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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBarnaby Rudge - Chapter 1
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Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 1 Post by :robina Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :1233

Click below to download : Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 1 (Format : PDF)

Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 1

In the year 1775, there stood upon the borders of Epping Forest,
at a distance of about twelve miles from London--measuring from the
Standard in Cornhill,' or rather from the spot on or near to which
the Standard used to be in days of yore--a house of public
entertainment called the Maypole; which fact was demonstrated to
all such travellers as could neither read nor write (and at that
time a vast number both of travellers and stay-at-homes were in
this condition) by the emblem reared on the roadside over against
the house, which, if not of those goodly proportions that Maypoles
were wont to present in olden times, was a fair young ash, thirty
feet in height, and straight as any arrow that ever English yeoman
drew.

The Maypole--by which term from henceforth is meant the house, and
not its sign--the Maypole was an old building, with more gable ends
than a lazy man would care to count on a sunny day; huge zig-zag
chimneys, out of which it seemed as though even smoke could not
choose but come in more than naturally fantastic shapes, imparted
to it in its tortuous progress; and vast stables, gloomy, ruinous,
and empty. The place was said to have been built in the days of
King Henry the Eighth; and there was a legend, not only that Queen
Elizabeth had slept there one night while upon a hunting excursion,
to wit, in a certain oak-panelled room with a deep bay window, but
that next morning, while standing on a mounting block before the
door with one foot in the stirrup, the virgin monarch had then and
there boxed and cuffed an unlucky page for some neglect of duty.
The matter-of-fact and doubtful folks, of whom there were a few
among the Maypole customers, as unluckily there always are in every
little community, were inclined to look upon this tradition as
rather apocryphal; but, whenever the landlord of that ancient
hostelry appealed to the mounting block itself as evidence, and
triumphantly pointed out that there it stood in the same place to
that very day, the doubters never failed to be put down by a large
majority, and all true believers exulted as in a victory.

Whether these, and many other stories of the like nature, were true
or untrue, the Maypole was really an old house, a very old house,
perhaps as old as it claimed to be, and perhaps older, which will
sometimes happen with houses of an uncertain, as with ladies of a
certain, age. Its windows were old diamond-pane lattices, its
floors were sunken and uneven, its ceilings blackened by the hand
of time, and heavy with massive beams. Over the doorway was an
ancient porch, quaintly and grotesquely carved; and here on summer
evenings the more favoured customers smoked and drank--ay, and
sang many a good song too, sometimes--reposing on two grim-looking
high-backed settles, which, like the twin dragons of some fairy
tale, guarded the entrance to the mansion.

In the chimneys of the disused rooms, swallows had built their
nests for many a long year, and from earliest spring to latest
autumn whole colonies of sparrows chirped and twittered in the
eaves. There were more pigeons about the dreary stable-yard and
out-buildings than anybody but the landlord could reckon up. The
wheeling and circling flights of runts, fantails, tumblers, and
pouters, were perhaps not quite consistent with the grave and sober
character of the building, but the monotonous cooing, which never
ceased to be raised by some among them all day long, suited it
exactly, and seemed to lull it to rest. With its overhanging
stories, drowsy little panes of glass, and front bulging out and
projecting over the pathway, the old house looked as if it were
nodding in its sleep. Indeed, it needed no very great stretch of
fancy to detect in it other resemblances to humanity. The bricks
of which it was built had originally been a deep dark red, but had
grown yellow and discoloured like an old man's skin; the sturdy
timbers had decayed like teeth; and here and there the ivy, like a
warm garment to comfort it in its age, wrapt its green leaves
closely round the time-worn walls.

It was a hale and hearty age though, still: and in the summer or
autumn evenings, when the glow of the setting sun fell upon the oak
and chestnut trees of the adjacent forest, the old house, partaking
of its lustre, seemed their fit companion, and to have many good
years of life in him yet.

The evening with which we have to do, was neither a summer nor an
autumn one, but the twilight of a day in March, when the wind
howled dismally among the bare branches of the trees, and rumbling
in the wide chimneys and driving the rain against the windows of
the Maypole Inn, gave such of its frequenters as chanced to be
there at the moment an undeniable reason for prolonging their stay,
and caused the landlord to prophesy that the night would certainly
clear at eleven o'clock precisely,--which by a remarkable
coincidence was the hour at which he always closed his house.

