It Is Never Too Late to Mend by Charles Reade
Mr. Eden had taken Mr. Lacy to the dark cells. Evans, who had no key of them, was sent to fetch Fry to open them. "We will kill two birds with one stone--disinter a patient for our leathern gallows, and a fresh incident of the ---- Inquisition. Open this door, Mr. Fry."
The door was opened. A feeble voice uttered a quavering cry of joy that sounded like wailing, and a figure emerged so suddenly and distinctly from the blackness that Mr. Lacy started. It was Thomas Robinson, who crept out white and shaking, with a wild, haggard look. He ran to Mr. Eden like a great girl. "Don't let me go back--don't let me go back, sir!" And the cowed one could hardly help whimpering.
"Come, courage, my lad," rang out Mr. Eden, "your troubles are nearly over. Feel this man's hand, sir."
"How he trembles! Why, he must be chicken-hearted."
"No! only he is one of your men of action, not of passive fortitude. He is imaginative, too, and suffers remorse for his crimes without the soothing comfort of penitence. Twenty-four hours of that black hole would deprive him or any such nature of the light of reason."
"Is this a mere opinion or do you propose to offer me proof?"
"Six men driven by this means alone to the lunatic asylum, of whom two died there soon after."
"Hum! of what nature is your proof? I cannot receive assertion."
"Entries made at the time by a man of unimpeachable honesty."
"Who hates me and adores Mr. Hawes."
"Very well, Mr. Eden," replied the other keenly, "whatever you support by such evidence as that I will accept as fact and act upon it."
"Done!" and Mr. Lacy smiled good-humoredly, but, it must be owned, incredulously. "Is that proof at hand?" he added.
"It is. But one thing at a time--the leathern gallows is the iniquity we are unearthing at present. Ah! here are Mr. Hawes and his subordinates."
"You will see why I call them so."
Mr. Williams. "I trust you will not accept the evidence of a refractory prisoner against an honest, well-tried officer, whose conduct for two years past we have watched and approved."
Mr. Lacy replied with dignity: "Your good opinion of Mr. Hawes shall weigh in his favor at every part of the evidence, but you must not dictate to me the means by which I am to arrive at the truth."
Mr. Williams bit his lip and was red and silent.
"But, your reverence," cried Robinson, "don't let me be called a refractory prisoner when you know I am not."
"Then what were you in the black-hole for?"
"For obeying orders."
"Nonsense! hum! Explain."
"His reverence said to me, 'You are a good writer; write your own life down. See how you like it when you look at it with reason's eye instead of passion's, all spread out before you in its true colors. Tell the real facts--no false coin, nor don't put any sentiments down you don't feel to please me--I shall only despise you,' said his reverence. Well, sir, I am not a fool, and so of course I could see how wise his reverence was, and how much good might come to my poor sinful soul by doing his bidding; and I said a little prayer he had taught me against a self-deceiving heart--his reverence is always letting fly at self-deception--and then I sat down and I said, 'Now I won't tell a single lie or make myself a pin better or worse than I really am. Well, gentlemen, I hadn't written two pages when Mr. Fry found me out and told the governor, and the governor had me shoved into the black-hole where you found me."
"This is Mr. Fry, I think?"
"My name is Fry"
"Was this prisoner sent to the black-hole merely for writing his life by the chaplain's orders?"
"You must ask the governor, sir. My business is to report offenses and to execute orders; I don't give 'em."
"Mr. Hawes, was he sent to the black-hole for doing what the chaplain had set him to do by way of a moral lesson?"
"He was sent for scribbling a pack of lies without my leave."
"What! when he had the permission of your superior officer."
"Of my superior officer?"
"Your superior in the department of instruction, I mean. Can you doubt that he is so with these rules before you? Let me read you one of them: 'Rule 18. All prisoners, including those sentenced to hard labor, are to have such time allowed them for instruction as the chaplain may think proper, whether such instruction withdraw them from their labor for a time or not.' And again, by 'Rule 80. Each prisoner is to have every means of moral and religious instruction the chaplain shall select for each as suitable.' So that you have passed out of your own department into a higher department, which was a breach of discipline, and you have affronted the head of that department and strained your authority to undermine his, and this in the face of Rule 18, which establishes this principle: that should the severities of the prison claim a prisoner by your mouth, and religious or moral instruction claim him by the chaplain's, your department must give way to the higher department."
