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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 36

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 36

Gashford, with a smiling face, but still with looks of profound
deference and humility, betook himself towards his master's room,
smoothing his hair down as he went, and humming a psalm tune. As
he approached Lord George's door, he cleared his throat and hummed
more vigorously.

There was a remarkable contrast between this man's occupation at
the moment, and the expression of his countenance, which was
singularly repulsive and malicious. His beetling brow almost
obscured his eyes; his lip was curled contemptuously; his very
shoulders seemed to sneer in stealthy whisperings with his great
flapped ears.

'Hush!' he muttered softly, as he peeped in at the chamber-door.
'He seems to be asleep. Pray Heaven he is! Too much watching, too
much care, too much thought--ah! Lord preserve him for a martyr!
He is a saint, if ever saint drew breath on this bad earth.'

Placing his light upon a table, he walked on tiptoe to the fire,
and sitting in a chair before it with his back towards the bed,
went on communing with himself like one who thought aloud:

'The saviour of his country and his country's religion, the friend
of his poor countrymen, the enemy of the proud and harsh; beloved
of the rejected and oppressed, adored by forty thousand bold and
loyal English hearts--what happy slumbers his should be!' And here
he sighed, and warmed his hands, and shook his head as men do when
their hearts are full, and heaved another sigh, and warmed his
hands again.

'Why, Gashford?' said Lord George, who was lying broad awake, upon
his side, and had been staring at him from his entrance.

'My--my lord,' said Gashford, starting and looking round as though
in great surprise. 'I have disturbed you!'

'I have not been sleeping.'

'Not sleeping!' he repeated, with assumed confusion. 'What can I
say for having in your presence given utterance to thoughts--but
they were sincere--they were sincere!' exclaimed the secretary,
drawing his sleeve in a hasty way across his eyes; 'and why should
I regret your having heard them?'

'Gashford,' said the poor lord, stretching out his hand with
manifest emotion. 'Do not regret it. You love me well, I know--
too well. I don't deserve such homage.'

Gashford made no reply, but grasped the hand and pressed it to his
lips. Then rising, and taking from the trunk a little desk, he
placed it on a table near the fire, unlocked it with a key he
carried in his pocket, sat down before it, took out a pen, and,
before dipping it in the inkstand, sucked it--to compose the
fashion of his mouth perhaps, on which a smile was hovering yet.

'How do our numbers stand since last enrolling-night?' inquired
Lord George. 'Are we really forty thousand strong, or do we still
speak in round numbers when we take the Association at that amount?'

'Our total now exceeds that number by a score and three,' Gashford
replied, casting his eyes upon his papers.

'The funds?'

'Not VERY improving; but there is some manna in the wilderness, my
lord. Hem! On Friday night the widows' mites dropped in. "Forty
scavengers, three and fourpence. An aged pew-opener of St Martin's
parish, sixpence. A bell-ringer of the established church,
sixpence. A Protestant infant, newly born, one halfpenny. The
United Link Boys, three shillings--one bad. The anti-popish
prisoners in Newgate, five and fourpence. A friend in Bedlam,
half-a-crown. Dennis the hangman, one shilling."'

'That Dennis,' said his lordship, 'is an earnest man. I marked him
in the crowd in Welbeck Street, last Friday.'

'A good man,' rejoined the secretary, 'a staunch, sincere, and
truly zealous man.'

'He should be encouraged,' said Lord George. 'Make a note of
Dennis. I'll talk with him.'

Gashford obeyed, and went on reading from his list:

'"The Friends of Reason, half-a-guinea. The Friends of Liberty,
half-a-guinea. The Friends of Peace, half-a-guinea. The Friends
of Charity, half-a-guinea. The Friends of Mercy, half-a-guinea.
The Associated Rememberers of Bloody Mary, half-a-guinea. The
United Bulldogs, half-a-guinea."'

'The United Bulldogs,' said Lord George, biting his nails most
horribly, 'are a new society, are they not?'

'Formerly the 'Prentice Knights, my lord. The indentures of the
old members expiring by degrees, they changed their name, it seems,
though they still have 'prentices among them, as well as workmen.'

'What is their president's name?' inquired Lord George.

'President,' said Gashford, reading, 'Mr Simon Tappertit.'

'I remember him. The little man, who sometimes brings an elderly
sister to our meetings, and sometimes another female too, who is
conscientious, I have no doubt, but not well-favoured?'

'The very same, my lord.'

'Tappertit is an earnest man,' said Lord George, thoughtfully.
'Eh, Gashford?'

