The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 56

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 56

The Maypole cronies, little drearning of the change so soon to come
upon their favourite haunt, struck through the Forest path upon
their way to London; and avoiding the main road, which was hot and
dusty, kept to the by-paths and the fields. As they drew nearer to
their destination, they began to make inquiries of the people whom
they passed, concerning the riots, and the truth or falsehood of
the stories they had heard. The answers went far beyond any
intelligence that had spread to quiet Chigwell. One man told them
that that afternoon the Guards, conveying to Newgate some rioters
who had been re-examined, had been set upon by the mob and
compelled to retreat; another, that the houses of two witnesses
near Clare Market were about to be pulled down when he came away;
another, that Sir George Saville's house in Leicester Fields was to
be burned that night, and that it would go hard with Sir George if
he fell into the people's hands, as it was he who had brought in
the Catholic bill. All accounts agreed that the mob were out, in
stronger numbers and more numerous parties than had yet appeared;
that the streets were unsafe; that no man's house or life was worth
an hour's purchase; that the public consternation was increasing
every moment; and that many families had already fled the city.
One fellow who wore the popular colour, damned them for not having
cockades in their hats, and bade them set a good watch to-morrow
night upon their prison doors, for the locks would have a
straining; another asked if they were fire-proof, that they
walked abroad without the distinguishing mark of all good and true
men;--and a third who rode on horseback, and was quite alone,
ordered them to throw each man a shilling, in his hat, towards the
support of the rioters. Although they were afraid to refuse
compliance with this demand, and were much alarmed by these
reports, they agreed, having come so far, to go forward, and see
the real state of things with their own eyes. So they pushed on
quicker, as men do who are excited by portentous news; and
ruminating on what they had heard, spoke little to each other.

It was now night, and as they came nearer to the city they had
dismal confirmation of this intelligence in three great fires, all
close together, which burnt fiercely and were gloomily reflected in
the sky. Arriving in the immediate suburbs, they found that almost
every house had chalked upon its door in large characters 'No
Popery,' that the shops were shut, and that alarm and anxiety were
depicted in every face they passed.

Noting these things with a degree of apprehension which neither of
the three cared to impart, in its full extent, to his companions,
they came to a turnpike-gate, which was shut. They were passing
through the turnstile on the path, when a horseman rode up from
London at a hard gallop, and called to the toll-keeper in a voice
of great agitation, to open quickly in the name of God.

The adjuration was so earnest and vehement, that the man, with a
lantern in his hand, came running out--toll-keeper though he was--
and was about to throw the gate open, when happening to look behind
him, he exclaimed, 'Good Heaven, what's that! Another fire!'

At this, the three turned their heads, and saw in the distance--
straight in the direction whence they had come--a broad sheet of
flame, casting a threatening light upon the clouds, which glimmered
as though the conflagration were behind them, and showed like a
wrathful sunset.

'My mind misgives me,' said the horseman, 'or I know from what far
building those flames come. Don't stand aghast, my good fellow.
Open the gate!'

'Sir,' cried the man, laying his hand upon his horse's bridle as he
let him through: 'I know you now, sir; be advised by me; do not go
on. I saw them pass, and know what kind of men they are. You will
be murdered.'

'So be it!' said the horseman, looking intently towards the fire,
and not at him who spoke.

'But sir--sir,' cried the man, grasping at his rein more tightly
yet, 'if you do go on, wear the blue riband. Here, sir,' he added,
taking one from his own hat, 'it's necessity, not choice, that
makes me wear it; it's love of life and home, sir. Wear it for
this one night, sir; only for this one night.'

'Do!' cried the three friends, pressing round his horse. 'Mr
Haredale--worthy sir--good gentleman--pray be persuaded.'

'Who's that?' cried Mr Haredale, stooping down to look. 'Did I
hear Daisy's voice?'

'You did, sir,' cried the little man. 'Do be persuaded, sir. This
gentleman says very true. Your life may hang upon it.'

'Are you,' said Mr Haredale abruptly, 'afraid to come with me?'

'I, sir?--N-n-no.'

'Put that riband in your hat. If we meet the rioters, swear that I
took you prisoner for wearing it. I will tell them so with my own
lips; for as I hope for mercy when I die, I will take no quarter
from them, nor shall they have quarter from me, if we come hand to
hand to-night. Up here--behind me--quick! Clasp me tight round
the body, and fear nothing.'

In an instant they were riding away, at full gallop, in a dense
cloud of dust, and speeding on, like hunters in a dream.

It was well the good horse knew the road he traversed, for never
once--no, never once in all the journey--did Mr Haredale cast his
eyes upon the ground, or turn them, for an instant, from the light
towards which they sped so madly. Once he said in a low voice, 'It
is my house,' but that was the only time he spoke. When they came
to dark and doubtful places, he never forgot to put his hand upon
the little man to hold him more securely in his seat, but he kept
his head erect and his eyes fixed on the fire, then, and always.

