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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 42

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 42

The Royal East London Volunteers made a brilliant sight that day:
formed into lines, squares, circles, triangles, and what not, to
the beating of drums, and the streaming of flags; and performed a
vast number of complex evolutions, in all of which Serjeant Varden
bore a conspicuous share. Having displayed their military prowess
to the utmost in these warlike shows, they marched in glittering
order to the Chelsea Bun House, and regaled in the adjacent taverns
until dark. Then at sound of drum they fell in again, and
returned amidst the shouting of His Majesty's lieges to the place
from whence they came.

The homeward march being somewhat tardy,--owing to the un-
soldierlike behaviour of certain corporals, who, being gentlemen of
sedentary pursuits in private life and excitable out of doors,
broke several windows with their bayonets, and rendered it
imperative on the commanding officer to deliver them over to a
strong guard, with whom they fought at intervals as they came
along,--it was nine o'clock when the locksmith reached home. A
hackney-coach was waiting near his door; and as he passed it, Mr
Haredale looked from the window and called him by his name.

'The sight of you is good for sore eyes, sir,' said the locksmith,
stepping up to him. 'I wish you had walked in though, rather than
waited here.'

'There is nobody at home, I find,' Mr Haredale answered; 'besides,
I desired to be as private as I could.'

'Humph!' muttered the locksmith, looking round at his house.
'Gone with Simon Tappertit to that precious Branch, no doubt.'

Mr Haredale invited him to come into the coach, and, if he were not
tired or anxious to go home, to ride with him a little way that
they might have some talk together. Gabriel cheerfully complied,
and the coachman mounting his box drove off.

'Varden,' said Mr Haredale, after a minute's pause, 'you will be
amazed to hear what errand I am on; it will seem a very strange

'I have no doubt it's a reasonable one, sir, and has a meaning in
it,' replied the locksmith; 'or it would not be yours at all. Have
you just come back to town, sir?'

'But half an hour ago.'

'Bringing no news of Barnaby, or his mother?' said the locksmith
dubiously. 'Ah! you needn't shake your head, sir. It was a wild-
goose chase. I feared that, from the first. You exhausted all
reasonable means of discovery when they went away. To begin again
after so long a time has passed is hopeless, sir--quite hopeless.'

'Why, where are they?' he returned impatiently. 'Where can they
be? Above ground?'

'God knows,' rejoined the locksmith, 'many that I knew above it
five years ago, have their beds under the grass now. And the world
is a wide place. It's a hopeless attempt, sir, believe me. We
must leave the discovery of this mystery, like all others, to time,
and accident, and Heaven's pleasure.'

'Varden, my good fellow,' said Mr Haredale, 'I have a deeper
meaning in my present anxiety to find them out, than you can
fathom. It is not a mere whim; it is not the casual revival of my
old wishes and desires; but an earnest, solemn purpose. My
thoughts and dreams all tend to it, and fix it in my mind. I have
no rest by day or night; I have no peace or quiet; I am haunted.'

His voice was so altered from its usual tones, and his manner
bespoke so much emotion, that Gabriel, in his wonder, could only
sit and look towards him in the darkness, and fancy the expression
of his face.

'Do not ask me,' continued Mr Haredale, 'to explain myself. If I
were to do so, you would think me the victim of some hideous fancy.
It is enough that this is so, and that I cannot--no, I can not--lie
quietly in my bed, without doing what will seem to you

'Since when, sir,' said the locksmith after a pause, 'has this
uneasy feeling been upon you?'

Mr Haredale hesitated for some moments, and then replied: 'Since
the night of the storm. In short, since the last nineteenth of

As though he feared that Varden might express surprise, or reason
with him, he hastily went on:

'You will think, I know, I labour under some delusion. Perhaps I
do. But it is not a morbid one; it is a wholesome action of the
mind, reasoning on actual occurrences. You know the furniture
remains in Mrs Rudge's house, and that it has been shut up, by my
orders, since she went away, save once a-week or so, when an old
neighbour visits it to scare away the rats. I am on my way there

'For what purpose?' asked the locksmith.

'To pass the night there,' he replied; 'and not to-night alone, but
many nights. This is a secret which I trust to you in case of any
unexpected emergency. You will not come, unless in case of strong
necessity, to me; from dusk to broad day I shall be there. Emma,
your daughter, and the rest, suppose me out of London, as I have
been until within this hour. Do not undeceive them. This is the
errand I am bound upon. I know I may confide it to you, and I rely
upon your questioning me no more at this time.'

