times talking never does him good.'
They both glanced at the subject of this remark, who had taken
a seat on the other side of the fire, and, smiling vacantly, was mak-
ing puzzles on his fingers with a skein of string.
Tray, tell me, sir,' said Varden, dropping his voice still lower,
'exactly what happened last night. I have my reason for inquiring.
You left the Maypole, alone?'
'And walked homeward alone, until I had nearly reached the
place where you found me, when I heard the gallop of a horse.'
'Behind you?' said the locksmith.
'Indeed, yes — behind me. It was a single rider, who soon over-
took me, and checking his horse, inquired the way to London.'
'You were on the alert, sir, knowing how many highwaymen there
are, scouring the roads in all directions?' said Varden.
'I was, but I had only a stick, having imprudently left my pis-
tols in their holster-case with the landlord's son. I directed him as
he desired. Before the words had passed my lips, he rode upon me
furiously, as if bent on trampling me down beneath his horse's
hoofs. In starting aside, I shpped and fell. You found me with
this stab and an ugly bruise or two, and without my purse — in
which he found little enough for his pains. And now, Mr. Varden,'
he added, shaking the locksmith by the hand, saving the extent of
my gratitude to you, you know as much as I.'
'Except,' said Gabriel, bending down yet more, and looking
cautiously towards their silent neighbour, 'except in respect of the
robber himself. What like was he, sir? Speak low, if you please.
Barnaby means no harm, but I have watched him oftener than you,
and I know, little as you would think it, that he 's listening now.'
It required a strong confidence in the locksmith's veracity to lead
any one to this belief, for every sense and faculty that Barnaby
possessed, seemed to be fixed upon his game, to the exclusion of all
other things. Something in the young man's face expressed this
opinion, for Gabriel repeated what he had just said, more earnestly
than before, and with another glance towards Barnaby, again
asked what like the man was.
52 BARNABY RUDGE
'The night was so dark,' said Edward, 'the attack so sudden,
and he so wrapped and muffled up, that I can hardly say. It seems
'Don't mention his name, sir,' returned the locksmith following
his look towards Barnaby; 'I know he saw him. I want to know
what you saw.'
'All I remember is,' said Edward, 'that as he checked his horse
his hat was blown off. He caught it and replaced it on his head,
which I observed was bound with a dark handkerchief. A stranger
entered the Maypole while I was there, whom I had not seen — for I
had sat apart for reasons of my own — and when I rose to leave the
room and glanced round, he was in the shadow of the chimney and
hidden from my sight. But, if he and the robber were two different
persons, their voices were strangely and most remarkably alike;
for directly the man addressed me in the road, I recognised his
'It is as I feared. The very man was here to-night,' thought the
locksmith, changing colour. 'What dark history is this!'
'Halloa!' cried a hoarse voice in his ear. 'Halloa, halloa, halloa!
Bow wow wow. What' s the matter here? Hal-loa!'
The speaker — who made the locksmith start as if he had seen
some supernatural agent — was a large raven, who had perched
upon the top of the easy-chair, unseen by him and Edward, and
listened with a polite attention and a most extraordinary appear-
ance of comprehending every word, to all they had said up to this
point; turning his head from one to the other, as if his office were
to judge between them, and it were of the very last importance
that he should not lose a word.
'Look at him!' said Varden, divided between admiration of the
bird and a kind of fear of him. 'Was there ever such a knowing
imp as that? Oh he 's a dreadful fellow! '
The raven with his head very much on one side, and his bright
eye shining like a diamond, preserved a thoughtful silence for a
few seconds, and then replied in a voice so hoarse and distant, that
it seemed to come through his thick feathers rather than out of
'Halloa, halloa, halloa! What 's the matter here? Keep up your
spirits. Never say die. Bow wow wow. I 'm a devil, I 'm a devil.
BARNAEY RUDGE 53
I 'm a devil. Hurrah!' — And then, as if exulting in his infernal
character, he began to whistle.
'I more than half believe he speaks the truth. Upon my word I
do/ said Varden. 'Do you see how he looks at me, as if he knew
what I was saying?'
To which the bird, balancing himself on tip-toe, as it were, and
moving his body up and down in a sort of grave dance, rejoined,
'I 'm a devil, I 'm a devil, I 'm a devil,' and flapped his wings
against his sides as if he were bursting with laughter. Barnaby
clapped his hands, and fairly rolled upon the ground in an ecstasy
'Strange companions, sir,' said the locksmith, shaking his head,
and looking from one to the other. 'The bird has all the wit.'
