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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Burning of Newgate
By Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
 
From ‘Barnaby Rudge’

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 disturbances 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 times.  1
  All yesterday, and on this day likewise, the commander-in-chief endeavored 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 dispatched 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 offense. These vaunts they took care to make within the hearing of the soldiers: and they, being naturally loath 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. Rumors 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.  2
  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.  3
  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 party, 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.  4
  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 party 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.  5
  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.  6
  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 Key….  7
  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 shouting or noise they bore down straight on Newgate and halted in a dense mass before the prison gate.  8
 
  BREAKING the silence they had hitherto preserved, they raised a great cry as soon as they were ranged before the jail, and demanded to speak with the governor. Their visit was not wholly unexpected, for his house, which fronted the street, was strongly barricaded, the wicket-gate of the prison was closed up, and at no loophole or grating was any person to be seen. Before they had repeated their summons many times, a man appeared upon the roof of the governor’s house, and asked what it was they wanted.  9
  Some said one thing, some another, and some only groaned and hissed. It being now nearly dark, and the house high, many persons in the throng were not aware that any one had come to answer them, and continued their clamor until the intelligence was gradually diffused through the whole concourse. Ten minutes or more elapsed before any one voice could be heard with tolerable distinctness; during which interval the figure remained perched alone, against the summer evening sky, looking down into the troubled street.  10
  “Are you,” said Hugh at length, “Mr. Akerman, the head jailer here?”  11
  “Of course he is, brother,” whispered Dennis. But Hugh, without minding him, took his answer from the man himself.  12
  “Yes,” he said; “I am.”  13
  “You have got some friends of ours in your custody, master.”  14
  “I have a good many people in my custody.” He glanced downward as he spoke, into the jail; and the feeling that he could see into the different yards, and that he overlooked everything which was hidden from their view by the rugged walls, so lashed and goaded the mob that they howled like wolves.  15
  “Deliver up our friends,” said Hugh, “and you may keep the rest.”  16
  “It’s my duty to keep them all. I shall do my duty.”  17
  “If you don’t throw the doors open, we shall break ’em down,” said Hugh; “for we will have the rioters out.”  18
  “All I can do, good people,” Akerman replied, “is to exhort you to disperse; and to remind you that the consequences of any disturbance in this place will be very severe, and bitterly repented by most of you, when it is too late.”  19
  He made as though he would retire when he had said these words, but he was checked by the voice of the locksmith.  20
  “Mr. Akerman!” cried Gabriel, “Mr. Akerman!”  21
  “I will hear no more from any of you,” replied the governor, turning towards the speaker, and waving his hand.  22
  “But I am not one of them,” said Gabriel. “I am an honest man, Mr. Akerman; a respectable tradesman—Gabriel Varden, the locksmith. You know me?”  23
  “You among the crowd!” cried the governor in an altered voice.  24
  “Brought here by force—brought here to pick the lock of the great door for them,” rejoined the locksmith. “Bear witness for me, Mr. Akerman, that I refuse to do it; and that I will not do it, come what may of my refusal. If any violence is done to me, please to remember this.”  25
  “Is there no way of helping you?” said the governor.  26
  “None, Mr. Akerman. You’ll do your duty, and I’ll do mine. Once again, you robbers and cut-throats,” said the locksmith, turning round upon them, “I refuse. Ah! Howl till you’re hoarse. I refuse.”  27
  “Stay—stay!” said the jailer, hastily. “Mr. Varden, I know you for a worthy man, and one who would do no unlawful act except upon compulsion—”  28
  “Upon compulsion, sir,” interposed the locksmith, who felt that the tone in which this was said conveyed the speaker’s impression that he had ample excuse for yielding to the furious multitude who beset and hemmed him in on every side, and among whom he stood, an old man, quite alone,—“upon compulsion, sir, I’ll do nothing.”  29
