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laughter. It startled him disagreeably, and he unmuffled his head to see whence
this interruption proceeded. A grim and unsightly picture met his eye. A bright
fire was burning in the middle of the floor, at the other end of the barn; and
around it, and lit weirdly up by the red glare, lolled and sprawled the motliest
company of tattered gutter-scum and ruffians, of both sexes, he had ever read or
dreamed of.

There were huge, stalwart men, brown with exposure, long-haired, and clothed
in fantastic rags; there were middle-sized youths, of truculent countenance, and
similarly clad; there were blind medicants, with patched or bandaged eyes;
crippled ones, with wooden legs and crutches; there was a villain-looking
peddler with his pack; a knife-grinder, a tinker, and a barber-surgeon, with the
implements of their trades; some of the females were hardly grown girls, some
were at prime, some were old and wrinkled hags, and all were loud, brazen,
foul-mouthed; and all soiled and slatternly; there were three sore-faced babies;
there were a couple of starveling curs, with strings around their necks, whose
office was to lead the blind.

The night was come, the gang had just finished feasting, an orgy was beginning,
the can of liquor was passing from mouth to mouth. A general cry broke forth:
‘A song! a song from the Bat and Dick Dot-and-go-One!’ One of the blind men
got up, and made ready by casting aside the patches that sheltered his excellent
eyes, and the pathetic placard which recited the cause of his calamity. Dot-and-
go-One disencumbered himself of his timber leg and took his place, upon sound
and healthy limbs, beside his fellow-rascal; then they roared out a rollicking
ditty, and were reinforced by the whole crew, at the end of each stanza, in a
rousing chorus. By the time the last stanza was reached, the halfdrunken
enthusiasm had risen to such a pitch that everybody joined in and sang it clear
through from the beginning, producing a volume of villainous sound that made
the rafters quake. These were the inspiring words: ‘Bien Darkmans then, Bouse
Mort and Ken, The bien Coves bings awast, On Chates to trine by Rome Coves
dine For his long lib at last.

Bing’d out bien Morts and toure, and toure, Bing out of the Rome vile bine, And
toure the Cove that cloy’d your duds, Upon upon the Chates to trine.’*(15)
Conversation followed; not in the thieves’ dialect of the song, for that was only
used in talk when unfriendly ears might be listening. In the course of it it
appeared that ‘John Hobbs’ was not altogether a new recruit, but had trained in
the gang at some former time. His later history was called for, and when he said
he had ‘accidentally’ killed a man, considerable satisfaction was expressed;
when he added that the man was a priest, he was roundly applauded, and had
to take a drink with everybody. Old acquaintances welcomed him joyously, and
new ones were proud to shake him by the hand. He was asked why he had
‘tarried away so many months.’ He answered: ‘London is better than the
country, and safer these late years, the laws be so bitter and so diligently
enforced. An I had not had that accident, I had stayed there. I had resolved to
stay, and nevermore venture countrywards-but the accident had ended that.’ He
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