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Barnaby Rudge

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Chapter 71

All next day, Emma Haredale, Dolly, and Miggs, remained cooped up together in what had now been their prison for so many days, without seeing any person, or hearing any sound but the murmured conversation, in an outer room, of the men who kept watch over them. There appeared to be more of these fellows than there had been hitherto; and they could no longer hear the voices of women, which they had before plainly distinguished. Some new excitement, too, seemed to prevail among them; for there was much stealthy going in and out, and a constant questioning of those who were newly arrived. They had previously been quite reckless in their behaviour; often making a great uproar; quarrelling among themselves, fighting, dancing, and singing. They were now very subdued and silent, conversing almost in whispers, and stealing in and out with a soft and stealthy tread, very different from the boisterous trampling in which their arrivals and departures had hitherto been announced to the trembling captives.

Whether this change was occasioned by the presence among them of some person of authority in their ranks, or by any other cause, they were unable to decide. Sometimes they thought it was in part attributable to there being a sick man in the chamber, for last night there had been a shuffling of feet, as though a burden were brought in, and afterwards a moaning noise. But they had no means of ascertaining the truth: for any question or entreaty on their parts only provoked a storm of execrations, or something worse; and they were too happy to be left alone, unassailed by threats or admiration, to risk even that comfort, by any voluntary communication with those who held them in durance.

It was sufficiently evident, both to Emma and to the locksmith’s poor little daughter herself, that she, Dolly, was the great object of attraction; and that so soon as they should have leisure to indulge in the softer passion, Hugh and Mr Tappertit would certainly fall to blows for her sake; in which latter case, it was not very difficult to see whose prize she would become. With all her old horror of that man revived, and deepened into a degree of aversion and abhorrence which no language can describe; with a thousand old recollections and regrets, and causes of distress, anxiety, and fear, besetting her on all sides; poor Dolly Varden—sweet, blooming, buxom Dolly—began to hang her head, and fade, and droop, like a beautiful flower. The colour fled from her cheeks, her courage forsook her, her gentle heart failed. Unmindful of all her provoking caprices, forgetful of all her conquests and inconstancy, with all her winning little vanities quite gone, she nestled all the livelong day in Emma Haredale’s bosom; and, sometimes calling on her dear old grey-haired father, sometimes on her mother, and sometimes even on her old home, pined slowly away, like a poor bird in its cage.

Light hearts, light hearts, that float so gaily on a smooth stream, that are so sparkling and buoyant in the sunshine—down upon fruit, bloom upon flowers, blush in summer air, life of the winged insect, whose whole existence is a day—how soon ye sink in troubled water! Poor Dolly’s heart—a little, gentle, idle, fickle thing; giddy, restless, fluttering; constant to nothing but bright looks, and smiles and laughter—Dolly’s heart was breaking.

Emma had known grief, and could bear it better. She had little comfort to impart, but she could soothe and tend her, and she did so; and Dolly clung to her like a child to its nurse. In endeavouring to inspire her with some fortitude, she increased her own; and though the nights were long, and the days dismal, and she felt the wasting influence of watching and fatigue, and had perhaps a more defined and clear perception of their destitute condition and its worst dangers, she uttered no complaint. Before the ruffians, in whose power they were, she bore herself so calmly, and with such an appearance, in the midst of all her terror, of a secret conviction that they dared not harm her, that there was not a man among them but held her in some degree of dread; and more than one believed she had a weapon hidden in her dress, and was prepared to use it.

Such was their condition when they were joined by Miss Miggs, who gave them to understand that she too had been taken prisoner because of her charms, and detailed such feats of resistance she had performed (her virtue having given her supernatural strength), that they felt it quite a happiness to have her for a champion. Nor was this the only comfort they derived at first from Miggs’s presence and society: for that young lady displayed such resignation and long-suffering, and so much meek endurance, under her trials, and breathed in all her chaste discourse a spirit of such holy confidence and resignation, and devout belief that all would happen for the best, that Emma felt her courage strengthened by the bright example; never doubting but that everything she said was true, and that she, like them, was torn from all she loved, and agonised by doubt and apprehension. As to poor Dolly, she was roused, at first, by seeing one who came from home; but when she heard under what circumstances she had left it, and into whose hands her father had fallen, she wept more bitterly than ever, and refused all comfort.

Miss Miggs was at some trouble to reprove her for this state of mind, and to entreat her to take example by herself, who, she said, was now receiving back, with interest, tenfold the amount of her subscriptions to the red-brick dwelling-house, in the articles of peace of mind and a quiet conscience. And, while on serious topics, Miss Miggs considered it her duty to try her hand at the conversion of Miss Haredale; for whose improvement she launched into a polemical address of some length, in the course whereof, she likened herself unto a chosen missionary, and that young lady to a cannibal in darkness. Indeed, she returned so often to these subjects, and so frequently called upon them to take a lesson from her,—at the same time vaunting and, as it were, rioting in, her huge unworthiness, and abundant excess of sin,—that, in the course of a short time, she became, in that small chamber, rather a nuisance than a comfort, and rendered them, if possible, even more unhappy than they had been before.

The night had now come; and for the first time (for their jailers had been regular in bringing food and candles), they were left in darkness. Any change in their condition in such a place inspired new fears; and when some hours had passed, and the gloom was still unbroken, Emma could no longer repress her alarm.

They listened attentively. There was the same murmuring in the outer room, and now and then a moan which seemed to be wrung from a person in great pain, who made an effort to subdue it, but could not. Even these men seemed to be in darkness too; for no light shone through the chinks in the door, nor were they moving, as their custom was, but quite still: the silence being unbroken by so much as the creaking of a board.

At first, Miss Miggs wondered greatly in her own mind who this sick person might be; but arriving, on second thoughts, at the conclusion that he was a part of the schemes on foot, and an artful device soon to be employed with great success, she opined, for Miss Haredale’s comfort, that it must be some misguided Papist who had been wounded: and this happy supposition encouraged her to say, under her breath, ‘Ally Looyer!’ several times.

‘Is it possible,’ said Emma, with some indignation, ‘that you who have seen these men committing the outrages you have told us of, and who have fallen into their hands, like us, can exult in their cruelties!’

‘Personal considerations, miss,’ rejoined Miggs, ‘sinks into nothing, afore a noble cause. Ally Looyer! Ally Looyer! Ally Looyer, good gentlemen!’

It seemed from the shrill pertinacity with which Miss Miggs repeated this form of acclamation, that she was calling the same through the keyhole of the door; but in the profound darkness she could not be seen.

‘If the time has come—Heaven knows it may come at any moment—when they are bent on prosecuting the designs, whatever they may be, with which they have brought us here, can you still encourage, and take part with them?’ demanded Emma.

‘I thank my goodness-gracious-blessed-stars I can, miss,’ returned Miggs, with increased energy.—‘Ally Looyer, good gentlemen!’

Even Dolly, cast down and disappointed as she was, revived at this, and bade Miggs hold her tongue directly.

‘WHICH, was you pleased to observe, Miss Varden?’ said Miggs, with a strong emphasis on the irrelative pronoun.

Dolly repeated her request.

‘Ho, gracious me!’ cried Miggs, with hysterical derision. ‘Ho, gracious me! Yes, to be sure I will. Ho yes! I am a abject slave, and a toiling, moiling, constant-working, always-being-found-fault-with, never-giving-satisfactions, nor-having-no-time-to-clean-oneself, potter’s wessel—an’t I, miss! Ho yes! My situations is lowly, and my capacities is limited, and my duties is to humble myself afore the base degenerating daughters of their blessed mothers as is—fit to keep companies with holy saints but is born to persecutions from wicked relations—and to demean myself before them as is no better than Infidels—an’t it, miss! Ho yes! My only becoming occupations is to help young flaunting pagins to brush and comb and titiwate theirselves into whitening and suppulchres, and leave the young men to think that there an’t a bit of padding in it nor no pinching ins nor fillings out nor pomatums nor deceits nor earthly wanities—an’t it, miss! Yes, to be sure it is—ho yes!’

Having delivered these ironical passages with a most wonderful volubility, and with a shrillness perfectly deafening (especially when she jerked out the interjections), Miss Miggs, from mere habit, and not because weeping was at all appropriate to the occasion, which was one of triumph, concluded by bursting into a flood of tears, and calling in an impassioned manner on the name of Simmuns.

What Emma Haredale and Dolly would have done, or how long Miss Miggs, now that she had hoisted her true colours, would have gone on waving them before their astonished senses, it is impossible to tell. Nor is it necessary to speculate on these matters, for a startling interruption occurred at that moment, which took their whole attention by storm.

This was a violent knocking at the door of the house, and then its sudden bursting open; which was immediately succeeded by a scuffle in the room without, and the clash of weapons. Transported with the hope that rescue had at length arrived, Emma and Dolly shrieked aloud for help; nor were their shrieks unanswered; for after a hurried interval, a man, bearing in one hand a drawn sword, and in the other a taper, rushed into the chamber where they were confined.

It was some check upon their transport to find in this person an entire stranger, but they appealed to him, nevertheless, and besought him, in impassioned language, to restore them to their friends.

‘For what other purpose am I here?’ he answered, closing the door, and standing with his back against it. ‘With what object have I made my way to this place, through difficulty and danger, but to preserve you?’

With a joy for which it was impossible to find adequate expression, they embraced each other, and thanked Heaven for this most timely aid. Their deliverer stepped forward for a moment to put the light upon the table, and immediately returning to his former position against the door, bared his head, and looked on smilingly.

‘You have news of my uncle, sir?’ said Emma, turning hastily towards him.

‘And of my father and mother?’ added Dolly.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Good news.’

