collection that she had on several occasions come upon the 'prentice
suddenly, and found him busy at some mysterious occupation.
Lest the fact of Miss Miggs calling him, on whom she stooped to
cast a favourable eye, a boy, should create surprise in any breast,
it may be observed that she invariably affected to regard all male
bipeds under thirty as mere chits and infants; which phenomenon
is not unusual in ladies of Miss Miggs's temper, and is indeed gen-
erally found to be the associate of such indomitable and savage
Miss Miggs deliberated within herself for some little time, look-
ing hard at the shop-door while she did so, as though her eyes
and thoughts were both upon it; and then, taking a sheet of paper
from a drawer, twisted it into a long thin spiral tube. Having filled
this instrument with a quantity of small coal-dust from the forge,
she approached the door, and dropping on one knee before it, dex-
terously blew into the keyhole as much of these fine ashes as the
lock would hold. When she had filled it to the brim in a very work-
manlike and skilful manner, she crept upstairs again, and chuckled
as she went.
'There,' cried Miggs, rubbing her hands, 'now let 's see whether
you won't be glad to take some notice of me, mister. He, he, he!
You '11 have eyes for somebody besides Miss Dolly now, I think.
A fat-faced puss she is, as ever / come across! '
As she uttered this criticism, she glanced approvingly at her
small mirror, as who should say, I thank my stars that can't be said
of me! â as it certainly could not; for Miss Miggs's style of beauty
was of that kind which Mr. Tappertit himself had not inaptly
termed, in private, 'scraggy.'
'I don't go to bed this night!' said Miggs, wrapping herself in a
shawl, and drawing a couple of chairs near the window, flouncing
down upon one, and putting her feet upon the other, 'till you come
74 BARNABY RUDGE
home, my lad. I wouldn't,' said Miggs viciously, 'no, not for five-
and-forty pound ! '
With that, and with an expression of face in which a great num-
ber of opposite ingredients, such as mischief, cunning, malice,
triumph, and patient expectation, were all mixed up together in a
kind of physiognomical punch. Miss Miggs composed herself to
wait and listen, like some fair ogress who had set a trap and was
watching for a nibble from a plump young traveller.
She sat there, with perfect composure, all night. At length, just
upon break of day, there was a foot-step in the street, and presently
she could hear Mr. Tappertit stop at the door. Then she could
make out that he tried his key â that he was blowing into it â that
he knocked it on the nearest post to beat the dust out â that he
took it under a lamp to look at it â that he poked bits of stick into
the lock to clear it â that he peeped into the key-hole, first with one
eye, and then with the other â that he tried the key again â that he
couldn't turn it, and what was worse, couldn't get it out â that he
bent it â that then it was much less disposed to come out than be-
fore â that he gave it a mighty twist and a great pull, and then it
came out so suddenly that he staggered backwards â that he kicked
the door â that he shook it â finally, that he smote his forehead, and
sat down on the step in despair.
When this crisis had arrived. Miss Miggs, affecting to be ex-
hausted with terror, and to cling to the window-sill for support,
put out her night-cap, and demanded in a faint voice who was
Mr. Tappertit cried 'Hush! ' and, backing into the road, exhorted
her in frenzied pantomime to secrecy and silence.
'Tell me one thing,' said Miggs. Ts it thieves?'
^No â no â no!' cried Mr. Tappertit.
'Then,' said Miggs, more faintly than before, 'it 's fire. Where
is it, sir? It 's near this room, I know. I 've a good conscience, sir,
and would much rather die than go dov>^n a ladder. All I wish is,
respecting my love to my married sister. Golden Lion Court, num-
ber twenty-sivin, second bell-handle on the right-hand door-post.'
'Miggs!' cried Mr. Tappertit, 'don't you know me? Sim, you
know â Sim â '
'Oh! what about him?' cried Miggs, clasping her hands. 'Is he
BARNABY RUDGE 75
in any danger? Is he in the midst of flames and blazes? Oh gra-
'Why I m here, an't I?' rejoined Mr. Tappertit, knocking him-
self on the breast. 'Don't you see me? What a fool you are,
'There!' cried Miggs, unmindful of this compliment. 'Why â so
it â Goodness, what is the meaning of â If you please, mim,
lere 's â '
'No, no!' cried Mr. Tappertit, standing on tip-toe, as if by that
neans he, in the street, were any nearer being able to stop the
nouth of IMiggs in the garret. 'Don't! â I've been out without
ieave, and something or another 's the matter with the lock. Come
lown, and undo the shop-window, that I may get in that way.'
