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Chapter 58

  • They were not long in reaching the barracks, for the officer who commanded th_arty was desirous to avoid rousing the people by the display of militar_orce in the streets, and was humanely anxious to give as little opportunit_s possible for any attempt at rescue; knowing that it must lead to bloodshe_nd loss of life, and that if the civil authorities by whom he wa_ccompanied, empowered him to order his men to fire, many innocent person_ould probably fall, whom curiosity or idleness had attracted to the spot. H_herefore led the party briskly on, avoiding with a merciful prudence the mor_ublic and crowded thoroughfares, and pursuing those which he deemed leas_ikely to be infested by disorderly persons. This wise proceeding not onl_nabled them to gain their quarters without any interruption, but completel_affled a body of rioters who had assembled in one of the main streets, through which it was considered certain they would pass, and who remaine_athered together for the purpose of releasing the prisoner from their hands, long after they had deposited him in a place of security, closed the barrack- gates, and set a double guard at every entrance for its better protection.
  • Arrived at this place, poor Barnaby was marched into a stone- floored room, where there was a very powerful smell of tobacco, a strong thorough draught o_ir, and a great wooden bedstead, large enough for a score of men. Severa_oldiers in undress were lounging about, or eating from tin cans; militar_ccoutrements dangled on rows of pegs along the whitewashed wall; and som_alf- dozen men lay fast asleep upon their backs, snoring in concert. Afte_emaining here just long enough to note these things, he was marched ou_gain, and conveyed across the parade-ground to another portion of th_uilding.
  • Perhaps a man never sees so much at a glance as when he is in a situation o_xtremity. The chances are a hundred to one, that if Barnaby had lounged in a_he gate to look about him, he would have lounged out again with a ver_mperfect idea of the place, and would have remembered very little about it.
  • But as he was taken handcuffed across the gravelled area, nothing escaped hi_otice. The dry, arid look of the dusty square, and of the bare bric_uilding; the clothes hanging at some of the windows; and the men in thei_hirt-sleeves and braces, lolling with half their bodies out of the others; the green sun-blinds at the officers’ quarters, and the little scanty trees i_ront; the drummer-boys practising in a distant courtyard; the men at drill o_he parade; the two soldiers carrying a basket between them, who winked t_ach other as he went by, and slily pointed to their throats; the spruc_erjeant who hurried past with a cane in his hand, and under his arm a claspe_ook with a vellum cover; the fellows in the ground- floor rooms, furbishin_nd brushing up their different articles of dress, who stopped to look at him, and whose voices as they spoke together echoed loudly through the empt_alleries and passages;— everything, down to the stand of muskets before th_uard-house, and the drum with a pipe-clayed belt attached, in one corner, impressed itself upon his observation, as though he had noticed them in th_ame place a hundred times, or had been a whole day among them, in place o_ne brief hurried minute.
  • He was taken into a small paved back yard, and there they opened a great door, plated with iron, and pierced some five feet above the ground with a few hole_o let in air and light. Into this dungeon he was walked straightway; an_aving locked him up there, and placed a sentry over him, they left him to hi_editations.
  • The cell, or black hole, for it had those words painted on the door, was ver_ark, and having recently accommodated a drunken deserter, by no means clean.
  • Barnaby felt his way to some straw at the farther end, and looking towards th_oor, tried to accustom himself to the gloom, which, coming from the brigh_unshine out of doors, was not an easy task.
  • There was a kind of portico or colonnade outside, and this obstructed even th_ittle light that at the best could have found its way through the smal_pertures in the door. The footsteps of the sentinel echoed monotonously as h_aced its stone pavement to and fro (reminding Barnaby of the watch he had s_ately kept himself); and as he passed and repassed the door, he made the cel_or an instant so black by the interposition of his body, that his going awa_gain seemed like the appearance of a new ray of light, and was quite _ircumstance to look for.
  • When the prisoner had sat sometime upon the ground, gazing at the chinks, an_istening to the advancing and receding footsteps of his guard, the man stoo_till upon his post. Barnaby, quite unable to think, or to speculate on wha_ould be done with him, had been lulled into a kind of doze by his regula_ace; but his stopping roused him; and then he became aware that two men wer_n conversation under the colonnade, and very near the door of his cell.
  • How long they had been talking there, he could not tell, for he had falle_nto an unconsciousness of his real position, and when the footsteps ceased, was answering aloud some question which seemed to have been put to him by Hug_n the stable, though of the fancied purport, either of question or reply, notwithstanding that he awoke with the latter on his lips, he had n_ecollection whatever. The first words that reached his ears, were these:
  • ‘Why is he brought here then, if he has to be taken away again so soon?’
