titute and starving, and a wanderer upon the earth. I may take a
sure and slow revenge.'
'There is some dreadful meaning in your words. I do not fathom
'There is a meaning in them, and I see you fathom it to its very
UO BARNABY RUDGE
depth. You have anticipated it for years; you have told me as
much. I leave you to digest it. Do not forget my warning.'
He pointed, as he left her, to the slumbering form, and stealthily
withdrawing, made his way into the street. She fell on her knees
beside the sleeper, and remained like one stricken into stone, until
the tears which fear had frozen so long, came tenderly to her relief.
'Oh Thou,' she cried, Svho hast taught me such deep love for
this one remnant of the promise of a happy life, out of whose
affliction, even, perhaps the comfort springs that he is ever a rely-
ing, loving child to me — never growing old or cold at heart, but
needing my care and duty in his manly strength as in his cradle-
time — help him in his darkened walk through this sad world, or
he is doomed, and my poor heart is broken!'
Gliding along the silent streets, and holding his course where they
were darkest and most gloomy, the man who had left the widow's
house crossed London Bridge, and arriving in the City, plunged
into the backways, lanes, and courts, between Cornhill and Smith-
field; with no more fixedness of purpose than to lose himself among
their windings, and baffle pursuit, if any one were dogging his steps.
It was the dead time of the night, and all was quiet. Now and
then a drowsy watchman's footsteps sounded on the pavement, or
the lamplighter on his rounds went flashing past, leaving behind a
little track of smoke mingled with glowing morsels of his hot red
link. He hid himself even from these partakers of his lonely walk,
and, shrinking in some arch or doorway while they passed, issued
forth again when they were gone and so pursued his solitary way.
To be shelterless and alone in the open country, hearing the wind
moan and watching for day through the whole long weary night ; to
listen to the falling rain, and crouch for warmth beneath the lee
of some old barn or rick, or in the hollow of a tree; are dismal
things — but not so dismal as the wandering up and down where
shelter is, and beds and sleepers are by thousands; a houseless re-
jected creature. To pace the echoing stones from hour to hour.
BARNABY RUDGE 141
counting the dull chimes of the clocks; to watch the lights twink-
ling in chamber windows, to think what happy forgetfulness each
house shuts in; that here are children coiled together in their beds,
here youth, here age, here poverty, here wealth, all equal in their
sleep, and all at rest; to have nothing in common with the slum-
bering world around, not even sleep, Heaven's gift to all its
creatures, and be akin to nothing but despair; to feel, by the
wretched contrast with everything on every hand, more utterly
alone and cast away than in a trackless desert; this is a kind of
suffering, on which the rivers of great cities close full many a time,
and which the solitude in crowds alone aw^akens.
The miserable man paced up and down the streets — so long, so
wearisome, so like each other — and often cast a wistful look to-
wards the east, hoping to see the first faint streaks of day. But
obdurate night had yet possession of the sky, and his disturbed
and restless walk found no relief.
One house in a back street was bright with the cheerful glare
of lights; there was the sound of music in it too, and the dread of
dancers, and there w^ere cheerful voices, and many a burst of
laughter. To this place — to be near something that was awake and
glad — he returned again and again; and more than one of those
who left it when the merriment was at its height, felt it a check
upon their mirthful mood to see him flitting to and fro like an
uneasy ghost. At last the guests departed, one and all; and then
the house was close shut up, and became as dull and silent as
His wanderings brought him at one time to the city jail. In-
stead of hastening from it as a place of ill omen, and one he had
cause to shun, he sat dow^n on some steps hard by, and resting his
chin upon his hand, gazed upon its rough and frowning walls as
though even they became a refuge in his jaded eyes. He paced it
round and round, came back to the same spot, and sat down again.
He did this often, and once, with a hasty movement, crossed to
where some men were watching in the prison lodge, and had his
foot upon the steps as though determined to accost them. But
looking round, he saw that the day began to break, and failing in
his purpose turned and fled.
He was soon in the quarter he had lately traversed, and pacing
142 BAKNABY RUDGE
to and fro again as he had done before. He was passing down a
mean street, when from an alley close at hand some shouts of
revelry arose, and there came straggling forth a dozen madcaps,
whooping and calling to each other, who, parting noisily, took
different ways and dispersed in smaller groups.
