Barnaby Rudge HTML version
There was a brief pause in the state-room of the Maypole, as Mr Haredale tried the lock
to satisfy himself that he had shut the door securely, and, striding up the dark chamber
to where the screen inclosed a little patch of light and warmth, presented himself,
abruptly and in silence, before the smiling guest.
If the two had no greater sympathy in their inward thoughts than in their outward bearing
and appearance, the meeting did not seem likely to prove a very calm or pleasant one.
With no great disparity between them in point of years, they were, in every other
respect, as unlike and far removed from each other as two men could well be. The one
was soft-spoken, delicately made, precise, and elegant; the other, a burly square-built
man, negligently dressed, rough and abrupt in manner, stern, and, in his present mood,
forbidding both in look and speech. The one preserved a calm and placid smile; the
other, a distrustful frown. The new-comer, indeed, appeared bent on showing by his
every tone and gesture his determined opposition and hostility to the man he had come
to meet. The guest who received him, on the other hand, seemed to feel that the
contrast between them was all in his favour, and to derive a quiet exultation from it
which put him more at his ease than ever.
'Haredale,' said this gentleman, without the least appearance of embarrassment or
reserve, 'I am very glad to see you.'
'Let us dispense with compliments. They are misplaced between us,' returned the other,
waving his hand, 'and say plainly what we have to say. You have asked me to meet
you. I am here. Why do we stand face to face again?'
'Still the same frank and sturdy character, I see!'
'Good or bad, sir, I am,' returned the other, leaning his arm upon the chimney-piece,
and turning a haughty look upon the occupant of the easy-chair, 'the man I used to be. I
have lost no old likings or dislikings; my memory has not failed me by a hair's-breadth.
You ask me to give you a meeting. I say, I am here.'
'Our meeting, Haredale,' said Mr Chester, tapping his snuff-box, and following with a
smile the impatient gesture he had made-- perhaps unconsciously--towards his sword,
'is one of conference and peace, I hope?'
'I have come here,' returned the other, 'at your desire, holding myself bound to meet
you, when and where you would. I have not come to bandy pleasant speeches, or
hollow professions. You are a smooth man of the world, sir, and at such play have me
at a disadvantage. The very last man on this earth with whom I would enter the lists to
combat with gentle compliments and masked faces, is Mr Chester, I do assure you. I
am not his match at such weapons, and have reason to believe that few men are.'