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Barnaby,” said the locksmith, with a grave look ;' « come hither, lad..
« I know what you want to say. I know!» he replied , keeping away from him." But I'm cunning, I'm silent. I only say so much to you-are you ready?. As he spoke, he caught up the light, and waved it with a wild laugh above his head.
Softly-gently, said the locksmith, exerting all his influence to keep him calm and quiet. «I thought you had been asleep. »
a So I have been asleep, » he rejoined, with widely-opened eyes. « There have been great faces coming and going-close to my face, and then a mile away-low places to creep through, whether I would or no-high churches to fall down fromstrange creatures crowded up together neck and heels, to sit upon the bed- that's sleep, eh? »
« Dreams, Barnaby, dreams,» said the locksmith.
• Dreams! he echoed softly, drawing closer to him. Those are not dreams. »
« What are, · replied the locksmith, « if they are not ?,
"I dreamed, » said Barnaby, passing his arm through Varden's , and peering close into his face as he answered in a whisper, I dreamed just now that something—it was in the shape of a man-followed me--came softly after me-wouldn't let me be-but was always hiding and crouching, like a cat in dark corners, waiting till I should pass; when it crept out and eame softly after me -Did you ever see me run ? »
• Many a time, you know. »
You never saw me run as I did in this dream. Still it came creeping on to worry me. Nearer, nearer, nearer-I ran faster-leaped—sprung out of bed, and to the window-and there, in the street below---but he is waiting for us. coming ? ,
“What in the street below, dear Barnaby ?» said Varden, imagining that he traced some connexion between this vision and what had actually occurred.
Barnaby looked into his face, muttered incoherently, waved the light above his head again , laughed , and drawing the
locksmith's arm more tightly through his own, led him up the stairs in silence.
They entered a homely bedehamber, garnished in a seanty way with chairs whose spindle-shanks bespoke their age, and other furniture of very little worth; but clean and neatly kept. Reclining in an easy chair before the fire, pale and weak from waste of blood , was Edward Chester, the young gentleman that had been the first to quit the Maypole on the previous night, who, extending his hand to the locksmith , welcomed him as his preserver and friend.
Say no more , sir, say no more, said Gabriel. * I hope I would have done at least as much for any man in such a strait, and most of all for you, sir. "A certain young lady, he added, with some hesitation, in has done us many: a kind lurn, and we naturally feel I hope I give you no offence in saying this, sir ? »
The young man' smiled and shook his head ; at the same time moving in his chair as if in pain.
and It's no great matter, » he said, in answer to the locksmith's sympathising look, «å mere uneasiness arising at least as much from being cooped up here, as from the slight wound I have, or from the loss of blood. Be seated, Mr. Varden.n
If I may make so bold, Mr. Edward, as to lean upon your chair, - returned the locksmith , accommodating his action to his speech , and bending over him, « I'll stand here, for the convenience of speaking low. Barnaby is not in his quietest humour to-night, and at such times talking never does him good.
They both glanced at the subject of this remark, who had taken a seat on the other side of the fire, and, smiling vacantly, was making puzzles on his fingers with a skein of string.
Pray, tell me, sir, " said Varden , dropping bis voice still lower, « exactly what happened last night. I have my reason for inquiring. You left the Maypole, alone ? » Tu And walked homeward alone until I had nearly reached the place where you found me, when I heard the gallop of a horse. » '--- Behind you ?.» said the locksmith.
. Indeed, yes--behind me. It was a single rider, who soon overtook me, and checking his horse , inquired the way to London.
« You were on the alert, sir, knowing how many highwaymen there are, scouring the roads in all directions ? » said Varden.
« I was, but I had only a stick, having imprudently left my pistols in their holster-case with the landlord's son. I directed him as he desired. Before the words had passed my lips, he rode upon me furiously, as if bent on trampling me down beneath his horse's hoofs. In starting aside I slipped and fell. You found me with this stab and an ugly bruise or two, and without my purse--in which he found little enough for his pains. And now, Mr. Varden," he added, shaking the locksmith by the hand , usaving the extent of my gratitude to you, you know as much as 1. »
• Except, - said Gabriel, bending down yet more, and looking cautiously towards their silent neighbour, « except in respect of the robber himself. What like was he, sir ? Speak low, if you please. Barnaby means no harm, but I have watched him oftener than you, and I know, little as you would think it, that he's listening now.
