The Secret Meeting

Hear the Luddites' voices in RealAudio 3 Child | Ned | Benjy | Mary | Sarah | James | Sam

It was scary, there in the caves.

I'd heard there were hundreds of caves under Nottingham. I'd heard that it was such a slum that some who needed a place to live carved their own dwelling out of the very rock the city stood on. I'd heard all that, but I'd never seen one of the caves before.

Inside the inn, when we were all gathered, the landlord took up a lantern and opened a low door, towards the back. We all had to stoop to get through the door, except the lad, Ned. Once through, we crept down a flight of steep steps leading, as you might expect, into the wine cellars. Down below, there were racks for the landlord's storage, and a further door. When he opened it, and beckoned me through, for I was in the lead, I do admit I was afraid. Ned complained, but I took hold of his arm. That place was black and smelly inside.

I took the lantern from the landlord and kept my hold on Ned, who was shaking as if he expected monsters and Dragoons to come leaping out at him. We descended a steep, narrow, winding stairway cut from the sandstone. Suddenly it opened up into a chamber, so long I could not see its full extent in the light of the lantern. Round the walls of the cave were thralls, ledges to sit on or for storing goods.

I advanced into the cave, still pulling a protesting Ned, and shoved him down on a thrall. Other men, mercifully holding more lanterns, crowded in behind us. Though there were ten or more of us, there was plenty of room in the big cave. We huddled together at one end.

The Landlord left us to our deliberations.