Immediately a bleating like a child's trumpet was heard from its midst; and in a few seconds, not one, but four, men were seen to rush toward the river, all in convict knickerbockers, stockings, caps, all in black overcoats: and one carried a bundle.
Beyond the river one was shot in the leg—a black sailor, who, with two roughs, had undertaken the risk for lucre. The rest escaped.
Soon after this Hogarth was taken with vomitings, his heart retching at Colmoor. His dark cheeks jaundiced; those mobile nostrils of his small bony nose yawned, like an exhausted horse's; his face was all a light of eyes.
Whether or not some suspicion of his complicity with O'Hara had occurred to the authorities, he now found himself transferred to another "graft": from quarrying was set to trenching.
Four things are inexhaustible in the earth: the hope of a gambler; the sea; the lip of a lover; and the capacity of Colmoor to be trenched and quarried.
And in Hogarth's new gang was—Fred Bates.
One day, Hogarth, intent upon his work, heard a sob and, glancing, saw that Bates had dropped his spade and buried his face in his hands.
"What, Fred, not giving in?" He went quickly and pressed his palm on Bates' brow, saying: "Patience! Stiffen your back: look how I slip into it!"
"Ah, Hogarth, you don't know. I am an innocent man".
"So am I."
"Yes, but I was certain in my own mind to be out within anyway, six months; you wasn't. That makes a difference, don't it? That touches the nerve, don't it? Ah!"
"And how did you expect to be out?"
"I had a brother-Bob-in the 9th Lancers in Punjab and his regiment was ordered home just a week before I was arrested. Well, the morning after the missus was killed, I went early—for I knew I'd soon be arrested—to a stableman at Beccles—you know old Harris—and I made him swear to give a letter to Bob the moment Bob put foot in Southampton, and to nobody else. In the letter I told Bob where he was to look for so-and-so, and how he was to prove my innocence—"
"But I don't understand a word of what you are saying", interrupted Hogarth.
"I'll tell you. I did not kill my Kit. The burn on her face, and on my hand, wasn't any red-hot poker. Did you ever hear such bosh? Look here, you mind, don't you, the talk that week about the world getting blowed up by some comet? Well, about 3 P.M. on the comet day, as I was walking home through Lagden Dip, an old gent, the same as took the farm over after you, he comes up to me, and he says: 'If you should happen to see anywhere in your travels', sez 'e, laughin' and rubbin' his hands, 'a piece of hot iron after eleven to-night, you bring it to me, and I'll put a cheque for One Thousand Pounds there in the middle of your palm'. Well—I said it was a Wednesday, didn't I? And Wednesday bein' the pay-day on the Eastern, me and the missus had a drop o' beer that afternoon, and you know 'ow you come and catched me a-paying of her—dirty dog that I was those days. But, Hogarth, you hadn't hardly gone when we made it up between us, and the rest of that evening we was just like—well—two bloomin', cooin' doves! kissin', blubblin', havin' drinks, and doin' our week's shoppin' together. Well—stop, here's Black—"
They were interrupted, and for two days found no other chance.
Two days during which Hogarth received another letter from Loveday, of which one paragraph was as follows: "The fifteen pounds which you left in Lloyd's Bank I have managed to withdraw for you on the authority of your aunt, Miss Sarah Hogarth", and at once he scented a cypher, having no fifteen pounds, and no aunt.
When he had unravelled it as before, he had: "Why you failed? Expect—Balloon—Rope".
He was astounded: and could only conclude that O'Hara had not delivered his message.
And as the image of O'Hara had mixed itself with his thoughts of the copse, so now the image of Fred Bates mixed itself with the balloon.
It was partly through his evidence that Bates was here...!
On the third day Bates, as though he had just left off, resumed his story:
"You know Seely's, the general shop, at Priddlestone", said he; "it was there we always did our Wednesday-night marketin'—nobody would believe what high old jinks those Wednesday pay-days was to us Great Eastern blokes! By the time we reached Priddlestone, we had a quart of four-ale down us, let alone what we'd had before, and, as the saying is, one glass leads to another. By now we was feeling just nicely, thank you, and instead of going to Seely's, we took a short cut to 'The Broom', and it was going on for past eleven when we found ourselves in—you know the beechwood between Priddlestone and Thring—she singing all the time with her head thrown back, at the top of her voice.
"Hogarth, it gives me the creeps to think of! Suddenly it looked as if the whole wood was lit up: there was the sky all cut up with streamers, I saw my Kit quite plain, then all at once there was a whishin' and a rushin' among the trees, like steam—and I saw my Kit drop smack. In two ticks my head was sober: but, as I ran to her, I staggered sideways upon my left hand, and I let such a yell out of me—had put my hand upon something flamin' hot.
"The minute I bent over my old woman I knew she was a deader; and I dropped down, and I called of her, and I shook of her, and it was quite two hours before I come to myself properly, by which time the affair what struck her down was gone out in darkness. Of course, the first thing I thought of was the old gent at Lagden. 'This should mean a cool thou', says I to myself. But I knew I should be arrested first thing in the morning, except I told plain out what had happened: and that, you bet, I didn't mean to do, for if once I mentioned that there piece of iron before I had it safe off the lord-o'-the-manor's land, I knew it 'ud be taken from me. But to take it off before another day or two was out of the question—it was too hot. So says I to myself: 'I'll get convicted; and to- night I'll write a letter to Bob, telling him where to find the affair, how to get the thou, and after he's got it, how to set about gettin' the case retried '.
"Well, so said, so done. You know that old elm in the beech-wood? I dug a grave at the foot of it, and managed to kick and roll the affair into the grave, then I took up my Kit, carried her home, and by the time I pegged out the letter to Bob, I saw day breakin'. So I made paces for Beccles, knocked up old Harris, and gave him the letter for Bob. By eight o'clock I was arrested—"
At this point the 5.15 recall-bell rang out, and there was falling into line.
The next time that they had speech together, Hogarth said: "And were you such a clown, Fred Bates, as to imperil your life for a paltry thousand pounds?"
"Paltry thousand pounds?" answered Bates, surprised: "Hark at this! Didn't I peril my life ten times more in Egypt for a bob a day? I tell you I was certain in my own mind of getting out in a few weeks!"
"Well, what happened to prevent you?"
"Only this: Bob died on the troop-ship coming home; that's all".
"But you could write old Harris to open your letter to Bob, and act on it, or else hand it over to your father".
"My word, but haven't I wrote? Old 'Arris is either dead and buried, or gorn away, or somethin'. I've waited a year and nine months—good God! and no answer yet".
"Poor Fred! I could weep blood for you. Believe in God!"
"More Devil than God about Colmoor, it strikes me".
"As though you knew! Suppose I strike you blind—now—with a flash of Him?"
"I don't take your meaning, sir", said Bates, with a strange heart- bound and sense of awe.
"Do you remember 33 of the quarry-gang, Fred?"
Hogarth whispered: "It was I who got him off".
Bates whitened to the lips. "I—I thought as much".
"There is yet another chance, which you, if you like, may take".
Bates saw heaven opening; but with this vague hope was left two days.
On the third, Hogarth explained what he assumed to be the new plan of Loveday.
"I take it", he said, "that he will pass over the moor in a balloon trailing a rope, which will have a loop to be slipped under the arms. I tell you, there are dangers in this scheme: you may be shot. Are you for trying it?"
"Trying it, aye", said Bates, with fifty times the boldness of O'Hara.
And now began for these two a painfulness of waiting days, the sleep of both, meanwhile, being one nightmare of confused affrights, balloons and deliriums.
Ten times they re-discussed every possibility of the scheme, Hogarth giving messages for Loveday, heaping counsels upon Bates. Nothing remained to be said, and still the days passed over the time-worn hearts, till a month went by.
At last something was observed in the sky—afar to the N.W.—in the afternoon turn, about two o'clock, a mist on the moor, but the sky almost cloudless.
Whereupon Hogarth, who first saw the object, stepped, as if looking for something, close to Bates, hissing: "Goodbye! Keep cool— choose well—"
Bates shovelled on steadily, as though this was a day like others; but twice his knees gave and bent beneath him; and there was a twitching of the livid under-lip, piteous to see.
It drew nearer, that silent needle, while Bates worked, delving, barrowing, making little trips; plenty of time; and no one noted his lip which pulled and twitched.
Without visible motion it came, wafted on the breaths of high heaven: half an hour—and still it was remote, fifteen hundred feet up. Bates and Hogarth peered to see a rope, but could none.
After fifty minutes it was actually over the moor, all now conscious of it; but the rope was indistinguishable from the air.
Yet it was there, walking the ground, at its end a horizontal staff....Hogarth, with wiser forethought than Loveday's, had predicted, not a staff, but a loop.
It passed twenty yards from the quarry, Loveday no doubt imagining that Hogarth still worked there; but the quarry was some hundred and fifty yards from the trench.
Its course, nevertheless was toward the trench: and on walked deliberately the fluctuating rope, the staff now travelling the gorsey ground, now bounding like a kangaroo yards high, to come down once more yonder.
A moment came when Hogarth, with intense hiss, was whispering to himself: "If I were he, I should dash now".
But Fred Bates did not move.
Hogarth suffered agonies not less excruciating than the rack.
"Oh, whyever does he wait?" he groaned.
But now—all suddenly—it was known, it was felt, deep in five hundred ecstatic hearts, that a convict was gone—a man overboard—a soul in the agony—battling between life and death.