The name of him upon whom the spirit of prophecy thus descended was
John Willet, a burly, large-headed man with a fat face, which
betokened profound obstinacy and slowness of apprehension,
combined with a very strong reliance upon his own merits. It was
John Willet's ordinary boast in his more placid moods that if he
were slow he was sure; which assertion could, in one sense at
least, be by no means gainsaid, seeing that he was in everything
unquestionably the reverse of fast, and withal one of the most
dogged and positive fellows in existence--always sure that what he
thought or said or did was right, and holding it as a thing quite
settled and ordained by the laws of nature and Providence, that
anybody who said or did or thought otherwise must be inevitably and
of necessity wrong.

Mr Willet walked slowly up to the window, flattened his fat nose
against the cold glass, and shading his eyes that his sight might
not be affected by the ruddy glow of the fire, looked abroad. Then
he walked slowly back to his old seat in the chimney-corner, and,
composing himself in it with a slight shiver, such as a man might
give way to and so acquire an additional relish for the warm blaze,
said, looking round upon his guests:

'It'll clear at eleven o'clock. No sooner and no later. Not
before and not arterwards.'

'How do you make out that?' said a little man in the opposite
corner. 'The moon is past the full, and she rises at nine.'

John looked sedately and solemnly at his questioner until he had
brought his mind to bear upon the whole of his observation, and
then made answer, in a tone which seemed to imply that the moon was
peculiarly his business and nobody else's:

'Never you mind about the moon. Don't you trouble yourself about
her. You let the moon alone, and I'll let you alone.'

'No offence I hope?' said the little man.

Again John waited leisurely until the observation had thoroughly
penetrated to his brain, and then replying, 'No offence as YET,'
applied a light to his pipe and smoked in placid silence; now and
then casting a sidelong look at a man wrapped in a loose riding-
coat with huge cuffs ornamented with tarnished silver lace and
large metal buttons, who sat apart from the regular frequenters of
the house, and wearing a hat flapped over his face, which was still
further shaded by the hand on which his forehead rested, looked
unsociable enough.

There was another guest, who sat, booted and spurred, at some
distance from the fire also, and whose thoughts--to judge from his
folded arms and knitted brows, and from the untasted liquor before
him--were occupied with other matters than the topics under
discussion or the persons who discussed them. This was a young man
of about eight-and-twenty, rather above the middle height, and
though of somewhat slight figure, gracefully and strongly made. He
wore his own dark hair, and was accoutred in a riding dress, which
together with his large boots (resembling in shape and fashion
those worn by our Life Guardsmen at the present day), showed
indisputable traces of the bad condition of the roads. But travel-
stained though he was, he was well and even richly attired, and
without being overdressed looked a gallant gentleman.

Lying upon the table beside him, as he had carelessly thrown them
down, were a heavy riding-whip and a slouched hat, the latter worn
no doubt as being best suited to the inclemency of the weather.
There, too, were a pair of pistols in a holster-case, and a short
riding-cloak. Little of his face was visible, except the long dark
lashes which concealed his downcast eyes, but an air of careless
ease and natural gracefulness of demeanour pervaded the figure, and
seemed to comprehend even those slight accessories, which were all
handsome, and in good keeping.

Towards this young gentleman the eyes of Mr Willet wandered but
once, and then as if in mute inquiry whether he had observed his
silent neighbour. It was plain that John and the young gentleman
had often met before. Finding that his look was not returned, or
indeed observed by the person to whom it was addressed, John
gradually concentrated the whole power of his eyes into one focus,
and brought it to bear upon the man in the flapped hat, at whom he
came to stare in course of time with an intensity so remarkable,
that it affected his fireside cronies, who all, as with one accord,
took their pipes from their lips, and stared with open mouths at
the stranger likewise.

