Old John did not walk near the Golden Key, for between the Golden Key and th_lack Lion there lay a wilderness of streets—as everybody knows who i_cquainted with the relative bearings of Clerkenwell and Whitechapel—and h_as by no means famous for pedestrian exercises. But the Golden Key lies i_ur way, though it was out of his; so to the Golden Key this chapter goes.
The Golden Key itself, fair emblem of the locksmith’s trade, had been pulle_own by the rioters, and roughly trampled under foot. But, now, it was hoiste_p again in all the glory of a new coat of paint, and shewed more bravely eve_han in days of yore. Indeed the whole house-front was spruce and trim, and s_reshened up throughout, that if there yet remained at large any of th_ioters who had been concerned in the attack upon it, the sight of the old, goodly, prosperous dwelling, so revived, must have been to them as gall an_ormwood.
The shutters of the shop were closed, however, and the window- blinds abov_ere all pulled down, and in place of its usual cheerful appearance, the hous_ad a look of sadness and an air of mourning; which the neighbours, who in ol_ays had often seen poor Barnaby go in and out, were at no loss to understand.
The door stood partly open; but the locksmith’s hammer was unheard; the ca_at moping on the ashy forge; all was deserted, dark, and silent.
On the threshold of this door, Mr Haredale and Edward Chester met. The younge_an gave place; and both passing in with a familiar air, which seemed t_enote that they were tarrying there, or were well-accustomed to go to and fr_nquestioned, shut it behind them.
Entering the old back-parlour, and ascending the flight of stairs, abrupt an_teep, and quaintly fashioned as of old, they turned into the best room; th_ride of Mrs Varden’s heart, and erst the scene of Miggs’s household labours.
‘Varden brought the mother here last evening, he told me?’ said Mr Haredale.
‘She is above-stairs now—in the room over here,’ Edward rejoined. ‘Her grief, they say, is past all telling. I needn’t add—for that you know beforehand, sir—that the care, humanity, and sympathy of these good people have n_ounds.’
‘I am sure of that. Heaven repay them for it, and for much more! Varden i_ut?’
‘He returned with your messenger, who arrived almost at the moment of hi_oming home himself. He was out the whole night—but that of course you know.
He was with you the greater part of it?’
‘He was. Without him, I should have lacked my right hand. He is an older ma_han I; but nothing can conquer him.’
‘The cheeriest, stoutest-hearted fellow in the world.’
‘He has a right to be. He has a right to he. A better creature never lived. H_eaps what he has sown—no more.’
‘It is not all men,’ said Edward, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘who have th_appiness to do that.’
‘More than you imagine,’ returned Mr Haredale. ‘We note the harvest more tha_he seed-time. You do so in me.’
In truth his pale and haggard face, and gloomy bearing, had so far influence_he remark, that Edward was, for the moment, at a loss to answer him.
‘Tut, tut,’ said Mr Haredale, ''twas not very difficult to read a thought s_atural. But you are mistaken nevertheless. I have had my share o_orrows—more than the common lot, perhaps, but I have borne them ill. I hav_roken where I should have bent; and have mused and brooded, when my spiri_hould have mixed with all God’s great creation. The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother. I have turned from the world, an_ pay the penalty.’
Edward would have interposed, but he went on without giving him time.
‘It is too late to evade it now. I sometimes think, that if I had to live m_ife once more, I might amend this fault—not so much, I discover when I searc_y mind, for the love of what is right, as for my own sake. But even when _ake these better resolutions, I instinctively recoil from the idea o_uffering again what I have undergone; and in this circumstance I find th_nwelcome assurance that I should still be the same man, though I could cance_he past, and begin anew, with its experience to guide me.’
‘Nay, you make too sure of that,’ said Edward.
‘You think so,’ Mr Haredale answered, ‘and I am glad you do. I know mysel_etter, and therefore distrust myself more. Let us leave this subject fo_nother—not so far removed from it as it might, at first sight, seem to be.
Sir, you still love my niece, and she is still attached to you.’
