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Chapter 36

  • Gashford, with a smiling face, but still with looks of profound deference an_umility, betook himself towards his master’s room, smoothing his hair down a_e went, and humming a psalm tune. As he approached Lord George’s door, h_leared his throat and hummed more vigorously.
  • There was a remarkable contrast between this man’s occupation at the moment, and the expression of his countenance, which was singularly repulsive an_alicious. His beetling brow almost obscured his eyes; his lip was curle_ontemptuously; his very shoulders seemed to sneer in stealthy whispering_ith his great flapped ears.
  • ‘Hush!’ he muttered softly, as he peeped in at the chamber-door. ‘He seems t_e asleep. Pray Heaven he is! Too much watching, too much care, too muc_hought—ah! Lord preserve him for a martyr! He is a saint, if ever saint dre_reath on this bad earth.’
  • Placing his light upon a table, he walked on tiptoe to the fire, and sittin_n a chair before it with his back towards the bed, went on communing wit_imself like one who thought aloud:
  • ‘The saviour of his country and his country’s religion, the friend of his poo_ountrymen, the enemy of the proud and harsh; beloved of the rejected an_ppressed, adored by forty thousand bold and loyal English hearts—what happ_lumbers his should be!’ And here he sighed, and warmed his hands, and shoo_is head as men do when their hearts are full, and heaved another sigh, an_armed his hands again.
  • ‘Why, Gashford?’ said Lord George, who was lying broad awake, upon his side, and had been staring at him from his entrance.
  • ‘My—my lord,’ said Gashford, starting and looking round as though in grea_urprise. ‘I have disturbed you!’
  • ‘I have not been sleeping.’
  • ‘Not sleeping!’ he repeated, with assumed confusion. ‘What can I say fo_aving in your presence given utterance to thoughts—but they were sincere—the_ere sincere!’ exclaimed the secretary, drawing his sleeve in a hasty wa_cross his eyes; ‘and why should I regret your having heard them?’
  • ‘Gashford,’ said the poor lord, stretching out his hand with manifest emotion.
  • ‘Do not regret it. You love me well, I know— too well. I don’t deserve suc_omage.’
  • Gashford made no reply, but grasped the hand and pressed it to his lips. The_ising, and taking from the trunk a little desk, he placed it on a table nea_he fire, unlocked it with a key he carried in his pocket, sat down before it, took out a pen, and, before dipping it in the inkstand, sucked it—to compos_he fashion of his mouth perhaps, on which a smile was hovering yet.
  • ‘How do our numbers stand since last enrolling-night?’ inquired Lord George.
  • ‘Are we really forty thousand strong, or do we still speak in round number_hen we take the Association at that amount?’
  • ‘Our total now exceeds that number by a score and three,’ Gashford replied, casting his eyes upon his papers.
  • ‘The funds?’
  • ‘Not very improving; but there is some manna in the wilderness, my lord. Hem!
  • On Friday night the widows’ mites dropped in. “Forty scavengers, three an_ourpence. An aged pew-opener of St Martin’s parish, sixpence. A bell-ringe_f the established church, sixpence. A Protestant infant, newly born, on_alfpenny. The United Link Boys, three shillings—one bad. The anti-popis_risoners in Newgate, five and fourpence. A friend in Bedlam, half-a-crown.
  • Dennis the hangman, one shilling.”’
  • ‘That Dennis,’ said his lordship, ‘is an earnest man. I marked him in th_rowd in Welbeck Street, last Friday.’
  • ‘A good man,’ rejoined the secretary, ‘a staunch, sincere, and truly zealou_an.’
  • ‘He should be encouraged,’ said Lord George. ‘Make a note of Dennis. I’ll tal_ith him.’
  • Gashford obeyed, and went on reading from his list:
  • ‘“The Friends of Reason, half-a-guinea. The Friends of Liberty, half-a-guinea.
  • The Friends of Peace, half-a-guinea. The Friends of Charity, half-a-guinea.
  • The Friends of Mercy, half-a-guinea. The Associated Rememberers of Blood_ary, half-a-guinea. The United Bulldogs, half-a-guinea.”’
  • ‘The United Bulldogs,’ said Lord George, biting his nails most horribly, ‘ar_ new society, are they not?’
  • ‘Formerly the ‘Prentice Knights, my lord. The indentures of the old member_xpiring by degrees, they changed their name, it seems, though they still have ‘prentices among them, as well as workmen.’
  • ‘What is their president’s name?’ inquired Lord George.
  • ‘President,’ said Gashford, reading, ‘Mr Simon Tappertit.’
  • ‘I remember him. The little man, who sometimes brings an elderly sister to ou_eetings, and sometimes another female too, who is conscientious, I have n_oubt, but not well-favoured?’
  • ‘The very same, my lord.’
  • ‘Tappertit is an earnest man,’ said Lord George, thoughtfully. ‘Eh, Gashford?’
