By Charles Matthews

Monday, April 4, 2011

10. Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens, pp. 375-415

Barnaby Rudge (Penguin Classics)Chapters 40-44
Hugh's belated visit is to John Chester, who is now Sir John Chester, M.P., owing to some conniving and toadying. We learn from the visit that it is Sir John who read the flier from the Protestant Association to Hugh, and who encouraged him to investigate the organization, especially as a way of using Hugh against the Catholic Geoffrey Haredale. Hugh says, "I'd do anything to have some revenge on him -- anything. And when you told me that he and all the Catholics would suffer from those who joined together under that handbill, I said I'd make one of 'em, if their master was the devil himself." He tells Chester that when he signed up he met Dennis, and Chester asks if Dennis told him what his trade is. Hugh says, "He keeps it secret," and Chester assures him, "you'll know it one day, I dare swear."

When Hugh leaves, Chester meditates on the way his plots are shaping up: "we cannot commit ourselves by joining with a very extravagant madman, such as this Gordon most undoubtedly is," but he has "a very apt instrument" in his "savage friend." And if they "inflict some little chastisement on Haredale" it "would amuse me beyond measure." But he fears that Hugh is "following fast in the footsteps of his mother. His intimacy with Mr Dennis is very ominous."

At his workshop, Gabriel Varden is working merrily away, but he stops work to finish putting on "the uniform of a serjeant in the Royal East London Volunteers," who are meeting that night. Mrs. Varden, naturally, disapproves of his volunteer soldiering as "unchristian," but he soothes her by pointing out that it is in defense of Dolly and of her. The last appeals to her, and she relents.

Dolly enters, and Dickens effuses about her blooming charms and countless suitors, as well as the envy she arouses in other girls: "How many young ladies had publicly professed, with tears in their eyes, that for their tastes she was much too short, too tall, too bold, too cold, too stout, too thin, too fair, too dark -- too everything but handsome!" But "she was Dolly Varden still, all smiles and dimples and pleasant looks, and caring no more for the fifty or sixty young fellows who at that very moment were breaking their hearts to marry her, than if so many oysters had been crossed in love and opened afterwards." She has accepted Haredale's offer to be a companion to Emma, so she spends most of her time at the Warren, which concerns Gabriel. She tells him that Haredale "has been away from home for some days past," and hasn't told Emma why he is traveling. Gabriel, who is aware of the anti-Catholic fervor, knows, but doesn't want to tell her. She also asks him about "this ghost story, which nobody is to tell Miss Emma, and which seems to be mixed up with his going away." Gabriel dismisses it as "some foolish fear of little Solomon's," and advises her, "Read Blue Beard, and don't be too curious."

Mrs. Varden overhears the reference to Blue Beard and "could not find it in her conscience to sit tamely by, and hear her child recommended to peruse the adventures of a Turk and Musssulman." She advises Dolly instead to watch Fox News ... uh, read "the Thunderer, where she would have an opportunity of reading Lord George Gordon's speeches word for word." She has a collection box for the Protestant Association, and is dismayed that her husband has put nothing in it but "two fragments of tobacco-pipe" and that Dolly spends her money on "ribbons and such gauds" instead of on "the great cause." She points out that Miggs "flung her wages, as it were, into the very countenance of the Pope, and bruised his features with her quarter's money." Miggs announces that her "sacrifices ... are quite a widder's mite" and accompanies the statement "with a great burst of tears -- for with her they never came on by degrees." Her constant show of "self-denial" is amply rewarded by Mrs. Varden, so that her contributions return "interest, at the rate of seven or eight per cent. in money, and fifty at least in personal repute and credit."

Dolly helps her father get "into one of the tightest coats that ever was made by mortal tailor, but when he advises her "never marry a soldier" and begins to talk about how the uniform reminds him of "poor Joe Willet," Dolly tries to hide her emotions. When he continues to talk about Joe, she finally breaks out in tears. He's puzzled:  "'What have I done?' said poor Gabriel. 'It was agreed that Mr Edward's name was never to be mentioned, and I have not spoken of him, have I?'" And he leaves, muttering, "Every man came into the world for something; my department seems to be to make every woman cry without meaning it."

When he gets home after the meeting of the volunteers, Geoffrey Haredale is waiting in a hackney-coach outside his house. Haredale invites Gabriel to ride with him, and in the coach he tells him that he is on a strange errand. Gabriel asks if he has had any news of Barnaby and Mrs. Rudge, but Haredale says the search has been hopeless. He has had an uneasy feeling since the night of the nineteenth of March, he tells Gabriel, and he is now on his way to Mrs. Rudge's former house, where he plans to spend the nights. He asks Gabriel not to tell Emma or Dolly where he is, and he probes Gabriel with questions about the man he saw at Mrs. Rudge's.

