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III.

At ten o'clock, the night-constable on duty at the entrance-gate—he had two watchmen selected from the prisoners to help him—passed up into No. 5 dormitory. The door leading into the courtyard was not locked, nor were the doors of the several rooms. This was one of the eccentricities of the period for which there is no accounting. As a rule, there was a superfluity of locks and bolts, but Hyde Park Barracks, from 1819 to 1826, were never locked at night. In '26, a plot to make a sortie on the sleeping town was discovered, and then the System invested £13 10s. 9d. in padlocks of new and impregnable design—which were all picked within a week. But this is by the way.

The night-constable, Thomas Crake, transport per the Three Bees on that fatal trip when the mortality was so great as to shock even the indurated sensibilities of a British statesman, passed from the courtyard into No. 5. Up two flights of stairs went he, ghoul-like in the crawling pat-pat of his list-slippered feet. And at the door of No. 5 he stopped and


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touched the dozing watchman of the room on the shoulder. “Grant's son—wake up Grant's son. The old man's a-slippin' 'is wind! 'E's got to go ter horspital, quick!”

The watchman rubbed his eyes and saluted. It was only a constable who stood by, but his fine reverence for authority, coupled with a profound distaste for lashes, suggested the salute. And so he made it before he moved between the hammocks to rouse “Grant, son.”

From floor to roof ran stanchions of timber—a row against the walls, another row seven feet distant towards the middle of the room. Across the stanchions were nailed rails or battens, and from these were suspended the hammocks. Twenty inches of width space was allowed to each hammock. For some that narrow bed held a fiercer hell than even the System maintained outside, for their consciences stirred malevolently even in their dreams. For others, again, the hammock was Paradise. These latter drifted back in their visions to the scenes of innocence; to the spots untainted by travail of spirit or by sense of injustice or wrong-doing. For a brief space they forgot.

There were others still—some who were awake; who never seemed to sleep; who were perpetually


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crying in these night hours after their lost youth—the youth perhaps they had never known. Surely there is a heaven to give some people the youth they never knew here!

Among these last was young Grant. Amid the animals who snored off their fatigue, amid the more delicate souls which sighed remorse or laughed in their sleep, young Grant was awake. He could not sleep—prescient, perhaps, of impending trouble, slumber refused to touch his eyelids.

Before the watchman had reached his hammock he had started up. In this ward—No. 5 was good conduct dormitory—it was unusual for the watchman to patrol after silence-bell; and as he heard the muffled steps between the sleepers, he knew instinctively he was wanted. In the same instant that the watchman muttered his name, he spoke.

“Grant, son?” The full name slipped off the tongue, mechanically alert by frequent repetition.

“Me; yes, I'm awake, Butchy. Is it the—old man?”

“Yes, sonny—Grant, father, be bad. So Const'ble Crake, he ses.”

The young fellow leapt out of the hammock instantly.




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“Yer'll get into it, a-sleepin' in yer ducks an' shirt, some time, my lad, if you don't take care.”

But the words passed unheeded. “Grant, son,” was at the door.

“Oh, Mr. Crake——”

“W'y don't yer s'lute?” growled the officer, tetchy even in that hour, and though he stood on the verge of an infamy, as to a fancied slight.

The lad saluted. And then, quivering with an alarm he did not try to disguise, he pressed his inquiry.

“Mr. Crake, is father—is he worse?”

“Come 'long, and I'll tell yer!”

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