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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBarnaby Rudge - Chapter 14
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Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 14 Post by :ID3000 Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :2668

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Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 14

Joe Willet rode leisurely along in his desponding mood, picturing
the locksmith's daughter going down long country-dances, and
poussetting dreadfully with bold strangers--which was almost too
much to bear--when he heard the tramp of a horse's feet behind him,
and looking back, saw a well-mounted gentleman advancing at a
smart canter. As this rider passed, he checked his steed, and
called him of the Maypole by his name. Joe set spurs to the grey
mare, and was at his side directly.

'I thought it was you, sir,' he said, touching his hat. 'A fair
evening, sir. Glad to see you out of doors again.'

The gentleman smiled and nodded. 'What gay doings have been going
on to-day, Joe? Is she as pretty as ever? Nay, don't blush, man.'

'If I coloured at all, Mr Edward,' said Joe, 'which I didn't know I
did, it was to think I should have been such a fool as ever to have
any hope of her. She's as far out of my reach as--as Heaven is.'

'Well, Joe, I hope that's not altogether beyond it,' said Edward,
good-humouredly. 'Eh?'

'Ah!' sighed Joe. 'It's all very fine talking, sir. Proverbs are
easily made in cold blood. But it can't be helped. Are you bound
for our house, sir?'

'Yes. As I am not quite strong yet, I shall stay there to-night,
and ride home coolly in the morning.'

'If you're in no particular hurry,' said Joe after a short silence,
'and will bear with the pace of this poor jade, I shall be glad to
ride on with you to the Warren, sir, and hold your horse when you
dismount. It'll save you having to walk from the Maypole, there
and back again. I can spare the time well, sir, for I am too soon.'

'And so am I,' returned Edward, 'though I was unconsciously riding
fast just now, in compliment I suppose to the pace of my thoughts,
which were travelling post. We will keep together, Joe, willingly,
and be as good company as may be. And cheer up, cheer up, think of
the locksmith's daughter with a stout heart, and you shall win her
yet.'

Joe shook his head; but there was something so cheery in the
buoyant hopeful manner of this speech, that his spirits rose under
its influence, and communicated as it would seem some new impulse
even to the grey mare, who, breaking from her sober amble into a
gentle trot, emulated the pace of Edward Chester's horse, and
appeared to flatter herself that he was doing his very best.

It was a fine dry night, and the light of a young moon, which was
then just rising, shed around that peace and tranquillity which
gives to evening time its most delicious charm. The lengthened
shadows of the trees, softened as if reflected in still water,
threw their carpet on the path the travellers pursued, and the
light wind stirred yet more softly than before, as though it were
soothing Nature in her sleep. By little and little they ceased
talking, and rode on side by side in a pleasant silence.

'The Maypole lights are brilliant to-night,' said Edward, as they
rode along the lane from which, while the intervening trees were
bare of leaves, that hostelry was visible.

'Brilliant indeed, sir,' returned Joe, rising in his stirrups to
get a better view. 'Lights in the large room, and a fire
glimmering in the best bedchamber? Why, what company can this be
for, I wonder!'

'Some benighted horseman wending towards London, and deterred from
going on to-night by the marvellous tales of my friend the
highwayman, I suppose,' said Edward.

'He must be a horseman of good quality to have such accommodations.
Your bed too, sir--!'

'No matter, Joe. Any other room will do for me. But come--there's
nine striking. We may push on.'

They cantered forward at as brisk a pace as Joe's charger could
attain, and presently stopped in the little copse where he had left
her in the morning. Edward dismounted, gave his bridle to his
companion, and walked with a light step towards the house.

A female servant was waiting at a side gate in the garden-wall, and
admitted him without delay. He hurried along the terrace-walk, and
darted up a flight of broad steps leading into an old and gloomy
hall, whose walls were ornamented with rusty suits of armour,
antlers, weapons of the chase, and suchlike garniture. Here he
paused, but not long; for as he looked round, as if expecting the
attendant to have followed, and wondering she had not done so, a
lovely girl appeared, whose dark hair next moment rested on his
breast. Almost at the same instant a heavy hand was laid upon her
arm, Edward felt himself thrust away, and Mr Haredale stood between
them.

He regarded the young man sternly without removing his hat; with
one hand clasped his niece, and with the other, in which he held
his riding-whip, motioned him towards the door. The young man drew
himself up, and returned his gaze.

'This is well done of you, sir, to corrupt my servants, and enter
my house unbidden and in secret, like a thief!' said Mr Haredale.
'Leave it, sir, and return no more.'

'Miss Haredale's presence,' returned the young man, 'and your
relationship to her, give you a licence which, if you are a brave
man, you will not abuse. You have compelled me to this course,
and the fault is yours--not mine.'

'It is neither generous, nor honourable, nor the act of a true
man, sir,' retorted the other, 'to tamper with the affections of a
weak, trusting girl, while you shrink, in your unworthiness, from
her guardian and protector, and dare not meet the light of day.
More than this I will not say to you, save that I forbid you this
house, and require you to be gone.'

