posts of palings long since carried off for firewood, which menaced
all heedless walkers with their jagged and rusty nails; were the
leading features of the landscape: while here and there a donkey,
or a ragged horse, tethered to a stake, and cropping off a wretched
meal from the coarse stunted turf, were quite in keeping with the
scene, and would have suggested (if the houses had not done so,
sufficiently, of themselves) how very poor the people were who
lived in the crazy huts adjacent, and how foolhardy it might prove
for one who carried money, or wore decent clothes, to walk that way
alone, unless by daylight.
Poverty has its whims and shows of taste, as wealth has. Some
of these cabins were turreted, some had false windows painted on
their rotten walls; one had a mimic clock, upon a crazy tower of
four feet high, which screened the chimney; each in its little patch
of ground had a rude seat or arbour. The population dealt in bones,
in rags, in broken glass, in old wheels, in birds, and dogs. These,
in their several ways of stowage, filled the gardens; and shedding a
perfume, not of the most delicious nature, in the air, filled it be-
sides with yelps, and screams, and howling.
Into this retreat, the secretary followed the two men whom he
had held in sight; and here he saw them safely lodged, in one of
BARNABY RUDGE 341
the meanest houses, which was but a room, and that of small di-
mensions. He waited without, until the sound of their voices, joined
in a discordant song, assured him they were making merry; and
then approaching the door, by means of a tottering plank which
crossed the ditch in front, knocked at it with his hand.
'Muster Gashford!' said the man who opened it, taking his pipe
from his mouth, in evident surprise. 'Why, who 'd have thought
of this here honour! Walk in, Muster Gashford — walk in, sir.'
Gashford required no second invitation, and entered with a
gracious air. There was a fire in the rusty grate (for though the
spring was pretty far advanced, the nights were cold), and on a
stool beside it Hugh sat smoking. Dennis placed a chair, his only
one, for the secretary, in front of the hearth; and took his seat
again upon the stool he had left when he rose to give the visitor
'What 's in the wind now, Cluster Gashford?' he said, as he
resumed his pipe, and looked at him askew. 'Any orders from
head-quarters? Are we going to begin? What is it. Muster Gash-
'Oh, nothing, nothing,' rejoined the secretary, with a friendly nod
to Hugh. 'We have broken the ice, though. We had a little spurt
to-day — eh, Dennis?'
'A very little one,' growled the hangman. 'Not half enough for
'Nop me neither! ' cried Hugh. 'Give us something to do with life
in it — with life in it, master. Ha, ha!'
'Why, you wouldn't,' said the secretary, with his worst expres-
sion of face, and in his mildest tones, 'have anything to do, with —
with death in it?'
'I don't know that,' replied Hugh. 'I 'm open to orders. I don't
care; not I.'
'Nor I!' vociferated Dennis.
'Brave fellows!' said the secretary, in as pastor-like a voice as if
he w^re commending them for some uncommon act of valour and
generosity. 'By the bye' — and here he stopped and warmed his
hands: then suddenly looked up — 'who threw that stone to-day?'
Mr. Dennis coughed and shook his head, as who should say, 'A
mystery indeed!' Hugh sat and smoked in silence.
342 BARNABY RUDGE
'It was well done!' said the secretary, warming his hands again.
'I should like to know that man.'
'Would you?' said Dennis, after looking at his face to assure
himself that he was serious. 'Would you like to know that man,
'I should indeed,' replied the secretary.
'Why then. Lord love you,' said the hangman, in his coarsest
chuckle, as he pointed with his pipe to Hugh, 'there he sits. That 's
the man. My stars and halters. Muster Gashford,' he added in a
whisper, as he drew his stool close to him and jogged him with his
elbow, 'what a interesting blade he is! He wants as much holding
in as a thorough-bred bull-dog. If it hadn't been for me to-day,
he 'd have had that 'ere Roman down, and made a riot of it, in
'And why not?' cried Hugh in a surly voice, as he overheard this
last remark. 'Where 's the good of putting things off? Strike while
the iron 's hot ; that 's what I say.'
'Ah!' retorted Dennis, shaking his head, with a kind of pity for
his friend's ingenuous youth; 'but suppose the iron an't hot,
brother! You must get people's blood up afore you strike, and
have 'em in the humour. There wasn't quite enough to provoke
'em to-day, I tell you. If you 'd had your way, you 'd have spoilt
the fun to come, and ruined us.'
