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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 49

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 49

The mob had been divided from its first assemblage into four
divisions; the London, the Westminster, the Southwark, and the
Scotch. Each of these divisions being subdivided into various
bodies, and these bodies being drawn up in various forms and
figures, the general arrangement was, except to the few chiefs and
leaders, as unintelligible as the plan of a great battle to the
meanest soldier in the field. It was not without its method,
however; for, in a very short space of time after being put in
motion, the crowd had resolved itself into three great parties, and
were prepared, as had been arranged, to cross the river by
different bridges, and make for the House of Commons in separate

At the head of that division which had Westminster Bridge for its
approach to the scene of action, Lord George Gordon took his post;
with Gashford at his right hand, and sundry ruffians, of most
unpromising appearance, forming a kind of staff about him. The
conduct of a second party, whose route lay by Blackfriars, was
entrusted to a committee of management, including perhaps a dozen
men: while the third, which was to go by London Bridge, and through
the main streets, in order that their numbers and their serious
intentions might be the better known and appreciated by the
citizens, were led by Simon Tappertit (assisted by a few
subalterns, selected from the Brotherhood of United Bulldogs),
Dennis the hangman, Hugh, and some others.

The word of command being given, each of these great bodies took
the road assigned to it, and departed on its way, in perfect order
and profound silence. That which went through the City greatly
exceeded the others in number, and was of such prodigious extent
that when the rear began to move, the front was nearly four miles
in advance, notwithstanding that the men marched three abreast and
followed very close upon each other.

At the head of this party, in the place where Hugh, in the madness
of his humour, had stationed him, and walking between that
dangerous companion and the hangman, went Barnaby; as many a man
among the thousands who looked on that day afterwards remembered
well. Forgetful of all other things in the ecstasy of the moment,
his face flushed and his eyes sparkling with delight, heedless of
the weight of the great banner he carried, and mindful only of its
flashing in the sun and rustling in the summer breeze, on he went,
proud, happy, elated past all telling:--the only light-hearted,
undesigning creature, in the whole assembly.

'What do you think of this?' asked Hugh, as they passed through the
crowded streets, and looked up at the windows which were thronged
with spectators. 'They have all turned out to see our flags and
streamers? Eh, Barnaby? Why, Barnaby's the greatest man of all
the pack! His flag's the largest of the lot, the brightest too.
There's nothing in the show, like Barnaby. All eyes are turned on
him. Ha ha ha!'

'Don't make that din, brother,' growled the hangman, glancing with
no very approving eyes at Barnaby as he spoke: 'I hope he don't
think there's nothing to be done, but carrying that there piece of
blue rag, like a boy at a breaking up. You're ready for action I
hope, eh? You, I mean,' he added, nudging Barnaby roughly with
his elbow. 'What are you staring at? Why don't you speak?'

Barnaby had been gazing at his flag, and looked vacantly from his
questioner to Hugh.

'He don't understand your way,' said the latter. 'Here, I'll
explain it to him. Barnaby old boy, attend to me.'

'I'll attend,' said Barnaby, looking anxiously round; 'but I wish
I could see her somewhere.'

'See who?' demanded Dennis in a gruff tone. 'You an't in love I
hope, brother? That an't the sort of thing for us, you know. We
mustn't have no love here.'

'She would be proud indeed to see me now, eh Hugh?' said Barnaby.
'Wouldn't it make her glad to see me at the head of this large
show? She'd cry for joy, I know she would. Where CAN she be? She
never sees me at my best, and what do I care to be gay and fine if
SHE'S not by?'

'Why, what palaver's this?' asked Mr Dennis with supreme disdain.
'We an't got no sentimental members among us, I hope.'

'Don't be uneasy, brother,' cried Hugh, 'he's only talking of his

'Of his what?' said Mr Dennis with a strong oath.

'His mother.'

'And have I combined myself with this here section, and turned out
on this here memorable day, to hear men talk about their mothers!'
growled Mr Dennis with extreme disgust. 'The notion of a man's
sweetheart's bad enough, but a man's mother!'--and here his disgust
was so extreme that he spat upon the ground, and could say no more.

'Barnaby's right,' cried Hugh with a grin, 'and I say it. Lookee,
bold lad. If she's not here to see, it's because I've provided for
her, and sent half-a-dozen gentlemen, every one of 'em with a
blue flag (but not half as fine as yours), to take her, in state,
to a grand house all hung round with gold and silver banners, and
everything else you please, where she'll wait till you come, and
want for nothing.'

'Ay!' said Barnaby, his face beaming with delight: 'have you
indeed? That's a good hearing. That's fine! Kind Hugh!'

'But nothing to what will come, bless you,' retorted Hugh, with a
wink at Dennis, who regarded his new companion in arms with great

'No, indeed?' cried Barnaby.