‘I have that assurance from her own lips,’ said Edward, ‘and you know—I a_ure you know—that I would not exchange it for any blessing life could yiel_e.’
‘You are frank, honourable, and disinterested,’ said Mr Haredale; ‘you hav_orced the conviction that you are so, even on my once- jaundiced mind, and _elieve you. Wait here till I come back.’
He left the room as he spoke; but soon returned with his niece. ‘On that firs_nd only time,’ he said, looking from the one to the other, ‘when we thre_tood together under her father’s roof, I told you to quit it, and charged yo_ever to return.’
‘It is the only circumstance arising out of our love,’ observed Edward, ‘tha_ have forgotten.’
‘You own a name,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘I had deep reason to remember. I wa_oved and goaded by recollections of personal wrong and injury, I know, but, even now I cannot charge myself with having, then, or ever, lost sight of _eartfelt desire for her true happiness; or with having acted—however much _as mistaken—with any other impulse than the one pure, single, earnest wish t_e to her, as far as in my inferior nature lay, the father she had lost.’
‘Dear uncle,’ cried Emma, ‘I have known no parent but you. I have loved th_emory of others, but I have loved you all my life. Never was father kinder t_is child than you have been to me, without the interval of one harsh hour, since I can first remember.’
‘You speak too fondly,’ he answered, ‘and yet I cannot wish you were les_artial; for I have a pleasure in hearing those words, and shall have i_alling them to mind when we are far asunder, which nothing else could giv_e. Bear with me for a moment longer, Edward, for she and I have been togethe_any years; and although I believe that in resigning her to you I put the sea_pon her future happiness, I find it needs an effort.’
He pressed her tenderly to his bosom, and after a minute’s pause, resumed:
‘I have done you wrong, sir, and I ask your forgiveness—in no common phrase, or show of sorrow; but with earnestness and sincerity. In the same spirit, _cknowledge to you both that the time has been when I connived at treacher_nd falsehood—which if I did not perpetrate myself, I still permitted—to ren_ou two asunder.’
‘You judge yourself too harshly,’ said Edward. ‘Let these things rest.’
‘They rise in judgment against me when I look back, and not now for the firs_ime,’ he answered. ‘I cannot part from you without your full forgiveness; fo_usy life and I have little left in common now, and I have regrets enough t_arry into solitude, without addition to the stock.’
‘You bear a blessing from us both,’ said Emma. ‘Never mingle thoughts of me—o_e who owe you so much love and duty—with anything but undying affection an_ratitude for the past, and bright hopes for the future.’
‘The future,’ returned her uncle, with a melancholy smile, ‘is a bright wor_or you, and its image should be wreathed with cheerful hopes. Mine is o_nother kind, but it will be one of peace, and free, I trust, from care o_assion. When you quit England I shall leave it too. There are cloister_broad; and now that the two great objects of my life are set at rest, I kno_o better home. You droop at that, forgetting that I am growing old, and tha_y course is nearly run. Well, we will speak of it again— not once or twice, but many times; and you shall give me cheerful counsel, Emma.’
‘And you will take it?’ asked his niece.
‘I’ll listen to it,’ he answered, with a kiss, ‘and it will have its weight, be certain. What have I left to say? You have, of late, been much together. I_s better and more fitting that the circumstances attendant on the past, whic_rought your separation, and sowed between you suspicion and distrust, shoul_ot be entered on by me.’
‘Much, much better,’ whispered Emma.
‘I avow my share in them,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘though I held it, at the time, in detestation. Let no man turn aside, ever so slightly, from the broad pat_f honour, on the plausible pretence that he is justified by the goodness o_is end. All good ends can he worked out by good means. Those that cannot, ar_ad; and may be counted so at once, and left alone.’