Like tempests the whistles split the air.
Where is he? Who is he? What mother bare him? It is 57! And he is there!—on high—caught, to the skies.
The tumbling of four ballast bags from the balloon was marked: the balloon darted high, wildly high; and with her, seated on the bar, the cord between his thighs, darted high Fred Bates.
Exultant! the five hundred faces wax fire-eyed, each heart a flame of madness. But yonder is Warder Black taking trembling, yet careful, aim: now the report is echoing from the two Tors, the granite-works; and that smoke no sooner thins than a whole volley of crackling musketry is winging toward that dot under the clouds.
And it was hideous—pitiful—the quailing heart waited and was still to see the dot dissever itself from its rod: he had been hit: was in the middle of the vast and vacant air: and wheeling he came.
A shockingly protracted interval did that fall fill up: the five hundred, gazing as at some wonder in heaven, did not, could not, breathe: the outraged heart seemed to rend the breast in a shriek. Would it never end, that somersault? Wheeling he came.
In reality it occupied much less than a minute: and now he is no more ethereal, but has grown, is grossly near, attended by the raving winds of his travelling: is arrived. And the thump of his coming was heard. As he touched the earth he jerked out circular....
Here was a tragedy remembered many a year at Colmoor, and always with feelings of the deepest awe.
OLD TOM'S LETTER
The fate of Bates filled Hogarth's mind with a gloom so funereal, that now his strength, his great patience, all but succumbed.
One evening, while his broom lay stuck out under the notch of his cell-door in order that Warder Black might count him, he took his tin knife, and began to scratch over the hills and valleys of his corrugated wall some shining letters:
He was now, after long reflection, convinced that he was the victim of a plot of Baruch Frankl's: yet in his heart was little rancour against Frankl, nor, when he wrote his "V E N", was he thinking specially of Frankl—hardly knew of whom, or what. It may have been of the system of things which had given to Frankl such vast powers over him; but, the "N" finished, he pshawed at himself, and threw the knife down. If something was wrong, he knew not at all how to right it, supposing the world had been his to guide.
But a simple incident was destined to transform his mood—a letter from old Tom Bates, the father of Fred.
And as hitherto we have seen him passive, bearing his weight of pain with patience, after that letter we shall find him in action.
Old Bates' letter was handed him three weeks after the scratching of his vague "VEN".
"DERE MISTER HOGARTH:
"thise fu lines is to ast you how you er getn on, and can you giv a pore old feller ane noos ov that godfussakn sun ov mine hopn they ma find you as they leave me at present wich i av the lumbeigo vere Bad and no Go the doctor ses bob wot you no was in the ninth lansers he dide comen home so ive only fred left out of the ate. I rote to im fore munths agorne, but no anser, no doubt becos i cum to london soon arter, so no more at present from
The old fellow, Hogarth saw, did not know of Fred's fate: Fred, the last of eight. He would find it hard to answer that letter.
When "beds down" was called, his head was still full of one thought: old Tom Bates; and he could not sleep; heard the bell ring for the change of warders; the vast silence of the prison's night; and still his brain revolved old Tom.
The stealthy slipper of the night-warder passed and re-passed. Anon a click of metal on metal, and the bull's-eye searched him.
Suddenly he remembered that visit to the forge at Thring, and the present of herrings which old Tom in his guernsey, had brought.
"Here—take 'em—they're yours", old Tom had said.
He had just then, he remembered, been on the point of going into the cottage to examine his guns, when the old man came, and stopped him—a fatal, appointed thing, apparently. Had he actually gone, he would have found the guns vanished, and would never have been condemned....
And what was it that the old man had said about fish, and fishermen, and the sea?
He bent his brow to it, and finally remembered: "The day's work of a fisherman gives him enough fish to live on all the week, and he could lie round idling the other six days, if he chose; only anybody can't live on nothing but fish all the time".
Was it true? Yes! He remembered facts of Yarmouth....
But since true, it was—strange.
Was the sea, then, a more productive element for men to work in than the land? No, that was absurd: the land, in the nature of things, was more productive.
Then, why could not all men procure an easy superfluity by one day's work, as the fisher could, if he chose to live naked in a cave, eating fish alone? In that case the fisher could change some of his day's-work fish for the shore people's day's-work things, and so all have a variety as well as superabundance.
At the interest of this question, he leapt from his hammock, peering into that thing, and his fleet feet were away, running after the truth with that rapt abandonment that had characterized his hunting and football. This was clear: that there was some difference between land and sea as working-grounds for men. Shore people, like a shoemaker, did not have for themselves enough shoes from even five, or six, days' work on which to live in plenty for a week: and hence would take nothing less than an enormous quantity of the fisher's fish in exchange for a pair of shoes, making him, too, poor as themselves. But since land work was as productive as sea work, and far more so, it could only be that the shoemaker did not get for himself all the shoes which he made, as the fisher got for himself all the fish which he caught: some power took from shore people a large part of what they made, a power which did not exist on the sea. That much was sure.
What was this power, this inherent difference?
He could think of no inherent difference except this: that shore workers paid rent for land—directly and indirectly—in a million subtle ways; but fishers paid none for the sea.
So, then, if shore folk paid no rent, they would have a still greater superfluity of shoes, etc., from one day's labour in six than the fish-rich fisher?
So it seemed. So it was—as with savages. He started! But one minute's reflection showed him that it was in the very nature of the shore to pay rent: because one piece of land was better than another—City land, for instance—and those working on the better must pay for that benefit. Civilized land, therefore, was bound to pay rent.
So that the shore people could never have the easy superfluity of the fish-rich fisher—because land was bound to pay rent? And the fisher must buy the shore things so dear with his easy-got fish, toiling, he, too, all the week—because land was bound to pay rent?
The wretchedness of Man, then, was a Law?
Hogarth, confronted by a wall, groaned, and while his body was cold, his brow rolled with sweat, he feeling himself on the brink of some truth profound as the roots of the mountains....
"Land was bound to pay rent": he reached that point; and there remained.
"But suppose the workers on shore paid the rent among themselves....?"
At last those words: and he gave out a shout which begat mouths of echo through the galleries of Colmoor.
"If the workers on shore paid rent among one another"—then they would—on the whole—be in the very position of the fish-rich workers on sea, who paid no rent at all, the nation—as a whole— living on its country rent-free: England English, America American, as the sea human: and our race might then begin to think, to live!
It seemed too sublime—and divine—to be true! Again, point by point, he went over his reasoning with prying eye; and, on coming back to the same conclusion, hugged himself, moaning. At last—he knew.
And away now with the dullness and lowness! That blithe and hand- clapping day! Good-bye, Colmoor! the daily massacre, the shame and care. Men could begin—if in a baby way at first—to think, to see, to sing, to live.
He saw, indeed, that that would hardly have been fair business if he, for example, had paid his rent to the English Nation instead of to Frankl, Frankl having bought Lagden with money earned. But he thought that Frankl would hardly be slow to resign that rent, if once he was shown....
But if Frankl was slow—what then?
The oblong of ribbed glass over his flap-table showed a greyness of morning, as he asked himself that thing.
In that case—Frankl could be argued with.
But if he still refused?
Then the question could be gone into as to whether that which is good for forty millions, though apparently bad for Frankl, is not forty million times more just than unjust, goodness being justice; also, as to which had the primary right to England, Frankl or the English.
But if he still refused?
Suddenly Hogarth giggled—his first laugh in Colmoor.
That could be arranged....
For him, Hogarth, the great fact was this: that he saw light. Into that humble cell the rays of Heaven had blazed.
After standing motionless a long time, he dropped to his knees, and "O, Thou, Thou", he said....
An hour later, when asked by an orderly if he wished to see doctor or governor, he replied: "The Governor".
(Captain Bucknill, the Governor, was making his morning rounds, when he heard that among the convicts claiming to see him was 76.)
A little man, prim, snappy, compact: an army officer, with moustachios stuck upon him, to curve and finish him off.
"Well, what is it, 76?" said he busily at the cell door.
Hogarth struck a hand-salute—his old habit on His Majesty's ships.
"Sir, I wished to tell you that I have determined to escape from this prison—if I can".
"Indeed, now! This is a most refreshing candour, 76!"
"I have said what I had to say", said Hogarth. "You keep a sharp eye on me, and I, too, will keep a sharp eye".
The Governor puffed a breath of laughter, turned on his heels, walked away, and that day spoke to three officials with regard to Convict 76.
And during a week Hogarth lay deep, chained, in a punishment-cell.
But during its first four days he had invented three separate plans of escape, and had determined upon the one which seemed the surest, though longest.
When he again came up into the light, he was a marked man, under Warder Black's constant suspicion.
Now, however, his expression was changed: he no longer belonged to Colmoor, though he was there. Sometimes he felt like shouting at the burden of his secret. In his impatience to proclaim it, he pined to write to Loveday—but now his punishment had lost him that privilege.
Meantime, the problem was to get ten good miles beyond Colmoor: a hard one; but his brain had already accomplished a task far harder: and the greater implied the less.
His first thought, when he had begun to plan, had been Loveday; his second, that on no account could he permit Loveday to incur further risk, or expense, for him; his third, that he might yet use Loveday to any extent not involving risk or expense.
At the next weekly "School" he sat near a Thames-works hackle-maker, who, though he could write, was no scholar, and was laboriously spoiling a second letter-sheet, when Hogarth whispered him: "Can I help you? I see it's to your mother. I could get her a quid from a friend of mine".
