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[-314-] 

CHAPTER CCXXX.

BETHLEM HOSPITAL.

    WHAT contrasts does mortal existence present to view!
    While some are joyous and happy in one place, others are overwhelmed with sorrow and affliction elsewhere! At the same moment that the surgeon ushers a new being into life, the hand of the executioner cuts short the days of another. Here the goblet sparkles with the ruby wine  there the lip touches the poisoned glass of suicide:  in this abode a luxurious banquet is spread upon the table  in that the wretched inmate has not a crust to stay the cravings of famine!
    Thus was it that while the hostess and the guests were blithe and happy in the villa near Clapton, a painful scene was in process of enactment elsewhere.
    It was about five o'clock on that same evening when a cab stopped at the prisoners' gate of Newgate; and from the vehicle stepped a tall, powerfully-built and rather good-looking man dressed in plain clothes. He was accompanied by a Superintendent and Serjeant of Police.
    They were immediately admitted into the lobby of the gaol; and the turnkey, after bestowing upon them a nod of recognition, said, "You needn't tell me to guess what you 're come about. So the youngster is to go over, then  after all?"
    "Yes," replied the tall man in plain clothes. "The Secretary of State's warrant was sent down here about an hour ago. I suppose Cope is in?"
    "Step into the office, Mr. Busby, and see," answered the turnkey.
    The tall man, who responded to the name of Busby, accordingly passed from the lobby into the governor's office.
    "Any thing new?" asked the turnkey, rubbing his nose with the end of the massive emblem of his office, and accosting the two police authorities, who had seated themselves on the bench facing the gate.
    "Not that I know on," returned the Serjeant; "leastways nothink partickler  unless it is that my Superintendent here is doing someot in the littererry line, and writing a book about Great Criminals, and Police, and Prisons, and all that there kind of thing."
    "You don't say so?" ejaculated the turnkey.
    "Yes, sir  Mr. Crisp is quite right," said the Superintendent, pompously: "I ham getting up a work on them subjects; but my official po-sition will compel me to publish it enonnymusly, as they say. And while we're here, Crisp, we may as well take down a few notes  for I must inform you," continued the Superintendent, addressing himself once more to the turnkey, "that my friend and subordingate Mr. Crisp is helping me in this here labour of love."
    "Well, sir," returned the gaol functionary, "any information that I can give you, I shall be most happy to furnish you with, I'm sure."
    "Thank'ee kindly," said the Superintendent. "Now, Crisp, out with your note-book, and fall to. Busby will be half an hour or so in the office. Pray, sir, what may be the anniwal average of prisoners, male and female, in Newgate?"
    "About three thousand males and eight hundred females," answered the turnkey.
    "Put that down, Crisp. I suppose in the males you includes boys, and in the females you comprises gals?"
    "Certainly," was the reply.
    "Put that down, Crisp. Now what's the state of discipline here?" asked the Superintendent. "I've heerd a good deal about it, in course; but I'd rayther have it direct from a 'ficial source."
    "Why, there isn't much to say on that point," returned the functionary thus appealed to. "We let the prisoners have pretty much their own way: they gamble, play at ball, fight, swear, sing, and lark in the wards just as they like."
    "Put that down, Crisp. It's a blessing to think of the state of freedom one enjoys even in the gaols of this enlightened and liberal nation."
    "To be sure it is," said the turnkey. "The young thieves consider Newgate to be a capital school for improvement in their profession: when they're at chapel, they're always practising pick-pocketing each-other."
    "What's bred in the bone will never go out of the flesh," observed the Superintendent. "But the poor creeturs must have some diwersion. Put that down, Crisp."
    "Ah! Newgate has seen some rum things in its time," moralised the turnkey. "It has been a felon's gaol for well-nigh seven hundred years."
    "Has it, though?" cried the Superintendent. "Now, then, Crisp  put that down."
    "And ever since I first come here," continued the turnkey, "there have been constant Reports drawn up about the state of discipline;. but I never see that any change follows."
    "Put that down, Crisp. When my book is published, my good fellow, you'll jist see what the world will say about a change! There's no need of change  and that I'll undertake to prove. Newgate is the very palace of prisons. Lord bless us! it would do half the Aldermen themselves good to pass a few days in such a pleasant place."
