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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 46

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 46

When Barnaby returned with the bread, the sight of the pious old
pilgrim smoking his pipe and making himself so thoroughly at home,
appeared to surprise even him; the more so, as that worthy person,
instead of putting up the loaf in his wallet as a scarce and
precious article, tossed it carelessly on the table, and producing
his bottle, bade him sit down and drink.

'For I carry some comfort, you see,' he said. 'Taste that. Is it

The water stood in Barnaby's eyes as he coughed from the strength
of the draught, and answered in the affirmative.

'Drink some more,' said the blind man; 'don't be afraid of it.
You don't taste anything like that, often, eh?'

'Often!' cried Barnaby. 'Never!'

'Too poor?' returned the blind man with a sigh. 'Ay. That's bad.
Your mother, poor soul, would be happier if she was richer,

'Why, so I tell her--the very thing I told her just before you came
to-night, when all that gold was in the sky,' said Barnaby, drawing
his chair nearer to him, and looking eagerly in his face. 'Tell
me. Is there any way of being rich, that I could find out?'

'Any way! A hundred ways.'

'Ay, ay?' he returned. 'Do you say so? What are they?--Nay,
mother, it's for your sake I ask; not mine;--for yours, indeed.
What are they?'

The blind man turned his face, on which there was a smile of
triumph, to where the widow stood in great distress; and answered,

'Why, they are not to be found out by stay-at-homes, my good

'By stay-at-homes!' cried Barnaby, plucking at his sleeve. 'But I
am not one. Now, there you mistake. I am often out before the
sun, and travel home when he has gone to rest. I am away in the
woods before the day has reached the shady places, and am often
there when the bright moon is peeping through the boughs, and
looking down upon the other moon that lives in the water. As I
walk along, I try to find, among the grass and moss, some of that
small money for which she works so hard and used to shed so many
tears. As I lie asleep in the shade, I dream of it--dream of
digging it up in heaps; and spying it out, hidden under bushes; and
seeing it sparkle, as the dew-drops do, among the leaves. But I
never find it. Tell me where it is. I'd go there, if the journey
were a whole year long, because I know she would be happier when I
came home and brought some with me. Speak again. I'll listen to
you if you talk all night.'

The blind man passed his hand lightly over the poor fellow's face,
and finding that his elbows were planted on the table, that his
chin rested on his two hands, that he leaned eagerly forward, and
that his whole manner expressed the utmost interest and anxiety,
paused for a minute as though he desired the widow to observe this
fully, and then made answer:

'It's in the world, bold Barnaby, the merry world; not in solitary
places like those you pass your time in, but in crowds, and where
there's noise and rattle.'

'Good! good!' cried Barnaby, rubbing his hands. 'Yes! I love
that. Grip loves it too. It suits us both. That's brave!'

'--The kind of places,' said the blind man, 'that a young fellow
likes, and in which a good son may do more for his mother, and
himself to boot, in a month, than he could here in all his life--
that is, if he had a friend, you know, and some one to advise

'You hear this, mother?' cried Barnaby, turning to her with
delight. 'Never tell me we shouldn't heed it, if it lay shining
at out feet. Why do we heed it so much now? Why do you toil from
morning until night?'

'Surely,' said the blind man, 'surely. Have you no answer, widow?
Is your mind,' he slowly added, 'not made up yet?'

'Let me speak with you,' she answered, 'apart.'

'Lay your hand upon my sleeve,' said Stagg, arising from the table;
'and lead me where you will. Courage, bold Barnaby. We'll talk
more of this: I've a fancy for you. Wait there till I come back.
Now, widow.'

She led him out at the door, and into the little garden, where they

'You are a fit agent,' she said, in a half breathless manner, 'and
well represent the man who sent you here.'

'I'll tell him that you said so,' Stagg retorted. 'He has a regard
for you, and will respect me the more (if possible) for your
praise. We must have our rights, widow.'

'Rights! Do you know,' she said, 'that a word from me--'

'Why do you stop?' returned the blind man calmly, after a long
pause. 'Do I know that a word from you would place my friend in
the last position of the dance of life? Yes, I do. What of that?
It will never be spoken, widow.'

'You are sure of that?'

'Quite--so sure, that I don't come here to discuss the question. I
say we must have our rights, or we must be bought off. Keep to
that point, or let me return to my young friend, for I have an
interest in the lad, and desire to put him in the way of making his
fortune. Bah! you needn't speak,' he added hastily; 'I know what
you would say: you have hinted at it once already. Have I no
feeling for you, because I am blind? No, I have not. Why do you
expect me, being in darkness, to be better than men who have their
sight--why should you? Is the hand of Heaven more manifest in my
having no eyes, than in your having two? It's the cant of you
folks to be horrified if a blind man robs, or lies, or steals; oh
yes, it's far worse in him, who can barely live on the few
halfpence that are thrown to him in streets, than in you, who can
see, and work, and are not dependent on the mercies of the world.
A curse on you! You who have five senses may be wicked at your
pleasure; we who have four, and want the most important, are to
live and be moral on our affliction. The true charity and justice
of rich to poor, all the world over!'