"Well, I'm much obliged....!"
The laborious letter, after half an hour, had in it:
"If you go to 15, Cheyne Gardens, the gentleman will give you a sovereign which he owed me for cutting down the elm in the beech- wood at Teddington for him".
Now, Loveday lived at 15, Cheyne Gardens, and had only to see those words "the elm in the beechwood," to scent a cypher from Hogarth.
He offered five pounds for that letter: but it was two weeks before he decided upon the intended words: "Small chloroform—trenches— rock".
There were several trenches, many rocks: yet one midnight, when a blustering wind huddled the bracken, and the prison stood darkling, wrapped in mystery, a lonely figure in an ulster was there; and under each of three rocks he deposited two vials: for the formation of only three gave the least chance of concealment.
What Hogarth's plan could be he racked his brain in vain to dream, guessing that prisoners, on returning from the moor, must be searched, even to the ears: Hogarth, therefore, could never use the vial within the walls, and must mean to use it without—a sufficiently wild proceeding. But the finding of the vials, was sure: for the "rock" which Hogarth had had in mind was one of those granite ones common on Colmoor, standing five feet high on a small base; and one day he swept his hand among the gorse under it, and, with a glad half-surprise, touched two vials.
Three days later he again swept his hand among the gorse, touched the vials, breasted his handkerchief, laid the vials on it, and presently contrived to tie them together with a twig.
At his feet now was a wheelbarrow full of marl, and two yards off Warder Black, waiting for him to roll the barrow; but, inserting his spade between a wheel and a side of the barrow, his back toward Black, Hogarth, with a tug, bent the spade: then walked to Black.
"Look here", he said, "that spade isn't much good now...."
Black strode to look, Hogarth a little behind him: and at the instant when the officer was a-stoop to lift the spade, Hogarth took the vials from his breast, and laid them upright in the little pocket of Black's tunic, near his bayonet-sheath and cartridge-box, above the belt.
By the time the matter of the spade was settled, the great bell rang, the gangs went marching over the old familiar level, up the old path in the grass-mound on which the Palace stands, and so, in lax order, like shabby French conscripts, powdered, toil-worn, into the gates.
Then the search on parade: during which, as Black busily searched him, Hogarth said: "Search well".
They were then led up to cells.
And the moment Hogarth's door closed upon him, he put his skilly-can on the floor, and, with one stamp, stamped it out of shape; also he broke his cup, and pocketed two fragments of it.
A few minutes afterwards, before cocoa, Black, trotting in heavy haste here and there in the gallery, looked in to say: "Bath to- night".
And Hogarth: "Warder! a word with you! sorry, I have trodden on my can...."
Upon which Black went stooping to look, the can now standing on the low shelf; and as he said "I shall report this", Hogarth, stooping, with quick deftness had the vials picked from the thick pocket.
"Well, fall in", said Black to him; "better take your precious can, and give it to a bath-room warder for the store-keeper to change".
Hogarth, as he passed out, placed the vials on the shelf over his door, where they were secure, since cells were never searched; and, the bathers having formed in single file, five feet between man and man, away they moved and down—away and down—lost in space, treading the journey of galleries, till, at the bottom, they passed up a vaulted corridor, monastically dim, across a yard open to starry sky, and into the door of a semi-detached, steep-roofed building, which was the bath-house.
A row of thirty-five baths; a very long bench for undressing; in the space between bench and baths three warders walking: such was the bath-house: all whitewashed, galvanized iron, and rigour; but for its old record of uneventfulness a scandal was preparing that night.
Outside the door a fourth officer paced, and a cord within rang a little bell in one click, to tell when, the bathing over, the door should be unlocked outside.
After giving up his can near the door to a warder, who laid it on the bench, Hogarth undressed slowly; got off his boots; and now had on only knickerbockers and stockings: he got off his stockings.
And the moment his bare soles touched the floor, he felt himself once more agile on the ratlines, larky for a shore-row, handy in any squall. Let them all come, therefore! He smiled; passed his palms down his crib of lean ribs.
"Good gracious, why don't you hurry up there...?" an officer came asking, stooping.
At "there" he saw stars-and-stripes, dropped upon his back: Hogarth was away toward the door, while the bathers started with shouts, though in no bosom arose any impulse to follow, the bath-house being the centre of a maze of twenty unscaleable walls, prison within prison.
But as for Hogarth, in such a dazzling flash did he dash toward the door, that he had struck down the second officer before the outcry of the first, and had pulled at the door-bell before the third could cry "Don't open!"—a cry muffled into his maw by a cuff prompt as thunder.
This third man, however, grasped the fugitive by the middle: and while the overthrown two were running up, and the key without seeking the lock, a short, venomous tussle was waged just near the door, till Hogarth, wringing his naked body free, tossed his antagonist by the knees to slide into the path of the two on-comers; at the same time, catching up his battered can, and smashing it into the face of the door-orderly, who now peeped in, he slipped through, and was gone into a yard, small, of irregular shape, and dim, with one wall-lantern, and but one egress (except the egress into the prison-hall), namely a blind-alley between the laundry and carpet- makers' building on one side, and stables on the other: blind alley, yard, and all, being shut in by big buildings.
By the time the door-orderly opened his eyes, and one of the inside three had rushed out, Hogarth had vanished; and these two, shrilling whistles to reinforce the bath-room guard, pelted down the blind- alley to effect, as they thought, a sure capture. But Hogarth was not there.
Back they came trotting, breathless, rather at a loss. One panted: "He must have run back into the great hall...."
The other panted: "He'd hardly do that—hiding in the yard still, must be. There's that little nook...."
The "little nook" is a three-sided space in a corner, very dark, formed by one wall of the campanile, or bell-tower, together with a wall of the laundry-house, and a third wall which shuts in the yard; the entrance to it narrow, and one looking up within it seems to stand at the bottom of a triangular well, split at one corner. It is not far from the bathhouse, and into it Hogarth had really darted; but when the officers came peering, no trace of him.
He had, in fact, gone up the lightning-conductor, which runs down a bell-tower remarkably high, Colmoor having been built during the Napoleonic wars for French prisoners at a time when the theory was accepted that a lightning-conductor protects a space whose radius is double the height of the conductor. The tower is a five-sided structure with a Gothic window into which it is impossible to get from the conductor, because a corner intervenes, and it is a feat to swing from the conductor to the laundry-wall coping, and thence, leaping up, to grip the window: at each of which ordeals Hogarth hesitated, pierced with chills; to his observations from afar it had seemed so much less stupendous; but in each case he dared, and reached.
All this time the can was between his teeth.
Arrived on the window, his arms out groping, he felt a slanting beam—climbed it—found it short-mounted upon a horizontal one, all here, as he had expected, being a chaos of beams, raying every way. Thrice he sneezed low, and felt cobwebs in his face.
And groping he went, seeking the great Bell of Colmoor, which he had doomed, hearing sounds of the to-do, echoes that ran below, and the vague shout of somebody, till he touched the flat top of the bell, clamped to the swing-beam on which he sat astraddle; felt also that along the top of the beam lay an iron bar; made sure that this was in actual contact with the clamps of the bell: and, no longer hesitating, set to work upon the can.
Tugging with his dog-teeth under the upper rim, he got a loose end, and wrenched the rim off; then, tearing along the solder, got the cylinder separated from the bottom; and, opening it out, had a sheet of tin. And now, by the help of his fragments of cup, he set to hack-sawing, breaking, tearing this into strips, no easy thing, in spite of the thin-worn condition of the can: but finally had six strips.
The edge of one strip he inserted under an end of the bar of iron on the beam; then connected that strip with another by loops, slid again to the window, and there lay connecting the six strips by a smith's-trick, with skew loops, non-slipping, getting a tin string five feet long. He then took the leap to the laundry coping, and thence the spring to the conductor, this being all the more ticklishly perilous because he could barely see it.
Hanging away now from the conductor by the left elbow, he reached out the right arm across the corner to catch the tin, which stuck toward him from the window: and he wound its end round the conductor, electrically connecting the bell with the conductor.
And now, standing with one foot on a staple below the tin, he twice sawed the conductor's soft metal with the fragments of cup, cutting and tugging out three inches of it, thus isolating the conductor's point atop from its earthing; then he tossed the piece cut out behind the laundry-coping.
This done, he listened, cast a searching eye below, slid down the rod.
The yard was at present silent, but as he moved to give himself up in the prison-hall, five night-warders with bull's-eyes fell out, still seeking him.
And as he knelt with clasped hands of supplication and bent bare back, like a captured slave, they fell savagely upon him, and cried one: "Well, of all the idiots...!"
THE GREAT BELL
The next morning Hogarth was not marched out, and near dinner-time was summoned before the Governor. Here he stood in a cage of bars in a room of "No.1" prison, devoted to prison-offences; and before him, at a littered table, sat governor and chief warder, with the witnesses of the outbreak near.
The case was gone into, the report made: whereupon the Governor looked up and down the length of Hogarth, and suddenly gave vent to a laugh.
"So, No. 76", said he, "this was the threatened escape?"
Hogarth was now all contrition and hanging head.
"I beg for mercy", he said, with a little smile.
"Oh, I am not your judge...Where were you when the officers were looking for you in the yard?"
"I was hiding in that little nook".
"Confounded carelessness on someone's part...And what cut and swelled your mouth?"
"I bashed into the wall in the nook" (The can had cut him!).
"You must have been mad!"
