On the threshold of this door, Mr Haredale and Edward Chester met. The younger man gave place; and both passing in with a familiar air, which seemed to denote that they were tarrying there, or were well-accustomed to go to and fro unquestioned, shut it behind them.
Entering the old back-parlour, and ascending the flight of stairs, abrupt and steep, and quaintly fashioned as of old, they turned into the best room; the pride of Mrs Varden’s heart, and erst the scene of Miggs’s household labours.
‘Varden brought the mother here last evening, he told me?’ said Mr Haredale.
‘She is above-stairs now—in the room over here,’ Edward rejoined. ‘Her grief, they say, is past all telling. I needn’t add—for that you know beforehand, sir—that the care, humanity, and sympathy of these good people have no bounds.’
‘I am sure of that. Heaven repay them for it, and for much more! Varden is out?’
‘He returned with your messenger, who arrived almost at the moment of his coming home himself. He was out the whole night—but that of course you know. He was with you the greater part of it?’
‘He was. Without him, I should have lacked my right hand. He is an older man than I; but nothing can conquer him.’
‘The cheeriest, stoutest-hearted fellow in the world.’
‘He has a right to be. He has a right to he. A better creature never lived. He reaps what he has sown—no more.’
‘It is not all men,’ said Edward, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘who have the happiness to do that.’
‘More than you imagine,’ returned Mr Haredale. ‘We note the harvest more than the seed-time. You do so in me.’
In truth his pale and haggard face, and gloomy bearing, had so far influenced the remark, that Edward was, for the moment, at a loss to answer him.
‘Tut, tut,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘’twas not very difficult to read a thought so natural. But you are mistaken nevertheless. I have had my share of sorrows—more than the common lot, perhaps, but I have borne them ill. I have broken where I should have bent; and have mused and brooded, when my spirit should have mixed with all God’s great creation. The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother. I have turned FROM the world, and I pay the penalty.’
Edward would have interposed, but he went on without giving him time.
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