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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 54

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 54

Rumours of the prevailing disturbances had, by this time, begun to
be pretty generally circulated through the towns and villages round
London, and the tidings were everywhere received with that appetite
for the marvellous and love of the terrible which have probably
been among the natural characteristics of mankind since the
creation of the world. These accounts, however, appeared, to many
persons at that day--as they would to us at the present, but that
we know them to be matter of history--so monstrous and improbable,
that a great number of those who were resident at a distance, and
who were credulous enough on other points, were really unable to
bring their minds to believe that such things could be; and
rejected the intelligence they received on all hands, as wholly
fabulous and absurd.

Mr Willet--not so much, perhaps, on account of his having argued
and settled the matter with himself, as by reason of his
constitutional obstinacy--was one of those who positively refused
to entertain the current topic for a moment. On this very evening,
and perhaps at the very time when Gashford kept his solitary watch,
old John was so red in the face with perpetually shaking his head
in contradiction of his three ancient cronies and pot companions,
that he was quite a phenomenon to behold, and lighted up the
Maypole Porch wherein they sat together, like a monstrous carbuncle
in a fairy tale.

'Do you think, sir,' said Mr Willet, looking hard at Solomon
Daisy--for it was his custom in cases of personal altercation to
fasten upon the smallest man in the party--'do you think, sir, that
I'm a born fool?'

'No, no, Johnny,' returned Solomon, looking round upon the little
circle of which he formed a part: 'We all know better than that.
You're no fool, Johnny. No, no!'

Mr Cobb and Mr Parkes shook their heads in unison, muttering, 'No,
no, Johnny, not you!' But as such compliments had usually the
effect of making Mr Willet rather more dogged than before, he
surveyed them with a look of deep disdain, and returned for answer:

'Then what do you mean by coming here, and telling me that this
evening you're a-going to walk up to London together--you three--
you--and have the evidence of your own senses? An't,' said Mr
Willet, putting his pipe in his mouth with an air of solemn
disgust, 'an't the evidence of MY senses enough for you?'

'But we haven't got it, Johnny,' pleaded Parkes, humbly.

'You haven't got it, sir?' repeated Mr Willet, eyeing him from top
to toe. 'You haven't got it, sir? You HAVE got it, sir. Don't I
tell you that His blessed Majesty King George the Third would no
more stand a rioting and rollicking in his streets, than he'd stand
being crowed over by his own Parliament?'

'Yes, Johnny, but that's your sense--not your senses,' said the
adventurous Mr Parkes.

'How do you know? 'retorted John with great dignity. 'You're a
contradicting pretty free, you are, sir. How do YOU know which it
is? I'm not aware I ever told you, sir.'

Mr Parkes, finding himself in the position of having got into
metaphysics without exactly seeing his way out of them, stammered
forth an apology and retreated from the argument. There then
ensued a silence of some ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, at
the expiration of which period Mr Willet was observed to rumble and
shake with laughter, and presently remarked, in reference to his
late adversary, 'that he hoped he had tackled him enough.'
Thereupon Messrs Cobb and Daisy laughed, and nodded, and Parkes was
looked upon as thoroughly and effectually put down.

'Do you suppose if all this was true, that Mr Haredale would be
constantly away from home, as he is?' said John, after another
silence. 'Do you think he wouldn't be afraid to leave his house
with them two young women in it, and only a couple of men, or so?'

'Ay, but then you know,' returned Solomon Daisy, 'his house is a
goodish way out of London, and they do say that the rioters won't
go more than two miles, or three at the farthest, off the stones.
Besides, you know, some of the Catholic gentlefolks have actually
sent trinkets and suchlike down here for safety--at least, so the
story goes.'

'The story goes!' said Mr Willet testily. 'Yes, sir. The story
goes that you saw a ghost last March. But nobody believes it.'

'Well!' said Solomon, rising, to divert the attention of his two
friends, who tittered at this retort: 'believed or disbelieved,
it's true; and true or not, if we mean to go to London, we must be
going at once. So shake hands, Johnny, and good night.'

'I shall shake hands,' returned the landlord, putting his into his
pockets, 'with no man as goes to London on such nonsensical

The three cronies were therefore reduced to the necessity of
shaking his elbows; having performed that ceremony, and brought
from the house their hats, and sticks, and greatcoats, they bade
him good night and departed; promising to bring him on the morrow
full and true accounts of the real state of the city, and if it
were quiet, to give him the full merit of his victory.

John Willet looked after them, as they plodded along the road in
the rich glow of a summer evening; and knocking the ashes out of
his pipe, laughed inwardly at their folly, until his sides were
sore. When he had quite exhausted himself--which took some time,
for he laughed as slowly as he thought and spoke--he sat himself
comfortably with his back to the house, put his legs upon the
bench, then his apron over his face, and fell sound asleep.