Hoping that some low place, of entertainment which would
afford him a safe refuge might be near at hand, he turned into
this court when they were all gone, and looked for a half-opened
door, or lighted window, or other indication of the place whence
they had come. It was so profoundly dark, however, and so ill-
favoured, that he concluded they had but turned up there, missing
their way, and were pouring out again when he observed them.
With this impression, and iinding there was no outlet but that by
which he had entered, he was about to turn, when from a grating
near his feet a sudden stream of light appeared, and the sound of
talking came. He retreated into a doorway to see who these talkers
were, and to listen to them.
The light came to the level of the pavement as he did this, and a
man ascended, bearing in his hand a torch. This figure unlocked
and held open the grating as for the passage of another, who
presently appeared, in the form of a young man of small stature
and uncommon self-importance, dressed in an obsolete and very
'Good-night, noble captain,' said he with the torch. Tarewell,
commander. Good luck, illustrious general!'
In return to these compliments the other bade him hold his
tongue, and keep his noise to himself; and laid upon him many
similar injunctions, with great fluency of speech and sternness of
'Commend me, captain, to the stricken Miggs,' returned the
torch-bearer in a lower voice. 'My captain flies at higher game
than Miggses. Ha, ha, ha! My captain is an eagle, both as re-
spects his eye and soaring wings. My captain breaketh hearts as
other bachelors break eggs at breakfast.'
'What a fool you are, Stagg!' said Mr. Tappertit, stepping on
the pavement of the court, and brushing from his legs the dust
he had contracted in his passage upward.
'His precious limbs!' cried Stagg, clasping one of his ankles.
BARNABY RUDGE 143
'Shall a Miggs aspire to these proportions! No, no, my captain.
We will inveigle ladies fair, and wed them in our secret cavern.
We will unite ourselves with blooming beauties, captain.'
'I '11 tell you what, my buck,' said Mr. Tappertit, releasing his
leg; 'I '11 trouble you not to take liberties, and not to broach cer-
tain questions unless certain questions are broached to you. Speak
when you 're spoke to on particular subjects, and not otherways.
Hold the torch up till I 've got to the end of the court, and then
kennel yourself, do you hear?'
'I hear you, noble captain.'
'Obey then,' said Mr. Tappertit haughtily. 'Gentlemen, lead
on!' With which word of command (addressed to an imaginary
staff or retinue) he folded his arms, and walked with surpassing
dignity down the court.
His obsequious follower stood holding the torch above his head,
and then the observer saw for the first time, from his place of
concealment, that he was blind. Some involuntary motion on his
part caught the quick ear of the blind man, before he was con-
scious of having moved an inch towards him, for he turned sud-
denly and cried, 'Who 's there?'
'A man,' said the other, advancing. 'A friend.'
'A stranger!' rejoined the blind man. 'Strangers are not my
friends. What do you do there?'
'I saw your company come out, and waited here till .they were
gone. I want a lodging.'
'A lodging at this time!' returned Stagg, pointing towards the
dawn as though he saw it. 'Do you know the day is breaking?'
'I know it,' rejoined the other, 'to my cost. I have been travers-
ing this iron-hearted town all night.'
'You had better traverse it again,' said the blind man, preparing
to descend, 'till you find some lodgings suitable to your taste. I
don't let any.'
'Stay! ' cried the other, holding him by the arm.
'I '11 beat this light about that hangdog face of yours (for hang-
dog it is, if it answers to your voice), and rouse the neighbourhood
besides, if you detain me,' said the blind man. 'Let me go. Do you
'Do you hear!' returned the other, chinking a few shillings to-
144 BAHNABY RUDGE
gether, and hurriedly pressing them into his hand. 'I beg nothing
of you. I will pay for the shelter you give me. Death! Is it much
to ask of such as you? I have come from the country, and desire
to rest where there are none to question me. I am faint, exhausted,
worn out, almost dead. Let me lie down, like a dog, before your
fire. I ask no more than that. If you would be rid of me, I will de-
'If a gentleman has been unfortunate on the road,' muttered
Stagg, yielding to the other, who, pressing on him, had already
gained a footing on the step — 'and can pay for his accommoda-
'I will pay you with all I have. I am just now past the want of
food, God knows, and wish but to purchase shelter. What com-
panion have you below?'
'Then fasten your grate there, and show me the way. Quick!'
The blind man complied after a moment's hesitation, and they
descended together. The dialogue had passed as hurriedly as the
words could be spoken, and they stood in his wretched room before
he had had time to recover from his first surprise.