  “Where is that man,” said the keeper, anxiously, “who spoke to me just now?”  30
  “Here!” Hugh replied.  31
  “Do you know what the guilt of murder is, and that by keeping that honest tradesman at your side you endanger his life!”  32
  “We know it very well,” he answered; “for what else did we bring him here? Let’s have our friends, master, and you shall have your friend. Is that fair, lads?”  33
  The mob replied to him with a loud hurrah!  34
  “You see how it is, sir,” cried Varden. “Keep ’em out, in King George’s name. Remember what I have said. Good-night!”  35
  There was no more parley. A shower of stones and other missiles compelled the keeper of the jail to retire; and the mob, pressing on, and swarming round the walls, forced Gabriel Varden close up to the door.  36
  In vain the basket of tools was laid upon the ground before him, and he was urged in turn by promises, by blows, by offers of reward and threats of instant death, to do the office for which they had brought him there. “No,” cried the sturdy locksmith, “I will not.”  37
  He had never loved his life so well as then, but nothing could move him. The savage faces that glared upon him, look where he would; the cries of those who thirsted like wild animals for his blood; the sight of men pressing forward, and trampling down their fellows, as they strove to reach him, and struck at him above the heads of other men, with axes and with iron bars; all failed to daunt him. He looked from man to man and face to face, and still, with quickened breath and lessening color, cried firmly, “I will not!”  38
  Dennis dealt him a blow upon the face which felled him to the ground. He sprang up again like a man in the prime of life, and with blood upon his forehead caught him by the throat.  39
  “You cowardly dog!” he said: “Give me my daughter! Give me my daughter!”  40
  They struggled together. Some cried “Kill him!” and some (but they were not near enough) strove to trample him to death. Tug as he would at the old man’s wrists, the hangman could not force him to unclinch his hands.  41
  “Is this all the return you make me, you ungrateful monster?” he articulated with great difficulty, and with many oaths.  42
  “Give me my daughter!” cried the locksmith, who was now as fierce as those who gathered round him; “give me my daughter!”  43
  He was down again, and up, and down once more, and buffeting with a score of them, who bandied him from hand to hand, when one tall fellow, fresh from a slaughter-house, whose dress and great thigh-boots smoked hot with grease and blood, raised a pole-axe, and swearing a horrible oath, aimed it at the old man’s uncovered head. At that instant, and in the very act, he fell himself, as if struck by lightning, and over his body a one-armed man came darting to the locksmith’s side. Another man was with him, and both caught the locksmith roughly in their grasp.  44
  “Leave him to us!” they cried to Hugh—struggling as they spoke, to force a passage backward through the crowd. “Leave him to us. Why do you waste your whole strength on such as he, when a couple of men can finish him in as many minutes! You lose time. Remember the prisoners! remember Barnaby!”  45
  The cry ran through the mob. Hammers began to rattle on the walls; and every man strove to reach the prison, and be among the foremost rank. Fighting their way through the press and struggle, as desperately as if they were in the midst of enemies rather than their own friends, the two men retreated with the locksmith between them, and dragged him through the very heart of the concourse.  46
  And now the strokes began to fall like hail upon the gate and on the strong building; for those who could not reach the door spent their fierce rage on anything—even on the great blocks of stone, which shivered their weapons into fragments, and made their hands and arms to tingle as if the walls were active in their stout resistance, and dealt them back their blows. The clash of iron ringing upon iron mingled with the deafening tumult and sounded high above it, as the great sledge-hammers rattled on the nailed and plated door: the sparks flew off in showers; men worked in gangs, and at short intervals relieved each other, that all their strength might be devoted to the work; but there stood the portal still, as grim and dark and strong as ever, and saving for the dints upon its battered surface, quite unchanged.  47
