The Royal East London Volunteers made a brilliant sight that day: formed into lines, squares, circles, triangles, and what not, to the beating of drums, and the streaming of flags; and performed a vast number of complex evolutions, in all of which Sergeant Varden bore a conspicuous share. Having displayed their military prowess to the utmost in these warlike shows, they marched in glittering order to the Chelsea Bun House, and regaled in the adjacent taverns until dark. Then at sound of drum they fell in again, and returned amidst the shouting of His Majestys lieges to the place from whence they came.
The homeward march being somewhat tardy,owing to the un- soldierlike behaviour of certain corporals, who, being gentlemen of sedentary pursuits in private life and excitable out of doors, broke several windows with their bayonets, and rendered it imperative on the commanding officer to deliver them over to a strong guard, with whom they fought at intervals as they came along,it was nine oclock when the locksmith reached home. A hackney-coach was waiting near his door; and as he passed it, Mr Haredale looked from the window and called him by his name.
The sight of you is good for sore eyes, sir, said the locksmith, stepping up to him. I wish you had walked in though, rather than waited here.
There is nobody at home, I find, Mr Haredale answered; besides, I desired to be as private as I could.
Humph! muttered the locksmith, looking round at his house. Gone with Simon Tappertit to that precious Branch, no doubt.
Mr Haredale invited him to come into the coach, and, if he were not tired or anxious to go home, to ride with him a little way that they might have some talk together. Gabriel cheerfully complied, and the coachman mounting his box drove off.
Varden, said Mr Haredale, after a minutes pause, you will be amazed to hear what errand I am on; it will seem a very strange one.
I have no doubt its a reasonable one, sir, and has a meaning in it, replied the locksmith; or it would not be yours at all. Have you just come back to town, sir?
But half an hour ago.
Bringing no news of Barnaby, or his mother? said the locksmith dubiously. Ah! you neednt shake your head, sir. It was a wild- goose chase. I feared that, from the first. You exhausted all reasonable means of discovery when they went away. To begin again after so long a time has passed is hopeless, sirquite hopeless.
Why, where are they? he returned impatiently. Where can they be? Above ground?
God knows, rejoined the locksmith, many that I knew above it five years ago, have their beds under the grass now. And the world is a wide place. Its a hopeless attempt, sir, believe me. We must leave the discovery of this mystery, like all others, to time, and accident, and Heavens pleasure.
Varden, my good fellow, said Mr Haredale, I have a deeper meaning in my present anxiety to find them out, than you can fathom. It is not a mere whim; it is not the casual revival of my old wishes and desires; but an earnest, solemn purpose. My thoughts and dreams all tend to it, and fix it in my mind. I have no rest by day or night; I have no peace or quiet; I am haunted.
His voice was so altered from its usual tones, and his manner bespoke so much emotion, that Gabriel, in his wonder, could only sit and look towards him in the darkness, and fancy the expression of his face.
Do not ask me, continued Mr Haredale, to explain myself. If I were to do so, you would think me the victim of some hideous fancy. It is enough that this is so, and that I cannotno, I can notlie quietly in my bed, without doing what will seem to you incomprehensible.
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