'May I see where that door leads to, and what is beyond?' said
the man, glancing keenly round. 'You will not mind that?'
'I will show you myself. Follow me, or go before. Take your
He bade him lead the way, and, by the light of the torch which
his conductor held up for the purpose, inspected all three cellars
narrowly. Assured that the blind man had spoken truth, and
that he lived there alone, the visitor returned with him to the first,
in which a fire was burning, and flung himself with a deep groan
upon the ground before it.
His host pursued his usual occupation without seeming to heed
him any further. But directly he fell asleep — and he noted his
falling into a slumber, as readily as the keenest-sighted man could
have done — he knelt down beside him, and passed his hand lightly
but carefully over his face and person.
His sleep was checkered with starts and moans, and sometimes
with a muttered word or two. His hands were clenched, his brow
bent, and his mouth firmly set. All this, the blind man accurately
BARNABY RUDGE 145
marked; and as if his curiosity were strongly awakened, and he
had already some inkling of his mystery, he sat watching him, if
the expression may be used, and listening, until it was broad day.
Dolly Varden's pretty little head was yet bewildered by various
recollections of the party, and her bright eyes were yet dazzled by
a crowd of images, dancing before them like motes in the sunbeams,
among which the effigy of one partner in particular did especially
figure, the same being a young coach-maker (a master in his own
right) who had given her to understand, when he handed her into
the chair at parting, that it was his fixed resolve to neglect his
business from that time, and die slowly for the love of her — Dolly's
head, and eyes, and thoughts, and seven senses, were all in a state
of flutter and confusion for which the party was accountable, al-
though it was now three days old, when, as she was sitting listlessly
at breakfast, reading all manner of fortunes (that is to say, of mar-
ried and flourishing fortunes) in the grounds of her tea-cup, a step
was heard in the workshop, and Mr. Edward Chester was descried
through the glass door, standing among the rusty locks and keys
like love among the roses — for which apt comparison the historian
may by no means take any credit to himself, the same being the
invention, in a sentimental mood, of the chaste and modest Miggs,
who, beholding him from the doorsteps she was then cleaning, did,
in her maiden meditation, give utterance to the simile.
The locksmith, who happened at the moment to have his eyes
thrown upward and his head backward, in an intense communing
with Toby, did not see his visitor, until Mrs. Varden, more watchful
than the rest, had desired Sim Tappertit to open the glass door and
give him admission — from which untoward circumstance the good
lady argued (for she could deduce a precious moral from the most
trifling event) that to take a draught of small ale in the morning
was to observe a pernicious, irreligious, and Pagan custom, the
relish whereof should be left to swine, and Satan, or at least to
Popish persons, and should be shunned by the righteous as a work
146 BARNABY RUDGE
of sin and evil. She would no doubt have pursued her admonition
much further, and would have founded on it a long list of precious
precepts of inestimable value, but that the young gentleman
standing by in a somewhat uncomfortable and discomfited manner
while she read her spouse this lecture, occasioned her to bring it
to a premature conclusion.
'I 'm sure you '11 excuse me, sir,' said Mrs. Varden, rising and
curtseying. ^Varden is so very thoughtless, and needs so much re-
minding — Sim, bring a chair here.'
Mr. Tappertit obeyed, with a flourish implying that he did so,
'And you can go, Sim,' said the locksmith.
Mr. Tappertit obeyed again, still under protest; and betaking
himself to the workshop, began seriously to fear that he might find
it necessary to poison his master, before his time was out.
In the meantime, Edward returned suitable replies to Mrs. Var-
den's courtesies, and that lady brightened up very much; so that
when he accepted a dish of tea from the fair hands of Dolly, she
was perfectly agreeable.
'I am sure if there 's anything we can do, — Varden, or I, or
Dolly either, — to serve you, sir, at any time, you have only to say
it, and it shall be done,' said Mrs. V.
'I am much obliged to you, I am sure,' returned Edward. 'You
encourage me to say that I have come here now, to beg your good
Mrs. Varden was delighted beyond measure.
'It occurred to me that probably your fair daughter might be
going to the Warren, either to-day or to-morrow,' said Edward,
glancing at Dolly; 'and if so, and you will allow her to take charge
of this letter, ma'am, you will oblige me more than I can tell you.'
The truth is, that while I am very anxious it should reach its des-
tination, I have particular reasons for not trusting it to any other
conveyance; so that without your help, I am wholly at a loss.'
