By Charles Matthews

Friday, April 8, 2011

13. Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens, pp. 483-534

Barnaby Rudge (Penguin Classics)Chapters 53-58
Macbeth put it this way:  
I am in blood 
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, 
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
Dickens puts it this way: "the sense of having gone too far to be forgiven, held the timid together no less than the bold." So the rioters continue to do their mischief:  "They all hoped and believed, in greater or less degree, that the government they seemed to have paralysed, would, in its terror, come to terms with them in the end, and suffer them to make their own conditions." 

Gashford goes to The Boot in search of Hugh, but finds only Barnaby and Dennis. The latter claims he doesn't know where Hugh has gone, but he arrives shortly, with Barnaby welcoming him eagerly. Gashford gives them the news that the King in Council has offered a reward of five hundred pounds "to any one who will discover the person or persons most active in demolishing those chapels." He also announces that the rioters who were arrested have been arraigned, and that there are witnesses against them, "Among others, a gentleman who saw the work going on in Warwick Street; a Catholic gentleman; one Haredale." Hugh tries to shush Gashford, but Barnaby has overheard the name and turns around in surprise. Hugh is able to distract him, however, by urging him to get on guard, and especially to make sure that nobody finds what's under his bed. The name fades "from his memory, like breath from a polished mirror." 

Gashford is most concerned that the witnesses should be intimidated, and particularly Haredale, but Hugh needs no persuading, especially as he has been in communication with Sir John Chester about doing harm to Haredale -- as Gashford knows and alludes to in several references to "your friend." He reiterates: "No mercy, no quarter, no two beams of his house to be left standing where the builder placed them!" Hugh and Dennis hurry out, and Gashford goes to Gordon's house to watch as the rioters make their way to their various targets: Catholic chapels and homes. The group including Sim Tappertit, Dennis, and Hugh is the last to pass by. As Hugh goes by, he acknowledges a spectator on the other side of the street: Sir John. "Gashford had seen him recognise Hugh with the air of a patron." Then a carriage with a woman in it drives up, she and Sir John talk for a minute "in which it was apparent that he was vastly entertaining on the subject of the mob, he stepped lightly in, and was driven away." 

Gashford has his dinner and paces impatiently, and finally climbs upstairs and goes out on the roof, where he sits looking toward the east. 
"'Nothing but gloom in that direction, still!' he muttered restlessly. 'Dog! where is the redness in the sky, you promised me!'" 

At the Maypole, John Willet and his friends Cobb, Parkes, and Daisy are arguing about the riots. Willet maintains, "Don't I tell you that His blessed Majesty King George the Third would no more stand a rioting and rollicking in his streets, than he'd stand being crowed over by his own Parliament!" The others insists that there have been riots and destruction of churches and houses, but Willet is adamant: "'Do you suppose if all this was true, that Mr Haredale would be constantly away from home, as he is?' said John, after another silence. 'Do you think he wouldn't be afraid to leave his house with them two young women in it, and only a couple of men, or so?'" Solomon Daisy admits that the Warren is "a goodish way out of London" and that "some of the Catholic gentlefolks have actually sent trinkets and suchlike down here for safety -- at least so the story goes." Willet pooh-poohs even this: "The story goes that you saw a ghost last March. But nobody believes it."

And so the three friends decide to set out for London to see for themselves. Willet refuses even to shake their hands when they leave. After they have gone, he falls asleep, and when he wakes it is nighttime. Then he hears a sound "very faint and distant" that comes and goes and then gets louder and louder until "it burst into a distinct sound -- the voices, and the tramping feet of many men." His cook and housemaid are terrified and run "screaming upstairs" where they lock "themselves into one of the old garrets, -- shrieking dismally when they had done so, by way of rendering their place of refuge perfectly secret and secure." Willet shouts angrily at them but he uses only "one word, and called that up the stairs in a stentorian voice, six distinct times." The word is "a monosyllable, which, however inoffensive when applied to the quadruped it denotes, is highly reprehensible when used in connection with females of unimpeachable character." (The only word that comes to my mind that both applies to a quadruped and is "reprehensible" is "bitch." Even a veiled allusion to that word seems awfully daring in Dickens's day. And since there are two women in question, wouldn't the word have to be "bitches," which is not a monosyllable? Little help here?) 

