I shall be charmed to converse with you, but I owe it
to my own character not to pursue this topic for another
moment. 1 '
"Think better of it, sir, when I am gone,"" returned the
locksmith ; " think better of it, sir. Although you have,
thrice within as many weeks, turned your lawful son, Mr.
Edward, from your door, you may have time, you may have
years to make your peace with him, Sir John : but that
twelve o'clock will soon be here, and soon be past for ever.""
" I thank you very much, 11 returned the knight, kissing his
delicate hand to the locksmith, " for your guileless advice ;
and I only wish, my good soul, although your simplicity is
quite captivating, that you had a little more worldly wisdom.
I never so much regretted the arrival of my hair-dresser as
I do at this moment. God bless you ! Good morning !
You'll not forget my message to the ladies, Mr. Varden?
Peak, show Mr. Varden to the door."
Gabriel said no more, but gave the knight a parting look,
and left him. As he quitted the room, Sir John's face
changed ; and the smile gave place to a haggard and anxious
expression, like that of a weary actor jaded by the per-
formance of a difficult part. He rose from his bed with a
heavy sigh, and wrapped himself in his morning-gown,
AN ACCOMMODATING CONSCIENCE. 345
" So she kept her word,"" he said, " and was constant to
her threat ! I would I had never seen that dark face of
hers, I might have read these consequences in it, from the
first. This affair would make a noise abroad, if it rested
on better evidence; but, as it is, and by not joining the
scattered links of the chain, I can afford to slight it.
Extremely distressing to be the parent of such an uncouth
creature ! Still, I gave him very good advice. I told him
he would certainly be hanged. I could have done no more
if I had known of our relationship ; and there are a great
many fathers who have never done as much for their natural
children. The hair-dresser may come in, Peak ! "
The hair-dresser came in ; and saw in Sir John Chester
(whose accommodating conscience was soon quieted by the
numerous precedents that occurred to him in support of his
last observation) the same imperturbable, fascinating, elegant
gentleman he had seen yesterday, and many yesterdays before.
As the locksmith walked slowly away from Sir John Chester's
chambers, he lingered under the trees which shaded the path,
almost hoping that he might be summoned to return. He
had turned back thrice, and still loitered at the corner, when
the clock struck twelve.
It was a solemn sound, and not merely for its reference to
to-morrow ; for he knew that in that chime the murderer's
knell was rung. He had seen him pass along the crowded
street, amidst the execration of the throng; and marked his
quivering lip, and trembling limbs ; the ashy hue upon his
face, his clammy brow, the wild distraction of his eye the
fear of death that swallowed up all other thoughts, and
gnawed without cessation at his heart and brain. He had
marked the wandering look, seeking for hope, and finding,
turn where it would, despair. He had seen the remorseful,
pitiful, desolate creature, riding, with his coffin by his side,
to the gibbet. He knew that, to the last, he had been an
unyielding, obdurate man ; that in the savage terror of his
condition he had hardened, rather than relented, to his wife
and child ; and that the last words which had passed his white
lips were curses on them as his enemies.
Mr. Haredale had determined to be there, and see it done.
Nothing but the evidence of his own senses could satisfy that
gloomy thirst for retribution which had been gathering upon
him for so many years. The locksmith knew this, and when
the chimes had ceased to vibrate, hurried away to meet him.
THE LOCKSMITH'S THOUGHTS. 347
"For these two men,"" he said, as he went, "I can do no
more. Heaven have mercy on them ! Alas ! I say I can do
no more for them, but whom can I help? Mary Rudge will
have a home, and a firm friend when she most wants one ;
but Barnaby poor Barnaby willing Barnaby what aid can
I render him? There are many, many men of sense, God
forgive me," cried the honest locksmith, stopping in a narrow
court to pass his hand across his eyes, "I could better afford
to lose than Barnaby. We have always been good friends,
but I never knew, till now, how much I loved the lad. 1 '
There were not many in the great city who thought of
Barnaby that day, otherwise than as an actor in a show
which was to take place to-morrow. But if the whole
population had had him in their minds, and had wished his
life to be spared, not one among them could have done so
with a purer zeal or greater singleness of heart than the good
Barnaby was to die. There was no hope. It is not the
least evil attendant upon the frequent exhibition of this last
dread punishment, of Death, that it hardens the minds of
those who deal it out, and makes them, though they be
amiable men in other respects, indifferent to, or unconscious
of, their great responsibility. The word had gone forth that
Barnaby was to die. It went forth, every month, for lighter
crimes. It was a thing so common, that very few were
startled by the awful sentence, or cared to question its pro-
priety. Just then, too, when the law had been so flagrantly
outraged, its dignity must be asserted. The symbol of its
dignity, stamped upon every page of the criminal statute-
book, was the gallows ; and Barnaby was to die.
