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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 40

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 40

Little thinking of the plan for his happy settlement in life which
had suggested itself to the teeming brain of his provident
commander, Hugh made no pause until Saint Dunstan's giants struck
the hour above him, when he worked the handle of a pump which stood
hard by, with great vigour, and thrusting his head under the spout,
let the water gush upon him until a little stream ran down from
every uncombed hair, and he was wet to the waist. Considerably
refreshed by this ablution, both in mind and body, and almost
sobered for the time, he dried himself as he best could; then
crossed the road, and plied the knocker of the Middle Temple gate.

The night-porter looked through a small grating in the portal with
a surly eye, and cried 'Halloa!' which greeting Hugh returned in
kind, and bade him open quickly.

'We don't sell beer here,' cried the man; 'what else do you want?'

'To come in,' Hugh replied, with a kick at the door.

'Where to go?'

'Paper Buildings.'

'Whose chambers?'

'Sir John Chester's.' Each of which answers, he emphasised with
another kick.

After a little growling on the other side, the gate was opened, and
he passed in: undergoing a close inspection from the porter as he
did so.

'YOU wanting Sir John, at this time of night!' said the man.

'Ay!' said Hugh. 'I! What of that?'

'Why, I must go with you and see that you do, for I don't believe

'Come along then.'

Eyeing him with suspicious looks, the man, with key and lantern,
walked on at his side, and attended him to Sir John Chester's door,
at which Hugh gave one knock, that echoed through the dark
staircase like a ghostly summons, and made the dull light tremble
in the drowsy lamp.

'Do you think he wants me now?' said Hugh.

Before the man had time to answer, a footstep was heard within, a
light appeared, and Sir John, in his dressing-gown and slippers,
opened the door.

'I ask your pardon, Sir John,' said the porter, pulling off his
hat. 'Here's a young man says he wants to speak to you. It's late
for strangers. I thought it best to see that all was right.'

'Aha!' cried Sir John, raising his eyebrows. 'It's you,
messenger, is it? Go in. Quite right, friend. I commend your
prudence highly. Thank you. God bless you. Good night.'

To be commended, thanked, God-blessed, and bade good night by one
who carried 'Sir' before his name, and wrote himself M.P. to boot,
was something for a porter. He withdrew with much humility and
reverence. Sir John followed his late visitor into the dressing-
room, and sitting in his easy-chair before the fire, and moving it
so that he could see him as he stood, hat in hand, beside the door,
looked at him from head to foot.

The old face, calm and pleasant as ever; the complexion, quite
juvenile in its bloom and clearness; the same smile; the wonted
precision and elegance of dress; the white, well-ordered teeth; the
delicate hands; the composed and quiet manner; everything as it
used to be: no mark of age or passion, envy, hate, or discontent:
all unruffled and serene, and quite delightful to behold.

He wrote himself M.P.--but how? Why, thus. It was a proud family--
more proud, indeed, than wealthy. He had stood in danger of
arrest; of bailiffs, and a jail--a vulgar jail, to which the common
people with small incomes went. Gentlemen of ancient houses have
no privilege of exemption from such cruel laws--unless they are of
one great house, and then they have. A proud man of his stock and
kindred had the means of sending him there. He offered--not indeed
to pay his debts, but to let him sit for a close borough until his
own son came of age, which, if he lived, would come to pass in
twenty years. It was quite as good as an Insolvent Act, and
infinitely more genteel. So Sir John Chester was a member of

But how Sir John? Nothing so simple, or so easy. One touch with a
sword of state, and the transformation was effected. John Chester,
Esquire, M.P., attended court--went up with an address--headed a
deputation. Such elegance of manner, so many graces of deportment,
such powers of conversation, could never pass unnoticed. Mr was
too common for such merit. A man so gentlemanly should have been--
but Fortune is capricious--born a Duke: just as some dukes should
have been born labourers. He caught the fancy of the king, knelt
down a grub, and rose a butterfly. John Chester, Esquire, was
knighted and became Sir John.