    "Sometimes we have a few discontented fellows here that don't like to associate with the rest," proceeded the turnkey; "and then they ask to be thrown into solitary cells."
    "Put that down, Crisp. I suppose they're always gratified in their wishes?" asked the Superintendent.
    "Oh! always," replied the turnkey. "But the worst of all is that the chaplain here is nothing more or less than a regular spy upon the governor [-315-] and the officials, and constantly reports to the Home Office every thing that occurs."
    "Put that down. Crisp. Such conduct is shameful; and I wonder the Gaol Committee of Aldermen don't take the matter up."
    "So they will," rejoined the turnkey. "But here comes Busby."
    And, as he spoke, the tall man in plain clothes re-entered the lobby.
    "All right?" asked the Superintendent.
    "Yes. We'll take him over at once," was the reply.
    The turnkey stepped into a passage leading to the interior of the gaol, and gave some instructions to a colleague who was stationed there.
    A few minutes afterwards Henry Holford, dressed in his own clothes, and not in the prison-garb, was led into the lobby by the official to whom the turnkey had spoken.
    The youth was well in health, and by no means cast down in spirits. His face, at no period remarkable for freshness of colour, was less pallid than it ever before had been. There were, however, a certain apathy and indifference in his manner which might have induced a superficial observer to conclude that his reason was in reality affected; but a careful examination of the expression of his countenance and a few minutes' study of his intelligent dark eyes, would have served to convince even the most sceptical that, however morbid his mind might for an interval have become, that excitement or disease had passed away, and he was now as far removed from insanity as the most rational of God's creatures.
    "Come, young man," said Mr. Busby, with great kindness of manner, as if he were endeavouring to a conciliate an individual whom he actually deemed to be of disturbed intellects; "you are going along with me  and I'll take you to a nice house with a pleasant garden, and, where you'll be well treated."
    "I am at no loss to imagine the place to which you allude," said Holford, an expression of slyness curling his lip. "Better Bedlam than Newgate."
    "He's no more mad than me, Crisp," whispered the Superintendent to the Serjeant.
    "Not a bit, sir," was the reply.
    "You may put that down, Crisp," continued the Superintendent, still speaking aside to his subordinate. "It will all do to go into our report to the Home Secretary. How capital that turnkey allowed himself to be pumped by me, to be sure! Don't you think I did it very well?"
    "Very well, sir, indeed," returned Crisp. "But I introduced the subject for you, by saying that you was okkipied in writing a book."
    "Good hidear, that, Crisp," rejoined the Superintendent. "The turnkey little thought we was spies, while he blowed up about the chaplain."
    "In course you'll make out Newgate a horrid place, sir?" said Crisp.
    "In course I shall," answered the Superintendent emphatically; "'cos it'll please the Home Secretary. But there's Busby a-calling after us."
    This was indeed the case; for while the two police-officers were thus engaged in the interchange of their own little private sentiments, Mr. Busby had conducted Holford to the cab, and had ensconced himself therein by the side of the prisoner.
    The Superintendent followed them into the vehicle; and, at the suggestion of Busby, who declared in a whisper to that functionary that three men were not needed to take care of one boy, the farther services of Crisp were dispensed with.
    And now the cab rolled rapidly along the Old Bailey, turned down Ludgate Hill, thence into Bridge Street, and over Blackfriars Bridge, in its way to Bethlem.
    How strange to Holford appeared the busy, bustling streets, and that river  "the silent highway"  on whose breast all was life and animation,  after the seclusion of several weeks in Newgate!
    But  ah! did he not now behold those scenes for the last time? would not he thenceforth become dead to the world? was he not about to be immured in a living tomb?
    Never  never more would the echoes of the myriad voices of the great city meet his ears! He was on his way to the sepulchre of all earthly hopes  all mundane enjoyments  all human interests!
    Henceforth must that bright sun, which now steeped pinnacle, dome, tower, and river in a flood of golden lustre, visit him with its rays only through the grated window of a mad-house!
    For the last time was he crossing that bridge  for the last time did he behold that crowded thoroughfare leading to the obelisk:  on the gay shops, the rapid vehicles, and the moving multitudes, was he also now gazing for the last time!
    The last time! Oh! those three monosyllables formed a terrible prelude  an awful introduction to an existence of monotony, gloom, and eternal confinement! Ah! could he recall the events of the last few weeks!  But, no  it was impossible:  the die was cast  the deed was done  and justice had settled his destiny!
