And so he sat for half an hour at least, although Dolly, in the most endearing of manners, hoped, a dozen times, that he was not angry with her. So he sat for half an hour, quite motionless, and looking all the while like nothing so much as a great Dutch Pin or Skittle. At the expiration of that period, he suddenly, and without the least notice, burst (to the great consternation of the young people) into a very loud and very short laugh; and repeating, 'Certainly, Joseph. Oh yes! Why not?' went out for a walk.
Old John did not walk near the Golden Key, for between the Golden Key and the Black Lion there lay a wilderness of streets--as everybody knows who is acquainted with the relative bearings of Clerkenwell and Whitechapel--and he was by no means famous for pedestrian exercises. But the Golden Key lies in our 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 pulled down by the rioters, and roughly trampled under foot. But, now, it was hoisted up again in all the glory of a new coat of paint, and shewed more bravely even than in days of yore. Indeed the whole house-front was spruce and trim, and so freshened up throughout, that if there yet remained at large any of the rioters 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 and wormwood.
The shutters of the shop were closed, however, and the window- blinds above were all pulled down, and in place of its usual cheerful appearance, the house had a look of sadness and an air of mourning; which the neighbours, who in old days 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 cat sat moping on the ashy forge; all was deserted, dark, and silent.
On the threshold of this door, Mr Haredale and Edward Chester met. The younger man gave place; and both passing in with a familiar air, which seemed to denote that they were tarrying there, or were well-accustomed to go to and fro unquestioned, shut it behind them.
Entering the old back-parlour, and ascending the flight of stairs, abrupt and steep, and quaintly fashioned as of old, they turned into the best room; the pride 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 no bounds.'
'I am sure of that. Heaven repay them for it, and for much more! Varden is out?'
'He returned with your messenger, who arrived almost at the moment of his coming 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 man than 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. He reaps what he has sown--no more.'
'It is not all men,' said Edward, after a moment's hesitation, 'who have the happiness to do that.'
'More than you imagine,' returned Mr Haredale. 'We note the harvest more than the seed-time. You do so in me.'
In truth his pale and haggard face, and gloomy bearing, had so far influenced the 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 so natural. But you are mistaken nevertheless. I have had my share of sorrows--more than the common lot, perhaps, but I have borne them ill. I have broken where I should have bent; and have mused and brooded, when my spirit should have mixed with all God's great creation.