It required a strong confidence in the locksmith's veraeity to lead any one to this belief, for every sense and faculty that Barnaby possessed, seemed to be fixed upon his game, to the exclusion of all other things. Something in the young man's face expressed this opinion, for Gabriel repeated what he had just said, more earnestly than before, and with another glance towards Barnaby, again asked what like the man was.
« The night was so dark, » said Edward, « the attack so sudden, and he so wrapped and muffled up, that I can hardly say It seems that-n
« Don't mention his name, sir, · returned the locksmith, following his look towards Barnaby'; « I know he saw him. 'I want to know what you saw.”
« All I remember is,” said Edward, « that as he checked his horse his hat was blown off. I caught it and replaced it on his head, which I observed was bound with a dark handker
A stranger entered the Maypole while I was there , whom I had not seen, for I sat apart for reasons of my own, and when I rose to leave the room and glanced round, he was in the shadow of the chimney and hidden from my sight. But if he and the robber were two different persons , their voices were strangely and most remarkably alike; for directly the man addressed me in the road, I recognised his speech again.
It is as I feared. The very man was here to-night, thought the locksmith, changing colour. What dark history is this! »
Halloa ! » cried a hoarse voice in his ear. Halloa, halloa, halloa! Bow Wow wow. What's the matter here! Hal-loa!»
The speaker--who made the locksmith start, as if he had been some supernatural agent - was a large raven; who had perched upon the top of the easy-chair, unseen by him and Edward, and listened with a polite attention and a most extraordinary appearance of comprehending every word, to all they had said up to this point ; turning his head from one to the other, as if his office were to judge between them, and it were of the very last importance that he should not lose a word.
« Look at him !» said Varden , divided between admiration of the bird and a kind of fear of him. « Was there ever such a knowing imp as that! Oh he's a dreadful fellow ! »
The raven, with his head very much on one side, and his bright eye shining like a diamond, preserved a thoughtful silence for a few seconds, and then replied in a voice so hoarse and distant, that it seemed to come through his thick feathers rather than out of his mouth.
Halloa, halloa, balloa ! What's the matter here! Keep up your spirits. Never say die. Bow wow wow. I'm a devil, I'm a devil, I'm a devil. Hurrah !»--- And then, as if exulting in his infernal character, he began to whistle.
«I more than half believe he speaks the truth. Upon my word I do,” said Varden. Do you see how he looks at me, as if he knew what I was saying ? »
To which the bird, balancing himself on tiptoe, as it were, and moving his body up and down in a sort of grave dance,
He calls me,
rejoined, « I'm a devil, I'm a devil, I'm a devil, » and flapped his wings against his sides as if he were bursting with laughter. Barnaby clapped his hands, and fairly rolled upon the ground in an ecstacy of delight.
Strange companions, sir, » said the locksmith , shaking his head and looking from one to other. « The bird has all the wit. »
« Strange indeed!» said Edward, holding out his forefinger to the raven, who, in acknowledgement of the attention, made a dive at it immediately with his iron bill. Is he old ? »
• A mere boy, sir, - replied the locksmith. A hundred and twenty, or thereabouts. Call him down, Barnaby my man.”
« Call him!» echoed Barnaby, silting upright upon the floor, and staring vacantly at Gabriel, as he thrust his hair back from his face. « But who can make him come! and makes me go where he will. He goes on before, and I follow. He's the master, and I'm the man.. Is that the truth, Grip ? »
The raven gave a short, comfortable, confidential kind of croak ;-a most expressive croak, which seemed to say You needn't let these fellows into our secrets. We understand each other. It's all right. »
« I make him come !» cried Barnaby, pointing to the bird. • Him, who never goes to sleep, or so much as winks!— Why, any time of night, you may see his eyes in my dark room, shining like two sparks. And every night, and all night too, he's broad awake, talking to himself, thinking what he shall do to-morrow, where we shall steal, and hide, and bury. I make him come! Ha, ha, ha! »
On second thoughts, the bird appeared disposed to come of himself. After a short survey of the ground, and a few sidelong looks at the ceiling and at everybody present in turn, he fluttered to the floor, and went to Barnaby-not in a hop, or walk, or run, but in a pace like that of a very particular gentleman with exceedingly tight boots on , trying to walk fast over Joose pebbles. Then, slepping into his extended hand, and condescending to be held out at arm's length, he gave vent to a succession of sounds, not unlike the drawing