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Chapter 63

  • During the whole of this day, every regiment in or near the metropolis was o_uty in one or other part of the town; and the regulars and militia, i_bedience to the orders which were sent to every barrack and station withi_wenty-four hours’ journey, began to pour in by all the roads. But th_isturbance had attained to such a formidable height, and the rioters ha_rown, with impunity, to be so audacious, that the sight of this great force, continually augmented by new arrivals, instead of operating as a check, stimulated them to outrages of greater hardihood than any they had ye_ommitted; and helped to kindle a flame in London, the like of which had neve_een beheld, even in its ancient and rebellious times.
  • All yesterday, and on this day likewise, the commander-in-chief endeavoured t_rouse the magistrates to a sense of their duty, and in particular the Lor_ayor, who was the faintest-hearted and most timid of them all. With thi_bject, large bodies of the soldiery were several times despatched to th_ansion House to await his orders: but as he could, by no threats o_ersuasions, be induced to give any, and as the men remained in the ope_treet, fruitlessly for any good purpose, and thrivingly for a very bad one; these laudable attempts did harm rather than good. For the crowd, becomin_peedily acquainted with the Lord Mayor’s temper, did not fail to tak_dvantage of it by boasting that even the civil authorities were opposed t_he Papists, and could not find it in their hearts to molest those who wer_uilty of no other offence. These vaunts they took care to make within th_earing of the soldiers; and they, being naturally loth to quarrel with th_eople, received their advances kindly enough: answering, when they were aske_f they desired to fire upon their countrymen, ‘No, they would be damned i_hey did;’ and showing much honest simplicity and good nature. The feelin_hat the military were No- Popery men, and were ripe for disobeying orders an_oining the mob, soon became very prevalent in consequence. Rumours of thei_isaffection, and of their leaning towards the popular cause, spread fro_outh to mouth with astonishing rapidity; and whenever they were drawn up idl_n the streets or squares, there was sure to be a crowd about them, cheerin_nd shaking hands, and treating them with a great show of confidence an_ffection.
  • By this time, the crowd was everywhere; all concealment and disguise were lai_side, and they pervaded the whole town. If any man among them wanted money, he had but to knock at the door of a dwelling-house, or walk into a shop, an_emand it in the rioters name; and his demand was instantly complied with. Th_eaceable citizens being afraid to lay hands upon them, singly and alone, i_ay be easily supposed that when gathered together in bodies, they wer_erfectly secure from interruption. They assembled in the streets, traverse_hem at their will and pleasure, and publicly concerted their plans. Busines_as quite suspended; the greater part of the shops were closed; most of th_ouses displayed a blue flag in token of their adherence to the popular side; and even the Jews in Houndsditch, Whitechapel, and those quarters, wrote upo_heir doors or window-shutters, ‘This House is a True Protestant.’ The crow_as the law, and never was the law held in greater dread, or more implicitl_beyed.
  • It was about six o’clock in the evening, when a vast mob poured into Lincoln’_nn Fields by every avenue, and divided—evidently in pursuance of a previou_esign—into several parties. It must not be understood that this arrangemen_as known to the whole crowd, but that it was the work of a few leaders; who, mingling with the men as they came upon the ground, and calling to them t_all into this or that parry, effected it as rapidly as if it had bee_etermined on by a council of the whole number, and every man had known hi_lace.
  • It was perfectly notorious to the assemblage that the largest body, whic_omprehended about two-thirds of the whole, was designed for the attack o_ewgate. It comprehended all the rioters who had been conspicuous in any o_heir former proceedings; all those whom they recommended as daring hands an_it for the work; all those whose companions had been taken in the riots; an_ great number of people who were relatives or friends of felons in the jail.
  • This last class included, not only the most desperate and utterly abandone_illains in London, but some who were comparatively innocent. There was mor_han one woman there, disguised in man’s attire, and bent upon the rescue of _hild or brother. There were the two sons of a man who lay under sentence o_eath, and who was to be executed along with three others, on the next day bu_ne. There was a great parry of boys whose fellow-pickpockets were in th_rison; and at the skirts of all, a score of miserable women, outcasts fro_he world, seeking to release some other fallen creature as miserable a_hemselves, or moved by a general sympathy perhaps—God knows—with all who wer_ithout hope, and wretched.
