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Chapter 25

A VISIT TO NEWGATE

'The force of habit' is a trite phrase in everybody's mouth; and it
is not a little remarkable that those who use it most as applied to
others, unconsciously afford in their own persons singular examples
of the power which habit and custom exercise over the minds of men,
and of the little reflection they are apt to bestow on subjects
with which every day's experience has rendered them familiar. If
Bedlam could be suddenly removed like another Aladdin's palace, and
set down on the space now occupied by Newgate, scarcely one man out
of a hundred, whose road to business every morning lies through
Newgate-street, or the Old Bailey, would pass the building without
bestowing a hasty glance on its small, grated windows, and a
transient thought upon the condition of the unhappy beings immured
in its dismal cells; and yet these same men, day by day, and hour
by hour, pass and repass this gloomy depository of the guilt and
misery of London, in one perpetual stream of life and bustle,
utterly unmindful of the throng of wretched creatures pent up
within it--nay, not even knowing, or if they do, not heeding, the
fact, that as they pass one particular angle of the massive wall
with a light laugh or a merry whistle, they stand within one yard
of a fellow-creature, bound and helpless, whose hours are numbered,
from whom the last feeble ray of hope has fled for ever, and whose
miserable career will shortly terminate in a violent and shameful
death. Contact with death even in its least terrible shape, is
solemn and appalling. How much more awful is it to reflect on this
near vicinity to the dying--to men in full health and vigour, in
the flower of youth or the prime of life, with all their faculties
and perceptions as acute and perfect as your own; but dying,
nevertheless--dying as surely--with the hand of death imprinted
upon them as indelibly--as if mortal disease had wasted their
frames to shadows, and corruption had already begun!

It was with some such thoughts as these that we determined, not
many weeks since, to visit the interior of Newgate--in an amateur
capacity, of course; and, having carried our intention into effect,
we proceed to lay its results before our readers, in the hope--
founded more upon the nature of the subject, than on any
presumptuous confidence in our own descriptive powers--that this
paper may not be found wholly devoid of interest. We have only to
premise, that we do not intend to fatigue the reader with any
statistical accounts of the prison; they will be found at length in
numerous reports of numerous committees, and a variety of
authorities of equal weight. We took no notes, made no memoranda,
measured none of the yards, ascertained the exact number of inches
in no particular room: are unable even to report of how many
apartments the gaol is composed.

We saw the prison, and saw the prisoners; and what we did see, and
what we thought, we will tell at once in our own way.

Having delivered our credentials to the servant who answered our
knock at the door of the governor's house, we were ushered into the
'office;' a little room, on the right-hand side as you enter, with
two windows looking into the Old Bailey: fitted up like an
ordinary attorney's office, or merchant's counting-house, with the
usual fixtures--a wainscoted partition, a shelf or two, a desk, a
couple of stools, a pair of clerks, an almanack, a clock, and a few
maps. After a little delay, occasioned by sending into the
interior of the prison for the officer whose duty it was to conduct
us, that functionary arrived; a respectable-looking man of about
two or three and fifty, in a broad-brimmed hat, and full suit of
black, who, but for his keys, would have looked quite as much like
a clergyman as a turnkey. We were disappointed; he had not even
top-boots on. Following our conductor by a door opposite to that
at which we had entered, we arrived at a small room, without any
other furniture than a little desk, with a book for visitors'
autographs, and a shelf, on which were a few boxes for papers, and
casts of the heads and faces of the two notorious murderers, Bishop
and Williams; the former, in particular, exhibiting a style of head
and set of features, which might have afforded sufficient moral
grounds for his instant execution at any time, even had there been
no other evidence against him. Leaving this room also, by an
opposite door, we found ourself in the lodge which opens on the Old
Bailey; one side of which is plentifully garnished with a choice
collection of heavy sets of irons, including those worn by the
redoubtable Jack Sheppard--genuine; and those SAID to have been
graced by the sturdy limbs of the no less celebrated Dick Turpin--
doubtful. From this lodge, a heavy oaken gate, bound with iron,
studded with nails of the same material, and guarded by another
turnkey, opens on a few steps, if we remember right, which
terminate in a narrow and dismal stone passage, running parallel
with the Old Bailey, and leading to the different yards, through a
number of tortuous and intricate windings, guarded in their turn by
huge gates and gratings, whose appearance is sufficient to dispel
at once the slightest hope of escape that any new-comer may have
entertained; and the very recollection of which, on eventually
traversing the place again, involves one in a maze of confusion.