  • ‘One of the foremost among them all, my lord. He snuffs the battle from afar, like the war-horse. He throws his hat up in the street as if he were inspired, and makes most stirring speeches from the shoulders of his friends.’
  • ‘Make a note of Tappertit,’ said Lord George Gordon. ‘We may advance him to _lace of trust.’
  • ‘That,’ rejoined the secretary, doing as he was told, ‘is all— except Mr_arden’s box (fourteenth time of opening), seven shillings and sixpence i_ilver and copper, and half-a-guinea in gold; and Miggs (being the saving of _uarter’s wages), one-and- threepence.’
  • ‘Miggs,’ said Lord George. ‘Is that a man?’
  • ‘The name is entered on the list as a woman,’ replied the secretary. ‘I thin_he is the tall spare female of whom you spoke just now, my lord, as not bein_ell-favoured, who sometimes comes to hear the speeches—along with Tapperti_nd Mrs Varden.’
  • ‘Mrs Varden is the elderly lady then, is she?’
  • The secretary nodded, and rubbed the bridge of his nose with the feather o_is pen.
  • ‘She is a zealous sister,’ said Lord George. ‘Her collection goes o_rosperously, and is pursued with fervour. Has her husband joined?’
  • ‘A malignant,’ returned the secretary, folding up his papers. ‘Unworthy such _ife. He remains in outer darkness and steadily refuses.’
  • ‘The consequences be upon his own head!—Gashford!’
  • ‘My lord!’
  • ‘You don’t think,’ he turned restlessly in his bed as he spoke, ‘these peopl_ill desert me, when the hour arrives? I have spoken boldly for them, venture_uch, suppressed nothing. They’ll not fall off, will they?’
  • ‘No fear of that, my lord,’ said Gashford, with a meaning look, which wa_ather the involuntary expression of his own thoughts than intended as an_onfirmation of his words, for the other’s face was turned away. ‘Be sur_here is no fear of that.’
  • ‘Nor,’ he said with a more restless motion than before, ‘of their— but the_an sustain no harm from leaguing for this purpose. Right is on our side, though Might may be against us. You feel as sure of that as I—honestly, yo_o?’
  • The secretary was beginning with ‘You do not doubt,’ when the othe_nterrupted him, and impatiently rejoined:
  • ‘Doubt. No. Who says I doubt? If I doubted, should I cast away relatives, friends, everything, for this unhappy country’s sake; this unhappy country,’ he cried, springing up in bed, after repeating the phrase ‘unhappy country’_ake’ to himself, at least a dozen times, ‘forsaken of God and man, delivere_ver to a dangerous confederacy of Popish powers; the prey of corruption, idolatry, and despotism! Who says I doubt? Am I called, and chosen, an_aithful? Tell me. Am I, or am I not?’
  • ‘To God, the country, and yourself,’ cried Gashford.
  • ‘I am. I will be. I say again, I will be: to the block. Who says as much! D_ou? Does any man alive?’
  • The secretary drooped his head with an expression of perfect acquiescence i_nything that had been said or might be; and Lord George gradually sinkin_own upon his pillow, fell asleep.
  • Although there was something very ludicrous in his vehement manner, taken i_onjunction with his meagre aspect and ungraceful presence, it would scarcel_ave provoked a smile in any man of kindly feeling; or even if it had, h_ould have felt sorry and almost angry with himself next moment, for yieldin_o the impulse. This lord was sincere in his violence and in his wavering. _ature prone to false enthusiasm, and the vanity of being a leader, were th_orst qualities apparent in his composition. All the rest was weakness—shee_eakness; and it is the unhappy lot of thoroughly weak men, that their ver_ympathies, affections, confidences—all the qualities which in bette_onstituted minds are virtues—dwindle into foibles, or turn into downrigh_ices.
  • Gashford, with many a sly look towards the bed, sat chuckling at his master’_olly, until his deep and heavy breathing warned him that he might retire.
  • Locking his desk, and replacing it within the trunk (but not before he ha_aken from a secret lining two printed handbills), he cautiously withdrew; looking back, as he went, at the pale face of the slumbering man, above whos_ead the dusty plumes that crowned the Maypole couch, waved drearily and sadl_s though it were a bier.
  • Stopping on the staircase to listen that all was quiet, and to take off hi_hoes lest his footsteps should alarm any light sleeper who might be near a_and, he descended to the ground floor, and thrust one of his bills beneat_he great door of the house. That done, he crept softly back to his ow_hamber, and from the window let another fall—carefully wrapt round a stone t_ave it from the wind—into the yard below.
  • They were addressed on the back ‘To every Protestant into whose hands thi_hall come,’ and bore within what follows:
  • ‘Men and Brethren. Whoever shall find this letter, will take it as a warnin_o join, without delay, the friends of Lord George Gordon. There are grea_vents at hand; and the times are dangerous and troubled. Read this carefully, keep it clean, and drop it somewhere else. For King and Country. Union.’
  • ‘More seed, more seed,’ said Gashford as he closed the window. ‘When will th_arvest come!’