Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 43

  • Next morning brought no satisfaction to the locksmith’s thoughts, nor nex_ay, nor the next, nor many others. Often after nightfall he entered th_treet, and turned his eyes towards the well-known house; and as surely as h_id so, there was the solitary light, still gleaming through the crevices o_he window-shutter, while all within was motionless, noiseless, cheerless, a_ grave. Unwilling to hazard Mr Haredale’s favour by disobeying his stric_njunction, he never ventured to knock at the door or to make his presenc_nown in any way. But whenever strong interest and curiosity attracted him t_he spot—which was not seldom—the light was always there.
  • If he could have known what passed within, the knowledge would have yielde_im no clue to this mysterious vigil. At twilight, Mr Haredale shut himsel_p, and at daybreak he came forth. He never missed a night, always came an_ent alone, and never varied his proceedings in the least degree.
  • The manner of his watch was this. At dusk, he entered the house in the sam_ay as when the locksmith bore him company, kindled a light, went through th_ooms, and narrowly examined them. That done, he returned to the chamber o_he ground-floor, and laying his sword and pistols on the table, sat by i_ntil morning.
  • He usually had a book with him, and often tried to read, but never fixed hi_yes or thoughts upon it for five minutes together. The slightest nois_ithout doors, caught his ear; a step upon the pavement seemed to make hi_eart leap.
  • He was not without some refreshment during the long lonely hours; generall_arrying in his pocket a sandwich of bread and meat, and a small flask o_ine. The latter diluted with large quantities of water, he drank in a heated, feverish way, as though his throat were dried; but he scarcely ever broke hi_ast, by so much as a crumb of bread.
  • If this voluntary sacrifice of sleep and comfort had its origin, as th_ocksmith on consideration was disposed to think, in any superstitiou_xpectation of the fulfilment of a dream or vision connected with the event o_hich he had brooded for so many years, and if he waited for some ghostl_isitor who walked abroad when men lay sleeping in their beds, he showed n_race of fear or wavering. His stern features expressed inflexible resolution; his brows were puckered, and his lips compressed, with deep and settle_urpose; and when he started at a noise and listened, it was not with th_tart of fear but hope, and catching up his sword as though the hour had com_t last, he would clutch it in his tight- clenched hand, and listen wit_parkling eyes and eager looks, until it died away.
  • These disappointments were numerous, for they ensued on almost every sound, but his constancy was not shaken. Still, every night he was at his post, th_ame stern, sleepless, sentinel; and still night passed, and morning dawned, and he must watch again.
  • This went on for weeks; he had taken a lodging at Vauxhall in which to pas_he day and rest himself; and from this place, when the tide served, h_sually came to London Bridge from Westminster by water, in order that h_ight avoid the busy streets.
  • One evening, shortly before twilight, he came his accustomed road upon th_iver’s bank, intending to pass through Westminster Hall into Palace Yard, an_here take boat to London Bridge as usual. There was a pretty large concours_f people assembled round the Houses of Parliament, looking at the members a_hey entered and departed, and giving vent to rather noisy demonstrations o_pproval or dislike, according to their known opinions. As he made his wa_mong the throng, he heard once or twice the No-Popery cry, which was the_ecoming pretty familiar to the ears of most men; but holding it in ver_light regard, and observing that the idlers were of the lowest grade, h_either thought nor cared about it, but made his way along, with perfec_ndifference.
  • There were many little knots and groups of persons in Westminster Hall: som_ew looking upward at its noble ceiling, and at the rays of evening light, tinted by the setting sun, which streamed in aslant through its small windows, and growing dimmer by degrees, were quenched in the gathering gloom below; some, noisy passengers, mechanics going home from work, and otherwise, wh_urried quickly through, waking the echoes with their voices, and soo_arkening the small door in the distance, as they passed into the stree_eyond; some, in busy conference together on political or private matters, pacing slowly up and down with eyes that sought the ground, and seeming, b_heir attitudes, to listen earnestly from head to foot. Here, a doze_quabbling urchins made a very Babel in the air; there, a solitary man, hal_lerk, half mendicant, paced up and down with hungry dejection in his look an_ait; at his elbow passed an errand-lad, swinging his basket round and round, and with his shrill whistle riving the very timbers of the roof; while a mor_bservant schoolboy, half-way through, pocketed his ball, and eyed the distan_eadle as he came looming on. It was that time of evening when, if you shu_our eyes and open them again, the darkness of an hour appears to hav_athered in a second. The smooth-worn pavement, dusty with footsteps, stil_alled upon the lofty walls to reiterate the shuffle and the tread of fee_nceasingly, save when the closing of some heavy door resounded through th_uilding like a clap of thunder, and drowned all other noises in its rollin_ound.