'I dursn't do it, Simmun,' cried Miggs â for that was her pro-
nunciation of his Chrisian name. 'I dursn't do it, indeed. You
inow as well as anybody, how particular I am. x^nd to come down
in the dead of night, when the house is wrapped in slumbers and
A^eiled in obscurity.' And there she stopped and shivered, for her
nodesty caught cold at the very thought.
'But, Miggs,' cried Mr. Tappertit, getting under the lamp that
>he might see his eyes. 'My darling Miggs â '
Miggs screamed slightly.
' â that I love so much, and never can help thinking of,' and it
s impossible to describe the use he made of his eyes when he said
this â 'do â for my sake, do.'
'Oh Simmun,' cried Miggs, 'this is worse than all. I know if I
:ome down, you '11 go, and â '
'And what, my precious?' said Mr. Tappertit.
'And try,' said iMiggs, hysterically, 'to kiss me, or some such
ireadfulness; I know you will!'
'I swear I won't,' said Mr. Tappertit, with remarkable earnest-
less. 'Upon my soul I won't. It 's getting broad day, and the
jvatchman 's waking up. Angelic iMiggs! If you '11 only come and
iet me in, I promise you faithfully and truly I won't.'
Miss Miggs, whose gentle heart was touched, did not wait for
:he oath (knowing how strong the temptation was, and fearing he
night forswear himself, but tripped lightly down the stairs, and
fvith her own fair hands drew back the rough fastenings of the
76 BARNABY RUDGE
workshop-window. Having helped the wayward 'prentice in, she
faintly articulated the words 'Simmun is safe! ' and yielding to her
woman's nature, immediately became insensible.
'I knew I should quench her,' said Sim, rather embarrassed by
this circumstance. 'Of course I was certain it would come to this,
but there was nothing else to be done â if I hadn't eyed her over,
she wouldn't have come down. Here. Keep up a minute, Miggs.
What a slippery figure she is! There 's no holding her, comfortably.
Do keep up a minute, Miggs, will you?'
As Miggs, however, was deaf to all entreaties, Mr. Tappertit
leant her against the wall as one might dispose of a walking-stick
or umbrella, until he had secured the window, when he took her
in his arms again, and, in short stages and with great difficulty â
arising from her being tall, and his being short, and perhaps in
some degree from that peculiar physical conformation on which he
had already remarked â carried her upstairs, and planting her in
the same umbrella and walking-stick fashion, just inside her own
door, left her to her repose.
'He may be as cool as he likes,' said Miss Miggs, recovering as
soon as she was left alone; 'but I 'm in his confidence and he can't
help himself, nor couldn't if he was twenty Simmunses!'
It was on one of those mornings, common in early spring, when the
year, fickle and changeable in its youth like all other created
things, is undecided whether to step backward into winter or for
ward into summer, and in its uncertainty inclines now to the one
and now to the other, and now to both at once â wooing summer
in the sunshine, and lingering still with winter in the shade â it was
in short, on one of those mornings, when it is hot and cold, wet and
dry, bright and lowering, sad and cheerful, withering and genial
in the compass of one short hour, that old John Willet, who was
dropping asleep over the copper boiler, was roused by the sounc
of a horse's feet, and glancing out at window, beheld a traveller o
goodly promise, checking his bridle at the Maypole door.
BARNABY RUDGE 77
He was none of your flippant young fellows, who would call for
a tankard of mulled ale, and make themselves as much at home as
if they had ordered a hogshead of wine; none of your audacious
young swaggerers, who would even penetrate into the bar â that
solemn sanctuary â and, smiting old John upon the back, inquire
if there was never a pretty girl in the house, and where he hid his
little chambermaids, with a hundred other impertinences of that
nature; none of your free-and-easy companions, who would scrape
their boots upon the fire-dogs in the common room, and be not at
all particular on the subject of spittoons; none of your unconscion-
able blades, requiring impossible chops, and taking unheard-of
pickles for granted. He was a staid, grave, placid gentleman, some-
thing past the prime of life, yet upright in his carriage, for all that,
and slim as a greyhound. He was well-mounted upon a sturdy
chestnut cob, and had the graceful seat of an experienced horse-
man; while his riding gear, though free from such fopperies as
were then in vogue, was handsome and well chosen. He wore a
I riding-coat of a somewhat brighter green than might have been
expected to suit the taste of a gentleman of his years, with a short,
black velvet cape, and laced pocket-holes and cuffs, all of a jaunty
fashion; his linen, too, was of the finest kind, worked in a rich
pattern at the wrists and throat, and scrupulously white. Although
he seemed, judging from the mud he had picked up on the way, to
have come from London, his horse was as smooth and cool as his own
iron-grey periwig and pigtail. Neither man nor beast had turned a
single hair ; and saving for his soiled skirts and spatterdashes, this
gentleman, with his blooming face, white teeth, exactly-ordered
dress, and perfect calmness, might have come from making an
elaborate and leisurely toilet, to sit for an equestrian portrait at
old John Willet's gate.
