It Is Never Too Late to Mend
Part 4 out of 17
you are her majesty's servant so long as you are here, and must
co-operate with the general system of the jail. Come, sir, you are
younger than I am; let me give you a piece of advice, 'DON'T OVERSTEP
YOUR DUTY,' etc."
In this strain Mr. Williams buz, buz, buzzed longer than I can afford
him paper, it is so dear. He pumped a stream of time-honored phrases
on his hearer, and dissolved away with him as the overflow of a pump
carries away a straw on its shallow stream down a stable-yard.
When the pump was pumped dry he stopped.
Then the chaplain, who had listened with singular politeness, got in a
word. "You forget, sir, I have resigned the chaplaincy of the jail?"
"Oh! ah! yes! well, then, I need say no more; good-day, Mr. Jones."
Soon after this up came Hawes with a cheerful countenance.
"Well, parson, are you to manage the prisoners and I to preach to
them, or are we to go on as we are?"
"Things are to go on as they are, Mr. Hawes; but that is nothing to
me, I have discharged my conscience. I have remonstrated against the
seventies practiced on our prisoners. COLD WATER HAS BEEN THROWN ON MY
REMONSTRANCES, and I shall therefore interfere no more."
"That is the wise way to look at it, you may depend!"
"We shall see which was in the right. I have discharged my conscience.
But, Mr. Hawes, I am hurt you should say I preached a sermon against
"I dare say you are, sir, but who began it; if you had not talked of
complaining to the justices of me, I should never have said a word
"That is all settled; but it is due to my character to show you that I
had no intention of pointing at you or any living creature from the
"Well, make me believe that."
"If you will do me the favor to come to my room I can prove it to
The chaplain took the governor to his room and opened two drawers in a
"Mr. Hawes," said he, "do you see this pile of sermons in this
"I see them," said Hawes, with a doleful air, "and I suppose I shall
hear some of them before long."
"These," said Mr. Jones, smiling with perfect good-humor at the
innocuous sneer, "are sermons I composed when I was curate of
Little-Stoke. Of late I have been going regularly through my
Little-Stoke discourses, as you may see. I take one from the pile in
this drawer, and after first preaching it in the jail I place it in
the left drawer on that smaller pile."
"That you mayn't preach it again by accident; well, that is business."
"If you look into the left pile near the top, you will find the one I
preached against profane discourse, with the date at which it was
"Here it is, sir--Little-Stoke, May 15, 1847."
"Well, Mr. Hawes, now was that written against you?--come!"
"No! I confess it could not; but look here, if a man sends a bullet
into me, it doesn't matter to me whether he made the gun on purpose or
shot me out of an old one that he had got by him."
"But I tell you that I took the sermon out in its turn, and knew no
more what it was about until I opened it in the pulpit, than I knew
what this one is about which I am going to preach next Sunday
morning--it was all chance."
"It was my bad luck, I suppose," said Hawes a little sulkily.
"And mine, too. Could I anticipate that a discourse composed for and
preached to a rural congregation would be deemed to have a personal
"I have now only to add that I extremely regret the circumstance."
"Say no more, sir. When a gentleman expresses his regret to another
gentleman, there is an end of the grievance.
"I will take care the sort of thing never happens again."
"Enough said, sir."
"It never can, however, for I shall preach but one more Sunday here."
"And I'm very sorry for it, Mr. Jones."
"And after this occurrence I am determined to write both sermons for
the occasion, so there is sure to be nothing personal in them."
"Yes, that is the surest way. Well, sir, you and I never had but this
one little misunderstanding, and now that is explained, we shall part
"A glass of ale, Mr. Hawes?"
"I don't care if I do, sir (the glasses were filled and emptied). "I
must go and look after my chickens; the justices have ordered Gillies
to be flogged. You will be there, I suppose, in half an hour."
"Well, if my attendance is not absolutely necessary--"
"We will excuse you, sir, if not convenient."
"Thank you--good-morning!" and the reconciled officials parted.
Little Gillies was hoisted to receive twenty lashes; at the twelfth
the governor ordered him down.
He broke off the tale as our magazines do, with a promise--" To be
Little Gillies, like their readers, cried out, "No, sir. Oh, sir!
please flog me to an end, and ha' done with it. I don't feel the cuts
near so much now--my back seems dead like."
Little Gillies was arguing against himself. Hawes had not divided his
punishment with the view of lessening his pain. It was droll, but more
sad than droll to hear the poor little fellow begging Hawes to flog
him to an end, to flog him out; with similar idioms.
"Hold your [oath] noise!" Hawes shrunk with disgust from noise in his
prison, and could not comprehend why the prisoners could not take
their punishments without infringing upon the great and glorious
silence of which the jail was the temple and he the high priest. "The
beggars get no good by kicking up a row," argued he.
"Hold your noise!--take him to his cell!"
Whether it was because he had desecrated the temple with noise, or
from the accident of having attracted the governor's attention, the
weight of the system fell on this small object now.
Gillies was ordered to make a fabulous number of crank
revolutions--fabulous, at least, in connection with his tender age; he
was put on the lightest crank, but the lightest was heavy to thirteen
years. Not being the infant Hercules, he could not perform this labor;
so Hawes put him in jacket and collar almost the whole day. His young
and supple frame was in his favor, but once or twice he could hardly
help shamming, and then they threw half a bucket over him.
The next day he was put on the crank, and not being able to complete
the task that was set him before dinner, he was strapped up until the
evening. The next day the governor tried another tack. He took away
his meat soup and gruel, and gave him nothing but bread and water.
Strange to say, this change of diet did not supply the deficiency; he
could not do the infant Hercules his work even on bread and water.
Then the governor deprived the obstinate little dog of his chapel. "If
you won't work, I'm [participle] if you shall pray." The boy missed
the recreation of hearing Mr. Jones hum the Liturgy; missed it in a
way you cannot conceive. Your soporific was his excitement; think of
Little Gillies became sadly dispirited, and weaker at the crank than
before; ergo, the governor sentenced him to be fourteen days without
bed or gas.
But when they took away his bed and did not light his gas little
Gillies began to lose his temper; he made a great row about this last
stroke of discipline. "I won't live such a life as this," said little
Gillies, in a pet. "Why don't the governor hang me at once?"
"What is that noise?" roared the governor, who was in the corridor and
had long ears.
"It is No. 50 kicking up a row at having his bed and gas taken,"
replied a turnkey, with a note of admiration in his voice.
The governor bounced into the cell. "Are you grumbling at that, you
rebellious young rascal? you forget there are a dozen lashes owing you
yet." Now the boy had not forgotten, but he hoped the governor had.
"Well, you shall have the rest to-morrow."
With these words ringing in his ears, little Gillies was locked up for
the night at six o'clock. His companions darkness and unrest-for a
prisoner's bed is the most comfortable thing he has, and the change
from it to a stone floor is as great to him as it would be to
us--darkness and unrest, and the cat waiting to spring on him at peep
of day. Quae cum ita erant, as the warder put the key into his cell
the next morning he heard a strange gurgling; he opened the door
quickly, and there was little Gillies hanging; a chair was near him on
which he had got to suspend himself by his handkerchief from the
window; he was black in the face, but struggling violently, and had
one hand above his head convulsively clutching the handkerchief. Fry
lifted him up by the knees and with some difficulty loosed the
Little Gillies, as soon as his throat could vent a sound, roared with
fright at the recent peril, and then cried a bit, finally expressed a
hope his breakfast would not be taken from him for this act of
This infraction of discipline was immediately reported to the
"Little brute," cried Hawes, viciously, "I'll work him!"
"Oh! he knew I was at hand, sir," said Fry, "or he would not have
"Of course he would not; I remember last night he was grumbling at his
bed being taken away. I'll serve him out!"
Soon after this the governor met the chaplain and told him the case.
"He shall make you an apology"--imperative mood him.
"Me, an apology!"
"Of course--you are the officer that has the care of his soul and he
shall apologize to you for making away with it or trying it on."
This resolution was conveyed to Gillies with fearful threats, so when
the chaplain visited him he had got his lesson pat.
"I beg your reverence's pardon for hanging myself," began he at sight,
rather loud and as bold as brass.
"Beg the Almighty's pardon, not mine."
"No! the governor said it was yours I was to beg," demurred Gillies.
"Very well. But you should beg God's pardon more than mine."
"For why, sir?"
"For attempting your life, which was His gift."
"Oh! I needn't beg His pardon; He doesn't care what becomes of me; if
He did He wouldn't let them bully me as they do day after day, drat
"I am sorry to see one so young as you so hardened. I dare say the
discipline of the jail is bitter to you, it is to all idle boys; but
you might be in a much worse place--and will if you do not mend."
