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.
It was the voice of Miggs that greeted the locksmith, when he knocked at his own house, with a shrill cry of 'Who's there?'
What, already, sir!' said Miggs, opening the door with a look of surprise.
Miggs said this with an air of uncommon candour and concern; but the parlour-door was standing open, and as Gabriel very well knew for whose ears it was designed, he regarded her with anything but an approving look as he passed in.
'Master's come home, mim,' cried Miggs, running before him into the parlour.
'You had better,' said the locksmith, who most devoutly wished that Barnaby's raven was at Miggs's ankles, 'you had better get to bed at once then.'
'Thanking you kindly, sir,' returned Miggs, 'I couldn't take my rest in peace, nor fix my thoughts upon my prayers, otherways than that I knew mistress was comfortable in her bed this night; by rights she ought to have been there, hours ago.'
'Taking the hint, sir,' cried Miggs, with a flushed face, 'and thanking you for it most kindly, I will make bold to say, that if I give offence by having consideration for my mistress, I do not ask your pardon, but am content to get myself into trouble and to be in suffering.'
Here Mrs Varden, who, with her countenance shrouded in a large nightcap, had been all this time intent upon the Protestant Manual, looked round, and acknowledged Miggs's championship by commanding her to hold her tongue.
Every little bone in Miggs's throat and neck developed itself with a spitefulness quite alarming, as she replied, 'Yes, mim, I will.'
Miggs groaned in sympathy--a little short groan, checked in its birth, and changed into a cough.
'Your master speaks to you,' said Mrs Varden, looking sternly over her shoulder at Miss Miggs in waiting.