Left alone in the Maypole, "John Willet, in whom the very uttermost extent of dull-headed perplexity supplied the place of courage, stationed himself in the porch, and waited for their coming up." He doesn't wait long before the mob attacks and manhandles him, but Hugh intervenes and tells them not to hurt him. And the surprise of the mob and of Hugh's presence in it seems to undo Willet completely: "Mr Willet looked at him, and saw it was Hugh; but he said nothing and thought nothing." From here on he seems to be stunned.
He sits "in an arm-chair, ... watching the destruction of his property, as if it were some queer play or entertainment." The Maypole is laid waste by the mob, "swarming on like insects: noise, smoke, light, darkness, frolic, anger, laughter, groans, plunder, fear, and ruin!" Through it all, even though Hugh is among the most destructive of the rioters, he nevertheless protects Willet from bodily harm, "even when Mr Tappertit, excited by liquor, came up, and in assertion of his prerogative politely kicked John Willet on the shins, Hugh bade him return the compliment; and if old John had had sufficient presence of mind to understand this whispered direction, and to profit by it, he might no doubt, under Hugh's protection, have done so with impunity." 

Finally, the mob starts to move on toward their main goal, the Warren, and there is a debate about what to do with Willet, including burning down the inn with him in it. Hugh overrules all the ideas except tying him to his chair and leaving him there, and Dennis is sent for some rope. Dennis, however, is under the impression that they want the rope for his usual professional duty "and raising his eyes to the ceiling, looked all over it, and round the walls and cornice, with a curious eye." Hugh is surprised when he realizes what Dennis has in mind -- we are reminded that Hugh "was ignorant of his calling" -- and simply binds Willet to the chair, to Dennis's disappointment. 
Traumatized into a waking stupor, Willet sits in the middle of his ruined inn.
John saw this desolation, and yet saw it not. He was perfectly contented to sit there, staring at it, and felt no more indignation or discomfort in his bonds than if they had been robes of honour. So far as he was personally concerned, old Time lay snoring, and the world stood still.
Finally he hears a footstep and a man in "a large, dark, faded cloak, and a slouched hat" appears. It's the mysterious stranger, of course, though his identity won't be mysterious much longer. He asks which way the mob went, and when Willet nods in the opposite direction, the man says he's lying. Then he realizes that Willet is not in his right mind and refrains from striking him. He empties the remaining liquor in a cask into his mouth and voraciously eats some bread and meat that has been left behind. Finally, he asks again where the mob went, and Willet points him in the right direction. But just as he rushes out, an alarm bell begins to ring and "a bright and vivid glare streamed up, which illumined, not only the whole chamber, but all the county." But it's the bell rather than the brightness of the fire that terrifies the man. "He clutched his hair, and stopped his ears, and travelled madly round and round.... There was murder in its every note -- cruel, relentless, savage murder -- the murder of a confiding man, by one who held his every trust."

The rioters, meanwhile, have breached the iron fence around the Warren and surrounded the house, "knocking violently at the doors, and calling to those within, to come down and open them on peril of their lives." No one answers, and they begin to break in, having raided the garden tool-shed for axes, hoes and other implements to use as weapons, and spreading fire from torch to torch so that "at least two-thirds of the whole roaring mass bore, each man in his hand, a blazing brand." Hugh and those closest to him concentrate on the turret where he had met Haredale in the company of John Willet. 

There are a few servants with arms in the hall, but they are so outnumbered that they pretend to be among the rioters and make their escape, "with the exception of one old man who was never heard of again, and was said to have had his brains beaten out with an iron bar ... and to have been afterwards burnt in the flames." The rampaging mob begins to destroy and set fire to everything, including one another, "kindling the building in so many parts that some had no time for escape, and were seen, with drooping hands and blackened faces, hanging senseless on the window-sills to which they had crawled, until they were sucked and drawn into the burning gulf." 