  While some brought all their energies to bear upon this toilsome task, and some, rearing ladders against the prison, tried to clamber to the summit of the walls they were too short to scale, and some again engaged a body of police a hundred strong, and beat them back and trod them under foot by force of numbers, others besieged the house on which the jailer had appeared, and driving in the door, brought out his furniture and piled it up against the prison gate to make a bonfire which should burn it down. As soon as this device was understood, all those who had labored hitherto cast down their tools and helped to swell the heap, which reached half-way across the street, and was so high that those who threw more fuel on the top got up by ladders. When all the keeper’s goods were flung upon this costly pile, to the last fragment, they smeared it with the pitch and tar and rosin they had brought, and sprinkled it with turpentine. To all the woodwork round the prison doors they did the like, leaving not a joist or beam untouched. This infernal christening performed, they fired the pile with lighted matches and with blazing tow, and then stood by, awaiting the result.  48
  The furniture being very dry and rendered more combustible by wax and oil, besides the arts they had used, took fire at once. The flames roared high and fiercely, blackening the prison wall, and twining up its lofty front like burning serpents. At first they crowded round the blaze, and vented their exultation only in their looks; but when it grew hotter and fiercer—when it crackled, leaped, and roared, like a great furnace—when it shone upon the opposite houses and lighted up not only the pale and wondering faces at the windows, but the inmost corners of each habitation—when, through the deep red heat and glow, the fire was seen sporting and toying with the door, now clinging to its obdurate surface, now gliding off with fierce inconstancy and soaring high into the sky, anon returning to fold it in its burning grasp and lure it to its ruin—when it shone and gleamed so brightly that the church clock of St. Sepulchre’s, so often pointing to the hour of death, was legible as in broad day, and the vane upon its steeple-top glittered in the unwonted light like something richly jeweled—when blackened stone and sombre brick grew ruddy in the deep reflection, and windows shone like burnished gold, dotting the longest distance in the fiery vista with their specks of brightness—when wall and tower and roof and chimney-stack seemed drunk, and in the flickering glare appeared to reel and stagger—when scores of objects, never seen before, burst out upon the view, and things the most familiar put on some new aspect—then the mob began to join the whirl, and with loud yells, and shouts, and clamor, such as happily is seldom heard, bestirred themselves to feed the fire and keep it at its height.  49
  Although the heat was so intense that the paint on the houses over against the prison parched and crackled up, and swelling into boils as it were, from excess of torture, broke and crumbled away; although the glass fell from the window-sashes, and the lead and iron on the roofs blistered the incautious hand that touched them, and the sparrows in the eaves took wing, and rendered giddy by the smoke, fell fluttering down upon the blazing pile;—still the fire was tended unceasingly by busy hands, and round it men were going always. They never slackened in their zeal, or kept aloof, but pressed upon the flames so hard that those in front had much ado to save themselves from being thrust in; if one man swooned or dropped, a dozen struggled for his place, and that, although they knew the pain and thirst and pressure to be unendurable. Those who fell down in fainting fits, and were not crushed or burned, were carried to an inn-yard close at hand, and dashed with water from a pump; of which buckets full were passed from man to man among the crowd; but such was the strong desire of all to drink, and such the fighting to be first, that for the most part the whole contents were spilled upon the ground, without the lips of one man being moistened.  50
  Meanwhile, and in the midst of all the roar and outcry, those who were nearest to the pile heaped up again the burning fragments that came toppling down, and raked the fire about the door, which, although a sheet of flame, was still a door fast locked and barred, and kept them out. Great pieces of blazing wood were passed, besides, above the people’s heads to such as stood about the ladders, and some of these, climbing up to the topmost stave, and holding on with one hand by the prison wall, exerted all their skill and force to cast these fire-brands on the roof, or down into the yards within. In many instances their efforts were successful, which occasioned a new and appalling addition to the horrors of the scene; for the prisoners within, seeing from between their bars that the fire caught in many places and thrived fiercely, and being all locked up in strong cells for the night, began to know that they were in danger of being burned alive. This terrible fear, spreading from cell to cell and from yard to yard, vented itself in such dismal cries and wailings, and in such dreadful shrieks for help, that the whole jail resounded with the noise; which was loudly heard even above the shouting of the mob and roaring of the flames, and was so full of agony and despair that it made the boldest tremble….  51
