Book the Second - the Golden Thread
14. XIV. The Honest Tradesman
The officiating undertakers made some protest against these changes
in the ceremonies; but, the river being alarmingly near, and several
voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing
refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint
and brief. The remodelled procession started, with a chimney-sweep
driving the hearse--advised by the regular driver, who was perched
beside him, under close inspection, for the purpose--and with a pieman,
also attended by his cabinet minister, driving the mourning coach.
A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time, was impressed
as an additional ornament, before the cavalcade had gone far down
the Strand; and his bear, who was black and very mangy, gave quite
an Undertaking air to that part of the procession in which he walked.
Thus, with beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, song-roaring, and infinite
caricaturing of woe, the disorderly procession went its way, recruiting
at every step, and all the shops shutting up before it. Its destination
was the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields. It got
there in course of time; insisted on pouring into the burial-ground;
finally, accomplished the interment of the deceased Roger Cly in
its own way, and highly to its own satisfaction.
The dead man disposed of, and the crowd being under the necessity of
providing some other entertainment for itself, another brighter genius
(or perhaps the same) conceived the humour of impeaching casual
passers-by, as Old Bailey spies, and wreaking vengeance on them.
Chase was given to some scores of inoffensive persons who had never
been near the Old Bailey in their lives, in the realisation of this
fancy, and they were roughly hustled and maltreated. The transition
to the sport of window-breaking, and thence to the plundering of
public-houses, was easy and natural. At last, after several hours,
when sundry summer-houses had been pulled down, and some area-railings
had been torn up, to arm the more belligerent spirits, a rumour got
about that the Guards were coming. Before this rumour, the crowd
gradually melted away, and perhaps the Guards came, and perhaps they
never came, and this was the usual progress of a mob.
Mr. Cruncher did not assist at the closing sports, but had remained
behind in the churchyard, to confer and condole with the undertakers.
The place had a soothing influence on him. He procured a pipe from a
neighbouring public-house, and smoked it, looking in at the railings
and maturely considering the spot.