The sturdy landlord had a large pair of dull fish-like eyes, and
the little man who had hazarded the remark about the moon (and who
was the parish-clerk and bell-ringer of Chigwell, a village hard
by) had little round black shiny eyes like beads; moreover this
little man wore at the knees of his rusty black breeches, and on
his rusty black coat, and all down his long flapped waistcoat,
little queer buttons like nothing except his eyes; but so like
them, that as they twinkled and glistened in the light of the fire,
which shone too in his bright shoe-buckles, he seemed all eyes from
head to foot, and to be gazing with every one of them at the
unknown customer. No wonder that a man should grow restless under
such an inspection as this, to say nothing of the eyes belonging to
short Tom Cobb the general chandler and post-office keeper, and
long Phil Parkes the ranger, both of whom, infected by the example
of their companions, regarded him of the flapped hat no less
attentively.

The stranger became restless; perhaps from being exposed to this
raking fire of eyes, perhaps from the nature of his previous
meditations--most probably from the latter cause, for as he changed
his position and looked hastily round, he started to find himself
the object of such keen regard, and darted an angry and suspicious
glance at the fireside group. It had the effect of immediately
diverting all eyes to the chimney, except those of John Willet, who
finding himself as it were, caught in the fact, and not being (as
has been already observed) of a very ready nature, remained staring
at his guest in a particularly awkward and disconcerted manner.

'Well?' said the stranger.

Well. There was not much in well. It was not a long speech. 'I
thought you gave an order,' said the landlord, after a pause of two
or three minutes for consideration.

The stranger took off his hat, and disclosed the hard features of a
man of sixty or thereabouts, much weatherbeaten and worn by time,
and the naturally harsh expression of which was not improved by a
dark handkerchief which was bound tightly round his head, and,
while it served the purpose of a wig, shaded his forehead, and
almost hid his eyebrows. If it were intended to conceal or divert
attention from a deep gash, now healed into an ugly seam, which
when it was first inflicted must have laid bare his cheekbone, the
object was but indifferently attained, for it could scarcely fail
to be noted at a glance. His complexion was of a cadaverous hue,
and he had a grizzly jagged beard of some three weeks' date. Such
was the figure (very meanly and poorly clad) that now rose from the
seat, and stalking across the room sat down in a corner of the
chimney, which the politeness or fears of the little clerk very
readily assigned to him.

'A highwayman!' whispered Tom Cobb to Parkes the ranger.

'Do you suppose highwaymen don't dress handsomer than that?'
replied Parkes. 'It's a better business than you think for, Tom,
and highwaymen don't need or use to be shabby, take my word for it.'

Meanwhile the subject of their speculations had done due honour to
the house by calling for some drink, which was promptly supplied by
the landlord's son Joe, a broad-shouldered strapping young fellow
of twenty, whom it pleased his father still to consider a little
boy, and to treat accordingly. Stretching out his hands to warm
them by the blazing fire, the man turned his head towards the
company, and after running his eye sharply over them, said in a
voice well suited to his appearance:

'What house is that which stands a mile or so from here?'

'Public-house?' said the landlord, with his usual deliberation.

'Public-house, father!' exclaimed Joe, 'where's the public-house
within a mile or so of the Maypole? He means the great house--the
Warren--naturally and of course. The old red brick house, sir,
that stands in its own grounds--?'

'Aye,' said the stranger.

'And that fifteen or twenty years ago stood in a park five times as
broad, which with other and richer property has bit by bit changed
hands and dwindled away--more's the pity!' pursued the young man.

'Maybe,' was the reply. 'But my question related to the owner.
What it has been I don't care to know, and what it is I can see for
myself.'

The heir-apparent to the Maypole pressed his finger on his lips,
and glancing at the young gentleman already noticed, who had
changed his attitude when the house was first mentioned, replied in
a lower tone:

'The owner's name is Haredale, Mr Geoffrey Haredale, and'--again he
glanced in the same direction as before--'and a worthy gentleman
too--hem!'

Paying as little regard to this admonitory cough, as to the
significant gesture that had preceded it, the stranger pursued his
questioning.

'I turned out of my way coming here, and took the footpath that
crosses the grounds. Who was the young lady that I saw entering a
carriage? His daughter?'