'Strange indeed!' said Edward, holding out his forefinger to the
raven, who, in acknowledgment of the attention, made a dive at
it immediately with his iron bill. 'Is he old?'
'A mere boy, sir,' replied the locksmith. 'A hundred and twenty,
or thereabouts. Call him down, Barnaby, my man.'
'Call him!' echoed Barnaby, sitting upright upon the floor, and
staring vacantly at Gabriel, as he thrust his hair back from his
face. 'But who can make him come? He calls me, and makes me
go where he will. He goes on before, and I follow. He 's the master,
and I 'm the man. Is that the truth, Grip?'
The raven gave a short, comfortable, confidential kind of croak;
— a most expressive croak, which seemed to say, 'You needn't let
these fellows into our secrets. We understand each other. It 's all
7 make him come?' cried Barnaby, pointing to the bird. 'Him,
who never goes to sleep, or so much as winks! — Why, any time of
night, you may see his eyes in my dark room, shining like two
sparks. And every night, and all night, too, he 's broad-awake,
talking to himself, thinking what he shall do to-morrow, where we
shall go, and what he shall steal, and hide, and bury. / make him
come? Ha ha ha!'
On second thoughts, the bird appeared disposed to come of him-
self. After a short survey of the ground, and a few sidelong looks
at the ceiling and at everybody present in turn, he fluttered to the
floor, and went to Barnaby — not in a hop, or walk, or run, but in a
54 BARNABY RUDGE
pace like that of a very particular gentleman with exceedingly
tight boots on, trying to walk fast over loose pebbles. Then, step-
ping into his extended hand, and condescending to be held out at
arm's-length, he gave vent to a succession of sounds, not unlike
the drawing of some eight or ten dozen of long corks, and again
asserted his brimstone birth and parentage with great distinctness.
The locksmith shook his head — perhaps in some doubt of the
creature's being really nothing but a bird — perhaps in pity for
Barnaby, who by this time had him in his arms, and was rolling
about, with him, on the ground. As he raised his eyes from the poor
fellow he encountered those of his mother, who had entered the
room, and was looking on in sience.
She was quite white in the face, even to her lips, but had wholly
subdued her emotion, and wore her usual quiet look. Varden
fancied as he glanced at her that she shrunk from his eye ; and that
she busied herself about the wounded gentleman to avoid him the
It was time he went to bed, she said. He was to be removed to
his own home on the morrow, and he had already exceeded his time
for sitting up, by a full hour. Acting on this hint, the locksmith
prepared to take his leave.
'By the bye,' said Edward, as he shook him by the hand, and
looked from him to Mrs. Rudge and back again, 'what noise was
that below? I heard your voice in the midst of it, and should have
inquired before, but our other conversation drove it from my
memory. What was it?'
The locksmith looked towards her, and bit his lip. She leant
against the chair, and bent her eyes upon the ground. Barnaby too
— he was listening.
— 'Some mad or drunken fellow, sir,' Varden at length made
answer, looking steadily at the widow as he spoke. 'He mistook
the house, and tried to force an entrance.'
She breathed more freely, but stood quite motionless. As the
locksmith said 'Good-night,' and Barnaby caught up the candle to
light him down the stairs, she took it from him, and charged him —
with more haste and earnestness than so slight an occasion appeared
to warrant — not to stir. The raven followed them to satisfy him-
BARNABY RUDGE 55
self that all was right below, and when they reached the street-door,
stood on the bottom stair drawing corks out of number.
With a trembling hand she unfastened the chain and bolts, and
turned the key. As she had her hand upon the latch, the locksmith
said in a low voice —
'I have told a lie to-night, for your sake, Mary, and for the sake
of bygone times and old acquaintance, when I would scorn to do
so for my own. I hope I may have done no harm, or led to none.
I can't help the suspicions you have forced upon me, and I am loth,
I tell you plainly, to leave Mr. Edward here. Take care he comes
to no hurt. I doubt the safety of this roof, and am glad he leaves it
so soon. Now, let me go.'
For a moment she hid her face in her hands and wept; but re-
sisting the strong impulse which evidently moved her to reply,
opened the door — no wider than was sufficient for the passage of
his body — and motioned him away. As the locksmith stood upon
the step, it was chained and locked behind him, and the raven, in
furtherance of these precautions, barked like a lusty house-dog.
