Chapter XX.
 

Past one o'clock!

The moon was up, but often obscured; clouds drifted swiftly across her face; it was a cold morning--past one o'clock. Josephs was at his window standing tiptoe on his stool. Thoughts coursed one another across his broken heart as fast as the clouds flew past the moon's face. But whatever their nature, the sting was now out of them. The bitter sense of wrong and cruelty was there, but blunted. Fear was nearly extinct, for hope was dead.

There was no tumult in his mind now; he had gone through all that, and had got a step beyond grief or pain.

Thus ran his thoughts: "I wonder what Hawes was going to do with me to-morrow. Something worse than all I have gone through, he said. That seems hard to believe. But I don't know. Best not give him the chance. He does know how to torture one. Well, he must keep it for some other poor fellow. I hope it won't be Robinson. I'll have a look at out-a-doors first. Ah! there is the moon. I wonder does she see what is done here. And there is the sky; it is a beautiful place. Who would stay here under Hawes if they could get up there? God lives up there! I am almost afraid He won't let a poor wicked boy like me come where He is. And they say this is a sin, too. He will be angry with me--but I couldn't help it. I shall tell Him what I went through first, and perhaps He will forgive me. His reverence told me He takes the part of those that are ill-used. It will be a good job for me if 'tis so. Perhaps He will serve Hawes out for this instead of me. I think I should if I was Him. I know He can't be so cruel as Hawes; that is my only chance, and I'm going to take it.

"Some folk live to eighty; I am only fifteen; that is a long odds, I dare say it is five times as long as fifteen. It is hard--but I can't help it. Hawes wouldn't let me live to be a man; he is stronger than I am. Will it be a long job, I wonder. Some say it hurts a good deal; some think not. I shall soon know--but I shall never tell. That doesn't trouble me, it is only throttling when all is done; and ain't I throttled every day of my life. Shouldn't I be throttled to-morrow if I was such a spoon as to see to-morrow. I mustn't waste much more time or my hands will be crippled with cold and then I shan't be able to.

"Mr. Evans will be sorry. I can't help it. Bless him for being so good to me; and bless Mr. Eden. I hope he will get better, I do. My handkerchief is old, I hope it won't break; oh, no! there is no fear of that. I don't weigh half what I did when I came here.

"My mother will fret--but I can't help it. Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear! I hope some one will tell her what I went through first; and then she will say, 'Better so than for my body to be abused worse than a dog every day of my life.' I can't help it! and I should be dead any way before the fourteen days were out.

"Now is as good a time as any other; no one is stirring, no. Please forgive me, mother. I couldn't help it. Please forgive me, God Almighty, if you care what a poor boy like me does or is done to--I couldn't help it."

.......

IL EST DEUX HEURES; TOUT EST TRANQUILLE; DORMEZ, MAITRES, DORMEZ!