Chapter 59

It is necessary at this juncture to return to Hugh, who, having, as we have seen, called to the rioters to disperse from about the Warren, and meet again as usual, glided back into the darkness from which he had emerged, and reappeared no more that night.

He paused in the copse which sheltered him from the observation of his mad companions, and waited to ascertain whether they drew off at his bidding, or still lingered and called to him to join them. Some few, he saw, were indisposed to go away without him, and made towards the spot where he stood concealed as though they were about to follow in his footsteps, and urge him to come back; but these men, being in their turn called to by their friends, and in truth not greatly caring to venture into the dark parts of the grounds, where they might be easily surprised and taken, if any of the neighbours or retainers of the family were watching them from among the trees, soon abandoned the idea, and hastily assembling such men as they found of their mind at the moment, straggled off.

When he was satisfied that the great mass of the insurgents were imitating this example, and that the ground was rapidly clearing, he plunged into the thickest portion of the little wood; and, crashing the branches as he went, made straight towards a distant light: guided by that, and by the sullen glow of the fire behind him.

As he drew nearer and nearer to the twinkling beacon towards which he bent his course, the red glare of a few torches began to reveal itself, and the voices of men speaking together in a subdued tone broke the silence which, save for a distant shouting now and then, already prevailed. At length he cleared the wood, and, springing across a ditch, stood in a dark lane, where a small body of ill- looking vagabonds, whom he had left there some twenty minutes before, waited his coming with impatience.

They were gathered round an old post-chaise or chariot, driven by one of themselves, who sat postilion- wise upon the near horse. The blinds were drawn up, and Mr Tappertit and Dennis kept guard at the two windows. The former assumed the command of the party, for he challenged Hugh as he advanced towards them; and when he did so, those who were resting on the ground about the carriage rose to their feet and clustered round him.

‘Well!’ said Simon, in a low voice; ‘is all right?’

‘Right enough,’ replied Hugh, in the same tone. ‘They’re dispersing now—had begun before I came away.’

‘And is the coast clear?’

‘Clear enough before our men, I take it,’ said Hugh. ‘There are not many who, knowing of their work over yonder, will want to meddle with ’em to-night.—Who’s got some drink here?’

Everybody had some plunder from the cellar; half-a-dozen flasks and bottles were offered directly. He selected the largest, and putting it to his mouth, sent the wine gurgling down his throat. Having emptied it, he threw it down, and stretched out his hand for another, which he emptied likewise, at a draught. Another was given him, and this he half emptied too. Reserving what remained to finish with, he asked, ‘Have you got anything to eat, any of you? I’m as ravenous as a hungry wolf. Which of you was in the larder—come?’

‘I was, brother,’ said Dennis, pulling off his hat, and fumbling in the crown. ‘There’s a matter of cold venison pasty somewhere or another here, if that’ll do.’

‘Do!’ cried Hugh, seating himself on the pathway. ‘Bring it out! Quick! Show a light here, and gather round! Let me sup in state, my lads! Ha ha ha!’

Entering into his boisterous humour, for they all had drunk deeply, and were as wild as he, they crowded about him, while two of their number who had torches, held them up, one on either side of him, that his

  By PanEris using Melati.

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