"A worse place than this, your reverence! Oh, my eye!"
"And you ought to be thankful to Heaven for sending the turnkey at
that moment (here I'm sorry to say little Gillies grinned
satirically), or you would be in a worse place. Would you rather be
here or in hell?" half asked, half explained the reverend gentleman in
the superior tone of one closing a discussion forever.
"In hell!!!" replied Gillies, opening his eyes with astonishment at
Mr. Jones was dumfounded; of all the mischances that befall us in
argument this coup perplexes us most. He looked down at the little
ignorant wretch, and decided it would be useless to waste theology on
him. He fell instead into familiar conversation with him, and then
Gillies, with the natural communicativeness of youth, confessed to him
"that he had heard the warder at the next cell before he ventured to
step off the chair and suspend himself."
"Well! but you ran a great risk, too. Suppose he had not come into
your cell--suppose he had been called away for a minute."
"I should have been scragged, and no mistake," said the boy, with a
shiver. Throttling had proved no joke. "But I took my chance of that,"
added Gillies. "I was determined to give them a fright; besides, if he
hadn't come, it would all be over by now, sir, and all the better for
me, I know."
Further communication was closed by the crank, which demanded young
Hopeful by its mouthpiece, Fry. After dinner, to his infinite disgust,
he received the other moiety of his flogging; but by a sort of sulky
compensation his bed was kicked into his cell again at night by Fry
acting under the governor's orders.
"That was not a bad move, hanging myself a little--a very little,"
said the young prig. He hooked up his recovered treasure; and, though
smarting all over, coiled himself up in it, and in three minutes
forgot present pain, past dangers and troubles to come.
The plan pursued with Robinson was to keep him at low-water mark by
lowering his diet; without this, so great was his natural energy and
disposition to work, that no crank excuse could have been got for
punishing him, and at this period he was too wise and self-restrained
to give any other. But after a few days of unjust torture he began to
lose hope; and with hope patience oozed away too, and his enemy saw
with grim satisfaction wild flashes of mad rage come every now and
then to his eye, harder and harder to suppress. "He will break out
before long," said Hawes to himself, "and then--"
Robinson saw the game, and a deep dark hatred of his enemy fought on
the side of his prudence. This bitter raging struggle of contending
passions in the thief's heart harmed his soul more than had years of
burglary and petty larceny. All the vices of the old jail system are
nothing compared with the diabolical effect of solitude on a heart
smarting with daily wrongs.
Brooding on self is always corrupting; but to brood on self and wrongs
is to ripen for madness, murder and all crime. Between Robinson and
these there lay one little bit of hope--only one, but it was a
reasonable one. There was an official in the jail possessed of a large
independent authority; and paid (Robinson argued) to take the side of
humanity in the place. This man was the representative of the national
religion in the jail, as Hawes was of the law. Robinson was too sharp
at picking up everything in his way, and had been too often in prisons
and their chapels not to know that cruelty and injustice are contrary
to the Gospel, and to the national religion, which is in a great
measure founded thereon. He therefore hoped and believed the chaplain
of the jail would come between him and his persecutor if he could be
made to understand the case. Now it happened just after the justices
had thrown cold water on Mr. Jones's little expostulation that
Robinson was pinned to the wall, jammed in the waistcoat, and
throttled in the collar. He had been thus some time, when, casting his
despairing eyes around they alighted upon the comely, respectable face
of Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones was looking gravely at the victim.
Robinson devoured him with his eyes and his ears. He heard him say in
"What is this for?"
"Hasn't done his work at the crank," was the answer.
Then Mr. Jones, after taking another look at the sufferer, gave a sigh
and walked away. Robinson's hopes from this gentleman rose; moreover,
part of his sermon next Sunday inveighed against inhumanity; and
Robinson, who had no conception the sermon was several years old,
looked on it as aimed at Hawes and his myrmidons and as the precursor
of other and effective remonstrances. Not long after this, to his
delight, the chaplain visited him alone. He seized this opportunity of
securing the good man's interference in his favor. He told him in
glowing words the whole story of his sufferings; and with a plain and
manly eloquence appealed to him to make his chapel words good and come
between the bloodhounds and their prey.
"Sir, there are twenty or thirty poor fellows besides me that will
bless your four bones night and day, if you will but put out your hand
and save us from being abused like dogs and nailed to the wall like
kites and weasels. We are not vermin, sir, we are men. Many a worse
man is abroad than we that are caged here like wild beasts. Our bodies
are men's bodies, sir, and our hearts are men's hearts. You can't
soften _their_ hearts, for they haven't such a thing about them;
but only just you open your mouth and speak your mind in right-down
earnest, and you will shame them into treating us openly like human
beings, let them hate us and scorn us at bottom as they will. We have
no friend here, sir, but you, not one; have pity on us! have pity on
And the thief stretched out his hands, and fixed his ardent,
glistening eyes upon the successor of the apostles.
The successor of the apostles hung his head and showed plainly that he
was not unmoved. A moment of suspense followed--Robinson hung upon his
answer. At length Mr. Jones raised his head and said, with icy
"Mr. Hawes is the governor of this jail. I have no power to interfere
with his acts, supported as they are by the visiting justices; and I
have but one advice to give you: Submit to the discipline and to Mr.
Hawes in everything; it will be the worse for you if you don't."
So saying, he went out abruptly, leaving his petitioner with his eyes
fixed ruefully upon the door by which his last hope had left him.
The moment the reverend official had got outside the door, his
countenance, which had fallen, took a complacent air. He prided
himself that he had conquered an impulse, an idle impulse.
"The poor fellow is in the right," said he to himself as he left the
cell; "but if I had let him see I thought so, he might have been
encouraged to resist, and then he would have only suffered all the
And so, having done what he calculated was the expedient thing to do,
he went his way satisfied and at peace with Mr. Hawes and all mankind.
When he glided away and took hope with him, disdain, despair and
frenzy gushed from the thief's boiling bosom in one wild moan; and
with that moan he dashed himself on his face on the floor, though it
was as hard as Hawes and cold as Jones.
Thus he lay crushed in blank despair a moment, the next he rose
fiercely to his knees, he looked up through the hole they called his
window, and saw a little piece of blue sky no bigger than a Bible, he
held his hand up to that blue sky, he fixed his dilating eye on that
blue sky, and with one long raging yell of horrible words hurled from
a heart set on fire by wrongs and despair and tempting fiends, he
cursed the successor of the apostles before the Majesty of Heaven.
SOLITUDE is no barrier whatever to sin. Such prayers as Robinson's are
a disgrace to those who provoke them, but a calamity to him who utters
them. Robinson was now a far worse man than ever he had been out of
prison. The fiend had fixed a claw in his heart, and we may be sure he
felt the recoil of his ill prayers. He hated the human race, which
produced such creatures as Hawes and nothing to keep them in check.
"From this hour I speak no more to any of those beasts!"
Such was his resolve, made with clinched teeth and nails. And he
curled himself up like a snake and turned his back upon mankind, and
his face to the wall. Robinson had begun his career in this place full
of hopes. He hoped by good conduct to alleviate his condition as he
had done in other jails; conscious of various talents, he hoped by
skill as well as by good conduct to better his condition even in a
jail. Such hopes are a part of our nature, and were not in his case
unreasonable. These hopes were soon extinguished. He came down to a
confident hope that by docility and good conduct he should escape all
evils except those inseparable from a prisoner's lot.
When he discovered that Hawes loved to punish his prisoners, and
indeed could hardly get through the day without it, and that his crank
was an unavoidable trap to catch the prisoners and betray them to
punishment, he sunk lower and lower in despondency, till at last there
was but one bit of blue hope in all his horizon. He still hoped
something against tyranny and cruelty from the representative of the
gospel of mercy in the place. But when his reverence told him nothing
was to be expected from that quarter, his last hope went out and he
was in utter darkness.
Yet Mr. Jones was not a hypocrite nor a monster; he was only a
commonplace man--a thing molded by circumstances instead of molding
them. In him the official outweighed the apostle, for a very good
reason--he was commonplace. This was his defect. His crime was
misplacing his commonplace self. A man has a right to be commonplace
in the middle of the New Forest, or in the great desert, or at
Fudley-cum-Pipes in the fens of Lincolnshire. But at the helm of a
struggling nation, or in the command of an army in time of war, or at
the head of the religious department of a jail, fighting against human
wolves, tigers and foxes, to be commonplace is an iniquity and leads
The man was a humane man. It was not in his nature to be cruel to a
prisoner, and his humanity was, like himself, negative not positive,
passive not active--of course; it was commonplace humanity.
