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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 52

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 52

A mob is usually a creature of very mysterious existence,
particularly in a large city. Where it comes from or whither it
goes, few men can tell. Assembling and dispersing with equal
suddenness, it is as difficult to follow to its various sources as
the sea itself; nor does the parallel stop here, for the ocean is
not more fickle and uncertain, more terrible when roused, more
unreasonable, or more cruel.

The people who were boisterous at Westminster upon the Friday
morning, and were eagerly bent upon the work of devastation in Duke
Street and Warwick Street at night, were, in the mass, the same.
Allowing for the chance accessions of which any crowd is morally
sure in a town where there must always be a large number of idle
and profligate persons, one and the same mob was at both places.
Yet they spread themselves in various directions when they
dispersed in the afternoon, made no appointment for reassembling,
had no definite purpose or design, and indeed, for anything they
knew, were scattered beyond the hope of future union.

At The Boot, which, as has been shown, was in a manner the head-
quarters of the rioters, there were not, upon this Friday night, a
dozen people. Some slept in the stable and outhouses, some in the
common room, some two or three in beds. The rest were in their
usual homes or haunts. Perhaps not a score in all lay in the
adjacent fields and lanes, and under haystacks, or near the warmth
of brick-kilns, who had not their accustomed place of rest beneath
the open sky. As to the public ways within the town, they had
their ordinary nightly occupants, and no others; the usual amount
of vice and wretchedness, but no more.

The experience of one evening, however, had taught the reckless
leaders of disturbance, that they had but to show themselves in the
streets, to be immediately surrounded by materials which they could
only have kept together when their aid was not required, at great
risk, expense, and trouble. Once possessed of this secret, they
were as confident as if twenty thousand men, devoted to their will,
had been encamped about them, and assumed a confidence which could
not have been surpassed, though that had really been the case. All
day, Saturday, they remained quiet. On Sunday, they rather studied
how to keep their men within call, and in full hope, than to follow
out, by any fierce measure, their first day's proceedings.

'I hope,' said Dennis, as, with a loud yawn, he raised his body
from a heap of straw on which he had been sleeping, and supporting
his head upon his hand, appealed to Hugh on Sunday morning, 'that
Muster Gashford allows some rest? Perhaps he'd have us at work
again already, eh?'

'It's not his way to let matters drop, you may be sure of that,'
growled Hugh in answer. 'I'm in no humour to stir yet, though.
I'm as stiff as a dead body, and as full of ugly scratches as if I
had been fighting all day yesterday with wild cats.'

'You've so much enthusiasm, that's it,' said Dennis, looking with
great admiration at the uncombed head, matted beard, and torn hands
and face of the wild figure before him; 'you're such a devil of a
fellow. You hurt yourself a hundred times more than you need,
because you will be foremost in everything, and will do more than
the rest.'

'For the matter of that,' returned Hugh, shaking back his ragged
hair and glancing towards the door of the stable in which they lay;
'there's one yonder as good as me. What did I tell you about him?
Did I say he was worth a dozen, when you doubted him?'

Mr Dennis rolled lazily over upon his breast, and resting his chin
upon his hand in imitation of the attitude in which Hugh lay, said,
as he too looked towards the door:

'Ay, ay, you knew him, brother, you knew him. But who'd suppose to
look at that chap now, that he could be the man he is! Isn't it a
thousand cruel pities, brother, that instead of taking his nat'ral
rest and qualifying himself for further exertions in this here
honourable cause, he should be playing at soldiers like a boy? And
his cleanliness too!' said Mr Dennis, who certainly had no reason
to entertain a fellow feeling with anybody who was particular on
that score; 'what weaknesses he's guilty of; with respect to his
cleanliness! At five o'clock this morning, there he was at the
pump, though any one would think he had gone through enough, the
day before yesterday, to be pretty fast asleep at that time. But
no--when I woke for a minute or two, there he was at the pump, and
if you'd seen him sticking them peacock's feathers into his hat
when he'd done washing--ah! I'm sorry he's such a imperfect
character, but the best on us is incomplete in some pint of view or