'One of the foremost among them all, my lord. He snuffs the battle
from afar, like the war-horse. He throws his hat up in the street
as if he were inspired, and makes most stirring speeches from the
shoulders of his friends.'

'Make a note of Tappertit,' said Lord George Gordon. 'We may
advance him to a place of trust.'

'That,' rejoined the secretary, doing as he was told, 'is all--
except Mrs Varden's box (fourteenth time of opening), seven
shillings and sixpence in silver and copper, and half-a-guinea in
gold; and Miggs (being the saving of a quarter's wages), one-and-

'Miggs,' said Lord George. 'Is that a man?'

'The name is entered on the list as a woman,' replied the
secretary. 'I think she is the tall spare female of whom you spoke
just now, my lord, as not being well-favoured, who sometimes comes
to hear the speeches--along with Tappertit and Mrs Varden.'

'Mrs Varden is the elderly lady then, is she?'

The secretary nodded, and rubbed the bridge of his nose with the
feather of his pen.

'She is a zealous sister,' said Lord George. 'Her collection goes
on prosperously, and is pursued with fervour. Has her husband

'A malignant,' returned the secretary, folding up his papers.
'Unworthy such a wife. He remains in outer darkness and steadily

'The consequences be upon his own head!--Gashford!'

'My lord!'

'You don't think,' he turned restlessly in his bed as he spoke,
'these people will desert me, when the hour arrives? I have spoken
boldly for them, ventured much, suppressed nothing. They'll not
fall off, will they?'

'No fear of that, my lord,' said Gashford, with a meaning look,
which was rather the involuntary expression of his own thoughts
than intended as any confirmation of his words, for the other's
face was turned away. 'Be sure there is no fear of that.'

'Nor,' he said with a more restless motion than before, 'of their--
but they CAN sustain no harm from leaguing for this purpose. Right
is on our side, though Might may be against us. You feel as sure
of that as I--honestly, you do?'

The secretary was beginning with 'You do not doubt,' when the other
interrupted him, and impatiently rejoined:

'Doubt. No. Who says I doubt? If I doubted, should I cast away
relatives, friends, everything, for this unhappy country's sake;
this unhappy country,' he cried, springing up in bed, after
repeating the phrase 'unhappy country's sake' to himself, at least
a dozen times, 'forsaken of God and man, delivered over to a
dangerous confederacy of Popish powers; the prey of corruption,
idolatry, and despotism! Who says I doubt? Am I called, and
chosen, and faithful? Tell me. Am I, or am I not?'

'To God, the country, and yourself,' cried Gashford.

'I am. I will be. I say again, I will be: to the block. Who says
as much! Do you? Does any man alive?'

The secretary drooped his head with an expression of perfect
acquiescence in anything that had been said or might be; and Lord
George gradually sinking down upon his pillow, fell asleep.

Although there was something very ludicrous in his vehement manner,
taken in conjunction with his meagre aspect and ungraceful
presence, it would scarcely have provoked a smile in any man of
kindly feeling; or even if it had, he would have felt sorry and
almost angry with himself next moment, for yielding to the impulse.
This lord was sincere in his violence and in his wavering. A
nature prone to false enthusiasm, and the vanity of being a leader,
were the worst qualities apparent in his composition. All the rest
was weakness--sheer weakness; and it is the unhappy lot of
thoroughly weak men, that their very sympathies, affections,
confidences--all the qualities which in better constituted minds
are virtues--dwindle into foibles, or turn into downright vices.

Gashford, with many a sly look towards the bed, sat chuckling at
his master's folly, until his deep and heavy breathing warned him
that he might retire. Locking his desk, and replacing it within
the trunk (but not before he had taken from a secret lining two
printed handbills), he cautiously withdrew; looking back, as he
went, at the pale face of the slumbering man, above whose head the
dusty plumes that crowned the Maypole couch, waved drearily and
sadly as though it were a bier.

Stopping on the staircase to listen that all was quiet, and to take
off his shoes lest his footsteps should alarm any light sleeper who
might be near at hand, he descended to the ground floor, and thrust
one of his bills beneath the great door of the house. That done,
he crept softly back to his own chamber, and from the window let
another fall--carefully wrapt round a stone to save it from the
wind--into the yard below.

They were addressed on the back 'To every Protestant into whose
hands this shall come,' and bore within what follows:

'Men and Brethren. Whoever shall find this letter, will take it as
a warning to join, without delay, the friends of Lord George
Gordon. There are great events at hand; and the times are
dangerous and troubled. Read this carefully, keep it clean, and
drop it somewhere else. For King and Country. Union.'

'More seed, more seed,' said Gashford as he closed the window.
'When will the harvest come!'

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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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