‘They are alive and unhurt?’ they both cried at once.

‘Yes, and unhurt,’ he rejoined.

‘And close at hand?’

‘I did not say close at hand,’ he answered smoothly; ‘they are at no great distance. YOUR friends, sweet one,’ he added, addressing Dolly, ‘are within a few hours’ journey. You will be restored to them, I hope, to-night.’

‘My uncle, sir—’ faltered Emma.

‘Your uncle, dear Miss Haredale, happily—I say happily, because he has succeeded where many of our creed have failed, and is safe—has crossed the sea, and is out of Britain.’

‘I thank God for it,’ said Emma, faintly.

‘You say well. You have reason to be thankful: greater reason than it is possible for you, who have seen but one night of these cruel outrages, to imagine.’

‘Does he desire,’ said Emma, ‘that I should follow him?’

‘Do you ask if he desires it?’ cried the stranger in surprise. ‘IF he desires it! But you do not know the danger of remaining in England, the difficulty of escape, or the price hundreds would pay to secure the means, when you make that inquiry. Pardon me. I had forgotten that you could not, being prisoner here.’

‘I gather, sir,’ said Emma, after a moment’s pause, ‘from what you hint at, but fear to tell me, that I have witnessed but the beginning, and the least, of the violence to which we are exposed, and that it has not yet slackened in its fury?’

He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, lifted up his hands; and with the same smooth smile, which was not a pleasant one to see, cast his eyes upon the ground, and remained silent.

‘You may venture, sir, to speak plain,’ said Emma, ‘and to tell me the worst. We have undergone some preparation for it.’

But here Dolly interposed, and entreated her not to hear the worst, but the best; and besought the gentleman to tell them the best, and to keep the remainder of his news until they were safe among their friends again.

‘It is told in three words,’ he said, glancing at the locksmith’s daughter with a look of some displeasure. ‘The people have risen, to a man, against us; the streets are filled with soldiers, who support them and do their bidding. We have no protection but from above, and no safety but in flight; and that is a poor resource; for we are watched on every hand, and detained here, both by force and fraud. Miss Haredale, I cannot bear—believe me, that I cannot bear—by speaking of myself, or what I have done, or am prepared to do, to seem to vaunt my services before you. But, having powerful Protestant connections, and having my whole wealth embarked with theirs in shipping and commerce, I happily possessed the means of saving your uncle. I have the means of saving you; and in redemption of my sacred promise, made to him, I am here; pledged not to leave you until I have placed you in his arms. The treachery or penitence of one of the men about you, led to the discovery of your place of confinement; and that I have forced my way here, sword in hand, you see.’

‘You bring,’ said Emma, faltering, ‘some note or token from my uncle?’

‘No, he doesn’t,’ cried Dolly, pointing at him earnestly; ‘now I am sure he doesn’t. Don’t go with him for the world!’

‘Hush, pretty fool—be silent,’ he replied, frowning angrily upon her. ‘No, Miss Haredale, I have no letter, nor any token of any kind; for while I sympathise with you, and such as you, on whom misfortune so heavy and so undeserved has fallen, I value my life. I carry, therefore, no writing which, found upon me, would lead to its certain loss. I never thought of bringing any other token, nor did Mr Haredale think of entrusting me with one—possibly because he had good experience of my faith and honesty, and owed his life to me.’

There was a reproof conveyed in these words, which to a nature like Emma Haredale’s, was well addressed. But Dolly, who was differently constituted, was by no means touched by it, and still conjured her, in all the terms of affection and attachment she could think of, not to be lured away.

‘Time presses,’ said their visitor, who, although he sought to express the deepest interest, had something cold and even in his speech, that grated on the ear; ‘and danger surrounds us. If I have exposed myself to it, in vain, let it be so; but if you and he should ever meet again, do me justice. If you decide to remain (as I think you do), remember, Miss Haredale, that I left you with a solemn caution, and acquitting myself of all the consequences to which you expose yourself.’

‘Stay, sir!’ cried Emma—‘one moment, I beg you. Cannot we’—and she drew Dolly closer to her—‘cannot we go together?’

‘The task of conveying one female in safety through such scenes as we must encounter, to say nothing of attracting the attention of those who crowd the streets,’ he answered, ‘is enough. I have said that she will be restored to her friends to-night. If you accept the service I tender, Miss Haredale, she shall be instantly placed in safe conduct, and that promise redeemed. Do you decide to remain? People of all ranks and creeds are flying from the town, which is sacked from end to end. Let me be of use in some quarter. Do you stay, or go?’

‘Dolly,’ said Emma, in a hurried manner, ‘my dear girl, this is our last hope. If we part now, it is only that we may meet again in happiness and honour. I will trust to this gentleman.’

‘No no-no!’ cried Dolly, clinging to her. ‘Pray, pray, do not!’

‘You hear,’ said Emma, ‘that to-night—only to-night—within a few hours—think of that!—you will be among those who would die of grief to lose you, and who are now plunged in the deepest misery for your sake. Pray for me, dear girl, as I will for you; and never forget the many quiet hours we have passed together. Say one “God bless you!” Say that at parting!’

But Dolly could say nothing; no, not when Emma kissed her cheek a hundred times, and covered it with tears, could she do more than hang upon her neck, and sob, and clasp, and hold her tight.

‘We have time for no more of this,’ cried the man, unclenching her hands, and pushing her roughly off, as he drew Emma Haredale towards the door: ‘Now! Quick, outside there! are you ready?’

‘Ay!’ cried a loud voice, which made him start. ‘Quite ready! Stand back here, for your lives!’

And in an instant he was felled like an ox in the butcher’s shambles—struck down as though a block of marble had fallen from the roof and crushed him—and cheerful light, and beaming faces came pouring in—and Emma was clasped in her uncle’s embrace, and Dolly, with a shriek that pierced the air, fell into the arms of her father and mother.

What fainting there was, what laughing, what crying, what sobbing, what smiling, how much questioning, no answering, all talking together, all beside themselves with joy; what kissing, congratulating, embracing, shaking of hands, and falling into all these raptures, over and over and over again; no language can describe.

At length, and after a long time, the old locksmith went up and fairly hugged two strangers, who had stood apart and left them to themselves; and then they saw—whom? Yes, Edward Chester and Joseph Willet.

‘See here!’ cried the locksmith. ‘See here! where would any of us have been without these two? Oh, Mr Edward, Mr Edward—oh, Joe, Joe, how light, and yet how full, you have made my old heart to-night!’

‘It was Mr Edward that knocked him down, sir,’ said Joe: ‘I longed to do it, but I gave it up to him. Come, you brave and honest gentleman! Get your senses together, for you haven’t long to lie here.’

He had his foot upon the breast of their sham deliverer, in the absence of a spare arm; and gave him a gentle roll as he spoke. Gashford, for it was no other, crouching yet malignant, raised his scowling face, like sin subdued, and pleaded to be gently used.

‘I have access to all my lord’s papers, Mr Haredale,’ he said, in a submissive voice: Mr Haredale keeping his back towards him, and not once looking round: ‘there are very important documents among them. There are a great many in secret drawers, and distributed in various places, known only to my lord and me. I can give some very valuable information, and render important assistance to any inquiry. You will have to answer it, if I receive ill usage.

‘Pah!’ cried Joe, in deep disgust. ‘Get up, man; you’re waited for, outside. Get up, do you hear?’

Gashford slowly rose; and picking up his hat, and looking with a baffled malevolence, yet with an air of despicable humility, all round the room, crawled out.

‘And now, gentlemen,’ said Joe, who seemed to be the spokesman of the party, for all the rest were silent; ‘the sooner we get back to the Black Lion, the better, perhaps.’

Mr Haredale nodded assent, and drawing his niece’s arm through his, and taking one of her hands between his own, passed out straightway; followed by the locksmith, Mrs Varden, and Dolly—who would scarcely have presented a sufficient surface for all the hugs and caresses they bestowed upon her though she had been a dozen Dollys. Edward Chester and Joe followed.

And did Dolly never once look behind—not once? Was there not one little fleeting glimpse of the dark eyelash, almost resting on her flushed cheek, and of the downcast sparkling eye it shaded? Joe thought there was—and he is not likely to have been mistaken; for there were not many eyes like Dolly’s, that’s the truth.

The outer room through which they had to pass, was full of men; among them, Mr Dennis in safe keeping; and there, had been since yesterday, lying in hiding behind a wooden screen which was now thrown down, Simon Tappertit, the recreant ‘prentice, burnt and bruised, and with a gun-shot wound in his body; and his legs—his perfect legs, the pride and glory of his life, the comfort of his existence—crushed into shapeless ugliness. Wondering no longer at the moans they had heard, Dolly kept closer to her father, and shuddered at the sight; but neither bruises, burns, nor gun-shot wound, nor all the torture of his shattered limbs, sent half so keen a pang to Simon’s breast, as Dolly passing out, with Joe for her preserver.

A coach was ready at the door, and Dolly found herself safe and whole inside, between her father and mother, with Emma Haredale and her uncle, quite real, sitting opposite. But there was no Joe, no Edward; and they had said nothing. They had only bowed once, and kept at a distance. Dear heart! what a long way it was to the Black Lion!






Chapter 72

The Black Lion was so far off, and occupied such a length of time in the getting at, that notwithstanding the strong presumptive evidence she had about her of the late events being real and of actual occurrence, Dolly could not divest herself of the belief that she must be in a dream which was lasting all night. Nor was she quite certain that she saw and heard with her own proper senses, even when the coach, in the fulness of time, stopped at the Black Lion, and the host of that tavern approached in a gush of cheerful light to help them to dismount, and give them hearty welcome.