It is necessary to explain here, that the buildings in the prison,
or in other words the different wards--form a square, of which the
four sides abut respectively on the Old Bailey, the old College of
Physicians (now forming a part of Newgate-market), the Sessions-
house, and Newgate-street. The intermediate space is divided into
several paved yards, in which the prisoners take such air and
exercise as can be had in such a place. These yards, with the
exception of that in which prisoners under sentence of death are
confined (of which we shall presently give a more detailed
description), run parallel with Newgate-street, and consequently
from the Old Bailey, as it were, to Newgate-market. The women's
side is in the right wing of the prison nearest the Sessions-house.
As we were introduced into this part of the building first, we will
adopt the same order, and introduce our readers to it also.

Turning to the right, then, down the passage to which we just now
adverted, omitting any mention of intervening gates--for if we
noticed every gate that was unlocked for us to pass through, and
locked again as soon as we had passed, we should require a gate at
every comma--we came to a door composed of thick bars of wood,
through which were discernible, passing to and fro in a narrow
yard, some twenty women: the majority of whom, however, as soon as
they were aware of the presence of strangers, retreated to their
wards. One side of this yard is railed off at a considerable
distance, and formed into a kind of iron cage, about five feet ten
inches in height, roofed at the top, and defended in front by iron
bars, from which the friends of the female prisoners communicate
with them. In one corner of this singular-looking den, was a
yellow, haggard, decrepit old woman, in a tattered gown that had
once been black, and the remains of an old straw bonnet, with faded
ribbon of the same hue, in earnest conversation with a young girl--
a prisoner, of course--of about two-and-twenty. It is impossible
to imagine a more poverty-stricken object, or a creature so borne
down in soul and body, by excess of misery and destitution, as the
old woman. The girl was a good-looking, robust female, with a
profusion of hair streaming about in the wind--for she had no
bonnet on--and a man's silk pocket-handkerchief loosely thrown over
a most ample pair of shoulders. The old woman was talking in that
low, stifled tone of voice which tells so forcibly of mental
anguish; and every now and then burst into an irrepressible sharp,
abrupt cry of grief, the most distressing sound that ears can hear.
The girl was perfectly unmoved. Hardened beyond all hope of
redemption, she listened doggedly to her mother's entreaties,
whatever they were: and, beyond inquiring after 'Jem,' and eagerly
catching at the few halfpence her miserable parent had brought her,
took no more apparent interest in the conversation than the most
unconcerned spectators. Heaven knows there were enough of them, in
the persons of the other prisoners in the yard, who were no more
concerned by what was passing before their eyes, and within their
hearing, than if they were blind and deaf. Why should they be?
Inside the prison, and out, such scenes were too familiar to them,
to excite even a passing thought, unless of ridicule or contempt
for feelings which they had long since forgotten.

A little farther on, a squalid-looking woman in a slovenly, thick-
bordered cap, with her arms muffled in a large red shawl, the
fringed ends of which straggled nearly to the bottom of a dirty
white apron, was communicating some instructions to HER visitor--
her daughter evidently. The girl was thinly clad, and shaking with
the cold. Some ordinary word of recognition passed between her and
her mother when she appeared at the grating, but neither hope,
condolence, regret, nor affection was expressed on either side.
The mother whispered her instructions, and the girl received them
with her pinched-up, half-starved features twisted into an
expression of careful cunning. It was some scheme for the woman's
defence that she was disclosing, perhaps; and a sullen smile came
over the girl's face for an instant, as if she were pleased: not
so much at the probability of her mother's liberation, as at the
chance of her 'getting off' in spite of her prosecutors. The
dialogue was soon concluded; and with the same careless
indifference with which they had approached each other, the mother
turned towards the inner end of the yard, and the girl to the gate
at which she had entered.

The girl belonged to a class--unhappily but too extensive--the very
existence of which, should make men's hearts bleed. Barely past
her childhood, it required but a glance to discover that she was
one of those children, born and bred in neglect and vice, who have
never known what childhood is: who have never been taught to love
and court a parent's smile, or to dread a parent's frown. The
thousand nameless endearments of childhood, its gaiety and its
innocence, are alike unknown to them. They have entered at once
upon the stern realities and miseries of life, and to their better
nature it is almost hopeless to appeal in after-times, by any of
the references which will awaken, if it be only for a moment, some
good feeling in ordinary bosoms, however corrupt they may have
become. Talk to THEM of parental solicitude, the happy days of
childhood, and the merry games of infancy! Tell them of hunger and
the streets, beggary and stripes, the gin-shop, the station-house,
and the pawnbroker's, and they will understand you.