'Why, how should I know, honest man?' replied Joe, contriving in
the course of some arrangements about the hearth, to advance close
to his questioner and pluck him by the sleeve, 'I didn't see the
young lady, you know. Whew! There's the wind again--AND rain--
well it IS a night!'

Rough weather indeed!' observed the strange man.

'You're used to it?' said Joe, catching at anything which seemed to
promise a diversion of the subject.

'Pretty well,' returned the other. 'About the young lady--has Mr
Haredale a daughter?'

'No, no,' said the young fellow fretfully, 'he's a single
gentleman--he's--be quiet, can't you, man? Don't you see this
talk is not relished yonder?'

Regardless of this whispered remonstrance, and affecting not to
hear it, his tormentor provokingly continued:

'Single men have had daughters before now. Perhaps she may be his
daughter, though he is not married.'

'What do you mean?' said Joe, adding in an undertone as he
approached him again, 'You'll come in for it presently, I know you
will!'

'I mean no harm'--returned the traveller boldly, 'and have said
none that I know of. I ask a few questions--as any stranger may,
and not unnaturally--about the inmates of a remarkable house in a
neighbourhood which is new to me, and you are as aghast and
disturbed as if I were talking treason against King George.
Perhaps you can tell me why, sir, for (as I say) I am a stranger,
and this is Greek to me?'

The latter observation was addressed to the obvious cause of Joe
Willet's discomposure, who had risen and was adjusting his riding-
cloak preparatory to sallying abroad. Briefly replying that he
could give him no information, the young man beckoned to Joe, and
handing him a piece of money in payment of his reckoning, hurried
out attended by young Willet himself, who taking up a candle
followed to light him to the house-door.

While Joe was absent on this errand, the elder Willet and his three
companions continued to smoke with profound gravity, and in a deep
silence, each having his eyes fixed on a huge copper boiler that
was suspended over the fire. After some time John Willet slowly
shook his head, and thereupon his friends slowly shook theirs; but
no man withdrew his eyes from the boiler, or altered the solemn
expression of his countenance in the slightest degree.

At length Joe returned--very talkative and conciliatory, as though
with a strong presentiment that he was going to be found fault
with.

'Such a thing as love is!' he said, drawing a chair near the fire,
and looking round for sympathy. 'He has set off to walk to
London,--all the way to London. His nag gone lame in riding out
here this blessed afternoon, and comfortably littered down in our
stable at this minute; and he giving up a good hot supper and our
best bed, because Miss Haredale has gone to a masquerade up in
town, and he has set his heart upon seeing her! I don't think I
could persuade myself to do that, beautiful as she is,--but then
I'm not in love (at least I don't think I am) and that's the whole
difference.'

'He is in love then?' said the stranger.

'Rather,' replied Joe. 'He'll never be more in love, and may very
easily be less.'

'Silence, sir!' cried his father.

'What a chap you are, Joe!' said Long Parkes.

'Such a inconsiderate lad!' murmured Tom Cobb.

'Putting himself forward and wringing the very nose off his own
father's face!' exclaimed the parish-clerk, metaphorically.

'What HAVE I done?' reasoned poor Joe.

'Silence, sir!' returned his father, 'what do you mean by talking,
when you see people that are more than two or three times your age,
sitting still and silent and not dreaming of saying a word?'

'Why that's the proper time for me to talk, isn't it?' said Joe
rebelliously.

'The proper time, sir!' retorted his father, 'the proper time's no
time.'

'Ah to be sure!' muttered Parkes, nodding gravely to the other two
who nodded likewise, observing under their breaths that that was
the point.

'The proper time's no time, sir,' repeated John Willet; 'when I was
your age I never talked, I never wanted to talk. I listened and
improved myself that's what I did.'

'And you'd find your father rather a tough customer in argeyment,
Joe, if anybody was to try and tackle him,' said Parkes.