There too, at the coach door, one on one side, one upon the other, were already Edward Chester and Joe Willet, who must have followed in another coach: and this was such a strange and unaccountable proceeding, that Dolly was the more inclined to favour the idea of her being fast asleep. But when Mr Willet appeared—old John himself—so heavy-headed and obstinate, and with such a double chin as the liveliest imagination could never in its boldest flights have conjured up in all its vast proportions—then she stood corrected, and unwillingly admitted to herself that she was broad awake.

And Joe had lost an arm—he—that well-made, handsome, gallant fellow! As Dolly glanced towards him, and thought of the pain he must have suffered, and the far-off places in which he had been wandering, and wondered who had been his nurse, and hoped that whoever it was, she had been as kind and gentle and considerate as she would have been, the tears came rising to her bright eyes, one by one, little by little, until she could keep them back no longer, and so before them all, wept bitterly.

‘We are all safe now, Dolly,’ said her father, kindly. ‘We shall not be separated any more. Cheer up, my love, cheer up!’

The locksmith’s wife knew better perhaps, than he, what ailed her daughter. But Mrs Varden being quite an altered woman—for the riots had done that good—added her word to his, and comforted her with similar representations.

‘Mayhap,’ said Mr Willet, senior, looking round upon the company, ‘she’s hungry. That’s what it is, depend upon it—I am, myself.’

The Black Lion, who, like old John, had been waiting supper past all reasonable and conscionable hours, hailed this as a philosophical discovery of the profoundest and most penetrating kind; and the table being already spread, they sat down to supper straightway.

The conversation was not of the liveliest nature, nor were the appetites of some among them very keen. But, in both these respects, old John more than atoned for any deficiency on the part of the rest, and very much distinguished himself.

It was not in point of actual conversation that Mr Willet shone so brilliantly, for he had none of his old cronies to ‘tackle,’ and was rather timorous of venturing on Joe; having certain vague misgivings within him, that he was ready on the shortest notice, and on receipt of the slightest offence, to fell the Black Lion to the floor of his own parlour, and immediately to withdraw to China or some other remote and unknown region, there to dwell for evermore, or at least until he had got rid of his remaining arm and both legs, and perhaps an eye or so, into the bargain. It was with a peculiar kind of pantomime that Mr Willet filled up every pause; and in this he was considered by the Black Lion, who had been his familiar for some years, quite to surpass and go beyond himself, and outrun the expectations of his most admiring friends.

The subject that worked in Mr Willet’s mind, and occasioned these demonstrations, was no other than his son’s bodily disfigurement, which he had never yet got himself thoroughly to believe, or comprehend. Shortly after their first meeting, he had been observed to wander, in a state of great perplexity, to the kitchen, and to direct his gaze towards the fire, as if in search of his usual adviser in all matters of doubt and difficulty. But there being no boiler at the Black Lion, and the rioters having so beaten and battered his own that it was quite unfit for further service, he wandered out again, in a perfect bog of uncertainty and mental confusion, and in that state took the strangest means of resolving his doubts: such as feeling the sleeve of his son’s greatcoat as deeming it possible that his arm might be there; looking at his own arms and those of everybody else, as if to assure himself that two and not one was the usual allowance; sitting by the hour together in a brown study, as if he were endeavouring to recall Joe’s image in his younger days, and to remember whether he really had in those times one arm or a pair; and employing himself in many other speculations of the same kind.

Finding himself at this supper, surrounded by faces with which he had been so well acquainted in old times, Mr Willet recurred to the subject with uncommon vigour; apparently resolved to understand it now or never. Sometimes, after every two or three mouthfuls, he laid down his knife and fork, and stared at his son with all his might—particularly at his maimed side; then, he looked slowly round the table until he caught some person’s eye, when he shook his head with great solemnity, patted his shoulder, winked, or as one may say—for winking was a very slow process with him—went to sleep with one eye for a minute or two; and so, with another solemn shaking of his head, took up his knife and fork again, and went on eating. Sometimes, he put his food into his mouth abstractedly, and, with all his faculties concentrated on Joe, gazed at him in a fit of stupefaction as he cut his meat with one hand, until he was recalled to himself by symptoms of choking on his own part, and was by that means restored to consciousness. At other times he resorted to such small devices as asking him for the salt, the pepper, the vinegar, the mustard—anything that was on his maimed side—and watching him as he handed it. By dint of these experiments, he did at last so satisfy and convince himself, that, after a longer silence than he had yet maintained, he laid down his knife and fork on either side his plate, drank a long draught from a tankard beside him (still keeping his eyes on Joe), and leaning backward in his chair and fetching a long breath, said, as he looked all round the board:

‘It’s been took off!’

‘By George!’ said the Black Lion, striking the table with his hand, ‘he’s got it!’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mr Willet, with the look of a man who felt that he had earned a compliment, and deserved it. ‘That’s where it is. It’s been took off.’

‘Tell him where it was done,’ said the Black Lion to Joe.

‘At the defence of the Savannah, father.’

‘At the defence of the Salwanners,’ repeated Mr Willet, softly; again looking round the table.

‘In America, where the war is,’ said Joe.

‘In America, where the war is,’ repeated Mr Willet. ‘It was took off in the defence of the Salwanners in America where the war is.’ Continuing to repeat these words to himself in a low tone of voice (the same information had been conveyed to him in the same terms, at least fifty times before), Mr Willet arose from table, walked round to Joe, felt his empty sleeve all the way up, from the cuff, to where the stump of his arm remained; shook his hand; lighted his pipe at the fire, took a long whiff, walked to the door, turned round once when he had reached it, wiped his left eye with the back of his forefinger, and said, in a faltering voice: ‘My son’s arm—was took off—at the defence of the—Salwanners—in America—where the war is’—with which words he withdrew, and returned no more that night.

Indeed, on various pretences, they all withdrew one after another, save Dolly, who was left sitting there alone. It was a great relief to be alone, and she was crying to her heart’s content, when she heard Joe’s voice at the end of the passage, bidding somebody good night.

Good night! Then he was going elsewhere—to some distance, perhaps. To what kind of home COULD he be going, now that it was so late!

She heard him walk along the passage, and pass the door. But there was a hesitation in his footsteps. He turned back—Dolly’s heart beat high—he looked in.

‘Good night!’—he didn’t say Dolly, but there was comfort in his not saying Miss Varden.

‘Good night!’ sobbed Dolly.

‘I am sorry you take on so much, for what is past and gone,’ said Joe kindly. ‘Don’t. I can’t bear to see you do it. Think of it no longer. You are safe and happy now.’

Dolly cried the more.

‘You must have suffered very much within these few days—and yet you’re not changed, unless it’s for the better. They said you were, but I don’t see it. You were—you were always very beautiful,’ said Joe, ‘but you are more beautiful than ever, now. You are indeed. There can be no harm in my saying so, for you must know it. You are told so very often, I am sure.’

As a general principle, Dolly DID know it, and WAS told so, very often. But the coachmaker had turned out, years ago, to be a special donkey; and whether she had been afraid of making similar discoveries in others, or had grown by dint of long custom to be careless of compliments generally, certain it is that although she cried so much, she was better pleased to be told so now, than ever she had been in all her life.

‘I shall bless your name,’ sobbed the locksmith’s little daughter, ‘as long as I live. I shall never hear it spoken without feeling as if my heart would burst. I shall remember it in my prayers, every night and morning till I die!’

‘Will you?’ said Joe, eagerly. ‘Will you indeed? It makes me—well, it makes me very glad and proud to hear you say so.’

Dolly still sobbed, and held her handkerchief to her eyes. Joe still stood, looking at her.

‘Your voice,’ said Joe, ‘brings up old times so pleasantly, that, for the moment, I feel as if that night—there can be no harm in talking of that night now—had come back, and nothing had happened in the mean time. I feel as if I hadn’t suffered any hardships, but had knocked down poor Tom Cobb only yesterday, and had come to see you with my bundle on my shoulder before running away.—You remember?’

Remember! But she said nothing. She raised her eyes for an instant. It was but a glance; a little, tearful, timid glance. It kept Joe silent though, for a long time.

‘Well!’ he said stoutly, ‘it was to be otherwise, and was. I have been abroad, fighting all the summer and frozen up all the winter, ever since. I have come back as poor in purse as I went, and crippled for life besides. But, Dolly, I would rather have lost this other arm—ay, I would rather have lost my head—than have come back to find you dead, or anything but what I always pictured you to myself, and what I always hoped and wished to find you. Thank God for all!’

Oh how much, and how keenly, the little coquette of five years ago, felt now! She had found her heart at last. Never having known its worth till now, she had never known the worth of his. How priceless it appeared!

‘I did hope once,’ said Joe, in his homely way, ‘that I might come back a rich man, and marry you. But I was a boy then, and have long known better than that. I am a poor, maimed, discharged soldier, and must be content to rub through life as I can. I can’t say, even now, that I shall be glad to see you married, Dolly; but I AM glad—yes, I am, and glad to think I can say so—to know that you are admired and courted, and can pick and choose for a happy life. It’s a comfort to me to know that you’ll talk to your husband about me; and I hope the time will come when I may be able to like him, and to shake hands with him, and to come and see you as a poor friend who knew you when you were a girl. God bless you!’

His hand DID tremble; but for all that, he took it away again, and left her.






