it on such a night as this.'
'You have sharp eyes and a sharp tongue I find.'
'Both I hope by nature, but the last grows rusty sometimes for
want of using.'
'Use the first less too, and keep their sharpness for your sweet-
hearts, boy,' said the man.
So saying he shook his hand from the bridle, struck him roughly
on the head with the butt-end of his whip, and galloped away;
dashing through the mud and darkness with a headlong speed,
which few badly-mounted horsemen would have cared to venture.
18 BARNABY RUDGE
even had they been thoroughly acquainted with the country; and
which, to one who knew nothing of the way he rode, was attended
at every step with great hazard and danger.
The roads, even within twelve miles of London, were at that
time ill paved, seldom repaired, and very badly made. The way
this rider traversed had been ploughed up by the wheels of heavy
waggons, and rendered rotten by the frosts and thaws of the pre-
ceding winter, or possibly of many winters. Great holes and gaps
had been worn into the soil, which, being now filled with water
from the late rains, were not easily distinguishable even by day;
and a plunge into any one of them might have brought down a
surer-footed horse than the poor beast now urged forward to the
utmost extent of his powers. Sharp flints and stones rolled from
under his hoofs continually; the rider could scarcel}'' see beyond
the animal's head, or farther on either side than his own arm would
have extended. At that time, too, all the roads in the neighbour-
hood of the metropolis were infested by footpads or highwaymen,
and it was a night, of all others, in which any evil-disposed person
of this class might have pursued his unlawful calling with little
fear of detection.
Still, the traveller dashed forward at the same reckless pace,
regardless alike of the dirt and wet which flew about his head, the
profound darkness of the night, and the probability of encounter-
ing some desperate characters abroad. At every turn and angle,
even where a deviation from the direct course might have been
least expected, and could not possibly be seen until he was close
upon it, he guided the bridle with an unerring hand, and kept the
middle of the road. Thus he sped onward, raising himself in the
stirrups, leaning his body forward until it almost touched the
horse's neck, and flourishing his heavy whip above his head with
the fervour of a madman.
There are times when, the elements being in unusual commo-
tion, those who are bent on daring enterprises, or agitated by great
thoughts, whether of good or evil, feel a mysterious sympathy with
the tumult of nature, and are roused into corresponding violence.
In the midst of thunder, lightning, and storm, many tremendous
deeds have been committed ; men, self-possessed before, have given
a sudden loose to passions they could no longer control. The de-
BARNABY RUDGE - 19
mons of wrath and despair have striven to emulate those who ride
the whirlwind and direct the storm; and man, lashed into madness
with the roaring winds and boiling waters, has become for the time
as wild and merciless as the elements themselves.
. Whether the traveller was possessed by thoughts which the fury
of the night had heated and stimulated into a quicker current, or
was merely impelled by some strong motive to reach his journey's
end, on he swept more like a hunted phantom than a man, nor
checked his pace until, arriving at some cross-roads, one of which
led by a longer route to the place whence he had lately started, he
bore down so suddenly upon a vehicle which was coming towards
him, that in the effort to avoid it he well-nigh pulled his horse upon
his haunches, and narrowly escaped being thrown.
'Yoho! ' cried the voice of a man. 'What 's that? who goes there?'
^A friend!' replied the traveller.
'A friend!' repeated the voice. 'Who calls himself a friend and
rides like that, abusing Heaven's gifts in the shape of horseflesh,
and endangering, not only his own neck (which might be no great
matter) but the necks of other people?'
'You have a lantern there, I see,' said the traveller dismount-
ing, 'lend it me for a moment. You have wounded my horse, I
think, with your shaft or wheel.'
'Wounded him!' cried the other, 'if I haven't killed him, it's no
fault of yours. What do you mean by galloping along the king's
highway like that, eh?'
'Give me the light,' returned the traveller, snatching it from his
hand, 'and don't ask idle questions of a man who is in no mood for
'If you had said you were in no mood for talking before, I should
perhaps have been in no mood for lighting,' said the voice. 'How-
s'ever as it's the poor horse that's damiaged and not you, one of
you is welcome to the light at all events — but it's not the crusty
The traveller returned no answer to this speech, but holding the
light near to his panting and reeking beast, examined him in limb
and carcass. Meanwhile, the other man sat very composedly in his
vehicle, which was a kind of chaise with a depository for a large
bag of tools, and watched his proceedings with a careful eye.
