By Charles Matthews

Sunday, April 10, 2011

16. Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens, pp. 613-652

Barnaby Rudge (Penguin Classics)Chapters 68-72
Barnaby and his father make their way to the edge of the crowd and free themselves from the shackles. They move on to less inhabited parts of the city and find a shed where they spend the rest of the night and the following day. The following night, Rudge sends Barnaby in search of Stagg, but the blind man's house is empty.

After his release and his reunion with his father, Barnaby's view of the riots has changed: The town now seems "peopled by a legion of devils," and since he is no longer playing a leading role in the rioting, he sees it from a different perspective. He comes upon the mob besieging Langdale's house, and "there, in the midst, towering above them all, close before the house they were attacking now, was Hugh on horseback, calling to the rest!" He forces his way through the mob "and in time was nearly up with Hugh, who was savagely threatening some one, but whom or what he said, he could not, in the great confusion, understand. At that moment the crowd forced their way into the house, and Hugh -- it was impossible to see by what means, in such a concourse -- fell headlong down."

Hugh gets to his feet, but the blow (delivered, as we know, by Edward Chester) has left him confused, and the horse has kicked him in the head while he was down. After a moment he recognizes Barnaby and asks him where Dennis is, then collapses, "already frantic with drinking and with the wound in his head." The casks in the vintner's house have been breached and the street is running with their contents, some of it on fire. Hugh "crawled to a stream of the burning spirit which was pouring down the kennel, and began to drink as if it were a brook of water." Barnaby gets him to his feet, but he is unable to stand or walk, and he climbs up on the back of the horse. Barnaby leads the horse, which is still festooned with chains, away from the scene.

Dickens's descriptions of the riots have become increasingly more lurid, and they reach a peak here, with an account of people literally drinking themselves to death:
The gutters of the street, and every crack and fissure in the stones, ran with scorching spirit, which being dammed up by busy hands, overflowed the road and pavement, and formed a great pool, into which the people dropped down dead by dozens. They lay in heaps all round this fearful pond, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, women with children in their arms and babies at their breasts, and drank until they died. While some stooped with their lips to the brink and never raised their heads again, others sprang up from their fiery draught, and danced, half in a mad triumph, and half in the agony of their suffocation, until they fell, and steeped their corpses in the spirit that had killed them.... From the burning cellars, where they drank out of hats, pails, buckets, tubs, and shoes, some men were drawn, alive, but all alight from head to foot; who, in their unendurable anguish and suffering, making for anything that had the look of water, rolled, hissing, in this hideous lake, and splashed up liquid fire which lapped in all it met with as it ran along the surface, and neither spared the living nor the dead.

Barnaby leads the horse toward the shed where his father is, but stops about half a mile from it and removes the chains from the horse and sets it loose in the fields. Then he helps Hugh to the shed where his father, in a paranoid fit, accuses Barnaby of meeting with Mrs. Rudge and betraying him. Barnaby assures him that nothing of the sort has happened, and tells him that he was unable to find Stagg. Finally Barnaby is able to bring Rudge to his senses -- almost. He explains that Hugh "would have been killed if I had left him over yonder. They were firing guns and shedding blood. Does the sight of blood turn you sick, father? I see it does, by your face. That's like me -- What are you looking at?" Rudge is looking over Barnaby's head, where presumably he sees the ghost of the man he murdered.

They settle the unconscious Hugh in the shed and fall asleep, but Barnaby awakes early and is reminded by the pleasantness of the morning of better times, though "He had no consciousness, God help him, of having done wrong, nor had he any new perception of the merits of the cause in which he had been engaged, or those of the men who advocated it." His father also awakes, and sends him back into the city to look for the blind man, insisting that he must stay until he finds him, no matter how long it takes.

At sundown, Barnaby returns with Stagg. Rudge sends Barnaby to talk to Hugh, who is finally emerging from his stupor, and takes Stagg aside to hear that Mrs. Rudge has been hospitalized since her separation from Barnaby, but that she refuses to come to terms with Rudge, saying "that Heaven would help her and her innocent son; and that to Heaven she appealed against us." He advises Rudge to take Barnaby and get as far away from London as possible. He assures him that Mrs. Rudge will eventually give in. When Rudge asks how they will support themselves, Stagg slaps his pocket and says "the streets are running money," then calls out for Hugh to share the flask he has brought.