'In league with that ill-looking figure that might have fallen from
a gibbet — he listening and hiding here — Barnaby first upon the
spot last night — can she who has always borne so fair a name be
guilty of such crimes in secret?' said the locksmith, musing.
'Heaven forgive me if I am wrong, and send me just thoughts; but
she is poor, the temptation may be great, and we daily hear of
things as strange. — Ay, bark away, my friend. If there 's any
wickedness going on, that raven 's in it, I '11 be sworn.'
Mrs. Varden was a lady of what is commonly called an uncertain
temper — a phrase which being interpreted signifies a temper toler-
ably certain to make everybody more or less uncomfortable. Thus
it generally happened, that when other people were merry, Mrs.
Varden was dull ; and that when other people were dull, Mrs. Var-
den was disposed to be amazingly cheerful. Indeed the worthy
56 BARNABY RUDGE
housewife was of such a capricious nature, that she not only attain-
ed a higher pitch of genius than Macbeth, in respect of her ability
to be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral in an
instant, but would sometimes ring the changes backwards and for-
wards on all possible moods and flights in one short quarter of an
hour; performing, as it were, a kind of triple bob major on the
peal of instruments in the female belfry, with a skilfulness and
rapidity of execution that astonished all who heard her.
It had been observed in this good lady (who did not want for
personal attractions, being plump and buxom to look at, though
like her fair daughter, somewhat short in stature) that this uncer-
tainty of disposition strengthened and increased with her temporal
prosperity; and divers wise men and matrons on friendly terms
with the locksmith and his family, even went so far as to assert^
that a tumble down some half-dozen rounds in the world's ladder —
such as the breaking of the bank in which her husband kept his
money, or some litle fall of that kind — would be the making of her,
and could hardly fail to render her one of the most agreeable com-
panions in existence. Whether they were right or wrong in this
conjecture, certain it is that minds, like bodies, will often fall into
a pimpled ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort, and
like them, are often successfully cured by remedies in themselves
very nauseous and unpalatable.
Mrs. Varden's chief aider and abettor, and at the same time her
principal victim and object of wrath, was her single domestic ser-
vant, one Miss Miggs; or as she was called, in conformity with
those prejudices of society which lop and top from poor hand-
maidens all such genteel excrescences — Miggs. This Miggs was a
tall young lady very much addicted to pattens in private life;
slender and shrewish, of a rather uncomfortable figure, and though
not absolutely ill-looking, of a sharp and acid visage. As a general
principle and abstract proposition, Miggs held the male sex to be
utterly contemptible and unworthy of notice; to be fickle, false,
base, sottish, inclined to perjury, and wholly undeserving. When
particularly exasperated against them (which, scandal said, was
when Sim Tappertit slighted her most) she was accustomed to wish
with great emphasis that the whole race of women could but die off,
in order that the men might be brought to know the real value of
BARNABY RUDGE 57
the blessings by which they set so little store; nay, her feeling for
her order ran so high, that she sometimes declared, if she could only
have good security for a fair, round number — say ten thousand —
of young virgins following her example, she would, to spite man-
kind, hang, drown, stab, or poison herself, with a joy past all ex-
It was the voice of Miggs that greeted the locksmith, when he
knocked at his own house, with a shrill cry of 'Who 's there?'
'Me, girl, me,' returned Gabriel.
'What, already, sir?' said Miggs, opening the door with a look of
surprise. 'We were just geting on our night-caps to sit up, — me
and mistress. Oh, she has been so bad! '
Miggs said this with an air of uncommon candour and concern ;
but the parlour-door was standing open, and as Gabriel very well
knew for whose ears it was designed, he regarded her with anything
but an approving look as he passed in.
'Master 's come home, mim,' cried Miggs, running before him
into the parlour. 'You was wrong, mim, and I was right. I thought
he wouldn't keep us up so late, two nights running, mim. Master 's
always considerate so far. I 'm so glad, mim, on your account.
I 'm a little' — here Miggs simpered — 'a little sleepy myself; I'll
own it now, mim, though I said I wasn't when you asked me. It
ain't of no consequence, mim, of course.'
'You had better,' said the locksmith, who most devoutly wished
that Barnaby's raven was at Miggs's ankles, 'you had better get
to bed at once then.'
'Thanking you kindly, sir,' returned Miggs, 'I couldn't take my
rest in peace, nor fix my thoughts upon my prayers, otherways than
that I knew mistress was comfortable in her bed this night; by
rights she ought to have been there, hours ago.'
