Their entrance, whether by premeditation or a simultaneous impulse, was the signal of revolt. While one detachment rushed to the door and locked it, and another mounted on the desks and forms, the stoutest (and consequently the newest) boy seized the cane, and confronting Mrs Squeers with a stern countenance, snatched off her cap and beaver bonnet, put them on his own head, armed himself with the wooden spoon, and bade her, on pain of death, go down upon her knees and take a dose directly. Before that estimable lady could recover herself, or offer the slightest retaliation, she was forced into a kneeling posture by a crowd of shouting tormentors, and compelled to swallow a spoonful of the odious mixture, rendered more than usually savoury by the immersion in the bowl of Master Wackford's head, whose ducking was intrusted to another rebel. The success of this first achievement prompted the malicious crowd, whose faces were clustered together in every variety of lank and half-starved ugliness, to further acts of outrage. The leader was insisting upon Mrs Squeers repeating her dose, Master Squeers was undergoing another dip in the treacle, and a violent assault had been commenced on Miss Squeers, when John Browdie, bursting open the door with a vigorous kick, rushed to the rescue. The shouts, screams, groans, hoots, and clapping of hands, suddenly ceased, and a dead silence ensued.
'Ye be noice chaps,' said John, looking steadily round. 'What's to do here, thou yoong dogs?'
'Squeers is in prison, and we are going to run away!' cried a score of shrill voices. 'We won't stop, we won't stop!'
'Weel then, dinnot stop,' replied John; 'who waants thee to stop? Roon awa' loike men, but dinnot hurt the women.'
'Hurrah!' cried the shrill voices, more shrilly still.
'Hurrah?' repeated John. 'Weel, hurrah loike men too. Noo then, look out. Hip--hip,--hip--hurrah!'
'Hurrah!' cried the voices.
'Hurrah! Agean;' said John. 'Looder still.'
The boys obeyed.
'Anoother!' said John. 'Dinnot be afeared on it. Let's have a good 'un!'
'Noo then,' said John, 'let's have yan more to end wi', and then coot off as quick as you loike. Tak'a good breath noo--Squeers be in jail--the school's brokken oop--it's a' ower--past and gane--think o' thot, and let it be a hearty 'un! Hurrah!'
Such a cheer arose as the walls of Dotheboys Hall had never echoed before, and were destined never to respond to again. When the sound had died away, the school was empty; and of the busy noisy crowd which had peopled it but five minutes before, not one remained.
'Very well, Mr Browdie!' said Miss Squeers, hot and flushed from the recent encounter, but vixenish to the last; 'you've been and excited our boys to run away. Now see if we don't pay you out for that, sir! If my pa IS unfortunate and trod down by henemies, we're not going to be basely crowed and conquered over by you and 'Tilda.'
'Noa!' replied John bluntly, 'thou bean't. Tak' thy oath o' thot. Think betther o' us, Fanny. I tell 'ee both, that I'm glod the auld man has been caught out at last--dom'd glod--but ye'll sooffer eneaf wi'out any crowin' fra' me, and I be not the mun to crow, nor be Tilly the lass, so I tell 'ee flat.