As a tiger in his cage wearies the eye by incessantly walking and turning, so I paced my den; and if I could have reached one of the impertinent gazers, through the slanting aperture and three-foot wall, I should have throttled him. "All these people," said I, "and thousands more, will witness my last moments on the scaffold!"
Thus would it shine on through centuries, and light many another unfortunate to the scaffold. The very sky seemed pitiless in the intensity of its cobalt. Unfeeling I deemed the note that everywhere was struck by man and Nature, so discordant was it with my gloomy outlook.
We had endeavoured to alleviate his captivity by visiting him in prison; and we had now the satisfaction of finding him in the midst of his family. Illness under which he was suffering had been aggravated by confinement; and he sank into the grave without seeing the dawn of those days of independence, which his friend Don Joseph Espana had predicted on the scaffold prior to his execution.
You may perhaps know the walk that was Victor's a steady forward advance of the whole body held firmly, almost rigidly the walk of a man leading another to the scaffold, or of a man being led there in conscious innocence, or of a man ready to go wherever his purposes may order ready to go without any heroics or fuss of any kind, but simply in the course of the day's business.
Yes; in that hour they told us they were innocent, but were ready to die; and we believed them. We believe them still. Aye, do we! They did not go to meet their God with a falsehood on their lips. On that night before their execution, oh, what a scene! What a picture did England present at the foot of the Manchester scaffold! The brutal populace thronged thither in tens of thousands.
They were the same women who used in other days to insult conspirators and aristocrats, extremists and moderates, all the victims sent by Gamelin and his colleagues to the guillotine. The cart turned into the Quai des Morfondus, made slowly for the Pont-Neuf and the Rue de la Monnaie; its destination was the Place de la Révolution and Robespierre's scaffold.
The guilt of Buckingham, although not fully established, rests upon circumstances of suspicion stronger than have been sufficient to lead hundreds to the scaffold.
The thought wrung Tom's heart-strings. The spirit of compassion took control of him, to the exclusion of all other considerations; he never thought of the offended laws, or of the grief or loss which these three criminals had inflicted upon their victims; he could think of nothing but the scaffold and the grisly fate hanging over the heads of the condemned.
But Maria Lacour died not on the scaffold. She was saved from that doom by unquestionable proofs of insanity. Her sad story was learned afterwards from various sources, and corroborated, in the most important particulars, by Captain Lassalle, who was arrested for a criminal offence shortly after the above incident, and made a full confession of his guilt.
The four men, who had so narrowly escaped the fate of Barrett, were kneeling, bare-headed, on the stones of the Old Bailey in front of the scaffold on which their friend was about to die, praying silently but earnestly. For several minutes they continued to kneel and pray, and then, suddenly rising, they hurriedly left the crowd and disappeared.