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Charles Dickens > Barnaby Rudge > Chapter 67

Barnaby Rudge

Chapter 67

When darkness broke away and morning began to dawn, the town wore a
strange aspect indeed.

Sleep had hardly been thought of all night. The general alarm was
so apparent in the faces of the inhabitants, and its expression was
so aggravated by want of rest (few persons, with any property to
lose, having dared go to bed since Monday), that a stranger coming
into the streets would have supposed some mortal pest or plague to
have been raging. In place of the usual cheerfulness and animation
of morning, everything was dead and silent. The shops remained
closed, offices and warehouses were shut, the coach and chair
stands were deserted, no carts or waggons rumbled through the
slowly waking streets, the early cries were all hushed; a universal
gloom prevailed. Great numbers of people were out, even at
daybreak, but they flitted to and fro as though they shrank from
the sound of their own footsteps; the public ways were haunted
rather than frequented; and round the smoking ruins people stood
apart from one another and in silence, not venturing to condemn
the rioters, or to be supposed to do so, even in whispers.

At the Lord President's in Piccadilly, at Lambeth Palace, at the
Lord Chancellor's in Great Ormond Street, in the Royal Exchange,
the Bank, the Guildhall, the Inns of Court, the Courts of Law, and
every chamber fronting the streets near Westminster Hall and the
Houses of Parliament, parties of soldiers were posted before
daylight. A body of Horse Guards paraded Palace Yard; an
encampment was formed in the Park, where fifteen hundred men and
five battalions of Militia were under arms; the Tower was
fortified, the drawbridges were raised, the cannon loaded and
pointed, and two regiments of artillery busied in strengthening the
fortress and preparing it for defence. A numerous detachment of
soldiers were stationed to keep guard at the New River Head, which
the people had threatened to attack, and where, it was said, they
meant to cut off the main-pipes, so that there might be no water
for the extinction of the flames. In the Poultry, and on Cornhill,
and at several other leading points, iron chains were drawn across
the street; parties of soldiers were distributed in some of the old
city churches while it was yet dark; and in several private houses
(among them, Lord Rockingham's in Grosvenor Square); which were
blockaded as though to sustain a siege, and had guns pointed from
the windows. When the sun rose, it shone into handsome apartments
filled with armed men; the furniture hastily heaped away in
corners, and made of little or no account, in the terror of the
time--on arms glittering in city chambers, among desks and stools,
and dusty books--into little smoky churchyards in odd lanes and by-
ways, with soldiers lying down among the tombs, or lounging under
the shade of the one old tree, and their pile of muskets sparkling
in the light--on solitary sentries pacing up and down in
courtyards, silent now, but yesterday resounding with the din and
hum of business--everywhere on guard-rooms, garrisons, and
threatening preparations.

As the day crept on, still more unusual sights were witnessed in
the streets. The gates of the King's Bench and Fleet Prisons
being opened at the usual hour, were found to have notices affixed
to them, announcing that the rioters would come that night to burn
them down. The wardens, too well knowing the likelihood there was
of this promise being fulfilled, were fain to set their prisoners
at liberty, and give them leave to move their goods; so, all day,
such of them as had any furniture were occupied in conveying it,
some to this place, some to that, and not a few to the brokers'
shops, where they gladly sold it, for any wretched price those
gentry chose to give. There were some broken men among these
debtors who had been in jail so long, and were so miserable and
destitute of friends, so dead to the world, and utterly forgotten
and uncared for, that they implored their jailers not to set them
free, and to send them, if need were, to some other place of
custody. But they, refusing to comply, lest they should incur the
anger of the mob, turned them into the streets, where they wandered
up and down hardly remembering the ways untrodden by their feet so
long, and crying--such abject things those rotten-hearted jails had
made them--as they slunk off in their rags, and dragged their
slipshod feet along the pavement.