How long he slept, matters not; but it was for no brief space, for
when he awoke, the rich light had faded, the sombre hues of night
were falling fast upon the landscape, and a few bright stars were
already twinkling overhead. The birds were all at roost, the
daisies on the green had closed their fairy hoods, the honeysuckle
twining round the porch exhaled its perfume in a twofold degree, as
though it lost its coyness at that silent time and loved to shed
its fragrance on the night; the ivy scarcely stirred its deep green
leaves. How tranquil, and how beautiful it was!

Was there no sound in the air, besides the gentle rustling of the
trees and the grasshopper's merry chirp? Hark! Something very
faint and distant, not unlike the murmuring in a sea-shell. Now it
grew louder, fainter now, and now it altogether died away.
Presently, it came again, subsided, came once more, grew louder,
fainter--swelled into a roar. It was on the road, and varied with
its windings. All at once it burst into a distinct sound--the
voices, and the tramping feet of many men.

It is questionable whether old John Willet, even then, would have
thought of the rioters but for the cries of his cook and housemaid,
who ran screaming upstairs and locked themselves into one of the
old garrets,--shrieking dismally when they had done so, by way of
rendering their place of refuge perfectly secret and secure. These
two females did afterwards depone that Mr Willet in his
consternation uttered but one word, and called that up the stairs
in a stentorian voice, six distinct times. But as this word was a
monosyllable, which, however inoffensive when applied to the
quadruped it denotes, is highly reprehensible when used in
connection with females of unimpeachable character, many persons
were inclined to believe that the young women laboured under some
hallucination caused by excessive fear; and that their ears
deceived them.

Be this as it may, John Willet, in whom the very uttermost extent
of dull-headed perplexity supplied the place of courage, stationed
himself in the porch, and waited for their coming up. Once, it
dimly occurred to him that there was a kind of door to the house,
which had a lock and bolts; and at the same time some shadowy ideas
of shutters to the lower windows, flitted through his brain. But
he stood stock still, looking down the road in the direction in
which the noise was rapidly advancing, and did not so much as take
his hands out of his pockets.

He had not to wait long. A dark mass, looming through a cloud of
dust, soon became visible; the mob quickened their pace; shouting
and whooping like savages, they came rushing on pell mell; and in a
few seconds he was bandied from hand to hand, in the heart of a
crowd of men.

'Halloa!' cried a voice he knew, as the man who spoke came cleaving
through the throng. 'Where is he? Give him to me. Don't hurt
him. How now, old Jack! Ha ha ha!'

Mr Willet looked at him, and saw it was Hugh; but he said nothing,
and thought nothing.

'These lads are thirsty and must drink!' cried Hugh, thrusting him
back towards the house. 'Bustle, Jack, bustle. Show us the best--
the very best--the over-proof that you keep for your own drinking,

John faintly articulated the words, 'Who's to pay?'

'He says "Who's to pay?"' cried Hugh, with a roar of laughter which
was loudly echoed by the crowd. Then turning to John, he added,
'Pay! Why, nobody.'

John stared round at the mass of faces--some grinning, some fierce,
some lighted up by torches, some indistinct, some dusky and
shadowy: some looking at him, some at his house, some at each
other--and while he was, as he thought, in the very act of doing
so, found himself, without any consciousness of having moved, in
the bar; sitting down in an arm-chair, and watching the destruction
of his property, as if it were some queer play or entertainment, of
an astonishing and stupefying nature, but having no reference to
himself--that he could make out--at all.

Yes. Here was the bar--the bar that the boldest never entered
without special invitation--the sanctuary, the mystery, the
hallowed ground: here it was, crammed with men, clubs, sticks,
torches, pistols; filled with a deafening noise, oaths, shouts,
screams, hootings; changed all at once into a bear-garden, a
madhouse, an infernal temple: men darting in and out, by door and
window, smashing the glass, turning the taps, drinking liquor out
of China punchbowls, sitting astride of casks, smoking private and
personal pipes, cutting down the sacred grove of lemons, hacking
and hewing at the celebrated cheese, breaking open inviolable
drawers, putting things in their pockets which didn't belong to
them, dividing his own money before his own eyes, wantonly wasting,
breaking, pulling down and tearing up: nothing quiet, nothing
private: men everywhere--above, below, overhead, in the bedrooms,
in the kitchen, in the yard, in the stables--clambering in at
windows when there were doors wide open; dropping out of windows
when the stairs were handy; leaping over the bannisters into chasms
of passages: new faces and figures presenting themselves every
instant--some yelling, some singing, some fighting, some breaking
glass and crockery, some laying the dust with the liquor they
couldn't drink, some ringing the bells till they pulled them down,
others beating them with pokers till they beat them into fragments:
more men still--more, more, more--swarming on like insects: noise,
smoke, light, darkness, frolic, anger, laughter, groans, plunder,
fear, and ruin!