They had tried to save him. The locksmith had carried
petitions and memorials to the fountain-head, with his own
hands. But the well was not one of mercy, and Barnaby was
From the first his mother had never left him, save at night ;
and with her beside him, he was as usual contented. On
this last day, he was more elated and more proud than he
had been yet; and when she dropped the book she had been
reading to him aloud, and fell upon his neck, he stopped in
his busy task of folding a piece of crape about his hat, and
wondered at her anguish. Grip uttered a feeble croak, half in
encouragement, it seemed, and half in remonstrance, but he
Avanted heart to sustain it, and lapsed abruptly into silence.
With them who stood upon the brink of the great gulph
NO REPRIEVE! 349
which none can see beyond, Time, so soon to lose itself in
vast Eternity, rolled on like a mighty river, swoln and rapid
as it nears the sea. It was morning but now ; they had sat
and talked together in a dream ; and here was evening. The
dreadful hour of separation, which even yesterday had seemed
so distant, was at hand.
They walked out into the court-yard, clinging to each
other, but not speaking. Barnaby knew that the jail was a
dull, sad, miserable place, and looked forward to to-morrow,
as to a passage from it to something bright and beautiful.
He had a vague impression too, that he was expected to be
brave that he was a man of great consequence, and that
the prison people would be glad to make him weep. He
trod the ground more firmly as he thought of this, and bade
her take heart and cry no more, and feel how steady his
hand was. "They call me silly, mother. They shall see
to-morrow ! "
Dennis and Hugh were in the court-yard. Hugh came
forth from his cell as they did, stretching himself as though he
had been sleeping. Dennis sat upon a bench in a corner, with
his knees and chin huddled together, and rocked himself to
and fro like a person in severe pain.
The mother and son remained on one side of the court,
and these two men upon the other. Hugh strode up and
down, glancing fiercely every now and then at the bright
summer sky, and looking round, when he had done so, at the
" No reprieve, no reprieve ! Nobody comes near us.
There's only the night left now ! " moaned Dennis faintly,
as he wrung his hands. "Do you think they'll reprieve me
in the night, brother? I've known reprieves come in the
night, afore now. I've known "em come as late as five, six,
and seven o'clock in the morning. Don't you think there's
a good chance yet, don't you ? Say you do. Say you do,
young man," whined the miserable creature, with an im-
ploring gesture towards Barnaby > " or I shall go mad ! "
350 BARNABY RUDGE.
" Better be mad than sane, here,"" said Hugh. " Go mad.'"
"But tell me what you think. Somebody tell me what he
thinks ! ." cried the wretched object, so mean, and wretched,
and despicable, that even Pity's self might have turned away,
at sight of such a being in the likeness of a man "isn't
there a chance for me, isn't there a good chance for me ?
Isn't it likely they may be doing this to frighten me ?
Don't you think it is? Oh!" he almost shrieked, as he
wrung his hands, " won't anybody give me comfort ! "
"You ought to be the best, instead of the worst," said
Hugh, stopping before him. " Ha, ha, ha ! See the hang-
man, when it comes home to him ! "
"You don't know what it is," cried Dennis, actually
writhing as he spoke : " I do. That I should come to be
worked off! III! That / should come !"
" And why not ? " said Hugh, as he thrust back his matted
hair to get a better view of his late associate. " How often,
before I knew your trade, did I hear you talking of this as
if it was a treat ? "
" I an't unconsistent," screamed the miserable creature ;
" I'd talk so again, if I was hangman. Some other man has
got my old opinions at this minute. That makes it worse.
Somebody's longing to work me off. I know by myself that
somebody must be ! "
" He'll soon have his longing," said Hugh, resuming his
walk. " Think of that, and be quiet."