After looking on in silence for a twelvemonth or two he remonstrated
against Hawes's barbarity. He would have done more; he would have
stopped it--if it could have been stopped without any trouble. Cold
water was thrown on his remonstrance; he cooled directly!
Now cold water and hot fire have been thrown on men battling for
causes no higher nor holier than this, yet neither has fire been able
to wither nor water to quench their honest zeal. But this good soul on
being sprinkled laid down his arms; he was commonplace. Moreover, he
was guilty of something beside cowardice. He let a small egotistical
pique sully as well as betray a great cause. "The justices have thrown
cold water on my remonstrance--very well, gentlemen, torture your
prisoners ad libitum; I shall interfere no more; we shall see which
was in the right, you or I."
This was a narrow little view of wide and terrible consequences; it
was infinitesimal egotism--the spirit and essence of commonplace.
His inclinations were good, but feeble--he was commonplace. His heart
was good, but tepid--he was commonplace. Had he loved the New
Testament and the Saviour of mankind, he would have fought Hawes tooth
and nail; he could not have helped it. But he did not love either; he
only liked them--he was commonplace. When the thief cursed this man,
he was guilty of an extravagance as well as a crime; the man was not
worth cursing--he was commonplace.
The new chaplain arrived soon after these events. The new chaplain was
accompanied by his friend, the Rev. James Lepel, chaplain of a jail in
the north of England. After five years' unremitting duty he was now
enjoying a week's leave of absence.
The three clergymen visited the cells. Mr. Lepel cross-examined
several prisoners. The new chaplain spoke little, but seemed
observant, and once or twice made a note. Now it so happened that
almost the last cell they entered was Tom Robinson's. They found him
sitting all of a heap in a corner, moody and sullen.
At sight of three black coats and white ties the thief opened his
eyes, and with a sort of repugnance turned his back on the intruders.
"Come, my lad," said the turnkey sternly, "no tricks, if you please.
Turn round," cried he savagely, "and make your bow to the gentlemen."
Robinson wheeled round with flashing eyes, and checking an evident
desire to dash at them, instantly made a bow so very low, so very
obsequious, and, by a furtive expression, so contemptuous, that Mr.
Lepel colored with indignation and moved toward the door in silence.
The turnkey muttered, "He has been very strange this few days past.
Mr. Fry thinks he is hardly safe." Then, turning to the new chaplain,
the man, whose name was Evans, said, "Better not go into his cell,
sir, without one of us with you."
"What is the matter with him?" inquired the reverend gentleman.
"Oh, I don't know as there is anything the matter with him; only he
has been disciplined once or twice, and it goes down the wrong way
with some of them at first starting. Governor says he will have to be
put in the dark cell if he does not get better."
"The dark cell? hum! Pray what is the effect of the dark cell on a
"Well, sir, it cows them more than anything."
"Where are your dark cells?"
"They are down below, sir. You can look at them after the kitchen."
"I must go into the town," said Mr. Lepel, looking at his watch. "I
promised to dine with my relations at three o'clock."
"Come and see the oubliettes first. We have seen everything else."
"With all my heart!"
They descended below the ground-floor, and then Evans unlocked a
massive tight-fitting door opening upon what appeared to be a black
substance; this was, however, no substance--but vacancy without any
degree of light. The light crossing the threshold from the open door
seemed to cut a slice out of it.
The newcomers looked into it. Mr. Lepel with grim satisfaction, the
other with awe and curiosity.
"When shall you be back, Lepel?" inquired he thoughtfully.
"Oh, before nine o'clock."
"Then perhaps you will both do me the honor to drink a cup of tea with
me," said Mr. Jones, courteously.
"Good-by, then, for the present," said the new chaplain.
"Why, where are you going?"
"What, into the dark cell?"
"Well!" ejaculated Evans.
"You won't stay there long."
"Until you return, Lepel."
"What a fancy!"
Mr. Jones looked not a little surprised. The turnkey grinned. The
reverend gentleman stepped at once into the cell and was lost to
"Do not let me out before eight o'clock," said his voice, "and you,
Lepel, inquire for me as soon as you return, for I feel a little
nervous. Now shut the door."
The door was closed on the reverend gentleman, and the little group
outside, after looking at one another with a humorous expression,
separated, and each went after his own affairs.
Evans lingered behind, and took a look at the massy door, behind which
for the first time a man had gone voluntarily, and after grave
deliberation delivered himself at long intervals of the two following
"Well! I'm blest!!"
"Well! I'm blowed!!"
MR. LEPEL returned somewhat earlier than he had intended. On entering
the jail it so happened that he met the governor, and seized this
opportunity of conversing with him.
He expressed at once so warm an admiration of the jail and the system
pursued in it, that Hawes began to take a fancy to him.
They compared notes, and agreed that no system but the separate and
silent had a leg to stand on; and as they returned together from
visiting the ground-floor cells, Mr. Lepel had the honor of giving a
new light to Hawes himself.
"If I could have my way the debtors should be in separate cells. I
would have but one system in a jail."
Hawes laughed incredulously. "There would be a fine outcry if we
treated the debtors the same as we do the rogues."
"Mr. Hawes," said the other firmly, "an honest man very seldom finds
his way into any part of a jail. Extravagant people and tradesmen who
have abused the principle of credit, deserve punishment, and above all
require discipline and compulsory self-communion to bring them to
amend their ways."
"That is right, sir," cried Hawes, a sudden light breaking on him,
"and it certainly is a mistake letting them enjoy themselves."
"And corrupt each other."
Hawes. A prison should be confinement.
Lepel. And seclusion from all but profitable company.
Hawes. It is not a place of amusement.
Lepel. There should be no idle conversation.
"And no noise," put in Hawes hastily.
"However, this prison is a model for all the prisons in the land, and
I shall feel quite sad when I go back to my duty in Cumberland."
"Cumberland? Why, you are our new chaplain, aren't ye?"
"No! I am not so fortunate, I am a friend of his; my name is Lepel."
"Oh, you are Mr. Lepel, and where is our one? I heard he had been all
over the jail."
"What, have you not seen him?"
"No! he has never been near me. Not very polite, I think."
"Hallo! what is wrong!"
"I think I know where he is; he is not far off. I will go and find him
if you will excuse me."
"No! we won't trouble you. Here, Hodges, come here. Have you seen the
new chaplain--where is he?"
"Well, sir, Evans tells me he is--" click!
"Confound you, don't stand grinning. Where is he?"
"In the black hole, sir!"
"What d'ye mean by the black hole? The dust hole?"
"No, sir, I mean the dark cells."
"Then why don't you say the dark cells? Has he been there long?"
Mr. Lepel answered the question. "Ever since three o'clock, and it is
nearly nine; and we are both of us to drink tea with Mr. Jones."
Mr. Hawes showed no hurry. "What did he want to go in them for?"
"I have no idea, unless it was to see what it is like."
"Well, but I like that!" said Hawes. "That is entering into the
system. Let us see how he comes on."
Mr. Hawes, Mr. Lepel and Hodges went to the dark cells; on their way
they were joined by Evans.
The governor took out his own keys, and Evans having indicated the
cell, for there were three, he unlocked it and threw the door wide
open. They all looked in, but there was nothing to be seen.
"I hope nothing is the matter," said Mr. Lepel, in considerable
agitation, and he groped his way into the cave. As he put out his hand
it was taken almost violently by the self-immured, who cried:
"Oh, Lepel!" and held him in a strong but tremulous grasp. Then, after
a pause, he said more calmly: "The light dazzles me! the place seems
on fire now! Perhaps you will be kind enough to lend me your arm,
Mr. Lepel led him out; he had one hand before his eyes, which he
gradually withdrew while speaking. He found himself in the middle of a
group with a sly sneer on their faces mixed with some curiosity.
"How long have I been there?" asked he quietly.
"Six hours; it is nine o'clock."
"Only six hours! incredible!"
"Well, sir, I suppose you are not sorry to be out?"
"This is Mr. Hawes, the governor," put in Mr. Lepel.
Hawes continued jocosely, "What does it feel like, sir?"
"I shall have the honor of telling you that in private, Mr. Hawes. I
think, Lepel, we have an engagement with Mr. Jones at nine o'clock."
So saying, the new chaplain, with a bow to the governor, took his
friend's arm and went to tea with Mr. Jones.
"There, now," said Hawes to the turnkeys, "that is a gentleman. He
doesn't blurt everything out before you fellows; he reserves it for
his superior officer."
Next morning the new chaplain requested Mr. Lepel to visit the
prisoner's cells in a certain order, and make notes of their
characters as far as he could guess them. He himself visited them in
another order and made his notes. In the evening they compared these.
We must be content with an extract or two.