"This is very new to me, sir; but if it is the law--"
"Why, you see it is the law, printed for your guidance. I undo your act, Mr. Hawes; the prisoner Robinson will obey the chaplain in all things that relate to religious or moral instruction, and he will write his life as ordered, and he is not to be put to hard labor for twenty-four hours. By this means he will recover his spirits and the time and moral improvement you have made him lose. You hear, sir?" added he very sharply.
"I hear," said Hawes sulkily.
"Go on with your evidence, Mr. Eden."
"Robinson, my man, you see that machine?"
"Ugh! yes, I see it."
"For two months I have been trying to convince Mr. Hawes that engine is illegal. I failed; but I have been more fortunate with this gentleman who comes from the Home Office. He has not taken as many minutes to see it is unlawful."
"Stop a bit, Mr. Eden. It is clearly illegal, but the torture is not proved."
"Nor ever will be," put in Mr. Hawes.
"So then, Robinson, no man on earth has the right to put you into that machine."
"It is therefore as a favor that I ask you to go into it to show its operation."
"A favor, your reverence, to you? I am ready in a minute." Robinson was jammed, throttled, and nailed in the man-press. Mr. Lacy stood in front of him and eyed him keenly and gravely. "They seem very fond of you, these fellows."
"Can you give your eyes to that sight and your ears to me?" asked Mr. Eden.
"Then I introduce to you a new character--Mr. Fry. Mr. Fry is a real character, unlike those of romance and melodrama, which are apt to be either a streak of black paint or else a streak of white paint. Mr. Fry is variegated. He is a moral magpie; he is, if possible, as devoid of humanity as his chief; but to balance this defect, he possesses, all to himself, a quality, a very high quality, called Honesty."
"Well, that is a high quality and none too common."
"He is one of those men to whom veracity is natural. He would hardly know how to tell a falsehood. They fly about him in this place like hailstones, but I never saw one come from him."
"Stay! does he side with you or with Mr. Hawes in this unfortunate difference?"
"With me!" cried Mr. Hawes eagerly. Mr. Eden bowed assent. "Hum!"
"This honest Nero is zealous according to his light; he has kept a strict record of the acts and events of the jail for four years past; i.e., rather more than two years of Captain O'Connor's jailership, and somewhat less than two years of the present jailer. Such a journal, rigorously kept out of pure love of truth by such a man is invaluable. There no facts are likely to be suppressed or colored, since the record was never intended for any eye but his own. I am sure Mr. Fry will gratify you with a sight of this journal. Oblige me, Mr. Fry!"
"Certainly, sir! certainly!" replied Fry, swelling with importance and gratified surprise.
"Bring it me at once, if you please." Fry went with alacrity for his journal.
"Mr. Lacy," said Mr. Eden, with a slight touch of reproach, "you can read not faces only but complexions. You read in my yellow face and sunken eye--prejudice; what do you read here?" and he wheeled like lightning and pointed to Mr. Hawes, whose face and very lips were then seen to be the color of ashes. The poor wretch tried to recover composure, and retort defiance; but the effort came too late. His face had been seen, and once seen that look of terror, anguish and hatred was never to be forgotten.
"What is the matter, Mr. Hawes?"
"W--W--When I think of my long services, and the satisfaction I have given to my superiors--and now my turnkey's journal to be taken and believed against mine."
(Chorus of Justices.) "It is a shame!"
Mr. Eden (very sharply). "Against yours? what makes him think it will be against his? The man is his admirer, and an honest man. What injustice has he to dread from such a source?"
Mr. Lacy. "I really cannot understand your objection to a man's evidence whose bias lies your way; and I must say, it speaks well for Mr. Eden that he has proposed this man in evidence."
