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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 70

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 70

Mr Dennis having despatched this piece of business without any
personal hurt or inconvenience, and having now retired into the
tranquil respectability of private life, resolved to solace himself
with half an hour or so of female society. With this amiable
purpose in his mind, he bent his steps towards the house where
Dolly and Miss Haredale were still confined, and whither Miss Miggs
had also been removed by order of Mr Simon Tappertit.

As he walked along the streets with his leather gloves clasped
behind him, and his face indicative of cheerful thought and
pleasant calculation, Mr Dennis might have been likened unto a
farmer ruminating among his crops, and enjoying by anticipation the
bountiful gifts of Providence. Look where he would, some heap of
ruins afforded him rich promise of a working off; the whole town
appeared to have been ploughed and sown, and nurtured by most
genial weather; and a goodly harvest was at hand.

Having taken up arms and resorted to deeds of violence, with the
great main object of preserving the Old Bailey in all its purity,
and the gallows in all its pristine usefulness and moral grandeur,
it would perhaps be going too far to assert that Mr Dennis had ever
distinctly contemplated and foreseen this happy state of things.
He rather looked upon it as one of those beautiful dispensations
which are inscrutably brought about for the behoof and advantage of
good men. He felt, as it were, personally referred to, in this
prosperous ripening for the gibbet; and had never considered
himself so much the pet and favourite child of Destiny, or loved
that lady so well or with such a calm and virtuous reliance, in
all his life.

As to being taken up, himself, for a rioter, and punished with the
rest, Mr Dennis dismissed that possibility from his thoughts as an
idle chimera; arguing that the line of conduct he had adopted at
Newgate, and the service he had rendered that day, would be more
than a set-off against any evidence which might identify him as a
member of the crowd. That any charge of companionship which might
be made against him by those who were themselves in danger, would
certainly go for nought. And that if any trivial indiscretion on
his part should unluckily come out, the uncommon usefulness of his
office, at present, and the great demand for the exercise of its
functions, would certainly cause it to be winked at, and passed
over. In a word, he had played his cards throughout, with great
care; had changed sides at the very nick of time; had delivered up
two of the most notorious rioters, and a distinguished felon to
boot; and was quite at his ease.

Saving--for there is a reservation; and even Mr Dennis was not
perfectly happy--saving for one circumstance; to wit, the forcible
detention of Dolly and Miss Haredale, in a house almost adjoining
his own. This was a stumbling-block; for if they were discovered
and released, they could, by the testimony they had it in their
power to give, place him in a situation of great jeopardy; and to
set them at liberty, first extorting from them an oath of secrecy
and silence, was a thing not to be thought of. It was more,
perhaps, with an eye to the danger which lurked in this quarter,
than from his abstract love of conversation with the sex, that the
hangman, quickening his steps, now hastened into their society,
cursing the amorous natures of Hugh and Mr Tappertit with great
heartiness, at every step he took.

When be entered the miserable room in which they were confined,
Dolly and Miss Haredale withdrew in silence to the remotest corner.
But Miss Miggs, who was particularly tender of her reputation,
immediately fell upon her knees and began to scream very loud,
crying, 'What will become of me!'--'Where is my Simmuns!'--'Have
mercy, good gentlemen, on my sex's weaknesses!'--with other doleful
lamentations of that nature, which she delivered with great
propriety and decorum.

'Miss, miss,' whispered Dennis, beckoning to her with his
forefinger, 'come here--I won't hurt you. Come here, my lamb, will

On hearing this tender epithet, Miss Miggs, who had left off
screaming when he opened his lips, and had listened to him
attentively, began again, crying: 'Oh I'm his lamb! He says I'm
his lamb! Oh gracious, why wasn't I born old and ugly! Why was I
ever made to be the youngest of six, and all of 'em dead and in
their blessed graves, excepting one married sister, which is
settled in Golden Lion Court, number twenty-sivin, second bell-
handle on the--!'

'Don't I say I an't a-going to hurt you?' said Dennis, pointing to
a chair. 'Why miss, what's the matter?'

'I don't know what mayn't be the matter!' cried Miss Miggs,
clasping her hands distractedly. 'Anything may be the matter!'

'But nothing is, I tell you,' said the hangman. 'First stop that
noise and come and sit down here, will you, chuckey?'