  • Mr Haredale, glancing only at such of these groups as he passed nearest to, and then in a manner betokening that his thoughts were elsewhere, had nearl_raversed the Hall, when two persons before him caught his attention. One o_hese, a gentleman in elegant attire, carried in his hand a cane, which h_wirled in a jaunty manner as he loitered on; the other, an obsequious, crouching, fawning figure, listened to what he said—at times throwing in _umble word himself—and, with his shoulders shrugged up to his ears, rubbe_is hands submissively, or answered at intervals by an inclination of th_ead, half-way between a nod of acquiescence, and a bow of most profoun_espect.
  • In the abstract there was nothing very remarkable in this pair, for servilit_aiting on a handsome suit of clothes and a cane—not to speak of gold an_ilver sticks, or wands of office—is common enough. But there was that abou_he well-dressed man, yes, and about the other likewise, which struck M_aredale with no pleasant feeling. He hesitated, stopped, and would hav_tepped aside and turned out of his path, but at the moment, the other tw_aced about quickly, and stumbled upon him before he could avoid them.
  • The gentleman with the cane lifted his hat and had begun to tender an apology, which Mr Haredale had begun as hastily to acknowledge and walk away, when h_topped short and cried, ‘Haredale! Gad bless me, this is strange indeed!’
  • ‘It is,’ he returned impatiently; ‘yes—a—’
  • ‘My dear friend,’ cried the other, detaining him, ‘why such great speed? On_inute, Haredale, for the sake of old acquaintance.’
  • ‘I am in haste,’ he said. ‘Neither of us has sought this meeting. Let it be _rief one. Good night!’
  • ‘Fie, fie!’ replied Sir John (for it was he), ‘how very churlish! We wer_peaking of you. Your name was on my lips—perhaps you heard me mention it? No?
  • I am sorry for that. I am really sorry.—You know our friend here, Haredale?
  • This is really a most remarkable meeting!’
  • The friend, plainly very ill at ease, had made bold to press Sir John’s arm, and to give him other significant hints that he was desirous of avoiding thi_ntroduction. As it did not suit Sir John’s purpose, however, that it shoul_e evaded, he appeared quite unconscious of these silent remonstrances, an_nclined his hand towards him, as he spoke, to call attention to him mor_articularly.
  • The friend, therefore, had nothing for it, but to muster up the pleasantes_mile he could, and to make a conciliatory bow, as Mr Haredale turned his eye_pon him. Seeing that he was recognised, he put out his hand in an awkward an_mbarrassed manner, which was not mended by its contemptuous rejection.
  • ‘Mr Gashford!’ said Haredale, coldly. ‘It is as I have heard then. You hav_eft the darkness for the light, sir, and hate those whose opinions yo_ormerly held, with all the bitterness of a renegade. You are an honour, sir, to any cause. I wish the one you espouse at present, much joy of th_cquisition it has made.’
  • The secretary rubbed his hands and bowed, as though he would disarm hi_dversary by humbling himself before him. Sir John Chester again exclaimed, with an air of great gaiety, ‘Now, really, this is a most remarkable meeting!’ and took a pinch of snuff with his usual self-possession.
  • ‘Mr Haredale,’ said Gashford, stealthily raising his eyes, and letting the_rop again when they met the other’s steady gaze, is too conscientious, to_onourable, too manly, I am sure, to attach unworthy motives to an hones_hange of opinions, even though it implies a doubt of those he holds himself.
  • Mr Haredale is too just, too generous, too clear-sighted in his moral vision, to—’
  • ‘Yes, sir?’ he rejoined with a sarcastic smile, finding the secretary stopped.
  • ‘You were saying’—
  • Gashford meekly shrugged his shoulders, and looking on the ground again, wa_ilent.
  • ‘No, but let us really,’ interposed Sir John at this juncture, ‘let us really, for a moment, contemplate the very remarkable character of this meeting.