The road was dangerous enough, for they went the nearest way--
headlong--far from the highway--by lonely lanes and paths, where
waggon-wheels had worn deep ruts; where hedge and ditch hemmed in
the narrow strip of ground; and tall trees, arching overhead, made
it profoundly dark. But on, on, on, with neither stop nor stumble,
till they reached the Maypole door, and could plainly see that the
fire began to fade, as if for want of fuel.

'Down--for one moment--for but one moment,' said Mr Haredale,
helping Daisy to the ground, and following himself. 'Willet--
Willet--where are my niece and servants--Willet!'

Crying to him distractedly, he rushed into the bar.--The landlord
bound and fastened to his chair; the place dismantled, stripped,
and pulled about his ears;--nobody could have taken shelter here.

He was a strong man, accustomed to restrain himself, and suppress
his strong emotions; but this preparation for what was to follow--
though he had seen that fire burning, and knew that his house must
be razed to the ground--was more than he could bear. He covered
his face with his hands for a moment, and turned away his head.

'Johnny, Johnny,' said Solomon--and the simple-hearted fellow
cried outright, and wrung his hands--'Oh dear old Johnny, here's a
change! That the Maypole bar should come to this, and we should
live to see it! The old Warren too, Johnny--Mr Haredale--oh,
Johnny, what a piteous sight this is!'

Pointing to Mr Haredale as he said these words, little Solomon
Daisy put his elbows on the back of Mr Willet's chair, and fairly
blubbered on his shoulder.

While Solomon was speaking, old John sat, mute as a stock-fish,
staring at him with an unearthly glare, and displaying, by every
possible symptom, entire and complete unconsciousness. But when
Solomon was silent again, John followed,with his great round eyes,
the direction of his looks, and did appear to have some dawning
distant notion that somebody had come to see him.

'You know us, don't you, Johnny?' said the little clerk, rapping
himself on the breast. 'Daisy, you know--Chigwell Church--bell-
ringer--little desk on Sundays--eh, Johnny?'

Mr Willet reflected for a few moments, and then muttered, as it
were mechanically: 'Let us sing to the praise and glory of--'

'Yes, to be sure,' cried the little man, hastily; 'that's it--
that's me, Johnny. You're all right now, an't you? Say you're all
right, Johnny.'

'All right?' pondered Mr Willet, as if that were a matter entirely
between himself and his conscience. 'All right? Ah!'

'They haven't been misusing you with sticks, or pokers, or any
other blunt instruments--have they, Johnny?' asked Solomon, with a
very anxious glance at Mr Willet's head. 'They didn't beat you,
did they?'

John knitted his brow; looked downwards, as if he were mentally
engaged in some arithmetical calculation; then upwards, as if the
total would not come at his call; then at Solomon Daisy, from his
eyebrow to his shoe-buckle; then very slowly round the bar. And
then a great, round, leaden-looking, and not at all transparent
tear, came rolling out of each eye, and he said, as he shook his

'If they'd only had the goodness to murder me, I'd have thanked 'em

'No, no, no, don't say that, Johnny,' whimpered his little friend.
'It's very, very bad, but not quite so bad as that. No, no!'

'Look'ee here, sir!' cried John, turning his rueful eyes on Mr
Haredale, who had dropped on one knee, and was hastily beginning to
untie his bonds. 'Look'ee here, sir! The very Maypole--the old
dumb Maypole--stares in at the winder, as if it said, "John Willet,
John Willet, let's go and pitch ourselves in the nighest pool of
water as is deep enough to hold us; for our day is over!"'

'Don't, Johnny, don't,' cried his friend: no less affected with
this mournful effort of Mr Willet's imagination, than by the
sepulchral tone in which he had spoken of the Maypole. 'Please
don't, Johnny!'

'Your loss is great, and your misfortune a heavy one,' said Mr
Haredale, looking restlessly towards the door: 'and this is not a
time to comfort you. If it were, I am in no condition to do so.
Before I leave you, tell me one thing, and try to tell me plainly,
I implore you. Have you seen, or heard of Emma?'

'No!' said Mr Willet.

'Nor any one but these bloodhounds?'


'They rode away, I trust in Heaven, before these dreadful scenes
began,' said Mr Haredale, who, between his agitation, his eagerness
to mount his horse again, and the dexterity with which the cords
were tied, had scarcely yet undone one knot. 'A knife, Daisy!'

'You didn't,' said John, looking about, as though he had lost his
pocket-handkerchief, or some such slight article--'either of you
gentlemen--see a--a coffin anywheres, did you?'

'Willet!' cried Mr Haredale. Solomon dropped the knife, and
instantly becoming limp from head to foot, exclaimed 'Good

'--Because,' said John, not at all regarding them, 'a dead man
called a little time ago, on his way yonder. I could have told you
what name was on the plate, if he had brought his coffin with him,
and left it behind. If he didn't, it don't signify.'