Chapter 73

By this Friday night—for it was on Friday in the riot week, that Emma and Dolly were rescued, by the timely aid of Joe and Edward Chester—the disturbances were entirely quelled, and peace and order were restored to the affrighted city. True, after what had happened, it was impossible for any man to say how long this better state of things might last, or how suddenly new outrages, exceeding even those so lately witnessed, might burst forth and fill its streets with ruin and bloodshed; for this reason, those who had fled from the recent tumults still kept at a distance, and many families, hitherto unable to procure the means of flight, now availed themselves of the calm, and withdrew into the country. The shops, too, from Tyburn to Whitechapel, were still shut; and very little business was transacted in any of the places of great commercial resort. But, notwithstanding, and in spite of the melancholy forebodings of that numerous class of society who see with the greatest clearness into the darkest perspectives, the town remained profoundly quiet. The strong military force disposed in every advantageous quarter, and stationed at every commanding point, held the scattered fragments of the mob in check; the search after rioters was prosecuted with unrelenting vigour; and if there were any among them so desperate and reckless as to be inclined, after the terrible scenes they had beheld, to venture forth again, they were so daunted by these resolute measures, that they quickly shrunk into their hiding-places, and had no thought but for their safety.

In a word, the crowd was utterly routed. Upwards of two hundred had been shot dead in the streets. Two hundred and fifty more were lying, badly wounded, in the hospitals; of whom seventy or eighty died within a short time afterwards. A hundred were already in custody, and more were taken every hour. How many perished in the conflagrations, or by their own excesses, is unknown; but that numbers found a terrible grave in the hot ashes of the flames they had kindled, or crept into vaults and cellars to drink in secret or to nurse their sores, and never saw the light again, is certain. When the embers of the fires had been black and cold for many weeks, the labourers’ spades proved this, beyond a doubt.

Seventy-two private houses and four strong jails were destroyed in the four great days of these riots. The total loss of property, as estimated by the sufferers, was one hundred and fifty-five thousand pounds; at the lowest and least partial estimate of disinterested persons, it exceeded one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds. For this immense loss, compensation was soon afterwards made out of the public purse, in pursuance of a vote of the House of Commons; the sum being levied on the various wards in the city, on the county, and the borough of Southwark. Both Lord Mansfield and Lord Saville, however, who had been great sufferers, refused to accept of any compensation whatever.

The House of Commons, sitting on Tuesday with locked and guarded doors, had passed a resolution to the effect that, as soon as the tumults subsided, it would immediately proceed to consider the petitions presented from many of his Majesty’s Protestant subjects, and would take the same into its serious consideration. While this question was under debate, Mr Herbert, one of the members present, indignantly rose and called upon the House to observe that Lord George Gordon was then sitting under the gallery with the blue cockade, the signal of rebellion, in his hat. He was not only obliged, by those who sat near, to take it out; but offering to go into the street to pacify the mob with the somewhat indefinite assurance that the House was prepared to give them ‘the satisfaction they sought,’ was actually held down in his seat by the combined force of several members. In short, the disorder and violence which reigned triumphant out of doors, penetrated into the senate, and there, as elsewhere, terror and alarm prevailed, and ordinary forms were for the time forgotten.

On the Thursday, both Houses had adjourned until the following Monday se’nnight, declaring it impossible to pursue their deliberations with the necessary gravity and freedom, while they were surrounded by armed troops. And now that the rioters were dispersed, the citizens were beset with a new fear; for, finding the public thoroughfares and all their usual places of resort filled with soldiers entrusted with the free use of fire and sword, they began to lend a greedy ear to the rumours which were afloat of martial law being declared, and to dismal stories of prisoners having been seen hanging on lamp-posts in Cheapside and Fleet Street. These terrors being promptly dispelled by a Proclamation declaring that all the rioters in custody would be tried by a special commission in due course of law, a fresh alarm was engendered by its being whispered abroad that French money had been found on some of the rioters, and that the disturbances had been fomented by foreign powers who sought to compass the overthrow and ruin of England. This report, which was strengthened by the diffusion of anonymous handbills, but which, if it had any foundation at all, probably owed its origin to the circumstance of some few coins which were not English money having been swept into the pockets of the insurgents with other miscellaneous booty, and afterwards discovered on the prisoners or the dead bodies,—caused a great sensation; and men’s minds being in that excited state when they are most apt to catch at any shadow of apprehension, was bruited about with much industry.

All remaining quiet, however, during the whole of this Friday, and on this Friday night, and no new discoveries being made, confidence began to be restored, and the most timid and desponding breathed again. In Southwark, no fewer than three thousand of the inhabitants formed themselves into a watch, and patrolled the streets every hour. Nor were the citizens slow to follow so good an example: and it being the manner of peaceful men to be very bold when the danger is over, they were abundantly fierce and daring; not scrupling to question the stoutest passenger with great severity, and carrying it with a very high hand over all errand-boys, servant-girls, and ‘prentices.

As day deepened into evening, and darkness crept into the nooks and corners of the town as if it were mustering in secret and gathering strength to venture into the open ways, Barnaby sat in his dungeon, wondering at the silence, and listening in vain for the noise and outcry which had ushered in the night of late. Beside him, with his hand in hers, sat one in whose companionship he felt at peace. She was worn, and altered, full of grief, and heavy-hearted; but the same to him.

‘Mother,’ he said, after a long silence: ‘how long,—how many days and nights,—shall I be kept here?’

‘Not many, dear. I hope not many.’

‘You hope! Ay, but your hoping will not undo these chains. I hope, but they don’t mind that. Grip hopes, but who cares for Grip?’

The raven gave a short, dull, melancholy croak. It said ‘Nobody,’ as plainly as a croak could speak.

‘Who cares for Grip, except you and me?’ said Barnaby, smoothing the bird’s rumpled feathers with his hand. ‘He never speaks in this place; he never says a word in jail; he sits and mopes all day in his dark corner, dozing sometimes, and sometimes looking at the light that creeps in through the bars, and shines in his bright eye as if a spark from those great fires had fallen into the room and was burning yet. But who cares for Grip?’

The raven croaked again—Nobody.

‘And by the way,’ said Barnaby, withdrawing his hand from the bird, and laying it upon his mother’s arm, as he looked eagerly in her face; ‘if they kill me—they may: I heard it said they would—what will become of Grip when I am dead?’

The sound of the word, or the current of his own thoughts, suggested to Grip his old phrase ‘Never say die!’ But he stopped short in the middle of it, drew a dismal cork, and subsided into a faint croak, as if he lacked the heart to get through the shortest sentence.

‘Will they take HIS life as well as mine?’ said Barnaby. ‘I wish they would. If you and I and he could die together, there would be none to feel sorry, or to grieve for us. But do what they will, I don’t fear them, mother!’

‘They will not harm you,’ she said, her tears choking her utterance. ‘They never will harm you, when they know all. I am sure they never will.’

‘Oh! Don’t be too sure of that,’ cried Barnaby, with a strange pleasure in the belief that she was self-deceived, and in his own sagacity. ‘They have marked me from the first. I heard them say so to each other when they brought me to this place last night; and I believe them. Don’t you cry for me. They said that I was bold, and so I am, and so I will be. You may think that I am silly, but I can die as well as another.—I have done no harm, have I?’ he added quickly.

‘None before Heaven,’ she answered.

‘Why then,’ said Barnaby, ‘let them do their worst. You told me once—you—when I asked you what death meant, that it was nothing to be feared, if we did no harm—Aha! mother, you thought I had forgotten that!’

His merry laugh and playful manner smote her to the heart. She drew him closer to her, and besought him to talk to her in whispers and to be very quiet, for it was getting dark, and their time was short, and she would soon have to leave him for the night.

‘You will come to-morrow?’ said Barnaby.

Yes. And every day. And they would never part again.

He joyfully replied that this was well, and what he wished, and what he had felt quite certain she would tell him; and then he asked her where she had been so long, and why she had not come to see him when he had been a great soldier, and ran through the wild schemes he had had for their being rich and living prosperously, and with some faint notion in his mind that she was sad and he had made her so, tried to console and comfort her, and talked of their former life and his old sports and freedom: little dreaming that every word he uttered only increased her sorrow, and that her tears fell faster at the freshened recollection of their lost tranquillity.

‘Mother,’ said Barnaby, as they heard the man approaching to close the cells for the night, ‘when I spoke to you just now about my father you cried “Hush!” and turned away your head. Why did you do so? Tell me why, in a word. You thought HE was dead. You are not sorry that he is alive and has come back to us. Where is he? Here?’

‘Do not ask any one where he is, or speak about him,’ she made answer.

‘Why not?’ said Barnaby. ‘Because he is a stern man, and talks roughly? Well! I don’t like him, or want to be with him by myself; but why not speak about him?’

‘Because I am sorry that he is alive; sorry that he has come back; and sorry that he and you have ever met. Because, dear Barnaby, the endeavour of my life has been to keep you two asunder.’

‘Father and son asunder! Why?’

‘He has,’ she whispered in his ear, ‘he has shed blood. The time has come when you must know it. He has shed the blood of one who loved him well, and trusted him, and never did him wrong in word or deed.’

Barnaby recoiled in horror, and glancing at his stained wrist for an instant, wrapped it, shuddering, in his dress.

‘But,’ she added hastily as the key turned in the lock, ‘although we shun him, he is your father, dearest, and I am his wretched wife. They seek his life, and he will lose it. It must not be by our means; nay, if we could win him back to penitence, we should be bound to love him yet. Do not seem to know him, except as one who fled with you from the jail, and if they question you about him, do not answer them. God be with you through the night, dear boy! God be with you!’

She tore herself away, and in a few seconds Barnaby was alone. He stood for a long time rooted to the spot, with his face hidden in his hands; then flung himself, sobbing, on his miserable bed.