Two or three women were standing at different parts of the grating,
conversing with their friends, but a very large proportion of the
prisoners appeared to have no friends at all, beyond such of their
old companions as might happen to be within the walls. So, passing
hastily down the yard, and pausing only for an instant to notice
the little incidents we have just recorded, we were conducted up a
clean and well-lighted flight of stone stairs to one of the wards.
There are several in this part of the building, but a description
of one is a description of the whole.

It was a spacious, bare, whitewashed apartment, lighted, of course,
by windows looking into the interior of the prison, but far more
light and airy than one could reasonably expect to find in such a
situation. There was a large fire with a deal table before it,
round which ten or a dozen women were seated on wooden forms at
dinner. Along both sides of the room ran a shelf; below it, at
regular intervals, a row of large hooks were fixed in the wall, on
each of which was hung the sleeping mat of a prisoner: her rug and
blanket being folded up, and placed on the shelf above. At night,
these mats are placed on the floor, each beneath the hook on which
it hangs during the day; and the ward is thus made to answer the
purposes both of a day-room and sleeping apartment. Over the
fireplace, was a large sheet of pasteboard, on which were displayed
a variety of texts from Scripture, which were also scattered about
the room in scraps about the size and shape of the copy-slips which
are used in schools. On the table was a sufficient provision of a
kind of stewed beef and brown bread, in pewter dishes, which are
kept perfectly bright, and displayed on shelves in great order and
regularity when they are not in use.

The women rose hastily, on our entrance, and retired in a hurried
manner to either side of the fireplace. They were all cleanly--
many of them decently--attired, and there was nothing peculiar,
either in their appearance or demeanour. One or two resumed the
needlework which they had probably laid aside at the commencement
of their meal; others gazed at the visitors with listless
curiosity; and a few retired behind their companions to the very
end of the room, as if desirous to avoid even the casual
observation of the strangers. Some old Irish women, both in this
and other wards, to whom the thing was no novelty, appeared
perfectly indifferent to our presence, and remained standing close
to the seats from which they had just risen; but the general
feeling among the females seemed to be one of uneasiness during the
period of our stay among them: which was very brief. Not a word
was uttered during the time of our remaining, unless, indeed, by
the wardswoman in reply to some question which we put to the
turnkey who accompanied us. In every ward on the female side, a
wardswoman is appointed to preserve order, and a similar regulation
is adopted among the males. The wardsmen and wardswomen are all
prisoners, selected for good conduct. They alone are allowed the
privilege of sleeping on bedsteads; a small stump bedstead being
placed in every ward for that purpose. On both sides of the gaol,
is a small receiving-room, to which prisoners are conducted on
their first reception, and whence they cannot be removed until they
have been examined by the surgeon of the prison. {2}

Retracing our steps to the dismal passage in which we found
ourselves at first (and which, by-the-bye, contains three or four
dark cells for the accommodation of refractory prisoners), we were
led through a narrow yard to the 'school'--a portion of the prison
set apart for boys under fourteen years of age. In a tolerable-
sized room, in which were writing-materials and some copy-books,
was the schoolmaster, with a couple of his pupils; the remainder
having been fetched from an adjoining apartment, the whole were
drawn up in line for our inspection. There were fourteen of them
in all, some with shoes, some without; some in pinafores without
jackets, others in jackets without pinafores, and one in scarce
anything at all. The whole number, without an exception we
believe, had been committed for trial on charges of pocket-picking;
and fourteen such terrible little faces we never beheld.--There was
not one redeeming feature among them--not a glance of honesty--not
a wink expressive of anything but the gallows and the hulks, in the
whole collection. As to anything like shame or contrition, that
was entirely out of the question. They were evidently quite
gratified at being thought worth the trouble of looking at; their
idea appeared to be, that we had come to see Newgate as a grand
affair, and that they were an indispensable part of the show; and
every boy as he 'fell in' to the line, actually seemed as pleased
and important as if he had done something excessively meritorious
in getting there at all. We never looked upon a more disagreeable
sight, because we never saw fourteen such hopeless creatures of
neglect, before.