'Dennis is quite right,' said Gashford, smoothly. 'He is per-
fectly correct. Dennis has great knowledge of the world.' -
'I ought to have. Muster Gashford, seeing what a many people
I 've helped out of it, eh?' grinned the hangman, whispering the
words behind his hand.
The secretary laughed at this, just as much as Dennis could
desire, and when he had done, said, turning to Hugh:
'Dennis's policy was mine, as you may have observed. You saw,
for instance, how I fell when I was set upon. I made no resistance.
I did nothing to provoke an outbreak. Oh dear no! '
'No, by the Lord Harry! ' cried Dennis with a noisy laugh, 'you
went down very quiet. Muster Gashford — and very flat besides. I
thinks to myself at the time "it 's all up with Muster Gashford!"
I never see a man lay flatter nor more still — with the life in him —
BARNABY RUDGE 343
than you did to-day. He 's a rough 'un to play with, is that ere
Papist, and that 's the fact.'
The secretary's face, as Dennis roared with laughter, and turned
his wrinkled eyes on Hugh who did the like, might have furnished
a study for the devil's picture. He sat quite silent until they were
serious again, and then said, looking round.
'We are very pleasant here; so very pleasant, Dennis, that but
for my lord s particular desire that I should sup with him, and the
time being very near at hand, I should be inclined to stay, until
it would be hardly safe to go homeward. I come upon a little
business — yes, I do — as you supposed. It 's very flattering to you;
being this. If we ever should be obliged — and we can't tell, you
know — this is a very uncertain world — '
'I believe you. Muster Gashford,' interposed the hangman with
a grave nod. 'The uncertainties as I 've seen in reference to this
here state of existence, the unexpected contingencies as have come
about! — Oh my eye!' Feeling .the subject much too vast for ex-
pression, he puffed at his pipe again, and looked the rest.
'I say,' resumed the secretary, in a slow, impressive way; Ve
can't tell what may come to pass; and if we should be obliged,
against our wills, to have recourse to violence, my lord (who has
suffered terribly to-day, as far as words can go) consigns to you
two — bearing in mind my recommendation of you both, as good
staunch men, beyond all doubt and suspicion — the pleasant task
of punishing this Haredale. You may do as you please with him,
or his, provided that you show no mercy, and no quarter, and leave
no two beams of his house standing where the builder placed them.
You may sack it, burn it, do with it as you like, but it must come
down; it must be razed to the ground; and he, and all belonging to
him, left as shelterless as new-born infants whom their mothers
have exposed. Do you understand me? said Gashford, pausing,
and pressing his hands together gently.
'Understand you, master!' cried Hugh. 'You speak plain now.
Why, this is hearty!'
T knew you would like it,' said Gashford, shaking him by the
hand; T thought you would. Good-night! Don't rise, Dennis: I
would rather find my way alone. I may have to make other visits
344 BARNABY RUDGE
here, and it 's pleasant to come and go without disturbing you.
I can find my way perfectly well. Good-night!'
He was gone, and had shut the door behind him. They looked
at each other, and nodded approvingly: Dennis stirred up the
'This looks a little more like business!' he said.
'Ay, indeed!' cried Hugh; 'this suits me!'
'I 've heerd it said of Muster Gashford,' said the hangman, 'that
he 'd a surprising memory and wonderful firmness — that he never
forgot, and never forgave. — Let 's drink his health!'
Hugh readily complied — pouring no liquor on the floor when he
drank his toast — and they pledged the secretary as a man after
iheir own hearts, in a bumper.
While the worst passions of the worst men were thus working in
the dark, and the mantle of religion, assumed to cover the ugliest
deformities, threatened to become the shroud of all that was good
and peaceful in society, a circumstance occurred which once more
altered the position of two persons from whom this history has long
been separated, and to whom it must now return.
In a small English country town, the inhabitants of which sup-
ported themselves by the labour of their hands in plaiting and pre-
paring straw for those who made bonnets and other articles of dress
and ornament from that material, — concealed under an assumed
name, and living in a quiet poverty which knew no change, no
pleasures, and few cares but that of struggling on from day to day
in one great toil for bread, — dwelt Barnaby and his mother. Their
poor cottage had known no stranger's foot since they sought the
shelter of its roof five years before; nor had they in all that time
held any commerce or communication with the old world from
which they had fled. To labour in peace, and devote her labour and
her life to her poor son, was all the widow sought. If happiness can
be said at any time to be the lot of one on whom a secret sorrow
BARNABY RUDGE 345
preys, she was happy now. TranquiUity, resignation, and her strong
love of him who needed it so much, formed the small circle of her
quiet joys; and while that remained unbroken, she was contented.