Hugh appears, "Exhausted, unwashed, unshorn, begrimed with smoke and dust, his hair clotted with blood, his voice quite gone, so that he spoke in whispers; his skin parched up by fever, his whole body bruised and cut, and beaten about." As Hugh is drinking from Stagg's flask, Dennis darkens the door of the hut and greets Barnaby by name, though he doesn't seem to know Stagg or Rudge. He explains that he knew from the sound of the chains on the horse which direction Hugh had taken. This is the first they've seen of each other since their encounter at the prison when Dennis was trying to keep the condemned men from being freed. Hugh asks, "Where did you go when you left me in the jail? Why did you leave me? And what did you mean by rolling your eyes and shaking your fist at me, eh?" Hugh has suspected that Dennis deserted the rioters, but Dennis denies it.

But not for long: Barnaby sights the soldiers hiding behind a hedgerow. Dennis gives the signal and "the shed was filled with armed men; and a body of horse, galloping into the field, drew up before it." Dennis identifies Barnaby and Hugh as "them two young ones, gentlemen, that the proclamation puts a price on." And now he fingers Rudge, too, as "an escaped felon." Stagg, however, had heard the soldiers before Barnaby sighted them, and made his escape. He "was now seen running across the open meadow," and the soldiers fire and kill him. Dennis is disconsolate because here's someone he can't hang: "What's to become of the country if the military power's to go a superseding the ciwilians in this way?"

Barnaby and his father are marched off on foot, while Hugh is bound to a horse and guarded by cavalry. Hugh is certain that he'll be freed by the mob, but when they reach Fleet Market he sees that the military is in full control "and felt that he was riding to his death."
"Having taken up arms and resorted to deeds of violence, with the great main object of preserving the Old Baily in all its purity, and the gallows in all its pristine usefulness and moral grandeur," Dennis now goes to the house where Emma and Dolly -- and Miggs -- are being kept. Their abduction, he realizes, could still get him in trouble, and he needs to resolve that problem immediately. When he enters the room where the three women are confined, Miggs immediately makes a scene, while Dolly and Emma shrink into a corner. Dennis pays court to Miggs.
He asks when she saw Sim Tappertit last, and tells her that Sim had "meant all along to carry off" Dolly -- "And to hand you over to somebody else." So he hints that he will get Dolly "out of the way" if "you'll only be quiet and slip away at the right time." Then it occurs to him that he also has to deal with Emma, and that Gashford has designs on her. Miggs informs him that she had heard Hugh and Sim say that Emma "was to be removed alone (not by them, but by somebody else), to-morrow night." So he tells Miggs that he would find "some daring young fellow" among the rioters to carry off Dolly. "With regard to Dolly, the gentleman would exercise his own discretion. He would be bound to do nothing but to take her away, and keep her away. All other arrangements and dispositions would rest entirely with himself." Miggs is more than happy with this plan -- though she pretends not to have heard him at all -- and Dennis sets off to make his arrangements.

The next day, Emma, Dolly, and Miggs remain locked in the room, but they can hear coming and going in the outer room where the men guarding them had been stationed. The sounds are unusually subdued, however, in contrast to the boisterous noise that had been made while the riots were at their height. Then they hear moans, as if a sick man had been brought into the outer room. Dolly is particularly upset because she knows that both Hugh and Sim have their eyes on her, and the idea of having to yield to either of them is repugnant. Miggs becomes more annoying than ever when she decides that it is her duty to convert Emma to Protestantism.

