The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 81

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 81

Another month had passed, and the end of August had nearly come,
when Mr Haredale stood alone in the mail-coach office at Bristol.
Although but a few weeks had intervened since his conversation with
Edward Chester and his niece, in the locksmith's house, and he had
made no change, in the mean time, in his accustomed style of dress,
his appearance was greatly altered. He looked much older, and more
care-worn. Agitation and anxiety of mind scatter wrinkles and grey
hairs with no unsparing hand; but deeper traces follow on the
silent uprooting of old habits, and severing of dear, familiar
ties. The affections may not be so easily wounded as the passions,
but their hurts are deeper, and more lasting. He was now a
solitary man, and the heart within him was dreary and lonesome.

He was not the less alone for having spent so many years in
seclusion and retirement. This was no better preparation than a
round of social cheerfulness: perhaps it even increased the
keenness of his sensibility. He had been so dependent upon her for
companionship and love; she had come to be so much a part and
parcel of his existence; they had had so many cares and thoughts in
common, which no one else had shared; that losing her was beginning
life anew, and being required to summon up the hope and elasticity
of youth, amid the doubts, distrusts, and weakened energies of

The effort he had made to part from her with seeming cheerfulness
and hope--and they had parted only yesterday--left him the more
depressed. With these feelings, he was about to revisit London for
the last time, and look once more upon the walls of their old home,
before turning his back upon it, for ever.

The journey was a very different one, in those days, from what the
present generation find it; but it came to an end, as the longest
journey will, and he stood again in the streets of the metropolis.
He lay at the inn where the coach stopped, and resolved, before he
went to bed, that he would make his arrival known to no one; would
spend but another night in London; and would spare himself the pang
of parting, even with the honest locksmith.

Such conditions of the mind as that to which he was a prey when he
lay down to rest, are favourable to the growth of disordered
fancies, and uneasy visions. He knew this, even in the horror with
which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to
dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which
had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream. But it was not
a new terror of the night; it had been present to him before, in
many shapes; it had haunted him in bygone times, and visited his
pillow again and again. If it had been but an ugly object, a
childish spectre, haunting his sleep, its return, in its old form,
might have awakened a momentary sensation of fear, which, almost in
the act of waking, would have passed away. This disquiet,
however, lingered about him, and would yield to nothing. When he
closed his eyes again, he felt it hovering near; as he slowly sunk
into a slumber, he was conscious of its gathering strength and
purpose, and gradually assuming its recent shape; when he sprang up
from his bed, the same phantom vanished from his heated brain, and
left him filled with a dread against which reason and waking
thought were powerless.

The sun was up, before he could shake it off. He rose late, but
not refreshed, and remained within doors all that day. He had a
fancy for paying his last visit to the old spot in the evening, for
he had been accustomed to walk there at that season, and desired to
see it under the aspect that was most familiar to him. At such an
hour as would afford him time to reach it a little before sunset,
he left the inn, and turned into the busy street.

He had not gone far, and was thoughtfully making his way among the
noisy crowd, when he felt a hand upon his shoulder, and, turning,
recognised one of the waiters from the inn, who begged his pardon,
but he had left his sword behind him.

'Why have you brought it to me?' he asked, stretching out his hand,
and yet not taking it from the man, but looking at him in a
disturbed and agitated manner.

The man was sorry to have disobliged him, and would carry it back
again. The gentleman had said that he was going a little way into
the country, and that he might not return until late. The roads
were not very safe for single travellers after dark; and, since the
riots, gentlemen had been more careful than ever, not to trust
themselves unarmed in lonely places. 'We thought you were a
stranger, sir,' he added, 'and that you might believe our roads to
be better than they are; but perhaps you know them well, and carry

He took the sword, and putting it up at his side, thanked the man,
and resumed his walk.