At this juncture the magistrates, after a short consultation, informed Mr. Lacy that they had business of more importance to transact, and could give no more time to what appeared to them an idle and useless inquiry.
"At all events, gentlemen," replied Mr. Lacy, "I trust you will not leave the jail. I am not here to judge Mr. Hawes, but to see whether Mr. Eden's demand for a formal inquiry into his acts ought to be granted or refused. Now unless the evidence takes some new turn I incline to think I must favor the inquiry; that is to say, should the chaplain persist in demanding it."
"Which I shall."
"Should a royal commission be appointed to sit here, I should naturally wish to consult you as to the component members of the commission; and it is my wish to pay you the compliment usual in such cases of selecting one of the three commissioners from your body. But one question, gentlemen, before you go. Have you complied with No. 1 of these your rules? Have you visited every prisoner in his or her cell once a month?"
"I am sorry to hear it. Of course, at each visit, you have closely examined this the jailer's book, a record of his acts and the events of the jail?"
"Portions of it are read to us; this is a form which I believe is never omitted--is it, Mr. Hawes?"
"'Portions!' and 'a form!' what, then, are your acts of supervision? Do you examine the turnkeys, and compare their opinions with the jailer's?"
"We would not be guilty of such ungentlemanly behavior!" replied Mr. Williams, who had been longing for some time to give Mr. Lacy a slap.
"Do you examine the prisoners apart, so that there can be no intimidation of them?"
"We always take Mr. Hawes into the cells with us."
"Why do you do that, pray?"
"We conceive that nothing would be gained by encouraging the refuse of mankind to make frivolous complaints against their best friend." Here the speaker and his mates wore a marked air of self-satisfaction.
"Well, sir! has the present examination in no degree shaken your confidence in Mr. Hawes's discretion?"
"Not in the least."
"Nor in your own mode of scrutinizing his acts?"
"Not in the least."
"That is enough! Gentlemen, I need detain you no longer from the business you have described as more important than this!"
Mr. Lacy shrugged his shoulders. Mr. Eden smiled to him, and said quietly:
"As they were in the days of Shakespeare so they were in the days of Fielding; as they were in the days of Fielding so they are in the days of light; and as they are now so will they remain until they are swept away from the face of the soil. (Keep your eye on Mr. Hawes, edging away there so adroitly.) It is not their fault, it is their nature; their constitution is rotten; in building them the State ignored Nature, as Hawes ignores her in his self-invented discipline."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"That no body of men ever gave for nothing anything worth anything, nor ever will. Now knowledge of law is worth something; zeal, independent judgment, honesty, humanity, diligence are worth something (are you watching Mr. Hawes, sir?); yet the State, greedy goose, hopes to get them out of a body of men for nothing!"
"Hum! Why has Mr. Hawes retired?"
"You know as well as I do."
"Oh! do I?"
"Yes, sir! the man's terror when Fry's journal was proposed in evidence, and his manner of edging away obliquely to the direction Fry took, were not lost on a man of your intelligence."
"If you think that, why did you not stop him till Fry came back with the book?"
"I had my reasons; meantime we are not at a stand-still. Here is an attested copy of the journal in question; and here is Mr. Hawes's log-book. Fry's book intended for no mortal eye but his own; Hawes's concocted for inspection."
"I see a number of projecting marks pasted into Fry's journal!"
"Yes, sir; on some of these marks are written the names of remarkable victims, recurring at intervals; on others are inscribed the heads of villainy--'the black-hole,' 'starvation,' 'thirst,' 'privation of exercise,' 'of bed,' 'of gas,' 'of chapel,' 'of human converse,' 'inhuman threats,' and the infernal torture called the 'punishment-jacket.' Somewhat on the plan of 'Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica.' So that you can at will trace any one of Mr. Hawes's illegal punishments, and see it running like a river of blood through many hapless names; or you can, if you like it better, track a fellow-creature dripping blood from punishment to punishment, from one dark page to another, till release, lunacy, or death closes the list of his recorded sufferings."
