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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 58

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 58

They were not long in reaching the barracks, for the officer who
commanded the party was desirous to avoid rousing the people by the
display of military force in the streets, and was humanely anxious
to give as little opportunity as possible for any attempt at
rescue; knowing that it must lead to bloodshed and loss of life,
and that if the civil authorities by whom he was accompanied,
empowered him to order his men to fire, many innocent persons would
probably fall, whom curiosity or idleness had attracted to the
spot. He therefore led the party briskly on, avoiding with a
merciful prudence the more public and crowded thoroughfares, and
pursuing those which he deemed least likely to be infested by
disorderly persons. This wise proceeding not only enabled them to
gain their quarters without any interruption, but completely
baffled a body of rioters who had assembled in one of the main
streets, through which it was considered certain they would pass,
and who remained gathered 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 of air, and a great wooden bedstead, large
enough for a score of men. Several soldiers in undress were
lounging about, or eating from tin cans; military accoutrements
dangled on rows of pegs along the whitewashed wall; and some half-
dozen men lay fast asleep upon their backs, snoring in concert.
After remaining here just long enough to note these things, he was
marched out again, and conveyed across the parade-ground to another
portion of the building.

Perhaps a man never sees so much at a glance as when he is in a
situation of extremity. The chances are a hundred to one, that if
Barnaby had lounged in at the gate to look about him, he would have
lounged out again with a very imperfect idea of the place, and
would have remembered very little about it. But as he was taken
handcuffed across the gravelled area, nothing escaped his notice.
The dry, arid look of the dusty square, and of the bare brick
building; the clothes hanging at some of the windows; and the men
in their shirt-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 in front; the drummer-boys practising
in a distant courtyard; the men at drill on the parade; the two
soldiers carrying a basket between them, who winked to each other
as he went by, and slily pointed to their throats; the spruce
serjeant who hurried past with a cane in his hand, and under his
arm a clasped book with a vellum cover; the fellows in the ground-
floor rooms, furbishing and brushing up their different articles of
dress, who stopped to look at him, and whose voices as they spoke
together echoed loudly through the empty galleries and passages;--
everything, down to the stand of muskets before the guard-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 the same place a hundred times, or had been a whole day
among them, in place of one 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 holes to let in air and light. Into this dungeon
he was walked straightway; and having locked him up there, and
placed a sentry over him, they left him to his meditations.

The cell, or black hole, for it had those words painted on the
door, was very dark, 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 the door, tried to accustom
himself to the gloom, which, coming from the bright sunshine out of
doors, was not an easy task.

There was a kind of portico or colonnade outside, and this
obstructed even the little light that at the best could have found
its way through the small apertures in the door. The footsteps of
the sentinel echoed monotonously as he paced its stone pavement to
and fro (reminding Barnaby of the watch he had so lately kept
himself); and as he passed and repassed the door, he made the cell
for an instant so black by the interposition of his body, that his
going away again seemed like the appearance of a new ray of light,
and was quite a circumstance to look for.

When the prisoner had sat sometime upon the ground, gazing at the
chinks, and listening to the advancing and receding footsteps of
his guard, the man stood still upon his post. Barnaby, quite
unable to think, or to speculate on what would be done with him,
had been lulled into a kind of doze by his regular pace; but his
stopping roused him; and then he became aware that two men were in
conversation under the colonnade, and very near the door of his

How long they had been talking there, he could not tell, for he had
fallen into 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 Hugh in the stable, though of the fancied
purport, either of question or reply, notwithstanding that he awoke
with the latter on his lips, he had no recollection 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

'Why where would you have him go! Damme, he's not as safe anywhere
as among the king's troops, is he? What WOULD you do with him?
Would you hand him over to a pack of cowardly civilians, that shake
in their shoes till they wear the soles 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
commissioned instead of a non-commissioned officer, and that I had
the command of two companies--only two companies--of my own
regiment. Call me out to stop these riots--give me the needful
authority, and half-a-dozen rounds of ball cartridge--'

'Ay!' said the other voice. 'That's all very well, but they won't
give the needful authority. If the magistrate won't give the
word, what's the officer to do?'

Not very well knowing, as it seemed, how to overcome this
difficulty, the other man contented himself with damning the

'With all my heart,' said his friend.

'Where's the use of a magistrate?' returned the other voice.
'What's a magistrate in this case, but an impertinent, unnecessary,
unconstitutional sort of interference? Here's a proclamation.
Here's a man referred to in that proclamation. Here's proof
against him, and a witness on the spot. Damme! Take him out and
shoot him, sir. Who wants a magistrate?'

'When does he go before Sir John Fielding?' asked the man who had
spoken first.