'For the matter o' that, Phil!' observed Mr Willet, blowing a long,
thin, spiral cloud of smoke out of the corner of his mouth, and
staring at it abstractedly as it floated away; 'For the matter o'
that, Phil, argeyment is a gift of Natur. If Natur has gifted a
man with powers of argeyment, a man has a right to make the best of
'em, and has not a right to stand on false delicacy, and deny that
he is so gifted; for that is a turning of his back on Natur, a
flouting of her, a slighting of her precious caskets, and a proving
of one's self to be a swine that isn't worth her scattering pearls
before.'

The landlord pausing here for a very long time, Mr Parkes naturally
concluded that he had brought his discourse to an end; and
therefore, turning to the young man with some austerity,
exclaimed:

'You hear what your father says, Joe? You wouldn't much like to
tackle him in argeyment, I'm thinking, sir.'

'IF,' said John Willet, turning his eyes from the ceiling to the
face of his interrupter, and uttering the monosyllable in capitals,
to apprise him that he had put in his oar, as the vulgar say, with
unbecoming and irreverent haste; 'IF, sir, Natur has fixed upon me
the gift of argeyment, why should I not own to it, and rather glory
in the same? Yes, sir, I AM a tough customer that way. You are
right, sir. My toughness has been proved, sir, in this room many
and many a time, as I think you know; and if you don't know,' added
John, putting his pipe in his mouth again, 'so much the better, for
I an't proud and am not going to tell you.'

A general murmur from his three cronies, and a general shaking of
heads at the copper boiler, assured John Willet that they had had
good experience of his powers and needed no further evidence to
assure them of his superiority. John smoked with a little more
dignity and surveyed them in silence.

'It's all very fine talking,' muttered Joe, who had been fidgeting
in his chair with divers uneasy gestures. 'But if you mean to tell
me that I'm never to open my lips--'

'Silence, sir!' roared his father. 'No, you never are. When your
opinion's wanted, you give it. When you're spoke to, you speak.
When your opinion's not wanted and you're not spoke to, don't you
give an opinion and don't you speak. The world's undergone a nice
alteration since my time, certainly. My belief is that there an't
any boys left--that there isn't such a thing as a boy--that there's
nothing now between a male baby and a man--and that all the boys
went out with his blessed Majesty King George the Second.'

'That's a very true observation, always excepting the young
princes,' said the parish-clerk, who, as the representative of
church and state in that company, held himself bound to the nicest
loyalty. 'If it's godly and righteous for boys, being of the ages
of boys, to behave themselves like boys, then the young princes
must be boys and cannot be otherwise.'

'Did you ever hear tell of mermaids, sir?' said Mr Willet.

'Certainly I have,' replied the clerk.

'Very good,' said Mr Willet. 'According to the constitution of
mermaids, so much of a mermaid as is not a woman must be a fish.
According to the constitution of young princes, so much of a young
prince (if anything) as is not actually an angel, must be godly and
righteous. Therefore if it's becoming and godly and righteous in
the young princes (as it is at their ages) that they should be
boys, they are and must be boys, and cannot by possibility be
anything else.'

This elucidation of a knotty point being received with such marks
of approval as to put John Willet into a good humour, he contented
himself with repeating to his son his command of silence, and
addressing the stranger, said:

'If you had asked your questions of a grown-up person--of me or any
of these gentlemen--you'd have had some satisfaction, and wouldn't
have wasted breath. Miss Haredale is Mr Geoffrey Haredale's
niece.'

'Is her father alive?' said the man, carelessly.

'No,' rejoined the landlord, 'he is not alive, and he is not dead--'

'Not dead!' cried the other.

'Not dead in a common sort of way,' said the landlord.

The cronies nodded to each other, and Mr Parkes remarked in an
undertone, shaking his head meanwhile as who should say, 'let no
man contradict me, for I won't believe him,' that John Willet was
in amazing force to-night, and fit to tackle a Chief Justice.

The stranger suffered a short pause to elapse, and then asked
abruptly, 'What do you mean?'

'More than you think for, friend,' returned John Willet. 'Perhaps
there's more meaning in them words than you suspect.'

'Perhaps there is,' said the strange man, gruffly; 'but what the
devil do you speak in such mysteries for? You tell me, first, that
a man is not alive, nor yet dead--then, that he's not dead in a
common sort of way--then, that you mean a great deal more than I
think for. To tell you the truth, you may do that easily; for so
far as I can make out, you mean nothing. What DO you mean, I ask
again?'