Aided by Mr. Eden, who whirled over the leaves of Mr. Hawes's log-book for him, Mr. Lacy compared several pages of the two books. The following is merely a selected specimen of the entries that met his eye:
MR. FRY. MR. HAWES. Joram.Writing on his can--bread and Joram.Refractory--bread and water. water. Joram.Bread and water. Joram.Bread and water. Joram.Refractory--crank; bread and water. Joram.Crank not performed--bread and water. Joram.Punishment-jacket. Joram.Refractory--crank--bread and Joram. Refractory--bread and water. water. Joram.Attempted suicide; Joram. Feigned suicide; cause insensible when found. Had religious despondency--put on cut off pieces of his hair to sick-list. send to his friends--sick-list. Josephs. Crank not performed; says Josephs. Refractory; said he could not turn the crank No. 9; he would not work on crank 9; punishment-jacket. punishment-jacket. Tomson. Communicating in chapel-- Tomson.Communicating--dark cells. dark cell 12 hours. Tomson. Bread and water. Tomson. Crank not performed; Tomson. Refractory--jacket. punishment-jacket. Tomson. Dark cells. Tomson. No chapel. Tomson. Dark cells. Tomson. Melancholy. Tomson. Afflicted with remorse for past crimes--surgeon. Tomson. Very strange. Tomson. Removed to lunatic asylum. Tomson. Removed to asylum. Tanner (nine years old). Caught Tanner. Caught up at window; up at window; asked what he did answered insolently--jacket. there; said he wanted to feel the light--jacket, and bread and water three days. Tanner. For repining--chapel Tanner. Refractory language-- and gas stopped until content. forbidden chapel until reformation.
"Can I see such a thing as a prisoner who has attempted suicide?" inquired he, with lingering incredulity.
"Yes! there are three on this landing. Come first to Joram, of whom Mr. Hawes writes that he made a sham attempt on his life in a fit of religious despondency--Mr. Fry, that having been jacketed and put on bread and water for several days, he became depressed in spirits and made a real attempt on his life. Ah! here is Mr. Fry, he is coming this way to tell you his first falsehood. Hawes has been all this while persuading him to it."
"Where is your journal, Mr. Fry?"
"Well, sir," replied Fry, hanging his head, "I can't show it you. I lent it to a friend, now I remember, and he has taken it out of the jail; but," added he with a sense of relief, "you can ask me any questions you like and I'll answer them all one as my book."
"Well, then, was Joram's attempt at suicide a real or a feigned one?"
"Well, I should say it was a real one. I found him insensible and he did not come to for best part of a quarter of an hour."
"Open his cell."
"Joram, I am here from the Secretary of State to ask you some questions. Answer them truly and without fear. Some months ago you made an attempt on your life."
The prisoner shuddered and hung his head.
"Don't be discouraged, Joram," put in Mr. Eden kindly, "this gentleman is not a harsh judge, he will make allowances."
"Thank you, gentlemen."
"What made you attempt your life?" persisted Mr. Lacy. "Was it from religious despondency?"
"That it was not. What did I know about religion before his reverence here came to the jail? No, sir, I was clammed to death."
"Yes, sir, clammed and no mistake."
"North-country word for starved," explained Mr. Eden.
"No, sir, I was starved as well. It was very cold weather, and they gave me nothing but a roll of bread no bigger than my fist once a day for the best part of a week. So being starved with cold and clammed with hunger I knew I couldn't live many hours more, and then the pain in my vitals was so dreadful, sir, I was obliged to cut it short. Ay! ay! your reverence, I know it was very wicked--but what was I to do? If I hadn't attempted my life I shouldn't be alive now. A poor fellow doesn't know what to do in such a place as this."
"Well," said Mr. Lacy, "I promise you your food shall never be tampered with again."
"Thank you, sir. Oh! I have nothing to complain of now, sir; they have never clammed me since I attempted my life."
Mr. Eden. "Suicide is at a premium here."
"What was your first offense?" asked Mr. Lacy.
"Writing on my can."
"What did you write on the can?"