He looked from her to Edward, and said in a gentler tone:
‘In goods and fortune you are now nearly equal. I have been her faithfu_teward, and to that remnant of a richer property which my brother left her, _esire to add, in token of my love, a poor pittance, scarcely worth th_ention, for which I have no longer any need. I am glad you go abroad. Let ou_ll-fated house remain the ruin it is. When you return, after a few thrivin_ears, you will command a better, and a more fortunate one. We are friends?’
Edward took his extended hand, and grasped it heartily.
‘You are neither slow nor cold in your response,’ said Mr Haredale, doing th_ike by him, ‘and when I look upon you now, and know you, I feel that I woul_hoose you for her husband. Her father had a generous nature, and you woul_ave pleased him well. I give her to you in his name, and with his blessing.
If the world and I part in this act, we part on happier terms than we hav_ived for many a day.’
He placed her in his arms, and would have left the room, but that he wa_topped in his passage to the door by a great noise at a distance, which mad_hem start and pause.
It was a loud shouting, mingled with boisterous acclamations, that rent th_ery air. It drew nearer and nearer every moment, and approached so rapidly, that, even while they listened, it burst into a deafening confusion of sound_t the street corner.
‘This must be stopped—quieted,’ said Mr Haredale, hastily. ‘We should hav_oreseen this, and provided against it. I will go out to them at once.’
But, before he could reach the door, and before Edward could catch up his ha_nd follow him, they were again arrested by a loud shriek from above-stairs: and the locksmith’s wife, bursting in, and fairly running into Mr Haredale’_rms, cried out:
‘She knows it all, dear sir!—she knows it all! We broke it out to her b_egrees, and she is quite prepared.’ Having made this communication, an_urthermore thanked Heaven with great fervour and heartiness, the good lady, according to the custom of matrons, on all occasions of excitement, fainte_way directly.
They ran to the window, drew up the sash, and looked into the crowded street.
Among a dense mob of persons, of whom not one was for an instant still, th_ocksmith’s ruddy face and burly form could be descried, beating about a_hough he was struggling with a rough sea. Now, he was carried back a score o_ards, now onward nearly to the door, now back again, now forced against th_pposite houses, now against those adjoining his own: now carried up a fligh_f steps, and greeted by the outstretched hands of half a hundred men, whil_he whole tumultuous concourse stretched their throats, and cheered with al_heir might. Though he was really in a fair way to be torn to pieces in th_eneral enthusiasm, the locksmith, nothing discomposed, echoed their shout_ill he was as hoarse as they, and in a glow of joy and right good-humour, waved his hat until the daylight shone between its brim and crown.
But in all the bandyings from hand to hand, and strivings to and fro, an_weepings here and there, which—saving that he looked more jolly and mor_adiant after every struggle—troubled his peace of mind no more than if he ha_een a straw upon the water’s surface, he never once released his firm gras_f an arm, drawn tight through his. He sometimes turned to clap this frien_pon the back, or whisper in his ear a word of staunch encouragement, or chee_im with a smile; but his great care was to shield him from the pressure, an_orce a passage for him to the Golden Key. Passive and timid, scared, pale, and wondering, and gazing at the throng as if he were newly risen from th_ead, and felt himself a ghost among the living, Barnaby—not Barnaby in th_pirit, but in flesh and blood, with pulses, sinews, nerves, and beatin_eart, and strong affections—clung to his stout old friend, and followed wher_e led.
And thus, in course of time, they reached the door, held ready for thei_ntrance by no unwilling hands. Then slipping in, and shutting out the crow_y main force, Gabriel stood between Mr Haredale and Edward Chester, an_arnaby, rushing up the stairs, fell upon his knees beside his mother’s bed.
‘Such is the blessed end, sir,’ cried the panting locksmith, to Mr Haredale, ‘of the best day’s work we ever did. The rogues! it’s been hard fighting t_et away from ’em. I almost thought, once or twice, they’d have been too muc_or us with their kindness!’
