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Dolly Varden's pretty little head was yet bewildered by various
recollections of the party, and her bright eyes were yet dazzled by
a crowd of images, dancing before them like motes in the sunbeams,
among which the effigy of one partner in particular did especially
figure, the same being a young coachmaker (a master in his own
right) who had given her to understand, when he handed her into the
chair at parting, that it was his fixed resolve to neglect his
business from that time, and die slowly for the love of her--
Dolly's head, and eyes, and thoughts, and seven senses, were all in
a state of flutter and confusion for which the party was
accountable, although it was now three days old, when, as she was
sitting listlessly at breakfast, reading all manner of fortunes
(that is to say, of married and flourishing fortunes) in the
grounds of her teacup, a step was heard in the workshop, and Mr
Edward Chester was descried through the glass door, standing among
the rusty locks and keys, like love among the roses--for which apt
comparison the historian may by no means take any credit to
himself, the same being the invention, in a sentimental mood, of
the chaste and modest Miggs, who, beholding him from the doorsteps
she was then cleaning, did, in her maiden meditation, give
utterance to the simile.
The locksmith, who happened at the moment to have his eyes thrown
upward and his head backward, in an intense communing with Toby,
did not see his visitor, until Mrs Varden, more watchful than the
rest, had desired Sim Tappertit to open the glass door and give him
admission--from which untoward circumstance the good lady argued
(for she could deduce a precious moral from the most trifling
event) that to take a draught of small ale in the morning was to
observe a pernicious, irreligious, and Pagan custom, the relish
whereof should be left to swine, and Satan, or at least to Popish
persons, and should be shunned by the righteous as a work of sin
and evil. She would no doubt have pursued her admonition much
further, and would have founded on it a long list of precious
precepts of inestimable value, but that the young gentleman
standing by in a somewhat uncomfortable and discomfited manner
while she read her spouse this lecture, occasioned her to bring it
to a premature conclusion.
'I'm sure you'll excuse me, sir,' said Mrs Varden, rising and
curtseying. 'Varden is so very thoughtless, and needs so much
reminding--Sim, bring a chair here.'
Mr Tappertit obeyed, with a flourish implying that he did so,
'And you can go, Sim,' said the locksmith.
Mr Tappertit obeyed again, still under protest; and betaking
himself to the workshop, began seriously to fear that he might find
it necessary to poison his master, before his time was out.
In the meantime, Edward returned suitable replies to Mrs Varden's
courtesies, and that lady brightened up very much; so that when he
accepted a dish of tea from the fair hands of Dolly, she was
'I am sure if there's anything we can do,--Varden, or I, or Dolly
either,--to serve you, sir, at any time, you have only to say it,
and it shall be done,' said Mrs V.
'I am much obliged to you, I am sure,' returned Edward. 'You
encourage me to say that I have come here now, to beg your good
Mrs Varden was delighted beyond measure.
'It occurred to me that probably your fair daughter might be going
to the Warren, either to-day or to-morrow,' said Edward, glancing
at Dolly; 'and if so, and you will allow her to take charge of this
letter, ma'am, you will oblige me more than I can tell you. The
truth is, that while I am very anxious it should reach its
destination, I have particular reasons for not trusting it to any
other conveyance; so that without your help, I am wholly at a loss.'
'She was not going that way, sir, either to-day, or to-morrow, nor
indeed all next week,' the lady graciously rejoined, 'but we shall
be very glad to put ourselves out of the way on your account, and
if you wish it, you may depend upon its going to-day. You might
suppose,' said Mrs Varden, frowning at her husband, 'from Varden's
sitting there so glum and silent, that he objected to this
arrangement; but you must not mind that, sir, if you please. It's
his way at home. Out of doors, he can be cheerful and talkative
Now, the fact was, that the unfortunate locksmith, blessing his
stars to find his helpmate in such good humour, had been sitting
with a beaming face, hearing this discourse with a joy past all
expression. Wherefore this sudden attack quite took him by
'My dear Martha--' he said.