  • Haredale, my dear friend, pardon me if I think you are not sufficientl_mpressed with its singularity. Here we stand, by no previous appointment o_rrangement, three old schoolfellows, in Westminster Hall; three old boarder_n a remarkably dull and shady seminary at Saint Omer’s, where you, bein_atholics and of necessity educated out of England, were brought up; and wher_, being a promising young Protestant at that time, was sent to learn th_rench tongue from a native of Paris!’
  • ‘Add to the singularity, Sir John,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘that some of yo_rotestants of promise are at this moment leagued in yonder building, t_revent our having the surpassing and unheard-of privilege of teaching ou_hildren to read and write—here—in this land, where thousands of us enter you_ervice every year, and to preserve the freedom of which, we die in blood_attles abroad, in heaps: and that others of you, to the number of som_housands as I learn, are led on to look on all men of my creed as wolves an_easts of prey, by this man Gashford. Add to it besides the bare fact tha_his man lives in society, walks the streets in broad day—I was about to say, holds up his head, but that he does not— and it will be strange, and ver_trange, I grant you.’
  • ‘Oh! you are hard upon our friend,’ replied Sir John, with an engaging smile.
  • ‘You are really very hard upon our friend!’
  • ‘Let him go on, Sir John,’ said Gashford, fumbling with his gloves. ‘Let hi_o on. I can make allowances, Sir John. I am honoured with your good opinion, and I can dispense with Mr Haredale’s. Mr Haredale is a sufferer from th_enal laws, and I can’t expect his favour.’
  • ‘You have so much of my favour, sir,’ retorted Mr Haredale, with a bitte_lance at the third party in their conversation, ‘that I am glad to see you i_uch good company. You are the essence of your great Association, i_ourselves.’
  • ‘Now, there you mistake,’ said Sir John, in his most benignant way.
  • ‘There—which is a most remarkable circumstance for a man of your punctualit_nd exactness, Haredale—you fall into error. I don’t belong to the body; _ave an immense respect for its members, but I don’t belong to it; although _m, it is certainly true, the conscientious opponent of your being relieved. _eel it my duty to be so; it is a most unfortunate necessity; and cost me _itter struggle.—Will you try this box? If you don’t object to a triflin_nfusion of a very chaste scent, you’ll find its flavour exquisite.’
  • ‘I ask your pardon, Sir John,’ said Mr Haredale, declining the proffer with _otion of his hand, ‘for having ranked you among the humble instruments wh_re obvious and in all men’s sight. I should have done more justice to you_enius. Men of your capacity plot in secrecy and safety, and leave expose_osts to the duller wits.’
  • ‘Don’t apologise, for the world,’ replied Sir John sweetly; ‘old friends lik_ou and I, may be allowed some freedoms, or the deuce is in it.’
  • Gashford, who had been very restless all this time, but had not once looke_p, now turned to Sir John, and ventured to mutter something to the effec_hat he must go, or my lord would perhaps be waiting.
  • ‘Don’t distress yourself, good sir,’ said Mr Haredale, ‘I’ll take my leave, and put you at your ease—’ which he was about to do without ceremony, when h_as stayed by a buzz and murmur at the upper end of the hall, and, looking i_hat direction, saw Lord George Gordon coming in, with a crowd of people roun_im.
  • There was a lurking look of triumph, though very differently expressed, in th_aces of his two companions, which made it a natural impulse on Mr Haredale’_art not to give way before this leader, but to stand there while he passed.
  • He drew himself up and, clasping his hands behind him, looked on with a prou_nd scornful aspect, while Lord George slowly advanced (for the press wa_reat about him) towards the spot where they were standing.
  • He had left the House of Commons but that moment, and had come straight dow_nto the Hall, bringing with him, as his custom was, intelligence of what ha_een said that night in reference to the Papists, and what petitions had bee_resented in their favour, and who had supported them, and when the bill wa_o be brought in, and when it would be advisable to present their own Grea_rotestant petition. All this he told the persons about him in a loud voice, and with great abundance of ungainly gesture. Those who were nearest him mad_omments to each other, and vented threats and murmurings; those who wer_utside the crowd cried, ‘Silence,’ and Stand back,’ or closed in upon th_est, endeavouring to make a forcible exchange of places: and so they cam_riving on in a very disorderly and irregular way, as it is the manner of _rowd to do.
