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It was for the moment an inexpressible relief to Dolly, to
recognise in the person who forced himself into the path so
abruptly, and now stood directly in her way, Hugh of the Maypole,
whose name she uttered in a tone of delighted surprise that came
from her heart.
'Was it you?' she said, 'how glad I am to see you! and how could
you terrify me so!'
In answer to which, he said nothing at all, but stood quite still,
looking at her.
'Did you come to meet me?' asked Dolly.
Hugh nodded, and muttered something to the effect that he had been
waiting for her, and had expected her sooner.
'I thought it likely they would send,' said Dolly, greatly
reassured by this.
'Nobody sent me,' was his sullen answer. 'I came of my own
The rough bearing of this fellow, and his wild, uncouth appearance,
had often filled the girl with a vague apprehension even when other
people were by, and had occasioned her to shrink from him
involuntarily. The having him for an unbidden companion in so
solitary a place, with the darkness fast gathering about them,
renewed and even increased the alarm she had felt at first.
If his manner had been merely dogged and passively fierce, as
usual, she would have had no greater dislike to his company than
she always felt--perhaps, indeed, would have been rather glad to
have had him at hand. But there was something of coarse bold
admiration in his look, which terrified her very much. She glanced
timidly towards him, uncertain whether to go forward or retreat,
and he stood gazing at her like a handsome satyr; and so they
remained for some short time without stirring or breaking silence.
At length Dolly took courage, shot past him, and hurried on.
'Why do you spend so much breath in avoiding me?' said Hugh,
accommodating his pace to hers, and keeping close at her side.
'I wish to get back as quickly as I can, and you walk too near me,
'Too near!' said Hugh, stooping over her so that she could feel his
breath upon her forehead. 'Why too near? You're always proud to
'I am proud to no one. You mistake me,' answered Dolly. 'Fall
back, if you please, or go on.'
'Nay, mistress,' he rejoined, endeavouring to draw her arm through
his, 'I'll walk with you.'
She released herself and clenching her little hand, struck him with
right good will. At this, Maypole Hugh burst into a roar of
laughter, and passing his arm about her waist, held her in his
strong grasp as easily as if she had been a bird.
'Ha ha ha! Well done, mistress! Strike again. You shall beat my
face, and tear my hair, and pluck my beard up by the roots, and
welcome, for the sake of your bright eyes. Strike again, mistress.
Do. Ha ha ha! I like it.'
'Let me go,' she cried, endeavouring with both her hands to push
him off. 'Let me go this moment.'
'You had as good be kinder to me, Sweetlips,' said Hugh. 'You had,
indeed. Come. Tell me now. Why are you always so proud? I
don't quarrel with you for it. I love you when you're proud. Ha
ha ha! You can't hide your beauty from a poor fellow; that's a
She gave him no answer, but as he had not yet checked her progress,
continued to press forward as rapidly as she could. At length,
between the hurry she had made, her terror, and the tightness of
his embrace, her strength failed her, and she could go no further.
'Hugh,' cried the panting girl, 'good Hugh; if you will leave me I
will give you anything--everything I have--and never tell one word
of this to any living creature.'
'You had best not,' he answered. 'Harkye, little dove, you had
best not. All about here know me, and what I dare do if I have a
mind. If ever you are going to tell, stop when the words are on
your lips, and think of the mischief you'll bring, if you do, upon
some innocent heads that you wouldn't wish to hurt a hair of.
Bring trouble on me, and I'll bring trouble and something more on
them in return. I care no more for them than for so many dogs; not
so much--why should I? I'd sooner kill a man than a dog any day.
I've never been sorry for a man's death in all my life, and I have
for a dog's.'
There was something so thoroughly savage in the manner of these
expressions, and the looks and gestures by which they were
accompanied, that her great fear of him gave her new strength, and
enabled her by a sudden effort to extricate herself and run fleetly
from him. But Hugh was as nimble, strong, and swift of foot, as
any man in broad England, and it was but a fruitless expenditure of
energy, for he had her in his encircling arms again before she had
gone a hundred yards.