It was long remembered that he did this in a manner so strange, and
with such a trembling hand, that the messenger stood looking after
his retreating figure, doubtful whether he ought not to follow, and
watch him. It was long remembered that he had been heard pacing
his bedroom in the dead of the night; that the attendants had
mentioned to each other in the morning, how fevered and how pale he
looked; and that when this man went back to the inn, he told a
fellow-servant that what he had observed in this short interview
lay very heavy on his mind, and that he feared the gentleman
intended to destroy himself, and would never come back alive.

With a half-consciousness that his manner had attracted the man's
attention (remembering the expression of his face when they
parted), Mr Haredale quickened his steps; and arriving at a stand
of coaches, bargained with the driver of the best to carry him so
far on his road as the point where the footway struck across the
fields, and to await his return at a house of entertainment which
was within a stone's-throw of that place. Arriving there in due
course, he alighted and pursued his way on foot.

He passed so near the Maypole, that he could see its smoke rising
from among the trees, while a flock of pigeons--some of its old
inhabitants, doubtless--sailed gaily home to roost, between him and
the unclouded sky. 'The old house will brighten up now,' he said,
as he looked towards it, 'and there will be a merry fireside
beneath its ivied roof. It is some comfort to know that everything
will not be blighted hereabouts. I shall be glad to have one
picture of life and cheerfulness to turn to, in my mind!'

He resumed his walk, and bent his steps towards the Warren. It was
a clear, calm, silent evening, with hardly a breath of wind to stir
the leaves, or any sound to break the stillness of the time, but
drowsy sheep-bells tinkling in the distance, and, at intervals,
the far-off lowing of cattle, or bark of village dogs. The sky
was radiant with the softened glory of sunset; and on the earth,
and in the air, a deep repose prevailed. At such an hour, he
arrived at the deserted mansion which had been his home so long,
and looked for the last time upon its blackened walls.

The ashes of the commonest fire are melancholy things, for in them
there is an image of death and ruin,--of something that has been
bright, and is but dull, cold, dreary dust,--with which our nature
forces us to sympathise. How much more sad the crumbled embers of
a home: the casting down of that great altar, where the worst among
us sometimes perform the worship of the heart; and where the best
have offered up such sacrifices, and done such deeds of heroism,
as, chronicled, would put the proudest temples of old Time, with
all their vaunting annals, to the blush!

He roused himself from a long train of meditation, and walked
slowly round the house. It was by this time almost dark.

He had nearly made the circuit of the building, when he uttered a
half-suppressed exclamation, started, and stood still. Reclining,
in an easy attitude, with his back against a tree, and
contemplating the ruin with an expression of pleasure,--a pleasure
so keen that it overcame his habitual indolence and command of
feature, and displayed itself utterly free from all restraint or
reserve,--before him, on his own ground, and triumphing then, as he
had triumphed in every misfortune and disappointment of his life,
stood the man whose presence, of all mankind, in any place, and
least of all in that, he could the least endure.

Although his blood so rose against this man, and his wrath so
stirred within him, that he could have struck him dead, he put such
fierce constraint upon himself that he passed him without a word or
look. Yes, and he would have gone on, and not turned, though to
resist the Devil who poured such hot temptation in his brain,
required an effort scarcely to be achieved, if this man had not
himself summoned him to stop: and that, with an assumed compassion
in his voice which drove him well-nigh mad, and in an instant
routed all the self-command it had been anguish--acute, poignant
anguish--to sustain.

All consideration, reflection, mercy, forbearance; everything by
which a goaded man can curb his rage and passion; fled from him as
he turned back. And yet he said, slowly and quite calmly--far more
calmly than he had ever spoken to him before:

'Why have you called to me?'

'To remark,' said Sir John Chester with his wonted composure, 'what
an odd chance it is, that we should meet here!'

'It IS a strange chance.'

'Strange? The most remarkable and singular thing in the world. I
never ride in the evening; I have not done so for years. The whim
seized me, quite unaccountably, in the middle of last night.--How
very picturesque this is!'--He pointed, as he spoke, to the
dismantled house, and raised his glass to his eye.