  • When they were very near to where the secretary, Sir John, and Mr Haredal_tood, Lord George turned round and, making a few remarks of a suflicientl_iolent and incoherent kind, concluded with the usual sentiment, and calle_or three cheers to back it. While these were in the act of being given wit_reat energy, he extricated himself from the press, and stepped up t_ashford’s side. Both he and Sir John being well known to the populace, the_ell back a little, and left the four standing together.
  • ‘Mr Haredale, Lord George,’ said Sir John Chester, seeing that the noblema_egarded him with an inquisitive look. ‘A Catholic gentlema_nfortunately—most unhappily a Catholic—but an esteemed acquaintance of mine, and once of Mr Gashford’s. My dear Haredale, this is Lord George Gordon.’
  • ‘I should have known that, had I been ignorant of his lordship’s person,’ sai_r Haredale. ‘I hope there is but one gentleman in England who, addressing a_gnorant and excited throng, would speak of a large body of his fellow- subjects in such injurious language as I heard this moment. For shame, m_ord, for shame!’
  • ‘I cannot talk to you, sir,’ replied Lord George in a loud voice, and wavin_is hand in a disturbed and agitated manner; ‘we have nothing in common.’
  • ‘We have much in common—many things—all that the Almighty gave us,’ said M_aredale; ‘and common charity, not to say common sense and common decency, should teach you to refrain from these proceedings. If every one of those me_ad arms in their hands at this moment, as they have them in their heads, _ould not leave this place without telling you that you disgrace you_tation.’
  • ‘I don’t hear you, sir,’ he replied in the same manner as before; ‘I can’_ear you. It is indifferent to me what you say. Don’t retort, Gashford,’ fo_he secretary had made a show of wishing to do so; ‘I can hold no communio_ith the worshippers of idols.’
  • As he said this, he glanced at Sir John, who lifted his hands and eyebrows, a_f deploring the intemperate conduct of Mr Haredale, and smiled in admiratio_f the crowd and of their leader.
  • ‘He retort!’ cried Haredale. ‘Look you here, my lord. Do you know this man?’
  • Lord George replied by laying his hand upon the shoulder of his cringin_ecretary, and viewing him with a smile of confidence.
  • ‘This man,’ said Mr Haredale, eyeing him from top to toe, ‘who in his boyhoo_as a thief, and has been from that time to this, a servile, false, an_ruckling knave: this man, who has crawled and crept through life, woundin_he hands he licked, and biting those he fawned upon: this sycophant, wh_ever knew what honour, truth, or courage meant; who robbed his benefactor’_aughter of her virtue, and married her to break her heart, and did it, wit_tripes and cruelty: this creature, who has whined at kitchen windows for th_roken food, and begged for halfpence at our chapel doors: this apostle of th_aith, whose tender conscience cannot bear the altars where his vicious lif_as publicly denounced—Do you know this man?’
  • ‘Oh, really—you are very, very hard upon our friend!’ exclaimed Sir John.
  • ‘Let Mr Haredale go on,’ said Gashford, upon whose unwholesome face th_erspiration had broken out during this speech, in blotches of wet; ‘I don’_ind him, Sir John; it’s quite as indifferent to me what he says, as it is t_y lord. If he reviles my lord, as you have heard, Sir John, how can I hope t_scape?’
  • ‘Is it not enough, my lord,’ Mr Haredale continued, ‘that I, as good _entleman as you, must hold my property, such as it is, by a trick at whic_he state connives because of these hard laws; and that we may not teach ou_outh in schools the common principles of right and wrong; but must we b_enounced and ridden by such men as this! Here is a man to head your No-Poper_ry! For shame. For shame!’
  • The infatuated nobleman had glanced more than once at Sir John Chester, as i_o inquire whether there was any truth in these statements concernin_ashford, and Sir John had as often plainly answered by a shrug or look, ‘O_ear me! no.’ He now said, in the same loud key, and in the same strang_anner as before:
  • ‘I have nothing to say, sir, in reply, and no desire to hear anything more. _eg you won’t obtrude your conversation, or these personal attacks, upon me. _hall not be deterred from doing my duty to my country and my countrymen, b_ny such attempts, whether they proceed from emissaries of the Pope or not, _ssure you. Come, Gashford!’
  • They had walked on a few paces while speaking, and were now at the Hall-door, through which they passed together. Mr Haredale, without any leave-taking, turned away to the river stairs, which were close at hand, and hailed the onl_oatman who remained there.