Although one of these men displayed, in his speech and
bearing, the most reckless hardihood ; and the other, in his
every word and action, testified such an extreme of abject
cowardice that it was humiliating to see him ; it would be
difficult to say which of them would most have repelled and
shocked an observer. Hugh's was the dogged desperation of
a savage at the stake; the hangman was reduced to a con-
dition little better, if any, than that of a hound with the
halter round his neck. Yet, as Mr. Dennis knew and could
have told them, these were the two commonest states of mind
IT COMES HOME TO THE HANGMAN. 351
in persons brought to their pass. Such was the wholesale
growth of the seed sown by the law, that this kind of harvest
was usually looked for, as a matter of course.
In one respect they all agreed. The wandering and un-
controllable train of thought, suggesting sudden recollections
of things distant and long forgotten and remote from each
other the vague restless craving for something undefined,
which nothing could satisfy the swift flight of the minutes,
fusing themselves into hours, as if by enchantment the rapid
coming of the solemn night the shadow of death always
upon them, and yet so dim and faint, that objects the
meanest and most trivial started from the gloom beyond, and
forced themselves upon the view the impossibility of holding
the mind, even if they had been so disposed, to penitence and
preparation, or of keeping it to any point while one hideous
fascination tempted it away these things were common to
them all, and varied only in their outward tokens.
"Fetch me the book I left within upon your bed," she
said to Barnaby, as the clock struck. " Kiss me first."
He looked in her face, and saw there, that the time was
come. After a long embrace, he tore himself away, and ran
to bring it to her; bidding her not stir till he came back.
He soon returned, for a shriek recalled him, but she was
He ran to the yard-gate, and looked through. They were
carrying her away. She had said her heart would break.
It was better so.
" Don't you think," whimpered Dennis, creeping up to
him, as he stood with his feet rooted to the ground, gazing
at the blank walls " don't you think there's still a chance ?
It's a dreadful end ; it's a terrible end for a man like me.
Don't you think there's a chance? I don't mean for you, I
mean for me. Don't let him hear us " (meaning Hugh) ;
" he's so desperate."
"Now then," said the officer, who had been lounging in
and out with his hands in his pockets, and yawning as if he
352 BARNABY RUDGE.
were in the last extremity for some subject of interest : " it's
time to turn in, boys."
" Not yet," cried Dennis, " not yet. Not for an hour yet/ 1
"I say, your watch goes different from what it used to," 1
returned the man. "Once upon a time it was always too
fast. Ifs got the other fault now/ 1
"My friend, 11 cried the wretched creature, falling on his
knees, " my dear friend you always were my dear friend
there^ some mistake. Some letter has been mislaid, or some
messenger has been stopped upon the way. He may have fallen
dead. I saw a man once, fall down dead in the street, myself,
and he had papers in his pocket. Send to inquire. Let
somebody go to inquire. They never will hang me. They
never can. Yes, they will," he cried, starting to his feet
with a terrible scream. "They 1 !! hang me by a trick, and
keep the pardon back. Ifs a plot against me. I shall lose
my life ! " And uttering another yell, he fell in a fit upon
" See the hangman when it comes home to him ! 11 cried
Hugh again, as they bore him away " Ha ha ha ! Courage,
bold Barnaby, what care we ? Your hand ! They do well
to put us out of the world, for if we got loose a second
time, we wouldn't let them off so easy, eh ? Another shake !
A man can die but once. If you wake in the night, sing
that out lustily, and fall asleep again. Ha ha ha ! "
Barnaby glanced once more through the grate into the
empty yard ; and then watched Hugh as he strode to the
steps leading to his sleeping-cell. He heard him shout, and
burst into a roar of laughter, and saw him flourish his hat.
Then he turned away himself, like one who walked in his
sleep ; and, without any sense of fear or sorrow, lay down on
his pallet, listening for the clock to strike again.
THE time wore on. The noises in the streets became less
frequent by degrees, until silence was scarcely broken save by
the bells in the church towers, marking the progress softer
and more stealthy while the city slumbered of that Great
Watcher with the hoary head, who never sleeps or rests. In
the brief interval of darkness and repose which feverish towns
enjoy, all busy sounds were hushed ; and those who awoke
from dreams lay listening in their beds, and longed for
dawn, and wished the dead of the night were past.