'Nothing at all,' said Hugh. 'Money, cocked hats and feathers, red
coats and gold lace; all the fine things there are, ever were, or
will be; will belong to us if we are true to that noble gentleman--
the best man in the world--carry our flags for a few days, and keep
'em safe. That's all we've got to do.'

'Is that all?' cried Barnaby with glistening eyes, as he clutched
his pole the tighter; 'I warrant you I keep this one safe, then.
You have put it in good hands. You know me, Hugh. Nobody shall
wrest this flag away.'

'Well said!' cried Hugh. 'Ha ha! Nobly said! That's the old
stout Barnaby, that I have climbed and leaped with, many and many a
day--I knew I was not mistaken in Barnaby.--Don't you see, man,' he
added in a whisper, as he slipped to the other side of Dennis,
'that the lad's a natural, and can be got to do anything, if you
take him the right way? Letting alone the fun he is, he's worth a
dozen men, in earnest, as you'd find if you tried a fall with him.
Leave him to me. You shall soon see whether he's of use or not.'

Mr Dennis received these explanatory remarks with many nods and
winks, and softened his behaviour towards Barnaby from that moment.
Hugh, laying his finger on his nose, stepped back into his former
place, and they proceeded in silence.

It was between two and three o'clock in the afternoon when the
three great parties met at Westminster, and, uniting into one huge
mass, raised a tremendous shout. This was not only done in token
of their presence, but as a signal to those on whom the task
devolved, that it was time to take possession of the lobbies of
both Houses, and of the various avenues of approach, and of the
gallery stairs. To the last-named place, Hugh and Dennis, still
with their pupil between them, rushed straightway; Barnaby having
given his flag into the hands of one of their own party, who kept
them at the outer door. Their followers pressing on behind, they
were borne as on a great wave to the very doors of the gallery,
whence it was impossible to retreat, even if they had been so
inclined, by reason of the throng which choked up the passages. It
is a familiar expression in describing a great crowd, that a person
might have walked upon the people's heads. In this case it was
actually done; for a boy who had by some means got among the
concourse, and was in imminent danger of suffocation, climbed to
the shoulders of a man beside him and walked upon the people's hats
and heads into the open street; traversing in his passage the whole
length of two staircases and a long gallery. Nor was the swarm
without less dense; for a basket which had been tossed into the
crowd, was jerked from head to head, and shoulder to shoulder, and
went spinning and whirling on above them, until it was lost to
view, without ever once falling in among them or coming near the

Through this vast throng, sprinkled doubtless here and there with
honest zealots, but composed for the most part of the very scum and
refuse of London, whose growth was fostered by bad criminal laws,
bad prison regulations, and the worst conceivable police, such of
the members of both Houses of Parliament as had not taken the
precaution to be already at their posts, were compelled to fight
and force their way. Their carriages were stopped and broken; the
wheels wrenched off; the glasses shivered to atoms; the panels
beaten in; drivers, footmen, and masters, pulled from their seats
and rolled in the mud. Lords, commoners, and reverend bishops,
with little distinction of person or party, were kicked and pinched
and hustled; passed from hand to hand through various stages of
ill-usage; and sent to their fellow-senators at last with their
clothes hanging in ribands about them, their bagwigs torn off,
themselves speechless and breathless, and their persons covered
with the powder which had been cuffed and beaten out of their hair.
One lord was so long in the hands of the populace, that the Peers
as a body resolved to sally forth and rescue him, and were in the
act of doing so, when he happily appeared among them covered with
dirt and bruises, and hardly to be recognised by those who knew him
best. The noise and uproar were on the increase every moment. The
air was filled with execrations, hoots, and howlings. The mob
raged and roared, like a mad monster as it was, unceasingly, and
each new outrage served to swell its fury.

Within doors, matters were even yet more threatening. Lord George--
preceded by a man who carried the immense petition on a porter's
knot through the lobby to the door of the House of Commons, where
it was received by two officers of the house who rolled it up to
the table ready for presentation--had taken his seat at an early
hour, before the Speaker went to prayers. His followers pouring in
at the same time, the lobby and all the avenues were immediately
filled, as we have seen. Thus the members were not only attacked
in their passage through the streets, but were set upon within the
very walls of Parliament; while the tumult, both within and
without, was so great, that those who attempted to speak could
scarcely hear their own voices: far less, consult upon the course
it would be wise to take in such extremity, or animate each other
to dignified and firm resistance. So sure as any member, just
arrived, with dress disordered and dishevelled hair, came
struggling through the crowd in the lobby, it yelled and screamed
in triumph; and when the door of the House, partially and
cautiously opened by those within for his admission, gave them a
momentary glimpse of the interior, they grew more wild and savage,
like beasts at the sight of prey, and made a rush against the
portal which strained its locks and bolts in their staples, and
shook the very beams.

