To Hugh and his companion, who lay in a dark corner of the gloomy shed, he, and the sunlight, and the peaceful Sabbath sound to which he made response, seemed like a bright picture framed by the door, and set off by the stable's blackness. The whole formed such a contrast to themselves, as they lay wallowing, like some obscene animals, in their squalor and wickedness on the two heaps of straw, that for a few moments they looked on without speaking, and felt almost ashamed.
'Ah!'said Hugh at length, carrying it off with a laugh: 'He's a rare fellow is Barnaby, and can do more, with less rest, or meat, or drink, than any of us. As to his soldiering, I put him on duty there.'
'Then there was a object in it, and a proper good one too, I'll be sworn,' retorted Dennis with a broad grin, and an oath of the same quality. 'What was it, brother?'
'Why, you see,' said Hugh, crawling a little nearer to him, 'that our noble captain yonder, came in yesterday morning rather the worse for liquor, and was--like you and me--ditto last night.'
Dennis looked to where Simon Tappertit lay coiled upon a truss of hay, snoring profoundly, and nodded.
'And our noble captain,' continued Hugh with another laugh, 'our noble captain and I, have planned for to-morrow a roaring expedition, with good profit in it.'
'Again the Papists?' asked Dennis, rubbing his hands.
'Ay, against the Papists--against one of 'em at least, that some of us, and I for one, owe a good heavy grudge to.'
'Not Muster Gashford's friend that he spoke to us about in my house, eh?' said Dennis, brimfull of pleasant expectation.
'The same man,' said Hugh.
'That's your sort,' cried Mr Dennis, gaily shaking hands with him, 'that's the kind of game. Let's have revenges and injuries, and all that, and we shall get on twice as fast. Now you talk, indeed!'
'Ha ha ha! The captain,' added Hugh, 'has thoughts of carrying off a woman in the bustle, and--ha ha ha!--and so have I!'
Mr Dennis received this part of the scheme with a wry face, observing that as a general principle he objected to women altogether, as being unsafe and slippery persons on whom there was no calculating with any certainty, and who were never in the same mind for four-and-twenty hours at a stretch. He might have expatiated on this suggestive theme at much greater length, but that it occurred to him to ask what connection existed between the proposed expedition and Barnaby's being posted at the stable-door as sentry; to which Hugh cautiously replied in these words:
'Why, the people we mean to visit, were friends of his, once upon a time, and I know that much of him to feel pretty sure that if he thought we were going to do them any harm, he'd be no friend to our side, but would lend a ready hand to the other. So I've persuaded him (for I know him of old) that Lord George has picked him out to guard this place to-morrow while we're away, and that it's a great honour--and so he's on duty now, and as proud of it as if he was a general. Ha ha! What do you say to me for a careful man as well as a devil of a one?'
Mr Dennis exhausted himself in compliments, and then added,
'But about the expedition itself--'
'About that,' said Hugh, 'you shall hear all particulars from me and the great captain conjointly and both together--for see, he's waking up. Rouse yourself, lion-heart. Ha ha! Put a good face upon it, and drink again. Another hair of the dog that bit you, captain! Call for drink! There's enough of gold and silver cups and candlesticks buried underneath my bed,' he added, rolling back the straw, and pointing to where the ground was newly turned, 'to pay for it, if it was a score of casks full. Drink, captain!'
Mr Tappertit received these jovial promptings with a very bad grace, being much the worse, both in mind and body, for his two nights of debauch, and but indifferently able to stand upon his legs. With Hugh's assistance, however, he contrived to stagger to the pump; and having refreshed himself with an abundant draught of cold water, and a copious shower of the same refreshing liquid on his head and face, he ordered some rum and milk to be served; and upon that innocent beverage and some biscuits and cheese made a pretty hearty meal.