay no claim
to the distinction, and have the self-denial to reject it.'

'My dear, good sir,' said Mr Chester, 'you are heated with walking.
Sit down, I beg. Our friend is--'

'Is but a plain honest man,' returned Mr Haredale, 'and quite
unworthy of your notice.'

'Gabriel Varden by name, sir,' said the locksmith bluntly.

'A worthy English yeoman!' said Mr Chester. 'A most worthy
yeoman, of whom I have frequently heard my son Ned--darling fellow--
speak, and have often wished to see. Varden, my good friend, I am
glad to know you. You wonder now,' he said, turning languidly to
Mr Haredale, 'to see me here. Now, I am sure you do.'

Mr Haredale glanced at him--not fondly or admiringly--smiled, and
held his peace.

'The mystery is solved in a moment,' said Mr Chester; 'in a moment.
Will you step aside with me one instant. You remember our little
compact in reference to Ned, and your dear niece, Haredale? You
remember the list of assistants in their innocent intrigue? You
remember these two people being among them? My dear fellow,
congratulate yourself, and me. I have bought them off.'

'You have done what?' said Mr Haredale.

'Bought them off,' returned his smiling friend. 'I have found it
necessary to take some active steps towards setting this boy and
girl attachment quite at rest, and have begun by removing these two
agents. You are surprised? Who CAN withstand the influence of a
little money! They wanted it, and have been bought off. We have
nothing more to fear from them. They are gone.'

'Gone!' echoed Mr Haredale. 'Where?'

'My dear fellow--and you must permit me to say again, that you
never looked so young; so positively boyish as you do to-night--the
Lord knows where; I believe Columbus himself wouldn't find them.
Between you and me they have their hidden reasons, but upon that
point I have pledged myself to secrecy. She appointed to see you
here to-night, I know, but found it inconvenient, and couldn't
wait. Here is the key of the door. I am afraid you'll find it
inconveniently large; but as the tenement is yours, your good-
nature will excuse that, Haredale, I am certain!'

Chapter 27

Mr Haredale stood in the widow's parlour with the door-key in his
hand, gazing by turns at Mr Chester and at Gabriel Varden, and
occasionally glancing downward at the key as in the hope that of
its own accord it would unlock the mystery; until Mr Chester,
putting on his hat and gloves, and sweetly inquiring whether they
were walking in the same direction, recalled him to himself.

'No,' he said. 'Our roads diverge--widely, as you know. For the
present, I shall remain here.'

'You will be hipped, Haredale; you will be miserable, melancholy,
utterly wretched,' returned the other. 'It's a place of the very
last description for a man of your temper. I know it will make you
very miserable.'

'Let it,' said Mr Haredale, sitting down; 'and thrive upon the
thought. Good night!'

Feigning to be wholly unconscious of the abrupt wave of the hand
which rendered this farewell tantamount to a dismissal, Mr Chester
retorted with a bland and heartfelt benediction, and inquired of
Gabriel in what direction HE was going.

'Yours, sir, would be too much honour for the like of me,' replied
the locksmith, hesitating.

'I wish you to remain here a little while, Varden,' said Mr
Haredale, without looking towards them. 'I have a word or two to
say to you.'

'I will not intrude upon your conference another moment,' said Mr
Chester with inconceivable politeness. 'May it be satisfactory to
you both! God bless you!' So saying, and bestowing upon the
locksmith a most refulgent smile, he left them.

'A deplorably constituted creature, that rugged person,' he said,
as he walked along the street; 'he is an atrocity that carries its
own punishment along with it--a bear that gnaws himself. And here
is one of the inestimable advantages of having a perfect command
over one's inclinations. I have been tempted in these two short
interviews, to draw upon that fellow, fifty times. Five men in six
would have yielded to the impulse. By suppressing mine, I wound
him deeper and more keenly than if I were the best swordsman in all
Europe, and he the worst. You are the wise man's very last
resource,' he said, tapping the hilt of his weapon; 'we can but
appeal to you when all else is said and done. To come to you
before, and thereby spare our adversaries so much, is a barbarian
mode of warfare, quite unworthy of any man with the remotest
pretensions to delicacy of feeling, or refinement.'