It must not be supposed that John observed these several char-
acteristics by other than very slow degrees, or that he took in more
I than half a one at a time, or that he even made up his mind upon
that, without a great deal of very serious consideration. Indeed,
if he had been distracted in the first instance by questionings and
orders, it would have taken him at the least a fortnight to have
â jHoted what is here set down; but it happened that the gentleman,
being struck with the old house, or with the plump pigeons which
78 BARNABY RUDGE
were skimming and curtseying about it, or with the tall maypole,
on the top of which a weathercock, which had been out of order
for fifteen years, performed a perpetual walk to the music of its
own creaking, sat for some little time looking round in silence.
Hence John, standing with his hand upon the horse's bridle, and
his great eyes on the rider, and with nothing passing to divert his
thoughts, had really got some of these little circumstances into his
brain by the time he was called upon to speak.
^A quaint place this,' said the gentleman â and his voice was as
rich as his dress. Are you the landlord?'
At your service, sir,' replied John Willet.
'You can give my horse good stabling, can you, and me an early
dinner (I am not particular what, so that it be cleanly served),
and a decent room â of which there seems to be no lack in this great
mansion,' said the stranger again running his eyes over the exterior.
You can have, sir,' returned John with a readiness quite sur-
prising, 'anything you please.'
'It 's well I am easily satisfied,' returned the other with a smile,
'or that might prove a hardy pledge, my friend.' And saying so, he
dismounted, with the aid of the block before the door, in a twink-
'Halloa there! Hugh! ' roared John. 'I ask your pardon, sir, for
keeping you standing in the porch ; but my son has gone to town on
business, and the boy being, as I may say, of a kind of use to me,
I'm rather put out when he's away. Hugh! â a dreadful idle
vagrant fellow, sir, half a gipsy, as I think â always sleeping in the
sun in summer, and in the straw in winter time, sir â Hugh! Dear
Lord, to keep a gentleman a waiting here through him! â Hugh! I
wish that chap was dead, I do indeed.'
'Possibly he is,' returned the other. 'I should think if he were
living, he would have heard you by this time.'
'In his fits of laziness, he sleeps so desperate hard,' said the dis-
tracted host, 'that if you were to fire off cannon-balls into his ears,
it wouldn't wake him, sir.'
The guest made no remark upon this novel cure for drowsiness,
and recipe for making people lively, but, wnth his hands clasped
behind him, stood in the porch very m.uch amused to see old John,
with the bridle in his hand, wavering between a strong impulse to
JOHN LOOKING AT THE PLACE WHERE THE HORSE HAD BEEN
BARNABY RUDGE 79
abandon the animal to his fate, and a half disposition to lead him
into the house, and shut him up in the parlour, while he waited on
Tillory the fellow, here he is at last!' cried John, in the very
height and zenith of his distress. 'Did you hear me a calling,
The figure he addressed made no answer, but putting his hand
upon the saddle, sprung into it at a bound, turned the horse's head
towards the stable, and was gone in an instant.
'Brisk enough when he is awake,' said the guest.
'Brisk enough, sir!' replied John looking at the place where the
horse had been, as if not yet understanding quite, what had become
of him, 'He melts, I think. He goes like a drop of froth. You look
at him, and there he is. You look at him again, and â there he
Having, in the absence of any more words, put this sudden
climax to what he had faintly intended should be a long explanation
of the whole life and character of his man, the oracular John Willet
led the gentleman up his wide dismantled staircase into the May-
pole's best apartment.