He paused a moment when he had said these words, and caught the
sound of money, jingling in her hand.

'Well?' he cried, quickly resuming his former manner. 'That should
lead to something. The point, widow?'

'First answer me one question,' she replied. 'You say he is close
at hand. Has he left London?'

'Being close at hand, widow, it would seem he has,' returned the
blind man.

'I mean, for good? You know that.'

'Yes, for good. The truth is, widow, that his making a longer stay
there might have had disagreeable consequences. He has come away
for that reason.'

'Listen,' said the widow, telling some money out, upon a bench
beside them. 'Count.'

'Six,' said the blind man, listening attentively. 'Any more?'

'They are the savings,' she answered, 'of five years. Six

He put out his hand for one of the coins; felt it carefully, put it
between his teeth, rung it on the bench; and nodded to her to

'These have been scraped together and laid by, lest sickness or
death should separate my son and me. They have been purchased at
the price of much hunger, hard labour, and want of rest. If you
CAN take them--do--on condition that you leave this place upon the
instant, and enter no more into that room, where he sits now,
expecting your return.'

'Six guineas,' said the blind man, shaking his head, 'though of the
fullest weight that were ever coined, fall very far short of twenty
pounds, widow.'

'For such a sum, as you know, I must write to a distant part of the
country. To do that, and receive an answer, I must have time.'

'Two days?' said Stagg.


'Four days?'

'A week. Return on this day week, at the same hour, but not to the
house. Wait at the corner of the lane.'

'Of course,' said the blind man, with a crafty look, 'I shall find
you there?'

'Where else can I take refuge? Is it not enough that you have made
a beggar of me, and that I have sacrificed my whole store, so
hardly earned, to preserve this home?'

'Humph!' said the blind man, after some consideration. 'Set me
with my face towards the point you speak of, and in the middle of
the road. Is this the spot?'

'It is.'

'On this day week at sunset. And think of him within doors.--For
the present, good night.'

She made him no answer, nor did he stop for any. He went slowly
away, turning his head from time to time, and stopping to listen,
as if he were curious to know whether he was watched by any one.
The shadows of night were closing fast around, and he was soon lost
in the gloom. It was not, however, until she had traversed the
lane from end to end, and made sure that he was gone, that she re-
entered the cottage, and hurriedly barred the door and window.

'Mother!' said Barnaby. 'What is the matter? Where is the blind

'He is gone.'

'Gone!' he cried, starting up. 'I must have more talk with him.
Which way did he take?'

'I don't know,' she answered, folding her arms about him. 'You
must not go out to-night. There are ghosts and dreams abroad.'

'Ay?' said Barnaby, in a frightened whisper.

'It is not safe to stir. We must leave this place to-morrow.'

'This place! This cottage--and the little garden, mother!'

'Yes! To-morrow morning at sunrise. We must travel to London;
lose ourselves in that wide place--there would be some trace of us
in any other town--then travel on again, and find some new abode.'

Little persuasion was required to reconcile Barnaby to anything
that promised change. In another minute, he was wild with delight;
in another, full of grief at the prospect of parting with his
friends the dogs; in another, wild again; then he was fearful of
what she had said to prevent his wandering abroad that night, and
full of terrors and strange questions. His light-heartedness in
the end surmounted all his other feelings, and lying down in his
clothes to the end that he might be ready on the morrow, he soon
fell fast asleep before the poor turf fire.

His mother did not close her eyes, but sat beside him, watching.
Every breath of wind sounded in her ears like that dreaded footstep
at the door, or like that hand upon the latch, and made the calm
summer night, a night of horror. At length the welcome day
appeared. When she had made the little preparations which were
needful for their journey, and had prayed upon her knees with many
tears, she roused Barnaby, who jumped up gaily at her summons.

His clothes were few enough, and to carry Grip was a labour of
love. As the sun shed his earliest beams upon the earth, they
closed the door of their deserted home, and turned away. The sky
was blue and bright. The air was fresh and filled with a thousand
perfumes. Barnaby looked upward, and laughed with all his heart.

But it was a day he usually devoted to a long ramble, and one of
the dogs--the ugliest of them all--came bounding up, and jumping
round him in the fulness of his joy. He had to bid him go back in
a surly tone, and his heart smote him while he did so. The dog
retreated; turned with a half-incredulous, half-imploring look;
came a little back; and stopped.

It was the last appeal of an old companion and a faithful friend--
cast off. Barnaby could bear no more, and as he shook his head and
waved his playmate home, he burst into tears.

'Oh mother, mother, how mournful he will be when he scratches at
the door, and finds it always shut!'

There was such a sense of home in the thought, that though her own
eyes overflowed she would not have obliterated the recollection of
it, either from her own mind or from his, for the wealth of the
whole wide world.

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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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