It was a sad sight to see such a sacrilege committed,—such violence done to private feelings, as to have all these places thrown open to the scrutiny of the brutal and vulgar, who are incapable of appreciating or understanding the pleasures of a refined taste.
The ruins presented a remarkable contrast to what the place had been but a very short time before; and now the scene of desolation was complete, there was no one spot in which the most wretched could find shelter.
To be sure, under the lee of some broken and crumbling wall, that tottered, rather than stood, a huddled wretch might have found shelter from the wind, but it would have been at the risk of his life, and not there complete.
The mob became quiet for some moments, but was not so long; indeed, a mob of people,—which is, in fact, always composed of the most disorderly characters to be found in a place, is not exactly the assembly that is most calculated for quietness; somebody gave a shout, and then somebody else shouted, and the one wide throat of the whole concourse was opened, and sent forth a mighty yell.
After this exhibition of power, they began to run about like mad,—traverse the grounds from one end to the other, and then the ruins were in progress of being explored.
This was a tender affair, and had to be done with some care and caution by those who were so engaged; and they walked over crumbling and decayed masses.
In one or two places, they saw what appeared to be large holes, into which the building materials had been sunk, by their own weight, through the flooring, that seemed as roofs to some cellars or dungeons.
Seeing this, they knew not how soon some other part might sink in, and carry their precious bodies down with the mass of rubbish; this gave an interest to the scene,—a little danger is a sort of salt to an adventure, and enables those who have taken part in it to talk of their exploits, and of their dangers, which is pleasant to do, and to hear in the ale-house, and by the inglenook in the winter.
However, when a few had gone some distance, others followed, when they saw them enter the place in safety: and at length the whole ruins were covered with living men, and not a few women, who seemed necessary to make up the elements of mischief in this case.
There were some shouting and hallooing from one to the other as they hurried about the ruins.
At length they had explored the ruins nearly all over, when one man, who had stood a few minutes upon a spot, gazing intently upon something, suddenly exclaimed,—
“Hilloa! hurrah! here we are, altogether,—come on,—I’ve found him,—I’ve found—recollect it’s me, and nobody else has found,—hurrah!”
Then, with a wild kind of frenzy, he threw his hat up into the air, as if to attract attention, and call others round him, to see what it was he had found.
“What’s the matter, Bill?” exclaimed one who came up to him, and who had been close at hand.