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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 32

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 32

Misfortunes, saith the adage, never come singly. There is little
doubt that troubles are exceedingly gregarious in their nature, and
flying in flocks, are apt to perch capriciously; crowding on the
heads of some poor wights until there is not an inch of room left
on their unlucky crowns, and taking no more notice of others who
offer as good resting-places for the soles of their feet, than if
they had no existence. It may have happened that a flight of
troubles brooding over London, and looking out for Joseph Willet,
whom they couldn't find, darted down haphazard on the first young
man that caught their fancy, and settled on him instead. However
this may be, certain it is that on the very day of Joe's departure
they swarmed about the ears of Edward Chester, and did so buzz and
flap their wings, and persecute him, that he was most profoundly

It was evening, and just eight o'clock, when he and his father,
having wine and dessert set before them, were left to themselves
for the first time that day. They had dined together, but a third
person had been present during the meal, and until they met at
table they had not seen each other since the previous night.

Edward was reserved and silent. Mr Chester was more than usually
gay; but not caring, as it seemed, to open a conversation with one
whose humour was so different, he vented the lightness of his
spirit in smiles and sparkling looks, and made no effort to awaken
his attention. So they remained for some time: the father lying on
a sofa with his accustomed air of graceful negligence; the son
seated opposite to him with downcast eyes, busied, it was plain,
with painful and uneasy thoughts.

'My dear Edward,' said Mr Chester at length, with a most engaging
laugh, 'do not extend your drowsy influence to the decanter.
Suffer THAT to circulate, let your spirits be never so stagnant.'

Edward begged his pardon, passed it, and relapsed into his former

'You do wrong not to fill your glass,' said Mr Chester, holding up
his own before the light. 'Wine in moderation--not in excess, for
that makes men ugly--has a thousand pleasant influences. It
brightens the eye, improves the voice, imparts a new vivacity to
one's thoughts and conversation: you should try it, Ned.'

'Ah father!' cried his son, 'if--'

'My good fellow,' interposed the parent hastily, as he set down his
glass, and raised his eyebrows with a startled and horrified
expression, 'for Heaven's sake don't call me by that obsolete and
ancient name. Have some regard for delicacy. Am I grey, or
wrinkled, do I go on crutches, have I lost my teeth, that you adopt
such a mode of address? Good God, how very coarse!'

'I was about to speak to you from my heart, sir,' returned Edward,
'in the confidence which should subsist between us; and you check
me in the outset.'

'Now DO, Ned, DO not,' said Mr Chester, raising his delicate hand
imploringly, 'talk in that monstrous manner. About to speak from
your heart. Don't you know that the heart is an ingenious part of
our formation--the centre of the blood-vessels and all that sort of
thing--which has no more to do with what you say or think, than
your knees have? How can you be so very vulgar and absurd? These
anatomical allusions should be left to gentlemen of the medical
profession. They are really not agreeable in society. You quite
surprise me, Ned.'

'Well! there are no such things to wound, or heal, or have regard
for. I know your creed, sir, and will say no more,' returned his

'There again,' said Mr Chester, sipping his wine, 'you are wrong.
I distinctly say there are such things. We know there are. The
hearts of animals--of bullocks, sheep, and so forth--are cooked and
devoured, as I am told, by the lower classes, with a vast deal of
relish. Men are sometimes stabbed to the heart, shot to the heart;
but as to speaking from the heart, or to the heart, or being warm-
hearted, or cold-hearted, or broken-hearted, or being all heart, or
having no heart--pah! these things are nonsense, Ned.'

'No doubt, sir,' returned his son, seeing that he paused for him to
speak. 'No doubt.'

'There's Haredale's niece, your late flame,' said Mr Chester, as a
careless illustration of his meaning. 'No doubt in your mind she
was all heart once. Now she has none at all. Yet she is the same
person, Ned, exactly.'

'She is a changed person, sir,' cried Edward, reddening; 'and
changed by vile means, I believe.'

'You have had a cool dismissal, have you?' said his father. 'Poor
Ned! I told you last night what would happen.--May I ask you for
the nutcrackers?'

'She has been tampered with, and most treacherously deceived,'
cried Edward, rising from his seat. 'I never will believe that the
knowledge of my real position, given her by myself, has worked this
change. I know she is beset and tortured. But though our contract
is at an end, and broken past all redemption; though I charge upon
her want of firmness and want of truth, both to herself and me; I
do not now, and never will believe, that any sordid motive, or her
own unbiassed will, has led her to this course--never!'