20 BARNABY RUDGE
The looker-on was a round, red-faced, sturdy yeoman, with a
double-chin, and a voice husky with good living, good sleeping,
good humour, and good health. He was past the prinie of life, but
Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries
for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who
have used him well ; making them old m.en and women inexorably
enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full
vigour. With such people the grey head is but the impression of
the old fellow's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle
but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.
The person whom the traveller had so abruptly encountered was
of this kind: bluff, hale, hearty, and in a green old age: at peace
with himself, and evidently disposed to be so with all the world.
Although muffled up in divers coats and handkerchiefs — one of
which, passed over his crown, and tied in a convenient crease of his
double-chin, secured his three-cornered hat and bob-wig from
blowing off his head — there was no disguising his plump and com-
fortable figure; neither did certain dirty finger-marks upon his
face give it any other than an odd and comical expression, through
which its natural good-humour shone with undiminished lustre.
'He is not hurt,' said the traveller at length, raising his head and
the lantern together.
'You have found that out at last, have you?' rejoined the old
man. 'My eyes have seen more light than yours, but I wouldn't
change with you.'
'W^at do you mean?'
'Mean! I could have told you he wasn't hurt, five minutes ago.
Give me the light, friend; ride forward at a gentler pace; and
In handing up the lantern, the man necessarily cast its rays full
on the speaker's face. Their eyes met at the instant. He suddenly
dropped it and crushed it with his foot.
'Did you never see a locksmith before, that you start as if you
had come upon a ghost?' cried the old man in the chaise, 'or is
this,' he added hastily, thrusting his hand into the tool-basket and
drawing out a hammer, 'a scheme for robbing me? I know these
roads, friend. When I travel them, I carry nothing but a few shill-
ings, and not a crown's-worth of them. I tell you plainly, to save
BARNABY RUDGE 21
us both trouble, that there's nothing to be got from me but a pretty
stout arm considering my years, and this tool, which, mayhap from
long acquaintance with, I can use pretty briskly. You shall not
have it all your own way, I promise you, if you play at that game.'
With these words he stood upon the defensive.
'I am not what you take me for, Gabriel Varden,' replied the
'Then what and who are you?' returned the locksmith. 'You
know my name it seems. Let me know yours.'
'I have not gained the information from any confidence of yours,
but from the inscription on your cart which tells it to all the town,'
replied the traveller.
'You have better eyes for that than you had for your horse,
then,' said Varden, descending nimbly from his chaise; 'who are
you? Let me see your face.'
While the locksmith alighted, the traveller had regained his
saddle, from which he now confronted the old man, who, moving
as the horse moved in chafing under the tightened rein, kept close
'Let me see your face, I say.'
'No masquerading tricks,' said the locksmith, 'and tales at the
club to-morrow, how Gabriel Varden was frightened by a surly
voice and a dark night. Stand — let me see your face.'
Finding that further resistance would only involve him in a per-
sonal struggle with an antagonist by no means to be despised, the
traveller threw back his coat, and stooping down looked steadily
at the locksmith.
Perhaps two men more powerfully contrasted, never opposed
each other face to face. The ruddy features of the locksmith so
set off and heightened the excessive paleness of the man on horse-
back, that he looked like a bloodless ghost, while the moisture,
which hard riding had brought out upon his skin^ hung there in
dark and heavy drops, like dews of agony and death. The counte-
nance of the old locksmith lighted up with the smile of one expect-
ing to detect in this unpromising stranger some latent roguery of
eye or lip, which should reveal a familiar person in that arch dis-
guise, ard spoil his jest. The face of the other, sullen and fierce, but
22 BARNABY RUDGE
shrinking too, was that of a man who stood at bay; while his
firmly-closed jaws, his puckered mouth, and more than all a cer-
tain stealthy motion of the hand within his breast, seemed to an-
nounce a desperate purpose very foreign to acting, or child's play.
Thus they regarded each other for some time, in silence.
'Humph!' he said when he had scanned his features; T don't
'Don't desire to!' — returned the other, muffling himself as be-
'I don't,' said Gabriel; 'to be plain with you, friend, you don't
carry in your countenance a letter of recommendation.'