'It is neither generous, nor honourable, nor the act of a true man
to play the spy,' said Edward. 'Your words imply dishonour, and I
reject them with the scorn they merit.'

'You will find,' said Mr Haredale, calmly, 'your trusty go-between
in waiting at the gate by which you entered. I have played no
spy's part, sir. I chanced to see you pass the gate, and
followed. You might have heard me knocking for admission, had you
been less swift of foot, or lingered in the garden. Please to
withdraw. Your presence here is offensive to me and distressful to
my niece.' As he said these words, he passed his arm about the
waist of the terrified and weeping girl, and drew her closer to
him; and though the habitual severity of his manner was scarcely
changed, there was yet apparent in the action an air of kindness
and sympathy for her distress.

'Mr Haredale,' said Edward, 'your arm encircles her on whom I have
set my every hope and thought, and to purchase one minute's
happiness for whom I would gladly lay down my life; this house is
the casket that holds the precious jewel of my existence. Your
niece has plighted her faith to me, and I have plighted mine to
her. What have I done that you should hold me in this light
esteem, and give me these discourteous words?'

'You have done that, sir,' answered Mr Haredale, 'which must he
undone. You have tied a lover'-knot here which must be cut
asunder. Take good heed of what I say. Must. I cancel the bond
between ye. I reject you, and all of your kith and kin--all the
false, hollow, heartless stock.'

'High words, sir,' said Edward, scornfully.

'Words of purpose and meaning, as you will find,' replied the
other. 'Lay them to heart.'

'Lay you then, these,' said Edward. 'Your cold and sullen temper,
which chills every breast about you, which turns affection into
fear, and changes duty into dread, has forced us on this secret
course, repugnant to our nature and our wish, and far more foreign,
sir, to us than you. I am not a false, a hollow, or a heartless
man; the character is yours, who poorly venture on these injurious
terms, against the truth, and under the shelter whereof I reminded
you just now. You shall not cancel the bond between us. I will
not abandon this pursuit. I rely upon your niece's truth and
honour, and set your influence at nought. I leave her with a
confidence in her pure faith, which you will never weaken, and with
no concern but that I do not leave her in some gentler care.'

With that, he pressed her cold hand to his lips, and once more
encountering and returning Mr Haredale's steady look, withdrew.

A few words to Joe as he mounted his horse sufficiently explained
what had passed, and renewed all that young gentleman's despondency
with tenfold aggravation. They rode back to the Maypole without
exchanging a syllable, and arrived at the door with heavy hearts.

Old John, who had peeped from behind the red curtain as they rode
up shouting for Hugh, was out directly, and said with great
importance as he held the young man's stirrup,

'He's comfortable in bed--the best bed. A thorough gentleman; the
smilingest, affablest gentleman I ever had to do with.'

'Who, Willet?' said Edward carelessly, as he dismounted.

'Your worthy father, sir,' replied John. 'Your honourable,
venerable father.'

'What does he mean?' said Edward, looking with a mixture of alarm
and doubt, at Joe.

'What DO you mean?' said Joe. 'Don't you see Mr Edward doesn't
understand, father?'

'Why, didn't you know of it, sir?' said John, opening his eyes
wide. 'How very singular! Bless you, he's been here ever since
noon to-day, and Mr Haredale has been having a long talk with him,
and hasn't been gone an hour.'

'My father, Willet!'

'Yes, sir, he told me so--a handsome, slim, upright gentleman, in
green-and-gold. In your old room up yonder, sir. No doubt you
can go in, sir,' said John, walking backwards into the road and
looking up at the window. 'He hasn't put out his candles yet, I
see.'

Edward glanced at the window also, and hastily murmuring that he
had changed his mind--forgotten something--and must return to
London, mounted his horse again and rode away; leaving the Willets,
father and son, looking at each other in mute astonishment.

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At noon next day, John Willet's guest sat lingering over his breakfast in his own home, surrounded by a variety of comforts, which left the Maypole's highest flight and utmost stretch of accommodation at an infinite distance behind, and suggested comparisons very much to the disadvantage and disfavour of that venerable tavern.In the broad old-fashioned window-seat--as capacious as many modern sofas, and cushioned to serve the purpose of a luxurious settee--in the broad old-fashioned window-seat of a roomy chamber, Mr Chester lounged, very much at his ease, over a well-furnished breakfast-table. He had exchanged his riding-coat for a handsome morning-gown,
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If Joseph Willet, the denounced and proscribed of 'prentices, had happened to be at home when his father's courtly guest presented himself before the Maypole door--that is, if it had not perversely chanced to be one of the half-dozen days in the whole year on which he was at liberty to absent himself for as many hours without question or reproach--he would have contrived, by hook or crook, to dive to the very bottom of Mr Chester's mystery, and to come at his purpose with as much certainty as though he had been his confidential adviser. In that fortunate case,
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