For Barnaby himself, the time which had flown by, has passed
him like the wind. The daily suns of years had shed no brighter
gleam of reason on his mind ; no dawn had broken on his long, dark
night. He would sit sometimes — often for days together — on a low
seat by the fire or by the cottage door busy at work (for he had
learnt the art his mother plied), and listening, God help him, to
the tales she would repeat, as a lure to keep him in her sight. He
had no recollection of these little narratives; the tale of yesterday
was new to him upon the morrow; but he liked them at the mo-
ment; and when the humour held him, would remain patiently
within doors, hearing her stories like a little child, and working
cheerfully from sunrise until it was too dark to see.
At other times, — and then their scanty earnings were barely suffi-
cient to furnish them with food, though of the coarsest sort, — he
would wander abroad from dawn of day until the twilight deepened
into night. Few in that place, even of the children, could be idle,
and he had no companions of his own kind. Indeed there were not
many who could have kept up with him in his rambles, had there
been a legion. But there were a score of vagabond dogs belonging
to the neighbours, who served his purpose quite as well. With two
or three of these, or sometimes with a full half-dozen barking at
his heels, he would_ sally forth on some long expedition that con-
sumed the day; and though, on their return at nightfall, the dogs
would come home limping and sore-footed, and almost spent with
their fatigue, Barnaby was up and off again at sunrise with some
new attendants of the same class, with whom he would return in
like manner. On all these travels, Grip, in his little basket at his
master's back, was a constant member of the party, and when they
set off in fine weather and in high spirits, no dog barked louder than
Their pleasures on these excursions were simple enough. A
crust of bread and scrap of meat, with water from the brook or
spring, sufficed for their repast. Barnaby's enjoyments were, to
walk, and run, and leap, till he was tired; then to lie down in the
long grass, or by the growing corn, or in the shade of some tall tree,
346 BARNABY RUDGE
looking upward at the light clouds as they floated over the blue
surface of the sky, and listening to the lark as she poured out her
brilliant song. There were wild-flowers to pluck — the bright red
poppy, the gentle harebell, the cowslip, and the rose. There were
birds to watch; fish; ants; worms; hares or rabbits, as they darted
across the distant pathway in the wood and so were gone ; millions
of living things to have an interest in, and lie in wait for, and clap
hands and shout in memory of, when they had disappeared. In
default of these, or when they wearied, there was the merry sun-
light to hunt out, as it crept in aslant through leaves and boughs
of trees, and hid far down — deep, deep, in hollow places — like a
silver pool, where nodding branches seemed to bathe and sport;
sweet scents of summer air breathing over fields of beans or clover ;
the perfume of wet leaves or moss; the life of waving trees, and
shadows always changing. When these or any of them tired, or in
excess of pleasing tempted him to shut his eyes, there was slumber
in the midst of all these soft delights, with the gentle wind murmur-
ing like music in his ears, and everything around melting into one
Their hut — for it was little more — stood on the outskirts of the
town, at a short distance from the high road, but in a secluded
place, where few chance passengers strayed at any season of the
3^ear. It had a plot of garden-ground attached, which Barnaby, in
fits and starts of working, trimmed, and kept in order. Within
doors and without, his mother laboured for their common good;
and hail, rain, snow, or sunshine, found no difference in her.
Though so far removed from the scenes of her past life, and
with so little thought or hope of ever visiting them again, she
seemed to have a strange desire to know what happened in the busy
world. Any old newspaper, or scrap of intelligence from London,
she caught at with avidity. The excitement it produced was not
of a pleasurable kind, for her manner at such times expressed the
keenest anxiety and dread; but it never faded in the least degree.
Then, and in stormy winter nights, when the wind blew loud and
strong, the old expression came into her face, and she would be
seized with a fit of trembling, like one who had an ague. But
Barnaby noted Httle of this; and putting a great constraint upon
BARNABY RUDGE 347
herself, she usually recovered her accustomed manner before the
change had caught his observation.