He smiled so very pleasantly as he communed with himself after this
manner, that a beggar was emboldened to follow for alms, and to dog
his footsteps for some distance. He was gratified by the
circumstance, feeling it complimentary to his power of feature, and
as a reward suffered the man to follow him until he called a chair,
when he graciously dismissed him with a fervent blessing.

'Which is as easy as cursing,' he wisely added, as he took his
seat, 'and more becoming to the face.--To Clerkenwell, my good
creatures, if you please!' The chairmen were rendered quite
vivacious by having such a courteous burden, and to Clerkenwell
they went at a fair round trot.

Alighting at a certain point he had indicated to them upon the
road, and paying them something less than they expected from a fare
of such gentle speech, he turned into the street in which the
locksmith dwelt, and presently stood beneath the shadow of the
Golden Key. Mr Tappertit, who was hard at work by lamplight, in a
corner of the workshop, remained unconscious of his presence until
a hand upon his shoulder made him start and turn his head.

'Industry,' said Mr Chester, 'is the soul of business, and the
keystone of prosperity. Mr Tappertit, I shall expect you to invite
me to dinner when you are Lord Mayor of London.'

'Sir,' returned the 'prentice, laying down his hammer, and rubbing
his nose on the back of a very sooty hand, 'I scorn the Lord Mayor
and everything that belongs to him. We must have another state of
society, sir, before you catch me being Lord Mayor. How de do, sir?'

'The better, Mr Tappertit, for looking into your ingenuous face
once more. I hope you are well.'

'I am as well, sir,' said Sim, standing up to get nearer to his
ear, and whispering hoarsely, 'as any man can be under the
aggrawations to which I am exposed. My life's a burden to me. If
it wasn't for wengeance, I'd play at pitch and toss with it on the
losing hazard.'

'Is Mrs Varden at home?' said Mr Chester.

'Sir,' returned Sim, eyeing him over with a look of concentrated
expression,--'she is. Did you wish to see her?'

Mr Chester nodded.

'Then come this way, sir,' said Sim, wiping his face upon his
apron. 'Follow me, sir.--Would you permit me to whisper in your
ear, one half a second?'

'By all means.'

Mr Tappertit raised himself on tiptoe, applied his lips to Mr
Chester's ear, drew back his head without saying anything, looked
hard at him, applied them to his ear again, again drew back, and
finally whispered--'The name is Joseph Willet. Hush! I say no
more.'

Having said that much, he beckoned the visitor with a mysterious
aspect to follow him to the parlour-door, where he announced him
in the voice of a gentleman-usher. 'Mr Chester.'

'And not Mr Ed'dard, mind,' said Sim, looking into the door again,
and adding this by way of postscript in his own person; 'it's his
father.'

'But do not let his father,' said Mr Chester, advancing hat in
hand, as he observed the effect of this last explanatory
announcement, 'do not let his father be any check or restraint on
your domestic occupations, Miss Varden.'

'Oh! Now! There! An't I always a-saying it!' exclaimed Miggs,
clapping her hands. 'If he an't been and took Missis for her own
daughter. Well, she DO look like it, that she do. Only think of
that, mim!'

'Is it possible,' said Mr Chester in his softest tones, 'that this
is Mrs Varden! I am amazed. That is not your daughter, Mrs
Varden? No, no. Your sister.'

'My daughter, indeed, sir,' returned Mrs V., blushing with great
juvenility.

'Ah, Mrs Varden!' cried the visitor. 'Ah, ma'am--humanity is
indeed a happy lot, when we can repeat ourselves in others, and
still be young as they. You must allow me to salute you--the
custom of the country, my dear madam--your daughter too.'

Dolly showed some reluctance to perform this ceremony, but was
sharply reproved by Mrs Varden, who insisted on her undergoing it
that minute. For pride, she said with great severity, was one of
the seven deadly sins, and humility and lowliness of heart were
virtues. Wherefore she desired that Dolly would be kissed
immediately, on pain of her just displeasure; at the same time
giving her to understand that whatever she saw her mother do, she
might safely do herself, without being at the trouble of any
reasoning or reflection on the subject--which, indeed, was
offensive and undutiful, and in direct contravention of the church
catechism.

Thus admonished, Dolly complied, though by no means willingly; for
there was a broad, bold look of admiration in Mr Chester's face,
refined and polished though it sought to be, which distressed her
very much. As she stood with downcast eyes, not liking to look up
and meet his, he gazed upon her with an approving air, and then
turned to her mother.