'It's not my wish,' said the traveller. 'My humour is to be
'Well,' said the locksmith bluntly, 'I think you'll have your
'I will, at any cost,' rejoined the traveller. 'In proof of it, lay
this to heart — that you were never in such peril of your life as you
have been within these few moments; when you are within five
minutes of breathing your last, you will not be nearer death than
you have been to-night ! '
'Aye?' said the sturdy locksmith.
'Aye! and a violent death.'
'From whose hand?'
^From mine,' replied the traveller.
With that he put the spurs to his horse, and rode away; at first
plashing heavily through the mire at a smart trot, but gradually
increasing in speed until the last sound of his horse's hoofs died
away upon the wind; when he was again hurrying on at the same
furious gallop, which had been his pace when the locksmith first
Gabriel Varden remained standing in the road with the broken
lantern in his hand, listening in stupefied silence until no sound
reached his ear but the moaning of the wind, and the fast-falling
rain; when he struck himself one or two smart blows in the breast
by way of rousing himself, and broke into an exclamation of sur-
'What in the name of wonder can this fellow be? a madman? a
highwayman? a cut- throat? If he had not scoured off so fast, we'd
BARNABY RUDGE 23
have seen who was in most danger, he or I. I never nearer death
than I have been to-night! I hope I may be no nearer to it for a
score of years to come — if so, I'll be content to be no farther from
it. ^ly stars! — a pretty brag this to a stout man — pooh, pooh!'
Gabriel resumed his seat, and looked wistfully up the road by
which the traveller had come; murmuring in a half-whisper —
'The jVIaypole — two miles to the Maypole. I came the other road
from the Warren after a long day's work at locks and bells, on
purpose that I should not come by the Maypole and break my
promise to Martha by looking in — there 's resolution! It would
be dangerous to go on to London without a light; and it's four
miles, and a good half-mile besides, to the Halfw^ay House; and
between this and that is the very place where one needs a light
most. Two m.iles to the Maypole! I told Martha I wouldn't: I
said I wouldn't, and I didn't — there's resolution!'
Repeating these two last words very often, as if to compensate
for the little resolution he was going to show by piquing himself on
the great resolution he had shown, Gabriel Varden quietly turned
back, determining to get a light at the ]Maypole, and to take noth-
ing but a light.
When he got to the Maypole^ however, and Joe, responding to
his well-known hail, came running out to the horse's head, leaving
the door open behind him, and disclosing a delicious perspective
of warmth and brightness — when the ruddy gleam of the fire,
streaming through the old red curtains of the common room,
seemed to bring with it, as part of itself, a pleasant hum of voices,
and a fragrant odour of steaming grog and rare tobacco, all steeped
as it were in the cheerful glow — when the shadows, flitting across
the curtain, showed that those inside had risen from their snug
seats, and were making room in the snuggest corner (how well he
knew that corner!) for the honest locksmith, and a broad glare,
suddenly streaming up, bespoke the goodness of the crackling log
from which a brilliant train of sparks was doubtless at that mo-
ment whirling up the chimney in honour of his coming — when,
superadded to these enticements, there stole upon him from the
distant kitchen a gentle sound of frying, with a musical clatter of
plates and dishes, and a savoury smell that made even the boister-
ous wind a perfume — Gabriel felt his firmness oozing rapidly
24 BARNABY RUDGE
away. He tried to look stoically at the tavern, but his features
would relax into a look of fondness. He turned his head the other
way, and the cold black country seemed to frown him off, and
drive him for a refuge into its hospitable arms.
'The merciful man, Joe,' said the locksmith, 'is merciful to his
beast. I'll get out for a little while.'
And how natural it was to get out. And how unnatural it seemed
for a sober man to be plodding wearily along through miry roads,
encountering the rude buffets of the wind and pelting of the rain,
when there was a clean floor covered with crisp white sand, a well-
swept hearth, a blazing fire, a table decorated with white cloth,
bright pewter flagons, and other tempting preparations for a well-
cooked meal — when there were these things, and company dis-
posed to make the most of them, all ready to his hand, and entreat-
ing him to enjoyment!