  • Old swords, and pistols without ball or powder; sledge-hammers, knives, axes, saws, and weapons pillaged from the butchers’ shops; a forest of iron bars an_ooden clubs; long ladders for scaling the walls, each carried on th_houlders of a dozen men; lighted torches; tow smeared with pitch, and tar, and brimstone; staves roughly plucked from fence and paling; and even crutche_aken from crippled beggars in the streets; composed their arms. When all wa_eady, Hugh and Dennis, with Simon Tappertit between them, led the way.
  • Roaring and chafing like an angry sea, the crowd pressed after them.
  • Instead of going straight down Holborn to the jail, as all expected, thei_eaders took the way to Clerkenwell, and pouring down a quiet street, halte_efore a locksmith’s house—the Golden Key.
  • ‘Beat at the door,’ cried Hugh to the men about him. ‘We want one of his craf_o-night. Beat it in, if no one answers.’
  • The shop was shut. Both door and shutters were of a strong and sturdy kind, and they knocked without effect. But the impatient crowd raising a cry of ‘Se_ire to the house!’ and torches being passed to the front, an upper window wa_hrown open, and the stout old locksmith stood before them.
  • ‘What now, you villains!’ he demanded. ‘Where is my daughter?’
  • ‘Ask no questions of us, old man,’ retorted Hugh, waving his comrades to b_ilent, ‘but come down, and bring the tools of your trade. We want you.’
  • ‘Want me!’ cried the locksmith, glancing at the regimental dress he wore: ‘Ay, and if some that I could name possessed the hearts of mice, ye should have ha_e long ago. Mark me, my lad—and you about him do the same. There are a scor_mong ye whom I see now and know, who are dead men from this hour. Begone! an_ob an undertaker’s while you can! You’ll want some coffins before long.’
  • ‘Will you come down?’ cried Hugh.
  • ‘Will you give me my daughter, ruffian?’ cried the locksmith.
  • ‘I know nothing of her,’ Hugh rejoined. ‘Burn the door!’
  • ‘Stop!’ cried the locksmith, in a voice that made them falter— presenting, a_e spoke, a gun. ‘Let an old man do that. You can spare him better.’
  • The young fellow who held the light, and who was stooping down before th_oor, rose hastily at these words, and fell back. The locksmith ran his ey_long the upturned faces, and kept the weapon levelled at the threshold of hi_ouse. It had no other rest than his shoulder, but was as steady as the hous_tself.
  • ‘Let the man who does it, take heed to his prayers,’ he said firmly; ‘I war_im.’
  • Snatching a torch from one who stood near him, Hugh was stepping forward wit_n oath, when he was arrested by a shrill and piercing shriek, and, lookin_pward, saw a fluttering garment on the house- top.
  • There was another shriek, and another, and then a shrill voice cried, ‘I_immun below!’ At the same moment a lean neck was stretched over the parapet, and Miss Miggs, indistinctly seen in the gathering gloom of evening, screeche_n a frenzied manner, ‘Oh! dear gentlemen, let me hear Simmuns’s answer fro_is own lips. Speak to me, Simmun. Speak to me!’
  • Mr Tappertit, who was not at all flattered by this compliment, looked up, an_idding her hold her peace, ordered her to come down and open the door, fo_hey wanted her master, and would take no denial.
  • ‘Oh good gentlemen!’ cried Miss Miggs. ‘Oh my own precious, precious Simmun—’
  • ‘Hold your nonsense, will you!’ retorted Mr Tappertit; ‘and come down and ope_he door.—G. Varden, drop that gun, or it will be worse for you.’
  • ‘Don’t mind his gun,’ screamed Miggs. ‘Simmun and gentlemen, I poured a mug o_able-beer right down the barrel.’
  • The crowd gave a loud shout, which was followed by a roar of laughter.
  • ‘It wouldn’t go off, not if you was to load it up to the muzzle,’ screame_iggs. ‘Simmun and gentlemen, I’m locked up in the front attic, through th_ittle door on the right hand when you think you’ve got to the very top of th_tairs—and up the flight of corner steps, being careful not to knock you_eads against the rafters, and not to tread on one side in case you shoul_all into the two-pair bedroom through the lath and plasture, which do no_ear, but the contrairy. Simmun and gentlemen, I’ve been locked up here fo_afety, but my endeavours has always been, and always will be, to be on th_ight side—the blessed side and to prenounce the Pope of Babylon, and all he_nward and her outward workings, which is Pagin. My sentiments is of littl_onsequences, I know,’ cried Miggs, with additional shrillness, ‘for m_ositions is but a servant, and as sich, of humilities, still I give_xpressions to my feelings, and places my reliances on them which entertain_y own opinions!’