The subject of this dialogue and of these concluding remarks, which
were uttered in a tone of philosophical meditation, was, as the
reader will have divined, no other than Barnaby, who, with his flag
in hand, stood sentry in the little patch of sunlight at the
distant door, or walked to and fro outside, singing softly to
himself; and keeping time to the music of some clear church bells.
Whether he stood still, leaning with both hands on the flagstaff,
or, bearing it upon his shoulder, paced slowly up and down, the
careful arrangement of his poor dress, and his erect and lofty
bearing, showed how high a sense he had of the great importance of
his trust, and how happy and how proud it made him. To Hugh and
his companion, who lay in a dark corner of the gloomy shed, he, and
the sunlight, and the peaceful Sabbath sound to which he made
response, seemed like a bright picture framed by the door, and set
off by the stable's blackness. The whole formed such a contrast to
themselves, as they lay wallowing, like some obscene animals, in
their squalor and wickedness on the two heaps of straw, that for a
few moments they looked on without speaking, and felt almost

'Ah!'said Hugh at length, carrying it off with a laugh: 'He's a
rare fellow is Barnaby, and can do more, with less rest, or meat,
or drink, than any of us. As to his soldiering, I put him on duty

'Then there was a object in it, and a proper good one too, I'll be
sworn,' retorted Dennis with a broad grin, and an oath of the same
quality. 'What was it, brother?'

'Why, you see,' said Hugh, crawling a little nearer to him, 'that
our noble captain yonder, came in yesterday morning rather the
worse for liquor, and was--like you and me--ditto last night.'

Dennis looked to where Simon Tappertit lay coiled upon a truss of
hay, snoring profoundly, and nodded.

'And our noble captain,' continued Hugh with another laugh, 'our
noble captain and I, have planned for to-morrow a roaring
expedition, with good profit in it.'

'Again the Papists?' asked Dennis, rubbing his hands.

'Ay, against the Papists--against one of 'em at least, that some of
us, and I for one, owe a good heavy grudge to.'

'Not Muster Gashford's friend that he spoke to us about in my
house, eh?' said Dennis, brimfull of pleasant expectation.

'The same man,' said Hugh.

'That's your sort,' cried Mr Dennis, gaily shaking hands with him,
'that's the kind of game. Let's have revenges and injuries, and
all that, and we shall get on twice as fast. Now you talk,

'Ha ha ha! The captain,' added Hugh, 'has thoughts of carrying off
a woman in the bustle, and--ha ha ha!--and so have I!'

Mr Dennis received this part of the scheme with a wry face,
observing that as a general principle he objected to women
altogether, as being unsafe and slippery persons on whom there was
no calculating with any certainty, and who were never in the same
mind for four-and-twenty hours at a stretch. He might have
expatiated on this suggestive theme at much greater length, but
that it occurred to him to ask what connection existed between the
proposed expedition and Barnaby's being posted at the stable-door
as sentry; to which Hugh cautiously replied in these words:

'Why, the people we mean to visit, were friends of his, once upon a
time, and I know that much of him to feel pretty sure that if he
thought we were going to do them any harm, he'd be no friend to our
side, but would lend a ready hand to the other. So I've persuaded
him (for I know him of old) that Lord George has picked him out to
guard this place to-morrow while we're away, and that it's a great
honour--and so he's on duty now, and as proud of it as if he was a
general. Ha ha! What do you say to me for a careful man as well
as a devil of a one?'

Mr Dennis exhausted himself in compliments, and then added,

'But about the expedition itself--'

'About that,' said Hugh, 'you shall hear all particulars from me
and the great captain conjointly and both together--for see, he's
waking up. Rouse yourself, lion-heart. Ha ha! Put a good face
upon it, and drink again. Another hair of the dog that bit you,
captain! Call for drink! There's enough of gold and silver cups
and candlesticks buried underneath my bed,' he added, rolling back
the straw, and pointing to where the ground was newly turned, 'to
pay for it, if it was a score of casks full. Drink, captain!'

