An old man with a long grey beard, standing close to his elbow, murmured:
“‘Tis anxious work—I wouldn’t ha’ missed this for anything in the world.”
“Fine, eh?” answered Courtier.
“Aye,” said the old man, “‘tis fine. I’ve not seen the like o’ this since the great year—forty-eight. There they are—the aristocrats!”
Following the direction of that skinny hand Courtier saw on a balcony Lord and Lady Valleys, side by side, looking steadily down at the crowd. There too, leaning against a window and talking to someone behind, was Barbara. The old man went on muttering, and Courtier could see that his eyes had grown very bright, his whole face transfigured by intense hostility; he felt drawn to this old creature, thus moved to the very soul. Then he saw Barbara looking down at him, with her hand raised to her temple to show that she saw his bandaged head. He had the presence of mind not to lift his hat.
The old man spoke again.
“You wouldn’t remember forty-eight, I suppose. There was a feeling in the people then—we would ha’ died for things in those days. I’m eighty-four,” and he held his shaking hand up to his breast, “but the spirit’s alive here yet! God send the Radical gets in!” There was wafted from him a scent as of potatoes.
Far behind, at the very edge of the vast dark throng, some voices began singing: “Way down upon the Swanee ribber.” The tune floated forth, ceased, spurted up once more, and died.
Then, in the very centre of the square a stentorian baritone roared forth: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot!”
The song swelled, till every kind of voice, from treble to the old Chartist’s quavering bass, was chanting it; here and there the crowd heaved with the movement of linked arms. Courtier found the soft fingers of a young woman in his right hand, the old Chartist’s dry trembling paw in his left. He himself sang loudly. The grave and fearful music sprang straight up into they air, rolled out right and left, and was lost among the hills. But it had no sooner died away than the same huge baritone yelled “God save our gracious King!” The stature of the crowd seemed at once to leap up two feet, and from under that platform of raised hats rose a stupendous shouting.