  The women who were looking on shrieked loudly, beat their hands together, stopped their ears, and many fainted; the men who were not near the walls and active in the siege, rather than do nothing tore up the pavement of the street, and did so with a haste and fury they could not have surpassed if that had been the jail, and they were near their object. Not one living creature in the throng was for an instant still. The whole great mass were mad.  52
  A shout! Another! Another yet, though few knew why, or what it meant. But those around the gate had seen it slowly yield, and drop from its topmost hinge. It hung on that side by but one, but it was upright still because of the bar, and its having sunk of its own weight into the heap of ashes at its foot. There was now a gap at the top of the doorway, through which could be descried a gloomy passage, cavernous and dark. Pile up the fire!  53
  It burned fiercely. The door was red-hot, and the gap wider. They vainly tried to shield their faces with their hands, and standing as if in readiness for a spring, watched the place. Dark figures, some crawling on their hands and knees, some carried in the arms of others, were seen to pass along the roof. It was plain the jail could hold out no longer. The keeper and his officers, and their wives and children, were escaping. Pile up the fire!  54
  The door sank down again: it settled deeper in the cinders—tottered—yielded—was down!  55
  As they shouted again, they fell back for a moment, and left a clear space about the fire that lay between them and the jail entry. Hugh leaped upon the blazing heap, and scattering a train of sparks into the air, and making the dark lobby glitter with those that hung upon his dress, dashed into the jail.  56
  The hangman followed. And then so many rushed upon their track that the fire got trodden down and thinly strewn about the street; but there was no need of it now, for inside and out, the prison was in flames.  57
 
  DURING the whole course of the terrible scene which was now at its height, one man in the jail suffered a degree of fear and mental torment which had no parallel in the endurance even of those who lay under sentence of death.  58
  When the rioters first assembled before the building, the murderer was roused from sleep—if such slumbers as his may have that blessed name—by the roar of voices, and the struggling of a great crowd. He started up as these sounds met his ear, and sitting on his bedstead, listened.  59
  After a short interval of silence the noise burst out again. Still listening attentively, he made out in course of time that the jail was besieged by a furious multitude. His guilty conscience instantly arrayed these men against himself, and brought the fear upon him that he would be singled out and torn to pieces.  60
  Once impressed with the terror of this conceit, everything tended to confirm and strengthen it. His double crime, the circumstances under which it had been committed, the length of time that had elapsed, and its discovery in spite of all, made him as it were the visible object of the Almighty’s wrath. In all the crime and vice and moral gloom of the great pest-house of the capital, he stood alone, marked and singled out by his great guilt, a Lucifer among the devils. The other prisoners were a host, hiding and sheltering each other—a crowd like that without the walls. He was one man against the whole united concourse; a single, solitary, lonely man, from whom the very captives in the jail fell off and shrunk appalled.  61
  It might be that the intelligence of his capture having been bruited abroad, they had come there purposely to drag him out and kill him in the street; or it might be that they were the rioters, and in pursuance of an old design had come to sack the prison. But in either case he had no belief or hope that they would spare him. Every shout they raised and every sound they made was a blow upon his heart. As the attack went on, he grew more wild and frantic in his terror; tried to pull away the bars that guarded the chimney and prevented him from climbing up; called loudly on the turnkeys to cluster round the cell and save him from the fury of the rabble, or put him in some dungeon underground, no matter of what depth, how dark it was, or loathsome, or beset with rats and creeping things, so that it hid him and was hard to find.  62