During the next two weeks he had round his ankles a chain which, rising in two loops, was fastened to a band round his waist; and he was set to turn "the crank".
Finally, he was led forth to stand before the periodic Director, who, after reading the report, turned to a volume of writing in which was Hogarth's record: good—till lately; and the Director addressed him with sternness, which yet was paternal: he would sentence him to one month in a punishment cell, to two months in chains, and to one dozen lashes.
And two days later he was led to the flogging-hall, which, as he approached it, sent forth screams; the doctor looked at him and consented; the Governor said: "Get it over".
Hogarth stripped to the waist, his teeth chattering: but not with fear. On the contrary, he felt a touch of exultation.
The wrists of his outstretched arms having been bound to "the triangle", the Governor gave the sign, the cat rose, and sang, and fell.
Slowly up, and whistlingly down, rasping, reaping. At the seventh shock he fainted: and thence onward had a long dream, in which he saw Rebekah Frankl in Hindoo dress and jewellery, and she threw at him a red rose black at heart with passion, and her body balanced in dance, and her hands clapped at him.
During the next month he tholed the cold of that same punishment- cell; and during the next was in his old cell, but in chains, picking oakum. All this time, if he was aware of high winds by night, he was in an agony, till the next day the great bell rang its treble.
About the middle of February he was once more trenching in the open air.
But a fear had stolen into his mind: for the string of tin was not strong, and the winds of the last month may have dislocated it. In any case, he might have to wait a year, two, ten....
Occasionally he would redden with suppressed and turbulent energy.
But on the 17th of March, toward evening, England was visited by a storm long remembered, lasting three days, during which the poor prisoners were comforted with rations of hot soup and cocoa.
On the morning of the fourth day when the gangs were once more taken out Hogarth was hardly conscious of frigid winds or agued limbs: for three days the great bell of Colmoor had not rung; and his ears were open.
Of the prisoners, who, by practised instinct, get to know the moment at which it should sound, three presently straightened up, spade in hand, to glance at the prison: and suddenly heard—a sound.
A dull something somewhere—from the prison? unless it was some shock of the wind...Hogarth gazed piteously into the faces near him...No one seemed to have heard.
A few seconds, like eternities...Then he saw a warder look at his watch; then—another! and—they glanced at the prison; and—they approached each other; and—they laid whispering heads together.
Then—joy!—came five officers, wildly running from the prison gates, calling, waving....
And now he knew, and smiled: the babble of that lalling tongue was dumb.
And the very next day, when the afternoon-gangs were marching out, they saw descending from a carriage before the Deputy Governor's house a gentleman with a roll of diagram-paper—a bell-foundry expert, summoned by telegraph from Cardiff.
Hogarth resolved to act that night.
As soon as the cell-door clicked upon him, he commenced to work: first took off his boots; then felt over the doorshelf for the chloroform; wet his handkerchief with some of it: then inserted the vials across the toes of his boots, which were a succession of wrinkles, far too large; then put on the boots again.
He then lay on the floor, close to the low shelf; and, pressing the handkerchief over his mouth and nose, breathed deep, knowing that in four minutes, when he did not obey the order of "brooms out", his cell would be opened.
As he sank deeper and deeper into dream, it was with a concentration of his will upon one point—the handkerchief, which, if smelled by anyone, would ruin all; and finally, as he drew the last gasp of consciousness, he waved it languidly from him under the shelf; then, with a sigh, was gone.
He had known that he must have about his body the unmistakable signs of an abnormal condition in order to sleep a night in the infirmary—which was what he wanted. And thither, when shakings and the bull's-eye had sufficiently tested him, he was swung away, and the doctor's assistant summoned.
Hogarth's pupils were hurriedly examined, his heartbeat tested; and the freshman frowned, smelling an odour which, in another place, might have been chloroform, but here was pharyngitis; and he muttered, "Digitalis, perhaps...."
From a table Hogarth was swung to a bed by two of those well-behaved convicts who act as hospital-orderlies, and there two hours later had all his wits about him, and a racking headache.
His first thought was his boots—expecting to find them under his stretcher, and himself in flannels; but he had them still on, and also his work-clothes, humanity to the sick in the first stages not being in the Colmoor code.
He spent half an hour in stealthily tearing a square foot from his shirt-tail; then, weary and sick, went to sleep.
When, soon after 3 A.M. his eyes again opened, all was still. He lay in a long room, rather dim, in the midst of a row of stretchers which were shut in by bars containing locks and gates, and on the other side of the room a row of stretchers, shut in by bars. At a table in the middle, on which were bottles, lint, graduated glasses, sat a warder, with outstretched legs and fallen head: near him, standing listless, a convict hospital-orderly, who continually edged nearer the stove; and, half-way down the room, another.
Occasionally there were calls from the sick-beds—whispered shouts— apologetic and stealthy, as of men guiltily conscious of the luxury of being ill; but neither night-warder nor orderlies made undue haste to hear these summonses. There was, beside, an octagonal clock, which ticked excessively in the stillness, as though the whole place belonged to it.
Hogarth took off his boots under his blanket, and from them took out the vials; then, sitting up, commenced to call the warder, at the same time wetting the torn piece of shirt with some of the fluid.
"All right, I'm coming—shut up!" said the warder, but did not come.
So Hogarth grew loud; and the warder, presently rousing his drowsy bulk, unlocked the gate of that compartment, as Hogarth said to himself: "Do it handy..."
And as the warder stooped, Hogarth clapped the rag upon his mouth and nose. A struggle followed a muffled sob, both standing upright now, till the warder began to paw the air, sank, toppled upon the bed, whereupon Hogarth slipped into the blanket again, and called out in the voice of the warder: "Come here, Barrows—see if this man is dead ".
He had now drawn the warder over him, holding up his chest with one arm, had also poured chloroform upon the rag, and when the convict- orderly came, Hogarth, by means of a short struggle, had him asleep, then seized the warder's truncheon and keys, and ran out in his stockinged feet.
At that sight, the sick, the dying, the two rows of stretchers, were up on elbow, gazing with grins. To the second convict-orderly who came running to meet him Hogarth hissed: "Not a word—or I brain you with this! If I tie your feet, you won't have to answer for anything. Come along...."
He was an old fellow, and when he realized the impending truncheon, the menace of Hogarth's eyes, and the silence of the warder, he permitted himself to be dragged toward Hogarth's stretcher; and his feet were quickly knotted in his own stockings.
Now again Hogarth ran: but not many steps, when he felt himself tapped on the back, and, glancing in a horror of alarm, saw one of the two patients who had occupied with him his cage of bars—a wiry, long-faced Cockney shop-boy, who had had his ankle crushed by a rock at the quarry.
"Are you off?" he asked.
"That's my business—"
"No, you don't. Part, or I give the alarm".
"What is it? Do you want to come with me?"
"That's about it".
"But—your foot's sick, you fool".
"You'll carry me in your awms, as a father beareth his children...."
"You are cool! What are you in for?"
"Murder, my son-red, grim, gory murder!"
"Guilty, ya'as. What do you think?"
"Then you may go to hell".
"'Ell is it? I'm there: and if I linger longer loo in it, you linger, too, swelp me Gawd!"
Hogarth was nonplussed.
"But the foot..."
"Never mind the foot. Foot's still good for a run. Do we go shares?"
"Come along, then".
"But you ain't 'alf up to snuff, I can see, though you are pretty smart in your own way: I'd 'ave felt the confidence of a son in you, if you 'adn't overlooked that wine—"
To Hogarth's dismay, he turned back to the table, put a black bottle, half full, to his lips, and with tilts anc stoppages set to gulp it, while eager jokes, touched with jealousy, began to jeer from the beds.
"Lawd Gawd, that was good!" said the Cockney with upturned eyes, "and what do I behold?—broth, ye gawds!"
Now a saucepan of cold broth was at his lips; and not till he had drunk all did he run after Hogarth into the other arm of the ward, where one of the keys unlocked the door at its end, and they passed out into the infirmary exercise-hall, now dark, Hogarth dragging the Cockney, who limped, and kept up a prattle of tipsy ribaldries.
Then, emerging upon a platform of slabs, from which the jump into the infirmary exercise-yard is twenty feet, Hogarth leapt. The Cockney stood hesitating on the brink.
"As sure as my name's 'Arris, you'll be the bloomin' ruin of me..." he said aloud.
"Sh-h-h", went Hogarth, "one more word, and I leave or knock you speechless".
Now at last Harris jumped, Hogarth catching him, and they ran across the yard northerly, Harris complaining of cold, being in hospital flannels, his feet bare, Hogarth bitterly regretting the burden of this companion, meditating on deserting him. Accordingly, when they had run down a passage, and were confronted by a great gate, spiked a-top, Hogarth said: "I'll get up first", and, forcing the small end of the truncheon into the space at the hinges, he got foot-hold from which he caught the top hinge and scaled, a feat of which he considered Harris incapable; and, instead of helping him up, leapt down with a new feeling of lightness, hearing from the other side "Dastardly treachery...!"
Again he ran through dark night wild with winds wheeling snowflakes; and, seeing in the unpaved court in which he now was a clothes-line supported on stakes, he seized both, to run with them to where the court is bounded by the great outer wall: for though it is thirty feet of sheer rock, the mere fact of stakes being found there, and of a vanished rope, would furnish grounds for the belief that he had scaled it: he therefore leant the stakes against it, and kept the rope.
About to turn, he felt his back touched; and, spinning round, saw Harris panting.