  • Without taking much notice of these outpourings of Miss Miggs after she ha_ade her first announcement in relation to the gun, the crowd raised a ladde_gainst the window where the locksmith stood, and notwithstanding that h_losed, and fastened, and defended it manfully, soon forced an entrance b_hivering the glass and breaking in the frames. After dealing a few stou_lows about him, he found himself defenceless, in the midst of a furiou_rowd, which overflowed the room and softened off in a confused heap of face_t the door and window.
  • They were very wrathful with him (for he had wounded two men), and even calle_ut to those in front, to bring him forth and hang him on a lamp-post. Bu_abriel was quite undaunted, and looked from Hugh and Dennis, who held him b_ither arm, to Simon Tappertit, who confronted him.
  • ‘You have robbed me of my daughter,’ said the locksmith, ‘who is far dearer t_e than my life; and you may take my life, if you will. I bless God that _ave been enabled to keep my wife free of this scene; and that He has made m_ man who will not ask mercy at such hands as yours.’
  • ‘And a wery game old gentleman you are,’ said Mr Dennis, approvingly; ‘and yo_xpress yourself like a man. What’s the odds, brother, whether it’s a lamp- post to-night, or a feather- bed ten year to come, eh?’
  • The locksmith glanced at him disdainfully, but returned no other answer.
  • ‘For my part,’ said the hangman, who particularly favoured the lamp-pos_uggestion, ‘I honour your principles. They’re mine exactly. In suc_entiments as them,’ and here he emphasised his discourse with an oath, ‘I’_eady to meet you or any man halfway.— Have you got a bit of cord anywhere_andy? Don’t put yourself out of the way, if you haven’t. A handkecher wil_o.’
  • ‘Don’t be a fool, master,’ whispered Hugh, seizing Varden roughly by th_houlder; ‘but do as you’re bid. You’ll soon hear what you’re wanted for. D_t!’
  • ‘I’ll do nothing at your request, or that of any scoundrel here,’ returned th_ocksmith. ‘If you want any service from me, you may spare yourselves th_ains of telling me what it is. I tell you, beforehand, I’ll do nothing fo_ou.’
  • Mr Dennis was so affected by this constancy on the part of the staunch ol_an, that he protested—almost with tears in his eyes— that to baulk hi_nclinations would be an act of cruelty and hard dealing to which he, for one, never could reconcile his conscience. The gentleman, he said, had avowed in s_any words that he was ready for working off; such being the case, h_onsidered it their duty, as a civilised and enlightened crowd, to work hi_ff. It was not often, he observed, that they had it in their power t_ccommodate themselves to the wishes of those from whom they had th_isfortune to differ. Having now found an individual who expressed a desir_hich they could reasonably indulge (and for himself he was free to confes_hat in his opinion that desire did honour to his feelings), he hoped the_ould decide to accede to his proposition before going any further. It was a_xperiment which, skilfully and dexterously performed, would be over in fiv_inutes, with great comfort and satisfaction to all parties; and though it di_ot become him (Mr Dennis) to speak well of himself he trusted he might b_llowed to say that he had practical knowledge of the subject, and, bein_aturally of an obliging and friendly disposition, would work the gentlema_ff with a deal of pleasure.
  • These remarks, which were addressed in the midst of a frightful din an_urmoil to those immediately about him, were received with great favour; no_o much, perhaps, because of the hangman’s eloquence, as on account of th_ocksmith’s obstinacy. Gabriel was in imminent peril, and he knew it; but h_reserved a steady silence; and would have done so, if they had been debatin_hether they should roast him at a slow fire.
  • As the hangman spoke, there was some stir and confusion on the ladder; an_irectly he was silent—so immediately upon his holding his peace, that th_rowd below had no time to learn what he had been saying, or to shout i_esponse—some one at the window cried:
  • ‘He has a grey head. He is an old man: Don’t hurt him!’
  • The locksmith turned, with a start, towards the place from which the words ha_ome, and looked hurriedly at the people who were hanging on the ladder an_linging to each other.
  • ‘Pay no respect to my grey hair, young man,’ he said, answering the voice an_ot any one he saw. ‘I don’t ask it. My heart is green enough to scorn an_espise every man among you, band of robbers that you are!’
  • This incautious speech by no means tended to appease the ferocity of th_rowd. They cried again to have him brought out; and it would have gone har_ith the honest locksmith, but that Hugh reminded them, in answer, that the_anted his services, and must have them.
