Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: Ch. 33

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"What's the matter?"

"Have I hit him?" said the old man, in a state of unusual excitement.

"Bedad! it was the man Power! the cursed spy! An' just as I was going to slate the villain nately, came the kittle, and kilt me all over!"

"Power? He's as many names as a pickpocket, and as many callings, too, I'll warrant. He came sneaking in to tell me the sogers were a' ready to gie up their arms if I'd come forward to them to-morrow. So I tauld him, sin' he was so sure o't, he'd better gang and tak the arms himsel; an' then he let out he'd been a policeman—"

"A policeman!" said both Crossthwaite and Kelly, with strong expletives.

"A policeman doon in Manchester; I thought I kenned his face fra the first. And when the rascal saw he'd let out too much, he wanted to make out that he'd been a' along a spy for the Chartists, while he was makin' believe to be a spy o' the goovernment's. Sae when he came that far, I just up wi' the het water, and bleezed awa at him; an' noo I maun gang and het some mair for my drap toddy."

Sandy had a little vitriol in the house, so we took the combustible down into the cellar, and tried it. It blazed up: but burnt the stone as much as the reader may expect. We next tried it on a lump of wood. It just scorched the place where it lay, and then went out; leaving poor Kelly perfectly frantic with rage, terror, and disappointment. He dashed up-stairs, and out into the street, on a wild-goose chase after the rascal, and we saw no more of him that night.

I relate a simple fact. I am afraid—perhaps, for the poor workmen's sake, I should say I am glad, that it was not an unique one. Villains of this kind, both in April and in June, mixed among the working men, excited their worst passions by bloodthirsty declamations and extravagant promises of success, sold them arms; and then, like the shameless wretch on whose evidence Cuffy and Jones were principally convicted, bore witness against their own victims, unblushingly declaring themselves to have been all along the tools of the government. I entreat all those who disbelieve this apparently prodigious assertion, to read the evidence given on the trial of the John Street conspirators, and judge for themselves.

* * * * *

"The petition's filling faster than ever!" said Crossthwaite, as that evening we returned to Mackaye's little back room.

"Dirt's plenty," grumbled the old man, who had settled himself again to his pipe, with his feet on the fender, and his head half way up the chimney.

"Now, or never!" went on Crossthwaite, without minding him; "now, or never!
The manufacturing districts seem more firm than ever."

"An' words cheap," commented Mackaye, sotto voce.

"Well," I said, "Heaven keep us from the necessity of ulterior measures!
But what must be, must."

"The government expect it, I can tell you. They're in a pitiable funk, I hear. One regiment is ordered to Uxbridge already, because they daren't trust it. They'll find soldiers are men, I do believe, after all."

"Men they are," said Sandy; "an' therefore they'll no be fools eneugh to stan' by an' see ye pu' down a' that is, to build up ye yourselves dinna yet rightly ken what. Men? Ay, an' wi' mair common sense in them than some that had mair opportunities."