'He mistook the house, and tried to force an entrance.'
She breathed more freely, but stood quite motionless. As the locksmith said 'Good night,' and Barnaby caught up the candle to light him down the stairs, she took it from him, and charged him-- with more haste and earnestness than so slight an occasion appeared to warrant--not to stir. The raven followed them to satisfy himself that all was right below, and when they reached the street- door, stood on the bottom stair drawing corks out of number.
With a trembling hand she unfastened the chain and bolts, and turned the key. As she had her hand upon the latch, the locksmith said in a low voice,
'I have told a lie to-night, for your sake, Mary, and for the sake of bygone times and old acquaintance, when I would scorn to do so for my own. I hope I may have done no harm, or led to none. I can't help the suspicions you have forced upon me, and I am loth, I tell you plainly, to leave Mr Edward here. Take care he comes to no hurt. I doubt the safety of this roof, and am glad he leaves it so soon. Now, let me go.'
For a moment she hid her face in her hands and wept; but resisting the strong impulse which evidently moved her to reply, opened the door--no wider than was sufficient for the passage of his body-- and motioned him away. As the locksmith stood upon the step, it was chained and locked behind him, and the raven, in furtherance of these precautions, barked like a lusty house-dog.
'In league with that ill-looking figure that might have fallen from a gibbet--he listening and hiding here--Barnaby first upon the spot last night--can she who has always borne so fair a name be guilty of such crimes in secret!' said the locksmith, musing. 'Heaven forgive me if I am wrong, and send me just thoughts; but she is poor, the temptation may be great, and we daily hear of things as strange.--Ay, bark away, my friend. If there's any wickedness going on, that raven's in it, I'll be sworn.'
Mrs Varden was a lady of what is commonly called an uncertain temper--a phrase which being interpreted signifies a temper tolerably certain to make everybody more or less uncomfortable. Thus it generally happened, that when other people were merry, Mrs Varden was dull; and that when other people were dull, Mrs Varden was disposed to be amazingly cheerful. Indeed the worthy housewife was of such a capricious nature, that she not only attained a higher pitch of genius than Macbeth, in respect of her ability to be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral in an instant, but would sometimes ring the changes backwards and forwards on all possible moods and flights in one short quarter of an hour; performing, as it were, a kind of triple bob major on the peal of instruments in the female belfry, with a skilfulness and rapidity of execution that astonished all who heard her.
It had been observed in this good lady (who did not want for personal attractions, being plump and buxom to look at, though like her fair daughter, somewhat short in stature) that this uncertainty of disposition strengthened and increased with her temporal prosperity; and divers wise men and matrons, on friendly terms with the locksmith and his family, even went so far as to assert, that a tumble down some half-dozen rounds in the world's ladder--such as the breaking of the bank in which her husband kept his money, or some little fall of that kind--would be the making of her, and could hardly fail to render her one of the most agreeable companions in existence. Whether they were right or wrong in this conjecture, certain it is that minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort, and like them, are often successfully cured by remedies in themselves very nauseous and unpalatable.
Mrs Varden's chief aider and abettor, and at the same time her principal victim and object of wrath, was her single domestic servant, one Miss Miggs; or as she was called, in conformity with those prejudices of society which lop and top from poor hand- maidens all such genteel excrescences--Miggs.