  • ‘So, tell him what we want,’ he said to Simon Tappertit, ‘and quickly. An_pen your ears, master, if you would ever use them after to-night.’
  • Gabriel folded his arms, which were now at liberty, and eyed his old ‘prentic_n silence.
  • ‘Lookye, Varden,’ said Sim, ‘we’re bound for Newgate.’
  • ‘I know you are,’ returned the locksmith. ‘You never said a truer word tha_hat.’
  • ‘To burn it down, I mean,’ said Simon, ‘and force the gates, and set th_risoners at liberty. You helped to make the lock of the great door.’
  • ‘I did,’ said the locksmith. ‘You owe me no thanks for that—as you’ll fin_efore long.’
  • ‘Maybe,’ returned his journeyman, ‘but you must show us how to force it.’
  • ‘Must I!’
  • ‘Yes; for you know, and I don’t. You must come along with us, and pick it wit_our own hands.’
  • ‘When I do,’ said the locksmith quietly, ‘my hands shall drop off at th_rists, and you shall wear them, Simon Tappertit, on your shoulders fo_paulettes.’
  • ‘We’ll see that,’ cried Hugh, interposing, as the indignation of the crow_gain burst forth. ‘You fill a basket with the tools he’ll want, while I brin_im downstairs. Open the doors below, some of you. And light the grea_aptain, others! Is there no business afoot, my lads, that you can do nothin_ut stand and grumble?’
  • They looked at one another, and quickly dispersing, swarmed over the house, plundering and breaking, according to their custom, and carrying off suc_rticles of value as happened to please their fancy. They had no great lengt_f time for these proceedings, for the basket of tools was soon prepared an_lung over a man’s shoulders. The preparations being now completed, an_verything ready for the attack, those who were pillaging and destroying i_he other rooms were called down to the workshop. They were about to issu_orth, when the man who had been last upstairs, stepped forward, and asked i_he young woman in the garret (who was making a terrible noise, he said, an_ept on screaming without the least cessation) was to be released?
  • For his own part, Simon Tappertit would certainly have replied in th_egative, but the mass of his companions, mindful of the good service she ha_one in the matter of the gun, being of a different opinion, he had nothin_or it but to answer, Yes. The man, accordingly, went back again to th_escue, and presently returned with Miss Miggs, limp and doubled up, and ver_amp from much weeping.
  • As the young lady had given no tokens of consciousness on their wa_ownstairs, the bearer reported her either dead or dying; and being at som_oss what to do with her, was looking round for a convenient bench or heap o_shes on which to place her senseless form, when she suddenly came upon he_eet by some mysterious means, thrust back her hair, stared wildly at M_appertit, cried, ‘My Simmuns’s life is not a wictim!’ and dropped into hi_rms with such promptitude that he staggered and reeled some paces back, beneath his lovely burden.
  • ‘Oh bother!’ said Mr Tappertit. ‘Here. Catch hold of her, somebody. Lock he_p again; she never ought to have been let out.’
  • ‘My Simmun!’ cried Miss Miggs, in tears, and faintly. ‘My for ever, eve_lessed Simmun!’
  • ‘Hold up, will you,’ said Mr Tappertit, in a very unresponsive tone, ‘I’ll le_ou fall if you don’t. What are you sliding your feet off the ground for?’
  • ‘My angel Simmuns!’ murmured Miggs—‘he promised—’
  • ‘Promised! Well, and I’ll keep my promise,’ answered Simon, testily. ‘I mea_o provide for you, don’t I? Stand up!’
  • ‘Where am I to go? What is to become of me after my actions of this night!’ cried Miggs. ‘What resting-places now remains but in the silent tombses!’
  • ‘I wish you was in the silent tombses, I do,’ cried Mr Tappertit, ‘and boxe_p tight, in a good strong one. Here,’ he cried to one of the bystanders, i_hose ear he whispered for a moment: ‘Take her off, will you. You understan_here?’
  • The fellow nodded; and taking her in his arms, notwithstanding her broke_rotestations, and her struggles (which latter species of opposition, involving scratches, was much more difficult of resistance), carried her away.
  • They who were in the house poured out into the street; the locksmith was take_o the head of the crowd, and required to walk between his two conductors; th_hole body was put in rapid motion; and without any shouts or noise they bor_own straight on Newgate, and halted in a dense mass before the prison-gate.