'You praise your own work very freely.'

Sir John let fall his glass; inclined his face towards him with an
air of the most courteous inquiry; and slightly shook his head as
though he were remarking to himself, 'I fear this animal is going

'I say you praise your own work very freely,' repeated Mr

'Work!' echoed Sir John, looking smilingly round. 'Mine!--I beg
your pardon, I really beg your pardon--'

'Why, you see,' said Mr Haredale, 'those walls. You see those
tottering gables. You see on every side where fire and smoke have
raged. You see the destruction that has been wanton here. Do you

'My good friend,' returned the knight, gently checking his
impatience with his hand, 'of course I do. I see everything you
speak of, when you stand aside, and do not interpose yourself
between the view and me. I am very sorry for you. If I had not
had the pleasure to meet you here, I think I should have written to
tell you so. But you don't bear it as well as I had expected--
excuse me--no, you don't indeed.'

He pulled out his snuff-box, and addressing him with the superior
air of a man who, by reason of his higher nature, has a right to
read a moral lesson to another, continued:

'For you are a philosopher, you know--one of that stern and rigid
school who are far above the weaknesses of mankind in general. You
are removed, a long way, from the frailties of the crowd. You
contemplate them from a height, and rail at them with a most
impressive bitterness. I have heard you.'

--'And shall again,' said Mr Haredale.

'Thank you,' returned the other. 'Shall we walk as we talk? The
damp falls rather heavily. Well,--as you please. But I grieve to
say that I can spare you only a very few moments.'

'I would,' said Mr Haredale, 'you had spared me none. I would,
with all my soul, you had been in Paradise (if such a monstrous
lie could be enacted), rather than here to-night.'

'Nay,' returned the other--'really--you do yourself injustice. You
are a rough companion, but I would not go so far to avoid you.'

'Listen to me,' said Mr Haredale. 'Listen to me.'

'While you rail?' inquired Sir John.

'While I deliver your infamy. You urged and stimulated to do your
work a fit agent, but one who in his nature--in the very essence of
his being--is a traitor, and who has been false to you (despite the
sympathy you two should have together) as he has been to all
others. With hints, and looks, and crafty words, which told again
are nothing, you set on Gashford to this work--this work before us
now. With these same hints, and looks, and crafty words, which
told again are nothing, you urged him on to gratify the deadly
hate he owes me--I have earned it, I thank Heaven--by the abduction
and dishonour of my niece. You did. I see denial in your looks,'
he cried, abruptly pointing in his face, and stepping back, 'and
denial is a lie!'

He had his hand upon his sword; but the knight, with a contemptuous
smile, replied to him as coldly as before.

'You will take notice, sir--if you can discriminate sufficiently--
that I have taken the trouble to deny nothing. Your discernment is
hardly fine enough for the perusal of faces, not of a kind as
coarse as your speech; nor has it ever been, that I remember; or,
in one face that I could name, you would have read indifference,
not to say disgust, somewhat sooner than you did. I speak of a
long time ago,--but you understand me.'

'Disguise it as you will, you mean denial. Denial explicit or
reserved, expressed or left to be inferred, is still a lie. You
say you don't deny. Do you admit?'

'You yourself,' returned Sir John, suffering the current of his
speech to flow as smoothly as if it had been stemmed by no one word
of interruption, 'publicly proclaimed the character of the
gentleman in question (I think it was in Westminster Hall) in terms
which relieve me from the necessity of making any further allusion
to him. You may have been warranted; you may not have been; I
can't say. Assuming the gentleman to be what you described, and
to have made to you or any other person any statements that may
have happened to suggest themselves to him, for the sake of his
own security, or for the sake of money, or for his own amusement,
or for any other consideration,--I have nothing to say of him,
except that his extremely degrading situation appears to me to be
shared with his employers. You are so very plain yourself, that
you will excuse a little freedom in me, I am sure.'