Nearly all the time while John looked on at this bewildering scene,
Hugh kept near him; and though he was the loudest, wildest, most
destructive villain there, he saved his old master's bones a score
of times. Nay, even when Mr Tappertit, excited by liquor, came up,
and in assertion of his prerogative politely kicked John Willet on
the shins, Hugh bade him return the compliment; and if old John had
had sufficient presence of mind to understand this whispered
direction, and to profit by it, he might no doubt, under Hugh's
protection, have done so with impunity.

At length the band began to reassemble outside the house, and to
call to those within, to join them, for they were losing time.
These murmurs increasing, and attaining a high pitch, Hugh, and
some of those who yet lingered in the bar, and who plainly were the
leaders of the troop, took counsel together, apart, as to what was
to be done with John, to keep him quiet until their Chigwell work
was over. Some proposed to set the house on fire and leave him in
it; others, that he should be reduced to a state of temporary
insensibility, by knocking on the head; others, that he should be
sworn to sit where he was until to-morrow at the same hour; others
again, that he should be gagged and taken off with them, under a
sufficient guard. All these propositions being overruled, it was
concluded, at last, to bind him in his chair, and the word was
passed for Dennis.

'Look'ee here, Jack!' said Hugh, striding up to him: 'We are going
to tie you, hand and foot, but otherwise you won't be hurt. D'ye

John Willet looked at another man, as if he didn't know which was
the speaker, and muttered something about an ordinary every Sunday
at two o'clock.

'You won't be hurt I tell you, Jack--do you hear me?' roared Hugh,
impressing the assurance upon him by means of a heavy blow on the
back. 'He's so dead scared, he's woolgathering, I think. Give him
a drop of something to drink here. Hand over, one of you.'

A glass of liquor being passed forward, Hugh poured the contents
down old John's throat. Mr Willet feebly smacked his lips, thrust
his hand into his pocket, and inquired what was to pay; adding, as
he looked vacantly round, that he believed there was a trifle of
broken glass--

'He's out of his senses for the time, it's my belief,' said Hugh,
after shaking him, without any visible effect upon his system,
until his keys rattled in his pocket. 'Where's that Dennis?'

The word was again passed, and presently Mr Dennis, with a long
cord bound about his middle, something after the manner of a friar,
came hurrying in, attended by a body-guard of half-a-dozen of his

'Come! Be alive here!' cried Hugh, stamping his foot upon the
ground. 'Make haste!'

Dennis, with a wink and a nod, unwound the cord from about his
person, and raising his eyes to the ceiling, looked all over it,
and round the walls and cornice, with a curious eye; then shook his

'Move, man, can't you!' cried Hugh, with another impatient stamp of
his foot. 'Are we to wait here, till the cry has gone for ten
miles round, and our work's interrupted?'

'It's all very fine talking, brother,' answered Dennis, stepping
towards him; 'but unless--' and here he whispered in his ear--
'unless we do it over the door, it can't be done at all in this
here room.'

'What can't?' Hugh demanded.

'What can't!' retorted Dennis. 'Why, the old man can't.'

'Why, you weren't going to hang him!' cried Hugh.

'No, brother?' returned the hangman with a stare. 'What else?'

Hugh made no answer, but snatching the rope from his companion's
hand, proceeded to bind old John himself; but his very first move
was so bungling and unskilful, that Mr Dennis entreated, almost
with tears in his eyes, that he might be permitted to perform the
duty. Hugh consenting, be achieved it in a twinkling.

'There,' he said, looking mournfully at John Willet, who displayed
no more emotion in his bonds than he had shown out of them.
'That's what I call pretty and workmanlike. He's quite a picter
now. But, brother, just a word with you--now that he's ready
trussed, as one may say, wouldn't it be better for all parties if
we was to work him off? It would read uncommon well in the
newspapers, it would indeed. The public would think a great deal
more on us!'

Hugh, inferring what his companion meant, rather from his gestures
than his technical mode of expressing himself (to which, as he was
ignorant of his calling, he wanted the clue), rejected this
proposition for the second time, and gave the word 'Forward!' which
was echoed by a hundred voices from without.

'To the Warren!' shouted Dennis as he ran out, followed by the
rest. 'A witness's house, my lads!'

A loud yell followed, and the whole throng hurried off, mad for
pillage and destruction. Hugh lingered behind for a few moments to
stimulate himself with more drink, and to set all the taps running,
a few of which had accidentally been spared; then, glancing round
the despoiled and plundered room, through whose shattered window
the rioters had thrust the Maypole itself,--for even that had been
sawn down,--lighted a torch, clapped the mute and motionless John
Willet on the back, and waving his light above his head, and
uttering a fierce shout, hastened after his companions.

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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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