'Softly, darling--gently--would you fly from rough Hugh, that loves
you as well as any drawing-room gallant?'
'I would,' she answered, struggling to free herself again. 'I
'A fine for crying out,' said Hugh. 'Ha ha ha! A fine, pretty
one, from your lips. I pay myself! Ha ha ha!'
'Help! help! help!' As she shrieked with the utmost violence she
could exert, a shout was heard in answer, and another, and another.
'Thank Heaven!' cried the girl in an ecstasy. 'Joe, dear Joe, this
Her assailant paused, and stood irresolute for a moment, but the
shouts drawing nearer and coming quick upon them, forced him to a
speedy decision. He released her, whispered with a menacing look,
'Tell HIM: and see what follows!' and leaping the hedge, was gone
in an instant. Dolly darted off, and fairly ran into Joe Willet's
'What is the matter? are you hurt? what was it? who was it? where
is he? what was he like?' with a great many encouraging expressions
and assurances of safety, were the first words Joe poured forth.
But poor little Dolly was so breathless and terrified that for some
time she was quite unable to answer him, and hung upon his
shoulder, sobbing and crying as if her heart would break.
Joe had not the smallest objection to have her hanging on his
shoulder; no, not the least, though it crushed the cherry-coloured
ribbons sadly, and put the smart little hat out of all shape. But
he couldn't bear to see her cry; it went to his very heart. He
tried to console her, bent over her, whispered to her--some say
kissed her, but that's a fable. At any rate he said all the kind
and tender things he could think of and Dolly let him go on and
didn't interrupt him once, and it was a good ten minutes before she
was able to raise her head and thank him.
'What was it that frightened you?' said Joe.
A man whose person was unknown to her had followed her, she
answered; he began by begging, and went on to threats of robbery,
which he was on the point of carrying into execution, and would
have executed, but for Joe's timely aid. The hesitation and
confusion with which she said this, Joe attributed to the fright
she had sustained, and no suspicion of the truth occurred to him
for a moment.
'Stop when the words are on your lips.' A hundred times that
night, and very often afterwards, when the disclosure was rising
to her tongue, Dolly thought of that, and repressed it. A deeply
rooted dread of the man; the conviction that his ferocious nature,
once roused, would stop at nothing; and the strong assurance that
if she impeached him, the full measure of his wrath and vengeance
would be wreaked on Joe, who had preserved her; these were
considerations she had not the courage to overcome, and inducements
to secrecy too powerful for her to surmount.
Joe, for his part, was a great deal too happy to inquire very
curiously into the matter; and Dolly being yet too tremulous to
walk without assistance, they went forward very slowly, and in his
mind very pleasantly, until the Maypole lights were near at hand,
twinkling their cheerful welcome, when Dolly stopped suddenly and
with a half scream exclaimed,
'What letter?' cried Joe.
'That I was carrying--I had it in my hand. My bracelet too,' she
said, clasping her wrist. 'I have lost them both.'
'Do you mean just now?' said Joe.
'Either I dropped them then, or they were taken from me,' answered
Dolly, vainly searching her pocket and rustling her dress. 'They
are gone, both gone. What an unhappy girl I am!' With these words
poor Dolly, who to do her justice was quite as sorry for the loss
of the letter as for her bracelet, fell a-crying again, and
bemoaned her fate most movingly.
Joe tried to comfort her with the assurance that directly he had
housed her in the Maypole, he would return to the spot with a
lantern (for it was now quite dark) and make strict search for the
missing articles, which there was great probability of his finding,
as it was not likely that anybody had passed that way since, and
she was not conscious that they had been forcibly taken from her.
Dolly thanked him very heartily for this offer, though with no
great hope of his quest being successful; and so with many
lamentations on her side, and many hopeful words on his, and much
weakness on the part of Dolly and much tender supporting on the
part of Joe, they reached the Maypole bar at last, where the
locksmith and his wife and old John were yet keeping high festival.
