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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 63

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 63

During the whole of this day, every regiment in or near the
metropolis was on duty in one or other part of the town; and the
regulars and militia, in obedience to the orders which were sent to
every barrack and station within twenty-four hours' journey, began
to pour in by all the roads. But the disturbance had attained to
such a formidable height, and the rioters had grown, 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
yet committed; and helped to kindle a flame in London, the like of
which had never been beheld, even in its ancient and rebellious

All yesterday, and on this day likewise, the commander-in-chief
endeavoured to arouse the magistrates to a sense of their duty, and
in particular the Lord Mayor, who was the faintest-hearted and most
timid of them all. With this object, large bodies of the soldiery
were several times despatched to the Mansion House to await his
orders: but as he could, by no threats or persuasions, be induced
to give any, and as the men remained in the open street,
fruitlessly for any good purpose, and thrivingly for a very bad
one; these laudable attempts did harm rather than good. For the
crowd, becoming speedily acquainted with the Lord Mayor's temper,
did not fail to take advantage of it by boasting that even the
civil authorities were opposed to the Papists, and could not find
it in their hearts to molest those who were guilty of no other
offence. These vaunts they took care to make within the hearing of
the soldiers; and they, being naturally loth to quarrel with the
people, received their advances kindly enough: answering, when
they were asked if they desired to fire upon their countrymen, 'No,
they would be damned if they did;' and showing much honest
simplicity and good nature. The feeling that the military were No-
Popery men, and were ripe for disobeying orders and joining the
mob, soon became very prevalent in consequence. Rumours of their
disaffection, and of their leaning towards the popular cause,
spread from mouth to mouth with astonishing rapidity; and whenever
they were drawn up idly in the streets or squares, there was sure
to be a crowd about them, cheering and shaking hands, and treating
them with a great show of confidence and affection.

By this time, the crowd was everywhere; all concealment and
disguise were laid aside, 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, and demand it in the rioters
name; and his demand was instantly complied with. The peaceable
citizens being afraid to lay hands upon them, singly and alone, it
may be easily supposed that when gathered together in bodies, they
were perfectly secure from interruption. They assembled in the
streets, traversed them at their will and pleasure, and publicly
concerted their plans. Business was quite suspended; the greater
part of the shops were closed; most of the houses displayed a blue
flag in token of their adherence to the popular side; and even the
Jews in Houndsditch, Whitechapel, and those quarters, wrote upon
their doors or window-shutters, 'This House is a True Protestant.'
The crowd was the law, and never was the law held in greater dread,
or more implicitly obeyed.

It was about six o'clock in the evening, when a vast mob poured
into Lincoln's Inn Fields by every avenue, and divided--evidently
in pursuance of a previous design--into several parties. It must
not be understood that this arrangement was 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 to
fall into this or that parry, effected it as rapidly as if it had
been determined on by a council of the whole number, and every man
had known his place.

It was perfectly notorious to the assemblage that the largest
body, which comprehended about two-thirds of the whole, was
designed for the attack on Newgate. It comprehended all the
rioters who had been conspicuous in any of their former
proceedings; all those whom they recommended as daring hands and
fit for the work; all those whose companions had been taken in the
riots; and a 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 abandoned villains in London, but some who
were comparatively innocent. There was more than one woman there,
disguised in man's attire, and bent upon the rescue of a child or
brother. There were the two sons of a man who lay under sentence
of death, and who was to be executed along with three others, on
the next day but one. There was a great parry of boys whose
fellow-pickpockets were in the prison; and at the skirts of all,
a score of miserable women, outcasts from the world, seeking to
release some other fallen creature as miserable as themselves, or
moved by a general sympathy perhaps--God knows--with all who were
without 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 and wooden clubs; long ladders for scaling
the walls, each carried on the shoulders of a dozen men; lighted
torches; tow smeared with pitch, and tar, and brimstone; staves
roughly plucked from fence and paling; and even crutches taken from
crippled beggars in the streets; composed their arms. When all was
ready, 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, their leaders took the way to Clerkenwell, and pouring
down a quiet street, halted before a locksmith's house--the Golden

'Beat at the door,' cried Hugh to the men about him. 'We want one
of his craft to-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 'Set fire to the house!' and torches being
passed to the front, an upper window was thrown 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 be silent, '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 had me long ago. Mark me, my lad--and you
about him do the same. There are a score among ye whom I see now
and know, who are dead men from this hour. Begone! and rob 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, as he 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 the door, rose hastily at these words, and fell back. The
locksmith ran his eye along the upturned faces, and kept the weapon
levelled at the threshold of his house. It had no other rest than
his shoulder, but was as steady as the house itself.