'My friend Gabriel (whose acquaintance I only made this very
evening) should be a happy man, Mrs Varden.'

'Ah!' sighed Mrs V., shaking her head.

'Ah!' echoed Miggs.

'Is that the case?' said Mr Chester, compassionately. 'Dear me!'

'Master has no intentions, sir,' murmured Miggs as she sidled up
to him, 'but to be as grateful as his natur will let him, for
everythink he owns which it is in his powers to appreciate. But we
never, sir'--said Miggs, looking sideways at Mrs Varden, and
interlarding her discourse with a sigh--'we never know the full
value of SOME wines and fig-trees till we lose 'em. So much the
worse, sir, for them as has the slighting of 'em on their
consciences when they're gone to be in full blow elsewhere.' And
Miss Miggs cast up her eyes to signify where that might be.

As Mrs Varden distinctly heard, and was intended to hear, all that
Miggs said, and as these words appeared to convey in metaphorical
terms a presage or foreboding that she would at some early period
droop beneath her trials and take an easy flight towards the stars,
she immediately began to languish, and taking a volume of the
Manual from a neighbouring table, leant her arm upon it as though
she were Hope and that her Anchor. Mr Chester perceiving this,
and seeing how the volume was lettered on the back, took it gently
from her hand, and turned the fluttering leaves.

'My favourite book, dear madam. How often, how very often in his
early life--before he can remember'--(this clause was strictly
true) 'have I deduced little easy moral lessons from its pages, for
my dear son Ned! You know Ned?'

Mrs Varden had that honour, and a fine affable young gentleman he
was.

'You're a mother, Mrs Varden,' said Mr Chester, taking a pinch of
snuff, 'and you know what I, as a father, feel, when he is praised.
He gives me some uneasiness--much uneasiness--he's of a roving
nature, ma'am--from flower to flower--from sweet to sweet--but his
is the butterfly time of life, and we must not be hard upon such
trifling.'

He glanced at Dolly. She was attending evidently to what he said.
Just what he desired!

'The only thing I object to in this little trait of Ned's, is,'
said Mr Chester, '--and the mention of his name reminds me, by the
way, that I am about to beg the favour of a minute's talk with you
alone--the only thing I object to in it, is, that it DOES partake
of insincerity. Now, however I may attempt to disguise the fact
from myself in my affection for Ned, still I always revert to this--
that if we are not sincere, we are nothing. Nothing upon earth.
Let us be sincere, my dear madam--'

'--and Protestant,' murmured Mrs Varden.

'--and Protestant above all things. Let us be sincere and
Protestant, strictly moral, strictly just (though always with a
leaning towards mercy), strictly honest, and strictly true, and we
gain--it is a slight point, certainly, but still it is something
tangible; we throw up a groundwork and foundation, so to speak, of
goodness, on which we may afterwards erect some worthy
superstructure.'

Now, to be sure, Mrs Varden thought, here is a perfect character.
Here is a meek, righteous, thoroughgoing Christian, who, having
mastered all these qualities, so difficult of attainment; who,
having dropped a pinch of salt on the tails of all the cardinal
virtues, and caught them every one; makes light of their
possession, and pants for more morality. For the good woman never
doubted (as many good men and women never do), that this slighting
kind of profession, this setting so little store by great matters,
this seeming to say, 'I am not proud, I am what you hear, but I
consider myself no better than other people; let us change the
subject, pray'--was perfectly genuine and true. He so contrived
it, and said it in that way that it appeared to have been forced
from him, and its effect was marvellous.

Aware of the impression he had made--few men were quicker than he
at such discoveries--Mr Chester followed up the blow by propounding
certain virtuous maxims, somewhat vague and general in their
nature, doubtless, and occasionally partaking of the character of
truisms, worn a little out at elbow, but delivered in so charming a
voice and with such uncommon serenity and peace of mind, that they
answered as well as the best. Nor is this to be wondered at; for
as hollow vessels produce a far more musical sound in falling than
those which are substantial, so it will oftentimes be found that
sentiments which have nothing in them make the loudest ringing in
the world, and are the most relished.