When they reach the house, Gabriel goes in with him, and when Haredale lights a candle, "the locksmith saw for the first time how haggard, pale, and changed he looked; how worn and thin he was." But he looks "perfectly collected and rational," which reassures Gabriel. They explore the house, and return to the downstairs where "Mr Haredale unbuckled his sword and laid it on the table, with a pair of pocket pistols; then told the locksmith he would light him to the door." Gabriel leaves him there, "listening in the solitary house to every sound that stirred."
 Haredale keeps up this vigil for weeks. He spends the day in a lodging in Vauxhall, but "every night he was at his post, the same stern, sleepless, sentinel." One evening, on his way from the daytime lodging to Mrs. Rudge's house, he passes through Westminster Hall, where "a pretty large concourse of people assembled round the Houses of Parliament. "As he made his way among the throng, he heard once or twice the No-Popery cry, ... but holding it in very slight regard, and observing that the idlers were of the lowest grade, he neither though nor cared about it."
Then he notices two people, "a gentleman in elegant attire" and "an obsequious, crouching, fawning figure." He moves to avoid them but they "faced about quickly, and stumbled upon him." Sir John Chester recognizes and greets him, then says, "You know our friend here, Haredale?" The "friend" obviously wants to avoid this meeting, but Haredale is acquainted with Gashford, who used to be a Catholic. In fact, as Sir John is pleased to observe, the three of them were "schoolfellows, in Westminster Hall; tree old boarders in a remarkably dull and shady seminary at Saint Omer's, where you, being Catholics and of necessity educated out of England, were brought up; and where I, being a promising young Protestant at the time, was sent to learn the French tongue from a native of Paris!" Haredale responds by noting the irony "that some of you Protestants of promise are at this moment leagued in yonder building, to prevent our having the surpassing and unheard-of privilege of teaching our children to read and write." He observes of them, "You are the essence of your great Association, in yourselves." Sir John protests that he's mistaken: "I don't belong to the body." But Haredale knows the truth: "Men of your capacity plot in secrecy and safety, and leave exposed posts to the duller wits."

The standoff is interrupted by the appearance of Lord George Gordon, and the "lurking look of triumph" on the faces of Chester and Gashford "made it a natural impulse on Mr Haredale's part not to give way before this leader, but to stand there while he passed." As he reaches where they're standing, "Lord George turned round and, making a few remarks of a sufficiently violent and incoherent kind, concluded with the usual sentiment, and called for three cheers to back it." Sir John introduces Haredale and Gordon, and Haredale says of Gordon's address, "For shame, my lord, for shame!... If every one of those men had arms in their hands at this moment, as they have them in their heads, I would not leave this place without telling you that you disgrace your station." He goes on to denounce Gashford as a thief in his boyhood and "a servile, false, and truckling knave ... who has crawled and crept through life, wounding the hands he licked, and biting those he fawned upon."

Gordon feigns indifference to Haredale's accusations, but on his "unwholesome face the perspiration had broken out during this speech, in blotches of wet."
"Is it not enough, my lord," Mr Haredale continued, "that I, as good a gentleman as you, must hold my property, such as it is, by a trick at which the state connives because of these hard laws; and that we may not teach our youth in schools the common principles of right and wrong; but must we be denounced and ridden by such men as this! Here is a man to head your No-Popery cry! For shame. For shame!"
Gordon briefly says that he won't be "deterred from doing my duty to my country and my countrymen" by Haredale's attack, and walks away with Gashford and Chester, as Haredale turns and goes to the top of the stairs down to the river, where he hailed a boatman. But the crowd surges behind him, pushing Gordon, Chester, and Gashford in front of them to the top of the stairs.
There are cries of "Down with the Papists!" and "Stone him" and "Duck him" and "No Popery!" and then someone throws a stone that strikes Haredale "on the head, and made him stagger like a drunken man. The blood sprung feely from the wound, and trickled down his coat." Haredale turns and faces the mob, demanding "Who did that? Show me the man who hit me." There is no answer from the crowd. Haredale then seizes Gashford: "Dog, was it you? It was your deed, if not your hand -- I know you." He throws Gashford to the ground, and when some of the crowd try to take hold of him, Haredale draws his sword and they back off. He charges Gordon and Chester to draw their swords, and strikes Chester with the flat of his sword: "there was a change in Sir John's smooth face, such as no man ever saw there."

Finally John Grueby makes his way through the crowd, and urges Haredale, "Now do retire, sir, or take my word for it you'll be worse used than you would be if every man in the crowd was a woman, and that woman Bloody Mary." Grueby helps Haredale into the boat and gives it a shove off. The mob, intimidated by Grueby, backs off, and dissipates into random vandalism.

Gashford spots Hugh and Dennis in the mob, and, "breathing curses and threats of vengeance," follows them to a shantytown in Green Lanes. He asks them who threw the stone, and after he says, "It was well done!" Dennis praises Hugh for doing it: "If it hadn't been for me to-day, he'd have had that 'ere Roman down, and made a riot of it, in another minute." Hugh replies, "And why not? ... Where's the good of putting things off? Strike while the iron's hot; that's what I say." But Dennis counsels patience and preparation, and Gashford supports him: "Dennis has great knowledge of the world." "I ought to have, Muster Gashford, seeing what a many people I've helped out of it, eh?"

Then Gashford tells them that Gordon "consigns to you two ... the pleasant task of punishing this Haredale. You may do as you please with him, or his, provided that you show no mercy, and no quarter, and leave no two beams of his house standing where the builder placed them. You may sack it, burn it, do with it as you like, but it must come down; it must be razed to the ground; and he, and all belonging to him, left as shelterless as new-born infants whom their mothers have exposed." Hugh is delighted to hear this. 

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