Grip was by no means an idle or unprofitable member of the
humble household. Partly by dint of Barnaby's tuition, and partly
by pursuing a species of self-instruction common to his tribe, and
exerting his powers of observation to the utmost, he had acquired
a degree of sagacity which rendered him famous for miles round.
His conversational powers and surprising performances were the
universal theme: and as many persons came to see the wonderful
raven, and none left his exertions unrewarded — when he conde-
scended to exhibit, which was not always, for genius is capricious —
his earnings formed an important item in the common stock. In-
deed, the bird himself appeared to know his value well; for though
he was perfectly free and unrestrained in the presence of Barnaby
and his mother, he maintained in public an amazing gravity, and
never stooped to any other gratuitous performances than biting
the ankles of vagabond boys (an exercise in which he much delight-
ed), killing a fowl or two occasionally, and swallowing the dinners
of various neighbouring dogs, of whom the boldest held him in
great awe and dread.
Time had glided on in this way, and nothing had happened to
disturb or change their mode of life, when, one summer's night in
June, they were in their little garden, resting from the labours of
the day. The widow's work was yet upon her knee, and strewn
upon the ground about her; and Barnaby stood leaning on his
spade, gazing at the brightness in the west, and singing softly to
'A brave evening, mother! If we had, chinking in our pockets,
but a few specks of that gold which is piled up yonder in the sky,
we should be rich for life.'
'We ar^ better as we are,' returned the widow with a quiet smile.
'Let us be contented, and we do not want and need not care to
have it, though it lay shining at our feet.'
'Ay!' said Barnaby, resting with crossed arms on his spade, and
looking wistfully at the sunset, 'that 's well enough, mother; but
gold 's a good thing to have. I wish that I knew where to find it.
Grip and I could do much with gold, be sure of that.'
348 BARNABY RUDGE
What would you do?' she asked.
'What! A world of things. We'd dress finely — you and I, I
mean ; not Grip — keep horses, dogs, wear bright colours and feath-
ers, do no more work, live delicately and at our ease. Oh, we 'd find
uses for it, mother, and uses that would do us good. I would I
knew where gold was buried. How hard I 'd work to dig it up!'
'You do not know,' said his mother, rising from her seat and lay-
ing her hand upon his shoulder, 'what men have done to win it, and
how they have found, too late, that it glitters brightest at a dis-
tance, and turns quite dim and dull when handled.'
'Ay, ay; so you say; so you think,' he answered, still looking
eagerly in the same direction. 'For all that, mother, I should like
'Do you not see,' she said, 'how red it is? Nothing bears so many
stains of blood, as gold. Avoid it. None have such cause to hate
its name as we have. Do not so much as think of it, dear love. It
has brought such misery and suffering on your head and mine as
few have known, and God grant few may have to undergo. I would
rather we were dead and laid down in our graves, than you should
ever come to love it.'
For a moment Barnaby withdrew his eyes and looked at her with
wonder. Then, glancing from the redness in the sky to the mark
upon his wrist as if he would compare the two, he seemed about to
question her with earnestness, when a new object caught his wan-
dering attention, and made him quite forgetful of his purpose.
This was a man with dusty feet and garments, who stood, bare-
headed, behind the hedge that divided their patch of garden from
the pathway, and leant meekly forward as if he sought to mingle
with their conversation, and waited for his time to speak. His face
was turned towards the brightness, too, but the light that fell upon
it showed that he was blind, and saw it not.
'A blessing on those voices!' said the wayfarer. 'I feel the
beauty of the night more keenly, when I hear them. They are like
eyes to me. Will they speak again, and cheer the heart of a poor
'Have you no guide?' asked the widow, ^fter a moment's pause.
'None but that,' he answered, pointing with his staff towards the
sun; 'and sometimes a milder one at night, but she is idle now.'
BARNABY RUDGE 349
'Have you travelled far?'
A weary way and long,' rejoined the traveller as he shook his
head. A weary, weary way. I struck my stick just now upon the
bucket of your well — be pleased to let me have a draught of
'Why do you call me lady?' she returned. 'I am as poor as you.'
'Your speech is soft and gentle, and I judge by that,' replied the
man. 'The coarsest stuffs and finest silks, are — apart from the sense
of touch — alike to me. I cannot judge you by your dress.'
