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Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 11
There was great news that night for the regular Maypole customers, to each of whom,
as he straggled in to occupy his allotted seat in the chimney-corner, John, with a most
impressive slowness of delivery, and in an apoplectic whisper, communicated the fact
that Mr Chester was alone in the large room upstairs, and was waiting the arrival of Mr
Geoffrey Haredale, to whom he had sent a letter (doubtless of a threatening nature) by
the hands of Barnaby, then and there present.
For a little knot of smokers and solemn gossips, who had seldom any new topics of
discussion, this was a perfect Godsend. Here was a good, dark-looking mystery
progressing under that very roof-- brought home to the fireside, as it were, and
enjoyable without the smallest pains or trouble. It is extraordinary what a zest and relish
it gave to the drink, and how it heightened the flavour of the tobacco. Every man
smoked his pipe with a face of grave and serious delight, and looked at his neighbour
with a sort of quiet congratulation. Nay, it was felt to be such a holiday and special night,
that, on the motion of little Solomon Daisy, every man (including John himself) put down
his sixpence for a can of flip, which grateful beverage was brewed with all despatch,
and set down in the midst of them on the brick floor; both that it might simmer and stew
before the fire, and that its fragrant steam, rising up among them, and mixing with the
wreaths of vapour from their pipes, might shroud them in a delicious atmosphere of their
own, and shut out all the world. The very furniture of the room seemed to mellow and
deepen in its tone; the ceiling and walls looked blacker and more highly polished, the
curtains of a ruddier red; the fire burnt clear and high, and the crickets in the
hearthstone chirped with a more than wonted satisfaction.
There were present two, however, who showed but little interest in the general
contentment. Of these, one was Barnaby himself, who slept, or, to avoid being beset
with questions, feigned to sleep, in the chimney-corner; the other, Hugh, who, sleeping
too, lay stretched upon the bench on the opposite side, in the full glare of the blazing
fire.
The light that fell upon this slumbering form, showed it in all its muscular and handsome
proportions. It was that of a young man, of a hale athletic figure, and a giant's strength,
whose sunburnt face and swarthy throat, overgrown with jet black hair, might have
served a painter for a model. Loosely attired, in the coarsest and roughest garb, with
scraps of straw and hay--his usual bed-- clinging here and there, and mingling with his
uncombed locks, he had fallen asleep in a posture as careless as his dress. The
negligence and disorder of the whole man, with something fierce and sullen in his
features, gave him a picturesque appearance, that attracted the regards even of the
Maypole customers who knew him well, and caused Long Parkes to say that Hugh
looked more like a poaching rascal to-night than ever he had seen him yet.
'He's waiting here, I suppose,' said Solomon, 'to take Mr Haredale's horse.'
 
 
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