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It was a fine bright night, and for all her lowness of spirits
Dolly kept looking up at the stars in a manner so bewitching (and
SHE knew it!) that Joe was clean out of his senses, and plainly
showed that if ever a man were--not to say over head and ears, but
over the Monument and the top of Saint Paul's in love, that man was
himself. The road was a very good one; not at all a jolting road,
or an uneven one; and yet Dolly held the side of the chaise with
one little hand, all the way. If there had been an executioner
behind him with an uplifted axe ready to chop off his head if he
touched that hand, Joe couldn't have helped doing it. From putting
his own hand upon it as if by chance, and taking it away again
after a minute or so, he got to riding along without taking it off
at all; as if he, the escort, were bound to do that as an important
part of his duty, and had come out for the purpose. The most
curious circumstance about this little incident was, that Dolly
didn't seem to know of it. She looked so innocent and unconscious
when she turned her eyes on Joe, that it was quite provoking.
She talked though; talked about her fright, and about Joe's coming
up to rescue her, and about her gratitude, and about her fear that
she might not have thanked him enough, and about their always being
friends from that time forth--and about all that sort of thing.
And when Joe said, not friends he hoped, Dolly was quite surprised,
and said not enemies she hoped; and when Joe said, couldn't they be
something much better than either, Dolly all of a sudden found out
a star which was brighter than all the other stars, and begged to
call his attention to the same, and was ten thousand times more
innocent and unconscious than ever.
In this manner they travelled along, talking very little above a
whisper, and wishing the road could be stretched out to some dozen
times its natural length--at least that was Joe's desire--when, as
they were getting clear of the forest and emerging on the more
frequented road, they heard behind them the sound of a horse's feet
at a round trot, which growing rapidly louder as it drew nearer,
elicited a scream from Mrs Varden, and the cry 'a friend!' from the
rider, who now came panting up, and checked his horse beside them.
'This man again!' cried Dolly, shuddering.
'Hugh!' said Joe. 'What errand are you upon?'
'I come to ride back with you,' he answered, glancing covertly at
the locksmith's daughter. 'HE sent me.
'My father!' said poor Joe; adding under his breath, with a very
unfilial apostrophe, 'Will he never think me man enough to take
care of myself!'
'Aye!' returned Hugh to the first part of the inquiry. 'The roads
are not safe just now, he says, and you'd better have a companion.'
'Ride on then,' said Joe. 'I'm not going to turn yet.'
Hugh complied, and they went on again. It was his whim or humour
to ride immediately before the chaise, and from this position he
constantly turned his head, and looked back. Dolly felt that he
looked at her, but she averted her eyes and feared to raise them
once, so great was the dread with which he had inspired her.
This interruption, and the consequent wakefulness of Mrs Varden,
who had been nodding in her sleep up to this point, except for a
minute or two at a time, when she roused herself to scold the
locksmith for audaciously taking hold of her to prevent her nodding
herself out of the chaise, put a restraint upon the whispered
conversation, and made it difficult of resumption. Indeed, before
they had gone another mile, Gabriel stopped at his wife's desire,
and that good lady protested she would not hear of Joe's going a
step further on any account whatever. It was in vain for Joe to
protest on the other hand that he was by no means tired, and would
turn back presently, and would see them safely past such a point,
and so forth. Mrs Varden was obdurate, and being so was not to be
overcome by mortal agency.
'Good night--if I must say it,' said Joe, sorrowfully.
'Good night,' said Dolly. She would have added, 'Take care of that
man, and pray don't trust him,' but he had turned his horse's head,
and was standing close to them. She had therefore nothing for it
but to suffer Joe to give her hand a gentle squeeze, and when the
chaise had gone on for some distance, to look back and wave it, as
he still lingered on the spot where they had parted, with the tall
dark figure of Hugh beside him.
What she thought about, going home; and whether the coach-maker
held as favourable a place in her meditations as he had occupied in
the morning, is unknown. They reached home at last--at last, for
it was a long way, made none the shorter by Mrs Varden's grumbling.
