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Chapter 40

  • Little thinking of the plan for his happy settlement in life which ha_uggested itself to the teeming brain of his provident commander, Hugh made n_ause until Saint Dunstan’s giants struck the hour above him, when he worke_he handle of a pump which stood hard by, with great vigour, and thrusting hi_ead under the spout, let the water gush upon him until a little stream ra_own from every uncombed hair, and he was wet to the waist. Considerabl_efreshed by this ablution, both in mind and body, and almost sobered for th_ime, he dried himself as he best could; then crossed the road, and plied th_nocker of the Middle Temple gate.
  • The night-porter looked through a small grating in the portal with a surl_ye, and cried ‘Halloa!’ which greeting Hugh returned in kind, and bade hi_pen quickly.
  • ‘We don’t sell beer here,’ cried the man; ‘what else do you want?’
  • ‘To come in,’ Hugh replied, with a kick at the door.
  • ‘Where to go?’
  • ‘Paper Buildings.’
  • ‘Whose chambers?’
  • ‘Sir John Chester’s.’ Each of which answers, he emphasised with another kick.
  • After a little growling on the other side, the gate was opened, and he passe_n: undergoing a close inspection from the porter as he did so.
  • ‘You wanting Sir John, at this time of night!’ said the man.
  • ‘Ay!’ said Hugh. ‘I! What of that?’
  • ‘Why, I must go with you and see that you do, for I don’t believe it.’
  • ‘Come along then.’
  • Eyeing him with suspicious looks, the man, with key and lantern, walked on a_is side, and attended him to Sir John Chester’s door, at which Hugh gave on_nock, that echoed through the dark staircase like a ghostly summons, and mad_he dull light tremble in the drowsy lamp.
  • ‘Do you think he wants me now?’ said Hugh.
  • Before the man had time to answer, a footstep was heard within, a ligh_ppeared, and Sir John, in his dressing-gown and slippers, opened the door.
  • ‘I ask your pardon, Sir John,’ said the porter, pulling off his hat. ‘Here’s _oung man says he wants to speak to you. It’s late for strangers. I thought i_est to see that all was right.’
  • ‘Aha!’ cried Sir John, raising his eyebrows. ‘It’s you, messenger, is it? G_n. Quite right, friend. I commend your prudence highly. Thank you. God bles_ou. Good night.’
  • To be commended, thanked, God-blessed, and bade good night by one who carried ‘Sir’ before his name, and wrote himself M.P. to boot, was something for _orter. He withdrew with much humility and reverence. Sir John followed hi_ate visitor into the dressing- room, and sitting in his easy-chair before th_ire, and moving it so that he could see him as he stood, hat in hand, besid_he door, looked at him from head to foot.
  • The old face, calm and pleasant as ever; the complexion, quite juvenile in it_loom and clearness; the same smile; the wonted precision and elegance o_ress; the white, well-ordered teeth; the delicate hands; the composed an_uiet manner; everything as it used to be: no mark of age or passion, envy, hate, or discontent: all unruffled and serene, and quite delightful to behold.
  • He wrote himself M.P.—but how? Why, thus. It was a proud family— more proud, indeed, than wealthy. He had stood in danger of arrest; of bailiffs, and _ail—a vulgar jail, to which the common people with small incomes went.
  • Gentlemen of ancient houses have no privilege of exemption from such crue_aws—unless they are of one great house, and then they have. A proud man o_is stock and kindred had the means of sending him there. He offered—no_ndeed to pay his debts, but to let him sit for a close borough until his ow_on came of age, which, if he lived, would come to pass in twenty years. I_as quite as good as an Insolvent Act, and infinitely more genteel. So Si_ohn Chester was a member of Parliament.
  • But how Sir John? Nothing so simple, or so easy. One touch with a sword o_tate, and the transformation was effected. John Chester, Esquire, M.P., attended court—went up with an address—headed a deputation. Such elegance o_anner, so many graces of deportment, such powers of conversation, could neve_ass unnoticed. Mr was too common for such merit. A man so gentlemanly shoul_ave been— but Fortune is capricious—born a Duke: just as some dukes shoul_ave been born labourers. He caught the fancy of the king, knelt down a grub, and rose a butterfly. John Chester, Esquire, was knighted and became Sir John.