MR. LEPEL'S. THE NEW CHAPLAIN'S.
Rock, No. 37.-- A very promising 37, Rock.-- Professes penitence.
subject, penitent and resigned. Asked him suddenly what sins
Says, "if the door of the prison weighed most on his conscience.
was left open he would not go No answer. Prepared with an
out." Has learned 250 texts, and abstract penitence, but no
is learning fifteen a day. particulars: reason obvious.
Mem. With this man speak on any
topic rather than religion at
present. Pray for this
self-deceiver as I would for a
Josephs, No. -- An interesting Josephs.-- An amiable boy; seems
boy, ignorant, but apparently out of health and spirits.
well-disposed. In ill health. Says he has been overworked
The surgeon should be consulted and punished for inability. Shall
about him. intercede with the governor for
Mem. Pale and hollow-eyed; pulse
Strutt, No. -- Sullen, impenitent Strutt.-- This poor man is in
and brutal. Says it is no use his a state of deep depression. I
learning texts, they won't stay much fear the want of light
in his head. Discontented; wants and air and society is crushing
to go out in the yard. The best him. He is fifty years old.
one can hope for here is that the
punishment, which he finds so Mem. Inquire whether separate
severe, will deter him in future. confinement tries men harder
Says he will never come here after a certain age. Talked
again, but doubts whether he to him; told him stories with
shall get out alive. Gave him all the animation I could.
some tracts. Stayed half an hour with him.
He brightened up a little, and
asked me to come again. Nothing
to be done here at present but
amuse the poor soul.
Mem. Watch him jealously.
Jessup.-- The prisoner whose Jessup.-- Like Rock, professes
term, owing to his excellent extravagant penitence, indifference
conduct, is reduced from twelve to personal liberty, and love of
months to nine months, so that Scripture. He overdoes it greatly.
he goes out next week. Having However, it appears he has gained
discovered that the news had his point by it. He has induced
not been conveyed to him, I asked Mr. Jones to plead for him in
Mr. Hawes to let me be the bearer. mitigation of punishment, and
When I told him, his only remark next week he leaves prison for
was, with an air of regret: a little while.
"Then I shall not finish my
Gospels!" I begged for an He asked me to hear some texts.
explanation, when he told I said, "No, my poor fellow; they
me that for eight months he will do you as much good whether I
had been committing the Gospels hear you them or not." By a light
to heart, and that he was just that flashed into his eye I saw
beginning St. John, which now he he comprehended the equivoque;
should never finish. I said he but he suppressed his intelligence
must finish it at home in the and answered piously,
intervals of honest labor. His "That they will, your reverence."
countenance brightened, and he
said he would.
A most cheering case, and one of
the best proofs of the efficacy
of the separate and silent system
I have met with for some time. I
fear I almost grudge you the
possession of such an example.
Robinson-- A bad subject, Robinson.--This man wears a
rebellious and savage; refuses to singular look of scorn as well
speak. Time and the discipline as hatred, which, coupled with
will probably break him of this; his repeated refusals to speak
but I do not think he will ever to me, provoked me so that I
make a good prisoner! felt strongly tempted to knock
him down. How unworthy, to be
provoked at anything a great
sufferer can say or do; every
solitary prisoner must surely be
a great sufferer.
My judgment is quite at fault
here. I know no more than a child
what is this man's character, and
the cause of his strange conduct.
Mem. Inquire his antecedents of
the turnkeys. Oh, Lord, enlighten
me, and give me wisdom for the
great and deep and difficult task
I have so boldly undertaken!
The next day the new chaplain met the surgeon in the jail and took him
into Josephs' cell.
"He only wants a little rest and nourishing food; he would be the
better for a little amusement, but--" and the man of science shrugged
"Can you read?" said Mr. Lepel.
"Very little, sir."
"Let the schoolmaster come to him every day," suggested that
experienced individual. He knew what separate confinement was. What
bores a boy out of prison amuses him in it.
Hawes gave a cold consent. So poor little Josephs had a richer diet
and rest from crank and pillory, and the schoolmaster spent half an
hour every day teaching him; and above all, the new chaplain sat in
his cell and told him stories that interested him--told him how very
wicked some boys had been; what a many clever wicked things they had
done and not been happy, then how they had repented and learned to
pray to be good, and how by Divine help they had become good, and how
some had gone to heaven soon after, and were now happy and pure as the
angels; and others had stayed on earth and were good and honest and
just men; not so happy as those others who were dead, but content (and
that the wicked never are), and waiting God's pleasure to go away and
be happy forever.
Josephs listened to the good chaplain's tales and conversation with
wonderful interest, and his face always brightened when that gentleman
came into his cell. The schoolmaster reported him not quick, but
docile. These were his halcyon days.
But Robinson remained a silent basilisk. The chaplain visited him
every day, said one or two kind words to him and retired without
receiving a word or a look of acknowledgment. One day, surprised and
hurt by this continued obduracy, the chaplain retired with an audible
sigh. Robinson heard it, and ground his teeth with satisfaction.
Solitary, tortured and degraded, he had still found one whom he could
annoy a little bit.
The governor and the new chaplain agreed charmingly; constant
civilities passed between them. The chaplain assisted Mr. Hawes to
turn the phrases of his yearly report; and Mr. Hawes more than repaid
him by consenting to his introducing various handicrafts into the
prison--at his own expense, not the county's.
Parson must have got a longer purse than most of us, thought Hawes,
and it increased his respect.
Hawes shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say, "You are just
flinging your money into the dirt;" but the other, interpreting his
"I hope more good from this than from all the sermons I shall preach
in your chapel."
Probably Mr. Hawes would not have been so indifferent had he known
that this introduction of rational labor was intended as the first
step toward undermining and expelling the sacred crank.
This clergyman had a secret horror and hatred of the crank. He called
it a monster got by folly upon science to degrade labor below theft;
for theft is immoral, but crank labor is immoral and idiotic, too,
said he. The crank is a diabolical engine to keep thieves from ever
being anything but thieves. He arrived at this conclusion by a chain
of reasoning for which there is no room in a narrative already
smothered in words.
This antipathy to the crank quite overpowered him. He had been now
three weeks in the jail, and all that time only thrice in the
labor-yard. It cut his understanding like a knife to see a man turn a
handle for hours and nothing come of it.
However, one day, from a sense of duty, he forced himself into the
labor-yard and walked wincing down the row.
"These are our schoolmen," said he. "As the schoolmen labored most
intellectually and scientifically--practical result, nil, so these
labor harder than other men--result, nil. This is literally 'beating
the air.' The ancients imagined tortures particularly trying to
nature, that of Sisyphus to wit; everlasting labor embittered by
everlasting nihilification. We have made Sisyphism vulgar. Here are
fifteen Sisyphi. Only the wise or ancients called this thing infernal
torture; our old women call it salutary discipline."
He was running on in this style, heaping satire and sorrow upon the
crank, when suddenly, at the mouth of one of the farthest cells, he
stopped and threw up his hands with an ejaculation of astonishment and
dismay. There was a man jammed in a strait waistcoat, pinned against
the wall by a strap, and throttling in a huge collar; his face was
white, his lips livid, and his eyes rolling despairingly. It was
Thomas Robinson. This sight took away the chaplain's breath. When he
recovered himself, "What is this?" said he to the turnkeys, sternly.
"Prisoner refractory at the crank," answered Hodges, doggedly.
The clergyman walked up to Robinson and examined the collar, the
waistcoat and the strap. "Have you the governor's authority for this
act?" said he firmly.
"Rule is if they won't do their work, the jacket."
"Have you the governor's authority for this particular act?"
"In a general way we have."
"In a word, you are not acting under his authority, and you know it.
Take the man down this moment."
The men hesitated.
"If you don't I shall."
The turnkeys, a little staggered by his firmness, began to confer in
whispers. The chaplain, who was one of your decided men, could not
wait the consultation. He sprang to Robinson's head and began to undo
the collar. The others, seeing this decided move, came and helped him.
The collar and the strap being loosed, the thief's body, ensacked as
it was, fell helplessly forward. He had fainted during the discussion;
in fact, his senses were shut when the chaplain first came to the
cell. The chaplain caught him, and being a very strong man, saved him
from a dangerous fall and seated him gently with his back to the wall.
Water was sprinkled in his face. The chaplain went hastily to find the
governor. He came to him pale and out of breath.
"I found the turnkeys outraging a prisoner."
"Indeed!" said the governor. It was a new idea to him that anything
could be an outrage on a prisoner.
"They confessed they had not your authority, so I took upon me to undo
"I now leave the matter in your hands, sir."
"I will see into it, sir."
