He had no longer any eyes for the crowd, but fixed his keen regards upon Sir John.
He stood in the same place and posture until the last man in the concourse had turned the corner of the street; then very deliberately took the blue cockade out of his hat; put it carefully in his pocket, ready for the next emergency; refreshed himself with a pinch of snuff; put up his box; and was walking slowly off, when a passing carriage stopped, and a lady's hand let down the glass. Sir John's hat was off again immediately. After a minute's conversation at the carriage-window, in which it was apparent that he was vastly entertaining on the subject of the mob, he stepped lightly in, and was driven away.
The secretary smiled, but he had other thoughts to dwell upon, and soon dismissed the topic. Dinner was brought him, but he sent it down untasted; and, in restless pacings up and down the room, and constant glances at the clock, and many futile efforts to sit down and read, or go to sleep, or look out of the window, consumed four weary hours. When the dial told him thus much time had crept away, he stole upstairs to the top of the house, and coming out upon the roof sat down, with his face towards the east.
Heedless of the fresh air that blew upon his heated brow, of the pleasant meadows from which he turned, of the piles of roofs and chimneys upon which he looked, of the smoke and rising mist he vainly sought to pierce, of the shrill cries of children at their evening sports, the distant hum and turmoil of the town, the cheerful country breath that rustled past to meet it, and to droop, and die; he watched, and watched, till it was dark save for the specks of light that twinkled in the streets below and far away-- and, as the darkness deepened, strained his gaze and grew more eager yet.
'Nothing but gloom in that direction, still!' he muttered restlessly. 'Dog! where is the redness in the sky, you promised me!'
Rumours of the prevailing disturbances had, by this time, begun to be pretty generally circulated through the towns and villages round London, and the tidings were everywhere received with that appetite for the marvellous and love of the terrible which have probably been among the natural characteristics of mankind since the creation of the world. These accounts, however, appeared, to many persons at that day--as they would to us at the present, but that we know them to be matter of history--so monstrous and improbable, that a great number of those who were resident at a distance, and who were credulous enough on other points, were really unable to bring their minds to believe that such things could be; and rejected the intelligence they received on all hands, as wholly fabulous and absurd.
Mr Willet--not so much, perhaps, on account of his having argued and settled the matter with himself, as by reason of his constitutional obstinacy--was one of those who positively refused to entertain the current topic for a moment. On this very evening, and perhaps at the very time when Gashford kept his solitary watch, old John was so red in the face with perpetually shaking his head in contradiction of his three ancient cronies and pot companions, that he was quite a phenomenon to behold, and lighted up the Maypole Porch wherein they sat together, like a monstrous carbuncle in a fairy tale.
'Do you think, sir,' said Mr Willet, looking hard at Solomon Daisy--for it was his custom in cases of personal altercation to fasten upon the smallest man in the party--'do you think, sir, that I'm a born fool?'
'No, no, Johnny,' returned Solomon, looking round upon the little circle of which he formed a part: 'We all know better than that. You're no fool, Johnny. No, no!'
Mr Cobb and Mr Parkes shook their heads in unison, muttering, 'No, no, Johnny, not you!' But as such compliments had usually the effect of making Mr Willet rather more dogged than before, he surveyed them with a look of deep disdain, and returned for answer:
'Then what do you mean by coming here, and telling me that this evening you're a-going to walk up to London together--you three-- you--and have the evidence of your own senses? An't,' said Mr Willet, putting his pipe in his mouth with an air of solemn disgust, 'an't the evidence of MY senses enough for you?'
'But we haven't got it, Johnny,' pleaded Parkes, humbly.