Gabriel, not knowing what to think, stood staring at the door with a countenance full of surprise and dismay. The more he pondered on what had passed, the less able he was to give it any favourable interpretation. To find this widow woman, whose life for so many years had been supposed to be one of solitude and retirement, and who, in her quiet suffering character, had gained the good opinion and respect of all who knew herto find her linked mysteriously with an ill-omened man, alarmed at his appearance, and yet favouring his escape, was a discovery that pained as much as startled him. Her reliance on his secrecy, and his tacit acquiescence, increased his distress of mind. If he had spoken boldly, persisted in questioning her, detained her when she rose to leave the room, made any kind of protest, instead of silently compromising himself, as he felt he had done, he would have been more at ease.
Why did I let her say it was a secret, and she trusted it to me! said Gabriel, putting his wig on one side to scratch his head with greater ease, and looking ruefully at the fire. I have no more readiness than old John himself. Why didnt I say firmly, You have no right to such secrets, and I demand of you to tell me what this means, instead of standing gaping at her, like an old moon- calf as I am! But theres my weakness. I can be obstinate enough with men if need be, but women may twist me round their fingers at their pleasure.
He took his wig off outright as he made this reflection, and, warming his handkerchief at the fire began to rub and polish his bald head with it, until it glistened again.
And yet, said the locksmith, softening under this soothing process, and stopping to smile, it may be nothing. Any drunken brawler trying to make his way into the house, would have alarmed a quiet soul like her. But thenand here was the vexationhow came it to be that man; how comes he to have this influence over her; how came she to favour his getting away from me; and, more than all, how came she not to say it was a sudden fright, and nothing more? Its a sad thing to have, in one minute, reason to mistrust a person I have known so long, and an old sweetheart into the bargain; but what else can I do, with all this upon my mind! Is that Barnaby outside there?
Aye! he cried, looking in and nodding. Sure enough its Barnabyhow did you guess?
By your shadow, said the locksmith.
Oho! cried Barnaby, glancing over his shoulder, Hes a merry fellow, that shadow, and keeps close to me, though I am silly. We have such pranks, such walks, such runs, such gambols on the grass! Sometimes hell be half as tall as a church steeple, and sometimes no bigger than a dwarf. Now, he goes on before, and now behind, and anon hell be stealing on, on this side, or on that, stopping whenever I stop, and thinking I cant see him, though I have my eye on him sharp enough. Oh! hes a merry fellow. Tell meis he silly too? I think he is.
Why? asked Gabriel.
Because be never tires of mocking me, but does it all day long. Why dont you come?
Upstairs. He wants you. Staywheres his shadow? Come. Youre a wise man; tell me that.
Beside him, Barnaby; beside him, I suppose, returned the locksmith.
No! he replied, shaking his head. Guess again.
Gone out a walking, maybe?
He has changed shadows with a woman, the idiot whispered in his ear, and then fell back with a look of triumph. Her shadows always with him, and his with her. Thats sport I think, eh?
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