'Come round this way,' said Barnaby, who had passed out at the
garden-gate and now stood close beside him. 'Put your hand in
mine. You 're blind and always in the dark, eh? Are you frightened
in the dark? Do you see great crowds of faces, now? Do they grin
'Alas!' returned the other, 'I see nothing. Waking or sleeping,
Barnaby looked curiously at his eyes, and touching them with
his fingers, as an inquisitive child might, led him towards the house.
'You have come a long distance,' said the widow, meeting him
at the door. 'How have you found your way so far?'
'Use and necessity are good teachers, as I have heard — the best
of any,' said the blind man, sitting down upon the chair to which
Barnaby had led him, and putting his hat and stick upon the red-
tiled floor. 'May neither you nor your son ever learn under them.
They are rough masters.'
'You have wandered from the road, too,' said the widow, in a
tone of pity.
'Maybe, maybe,' returned the blind man with a sigh, and yet
with something of a smile upon his face, 'that 's likely. Handposts
and milestones are dumb, indeed, to me. Thank you the more for
this rest, and this refreshing drink!'
As he spoke, he raised the mug of water to his mouth. It was
clear, and cold, and sparkling, but not to his taste, nevertheless,
or his thirst was not very great, for he only wetted his lips and put
it down again.
He wore, hanging with a long strap round his neck, a kind of
scrip or wallet, in which to carry food. The widow set some bread
and cheese before him, but he thanked her, and said that through
350 BARNABY RUDGE
the kindness of the charitable he had broken his fast once since
morning, and was not hungry. When he had made her this reply,
he opened his v/allet, and took out a few pence, which was all it
appeared to contain.
'Might I make bold to ask,' he said, turning towards where
Barnaby stood looking on, 'that one who has the gift of sight,
would lay this out for me in bread to keep me on. my way? Heav-
en's blessings on the young feet that will bestir themselves in aid of
Jne so helpless as a sightless man ! '
Barnaby looked at his mother, who nodded assent; in another
moment he was gone upon his charitable errand. The blind man
sat listening with an attentive face, until long after the sound of
his retreating footsteps was inaudible to the widow, and then said,
suddenly, and in a very altered tone:
There are various degrees and kinds of blindness, widow. There
is the connubial blindness, ma'am, which perhaps you may have
observed in the course of your own experience, and which is a kind
of wilful and self-bandaging blindness. There is the blindness of
party, ma'am, and public men, which is the blindness of a mad bull
in the midst of a regiment of soldiers clothed in red. There is the
blind confidence of youth, which is the blindness of young kittens,
whose eyes have not yet opened on the world; and there is that
physical blindness, ma'am, of which I am, contrary to my own
desire, a most illustrious example. Added to these, ma'am, is that
blindness of the intellect, of which we have a specimen in your
interesting son, and which, having sometimes glimmerings and
dawnings of the light, is scarcely to be trusted as a total darkness.
Therefore, ma'am, I have taken the liberty to get him out of the
way for a short time, while you and I confer together, and this pre-
caution arising out of the delicacy of my sentiments towards your-
self, you will excuse me, ma'am, I know.'
Having delivered himself of this speech with many flourishes of
manner, he drew from beneath his coat a flat stone bottle, and
holding the cork between his teeth, qualified his mug of water
with a plentiful infusion of the liquor it contained. He politely
drained the mumper to her health, and the ladies, and setting it
down empty, smacked his lips with infinite relish.
'I am a citizen of the world, ma'am,' said the blind man, corking
BARNABY RUDGE 351
his bottle, 'and if I seem to conduct myself with freedom, it is
therefore. You wonder who I am, ma'am, and what has brought
me here. Such experience of human nature as I have, leads me to
that conclusion, without the aid of eyes by which to read the move-
ments of your soul as depicted in your feminine features. I will
satisfy your curiosity immediately, ma'am; im-mediately.' With
that he slapped his bottle on its broad back, and having put it
under his garment as before, crossed his legs and folded his hands,
and settled himself in his chair, previous to proceeding any
The change in his manner was so unexpected, the craft and
wickedness of his deportment were so much aggravated by his
condition — for we are accustomed to see in those w^ho have lost a
human sense, something in its place almost divine — and this altera-
tion bred so many fears in her whom he addressed, that she could
not pronounce one word. After waiting, as it seemed, for some