Mr Chester, with the volume gently extended in one hand, and with
the other planted lightly on his breast, talked to them in the most
delicious manner possible; and quite enchanted all his hearers,
notwithstanding their conflicting interests and thoughts. Even
Dolly, who, between his keen regards and her eyeing over by Mr
Tappertit, was put quite out of countenance, could not help owning
within herself that he was the sweetest-spoken gentleman she had
ever seen. Even Miss Miggs, who was divided between admiration of
Mr Chester and a mortal jealousy of her young mistress, had
sufficient leisure to be propitiated. Even Mr Tappertit, though
occupied as we have seen in gazing at his heart's delight, could
not wholly divert his thoughts from the voice of the other charmer.
Mrs Varden, to her own private thinking, had never been so improved
in all her life; and when Mr Chester, rising and craving permission
to speak with her apart, took her by the hand and led her at arm's
length upstairs to the best sitting-room, she almost deemed him
something more than human.

'Dear madam,' he said, pressing her hand delicately to his lips;
'be seated.'

Mrs Varden called up quite a courtly air, and became seated.

'You guess my object?' said Mr Chester, drawing a chair towards
her. 'You divine my purpose? I am an affectionate parent, my dear
Mrs Varden.'

'That I am sure you are, sir,' said Mrs V.

'Thank you,' returned Mr Chester, tapping his snuff-box lid.
'Heavy moral responsibilities rest with parents, Mrs Varden.'

Mrs Varden slightly raised her hands, shook her head, and looked at
the ground as though she saw straight through the globe, out at the
other end, and into the immensity of space beyond.

'I may confide in you,' said Mr Chester, 'without reserve. I love
my son, ma'am, dearly; and loving him as I do, I would save him
from working certain misery. You know of his attachment to Miss
Haredale. You have abetted him in it, and very kind of you it was
to do so. I am deeply obliged to you--most deeply obliged to you--
for your interest in his behalf; but my dear ma'am, it is a
mistaken one, I do assure you.'

Mrs Varden stammered that she was sorry--'

'Sorry, my dear ma'am,' he interposed. 'Never be sorry for what is
so very amiable, so very good in intention, so perfectly like
yourself. But there are grave and weighty reasons, pressing family
considerations, and apart even from these, points of religious
difference, which interpose themselves, and render their union
impossible; utterly im-possible. I should have mentioned these
circumstances to your husband; but he has--you will excuse my
saying this so freely--he has NOT your quickness of apprehension or
depth of moral sense. What an extremely airy house this is, and
how beautifully kept! For one like myself--a widower so long--
these tokens of female care and superintendence have inexpressible
charms.'

Mrs Varden began to think (she scarcely knew why) that the young Mr
Chester must be in the wrong and the old Mr Chester must he in the
right.

'My son Ned,' resumed her tempter with his most winning air, 'has
had, I am told, your lovely daughter's aid, and your open-hearted
husband's.'

'--Much more than mine, sir,' said Mrs Varden; 'a great deal more.
I have often had my doubts. It's a--'

'A bad example,' suggested Mr Chester. 'It is. No doubt it is.
Your daughter is at that age when to set before her an
encouragement for young persons to rebel against their parents on
this most important point, is particularly injudicious. You are
quite right. I ought to have thought of that myself, but it
escaped me, I confess--so far superior are your sex to ours, dear
madam, in point of penetration and sagacity.'

Mrs Varden looked as wise as if she had really said something to
deserve this compliment--firmly believed she had, in short--and her
faith in her own shrewdness increased considerably.

'My dear ma'am,' said Mr Chester, 'you embolden me to be plain
with you. My son and I are at variance on this point. The young
lady and her natural guardian differ upon it, also. And the
closing point is, that my son is bound by his duty to me, by his
honour, by every solemn tie and obligation, to marry some one
else.'

'Engaged to marry another lady!' quoth Mrs Varden, holding up her
hands.

'My dear madam, brought up, educated, and trained, expressly for
that purpose. Expressly for that purpose.--Miss Haredale, I am
told, is a very charming creature.'

'I am her foster-mother, and should know--the best young lady in
the world,' said Mrs Varden.