Although the alarm bell rang for a long time, no one came to fight the fire. "Some of the insurgents said that when it ceased, they heard the shrieks of women, and saw some garments fluttering in the air, as a party of men bore away no unresisting burdens." Finally, Hugh gives the signal to disperse, but not everyone is ready to leave.
There were men who rushed up to the fire, and paddled in it with their hands as if in water; and others who where retrained by force from plunging in, to gratify their deadly longing. On the skull of one drunken lad -- not twenty, by his looks -- who lay upon the ground with a bottle to his mouth, the lead from the roof came streaming down in a shower of liquid fire, white hot; melting his head like wax.
John Willet's friends from the Maypole have continued their journey toward London, hearing reports of continued destruction along the way, and being warned that they should wear blue cockades in their hats if they want to escape harm. As they get nearer to the city, they see "No Popery" chalked on almost every door. 

At a tollbooth a horseman rides up from the city and calls for the gate to be opened. The gatekeeper comes out and notices that the sky is lighted up by another fire. "At this, the three turned their heads, and saw in the distance -- straight in the direction whence they had come -- a broad sheet of flame, casting a threatening light upon the clouds." The horseman, who is Haredale, realizes what is on fire and urges the gatekeeper to open the gate. The gatekeeper recognizes and urges him not to go -- "You will be murdered" -- or at least to wear a blue cockade to protect himself, handing him the one from his own hat. When the three friends join in urging him to do so, Haredale recognizes Solomon Daisy, and asks him to come with him. Daisy gets on the horse behind him and they ride on till they reach the Maypole. 

They find the destruction at the inn and the demented Willet still bound to the chair. Daisy is distraught "That the Maypole bar should come to this, and we should live to see it!" But Willet stares "at him with an unearthly glare, and display[s], by every possible symptom, entire and complete unconsciousness." Daisy asks if they beat him, and finally Willet seems to come to his senses: "If they'd only had the goodness to murder me, I'd have thanked 'em kindly." As Haredale is untying the ropes, Willet says, "let's go and pitch ourselves in the nighest pool of water as is deep enough to hold us; for our day is over!" 

Haredale asks if he had seen Emma, but Willet says no. "'They rode away, I trust in Heaven, before these dreadful scenes began,' said Mr Haredale, who, between his agitation, his eagerness to mount his horse again, and the dexterity with which the cords were tied, had scarcely yet undone one knot." Then Willet asks them, "either of you gentlemen -- see a -- a coffin anywheres, did you?" He tells them, "a dead man called a little time ago, on his way yonder. I could have told you what name was on the plate, if he had brought his coffin with him, and left it behind." 

Haredale realizes the significance of what Willet is saying, and hurries off with Solomon Daisy in tow. When they reach the house, Haredale draws his sword and they search all around the house for signs of life. He calls the names of his servants but gets no response. They stop at the foot of the turret where "a part of the staircase still remained, winding upward from a great mound of dust and cinders." Then they hear a faint noise, and Haredale covers Daisy's mouth and signals for him to stay there and be silent. Then he enters the turret with his sword drawn. Daisy stays below and watches, "And now a figure was dimply visible; climbing very softly; and often stopping to look down." Daisy looks at a place illuminated by the moonlight where if the figure continues to ascend it will appear. When it finally does, and looks around, "The horror-stricken clerk uttered a scream that pierced the air, and cried, 'The ghost! The ghost!'" Then Haredale appears and grabs the figure by the throat. 
"Villain!" cried Mr Haredale, in a terrible voice.... "Dead and buried, as all men supposed through your infernal arts, but reserved by Heaven for this -- at last -- at last -- I have you. You, whose hands are red with my brother's blood, and that of his faithful servant, shed to conceal your own atrocious guilt -- You, Rudge, double murderer and monster, I arrest you in the name of God, who has delivered you into my hands. No. Though you had the strength of twenty men," he added, as the murderer writhed and struggled, "you could not escape me or loosen my grip tonight!" 
 Barnaby has stood guard at The Boot, with Grip as his companion. (Has anyone else wondered about Grip all this time? Where was he when Barnaby was in the middle of the mob, or ransacking a church?) Now Grip is busying himself with "scattering the straw, hiding under it such small articles as had been casually left about, and haunting Hugh's bed, to which he seemed to have taken a particular attachment." He has also learned to say "No Popery!" 

