“There’s many a praying penitent and well might they pray in this place! For I ne’er saw the like of such as gaws on ere!”
“You’ve been to chapel?” asked Nathaniel Spate,
“Aye! I’ve been!” replied Bart Tobin, “once and went no more after spying them great lumpen things stood in front of men as ‘ad lost their sweet hearts and their wee ones. An them never knowing when they may see them more, whether in this life or the next!”
“You talk of the coffins?”
“The coffins! Placed on the ground in front of them wots been condemned to hang, an them set there a-gazing on ’em all through the service!The wailing and groanin’ an gnashin’ of teeth that went on in there! I ardly ad heart to utter the creed!”
“Christ ave mercy?”
“Christ ave mercy!”
“Lord ave mercy?”
“Lord ave mercy!”
“An the union rep? Wot ‘ad ‘e to say about all this?”
“Im? Why he ‘ardly said nothin’ but he wore a terrible look on his pallid face, dreadful it were, pure lunatick! And him sat there awww the while, staring at his coffin, put on the bench beside ‘im, till iz face were cold and still like a grave image!”
“He’s to hang then?” Nathaniel enquired eagerly, for this was news to him, Owen nodded. The news had run throughout Newgate prison like wildfire, the Union Rep was to hang for his part in occasioning an unlawful gathering and inciting a riot, the like of which had ne’er been seen this side of a chartist’s hanging.
“It only remains for the recordings to be read an then he’s for the long-drop, word is his will be a special occasion, Marwood ‘as been brought down from Lincoln for the purpose”
Each man looks at the other and then across the exercise yard at the Union Rep who now stands close by the visitors grate, deep in conversation with a modestly dressed and highly respectable looking woman. The Union Rep smokes from his pipe at intervals and from time to time holds it aloft; he is smiling and looks to be in rude health. He is smartly turned out as becomes a man of his stature, he even laughs occasionally. In short there is nothing in him that would suggest to any passerby that he is destined for the gallows this week hence, t’is very strange. “We’re for a riot then?” opines Owen, Nathaniel nods, a wide smile making all the difference to his pinched and half-starved features. A riot dear reader? In a place such as this? What folly! What suicidal wickedness! Step closer dear reader to the visitor’s grate and witness the earnest conversation twixt the prisoner and his ‘beloved’.
“Aggie Brandt, Hernione Bradley, Martha Watts,Edna Ryley, these are the women holding both tinder box and dynamite, they will take up their positions tonight when all are asleep. Arthur Thorpe, Sam Distleman, Jack Gyp, Thomas Skarry, turnkeys all, these are the men that have hidden both muskets and bludgers, and when the signal is given they will do their part, only make sure” and hear the Union Rep still smilling, his gaze intense, pauses “Make sure Esmeralda, that by tomorrow’s morn you have done yours” smiling brightly Madame Guacamoley reaches through the bars of the prisoner’s grate and gently squeezes the Union Rep’s hand.
“The eminent politician has taken to his bed with the street walker’s lurgy and now Sir Molesworth stands in his stead, and I ere he’s taken a fancy to Eliza Garrett”
The Union Rep chuckles at this,”Little Eliza?! Sweet Gove!He’s in for a rude awakening!”
Madame Guacamoley let rip a mirthless chuckle, “He’s already ‘ad it! I hear each time he called for her to clean the fireplace grate or bring some dish or t’other into the library,there’d be banging and crashing to be heard and raucous cries of distress such as no woman could ever make! He’s bruised from ‘ed to toe by now, for all that they say he has a passion for ‘er! From scullery maid to house keeper in three months! Mayhap he’ll be easier to negotiate with Thomas my love, else all is lost!” she squeezes his hand once more and smiles brightly, but there is stark worry in her eyes for t’is a terrible risk he takes.
The Union Rep shrugged, “I’ve seen two hundred men transported and a hundred hanged and all for protesting their lack of safe working conditions, scarcity of wages and of work. M’lord treats his horses better than his workers! Mayhap Molesworth i’ll be different, we’ll see.”
“If you die the comrades will lose all heart! And don’t these leeches on the flesh of the poor know it! Be careful my love!”
With that Esmeralda Guacamoley squeezes his hand once more and is gone, the Union Rep watches her elegant receding figure as it proceeds down the poorly lit alleyway and then disappears. Now, he thinks smiling all the while to himself, the dice are in play and let us proceed to the matter at hand…