It was spacious enough in all conscience, occupying the whole
depth of the house, and having at either end a great bay-window,
as large as many modern rooms; in which some few panes of stained
glass, emblazoned with fragments of armorial bearings, though
cracked, and patched, and shattered, yet remained; attesting, by
their presence, that the former owner had made the very light sub-
servient to his state, and pressed the sun itself into his list of
flatterers; bidding it, when it shone into his chamber, reflect the
badges of his ancient family, and take new hues and colours from
But those were old days, and now every little ray came and went
as it would; telling the plain, bare, searching truth. Although the
best room of the inn, it had the melancholy aspect of grandeur in
decay, and was much too vast for comfort. Rich rustling hangings,
waving on the walls; and, better far, the rustling of youth and
beauty's dress; the light of women's eyes, outshining the tapers
and their own rich jewels; the sound of gentle tongues, and music,
and the tread of maiden feet, had once been there, and filled it
80 BARNABY RUDGE
with delight. But they were gone, and with them all its gladness.
It was no longer a home ; children were never born and bred there ;
the fireside had become mercenary â a something to be bought and
sold â a very courtezan: let who would die, or sit beside, or leave
it, it was still the same â it missed nobody, cared for nobody, had
equal warmth and smiles for all. God help the man whose heart
â¬ver changes with the world, as an old mansion when it becomes
No effort had been made to furnish this chilly waste, but before
the broad chimney a colony of chairs and tables had been planted
on a square of carpet, flanked by a ghostly screen, enriched with
figures, grinning and grotesque. After lighting with his own hands
the faggots which were heaped upon the hearth, old John withdrew
to hold grave council with his cook, touching the stranger's enter-
tainment ; while the guest himself, seeing small comfort in the yet
unkindled wood, opened a lattice in the distant window, and basked
in a sickly gleam of cold March sun.
Leaving the window now and then, â to rake the crackling logs
together, or pace the echoing room from end to end, he closed it
when the fire was quite burnt up, and having wheeled the easiest
chair into the warmest corner, summoned John Willet.
'Sir,' said John.
He wanted pen, ink, and paper. There was an old standish on
the high mantelshelf containing a dusty apology for all 'three.
Having set this before him, the landlord was retiring, when he
motioned him to stay.
'There 's a house not far from here,' said the guest when he had
written a few lines, 'which you call the Warren, I believe?'
As this was said in the tone of one who knew the fact, and asked
the question as a thing of course, John contented himself with
nodding his head in the affirmative; at the same time taking one
hand out of his pockets to cough behind, and then putting it in
'I want this note' â said the guest, glancing on what he had writ-
ten, and folding it, 'conveyed there without loss of time, and an
answer brought back here. Have you a messenger at hand?'
John was thoughtful for a minute or thereabouts, and then said
BARNABY RUDGE 81
'Let me see him/ said the guest.
This was disconcerting; for Joe being out, and Hugh engaged
in rubbing down the chestnut cob, he designed sending on the
errand, Barnaby, who had just then arrived in one of his rambles,
and who, so that he thought himself employed on a grave and
serious business, would go anywhere. .
'Why the truth is,' said John after a long pause, 'that the per-
son who 'd go quickest, is a sort of natural, as one may say, sir; and
though quick of foot, and as much to be trusted as the post itself^
he 's not good at talking, being touched and flighty, sir.'
'You don't,' said the guest, raising his eyes to John's fat face,
'you don't mean â what 's the fellow's name â you don't mean
'Yes, I do,' returned the landlord, his features turning quite ex-
pressive with surprise.
'How comes he to be here?' inquired the guest, leaning back in
his chair; speaking in the bland, even tone, from which he never
varied; and with the same soft, courteous, never-changing smile
upon his face. 'I saw him in London last night.'
'He 's for ever here one hour, and there the next,' returned old
John, after the usual pause to get the question in his mind. 'Some-
times he walks, and sometimes runs. He 's known along the road
by everybody, and sometimes comes here in a cart or chaise, and
sometimes riding double. He comes and goes, through wind, rain^
snow, and hail, and on the darkest nights. Nothing hurts him.'
'He goes often to the Warren, does he not?' said the guest care-
lessly. 'I seem to remember his mother telling me something to
that effect yesterday. But I was not attending to the good woman
'You 're right, sir,' John made answer, 'he does. His father, sir,
was murdered in that house.'
'So I have heard,' returned the guest, taking a gold toothpick
from his pocket with the same sweet smile. 'A very disagreeable
circumstance for the family.'
'Very,' said John with a puzzled look, as if it occurred to him,
dimly and afar off, that this might by possibility be a cool way of
treating the subject.