'Let the man who does it, take heed to his prayers,' he said
firmly; 'I warn him.'

Snatching a torch from one who stood near him, Hugh was stepping
forward with an oath, when he was arrested by a shrill and piercing
shriek, and, looking upward, saw a fluttering garment on the house-

There was another shriek, and another, and then a shrill voice
cried, 'Is Simmun below!' At the same moment a lean neck was
stretched over the parapet, and Miss Miggs, indistinctly seen in
the gathering gloom of evening, screeched in a frenzied manner,
'Oh! dear gentlemen, let me hear Simmuns's answer from his own
lips. Speak to me, Simmun. Speak to me!'

Mr Tappertit, who was not at all flattered by this compliment,
looked up, and bidding her hold her peace, ordered her to come down
and open the door, for they wanted her master, and would take no

'Oh good gentlemen!' cried Miss Miggs. 'Oh my own precious,
precious Simmun--'

'Hold your nonsense, will you!' retorted Mr Tappertit; 'and come
down and open the 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 of table-beer right down the barrel.'

The crowd gave a loud shout, which was followed by a roar of

'It wouldn't go off, not if you was to load it up to the muzzle,'
screamed Miggs. 'Simmun and gentlemen, I'm locked up in the front
attic, through the little door on the right hand when you think
you've got to the very top of the stairs--and up the flight of
corner steps, being careful not to knock your heads against the
rafters, and not to tread on one side in case you should fall into
the two-pair bedroom through the lath and plasture, which do not
bear, but the contrairy. Simmun and gentlemen, I've been locked up
here for safety, but my endeavours has always been, and always will
be, to be on the right side--the blessed side and to prenounce the
Pope of Babylon, and all her inward and her outward workings, which
is Pagin. My sentiments is of little consequences, I know,' cried
Miggs, with additional shrillness, 'for my positions is but a
servant, and as sich, of humilities, still I gives expressions to
my feelings, and places my reliances on them which entertains my
own opinions!'

Without taking much notice of these outpourings of Miss Miggs after
she had made her first announcement in relation to the gun, the
crowd raised a ladder against the window where the locksmith stood,
and notwithstanding that he closed, and fastened, and defended it
manfully, soon forced an entrance by shivering the glass and
breaking in the frames. After dealing a few stout blows about him,
he found himself defenceless, in the midst of a furious crowd,
which overflowed the room and softened off in a confused heap of
faces at the door and window.

They were very wrathful with him (for he had wounded two men), and
even called out to those in front, to bring him forth and hang him
on a lamp-post. But Gabriel was quite undaunted, and looked from
Hugh and Dennis, who held him by either arm, to Simon Tappertit,
who confronted him.

'You have robbed me of my daughter,' said the locksmith, 'who is
far dearer to me than my life; and you may take my life, if you
will. I bless God that I have been enabled to keep my wife free of
this scene; and that He has made me a man who will not ask mercy at
such hands as yours.'

'And a wery game old gentleman you are,' said Mr Dennis,
approvingly; 'and you express 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

'For my part,' said the hangman, who particularly favoured the
lamp-post suggestion, 'I honour your principles. They're mine
exactly. In such sentiments as them,' and here he emphasised his
discourse with an oath, 'I'm ready to meet you or any man halfway.--
Have you got a bit of cord anywheres handy? Don't put yourself
out of the way, if you haven't. A handkecher will do.'

'Don't be a fool, master,' whispered Hugh, seizing Varden roughly
by the shoulder; 'but do as you're bid. You'll soon hear what
you're wanted for. Do it!'

'I'll do nothing at your request, or that of any scoundrel here,'
returned the locksmith. 'If you want any service from me, you may
spare yourselves the pains of telling me what it is. I tell you,
beforehand, I'll do nothing for you.'