They had striven, all the previous day, to rescue Barnaby from his impendin_ate. Failing in their attempts, in the first quarter to which they addresse_hemselves, they renewed them in another. Failing there, likewise, they bega_fresh at midnight; and made their way, not only to the judge and jury who ha_ried him, but to men of influence at court, to the young Prince of Wales, an_ven to the ante-chamber of the King himself. Successful, at last, i_wakening an interest in his favour, and an inclination to inquire mor_ispassionately into his case, they had had an interview with the minister, i_is bed, so late as eight o’clock that morning. The result of a searchin_nquiry (in which they, who had known the poor fellow from his childhood, di_ther good service, besides bringing it about) was, that between eleven an_welve o’clock, a free pardon to Barnaby Rudge was made out and signed, an_ntrusted to a horse-soldier for instant conveyance to the place of execution.
This courier reached the spot just as the cart appeared in sight; and Barnab_eing carried back to jail, Mr Haredale, assured that all was safe, had gon_traight from Bloomsbury Square to the Golden Key, leaving to Gabriel th_rateful task of bringing him home in triumph.
‘I needn’t say,’ observed the locksmith, when he had shaken hands with all th_ales in the house, and hugged all the females, five- and-forty times, a_east, ‘that, except among ourselves, I didn’t want to make a triumph of it.
But, directly we got into the street we were known, and this hubbub began. O_he two,’ he added, as he wiped his crimson face, ‘and after experience o_oth, I think I’d rather be taken out of my house by a crowd of enemies, tha_scorted home by a mob of friends!’
It was plain enough, however, that this was mere talk on Gabriel’s part, an_hat the whole proceeding afforded him the keenest delight; for the peopl_ontinuing to make a great noise without, and to cheer as if their voices wer_n the freshest order, and good for a fortnight, he sent upstairs for Grip (who had come home at his master’s back, and had acknowledged the favours o_he multitude by drawing blood from every finger that came within his reach), and with the bird upon his arm presented himself at the first-floor window, and waved his hat again until it dangled by a shred, between his finger an_humb. This demonstration having been received with appropriate shouts, an_ilence being in some degree restored, he thanked them for their sympathy; an_aking the liberty to inform them that there was a sick person in the house, proposed that they should give three cheers for King George, three more fo_ld England, and three more for nothing particular, as a closing ceremony. Th_rowd assenting, substituted Gabriel Varden for the nothing particular; an_iving him one over, for good measure, dispersed in high good-humour.
What congratulations were exchanged among the inmates at the Golden Key, whe_hey were left alone; what an overflowing of joy and happiness there was amon_hem; how incapable it was of expression in Barnaby’s own person; and how h_ent wildly from one to another, until he became so far tranquillised, as t_tretch himself on the ground beside his mother’s couch and fall into a dee_leep; are matters that need not be told. And it is well they happened to b_f this class, for they would be very hard to tell, were their narration eve_o indispensable.
Before leaving this bright picture, it may be well to glance at a dark an_ery different one which was presented to only a few eyes, that same night.
The scene was a churchyard; the time, midnight; the persons, Edward Chester, _lergyman, a grave-digger, and the four bearers of a homely coffin. They stoo_bout a grave which had been newly dug, and one of the bearers held up a di_antern,—the only light there—which shed its feeble ray upon the book o_rayer. He placed it for a moment on the coffin, when he and his companion_ere about to lower it down. There was no inscription on the lid.
The mould fell solemnly upon the last house of this nameless man; and th_attling dust left a dismal echo even in the accustomed ears of those who ha_orne it to its resting-place. The grave was filled in to the top, and trodde_own. They all left the spot together.
‘You never saw him, living?’ asked the clergyman, of Edward.
‘Often, years ago; not knowing him for my brother.’
‘Never. Yesterday, he steadily refused to see me. It was urged upon him, man_imes, at my desire.’
‘Still he refused? That was hardened and unnatural.’
‘Do you think so?’
‘I infer that you do not?’
‘You are right. We hear the world wonder, every day, at monsters o_ngratitude. Did it never occur to you that it often looks for monsters o_ffection, as though they were things of course?’
They had reached the gate by this time, and bidding each other good night, departed on their separate ways.