"Ye-es, sir." returned Jerry, in something of a dogged manner. "I doknow the Bailey."
"Just so. And you know Mr. Lorry."
"I know Mr. Lorry, sir, much better than I know the Bailey. Muchbetter," said Jerry, not unlike a reluctant witness at theestablishment in question, "than I, as a honest tradesman, wish toknow the Bailey."
"Very well. Find the door where the witnesses go in, and show thedoor-keeper this note for Mr. Lorry. He will then let you in."
"Into the court, sir?"
"Into the court."
Mr. Cruncher's eyes seemed to get a little closer to one another,and to interchange the inquiry, "What do you think of this?"
"Am I to wait in the court, sir?" he asked, as the result of thatconference.
"I am going to tell you. The door-keeper will pass the note to Mr.Lorry, and do you make any gesture that will attract Mr. Lorry'sattention, and show him where you stand. Then what you have to do, is,to remain there until he wants you."
"Is that all, sir?"
"That's all. He wishes to have a messenger at hand. This is totell him you are there."
As the ancient clerk deliberately folded and superscribed thenote, Mr. Cruncher, after surveying him in silence until he came tothe blotting-paper stage, remarked:
"I suppose they'll be trying Forgeries this morning?"
"That's quartering," said Jerry. "Barbarous!"
"It is the law," remarked the ancient clerk, turning his surprisedspectacles upon him. "It is the law."
"It's hard in the law to spile a man, I think. It's hard enough tokill him, but it's very hard to spile him, sir."
"Not at all," returned the ancient clerk. "Speak well of the law.Take care of your chest and voice, my good friend, and leave the lawto take care of itself. I give you that advice."
"It's the damp, sir, what settles on my chest and voice," saidJerry. "I leave you to judge what a damp way of earning a livingmine is."
"Well, well," said the old clerk; "we an have our various ways ofgaining a livelihood. Some of us have damp ways, and some of us havedry ways. Here is the letter. Go along."
Jerry took the letter, and, remarking to himself with lessinternal deference than he made an outward show of, "You are a leanold one, too," made his bow, informed his son, in passing, of hisdestination, and went his way.
They hanged at Tyburn, in those days, so the street outsideNewgate had not obtained one infamous notoriety that has sinceattached to it. But, the gaol was a vile place, in which most kinds ofdebauchery and villainy were practised, and where dire diseases werebred, that came into court with the prisoners, and sometimes rushedstraight from the dock at my Lord Chief Justice himself, and pulledhim off the bench. It had more than once happened, that the Judge inthe black cap pronounced his own doom as certainly as theprisoner's, and even died before him. For the rest, the Old Bailey wasfamous as a kind of deadly inn-yard, from which pale travellers setout continually, in carts and coaches, on a violent passage into theother world: traversing some two miles and a half of public street androad, and shaming few good citizens, if any. So powerful is use, andso desirable to be good use in the beginning. It was famous, too,for the pillory, a wise old institution, that inflicted a punishmentof which no one could foresee the extent; also, for the whipping-post,another dear old institution, very humanising and softening tobehold in action; also, for extensive transactions in blood-money,another fragment of ancestral wisdom, systematically leading to themost frightful mercenary crimes that could be committed underHeaven. Altogether, the Old Bailey, at that date, was a choiceillustration of the precept, that "Whatever is is right;" anaphorism that would be as final as it is lazy, did it not includethe troublesome consequence, that nothing that ever was, was wrong.
Making his way through the tainted crowd, dispersed up and down thishideous scene of action, with the skill of a man accustomed to makehis way quietly, the messenger found out the door he sought, andhanded in his letter through a trap in it. For, people then paid tosee the play at the Old Bailey, just as they paid to see the play inBedlam-only the former entertainment was much the dearer. Therefore,all the Old Bailey doors were well guarded- except, indeed, the socialdoors by which the criminals got there, and those were always leftwide open.
After some delay and demur, the door grudgingly turned on its hingesa very little way, and allowed Mr. Jerry Cruncher to squeeze himselfinto court.
"What's on?" he asked, in a whisper, of the man he found himselfnext to.
"What's coming on?"
"The Treason case."
"The quartering one, eh?"
"Ah!" returned the man, with a relish; "he'll be drawn on a hurdleto be half hanged, and then he'll be taken down and sliced beforehis own face, and then his inside will be taken out and burnt while helooks on, and then his head will be chopped off, and he'll be cut intoquarters. That's the sentence."
"If he's found Guilty, you mean to say?" Jerry added, by way ofproviso.
"Oh! they'll find him guilty," said the other. "Don't you beafraid of that."
Mr. Cruncher's attention was here diverted to the door-keeper,whom he saw making his way to Mr. Lorry, with the note in his hand.Mr. Lorry sat at a table, among the gentlemen in wigs: not far froma wigged gentleman, the prisoner's counsel, who had a great bundleof papers before him: and nearly opposite another wigged gentlemanwith his hands in his pockets, whose whole attention, when Mr.Cruncher looked at him then or afterwards, seemed to be concentratedon the ceiling of the court. After some gruff coughing and rubbingof his chin and signing with his hand, Jerry attracted the notice ofMr. Lorry, who had stood up to look for him, and who quietly noddedand sat down again.
"What's he got to do with the case?" asked the man he had spokenwith.
"Blest if I know," said Jerry.
"What have you got to do with it, then, if a person may inquire?"
"Blest if I know that either," said Jerry.
The entrance of the Judge, and a consequent great stir andsettling down in the court, stopped the dialogue. Presently, thedock became the central point of interest. Two gaolers, who had beenstanding there, went out, and the prisoner was brought in, and putto the bar.