The coaxing tone in which he said these latter words might have
failed in its object, if he had not accompanied them with sundry
sharp jerks of his thumb over one shoulder, and with divers winks
and thrustings of his tongue into his cheek, from which signals the
damsel gathered that he sought to speak to her apart, concerning
Miss Haredale and Dolly. Her curiosity being very powerful, and
her jealousy by no means inactive, she arose, and with a great deal
of shivering and starting back, and much muscular action among all
the small bones in her throat, gradually approached him.

'Sit down,' said the hangman.

Suiting the action to the word, he thrust her rather suddenly and
prematurely into a chair, and designing to reassure her by a little
harmless jocularity, such as is adapted to please and fascinate
the sex, converted his right forefinger into an ideal bradawl or
gimlet, and made as though he would screw the same into her side--
whereat Miss Miggs shrieked again, and evinced symptoms of

'Lovey, my dear,' whispered Dennis, drawing his chair close to
hers. 'When was your young man here last, eh?'

'MY young man, good gentleman!' answered Miggs in a tone of
exquisite distress.

'Ah! Simmuns, you know--him?' said Dennis.

'Mine indeed!' cried Miggs, with a burst of bitterness--and as she
said it, she glanced towards Dolly. 'MINE, good gentleman!'

This was just what Mr Dennis wanted, and expected.

'Ah!' he said, looking so soothingly, not to say amorously on
Miggs, that she sat, as she afterwards remarked, on pins and
needles of the sharpest Whitechapel kind, not knowing what
intentions might be suggesting that expression to his features:
'I was afraid of that. I saw as much myself. It's her fault. She
WILL entice 'em.'

'I wouldn't,' cried Miggs, folding her hands and looking upwards
with a kind of devout blankness, 'I wouldn't lay myself out as she
does; I wouldn't be as bold as her; I wouldn't seem to say to all
male creeturs "Come and kiss me"'--and here a shudder quite
convulsed her frame--'for any earthly crowns as might be offered.
Worlds,' Miggs added solemnly, 'should not reduce me. No. Not if
I was Wenis.'

'Well, but you ARE Wenus, you know,' said Mr Dennis,

'No, I am not, good gentleman,' answered Miggs, shaking her head
with an air of self-denial which seemed to imply that she might be
if she chose, but she hoped she knew better. 'No, I am not, good
gentleman. Don't charge me with it.'

Up to this time she had turned round, every now and then, to where
Dolly and Miss Haredale had retired and uttered a scream, or groan,
or laid her hand upon her heart and trembled excessively, with a
view of keeping up appearances, and giving them to understand that
she conversed with the visitor, under protest and on compulsion,
and at a great personal sacrifice, for their common good. But at
this point, Mr Dennis looked so very full of meaning, and gave such
a singularly expressive twitch to his face as a request to her to
come still nearer to him, that she abandoned these little arts, and
gave him her whole and undivided attention.

'When was Simmuns here, I say?' quoth Dennis, in her ear.

'Not since yesterday morning; and then only for a few minutes. Not
all day, the day before.'

'You know he meant all along to carry off that one!' said Dennis,
indicating Dolly by the slightest possible jerk of his head:--'And
to hand you over to somebody else.'

Miss Miggs, who had fallen into a terrible state of grief when the
first part of this sentence was spoken, recovered a little at the
second, and seemed by the sudden check she put upon her tears, to
intimate that possibly this arrangement might meet her views; and
that it might, perhaps, remain an open question.

'--But unfort'nately,' pursued Dennis, who observed this: 'somebody
else was fond of her too, you see; and even if he wasn't, somebody
else is took for a rioter, and it's all over with him.'

Miss Miggs relapsed.

'Now I want,' said Dennis, 'to clear this house, and to see you
righted. What if I was to get her off, out of the way, eh?'

Miss Miggs, brightening again, rejoined, with many breaks and
pauses from excess of feeling, that temptations had been Simmuns's
bane. That it was not his faults, but hers (meaning Dolly's).
That men did not see through these dreadful arts as women did, and
therefore was caged and trapped, as Simmun had been. That she had
no personal motives to serve--far from it--on the contrary, her
intentions was good towards all parties. But forasmuch as she
knowed that Simmun, if united to any designing and artful minxes
(she would name no names, for that was not her dispositions)--to
ANY designing and artful minxes--must be made miserable and unhappy
for life, she DID incline towards prewentions. Such, she added,
was her free confessions. But as this was private feelings, and
might perhaps be looked upon as wengeance, she begged the gentleman
would say no more. Whatever he said, wishing to do her duty by all
mankind, even by them as had ever been her bitterest enemies, she
would not listen to him. With that she stopped her ears, and shook
her head from side to side, to intimate to Mr Dennis that though he
talked until he had no breath left, she was as deaf as any adder.

