Barnaby Rudge HTML version
Chronicler's are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to
ride upon the wind, to overcome, in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of
distance, time, and place. Thrice blessed be this last consideration, since it enables us
to follow the disdainful Miggs even into the sanctity of her chamber, and to hold her in
sweet companionship through the dreary watches of the night!
Miss Miggs, having undone her mistress, as she phrased it (which means, assisted to
undress her), and having seen her comfortably to bed in the back room on the first floor,
withdrew to her own apartment, in the attic story. Notwithstanding her declaration in the
locksmith's presence, she was in no mood for sleep; so, putting her light upon the table
and withdrawing the little window curtain, she gazed out pensively at the wild night sky.
Perhaps she wondered what star was destined for her habitation when she had run her
little course below; perhaps speculated which of those glimmering spheres might be the
natal orb of Mr Tappertit; perhaps marvelled how they could gaze down on that
perfidious creature, man, and not sicken and turn green as chemists' lamps; perhaps
thought of nothing in particular. Whatever she thought about, there she sat, until her
attention, alive to anything connected with the insinuating 'prentice, was attracted by a
noise in the next room to her own--his room; the room in which he slept, and dreamed--
it might be, sometimes dreamed of her.
That he was not dreaming now, unless he was taking a walk in his sleep, was clear, for
every now and then there came a shuffling noise, as though he were engaged in
polishing the whitewashed wall; then a gentle creaking of his door; then the faintest
indication of his stealthy footsteps on the landing-place outside. Noting this latter
circumstance, Miss Miggs turned pale and shuddered, as mistrusting his intentions; and
more than once exclaimed, below her breath, 'Oh! what a Providence it is, as I am
bolted in!'--which, owing doubtless to her alarm, was a confusion of ideas on her part
between a bolt and its use; for though there was one on the door, it was not fastened.
Miss Miggs's sense of hearing, however, having as sharp an edge as her temper, and
being of the same snappish and suspicious kind, very soon informed her that the
footsteps passed her door, and appeared to have some object quite separate and
disconnected from herself. At this discovery she became more alarmed than ever, and
was about to give utterance to those cries of 'Thieves!' and 'Murder!' which she had
hitherto restrained, when it occurred to her to look softly out, and see that her fears had
some good palpable foundation.
Looking out accordingly, and stretching her neck over the handrail, she descried, to her
great amazement, Mr Tappertit completely dressed, stealing downstairs, one step at a
time, with his shoes in one hand and a lamp in the other. Following him with her eyes,
and going down a little way herself to get the better of an intervening angle, she beheld