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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBarnaby Rudge - Chapter 24
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Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 24 Post by :william13 Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :3116

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Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 24

How the accomplished gentleman spent the evening in the midst of a
dazzling and brilliant circle; how he enchanted all those with
whom he mingled by the grace of his deportment, the politeness of
his manner, the vivacity of his conversation, and the sweetness of
his voice; how it was observed in every corner, that Chester was a
man of that happy disposition that nothing ruffled him, that he was
one on whom the world's cares and errors sat lightly as his dress,
and in whose smiling face a calm and tranquil mind was constantly
reflected; how honest men, who by instinct knew him better,
bowed down before him nevertheless, deferred to his every word, and
courted his favourable notice; how people, who really had good in
them, went with the stream, and fawned and flattered, and approved,
and despised themselves while they did so, and yet had not the
courage to resist; how, in short, he was one of those who are
received and cherished in society (as the phrase is) by scores who
individually would shrink from and be repelled by the object of
their lavish regard; are things of course, which will suggest
themselves. Matter so commonplace needs but a passing glance, and
there an end.

The despisers of mankind--apart from the mere fools and mimics, of
that creed--are of two sorts. They who believe their merit
neglected and unappreciated, make up one class; they who receive
adulation and flattery, knowing their own worthlessness, compose
the other. Be sure that the coldest-hearted misanthropes are ever
of this last order.

Mr Chester sat up in bed next morning, sipping his coffee, and
remembering with a kind of contemptuous satisfaction how he had
shone last night, and how he had been caressed and courted, when
his servant brought in a very small scrap of dirty paper, tightly
sealed in two places, on the inside whereof was inscribed in pretty
large text these words: 'A friend. Desiring of a conference.
Immediate. Private. Burn it when you've read it.'

'Where in the name of the Gunpowder Plot did you pick up this?'
said his master.

It was given him by a person then waiting at the door, the man
replied.

'With a cloak and dagger?' said Mr Chester.

With nothing more threatening about him, it appeared, than a
leather apron and a dirty face. 'Let him come in.' In he came--Mr
Tappertit; with his hair still on end, and a great lock in his
hand, which he put down on the floor in the middle of the chamber
as if he were about to go through some performances in which it was
a necessary agent.

'Sir,' said Mr Tappertit with a low bow, 'I thank you for this
condescension, and am glad to see you. Pardon the menial office in
which I am engaged, sir, and extend your sympathies to one, who,
humble as his appearance is, has inn'ard workings far above his
station.'

Mr Chester held the bed-curtain farther back, and looked at him
with a vague impression that he was some maniac, who had not only
broken open the door of his place of confinement, but had brought
away the lock. Mr Tappertit bowed again, and displayed his legs to
the best advantage.

'You have heard, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, laying his hand upon his
breast, 'of G. Varden Locksmith and bell-hanger and repairs neatly
executed in town and country, Clerkenwell, London?'

'What then?' asked Mr Chester.

'I'm his 'prentice, sir.'

'What THEN?'

'Ahem!' said Mr Tappertit. 'Would you permit me to shut the door,
sir, and will you further, sir, give me your honour bright, that
what passes between us is in the strictest confidence?'

Mr Chester laid himself calmly down in bed again, and turning a
perfectly undisturbed face towards the strange apparition, which
had by this time closed the door, begged him to speak out, and to
be as rational as he could, without putting himself to any very
great personal inconvenience.

'In the first place, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, producing a small
pocket-handkerchief and shaking it out of the folds, 'as I have not
a card about me (for the envy of masters debases us below that
level) allow me to offer the best substitute that circumstances
will admit of. If you will take that in your own hand, sir, and
cast your eye on the right-hand corner,' said Mr Tappertit,
offering it with a graceful air, 'you will meet with my
credentials.'

'Thank you,' answered Mr Chester, politely accepting it, and
turning to some blood-red characters at one end. '"Four. Simon
Tappertit. One." Is that the--'

'Without the numbers, sir, that is my name,' replied the 'prentice.
'They are merely intended as directions to the washerwoman, and
have no connection with myself or family. YOUR name, sir,' said Mr
Tappertit, looking very hard at his nightcap, 'is Chester, I
suppose? You needn't pull it off, sir, thank you. I observe E. C.
from here. We will take the rest for granted.'

'Pray, Mr Tappertit,' said Mr Chester, 'has that complicated piece
of ironmongery which you have done me the favour to bring with you,
any immediate connection with the business we are to discuss?'

'It has not, sir,' rejoined the 'prentice. 'It's going to be
fitted on a ware'us-door in Thames Street.'

'Perhaps, as that is the case,' said Mr Chester, 'and as it has a
stronger flavour of oil than I usually refresh my bedroom with, you
will oblige me so far as to put it outside the door?'

'By all means, sir,' said Mr Tappertit, suiting the action to the
word.

'You'll excuse my mentioning it, I hope?'

'Don't apologise, sir, I beg. And now, if you please, to
business.'

During the whole of this dialogue, Mr Chester had suffered nothing
but his smile of unvarying serenity and politeness to appear upon
his face. Sim Tappertit, who had far too good an opinion of
himself to suspect that anybody could be playing upon him, thought
within himself that this was something like the respect to which he
was entitled, and drew a comparison from this courteous demeanour
of a stranger, by no means favourable to the worthy locksmith.