"There's a friend that sticketh closer than any bloomin' brother, Mr. 76", Harris said. "Try that game on again, and I give myself up; and where will you be then?"
"You silly wretch!" said Hogarth: "before I am free, there'll be a hundred difficulties and pains. Are you prepared to undergo them? You couldn't, if you tried".
"Bear ye one another's burdens, it is", said Harris: "with thee by me what need I fear? Lawd Gawd, that wine was good! it's got into my poor 'ead, I believe. On, general; where thou leadest, I will follow".
Hogarth looked at him, half inclined to knock him down, and half to shelter, and save.
"All right", said he. "Can you climb?"
"Climb, yes, like a bag of monkeys".
He mounted three low steps before four doors at the north end of the infirmary buildings, where, as he had observed from the moor, a spout runs up the wall at its east end; and up this he began to climb.
"'Old on!" called Harris: "I can't do that lot".
Harris made three attempts before he reached the first footrest, and there stuck, vowing in loud whispers that he would no further go, and Hogarth had to come back, and encourage him up. Finally, they went running southward on the leads between the infirmary roof and its coping, and had hardly reached the south end when a whistle shrilled, and they saw a warder run across the exercise-yard with a lantern.
"Stoop!" whispered Hogarth.
Crouching, they stole along the south coping, and thence dropped to a flat cistern-top, Hogarth, with a painful "Sh-h-h", catching Harris as he fell, for the signs of alarm and activity every moment increased.
Up a series of little brick steps, the base of a chimney over the kitchen—then across another stretch of leads beneath which is the tailor's shop—then, stealing in shadow under the beams of overhanging eaves by a garret window, behind which was a light, and someone moving—then a spring of three feet between two cornices— then a running walk at a height of a hundred feet along a beading four inches wide, holding on with the upstretched arms—then, with course changed from south to east, along more leads—then a climb of ten feet up a glazed main—and now they were skulking behind the coping of the great No. 2 prison.
Now, contiguous with the back of the bath-house is a wall which runs from No. 2 prison to the bell-tower, dividing the bath-house yard from the bell-yard; but the top is not horizontal, being lower at the bell-tower end, neither is it broad, and to reach it from the prison coping a drop of seven feet is necessary: this Harris refused to do. "Not for Joe", said he: "I've already run my 'ead into enough perils by land and sea on your account. If this is what you've brought me out moonlighting here for...."
Hogarth did not wait, but disappeared over the side: and Harris, after five minutes' pleadings, followed. They then drew on the belly to the bell-tower; and here again Harris refused the leap to the conductor. When finally he dared, and Hogarth sought to steady him, as he came sprawling upon the rod, both went gliding down, till checked by a staple.
But they climbed again; Hogarth undid the half-fused string of tin from the conductor, swung to the laundry coping, caught Harris, leapt to the window, drew up Harris; and was ensconced far up among the beams in thick darkness in the belfry an hour before daybreak.
At this time the great gates were open, and the moor being scoured for the two.
IN THE DEEP
They had not been ten minutes in the tower when Harris began to whine of the cold; whereupon Hogarth took off his slop-jacket and waistcoat, and put them upon the Cockney.
As from two sound-escapes far down near the bell some twilight came in, near eight Hogarth descended, working from beam to beam, to find that on one side the bell-metal had been melted into a lumpish mass, its rim shrivelled up, leaving an empty space under the motto Laudate Domino (mistake for Dominum) omnes gentes; and on the opposite side ran a crack from top to rim. Sliding still lower on a slanting beam, he could look obliquely upward into the bell's interior, and see the clapper, a mass weighing eight hundredweight, and so long, that quite down at the bell's rim were two hollows where it had constantly struck. It, too, had been blasted; but the bell-rope hung intact from a short beam at right angles to the swing beam; and, having found this much, he searched where he had left the bottom of his tin can, and clambered back with it into the upper regions.
About eleven, lying along two beams, they could see the portal below opened, and four men came in, looking unreal and small; whereupon the leverage wheel was pulled, the swing-beam swung, the bell struck the clapper, and throughout the tower growled grum sounds: after which the four stood talking half an hour, and went away.
A little later—it must have been after the forty minutes' dinner- interval—about twenty convicts entered with two warders, bearing three ladders. When these had been fastened together and set up, and the leverage wheel removed, they went away.
It was evidently to be slow work. Not till about four did a solitary man mount the ladder, and take stand, far down under the bell, gazing up a long while, with stoops, and changes of posture. Hogarth thought that it was the bell-foundry expert whom he had seen; but could only guess: for all here was dim and remote.
By now he had sawed the clothes-line into two pieces with the tin, one piece eight feet, the other much longer—had intended tearing his clothes into strips for ropes, but the clothes-line was still better. In both ropes he made knots for hand-hold, a large knot at one end of the short one, and he attached the string of tin to the other end. Descending now, he tied the longer rope round the swingbeam, let himself down to the rim of the bell, and with the right hand pushed the tin into the hole in which the clapper swung, reaching up, until the tin over-balanced, ran, and toppled down beside the clapper; drawing the tin now, he brought the rope down till it was stopped by the knot; and now, by a swing off from rope to rope, could climb into the bell. He then reascended, taking the longer rope, and the tin, with him.
As night fell, he judged that by the next he would succumb. Happily, Harris, who had eaten later than he, was snoring in a nook; but toward morning began to whine again, and sulk, and kept it up all the day. Not a soul now entered, and as the blackness of night once more filled the place, Harris threw up the sponge, with "Here goes for this child....!" Hogarth flew across the space which divided them, and a quarrel of cats ensued, both being under the influence of the fury called "hunger-madness". It was only when Harris felt the grip of Hogarth at his windpipe that he squealed submission, whereupon Hogarth threw himself away; and half the night they sat, nothing but four eyes, eyeing each other.
That night what was a revival of the great gale took place, belling like bucks about their heads, and noising through the tower in many a voice. This so increased their sense of desolation, that even the heart of Hogarth fainted, they like castaways on some ocean whose glooms no sunrise ever goldens; and now a doubt arose whether, even if the bell were removed on the morrow, Harris would have strength to cling on during the descent.
However, early the next day hope revived when five men entered, four mounting among the beams to the swing-beam with tools, one at the ladder-head shouting up orders; and Hogarth, when they had gone, whispered Harris: "They have been unscrewing the sockets in which the bell-beam swings".
"Let them unscrew away", said Harris, his chin shivering on his hand.
Five more hours; during which only once did three men enter, seeming to do nothing but talk, with upward glances.
But at three it was evident that there was considerable to-do, though above there the row of the winds drowned all sound. A crowd, chiefly of convicts, passed in and out; then twelve men, one after the other, ran up the ladder, and thence climbed among the beams, with six cables. Half went to the east, half to the west, side of the bell; and three of the cables were fastened round the swing-beam near one end, three near the other end; one three were then cast over a beam higher than the swing-beam, to the north of it; the other three cast over a beam to the south of it; and the six ends lowered—operations which Hogarth, lying on his face, could just see; and the twelve had hardly begun to descend, when he saw a lorry backed into the gateway, filling half 1 the area of the tower; whereupon over a hundred convicts were swarming over and round it.
"Now", said Hogarth; and he hurried down, tacking his way with slides and runs among the intricate beams, tied the rope to a beam above the swing-beam, and let himself down to the bell's rim; reached out then, caught the knotted rope that was within the bell, and climbed, the clapper now so rough, that hand and knee found grip; and he spent a minute in estimating his power of holding on with one arm, and with both, to its support-shaft.
And now he whispered Harris, and caught and half-sustained the Cockney.
Now they could hear echoes of the tongues below; and now Harris, clinging alternate with Hogarth, arms and legs, face to face, by rope and shaft and clapper, whispered: "But-good Lord-look 'ere- there are some people coming up!"
Four convicts were indeed climbing: but even directly beneath the bell, where it was impossible to come, they would hardly have distinguished the forms huddled in its dark cavern, and their aim was higher, to stand ready, when the beam should lift, to swing it diagonally across the square of beams which had supported it, so that it might find space to descend. And soon the bell-beam stirred at the tightening ropes: the fugitives felt themselves swinging, rising, poised—descending.
They were dizzily aware of shouted orders, the creaking of the toiling, slipping ropes, little jolts and stoppages, two hundred eyes blinking up, not seeing their cringed-up limbs—unnecessary cautious: for the nearer they descended to-ward the half-light, the surer did the area of the lorry make their invisibility. At last they were near; the bell lingered, swinging; babel was around them; the Governor's voice; a cheer: the bell was on the lorry.
Someone struck the bell with a hammer, there was talk, swarmings round it, then shoulders pushed at the lorry wheels, which squealed and moved amid a still fussier babel drawn by four horses, and seven yoke of cattle. The fugitives could hear the opening of the great gate, the laborious exit, and, in a moment's pause, again the Governor talking, it seemed far off, to the expert....
Wearily creaked the cart—beyond the moor—to a country road.
Now chattering words came from Harris: "All damned fine! I don't deny that you know your way about—"
"Way out", said Hogarth.
"Yes, a gamesome sort of cock you are in all weathers...but what next?"
"'Next' is to fall upon your knees and worship me, you cur".
"Thou shalt worship the Lawd thy Gawd", chattered Harris; "no bloomin' fear! This is only a new kind of punishment cell. You've got me in; 'ow are you going to get me out?"
Hogarth believed that the lorry was en route for the railway, and hoped to escape in the transfer of the bell; but that night lorry and bell slept in a shed outside a village en route for the sea.
