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Dolly Varden's pretty little head was yet bewildered by various recollections of the party, and her bright eyes were yet dazzled by a crowd of images, dancing before them like motes in the sunbeams, among which the effigy of one partner in particular did especially figure, the same being a young coachmaker (a master in his own right), who had given her to understand, when he handed her into the chair at parting, that it was his fixed resolve to neglect his business from that time, and die slowly for the love of her-Dolly's head, and eyes, and thoughts, and seven senses, were all in a state of flutter and confusion for which the party was accountable, although it was now three days old, when, as she was sitting listlessly at breakfast, reading all manner of fortunes (that is to say, of married and flourishing fortunes) in the grounds of her teacup, a step was heard in the workshop, and Mr. Edward Chester was descried through the glass door, standing
• among the rusty locks and keys, like love among the roses
for which apt comparison the historian may by no means take any credit to himself, the same being the invention, in a sentimental mood, of the chaste and modest Miggs, who, beholding him from the doorsteps she was then cleaning, did, in her maiden meditation, give utterance to the simile.
The locksmith, who happened at the moment to have his eyes thrown upward and his head backward, in an intense communing with Toby, did not see his visitor, until Mrs. Varden, more watchful than the rest, had desired Sim Tappertit to open the glass door and give him admission from which untoward circumstance the good lady argued ( for she could deduce a precious moral from the most trilling event that to take a draught of small ale in the morning was to observe a pernicious, irreligious, and Pagan custom, the relish whereof should be left to swine, and Satan, or at least to Popish persons, and should be shunned by the righteous as a work of sin and evil. She would no doubt have pursued her admonition much further, and would have founded on it a long list of precious precepts of inestimable value, but that the young gentleman standing by in a somewhat uncomfortable and discomfited manner while she read her spouse this lecture, occasioned her to bring it to a premature conclusion.
, I'm sure you'll excuse me sir, » said Mrs. Varden, rising and curtseying. Varden is so very thoughtless, and needs so much reminding-Sim, bring a chair here,
Mr. Tappertit obeyed, with a flourish implying that he did so, under protest. - And you can go, Sim » said the locksmith.
Mr. Tappertit obeyed again, still under protest ; and betaking himself to the workshop, began seriously to fear that he might find it necessary to poison his master, before his time was out.
In the mean time, Edward returned suitable replies to Mrs. Varden's courtesies, and that lady 'brightened up very much; so that when he accepted a dish of tea from the fair hands of Dolly, she was perfectly agreeable.
« I am sure if there's anything we can do, -- Varden, or 1, or Dolly either, - to serve you, sir, at any time, you have only to say it, and it shall be done,” said Mrs. V.
«I am much obliged to you, I am sure » returned Edward. • You encourage me to say that I have come here now, to beg your good offices.
Mrs. Varden was delighted beyond measure.
« It occurred to me that probably your fair daughter might be going to the Warren, either to-day or to-morrow," said Edward, glancing at Dolly ; and if so, and you will allow her to take charge of this letter, Ma'am, you will oblige me more than I can tell you.
The truth is, that while I am very anxious it should reach its destination, I have particular reasons for not trusting it to any other conveyance; so that without your help, I am wholly at a loss. »
She was not going that way, sir, either to-day, or to-morrow, nos indeed all next week, » the lady graciously rejoined, but we shall be very glad to put ourselves out of the way on your account, and if you wish it, you may depend upon its going to-day. You might suppose " said Mrs. Varden, frowning at her husband, from Varden's sitting there so glum and silent, that he objected to this arrangement; but you must not mind that, sir, if you please. It's his way at home. Out of doors, he can be cheerful and talkative cnough. »
Now, the fact was, that the unfortunate locksmith, blessing his stars to find his helpmale in such good humour, had been sitting with a beaming face, hearing this discourse with a joy past all expression. Wherefore this sudden altack quite took him by surprise. My dear Martha-, he said.
Oh yes, I dare say, » interrupted Mrs. Varden, with a smile of mingled scorn and pleasantry. ~ Very dear! We all know that.”