Everybody present, except the one wigged gentleman who looked at theceiling, stared at him. All the human breath in the place, rolled athim, like a sea, or a wind, or a fire. Eager faces strained roundpillars and comers, to get a sight of him; spectators in back rowsstood up, not to miss a hair of him; people on the floor of the court,laid their hands on the shoulders of the people before them, to helpthemselves, at anybody's cost, to a view of him- stood a-tiptoe, gotupon ledges, stood upon next to nothing, to see every inch of him.Conspicuous among these latter, like an animated bit of the spikedwall of Newgate, Jerry stood: aiming at the prisoner the beerybreath of a whet he had taken as he came along, and discharging itto mingle with the waves of other beer, and gin, and tea, andcoffee, and what not, that flowed at him, and already broke upon thegreat windows behind him in an impure mist and rain.
The object of all this staring and blaring, was a young man of aboutfive-and-twenty, well-grown and well-looking, with a sunburnt cheekand a dark eye. His condition was that of a young gentleman. He wasplainly dressed in black, or very dark grey, and his hair, which waslong and dark, was gathered in a ribbon at the back of his neck;more to be out of his way than for ornament. As an emotion of the mindwill express itself through any covering of the body, so thepaleness which his situation engendered came through the brown uponhis cheek, showing the soul to be stronger than the sun. He wasotherwise quite self-possessed, bowed to the Judge, and stood quiet.
The sort of interest with which this man was stared and breathed at,was not a sort that elevated humanity. Had he stood in peril of a lesshorrible sentence- had there been a chance of any one of its savagedetails being spared- by just so much would he have lost in hisfascination. The form that was to be doomed to be so shamefullymangled, was the sight; the immortal creature that was to be sobutchered and torn asunder, yielded the sensation. Whatever glossthe various spectators put upon the interest, according to theirseveral arts and powers of self-deceit, the interest was, at theroot of it, Ogreish.
Silence in the court! Charles Darnay had yesterday pleaded NotGuilty to an indictment denouncing him (with infinite jingle andjangle) for that he was a false traitor to our serene, illustrious,excellent, and so forth, prince, our Lord the King, by reason of hishaving, on divers occasions, and by divers means and ways, assistedLewis, the French King, in his wars against our said serene,illustrious, excellent, and so forth; that was to say, by coming andgoing, between the dominions of our said serene, illustrious,excellent, and so forth, and those of the said French Lewis, andwickedly, falsely, traitorously, and otherwise evil-adverbiously,revealing to the said French Lewis what forces our said serene,illustrious, excellent, and so forth, had in preparation to send toCanada and North America. This much, Jerry, with his head becomingmore and more spiky as the law terms bristled it, made out with hugesatisfaction, and so arrived circuitously at the understanding thatthe aforesaid, and over and over again aforesaid, Charles Darnay,stood there before him upon his trial; that the jury were swearing in;and that Mr. Attorney-General was making ready to speak.
The accused, who was (and who knew he was) being mentally hanged,beheaded, and quartered, by everybody there, neither flinched from thesituation, nor assumed any theatrical air in it. He was quiet andattentive; watched the opening proceedings with a grave interest;and stood with his hands resting on the slab of wood before him, socomposedly, that they had not displaced a leaf of the herbs with whichit was strewn. The court was all bestrewn with herbs and sprinkledwith vinegar, as a precaution against gaol air and gaol fever.
Over the prisoner's head there was a mirror, to throw the light downupon him. Crowds of the wicked and the wretched had been reflectedin it, and had passed from its surface and this earth's together.Haunted in a most ghastly manner that abominable place would havebeen, if the glass could ever have rendered back its reflections, asthe ocean is one day to give up its dead. Some passing thought ofthe infamy and disgrace for which it had been reserved, may havestruck the prisoner's mind. Be that as it may, a change in hisposition making him conscious of a bar of light across his face, helooked up; and when he saw the glass his face flushed, and his righthand pushed the herbs away.
It happened, that the action turned his face to that side of thecourt which was on his left. About on a level with his eyes, theresat, in that corner of the Judge's bench, two persons upon whom hislook immediately rested; so immediately, and so much to the changingof his aspect, that all the eyes that were turned upon him, turnedto them.
The spectators saw in the two figures, a young lady of little morethan twenty, and a gentleman who was evidently her father; a man ofa very remarkable appearance in respect of the absolute whiteness ofhis hair, and a certain indescribable intensity of face: not of anactive kind, but pondering and self-communing. When this expressionwas upon him, he looked as if he were old; but when it was stirred andbroken up- as it was now, in a moment, on his speaking to hisdaughter- he became a handsome man, not past the prime of life.
His daughter had one of her hands drawn through his arm, as shesat by him, and the other pressed upon it. She had drawn close to him,in her dread of the scene, and in her pity for the prisoner. Herforehead had been strikingly expressive of an engrossing terror andcompassion that saw nothing but the peril of the accused. This hadbeen so very noticeable, so very powerfully and naturally shown,that starers who had had no pity for him were touched by her; andthe whisper went about, "Who are they?"
Jerry, the messenger, who had made his own observations, in hisown manner, and who had been sucking the rust off his fingers in hisabsorption, stretched his neck to hear who they were. The crowdabout him had pressed and passed the inquiry on to the nearestattendant, and from him it had been more slowly pressed and passedback; at last it got to Jerry:
"For which side?"
"Against what side?"
The Judge, whose eyes had gone in the general direction, recalledthem, leaned back in his seat, and looked steadily at the man whoselife was in his hand, as Mr. Attorney-General rose to spin the rope,grind the axe, and hammer the nails into the scaffold.