"I wrote, 'I want to speak to the governor.'"
"Couldn't you ring and ask to see him?"
"Ring and ask? I had rung half a dozen times and asked to see him and could not get to see him. My hand was blistered, and I wanted to ask him to put me on a different sort of work till such time as it could get leave to heal."
"Now, sir," said Mr. Eden, "observe the sequence of iniquity. A refractory jailer defies the discipline of the prison. He breaks Rule 37 and other rules by which he is ordered to be always accessible to a prisoner. The prisoner being in a strait, through which the jailer alone can guide him, begs for an interview; unable to obtain this in his despair he writes one innocent line on his can imploring the jailer to see him. None of the beasts say, 'What has he written?' they say only, 'Here be scratches,' and they put him on bread and water for an illegal period; and Mr. Hawes's new and illegal interpretation of 'bread and water' is aimed at his life. I mean that instead of receiving three times per diem a weight of bread equal to the weight of his ordinary diets (which is clearly the intention of the bread and water statute), he has once a day four ounces of bread. So because a refractory jailer breaks the discipline, a prisoner with whom no breach of the discipline originated is feloniously put to death unless he cuts it short by that which in every spot of the earth but ---- Jail is a deadly crime in Heaven's eyes--self-murder."
"What an eye your reverence ha' got for things! Well now it doesn't sound quite fair, does it? but stealing is a dog's trick, and if a man behaves like a dog he must look to be treated like one; and he will be, too."
"That is right, Joram; you look at it from that point of view, and we will look at it from another."
"Open Naylor's cell. Naylor, what drove you to attempt suicide?"
"Oh! you know, sir."
"But this gentleman does not."
"Well, gents, they had been at me a pretty while one way and another; they put me in the jacket till I fainted away."
"Stop a minute; is the jacket very painful?"
"There is nothing in the world like it, sir."
"What is its effect? What sort of pain?"
"Why, all sorts! it crushes your very heart. Then it makes you ache from your hair to your heel, till you would thank and bless any man to knock you on the head. Then it takes you by the throat and pinches you and rasps you all at one time. However, I don't think but what I could have stood up against that, if I had had food enough; but how can a chap face trouble and pain and hard labor on a crumb a day? However, what finally screwed up my stocking altogether, gents, was their taking away my gas. It was the dark winter nights, and there was me set with an empty belly and the cell like a grave. So then I turned a little queer in the head by all accounts, and I saw things that--hem!--didn't suit my complaint at all, you know."
"Well, gents, it is all over now, but it makes me shiver still, so I don't care to be reminded; let us drop it if it is all the same to you."
"But, Naylor, for the sake of other poor fellows and to oblige me."
"Oh! your reverence, if I can oblige you that alters the case entirely. Well, then, sir, if you must know, I saw 'Child of Hell' wrote in great letters of fire all over that side of the cell. Always every evening this was all my society, as the saying is; 'Child of Hell' wrote ten times brighter than gas.
"Couldn't you shut your eyes and go to sleep?" said Mr. Lacy.
"How could I sleep? and I did shut my eyes, and then the letters they came through my eyelids. So when this fell on the head of all my troubles I turned wild, and I said to myself one afternoon, 'Now here is my belly empty and nothing coming to it, and there is the sun a-setting, and by-and-by my cell will be brimful of hell-fire--let me end my troubles and get one night's rest if I never see another.' So I hung myself up to the bar by my hammock-strap, and that is all I remember except finding myself on my back, with Mr. Fry and a lot round me, some coaxing and some cursing; and when I saw where I was I fell a-crying and blubbering, to think that I had so nearly broke prison and there they had got me still. I dare say Mr. Fry remembers how I took on."
"Ay, my man, I remember we got no thanks for bringing you to."
"I was a poor unconverted sinner then," replied Mr. Naylor demurely, "and didn't know my fault and the consequences; but I thank you now with all my heart, Mr. Fry, sir."
"I am to understand then that you accuse the jailer of driving you to suicide by unlawful severities?"