Even of the three hundred prisoners who had escaped from Newgate,
there were some--a few, but there were some--who sought their
jailers out and delivered themselves up: preferring imprisonment
and punishment to the horrors of such another night as the last.
Many of the convicts, drawn back to their old place of captivity by
some indescribable attraction, or by a desire to exult over it in
its downfall and glut their revenge by seeing it in ashes, actually
went back in broad noon, and loitered about the cells. Fifty were
retaken at one time on this next day, within the prison walls; but
their fate did not deter others, for there they went in spite of
everything, and there they were taken in twos and threes, twice or
thrice a day, all through the week. Of the fifty just mentioned,
some were occupied in endeavouring to rekindle the fire; but in
general they seemed to have no object in view but to prowl and
lounge about the old place: being often found asleep in the ruins,
or sitting talking there, or even eating and drinking, as in a
choice retreat.

Besides the notices on the gates of the Fleet and the King's Bench,
many similar announcements were left, before one o'clock at noon,
at the houses of private individuals; and further, the mob
proclaimed their intention of seizing on the Bank, the Mint, the
Arsenal at Woolwich, and the Royal Palaces. The notices were
seldom delivered by more than one man, who, if it were at a shop,
went in, and laid it, with a bloody threat perhaps, upon the
counter; or if it were at a private house, knocked at the door, and
thrust it in the servant's hand. Notwithstanding the presence of
the military in every quarter of the town, and the great force in
the Park, these messengers did their errands with impunity all
through the day. So did two boys who went down Holborn alone,
armed with bars taken from the railings of Lord Mansfield's house,
and demanded money for the rioters. So did a tall man on horseback
who made a collection for the same purpose in Fleet Street, and
refused to take anything but gold.

A rumour had now got into circulation, too, which diffused a
greater dread all through London, even than these publicly
announced intentions of the rioters, though all men knew that if
they were successfully effected, there must ensue a national
bankruptcy and general ruin. It was said that they meant to throw
the gates of Bedlam open, and let all the madmen loose. This
suggested such dreadful images to the people's minds, and was
indeed an act so fraught with new and unimaginable horrors in the
contemplation, that it beset them more than any loss or cruelty of
which they could foresee the worst, and drove many sane men nearly
mad themselves.

So the day passed on: the prisoners moving their goods; people
running to and fro in the streets, carrying away their property;
groups standing in silence round the ruins; all business suspended;
and the soldiers disposed as has been already mentioned, remaining
quite inactive. So the day passed on, and dreaded night drew near

At last, at seven o'clock in the evening, the Privy Council issued
a solemn proclamation that it was now necessary to employ the
military, and that the officers had most direct and effectual
orders, by an immediate exertion of their utmost force, to repress
the disturbances; and warning all good subjects of the King to keep
themselves, their servants, and apprentices, within doors that
night. There was then delivered out to every soldier on duty,
thirty-six rounds of powder and ball; the drums beat; and the whole
force was under arms at sunset.

The City authorities, stimulated by these vigorous measures, held a
Common Council; passed a vote thanking the military associations
who had tendered their aid to the civil authorities; accepted it;
and placed them under the direction of the two sheriffs. At the
Queen's palace, a double guard, the yeomen on duty, the groom-
porters, and all other attendants, were stationed in the passages
and on the staircases at seven o'clock, with strict instructions to
be watchful on their posts all night; and all the doors were
locked. The gentlemen of the Temple, and the other Inns, mounted
guard within their gates, and strengthened them with the great
stones of the pavement, which they took up for the purpose. In
Lincoln's Inn, they gave up the hall and commons to the
Northumberland Militia, under the command of Lord Algernon Percy;
in some few of the city wards, the burgesses turned out, and
without making a very fierce show, looked brave enough. Some
hundreds of stout gentlemen threw themselves, armed to the teeth,
into the halls of the different companies, double-locked and bolted
all the gates, and dared the rioters (among themselves) to come on
at their peril. These arrangements being all made simultaneously,
or nearly so, were completed by the time it got dark; and then the
streets were comparatively clear, and were guarded at all the great
corners and chief avenues by the troops: while parties of the
officers rode up and down in all directions, ordering chance
stragglers home, and admonishing the residents to keep within their
houses, and, if any firing ensued, not to approach the windows.
More chains were drawn across such of the thoroughfares as were of
a nature to favour the approach of a great crowd, and at each of
these points a considerable force was stationed. All these
precautions having been taken, and it being now quite dark, those
in command awaited the result in some anxiety: and not without a
hope that such vigilant demonstrations might of themselves
dishearten the populace, and prevent any new outrages.

