Page:Court Royal.djvu/85

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CHAPTER X.
THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER.

The Fifth of November was a great day at the Barbican. Was, it no longer is. The reason why it is so no longer may be gathered from what follows.

The Barbican offered about the only open space in old Plymouth where a bonfire might blaze, and fireworks explode without certainty of setting the houses round in flames, or of frightening horses and impeding traffic. Moreover, about the Barbican swarm and multiply indefinitely the urchins who most love to celebrate the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. They are deterred by no dread of injuring good clothes, are restrained by no respectable parents. They burn Guy Fawkes out of no deep-seated enthusiasm for the Crown and the Bible, but out of pure love of a blaze.

Now, stillness reigns on that momentous anniversary at the Barbican; no crackers spurt, no pyre burns, for the police are there in force on the evening to prevent a repetition of such an event as that which took place on the occasion we are about to record.

The broad quay, the proximity of the waters and the coal barges, the good open space before the houses, had impressed the youth for many generations that no place was fitter for the fiery celebration than the Barbican. There were bits of old timber to be had for the asking or for the taking. The owners of the tar and tow and tallow store always contributed a cask, and some black fluid highly combustible. The colliers that lay in Sutton Pool were ready to give baskets of coal.

The adult population of the neighbourhood was in sympathy with the exhibition, turned out to see it, and contributed howls, cheers, and groans.

The Barbicanites had no pronounced political or religious antipathies. It was one to them whose effigy was burnt, they hooted and howled with equal enthusiasm whether the object represented ‘Old Boney,’ Pius IX., or a Puseyite. All they bargained for was that some one should be burned—who mattered little.

On the last occasion when the Barbican was illuminated by