"No, sir, I don't. I only tell you how it happened, and you should not have asked me if you didn't care to know; and as for blaming folk, the man I blame the most is John Naylor. His reverence there has taught me to look at home. If I hadn't robbed honest folk I shouldn't have robbed myself of character and liberty and health, and Mr. Hawes wouldn't have robbed me of food and light and life wellnigh. Certainly there is a deal of ignorance and stupidity in this here jail. The governor has no head-piece; can't understand that a prisoner is made out of the same stuff as he is--skin and belly, heart, soul, bones an' all. I should say he wasn't fit to be trusted with the lives of a litter of pigs, let alone a couple of hundred men and women. But all is one for that; if he was born without any gumption, as the saying is, I wasn't, and I didn't ought to be in a fool's power; that is my fault entirely, not the fool's; ain't it now? If I hadn't come to the mill the miller would never have grinded me! I sticks to that!"
"Well said, Naylor. Come, sir, One higher than the State takes precedence here. We must on no account shake a Christian frame of mind or rekindle a sufferer's wrongs. Yes, Naylor, forgive and you shall be forgiven. I am pleased with you, greatly pleased with you, my poor fellow. There is my hand!" Naylor took his reverence's hand and his very forehead reddened with pride and pleasure at so warm a word of praise from the revered mouth. They went out of the cell. Being now in the corridor, Mr. Eden addressed the Government official thus:
"My proofs draw to a close. I could multiply instances ad infinitum--but what is the use? If these do not convince you you would not believe though one rose from the dead. What do I say? Have not Naylor and Joram and many others come back from the dead to tell you by what roads they were driven there? One example remains to be shown. To a philosophical mind it is no stronger than the rest; but there are many men who can receive no very strong impression except through their senses. You may be one of these; and it is my duty to give your judgment every aid. Where is Mr. Fry? He has left us."
"I am coming to attend you, sir," cried Evans from above. "Mr. Fry is gone to the governor."
"Where are we going?" asked Mr. Lacy.
"To examine a prisoner whom the jailer tortured with the jacket, and starved, and ended by robbing him of his gas and his bed contrary to law. Evans, since you are here, relate all that happened to Edward Josephs on the fourth of this month--and mind you don't exaggerate."
"Well, sir, they had been at him for near a month, overtasking him and then giving him the jacket, and starving him and overtasking him again on his empty stomach till the poor lad was a living skeleton. On the fourth the governor put him in the jacket, and there he was kept till he swooned."
"Then they flung two buckets of water over him and that brought him to. Then they sent him to his cell and there he was in his wet clothes. Then him being there shaking with cold, the governor ordered his gas to be taken away--his hands were shaking over it for a little warmth when they robbed him of that bit o' comfort."
"Contrary to law!" put in Mr. Eden.
"Well, sir, he was a quiet lad not given to murmur, but at losing his gas he began to cry out so loud you might hear him all over the prison."
"What did he cry?"
"Sir, he cried MURDER!"
"Then I came to him and found him shivering and dripping, and crying fit to break his poor heart."
"And did you do nothing for him?"
"I did what I could, sir. I took him and twisted his bedclothes so tight round him the air could not get in, and before I left him his sobs went down and he looked like warm and sleeping after all his troubles. Well, sir, they can tell you better that did the job, but it seems the governor sent another turnkey called Hodges to take away his bed from under him."
"Well, sir! oh dear me! I hope, your reverence, I shall never have to tell this story again, for it chokes me every time." And the man was unable to go on for a while. "Well, sir, the poor thing it seems didn't cry out as he had about the gas, he took it quite quiet--that might have let them know, but some folk can see nothing till it is too late--and he gave Hodges his hand to show he bore him no malice. Eh dear! eh dear! Would to Heaven I had never seen this wicked place!"
"Wicked place, indeed!" said Mr. Lacy solemnly. "You make me almost dread to ask the result."
"You shall see the result. Evans!"