Into the street outside the jail's main wall, workmen came
straggling at this solemn hour, in groups of two or three,
and meeting in the centre, cast their tools upon the ground
and spoke in whispers. Others soon issued from the jail
itself, bearing on their shoulders planks and beams; these
materials being all brought forth, the rest bestirred them-
selves, and the dull sound of hammers began to echo through
Here and there among this knot of labourers, one, with a
lantern or a smoky link, stood by to light his fellows at
their work; and by its doubtful aid, some might be dimly
seen taking up the pavement of the road, while others held
great upright posts, or fixed them in the holes thus made
for their reception. Some dragged slowly on, towards the
rest, an empty cart, which they brought rumbling from
the prison-yard ; while others erected strong barriers across
VOL. n. 2 A
354 BARNABY RUDGE.
the street. All were busily engaged. Their dusky figures
moving to and fro, at that unusual hour, so active and so
silent, might have been taken for those of shadowy creatures
toiling at midnight on some ghostly unsubstantial work,
which, like themselves, would vanish with the first gleam of
day, and leave but morning mist and vapour.
While it was yet dark, a few lookers-on collected, who had
plainly come there for the purpose and intended to remain :
even those who had to pass the spot on their way to some
other place, lingered, and lingered yet, as though the attrac-
tion of that were irresistible. Meanwhile the noise of saw
and mallet went on briskly, mingled with the clattering of
boards on the stone pavement of the road, and sometimes
with the workmen's voices as they called to one another.
Whenever the chimes of the neighbouring church were heard
and that was every quarter of an hour a strange sensa-
tion, instantaneous and indescribable, but perfectly obvious,
seemed to pervade them all.
Gradually, a faint brightness appeared in the east, and the
air, which had been very warm all through the night, felt
cool and chilly. Though there was no daylight yet, the
darkness was diminished, and the stars looked pale. The
prison, which had been a mere black mass with little shape
or form, put on its usual aspect; and ever and anon a soli-
tary watchman could be seen upon its roof, stopping to look
down upon the preparations in the street. This man, from
forming, as it were, a part of the jail, and knowing or being
supposed to know all that was passing within, became an
object of as much interest, and was as eagerly looked for, and
as awfully pointed out, as if he had been a spirit.
By and by, the feeble light grew stronger, and the houses,
with their sign-boards and inscriptions, stood plainly out,
in the dull grey morning. Heavy stage waggons crawled
from the inn-yard opposite ; and travellers peeped out ; and
as they rolled sluggishly away, cast many a backward look
towards the jail. And now, the sun's first beams came
THE MORNING OF THE EXECUTION. 355
glancing into the street ; and the night's work, which, in its
various stages and in the varied fancies of the lookers-on,
had taken a hundred shapes, wore its own proper form a
scaffold, and a gibbet.
As the warmth of the cheerful day began to shed itself
upon the scanty crowd, the murmur of tongues was heard,
shutters were thrown open, and blinds drawn up, and those
who had slept in rooms over against the prison, where places
to see the execution were let at high prices, rose hastily from
their beds. In some of the houses, people were busy taking
out the window sashes for the better accommodation of spec-
tators ; in others, the spectators were already seated, and
beguiling the time with cards, or drink, or jokes among
themselves. Some had purchased seats upon the house-tops,
and were already crawling to their stations from parapet and
garret-window. Some were yet bargaining for good places,
and stood in them in a state of indecision : gazing at the
slowly-swelling crowd, and at the workmen as they rested
listlessly against the scaffold affecting to listen with in-
difference to the proprietor's eulogy of the commanding
view his house afforded, and the surpassing cheapness of his
A fairer morning never shone. From the roofs and upper
stories of these buildings, the spires of city churches and the
great cathedral dome were visible, rising up beyond the prison,
into the blue sky, and clad in the colour of light summer
clouds, and showing in the clear atmosphere their every scrap
of tracery and fret-work, and every niche and loophole. All
was brightness and promise, excepting in the street below,
into which (for it yet lay in shadow) the eye looked down as
into a dark trench, where, in the midst of so much life, and
hope, and renewal of existence, stood the terrible instrument
of death. It seemed as if the very sun forbore to look
But it was better, grim and sombre in the shade, than
when, the day being more advanced, it stood confessed in the
856 BARNABY RUDGE.
full glare and glory of the sun, with its black paint blister*
ing, and its nooses dangling in the light like loathsome gar-
lands. It was better in the solitude and gloom of midnight
with a few forms clustering about it, than in the freshness
and the stir of morning : the centre of an eager crowd. It
was better haunting the street like a spectre, when men were
in their beds, and influencing perchance the city's dreams,
than braving the broad day, and thrusting its obscene
presence upon their waking senses.