  • ‘I thought when you left me this evening, my esteemed acquaintance,’ said Si_ohn after a pretty long silence, ‘that you intended to return with al_espatch?’
  • ‘So I did, master.’
  • ‘And so you have?’ he retorted, glancing at his watch. ‘Is that what you woul_ay?’
  • Instead of replying, Hugh changed the leg on which he leant, shuffled his ca_rom one hand to the other, looked at the ground, the wall, the ceiling, an_inally at Sir John himself; before whose pleasant face he lowered his eye_gain, and fixed them on the floor.
  • ‘And how have you been employing yourself in the meanwhile?’ quoth Sir John, lazily crossing his legs. ‘Where have you been? what harm have you bee_oing?’
  • ‘No harm at all, master,’ growled Hugh, with humility. ‘I have only done a_ou ordered.’
  • ‘As I what?’ returned Sir John.
  • ‘Well then,’ said Hugh uneasily, ‘as you advised, or said I ought, or said _ight, or said that you would do, if you was me. Don’t be so hard upon me, master.’
  • Something like an expression of triumph in the perfect control he ha_stablished over this rough instrument appeared in the knight’s face for a_nstant; but it vanished directly, as he said—paring his nails while speaking:
  • ‘When you say I ordered you, my good fellow, you imply that I directed you t_o something for me—something I wanted done— something for my own ends an_urposes—you see? Now I am sure I needn’t enlarge upon the extreme absurdit_f such an idea, however unintentional; so please—’ and here he turned hi_yes upon him— ‘to be more guarded. Will you?’
  • ‘I meant to give you no offence,’ said Hugh. ‘I don’t know what to say. Yo_atch me up so very short.’
  • ‘You will be caught up much shorter, my good friend—infinitely shorter—one o_hese days, depend upon it,’ replied his patron calmly. ‘By-the-bye, instea_f wondering why you have been so long, my wonder should be why you came a_ll. Why did you?’
  • ‘You know, master,’ said Hugh, ‘that I couldn’t read the bill I found, an_hat supposing it to be something particular from the way it was wrapped up, _rought it here.’
  • ‘And could you ask no one else to read it, Bruin?’ said Sir John.
  • ‘No one that I could trust with secrets, master. Since Barnaby Rudge was los_ight of for good and all—and that’s five years ago—I haven’t talked with an_ne but you.’
  • ‘You have done me honour, I am sure.’
  • ‘I have come to and fro, master, all through that time, when there wa_nything to tell, because I knew that you’d be angry with me if I staye_way,’ said Hugh, blurting the words out, after an embarrassed silence; ‘an_ecause I wished to please you if I could, and not to have you go against me.
  • There. That’s the true reason why I came to-night. You know that, master, I a_ure.’
  • ‘You are a specious fellow,’ returned Sir John, fixing his eyes upon him, ‘an_arry two faces under your hood, as well as the best. Didn’t you give me i_his room, this evening, any other reason; no dislike of anybody who ha_lighted you lately, on all occasions, abused you, treated you with rudeness; acted towards you, more as if you were a mongrel dog than a man like himself?’
  • ‘To be sure I did!’ cried Hugh, his passion rising, as the other meant i_hould; ‘and I say it all over now, again. I’d do anything to have som_evenge on him—anything. And when you told me that he and all the Catholic_ould suffer from those who joined together under that handbill, I said I’_ake one of ’em, if their master was the devil himself. I am one of ’em. Se_hether I am as good as my word and turn out to be among the foremost, or no.
  • I mayn’t have much head, master, but I’ve head enough to remember those tha_se me ill. You shall see, and so shall he, and so shall hundreds more, how m_pirit backs me when the time comes. My bark is nothing to my bite. Some tha_ know had better have a wild lion among ’em than me, when I am fairl_oose—they had!’
  • The knight looked at him with a smile of far deeper meaning than ordinary; an_ointing to the old cupboard, followed him with his eyes while he filled an_rank a glass of liquor; and smiled when his back was turned, with deepe_eaning yet.
  • ‘You are in a blustering mood, my friend,’ he said, when Hugh confronted hi_gain.
  • ‘Not I, master!’ cried Hugh. ‘I don’t say half I mean. I can’t. I haven’t go_he gift. There are talkers enough among us; I’ll be one of the doers.’
  • ‘Oh! you have joined those fellows then?’ said Sir John, with an air of mos_rofound indifference.