But in this reckoning they were cruelly mistaken, for in half an
hour, or less, as though the setting in of night had been their
preconcerted signal, the rioters having previously, in small
parties, prevented the lighting of the street lamps, rose like a
great sea; and that in so many places at once, and with such
inconceivable fury, that those who had the direction of the troops
knew not, at first, where to turn or what to do. One after
another, new fires blazed up in every quarter of the town, as
though it were the intention of the insurgents to wrap the city in
a circle of flames, which, contracting by degrees, should burn the
whole to ashes; the crowd swarmed and roared in every street; and
none but rioters and soldiers being out of doors, it seemed to the
latter as if all London were arrayed against them, and they stood
alone against the town.

In two hours, six-and-thirty fires were raging--six-and-thirty
great conflagrations: among them the Borough Clink in Tooley
Street, the King's Bench, the Fleet, and the New Bridewell. In
almost every street, there was a battle; and in every quarter the
muskets of the troops were heard above the shouts and tumult of the
mob. The firing began in the Poultry, where the chain was drawn
across the road, where nearly a score of people were killed on the
first discharge. Their bodies having been hastily carried into St
Mildred's Church by the soldiers, the latter fired again, and
following fast upon the crowd, who began to give way when they saw
the execution that was done, formed across Cheapside, and charged
them at the point of the bayonet.

The streets were now a dreadful spectacle. The shouts of the
rabble, the shrieks of women, the cries of the wounded, and the
constant firing, formed a deafening and an awful accompaniment to
the sights which every corner presented. Wherever the road was
obstructed by the chains, there the fighting and the loss of life
were greatest; but there was hot work and bloodshed in almost every
leading thoroughfare.

At Holborn Bridge, and on Holborn Hill, the confusion was greater
than in any other part; for the crowd that poured out of the city
in two great streams, one by Ludgate Hill, and one by Newgate
Street, united at that spot, and formed a mass so dense, that at
every volley the people seemed to fall in heaps. At this place a
large detachment of soldiery were posted, who fired, now up Fleet
Market, now up Holborn, now up Snow Hill--constantly raking the
streets in each direction. At this place too, several large fires
were burning, so that all the terrors of that terrible night seemed
to be concentrated in one spot.

Full twenty times, the rioters, headed by one man who wielded an
axe in his right hand, and bestrode a brewer's horse of great size
and strength, caparisoned with fetters taken out of Newgate, which
clanked and jingled as he went, made an attempt to force a passage
at this point, and fire the vintner's house. Full twenty times
they were repulsed with loss of life, and still came back again;
and though the fellow at their head was marked and singled out by
all, and was a conspicuous object as the only rioter on horseback,
not a man could hit him. So surely as the smoke cleared away, so
surely there was he; calling hoarsely to his companions,
brandishing his axe above his head, and dashing on as though he
bore a charmed life, and was proof against ball and powder.

This man was Hugh; and in every part of the riot, he was seen. He
headed two attacks upon the Bank, helped to break open the Toll-
houses on Blackfriars Bridge, and cast the money into the street:
fired two of the prisons with his own hand: was here, and there,
and everywhere--always foremost--always active--striking at the
soldiers, cheering on the crowd, making his horse's iron music
heard through all the yell and uproar: but never hurt or stopped.
Turn him at one place, and he made a new struggle in anotlter;
force him to retreat at this point, and he advanced on that,
directly. Driven from Holborn for the twentieth time, he rode at
the head of a great crowd straight upon Saint Paul's, attacked a
guard of soldiers who kept watch over a body of prisoners within
the iron railings, forced them to retreat, rescued the men they had
in custody, and with this accession to his party, came back again,
mad with liquor and excitement, and hallooing them on like a