Mr Willet received the intelligence of Dolly's trouble with that
surprising presence of mind and readiness of speech for which he
was so eminently distinguished above all other men. Mrs Varden
expressed her sympathy for her daughter's distress by scolding her
roundly for being so late; and the honest locksmith divided himself
between condoling with and kissing Dolly, and shaking hands
heartily with Joe, whom he could not sufficiently praise or thank.
In reference to this latter point, old John was far from agreeing
with his friend; for besides that he by no means approved of an
adventurous spirit in the abstract, it occurred to him that if his
son and heir had been seriously damaged in a scuffle, the
consequences would assuredly have been expensive and inconvenient,
and might perhaps have proved detrimental to the Maypole business.
Wherefore, and because he looked with no favourable eye upon young
girls, but rather considered that they and the whole female sex
were a kind of nonsensical mistake on the part of Nature, he took
occasion to retire and shake his head in private at the boiler;
inspired by which silent oracle, he was moved to give Joe various
stealthy nudges with his elbow, as a parental reproof and gentle
admonition to mind his own business and not make a fool of himself.
Joe, however, took down the lantern and lighted it; and arming
himself with a stout stick, asked whether Hugh was in the stable.
'He's lying asleep before the kitchen fire, sir,' said Mr Willet.
'What do you want him for?'
'I want him to come with me to look after this bracelet and
letter,' answered Joe. 'Halloa there! Hugh!'
Dolly turned pale as death, and felt as if she must faint
forthwith. After a few moments, Hugh came staggering in,
stretching himself and yawning according to custom, and presenting
every appearance of having been roused from a sound nap.
'Here, sleepy-head,' said Joe, giving him the lantern. 'Carry
this, and bring the dog, and that small cudgel of yours. And woe
betide the fellow if we come upon him.'
'What fellow?' growled Hugh, rubbing his eyes and shaking himself.
'What fellow?' returned Joe, who was in a state of great valour and
bustle; 'a fellow you ought to know of and be more alive about.
It's well for the like of you, lazy giant that you are, to be
snoring your time away in chimney-corners, when honest men's
daughters can't cross even our quiet meadows at nightfall without
being set upon by footpads, and frightened out of their precious
'They never rob me,' cried Hugh with a laugh. 'I have got nothing
to lose. But I'd as lief knock them at head as any other men. How
many are there?'
'Only one,' said Dolly faintly, for everybody looked at her.
'And what was he like, mistress?' said Hugh with a glance at young
Willet, so slight and momentary that the scowl it conveyed was lost
on all but her. 'About my height?'
'Not--not so tall,' Dolly replied, scarce knowing what she said.
'His dress,' said Hugh, looking at her keenly, 'like--like any of
ours now? I know all the people hereabouts, and maybe could give a
guess at the man, if I had anything to guide me.'
Dolly faltered and turned paler yet; then answered that he was
wrapped in a loose coat and had his face hidden by a handkerchief
and that she could give no other description of him.
'You wouldn't know him if you saw him then, belike?' said Hugh with
a malicious grin.
'I should not,' answered Dolly, bursting into tears again. 'I
don't wish to see him. I can't bear to think of him. I can't talk
about him any more. Don't go to look for these things, Mr Joe,
pray don't. I entreat you not to go with that man.'
'Not to go with me!' cried Hugh. 'I'm too rough for them all.
They're all afraid of me. Why, bless you mistress, I've the
tenderest heart alive. I love all the ladies, ma'am,' said Hugh,
turning to the locksmith's wife.