« No, but my good soul, said Gabriel, " you are quite mistaken. You are indeed. I was delighted to find you so kind and ready. I waited, my dear, anxiously, I assure you, to hear what you would
say." • You wailed anxiously, » repeated Mrs. V. «Yes! thank you, Varden. You waited , as you always do, that I might bear the blame, if any came of it. But I am used to
it, » said the lady with a kind of solemn titter, and that's my comfort!,
«I give you my word, Martha-n said Gabriel.
« Let me give you my word, my dear, » interposed his wife with a christian smile, that such discussions as these between married people, are much better left alone. Therefore, if you please, Varden, we'll drop the subject. I have no wish to pursue it. I could, I might say a great deal. But I would rather not. Pray don't say any more. »
«I don't want to say any more, » rejoined the goaded locksmith.
« Well then, don't, " said Mrs. Varden.
Nor did I begin it, Martha,» added the locksmith, goodhumouredly, "I must say that. »
« You did not begin it, Varden ! » exclaimed his wife, opening her eyes very wide and looking round upon the company, as though she would say, You hear this man !
« You did not begin it, Varden ! But
was out of temper. No, you did not begin it, oh dear no, not you, my dear! »
« Well, well,” said the locksmith. That's settled then. »
« Oh yes, » rejoined his wife , «quite. If you like to say Dolly began it, my dear, I shall not contradict you. I know my duty. I need know it, I am sure. . I am often obliged to bear it in mind, when my inclination perhaps would be for the moment to forget it. Thank you, Varden, » and so, with a mighty show of humility and forgiveness, she folded her hands, and looked round again, with a smile which plainly said « If you desire to see the first and foremost among female martyrs, here she is, on view !.
This little incident, illustrative though it was of Mrs. Varden's extraordinary sweetness and amiability, had so strong a tendency to check the conversation and to disconcert all parties but that excellent lady, that only a few monosyllables were uttered until Edward withdrew; which he presently did, thanking the lady of the house a great many times for her condescension, and whispering in Dolly's ear that he would call on the morrow, in case there should happen to be an answer to
the note - which, indeed, she knew without his telling, as Barnaby and his friend Grip had dropped in on the previous night to prepare her for the visit which was then terminating.
Gabriel, who had attended Edward to the door, came back with his hands in his pockets ; and, after fidgeting about the room in a very uneasy manner, and casting a great many sidelong looks at Mrs. Varden (who with the calmest countenance in the world was five fathoms deep in the Protestant Manual), inquired of Dolly how she meant to go. Dolly supposed by the stage-coach, and looked at her lady mother, who finding herself silently appealed to, dived down at least another fathom into the Manual, and became unconscious of all earthly things.
# Martha», said the locksmith.
I hear you, Varden,” said his wife, without rising to the surface.
« I am sorry, my dear, you have such an objection to the Maypole and old John, for otherways as it's a very fine morning, and Saturday's not a busy day with us, we might have all three gone to Chigwell in the chaise, and had quite a happy day of it.
Mrs. Varden immediately closed the Manual, and bursting into tears, requested to be led up-stairs.
What is the matter now, Martha? » enquired the locksmith. To which Martha rejoined « Oh! don't speak to me, » and protested in an agony that if anybody had told her so, she wouldn't have believed it.
« But Martha » said Gabriel , putting himself in the way as she was moving off with the aid of Dolly's shoulder, « wouldn't have believed what? Tell me what's wrong now. Do tell me. Upon my soul I don't know. Do you know, child ? Damme ! » cried the locksmith, plucking at his wig in a kind of frenzy, « nobody does know, I verily believe, but Miggs! »
« Miggs, » said Mrs. Varden faintly, and with symptoms of approaching incoherence, is attached to me, and that is sufficient to draw down hatred upon her in this house. She is a comfort to me, whatever she may be to others. »
. She's no comfort to me, » cried Gabriel , made bold by despair. She's the misery of my life. She's all the plagues of Egypt in one. »