'Oh yes, I dare say,' interrupted Mrs Varden, with a smile of
mingled scorn and pleasantry. 'Very dear! We all know that.'
'No, but my good soul,' said Gabriel, 'you are quite mistaken. You
are indeed. I was delighted to find you so kind and ready. I
waited, my dear, anxiously, I assure you, to hear what you would
'You waited anxiously,' repeated Mrs V. 'Yes! Thank you, Varden.
You waited, as you always do, that I might bear the blame, if any
came of it. But I am used to it,' said the lady with a kind of
solemn titter, 'and that's my comfort!'
'I give you my word, Martha--' said Gabriel.
'Let me give you MY word, my dear,' interposed his wife with a
Christian smile, 'that such discussions as these between married
people, are much better left alone. Therefore, if you please,
Varden, we'll drop the subject. I have no wish to pursue it. I
could. I might say a great deal. But I would rather not. Pray
don't say any more.'
'I don't want to say any more,' rejoined the goaded locksmith.
'Well then, don't,' said Mrs Varden.
'Nor did I begin it, Martha,' added the locksmith, good-humouredly,
'I must say that.'
'You did not begin it, Varden!' exclaimed his wife, opening her
eyes very wide and looking round upon the company, as though she
would say, You hear this man! 'You did not begin it, Varden! But
you shall not say I was out of temper. No, you did not begin it,
oh dear no, not you, my dear!'
'Well, well,' said the locksmith. 'That's settled then.'
'Oh yes,' rejoined his wife, 'quite. If you like to say Dolly
began it, my dear, I shall not contradict you. I know my duty. I
need know it, I am sure. I am often obliged to bear it in mind,
when my inclination perhaps would be for the moment to forget it.
Thank you, Varden.' And so, with a mighty show of humility and
forgiveness, she folded her hands, and looked round again, with a
smile which plainly said, 'If you desire to see the first and
foremost among female martyrs, here she is, on view!'
This little incident, illustrative though it was of Mrs Varden's
extraordinary sweetness and amiability, had so strong a tendency to
check the conversation and to disconcert all parties but that
excellent lady, that only a few monosyllables were uttered until
Edward withdrew; which he presently did, thanking the lady of the
house a great many times for her condescension, and whispering in
Dolly's ear that he would call on the morrow, in case there should
happen to be an answer to the note--which, indeed, she knew without
his telling, as Barnaby and his friend Grip had dropped in on the
previous night to prepare her for the visit which was then
Gabriel, who had attended Edward to the door, came back with his
hands in his pockets; and, after fidgeting about the room in a very
uneasy manner, and casting a great many sidelong looks at Mrs
Varden (who with the calmest countenance in the world was five
fathoms deep in the Protestant Manual), inquired of Dolly how she
meant to go. Dolly supposed by the stage-coach, and looked at her
lady mother, who finding herself silently appealed to, dived down
at least another fathom into the Manual, and became unconscious of
all earthly things.
'Martha--' said the locksmith.
'I hear you, Varden,' said his wife, without rising to the surface.
'I am sorry, my dear, you have such an objection to the Maypole and
old John, for otherways as it's a very fine morning, and Saturday's
not a busy day with us, we might have all three gone to Chigwell in
the chaise, and had quite a happy day of it.'
Mrs Varden immediately closed the Manual, and bursting into tears,
requested to be led upstairs.
'What is the matter now, Martha?' inquired the locksmith.
To which Martha rejoined, 'Oh! don't speak to me,' and protested in
agony that if anybody had told her so, she wouldn't have believed
'But, Martha,' said Gabriel, putting himself in the way as she was
moving off with the aid of Dolly's shoulder, 'wouldn't have
believed what? Tell me what's wrong now. Do tell me. Upon my
soul I don't know. Do you know, child? Damme!' cried the
locksmith, plucking at his wig in a kind of frenzy, 'nobody does
know, I verily believe, but Miggs!'
'Miggs,' said Mrs Varden faintly, and with symptoms of approaching
incoherence, 'is attached to me, and that is sufficient to draw
down hatred upon her in this house. She is a comfort to me,
whatever she may be to others.'
