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thoughtfully proceeding in a direction at right angles to the scene of the disturbance, when Perdita suddenly stopped short, much to Madame Cabot's distress, and fixed her eyes upon a group also hastening towards the gate from another part of the grounds.
It consisted of a man and two women. The former was fashionably dressed, had rather a dandified air, and a handsome, bright, good-humoured countenance. The lady on his arm was tall, and of a fine figure ; her face, which was uncovered, had a flush of excitement upon it, and her eyes sparkled. Close behind the couple followed a woman who was evidently a domestic. Perdita had no difficulty in recognising Marion, and that elegant poet and fascinating man of the world, Mr. Thomas Moore. As they passed her, she gave another of her odd little smiles.
“So much for my charity!" she murmured to herself. “Poor Philip !-allons, madame !" And she hurried Madame Cabot to the carriage.
CHAPTER XXX. The next day London awoke to a sensation. As early as ten o'clock in the morning, it was known that something astounding had happened; though the general public still lacked information as to what it was. Had Bonaparte escaped from St. Helena, and landed at Gravesend ? Was his Majesty George the Third dead at last ? Had the Pope been proclaimed spiritual and temporal ruler of Great
Or had another Gunpowder Plot been discovered? City men, meeting one another on their way to their shops and offices, asked each other such questions, half jocosely, half in earnest. The people on the street caught up echoes of these dialogues, and spread them about with amplifications and variations. Up till noon, only a handful of persons knew the truth; but before sunset it was familiar in the mouths of millions. The great banking house of Bendibow Brothers had failed.
Yes, after a career of almost unparalleled success and splendour, the mighty structure, founded, nearly a century ago, by grim Abraham Bendibow, had fallen with a crash, and thousands of hapless people were involved in the ruins. Financial England was shaken to its foundations by that catastrophe : on the Continent, the news created only less dismay; but in London itself the destruction wrought by it was terribly widespread and apparent. By order of the Government, which received early information of what had happened, a company of soldiers was sent down to guard the bank-a wise precaution, as the threatening crowd that soon began to gather in front of it proved. A very ugly and turbulent crowd it was, as London mobs are apt to be ; and in this case its passions were inflamed by the presence in the midst of it of numbers of luckless depositors, who had lost all they possessed, and were shrieking for vengeance. Was such enormous robbery to be perpetrated, and the guilty not to suffer ? A scapegoat was wanted, and must be had. And who was the thief? Who, but Sir Francis Bendibow? Where was Sir Francis Bendibow? Where was the man who had made himself rich and fat on the life-blood of thousands of honest men and women? Was he in the bank? The captain of the company assured the questioners that he was not; that the bank contained nothing but money, and very little of that ; and this, in due time, would be fairly divided among those who could show a claim to it. For the rest, he had orders to fire should any act of violence be attempted ; and he was ready to obey his orders. Hereupon the mob laughed, as if the defiance pleased them ; but it was evident that a few score of soldiers would not be a mouthful for such a roaring multitude, should they choose to attack. At this juncture, however, a fresh suggestion was disseminated, none knew how ; but it was caught up at once. Sir Francis Bendibow owned a town mansion, only a mile or two distant. Why not look for him there? That was a more likely place to find him ; and if he were gone, at all events the house and its contents would remain, and be at the mob's disposal. Away, then, to the Bendibow mansion ! There were no naked bayonets and loaded musketbarrels there ; but there were valuables of all kinds to smash or to purloin, and possibly there were provisions in the larder and wines in the cellar. So off to Francis Bendibow's !
In a surprisingly short time the vast mass of men had begun to move in the direction of their new object, sweeping everything before them, and gaining new recruits at every street corner. Along the Strand they poured, a seething and howling torrent of lawless humanity, swollen continually by confluents streaming down the narrow streets from the north ; more than half of them, no doubt, ignorant whither they were bound, or wherefore they were gathered together, but all alike ready for mischief and exulting in disorder. Meantime the warning of their approach preceded them, and shopkeepers hurriedly put up their shutters, and householders barred their doors. Westward they roared along, appalling to see and hear, and yet grotesquely fascinating, insomuch that law-abiding and respectable citizens, beholding them, were seized with a strange
longing to cast themselves into the irresistible current, to imbibe its purpose and join in its achievements. Alas for Francis Bendibow, should he fall into the clutches of these his fellow-creatures !
As the front of the mob entered the street in which the Bendibow mansion stood, a hackney carriage was being driven rapidly out of it in the opposite direction. Before it could turn the corner, a stone, flung at random, struck the driver on the head, and knocked him off the box. At this mishap the mob set up a jeering howl, and a number of them rushed forward to see what game they had brought down. But hereupon the door of the carriage opened, and a man got out, wearing a heavy-caped cloak; an elderly man, but stout and broadshouldered. The collar of his cloak was turned up, and the brim of his hat drawn down over his forehead, so that little of his face was visible. This man, after casting a glance towards the crowd, mounted quickly on the box, and, gathering up the reins with a practised hand, laid the whip sharply across the horse's back. A ragged scarecrow sprang at the animal's bit with outstretched hand, but the lash of the whip smote him across the eyes, and he staggered back with a shriek of agony. The vehicle was now at the street corner; but, before turning it, the man on the box, taking the reins in his left hand, passed his right beneath his cloak, and drew forth a long pistol. He levelled it at the thick of the crowd, which was now swarming before the doomed house, and fired. The ball passed through the neck of a gigantic ruffian who had just smashed one of the front windows of the mansion, and buried itself in the heart of a pallid stripling a couple of yards farther on, who had been swept along in the rush, against his own will, and without the least notion of what all the uproar was about. Both the stricken men fell; and the hackney carriage and its driver disappeared.