'I have not the smallest doubt of it. I am sure she is. And you,
who have stood in that tender relation towards her, are bound to
consult her happiness. Now, can I--as I have said to Haredale, who
quite agrees--can I possibly stand by, and suffer her to throw
herself away (although she IS of a Catholic family), upon a young
fellow who, as yet, has no heart at all? It is no imputation upon
him to say he has not, because young men who have plunged deeply
into the frivolities and conventionalities of society, very seldom
have. Their hearts never grow, my dear ma'am, till after thirty.
I don't believe, no, I do NOT believe, that I had any heart myself
when I was Ned's age.'

'Oh sir,' said Mrs Varden, 'I think you must have had. It's
impossible that you, who have so much now, can ever have been
without any.'

'I hope,' he answered, shrugging his shoulders meekly, 'I have a
little; I hope, a very little--Heaven knows! But to return to Ned;
I have no doubt you thought, and therefore interfered benevolently
in his behalf, that I objected to Miss Haredale. How very
natural! My dear madam, I object to him--to him--emphatically to
Ned himself.'

Mrs Varden was perfectly aghast at the disclosure.

'He has, if he honourably fulfils this solemn obligation of which I
have told you--and he must be honourable, dear Mrs Varden, or he is
no son of mine--a fortune within his reach. He is of most
expensive, ruinously expensive habits; and if, in a moment of
caprice and wilfulness, he were to marry this young lady, and so
deprive himself of the means of gratifying the tastes to which he
has been so long accustomed, he would--my dear madam, he would
break the gentle creature's heart. Mrs Varden, my good lady, my
dear soul, I put it to you--is such a sacrifice to be endured? Is
the female heart a thing to be trifled with in this way? Ask your
own, my dear madam. Ask your own, I beseech you.'

'Truly,' thought Mrs Varden, 'this gentleman is a saint. But,' she
added aloud, and not unnaturally, 'if you take Miss Emma's lover
away, sir, what becomes of the poor thing's heart then?'

'The very point,' said Mr Chester, not at all abashed, 'to which I
wished to lead you. A marriage with my son, whom I should be
compelled to disown, would be followed by years of misery; they
would be separated, my dear madam, in a twelvemonth. To break off
this attachment, which is more fancied than real, as you and I know
very well, will cost the dear girl but a few tears, and she is
happy again. Take the case of your own daughter, the young lady
downstairs, who is your breathing image'--Mrs Varden coughed and
simpered--'there is a young man (I am sorry to say, a dissolute
fellow, of very indifferent character) of whom I have heard Ned
speak--Bullet was it--Pullet--Mullet--'

'There is a young man of the name of Joseph Willet, sir,' said Mrs
Varden, folding her hands loftily.

'That's he,' cried Mr Chester. 'Suppose this Joseph Willet now,
were to aspire to the affections of your charming daughter, and
were to engage them.'

'It would be like his impudence,' interposed Mrs Varden, bridling,
'to dare to think of such a thing!'

'My dear madam, that's the whole case. I know it would be like his
impudence. It is like Ned's impudence to do as he has done; but
you would not on that account, or because of a few tears from your
beautiful daughter, refrain from checking their inclinations in
their birth. I meant to have reasoned thus with your husband when
I saw him at Mrs Rudge's this evening--'

'My husband,' said Mrs Varden, interposing with emotion, 'would be
a great deal better at home than going to Mrs Rudge's so often. I
don't know what he does there. I don't see what occasion he has to
busy himself in her affairs at all, sir.'

'If I don't appear to express my concurrence in those last
sentiments of yours,' returned Mr Chester, 'quite so strongly as
you might desire, it is because his being there, my dear madam, and
not proving conversational, led me hither, and procured me the
happiness of this interview with one, in whom the whole management,
conduct, and prosperity of her family are centred, I perceive.'

With that he took Mrs Varden's hand again, and having pressed it to
his lips with the highflown gallantry of the day--a little
burlesqued to render it the more striking in the good lady's
unaccustomed eyes--proceeded in the same strain of mingled
sophistry, cajolery, and flattery, to entreat that her utmost
influence might be exerted to restrain her husband and daughter
from any further promotion of Edward's suit to Miss Haredale, and
from aiding or abetting either party in any way. Mrs Varden was
but a woman, and had her share of vanity, obstinacy, and love of
power. She entered into a secret treaty of alliance, offensive and
defensive, with her insinuating visitor; and really did believe, as
many others would have done who saw and heard him, that in so doing
she furthered the ends of truth, justice, and morality, in a very
uncommon degree.