But the moon came slowly up in all her gentle glory, and the stars looked out, and through the small compass of the grated window, as through the narrow crevice of one good deed in a murky life of guilt, the face of Heaven shone bright and merciful. He raised his head; gazed upward at the quiet sky, which seemed to smile upon the earth in sadness, as if the night, more thoughtful than the day, looked down in sorrow on the sufferings and evil deeds of men; and felt its peace sink deep into his heart. He, a poor idiot, caged in his narrow cell, was as much lifted up to God, while gazing on the mild light, as the freest and most favoured man in all the spacious city; and in his ill-remembered prayer, and in the fragment of the childish hymn, with which he sung and crooned himself asleep, there breathed as true a spirit as ever studied homily expressed, or old cathedral arches echoed.

As his mother crossed a yard on her way out, she saw, through a grated door which separated it from another court, her husband, walking round and round, with his hands folded on his breast, and his head hung down. She asked the man who conducted her, if she might speak a word with this prisoner. Yes, but she must be quick for he was locking up for the night, and there was but a minute or so to spare. Saying this, he unlocked the door, and bade her go in.

It grated harshly as it turned upon its hinges, but he was deaf to the noise, and still walked round and round the little court, without raising his head or changing his attitude in the least. She spoke to him, but her voice was weak, and failed her. At length she put herself in his track, and when he came near, stretched out her hand and touched him.

He started backward, trembling from head to foot; but seeing who it was, demanded why she came there. Before she could reply, he spoke again.

‘Am I to live or die? Do you murder too, or spare?’

‘My son—our son,’ she answered, ‘is in this prison.’

‘What is that to me?’ he cried, stamping impatiently on the stone pavement. ‘I know it. He can no more aid me than I can aid him. If you are come to talk of him, begone!’

As he spoke he resumed his walk, and hurried round the court as before. When he came again to where she stood, he stopped, and said,

‘Am I to live or die? Do you repent?’

‘Oh!—do YOU?’ she answered. ‘Will you, while time remains? Do not believe that I could save you, if I dared.’

‘Say if you would,’ he answered with an oath, as he tried to disengage himself and pass on. ‘Say if you would.’

‘Listen to me for one moment,’ she returned; ‘for but a moment. I am but newly risen from a sick-bed, from which I never hoped to rise again. The best among us think, at such a time, of good intentions half-performed and duties left undone. If I have ever, since that fatal night, omitted to pray for your repentance before death—if I omitted, even then, anything which might tend to urge it on you when the horror of your crime was fresh—if, in our later meeting, I yielded to the dread that was upon me, and forgot to fall upon my knees and solemnly adjure you, in the name of him you sent to his account with Heaven, to prepare for the retribution which must come, and which is stealing on you now—I humbly before you, and in the agony of supplication in which you see me, beseech that you will let me make atonement.’

‘What is the meaning of your canting words?’ he answered roughly. ‘Speak so that I may understand you.’

‘I will,’ she answered, ‘I desire to. Bear with me for a moment more. The hand of Him who set His curse on murder, is heavy on us now. You cannot doubt it. Our son, our innocent boy, on whom His anger fell before his birth, is in this place in peril of his life—brought here by your guilt; yes, by that alone, as Heaven sees and knows, for he has been led astray in the darkness of his intellect, and that is the terrible consequence of your crime.’

‘If you come, woman-like, to load me with reproaches—’ he muttered, again endeavouring to break away.

‘I do not. I have a different purpose. You must hear it. If not to-night, to-morrow; if not to-morrow, at another time. You MUST hear it. Husband, escape is hopeless—impossible.’

‘You tell me so, do you?’ he said, raising his manacled hand, and shaking it. ‘You!’

‘Yes,’ she said, with indescribable earnestness. ‘But why?’

‘To make me easy in this jail. To make the time ‘twixt this and death, pass pleasantly. For my good—yes, for my good, of course,’ he said, grinding his teeth, and smiling at her with a livid face.

‘Not to load you with reproaches,’ she replied; ‘not to aggravate the tortures and miseries of your condition, not to give you one hard word, but to restore you to peace and hope. Husband, dear husband, if you will but confess this dreadful crime; if you will but implore forgiveness of Heaven and of those whom you have wronged on earth; if you will dismiss these vain uneasy thoughts, which never can be realised, and will rely on Penitence and on the Truth, I promise you, in the great name of the Creator, whose image you have defaced, that He will comfort and console you. And for myself,’ she cried, clasping her hands, and looking upward, ‘I swear before Him, as He knows my heart and reads it now, that from that hour I will love and cherish you as I did of old, and watch you night and day in the short interval that will remain to us, and soothe you with my truest love and duty, and pray with you, that one threatening judgment may be arrested, and that our boy may be spared to bless God, in his poor way, in the free air and light!’

He fell back and gazed at her while she poured out these words, as though he were for a moment awed by her manner, and knew not what to do. But anger and fear soon got the mastery of him, and he spurned her from him.

‘Begone!’ he cried. ‘Leave me! You plot, do you! You plot to get speech with me, and let them know I am the man they say I am. A curse on you and on your boy.’

‘On him the curse has already fallen,’ she replied, wringing her hands.

‘Let it fall heavier. Let it fall on one and all. I hate you both. The worst has come to me. The only comfort that I seek or I can have, will be the knowledge that it comes to you. Now go!’

She would have urged him gently, even then, but he menaced her with his chain.

‘I say go—I say it for the last time. The gallows has me in its grasp, and it is a black phantom that may urge me on to something more. Begone! I curse the hour that I was born, the man I slew, and all the living world!’

In a paroxysm of wrath, and terror, and the fear of death, he broke from her, and rushed into the darkness of his cell, where he cast himself jangling down upon the stone floor, and smote it with his ironed hands. The man returned to lock the dungeon door, and having done so, carried her away.

On that warm, balmy night in June, there were glad faces and light hearts in all quarters of the town, and sleep, banished by the late horrors, was doubly welcomed. On that night, families made merry in their houses, and greeted each other on the common danger they had escaped; and those who had been denounced, ventured into the streets; and they who had been plundered, got good shelter. Even the timorous Lord Mayor, who was summoned that night before the Privy Council to answer for his conduct, came back contented; observing to all his friends that he had got off very well with a reprimand, and repeating with huge satisfaction his memorable defence before the Council, ‘that such was his temerity, he thought death would have been his portion.’

On that night, too, more of the scattered remnants of the mob were traced to their lurking-places, and taken; and in the hospitals, and deep among the ruins they had made, and in the ditches, and fields, many unshrouded wretches lay dead: envied by those who had been active in the disturbances, and who pillowed their doomed heads in the temporary jails.

And in the Tower, in a dreary room whose thick stone walls shut out the hum of life, and made a stillness which the records left by former prisoners with those silent witnesses seemed to deepen and intensify; remorseful for every act that had been done by every man among the cruel crowd; feeling for the time their guilt his own, and their lives put in peril by himself; and finding, amidst such reflections, little comfort in fanaticism, or in his fancied call; sat the unhappy author of all—Lord George Gordon.

He had been made prisoner that evening. ‘If you are sure it’s me you want,’ he said to the officers, who waited outside with the warrant for his arrest on a charge of High Treason, ‘I am ready to accompany you—’ which he did without resistance. He was conducted first before the Privy Council, and afterwards to the Horse Guards, and then was taken by way of Westminster Bridge, and back over London Bridge (for the purpose of avoiding the main streets), to the Tower, under the strongest guard ever known to enter its gates with a single prisoner.

Of all his forty thousand men, not one remained to bear him company. Friends, dependents, followers,—none were there. His fawning secretary had played the traitor; and he whose weakness had been goaded and urged on by so many for their own purposes, was desolate and alone.






Chapter 74

Mr Dennis, having been made prisoner late in the evening, was removed to a neighbouring round-house for that night, and carried before a justice for examination on the next day, Saturday. The charges against him being numerous and weighty, and it being in particular proved, by the testimony of Gabriel Varden, that he had shown a special desire to take his life, he was committed for trial. Moreover he was honoured with the distinction of being considered a chief among the insurgents, and received from the magistrate’s lips the complimentary assurance that he was in a position of imminent danger, and would do well to prepare himself for the worst.

To say that Mr Dennis’s modesty was not somewhat startled by these honours, or that he was altogether prepared for so flattering a reception, would be to claim for him a greater amount of stoical philosophy than even he possessed. Indeed this gentleman’s stoicism was of that not uncommon kind, which enables a man to bear with exemplary fortitude the afflictions of his friends, but renders him, by way of counterpoise, rather selfish and sensitive in respect of any that happen to befall himself. It is therefore no disparagement to the great officer in question to state, without disguise or concealment, that he was at first very much alarmed, and that he betrayed divers emotions of fear, until his reasoning powers came to his relief, and set before him a more hopeful prospect.

In proportion as Mr Dennis exercised these intellectual qualities with which he was gifted, in reviewing his best chances of coming off handsomely and with small personal inconvenience, his spirits rose, and his confidence increased. When he remembered the great estimation in which his office was held, and the constant demand for his services; when he bethought himself, how the Statute Book regarded him as a kind of Universal Medicine applicable to men, women, and children, of every age and variety of criminal constitution; and how high he stood, in his official capacity, in the favour of the Crown, and both Houses of Parliament, the Mint, the Bank of England, and the Judges of the land; when he recollected that whatever Ministry was in or out, he remained their peculiar pet and panacea, and that for his sake England stood single and conspicuous among the civilised nations of the earth: when he called these things to mind and dwelt upon them, he felt certain that the national gratitude MUST relieve him from the consequences of his late proceedings, and would certainly restore him to his old place in the happy social system.