'She was not going that way, sir, either to-day, or to-morrow, nor
indeed all next week,' the lady graciously rejoined, 'but we shall
be very glad to put ourselves out of the way on your account, and
if you wish it, you may depend upon its going to-day. You might
suppose,' said Mrs. Varden, frowning at her husband, 'from Var
BARNABY RUDGE 147
den's sitting there so glum and silent, that he objected to this
arrangement; but you must not mind that, sir, if you please. It 's
his way at home. Out of doors, he can be cheerful and talkative
Now, the fact was, that the unfortunate locksmith, blessing his
stars to find his helpmate in such good humour, had been sitting
with a beaming face, hearing this discourse with a joy past all ex-
pression. Wherefore this sudden attack quite took him by surprise.
'^ly dear Martha — ' he said.
'Oh yes, I dare say/ interrupted Mrs. Varden, with a smile of
mingled scorn and pleasantry. 'Very dear! We all know that.'
''So, but my good soul,' said Gabriel, 'you are quite mistaken.
You are indeed, I was delighted to find you so kind and ready. I
waited, my dear, anxiously, I assure you, to hear what you would
'You waited anxiously/ repeated Mrs. V. 'Yes! Thank you,
Varden. You waited, as you always do, that I might bear the
blame, if any came of it. But I am used to it/ said the lady with a
kind of solemn titter, 'and that 's my comfort!'
'I give you my word, Martha — ' said Gabriel.
'Let me give you my word, my dear,' interposed his wife with a
Christian smile, 'that such discussions as these between married
people, are much better left alone. Therefore, if you please, Var-
den, we '11 drop the subject. I have no wish to pursue it. I could.
I might say a great deal. But I would rather not. Pray don't say
T don't want to say any more,' rejoined the goaded locksmith.
'Well then, don't,' said Mrs. Varden.
'Nor did I begin it, Martha,' added the locksmith, good humour-
edly, 'I must say that.'
'You did not begin it, Varden I' exclaimed his wife, opening her
eyes very wide and looking round upon the company, as though
she would say, You hear this man! 'You did not begin it, Varden!
But you shall not say I was out of temper. No, you did not begin
it, oh dear no, not you, my dear I'
'Well, well,' said the locksmith. 'That 's settled then.'
'Oh yes,' rejoined his wife, 'quite. If you like to say Dolly began
it, my dear, I shall not contradict you. I Ivnow my duty. I need
148 BARNABY RUDGE
know it, I am sure. I am often obliged to bear it in mind, when my
inclination perhaps would be for the mom.ent to forget it. Thank
you, Varden.' And so, with a mighty show of humiility and forgive-
ness, she folded her hands, and looked round again, with a smile
which plainly said 'If you desire to see the first and foremost among
female martyrs, here she is, on view!'
This little incident, illustrative though it was of ISIrs. Varden's
extraordinary sweetness and amiability, had so strong a tendency
to check the conversation and to disconcert all parties but that
excellent lady, that only a few monosyllables were uttered until
Edward withdrew; which he presently did, thanking the lady of
the house a great many times for her condescension, and whispering
in Dolly's ear that he would call on the morrow, in case there
should happen to be an answer to the note — which, indeed, she
knew without his telling, as Barnaby and his friend Grip had
dropped in on the previous night to prepare her for the visit which
was then terminating.
Gabriel, who had attended Edward to the door, cam.e back with
his hands in his pockets; and, after fidgeting about the room in a
very uneasy manner, and casting a great many sidelong looks at
Mrs. Varden (who with the calmest countenance in the world w^as
five fathoms deep in the Protestant Manual), inquired of Dolly
how she meant to go. Dolly supposed by the stage-coach, and
looked at her lady mother, who finding herself silently appealed to,
dived down at least another fathom into the Manual, and became
unconscious of all earthly things.
'Martha — ' said the locksmith.
'I hear you, Varden,' said his wife, without rising to the surface.
'I am sorry, my dear, you have such an objection to the Maypole
and old John, for otherways as it 's a very fine morning, and Satur-
day 's not a busy day with us, we might have all three gone to
Chigwell in the chaise, and had quite a happy day of it.'
Mrs. Varden immediately closed the Manual, and bursting into
tears, requested to be led upstairs.
'What is the matter now, ]\Iartha?' inquired the locksmith.
