Dolly hugged her father as has been already stated, and having hugged her mother also, accompanied both into the little parlour where the cloth was already laid for dinner, and where Miss Miggs-- a trifle more rigid and bony than of yore--received her with a sort of hysterical gasp, intended for a smile. Into the hands of that young virgin, she delivered her bonnet and walking dress (all of a dreadful, artful, and designing kind), and then said with a laugh, which rivalled the locksmith's music, 'How glad I always am to be at home again!'
'And how glad we always are, Doll,' said her father, putting back the dark hair from her sparkling eyes, 'to have you at home. Give me a kiss.'
If there had been anybody of the male kind there to see her do it-- but there was not--it was a mercy.
'I don't like your being at the Warren,' said the locksmith, 'I can't bear to have you out of my sight. And what is the news over yonder, Doll?'
'What news there is, I think you know already,' replied his daughter. 'I am sure you do though.'
'Ay?' cried the locksmith. 'What's that?'
'Come, come,' said Dolly, 'you know very well. I want you to tell me why Mr Haredale--oh, how gruff he is again, to be sure!--has been away from home for some days past, and why he is travelling about (we know he IS travelling, because of his letters) without telling his own niece why or wherefore.'
'Miss Emma doesn't want to know, I'll swear,' returned the locksmith.
'I don't know that,' said Dolly; 'but I do, at any rate. Do tell me. Why is he so secret, and what is this ghost story, which nobody is to tell Miss Emma, and which seems to be mixed up with his going away? Now I see you know by your colouring so.'
'What the story means, or is, or has to do with it, I know no more than you, my dear,' returned the locksmith, 'except that it's some foolish fear of little Solomon's--which has, indeed, no meaning in it, I suppose. As to Mr Haredale's journey, he goes, as I believe--'
'Yes,' said Dolly.
'As I believe,' resumed the locksmith, pinching her cheek, 'on business, Doll. What it may be, is quite another matter. Read Blue Beard, and don't be too curious, pet; it's no business of yours or mine, depend upon that; and here's dinner, which is much more to the purpose.'
Dolly might have remonstrated against this summary dismissal of the subject, notwithstanding the appearance of dinner, but at the mention of Blue Beard Mrs Varden interposed, protesting she could not find it in her conscience to sit tamely by, and hear her child recommended to peruse the adventures of a Turk and Mussulman--far less of a fabulous Turk, which she considered that potentate to be. She held that, in such stirring and tremendous times as those in which they lived, it would be much more to the purpose if Dolly became a regular subscriber to the Thunderer, where she would have an opportunity of reading Lord George Gordon's speeches word for word, which would be a greater comfort and solace to her, than a hundred and fifty Blue Beards ever could impart. She appealed in support of this proposition to Miss Miggs, then in waiting, who said that indeed the peace of mind she had derived from the perusal of that paper generally, but especially of one article of the very last week as ever was, entitled 'Great Britain drenched in gore,' exceeded all belief; the same composition, she added, had also wrought such a comforting effect on the mind of a married sister of hers, then resident at Golden Lion Court, number twenty-sivin, second bell-handle on the right-hand door-post, that, being in a delicate state of health, and in fact expecting an addition to her family, she had been seized with fits directly after its perusal, and had raved of the Inquisition ever since; to the great improvement of her husband and friends. Miss Miggs went on to say that she would recommend all those whose hearts were hardened to hear Lord George themselves, whom she commended first, in respect of his steady Protestantism, then of his oratory, then of his eyes, then of his nose, then of his legs, and lastly of his figure generally, which she looked upon as fit for any statue, prince, or angel, to which sentiment Mrs Varden fully subscribed.