At four A.M. they were again en route, and at intervals during the day, opening their now feeble and sleep-infected eyes, could hear the hoots of the two cattlemen, the sound of winds, the rowdy gait of the crooked-legged oxen, and stoppages for drink or rest, and anon an obstruction, with shouting and fuss. It was night before the waggon came to rest on a jetty, the elaborate day's journey done.
The fugitives were then deep in sleep, and only awoke at the rattle of a steam-crane in action above them, to find the bell beginning to tilt, lift and swing; then they were on a deck; and soon afterwards knew that it was a steamer's, when they heard the bray of her whistle, and presently were aware of blaring winds, and billows of the sea.
Harris was for then and there crying out, but Hogarth, now his master, said: "To-morrow morning"; and they fell again into their morbid slumber.
When they again awoke, uproar surrounded them, voices, a heaven-high shouting of quenched fires and screaming steams; moreover, the bell was leaning steeply, they two huddled together at its edge.
Harris began to bellow: but he was not heard, or not heeded.... There had been a collision.
"If you can't swim, better catch hold of me", Hogarth shouted— "there will be—"
But the earth turned turtle, and Hogarth felt himself struck on the shoulder, flung, and dragged down, down, into darkness.
After an upward climb and fight to slip the clutch of the ship's suction, in the middle of a heavy sea he managed to get off his clothes, and set to swimming, whither he did not know, a toy on mountains of water.
Exultation raged in him—a crazy intoxication—at liberation attained, at the sensation of warmth, at all that water and waste of Nature.
But within ten minutes it is finished: he shivers, his false strength changing to paltriness, the waves washing now over his head; and now he is drowsing...drowning...
He continued, however, to swim after his conscious efforts ceased: for his body was found next morning on a strip of Cornish sand between Gorran and Mevagissey, washed by every sheet of surf.
His rescuer, a shrimp-fisher, occupied one of three cots perched on a ravine; and there on the evening of the second day he opened his eyes on a settee, four children screaming in play around him; he so far having been seen only by a reporter from Mevagissey, and the doctor from Gorran, who, on his wide rounds, had been asked into the cottage.
The same night Hogarth spoke to the fisher: told him that he was not a wrecked sailor, had reasons for avoiding observation, and would pay for shelter and silence: whereat the fisher, who was drinking hot beer, winked, and promised; and the next day took for Hogarth a telegram, signed "Elm Tree", to Mevagissey, asking of Loveday five pounds.
Finally, one midnight, after two weeks of skulking, he reached Whitechapel, where, the fact of his brown skin now giving him the idea of orientalizing himself, at a Jew's, in a little interior behind the counter, he bought sandals, a caftan, a black sudayree, an old Bagdad shawl for girdle, and a greenish-yellow Bedouin head- cloth, or kefie, which banded the forehead, draped the face like a nun's wimple, and fell loose. For these he discarded the shrimp- man's clothes; and now dubbed himself "Peter the Hermit".
For he meant to start-a Crusade.
At a police-station on the third day he saw a description of himself: three moles, bloodshot eye, white teeth, pouting mouth; but over the moles now hung the head-cloth.
For several days he lay low in a garret, considering himself, abandoning himself to sensuality in cocoa, vast buns, tobacco: rioting above all in the thought of the secret truth which lay in his head.
Up to now, not a word to anyone about it; but on the seventh night he spoke.
It was in some "Cocoa Rooms" in a "first-class room", strewn with sawdust, where, as he sat alone, another man, bearing his jug, came and sat; and soon he addressed Hogarth.
"I am an Englishman", answered Hogarth.
"What, in those togs? What countryman?"
"I was there one day".
"Difference between Manchester and London, isn't there? I am a Manchester man, I am. All the difference in the world. This cold, stiff, selfish city. Londoners, eh? A lot of peripatetic tombstones!"
And so he went on; this being his whole theory of God and Man: that Londoners are peripatetic tombstones, but Manchester-men just the other way—seemed a mechanic, brisk-eyed, small; a man who had read; but now, evidently, down on his luck.
"Then, why come to London?"—from Hogarth.
"Looking for work",—with a shrug—"looking for a needle in a bundle of hay. What would you have? the whole place overrun with Jews. England no longer belongs to the English, that's the long and short of it".
Hogarth looked him in the face. "Did England belong to the English before the Jews came?"
"How do you mean? Of course it did".
"Which part of it?"
"Why, all of it".
"But fix your mind upon some particular piece of England—some street, or field, that you know—and then tell me: did that belong to the English?"
"Belonged to some Englishman".
"But you don't mean to say that some Englishman is the English?"
"Ah, yes, I know what you are driving at", said the mechanic, with a patronizing nod: "but the point is this: that, apart from vague theorizing, a man did manage to make a good living before these dogs overran the country".
"But—a good living? How much did you make?—forty shillings a week? toiling in grime six days, sleeping the seventh? I call that a deadly living".
"Well, I don't, you see. Besides, I made, not forty, but forty- five shillings, under the sliding-scale".
"Yes, but no brave nation would submit one day to such petty squalors after it was shown the way to escape them".
"There is no way", said the mechanic: "there are the books, and the talkers; but the economic laws that govern the units like you and me are as relentless as gravitation. Don't believe anyone who talks to you about 'ways of escape'".
"But suppose someone has a new thought?"
"There can be no new thoughts about that. The question has long since been exhausted".
"Well, come "—with sudden decision—"I will tell you a thought of my own ". And he told.
If the English people paid the rent for England to themselves—to their government—instead of to a few Englishmen, then, by one day's labour in six, Englishmen would be much more rich in all things than a fisherman, by one day's labour in six, was rich in fish.
The expression which he awaited on the face before him was one of illuminated astonishment; but, with a chill in his nerves, he saw the workman's lips curve.
"Bah!" said the Manchester man, "that is an exploded theory!"
Hogarth was rather pale.
Yet he knew that it was true....Who, then, could have been exploding the Almighty?
"Who has exploded it?"
"Been exploded again and again!" said the Manchester man; "of all the theories of land-tenure, that is about the weakest: I should know, for I've studied them all. The fact is, no change in the system of land-tenure will have the least effect upon the lot of the masses; would only make things worse by unsettling the country—if it didn't mean a civil war".
"I begin to see".
Hogarth got up, walked home meditating: and suddenly blushed.
It was known! by mechanics in cocoa-rooms!—that secret thing of his secret cell. And it was not believed!
As for him, what was he now doing outside Colmoor? That question he asked himself, as he sat unsandaling his feet; and he commenced to dress himself again: but paused—would first see Loveday.
Accordingly, the next night, the two friends met at Cheyne Gardens.
And a long time they sat silent, Loveday feeding his eyes upon his friend's face, that hard, rounded brow which seemed harder, and frowned now, that gallant largeness of eye which seemed now wilder, and that manly height, which seemed Mahomet's in the Oriental dress.
"But where have you been for five weeks?" asked Loveday.
"Skulking, and thinking. But about my sister...."
"Do not ask..." said Loveday.
There was a long silence.
"Did not O'Hara tell you to make no more efforts for my escape?" asked Hogarth.
"Who is O'Hara?"
"Why, the priest who escaped, instead of me, through the copse".
"O'Hara was not the name he gave me; and no, he said nothing about that. I got him off to America, and only saw him twice. I thought him rather—But why didn't you escape youself?"
"I thought it improper".
"But you did finally?"
"For a reason: you remember the association which I was forming to answer the question as to the cause of misery? Well, that question I have answered for myself in prison".
"Really? Tell me!"
Hogarth absently took up a water-colour drawing from the table, and turned it round and round, leaning forward on a knee, as he told how the matter was. Meantime, he kept his eyes fixed upward upon Loveday's face, who stood before him.
In the midst of his talk Loveday scratched the top of his head, where the hair was rather thin, and said he, twisting round: "Forgive me-let me ring for some brandy-and-soda—"
Hogarth stood briskly up.
"What I say, I can see, is not new to you?" said he.
"No, not new", Loveday confessed: "I believe that it is quite an ancient theory; there are even savage tribes whose land-tenure is not unlike what you advocate—the Basutos, for example".
"And are these Basutos richer, happier, prettier fellows than average Englishmen?"
"Oh, beyond doubt. Don't suppose that I am gainsaying you: I am only showing you that the theory is not new—"
"But why do you persist in calling it a theory? Is the fact that one and one make two a theory?"—Hogarth's brow growing every moment redder.
"What can one call it?"
"Call it what you like! But do you believe it?"
"It is quite possibly true; and now that you say it I believe it; but I have never seriously considered the matter"
"Because—I don't know. It is out of my line".
"Your line! Yet you are a human being—"
"Well, partly, yes: say—a novelist".
"Do not jest! It is incredible to me that you have written book after book, and knew of this divine thing, and did not cram your books with it!"
Loveday flushed. "You misunderstand my profession; and as to this theory of land-tenure, let me tell you: it will never be realized— not in England. Anyway, it would mean civil war...."
Again those words! "Civil war...."
And as, for the second time, he heard them, Hogarth dashed the picture which he held to the ground, shattering glass and frame: which meant that, then and there, he washed his hands of the world and its wagging; meant also his return to Colmoor.
He dashed from the room without a word; down the stairs; out into the street.
As he ran along the King's Road, he asked a policeman the way to the nearest police-station, then ran on through a number of smaller streets, seeking it, till, at a corner, he stopped, once more uncertain, the night dim and drizzling.