'She's no comfort to me,' cried Gabriel, made bold by despair.
'She's the misery of my life. She's all the plagues of Egypt in
'She's considered so, I have no doubt,' said Mrs Varden. 'I was
prepared for that; it's natural; it's of a piece with the rest.
When you taunt me as you do to my face, how can I wonder that you
taunt her behind her back!' And here the incoherence coming on
very strong, Mrs Varden wept, and laughed, and sobbed, and
shivered, and hiccoughed, and choked; and said she knew it was very
foolish but she couldn't help it; and that when she was dead and
gone, perhaps they would be sorry for it--which really under the
circumstances did not appear quite so probable as she seemed to
think--with a great deal more to the same effect. In a word, she
passed with great decency through all the ceremonies incidental to
such occasions; and being supported upstairs, was deposited in a
highly spasmodic state on her own bed, where Miss Miggs shortly
afterwards flung herself upon the body.
The philosophy of all this was, that Mrs Varden wanted to go to
Chigwell; that she did not want to make any concession or
explanation; that she would only go on being implored and entreated
so to do; and that she would accept no other terms. Accordingly,
after a vast amount of moaning and crying upstairs, and much
damping of foreheads, and vinegaring of temples, and hartshorning
of noses, and so forth; and after most pathetic adjurations from
Miggs, assisted by warm brandy-and-water not over-weak, and divers
other cordials, also of a stimulating quality, administered at
first in teaspoonfuls and afterwards in increasing doses, and of
which Miss Miggs herself partook as a preventive measure (for
fainting is infectious); after all these remedies, and many more
too numerous to mention, but not to take, had been applied; and
many verbal consolations, moral, religious, and miscellaneous, had
been super-added thereto; the locksmith humbled himself, and the
end was gained.
'If it's only for the sake of peace and quietness, father,' said
Dolly, urging him to go upstairs.
'Oh, Doll, Doll,' said her good-natured father. 'If you ever have
a husband of your own--'
Dolly glanced at the glass.
'--Well, WHEN you have,' said the locksmith, 'never faint, my
darling. More domestic unhappiness has come of easy fainting,
Doll, than from all the greater passions put together. Remember
that, my dear, if you would be really happy, which you never can
be, if your husband isn't. And a word in your ear, my precious.
Never have a Miggs about you!'
With this advice he kissed his blooming daughter on the cheek, and
slowly repaired to Mrs Varden's room; where that lady, lying all
pale and languid on her couch, was refreshing herself with a sight
of her last new bonnet, which Miggs, as a means of calming her
scattered spirits, displayed to the best advantage at her bedside.
'Here's master, mim,' said Miggs. 'Oh, what a happiness it is
when man and wife come round again! Oh gracious, to think that him
and her should ever have a word together!' In the energy of these
sentiments, which were uttered as an apostrophe to the Heavens in
general, Miss Miggs perched the bonnet on the top of her own head,
and folding her hands, turned on her tears.
'I can't help it,' cried Miggs. 'I couldn't, if I was to be
drownded in 'em. She has such a forgiving spirit! She'll forget
all that has passed, and go along with you, sir--Oh, if it was to
the world's end, she'd go along with you.'
Mrs Varden with a faint smile gently reproved her attendant for
this enthusiasm, and reminded her at the same time that she was far
too unwell to venture out that day.
'Oh no, you're not, mim, indeed you're not,' said Miggs; 'I repeal
to master; master knows you're not, mim. The hair, and motion of
the shay, will do you good, mim, and you must not give way, you
must not raly. She must keep up, mustn't she, sir, for all out
sakes? I was a telling her that, just now. She must remember us,
even if she forgets herself. Master will persuade you, mim, I'm
sure. There's Miss Dolly's a-going you know, and master, and you,
and all so happy and so comfortable. Oh!' cried Miggs, turning on
the tears again, previous to quitting the room in great emotion, 'I
never see such a blessed one as she is for the forgiveness of her
spirit, I never, never, never did. Not more did master neither;
no, nor no one--never!'
