"Ah!" he exclaimed finally, flourishing a London news sheet. "Seven and a half months ago, ladies and gentlemen of the Cooper's Arms, there was a great debate in the House of Lords, during which that grand old man, William Pitt the Earl of Chatham, gave what is said to be his greatest oration. In defense of the colonists. But it is not Chatham's words thrill me," continued Mr. Thistlethwaite, "it is the Duke of Richmond's, and I quote: 'You may spread fire and desolation, but that will not be government!' How true, how very true! Now comes the bit I judge one of the great philosophical truths, though the Lords snored as he said it: 'No people can ever be made to submit to a form of government they say they will not receive.'"
He stared about, nodding. "That is why I say that all the battles we will win can be of no use and can have little effect upon the outcome of the war. If the colonists endure, they must win." His eyes twinkled as he folded the paper, shoved the quire or so back into his pocket, and jammed the horse pistol on top of them. "You know too much about guns, Richard, that is your trouble. The child was not endangered, nor any of the other folk here." A rumble commenced in his throat and vibrated through his pursed lips. "I have lived in this stinking cesspool called Bristol for all of my life, and I have alleviated the monotony by making some of our festering Tory sores in government the object of my lampoons, from Quaker to Shaker to Kingmaker." He waved his battered tricorn hat at his audience and closed his eyes. "If the colonists endure, they must win," he repeated. "Anybody who lives in Bristol has made the acquaintance of a thousand colonists -- they flit about the place like bats in the last light. The death of Empire, Dick! It is the first rattle in our English throats. I have come to know the colonists, and I say they will win."
A strange and ominous sound began to percolate in from outside, a sound of many angry voices; the distorted shapes of passersby flickering unhurriedly across the windows suddenly became blurs moving at a run.
"Rioters!" Richard was getting to his feet even as he handed the child to his wife. "Peg, straight upstairs with William Henry! Mum, go with them." He looked at Mr. Thistlethwaite. "Jem, do you intend to fire with one in either hand, or will you give me the second pistol?"
"Leave be, leave be!" Dick emerged from behind his counter to reveal himself a close physical counterpart to Richard, taller than most, muscular in build. "This end of Broad Street does not see rioters, even when the colliers came in from Kingswood and snatched old man Brickdale. Nor does it when the sailors go on the rampage. Whatever is going on, it is not a riot." He crossed to the door. "However, I am of a mind to see what is afoot," he said, and disappeared into the running throng. The occupants of the Cooper's Arms followed him, including Richard and Jem Thistlethwaite, his horse pistols still snug in his greatcoat pockets.
People were boiling everywhere at street level, people leaned from every penthouse with necks craning; not a stone of the flagged road could be seen, nor a single slab of the new pedestrian pavement down either side of Broad Street. The three men pushed into the crush and moved with it toward the junction of Wine and Corn Streets -- no, these were not rioters. These were affluent, extremely angry gentlemen who carried no women or children with them.
On the opposite side of Broad Street and somewhat closer to the hub of commerce around the Council House and the Exchange stood the White Lion Inn, headquarters of the Steadfast Society. This was the Tory club, source of much encouragement to His Britannic Majesty King George III, whose men they were to the death. The center of the disturbance was the American Coffee House next door, its sign the red-and-white flag of many stripes most American colonists used as a general banner when the flag of Connecticut or Virginia or some other colony was not appropriate.
Excerpted from Morgan's Run, copyright (c)2000 Colleen McCullough. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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