Chapters 1-3 Summary

John Willet is the landlord of the Maypole, an inn on the edge of the Epping Forest a short distance from London. On a March evening, several guests gather in the Maypole. One of them is a stranger who asks about the brick house nearby. Joe Willet, John’s son, answers that the house is known as the Warren and belongs to Mr. Haredale. The stranger asks about a young lady who alighted from a carriage there; he suggests she might be Mr. Haredale’s daughter. Joe replies that Mr. Haredale is single (which, the stranger points out, never stopped some people from having a daughter). A young man leaves and Joe accompanies him to light his way to the door.

When Joe returns, he tries to add to the conversation of the other men, but his father tells him to be silent and listen to his elders. The other men agree. Solomon Daisy, the parish clerk, tells the story of the Haredales. The present Mr. Haredale had an older brother, Reuben, who owned the Warren at that time. He had one daughter, who is the young lady seen by the stranger. Reuben was murdered twenty-two years before, holding on to a bell, which Solomon Daisy had heard ringing in the night. The steward and the gardener were both missing. The body of Barnaby Rudge, the steward, was found in a ditch later. It is thus assumed that the gardener was the murderer.

The stranger leaves, though Joe recommends that he spend the night. The stranger strikes Joe with the butt of his whip and rides off. As he rides furiously down the road in the night, he almost runs into a wagon driven by Gabriel Varden, a blacksmith from London. The stranger demands a light, claiming that Gabriel’s wheel has damaged his horse. When it is determined that horse is uninjured, the stranger begins to hand back the light but throws it on the ground and crushes it when he sees Gabriel’s face. He calls him by name, threatening him, though Gabriel does not recognize the stranger. Afterward, Gabriel decides to go to...

(The entire section is 582 words.)