He was about to set off again, when, behind him, he heard: "Excuse me, mister—could you give a poor man a penny to get a night's lodging?"
Turning, he saw—old Tom Bates: still in the guernsey; but very senile and broken now.
The fish-rich fisher...! he had come to this...
Hogarth had twenty-eight shillings about him, and, without disclosing himself, put hand to pocket to give them all, just as the old man reached up to his ear to say: "It's the lumbago; I got it very bad; but it won't be long now. It wur a bad day for me as ever I come to Lunnon! I'm Norfolk born, I am: and I had eight sons, which the last was Fred, who, they say, met his death in Colmoor...."
At that word, "Fred", Hogarth started: for under the elm in the beech-wood between Thring and Priddlestone Fred had concealed a thing fallen from heaven, which could be sold for—a thousand pounds.
That would keep the fisher rich during the few days that remained to him!
But the old man could hardly go himself; if he could, would bungle: the thing was heavy—on the lord-of-the-manor's land....
Do a kind act, Hogarth. He would see the old place, his father's grave; and there was a girl who lived in the Hall at Westring whom it was a thrilling thing to be near, even if one did not see....
"Here are two shillings", said he, in an assumed voice: "and if you be at this spot, at this hour, on Thursday night coming, you shall have more. Don't fail".
Again he ran, and took train, two hours later, for Beccles.
UNDER THE ELM
His risk of arrest here, round about his old home, was enormous, and he drew the Bedouin kefie well round his face, skulking from the station to the "Fen", northward, where he got an urchin to buy him a paper lantern in a general shop, and now trudged up to Priddlestone, then down through meadows to the beech-wood, the night rough with March winds.
It was not the winds, however, which made him draw close his Arab cloak, but his approach to the elm: there, one night, he had seen a naked black man! there had fallen the Arab Jew.
He stood twenty yards from the tree, till, with sudden resolution, he strode, soon had the lantern ruby, and since the grave of "the affair" had been digged with a piece of wood, for such a piece he went seeking, having thrown off his caftan.
Instead, he found the rusted half-blade of a spade, and commenced to dig round the roots, the lantern shine reddening a face strangely agitated, uncertainty of finding what he sought heightening his excitement: for the earth showed no disturbance, and since three years had passed since that night of Bates in the wood, the object might have been already unearthed. After an hour his back was aching, his hands dabbled, his brow beaded, while the night-winds blew, the light now was commoved, and now glowed a steady red; and still he grovelled.
Presently, as he shovelled in a circle, always two feet deep, moving the light as he moved, he saw on the top of a shovelful of marl—a twig: barkless, black, cracked—scorched!
To an immoderate degree this thing agitated him—some whisper in the back of his head—some half-thought: he began now to root furiously, with a frowning intentness.
But suddenly he shuddered: a finger seemed to touch his shoulder behind; and he twisted with wild eyes, caught up the light, peered, saw no black man—nothing: but quite five minutes he stood defiant, with clenched fists; then resumed the work, though with a constant feeling now that he was being watched by the unseen seers.
After two new strokes he struck upon something hard, and, digging eagerly round it, found a quart-can, full of earth. And instantly all doubt vanished: for this must have been the beer-can carried by Bates.
Strong curiosity now wrought in Hogarth, a zeal to lay eyes upon that object which had careered through the heights of space to find that beech-wood and that elm-tree; and during fifteen minutes his little implement digged with the quick-plying movement of a distaff- shuttle, he fighting for breath, anon casting a flying wild glance behind, but still digging.
Now, frequently, he came upon burned objects, twigs, cinders. Even the marl had a scorched look; and his agitation grew to ecstasy.
Something very singular had happened to his mind with regard to this "affair" of Bates: Bates had said that it had fallen on the asteroid night; and O'Hara had told him—falsely, indeed—that a piece of the asteroid, fallen upon the French coast, had had diamonds; yet, somehow, never once had his mind associated the Fred Bates "affair" with the thought of diamonds, but only with the "thousand pounds" which Bates had been promised by old Bond. So at the moment when he had begun to dig, his whole thought was of "a thousand pounds"; but, somehow, by the time his implement at last grated against something two feet down, that word "diamonds" had grown up in his brain.
But diamonds! In the midst of his shovelling the thought flashed through him: "The world is God's! and to whom He wills He gives it...."
Now at last the thing lay definitely before him: he grated the spade from end to end, scraping away the marl; and it was very rough....
The size and shape of a man's leg, and red, anyway in the red lantern-shine—his sight dim—he moved and saw in an improbable dream; and when he tried to lift the object and failed, for a long time he sat on the edge of the trench, passing one palm across and across his forehead, till the lantern-light leapt, and went out.
He sprang upright then—awake, sure: they were diamonds, those bits of glass, big celestial ones, not of earth, in hundreds; when he passed his hand along the meteorite he felt it leprous, octahedron, dodecahedron, large and small: if they were truly diamonds, he divined that their owner must be as wealthy as some nations.
About three in the morning he managed to raise the meteorite; refilled the trench; and since it still rained, rolled the meteorite to the hollow of the elm, put on his caftan, and with his back on the interior of the tree, his feet on the meteorite, tumbled into a wonderful slumber.
FRANKL SEES THE METEORITE
He was awaked by a footstep, and, starting, saw rocking along the forest path one Farmer Pollock, wearing now fez and tassel, and he saw his clothes all clay, and, with a smile of fondness, saw how, even beneath its grime, the meteor dodged and jeered, with frolic leers, in the beams of a bright morning that seemed to him the primal morning, a fresh wedding-morning, swarming with elves and shell-tinted visions, imps and pixy princes, profligate Golcondas.
Going first to the spot where he had digged, to give to the surface a natural look, he trampled the lantern into the mire, threw the tin can far, then, taking a quantity of marl, plastered the meteorite, to cover its roughness; then boldly left it, starting out with consummate audacity for Thring, where everybody, police and all, knew him well.
A singular light now in his eyes, an evil pride; and he had the step of a Prince in Prettyland. Corresponding to an inward majesty, of which, from youth, he had been conscious, he now felt an outward, and had not been awake eight minutes when his brain was invaded by plans—plans of debauchery, palaces, orgy, flying beds of ivory arabesqued in fan-traceries of sapphire, in which Rebekah Frankl lolled, and smiled; and on toward Thring he stepped, prince new- crowned, yet by old heredity, high exalted above laws, government, and the entire little muck of Man.
At one point where the path ran close to Westring-park proper, the park on higher ground, a grass-bank seven feet high dividing them, he saw a-top of the bank in caftan, priest-cap, and phylacteries, taking snuff—Baruch Frankl.
Hogarth skipped up, and stood before the Jew, having drawn his face- cloth well forward.
"What's the row?" asked Frankl.
"Could you give a poor man a job?"
"You a Jew?"
"Yes", replied Hogarth, not dreaming how truly: "London born".
"I keep the fasts".
"What you doing about here?"
"Fine mess you are in".
"I slept in a hollow tree down yonder—an elm tree".
"Well, there's many a worse shake-down than that. Who are you? Ever been about here before?"
"I was once".
"You put me in mind of an old chum of mine....Well, here's half-a- crown for you to go on with".
"Make it a crown", said Hogarth, "and get me to clean up down there; in a shocking state with mast and leaves".
Frankl considered. "All right, I don't mind".
"I shall want a spade, and—a barrow".
"Go down the path yonder, till you come to the stables, and tell them".
Frankl resumed his musing stroll, and Hogarth ran for the barrow.
In twenty minutes he was again at the elm tree, and, with a scheme in him for seeing Rebekah, heaped the barrow with refuse, pushed it between a beck and the wood, till, wearying of this, he was about to get the meteorite into the barrow, when he had the mad thought that Frankl must be made to see and touch it, so set off to seek him: and a few yards brought him face to face with Frankl.
"Well, how goes it?" asked the Jew.
"There is a weight there which I can't lift", said Hogarth. "Then you must do the other thing. Don't lift it, and you don't get the pay. What weight is it?"
"It is here".
Hogarth led him, led him, pointing. Frankl kicked the meteorite.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It can't be a branch", said Hogarth; "too heavy—more like a piece of old iron".
"Well, slip into it. A strapping fellow like you ought to be able to do that bit".
"But suppose it's valuable?"
"I make you a present of it, as you are so hard up".
Now Hogarth, by tilting the barrow, with strong effort of four limbs, got the meteorite lodged, while Frankl, his smile lifting the wrinkles above his thick moustache, watched the strain: then, with arms behind, went his contemplative way.
Hogarth rolled the barrow toward Thring.
It was already eleven o'clock, the sun shining in a bright sky, under which the country round the Waveney lay broad to the hills of mist which seemed to encompass the valley; yet, when one came to them no hills were there, but were still beyond. When Hogarth came out from the wood upon a footbridge, to his right a hand-sower was sowing broadcast, with a two-handed rhythm, taking seed, as he strode, from his scrip; and to the left ran a path between fields to an eminence with a little church on it; straight northward some Thring houses visible, and north-east, near the river, Lagden Dip orchard. Only two stooping women in fields near Thring could Hogarth see; also, still further, a gig-and-horse whose remote motion was imperceptible; also the trudging two-handed process of the sower nourishing the furrows. But for these, England, supposed to be "overcrowded", seemed a land once inhabited, but abandoned.