With these crumbs, or as one may say, with these whole loaves of comfort to regale upon, Mr Dennis took his place among the escort that awaited him, and repaired to jail with a manly indifference. Arriving at Newgate, where some of the ruined cells had been hastily fitted up for the safe keeping of rioters, he was warmly received by the turnkeys, as an unusual and interesting case, which agreeably relieved their monotonous duties. In this spirit, he was fettered with great care, and conveyed into the interior of the prison.

‘Brother,’ cried the hangman, as, following an officer, he traversed under these novel circumstances the remains of passages with which he was well acquainted, ‘am I going to be along with anybody?’

‘If you’d have left more walls standing, you’d have been alone,’ was the reply. ‘As it is, we’re cramped for room, and you’ll have company.’

‘Well,’ returned Dennis, ‘I don’t object to company, brother. I rather like company. I was formed for society, I was.’

‘That’s rather a pity, an’t it?’ said the man.

‘No,’ answered Dennis, ‘I’m not aware that it is. Why should it be a pity, brother?’

‘Oh! I don’t know,’ said the man carelessly. ‘I thought that was what you meant. Being formed for society, and being cut off in your flower, you know—’

‘I say,’ interposed the other quickly, ‘what are you talking of? Don’t. Who’s a-going to be cut off in their flowers?’

‘Oh, nobody particular. I thought you was, perhaps,’ said the man.

Mr Dennis wiped his face, which had suddenly grown very hot, and remarking in a tremulous voice to his conductor that he had always been fond of his joke, followed him in silence until he stopped at a door.

‘This is my quarters, is it?’ he asked facetiously.

‘This is the shop, sir,’ replied his friend.

He was walking in, but not with the best possible grace, when he suddenly stopped, and started back.

‘Halloa!’ said the officer. ‘You’re nervous.’

‘Nervous!’ whispered Dennis in great alarm. ‘Well I may be. Shut the door.’

‘I will, when you’re in,’ returned the man.

‘But I can’t go in there,’ whispered Dennis. ‘I can’t be shut up with that man. Do you want me to be throttled, brother?’

The officer seemed to entertain no particular desire on the subject one way or other, but briefly remarking that he had his orders, and intended to obey them, pushed him in, turned the key, and retired.

Dennis stood trembling with his back against the door, and involuntarily raising his arm to defend himself, stared at a man, the only other tenant of the cell, who lay, stretched at his full length, upon a stone bench, and who paused in his deep breathing as if he were about to wake. But he rolled over on one side, let his arm fall negligently down, drew a long sigh, and murmuring indistinctly, fell fast asleep again.

Relieved in some degree by this, the hangman took his eyes for an instant from the slumbering figure, and glanced round the cell in search of some ‘vantage-ground or weapon of defence. There was nothing moveable within it, but a clumsy table which could not be displaced without noise, and a heavy chair. Stealing on tiptoe towards this latter piece of furniture, he retired with it into the remotest corner, and intrenching himself behind it, watched the enemy with the utmost vigilance and caution.

The sleeping man was Hugh; and perhaps it was not unnatural for Dennis to feel in a state of very uncomfortable suspense, and to wish with his whole soul that he might never wake again. Tired of standing, he crouched down in his corner after some time, and rested on the cold pavement; but although Hugh’s breathing still proclaimed that he was sleeping soundly, he could not trust him out of his sight for an instant. He was so afraid of him, and of some sudden onslaught, that he was not content to see his closed eyes through the chair-back, but every now and then, rose stealthily to his feet, and peered at him with outstretched neck, to assure himself that he really was still asleep, and was not about to spring upon him when he was off his guard.

He slept so long and so soundly, that Mr Dennis began to think he might sleep on until the turnkey visited them. He was congratulating himself upon these promising appearances, and blessing his stars with much fervour, when one or two unpleasant symptoms manifested themselves: such as another motion of the arm, another sigh, a restless tossing of the head. Then, just as it seemed that he was about to fall heavily to the ground from his narrow bed, Hugh’s eyes opened.

It happened that his face was turned directly towards his unexpected visitor. He looked lazily at him for some half-dozen seconds without any aspect of surprise or recognition; then suddenly jumped up, and with a great oath pronounced his name.

‘Keep off, brother, keep off!’ cried Dennis, dodging behind the chair. ‘Don’t do me a mischief. I’m a prisoner like you. I haven’t the free use of my limbs. I’m quite an old man. Don’t hurt me!’

He whined out the last three words in such piteous accents, that Hugh, who had dragged away the chair, and aimed a blow at him with it, checked himself, and bade him get up.

‘I’ll get up certainly, brother,’ cried Dennis, anxious to propitiate him by any means in his power. ‘I’ll comply with any request of yours, I’m sure. There—I’m up now. What can I do for you? Only say the word, and I’ll do it.’

‘What can you do for me!’ cried Hugh, clutching him by the collar with both hands, and shaking him as though he were bent on stopping his breath by that means. ‘What have you done for me?’

‘The best. The best that could be done,’ returned the hangman.

Hugh made him no answer, but shaking him in his strong grip until his teeth chattered in his head, cast him down upon the floor, and flung himself on the bench again.

‘If it wasn’t for the comfort it is to me, to see you here,’ he muttered, ‘I’d have crushed your head against it; I would.’

It was some time before Dennis had breath enough to speak, but as soon as he could resume his propitiatory strain, he did so.

‘I did the best that could be done, brother,’ he whined; ‘I did indeed. I was forced with two bayonets and I don’t know how many bullets on each side of me, to point you out. If you hadn’t been taken, you’d have been shot; and what a sight that would have been—a fine young man like you!’

‘Will it be a better sight now?’ asked Hugh, raising his head, with such a fierce expression, that the other durst not answer him just then.

‘A deal better,’ said Dennis meekly, after a pause. ‘First, there’s all the chances of the law, and they’re five hundred strong. We may get off scot-free. Unlikelier things than that have come to pass. Even if we shouldn’t, and the chances fail, we can but be worked off once: and when it’s well done, it’s so neat, so skilful, so captiwating, if that don’t seem too strong a word, that you’d hardly believe it could be brought to sich perfection. Kill one’s fellow-creeturs off, with muskets!—Pah!’ and his nature so revolted at the bare idea, that he spat upon the dungeon pavement.

His warming on this topic, which to one unacquainted with his pursuits and tastes appeared like courage; together with his artful suppression of his own secret hopes, and mention of himself as being in the same condition with Hugh; did more to soothe that ruffian than the most elaborate arguments could have done, or the most abject submission. He rested his arms upon his knees, and stooping forward, looked from beneath his shaggy hair at Dennis, with something of a smile upon his face.

‘The fact is, brother,’ said the hangman, in a tone of greater confidence, ‘that you got into bad company. The man that was with you was looked after more than you, and it was him I wanted. As to me, what have I got by it? Here we are, in one and the same plight.’

‘Lookee, rascal,’ said Hugh, contracting his brows, ‘I’m not altogether such a shallow blade but I know you expected to get something by it, or you wouldn’t have done it. But it’s done, and you’re here, and it will soon be all over with you and me; and I’d as soon die as live, or live as die. Why should I trouble myself to have revenge on you? To eat, and drink, and go to sleep, as long as I stay here, is all I care for. If there was but a little more sun to bask in, than can find its way into this cursed place, I’d lie in it all day, and not trouble myself to sit or stand up once. That’s all the care I have for myself. Why should I care for YOU?’

Finishing this speech with a growl like the yawn of a wild beast, he stretched himself upon the bench again, and closed his eyes once more.

After looking at him in silence for some moments, Dennis, who was greatly relieved to find him in this mood, drew the chair towards his rough couch and sat down near him—taking the precaution, however, to keep out of the range of his brawny arm.

‘Well said, brother; nothing could be better said,’ he ventured to observe. ‘We’ll eat and drink of the best, and sleep our best, and make the best of it every way. Anything can be got for money. Let’s spend it merrily.’

‘Ay,’ said Hugh, coiling himself into a new position.—‘Where is it?’

‘Why, they took mine from me at the lodge,’ said Mr Dennis; ‘but mine’s a peculiar case.’

‘Is it? They took mine too.’

‘Why then, I tell you what, brother,’ Dennis began. ‘You must look up your friends—’

‘My friends!’ cried Hugh, starting up and resting on his hands. ‘Where are my friends?’

‘Your relations then,’ said Dennis.

‘Ha ha ha!’ laughed Hugh, waving one arm above his head. ‘He talks of friends to me—talks of relations to a man whose mother died the death in store for her son, and left him, a hungry brat, without a face he knew in all the world! He talks of this to me!’

‘Brother,’ cried the hangman, whose features underwent a sudden change, ‘you don’t mean to say—’

‘I mean to say,’ Hugh interposed, ‘that they hung her up at Tyburn. What was good enough for her, is good enough for me. Let them do the like by me as soon as they please—the sooner the better. Say no more to me. I’m going to sleep.’

‘But I want to speak to you; I want to hear more about that,’ said Dennis, changing colour.

‘If you’re a wise man,’ growled Hugh, raising his head to look at him with a frown, ‘you’ll hold your tongue. I tell you I’m going to sleep.’

Dennis venturing to say something more in spite of this caution, the desperate fellow struck at him with all his force, and missing him, lay down again with many muttered oaths and imprecations, and turned his face towards the wall. After two or three ineffectual twitches at his dress, which he was hardy enough to venture upon, notwithstanding his dangerous humour, Mr Dennis, who burnt, for reasons of his own, to pursue the conversation, had no alternative but to sit as patiently as he could: waiting his further pleasure.