'Attend to me again, Sir John but once,' cried Mr Haredale; 'in
your every look, and word, and gesture, you tell me this was not
your act. I tell you that it was, and that you tampered with the
man I speak of, and with your wretched son (whom God forgive!) to
do this deed. You talk of degradation and character. You told me
once that you had purchased the absence of the poor idiot and his
mother, when (as I have discovered since, and then suspected) you
had gone to tempt them, and had found them flown. To you I traced
the insinuation that I alone reaped any harvest from my brother's
death; and all the foul attacks and whispered calumnies that
followed in its train. In every action of my life, from that first
hope which you converted into grief and desolation, you have stood,
like an adverse fate, between me and peace. In all, you have ever
been the same cold-blooded, hollow, false, unworthy villain. For
the second time, and for the last, I cast these charges in your
teeth, and spurn you from me as I would a faithless dog!'

With that he raised his arm, and struck him on the breast so that
he staggered. Sir John, the instant he recovered, drew his sword,
threw away the scabbard and his hat, and running on his adversary
made a desperate lunge at his heart, which, but that his guard was
quick and true, would have stretched him dead upon the grass.

In the act of striking him, the torrent of his opponent's rage had
reached a stop. He parried his rapid thrusts, without returning
them, and called to him, with a frantic kind of terror in his face,
to keep back.

'Not to-night! not to-night!' he cried. 'In God's name, not

Seeing that he lowered his weapon, and that he would not thrust in
turn, Sir John lowered his.

'Not to-night!' his adversary cried. 'Be warned in time!'

'You told me--it must have been in a sort of inspiration--' said
Sir John, quite deliberately, though now he dropped his mask, and
showed his hatred in his face, 'that this was the last time. Be
assured it is! Did you believe our last meeting was forgotten?
Did you believe that your every word and look was not to be
accounted for, and was not well remembered? Do you believe that I
have waited your time, or you mine? What kind of man is he who
entered, with all his sickening cant of honesty and truth, into a
bond with me to prevent a marriage he affected to dislike, and when
I had redeemed my part to the spirit and the letter, skulked from
his, and brought the match about in his own time, to rid himself of
a burden he had grown tired of, and cast a spurious lustre on his

'I have acted,' cried Mr Haredale, 'with honour and in good faith.
I do so now. Do not force me to renew this duel to-night!'

'You said my "wretched" son, I think?' said Sir John, with a smile.
'Poor fool! The dupe of such a shallow knave--trapped into
marriage by such an uncle and by such a niece--he well deserves
your pity. But he is no longer a son of mine: you are welcome to
the prize your craft has made, sir.'

'Once more,' cried his opponent, wildly stamping on the ground,
'although you tear me from my better angel, I implore you not to
come within the reach of my sword to-night. Oh! why were you here
at all! Why have we met! To-morrow would have cast us far apart
for ever!'

'That being the case,' returned Sir John, without the least
emotion, 'it is very fortunate we have met to-night. Haredale, I
have always despised you, as you know, but I have given you credit
for a species of brute courage. For the honour of my judgment,
which I had thought a good one, I am sorry to find you a coward.'

Not another word was spoken on either side. They crossed swords,
though it was now quite dusk, and attacked each other fiercely.
They were well matched, and each was thoroughly skilled in the
management of his weapon.

After a few seconds they grew hotter and more furious, and pressing
on each other inflicted and received several slight wounds. It was
directly after receiving one of these in his arm, that Mr Haredale,
making a keener thrust as he felt the warm blood spirting out,
plunged his sword through his opponent's body to the hilt.

Their eyes met, and were on each other as he drew it out. He put
his arm about the dying man, who repulsed him, feebly, and dropped
upon the turf. Raising himself upon his hands, he gazed at him for
an instant, with scorn and hatred in his look; but, seeming to
remember, even then, that this expression would distort his
features after death, he tried to smile, and, faintly moving his
right hand, as if to hide his bloody linen in his vest, fell back
dead--the phantom of last 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.