His landlord, who had listened to these words with breathless
attention, started that moment to his feet; and, without a word,
drew Solomon Daisy to the door, mounted his horse, took him up
behind again, and flew rather than galloped towards the pile of
ruins, which that day's sun had shone upon, a stately house. Mr
Willet stared after them, listened, looked down upon himself to
make quite sure that he was still unbound, and, without any
manifestation of impatience, disappointment, or surprise, gently
relapsed into the condition from which he had so imperfectly

Mr Haredale tied his horse to the trunk of a tree, and grasping his
companion's arm, stole softly along the footpath, and into what had
been the garden of his house. He stopped for an instant to look
upon its smoking walls, and at the stars that shone through roof
and floor upon the heap of crumbling ashes. Solomon glanced
timidly in his face, but his lips were tightly pressed together, a
resolute and stern expression sat upon his brow, and not a tear, a
look, or gesture indicating grief, escaped him.

He drew his sword; felt for a moment in his breast, as though he
carried other arms about him; then grasping Solomon by the wrist
again, went with a cautious step all round the house. He looked
into every doorway and gap in the wall; retraced his steps at every
rustling of the air among the leaves; and searched in every
shadowed nook with outstretched hands. Thus they made the circuit
of the building: but they returned to the spot from which they had
set out, without encountering any human being, or finding the least
trace of any concealed straggler.

After a short pause, Mr Haredale shouted twice or thrice. Then
cried aloud, 'Is there any one in hiding here, who knows my voice!
There is nothing to fear now. If any of my people are near, I
entreat them to answer!' He called them all by name; his voice was
echoed in many mournful tones; then all was silent as before.

They were standing near the foot of the turret, where the alarm-
bell hung. The fire had raged there, and the floors had been sawn,
and hewn, and beaten down, besides. It was open to the night; but
a part of the staircase still remained, winding upward from a great
mound of dust and cinders. Fragments of the jagged and broken
steps offered an insecure and giddy footing here and there, and
then were lost again, behind protruding angles of the wall, or in
the deep shadows cast upon it by other portions of the ruin; for by
this time the moon had risen, and shone brightly.

As they stood here, listening to the echoes as they died away, and
hoping in vain to hear a voice they knew, some of the ashes in this
turret slipped and rolled down. Startled by the least noise in
that melancholy place, Solomon looked up in his companion's face,
and saw that he had turned towards the spot, and that he watched
and listened keenly.

He covered the little man's mouth with his hand, and looked again.
Instantly, with kindling eyes, he bade him on his life keep still,
and neither speak nor move. Then holding his breath, and stooping
down, he stole into the turret, with his drawn sword in his hand,
and disappeared.

Terrified to be left there by himself, under such desolate
circumstances, and after all he had seen and heard that night,
Solomon would have followed, but there had been something in Mr
Haredale's manner and his look, the recollection of which held him
spellbound. He stood rooted to the spot; and scarcely venturing to
breathe, looked up with mingled fear and wonder.

Again the ashes slipped and rolled--very, very softly--again--and
then again, as though they crumbled underneath the tread of a
stealthy foot. And now a figure was dimly visible; climbing very
softly; and often stopping to look down; now it pursued its
difficult way; and now it was hidden from the view again.

It emerged once more, into the shadowy and uncertain light--higher
now, but not much, for the way was steep and toilsome, and its
progress very slow. What phantom of the brain did he pursue; and
why did he look down so constantly? He knew he was alone. Surely
his mind was not affected by that night's loss and agony. He was
not about to throw himself headlong from the summit of the
tottering wall. Solomon turned sick, and clasped his hands. His
limbs trembled beneath him, and a cold sweat broke out upon his
pallid face.

If he complied with Mr Haredale's last injunction now, it was
because he had not the power to speak or move. He strained his
gaze, and fixed it on a patch of moonlight, into which, if he
continued to ascend, he must soon emerge. When he appeared there,
he would try to call to him.

Again the ashes slipped and crumbled; some stones rolled down, and
fell with a dull, heavy sound upon the ground below. He kept his
eyes upon the piece of moonlight. The figure was coming on, for
its shadow was already thrown upon the wall. Now it appeared--and
now looked round at him--and now--

The horror-stricken clerk uttered a scream that pierced the air,
and cried, 'The ghost! The ghost!'

Long before the echo of his cry had died away, another form rushed
out into the light, flung itself upon the foremost one, knelt down
upon its breast, and clutched its throat with both hands.

'Villain!' cried Mr Haredale, in a terrible voice--for it was he.
'Dead and buried, as all men supposed through your infernal arts,
but reserved by Heaven for this--at last--at last I have you. You,
whose hands are red with my brother's blood, and that of his
faithful servant, shed to conceal your own atrocious guilt--You,
Rudge, double murderer and monster, I arrest you in the name of
God, who has delivered you into my hands. No. Though you had the
strength of twenty men,' he added, as the murderer writhed and
struggled, you could not escape me or loosen my grasp to-night!'

< Back
Forward >

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

Other Authors Other Authors

Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2022,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.