The chaplain left Mr. Hawes abruptly, for he was seized with a sudden
languor and nausea; he went to his own house and there he was
violently sick. Shaking off as quickly as he could this weakness, he
went at once to Robinson's cell. He found him coiled up like a snake.
He came hastily into the cell with the natural effusion of a man who
had taken another man's part.
"I want to ask you one question: What had you done that they should
use you like that?"
"It is not from idle curiosity I ask you, but that I may be able to
advise you, or intercede for you if the punishment should appear too
severe for the offense."
"Come, I would wait here ever so long upon the chance of your speaking
to me if you were the only prisoner, but there are others in their
solitude longing for me; time is precious; will you speak to one who
desires to be your friend?"
A flush of impatience and anger crossed the chaplain's brow. In most
men it would have found vent in words. This man but turned away to
hide it from its object. He gulped his brief ire down and said only,
"So then I am never to be any use to you," and went sorrowfully away.
Robinson coiled himself up a little tighter, and hugged his hatred of
all mankind closer, like a treasure that some one had just tried to do
him out of.
As the chaplain came out of his cell he was met by Hawes, whose
countenance wore a gloomy expression that soon found its way into
"The chaplain is not allowed to interfere between me and the prisoners
in this jail."
"Explain, Mr. Hawes."
"You have been and ordered my turnkeys to relax punishment."
"You forget, Mr. Hawes, I explained to you that they were acting
without the requisite authority from you."
"That is all right, and I have called them to account, but then you
are not to order them either; you should have applied to me."
"I see, I see! Forgive me this little breach of routine where a human
being's sufferings would have been prolonged by etiquette."
"Ugh! Well, it must not occur again."
"I trust the occasion will not."
"For that matter, you will often see refractory prisoners punished in
this jail. You had better mind your own business in the jail, it will
find you work enough."
"I will, Mr. Hawes; to dissuade men from cruelty is a part of it."
"If you come between me and the prisoners, sir, you won't be long
The new chaplain smiled.
"What does it matter whether I'm here or in Patagonia, so that I do my
duty wherever I am?" said he with a fine mixture of good-humor and
Hawes turned his back rudely and went and reduced Robinson's supper
fifty per cent.
"Evans, is that sort of punishment often inflicted here?"
"Well, sir, yes. It is a common punishment of this jail."
"It must be very painful."
"No, sir, it's a little _on_comfortable that is all; and then we've
got such a lot here we are obliged to be down on 'em like a
sledge-hammer, or they'd eat us up alive."
"Have you got the things, the jacket, collar, etc.?"
"I know where to find them," said Evans with a sly look.
"Bring them to me directly to this empty cell."
"Well, sir," higgled Evans, "in course I don't like to refuse your
"Then don't refuse me," retorted the other, sharp as a needle.
Evans went off directly and soon returned with the materials. The
chaplain examined them a while; he then took off his coat.
"Operate on me, Evans."
"Operate on you, sir!"
"Yes! There, don't stand staring, my good man; hold up the
waistcoat--now strap it tight--tighter--no nonsense--Robinson was
strapped tighter than that yesterday. I want to know what we are doing
to our fellow-creatures in this place. The collar now."
"But, sir, the collar will nip you. I tell you that beforehand."
"Not more than it nips my prisoners. Now strap me to the wall. Why do
"I don't know whether I am doing right, sir, you being a parson.
Perhaps I shall have no luck after this."
"Don't be silly, Evans. Volenti non fit injuria--that means, you may
torture a bishop if he bids you."
"There you are, sir."
"Yes! here I am. Now go away and come in half an hour."
"I think I had better stay, sir. You will soon be sick of it."
"Go, and come in half an hour," was the firm reply.
Our chaplain felt that if the man did not go he should not be five
minutes before he asked to be released, and he was determined to know
"what we are doing."
Evans had not been gone ten minutes before he bitterly repented
letting him go, and when that worthy returned he found him muttering
faintly, "It is in a good cause-it is in a good cause--"
Evans wore a grin.
"You shall pay for that grin," said the chaplain to himself.
"Well, sir, have you had enough of it?"
"Yes, Evans; you may loose me," said the other with affected
"What is it like, sir? haw! haw!"
"It is as you described it, _on_comfortable; but the knowledge I
have gained in it is invaluable. You shall share it."
"With all my heart, sir; you can tell me what it is like."
"Oh, no! such knowledge can never be imparted by description; you
shall take your turn in the jacket."
"Not if I know it."
"What, not for the sake of knowledge?"
"Oh! I can guess what it is like."
"But you will oblige me?"
"Some other way, sir, if you please."
"Besides, I will give you a guinea."
"Oh! that alters the case, sir. But only for half an hour."
"Only for half an hour."
Evans was triced up and pinned to the wall; the chaplain took out a
guinea and placed it in his sight, and walked out.
In about ten minutes he returned, and there was Evans, his face drawn
down by pain.
"Well, how do you like it?"
"Oh! pretty well, sir; it isn't worth making an outcry about."
"Only a little _on_comfortable."
"That is all; if it wasn't for the confounded cramp."
"Let us compare notes," said the chaplain, sitting down opposite. "I
found it worse than uncomfortable. First there was a terrible sense of
utter impotence, then came on racking cramps, for which there was no
relief because I could not move."
"Nothing, sir! mum--mum--dear guinea!"
"The jagged collar gave me much pain, too; it rasped my poor throat
like a file."
"Why the dickens didn't you tell me all this before, sir," said Evans
ruefully; "it is no use now I've been and gone into the same oven like
"I had my reasons for not telling you before; good-by for the
"Don't stay over the half hour, for goodness' sake, sir."
"No! adieu for the present."
He did not go far. He listened and heard the plucky Evans groan. He
came hastily in.
"Courage, my fine fellow, only eight minutes more and the guinea is
"How many more minutes, sir?"
"Then, oh! undo me, sir, if you please."
"What! forfeit the guinea for eight minutes--seven, it is only seven
"Hang the guinea, let me down, sir, if there's pity in you."
"With all my heart," said the reverend gentleman, pocketing the
guinea, and he loosed Evans with all speed.
The man stretched his limbs with ejaculations of pain between every
stretch, and put his handkerchief on very gingerly. He looked sulky
and said nothing. The other watched him keenly, for there was
something about him that showed his mind was working.
"There is your guinea."
"Oh, no! I didn't earn it."
"Oh, if you think that (putting it to the lips of his pocket), let me
make you a present of it" (handing it out again). Evans smiled. "It is
a good servant. That little coin has got me one friend more for these
poor prisoners. You don't understand me, Evans. Well, you will. Now,
look at me; from this moment, sir, you and I stand on a different
footing from others in this jail. We know what we are doing when we
put a prisoner in that thing; the others don't. The greater the
knowledge, the greater the guilt. May we both be kept from the crime
of cruelty. Good-night!"
"Good-night, your reverence!" said the man gently, awed by his sudden
The chaplain retired. Evans looked after him, and then down into his
"Well, I'm blowed!--Well, I'm blest!--Got a guinea, though!!"
GOVERNOR HAWES had qualities good in themselves, but ill-directed, and
therefore not good in their results--determination for one. He was not
a man to yield a step to opposition. He was a much greater man than
Jones. He was like a torrent, to whose progress if you oppose a great
stone it brawls and struggles past it and round it and over it with
more vigor than before.
"I will be master in this jail!" was the creed of Hawes. He docked
Robinson's supper one half, ditto his breakfast next day, and set him
a tremendous task of crank. Now in jail a day's food and a day's crank
are too nicely balanced to admit of the weights being tampered with.
So Robinson's demi-starvation paved the way for further punishment. At
one o'clock he was five hundred revolutions short, and instead of
going to his dinner he was tied up in the infernal machine. Now the
new chaplain came three times into the yard that day, and the third
time, about four o'clock, he found Robinson pinned to the wall, jammed
in the waistcoat and griped in the collar. His blood ran cold at sight
of him, for the man had been hours in the pillory and nature was
"What has he done?"
"Refractory at crank."
"I saw him working at the crank when I came here last."
"Hasn't made his number good, though."
"Humph! You have the governor's own orders?"
"How long is he to be so?"
"Till fresh orders."
"I will see the effect of this punishment on the prisoner and note it
down for my report." And he took out his note-book and leaned his back
against the wall.
The simple action of taking out a notebook gave the operators a
certain qualm of doubt. Fry whispered Hodges to go and tell the
governor. On his return Hodges found the parties as he had left them,
except Robinson--he was paler and his lips turning bluer.
"Your victim is fainting," said the chaplain sternly.
"Only shamming, sir," said Fry. "Bucket, Hodges."
The bucket was brought and the contents were flung over Robinson.