'That,' returned the landlord, a little brought down from his
dignity by the stranger's surliness, 'is a Maypole story, and has
been any time these four-and-twenty years. That story is Solomon
Daisy's story. It belongs to the house; and nobody but Solomon
Daisy has ever told it under this roof, or ever shall--that's
more.'

The man glanced at the parish-clerk, whose air of consciousness
and importance plainly betokened him to be the person referred to,
and, observing that he had taken his pipe from his lips, after a
very long whiff to keep it alight, and was evidently about to tell
his story without further solicitation, gathered his large coat
about him, and shrinking further back was almost lost in the gloom
of the spacious chimney-corner, except when the flame, struggling
from under a great faggot, whose weight almost crushed it for the
time, shot upward with a strong and sudden glare, and illumining
his figure for a moment, seemed afterwards to cast it into deeper
obscurity than before.

By this flickering light, which made the old room, with its heavy
timbers and panelled walls, look as if it were built of polished
ebony--the wind roaring and howling without, now rattling the latch
and creaking the hinges of the stout oaken door, and now driving at
the casement as though it would beat it in--by this light, and
under circumstances so auspicious, Solomon Daisy began his tale:

'It was Mr Reuben Haredale, Mr Geoffrey's elder brother--'

Here he came to a dead stop, and made so long a pause that even
John Willet grew impatient and asked why he did not proceed.

'Cobb,' said Solomon Daisy, dropping his voice and appealing to the
post-office keeper; 'what day of the month is this?'

'The nineteenth.'

'Of March,' said the clerk, bending forward, 'the nineteenth of
March; that's very strange.'

In a low voice they all acquiesced, and Solomon went on:

'It was Mr Reuben Haredale, Mr Geoffrey's elder brother, that
twenty-two years ago was the owner of the Warren, which, as Joe
has said--not that you remember it, Joe, for a boy like you can't
do that, but because you have often heard me say so--was then a
much larger and better place, and a much more valuable property
than it is now. His lady was lately dead, and he was left with one
child--the Miss Haredale you have been inquiring about--who was
then scarcely a year old.'

Although the speaker addressed himself to the man who had shown so
much curiosity about this same family, and made a pause here as if
expecting some exclamation of surprise or encouragement, the latter
made no remark, nor gave any indication that he heard or was
interested in what was said. Solomon therefore turned to his old
companions, whose noses were brightly illuminated by the deep red
glow from the bowls of their pipes; assured, by long experience, of
their attention, and resolved to show his sense of such indecent
behaviour.

'Mr Haredale,' said Solomon, turning his back upon the strange man,
'left this place when his lady died, feeling it lonely like, and
went up to London, where he stopped some months; but finding that
place as lonely as this--as I suppose and have always heard say--he
suddenly came back again with his little girl to the Warren,
bringing with him besides, that day, only two women servants, and
his steward, and a gardener.'

Mr Daisy stopped to take a whiff at his pipe, which was going out,
and then proceeded--at first in a snuffling tone, occasioned by
keen enjoyment of the tobacco and strong pulling at the pipe, and
afterwards with increasing distinctness:

'--Bringing with him two women servants, and his steward, and a
gardener. The rest stopped behind up in London, and were to follow
next day. It happened that that night, an old gentleman who lived
at Chigwell Row, and had long been poorly, deceased, and an order
came to me at half after twelve o'clock at night to go and toll the
passing-bell.'

There was a movement in the little group of listeners, sufficiently
indicative of the strong repugnance any one of them would have felt
to have turned out at such a time upon such an errand. The clerk
felt and understood it, and pursued his theme accordingly.

'It WAS a dreary thing, especially as the grave-digger was laid up
in his bed, from long working in a damp soil and sitting down to
take his dinner on cold tombstones, and I was consequently under
obligation to go alone, for it was too late to hope to get any
other companion. However, I wasn't unprepared for it; as the old
gentleman had often made it a request that the bell should be
tolled as soon as possible after the breath was out of his body,
and he had been expected to go for some days. I put as good a face
upon it as I could, and muffling myself up (for it was mortal
cold), started out with a lighted lantern in one hand and the key
of the church in the other.'