Such were the locksmith's thoughts when first seated in the snug
corner, and slowly recovering from a pleasant defect of vision —
pleasant, because occasioned by the wind blowing in his eyes —
which made it a matter of sound policy and duty to himself, that
he should take refuge from the weather, and tempted him, for the
same reason, to aggravate a slight cough, and declare he felt
but poorly. Such were still his thoughts more than a full hour
afterwards, when, supper over, he still sat with shining jovial face
in the same warm nook, listening to the cricket-like chirrup of lit-
tle Solomon Daisy, and bearing no unimportant or slightly re-
spected part in the social gossip round the Maypole fire.
'I wish he may be an honest man, that's all,' said Solomon,
winding up a variety of speculations relative to the stranger, con-
cerning whom Gabriel had compared notes with the company, and
so raised a grave discussion; 7 wish he may be an honest man.'
'So we all do, I suppose, don't we?' observed the locksmith.
'I don't,' said Joe.
'No!' cried Gabriel.
BARNABY RUDGE 25
'No. He struck me with his whip, the coward, when he was
mounted, and I afoot, and I should be better pleased that he turned
out what I think him.'
'And what may that be, Joe?'
'No good, Mr. Varden. You may shake your head, father, but I
say no good, and will say no good, and I would say no good a hun-
dred times over, if that would bring him back to have the drub-
bing he deserves.'
'Hold your tongue, sir,' said John Willet.
'I won't father. It's all along of you that he ventured to do what
he did. Seeing me treated like a child, and put down like a fool, he
plucks up a heart and has a fling at a fellow that he thinks — and
may well think too — hasn't a grain of spirit. But he's mistaken, as
I'll show him, and as I'll show all of you before long.'.
'Does the boy know what he's a saying of?' cried the astonished
'Father,' returned Joe, 'I know what I say and mean, well —
better than you do when you hear me. I can bear with you, but I
cannot bear the contempt that your treating me in the way you
do, brings upon me from others every day. Look at other young
men of my age. Have they no liberty, no will, no right to speak?
Are they obliged to sit mumchance, and to be ordered about till
they are the laughing-stock of young and old? I am a by- word all
over Chigwell, and I say — and it's fairer my saying so now, than
waiting till you are dead, and I have got your money — I say, that
before long I shall be driven to break such bounds, and that when
I do, it won't be me that you'll have to blame, but your own self,
and no other.'
John Willet was so amazed by the exasperation and boldness
of his hopeful son, that he sat as one bewildered, staring in a ludi-
crous manner at the boiler, and endeavouring, but quite ineffec-
tually, to collect his tardy thoughts, and invent an answer. The
guests, scarcely less disturbed, were equally at a loss ; and at length,
with a variety of muttered, half-expressed condolences, and pieces
of advice, rose to depart; being at the same time slightly muddled
The honest locksmith alone addressed a few words of coherent
and sensible advice to both parties, urging John Willet to remem-
26 BARNABY RUDGE
ber that Joe was nearly arrived at man's estate, and should not be
ruled with too tight a hand, and exhorting Joe himself to bear with
his father's caprices, and rather endeavour to turn them aside with
temperate remonstrance than by ill-timed rebellion. This advice
was received as such advice usually is. On John Willet it made al-
most as much impression as on the sign outside the door, while
Joe, who took it in the best part, avowed himself more obliged than
he could well express, but politely intimated his intention never-
theless of taking his own course uninfluenced by anybody.
'You have always been a very good friend to me, Mr. Varden,'
he said, as they stood without, in the porch, and the locksmith was
equipping himself for his journey hom.e; 'I take it very kind of
you to say all this, but the time's nearly come when the Maypole
and I must part company.'
'Roving stones gather no moss, Joe,' said Gabriel.
'Nor mile-stones much,' replied Joe. 'I'm little better than one
here, and see as much of the world.'
'Then, what would you do, Joe?' pursued the locksmith, strok-
ing his chin reflectively. 'What could you be? where could you
go, you see?'
'I must trust to chance, Mr. Varden.'
'A bad thing to trust to, Joe. I don't like it. I always tell my girl
when we talk about a husband for her, never to trust to chance,
but to make sure beforehand that she has a good man and true,
and then chance will neither make her nor break her. What are
you fidgeting about there, Joe? Nothing gone in the harness I
'No no,' said Joe — finding, however, something very engrossing
to do in the way of strapping and buckling — 'Miss Dolly quite
'Hearty, thankye. She looks pretty enough to be well, and good
'She's always both, sir — '
'So she is, thank God!'