On either side of the school-yard is a yard for men, in one of
which--that towards Newgate-street--prisoners of the more
respectable class are confined. Of the other, we have little
description to offer, as the different wards necessarily partake of
the same character. They are provided, like the wards on the
women's side, with mats and rugs, which are disposed of in the same
manner during the day; the only very striking difference between
their appearance and that of the wards inhabited by the females, is
the utter absence of any employment. Huddled together on two
opposite forms, by the fireside, sit twenty men perhaps; here, a
boy in livery; there, a man in a rough great-coat and top-boots;
farther on, a desperate-looking fellow in his shirt-sleeves, with
an old Scotch cap upon his shaggy head; near him again, a tall
ruffian, in a smock-frock; next to him, a miserable being of
distressed appearance, with his head resting on his hand;--all
alike in one respect, all idle and listless. When they do leave
the fire, sauntering moodily about, lounging in the window, or
leaning against the wall, vacantly swinging their bodies to and
fro. With the exception of a man reading an old newspaper, in two
or three instances, this was the case in every ward we entered.

The only communication these men have with their friends, is
through two close iron gratings, with an intermediate space of
about a yard in width between the two, so that nothing can be
handed across, nor can the prisoner have any communication by touch
with the person who visits him. The married men have a separate
grating, at which to see their wives, but its construction is the
same.

The prison chapel is situated at the back of the governor's house:
the latter having no windows looking into the interior of the
prison. Whether the associations connected with the place--the
knowledge that here a portion of the burial service is, on some
dreadful occasions, performed over the quick and not upon the dead-
-cast over it a still more gloomy and sombre air than art has
imparted to it, we know not, but its appearance is very striking.
There is something in a silent and deserted place of worship,
solemn and impressive at any time; and the very dissimilarity of
this one from any we have been accustomed to, only enhances the
impression. The meanness of its appointments--the bare and scanty
pulpit, with the paltry painted pillars on either side--the women's
gallery with its great heavy curtain--the men's with its unpainted
benches and dingy front--the tottering little table at the altar,
with the commandments on the wall above it, scarcely legible
through lack of paint, and dust and damp--so unlike the velvet and
gilding, the marble and wood, of a modern church--are strange and
striking. There is one object, too, which rivets the attention and
fascinates the gaze, and from which we may turn horror-stricken in
vain, for the recollection of it will haunt us, waking and
sleeping, for a long time afterwards. Immediately below the
reading-desk, on the floor of the chapel, and forming the most
conspicuous object in its little area, is THE CONDEMNED PEW; a huge
black pen, in which the wretched people, who are singled out for
death, are placed on the Sunday preceding their execution, in sight
of all their fellow-prisoners, from many of whom they may have been
separated but a week before, to hear prayers for their own souls,
to join in the responses of their own burial service, and to listen
to an address, warning their recent companions to take example by
their fate, and urging themselves, while there is yet time--nearly
four-and-twenty hours--to 'turn, and flee from the wrath to come!'
Imagine what have been the feelings of the men whom that fearful
pew has enclosed, and of whom, between the gallows and the knife,
no mortal remnant may now remain! Think of the hopeless clinging
to life to the last, and the wild despair, far exceeding in anguish
the felon's death itself, by which they have heard the certainty of
their speedy transmission to another world, with all their crimes
upon their heads, rung into their ears by the officiating
clergyman!

At one time--and at no distant period either--the coffins of the
men about to be executed, were placed in that pew, upon the seat by
their side, during the whole service. It may seem incredible, but
it is true. Let us hope that the increased spirit of civilisation
and humanity which abolished this frightful and degrading custom,
may extend itself to other usages equally barbarous; usages which
have not even the plea of utility in their defence, as every year's
experience has shown them to be more and more inefficacious.

Leaving the chapel, descending to the passage so frequently alluded
to, and crossing the yard before noticed as being allotted to
prisoners of a more respectable description than the generality of
men confined here, the visitor arrives at a thick iron gate of
great size and strength. Having been admitted through it by the
turnkey on duty, he turns sharp round to the left, and pauses
before another gate; and, having passed this last barrier, he
stands in the most terrible part of this gloomy building--the
condemned ward.