Overjoyed by the success of his negotiation, and mightily amused
within himself, Mr Chester conducted her downstairs in the same
state as before; and having repeated the previous ceremony of
salutation, which also as before comprehended Dolly, took his
leave; first completing the conquest of Miss Miggs's heart, by
inquiring if 'this young lady' would light him to the door.

'Oh, mim,' said Miggs, returning with the candle. 'Oh gracious me,
mim, there's a gentleman! Was there ever such an angel to talk as
he is--and such a sweet-looking man! So upright and noble, that he
seems to despise the very ground he walks on; and yet so mild and
condescending, that he seems to say "but I will take notice on it
too." And to think of his taking you for Miss Dolly, and Miss
Dolly for your sister--Oh, my goodness me, if I was master wouldn't
I be jealous of him!'

Mrs Varden reproved her handmaid for this vain-speaking; but very
gently and mildly--quite smilingly indeed--remarking that she was a
foolish, giddy, light-headed girl, whose spirits carried her
beyond all bounds, and who didn't mean half she said, or she would
be quite angry with her.

'For my part,' said Dolly, in a thoughtful manner, 'I half believe
Mr Chester is something like Miggs in that respect. For all his
politeness and pleasant speaking, I am pretty sure he was making
game of us, more than once.'

'If you venture to say such a thing again, and to speak ill of
people behind their backs in my presence, miss,' said Mrs Varden,
'I shall insist upon your taking a candle and going to bed
directly. How dare you, Dolly? I'm astonished at you. The
rudeness of your whole behaviour this evening has been disgraceful.
Did anybody ever hear,' cried the enraged matron, bursting into
tears, 'of a daughter telling her own mother she has been made game
of!'

What a very uncertain temper Mrs Varden's was!

Chapter 28

Repairing to a noted coffee-house in Covent Garden when he left the
locksmith's, Mr Chester sat long over a late dinner, entertaining
himself exceedingly with the whimsical recollection of his recent
proceedings, and congratulating himself very much on his great
cleverness. Influenced by these thoughts, his face wore an
expression so benign and tranquil, that the waiter in immediate
attendance upon him felt he could almost have died in his defence,
and settled in his own mind (until the receipt of the bill, and a
very small fee for very great trouble disabused it of the idea)
that such an apostolic customer was worth half-a-dozen of the
ordinary run of visitors, at least.

A visit to the gaming-table--not as a heated, anxious venturer, but
one whom it was quite a treat to see staking his two or three
pieces in deference to the follies of society, and smiling with
equal benevolence on winners and losers--made it late before he
reached home. It was his custom to bid his servant go to bed at
his own time unless he had orders to the contrary, and to leave a
candle on the common stair. There was a lamp on the landing by
which he could always light it when he came home late, and having a
key of the door about him he could enter and go to bed at his
pleasure.

He opened the glass of the dull lamp, whose wick, burnt up and
swollen like a drunkard's nose, came flying off in little
carbuncles at the candle's touch, and scattering hot sparks about,
rendered it matter of some difficulty to kindle the lazy taper;
when a noise, as of a man snoring deeply some steps higher up,
caused him to pause and listen. It was the heavy breathing of a
sleeper, close at hand. Some fellow had lain down on the open
staircase, and was slumbering soundly. Having lighted the candle
at length and opened his own door, he softly ascended, holding the
taper high above his head, and peering cautiously about; curious to
see what kind of man had chosen so comfortless a shelter for his
lodging.

With his head upon the landing and his great limbs flung over half-
a-dozen stairs, as carelessly as though he were a dead man whom
drunken bearers had thrown down by chance, there lay Hugh, face
uppermost, his long hair drooping like some wild weed upon his
wooden pillow, and his huge chest heaving with the sounds which so
unwontedly disturbed the place and hour.

He who came upon him so unexpectedly was about to break his rest by
thrusting him with his foot, when, glancing at his upturned face,
he arrested himself in the very action, and stooping down and
shading the candle with his hand, examined his features closely.
Close as his first inspection was, it did not suffice, for he
passed the light, still carefully shaded as before, across and
across his face, and yet observed him with a searching eye.

While he was thus engaged, the sleeper, without any starting or
turning round, awoke. There was a kind of fascination in meeting
his steady gaze so suddenly, which took from the other the presence
of mind to withdraw his eyes, and forced him, as it were, to meet
his look. So they remained staring at each other, until Mr Chester
at last broke silence, and asked him in a low voice, why he lay
sleeping there.