  • ‘Why where would you have him go! Damme, he’s not as safe anywhere as amon_he king’s troops, is he? What would you do with him? Would you hand him ove_o a pack of cowardly civilians, that shake in their shoes till they wear th_oles out, with trembling at the threats of the ragamuffins he belongs to?’
  • ‘That’s true enough.’
  • ‘True enough!—I’ll tell you what. I wish, Tom Green, that I was a commissione_nstead of a non-commissioned officer, and that I had the command of tw_ompanies—only two companies—of my own regiment. Call me out to stop thes_iots—give me the needful authority, and half-a-dozen rounds of bal_artridge—’
  • ‘Ay!’ said the other voice. ‘That’s all very well, but they won’t give th_eedful authority. If the magistrate won’t give the word, what’s the office_o do?’
  • Not very well knowing, as it seemed, how to overcome this difficulty, th_ther man contented himself with damning the magistrates.
  • ‘With all my heart,’ said his friend.
  • ‘Where’s the use of a magistrate?’ returned the other voice. ‘What’s _agistrate in this case, but an impertinent, unnecessary, unconstitutiona_ort of interference? Here’s a proclamation. Here’s a man referred to in tha_roclamation. Here’s proof against him, and a witness on the spot. Damme! Tak_im out and shoot him, sir. Who wants a magistrate?’
  • ‘When does he go before Sir John Fielding?’ asked the man who had spoke_irst.
  • ‘To-night at eight o’clock,’ returned the other. ‘Mark what follows. Th_agistrate commits him to Newgate. Our people take him to Newgate. The rioter_elt our people. Our people retire before the rioters. Stones are thrown, insults are offered, not a shot’s fired. Why? Because of the magistrates. Dam_he magistrates!’
  • When he had in some degree relieved his mind by cursing the magistrates i_arious other forms of speech, the man was silent, save for a low growling, still having reference to those authorities, which from time to time escape_im.
  • Barnaby, who had wit enough to know that this conversation concerned, and ver_early concerned, himself, remained perfectly quiet until they ceased t_peak, when he groped his way to the door, and peeping through the air-holes, tried to make out what kind of men they were, to whom he had been listening.
  • The one who condemned the civil power in such strong terms, was _erjeant—engaged just then, as the streaming ribands in his cap announced, o_he recruiting service. He stood leaning sideways against a pillar nearl_pposite the door, and as he growled to himself, drew figures on the pavemen_ith his cane. The other man had his back towards the dungeon, and Barnab_ould only see his form. To judge from that, he was a gallant, manly, handsom_ellow, but he had lost his left arm. It had been taken off between the elbo_nd the shoulder, and his empty coat-sleeve hung across his breast.
  • It was probably this circumstance which gave him an interest beyond any tha_is companion could boast of, and attracted Barnaby’s attention. There wa_omething soldierly in his bearing, and he wore a jaunty cap and jacket.
  • Perhaps he had been in the service at one time or other. If he had, it coul_ot have been very long ago, for he was but a young fellow now.
  • ‘Well, well,’ he said thoughtfully; ‘let the fault be where it may, it makes _an sorrowful to come back to old England, and see her in this condition.’
  • ‘I suppose the pigs will join ’em next,’ said the serjeant, with a_mprecation on the rioters, ‘now that the birds have set ’em the example.’
  • ‘The birds!’ repeated Tom Green.
  • ‘Ah—birds,’ said the serjeant testily; ‘that’s English, an’t it?’
  • ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
  • ‘Go to the guard-house, and see. You’ll find a bird there, that’s got thei_ry as pat as any of ’em, and bawls “No Popery,” like a man—or like a devil, as he says he is. I shouldn’t wonder. The devil’s loose in London somewhere.
  • Damme if I wouldn’t twist his neck round, on the chance, if I had my way.’
  • The young man had taken two or three steps away, as if to go and see thi_reature, when he was arrested by the voice of Barnaby.
  • ‘It’s mine,’ he called out, half laughing and half weeping—‘my pet, my frien_rip. Ha ha ha! Don’t hurt him, he has done no harm. I taught him; it’s m_ault. Let me have him, if you please. He’s the only friend I have left now.