To which Martha rejoined, 'Oh! don't speak to me,' and pro-
tested in agony that if anybody had told her so, she wouldn't have
BARNABY RUDGE 149
'But, Martha/ said Gabriel, putting himself in the way as she
was moving off with the aid of Dolly's shoulder, 'wouldn't have be-
lieved what? Tell me what's wrong now. Do tell me. Upon my
soul I don't know. Do you know, child? Dammel' cried the lock-
smith, plucking at his wig in a kind of frenzy, 'nobody does know,
I verily believe, but Miggs!'
'Miggs,' said Mrs. Varden faintly, and with symptoms of ap-
proaching incoherence, 'is attached to me, and that is sufficient to
drav/ down hatred upon her in this house. She is a comfort to me,
whatever she m^ay be to others.'
'She 's no comfort to me,' cried Gabriel, made bold b}" despair.
'She 's the miser}^ of my life. She 's all the plagues of Egypt in one.'
'She 's considered so, I have no doubt,' said Mrs. Varden. 'I was
prepared for that; it 's natural; it 's of a piece with the rest. When
you taunt me as you do to my face, how can I wonder that you
taunt her behind her back I' And here the incoherence coming on
very strong, ^Irs. \^arden wept, and laughed, and sobbed, and
shivered, and hiccoughed, and choked; and said she knew it was
very foolish but she couldn't help it; and that when she was dead
and gone, perhaps they v/ould be sorry for it — which really under
the circumstances did not appear quite so probable as she seemed
to think — with a great deal more to the same effect. In a word,
she passed with great decency through all the ceremonies incidental
to such occasions; and being supported upstairs, was deposited in
a highly spasmodic state on her own bed, where Miss Miggs shortly
afterwards flung herself upon the body.
The philosophy of all this was, that Mrs. Varden wanted to go to
Chigwell; that she did not want to make any concession or ex-
planation ; that she would only go on being implored and entreated
so to do ; and that she would accept no other terms. Accordingly,
after a vast amount of moaning and crying upstairs, and much
damping of foreheads, and vinegaring of temples, and hartshorn-
ing of noses, and so forth; and after most pathetic adjurations from
i\liggs, assisted by warm brandy- and-water not over-weak, and
divers other cordials, also of a stimulating quality, administered
at first in teaspoonfuls and afterwards in increasing doses, and of
which Miss Miggs herself partook as a preventive measure (for
fainting is infectious) ; after all these remedies, and many more too
150 BAtlNABY RUDGE
numerous to mention, but not to take, had been applied ; and many
verbal consolations, moral, religious, and miscellaneous, had been
superadded thereto; the locksmith humbled himself, and the end
'If it 's only for the sake of peace and quietness, father,' said
Dolly, urging him to go upstairs.
'Oh, Doll, Doll,' said her good-natured father. 'If you ever have
a husband of your own — '
Dolly glanced at the glass.
' — Well, when you have,' said the locksmith, 'never faint, my
darling. More domestic unhappiness has come of easy fainting,
Doll, than from all the greater passions put together. Remember
that, my dear, if you would be really happy, which you never can
be, if your husband isn't. And a word in your ear, my precious.
Never have a Miggs about you!'
With this advice he kissed his blooming daughter on the cheek,
and slowly repaired to Mrs. Varden's room; where that lady, lying
all pale and languid on her couch, was refreshing herself with a
sight of her last new bonnet, which Miggs, as a means of calming
her scattered spirits, displayed to the best advantage at her bed-
'Here 's master, mim,' said Miggs. 'Oh, what a happiness it is
when man and wife come round again! Oh gracious, to think that
him and her should ever have a word together ! ' In the energy of
these sentiments, which were uttered as an apostrophe to the
Heavens in general, Miss Miggs perched the bonnet on the top of
her own head, and folding her hands, turned on her tears.
'I can't help it,' cried -Miggs. 'I couldn't, if I was to be drownded
in 'em. She has such a forgiving spirit! She '11 forget all that has
passed, and go along with you, sir — Oh, if it was to the world's
end, she "d go along with you.'
Mrs. Varden with a faint smile gently reproved her attendant
for this enthusiasm, and reminded her at the same time that she
was far too unwell to venture out that day.
'Oh no, you're not, mim, indeed you're not,' said Miggs; *I
repeal to master; master knows you 're not, mim. The hair, and
motion of the shay, will do you good, mim, and you must not give