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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 26

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 26

'And you're not surprised to hear this, Varden?' said Mr Haredale.
'Well! You and she have always been the best friends, and you
should understand her if anybody does.'

'I ask your pardon, sir,' rejoined the locksmith. 'I didn't say I
understood her. I wouldn't have the presumption to say that of any
woman. It's not so easily done. But I am not so much surprised,
sir, as you expected me to be, certainly.'

'May I ask why not, my good friend?'

'I have seen, sir,' returned the locksmith with evident reluctance,
'I have seen in connection with her, something that has filled me
with distrust and uneasiness. She has made bad friends, how, or
when, I don't know; but that her house is a refuge for one robber
and cut-throat at least, I am certain. There, sir! Now it's out.'


'My own eyes, sir, are my witnesses, and for her sake I would be
willingly half-blind, if I could but have the pleasure of
mistrusting 'em. I have kept the secret till now, and it will go
no further than yourself, I know; but I tell you that with my own
eyes--broad awake--I saw, in the passage of her house one evening
after dark, the highwayman who robbed and wounded Mr Edward
Chester, and on the same night threatened me.'

'And you made no effort to detain him?' said Mr Haredale quickly.

'Sir,' returned the locksmith, 'she herself prevented me--held me,
with all her strength, and hung about me until he had got clear
off.' And having gone so far, he related circumstantially all that
had passed upon the night in question.

This dialogue was held in a low tone in the locksmith's little
parlour, into which honest Gabriel had shown his visitor on his
arrival. Mr Haredale had called upon him to entreat his company to
the widow's, that he might have the assistance of his persuasion
and influence; and out of this circumstance the conversation had

'I forbore,' said Gabriel, 'from repeating one word of this to
anybody, as it could do her no good and might do her great harm. I
thought and hoped, to say the truth, that she would come to me, and
talk to me about it, and tell me how it was; but though I have
purposely put myself in her way more than once or twice, she has
never touched upon the subject--except by a look. And indeed,'
said the good-natured locksmith, 'there was a good deal in the
look, more than could have been put into a great many words. It
said among other matters "Don't ask me anything" so imploringly,
that I didn't ask her anything. You'll think me an old fool, I
know, sir. If it's any relief to call me one, pray do.'

'I am greatly disturbed by what you tell me,' said Mr Haredale,
after a silence. 'What meaning do you attach to it?'

The locksmith shook his head, and looked doubtfully out of window
at the failing light.

'She cannot have married again,' said Mr Haredale.

'Not without our knowledge surely, sir.'

'She may have done so, in the fear that it would lead, if known, to
some objection or estrangement. Suppose she married incautiously--
it is not improbable, for her existence has been a lonely and
monotonous one for many years--and the man turned out a ruffian,
she would be anxious to screen him, and yet would revolt from his
crimes. This might be. It bears strongly on the whole drift of
her discourse yesterday, and would quite explain her conduct. Do
you suppose Barnaby is privy to these circumstances?'

'Quite impossible to say, sir,' returned the locksmith, shaking his
head again: 'and next to impossible to find out from him. If what
you suppose is really the case, I tremble for the lad--a notable
person, sir, to put to bad uses--'

'It is not possible, Varden,' said Mr Haredale, in a still lower
tone of voice than he had spoken yet, 'that we have been blinded
and deceived by this woman from the beginning? It is not possible
that this connection was formed in her husband's lifetime, and led
to his and my brother's--'

'Good God, sir,' cried Gabriel, interrupting him, 'don't entertain
such dark thoughts for a moment. Five-and-twenty years ago, where
was there a girl like her? A gay, handsome, laughing, bright-eyed
damsel! Think what she was, sir. It makes my heart ache now, even
now, though I'm an old man, with a woman for a daughter, to think
what she was and what she is. We all change, but that's with Time;
Time does his work honestly, and I don't mind him. A fig for Time,
sir. Use him well, and he's a hearty fellow, and scorns to have
you at a disadvantage. But care and suffering (and those have
changed her) are devils, sir--secret, stealthy, undermining devils--
who tread down the brightest flowers in Eden, and do more havoc in
a month than Time does in a year. Picture to yourself for one
minute what Mary was before they went to work with her fresh heart
and face--do her that justice--and say whether such a thing is

'You're a good fellow, Varden,' said Mr Haredale, 'and are quite
right. I have brooded on that subject so long, that every breath
of suspicion carries me back to it. You are quite right.'