Chapter 75

A month has elapsed,—and we stand in the bedchamber of Sir John Chester. Through the half-opened window, the Temple Garden looks green and pleasant; the placid river, gay with boat and barge, and dimpled with the plash of many an oar, sparkles in the distance; the sky is blue and clear; and the summer air steals gently in, filling the room with perfume. The very town, the smoky town, is radiant. High roofs and steeple-tops, wont to look black and sullen, smile a cheerful grey; every old gilded vane, and ball, and cross, glitters anew in the bright morning sun; and, high among them all, St Paul’s towers up, showing its lofty crest in burnished gold.

Sir John was breakfasting in bed. His chocolate and toast stood upon a little table at his elbow; books and newspapers lay ready to his hand, upon the coverlet; and, sometimes pausing to glance with an air of tranquil satisfaction round the well-ordered room, and sometimes to gaze indolently at the summer sky, he ate, and drank, and read the news luxuriously.

The cheerful influence of the morning seemed to have some effect, even upon his equable temper. His manner was unusually gay; his smile more placid and agreeable than usual; his voice more clear and pleasant. He laid down the newspaper he had been reading; leaned back upon his pillow with the air of one who resigned himself to a train of charming recollections; and after a pause, soliloquised as follows:

‘And my friend the centaur, goes the way of his mamma! I am not surprised. And his mysterious friend Mr Dennis, likewise! I am not surprised. And my old postman, the exceedingly free-and-easy young madman of Chigwell! I am quite rejoiced. It’s the very best thing that could possibly happen to him.’

After delivering himself of these remarks, he fell again into his smiling train of reflection; from which he roused himself at length to finish his chocolate, which was getting cold, and ring the bell for more.

The new supply arriving, he took the cup from his servant’s hand; and saying, with a charming affability, ‘I am obliged to you, Peak,’ dismissed him.

‘It is a remarkable circumstance,’ he mused, dallying lazily with the teaspoon, ‘that my friend the madman should have been within an ace of escaping, on his trial; and it was a good stroke of chance (or, as the world would say, a providential occurrence) that the brother of my Lord Mayor should have been in court, with other country justices, into whose very dense heads curiosity had penetrated. For though the brother of my Lord Mayor was decidedly wrong; and established his near relationship to that amusing person beyond all doubt, in stating that my friend was sane, and had, to his knowledge, wandered about the country with a vagabond parent, avowing revolutionary and rebellious sentiments; I am not the less obliged to him for volunteering that evidence. These insane creatures make such very odd and embarrassing remarks, that they really ought to be hanged for the comfort of society.’

The country justice had indeed turned the wavering scale against poor Barnaby, and solved the doubt that trembled in his favour. Grip little thought how much he had to answer for.

‘They will be a singular party,’ said Sir John, leaning his head upon his hand, and sipping his chocolate; ‘a very curious party. The hangman himself; the centaur; and the madman. The centaur would make a very handsome preparation in Surgeons’ Hall, and would benefit science extremely. I hope they have taken care to bespeak him.—Peak, I am not at home, of course, to anybody but the hairdresser.’

This reminder to his servant was called forth by a knock at the door, which the man hastened to open. After a prolonged murmur of question and answer, he returned; and as he cautiously closed the room-door behind him, a man was heard to cough in the passage.

‘Now, it is of no use, Peak,’ said Sir John, raising his hand in deprecation of his delivering any message; ‘I am not at home. I cannot possibly hear you. I told you I was not at home, and my word is sacred. Will you never do as you are desired?’

Having nothing to oppose to this reproof, the man was about to withdraw, when the visitor who had given occasion to it, probably rendered impatient by delay, knocked with his knuckles at the chamber-door, and called out that he had urgent business with Sir John Chester, which admitted of no delay.

‘Let him in,’ said Sir John. ‘My good fellow,’ he added, when the door was opened, ‘how come you to intrude yourself in this extraordinary manner upon the privacy of a gentleman? How can you be so wholly destitute of self-respect as to be guilty of such remarkable ill-breeding?’

‘My business, Sir John, is not of a common kind, I do assure you,’ returned the person he addressed. ‘If I have taken any uncommon course to get admission to you, I hope I shall be pardoned on that account.’

‘Well! we shall see; we shall see,’ returned Sir John, whose face cleared up when he saw who it was, and whose prepossessing smile was now restored. ‘I am sure we have met before,’ he added in his winning tone, ‘but really I forget your name?’

‘My name is Gabriel Varden, sir.’

‘Varden, of course, Varden,’ returned Sir John, tapping his forehead. ‘Dear me, how very defective my memory becomes! Varden to be sure—Mr Varden the locksmith. You have a charming wife, Mr Varden, and a most beautiful daughter. They are well?’

Gabriel thanked him, and said they were.

‘I rejoice to hear it,’ said Sir John. ‘Commend me to them when you return, and say that I wished I were fortunate enough to convey, myself, the salute which I entrust you to deliver. And what,’ he asked very sweetly, after a moment’s pause, ‘can I do for you? You may command me freely.’

‘I thank you, Sir John,’ said Gabriel, with some pride in his manner, ‘but I have come to ask no favour of you, though I come on business.—Private,’ he added, with a glance at the man who stood looking on, ‘and very pressing business.’

‘I cannot say you are the more welcome for being independent, and having nothing to ask of me,’ returned Sir John, graciously, ‘for I should have been happy to render you a service; still, you are welcome on any terms. Oblige me with some more chocolate, Peak, and don’t wait.’

The man retired, and left them alone.

‘Sir John,’ said Gabriel, ‘I am a working-man, and have been so, all my life. If I don’t prepare you enough for what I have to tell; if I come to the point too abruptly; and give you a shock, which a gentleman could have spared you, or at all events lessened very much; I hope you will give me credit for meaning well. I wish to be careful and considerate, and I trust that in a straightforward person like me, you’ll take the will for the deed.’

‘Mr Varden,’ returned the other, perfectly composed under this exordium; ‘I beg you’ll take a chair. Chocolate, perhaps, you don’t relish? Well! it IS an acquired taste, no doubt.’

‘Sir John,’ said Gabriel, who had acknowledged with a bow the invitation to be seated, but had not availed himself of it. ‘Sir John’—he dropped his voice and drew nearer to the bed—‘I am just now come from Newgate—’

‘Good Gad!’ cried Sir John, hastily sitting up in bed; ‘from Newgate, Mr Varden! How could you be so very imprudent as to come from Newgate! Newgate, where there are jail-fevers, and ragged people, and bare-footed men and women, and a thousand horrors! Peak, bring the camphor, quick! Heaven and earth, Mr Varden, my dear, good soul, how COULD you come from Newgate?’

Gabriel returned no answer, but looked on in silence while Peak (who had entered with the hot chocolate) ran to a drawer, and returning with a bottle, sprinkled his master’s dressing-gown and the bedding; and besides moistening the locksmith himself, plentifully, described a circle round about him on the carpet. When he had done this, he again retired; and Sir John, reclining in an easy attitude upon his pillow, once more turned a smiling face towards his visitor.

‘You will forgive me, Mr Varden, I am sure, for being at first a little sensitive both on your account and my own. I confess I was startled, notwithstanding your delicate exordium. Might I ask you to do me the favour not to approach any nearer?—You have really come from Newgate!’

The locksmith inclined his head.

‘In-deed! And now, Mr Varden, all exaggeration and embellishment apart,’ said Sir John Chester, confidentially, as he sipped his chocolate, ‘what kind of place IS Newgate?’

‘A strange place, Sir John,’ returned the locksmith, ‘of a sad and doleful kind. A strange place, where many strange things are heard and seen; but few more strange than that I come to tell you of. The case is urgent. I am sent here.’

‘Not—no, no—not from the jail?’

‘Yes, Sir John; from the jail.’

‘And my good, credulous, open-hearted friend,’ said Sir John, setting down his cup, and laughing,—‘by whom?’

‘By a man called Dennis—for many years the hangman, and to-morrow morning the hanged,’ returned the locksmith.

Sir John had expected—had been quite certain from the first—that he would say he had come from Hugh, and was prepared to meet him on that point. But this answer occasioned him a degree of astonishment, which, for the moment, he could not, with all his command of feature, prevent his face from expressing. He quickly subdued it, however, and said in the same light tone:

‘And what does the gentleman require of me? My memory may be at fault again, but I don’t recollect that I ever had the pleasure of an introduction to him, or that I ever numbered him among my personal friends, I do assure you, Mr Varden.’

‘Sir John,’ returned the locksmith, gravely, ‘I will tell you, as nearly as I can, in the words he used to me, what he desires that you should know, and what you ought to know without a moment’s loss of time.’

Sir John Chester settled himself in a position of greater repose, and looked at his visitor with an expression of face which seemed to say, ‘This is an amusing fellow! I’ll hear him out.’

‘You may have seen in the newspapers, sir,’ said Gabriel, pointing to the one which lay by his side, ‘that I was a witness against this man upon his trial some days since; and that it was not his fault I was alive, and able to speak to what I knew.’

‘MAY have seen!’ cried Sir John. ‘My dear Mr Varden, you are quite a public character, and live in all men’s thoughts most deservedly. Nothing can exceed the interest with which I read your testimony, and remembered that I had the pleasure of a slight acquaintance with you.—-I hope we shall have your portrait published?’

‘This morning, sir,’ said the locksmith, taking no notice of these compliments, ‘early this morning, a message was brought to me from Newgate, at this man’s request, desiring that I would go and see him, for he had something particular to communicate. I needn’t tell you that he is no friend of mine, and that I had never seen him, until the rioters beset my house.’

Sir John fanned himself gently with the newspaper, and nodded.

‘I knew, however, from the general report,’ resumed Gabriel, ‘that the order for his execution to-morrow, went down to the prison last night; and looking upon him as a dying man, I complied with his request.’