Lord George Gordon and John Grueby ride up. Gordon talks with Barnaby a while, and listens as he explains that Grip is "my brother, Grip is -- always with me -- always talking -- always merry -- eh, Grip?" Unfortunately, Gordon doesn't know what to make of Barnaby, and when he asks Grueby, the servant says Barnaby is mad. This bothers Gordon, perhaps because he himself is mad, and he gets angry at Grueby, who says, "look at his dress, look at his eyes, look at his restless way, hear him cry 'No Popery!' Mad, my lord.... Stark, staring, raving, roaring mad." Gordon turns on him: "You are an ill-conditioned, most ungrateful fellow, ... a spy, for anything I know.... You will leave me to-night -- nay, as soon as we reach home. The sooner the better." 

Grueby accepts this verdict, knowing that Gashford is in part behind it, but he is concerned about Barnaby, too. "He had better get to a place of safety if he can, poor creature." He tells Barnaby, "I think, young man, ... that the soldiers may turn out and take you; and that if they do, you will certainly be hung by the neck till you're dead -- dead -- dead. And I think you had better go from here, as fast as you can. That's what I think." But Barnaby retorts with, "Let them come! Gordon for ever!" Which pleases Gordon, of course: "This a madman!" he says to Grueby. And to Barnaby, "I am proud to be the leader of such men as you." It's a case of the mad leading the mad. Gordon rides off, "glancing angrily round to see that his servant followed." Grueby does follow, "but not before he had again warned Barnaby to retreat." 

Barnaby continues his patrol. Late in the afternoon, some men arrive to warn the inmates of The Boot that soldiers are on their way, and everybody but Barnaby and an old woman clears out. Five minutes later the soldiers arrive. One of them is the man whom Barnaby knocked off his horse with his flagstaff at Westminster. There are two civilians as well. Barnaby is ordered to surrender, but he stands in the doorway holding his flagpole crosswise. The soldiers move in, and Barnaby fends them off with his pole until finally he is struck with the butt of a gun and taken prisoner. 

Then an officer expresses surprise: Grip "had plucked away the straw from Hugh's bed, and turned up the loose ground with his iron bill.... Golden cups, spoons, candlesticks, coined guineas -- all the riches were revealed." Barnaby is marched away by four soldiers with fixed bayonets: "those cold, bright, sharp, shining points turned towards him: the mere looking down at which, now that he was bound and helpless, made the warm current of his life run cold." 

He is taken to a barracks where a double guard is set for him. He dozes for a while and then hears two men talking about him. One is a sergeant and the other is a civilian called Tom Green. The sergeant is protesting that the magistrates have not given the military the authority to quell the riots: "Here's a proclamation. Here's a man referred to in that proclamation. Here's proof against him, and a witness on the spot. Damme! Take him out and shoot him, sir. Who wants a magistrate?" Tom Green asks when Barnaby goes before Sir John Fielding, the presiding magistrate. The sergeant says eight p.m., but he expects that when Barnaby is committed to Newgate Prison, the soldiers will be attacked by the mob and forced to retreat because the magistrates haven't given them order to fire on the rioters. 

Barnaby peeks out at the men, and sees that Tom Green "was a gallant, manly, handsome fellow, but he had lost his left arm." His bearing suggests that he had once been a soldier. And he says, "it makes a man sorrowful to come back to old England, and see her in this condition." Then when the sergeant says that they have a bird in the guard-house that "bawls 'No Popery,' like a man -- or like a devil, as he says he is," Tom Green starts to go take a look at the bird when Barnaby calls out that it's his friend Grip: "He's the only friend I have left now." And he begs them not to hurt him. The sergeant taunts him with a threat to kill the bird and him as well, and Barnaby angrily replies, "Kill anything you can, and so revenge yourself on those who with their bare hands untied could do as much to you!" Barnaby rarely sounds "idiotic," but here he breaks character entirely, at least until he begins to cry, and mutter, "Good bye, Grip -- good bye, dear old Grip!" He has noticed that the one-armed man seemed sympathetic, but he does nothing to help him at this point. 

Barnaby is taken to Bow Street, where "a blind gentleman" -- i.e., Fielding, who was Henry Fielding's half-brother -- sends him to Newgate. As the sergeant had predicted, the mob attacks the soldiers taking him to the prison, but they succeed in getting him there. A "set of heavy irons" are riveted on him and he is taken to a cell. There he is joined by "Grip, who, with his head drooping and his deep black plumes rough and rumpled, appeared to comprehend and to partake, his master's fallen fortunes." 

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