Five o'clock had struck six seven and eight. Along
the two main streets at either end of the cross-way, a living
stream had now set in, rolling towards the marts of gain and
business. Carts, coaches, waggons, trucks, and barrows, forced
a passage through the outskirts of the throng, and clattered
onward in the same direction. Some of these which were
public conveyances and had come from a short distance in the
country, stopped; and the driver pointed to the gibbet with
his whip, though he might have spared himself the pains, for
the heads of all the passengers M-ere turned that way without
his help, and the coach-windows were stuck full of staring
eyes. In some of the carts and waggons, women might be
seen, glancing fearfully at the same unsightly thing; and
even little children were held up above the people's heads to
see what kind of a toy a gallows was, and learn how men were
Two rioters were to die before the prison, who had been
concerned in the attack upon it ; and one directly afterwards
in Bloomsbury Square. At nine o'clock, a strong body of
military marched into the street, and formed and lined a
narrow passage into Holborn, which had been indifferently
kept all night by constables. Through this, another cart was
brought (the one already mentioned had been employed in
the construction of the scaffold), and wheeled up to the prison-
gate. These preparations made, the soldiers stood at ease;
the officers lounged to and fro, in the alley they had made,
or talked together at the scaffold's foot; and the concourse,
THE IMPATIENT CROWD. 357
which had been rapidly augmenting for some hours, and still
received additions every minute, waited with an impatience
which increased with every chime of St. Sepulchre's clock, for
twelve at noon.
Up to this time they had been very quiet, comparatively
silent, save when the arrival of some new party at a window,
hitherto unoccupied, gave them something new to look at or
to talk of. But, as the hour approached, a buzz and hum arose,
which, deepening every moment, soon swelled into a roar, and
seemed to fill the air. No words or even voices could be dis-
tinguished in this clamour, nor did they speak much to each
other; though such as were better informed upon the topic
than the rest, would tell their neighbours, perhaps, that they
might know the hangman when he came out, by his being
the shorter one : and that the man who was to suffer with
him was named Hugh : and that it was Barnaby Rudge who
would be hanged in Bloomsbury Square.
The hum grew, as the time drew near, so loud, that those
who were at the windows could not hear the church-clock
strike, though it was close at hand. Nor had they any need
to hear it, either, for they could see it in the people's faces.
So surely as another quarter chimed, there was a movement
in the crowd as if something had passed over it as if the
light upon them had been changed in which the fact was
readable as on a brazen dial, figured by a giant's hand.
Three quarters past eleven ! The murmur now was deafen-
ing, yet every man seemed mute. Look where you would
among the crowd, you saw strained eyes and lips compressed ;
it would have been difficult for the most vigilant observer to
point this way or that, and say that yonder man had cried
out. It were as easy to detect the motion of lips in a
Three quarters past eleven ! Many spectators who had re-
tired from the windows, came back refreshed, as though their
watch had just begun. Those who had fallen asleep, roused
themselves ; and every person in the crowd made one last
358 BARNABY RUDGE.
effort to better his position which caused a press against the
sturdy barriers that made them bend and yield like twigs.
The officers, who until now had kept together, fell into their
several positions, and gave the words of command. Swords
were drawn, muskets shouldered, and the bright steel winding
its way among the crowd, gleamed and glittered in the sun
like a river. Along this shining path, two men came hurry-
ing on, leading a horse, which was speedily harnessed to the
cart at the prison-door. Then, a profound silence replaced
the tumult that had so long been gathering, and a breathless
pause ensued. Every window was now choked up with heads ;
the house-tops teemed with people clinging to chimneys,
peering over gable-ends, and holding on where the sudden
loosening of any brick or stone would dash them down into
the street. The church tower, the church roof, the church