At this point of the narrative, the dress of the strange man
rustled as if he had turned himself to hear more distinctly.
Slightly pointing over his shoulder, Solomon elevated his eyebrows
and nodded a silent inquiry to Joe whether this was the case. Joe
shaded his eyes with his hand and peered into the corner, but could
make out nothing, and so shook his head.

'It was just such a night as this; blowing a hurricane, raining
heavily, and very dark--I often think now, darker than I ever saw
it before or since; that may be my fancy, but the houses were all
close shut and the folks in doors, and perhaps there is only one
other man who knows how dark it really was. I got into the church,
chained the door back so that it should keep ajar--for, to tell the
truth, I didn't like to be shut in there alone--and putting my
lantern on the stone seat in the little corner where the bell-rope
is, sat down beside it to trim the candle.

'I sat down to trim the candle, and when I had done so I could not
persuade myself to get up again, and go about my work. I don't
know how it was, but I thought of all the ghost stories I had ever
heard, even those that I had heard when I was a boy at school, and
had forgotten long ago; and they didn't come into my mind one after
another, but all crowding at once, like. I recollected one story
there was in the village, how that on a certain night in the year
(it might be that very night for anything I knew), all the dead
people came out of the ground and sat at the heads of their own
graves till morning. This made me think how many people I had
known, were buried between the church-door and the churchyard gate,
and what a dreadful thing it would be to have to pass among them
and know them again, so earthy and unlike themselves. I had known
all the niches and arches in the church from a child; still, I
couldn't persuade myself that those were their natural shadows
which I saw on the pavement, but felt sure there were some ugly
figures hiding among 'em and peeping out. Thinking on in this
way, I began to think of the old gentleman who was just dead, and I
could have sworn, as I looked up the dark chancel, that I saw him
in his usual place, wrapping his shroud about him and shivering as
if he felt it cold. All this time I sat listening and listening,
and hardly dared to breathe. At length I started up and took the
bell-rope in my hands. At that minute there rang--not that bell,
for I had hardly touched the rope--but another!

'I heard the ringing of another bell, and a deep bell too, plainly.
It was only for an instant, and even then the wind carried the
sound away, but I heard it. I listened for a long time, but it
rang no more. I had heard of corpse candles, and at last I
persuaded myself that this must be a corpse bell tolling of itself
at midnight for the dead. I tolled my bell--how, or how long, I
don't know--and ran home to bed as fast as I could touch the
ground.

'I was up early next morning after a restless night, and told the
story to my neighbours. Some were serious and some made light of
it; I don't think anybody believed it real. But, that morning, Mr
Reuben Haredale was found murdered in his bedchamber; and in his
hand was a piece of the cord attached to an alarm-bell outside the
roof, which hung in his room and had been cut asunder, no doubt by
the murderer, when he seized it.

'That was the bell I heard.

'A bureau was found opened, and a cash-box, which Mr Haredale had
brought down that day, and was supposed to contain a large sum of
money, was gone. The steward and gardener were both missing and
both suspected for a long time, but they were never found, though
hunted far and wide. And far enough they might have looked for
poor Mr Rudge the steward, whose body--scarcely to be recognised by
his clothes and the watch and ring he wore--was found, months
afterwards, at the bottom of a piece of water in the grounds, with
a deep gash in the breast where he had been stabbed with a knife.
He was only partly dressed; and people all agreed that he had been
sitting up reading in his own room, where there were many traces of
blood, and was suddenly fallen upon and killed before his master.

Everybody now knew that the gardener must be the murderer, and
though he has never been heard of from that day to this, he will
be, mark my words. The crime was committed this day two-and-twenty
years--on the nineteenth of March, one thousand seven hundred and
fifty-three. On the nineteenth of March in some year--no matter
when--I know it, I am sure of it, for we have always, in some
strange way or other, been brought back to the subject on that day
ever since--on the nineteenth of March in some year, sooner or
later, that man will be discovered.'

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