Зображення сторінки

Then he made a manful leap into the midst of the drove, and pinioned the bay in a twinkling. One arm was round its neck, while his right hand firmly grasped it between the nostrils. The suddenness of the assault seemed for a moment to fill the pony with dismay. It suffered itself to be dragged away from its comrades for a short distance, but then, recovering its presence of mind, it made a stand. It reared up on its hind legs, with its mane bristling and its eyes glaring, and its mouth viciously open. It was a fair stand-up fight between Davis and the pony; and from the cool manner of the former, it was plain that it was no more than he had bargained for. To release his unfortunate nose, the pony reared high, but Davis's grip was sure. The pony reared higher still, and rolled over, but Davis rolled with him, puffing and blowing, all the time sharply reprimanding the perverse little brute in the Welsh tongue. It wanted to get back to the drove. It had been brought up in the drove, and felt no terrors while permitted to remain there. Its struggles, its agonised gasps and snorts, told how painfully it felt the severance, while the scared looks of its comrades were significant signs that they heard, and deplored their inability to help. It was only when the frantic little bay had been dragged by a dozen strong hands out of sight and sound of the herd, that it consented to stand on its four legs, and to permit the halter, that was symbolic of its future condition of slavery, to be slipt over its ears. · Nor was this an exceptional instance of the courageous determination evinced by the Welsh ponies to resist to the last the subjugating hand of man. Before I left the horsefield, I witnessed at least a dozen of these man-and-pony fights; and in no instance did the animal yield without a struggle that caused infinite amusement to the fiends of the calico flags and the other merciless howlers and yelpers, whose violence increased as the business of the day grew hotter. It soon grew too hot for me. An hour since I had come to be grateful to the vendor of “ground ashes ” for his friendly hint. But, lacking the heart to inflict unceremonious blows on every hoof that came dangerously near me, and having some regard for an old established corn on a middle toe, I made my way back across the railway, and so gained the comparatively peaceful high road.


OVER against the prison, which is one of the most extensive within twelve miles of London, is a public house, the landlord of which, supposing him to be a man of only commonly keen observation, should be able to speak as to a thief's identity with any gaol warder in the kingdom.

Should it ever become illegal to serve a thief, knowing him to be such, with intoxicating drink, mine host of the Bull in the Pound would be driven to the hard necessity of putting up his shutters. The Bull in the Pound is a recognised house of call for thieves, both petty and formidable—for burglars, “smashers,” shoplifters, garotters, and highwaymen. It is the trysting-place where, after prolonged and painful severance, the at-presentfree bird of prey meets and renews loving friendship with the gaol bird clean clipped and perky after his well-cared-for incarceration. The landlord of the Bull-inthe-Pound is a highly respectable tradesman. He has not the slightest sympathy with evil doers, and fifty guineas would not tempt him to permit on his premises the hilarious celebration of bold Toby Crackitt's release over a bowl of punch, by a select circle of admiring “ magsmen.” I have seen the worthy publican in question, and conversed with him, and I feel quite convinced that even if “thieves' talk” were indulged in aloud before his bar, it would be instantly put a stop to, and the offenders ejected. At the same time, it cannot be denied that the Bull in the Pound is a house of call for every type of offender to whom the grated cell and prison are familiar.

I am unable to explain the circumstance, but at the prison facing the Pound, as at every other, there are a greater number of prisoners discharged on Monday than any other morning—always in the morning, and about ten o'clock. Over the discharging of a man from prison there is nothing like the fuss that distinguishes his reception there. In the first case, the black carriage that conveys him is guarded fore and aft by stalwart policemen; and in the narrow passage within the dismal omnibus which divides the double row of little hutches, each containing a prisoner, is bestowed a third blue coated and helmeted man, who has quick ears for rash scraps of conversation that one captive may venture to indulge in with another. The great outer gate is opened, the vehicle is admitted, and the great gate closed and locked again before the inner gate is opened.

But at a prisoner's discharge, whether he be a greyhaired sinner or some poor little ten year old waif, friendless, homeless, and with no other resource but to “go at it again,” all this ceremony is quite dispensed with. They are not let loose, these gaol birds, in a batch, but by twos and threes. Between the prison gate and the highway there is a spacious gravelled forecourt, bounded by railings and an open gate; so that literally a prisoner is free before he entirely quits the prison premises. Why on earth do they not run that thirty yards or so ? They may if they please ; there is no one to prevent them. Nay, there are plenty to encourage them—eager, anxious friends, with all the force of the heartfelt “Here he comes ! jolly good luck

to him, here he comes at last !” shining out of their eyes—they never venture, these attentive friends, within the open gate just mentioned; but the newly emerged ones don't run to meet them. The massive studded door slams them a parting salute, and they come along with as deliberate and cautious a step as though this long pined for liberty were like a pair of tight and uncomfortable boots to their feet.

On the Monday when I witnessed the gaol delivery here described, I think fourteen was the number of liberated prisoners, and they all came away thus soberly and sedately. Here I might tell of the sin-weary penitent who shuddered again to face a world so bristling with temptations; of the mere boy whose hitherto untried affections had so attached themselves to the governor and the chaplain that it was nothing less than heartrending to tear himself away—away from a prison so called, but in reality a paradise, where for the first time in his wretched small existence, he had tasted the sweets of home. I might write in this strain, but, frankly, it would be without the warrantry of experience. I have talked with scores of boys who have over and over again received the punishment due to thieves, and are thieves still—dirty, ragged, starving little thieves and not one ever yet expressed a yearning towards the advantages offered them in the shape of prison board and lodging. Not that they were in the least alive to the disgrace attaching to gaol durance. I have said to them

“Is it not true that in prison you get good hot food, and a comfortable bed, and that you are not worked too hard ?”

“That's right enough, mister," was the answer ; one experienced gentleman of twelve years old adding emphatically, “'Specially at, Maidstun."

« НазадПродовжити »