Mr Dennis was so affected by this constancy on the part of the
staunch old man, that he protested--almost with tears in his eyes--
that to baulk his inclinations 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 so many words that he was
ready for working off; such being the case, he considered it their
duty, as a civilised and enlightened crowd, to work him off. It
was not often, he observed, that they had it in their power to
accommodate themselves to the wishes of those from whom they had
the misfortune to differ. Having now found an individual who
expressed a desire which they could reasonably indulge (and for
himself he was free to confess that in his opinion that desire did
honour to his feelings), he hoped they would decide to accede to
his proposition before going any further. It was an experiment
which, skilfully and dexterously performed, would be over in five
minutes, with great comfort and satisfaction to all parties; and
though it did not become him (Mr Dennis) to speak well of himself
he trusted he might be allowed to say that he had practical
knowledge of the subject, and, being naturally of an obliging and
friendly disposition, would work the gentleman off with a deal of

These remarks, which were addressed in the midst of a frightful din
and turmoil to those immediately about him, were received with
great favour; not so much, perhaps, because of the hangman's
eloquence, as on account of the locksmith's obstinacy. Gabriel was
in imminent peril, and he knew it; but he preserved a steady
silence; and would have done so, if they had been debating whether
they should roast him at a slow fire.

As the hangman spoke, there was some stir and confusion on the
ladder; and directly he was silent--so immediately upon his holding
his peace, that the crowd below had no time to learn what he had
been saying, or to shout in response--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 had come, and looked hurriedly at the people who were
hanging on the ladder and clinging to each other.

'Pay no respect to my grey hair, young man,' he said, answering the
voice and not any one he saw. 'I don't ask it. My heart is green
enough to scorn and despise every man among you, band of robbers
that you are!'

This incautious speech by no means tended to appease the ferocity
of the crowd. They cried again to have him brought out; and it
would have gone hard with the honest locksmith, but that Hugh
reminded them, in answer, that they wanted his services, and must
have them.

'So, tell him what we want,' he said to Simon Tappertit, 'and
quickly. And open 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 'prentice in silence.

'Lookye, Varden,' said Sim, 'we're bound for Newgate.'

'I know you are,' returned the locksmith. 'You never said a truer
word than that.'

'To burn it down, I mean,' said Simon, 'and force the gates, and
set the prisoners 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 find before 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 with your own hands.'

'When I do,' said the locksmith quietly, 'my hands shall drop off
at the wrists, and you shall wear them, Simon Tappertit, on your
shoulders for epaulettes.'

'We'll see that,' cried Hugh, interposing, as the indignation of
the crowd again burst forth. 'You fill a basket with the tools
he'll want, while I bring him downstairs. Open the doors below,
some of you. And light the great captain, others! Is there no
business afoot, my lads, that you can do nothing but stand and

They looked at one another, and quickly dispersing, swarmed over
the house, plundering and breaking, according to their custom, and
carrying off such articles of value as happened to please their
fancy. They had no great length of time for these proceedings, for
the basket of tools was soon prepared and slung over a man's
shoulders. The preparations being now completed, and everything
ready for the attack, those who were pillaging and destroying in
the other rooms were called down to the workshop. They were about
to issue forth, when the man who had been last upstairs, stepped
forward, and asked if the young woman in the garret (who was making
a terrible noise, he said, and kept on screaming without the least
cessation) was to be released?

For his own part, Simon Tappertit would certainly have replied in
the negative, but the mass of his companions, mindful of the good
service she had done in the matter of the gun, being of a different
opinion, he had nothing for it but to answer, Yes. The man,
accordingly, went back again to the rescue, and presently returned
with Miss Miggs, limp and doubled up, and very damp from much

As the young lady had given no tokens of consciousness on their way
downstairs, the bearer reported her either dead or dying; and being
at some loss what to do with her, was looking round for a
convenient bench or heap of ashes on which to place her senseless
form, when she suddenly came upon her feet by some mysterious
means, thrust back her hair, stared wildly at Mr Tappertit, cried,
'My Simmuns's life is not a wictim!' and dropped into his arms 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 her up again; she never ought to have been let out.'

'My Simmun!' cried Miss Miggs, in tears, and faintly. 'My for
ever, ever blessed Simmun!'

'Hold up, will you,' said Mr Tappertit, in a very unresponsive
tone, 'I'll let you 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 mean to 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 boxed up tight, in a good strong one. Here,' he cried to one
of the bystanders, in whose ear he whispered for a moment: 'Take
her off, will you. You understand where?'

The fellow nodded; and taking her in his arms, notwithstanding her
broken protestations, 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 taken to the head of the
crowd, and required to walk between his two conductors; the whole
body was put in rapid motion; and without any shouts or noise they
bore down straight on Newgate, and halted in a dense mass before
the prison-gate.

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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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