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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 44

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 44

When the concourse separated, and, dividing into chance clusters,
drew off in various directions, there still remained upon the scene
of the late disturbance, one man. This man was Gashford, who,
bruised by his late fall, and hurt in a much greater degree by the
indignity he had undergone, and the exposure of which he had been
the victim, limped up and down, breathing curses and threats of

It was not the secretary's nature to waste his wrath in words.
While he vented the froth of his malevolence in those effusions, he
kept a steady eye on two men, who, having disappeared with the rest
when the alarm was spread, had since returned, and were now visible
in the moonlight, at no great distance, as they walked to and fro,
and talked together.

He made no move towards them, but waited patiently on the dark side
of the street, until they were tired of strolling backwards and
forwards and walked away in company. Then he followed, but at some
distance: keeping them in view, without appearing to have that
object, or being seen by them.

They went up Parliament Street, past Saint Martin's church, and
away by Saint Giles's to Tottenham Court Road, at the back of
which, upon the western side, was then a place called the Green
Lanes. This was a retired spot, not of the choicest kind, leading
into the fields. Great heaps of ashes; stagnant pools, overgrown
with rank grass and duckweed; broken turnstiles; and the upright
posts of palings long since carried off for firewood, which menaced
all heedless walkers with their jagged and rusty nails; were the
leading features of the landscape: while here and there a donkey,
or a ragged horse, tethered to a stake, and cropping off a wretched
meal from the coarse stunted turf, were quite in keeping with the
scene, and would have suggested (if the houses had not done so,
sufficiently, of themselves) how very poor the people were who
lived in the crazy huts adjacent, and how foolhardy it might prove
for one who carried money, or wore decent clothes, to walk that way
alone, unless by daylight.

Poverty has its whims and shows of taste, as wealth has. Some of
these cabins were turreted, some had false windows painted on their
rotten walls; one had a mimic clock, upon a crazy tower of four
feet high, which screened the chimney; each in its little patch of
ground had a rude seat or arbour. The population dealt in bones,
in rags, in broken glass, in old wheels, in birds, and dogs.
These, in their several ways of stowage, filled the gardens; and
shedding a perfume, not of the most delicious nature, in the air,
filled it besides with yelps, and screams, and howling.

Into this retreat, the secretary followed the two men whom he had
held in sight; and here he saw them safely lodged, in one of the
meanest houses, which was but a room, and that of small dimensions.
He waited without, until the sound of their voices, joined in a
discordant song, assured him they were making merry; and then
approaching the door, by means of a tottering plank which crossed
the ditch in front, knocked at it with his hand.

'Muster Gashfordl' said the man who opened it, taking his pipe from
his mouth, in evident surprise. 'Why, who'd have thought of this
here honour! Walk in, Muster Gashford--walk in, sir.'

Gashford required no second invitation, and entered with a gracious
air. There was a fire in the rusty grate (for though the spring
was pretty far advanced, the nights were cold), and on a stool
beside it Hugh sat smoking. Dennis placed a chair, his only one,
for the secretary, in front of the hearth; and took his seat again
upon the stool he had left when he rose to give the visitor

'What's in the wind now, Muster Gashford?' he said, as he resumed
his pipe, and looked at him askew. 'Any orders from head-quarters?
Are we going to begin? What is it, Muster Gashford?'

'Oh, nothing, nothing,' rejoined the secretary, with a friendly nod
to Hugh. 'We have broken the ice, though. We had a little spurt
to-day--eh, Dennis?'

'A very little one,' growled the hangman. 'Not half enough for me.'

'Nor me neither!' cried Hugh. 'Give us something to do with life
in it--with life in it, master. Ha, ha!'

'Why, you wouldn't,' said the secretary, with his worst expression
of face, and in his mildest tones, 'have anything to do, with--with
death in it?'

'I don't know that,' replied Hugh. 'I'm open to orders. I don't
care; not I.'

'Nor I!' vociferated Dennis.

'Brave fellows!' said the secretary, in as pastor-like a voice as
if he were commending them for some uncommon act of valour and
generosity. 'By the bye'--and here he stopped and warmed his
hands: then suddenly looked up--'who threw that stone to-day?'

Mr Dennis coughed and shook his head, as who should say, 'A mystery
indeed!' Hugh sat and smoked in silence.

'It was well done!' said the secretary, warming his hands again.
'I should like to know that man.'

'Would you?' said Dennis, after looking at his face to assure
himself that he was serious. 'Would you like to know that man,
Muster Gashford?'

