Barnaby Rudge HTML version

Chapter 20
The proud consciousness of her trust, and the great importance she derived from it,
might have advertised it to all the house if she had had to run the gauntlet of its
inhabitants; but as Dolly had played in every dull room and passage many and many a
time, when a child, and had ever since been the humble friend of Miss Haredale, whose
foster-sister she was, she was as free of the building as the young lady herself. So,
using no greater precaution than holding her breath and walking on tiptoe as she
passed the library door, she went straight to Emma's room as a privileged visitor.
It was the liveliest room in the building. The chamber was sombre like the rest for the
matter of that, but the presence of youth and beauty would make a prison cheerful
(saving alas! that confinement withers them), and lend some charms of their own to the
gloomiest scene. Birds, flowers, books, drawing, music, and a hundred such graceful
tokens of feminine loves and cares, filled it with more of life and human sympathy than
the whole house besides seemed made to hold. There was heart in the room; and who
that has a heart, ever fails to recognise the silent presence of another!
Dolly had one undoubtedly, and it was not a tough one either, though there was a little
mist of coquettishness about it, such as sometimes surrounds that sun of life in its
morning, and slightly dims its lustre. Thus, when Emma rose to greet her, and kissing
her affectionately on the cheek, told her, in her quiet way, that she had been very
unhappy, the tears stood in Dolly's eyes, and she felt more sorry than she could tell; but
next moment she happened to raise them to the glass, and really there was something
there so exceedingly agreeable, that as she sighed, she smiled, and felt surprisingly
'I have heard about it, miss,' said Dolly, 'and it's very sad indeed, but when things are at
the worst they are sure to mend.'
'But are you sure they are at the worst?' asked Emma with a smile.
'Why, I don't see how they can very well be more unpromising than they are; I really
don't,' said Dolly. 'And I bring something to begin with.'
'Not from Edward?'
Dolly nodded and smiled, and feeling in her pockets (there were pockets in those days)
with an affectation of not being able to find what she wanted, which greatly enhanced
her importance, at length produced the letter. As Emma hastily broke the seal and
became absorbed in its contents, Dolly's eyes, by one of those strange accidents for
which there is no accounting, wandered to the glass again. She could not help
wondering whether the coach-maker suffered very much, and quite pitied the poor man.