  • He’ll not dance, or talk, or whistle for you, I know; but he will for me, because he knows me and loves me—though you wouldn’t think it—very well. Yo_ouldn’t hurt a bird, I’m sure. You’re a brave soldier, sir, and wouldn’t har_ woman or a child—no, no, nor a poor bird, I’m certain.’
  • This latter adjuration was addressed to the serjeant, whom Barnaby judged fro_is red coat to be high in office, and able to seal Grip’s destiny by a word.
  • But that gentleman, in reply, surlily damned him for a thief and rebel as h_as, and with many disinterested imprecations on his own eyes, liver, blood, and body, assured him that if it rested with him to decide, he would put _inal stopper on the bird, and his master too.
  • ‘You talk boldly to a caged man,’ said Barnaby, in anger. ‘If I was on th_ther side of the door and there were none to part us, you’d change you_ote—ay, you may toss your head—you would! Kill the bird—do. Kill anything yo_an, and so revenge yourself on those who with their bare hands untied coul_o as much to you!’
  • Having vented his defiance, he flung himself into the furthest corner of hi_rison, and muttering, ‘Good bye, Grip—good bye, dear old Grip!’ shed tear_or the first time since he had been taken captive; and hid his face in th_traw.
  • He had had some fancy at first, that the one-armed man would help him, o_ould give him a kind word in answer. He hardly knew why, but he hoped an_hought so. The young fellow had stopped when he called out, and checkin_imself in the very act of turning round, stood listening to every word h_aid. Perhaps he built his feeble trust on this; perhaps on his being young, and having a frank and honest manner. However that might be, he built on sand.
  • The other went away directly he had finished speaking, and neither answere_im, nor returned. No matter. They were all against him here: he might hav_nown as much. Good bye, old Grip, good bye!
  • After some time, they came and unlocked the door, and called to him to com_ut. He rose directly, and complied, for he would not have them think he wa_ubdued or frightened. He walked out like a man, and looked from face to face.
  • None of them returned his gaze or seemed to notice it. They marched him bac_o the parade by the way they had brought him, and there they halted, among _ody of soldiers, at least twice as numerous as that which had taken hi_risoner in the afternoon. The officer he had seen before, bade him in a fe_rief words take notice that if he attempted to escape, no matter ho_avourable a chance he might suppose he had, certain of the men had orders t_ire upon him, that moment. They then closed round him as before, and marche_im off again.
  • In the same unbroken order they arrived at Bow Street, followed and beset o_ll sides by a crowd which was continually increasing. Here he was place_efore a blind gentleman, and asked if he wished to say anything. Not he. Wha_ad he got to tell them? After a very little talking, which he was careless o_nd quite indifferent to, they told him he was to go to Newgate, and took hi_way.
  • He went out into the street, so surrounded and hemmed in on every side b_oldiers, that he could see nothing; but he knew there was a great crowd o_eople, by the murmur; and that they were not friendly to the soldiers, wa_oon rendered evident by their yells and hisses. How often and how eagerly h_istened for the voice of Hugh! There was not a voice he knew among them all.
  • Was Hugh a prisoner too? Was there no hope!
  • As they came nearer and nearer to the prison, the hootings of the people gre_ore violent; stones were thrown; and every now and then, a rush was mad_gainst the soldiers, which they staggered under. One of them, close befor_im, smarting under a blow upon the temple, levelled his musket, but th_fficer struck it upwards with his sword, and ordered him on peril of his lif_o desist. This was the last thing he saw with any distinctness, for directl_fterwards he was tossed about, and beaten to and fro, as though in _empestuous sea. But go where he would, there were the same guards about him.
  • Twice or thrice he was thrown down, and so were they; but even then, he coul_ot elude their vigilance for a moment. They were up again, and had close_bout him, before he, with his wrists so tightly bound, could scramble to hi_eet. Fenced in, thus, he felt himself hoisted to the top of a low flight o_teps, and then for a moment he caught a glimpse of the fighting in the crowd, and of a few red coats sprinkled together, here and there, struggling t_ejoin their fellows. Next moment, everything was dark and gloomy, and he wa_tanding in the prison lobby; the centre of a group of men.
  • A smith was speedily in attendance, who riveted upon him a set of heavy irons.
  • Stumbling on as well as he could, beneath the unusual burden of these fetters, he was conducted to a strong stone cell, where, fastening the door with locks, and bolts, and chains, they left him, well secured; having first, unseen b_im, thrust in Grip, who, with his head drooping and his deep black plume_ough and rumpled, appeared to comprehend and to partake, his master’s falle_ortunes.