'I should indeed,' replied the secretary.

'Why then, Lord love you,' said the hangman, in his hoarest
chuckle, as he pointed with his pipe to Hugh, 'there he sits.
That's the man. My stars and halters, Muster Gashford,' he added
in a whisper, as he drew his stool close to him and jogged him with
his elbow, 'what a interesting blade he is! He wants as much
holding in as a thorough-bred bulldog. If it hadn't been for me
to-day, he'd have had that 'ere Roman down, and made a riot of it,
in another minute.'

'And why not?' cried Hugh in a surly voice, as he overheard this
last remark. 'Where's the good of putting things off? Strike
while the iron's hot; that's what I say.'

'Ah!' retorted Dennis, shaking his head, with a kind of pity for
his friend's ingenuous youth; 'but suppose the iron an't hot,
brother! You must get people's blood up afore you strike, and have
'em in the humour. There wasn't quite enough to provoke 'em to-
day, I tell you. If you'd had your way, you'd have spoilt the fun
to come, and ruined us.'

'Dennis is quite right,' said Gashford, smoothly. 'He is
perfectly correct. Dennis has great knowledge of the world.'

'I ought to have, Muster Gashford, seeing what a many people I've
helped out of it, eh?' grinned the hangman, whispering the words
behind his hand.

The secretary laughed at this jest as much as Dennis could desire,
and when he had done, said, turning to Hugh:

'Dennis's policy was mine, as you may have observed. You saw, for
instance, how I fell when I was set upon. I made no resistance. I
did nothing to provoke an outbreak. Oh dear no!'

'No, by the Lord Harry!' cried Dennis with a noisy laugh, 'you went
down very quiet, Muster Gashford--and very flat besides. I thinks
to myself at the time "it's all up with Muster Gashford!" I never
see a man lay flatter nor more still--with the life in him--than
you did to-day. He's a rough 'un to play with, is that 'ere
Papist, and that's the fact.'

The secretary's face, as Dennis roared with laughter, and turned
his wrinkled eyes on Hugh who did the like, might have furnished a
study for the devil's picture. He sat quite silent until they
were serious again, and then said, looking round:

'We are very pleasant here; so very pleasant, Dennis, that but for
my lord's particular desire that I should sup with him, and the
time being very near at hand, I should he inclined to stay, until
it would be hardly safe to go homeward. I come upon a little
business--yes, I do--as you supposed. It's very flattering to you;
being this. If we ever should be obliged--and we can't tell, you
know--this is a very uncertain world'--

'I believe you, Muster Gashford,' interposed the hangman with a
grave nod. 'The uncertainties as I've seen in reference to this
here state of existence, the unexpected contingencies as have come
about!--Oh my eye!' Feeling the subject much too vast for
expression, he puffed at his pipe again, and looked the rest.

'I say,' resumed the secretary, in a slow, impressive way; 'we
can't tell what may come to pass; and if we should be obliged,
against our wills, to have recourse to violence, my lord (who has
suffered terribly to-day, as far as words can go) consigns to you
two--bearing in mind my recommendation of you both, as good staunch
men, beyond all doubt and suspicion--the pleasant task of
punishing this Haredale. You may do as you please with him, or
his, provided that you show no mercy, and no quarter, and leave no
two beams of his house standing where the builder placed them. You
may sack it, burn it, do with it as you like, but it must come
down; it must be razed to the ground; and he, and all belonging to
him, left as shelterless as new-born infants whom their mothers
have exposed. Do you understand me?' said Gashford, pausing, and
pressing his hands together gently.

'Understand you, master!' cried Hugh. 'You speak plain now. Why,
this is hearty!'

'I knew you would like it,' said Gashford, shaking him by the hand;
'I thought you would. Good night! Don't rise, Dennis: I would
rather find my way alone. I may have to make other visits here,
and it's pleasant to come and go without disturbing you. I can
find my way perfectly well. Good night!'

He was gone, and had shut the door behind him. They looked at each
other, and nodded approvingly: Dennis stirred up the fire.

'This looks a little more like business!' he said.

'Ay, indeed!' cried Hugh; 'this suits me!'

'I've heerd it said of Muster Gashford,' said the hangman, 'that
he'd a surprising memory and wonderful firmness--that he never
forgot, and never forgave.--Let's drink his health!'

Hugh readily complied--pouring no liquor on the floor when he drank
this toast--and they pledged the secretary as a man after their own
hearts, in a bumper.

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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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