Mrs Varden opined that if he did, he ought to be ashamed of
himself; such sentiments being more consistent (so she argued) with
a benighted Mussulman or wild Islander than with a stanch
Protestant. Arguing from this imperfect state of his morals, Mrs
Varden further opined that he had never studied the Manual. Hugh
admitting that he never had, and moreover that he couldn't read,
Mrs Varden declared with much severity, that he ought to he even
more ashamed of himself than before, and strongly recommended him
to save up his pocket-money for the purchase of one, and further to
teach himself the contents with all convenient diligence. She was
still pursuing this train of discourse, when Hugh, somewhat
unceremoniously and irreverently, followed his young master out,
and left her to edify the rest of the company. This she proceeded
to do, and finding that Mr Willet's eyes were fixed upon her with
an appearance of deep attention, gradually addressed the whole of
her discourse to him, whom she entertained with a moral and
theological lecture of considerable length, in the conviction that
great workings were taking place in his spirit. The simple truth
was, however, that Mr Willet, although his eyes were wide open and
he saw a woman before him whose head by long and steady looking at
seemed to grow bigger and bigger until it filled the whole bar, was
to all other intents and purposes fast asleep; and so sat leaning
back in his chair with his hands in his pockets until his son's
return caused him to wake up with a deep sigh, and a faint
impression that he had been dreaming about pickled pork and greens--
a vision of his slumbers which was no doubt referable to the
circumstance of Mrs Varden's having frequently pronounced the word
'Grace' with much emphasis; which word, entering the portals of Mr
Willet's brain as they stood ajar, and coupling itself with the
words 'before meat,' which were there ranging about, did in time
suggest a particular kind of meat together with that description of
vegetable which is usually its companion.
The search was wholly unsuccessful. Joe had groped along the path
a dozen times, and among the grass, and in the dry ditch, and in
the hedge, but all in vain. Dolly, who was quite inconsolable for
her loss, wrote a note to Miss Haredale giving her the same account
of it that she had given at the Maypole, which Joe undertook to
deliver as soon as the family were stirring next day. That done,
they sat down to tea in the bar, where there was an uncommon
display of buttered toast, and--in order that they might not grow
faint for want of sustenance, and might have a decent halting-
place or halfway house between dinner and supper--a few savoury
trifles in the shape of great rashers of broiled ham, which being
well cured, done to a turn, and smoking hot, sent forth a tempting
and delicious fragrance.
Mrs Varden was seldom very Protestant at meals, unless it happened
that they were underdone, or overdone, or indeed that anything
occurred to put her out of humour. Her spirits rose considerably
on beholding these goodly preparations, and from the nothingness of
good works, she passed to the somethingness of ham and toast with
great cheerfulness. Nay, under the influence of these wholesome
stimulants, she sharply reproved her daughter for being low and
despondent (which she considered an unacceptable frame of mind),
and remarked, as she held her own plate for a fresh supply, that it
would be well for Dolly, who pined over the loss of a toy and a
sheet of paper, if she would reflect upon the voluntary sacrifices
of the missionaries in foreign parts who lived chiefly on salads.
The proceedings of such a day occasion various fluctuations in the
human thermometer, and especially in instruments so sensitively and
delicately constructed as Mrs Varden. Thus, at dinner Mrs V. stood
at summer heat; genial, smiling, and delightful. After dinner, in
the sunshine of the wine, she went up at least half-a-dozen
degrees, and was perfectly enchanting. As its effect subsided, she
fell rapidly, went to sleep for an hour or so at temperate, and
woke at something below freezing. Now she was at summer heat
again, in the shade; and when tea was over, and old John, producing
a bottle of cordial from one of the oaken cases, insisted on her
sipping two glasses thereof in slow succession, she stood steadily
at ninety for one hour and a quarter. Profiting by experience, the
locksmith took advantage of this genial weather to smoke his pipe
in the porch, and in consequence of this prudent management, he was
fully prepared, when the glass went down again, to start homewards
The horse was accordingly put in, and the chaise brought round to
the door. Joe, who would on no account be dissuaded from escorting
them until they had passed the most dreary and solitary part of the
road, led out the grey mare at the same time; and having helped
Dolly into her seat (more happiness!) sprung gaily into the saddle.
Then, after many good nights, and admonitions to wrap up, and
glancing of lights, and handing in of cloaks and shawls, the chaise
rolled away, and Joe trotted beside it--on Dolly's side, no doubt,
and pretty close to the wheel too.