They had by this time taken to their singing again, and as their leader passed between their ranks, they raised their voices to their utmost. Many of those who were banded together to support the religion of their country, even unto death, had never heard a hymn or psalm in all their lives. But these fellows having for the most part strong lungs, and being naturally fond of singing, chanted any ribaldry or nonsense that occurred to them, feeling pretty certain that it would not be detected in the general chorus, and not caring much if it were. Many of these voluntaries were sung under the very nose of Lord George Gordon, who, quite unconscious of their burden, passed on with his usual stiff and solemn deportment, very much edified and delighted by the pious conduct of his followers.
So they went on and on, up this line, down that, round the exterior of this circle, and on every side of that hollow square; and still there were lines, and squares, and circles out of number to review. The day being now intensely hot, and the sun striking down his fiercest rays upon the field, those who carried heavy banners began to grow faint and weary; most of the number assembled were fain to pull off their neckcloths, and throw their coats and waistcoats open; and some, towards the centre, quite overpowered by the excessive heat, which was of course rendered more unendurable by the multitude around them, lay down upon the grass, and offered all they had about them for a drink of water. Still, no man left the ground, not even of those who were so distressed; still Lord George, streaming from every pore, went on with Gashford; and still Barnaby and his mother followed close behind them.
They had arrived at the top of a long line of some eight hundred men in single file, and Lord George had turned his head to look back, when a loud cry of recognition--in that peculiar and half- stifled tone which a voice has, when it is raised in the open air and in the midst of a great concourse of persons--was heard, and a man stepped with a shout of laughter from the rank, and smote Barnaby on the shoulders with his heavy hand.
'How now!' he cried. 'Barnaby Rudge! Why, where have you been hiding for these hundred years?'
Barnaby had been thinking within himself that the smell of the trodden grass brought back his old days at cricket, when he was a young boy and played on Chigwell Green. Confused by this sudden and boisterous address, he stared in a bewildered manner at the man, and could scarcely say 'What! Hugh!'
'Hugh!' echoed the other; 'ay, Hugh--Maypole Hugh! You remember my dog? He's alive now, and will know you, I warrant. What, you wear the colour, do you? Well done! Ha ha ha!'
'You know this young man, I see,' said Lord George.
'Know him, my lord! as well as I know my own right hand. My captain knows him. We all know him.'
'Will you take him into your division?'
'It hasn't in it a better, nor a nimbler, nor a more active man, than Barnaby Rudge,' said Hugh. 'Show me the man who says it has! Fall in, Barnaby. He shall march, my lord, between me and Dennis; and he shall carry,' he added, taking a flag from the hand of a tired man who tendered it, 'the gayest silken streamer in this valiant army.'
'In the name of God, no!' shrieked the widow, darting forward. 'Barnaby--my lord--see--he'll come back--Barnaby--Barnaby!'
'Women in the field!' cried Hugh, stepping between them, and holding her off. 'Holloa! My captain there!'
'What's the matter here?' cried Simon Tappertit, bustling up in a great heat. 'Do you call this order?'
'Nothing like it, captain,' answered Hugh, still holding her back with his outstretched hand. 'It's against all orders. Ladies are carrying off our gallant soldiers from their duty. The word of command, captain! They're filing off the ground. Quick!'
'Close!' cried Simon, with the whole power of his lungs. 'Form! March!'
She was thrown to the ground; the whole field was in motion; Barnaby was whirled away into the heart of a dense mass of men, and she saw him no more.