Mr Tappertit received these jovial promptings with a very bad
grace, being much the worse, both in mind and body, for his two
nights of debauch, and but indifferently able to stand upon his
legs. With Hugh's assistance, however, he contrived to stagger to
the pump; and having refreshed himself with an abundant draught of
cold water, and a copious shower of the same refreshing liquid on
his head and face, he ordered some rum and milk to be served; and
upon that innocent beverage and some biscuits and cheese made a
pretty hearty meal. That done, he disposed himself in an easy
attitude on the ground beside his two companions (who were
carousing after their own tastes), and proceeded to enlighten Mr
Dennis in reference to to-morrow's project.

That their conversation was an interesting one, was rendered
manifest by its length, and by the close attention of all three.
That it was not of an oppressively grave character, but was
enlivened by various pleasantries arising out of the subject, was
clear from their loud and frequent roars of laughter, which
startled Barnaby on his post, and made him wonder at their levity.
But he was not summoned to join them, until they had eaten, and
drunk, and slept, and talked together for some hours; not, indeed,
until the twilight; when they informed him that they were about to
make a slight demonstration in the streets--just to keep the
people's hands in, as it was Sunday night, and the public might
otherwise be disappointed--and that he was free to accompany them
if he would.

Without the slightest preparation, saving that they carried clubs
and wore the blue cockade, they sallied out into the streets; and,
with no more settled design than that of doing as much mischief as
they could, paraded them at random. Their numbers rapidly
increasing, they soon divided into parties; and agreeing to meet
by-and-by, in the fields near Welbeck Street, scoured the town in
various directions. The largest body, and that which augmented
with the greatest rapidity, was the one to which Hugh and Barnaby
belonged. This took its way towards Moorfields, where there was a
rich chapel, and in which neighbourhood several Catholic families
were known to reside.

Beginning with the private houses so occupied, they broke open the
doors and windows; and while they destroyed the furniture and left
but the bare walls, made a sharp search for tools and engines of
destruction, such as hammers, pokers, axes, saws, and such like
instruments. Many of the rioters made belts of cord, of
handkerchiefs, or any material they found at hand, and wore these
weapons as openly as pioneers upon a field-day. There was not the
least disguise or concealment--indeed, on this night, very little
excitement or hurry. From the chapels, they tore down and took
away the very altars, benches, pulpits, pews, and flooring; from
the dwelling-houses, the very wainscoting and stairs. This Sunday
evening's recreation they pursued like mere workmen who had a
certain task to do, and did it. Fifty resolute men might have
turned them at any moment; a single company of soldiers could have
scattered them like dust; but no man interposed, no authority
restrained them, and, except by the terrified persons who fled from
their approach, they were as little heeded as if they were pursuing
their lawful occupations with the utmost sobriety and good

In the same manner, they marched to the place of rendezvous agreed
upon, made great fires in the fields, and reserving the most
valuable of their spoils, burnt the rest. Priestly garments,
images of saints, rich stuffs and ornaments, altar-furniture and
household goods, were cast into the flames, and shed a glare on the
whole country round; but they danced and howled, and roared about
these fires till they were tired, and were never for an instant

As the main body filed off from this scene of action, and passed
down Welbeck Street, they came upon Gashford, who had been a
witness of their proceedings, and was walking stealthily along the
pavement. Keeping up with him, and yet not seeming to speak, Hugh
muttered in his ear:

'Is this better, master?'

'No,' said Gashford. 'It is not.'

'What would you have?' said Hugh. 'Fevers are never at their
height at once. They must get on by degrees.'

'I would have you,' said Gashford, pinching his arm with such
malevolence that his nails seemed to meet in the skin; 'I would
have you put some meaning into your work. Fools! Can you make no
better bonfires than of rags and scraps? Can you burn nothing

'A little patience, master,' said Hugh. 'Wait but a few hours, and
you shall see. Look for a redness in the sky, to-morrow night.'

With that, he fell back into his place beside Barnaby; and when the
secretary looked after him, both were lost in the crowd.

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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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