For five minutes or thereabouts, Mrs Varden remained mildly opposed
to all her husband's prayers that she would oblige him by taking a
day's pleasure, but relenting at length, she suffered herself to be
persuaded, and granting him her free forgiveness (the merit
whereof, she meekly said, rested with the Manual and not with her),
desired that Miggs might come and help her dress. The handmaid
attended promptly, and it is but justice to their joint exertions
to record that, when the good lady came downstairs in course of
time, completely decked out for the journey, she really looked as
if nothing had happened, and appeared in the very best health
As to Dolly, there she was again, the very pink and pattern of good
looks, in a smart little cherry-coloured mantle, with a hood of
the same drawn over her head, and upon the top of that hood, a
little straw hat trimmed with cherry-coloured ribbons, and worn the
merest trifle on one side--just enough in short to make it the
wickedest and most provoking head-dress that ever malicious
milliner devised. And not to speak of the manner in which these
cherry-coloured decorations brightened her eyes, or vied with her
lips, or shed a new bloom on her face, she wore such a cruel little
muff, and such a heart-rending pair of shoes, and was so
surrounded and hemmed in, as it were, by aggravations of all kinds,
that when Mr Tappettit, holding the horse's head, saw her come out
of the house alone, such impulses came over him to decoy her into
the chaise and drive off like mad, that he would unquestionably
have done it, but for certain uneasy doubts besetting him as to the
shortest way to Gretna Green; whether it was up the street or
down, or up the right-hand turning or the left; and whether,
supposing all the turnpikes to be carried by storm, the blacksmith
in the end would marry them on credit; which by reason of his
clerical office appeared, even to his excited imagination, so
unlikely, that he hesitated. And while he stood hesitating, and
looking post-chaises-and-six at Dolly, out came his master and his
mistress, and the constant Miggs, and the opportunity was gone for
ever. For now the chaise creaked upon its springs, and Mrs Varden
was inside; and now it creaked again, and more than ever, and the
locksmith was inside; and now it bounded once, as if its heart beat
lightly, and Dolly was inside; and now it was gone and its place
was empty, and he and that dreary Miggs were standing in the street
The hearty locksmith was in as good a humour as if nothing had
occurred for the last twelve months to put him out of his way,
Dolly was all smiles and graces, and Mrs Varden was agreeable
beyond all precedent. As they jogged through the streets talking
of this thing and of that, who should be descried upon the pavement
but that very coachmaker, looking so genteel that nobody would have
believed he had ever had anything to do with a coach but riding in
it, and bowing like any nobleman. To be sure Dolly was confused
when she bowed again, and to be sure the cherry-coloured ribbons
trembled a little when she met his mournful eye, which seemed to
say, 'I have kept my word, I have begun, the business is going to
the devil, and you're the cause of it.' There he stood, rooted to
the ground: as Dolly said, like a statue; and as Mrs Varden said,
like a pump; till they turned the corner: and when her father
thought it was like his impudence, and her mother wondered what he
meant by it, Dolly blushed again till her very hood was pale.
But on they went, not the less merrily for this, and there was the
locksmith in the incautious fulness of his heart 'pulling-up' at
all manner of places, and evincing a most intimate acquaintance
with all the taverns on the road, and all the landlords and all the
landladies, with whom, indeed, the little horse was on equally
friendly terms, for he kept on stopping of his own accord. Never
were people so glad to see other people as these landlords and
landladies were to behold Mr Varden and Mrs Varden and Miss Varden;
and wouldn't they get out, said one; and they really must walk
upstairs, said another; and she would take it ill and be quite
certain they were proud if they wouldn't have a little taste of
something, said a third; and so on, that it was really quite a
Progress rather than a ride, and one continued scene of hospitality
from beginning to end. It was pleasant enough to be held in such
esteem, not to mention the refreshments; so Mrs Varden said nothing
at the time, and was all affability and delight--but such a body of
evidence as she collected against the unfortunate locksmith that
day, to be used thereafter as occasion might require, never was got
together for matrimonial purposes.