The chaplain gave a cry of dismay. The turnkeys both laughed at this.
"You see he was only shamming, sir," said Hodges. "He is come to the
moment the water touched him."
"A plain proof he was not shamming. A bucket of water thrown over any
one about to faint would always bring them to; but if a man had made
up his mind to sham, he could do it in spite of water. Of course you
will take him down now?"
"Not till fresh orders."
"On your peril be it if any harm befalls this prisoner--you are
At this juncture Hawes came into the yard. His cheek was flushed and
his eye glittered. He expected and rather hoped a collision with his
"Well, what is the matter?"
"Nothing, sir; only his reverence is threatening us."
"What is he threatening you for?"
"Mr. Hawes, I told these men that I should hold them responsible if
any harm came to the prisoner for their cruelty. I now tell you that
he has just fainted from bodily distress caused by this infernal
engine, and I hold you, Mr. Hawes, responsible for this man's life and
well-being, which are here attacked contrary to the custom of all her
majesty's prisons, and contrary to the intention of all punishment,
which is for the culprit's good, not for his injury either in soul or
"And what will you do?" said Hawes, glaring contemptuously at the
turnkeys, who wore rather a blank look.
"Mr. Hawes," replied the other gravely, "I have spoken to warn you,
not to threaten you."
"What I do is done with the consent of the visiting justices. They are
my masters, and no one else."
"They have not seen a prisoner crucified."
"Crucified! What d'ye mean by crucified?"
"Don't you see that the torture before our eyes is crucifixion?"
"No! I don't. No nails!"
"Nails were not always used in crucifixion; sometimes cords. Don't
deceive yourself with a name; nothing misleads like a false name. This
punishment is falsely called the jacket--it is jacket, collar, straps,
applied with cruelty. It is crucifixion minus nails but plus a
"Whatever it is, the justices have seen and approved it. Haven't they,
"That they have, sir; scores of times."
"Then may Heaven forgive them and direct me." And the chaplain entered
the cell despondently, and bent his pitying eye steadily on the thief,
who seemed to him at the moment a better companion than the three
honest but cruel men.
He waited there very, very sorrowful and thoughtful for more than half
an hour. Then Hawes, who left the yard as soon as he had conquered his
opponent, sent in Evans with an order to take Robinson to his
The chaplain saw the man taken down from the wall, and that done went
hastily to his own house; there, the contest being over, he was seized
with a violent sickness and trembling. To see a fellow-creature suffer
and not be able to relieve him was death to this man. He was game to
the last drop of his blood so long as there was any good to be done,
but action ended, a reaction came, in which he was all pity and sorrow
and distress because of a fellow-creature's distress. No one that saw
his firmness in the torture-cell would have guessed how weak he was
within, and how stoutly his great heart had to battle against a
sensitive nature and nerves tuned too high.
He gave half an hour to the weakness of nature, and then he was all
duty once more.
He went first into Robinson's cell. He found him worse than ever:
despair as well as hatred gleamed in his eye.
"My poor fellow, is there no way for you to avoid these dreadful
It is to be observed, though, that Robinson had no idea how far the
chaplain had carried his remonstrance against his torture; that
remonstrance had been uttered privately to the turnkeys and the
governor. Besides, the man was half stupefied when the chaplain first
came there. And now he was in such pain and despair. He was like the
genii confined in the chest and thrown into the water by Soliman. Had
this good friend come to him at first starting, he would have thrown
himself into his arms; but it came too late now. He hated all mankind.
He had lost all belief in genuine kindness. Like Orlando,
He thought that all things had been savage here.
The chaplain, on the other hand, began to think that Robinson was a
downright brute, and one on whom kindness was and would be wasted.
Still, true to his nature, he admitted no small pique. He reasoned
gently and kindly with him--very kindly.
"My poor soul," said he, "have you so many friends in this hard place
that you can afford to repulse one who desires to be your friend and
to do you good?" No answer. "Well, then, if you will not let me
comfort you, at least you cannot prevent my praying for you, for you
are on the road to despair and will take no help."
So, then, this good creature did actually kneel upon the hard stones
of the cell and offer a prayer--a very short but earnest one.
"Oh God, to whom all hearts are open, enlighten me that I may
understand this my afflicted brother's heart, and learn how to do him
good, and comfort him out of Thy word--Thy grace assisting me."
Robinson looked down at him with wild, staring but lack-luster eyes
and open mouth. He rose from the floor, and casting a look of great
benignity on the sullen brute, he was about to go, when he observed
that Robinson was trembling in a very peculiar way.
"You are ill," said he hastily, and took a step toward him.
At this Robinson, with a wild and furious gesture, waved him to the
door and turned his face to the wall; then this refined gentleman
bowed his head, as much as to say you shall be master of this
apartment and dismiss any one you do not like, and went gently away
with a little sigh. And the last that he saw was Robinson trembling
with averted face and eyes bent down.
Outside he met Evans, who said to him half bluntly half respectfully,
"I don't like to see you going into that cell, sir; the man is not to
be trusted. He is very strange."
"What do you mean? do you fear for his reason?"
"Why not, sir? We have sent a pretty many to the lunatic asylum since
I was a warder here."
"And some have broke prison a shorter way than that," said the man
The chaplain groaned--and looked at the speaker with an expression of
terror. Evans noticed it and said gravely:
"You should not have come to such place as this, sir; you are not fit
"Why am I not fit for it?"
"Too good for it, sir."
"You talk foolishly, Mr. Evans. In the first place, 'too good' is a
ludicrous combination of language, in the next the worse a place is
the more need of somebody being good in it to make it better. But I
suppose you are one of those who think that evil is naturally stronger
than good. Delusion springs from this, that the wicked are in earnest
and the good are lukewarm. Good is stronger than evil. A single really
good man in an ill place is like a little yeast in a gallon of dough;
it can leaven the mass. If St. Paul or even George Whitfield had been
in Lot's place all those years there would have been more than fifty
good men in Sodom; but this is out of place. I want you to give me the
benefit of your experience, Evans. When I went to Robinson and spoke
kindly to him he trembled all over. What on earth does that mean?"
"Trembled, did he, and never spoke?"
"I'm thinking, sir! I'm thinking. You didn't touch him?"
"Touch him, no; what should I touch him for?"
"Well, don't do it, sir. And don't go near him. You have had an
escape, you have. He was in two minds about pitching into you."
"You think it was rage! Humph! it did not give me that impression."
"Sir, did you ever go to pat a strange dog?"
"I have done myself that honor."
"Well, if he wags his tail you know it is all right; but say he puts
his tail between his legs, what will he do if you pat him?"
"Bite me. Experto crede."
"No! if you are ever so expert he will bite you or try. Now putting of
his tail between his legs, that passes for a sign of fear in a dog,
all one as trembling does in a man. Do you see what I am driving at?"
"Then you had better leave the spiteful brute to himself?"
"No! that would be to condemn him to the worst companion he can have."
"But if he should pitch into you, sir?"
"Then he will pitch into a man twice as strong as himself, and a pupil
of Bendigo. Don't be silly, Evans."
Hodges. Pity you wasn't in chapel, Mr. Fry.
Hodges. The new chaplain!
Fry. Well, what did he do?
Hodges. He waked 'em all up, I can tell you. Governor couldn't get a
wink all the sermon.
Fry. What did he tell you?
Hodges. Told us he loved us.
Fry. Loved who?
Hodges. All of us. Governor, turnkeys, and especially the prisoners,
because they were in trouble. "My Master loves you, though He hates
your sins," says he; and "I love every mother's son of you." What d'ye
think of that? He loves the whole biling! Told 'em so, however.
Fry. Loves 'em, does he? Well, that's a new lay! After all, there's no
accounting for tastes, you know. Haw! haw!
Hodges. Haw! haw! ho!
This same Sunday afternoon, soon after service, the chaplain came to
Robinson's cell. Evans unlocked it, looking rather uneasy, and would
have come in with the reverend gentleman; but he forbade him and
walked quickly into the cell, as Van Amburgh goes among his leopards
and panthers. He had in his hand a little box.
"I have brought you some ointment--some nice cooling ointment," said
he, "to rub on your neck. I saw it was frayed by that collar."
(Pause.) No answer.
"Will you let me see you use it?"
The chaplain took the box off the table, opened it and went up to
Robinson and began quietly to apply some of the grateful soothing
ointment to his frayed throat. The man trembled all over. The chaplain
kept his eye calm but firm upon him, as on a dog of doubtful temper.
Robinson put up his hand in a feeble sort of way to prevent the other
from doing him good. His reverence took the said hand in a quiet but
powerful grasp, and applied the ointment all the same. Robinson said
nothing, but he was seized with this extraordinary trembling.