'Lookee here, my sugar-stick,' said Mr Dennis, 'if your view's the
same as mine, and you'll only be quiet and slip away at the right
time, I can have the house clear to-morrow, and be out of this
trouble.--Stop though! there's the other.'

'Which other, sir?' asked Miggs--still with her fingers in her ears
and her head shaking obstinately.

'Why, the tallest one, yonder,' said Dennis, as he stroked his
chin, and added, in an undertone to himself, something about not
crossing Muster Gashford.

Miss Miggs replied (still being profoundly deaf) that if Miss
Haredale stood in the way at all, he might make himself quite easy
on that score; as she had gathered, from what passed between Hugh
and Mr Tappertit when they were last there, that she was to be
removed alone (not by them, but by somebody else), to-morrow night.

Mr Dennis opened his eyes very wide at this piece of information,
whistled once, considered once, and finally slapped his head once
and nodded once, as if he had got the clue to this mysterious
removal, and so dismissed it. Then he imparted his design
concerning Dolly to Miss Miggs, who was taken more deaf than
before, when he began; and so remained, all through.

The notable scheme was this. Mr Dennis was immediately to seek out
from among the rioters, some daring young fellow (and he had one in
his eye, he said), who, terrified by the threats he could hold out
to him, and alarmed by the capture of so many who were no better
and no worse than he, would gladly avail himself of any help to get
abroad, and out of harm's way, with his plunder, even though his
journey were incumbered by an unwilling companion; indeed, the
unwilling companion being a beautiful girl, would probably be an
additional inducement and temptation. Such a person found, he
proposed to bring him there on the ensuing night, when the tall one
was taken off, and Miss Miggs had purposely retired; and then that
Dolly should be gagged, muffled in a cloak, and carried in any
handy conveyance down to the river's side; where there were
abundant means of getting her smuggled snugly off in any small
craft of doubtful character, and no questions asked. With regard
to the expense of this removal, he would say, at a rough
calculation, that two or three silver tea or coffee-pots, with
something additional for drink (such as a muffineer, or toast-
rack), would more than cover it. Articles of plate of every kind
having been buried by the rioters in several lonely parts of
London, and particularly, as he knew, in St James's Square, which,
though easy of access, was little frequented after dark, and had a
convenient piece of water in the midst, the needful funds were
close at hand, and could be had upon the shortest notice. With
regard to Dolly, the gentleman would exercise his own discretion.
He would be bound to do nothing but to take her away, and keep her
away. All other arrangements and dispositions would rest entirely
with himself.

If Miss Miggs had had her hearing, no doubt she would have been
greatly shocked by the indelicacy of a young female's going away
with a stranger by night (for her moral feelings, as we have said,
were of the tenderest kind); but directly Mr Dennis ceased to
speak, she reminded him that he had only wasted breath. She then
went on to say (still with her fingers in her ears) that nothing
less than a severe practical lesson would save the locksmith's
daughter from utter ruin; and that she felt it, as it were, a moral
obligation and a sacred duty to the family, to wish that some one
would devise one for her reformation. Miss Miggs remarked, and
very justly, as an abstract sentiment which happened to occur to
her at the moment, that she dared to say the locksmith and his wife
would murmur, and repine, if they were ever, by forcible abduction,
or otherwise, to lose their child; but that we seldom knew, in this
world, what was best for us: such being our sinful and imperfect
natures, that very few arrived at that clear understanding.

Having brought their conversation to this satisfactory end, they
parted: Dennis, to pursue his design, and take another walk about
his farm; Miss Miggs, to launch, when he left her, into such a
burst of mental anguish (which she gave them to understand was
occasioned by certain tender things he had had the presumption and
audacity to say), that little Dolly's heart was quite melted.
Indeed, she said and did so much to soothe the outraged feelings of
Miss Miggs, and looked so beautiful while doing so, that if that
young maid had not had ample vent for her surpassing spite, in a
knowledge of the mischief that was brewing, she must have scratched
her features, on the spot.

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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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