  • But the throng of people—the foremost of whom had heard every word that Lor_eorge Gordon said, and among all of whom the rumour had been rapidl_ispersed that the stranger was a Papist who was bearding him for his advocac_f the popular cause—came pouring out pell-mell, and, forcing the nobleman, his secretary, and Sir John Chester on before them, so that they appeared t_e at their head, crowded to the top of the stairs where Mr Haredale waite_ntil the boat was ready, and there stood still, leaving him on a little clea_pace by himself.
  • They were not silent, however, though inactive. At first some indistinc_utterings arose among them, which were followed by a hiss or two, and thes_welled by degrees into a perfect storm. Then one voice said, ‘Down with th_apists!’ and there was a pretty general cheer, but nothing more. After a lul_f a few moments, one man cried out, ‘Stone him;’ another, ‘Duck him;’ another, in a stentorian voice, ‘No Popery!’ This favourite cry the rest re- echoed, and the mob, which might have been two hundred strong, joined in _eneral shout.
  • Mr Haredale had stood calmly on the brink of the steps, until they made thi_emonstration, when he looked round contemptuously, and walked at a slow pac_own the stairs. He was pretty near the boat, when Gashford, as if withou_ntention, turned about, and directly afterwards a great stone was thrown b_ome hand, in the crowd, which struck him on the head, and made him stagge_ike a drunken man.
  • The blood sprung freely from the wound, and trickled down his coat. He turne_irectly, and rushing up the steps with a boldness and passion which made the_ll fall back, demanded:
  • ‘Who did that? Show me the man who hit me.’
  • Not a soul moved; except some in the rear who slunk off, and, escaping to th_ther side of the way, looked on like indifferent spectators.
  • ‘Who did that?’ he repeated. ‘Show me the man who did it. Dog, was it you? I_as your deed, if not your hand—I know you.’
  • He threw himself on Gashford as he said the words, and hurled him to th_round. There was a sudden motion in the crowd, and some laid hands upon him, but his sword was out, and they fell off again.
  • ‘My lord—Sir John,’—he cried, ‘draw, one of you—you are responsible for thi_utrage, and I look to you. Draw, if you are gentlemen.’ With that he struc_ir John upon the breast with the flat of his weapon, and with a burning fac_nd flashing eyes stood upon his guard; alone, before them all.
  • For an instant, for the briefest space of time the mind can readily conceive, there was a change in Sir John’s smooth face, such as no man ever saw there.
  • The next moment, he stepped forward, and laid one hand on Mr Haredale’s arm, while with the other he endeavoured to appease the crowd.
  • ‘My dear friend, my good Haredale, you are blinded with passion— it’s ver_atural, extremely natural—but you don’t know friends from foes.’
  • ‘I know them all, sir, I can distinguish well—’ he retorted, almost mad wit_age. ‘Sir John, Lord George—do you hear me? Are you cowards?’
  • ‘Never mind, sir,’ said a man, forcing his way between and pushing him toward_he stairs with friendly violence, ‘never mind asking that. For God’s sake, get away. What can you do against this number? And there are as many more i_he next street, who’ll be round dfrectly,’—indeed they began to pour in as h_aid the words—‘you’d be giddy from that cut, in the first heat of a scuffle.
  • Now do retire, sir, or take my word for it you’ll be worse used than you woul_e if every man in the crowd was a woman, and that woman Bloody Mary. Come, sir, make haste—as quick as you can.’
  • Mr Haredale, who began to turn faint and sick, felt how sensible this advic_as, and descended the steps with his unknown friend’s assistance. John Grueby (for John it was) helped him into the boat, and giving her a shove off, whic_ent her thirty feet into the tide, bade the waterman pull away like a Briton; and walked up again as composedly as if he had just landed.
  • There was at first a slight disposition on the part of the mob to resent thi_nterference; but John looking particularly strong and cool, and wearin_esides Lord George’s livery, they thought better of it, and contente_hemselves with sending a shower of small missiles after the boat, whic_lashed harmlessly in the water; for she had by this time cleared the bridge, and was darting swiftly down the centre of the stream.
  • From this amusement, they proceeded to giving Protestant knocks at the door_f private houses, breaking a few lamps, and assaulting some stray constables.
  • But, it being whispered that a detachment of Life Guards had been sent for, they took to their heels with great expedition, and left the street quit_lear.