"Good-by," said his reverence kindly. "I leave you the box; and see,
here are some tracts I have selected for you. They are not dull; there
are stories in them, and the dialogue is pretty good. It is nearer
nature than you will find it in works of greater pretension. Here a
carpenter talks something like a carpenter, and a footman something
like a footman, and a factory-girl something like a girl employed in a
factory. They don't all talk book--you will be able to read them.
Begin with this one, 'The Wages of Sin are Death.' Good-by!" And with
these words and a kind smile he left the cell.
"From the chaplain, sir," said Evans to the governor, touching his
"DEAR SIR--Will you be good enough to send me by the bearer a copy of
the prison rules, especially those that treat of the punishments to be
inflicted on prisoners? "I am, "Yours, etc."
Hawes had no sooner read this innocent-looking missive, than he burst
out into a tide of execrations; he concluded by saying, "Tell him I
have not got a spare copy; Mr. Jones will give him his."
This answer disappointed the chaplain sadly; for Mr. Jones had left
the town, and was not expected to return for some days. The hostile
spirit of the governor was evident in this reply. The chaplain felt he
was at war, and his was an energetic but peace-loving nature. He paced
the corridor, looking both thoughtful and sad. The rough Evans eyed
him with interest, and he also fell into meditation and scratched his
head, invariable concomitant of thought with Evans.
It was toward evening, and his reverence still paced the corridor,
downhearted at opposition and wickedness, but not without hope, and
full of lovely and charitable wishes for all his flock, when the
melancholy Fry suddenly came out of a prisoner's cell radiant with
"What is amiss?" asked the chaplain.
"This is the matter," said Fry, and he showed him a deuce of clubs, a
five of hearts and an ace of diamonds, and so on; two or three cards
of each suit. "A prisoner has been making these out of his tracts!"
"How could he do that?"
"Look here, sir. He has kept a little of his gruel till it turned to
paste, and then he has pasted three or four leaves of the tracts
together and dried them, and then cut them into cards."
"But the colors--how could he get them?"
"That is what beats me altogether; but some of these prisoners know
more than the bench of bishops."
"More evil, I conclude you mean?"
"More of all sorts, sir. However, I am taking them to the governor,
and he will fathom it, if any one can."
"Leave one red card and one black with me."
While Fry was gong the chaplain examined the cards with curiosity and
that admiration of inventive resource which a superior mind cannot
help feeling. There they were, a fine red deuce of hearts and a fine
black four of spades--cards made without pasteboard and painted
without paint. But how? that was the question. The chaplain entered
upon this question with his usual zeal; but happening to reverse one
of the cards, it was his fate to see on the back of it:
"THE WAGES OF SIN ARE DEATH."
He reddened at the sight. Here was an affront! "The sulky brute could
amuse himself cutting up my tracts!"
Presently the governor came up with his satellites.
"Take No. 19 out of his cell for punishment."
At this word the chaplain's short-lived anger began to cool. They
brought Robinson out.
"So you have been at it again," cried the governor in threatening
terms. "Now you will tell me where you got the paint to make these
"Do you hear, ye sulky brute?"
No answer, but a glittering eye bent on Hawes.
"Put him in the jacket," cried Hawes with an oath.
Hodges and Fry laid each a hand upon the man's shoulder and walked him
"Stop!" cried Hawes suddenly; "his reverence is here, and he is not
partial to the jacket."
The chaplain was innocent enough to make a graceful grateful bow to
"Give him the dark cell for twenty-four hours," continued Hawes with a
The thief gave a cry of dismay and shook himself clear of the
"Anything but that," cried he with trembling voice.
"Oh! you have found your tongue, have you?"
"Any punishment but that," almost shrieked the despairing man. "Leave
me my reason. You have robbed me of everything else. For pity's sake
leave me my reason!"
The governor made a signal to the turnkeys; they stepped toward the
thief. The thief sprung out of their way, his eye rolling wildly as if
in search of escape. Seeing this the two turnkeys darted at him like
bulldogs, one on each side. This time, instead of flying, the thief
was observed to move his body in a springy way to meet them; with two
motions rapid as light and almost contemporaneous, he caught Hodges
between the eyes with his fist and drove his head like a battering-ram
into Fry's belly. Smack! ooff! and the two powerful men went down like
In a moment all the warders within sight or hearing came buzzing
round, and Hodges and Fry got up, the latter bleeding; both staring
confusedly. Seeing himself hemmed in, Robinson offered no further
resistance. He plumped himself down on the ground and there sat, and
they had to take him up and carry him to the dark cells. But as they
were dragging him along by the shoulders he caught sight of the
governor and chaplain looking down at him over the rails of Corridor
B. At sight of the latter the thief wrenched himself free from his
attendants, and screamed to him:
"Do you see this, you in the black coat? You that told us the other
day you loved us, and now stand coolly there and see me taken to the
black hole to be got ready for the mad-house? D'ye hear?"
"I hear you," replied the chaplain gravely and gently.
"You called us your brothers, you."
"I did, and do."
"Well, then, here is one of your brothers being taken to hell before
your eyes. I go there a man, but I shall come out a beast, and that
cowardly murderer by your side knows it, and you have not a word to
say. That is all a poor fellow gets by being your brother. My curse on
you all! butchers and hypocrites!"
"Give him twelve hours more for that," roared Hawes. "---- his eyes,
I'll break him, ---- him."
"Ah," yelled the thief, "you curse me, do you? d'ye hear that? The son
of a ---- appeals to Heaven against me! What? does this lump of dirt
believe there is a God? Then there must be one." Then suddenly
flinging himself on his knees, he cried, "If there is a God who pities
them that suffer, I cry to Him on my knees to torture you as you
torture us. May your name be shame, may your life be pain, and your
death loathsome! May your skin rot from your flesh, your flesh from
your bones, your bones from your body, and your soul split forever on
the rock of damnation!"
"Take him away," yelled Hawes, white as a sheet.
They tore him away by force, still threatening his persecutor with
outstretched hand and raging voice and blazing eyes, and flung him
into the dark dungeon.
"Cool yourself there, ye varmint," said Fry spitefully. Even his flesh
crept at the man's blasphemies.
Meantime, the chaplain had buried his face in his hands, and trembled
like a woman at the frightful blasphemies and passions of these two
"I'll make this place hell to him. He shan't need to go elsewhere,"
muttered Hawes aloud between his clinched teeth.
The chaplain groaned.
The governor heard him and turned on him: "Well, parson, you see he
doesn't thank you for interfering between him and me. He would rather
have had an hour or two of the jacket and have done with it."
The chaplain sighed. He felt weighed down in spirit by the wickedness
both of Hawes and of Robinson. He saw it was in vain at that moment to
try to soften the former in favor of the latter. He moved slowly away.
Hawes eyed him sneeringly.
"He is down upon his luck," thought Hawes; "his own fault for
interfering with me. I liked the man well enough, and showed it, if he
hadn't been a fool and put his nose into my business."
Half an hour had scarce elapsed when the chaplain came back.
"Mr. Hawes, I come to you as a petitioner."
"Indeed!" said Hawes, with a supercilious sneer very hard to bear.
The other would not notice it. "Pray, do not think I side with a
refractory prisoner if I beg you, not to countermand, but to modify
"Because he cannot bear so many hours of the dark cell."
"Is it too much to ask that you will give him six hours a day for four
days instead of twenty-four at a stretch?"
"I don't know whether it is too much for you to ask. I should say by
what I see of you that nothing is; but it is too much for me to grant.
The man has earned punishment; he has got it, and you have nothing to
do with it at all."
"Yes, I have the care of his soul, and how can I do his soul good if
he loses his reason?"
"Stuff! his reason's safe enough, what little he has."
"Do not say stuff! Do not be rash where the stake is so great, or
confident where you have no knowledge. You have never been in the dark
cell, Mr. Hawes; I have, and I assure you it tried my nerves to the
uttermost. I had many advantages over this poor man. I went in of my
own accord, animated by a desire of knowledge, supported by the
consciousness of right, my memory enriched by the reading of
five-and-twenty years, on which I could draw in the absence of
external objects; yet so dreadful was the place that, had I not been
fortified by communion with my omnipresent God, I do think my reason
would have suffered in that thick darkness and solitude. I repeated
thousands of lines of Homer, Virgil and the Greek dramatists; then I
came to Shakespeare, Corneille, Racine and Victor Hugo; then I tried
to think of a text and compose a sermon; but the minutes seemed hours,
leaden hours, and they weighed my head down and my heart down, and so
did the Egyptian darkness, till I sought refuge in prayer, and there I
"You pulled through it and so will he; and now I think of it, it is
too slight a punishment to give a refractory, blaspheming villain no
worse than a pious gentleman took on him for sport," sneered Hawes.
