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.
‘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!’
‘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!’