‘You are quite a Christian, Mr Varden,’ said Sir John; ‘and in that amiable capacity, you increase my desire that you should take a chair.’

‘He said,’ continued Gabriel, looking steadily at the knight, ‘that he had sent to me, because he had no friend or companion in the whole world (being the common hangman), and because he believed, from the way in which I had given my evidence, that I was an honest man, and would act truly by him. He said that, being shunned by every one who knew his calling, even by people of the lowest and most wretched grade, and finding, when he joined the rioters, that the men he acted with had no suspicion of it (which I believe is true enough, for a poor fool of an old ‘prentice of mine was one of them), he had kept his own counsel, up to the time of his being taken and put in jail.’

‘Very discreet of Mr Dennis,’ observed Sir John with a slight yawn, though still with the utmost affability, ‘but—except for your admirable and lucid manner of telling it, which is perfect—not very interesting to me.’

‘When,’ pursued the locksmith, quite unabashed and wholly regardless of these interruptions, ‘when he was taken to the jail, he found that his fellow-prisoner, in the same room, was a young man, Hugh by name, a leader in the riots, who had been betrayed and given up by himself. From something which fell from this unhappy creature in the course of the angry words they had at meeting, he discovered that his mother had suffered the death to which they both are now condemned.—The time is very short, Sir John.’

The knight laid down his paper fan, replaced his cup upon the table at his side, and, saving for the smile that lurked about his mouth, looked at the locksmith with as much steadiness as the locksmith looked at him.

‘They have been in prison now, a month. One conversation led to many more; and the hangman soon found, from a comparison of time, and place, and dates, that he had executed the sentence of the law upon this woman, himself. She had been tempted by want—as so many people are—into the easy crime of passing forged notes. She was young and handsome; and the traders who employ men, women, and children in this traffic, looked upon her as one who was well adapted for their business, and who would probably go on without suspicion for a long time. But they were mistaken; for she was stopped in the commission of her very first offence, and died for it. She was of gipsy blood, Sir John—’

It might have been the effect of a passing cloud which obscured the sun, and cast a shadow on his face; but the knight turned deadly pale. Still he met the locksmith’s eye, as before.

‘She was of gipsy blood, Sir John,’ repeated Gabriel, ‘and had a high, free spirit. This, and her good looks, and her lofty manner, interested some gentlemen who were easily moved by dark eyes; and efforts were made to save her. They might have been successful, if she would have given them any clue to her history. But she never would, or did. There was reason to suspect that she would make an attempt upon her life. A watch was set upon her night and day; and from that time she never spoke again—’

Sir John stretched out his hand towards his cup. The locksmith going on, arrested it half-way.

—‘Until she had but a minute to live. Then she broke silence, and said, in a low firm voice which no one heard but this executioner, for all other living creatures had retired and left her to her fate, “If I had a dagger within these fingers and he was within my reach, I would strike him dead before me, even now!” The man asked “Who?” She said, “The father of her boy.”’

Sir John drew back his outstretched hand, and seeing that the locksmith paused, signed to him with easy politeness and without any new appearance of emotion, to proceed.

‘It was the first word she had ever spoken, from which it could be understood that she had any relative on earth. “Was the child alive?” he asked. “Yes.” He asked her where it was, its name, and whether she had any wish respecting it. She had but one, she said. It was that the boy might live and grow, in utter ignorance of his father, so that no arts might teach him to be gentle and forgiving. When he became a man, she trusted to the God of their tribe to bring the father and the son together, and revenge her through her child. He asked her other questions, but she spoke no more. Indeed, he says, she scarcely said this much, to him, but stood with her face turned upwards to the sky, and never looked towards him once.’

Sir John took a pinch of snuff; glanced approvingly at an elegant little sketch, entitled ‘Nature,’ on the wall; and raising his eyes to the locksmith’s face again, said, with an air of courtesy and patronage, ‘You were observing, Mr Varden—’

‘That she never,’ returned the locksmith, who was not to be diverted by any artifice from his firm manner, and his steady gaze, ‘that she never looked towards him once, Sir John; and so she died, and he forgot her. But, some years afterwards, a man was sentenced to die the same death, who was a gipsy too; a sunburnt, swarthy fellow, almost a wild man; and while he lay in prison, under sentence, he, who had seen the hangman more than once while he was free, cut an image of him on his stick, by way of braving death, and showing those who attended on him, how little he cared or thought about it. He gave this stick into his hands at Tyburn, and told him then, that the woman I have spoken of had left her own people to join a fine gentleman, and that, being deserted by him, and cast off by her old friends, she had sworn within her own proud breast, that whatever her misery might be, she would ask no help of any human being. He told him that she had kept her word to the last; and that, meeting even him in the streets—he had been fond of her once, it seems—she had slipped from him by a trick, and he never saw her again, until, being in one of the frequent crowds at Tyburn, with some of his rough companions, he had been driven almost mad by seeing, in the criminal under another name, whose death he had come to witness, herself. Standing in the same place in which she had stood, he told the hangman this, and told him, too, her real name, which only her own people and the gentleman for whose sake she had left them, knew. That name he will tell again, Sir John, to none but you.’

‘To none but me!’ exclaimed the knight, pausing in the act of raising his cup to his lips with a perfectly steady hand, and curling up his little finger for the better display of a brilliant ring with which it was ornamented: ‘but me!—My dear Mr Varden, how very preposterous, to select me for his confidence! With you at his elbow, too, who are so perfectly trustworthy!’

‘Sir John, Sir John,’ returned the locksmith, ‘at twelve tomorrow, these men die. Hear the few words I have to add, and do not hope to deceive me; for though I am a plain man of humble station, and you are a gentleman of rank and learning, the truth raises me to your level, and I KNOW that you anticipate the disclosure with which I am about to end, and that you believe this doomed man, Hugh, to be your son.’

‘Nay,’ said Sir John, bantering him with a gay air; ‘the wild gentleman, who died so suddenly, scarcely went as far as that, I think?’

‘He did not,’ returned the locksmith, ‘for she had bound him by some pledge, known only to these people, and which the worst among them respect, not to tell your name: but, in a fantastic pattern on the stick, he had carved some letters, and when the hangman asked it, he bade him, especially if he should ever meet with her son in after life, remember that place well.’

‘What place?’

‘Chester.’

The knight finished his cup of chocolate with an appearance of infinite relish, and carefully wiped his lips upon his handkerchief.

‘Sir John,’ said the locksmith, ‘this is all that has been told to me; but since these two men have been left for death, they have conferred together closely. See them, and hear what they can add. See this Dennis, and learn from him what he has not trusted to me. If you, who hold the clue to all, want corroboration (which you do not), the means are easy.’

‘And to what,’ said Sir John Chester, rising on his elbow, after smoothing the pillow for its reception; ‘my dear, good-natured, estimable Mr Varden—with whom I cannot be angry if I would—to what does all this tend?’

‘I take you for a man, Sir John, and I suppose it tends to some pleading of natural affection in your breast,’ returned the locksmith. ‘I suppose to the straining of every nerve, and the exertion of all the influence you have, or can make, in behalf of your miserable son, and the man who has disclosed his existence to you. At the worst, I suppose to your seeing your son, and awakening him to a sense of his crime and danger. He has no such sense now. Think what his life must have been, when he said in my hearing, that if I moved you to anything, it would be to hastening his death, and ensuring his silence, if you had it in your power!’

‘And have you, my good Mr Varden,’ said Sir John in a tone of mild reproof, ‘have you really lived to your present age, and remained so very simple and credulous, as to approach a gentleman of established character with such credentials as these, from desperate men in their last extremity, catching at any straw? Oh dear! Oh fie, fie!’

The locksmith was going to interpose, but he stopped him:

‘On any other subject, Mr Varden, I shall be delighted—I shall be charmed—to converse with you, but I owe it to my own character not to pursue this topic for another moment.’

‘Think better of it, sir, when I am gone,’ returned the locksmith; ‘think better of it, sir. Although you have, thrice within as many weeks, turned your lawful son, Mr Edward, from your door, you may have time, you may have years to make your peace with HIM, Sir John: but that twelve o’clock will soon be here, and soon be past for ever.’

‘I thank you very much,’ returned the knight, kissing his delicate hand to the locksmith, ‘for your guileless advice; and I only wish, my good soul, although your simplicity is quite captivating, that you had a little more worldly wisdom. I never so much regretted the arrival of my hairdresser as I do at this moment. God bless you! Good morning! You’ll not forget my message to the ladies, Mr Varden? Peak, show Mr Varden to the door.’

Gabriel said no more, but gave the knight a parting look, and left him. As he quitted the room, Sir John’s face changed; and the smile gave place to a haggard and anxious expression, like that of a weary actor jaded by the performance of a difficult part. He rose from his bed with a heavy sigh, and wrapped himself in his morning-gown.

‘So she kept her word,’ he said, ‘and was constant to her threat! I would I had never seen that dark face of hers,—I might have read these consequences in it, from the first. This affair would make a noise abroad, if it rested on better evidence; but, as it is, and by not joining the scattered links of the chain, I can afford to slight it.—Extremely distressing to be the parent of such an uncouth creature! Still, I gave him very good advice. I told him he would certainly be hanged. I could have done no more if I had known of our relationship; and there are a great many fathers who have never done as much for THEIR natural children.—The hairdresser may come in, Peak!’

The hairdresser came in; and saw in Sir John Chester (whose accommodating conscience was soon quieted by the numerous precedents that occurred to him in support of his last observation), the same imperturbable, fascinating, elegant gentleman he had seen yesterday, and many yesterdays before.