And then, several blocks away, but within the clear range of my vision, a light appeared in the street—it blazed—it rose higher and higher. I could see shadowy figures moving around it, heaping boxes, barrels and other combustibles upon the flame. It was a bonfire, kindled to light the work of building a barricade at that point. Across the street a line of wagons had been placed; the tail of each one touching the front of another, the horses having been withdrawn. And then hundreds of busy figures were to be seen at work, tearing up the pavements of the street and heaping the materials under the wagons; and then shovels flew, and the earth rose over it all; a deep ditch being excavated quite across the street, on the side near me. Then men, lit by the red light, looked, at the distance, like hordes of busy black insects. Behind them swarmed, as far as I could see, thousands upon thousands of dark forms, mere masses, touched here and there by the light of the bonfire, gleaming on glittering steel. They were the men within the barricades. There was a confused noise in other quarters, which I supposed was caused by the erection of a number of similar barricades elsewhere. Then the tramp of the marching masses past our doors ceased; and for a time the silence was profound.
So far not a soldier or policeman had been visible. The Oligarchy were evidently carrying out the plan of the Prince of Cabano. They were permitting the insurgents to construct their “rat-trap” without interruption. Only a few stragglers were upon the street, drawn there doubtless by curiosity; and still the pale faces were at the windows; and some even talked from window to window, and wondered what it all meant.
Suddenly there was a terrific explosion that shook the house. I could see a shower of stones and brick and timbers and dust, rising like a smoke, seamed with fire, high in the air, within the lines of the barricades. Then came another, even louder; then another, and another, and another, until it sounded like a bombardment. Then these ceased, and after a little time came the sounds of smaller explosions, muffled as if under ground or within walls.
“They are blowing open the banks,” I whispered to Estella.
Then all was quiet for a space. In a little while the bombardment began again, as if in another part of the territory inclosed in the barricades.
And still there was not a soldier to be seen in the deserted streets near me.
And again came other explosions.
At last I saw the red light beginning to touch the clouds along the eastern horizon with its crimson brush. The fateful day was dawning.
And then, in a little while, far away to the north, soft and dull at first, but swelling gradually into greater volume, a mighty sound arose; and through it I could hear bursts of splendid melody, rising and falling and fluttering, like pennons, above the tumult; and I recognized the notes of that grand old Scotch air, “The Campbells are Coming.”