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Chapter 79

  • 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 since?’
  • ‘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.