The press-yard, well known by name to newspaper readers, from its
frequent mention in accounts of executions, is at the corner of the
building, and next to the ordinary's house, in Newgate-street:
running from Newgate-street, towards the centre of the prison,
parallel with Newgate-market. It is a long, narrow court, of which
a portion of the wall in Newgate-street forms one end, and the gate
the other. At the upper end, on the left hand--that is, adjoining
the wall in Newgate-street--is a cistern of water, and at the
bottom a double grating (of which the gate itself forms a part)
similar to that before described. Through these grates the
prisoners are allowed to see their friends; a turnkey always
remaining in the vacant space between, during the whole interview.
Immediately on the right as you enter, is a building containing the
press-room, day-room, and cells; the yard is on every side
surrounded by lofty walls guarded by chevaux de frise; and the
whole is under the constant inspection of vigilant and experienced
turnkeys.

In the first apartment into which we were conducted--which was at
the top of a staircase, and immediately over the press-room--were
five-and-twenty or thirty prisoners, all under sentence of death,
awaiting the result of the recorder's report--men of all ages and
appearances, from a hardened old offender with swarthy face and
grizzly beard of three days' growth, to a handsome boy, not
fourteen years old, and of singularly youthful appearance even for
that age, who had been condemned for burglary. There was nothing
remarkable in the appearance of these prisoners. One or two
decently-dressed men were brooding with a dejected air over the
fire; several little groups of two or three had been engaged in
conversation at the upper end of the room, or in the windows; and
the remainder were crowded round a young man seated at a table, who
appeared to be engaged in teaching the younger ones to write. The
room was large, airy, and clean. There was very little anxiety or
mental suffering depicted in the countenance of any of the men;--
they had all been sentenced to death, it is true, and the
recorder's report had not yet been made; but, we question whether
there was a man among them, notwithstanding, who did not KNOW that
although he had undergone the ceremony, it never was intended that
his life should be sacrificed. On the table lay a Testament, but
there were no tokens of its having been in recent use.

In the press-room below, were three men, the nature of whose
offence rendered it necessary to separate them, even from their
companions in guilt. It is a long, sombre room, with two windows
sunk into the stone wall, and here the wretched men are pinioned on
the morning of their execution, before moving towards the scaffold.
The fate of one of these prisoners was uncertain; some mitigatory
circumstances having come to light since his trial, which had been
humanely represented in the proper quarter. The other two had
nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown; their doom was
sealed; no plea could be urged in extenuation of their crime, and
they well knew that for them there was no hope in this world. 'The
two short ones,' the turnkey whispered, 'were dead men.'

The man to whom we have alluded as entertaining some hopes of
escape, was lounging, at the greatest distance he could place
between himself and his companions, in the window nearest to the
door. He was probably aware of our approach, and had assumed an
air of courageous indifference; his face was purposely averted
towards the window, and he stirred not an inch while we were
present. The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One
of them, who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back
towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on
the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other was leaning
on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him,
and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an
appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested
upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes
wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on
counting the chinks in the opposite wall. We passed this room
again afterwards. The first man was pacing up and down the court
with a firm military step--he had been a soldier in the foot-
guards--and a cloth cap jauntily thrown on one side of his head.
He bowed respectfully to our conductor, and the salute was
returned. The other two still remained in the positions we have
described, and were as motionless as statues. {3}

A few paces up the yard, and forming a continuation of the
building, in which are the two rooms we have just quitted, lie the
condemned cells. The entrance is by a narrow and obscure stair-
case leading to a dark passage, in which a charcoal stove casts a
lurid tint over the objects in its immediate vicinity, and diffuses
something like warmth around. From the left-hand side of this
passage, the massive door of every cell on the story opens; and
from it alone can they be approached. There are three of these
passages, and three of these ranges of cells, one above the other;
but in size, furniture and appearance, they are all precisely
alike. Prior to the recorder's report being made, all the
prisoners under sentence of death are removed from the day-room at
five o'clock in the afternoon, and locked up in these cells, where
they are allowed a candle until ten o'clock; and here they remain
until seven next morning. When the warrant for a prisoner's
execution arrives, he is removed to the cells and confined in one
of them until he leaves it for the scaffold. He is at liberty to
walk in the yard; but, both in his walks and in his cell, he is
constantly attended by a turnkey who never leaves him on any
pretence.

We entered the first cell. It was a stone dungeon, eight feet long
by six wide, with a bench at the upper end, under which were a
common rug, a bible, and prayer-book. An iron candlestick was
fixed into the wall at the side; and a small high window in the
back admitted as much air and light as could struggle in between a
double row of heavy, crossed iron bars. It contained no other
furniture of any description.