  But no one came, or answered him. Fearful, even while he cried to them, of attracting attention, he was silent. By-and-by he saw, as he looked from his grated window, a strange glimmering on the stone walls and pavement of the yard. It was feeble at first, and came and went, as though some officers with torches were passing to and fro upon the roof of the prison. Soon it reddened, and lighted brands came whirling down, spattering the ground with fire, and burning sullenly in corners. One rolled beneath a wooden bench and set it in a blaze; another caught a water-spout, and so went climbing up the wall, leaving a long straight track of fire behind it. After a time, a slow thick shower of burning fragments, from some upper portion of the prison which was blazing nigh, began to fall before his door. Remembering that it opened outwards, he knew that every spark which fell upon the heap, and in the act lost its bright life and died an ugly speck of dust and rubbish, helped to entomb him in a living grave. Still, though the jail resounded with shrieks and cries for help,—though the fire bounded up as if each separate name had had a tiger’s life, and roared as though in every one there were a hungry voice—though the heat began to grow intense, and the air suffocating, and the clamor without increased, and the danger of his situation even from one merciless element was every moment more extreme,—still he was afraid to raise his voice again, lest the crowd should break in, and should, of their own ears or from the information given them by the other prisoners, get the clew to his place of confinement. Thus fearful alike of those within the prison and of those without; of noise and silence; light and darkness; of being released, and being left there to die: he was so tortured and tormented, that nothing man has ever done to man in the horrible caprice of power and cruelty, exceeds his self-inflicted punishment.  63
  Now, now, the door was down. Now they came rushing through the jail, calling to each other in the vaulted passages; clashing the iron gates dividing yard from yard; beating at the doors of cells and wards; wrenching off bolts and locks and bars; tearing down the doorposts to get men out; endeavoring to drag them by main force through gaps and windows where a child could scarcely pass; whooping and yelling without a moment’s rest; and running through the heat and flames as if they were cased in metal. By their legs, their arms, the hair upon their heads, they dragged the prisoners out. Some threw themselves upon the captives as they got towards the door, and tried to file away their irons; some danced about them with a frenzied joy, and rent their clothes, and were ready, as it seemed, to tear them limb from limb. Now a party of a dozen men came darting through the yard into which the murderer cast fearful glances from his darkened window; dragging a prisoner along the ground, whose dress they had nearly torn from his body in their mad eagerness to set him free, and who was bleeding and senseless in their hands. Now a score of prisoners ran to and fro, who had lost themselves in the intricacies of the prison, and were so bewildered with the noise and glare that they knew not where to turn or what to do, and still cried out for help as loudly as before. Anon some famished wretch, whose theft had been a loaf of bread or scrap of butcher’s meat, came skulking past, barefooted—going slowly away because that jail, his house, was burning; not because he had any other, or had friends to meet, or old haunts to revisit, or any liberty to gain but liberty to starve and die. And then a knot of highwaymen went trooping by, conducted by the friends they had among the crowd, who muffled their fetters as they went along with handkerchiefs and bands of hay, and wrapped them in coats and cloaks, and gave them drink from bottles, and held it to their lips, because of their handcuffs which there was no time to remove. All this, and Heaven knows how much more, was done amidst a noise, a hurry, and distraction, like nothing that we know of even in our dreams; which seemed forever on the rise, and never to decrease for the space of a single instant.  64
  He was still looking down from his window upon these things, when a band of men with torches, ladders, axes, and many kinds of weapons, poured into the yard, and hammering at his door, inquired if there were any prisoner within. He left the window when he saw them coming, and drew back into the remotest corner of the cell; but although he returned them no answer, they had a fancy that some one was inside, for they presently set ladders against it, and began to tear away the bars at the casement; not only that, indeed, but with pickaxes to hew down the very stones in the wall.  65
  As soon as they had made a breach at the window, large enough for the admission of a man’s head, one of them thrust in a torch and looked all round the room. He followed this man’s gaze until it rested on himself, and heard him demand why he had not answered, but made him no reply.  66
  In the general surprise and wonder, they were used to this; without saying anything more, they enlarged the breach until it was large enough to admit the body of a man, and then came dropping down upon the floor, one after another, until the cell was full. They caught him up among them, handed him to the window, and those who stood upon the ladders passed him down upon the pavement of the yard. Then the rest came out, one after another, and bidding him fly and lose no time, or the way would be choked up, hurried away to rescue others.  67