In course of time--and in course of a pretty long time too, for
these agreeable interruptions delayed them not a little,--they
arrived upon the skirts of the Forest, and riding pleasantly on
among the trees, came at last to the Maypole, where the locksmith's
cheerful 'Yoho!' speedily brought to the porch old John, and after
him young Joe, both of whom were so transfixed at sight of the
ladies, that for a moment they were perfectly unable to give them
any welcome, and could do nothing but stare.
It was only for a moment, however, that Joe forgot himself, for
speedily reviving he thrust his drowsy father aside--to Mr Willet's
mighty and inexpressible indignation--and darting out, stood ready
to help them to alight. It was necessary for Dolly to get out
first. Joe had her in his arms;--yes, though for a space of time
no longer than you could count one in, Joe had her in his arms.
Here was a glimpse of happiness!
It would be difficult to describe what a flat and commonplace
affair the helping Mrs Varden out afterwards was, but Joe did it,
and did it too with the best grace in the world. Then old John,
who, entertaining a dull and foggy sort of idea that Mrs Varden
wasn't fond of him, had been in some doubt whether she might not
have come for purposes of assault and battery, took courage, hoped
she was well, and offered to conduct her into the house. This
tender being amicably received, they marched in together; Joe and
Dolly followed, arm-in-arm, (happiness again!) and Varden brought
up the rear.
Old John would have it that they must sit in the bar, and nobody
objecting, into the bar they went. All bars are snug places, but
the Maypole's was the very snuggest, cosiest, and completest bar,
that ever the wit of man devised. Such amazing bottles in old
oaken pigeon-holes; such gleaming tankards dangling from pegs at
about the same inclination as thirsty men would hold them to their
lips; such sturdy little Dutch kegs ranged in rows on shelves; so
many lemons hanging in separate nets, and forming the fragrant
grove already mentioned in this chronicle, suggestive, with goodly
loaves of snowy sugar stowed away hard by, of punch, idealised
beyond all mortal knowledge; such closets, such presses, such
drawers full of pipes, such places for putting things away in
hollow window-seats, all crammed to the throat with eatables,
drinkables, or savoury condiments; lastly, and to crown all, as
typical of the immense resources of the establishment, and its
defiances to all visitors to cut and come again, such a stupendous
It is a poor heart that never rejoices--it must have been the
poorest, weakest, and most watery heart that ever beat, which would
not have warmed towards the Maypole bar. Mrs Varden's did
directly. She could no more have reproached John Willet among
those household gods, the kegs and bottles, lemons, pipes, and
cheese, than she could have stabbed him with his own bright
carving-knife. The order for dinner too--it might have soothed a
savage. 'A bit of fish,' said John to the cook, 'and some lamb
chops (breaded, with plenty of ketchup), and a good salad, and a
roast spring chicken, with a dish of sausages and mashed potatoes,
or something of that sort.' Something of that sort! The resources
of these inns! To talk carelessly about dishes, which in
themselves were a first-rate holiday kind of dinner, suitable to
one's wedding-day, as something of that sort: meaning, if you can't
get a spring chicken, any other trifle in the way of poultry will
do--such as a peacock, perhaps! The kitchen too, with its great
broad cavernous chimney; the kitchen, where nothing in the way of
cookery seemed impossible; where you could believe in anything to
eat, they chose to tell you of. Mrs Varden returned from the
contemplation of these wonders to the bar again, with a head quite
dizzy and bewildered. Her housekeeping capacity was not large
enough to comprehend them. She was obliged to go to sleep. Waking
was pain, in the midst of such immensity.
Dolly in the meanwhile, whose gay heart and head ran upon other
matters, passed out at the garden door, and glancing back now and
then (but of course not wondering whether Joe saw her), tripped
away by a path across the fields with which she was well
acquainted, to discharge her mission at the Warren; and this
deponent hath been informed and verily believes, that you might
have seen many less pleasant objects than the cherry-coloured
mantle and ribbons, as they went fluttering along the green meadows
in the bright light of the day, like giddy things as they were.