The strangers' gallery, which was immediately above the door of the
House, had been ordered to be closed on the first rumour of
disturbance, and was empty; save that now and then Lord George took
his seat there, for the convenience of coming to the head of the
stairs which led to it, and repeating to the people what had passed
within. It was on these stairs that Barnaby, Hugh, and Dennis were
posted. There were two flights, short, steep, and narrow, running
parallel to each other, and leading to two little doors
communicating with a low passage which opened on the gallery.
Between them was a kind of well, or unglazed skylight, for the
admission of light and air into the lobby, which might be some
eighteen or twenty feet below.

Upon one of these little staircases--not that at the head of which
Lord George appeared from time to time, but the other--Gashford
stood with his elbow on the bannister, and his cheek resting on his
hand, with his usual crafty aspect. Whenever he varied this
attitude in the slightest degree--so much as by the gentlest motion
of his arm--the uproar was certain to increase, not merely there,
but in the lobby below; from which place no doubt, some man who
acted as fugleman to the rest, was constantly looking up and
watching him.

'Order!' cried Hugh, in a voice which made itself heard even above
the roar and tumult, as Lord George appeared at the top of the
staircase. 'News! News from my lord!'

The noise continued, notwithstanding his appearance, until Gashford
looked round. There was silence immediately--even among the people
in the passages without, and on the other staircases, who could
neither see nor hear, but to whom, notwithstanding, the signal was
conveyed with marvellous rapidity.

'Gentlemen,' said Lord George, who was very pale and agitated, we
must be firm. They talk of delays, but we must have no delays.
They talk of taking your petition into consideration next Tuesday,
but we must have it considered now. Present appearances look bad
for our success, but we must succeed and will!'

'We must succeed and will!' echoed the crowd. And so among their
shouts and cheers and other cries, he bowed to them and retired,
and presently came back again. There was another gesture from
Gashford, and a dead silence directly.

'I am afraid,' he said, this time, 'that we have little reason,
gentlemen, to hope for any redress from the proceedings of
Parliament. But we must redress our own grievances, we must meet
again, we must put our trust in Providence, and it will bless our

This speech being a little more temperate than the last, was not so
favourably received. When the noise and exasperation were at their
height, he came back once more, and told them that the alarm had
gone forth for many miles round; that when the King heard of their
assembling together in that great body, he had no doubt, His
Majesty would send down private orders to have their wishes
complied with; and--with the manner of his speech as childish,
irresolute, and uncertain as his matter--was proceeding in this
strain, when two gentlemen suddenly appeared at the door where he
stood, and pressing past him and coming a step or two lower down
upon the stairs, confronted the people.

The boldness of this action quite took them by surprise. They were
not the less disconcerted, when one of the gentlemen, turning to
Lord George, spoke thus--in a loud voice that they might hear him
well, but quite coolly and collectedly:

'You may tell these people, if you please, my lord, that I am
General Conway of whom they have heard; and that I oppose this
petition, and all their proceedings, and yours. I am a soldier,
you may tell them, and I will protect the freedom of this place
with my sword. You see, my lord, that the members of this House
are all in arms to-day; you know that the entrance to it is a
narrow one; you cannot be ignorant that there are men within these
walls who are determined to defend that pass to the last, and
before whom many lives must fall if your adherents persevere. Have
a care what you do.'

'And my Lord George,' said the other gentleman, addressing him in
like manner, 'I desire them to hear this, from me--Colonel Gordon--
your near relation. If a man among this crowd, whose uproar
strikes us deaf, crosses the threshold of the House of Commons, I
swear to run my sword that moment--not into his, but into your

With that, they stepped back again, keeping their faces towards the
crowd; took each an arm of the misguided nobleman; drew him into
the passage, and shut the door; which they directly locked and
fastened on the inside.

This was so quickly done, and the demeanour of both gentlemen--who
were not young men either--was so gallant and resolute, that the
crowd faltered and stared at each other with irresolute and timid
looks. Many tried to turn towards the door; some of the faintest-
hearted cried they had best go back, and called to those behind to
give way; and the panic and confusion were increasing rapidly, when
Gashford whispered Hugh.

'What now!' Hugh roared aloud, turning towards them. 'Why go back?
Where can you do better than here, boys! One good rush against
these doors and one below at the same time, will do the business.
Rush on, then! As to the door below, let those stand back who are
afraid. Let those who are not afraid, try who shall be the first
to pass it. Here goes! Look out down there!'