    The last time! And he was so young  so very young to be compelled to murmur those words to himself. The sky was so bright  the air of the river was so refreshing  the scene viewed from the bridge was so attractive, that he could scarcely believe he was really doomed never to enjoy them morel And there was a band of music playing in the road  at the door of a public-house! What was the air? "Britons never shall be slaves!" Merciful God!  he was now a slave of the most abject description! The convict in the hulks knew that the day of release must come  the transported felon might enjoy the open air, and the glorious sun, and the cheering breeze:  but for him  for Henry Holford  eternal confinement within four walls!
    The last time! Oh! for the pleasures of life that were now to be abandoned for ever! For the last time did his eyes behold those play-bills in the shop windows  and he was so fond of the theatre! For the last time did he see that omnibus on its way to the Zoological Gardens  and he was so fond of those Gardens! Ah! It was a crushing  a stifling  a suffocating sensation to know that in a few minutes more huge doors, and grated windows, and formidable bolts and bars must separate him from that world which had so many attractions for one of his age!
    Yes:  he now beheld those bonnets  those shops  those streets  those crowds  those vehicles  for the last time!
    And now the cab has reached the iron gate in front of Bethlem Hospital.
    There was a temporary delay while the porter opened that gate.
    Holford looked hastily from the windows; and his lips were compressed as if to subdue his feelings.
    Again the vehicle rolled onward, and in a few moments stopped at the entrance of the huge madhouse.
    [-316-] The Superintendent alighted: Holford was directed to follow; and Busby came close after him.
    The great folding doors leading into the handsome hall of the establishment stood open:  Holford paused on the threshold for an instant  cast one rapid but longing look behind him  a last look  and then walked with firm steps to a waiting-room commanding a view of the grounds at the back of the building.
    On the table lay a book in which visitors to the institution are compelled to enter their names and places of abode. Holford turned over the leaves  carelessly at first; but when he caught sight of several great names, he experienced a momentary glow of pride and triumph, as he murmured to himself, "How many will come hither on purpose to feast their eyes on me?"
    Busby, who was one of the principal officers connected with the establishment, of which Sir Peter Laurie is the intelligent and justly-honoured President, left the room for a short time, Holford remaining in the charge of the Superintendent. When the first-mentioned functionary returned, it was to conduct the youth to his future place of abode.
    Busby led the way through a long and well ventilated passage, in which about a dozen miserable-looking men were lounging about.
    Holford cast a glance of ill-concealed terror upon their countenances, and read madness in their wild eyes. But, to his astonishment, he beheld no horrifying and revolting sights,  no wretches writhing in chains  no maniacs crowning themselves with straws  no unhappy beings raging in the fury of insanity. He had hitherto imagined that madhouses were shocking places  and Bethlem worse than all: but distressing though the spectacle of human reason dethroned and cast down must ever be, it was still a great relief to the young man to find, upon inquiry of the officer, that there were no scenes throughout the vast establishment one little worse than that which he now beheld.
    On one side of that long passage were the cells, or rather little rooms, in which the inmates of that department of the asylum slept, each being allowed a separate chamber. The beds were comfortable and scrupulously cleanly in appearance; and the officer informed Holford that the linen was changed very frequently.
    From the other aide of the passage, or wide corridor, opened the rooms in which the meals were served up; and here we may observe that the food allowed the inmates of Bethlem Hospital is both excellent in quality and abundant in quantity.
    There was a very tall officer,  indeed, all the male keepers throughout the institution are tall, strong, and well-built men,  walking slowly up and down the passage of which we are, speaking; and when any of the unhappy lunatics addressed him, he replied to them in a kind and conciliatory manner, or else good-naturedly humoured them by listening with apparent interest and attention to the lamentable outpourings of their erratic intellects.
    It is delightful to turn from those descriptions of ill-disciplined prisons and of vicious or tyrannical institutions, which it has been our duty to record in this work,  it is delightful to turn from such pictures to an establishment which, though awakening many melancholy thoughts, nevertheless excites our admiration and demands our unbounded praise, as a just tribute to the benevolence, the wisdom, and the humanity which constitute the principles of its administration.
