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
BARXABY RUDGE 195
had known. The room in which this group were now assembled ā
hard by the very chamber where the act was done ā 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, un-
fitting tenants of the spot. The widow, with her marked and
startling face and downcast eyes; IMr. Haredale stern and des-
pondent 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, w^as strictly in unison with the
rest, and looked like the embodied spirt of evil biding his time of
T scarcely know,' said the widow, breaking silence, 'how to be-
gin. 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 not 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, T 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 un-
assisted, 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 extra-
ordinary, which ā if one may entertain the possibility of anything
so wild and strange ā would have its weight, of course.'
That, sir,' she answered, 'is the misery of my distress. I can give
no reason whatever. Mv own bare word is all that T can offer. It
196 BARNABY RUDGE
is my duty, my imperative and bounden duty. If I did not dis-
charge 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 ā and yours, dear
young lady, will speak for me, I know ā that I have lived, since
that time we all have bitter reason to remember, in unchanging de-
votion, 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 ex-
plained. In another, the truth will be discovered in its own good
time. And may that time,' she added in a low voice, 'be far dis-
'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 re-
solved voluntarily to deprive yourself of those means of support
you have received from us so long ā that you are determined to re-
sign the annuity we settled on you twenty years ago ā to leave
house, and home, and goods, and begin life anew ā and this, for
some secret reason or monstrous fancy which is incapable of ex-
planation, which only now exists, and has been dormant all this
time? In the name of God, under what delusion are you labour-
'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 ā it is ā de-
voted to purposes that mock the dead in their graves. It never can
BARNABY RUDGE 197
prosper with me. It will bring some other heavy judgment on the
head of my dear son, whose innocence will suffer for his mother's
'What words are these?' cried Mr. Haredale, regarding her with
wonder. ^\mong what associates have you fallen? Into what guilt
have you ever been betrayed?'
'I am guilty, and yet innocent; wrong, yet right; good in inten-
tion, 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 ā and you, dear ]Miss Haredale, too ā 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 re-
source, that she should confide in Emma, of whom, as a young per-
son 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 ^Ir. Haredale at her own house next evening, and in the
meantime reconsider her determination and their dissuasions ā
though any change on her part, as she told them, was quite hope-
less. 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.
198 BARNABY RUDGE
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 hu-
man 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 com-
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 re-
freshment, 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. Hare-
dale 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 as-
sented, and in the churchyard they sat down to take their frugal
Here again, the raven was in a highly reflective state; walking
up and down when he had dined, with an air of elderly compla-
cency which was strongly suggestive of his having his hands under
his coattails; 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 be-
low, or merely threw them off as a general remark, is matter of
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
BARNABY RUDGE 199
at the sound; and Grip, who appeared to understand it equally
well, walked into his basket straightway, entreating society in gen^
eral (as though he intended a kind of satire upon them in connec-
tion 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 par-
cel 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 cosey
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 un-
lucky 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; the}^ may
call and they may not ā there 's a carrier ā he was looked upon as
quite good enough for us, w^hen / was a boy.'
She dropped her veil as Hugh climbed up, and while he hung be-
hind, 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 ā where she had known all her enjoyment of life, and
had entered on its hardest sorrows.
^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.'
T ask your pardon, sir,' rejoined the locksmith. 'I didn't say I
200 BARNABY RUDGE
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 sur-
prised, 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 cutthroat at least, I am certain. There, sir! Now it 's out.'
'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 ā broad
awake ā 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
'Sir,' returned the locksmith, 'she herself prevented me ā 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 par-
lour, into which honest Gabriel had shown his visitor on his ar-
rival. 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
'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 ā 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
BARNABY RUDGE 201
I didn't ask her anything. You '11 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 incauti-
ously ā it is not improbable, for her existence has been a lonely and
monotonous one for many years ā and the man turned out a ruf-
fian, 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 ā a notable
person, sir, to put to bad uses ā '
'It is not possible, Vardsn,' 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 pos-
sible that this connection was formed in her husband's lifetime,
and led to his and my brother's ā '
'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 its 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 ā secret,
stealthy, undermining devils ā who tread down the brightest flow-
ers in Eden, and do more havoc in a month than Time does in a
year. Picture to yourself for nne minute what Mary was before
202 BARNABY RUDGE
they went to work with her fresh heart and face ā do her that jus-
tice ā 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 '11 keep her old picture in my mind; and think-
ing of that, and what has altered her, I '11 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 Protes-
tant Manual too, though Martha said it wasn't, tooth and nail, tiU
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
en 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 wait-
ing at the door, drove off straightway.
They alighted at the street corner, and dismissing their convey-
ance walked to the house. To their first knock at the door there
was no responce. A second met with the like result. But in answer
to the third, which was of a more vigorous kind, the parlour win-
dow-sash was gently raised, and a musical voice cried ā
'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 toward 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 cour-
BARXABY RUDGE 20S
^The door will be opened immediately,' he said. There was no-
body 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.
'Xot opened yet,' said Mr. Chester. 'Dear me I I hope the aged
soul has not caught her foot in some unlucky cobweb by the way.
She is there at last I 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 ā 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.
Tray, sir,' said Mr. Haredale, presenting himself before this new
tenant, 'where is the person v^^hom I came here to see?'
'My dear friend,' he returned, T 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 ^Nlr. Chester, 'you are heated with walk-
ing. Sit down, I beg. Our friend is ā '
'Is but a plain honest man.' returned Mr. Haredale, 'and quite
unworthy of your notice.'
'Gabriel Varder by name, sir,' said the locksmith bluntly.
'A worthy English yeoman I' said Mr. Chester. 'A most worthy
yeoman, of whom I have frequently heard my son Ned ā darling
fellow ā 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 ā not fondly or admiringly ā
smiled, and held his peace.
'The mystery is solved in a moment,' said Mr. Chester; 'in a
204 BARNABY RUDGE
moment. Will you step aside with me one instant. You remember
our little compact in reference to Ned, and your dear niece, Hare-
dale? You remember the list of assistants in their innocent in-
trigue? 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 ā and you must permit me to say again, that
you never looked so young; so positively boyish as you do to-night
ā 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 ap-
pointed 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 '11
find it inconviently large; but as the tenement is yours, your good-
nature will excuse that, Haredale, I am certain!'
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 the}^
were walking in the same direction, recalled him to himself.
'No,' he said. 'Our roads diverge ā widely, as you know. For
the present, I shall remain here.'
'You will be hipped, Haredale; you will be miserable, melan-
choly, utterly wretched,' returned the other. 'It's a place of the very
BARNABY RUDGE 205
last description for a man of your temper. I know it will make you
'Let it,' said Mr. Haredale, sitting down; 'and thrive upon the
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 in-
quired of Gabriel in what direction he was going.
'Yours, sir, would be too much honour for the like of me,' re-
plied the locksmith, hesitating.
'I wish you to remain here a little while, Varden,' said Mr. Hare-
dale, without looking towards them. 'I have a word or two to say
'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.
^ā¢\ 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 ā a bear that gnaws himself. And
here is one of the inestimable advantages of having a perfect com-
mand 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 swords-
man 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 be-
fore, 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 begger was emboldened to follow him for alms,