Miggs hearing the sound of wheels was at the door immediately.
'Here they are, Simmun! Here they are!' cried Miggs, clapping her
hands, and issuing forth to help her mistress to alight. 'Bring a
chair, Simmun. Now, an't you the better for it, mim? Don't you
feel more yourself than you would have done if you'd have stopped
at home? Oh, gracious! how cold you are! Goodness me, sir, she's
a perfect heap of ice.'
'I can't help it, my good girl. You had better take her in to the
fire,' said the locksmith.
'Master sounds unfeeling, mim,' said Miggs, in a tone of
commiseration, 'but such is not his intentions, I'm sure. After
what he has seen of you this day, I never will believe but that he
has a deal more affection in his heart than to speak unkind. Come
in and sit yourself down by the fire; there's a good dear--do.'
Mrs Varden complied. The locksmith followed with his hands in his
pockets, and Mr Tappertit trundled off with the chaise to a
'Martha, my dear,' said the locksmith, when they reached the
parlour, 'if you'll look to Dolly yourself or let somebody else do
it, perhaps it will be only kind and reasonable. She has been
frightened, you know, and is not at all well to-night.'
In fact, Dolly had thrown herself upon the sofa, quite regardless
of all the little finery of which she had been so proud in the
morning, and with her face buried in her hands was crying very
At first sight of this phenomenon (for Dolly was by no means
accustomed to displays of this sort, rather learning from her
mother's example to avoid them as much as possible) Mrs Varden
expressed her belief that never was any woman so beset as she; that
her life was a continued scene of trial; that whenever she was
disposed to be well and cheerful, so sure were the people around
her to throw, by some means or other, a damp upon her spirits; and
that, as she had enjoyed herself that day, and Heaven knew it was
very seldom she did enjoy herself so she was now to pay the
penalty. To all such propositions Miggs assented freely. Poor
Dolly, however, grew none the better for these restoratives, but
rather worse, indeed; and seeing that she was really ill, both Mrs
Varden and Miggs were moved to compassion, and tended her in
But even then, their very kindness shaped itself into their usual
course of policy, and though Dolly was in a swoon, it was rendered
clear to the meanest capacity, that Mrs Varden was the sufferer.
Thus when Dolly began to get a little better, and passed into that
stage in which matrons hold that remonstrance and argument may be
successfully applied, her mother represented to her, with tears in
her eyes, that if she had been flurried and worried that day, she
must remember it was the common lot of humanity, and in especial of
womankind, who through the whole of their existence must expect no
less, and were bound to make up their minds to meek endurance and
patient resignation. Mrs Varden entreated her to remember that one
of these days she would, in all probability, have to do violence to
her feelings so far as to be married; and that marriage, as she
might see every day of her life (and truly she did) was a state
requiring great fortitude and forbearance. She represented to her
in lively colours, that if she (Mrs V.) had not, in steering her
course through this vale of tears, been supported by a strong
principle of duty which alone upheld and prevented her from
drooping, she must have been in her grave many years ago; in which
case she desired to know what would have become of that errant
spirit (meaning the locksmith), of whose eye she was the very
apple, and in whose path she was, as it were, a shining light and
Miss Miggs also put in her word to the same effect. She said that
indeed and indeed Miss Dolly might take pattern by her blessed
mother, who, she always had said, and always would say, though she
were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for it next minute, was
the mildest, amiablest, forgivingest-spirited, longest-sufferingest
female as ever she could have believed; the mere narration of whose
excellencies had worked such a wholesome change in the mind of her
own sister-in-law, that, whereas, before, she and her husband lived
like cat and dog, and were in the habit of exchanging brass
candlesticks, pot-lids, flat-irons, and other such strong
resentments, they were now the happiest and affectionatest couple
upon earth; as could be proved any day on application at Golden
Lion Court, number twenty-sivin, second bell-handle on the right-
hand doorpost. After glancing at herself as a comparatively