To Hogarth the whole, so familiar, looked uplifted now, the sunlight of a more celestial essence. Westring he would buy—though one memorable night in Colmoor he had arrived at the knowledge that it was not just that Westring should be anyone's; but then what one bought with his own diamonds was surely his own—his name being Richard.
He had passed the bridge, when, glancing to the left, he saw a fifth person in the landscape—a man under a sycamore near the church, gazing up, with hung jaw, at the apse window—dressed in a grey jacket, but a clerical hat, and he had a note-book, in which he wrote, or drew. Hogarth, whose mind was in weathercock state, rolled the barrow to the hill, left it, went stealing fleetly up, and gripped the man's collar, to whisper: "In the King's name I arrest you".
The man's hand clapped his heart, as he turned a face of terror.
"There is—some mistake—My God! Are you—?"
"But you have killed me! My heart—"
"Serves you right. Why didn't you give your right name to Loveday? And what are you doing here?"
"I was just examining this lovely old church, with its two south aisles, and one north, like St. John's at Cirencester. When the church fell in England, architecture was abolished—But as to why I am in Norfolk at all, I am skulking: and here is as another place. Your friend packed me off to America; but for some reasons I should prefer Golmoor—old Colmoor, eh? I fear I am a voluptuary, my son, fond of comfort, and old things, and pretty things. And all that I shall have yet! Tut, O'Hara is not done with the world, nor it with him. As to Norfolk, I once knew—a person—in this neighbourhood—"
The priest paused, regarding Hogarth with a smile, the "person" meant being Hogarth's mother; and he said: "But you are quite the Jew in dress: do you know now, then, that you are of the Chosen Race?"
"Singular notion! This is a mere disguise".
"Ah. But you look quite radiant. You must have come into a fortune. When I heard of your escape, I said to myself—"
"How did you hear?"
"Why, from Harris".
"Harris is drowned".
"Harris is now under that little roof down there—there"—the prelate stabbed with his forefinger: "Harris is my shadow; Harris is my master. He was picked up naked by the ship which ran down your vessel, recognized me one day in Broadway, and threatened to give me in charge if I did not adopt him 'as my well-beloved son'. Well, from him I heard all, how you called fire from Heaven—it was gallant. But aren't you afraid of capture down here in your own country?"
"I cannot be captured".
Those stony eyeballs of O'Hara, bulging from out circular trenches round their sockets, surveyed Hogarth, weighing, divining him, while his bottom lip, massive as the mouth of Polynesian stone gods, trembled.
"How do you mean?"
"I can buy King on throne, Judge on bench, Governor and Warder, the whole machinery. Even O'Hara I could buy".
"I am for sale! Hogarth! I smelled it about you, the myrrh of your garments! And didn't I prophesy it to you years ago? What a development! That beast, Harris, will dance for joy! Oh, there is something very artistic to my fancy, Hogarth, in the metal gold— brittle, bright, orpimented—"
"Hogarth, have you diamonds?"
"Yes", said Hogarth, smiling at the effect of ecstasy upon O'Hara.
"Prismic diamond!" cried the prelate: "but how—?"
"Do you want to enter my service?"
"Do I want?"
"Well, I want a tutor, O'Hara; and you shall be the man. Undertake, then, to teach me all you know in two years, and I'll give you—how much?—twenty thousand pounds a year".
"My son", whispered O'Hara, "what a development—!"
"Good-bye. In Thring Street there is a little paper-shop. Come there to-night at seven".
He ran down the hill: and as he went northward, pushing his barrow, O'Hara had a lens at his eyes, saw the meteorite, and wondered.
FRANKL AND O'HARA
Mrs. Sturgess, of the paper-shop, a clean, washed-out old lady, held up both averting hands at her back door, as Hogarth threw back his kefie, finger on lips; but soon, her alarm warming into welcome, she took him to a room above, to listen to his story of escape.
"And to think", said she, "there is the very box your sister, poor thing, left with me to keep the day she went away, which never once have I seen her dear good face from that day to this. Anyway, there's the box—" pointing to a trunk covered with grey goat's- hair, the trunk to which the old Hogarth had referred in telling Richard the secret of his birth, saying to deaf ears that it contained Richard's "papers"—a box double-bottomed, on its top the letters "P. O.", with a cross-of-Christ under them.
"But, sir", said Mrs. Sturgess, "you must be in great danger here. I hope"—with a titter—"I shan't be implicated—"
"Don't be afraid, Mrs. Sturgess, it will be all right, and, for yourself, don't trouble about the paper-shop any more, but buy a little villa near Florence, where it is warm for the cough—don't think me crazy if I tell you that I am a very rich man. Now give me a steak".
Mrs. Sturgess served him well that day with a pang of expectancy at her heart! Always, she remembered, Richard Hogarth had been strange—uplifted and apart—a man incalculable, winged, unknown, though walking the common ways. He might be a "very rich man"...
His meal over, Hogarth threw himself upon a bed, to dream another trouble of bubbles and burden of purples; woke at four; and, with a procured cold-chisel, hammer, and a calico bag, went to the fowl- house where he had left the meteorite, shut himself in.
Sitting in the dust there, he set to chisel out the gems from the porous ore, and as the chisel won the luscious plums, held them up, glutting his gaze, scratched his name on a fragment of window-pane, and was enchanted that the adamant rim ripped the glass like rag: the whim, meanwhile, working in him to purchase Colmoor, to turn the moor into a paradise, the prison into a palace; where his old cell stood in Gallery No. III to be the bedroom of Rebekah.
To see her that very night was a necessity! and when it was dark he set out.
But that plot failed: on presenting himself at the front of the mansion, he was sent round to the back, where he received payment, and was dismissed; and when he again started for the front, intending to force his way in, he decided upon something else, and walked back to Thring.
He reached the Sturgess cottage soon after six, ate, with a candle returned to the lean-to to resume his work, and was still intent upon it at seven, when Mrs. Sturgess ran out to tell him that "the gentleman had come". He said: "Show him up to my room".
The first thing which O'Hara noticed in that room was the goat-hair trunk, with the initials and cross, the initials his own.
After some minutes he furtively turned the key, dived into a mass of things, paused to remember the whereabouts of a spring, found it, and, lifting the upper bottom, peered beneath; saw a bundle of papers; and, without removing the band, ferreted among them, and was satisfied—-Hogarth's "birth-papers".
He presently went to a back window, and saw ruddy streaks between the boarding of the shanty, while sounds of the hammer reached him.
He would go and meet Hogarth: no harm in that; but it was stealthily that he hurried down the stair and carried himself across the yard, grinning a grimace of self-conscious caution, to peep through a cranny.
Hogarth's back was toward him, the iron leg lying near a box in which was a sitting hen, on its top a candlestick, the calico bag, and a lot of the gems: at which the priest's palm covered his awed mouth, and with a fleet thievishness, like a cat on hot bricks, he trotted back to the cottage.
Ten minutes later Hogarth entered, nodding: "Ah, O'Hara..."; and he called down: "Mrs. Sturgess! pen, ink, and paper!"
When these came, he sat and wrote:
"I have escaped from prison, and come into great power. I summon you to meet me at the elm in the beech-wood to-night at nine. I beseech you, I entreat you. I burn to ashes. Rebekah! My flames of fire! I am dying.
He enclosed, and handed it, without any address, to O'Hara.
"O'Hara", said he, "I want you to take that for me. Come—I will show you the place. You ask in the hall to see 'the young lady': her name does not concern you; but you can't mistake her: she is so- pretty. Give the note to no one else, of course: it mentions my escape, for one thing. I know you will do it well".
He conducted O'Hara, till the two towers of Westring were visible; pointed them out; then went back, and in an hour had finished his work on the diamonds.
O'Hara, meantime, going on his way alone, muttered: "You go fast, Hogarth: prelates of the Church your errand boys? But there is a little fellow called Alf Harris...if he had seen what I have seen to-night, you would be a corpse now".
In twenty minutes he was at Westring, which he knew well, for twenty-five years before he had lived in the Vale: but he supposed that Lord Westring de Broom was still the inmate.
He asked to see "the young lady", persisted, and after a time Rebekah came with eyebrows of inquiry.
The moment O'Hara saw her well, his visage acquired a ghastly ribbed fixity. Even before this, she, by one flashed glance, had known him.
But she took the envelope with easy coolness. And, instead of then returning upon her steps, went still beyond, and whispered to two men in the hall: "Do not let that man pass out!"
As she again returned inward past O'Hara, she remarked: "You might wait here a little".
She travelled then, not hurrying, down the breadth of a great apartment to a side room where her father sat, capped and writing; and she said: "Papa, the man who assaulted me in the train is now in the hall. As his sentence was three years, he must have escaped—" She was gone at once, the unaddressed envelope, still unopened, shivering a little in her hand.
Frankl leapt up, rather pale, thinking that if the man had come here, he must mean mischief; but remembering that the man was a gentleman, a priest, he took heart, and went out.
O'Hara, meantime, stood at bay, guessing his exit blocked, while the terrors of death gat hold upon him, the flesh of his yellow jaw shivering. But he was a man of stern mind—stern as the rocky aspect of his face, and the moment he saw Frankl coming (he had seen him in the Court), he started to meet him—stooped to the Jew's ear, who shrank delicately from contact.
"There isn't any good in running me down, sir", he whispered in sycophant haste. "I pledge you my word I came here without knowing to whom. O do, now! I have already suffered for my crime; and if you attempt to capture me, I do assure you, I strangle you where you stand! Do, now! I only brought a letter—"