'You 're talkative, mistress,' said Varden, pulling off his great-
coat, and looking at her askew.
'Taking the hint, sir,' cried Miggs, with a flushed face, 'and
thanking you for it most kindly, I will make bold to say, that if I
give offence by having consideration for my mistress, I do not ask
your pardon, but am content to get myself into trouble and to be
Here Mr.«i Varden. who, with her countenance shrouded in a
58 BARNABY RUDGE
large night-cap, had been all this time intent upon the Protestant
Manual, looked round, and acknowledged Miggs's championship
by commanding her to hold her tongue.
Every little bone in Miggs's throat and neck developed itself
with a spitefulness quite alarming, as she replied, 'Yes, mim, I
'How do you find yourself now, my dear?' said the locksmith,
taking a chair near his wife (who had resumed her book), and
rubbing his knees hard as he made the inquiry.
You 're very anxious to know, an't you?' returned Mrs. Varden,
with her eyes upon the print. You, that have not been near me
all day, and wouldn't have been if I was dying! '
'My dear Martha — ' said Gabriel.
Mrs. Varden turned over to the next page ; then went back again
to the bottom line over leaf to be quite sure of the last words; and
then went on reading with an appearance of the deepest interest
'My dear Martha,' said the locksmith, 'how can you say such
things, when you know you don't mean them? If you were dying!
Why, if there was anything serious the matter with you, Martha,
shouldn't I be in constant attendance upon you?'
'Yes!' cried Mrs. Varden, bursting into tears, 'yes, you would.
I don't doubt it, Varden. Certainly you would. That 's as much
as to tell me that you would be hovering round me like a vulture,
waiting till the breath was out of my body, that you might go and
marry somebody else.'
Miggs groaned in sympathy — a little short groan, checked in its
birth, and changed into a cough. It seemed to say, 'I can't help it.
It 's wrung from me by the dreadful brutality of that monster
'But you '11 break my heart one of these days,' added Mrs.
Varden, with more resignation, 'and then we shall both be happy.
My only desire is to see Dolly comfortably settled, and when she
is, you may settle me as soon as you like.'
'Ah!' cried Miggs — and coughed again.
Poor Gabriel twisted his wig about in silence for a long time,
and then said mildly, 'Has Dolly gone to bed?'
BARNABY RUDGE 59
'Your master speaks to you,' said Mrs. Varden, looking sternly
over her shoulder at Miss Miggs in waiting.
'No, my dear, I spoke to you,' suggested the locksmith.
•Did you hear me, Miggs?' cried the obdurate lady, stamping her
foot upon the ground. 'You are beginning to despise me now, are
you? But this is example!'
At this cruel rebuke, Miggs, whose tears were always ready, for
large or small parties, on the shortest notice and the most reason-
able terms, fell a crying violently; holding both Jier hands tight
upon her heart meanwhile, as if nothing less would prevent its
splitting into small fragments. Mrs. Varden, who likewise possessed
that faculty in high perfection, wept too, against Miggs; and with
such effect that Miggs gave in after a time, and, except for an
occasional sob, which seemed to threaten some remote intention of
breaking out again, left her mistress in possession of the field. Her
superiority being thoroughly asserted, that lady soon desisted
likewise, and fell into a quiet melancholy.
The relief was so great, and the fatiguing occurrences of last
night so completely overpowered the locksmith, that he nodded
in his chair, and would doubtless have slept there all night, but for
the voice of Mrs. Varden, which, after a pause of some five min-
utes, awoke him with a start.
'If I am ever,' said Mrs. V. — not scolding, but in a sort of mono-
tonous remonstrance — 'in spirits, if I am ever cheerful, if I am
ever more than usually disposed to be talkative and comfortable,
this is the way I am treated.' ^
'Such spirits as you was in too, mim, but half an hour ago! ' cried
Miggs. 'I never see such company!'
'Because,' said Mrs. Varden, 'because I never interfere or inter-
rupt; because I never question where anybody comes or goes;
because my whole mind and soul is bent on saving where I can
save, and labouring in this house; — therefore, they try me as they
'Martha,' urged the locksmith, endeavouring to look as wakeful
as possible, 'what is it you complain of? I really came home with
every wish and desire to be happy. I did, indeed.'