'I thought when you left me this evening, my esteemed
acquaintance,' said Sir John after a pretty long silence, 'that you
intended to return with all despatch?'

'So I did, master.'

'And so you have?' he retorted, glancing at his watch. 'Is that
what you would say?'

Instead of replying, Hugh changed the leg on which he leant,
shuffled his cap from one hand to the other, looked at the ground,
the wall, the ceiling, and finally at Sir John himself; before
whose pleasant face he lowered his eyes again, and fixed them on
the floor.

'And how have you been employing yourself in the meanwhile?' quoth
Sir John, lazily crossing his legs. 'Where have you been? what
harm have you been doing?'

'No harm at all, master,' growled Hugh, with humility. 'I have
only done as you ordered.'

'As I WHAT?' returned Sir John.

'Well then,' said Hugh uneasily, 'as you advised, or said I ought,
or said I might, or said that you would do, if you was me. Don't
be so hard upon me, master.'

Something like an expression of triumph in the perfect control he
had established over this rough instrument appeared in the knight's
face for an instant; but it vanished directly, as he said--paring
his nails while speaking:

'When you say I ordered you, my good fellow, you imply that I
directed you to do something for me--something I wanted done--
something for my own ends and purposes--you see? Now I am sure I
needn't enlarge upon the extreme absurdity of such an idea, however
unintentional; so please--' and here he turned his eyes upon him--
'to be more guarded. Will you?'

'I meant to give you no offence,' said Hugh. 'I don't know what to
say. You catch me up so very short.'

'You will be caught up much shorter, my good friend--infinitely
shorter--one of these days, depend upon it,' replied his patron
calmly. 'By-the-bye, instead of wondering why you have been so
long, my wonder should be why you came at all. Why did you?'

'You know, master,' said Hugh, 'that I couldn't read the bill I
found, and that supposing it to be something particular from the
way it was wrapped up, I brought it here.'

'And could you ask no one else to read it, Bruin?' said Sir John.

'No one that I could trust with secrets, master. Since Barnaby
Rudge was lost sight of for good and all--and that's five years
ago--I haven't talked with any one but you.'

'You have done me honour, I am sure.'

'I have come to and fro, master, all through that time, when there
was anything to tell, because I knew that you'd be angry with me if
I stayed away,' said Hugh, blurting the words out, after an
embarrassed silence; 'and because I wished to please you if I
could, and not to have you go against me. There. That's the true
reason why I came to-night. You know that, master, I am sure.'

'You are a specious fellow,' returned Sir John, fixing his eyes
upon him, 'and carry two faces under your hood, as well as the
best. Didn't you give me in this room, this evening, any other
reason; no dislike of anybody who has slighted you lately, on all
occasions, abused you, treated you with rudeness; acted towards
you, more as if you were a mongrel dog than a man like himself?'

'To be sure I did!' cried Hugh, his passion rising, as the other
meant it should; 'and I say it all over now, again. I'd do
anything to have some revenge on him--anything. And when you told
me that he and all the Catholics would suffer from those who joined
together under that handbill, I said I'd make one of 'em, if their
master was the devil himself. I AM one of 'em. See whether I am
as good as my word and turn out to be among the foremost, or no. I
mayn't have much head, master, but I've head enough to remember
those that use me ill. You shall see, and so shall he, and so
shall hundreds more, how my spirit backs me when the time comes.
My bark is nothing to my bite. Some that I know had better have a
wild lion among 'em than me, when I am fairly loose--they had!'

The knight looked at him with a smile of far deeper meaning than
ordinary; and pointing to the old cupboard, followed him with his
eyes while he filled and drank a glass of liquor; and smiled when
his back was turned, with deeper meaning yet.

'You are in a blustering mood, my friend,' he said, when Hugh
confronted him again.

'Not I, master!' cried Hugh. 'I don't say half I mean. I can't.
I haven't got the gift. There are talkers enough among us; I'll be
one of the doers.'

'Oh! you have joined those fellows then?' said Sir John, with an
air of most profound indifference.