'You make me blush,' returned his father gaily, 'for the folly of
your nature, in which--but we never know ourselves--I devoutly hope
there is no reflection of my own. With regard to the young lady
herself, she has done what is very natural and proper, my dear
fellow; what you yourself proposed, as I learn from Haredale; and
what I predicted--with no great exercise of sagacity--she would do.
She supposed you to be rich, or at least quite rich enough; and
found you poor. Marriage is a civil contract; people marry to
better their worldly condition and improve appearances; it is an
affair of house and furniture, of liveries, servants, equipage, and
so forth. The lady being poor and you poor also, there is an end
of the matter. You cannot enter upon these considerations, and
have no manner of business with the ceremony. I drink her health
in this glass, and respect and honour her for her extreme good
sense. It is a lesson to you. Fill yours, Ned.'

'It is a lesson,' returned his son, 'by which I hope I may never
profit, and if years and experience impress it on--'

'Don't say on the heart,' interposed his father.

'On men whom the world and its hypocrisy have spoiled,' said Edward
warmly, 'Heaven keep me from its knowledge.'

'Come, sir,' returned his father, raising himself a little on the
sofa, and looking straight towards him; 'we have had enough of
this. Remember, if you please, your interest, your duty, your
moral obligations, your filial affections, and all that sort of
thing, which it is so very delightful and charming to reflect upon;
or you will repent it.'

'I shall never repent the preservation of my self-respect, sir,'
said Edward. 'Forgive me if I say that I will not sacrifice it at
your bidding, and that I will not pursue the track which you would
have me take, and to which the secret share you have had in this
late separation tends.'

His father rose a little higher still, and looking at him as though
curious to know if he were quite resolved and earnest, dropped
gently down again, and said in the calmest voice--eating his nuts

'Edward, my father had a son, who being a fool like you, and, like
you, entertaining low and disobedient sentiments, he disinherited
and cursed one morning after breakfast. The circumstance occurs to
me with a singular clearness of recollection this evening. I
remember eating muffins at the time, with marmalade. He led a
miserable life (the son, I mean) and died early; it was a happy
release on all accounts; he degraded the family very much. It is a
sad circumstance, Edward, when a father finds it necessary to
resort to such strong measures.

'It is,' replied Edward, 'and it is sad when a son, proffering him
his love and duty in their best and truest sense, finds himself
repelled at every turn, and forced to disobey. Dear father,' he
added, more earnestly though in a gentler tone, 'I have reflected
many times on what occurred between us when we first discussed this
subject. Let there be a confidence between us; not in terms, but
truth. Hear what I have to say.'

'As I anticipate what it is, and cannot fail to do so, Edward,'
returned his father coldly, 'I decline. I couldn't possibly. I am
sure it would put me out of temper, which is a state of mind I
can't endure. If you intend to mar my plans for your establishment
in life, and the preservation of that gentility and becoming pride,
which our family have so long sustained--if, in short, you are
resolved to take your own course, you must take it, and my curse
with it. I am very sorry, but there's really no alternative.'

'The curse may pass your lips,' said Edward, 'but it will be but
empty breath. I do not believe that any man on earth has greater
power to call one down upon his fellow--least of all, upon his own
child--than he has to make one drop of rain or flake of snow fall
from the clouds above us at his impious bidding. Beware, sir, what
you do.'

'You are so very irreligious, so exceedingly undutiful, so horribly
profane,' rejoined his father, turning his face lazily towards
him, and cracking another nut, 'that I positively must interrupt
you here. It is quite impossible we can continue to go on, upon
such terms as these. If you will do me the favour to ring the
bell, the servant will show you to the door. Return to this roof
no more, I beg you. Go, sir, since you have no moral sense
remaining; and go to the Devil, at my express desire. Good day.'

Edward left the room without another word or look, and turned his
back upon the house for ever.

The father's face was slightly flushed and heated, but his manner
was quite unchanged, as he rang the bell again, and addressed the
servant on his entrance.

'Peak--if that gentleman who has just gone out--'

'I beg your pardon, sir, Mr Edward?'

'Were there more than one, dolt, that you ask the question?--If
that gentleman should send here for his wardrobe, let him have it,
do you hear? If he should call himself at any time, I'm not at
home. You'll tell him so, and shut the door.'

So, it soon got whispered about, that Mr Chester was very
unfortunate in his son, who had occasioned him great grief and
sorrow. And the good people who heard this and told it again,
marvelled the more at his equanimity and even temper, and said what
an amiable nature that man must have, who, having undergone so
much, could be so placid and so calm. And when Edward's name was
spoken, Society shook its head, and laid its finger on its lip, and
sighed, and looked very grave; and those who had sons about his
age, waxed wrathful and indignant, and hoped, for Virtue's sake,
that he was dead. And the world went on turning round, as usual,
for five years, concerning which this Narrative is silent.

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Index Index

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64
Chapter 65
Chapter 66
Chapter 67
Chapter 68
Chapter 69
Chapter 70
Chapter 71
Chapter 72
Chapter 73
Chapter 74
Chapter 75
Chapter 76
Chapter 77
Chapter 78
Chapter 79
Chapter 80
Chapter 81
Chapter 82

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