'What do I complain of?' retorted his wife. 'Is it a chilling thing:
60 BARNABY RUDGE
to have one's husband sulking and falling asleep directly he comes
home — to have him freezing all one's warm-heartedness, and throw-
ing cold water over the fireside? Is it natural, when I know he
went out upon a matter in which I am as much interested as any-
body can be, that I should wish to know all that has happened, or
that he should tell me without my begging and praying him to do
it? Is that natural, or is it not?'
'I am very sorry, Martha,' said the good-natured locksmith. ^I
was really afraid you were not disposed to talk pleasantly ; I '11 tell
you everything; I shall only be too glad, my dear.'
'No, Varden,' returned his wife, rising with dignity. 'I dare say
— thank you! I 'm not a child to be corrected one minute and
petted the next — I 'm a little too old for that, Varden. Miggs, carry
the light. You can be cheerful, ^liggs, at least.'
Miggs, who, at this moment, had been in the very depths of
compassionate despondency, passed instantly into the liveliest state
conceivable, and tossing her head as she glanced towards the lock-
smith, bore off her mistress and the light together.
'Now, who would think,' thought Varden, shrugging his should-
ers and drawing his chair nearer to the fire, 'that that woman could
ever be pleasant and agreeable? And yet she can be. Well, well,
all of us have our faults. I '11 not be hard upon hers. We have been
man and wife too long for that.'
He dozed again — not the less pleasantly, perhaps, for his hearty
temper. While his eyes were closed, the door leading to the upper
stairs was partially opened; and a head appeared, which, at sight
of him, hastily drew back again.
'I wish,' murmured Gabriel, waking at the noise, and looking
round the room, 'I wish somebody would marry Miggs. But that 's
impossible ! I wonder whether there 's any madman alive, who
would marry Miggs!'
This was such a vast speculation that he fell into a doze again,
and slept until the fire was quite burnt out. At last he roused him-
self; and having double-locked the street-door according to custom,
and put the key in his pocket, went off to bed.
He had not left the room in darkness many minutes, when the
head again appeared, and Sim Tappertit entered, bearing in his
hand a little lamp.
BARNABY RUDGE 61
'What the devil business has he to stop up so late?' muttered
Sim, passing into the workshop, and setting it down upon the forge.
'Here 's half the night gone already. There 's only one good that
has ever come to me, out of this cursed old rusty mechanical trade,
and that 's this piece of ironmongery, upon my soul!'
As he spoke, he drew from the right hand, or rather right-leg
pocket of his smalls, a clumsy large-sized key, which he inserted
cautiously in the lock his master had secured, and softly opened
the door. That done, he replaced his piece of secret workmanship
in his pocket; and leaving the lamp burning, and closing the dooi
carefully and without noise, stole out into the street — as littlt
suspected by the locksmith in his sound deep sleep, as by Barnaby
himself in his phantom-haunted dreams.
Clear of the locksmith's house, Sim Tappertit laid aside his cau-
tious manner, and assuming in its stead that of a ruffling, swagger-
ing, roving blade, who would rather kill a man than otherwise, and
eat him too if needful, made the best of his way along the darkened
Half pausing for an instant now and then to smite his pocket
and assure himself of the safety of his master-key, he hurried on to
Barbican, and turning into one of the narrowest of the streets which
diverged from that centre, slackened his pace and wiped his heated
brow, as if the termination of his walk were near at hand.
It was not a very choice spot for midnight expeditions, being in
truth one of more than questionable character, and of an appear-
ance by no means inviting. From the main street he had entered,
itself little better than an alley, a low-browed doorway led into a
blind court, or yard, profoundly dark, unpaved, and reeking with
stagnant odours. Into this ill-favoured pit, the locksmith's vagrant
'prentice groped his way; and stopping at a house from whose
defaced and rotten front the rude effigy of a bottle swung to and
fro like some gibbeted malefactor, struck thrice upon an iron grat-
ing with his foot. After listening in vain for some response to his
62 BARNABY RUDGE
signal, Mr. Tappertit became impatient, and struck the grating
A further delay ensued, but it was not of long duration. The
ground seemed to open at his feet, and a ragged head appeared.
'Is that the captain?' said a voice as ragged as the head.
'Yes,' replied Mr. Tappertit haughtily, descending as he spoke,
'who should it be?'
Tt 's so late, we gave you up,' returned the voice as its owner
stopped to shut and fasten the grating. 'You 're late, sir.'
'Lead on,' said Mr. Tappertit, with a gloomy majesty, 'and