  • ‘Yes. I went up to the house you told me of; and got put down upon the muster.
  • There was another man there, named Dennis—’
  • ‘Dennis, eh!’ cried Sir John, laughing. ‘Ay, ay! a pleasant fellow, _elieve?’
  • ‘A roaring dog, master—one after my own heart—hot upon the matter too—re_ot.’
  • ‘So I have heard,’ replied Sir John, carelessly. ‘You don’t happen to know hi_rade, do you?’
  • ‘He wouldn’t say,’ cried Hugh. ‘He keeps it secret.’
  • ‘Ha ha!’ laughed Sir John. ‘A strange fancy—a weakness with som_ersons—you’ll know it one day, I dare swear.’
  • ‘We’re intimate already,’ said Hugh.
  • ‘Quite natural! And have been drinking together, eh?’ pursued Sir John. ‘Di_ou say what place you went to in company, when you left Lord George’s?’
  • Hugh had not said or thought of saying, but he told him; and this inquir_eing followed by a long train of questions, he related all that had passe_oth in and out of doors, the kind of people he had seen, their numbers, stat_f feeling, mode of conversation, apparent expectations and intentions. Hi_uestioning was so artfully contrived, that he seemed even in his own eyes t_olunteer all this information rather than to have it wrested from him; and h_as brought to this state of feeling so naturally, that when Mr Chester yawne_t length and declared himself quite wearied out, he made a rough kind o_xcuse for having talked so much.
  • ‘There—get you gone,’ said Sir John, holding the door open in his hand. ‘Yo_ave made a pretty evening’s work. I told you not to do this. You may get int_rouble. You’ll have an opportunity of revenging yourself on your proud frien_aredale, though, and for that, you’d hazard anything, I suppose?’
  • ‘I would,’ retorted Hugh, stopping in his passage out and looking back; ‘bu_hat do I risk! What do I stand a chance of losing, master? Friends, home? _ig for ’em all; I have none; they are nothing to me. Give me a good scuffle; let me pay off old scores in a bold riot where there are men to stand by me; and then use me as you like—it don’t matter much to me what the end is!’
  • ‘What have you done with that paper?’ said Sir John.
  • ‘I have it here, master.’
  • ‘Drop it again as you go along; it’s as well not to keep such things abou_ou.’
  • Hugh nodded, and touching his cap with an air of as much respect as he coul_ummon up, departed.
  • Sir John, fastening the doors behind him, went back to his dressing-room, an_at down once again before the fire, at which he gazed for a long time, i_arnest meditation.
  • ‘This happens fortunately,’ he said, breaking into a smile, ‘and promise_ell. Let me see. My relative and I, who are the most Protestant fellows i_he world, give our worst wishes to the Roman Catholic cause; and to Saville, who introduces their bill, I have a personal objection besides; but as each o_s has himself for the first article in his creed, we cannot commit ourselve_y joining with a very extravagant madman, such as this Gordon mos_ndoubtedly is. Now really, to foment his disturbances in secret, through th_edium of such a very apt instrument as my savage friend here, may further ou_eal ends; and to express at all becoming seasons, in moderate and polit_erms, a disapprobation of his proceedings, though we agree with him i_rinciple, will certainly be to gain a character for honesty and uprightnes_f purpose, which cannot fail to do us infinite service, and to raise us int_ome importance. Good! So much for public grounds. As to privat_onsiderations, I confess that if these vagabonds would make some riotou_emonstration (which does not appear impossible), and would inflict som_ittle chastisement on Haredale as a not inactive man among his sect, it woul_e extremely agreeable to my feelings, and would amuse me beyond measure. Goo_gain! Perhaps better!’
  • When he came to this point, he took a pinch of snuff; then beginning slowly t_ndress, he resumed his meditations, by saying with a smile:
  • ‘I fear, I do fear exceedingly, that my friend is following fast in th_ootsteps of his mother. His intimacy with Mr Dennis is very ominous. But _ave no doubt he must have come to that end any way. If I lend him a helpin_and, the only difference is, that he may, upon the whole, possibly drink _ew gallons, or puncheons, or hogsheads, less in this life than he otherwis_ould. It’s no business of mine. It’s a matter of very small importance!’
  • So he took another pinch of snuff, and went to bed.