But there was a worse spectacle than this--worse by far than fire and smoke, or even the rabble's unappeasable and maniac rage. The gutters of the street, and every crack and fissure in the stones, ran with scorching spirit, which being dammed up by busy hands, overflowed the road and pavement, and formed a great pool, into which the people dropped down dead by dozens. They lay in heaps all round this fearful pond, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, women with children in their arms and babies at their breasts, and drank until they died. While some stooped with their lips to the brink and never raised their heads again, others sprang up from their fiery draught, and danced, half in a mad triumph, and half in the agony of suffocation, until they fell, and steeped their corpses in the liquor that had killed them. Nor was even this the worst or most appalling kind of death that happened on this fatal night. From the burning cellars, where they drank out of hats, pails, buckets, tubs, and shoes, some men were drawn, alive, but all alight from head to foot; who, in their unendurable anguish and suffering, making for anything that had the look of water, rolled, hissing, in this hideous lake, and splashed up liquid fire which lapped in all it met with as it ran along the surface, and neither spared the living nor the dead. On this last night of the great riots--for the last night it was--the wretched victims of a senseless outcry, became themselves the dust and ashes of the flames they had kindled, and strewed the public streets of London.
With all he saw in this last glance fixed indelibly upon his mind, Barnaby hurried from the city which enclosed such horrors; and holding down his head that he might not even see the glare of the fires upon the quiet landscape, was soon in the still country roads.
He stopped at about half-a-mile from the shed where his father lay, and with some difficulty making Hugh sensible that he must dismount, sunk the horse's furniture in a pool of stagnant water, and turned the animal loose. That done, he supported his companion as well as he could, and led him slowly forward.
It was the dead of night, and very dark, when Barnaby, with his stumbling comrade, approached the place where he had left his father; but he could see him stealing away into the gloom, distrustful even of him, and rapidly retreating. After calling to him twice or thrice that there was nothing to fear, but without effect, he suffered Hugh to sink upon the ground, and followed to bring him back.
He continued to creep away, until Barnaby was close upon him; then turned, and said in a terrible, though suppressed voice:
'Let me go. Do not lay hands upon me. You have told her; and you and she together have betrayed me!'
Barnaby looked at him, in silence.
'You have seen your mother!'
'No,' cried Barnaby, eagerly. 'Not for a long time--longer than I can tell. A whole year, I think. Is she here?'
His father looked upon him steadfastly for a few moments, and then said--drawing nearer to him as he spoke, for, seeing his face, and hearing his words, it was impossible to doubt his truth:
'What man is that?'
'Hugh--Hugh. Only Hugh. You know him. HE will not harm you. Why, you're afraid of Hugh! Ha ha ha! Afraid of gruff, old, noisy Hugh!'
'What man is he, I ask you,' he rejoined so fiercely, that Barnaby stopped in his laugh, and shrinking back, surveyed him with a look of terrified amazement.
'Why, how stern you are! You make me fear you, though you are my father. Why do you speak to me so?'
--'I want,' he answered, putting away the hand which his son, with a timid desire to propitiate him, laid upon his sleeve,--'I want an answer, and you give me only jeers and questions. Who have you brought with you to this hiding-place, poor fool; and where is the blind man?'
'I don't know where. His house was close shut. I waited, but no person came; that was no fault of mine. This is Hugh--brave Hugh, who broke into that ugly jail, and set us free.