  It seemed not a minute’s work from first to last. He staggered to his feet, incredulous of what had happened, when the yard was filled again, and a crowd rushed on, hurrying Barnaby among them. In another minute—not so much: another minute! the same instant, with no lapse or interval between!—he and his son were being passed from hand to hand, through the dense crowd in the street, and were glancing backward at a burning pile which some one said was Newgate….  68
  When he [the hangman] had issued his instructions relative to every other part of the building, and the mob were dispersed from end to end, and busy at their work, he took a bundle of keys from a kind of cupboard in the wall, and going by a private passage near the chapel (it joined the governor’s house, and was then on fire), betook himself to the condemned cells, which were a series of small, strong, dismal rooms, opening on a low gallery, guarded at the end at which he entered by a strong iron wicket, and at its opposite extremity by two doors and a thick grate. Having double-locked the wicket and assured himself that the other entrances were well secured, he sat down on a bench in the gallery and sucked the head of his stick with an air of the utmost complacency, tranquillity, and contentment.  69
  It would have been strange enough, a man’s enjoying himself in this quiet manner while the prison was burning and such a tumult was cleaving the air, though he had been outside the walls. But here in the very heart of the building, and moreover, with the prayers and cries of the four men under sentence sounding in his ears, and their hands, stretched out through the gratings in their cell doors, clasped in frantic entreaty before his very eyes, it was particularly remarkable. Indeed, Mr. Dennis appeared to think it an uncommon circumstance, and to banter himself upon it; for he thrust his hat on one side as some men do when they are in a waggish humor, sucked the head of his stick with a higher relish, and smiled as though he would say:—“Dennis, you’re a rum dog; you’re a queer fellow; you’re capital company, Dennis, and quite a character!”  70
  He sat in this way for some minutes, while the four men in the cells, certain that somebody had entered the gallery but unable to see who, gave vent to such piteous entreaties as wretches in their miserable condition may be supposed to have been inspired with; urging whoever it was to set them at liberty, for the love of Heaven; and protesting with great fervor, and truly enough perhaps for the time, that if they escaped they would amend their ways, and would never, never, never again do wrong before God or man, but would lead penitent and sober lives, and sorrowfully repent the crimes they had committed. The terrible energy with which they spoke would have moved any person, no matter how good or just (if any good or just person could have strayed into that sad place that night), to set them at liberty, and while he would have left any other punishment to its free course, to save them from this last dreadful and repulsive penalty; which never turned a man inclined to evil, and has hardened thousands who were half inclined to good.  71
  Mr. Dennis, who had been bred and nurtured in the good old school, and had administered the good old laws on the good old plan, always once and sometimes twice every six weeks, for a long time bore these appeals with a deal of philosophy. Being at last, however, rather disturbed in his pleasant reflection by their repetition, he rapped at one of the doors with his stick, and cried,—  72
  “Hold your noise there, will you?”…  73
  Mr. Dennis resumed in a sort of coaxing tone:—  74
  “Now look’ee here, you four. I’m come here to take care of you, and see that you ain’t burnt, instead of the other thing. It’s no use you making any noise, for you won’t be found out by them as has broken in, and you’ll only be hoarse when you come to the speeches,—which is a pity. What I say in respect to the speeches always is, ‘Give it mouth.’ That’s my maxim. Give it mouth. I’ve heerd,” said the hangman, pulling off his hat to take his handkerchief from the crown and wipe his face, and then putting it on again a little more on one side than before, “I’ve heerd a eloquence on them boards,—you know what boards I mean,—and have heerd a degree of mouth given to them speeches, that they was as clear as a bell, and as good as a play. There’s a pattern! And always, when a thing of this natur’s to come off, what I stand up for is a proper frame of mind. Let’s have a proper frame of mind, and we can go through with it, creditable—pleasant—sociable. Whatever you do (and I address myself in particular to you in the furthest), never snivel. I’d sooner by half, though I lose by it, see a man tear his clothes a-purpose to spile ’em before they come to me, than find him sniveling. It is ten to one a better frame of mind, every way!”  75
 
 
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