'It isn't, sir,' cried the locksmith with brightened eyes, and
sturdy, honest voice; 'it isn't because I courted her before Rudge,
and failed, that I say she was too good for him. She would have
been as much too good for me. But she WAS too good for him; he
wasn't free and frank enough for her. I don't reproach his memory
with it, poor fellow; I only want to put her before you as she
really was. For myself, I'll keep her old picture in my mind; and
thinking of that, and what has altered her, I'll stand her friend,
and try to win her back to peace. And damme, sir,' cried Gabriel,
'with your pardon for the word, I'd do the same if she had married
fifty highwaymen in a twelvemonth; and think it in the Protestant
Manual too, though Martha said it wasn't, tooth and nail, till

If the dark little parlour had been filled with a dense fog, which,
clearing away in an instant, left it all radiance and brightness,
it could not have been more suddenly cheered than by this outbreak
on the part of the hearty locksmith. In a voice nearly as full and
round as his own, Mr Haredale cried 'Well said!' and bade him come
away without more parley. The locksmith complied right willingly;
and both getting into a hackney coach which was waiting at the
door, drove off straightway.

They alighted at the street corner, and dismissing their
conveyance, walked to the house. To their first knock at the door
there was no response. A second met with the like result. But in
answer to the third, which was of a more vigorous kind, the parlour
window-sash was gently raised, and a musical voice cried:

'Haredale, my dear fellow, I am extremely glad to see you. How
very much you have improved in your appearance since our last
meeting! I never saw you looking better. HOW do you do?'

Mr Haredale turned his eyes towards the casement whence the voice
proceeded, though there was no need to do so, to recognise the
speaker, and Mr Chester waved his hand, and smiled a courteous

'The door will be opened immediately,' he said. 'There is nobody
but a very dilapidated female to perform such offices. You will
excuse her infirmities? If she were in a more elevated station of
society, she would be gouty. Being but a hewer of wood and drawer
of water, she is rheumatic. My dear Haredale, these are natural
class distinctions, depend upon it.'

Mr Haredale, whose face resumed its lowering and distrustful look
the moment he heard the voice, inclined his head stiffly, and
turned his back upon the speaker.

'Not opened yet,' said Mr Chester. 'Dear me! I hope the aged soul
has not caught her foot in some unlucky cobweb by the way. She is
there at last! Come in, I beg!'

Mr Haredale entered, followed by the locksmith. Turning with a
look of great astonishment to the old woman who had opened the
door, he inquired for Mrs Rudge--for Barnaby. They were both gone,
she replied, wagging her ancient head, for good. There was a
gentleman in the parlour, who perhaps could tell them more. That
was all SHE knew.

'Pray, sir,' said Mr Haredale, presenting himself before this new
tenant, 'where is the person whom I came here to see?'

'My dear friend,' he returned, 'I have not the least idea.'

'Your trifling is ill-timed,' retorted the other in a suppressed
tone and voice, 'and its subject ill-chosen. Reserve it for those
who are your friends, and do not expend it on me. I lay no claim
to the distinction, and have the self-denial to reject it.'

'My dear, good sir,' said Mr Chester, 'you are heated with walking.
Sit down, I beg. Our friend is--'

'Is but a plain honest man,' returned Mr Haredale, 'and quite
unworthy of your notice.'

'Gabriel Varden by name, sir,' said the locksmith bluntly.

'A worthy English yeoman!' said Mr Chester. 'A most worthy
yeoman, of whom I have frequently heard my son Ned--darling fellow--
speak, and have often wished to see. Varden, my good friend, I am
glad to know you. You wonder now,' he said, turning languidly to
Mr Haredale, 'to see me here. Now, I am sure you do.'

Mr Haredale glanced at him--not fondly or admiringly--smiled, and
held his peace.

'The mystery is solved in a moment,' said Mr Chester; 'in a moment.
Will you step aside with me one instant. You remember our little
compact in reference to Ned, and your dear niece, Haredale? You
remember the list of assistants in their innocent intrigue? You
remember these two people being among them? My dear fellow,
congratulate yourself, and me. I have bought them off.'

'You have done what?' said Mr Haredale.

'Bought them off,' returned his smiling friend. 'I have found it
necessary to take some active steps towards setting this boy and
girl attachment quite at rest, and have begun by removing these two
agents. You are surprised? Who CAN withstand the influence of a
little money! They wanted it, and have been bought off. We have
nothing more to fear from them. They are gone.'

'Gone!' echoed Mr Haredale. 'Where?'

'My dear fellow--and you must permit me to say again, that you
never looked so young; so positively boyish as you do to-night--the
Lord knows where; I believe Columbus himself wouldn't find them.
Between you and me they have their hidden reasons, but upon that
point I have pledged myself to secrecy. She appointed to see you
here to-night, I know, but found it inconvenient, and couldn't
wait. Here is the key of the door. I am afraid you'll find it
inconveniently large; but as the tenement is yours, your good-
nature will excuse that, Haredale, I am certain!'

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Index Index

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64
Chapter 65
Chapter 66
Chapter 67
Chapter 68
Chapter 69
Chapter 70
Chapter 71
Chapter 72
Chapter 73
Chapter 74
Chapter 75
Chapter 76
Chapter 77
Chapter 78
Chapter 79
Chapter 80
Chapter 81
Chapter 82

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