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

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Chapter XXXIII: A Patriot's Reward

I never shall forget one evening's walk, as Crossthwaite and I strode back together from the Convention. We had walked on some way arm in arm in silence, under the crushing and embittering sense of having something to conceal—something, which if those who passed us so carelessly in the street had known—! It makes a villain and a savage of a man, that consciousness of a dark, hateful secret. And it was a hateful one!—a dark and desperate necessity, which we tried to call by noble names, that faltered on our lips as we pronounced them; for the spirit of God was not in us; and instead of bright hope, and the clear fixed lodestar of duty, weltered in our imaginations a wild possible future of tumult, and flame, and blood.

"It must be done!—it shall be done!—it will be done!" burst out John, at last, in that positive, excited tone, which indicated a half disbelief of his own words. "I've been reading Macerone on street-warfare; and I see the way as clear as day."

I felt nothing but the dogged determination of despair. "It must be tried, if the worst comes to the worst—but I have no hope. I read Somerville's answer to that Colonel Macerone. Ten years ago he showed it was impossible. We cannot stand against artillery; we have no arms."

"I'll tell you where to buy plenty. There's a man, Power, or Bower, he's sold hundreds in the last few days; and he understands the matter. He tells us we're certain, safe. There are hundreds of young men in the government offices ready to join, if we do but succeed at first. It all depends on that. The first hour settles the fate of a revolution."

"If we succeed, yes—the cowardly world will always side with the conquering party; and we shall have every pickpocket and ruffian in our wake, plundering in the name of liberty and order."

"Then we'll shoot them like dogs, as the French did! 'Mort aux voleurs' shall be the word!"

"Unless they shoot us. The French had a national guard, who had property to lose, and took care of it. The shopkeepers here will be all against us; they'll all be sworn in special constables, to a man; and between them and the soldiers, we shall have three to one upon us."

"Oh! that Power assures me the soldiers will fraternize. He says there are three regiments at least have promised solemnly to shoot their officers, and give up their arms to the mob."

"Very important, if true—and very scoundrelly, too, I'd sooner be shot myself by fair fighting, than see officers shot by cowardly treason."

"Well, it's ugly. I like fair play as well as any man. But it can't be done. There must be a surprise, a coup de main, as the French say" (poor Crossthwaite was always quoting French in those days). "Once show our strength—burst upon the tyrants like a thunderclap; and then!—

  "Men of England, heirs of glory,
  Heroes of unwritten story,
  Rise, shake off the chains like dew
  Which in sleep have fallen on you!
  Ye are many, they are few!"

"That's just what I am afraid they are not. Let's go and find out this man
Power, and hear his authority for the soldier-story. Who knows him?"

"Why, Mike Kelly and he had been a deal together of late, Kelly's a true heart now—a true Irishman ready for anything. Those Irish are the boys, after all—though I don't deny they do bluster and have their way a little too much in the Convention. But still Ireland's wrongs are England's. We have the same oppressors. We must make common cause against the tyrants."