With that, as if to change the theme, he led the astounded
locksmith back to the night of the Maypole highwayman, to the
robbery of Edward Chester, to the reappearance of the man at Mrs
Rudge's house, and to all the strange circumstances which
afterwards occurred. He even asked him carelessly about the man's
height, his face, his figure, whether he was like any one he had
ever seen--like Hugh, for instance, or any man he had known at any
time--and put many questions of that sort, which the locksmith,
considering them as mere devices to engage his attention and
prevent his expressing the astonishment he felt, answered pretty
much at random.

At length, they arrived at the corner of the street in which the
house stood, where Mr Haredale, alighting, dismissed the coach.
'If you desire to see me safely lodged,' he said, turning to the
locksmith with a gloomy smile, 'you can.'

Gabriel, to whom all former marvels had been nothing in comparison
with this, followed him along the narrow pavement in silence. When
they reached the door, Mr Haredale softly opened it with a key he
had about him, and closing it when Varden entered, they were left
in thorough darkness.

They groped their way into the ground-floor room. Here Mr
Haredale struck a light, and kindled a pocket taper he had brought
with him for the purpose. It was then, when the flame was full
upon him, that the locksmith saw for the first time how haggard,
pale, and changed he looked; how worn and thin he was; how
perfectly his whole appearance coincided with all that he had said
so strangely as they rode along. It was not an unnatural impulse
in Gabriel, after what he had heard, to note curiously the
expression of his eyes. It was perfectly collected and rational;--
so much so, indeed, that he felt ashamed of his momentary
suspicion, and drooped his own when Mr Haredale looked towards him,
as if he feared they would betray his thoughts.

'Will you walk through the house?' said Mr Haredale, with a glance
towards the window, the crazy shutters of which were closed and
fastened. 'Speak low.'

There was a kind of awe about the place, which would have rendered
it difficult to speak in any other manner. Gabriel whispered
'Yes,' and followed him upstairs.

Everything was just as they had seen it last. There was a sense of
closeness from the exclusion of fresh air, and a gloom and
heaviness around, as though long imprisonment had made the very
silence sad. The homely hangings of the beds and windows had begun
to droop; the dust lay thick upon their dwindling folds; and damps
had made their way through ceiling, wall, and floor. The boards
creaked beneath their tread, as if resenting the unaccustomed
intrusion; nimble spiders, paralysed by the taper's glare, checked
the motion of their hundred legs upon the wall, or dropped like
lifeless things upon the ground; the death-watch ticked; and the
scampering feet of rats and mice rattled behind the wainscot.

As they looked about them on the decaying furniture, it was strange
to find how vividly it presented those to whom it had belonged, and
with whom it was once familiar. Grip seemed to perch again upon
his high-backed chair; Barnaby to crouch in his old favourite
corner by the fire; the mother to resume her usual seat, and watch
him as of old. Even when they could separate these objects from
the phantoms of the mind which they invoked, the latter only glided
out of sight, but lingered near them still; for then they seemed to
lurk in closets and behind the doors, ready to start out and
suddenly accost them in well-remembered tones.

They went downstairs, and again into the room they had just now
left. Mr Haredale unbuckled his sword and laid it on the table,
with a pair of pocket pistols; then told the locksmith he would
light him to the door.

'But this is a dull place, sir,' said Gabriel lingering; 'may no
one share your watch?'

He shook his head, and so plainly evinced his wish to be alone,
that Gabriel could say no more. In another moment the locksmith
was standing in the street, whence he could see that the light once
more travelled upstairs, and soon returning to the room below,
shone brightly through the chinks of the shutters.

If ever man were sorely puzzled and perplexed, the locksmith was,
that night. Even when snugly seated by his own fireside, with Mrs
Varden opposite in a nightcap and night-jacket, and Dolly beside
him (in a most distracting dishabille) curling her hair, and
smiling as if she had never cried in all her life and never could--
even then, with Toby at his elbow and his pipe in his mouth, and
Miggs (but that perhaps was not much) falling asleep in the
background, he could not quite discard his wonder and uneasiness.
So in his dreams--still there was Mr Haredale, haggard and
careworn, listening in the solitary house to every sound that
stirred, with the taper shining through the chinks until the day
should turn it pale and end his lonely watching.

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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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