'I hope,' said Joe after some hesitation, 'that you won't tell this
story against me — this of my having been beat like the boy they'd
make of me — at all events, till I have met this man again and set-
tled the account. It'll be a better story then.'
BARXABY RUDGE 27
'Why who should I tell it to?' returned Gabriel. They know it
here, and I'm not likely to come across anybody else who would
care about it.'
"That's true enough.' said the young fellow with a sigh. T quite
forgot that. Yes. that's true!"
So saying, he raised his face, which was very red. — no doubt
from the exertion of strapping and buckling as aforesaid. — and
giving the reins to the old man. who had by this time taken his
seat, sighed again and bade him good-night.
• Good-night I ' cried Gabriel. *Xow think better of what we have
just been speaking of. and don't be rash, there's a good fellow! I
have an interest in you, and wouldn't have you cast yourself
away. Good-night I'
Returning his cheery farewell with cordial good-will, Joe Willet
lingered until the sound of wheels ceased to vibrate in his ears, and
then, shaking his head mournfully, re-entered the house.
Gabriel Varden went his way towards London, thinking of a
great many things, and most of all of flaming terms in which to
relate his adventure, and so account satisfactorily to ^Irs. X'arden
for \'isitLng the Ma\-pole, despite certain solemn covenants between
him.self and that lady. Thinking begets, not onh" thought, but
drowsiness occasionally, and the more the locksmith thought, the
more sleepy he became.
A man may be very sober — or at least firmly set upon his legs
on that neutral ground which lies between the confines of perfect
sobriety and slight tipsiness — and yet feel a strong tendency to
mingle up present circumstances with others which have no man-
ner of connection with them : to confound all consideration of per-
sons, things, times, and places: and to jumble his disjointed
thoughts together in a kind of miental kaleidoscope, producing
combinations as unexpected as they are transitorv*. This was Ga-
briel Varden's state, as. nodding in his dog sleep, and leaving his
horse to pursue a road with which he was well acquainted, he got
over the ground unconsciously, and drew nearer and nearer home.
He had roused himself once, when the horse stopped until the
turnpike-gate was opened, and had cried a lusty "good-night I* to
the toll-keeper: but then he awoke out of a dream about picking
a lock in the stomach of the Great Mosul, and even when he did
28 BARNABY RUDGE
wake, mixed up the turnpike-man with his mother-in-law who had
been dead twenty years. It is not surprising, therefore, that he soon
relapsed, and jogged heavily along, quite insensible to his prog-
And, now, he approached the great city, which lay outstretched
before him like a dark shadow on the ground, reddening the slug-
gish air with a deep dull light, that told of labyrinths of public
ways and shops, and swarms of busy people. Approaching nearer
and nearer yet, this halo began to fade, and the causes which pro-
duced it slowly to develop themselves. Long lines of poorly-lighted
streets might be faintly traced, with here and there a lighter spot^
where lamps were clustered round a square or market, or round
some great building; after a time these grew more distinct, and
the lamps themselves were visible; slight yellow specks, that
seemed to be rapidly snuffed out, one by one, as intervening ob-
stacles hid them from the sight. Then, sounds arose — the striking
of church clocks, the distant bark of dogs, the hum of traffic in the
streets ; then outlines might be traced — tall steeples looming in the
air, and piles of unequal roofs oppressed by chimneys; then, the
noise swelled into a louder sound, and forms grew more distinct
and numerous still, and London — visible in the darkness by its own
faint light, and not by that of Heaven — was at hand.
The locksmith, however, all unconscious of its near vicinity, still
jogged on, half sleeping and half waking, when a loud cry at no
great distance ahead, roused him with a start.
For a moment or two he looked about him like a man who had
been transported to some strange country in his sleep, but soon
recognising familiar objects rubbed his eyes lazily and might have
relapsed again, but that the cry was repeated — not once or twice
or thrice, but many times, and each time, if possible, with increased
vehemence. Thoroughly aroused, Gabriel, who was a bold man and
not easily daunted, made straight to the spot, urging on his stout
little horse as if for life or death.