'All the circumstances after a murder,' said the guest soliloquis-
82 BARNABY RUDGE
ing, 'must be dreadfully unpleasant â so much bustle and disturb-
ance â no repose â a constant dwelling upon one subject â and the
running in and out, and up and down stairs, intolerable. I wouldn't
have such a thing happen to anybody I was nearly interested in,
on any account. 'Twould be enough to wear one's life out. â You
were going to say, friend â ' he added, turning to John again.
'Only that Mrs. Rudge lives on a little pension from the family,
and that Barnaby's as free of the house as any cat or dog about
it,' answered John. 'Shall he do your errand, sir?'
'Oh yes,' replied the guest. 'Oh certainly. Let him do it by all
means. Please to bring him here that I may charge him to be quick.
If he objects to come you may tell him it 's Mr. Chester. He will
remember my name, I dare say.'
John was so very much astonished to find who his visitor was,
that he could express no astonishment at all, by looks or otherwise,
but left the room as if he were in the most placid and imperturbable
of all possible conditions. It has been reported that when he got
downstairs, he looked steadily at the boiler for ten minutes by the
clock, and all that time never once left off shaking his head; for
which statement there would seem to be some ground of truth and
feasibility, inasmuch as that interval of time did certainly elapse,
before he returned with Barnaby to the guest's apartment.
'Come hither, lad,' said Mr. Chester. 'You know Mr. Geoffrey
Barnaby laughed, and looked at the landlord as though he would
say, 'You hear him?' John, who was greatly shocked at this breach
of decorum, clapped his finger to his nose, and shook his head in
'He knows him, sir,' said John, frowning aside at Barnaby, 'as
well as you or I do.'
'I haven't the pleasure of much acquaintance with the gentle-
man,' returned his guest. 'You may have. Limit the comparison to
yourself, my friend.'
Although this was said with the same easy affability, and the
same smile, John felt himself put down, and laying the indignity
at Barnaby's door, determined to kick his raven, on the very first
'Give that,' said the guest, who had by this time sealed the note,
BARNABY RUDGE 83
and who beckoned his messenger towards him as he spoke, 'into
Mr. Haredale's own hands. Wait for an answer, and bring it back
to me â here. If you should find that Mr. Haredale is engaged just
now, tell him â can he remember a message, landlord?'
'When he chooses, sir?' replied John. 'He won't forget this one.'
'How are you sure of that?'
John merely pointed to him as he stood with his head bent for-
ward, and his earnest gaze fixed closely on his questioner's face;
and nodded sagely.
'Tell him then, Barnaby, should he be engaged,' said Mr.
Chester, 'that I shall be glad to wait his convenience here, and to
see him (if he will call) at any time this evening. â At the worst I
can have a bed here, Willet, I suppose?'
Old John, immensely flattered by the personal notoriety implied
in this familiar form of address, answered, with something like a
knowing look, 'I should believe you could, sir,' and was turning
over in his mind various forms of eulogium, with the view of select-
ing one appropriate to the qualities of his best bed, when his ideas
were put to flight by Mr. Chester giving Barnaby the letter, and
bidding him make all speed away.
'Speed!' said Barnaby, folding the little packet in his breast,
'Speed! If you want to see hurry and mystery, come here. Here! '
With that, he put his hand, very much to John Willet's horror,
on the guest's fine broadcloth sleeve, and led him stealthily to the
'Look down there,' he said softly; 'do you mark how they
whisper in each other's ears; then dance and leap, to make believe
they are in sport? Do you see how they stop for a moment, when
they think there is no one looking, and mutter among themselves
again ; and then how they roll and gambol, delighted with the mis-
chief they 've been plotting? Look at 'em now. See how they whirl
and plunge. And now they stop again, and whisper, cautiously to-
gether â little thinking, mind, how often I have lain upon the grass
and watched them. I say â what is it that they plot and hatch? Do
'They are only clothes,' returned the guest, 'such as we wear;
hanging on those lines to dry, and fluttering in the wind.'
'Clothes!' echoed Barnaby, looking close into his face, and fall-
84 BARNABY RUDGE
ing quickly back. 'Ha ha! Why, how muct better to be silly, than as
wise as you! You don't see shadowy people there, like those that
live in sleep â not you. Nor eyes in the knotted panes of glass, nor
swift ghosts when it blows hard, nor do you hear voices in the air,