'I thought,' said Hugh, struggling into a sitting posture and
gazing at him intently, still, 'that you were a part of my dream.
It was a curious one. I hope it may never come true, master.'

'What makes you shiver?'

'The--the cold, I suppose,' he growled, as he shook himself and
rose. 'I hardly know where I am yet.'

'Do you know me?' said Mr Chester.

'Ay, I know you,' he answered. 'I was dreaming of you--we're not
where I thought we were. That's a comfort.'

He looked round him as he spoke, and in particular looked above his
head, as though he half expected to be standing under some object
which had had existence in his dream. Then he rubbed his eyes and
shook himself again, and followed his conductor into his own rooms.

Mr Chester lighted the candles which stood upon his dressing-table,
and wheeling an easy-chair towards the fire, which was yet
burning, stirred up a cheerful blaze, sat down before it, and bade
his uncouth visitor 'Come here,' and draw his boots off.

'You have been drinking again, my fine fellow,' he said, as Hugh
went down on one knee, and did as he was told.

'As I'm alive, master, I've walked the twelve long miles, and
waited here I don't know how long, and had no drink between my lips
since dinner-time at noon.'

'And can you do nothing better, my pleasant friend, than fall
asleep, and shake the very building with your snores?' said Mr
Chester. 'Can't you dream in your straw at home, dull dog as you
are, that you need come here to do it?--Reach me those slippers,
and tread softly.'

Hugh obeyed in silence.

'And harkee, my dear young gentleman,' said Mr Chester, as he put
them on, 'the next time you dream, don't let it be of me, but of
some dog or horse with whom you are better acquainted. Fill the
glass once--you'll find it and the bottle in the same place--and
empty it to keep yourself awake.'

Hugh obeyed again even more zealously--and having done so,
presented himself before his patron.

'Now,' said Mr Chester, 'what do you want with me?'

'There was news to-day,' returned Hugh. 'Your son was at our
house--came down on horseback. He tried to see the young woman,
but couldn't get sight of her. He left some letter or some message
which our Joe had charge of, but he and the old one quarrelled
about it when your son had gone, and the old one wouldn't let it be
delivered. He says (that's the old one does) that none of his
people shall interfere and get him into trouble. He's a landlord,
he says, and lives on everybody's custom.'

'He's a jewel,' smiled Mr Chester, 'and the better for being a dull
one.--Well?'

'Varden's daughter--that's the girl I kissed--'

'--and stole the bracelet from upon the king's highway,' said Mr
Chester, composedly. 'Yes; what of her?'

'She wrote a note at our house to the young woman, saying she lost
the letter I brought to you, and you burnt. Our Joe was to carry
it, but the old one kept him at home all next day, on purpose that
he shouldn't. Next morning he gave it to me to take; and here it
is.'

'You didn't deliver it then, my good friend?' said Mr Chester,
twirling Dolly's note between his finger and thumb, and feigning to
be surprised.

'I supposed you'd want to have it,' retorted Hugh. 'Burn one, burn
all, I thought.'

'My devil-may-care acquaintance,' said Mr Chester--'really if you
do not draw some nicer distinctions, your career will be cut short
with most surprising suddenness. Don't you know that the letter
you brought to me, was directed to my son who resides in this very
place? And can you descry no difference between his letters and
those addressed to other people?'

'If you don't want it,' said Hugh, disconcerted by this reproof,
for he had expected high praise, 'give it me back, and I'll deliver
it. I don't know how to please you, master.'

'I shall deliver it,' returned his patron, putting it away after a
moment's consideration, 'myself. Does the young lady walk out, on
fine mornings?'

'Mostly--about noon is her usual time.'

'Alone?'

'Yes, alone.'

'Where?'

'In the grounds before the house.--Them that the footpath crosses.'

'If the weather should be fine, I may throw myself in her way to-
morrow, perhaps,' said Mr Chester, as coolly as if she were one of
his ordinary acquaintance. 'Mr Hugh, if I should ride up to the
Maypole door, you will do me the favour only to have seen me once.
You must suppress your gratitude, and endeavour to forget my
forbearance in the matter of the bracelet. It is natural it should

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