It would have been no easy task for the most careful rider to sit a
horse in the midst of such a throng and tumult; but though this
madman rolled upon his back (he had no saddle) like a boat upon the
sea, he never for an instant lost his seat, or failed to guide him
where he would. Through the very thickest of the press, over dead
bodies and burning fragments, now on the pavement, now in the road,
now riding up a flight of steps to make himself the more
conspicuous to his party, and now forcing a passage through a mass
of human beings, so closely squeezed together that it seemed as if
the edge of a knife would scarcely part them,--on he went, as
though he could surmount all obstacles by the mere exercise of his
will. And perhaps his not being shot was in some degree
attributable to this very circumstance; for his extreme audacity,
and the conviction that he must be one of those to whom the
proclamation referred, inspired the soldiers with a desire to take
him alive, and diverted many an aim which otherwise might have been
more near the mark.

The vintner and Mr Haredale, unable to sit quietly listening to the
noise without seeing what went on, had climbed to the roof of the
house, and hiding behind a stack of chimneys, were looking
cautiously down into the street, almost hoping that after so many
repulses the rioters would be foiled, when a great shout proclaimed
that a parry were coming round the other way; and the dismal
jingling of those accursed fetters warned them next moment that
they too were led by Hugh. The soldiers had advanced into Fleet
Market and were dispersing the people there; so that they came on
with hardly any check, and were soon before the house.

'All's over now,' said the vintner. 'Fifty thousand pounds will be
scattered in a minute. We must save ourselves. We can do no
more, and shall have reason to be thankful if we do as much.'

Their first impulse was, to clamber along the roofs of the houses,
and, knocking at some garret window for admission, pass down that
way into the street, and so escape. But another fierce cry from
below, and a general upturning of the faces of the crowd, apprised
them that they were discovered, and even that Mr Haredale was
recognised; for Hugh, seeing him plainly in the bright glare of
the fire, which in that part made it as light as day, called to him
by his name, and swore to have his life.

'Leave me here,' said Mr Haredale, 'and in Heaven's name, my good
friend, save yourself! Come on!' he muttered, as he turned towards
Hugh and faced him without any further effort at concealment: 'This
roof is high, and if we close, we will die together!'

'Madness,' said the honest vintner, pulling him back, 'sheer
madness. Hear reason, sir. My good sir, hear reason. I could
never make myself heard by knocking at a window now; and even if I
could, no one would be bold enough to connive at my escape.
Through the cellars, there's a kind of passage into the back street
by which we roll casks in and out. We shall have time to get down
there before they can force an entry. Do not delay an instant, but
come with me--for both our sakes--for mine--my dear good sir!'

As he spoke, and drew Mr Haredale back, they had both a glimpse of
the street. It was but a glimpse, but it showed them the crowd,
gathering and clustering round the house: some of the armed men
pressing to the front to break down the doors and windows, some
bringing brands from the nearest fire, some with lifted faces
following their course upon the roof and pointing them out to their
companions: all raging and roaring like the flames they lighted up.
They saw some men thirsting for the treasures of strong liquor
which they knew were stored within; they saw others, who had been
wounded, sinking down into the opposite doorways and dying,
solitary wretches, in the midst of all the vast assemblage; here a
frightened woman trying to escape; and there a lost child; and
there a drunken ruffian, unconscious of the death-wound on his
head, raving and fighting to the last. All these things, and even
such trivial incidents as a man with his hat off, or turning round,
or stooping down, or shaking hands with another, they marked
distinctly; yet in a glance so brief, that, in the act of stepping
back, they lost the whole, and saw but the pale faces of each
other, and the red sky above them.

Mr Haredale yielded to the entreaties of his companion--more
because he was resolved to defend him, than for any thought he had
of his own life, or any care he entertained for his own safety--and
quickly re-entering the house, they descended the stairs together.
Loud blows were thundering on the shutters, crowbars were already
thrust beneath the door, the glass fell from the sashes, a deep
light shone through every crevice, and they heard the voices of the
foremost in the crowd so close to every chink and keyhole, that
they seemed to be hoarsely whispering their threats into their very
ears. They had but a moment reached the bottom of the cellar-steps
and shut the door behind them, when the mob broke in.