Conceive the situation of a man, spending his last night on earth
in this cell. Buoyed up with some vague and undefined hope of
reprieve, he knew not why--indulging in some wild and visionary
idea of escaping, he knew not how--hour after hour of the three
preceding days allowed him for preparation, has fled with a speed
which no man living would deem possible, for none but this dying
man can know. He has wearied his friends with entreaties,
exhausted the attendants with importunities, neglected in his
feverish restlessness the timely warnings of his spiritual
consoler; and, now that the illusion is at last dispelled, now that
eternity is before him and guilt behind, now that his fears of
death amount almost to madness, and an overwhelming sense of his
helpless, hopeless state rushes upon him, he is lost and stupefied,
and has neither thoughts to turn to, nor power to call upon, the
Almighty Being, from whom alone he can seek mercy and forgiveness,
and before whom his repentance can alone avail.

Hours have glided by, and still he sits upon the same stone bench
with folded arms, heedless alike of the fast decreasing time before
him, and the urgent entreaties of the good man at his side. The
feeble light is wasting gradually, and the deathlike stillness of
the street without, broken only by the rumbling of some passing
vehicle which echoes mournfully through the empty yards, warns him
that the night is waning fast away. The deep bell of St. Paul's
strikes--one! He heard it; it has roused him. Seven hours left!
He paces the narrow limits of his cell with rapid strides, cold
drops of terror starting on his forehead, and every muscle of his
frame quivering with agony. Seven hours! He suffers himself to be
led to his seat, mechanically takes the bible which is placed in
his hand, and tries to read and listen. No: his thoughts will
wander. The book is torn and soiled by use--and like the book he
read his lessons in, at school, just forty years ago! He has never
bestowed a thought upon it, perhaps, since he left it as a child:
and yet the place, the time, the room--nay, the very boys he played
with, crowd as vividly before him as if they were scenes of
yesterday; and some forgotten phrase, some childish word, rings in
his ears like the echo of one uttered but a minute since. The
voice of the clergyman recalls him to himself. He is reading from
the sacred book its solemn promises of pardon for repentance, and
its awful denunciation of obdurate men. He falls upon his knees
and clasps his hands to pray. Hush! what sound was that? He
starts upon his feet. It cannot be two yet. Hark! Two quarters
have struck;--the third--the fourth. It is! Six hours left. Tell
him not of repentance! Six hours' repentance for eight times six
years of guilt and sin! He buries his face in his hands, and
throws himself on the bench.

Worn with watching and excitement, he sleeps, and the same
unsettled state of mind pursues him in his dreams. An
insupportable load is taken from his breast; he is walking with his
wife in a pleasant field, with the bright sky above them, and a
fresh and boundless prospect on every side--how different from the
stone walls of Newgate! She is looking--not as she did when he saw
her for the last time in that dreadful place, but as she used when
he loved her--long, long ago, before misery and ill-treatment had
altered her looks, and vice had changed his nature, and she is
leaning upon his arm, and looking up into his face with tenderness
and affection--and he does NOT strike her now, nor rudely shake her
from him. And oh! how glad he is to tell her all he had forgotten
in that last hurried interview, and to fall on his knees before her
and fervently beseech her pardon for all the unkindness and cruelty
that wasted her form and broke her heart! The scene suddenly
changes. He is on his trial again: there are the judge and jury,
and prosecutors, and witnesses, just as they were before. How full
the court is--what a sea of heads--with a gallows, too, and a
scaffold--and how all those people stare at HIM! Verdict,
'Guilty.' No matter; he will escape.

The night is dark and cold, the gates have been left open, and in
an instant he is in the street, flying from the scene of his
imprisonment like the wind. The streets are cleared, the open
fields are gained and the broad, wide country lies before him.
Onward he dashes in the midst of darkness, over hedge and ditch,
through mud and pool, bounding from spot to spot with a speed and
lightness, astonishing even to himself. At length he pauses; he
must be safe from pursuit now; he will stretch himself on that bank
and sleep till sunrise.

A period of unconsciousness succeeds. He wakes, cold and wretched.
The dull, gray light of morning is stealing into the cell, and
falls upon the form of the attendant turnkey. Confused by his
dreams, he starts from his uneasy bed in momentary uncertainty. It
is but momentary. Every object in the narrow cell is too
frightfully real to admit of doubt or mistake. He is the condemned
felon again, guilty and despairing; and in two hours more will be
dead.


Charles Dickens