Dab-Dab was terribly upset when she found we were going away again without luncheon; and she made us take some cold pork-pies in our pockets to eat on the way.
When we got to Puddleby Court-house (it was next door to the prison), we found a great crowd gathered around the building.
This was the week of the Assizes—a business which happened every three months, when many pick-pockets and other bad characters were tried by a very grand judge who came all the way from London. And anybody in Puddleby who had nothing special to do used to come to the Court-house to hear the trials.
But to-day it was different. The crowd was not made up of just a few idle people. It was enormous. The news had run through the countryside that Luke the Hermit was to be tried for killing a man and that the great mystery which had hung over him so long was to be cleared up at last. The butcher and the baker had closed their shops and taken a holiday. All the farmers from round about, and all the townsfolk, were there with their Sunday clothes on, trying to get seats in the Court-house or gossipping outside in low whispers. The High Street was so crowded you could hardly move along it. I had never seen the quiet old town in such a state of excitement before. For Puddleby had not had such an Assizes since 1799, when Ferdinand Phipps, the Rector’s oldest son, had robbed the bank.
If I hadn’t had the Doctor with me I am sure I would never have been able to make my way through the mob packed around the Court-house door. But I just followed behind him, hanging on to his coat-tails; and at last we got safely into the jail.