The vaults were profoundly dark, and having no torch or candle--for
they had been afraid to carry one, lest it should betray their
place of refuge--they were obliged to grope with their hands. But
they were not long without light, for they had not gone far when
they heard the crowd forcing the door; and, looking back among the
low-arched passages, could see them in the distance, hurrying to
and fro with flashing links, broaching the casks, staving the great
vats, turning off upon the right hand and the left, into the
different cellars, and lying down to drink at the channels of
strong spirits which were already flowing on the ground.

They hurried on, not the less quickly for this; and had reached the
only vault which lay between them and the passage out, when
suddenly, from the direction in which they were going, a strong
light gleamed upon their faces; and before they could slip aside,
or turn back, or hide themselves, two men (one bearing a torch)
came upon them, and cried in an astonished whisper, 'Here they

At the same instant they pulled off what they wore upon their
heads. Mr Haredale saw before him Edward Chester, and then saw,
when the vintner gasped his name, Joe Willet.

Ay, the same Joe, though with an arm the less, who used to make the
quarterly journey on the grey mare to pay the bill to the purple-
faced vintner; and that very same purple-faced vintner, formerly
of Thames Street, now looked him in the face, and challenged him by

'Give me your hand,' said Joe softly, taking it whether the
astonished vintner would or no. 'Don't fear to shake it; it's a
friendly one and a hearty one, though it has no fellow. Why, how
well you look and how bluff you are! And you--God bless you, sir.
Take heart, take heart. We'll find them. Be of good cheer; we
have not been idle.'

There was something so honest and frank in Joe's speech, that Mr
Haredale put his hand in his involuntarily, though their meeting
was suspicious enough. But his glance at Edward Chester, and that
gentleman's keeping aloof, were not lost upon Joe, who said
bluntly, glancing at Edward while he spoke:

'Times are changed, Mr Haredale, and times have come when we ought
to know friends from enemies, and make no confusion of names. Let
me tell you that but for this gentleman, you would most likely
have been dead by this time, or badly wounded at the best.'

'What do you say?' cried Mr Haredale.

'I say,' said Joe, 'first, that it was a bold thing to be in the
crowd at all disguised as one of them; though I won't say much
about that, on second thoughts, for that's my case too. Secondly,
that it was a brave and glorious action--that's what I call it--to
strike that fellow off his horse before their eyes!'

'What fellow! Whose eyes!'

'What fellow, sir!' cried Joe: 'a fellow who has no goodwill to
you, and who has the daring and devilry in him of twenty fellows.
I know him of old. Once in the house, HE would have found you,
here or anywhere. The rest owe you no particular grudge, and,
unless they see you, will only think of drinking themselves dead.
But we lose time. Are you ready?'

'Quite,' said Edward. 'Put out the torch, Joe, and go on. And be
silent, there's a good fellow.'

'Silent or not silent,' murmured Joe, as he dropped the flaring
link upon the ground, crushed it with his foot, and gave his hand
to Mr Haredale, 'it was a brave and glorious action;--no man can
alter that.'

Both Mr Haredale and the worthy vintner were too amazed and too
much hurried to ask any further questions, so followed their
conductors in silence. It seemed, from a short whispering which
presently ensued between them and the vintner relative to the best
way of escape, that they had entered by the back-door, with the
connivance of John Grueby, who watched outside with the key in his
pocket, and whom they had taken into their confidence. A party of
the crowd coming up that way, just as they entered, John had
double-locked the door again, and made off for the soldiers, so
that means of retreat was cut off from under them.

However, as the front-door had been forced, and this minor crowd,
being anxious to get at the liquor, had no fancy for losing time in
breaking down another, but had gone round and got in from Holborn
with the rest, the narrow lane in the rear was quite free of
people. So, when they had crawled through the passage indicated by
the vintner (which was a mere shelving-trap for the admission of
casks), and had managed with some difficulty to unchain and raise
the door at the upper end, they emerged into the street without
being observed or interrupted. Joe still holding Mr Haredale
tight, and Edward taking the same care of the vintner, they hurried
through the streets at a rapid pace; occasionally standing aside to
let some fugitives go by, or to keep out of the way of the soldiers
who followed them, and whose questions, when they halted to put
any, were speedily stopped by one whispered word from Joe.

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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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