'Yes. I went up to the house you told me of; and got put down upon
the muster. There was another man there, named Dennis--'

'Dennis, eh!' cried Sir John, laughing. 'Ay, ay! a pleasant
fellow, I believe?'

'A roaring dog, master--one after my own heart--hot upon the matter
too--red hot.'

'So I have heard,' replied Sir John, carelessly. 'You don't happen
to know his trade, do you?'

'He wouldn't say,' cried Hugh. 'He keeps it secret.'

'Ha ha!' laughed Sir John. 'A strange fancy--a weakness with some
persons--you'll know it one day, I dare swear.'

'We're intimate already,' said Hugh.

'Quite natural! And have been drinking together, eh?' pursued Sir
John. 'Did you say what place you went to in company, when you
left Lord George's?'

Hugh had not said or thought of saying, but he told him; and this
inquiry being followed by a long train of questions, he related all
that had passed both in and out of doors, the kind of people he had
seen, their numbers, state of feeling, mode of conversation,
apparent expectations and intentions. His questioning was so
artfully contrived, that he seemed even in his own eyes to
volunteer all this information rather than to have it wrested from
him; and he was brought to this state of feeling so naturally, that
when Mr Chester yawned at length and declared himself quite wearied
out, he made a rough kind of excuse for having talked so much.

'There--get you gone,' said Sir John, holding the door open in his
hand. 'You have made a pretty evening's work. I told you not to
do this. You may get into trouble. You'll have an opportunity of
revenging yourself on your proud friend Haredale, though, and for
that, you'd hazard anything, I suppose?'

'I would,' retorted Hugh, stopping in his passage out and looking
back; 'but what do I risk! What do I stand a chance of losing,
master? Friends, home? A fig for 'em all; I have none; they are
nothing to me. Give me a good scuffle; let me pay off old scores
in a bold riot where there are men to stand by me; and then use me
as you like--it don't matter much to me what the end is!'

'What have you done with that paper?' said Sir John.

'I have it here, master.'

'Drop it again as you go along; it's as well not to keep such
things about you.'

Hugh nodded, and touching his cap with an air of as much respect as
he could summon up, departed.

Sir John, fastening the doors behind him, went back to his
dressing-room, and sat down once again before the fire, at which
he gazed for a long time, in earnest meditation.

'This happens fortunately,' he said, breaking into a smile, 'and
promises well. Let me see. My relative and I, who are the most
Protestant fellows in the world, give our worst wishes to the Roman
Catholic cause; and to Saville, who introduces their bill, I have
a personal objection besides; but as each of us has himself for
the first article in his creed, we cannot commit ourselves by
joining with a very extravagant madman, such as this Gordon most
undoubtedly is. Now really, to foment his disturbances in secret,
through the medium of such a very apt instrument as my savage
friend here, may further our real ends; and to express at all
becoming seasons, in moderate and polite terms, a disapprobation of
his proceedings, though we agree with him in principle, will
certainly be to gain a character for honesty and uprightness of
purpose, which cannot fail to do us infinite service, and to raise
us into some importance. Good! So much for public grounds. As to
private considerations, I confess that if these vagabonds WOULD
make some riotous demonstration (which does not appear impossible),
and WOULD inflict some little chastisement on Haredale as a not
inactive man among his sect, it would be extremely agreeable to my
feelings, and would amuse me beyond measure. Good again! Perhaps

When he came to this point, he took a pinch of snuff; then
beginning slowly to undress, he resumed his meditations, by saying
with a smile:

'I fear, I DO fear exceedingly, that my friend is following fast in
the footsteps of his mother. His intimacy with Mr Dennis is very
ominous. But I have no doubt he must have come to that end any
way. If I lend him a helping hand, the only difference is, that he
may, upon the whole, possibly drink a few gallons, or puncheons, or
hogsheads, less in this life than he otherwise would. It's no
business of mine. It's a matter of very small importance!'

So he took another pinch of snuff, and went to bed.

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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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