Gashford, with a smiling face, but still with looks of profound deference and humility, betook himself towards his masters room, smoothing his hair down as he went, and humming a psalm tune. As he approached Lord Georges door, he cleared his throat and hummed more vigorously.
There was a remarkable contrast between this mans occupation at the moment, and the expression of his countenance, which was singularly repulsive and malicious. His beetling brow almost obscured his eyes; his lip was curled contemptuously; his very shoulders seemed to sneer in stealthy whisperings with his great flapped ears.
Hush! he muttered softly, as he peeped in at the chamber-door. He seems to be asleep. Pray Heaven he is! Too much watching, too much care, too much thoughtah! Lord preserve him for a martyr! He is a saint, if ever saint drew breath on this bad earth.
Placing his light upon a table, he walked on tiptoe to the fire, and sitting in a chair before it with his back towards the bed, went on communing with himself like one who thought aloud, The saviour of his country and his countrys religion, the friend of his poor countrymen, the enemy of the proud and harsh; beloved of the rejected and oppressed, adored by forty thousand bold and loyal English heartswhat happy slumbers his should be! And here he sighed, and warmed his hands, and shook his head as men do when their hearts are full, and heaved another sigh, and warmed his hands again.
Why, Gashford? said Lord George, who was lying broad awake, upon his side, and had been staring at him from his entrance.
Mymy lord, said Gashford, starting and looking round as though in great surprise. I have disturbed you!
I have not been sleeping.
Not sleeping! he repeated, with assumed confusion. What can I say for having in your presence given utterance to thoughtsbut they were sincerethey were sincere! exclaimed the secretary, drawing his sleeve in a hasty way across his eyes; and why should I regret your having heard them?
Gashford, said the poor lord, stretching out his hand with manifest emotion. Do not regret it. You love me well, I know too well. I dont deserve such homage.
Gashford made no reply, but grasped the hand and pressed it to his lips. Then rising, and taking from the trunk a little desk, he placed it on a table near the fire, unlocked it with a key he carried in his pocket, sat down before it, took out a pen, and, before dipping it in the inkstand, sucked itto compose the fashion of his mouth perhaps, on which a smile was hovering yet.
How do our numbers stand since last enrolling-night? inquired Lord George. Are we really forty thousand strong, or do we still speak in round numbers when we take the Association at that amount?
Our total now exceeds that number by a score and three, Gashford replied, casting his eyes upon his papers.
Not very improving; but there is some manna in the wilderness, my lord. Hem! On Friday night the widows mites dropped in. Forty scavengers, three and fourpence. An aged pew-opener of St Martins parish, sixpence. A bell-ringer of the established church, sixpence. A Protestant infant, newly born, one halfpenny. The United Link Boys, three shillingsone bad. The anti-popish prisoners in Newgate, five and fourpence. A friend in Bedlam, half-a-crown. Dennis the hangman, one shilling.
That Dennis, said his lordship, is an earnest man. I marked him in the crowd in Welbeck Street, last Friday.
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