"You heard his language to me, the blaspheming dog?"
"I did! I did! and therefore pray you to pity his sinful soul,
exasperated by the severities he has already undergone. Oh, sir! the
wicked are more to be pitied than the good; and the good can endure
trials that wreck the wicked. I would rather see a righteous man
thrown into that dismal dungeon than this poor blaspheming sinner."
"The deuce you would!"
"For the righteous man has a strong tower that the sinner lacks. He is
fit to battle with solitude and fearful darkness; an unseen light
shines upon his soul, an unseen hand sustains him. The darkness is no
darkness to him, for the Sun of righteousness is nigh. In the deep
solitude he is not alone, for good angels whisper by his side. 'Yea,
though he walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yet shall he
fear no evil, for God is with him; his rod and his staff they comfort
him.' The wicked have not this comfort. To them darkness and solitude
must be too horrible. Satan--not God--is their companion. The ghosts
of their past crimes rise and swell the present horror. Remorse and
despair are added to the double gloom of solitude and darkness. You
don't know what you are doing when you shut up a poor lost sinner of
excitable temperament in that dreadful hole. It is a wild experiment
on a human frame. Pray be advised, pray be warned, pray let your heart
be softened and punish the man as he deserves--but do not destroy him!
oh, do not! do not destroy him!"
Up to this moment Hawes had worn a quiet, malicious grin. At last his
rage broke through this veil. He turned round black as night upon the
chaplain, who was bending toward him in earnest gasping yet sweet and
"The vagabond insulted me before all my servants, and that is why you
take his part. He would send me to hell if he had the upper hand. I've
got the upper hand, and so he shall taste it instead of me, till he
goes down on his marrowbones to me with my foot on his viper's tongue.
"Oh! do not curse him, above all now that he is in trouble and
"Let me alone, sir, and I'll let you," retorted Hawes savagely. "If I
curse him you can pray for him. I don't hinder you. Good-night;" and
Mr. Hawes turned his back very rudely.
"I will pray for him--and for you!"
So then the chaplain retired sorrowfully to his private room, and
here, sustained no longer by action, his high-tuned nature gave way. A
cold languor came over him. He locked the door that no one might see
his weakness, and then, succumbing to nature, he fell first into a
sickness and then into a trembling, and more than once hysterical
tears gushed from his eyes in the temporary prostration of his spirit
and his powers.
Such are the great. Men know their feats but not their struggles!
Meantime Robinson lay in the dark cell with a morsel of bread and
water, and no bed or chair, that hunger and unrest might co-operate
with darkness and solitude to his hurt. To this horrid abode it is now
our fate to follow a thief and a blasphemer. We must pass his gloomy
portal, over which might have been inscribed what Dante has written
over the gates of hell:
"ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE--ABANDON HOPE!!"
At six o'clock Robinson was thrust in, and his pittance of bread and
water with him; the door, which fitted like mosaic, was closed. The
steps retreated carrying away hope and human kind; there was silence,
and the man shivered in the thick black air that seemed a fluid, not
When the door closed his heart was yet beating with rage and wild
desire of vengeance. He nursed this rage as long as he could, but the
thick darkness soon cooled him and cowed him. He sat down upon the
floor, he ate his pittance very slowly, two mouthfuls a minute. "I
will be an hour eating it," said he, "and then an hour will have
passed." He thought he was an hour eating it, but in reality he was
scarce twenty minutes. The blackness seemed to smother him. "I will
shut it out," said he. He took out his handkerchief and wrapped his
head in it. "What a weak fool I am," cried he, "when we are asleep it
does not matter to us light or dark; I will go to sleep." He lay down,
his head still wrapped up, and tried to sleep. So passed the first
Second hour. He rose from the stone floor after a vain attempt to
sleep. "Oh, no!" cried he, "sleep is for those who are well and happy,
and who could enjoy themselves as well awake; it won't come to me to
save a poor wretch from despair. I must tire myself, and I am too cold
to sleep. Here goes for a warm." He groped to the wall, and keeping
his hand on it went round and round like a caged tiger. "Hawes hopes
to drive me to Bedlam. I'll do the best I can for myself to spite him.
May he lie in a place narrower than this, and almost as dark, with his
jaw down and his toes up before the year is out, curse him!" But the
poor wretch's curses quavered away into sobs and tears. "Oh, what have
I done to be used so as I am here? They drive me to despair, then
drive me to hell for despairing. Patience, or I shall go mad.
Patience! Patience!" This hour was passed cursing and weeping and
groping for warmth and fatigue--in vain.
Third hour. The man sat rocking himself to and fro, trying not to
think of anything. For now the past, too, was coming with all its
weight upon him; every minute he started up as if an adder had stung
him; crawled about his cell seeking refuge in motion and finding none;
then he threw himself on the floor and struggled for sleep. Sleep
would not come so sought; and now his spirits were quite cowed. He
would cringe to Hawes; he would lick the dust at his feet to get out
of this horrible place; who could he get to go and tell the governor
he was _penitent_. He listened at the door; he rapped; no one came.
He put his ear to the ground and listened; no sound--blackness,
silence, solitude. "They have left me here to die," shrieked the
despairing man, and he flung himself on the floor and writhed upon the
hard stone. "It must be morning, and no one comes near me; this is my
tomb!" Fear came upon him, and trembling and a cold sweat bedewed his
limbs; and once more the past rushed over him with tenfold force; days
of happiness and comparative innocence now forfeited forever. His
whole life whirled round before his eyes in a panorama, scene
dissolving into scene with inconceivable rapidity; thus passed more
than two hours; and now remorse and memory concentrated themselves on
one dark spot in this man's history. "She is in the tomb," cried he,
"and all through me, and that is why I am here. This is my grave. Do
you see me, Mary?--she is here. The spirits of the dead can go
anywhere." Then he trembled and cried for help. Oh! for a human voice
or a human footstep!--none. His nerves and senses were now shaken. He
cried aloud most piteously for help. "Mr. Fry, Mr. Hodges, help! help!
help! The cell is full of the dead, and devils are buzzing round me
waiting to carry me away--they won't wait much longer." He fancied
something supernatural passed him like a wind. He struck wildly at it.
He flung himself madly against the door to escape it; he fell back
bruised and bleeding and lay a while in stupor.
Sixth hour. Robinson was going mad. The blackness and solitude and
silence and remorse and despair were more than his excitable nature
could bear any longer. He prayed Hawes to come and abuse him. He
prayed Fry to bring the jacket to him. "Let me but see a man, or hear
a man!" He screamed, and cursed, and prayed, and dashed himself on the
ground and ran round the cell wounding his hands and his face.
Suddenly he turned deadly calm. He saw he was going mad--better die
than so--"I shall be a beast soon--I will die a man"--he tore down his
collar--he had on cotton stockings; he took one off--he tied it in a
loose knot round his naked throat--he took a firm hold with each hand.
And now he was quiet and sorrowed calmly. A man to die in the prime of
life for want of a little light and a word from a human creature to
keep him from madness.
Then as the thought returned, clinching his teeth, he gathered the
ends of the stocking and prepared with one fierce pull to save his
shaken reason and end his miserable days. Now at this awful moment,
While his hands griped convulsively the means of death, a quiet tap on
the outside of the cell door suddenly rang through the dead stillness,
and a moment after a human word forced its way into the cave of
madness and death--
When this strange word pierced the thick door and came into the
hell-cave, feeble as though wafted over water from a distance, yet
distinct as a bell and bright as a sunbeam, Robinson started, and
quaked with fear and doubt. Did it come from the grave, that unearthly
tone and word?
Still holding the ends of the stocking, he cried out wildly in a loud
but quavering voice:
"Who--o--o calls Thomas Sinclair brother?" The distant voice rang
"Ah!--where are you, Francis Eden?"
"Here! within a hand's-breadth of you;" and Mr. Eden struck the door.
"There! are you there?" and Robinson struck the door on his side.
"Ha! don't go away, pray don't go away!"
"I don't mean to. Take courage--calm your fears--a brother is close by
"A brother!--again! now I know who it must be, but there is no telling
"What were you doing?"
"What was I doing? Oh! don't ask me--I was going mad--where are you?"
"And I am here close opposite; you won't go away yet a while?"
"Not till you bid me--compose yourself--do you hear me?--calm
yourself, compose yourself."
"I will try, sir!--thank you, sir--I will try. What o'clock is it?"
"Night or day?"
"Friday night, or Saturday?"
"How came you to be in the prison at this hour?"
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