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[-303-] 

CHAPTER CCXXVII.

COLDBATH FIELDS' PRISON.

    Return we now to the Resurrection Man, that incarnate fiend whose crimes were so numerous, and all of so black a dye.
    Firmly bound, and guarded by three officers, who kept their bludgeons in their hands, the miscreant saw that all resistance was vain: he accordingly threw himself back in the cab that was bearing him to prison, and gave way to his saturnine reflections.
    "If I had only thought that Richard Markham would have accompanied that young girl Katherine,"  it was thus he mused,  "a very different song would have been sung. But I knew that he was married only a week ago, and never dreamt that he would leave his pretty wife to poke his nose into Banks's crib. What an infernal oversight on my part! And now  here I am, regularly lumbered; and all the swag arising from Kate Wilmot's business is in the hands of that canting sneak Banks! Damnation to Richard Markham! I shall swing for this if I don't take precious good care. He'll swear to two different attempts on his life  one at the old house near Bird-cage Walk, and t'other at Twig Folly. What a cursed  ten times cursed fool I was to let myself tumble into a snare in this way! Some one else will find the gold that I have saved up; and when I shall be cold and stiff under the pavement of Newgate, others will riot on my treasure! But no  it can't happen in that way: impossible that my time is come yet  impossible! I shall escape somehow or another;  I must escape  I will escape! But how? That question is the devil of the difficulty. Never mind  escape I will  so I mustn't be down-hearted!"
    These and numberless other reflections, in which despondency and hope alternately asserted a predominant influence, occupied the mind of Anthony Tidkins as the cab proceeded rapidly through Bethnal-Green and Shoreditch,  then along Old Street  up the Goswell Road  through Northampton Square  and lastly along Exmouth Street, in its way to Coldbath Fields' Prison.
    At length the cab turned into the short road which forms the approach, within the wooden railings in front of the governor's dwelling, to the great gates of the gaol,  those gates over which may be read in large letters, "MIDDLESEX HOUSE OF CORRECTION."
    A shudder crept over even the iron frame of Anthony Tidkins, as those huge portals, towering high above the cab which now drew up close to them, seemed to frown upon him like a colossal genius of evil amidst the obscurity of night.
    Benstead leapt from the cab, and knocked loudly at the gate.
    The iron din was responded to by gloomy echoes from the courts inside.
    In a few minutes heavy chains fell, and the wicket was opened by a man bearing a lantern.
    Benstead whispered to him for a few moments; and Tidkins was conducted into a little lobby on the left hand.
    The turnkey, who had opened the gate, then proceeded to the governor's house, which was close by within the walls; and, after an absence of ten minutes, he returned with an affirmative answer to Benstead's request that the prisoner might be retained in custody in that gaol until a magistrate should otherwise dispose of him.
    The turnkey accordingly led the way through the wicket of a strong iron grating, across a yard where a watchman armed with a loaded blunderbuss was stationed, and thence into a building, up the narrow stone staircase of which the party proceeded, until they reached a cell, where the Resurrection Man, who was now released from his bonds, was left.
    Tidkins threw himself upon the bed and soon fell asleep. He was not an individual to whom danger or even the prospect of death could bring remorse: darkness and solitude had no alarms for him;  and, thus, in spite of the profound vexation he experienced at his present predicament, he yielded to the influence of fatigue and slept soundly.
    On the following morning a bowl of gruel and a piece of bread were supplied for his breakfast; and he washed at the common sink belonging to that department of the gaol.
    At ten o'clock Benstead and two other officers arrived, placed manacles upon him, and conveyed him to a cab, in which they seated themselves with him.
    In about half an hour the Resurrection Man was [-304-] placed in the dock at the Lambeth Street Police Office.
    The Prince of Montoni, attended by his solicitor, Mr. Dyson, had entered the court a few moments before; and the magistrate, upon being made acquainted with his name and rank, immediately threw down the newspaper, saying, "It is by no means necessary that your Highness should enter the witness-box: your Highness will do me the honour to accept a seat on the bench; and the clerk will take down your Highness's evidence at your Highness's leisure. Make room there, for his Highness: usher, clear the way for his Highness."
    Scarcely able to conceal his disgust at this fulsome behaviour of the magistrate, the Prince coldly said, "I thank you, sir, for your politeness: but I cannot consent to receive a favour which would not be shown to a poor and obscure individual."
    The magistrate turned very red, and bowed meekly, but without repeating his offer.
    The case was then entered upon.
    The Prince detailed the particulars of that adventure at the Resurrection Man's house in the neighbourhood of the Bird-cage Walk, with which the reader is already acquainted: and he also related the subsequent circumstances connected with the blowing up of the den  a deed which had cost several persons their lives, and which (added Markham) was no doubt perpetrated by Tidkins himself.
    When these depositions were taken down, the Prince was about to enter upon his second charge  namely, the attack made upon him at Twig Folly: but the magistrate thought the first, case had better be previously completed, and resolved upon remanding the prisoner for three days, in order to allow time to procure the evidence of those surviving policemen who had witnessed the fate of their brother-officers on the occasion of the blowing up of the house.
    Tidkins was accordingly remanded to Coldbath Fields' Prison; and the Prince of Montoni immediately repaired in his carriage to Holmesford House  the particulars of which visit have been detailed in the preceding chapter.
    On his return to the gaol, Tidkins was allowed to walk for an hour in the tread-wheel yard nearest to the entrance of the prison. There are several tread-mill yards in Coldbath Fields' gaol, alike for males and females; but we specify the particular yard in which the Resurrection Man was permitted to take exercise, because it has relation to a certain event which is to follow. It is also of the wheel in 