All this had passed so rapidly that few were aware it had occurred, or knew whence the shots came, or what damage they had done ; and all eyes and thoughts being now centred on the house, no pursuit of the fugitive was attempted. The house, of course, had never been designed to stand a siege, nor did there seem to be any garrison to defend it : the doors and windows were speedily battered in, and the mob, meeting with no resistance and seeing no adversaries, crowded in pell-mell, and the work of sack and destruction began. It was speedily apparent, however, that the amount of the spoil was altogether out of proportion with the number of the spoilers-so much so that at least nine-tenths of the latter must needs come off, not only empty-handed, but without even the gratification of having destroyed anything. In half an hour the lately splendid residence of VOL. CCLIII. NO. 1824.
the proprietor of the greatest private banking-house in London was gutted from cellar to ridge pole, and such of its contents as could profitably be stolen had passed through the hands of hundreds of temporary possessors, one snatching from another, until everything had vanished, it was impossible to say where, and none-save those who had been crushed, beaten, trampled, or torn within an inch of their lives or less-were in the slightest degree satisfied. In this predicament, a very obvious resource presented itself. If Sir Francis Bendibow's house could not fill the mob's pockets, there were in London plenty of similar houses which might, in the aggregate, realise the desired end : a good beginning had been made here; why not go on and sack all Belgravia? The suggestion had only to be made to be acted upon; and in a few minutes more the whole vast crowd was in full cry towards Pall Mall. Here, however, an unexpected and chilling obstacle presented itself. The Duke of Wellington, who happened to have come over from Paris for a few days, and had received information of the disturbance, had shortly before despatched a battery of artillery in that direction : and as the mob swept round the corner of the Haymarket, they found themselves almost on the gaping muzzles of half a dozen big cannon, the same that had mowed down the French at Waterloo, and which seemed cordially disposed to do as much for the cockney roughs in Pall Mall. An amazing scene of confusion followed, those behind being as yet ignorant of the passionate desire of those in front to get out of the way; and the confusion was kindled into a wild panic when the tramp of horses was heard on the left, and the black plumes and glancing breastplates of a hundred heavy dragoons were seen charging at a brisk trot upon the flank of the rioters. This charge, and the accompanying arrest of many of the ringleaders, dispersed the mob even more quickly than it had been assembled; it plunged headlong wherever an opening presented itself, and its wicked old mother, London, swallowed it up; as Spenser's monster swallowed her filthy offspring, at the attack of the Red Cross Knight. All mobs are cowardly : but the London mob is the most cowardly of all, because it is the least excitable, and is without convictions..
While these matters were in progress, the hackney-carriage had gone on its way unmolested, and, having reached Oxford Street, turned eastward, and rattled along swiftly towards the city. It was now nearly four o'clock, and the early London dusk had begun to settle over the dingy streets. The driver sat erect and square on the box, turning his head neither to the right nor left, but occasionally
touching the horse smartly with the whip. To look at him, one would have supposed him to be absorbed in a gloomy reverie: he scarcely seemed to notice where he was going. Presently, however, he turned down a street to the right; and in ten minutes more drew up in front of the office of Mr. Merton Fillmore, Solicitor, in the neighbourhood of Cornhill. Throwing the reins on the tired animal's back, he got leisurely down from his seat, and, with his hat-brim still pulled down over his brows, he entered the doorway and went upstairs.
He was about to lay his hand on the handle of the office door when it was opened from within, and Fillmore, with his hat and topcoat on, stepped across the threshold, but stopped short on seeing his visitor. For a moment he stood silent and motionless : then he grasped him by the arm and drew him into the office, where the clerks were locking up their desks, and across it into the inner room, closing the door behind them.
“Well, Bendibow, I'm glad you have escaped,” he said. “I sent after you to the bank and to your house this forenoon, but you were at neither place. Where did you spend the night?”
"At an inn in Pimlico.”
The baronet took a pistol from beneath his cloak, and showed Fillmore that it had been discharged. “I just came from there," he remarked. “I gave an account of two or three of 'em, first.”
“Of course you know your life is in danger ?" “ I'm dangerous myself," replied the other, with a short laugh. "You had better lose no time in getting out of London.” “Not I! I'm satisfied. I shall give myself up." “ That
may be the best thing you can do. Did you know this was coming on?”
“I suppose so. It had to come some time. I haven't known much, one way or another, lately. If Tom had been alive, have tried to stave it off. It's all one to me now, damn 'em! I wish I could have ruined all England."
“ You have done enough, Bendibow. What was the cause of this?"
The baronet laughed again. “The cause of it? Ask the historians of the eighteenth century. If Abraham Bendibow had never succeeded, I never should have failed. It was bound to happen from the beginning. Have you got anything to drink, Fillmore?”
The lawyer shook his head. “And you had better let brandy