When night comes, they are left in darkness -- before this, "their jailers had been regular in bringing food and candles"-- and they hear "now and then a moan which seemed to be wrung from a person in great pain, who made an effort to subdue it, but could not." Miggs's carrying-on provokes Dolly to tell her to hold her tongue, which instead unleashes from Miggs a wonderful Dickensian monologue:
"Ho yes! I am a abject slave, and a toiling, moiling, constant-working, always-being-found-fault-with, never-giving-satisfactions, nor-having-no-time-to-clean-oneself, potter's wessel -- an't I, miss! Ho yes! My situations is lowly, and my capacities is limited, and my duties is to humble myself afore the base degenerating daughters of their blessed mothers as is fit to keep companies with holy saints but is born to persecutions from wicked relations -- and to demean myself before them as is no better than Infidels -- an't it, miss! Ho yes! My only becoming occupations is to help young flaunting pagins to brush and comb and titiwate theirselves into whitening and seppulchres, and leave the young men to think that there an't a bit of padding in it nor no pinching ins nor fillings out nor pomatums nor deceits nor earthly wanities -- an't it, miss! Yes, to be sure it is -- ho yes!"
This diatribe is finally stilled by the sound of knocking at the house door, then a struggle in the outside room. Believing that someone has come to rescue them, Emma and Dolly cry out for help, and a man carrying a sword and a candle rushes into their room. He assures Dolly that her friends will be there soon, and tells Emma that her uncle "has succeeded where many of our creed have failed, and is safe -- has crossed the sea, and is out of Britain." But, he tells her, the soldiers have joined league with the rioters and the people are united against the Catholics, so that she will be unable to follow her uncle without his help. "I have the means of saving you; and in redemption of my sacred promise, made to him, I am here; pledged not to leave you until I have placed you in his arms."

Emma quite sensibly wants to make sure she can trust him and asks for "some note or token from my uncle." And Dolly is even more suspicious: "I am sure he doesn't. Don't go with him for the world!" The man calls her a "pretty fool" and says that he didn't bring anything in writing with him for fear it might lead to his capture, and that he never thought of some "other token, nor did Mr Haredale think of entrusting me with one -- possibly because he had good experience of my faith and honesty, and owed his life to me."

Dolly still isn't buying this, and begs Emma not to trust him. Emma suggests that Dolly go with them, and the man says transporting two women through the streets is impossible, and anyway, Dolly will be rescued shortly. Emma tells her, "I will trust to this gentleman," but Dolly clings to her in tears. The man then separates them and pulls Emma toward the door, calling out to someone outside, "are you ready?"

But the voice that answers his call isn't one that he expects to hear. "And in an instant he was felled like an ox in the butcher's shambles." Haredale and Mr. and Mrs. Varden rush into the room, and the women fall into their arms.
Behind them are Edward Chester and Joe Willet. Edward had knocked down the man (who is Gashford, of course) and Joe has his foot planted on his chest. Gashford tries to bargain with Haredale: He has incriminating information of all sorts about Lord George Gordon, but if he's ill-treated he won't reveal it. But Joe tells him to get up and leave: "you're waited for, outside." Gashford exits with "a baffled malevolence, yet with an air of despicable humility." 

As they leave through the outer room, they discover "Mr Dennis in safe keeping" and Sim Tappertit "burnt and bruised, and with a gun-shot wound in his body; and his legs -- his perfect legs, the pride and glory of his life, the comfort of his existence -- crushed into shapeless ugliness." 

They travel to the Black Lion tavern, where they are joined by John Willet, who is still not quite right in the head. Among other things, he is puzzled by his son's missing arm, "which he had never yet got himself thoroughly to believe, or comprehend." He stares at the empty sleeve and keeps finding ways of feeling it, until he concludes, "It's been took off!" The landlord of the Black Lion prompts Joe to tell his father where it happened: "At the defence of the Savannah, father," Joe says. (The siege of Savannah, Georgia, an attempt by American forces to take control of the city from the British, took place in September and October, 1779.)  Joe also explains that Savannah is "In America, where the war is." (We learn that "the same information had been conveyed to him in the same terms, at least fifty times before.") 

Finally, Dolly is left by herself and Joe comes to talk to her. After the night he came to see her, he tells her, "I have been abroad, fighting all the summer and frozen up all the winter, ever since. I have come back as poor in purse as I went, and crippled for life besides.... I did hope once ... that I might come back a rich man, and marry you. But I was a boy then, and have long known better than that.... It's a comfort to me to know that you'll talk to your husband about me; and I hope the time will come when I may be able to like him, and to shake hands with him, and to come and see you as a poor friend who knew you when you were a girl." And he leaves.  

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