Very good, John,' was his mild reply. 'Thank you, John. Nobody need sit up. I know my room.'
'I hope you're not a-going to trouble your head to-night, or my lord's head neither, with anything more about Bloody Mary,' said John. 'I wish the blessed old creetur had never been born.'
'I said you might go to bed, John,' returned the secretary. 'You didn't hear me, I think.'
'Between Bloody Marys, and blue cockades, and glorious Queen Besses, and no Poperys, and Protestant associations, and making of speeches,' pursued John Grueby, looking, as usual, a long way off, and taking no notice of this hint, 'my lord's half off his head. When we go out o' doors, such a set of ragamuffins comes a- shouting after us, "Gordon forever!" that I'm ashamed of myself and don't know where to look. When we're indoors, they come a- roaring and screaming about the house like so many devils; and my lord instead of ordering them to be drove away, goes out into the balcony and demeans himself by making speeches to 'em, and calls 'em "Men of England," and "Fellow-countrymen," as if he was fond of 'em and thanked 'em for coming. I can't make it out, but they're all mixed up somehow or another with that unfort'nate Bloody Mary, and call her name out till they're hoarse. They're all Protestants too--every man and boy among 'em: and Protestants are very fond of spoons, I find, and silver-plate in general, whenever area-gates is left open accidentally. I wish that was the worst of it, and that no more harm might be to come; but if you don't stop these ugly customers in time, Mr Gashford (and I know you; you're the man that blows the fire), you'll find 'em grow a little bit too strong for you. One of these evenings, when the weather gets warmer and Protestants are thirsty, they'll be pulling London down,--and I never heard that Bloody Mary went as far as THAT.'
Gashford had vanished long ago, and these remarks had been bestowed on empty air. Not at all discomposed by the discovery, John Grueby fixed his hat on, wrongside foremost that he might be unconscious of the shadow of the obnoxious cockade, and withdrew to bed; shaking his head in a very gloomy and prophetic manner until he reached his chamber.
Gashford, with a smiling face, but still with looks of profound deference and humility, betook himself towards his master's room, smoothing his hair down as he went, and humming a psalm tune. As he approached Lord George's door, he cleared his throat and hummed more vigorously.
There was a remarkable contrast between this man's 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 thought--ah! 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 country's 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 hearts--what 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.
'My--my 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.