Evans opened cell 15, and he and Mr. Eden stood sorrowful aside while Mr. Lacy entered the cell. The first thing he saw was a rude coffin standing upright by the window, the next a dead body lying stark upon a mattress on the floor. The official uttered a cry like the scream of a woman! "What is this? How dare you bring me to such a place as this?"
"This is that Edward Josephs whose sufferings you have heard and pitied."
"Poor wretch! Heaven forgive us! What, did he--did he--?"
"He took one step to meet inevitable death--he hanged himself that same night by his handkerchief to this bar. Turn his poor body, Evans. See, sir, here is Mr. Hawes's mark upon his back. These livid stripes are from the infernal jacket and helped to lash him into his grave. You are ill. Here! some wine from my flask! You will faint else!"
"Thank you! Yes, I was rather faint. It is passed. Mr. Eden, I find my life has been spent among words--things of such terrible significance are new to me. God forgive us! how came this to pass in England in the nineteenth century? The ---- scoundrel!"
"Kick him out of the jail, but do not swear; it is a sin. By removing him from this his great temptation we may save even his blood-stained soul. But the souls of his victims? Oh, sir, when a good man is hurried to his grave our lamentations are natural but unwise; but think what he commits who hurries thieves and burglars and homicides unprepared before their eternal Judge. In this poor boy lay the materials of a saint--mild, docile, grateful, believing. I was winning him to all that is good when I fell sick. The sufferings I saw and could not stop--they made me sick. You did not know that when you let my discolored cheeks prejudice you against my truth. Oh! I forgive you, dear sir! Yes, Heaven is inscrutable; for had I not fallen ill--yes, I was leading you up to Heaven, was I not? Oh, my lost sheep! my poor lost sheep!" And the faithful shepherd, at the bottom of whose wit and learning lay a heart simpler than beats in any dunce, forgot Hawes and everything else and began to mourn by the dead body of his wandering sheep.
Then in that gloomy abode of blood and tears Heaven wrought a miracle. One who for twenty years past had been an official became a man for full five minutes. Light burst on him--Nature rushed back upon her truant son and seized her long-forgotten empire. The frost and reserve of office melted like snow in summer before the sun of religion and humanity. How unreal and idle appeared now the twenty years gone in tape and circumlocution! Away went his life of shadows--his career of watery polysyllables meandering through the great desert into the Dead Sea. He awoke from his desk and saw the corpse of an Englishman murdered by routine, and the tears of a man of God dripping upon it.
Then his soul burst its desk and his heart broke its polysyllables and its tapen bonds, and the man of office came quickly to the man of God and seized his hand with both his which shook very much, and pressed it again and again, and his eyes glistened and his voice faltered. "This shall never be again. How these tears honor you! but they cut me to the heart. There! there! I believe every word you have told me now. Be comforted! you are not to blame! there were always villains in the world and fools like us that could not understand or believe in an apostle like you. We are all in fault, but not you! Be comforted! Law and order shall be restored this very day and none of these poor creatures shall suffer violence again or wrong of any sort--by God!"
So these two grasped hands and pledged faith and for a while at least joined hearts. Mr. Eden thanked him with a grace and dignity all his own. Then he said with a winning sweetness, "Go now, my dear sir, and do your duty. Act for once upon an impulse. At this moment you see things as you will see them when you come to die. A light from Heaven shines on your path at this moment. Walk by it ere the world dims it. Go and leave me to repent the many unchristian tempers I have shown you in one short hour--my heat and bitterness and arrogance--in this solemn place."
"His unchristian temper! poor soul! There, take me to the justices, Mr. Evans, and you follow me as soon as you like. Yes, my worthy friend, I will act upon an impulse for once--Ugh!"
Wheeling rapidly out of the cell, as unlike his past self as a pin-wheel in a shop-drawer and ditto ignited, he met at the very door Mr. Hawes!
"You have been witnessing a sad sight, sir, and one that nobody, I assure you, deplores more than I do," said Mr. Hawes, in a gentle and feeling tone.
Mr. Lacy answered Mr. Hawes by looking him all over from head to foot and back, then looking sternly into his eyes he turned his back on him sharp and left him standing there without a word.