 

this yard that the fan, or balance, is seen above the wall near the south. western angle of the prison, by persons passing through Coldbath Square.
    The tread-wheel is an enormous drum, or cylinder, with ranges of steps all round it, at a distance of about a foot and a half from each other. Between forty and fifty persons can work on the wheel at one time. It moves slowly round towards the prisoners placed upon it; and thus the step on which the foot stands descends, while the next step presents itself. A platform is built to half the height of the wheel; and from this platform the prisoners step upon the wheel itself. They support themselves by a railing, and their weight keeps the wheel in motion. Thus they must sink with all their weight as they work on that rotatory engine of diabolical torture. The action is that of going up stairs, without, however, actually rising higher; for every step so reached sinks beneath the feet, and the prisoner is compelled to get upon the next one in its descent. Those prisoners who wait their turns to go on, sit upon the platform; and the task-master in the yard directs the intervals of labour and those of rest.
    And upon this engine of torture, as we ere now denominated the tread-mill, not only boys of twelve years of age are placed, but even women!
    Yes:  in this civilised country,  in this land where novelists and poets celebrate the chivalrous devotion which should be paid to the softer sex  in this great city, where the pseudo-saints blurt [-305-]

forth their nauseating hypocrisy at Exeter Hall, and swindle the charitable of alms for the purpose of improving the condition of savages thousands of miles off, while there is such an awful want of instruction and moralising elements at home, in the very centre of the English capital are women subjected to the ferocious torture of the tread-mill!
    The food is scanty;  and yet the labour thus forced upon the poor sickly, half-starved wretches, is horribly severe.
    Three-quarters of the crimes which send prisoners to Coldbath Fields, are larcenies and robberies caused by dire penury and pinching want: the miserable beings are half-famished already when they enter that gaol; but they are nevertheless retained in something closely bordering on that state of constant hunger, while the hardest possible labour is required from them!
    Remember, reader, that we do not wish idleness to prevail in a prison. It is just the place where habits of industry should be inculcated. We therefore approve of the system of workshops established in Coldbath Fields: we admire the oakum-room  the room, too, where shoe-making is taught  and that department of the prison in which rugs are manufactured for a wholesale warehouse that contracts for the purchase of the same.
    But we abhor torture  we detest cruelty; and the tread-wheel is alike a torture and a cruelty!
    It makes the heart bleed in the breast of the visitor to the female-division of Coldbath Fields, to behold women nursing their babes at one moment, and then compelled to deliver their sucklings to the care of their fellow-prisoners, while they themselves repair to take their turn upon the tread-mill!
    Talk of the despotism of Turkey, Russia, Austria, or Prussia,  talk of the tyranny of those countries where the will of one man is a law, be it for good or evil,  we solemnly and emphatically cry, "Look at home!"
    Flogging in the Army and Navy, private whipping in prisons, semi-starvation in workhouses and gaols, and the tread-wheel,  these are the tortures which exist in this land of boasted civilisation  these are the instances in which our rulers seek to emulate the barbarism of past ages, and the wanton inhumanity of foreign autocrats!
    We must in justice observe that Coldbath Fields' [-306-] Prison is kept in a most cleanly state. Perhaps the ventilation is not as perfect as it might be and certainly the stone cells must be awfully cold in winter, for there are no means of imparting to them any artificial warmth. But as far as wholesome cleanliness is concerned, there is not the slightest ground whereon to raise a cavil against the establishment.
    The discipline maintained in that gaol is on the Silent System. There is no separation  no classification  during the day; but the plan of silence prevents the corruption of the only moderately bad by the inveterately wicked. At night each individual sleeps apart in a cell.
    Anthony Tidkins walked about the yard, affecting a moody and sullen air of indifference, but in reality catching with rapid glance every point of the buildings around him  every object within the range of his vision; so that he committed to memory a complete map of that division of the prison where he was now taking exercise.
    Having walked an hour, he was re-conducted to his room where a bowl of pease-soup with a slice of bread was given to him for his dinner. In the evening he was supplied with a basin of gruel and another piece of bread, and was then looked in for the night.

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