'From what passes in our house,' said Mr Tappertit, 'I am aware,
sir, that your son keeps company with a young lady against your
inclinations. Sir, your son has not used me well.'

'Mr Tappertit,' said the other, 'you grieve me beyond description.'

'Thank you, sir,' replied the 'prentice. 'I'm glad to hear you say
so. He's very proud, sir, is your son; very haughty.'

'I am afraid he IS haughty,' said Mr Chester. 'Do you know I was
really afraid of that before; and you confirm me?'

'To recount the menial offices I've had to do for your son, sir,'
said Mr Tappertit; 'the chairs I've had to hand him, the coaches
I've had to call for him, the numerous degrading duties, wholly
unconnected with my indenters, that I've had to do for him, would
fill a family Bible. Besides which, sir, he is but a young man
himself and I do not consider "thank'ee Sim," a proper form of
address on those occasions.'

'Mr Tappertit, your wisdom is beyond your years. Pray go on.'

'I thank you for your good opinion, sir,' said Sim, much gratified,
'and will endeavour so to do. Now sir, on this account (and
perhaps for another reason or two which I needn't go into) I am on
your side. And what I tell you is this--that as long as our people
go backwards and forwards, to and fro, up and down, to that there
jolly old Maypole, lettering, and messaging, and fetching and
carrying, you couldn't help your son keeping company with that
young lady by deputy,--not if he was minded night and day by all
the Horse Guards, and every man of 'em in the very fullest
uniform.'

Mr Tappertit stopped to take breath after this, and then started
fresh again.

'Now, sir, I am a coming to the point. You will inquire of me,
"how is this to he prevented?" I'll tell you how. If an honest,
civil, smiling gentleman like you--'

'Mr Tappertit--really--'

'No, no, I'm serious,' rejoined the 'prentice, 'I am, upon my soul.
If an honest, civil, smiling gentleman like you, was to talk but
ten minutes to our old woman--that's Mrs Varden--and flatter her up
a bit, you'd gain her over for ever. Then there's this point got--
that her daughter Dolly,'--here a flush came over Mr Tappertit's
face--'wouldn't be allowed to be a go-between from that time
forward; and till that point's got, there's nothing ever will
prevent her. Mind that.'

'Mr Tappertit, your knowledge of human nature--'

'Wait a minute,' said Sim, folding his arms with a dreadful
calmness. 'Now I come to THE point. Sir, there is a villain at
that Maypole, a monster in human shape, a vagabond of the deepest
dye, that unless you get rid of and have kidnapped and carried off
at the very least--nothing less will do--will marry your son to
that young woman, as certainly and as surely as if he was the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself. He will, sir, for the hatred and
malice that he bears to you; let alone the pleasure of doing a bad
action, which to him is its own reward. If you knew how this chap,
this Joseph Willet--that's his name--comes backwards and forwards
to our house, libelling, and denouncing, and threatening you, and
how I shudder when I hear him, you'd hate him worse than I do,--
worse than I do, sir,' said Mr Tappertit wildly, putting his hair
up straighter, and making a crunching noise with his teeth; 'if
sich a thing is possible.'

'A little private vengeance in this, Mr Tappertit?'

'Private vengeance, sir, or public sentiment, or both combined--
destroy him,' said Mr Tappertit. 'Miggs says so too. Miggs and me
both say so. We can't bear the plotting and undermining that takes
place. Our souls recoil from it. Barnaby Rudge and Mrs Rudge are
in it likewise; but the villain, Joseph Willet, is the ringleader.
Their plottings and schemes are known to me and Miggs. If you want
information of 'em, apply to us. Put Joseph Willet down, sir.
Destroy him. Crush him. And be happy.'

With these words, Mr Tappertit, who seemed to expect no reply, and
to hold it as a necessary consequence of his eloquence that his
hearer should be utterly stunned, dumbfoundered, and overwhelmed,
folded his arms so that the palm of each hand rested on the
opposite shoulder, and disappeared after the manner of those
mysterious warners of whom he had read in cheap story-books.

'That fellow,' said Mr Chester, relaxing his face when he was
fairly gone, 'is good practice. I HAVE some command of my
features, beyond all doubt. He fully confirms what I suspected,
though; and blunt tools are sometimes found of use, where sharper
instruments would fail. I fear I may be obliged to make great
havoc among these worthy people. A troublesome necessity! I
quite feel for them.'

With that he fell into a quiet slumber:--subsided into such a
gentle, pleasant sleep, that it was quite infantine.

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Leaving the favoured, and well-received, and flattered of the world; him of the world most worldly, who never compromised himself by an ungentlemanly action, and never was guilty of a manly one; to lie smilingly asleep--for even sleep, working but little change in his dissembling face, became with him a piece of cold, conventional hypocrisy--we follow in the steps of two slow travellers on foot, making towards Chigwell.Barnaby and his mother. Grip in their company, of course.The widow, to whom each painful mile seemed longer than the last, toiled wearily along; while Barnaby, yielding to every inconstant impulse, fluttered here
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