Not opened yet, said Mr Chester. Dear me! I hope the aged soul has not caught her foot in some unlucky cobweb by the way. She is there at last! Come in, I beg!
Mr Haredale entered, followed by the locksmith. Turning with a look of great astonishment to the old woman who had opened the door, he inquired for Mrs Rudgefor Barnaby. They were both gone, she replied, wagging her ancient head, for good. There was a gentleman in the parlour, who perhaps could tell them more. That was all she knew.
Pray, sir, said Mr Haredale, presenting himself before this new tenant, where is the person whom I came here to see?
My dear friend, he returned, I have not the least idea.
Your trifling is ill-timed, retorted the other in a suppressed tone and voice, and its subject ill-chosen. Reserve it for those who are your friends, and do not expend it on me. I lay no claim to the distinction, and have the self-denial to reject it.
My dear, good sir, said Mr Chester, you are heated with walking. Sit down, I beg. Our friend is
Is but a plain honest man, returned Mr Haredale, and quite unworthy of your notice.
Gabriel Varden by name, sir, said the locksmith bluntly.
A worthy English yeoman! said Mr Chester. A most worthy yeoman, of whom I have frequently heard my son Neddarling fellow speak, and have often wished to see. Varden, my good friend, I am glad to know you. You wonder now, he said, turning languidly to Mr Haredale, to see me here. Now, I am sure you do.
Mr Haredale glanced at himnot fondly or admiringlysmiled, and held his peace.
The mystery is solved in a moment, said Mr Chester; in a moment. Will you step aside with me one instant. You remember our little compact in reference to Ned, and your dear niece, Haredale? You remember the list of assistants in their innocent intrigue? You remember these two people being among them? My dear fellow, congratulate yourself, and me. I have bought them off.
You have done what? said Mr Haredale.
Bought them off, returned his smiling friend. I have found it necessary to take some active steps towards setting this boy and girl attachment quite at rest, and have begun by removing these two agents. You are surprised? Who can withstand the influence of a little money! They wanted it, and have been bought off. We have nothing more to fear from them. They are gone.
Gone! echoed Mr Haredale. Where?
My dear fellowand you must permit me to say again, that you never looked so young; so positively boyish as you do to-nightthe Lord knows where; I believe Columbus himself wouldnt find them. Between you and me they have their hidden reasons, but upon that point I have pledged myself to secrecy. She appointed to see you here to-night, I know, but found it inconvenient, and couldnt wait. Here is the key of the door. I am afraid youll find it inconveniently large; but as the tenement is yours, your good- nature will excuse that, Haredale, I am certain!
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