Chapters 75-78 Summary
A month has gone by, and the trials of the rioters have concluded. Hugh, Dennis, and Barnaby are found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Sir John Chester has followed the trials in the newspapers. He is at home when a visitor is announced. It is Gabriel Varden, and he has vital information to relate to Sir John. Dennis had asked Varden to give Sir John a message. Some twenty years previously, Dennis had hanged a gypsy woman who had been convicted of passing counterfeit money out of desperation. She told the hangman that she would like to kill the father of her child. She would not give his name, but through information derived from another prisoner years later, who had been her friend, Dennis learned that the man’s name was Chester. Gabriel begs Sir John to acknowledge Hugh as his son, especially since he has driven his legitimate son, Edward, from his door. Sir John refuses, and Gabriel leaves. Sir John is shaken by the news that he is the father of so uncouth a person, but he is sure this news will not pass the prison doors.
In the prison courtyard, Barnaby sits with his mother, who has spent every waking hour with her son. He seems to be unconscious of his fate coming the next day. Hugh is indifferent to his approaching death, but Dennis frantically tries to convince himself (and others) that he will be pardoned before the fateful hour. When the end of the day comes, Mrs. Rudge sends Barnaby to fetch a book for her, but when he leaves she becomes hysterical and must be carried out. Dennis tries to get the prison guard to let him stay in the yard for one more hour and begs him to seek the “missing” letter of his reprieve.
On the morning of their execution, Hugh, Dennis, and Barnaby wait in their cell for the coming of noon. A clergyman comes to speak with them. Hugh seems not to care. Barnaby says he is looking forward to dying, that much will be revealed to him. Dennis continues to beg for mercy. Hugh has only one regret: If he could give his life to save Barnaby, he would do so, because it is only because of Hugh that Barnaby joined the rioters. As they are led to the gallows, rioters all over London meet a similar fate.
Joe Willet tells his father that there is nothing for him in England since he lost his arm, so he is considering going with Edward Chester to the West Indies, where Edward has spent the past five years and made some success. Before Mr. Willet can respond, Dolly interrupts, throwing herself on Joe and begging him to marry her. Joe asks his father’s permission, and Mr. Willet’s response is, “Why not?”