Has any man seen or heard of him?'
They shook their heads, and murmured an answer in the negative, as each man looked round and appealed to his fellow; when a noise was heard without, and a man was heard to say that he wanted Hugh--that he must see Hugh.
'He is but one man,' cried Hugh to those who kept the door; 'let him come in.'
'Ay, ay!' muttered the others. 'Let him come in. Let him come in.'
The door was accordingly unlocked and opened. A one-armed man, with his head and face tied up with a bloody cloth, as though he had been severely beaten, his clothes torn, and his remaining hand grasping a thick stick, rushed in among them, and panting for breath, demanded which was Hugh.
'Here he is,' replied the person he inquired for. 'I am Hugh. What do you want with me?'
'I have a message for you,' said the man. 'You know one Barnaby.'
'What of him? Did he send the message?'
'Yes. He's taken. He's in one of the strong cells in Newgate. He defended himself as well as he could, but was overpowered by numbers. That's his message.'
'When did you see him?' asked Hugh, hastily.
'On his way to prison, where he was taken by a party of soldiers. They took a by-road, and not the one we expected. I was one of the few who tried to rescue him, and he called to me, and told me to tell Hugh where he was. We made a good struggle, though it failed. Look here!'
He pointed to his dress and to his bandaged head, and still panting for breath, glanced round the room; then faced towards Hugh again.
'I know you by sight,' he said, 'for I was in the crowd on Friday, and on Saturday, and yesterday, but I didn't know your name. You're a bold fellow, I know. So is he. He fought like a lion tonight, but it was of no use. I did my best, considering that I want this limb.'
Again he glanced inquisitively round the room or seemed to do so, for his face was nearly hidden by the bandage--and again facing sharply towards Hugh, grasped his stick as if he half expected to be set upon, and stood on the defensive.
If he had any such apprehension, however, he was speedily reassured by the demeanour of all present. None thought of the bearer of the tidings. He was lost in the news he brought. Oaths, threats, and execrations, were vented on all sides. Some cried that if they bore this tamely, another day would see them all in jail; some, that they should have rescued the other prisoners, and this would not have happened. One man cried in a loud voice, 'Who'll follow me to Newgate!' and there was a loud shout and general rush towards the door.
But Hugh and Dennis stood with their backs against it, and kept them back, until the clamour had so far subsided that their voices could be heard, when they called to them together that to go now, in broad day, would be madness; and that if they waited until night and arranged a plan of attack, they might release, not only their own companions, but all the prisoners, and burn down the jail.
'Not that jail alone,' cried Hugh, 'but every jail in London. They shall have no place to put their prisoners in. We'll burn them all down; make bonfires of them every one! Here!' he cried, catching at the hangman's hand. 'Let all who're men here, join with us. Shake hands upon it. Barnaby out of jail, and not a jail left standing! Who joins?'
Every man there. And they swore a great oath to release their friends from Newgate next night; to force the doors and burn the jail; or perish in the fire themselves.
On that same night--events so crowd upon each other in convulsed and distracted times, that more than the stirring incidents of a whole life often become compressed into the compass of four-and- twenty hours--on that same night, Mr Haredale, having strongly bound his prisoner, with the assistance of the sexton, and forced him to mount his horse, conducted him to Chigwell; bent upon procuring a conveyance to London from that place, and carrying him at once before a justice. The disturbed state of the town would be, he knew, a sufficient reason for demanding the murderer's committal to prison before daybreak, as no man could answer for the security of any of the watch-houses or ordinary places of detention; and to convey a prisoner through the streets when the mob were again abroad, would not only be a task of great danger and hazard, but would be to challenge an attempt at rescue.