Without the delay of an instant, he threw himself headlong over the
bannisters into the lobby below. He had hardly touched the ground
when Barnaby was at his side. The chaplain's assistant, and some
members who were imploring the people to retire, immediately
withdrew; and then, with a great shout, both crowds threw
themselves against the doors pell-mell, and besieged the House in

At that moment, when a second onset must have brought them into
collision with those who stood on the defensive within, in which
case great loss of life and bloodshed would inevitably have
ensued,--the hindmost portion of the crowd gave way, and the rumour
spread from mouth to mouth that a messenger had been despatched by
water for the military, who were forming in the street. Fearful of
sustaining a charge in the narrow passages in which they were so
closely wedged together, the throng poured out as impetuously as
they had flocked in. As the whole stream turned at once, Barnaby
and Hugh went with it: and so, fighting and struggling and
trampling on fallen men and being trampled on in turn themselves,
they and the whole mass floated by degrees into the open street,
where a large detachment of the Guards, both horse and foot, came
hurrying up; clearing the ground before them so rapidly that the
people seemed to melt away as they advanced.

The word of command to halt being given, the soldiers formed across
the street; the rioters, breathless and exhausted with their late
exertions, formed likewise, though in a very irregular and
disorderly manner. The commanding officer rode hastily into the
open space between the two bodies, accompanied by a magistrate and
an officer of the House of Commons, for whose accommodation a
couple of troopers had hastily dismounted. The Riot Act was read,
but not a man stirred.

In the first rank of the insurgents, Barnaby and Hugh stood side by
side. Somebody had thrust into Barnaby's hands when he came out
into the street, his precious flag; which, being now rolled up and
tied round the pole, looked like a giant quarter-staff as he
grasped it firmly and stood upon his guard. If ever man believed
with his whole heart and soul that he was engaged in a just cause,
and that he was bound to stand by his leader to the last, poor
Barnaby believed it of himself and Lord George Gordon.

After an ineffectual attempt to make himself heard, the magistrate
gave the word and the Horse Guards came riding in among the crowd.
But, even then, he galloped here and there, exhorting the people to
disperse; and, although heavy stones were thrown at the men, and
some were desperately cut and bruised, they had no orders but to
make prisoners of such of the rioters as were the most active, and
to drive the people back with the flat of their sabres. As the
horses came in among them, the throng gave way at many points, and
the Guards, following up their advantage, were rapidly clearing the
ground, when two or three of the foremost, who were in a manner cut
off from the rest by the people closing round them, made straight
towards Barnaby and Hugh, who had no doubt been pointed out as the
two men who dropped into the lobby: laying about them now with some
effect, and inflicting on the more turbulent of their opponents, a
few slight flesh wounds, under the influence of which a man
dropped, here and there, into the arms of his fellows, amid much
groaning and confusion.

At the sight of gashed and bloody faces, seen for a moment in the
crowd, then hidden by the press around them, Barnaby turned pale
and sick. But he stood his ground, and grasping his pole more
firmly yet, kept his eye fixed upon the nearest soldier--nodding
his head meanwhile, as Hugh, with a scowling visage, whispered in
his ear.

The soldier came spurring on, making his horse rear as the people
pressed about him, cutting at the hands of those who would have
grasped his rein and forced his charger back, and waving to his
comrades to follow--and still Barnaby, without retreating an inch,
waited for his coming. Some called to him to fly, and some were in
the very act of closing round him, to prevent his being taken, when
the pole swept into the air above the people's heads, and the man's
saddle was empty in an instant.

Then, he and Hugh turned and fled, the crowd opening to let them
pass, and closing up again so quickly that there was no clue to the
course they had taken. Panting for breath, hot, dusty, and
exhausted with fatigue, they reached the riverside in safety, and
getting into a boat with all despatch were soon out of any
immediate danger.

As they glided down the river, they plainly heard the people
cheering; and supposing they might have forced the soldiers to
retreat, lay upon their oars for a few minutes, uncertain whether
to return or not. But the crowd passing along Westminster Bridge,
soon assured them that the populace were dispersing; and Hugh
rightly guessed from this, that they had cheered the magistrate for
offering to dismiss the military on condition of their immediate
departure to their several homes, and that he and Barnaby were
better where they were. He advised, therefore, that they should
proceed to Blackfriars, and, going ashore at the bridge, make the
best of their way to The Boot; where there was not only good
entertainment and safe lodging, but where they would certainly be
joined by many of their late companions. Barnaby assenting, they
decided on this course of action, and pulled for Blackfriars

They landed at a critical time, and fortunately for themselves at
the right moment. For, coming into Fleet Street, they found it in
an unusual stir; and inquiring the cause, were told that a body of
Horse Guards had just galloped past, and that they were escorting
some rioters whom they had made prisoners, to Newgate for safety.
Not at all ill-pleased to have so narrowly escaped the cavalcade,
they lost no more time in asking questions, but hurried to The Boot
with as much speed as Hugh considered it prudent to make, without
appearing singular or attracting an inconvenient share of public

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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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