Page:Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field.djvu/219

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"Well, one Monday morning, at sunrise, a certain 'Knight of the Road' was to die by a tight cravat in a town less than fifty miles from London, and the 'flimsy man' thought it would hardly pay to go up (or down) and impersonate the eyewitness. Besides, he knew the governor of the jail personally; his Lordship was an obliging man and would gladly assist at a fake.

"So Mr. Flimsy wrote out his story and held it 'for release.'

"In the meantime, the doomed man went through the usual rigmarole: prayers, whiskey, breakfast, more whiskey—march to the gallows. He found an audience of prize-fight size awaiting him. The prison yard was black with people, all the surrounding roofs, trees and telegraph poles were alive with spectators, and many poor chaps who had stood all night in line for their betters, now sold standing room at a premium.

"Officialdom, too, was well represented: the governor of the jail, his aides and assistants, the chief of police in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, and lots of bobbies" (cops) "—every mother's son and daughter eager for the hanging, and secretly hoping that no reprieve would spoil the day's fun, for somehow the story had got abroad that the Home Secretary had almost decided to commute the death sentence of this particular party.

"Meanwhile, preparations proceeded at an encouraging rate: there was the procession

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