    Oh! could the great  the philanthropic Pinel rise from the cold tomb and visit this institution of which we are speaking,  he would see ample proof to convince him that, while on earth, he had not lived nor toiled in vain.
    Connected with the male department of Bethlem, there are a library and a billiard-room, for the use of those who are sufficiently sane to enjoy the mental pleasures of the one or the innocent recreation of the other, The books in the library are well selected: they consist chiefly of the works of travellers and voyagers, naval and military histories and biographies, and the leading cheap periodicals  such as The London Journal, Chambers's Information for the People, Knight's Penny Magazine, &c.
    Communicating with the female department of the asylum, is a music-room,  small, but elegantly fitted up, and affording a delightful means of amusement and solace to many of the inmates of that division of the building.
    When these attentions to the comforts and even happiness,  for Bethlem Hospital exhibits many examples where "ignorance is bliss,"  of those who are doomed to dwell within its walls, are contrasted with the awful and soul-harrowing spectacle which its interior presented not very many years ago, it is impossible to feel otherwise than astonished and enraptured at the vast improvements which civilisation has introduced into the modern management of the insane!
    But let us return to Henry Holford.
    We left him threading the long passage which formed a portion of his way towards this criminal department of the hospital,  that department which was thenceforth to be his abode!
    It may be readily imagined that he gazed anxiously and intently on all he saw,  that not a single object of such new, strange, and yet mournful interest to him escaped his observation.
    Suddenly he beheld a man leaning against the wall, and staring at him as he passed in a wild and almost ferocious manner. There seemed to be something peculiar in that poor creature's garb:  Holford looked again  and that second glance made him shudder fearfully!
    The man had on a strait-waistcoat,  a strong garment made of bed-ticking, and resembling a smock that was too small for him. The sleeves were beneath, instead of outside, and were sewn to this waistcoat  a contrivance by which the arms of the unhappy wretch were held in a necessary restraint, but without the infliction of pain.
    "Merciful God!" thought Holford, within himself; "if a residence within these walls should drive me really mad! Oh! if I should ever come to such an abject state as that!"
    His miserable reflections were strangely interrupted.
    One of the lunatics abruptly drew near and addressed him in a wild and incoherent tone.
    "The nation is falling," he said; "and the worst of it is that it does not know that it is falling! It is going down as rapidly as it can; and I only can save it! Yes  the nation is falling  falling  "
    Holford felt a cold and shuddering sensation creep over him; for these manifestations of a ruined intellect struck him forcibly  fearfully,  as if they were an omen  a warning  a presage of [-317-] the condition to which he himself must speedily come!
    He was relieved from the farther importunities of the poor lunatic, by the sudden opening of a door, by which Busby admitted him into a narrow passage with two gratings, having a small space between them. The inner grating was at the bottom of a stone staircase, down which another keeper speedily came in obedience to a summons from Busby's lips.
    This second keeper now took charge of Henry Holford, whom he conducted up the stairs to a gallery entered by a wicket in an iron grating, and divided by a similar defence into two compartments. One of these compartments was much larger than this other, and contained many inmates and many rooms: the smaller division had but six chambers opening from it.
    The entire gallery was, however, devoted to those persons who, having committed dread deeds, had been acquitted on the ground of insanity.
    It was to the lesser compartment that Holford was assigned.
    And now he was an inmate of the criminal division of Bethlem Hospital,  he who was as sane as his keeper, and who could, therefore, the more keenly feel, the more bitterly appreciate the dread circumstances of his present condition!
    And who were his companions? Men that had perpetrated appalling deeds  horrible murders  in the aberration of their intellects!
    Was this the triumph that he had achieved by his regicide attempt? had he earned that living tomb as the sacrifice to be paid for the infamous notoriety which he had acquired?
    Oh! to return to his pot-boy existence  to wait on the vulgar and the low  to become once more a menial unto menials,  rather than stay in that terrible place!
    Or else to be confined for life in a gaol where no presence of madness might tend to drive him mad also!  Yes-that were preferable  oh! far preferable to the soul-harrowing scene where man appeared more degraded and yet more formidable than the brutes!
    Yes  yes: transportation  chains  the horrors of Norfolk. Island,  any thing  any thing rather than immurement in the criminal wards of Bethlem!
    Vain and useless regrets for the past!  futile and ineffective aspirations for the future!    

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