Charles Dickens

It was well the good horse knew the road he traversed, for never once--no, never once in all the journey--did Mr Haredale cast his eyes upon the ground, or turn them, for an instant, from the light towards which they sped so madly. Once he said in a low voice, 'It is my house,' but that was the only time he spoke. When they came to dark and doubtful places, he never forgot to put his hand upon the little man to hold him more securely in his seat, but he kept his head erect and his eyes fixed on the fire, then, and always.

The road was dangerous enough, for they went the nearest way-- headlong--far from the highway--by lonely lanes and paths, where waggon-wheels had worn deep ruts; where hedge and ditch hemmed in the narrow strip of ground; and tall trees, arching overhead, made it profoundly dark. But on, on, on, with neither stop nor stumble, till they reached the Maypole door, and could plainly see that the fire began to fade, as if for want of fuel.

'Down--for one moment--for but one moment,' said Mr Haredale, helping Daisy to the ground, and following himself. 'Willet-- Willet--where are my niece and servants--Willet!'

Crying to him distractedly, he rushed into the bar.--The landlord bound and fastened to his chair; the place dismantled, stripped, and pulled about his ears;--nobody could have taken shelter here.

He was a strong man, accustomed to restrain himself, and suppress his strong emotions; but this preparation for what was to follow-- though he had seen that fire burning, and knew that his house must be razed to the ground--was more than he could bear. He covered his face with his hands for a moment, and turned away his head.

'Johnny, Johnny,' said Solomon--and the simple-hearted fellow cried outright, and wrung his hands--'Oh dear old Johnny, here's a change! That the Maypole bar should come to this, and we should live to see it! The old Warren too, Johnny--Mr Haredale--oh, Johnny, what a piteous sight this is!'

Pointing to Mr Haredale as he said these words, little Solomon Daisy put his elbows on the back of Mr Willet's chair, and fairly blubbered on his shoulder.

While Solomon was speaking, old John sat, mute as a stock-fish, staring at him with an unearthly glare, and displaying, by every possible symptom, entire and complete unconsciousness. But when Solomon was silent again, John followed,with his great round eyes, the direction of his looks, and did appear to have some dawning distant notion that somebody had come to see him.

'You know us, don't you, Johnny?' said the little clerk, rapping himself on the breast. 'Daisy, you know--Chigwell Church--bell- ringer--little desk on Sundays--eh, Johnny?'

Mr Willet reflected for a few moments, and then muttered, as it were mechanically: 'Let us sing to the praise and glory of--'

'Yes, to be sure,' cried the little man, hastily; 'that's it-- that's me, Johnny. You're all right now, an't you? Say you're all right, Johnny.'

'All right?' pondered Mr Willet, as if that were a matter entirely between himself and his conscience. 'All right? Ah!'

'They haven't been misusing you with sticks, or pokers, or any other blunt instruments--have they, Johnny?' asked Solomon, with a very anxious glance at Mr Willet's head. 'They didn't beat you, did they?'

John knitted his brow; looked downwards, as if he were mentally engaged in some arithmetical calculation; then upwards, as if the total would not come at his call; then at Solomon Daisy, from his eyebrow to his shoe-buckle; then very slowly round the bar. And then a great, round, leaden-looking, and not at all transparent tear, came rolling out of each eye, and he said, as he shook his head:

'If they'd only had the goodness to murder me, I'd have thanked 'em kindly.'

'No, no, no, don't say that, Johnny,' whimpered his little friend. 'It's very, very bad, but not quite so bad as that. No, no!'

'Look'ee here, sir!' cried John, turning his rueful eyes on Mr Haredale, who had dropped on one knee, and was hastily beginning to untie his bonds.