He remained smiling in silence for a short time longer, and then said, slowly and distinctly:
'You are indeed an earnest fellow, Dennis--a most valuable fellow-- the staunchest man I know of in our ranks. But you must calm yourself; you must be peaceful, lawful, mild as any lamb. I am sure you will be though.'
'Ay, ay, we shall see, Muster Gashford, we shall see. You won't have to complain of me,' returned the other, shaking his head.
'I am sure I shall not,' said the secretary in the same mild tone, and with the same emphasis. 'We shall have, we think, about next month, or May, when this Papist relief bill comes before the house, to convene our whole body for the first time. My lord has thoughts of our walking in procession through the streets--just as an innocent display of strength--and accompanying our petition down to the door of the House of Commons.'
'The sooner the better,' said Dennis, with another oath.
'We shall have to draw up in divisions, our numbers being so large; and, I believe I may venture to say,' resumed Gashford, affecting not to hear the interruption, 'though I have no direct instructions to that effect--that Lord George has thought of you as an excellent leader for one of these parties. I have no doubt you would be an admirable one.'
'Try me,' said the fellow, with an ugly wink.
'You would be cool, I know,' pursued the secretary, still smiling, and still managing his eyes so that he could watch him closely, and really not be seen in turn, 'obedient to orders, and perfectly temperate. You would lead your party into no danger, I am certain.'
'I'd lead them, Muster Gashford,'--the hangman was beginning in a reckless way, when Gashford started forward, laid his finger on his lips, and feigned to write, just as the door was opened by John Grueby.
'Oh!' said John, looking in; 'here's another Protestant.'
'Some other room, John,' cried Gashford in his blandest voice. 'I am engaged just now.'
But John had brought this new visitor to the door, and he walked in unbidden, as the words were uttered; giving to view the form and features, rough attire, and reckless air, of Hugh.
The secretary put his hand before his eyes to shade them from the glare of the lamp, and for some moments looked at Hugh with a frowning brow, as if he remembered to have seen him lately, but could not call to mind where, or on what occasion. His uncertainty was very brief, for before Hugh had spoken a word, he said, as his countenance cleared up:
'Ay, ay, I recollect. It's quite right, John, you needn't wait. Don't go, Dennis.'
'Your servant, master,' said Hugh, as Grueby disappeared.
'Yours, friend,' returned the secretary in his smoothest manner. 'What brings YOU here? We left nothing behind us, I hope?'
Hugh gave a short laugh, and thrusting his hand into his breast, produced one of the handbills, soiled and dirty from lying out of doors all night, which he laid upon the secretary's desk after flattening it upon his knee, and smoothing out the wrinkles with his heavy palm.
'Nothing but that, master. It fell into good hands, you see.'
'What is this!' said Gashford, turning it over with an air of perfectly natural surprise. 'Where did you get it from, my good fellow; what does it mean? I don't understand this at all.'
A little disconcerted by this reception, Hugh looked from the secretary to Dennis, who had risen and was standing at the table too, observing the stranger by stealth, and seeming to derive the utmost satisfaction from his manners and appearance. Considering himself silently appealed to by this action, Mr Dennis shook his head thrice, as if to say of Gashford, 'No. He don't know anything at all about it. I know he don't. I'll take my oath he don't;' and hiding his profile from Hugh with one long end of his frowzy neckerchief, nodded and chuckled behind this screen in extreme approval of the secretary's proceedings.
'It tells the man that finds it, to come here, don't it?' asked Hugh.