worthless vessel, but still as one of some desert, she besought her
to bear in mind that her aforesaid dear and only mother was of a
weakly constitution and excitable temperament, who had constantly
to sustain afflictions in domestic life, compared with which
thieves and robbers were as nothing, and yet never sunk down or
gave way to despair or wrath, but, in prize-fighting phraseology,
always came up to time with a cheerful countenance, and went in to
win as if nothing had happened. When Miggs finished her solo, her
mistress struck in again, and the two together performed a duet to
the same purpose; the burden being, that Mrs Varden was persecuted
perfection, and Mr Varden, as the representative of mankind in that
apartment, a creature of vicious and brutal habits, utterly
insensible to the blessings he enjoyed. Of so refined a character,
indeed, was their talent of assault under the mask of sympathy,
that when Dolly, recovering, embraced her father tenderly, as in
vindication of his goodness, Mrs Varden expressed her solemn hope
that this would be a lesson to him for the remainder of his life,
and that he would do some little justice to a woman's nature ever
afterwards--in which aspiration Miss Miggs, by divers sniffs and
coughs, more significant than the longest oration, expressed her
But the great joy of Miggs's heart was, that she not only picked up
a full account of what had happened, but had the exquisite delight
of conveying it to Mr Tappertit for his jealousy and torture. For
that gentleman, on account of Dolly's indisposition, had been
requested to take his supper in the workshop, and it was conveyed
thither by Miss Miggs's own fair hands.
'Oh Simmun!' said the young lady, 'such goings on to-day! Oh,
gracious me, Simmun!'
Mr Tappertit, who was not in the best of humours, and who
disliked Miss Miggs more when she laid her hand on her heart and
panted for breath than at any other time, as her deficiency of
outline was most apparent under such circumstances, eyed her over
in his loftiest style, and deigned to express no curiosity
'I never heard the like, nor nobody else,' pursued Miggs. 'The
idea of interfering with HER. What people can see in her to make
it worth their while to do so, that's the joke--he he he!'
Finding there was a lady in the case, Mr Tappertit haughtily
requested his fair friend to be more explicit, and demanded to know
what she meant by 'her.'
'Why, that Dolly,' said Miggs, with an extremely sharp emphasis on
the name. 'But, oh upon my word and honour, young Joseph Willet is
a brave one; and he do deserve her, that he do.'
'Woman!' said Mr Tappertit, jumping off the counter on which he was
'My stars, Simmun!' cried Miggs, in affected astonishment. 'You
frighten me to death! What's the matter?'
'There are strings,' said Mr Tappertit, flourishing his bread-and-
cheese knife in the air, 'in the human heart that had better not be
wibrated. That's what's the matter.'
'Oh, very well--if you're in a huff,' cried Miggs, turning away.
'Huff or no huff,' said Mr Tappertit, detaining her by the wrist.
'What do you mean, Jezebel? What were you going to say? Answer
Notwithstanding this uncivil exhortation, Miggs gladly did as she
was required; and told him how that their young mistress, being
alone in the meadows after dark, had been attacked by three or four
tall men, who would have certainly borne her away and perhaps
murdered her, but for the timely arrival of Joseph Willet, who with
his own single hand put them all to flight, and rescued her; to the
lasting admiration of his fellow-creatures generally, and to the
eternal love and gratitude of Dolly Varden.
'Very good,' said Mr Tappertit, fetching a long breath when the
tale was told, and rubbing his hair up till it stood stiff and
straight on end all over his head. 'His days are numbered.'
'I tell you,' said the 'prentice, 'his days are numbered. Leave
me. Get along with you.'
Miggs departed at his bidding, but less because of his bidding than
because she desired to chuckle in secret. When she had given vent
to her satisfaction, she returned to the parlour; where the
locksmith, stimulated by quietness and Toby, had become talkative,
and was disposed to take a cheerful review of the occurrences of
the day. But Mrs Varden, whose practical religion (as is not
uncommon) was usually of the retrospective order, cut him short by
declaiming on the sinfulness of such junketings, and holding that
it was high time to go to bed. To bed therefore she withdrew, with
an aspect as grim and gloomy as that of the Maypole's own state
couch; and to bed the rest of the establishment soon afterwards