'To-night at eight o'clock,' returned the other. 'Mark what
follows. The magistrate commits him to Newgate. Our people take
him to Newgate. The rioters pelt our people. Our people retire
before the rioters. Stones are thrown, insults are offered, not a
shot's fired. Why? Because of the magistrates. Damn the

When he had in some degree relieved his mind by cursing the
magistrates in various other forms of speech, the man was silent,
save for a low growling, still having reference to those
authorities, which from time to time escaped him.

Barnaby, who had wit enough to know that this conversation
concerned, and very nearly concerned, himself, remained perfectly
quiet until they ceased to speak, 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 a
serjeant--engaged just then, as the streaming ribands in his cap
announced, on the recruiting service. He stood leaning sideways
against a pillar nearly opposite the door, and as he growled to
himself, drew figures on the pavement with his cane. The other
man had his back towards the dungeon, and Barnaby could only see
his form. To judge from that, he was a gallant, manly, handsome
fellow, but he had lost his left arm. It had been taken off
between the elbow and the shoulder, and his empty coat-sleeve hung
across his breast.

It was probably this circumstance which gave him an interest beyond
any that his companion could boast of, and attracted Barnaby's
attention. There was something 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 could not 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 a man 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 an
imprecation on the rioters, 'now that the birds have set 'em the

'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 their cry 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 this creature, when he was arrested by the voice of Barnaby.

'It's mine,' he called out, half laughing and half weeping--'my
pet, my friend Grip. Ha ha ha! Don't hurt him, he has done no
harm. I taught him; it's my fault. 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.
You wouldn't hurt a bird, I'm sure. You're a brave soldier, sir,
and wouldn't harm a woman or a child--no, no, nor a poor bird, I'm

This latter adjuration was addressed to the serjeant, whom Barnaby
judged from his 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 he was, 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 a
final stopper on the bird, and his master too.

'You talk boldly to a caged man,' said Barnaby, in anger. 'If I
was on the other side of the door and there were none to part us,
you'd change your note--ay, you may toss your head--you would!
Kill the bird--do. Kill anything you can, and so revenge yourself
on those who with their bare hands untied could do as much to you!'

Having vented his defiance, he flung himself into the furthest
corner of his prison, and muttering, 'Good bye, Grip--good bye,
dear old Grip!' shed tears for the first time since he had been
taken captive; and hid his face in the straw.

He had had some fancy at first, that the one-armed man would help
him, or would give him a kind word in answer. He hardly knew why,
but he hoped and thought so. The young fellow had stopped when he
called out, and checking himself in the very act of turning round,
stood listening to every word he said. 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 answered
him, nor returned. No matter. They were all against him here: he
might have known as much. Good bye, old Grip, good bye!

After some time, they came and unlocked the door, and called to him
to come out. He rose directly, and complied, for he would not have
THEM think he was subdued 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 back to the parade by the way they had brought him, and
there they halted, among a body of soldiers, at least twice as
numerous as that which had taken him prisoner in the afternoon.
The officer he had seen before, bade him in a few brief words take
notice that if he attempted to escape, no matter how favourable a
chance he might suppose he had, certain of the men had orders to
fire upon him, that moment. They then closed round him as before,
and marched him off again.

In the same unbroken order they arrived at Bow Street, followed and
beset on all sides by a crowd which was continually increasing.
Here he was placed before a blind gentleman, and asked if he wished
to say anything. Not he. What had he got to tell them? After a
very little talking, which he was careless of and quite indifferent
to, they told him he was to go to Newgate, and took him away.

He went out into the street, so surrounded and hemmed in on every
side by soldiers, that he could see nothing; but he knew there was
a great crowd of people, by the murmur; and that they were not
friendly to the soldiers, was soon rendered evident by their yells
and hisses. How often and how eagerly he listened 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 grew more violent; stones were thrown; and every now and
then, a rush was made against the soldiers, which they staggered
under. One of them, close before him, smarting under a blow upon
the temple, levelled his musket, but the officer struck it upwards
with his sword, and ordered him on peril of his life to desist.
This was the last thing he saw with any distinctness, for directly
afterwards he was tossed about, and beaten to and fro, as though in
a tempestuous 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 could not elude their vigilance for a
moment. They were up again, and had closed about him, before he,
with his wrists so tightly bound, could scramble to his feet.
Fenced in, thus, he felt himself hoisted to the top of a low flight
of steps, 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 to rejoin their fellows. Next moment, everything
was dark and gloomy, and he was standing 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 by him, thrust in
Grip, who, with his head drooping and his deep black plumes rough
and rumpled, appeared to comprehend and to partake, his master's
fallen fortunes.

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Index Index

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64
Chapter 65
Chapter 66
Chapter 67
Chapter 68
Chapter 69
Chapter 70
Chapter 71
Chapter 72
Chapter 73
Chapter 74
Chapter 75
Chapter 76
Chapter 77
Chapter 78
Chapter 79
Chapter 80
Chapter 81
Chapter 82

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