It Is Never Too Late to Mend
Part 5 out of 17
"I was anxious about you."
"You were what?"
"Fearful about you."
"What! did you give up your sleep only to see after me?"
"Are you not glad I came?"
"Is a shipwrecked sailor glad when a rope is flung him? I hold on to
life and reason by you!"
"Is not this better than sleeping?--Did you speak?"
"No! I am thinking! I am trying to make you out. Were you ever a p----
"Was I ever what? the door is so thick!"
"Oh! nothing, sir; you seem to know what a poor fellow suffers in the
"I have been in it!"
"Whee-ugh-whee!--what a shame! what did they put you in for?"
"They didn't put me in. I went in."
"The devil you did!" muttered the immured.
"What? Speak out."
"Nothing, your reverence," bawled Robinson. "Why did you go into such
a cur--into such a hole?"
"It was my duty to know what a fellow-creature suffers there, lest,
through inexperience, I might be cruel. Ignorance is the mother of
"I hear you, sir.
"And cruelty is a fearful crime in His eyes, whose servant I am."
"I am thinking, sir; I am putting two or three things together--I
"Speak more slowly and articulately."
"I will; I see what you are now--you are a Christian."
"I hope so!"
"I might have guessed as much, and I did suspect it; but I couldn't
know, I had nothing to go by. I never fell in with a Christian
"Where did you go to look for them?" asked Mr. Eden, his mouth
"I have been in many countries, and my eyes open; and I've heard and
read of Christians, and I've met hypocrites; but never met a living
Christian till to-night." Then, after a pause, "Sir, I want to
apologize to you!"
"For my ignorant and ungrateful conduct to you in my cell."
"Let bygones be bygones!"
"Could you forgive me, sir?"
"You punished yourself, not me; I forgive you."
Robinson was silent.
After a pause Mr. Eden tapped.
"What are you doing?"
"I am thinking over your goodness to me."
"Are you better now?"
"That I am. The place was a tomb; since you came it is only a closet.
I can't see your face--I feel it, though; and your voice is music to
me. Have you nothing to say to me, sir?"
"I have many things to say to you; but this is not the time. I want
you to sleep."
"Sleep is the balm of mind and body--you need sleep."
"And you, sir?"
"I shall sit here."
"You will take your death of cold."
"No, I have my greatcoat."
There was a long pause.
Robinson tapped. "Sir, grant me a favor."
"What is it?"
"Go home to your bed."
"What, leave you?"
"Shall you not miss me?"
"Yes, sir, but you must go. The words you have spoken will stay with
me while you are gone."
"I shall stay."
"No, sir, no! I can't bear it--it isn't fair!"
"What do you mean?"
"It isn't fair that a gentleman like you should be kept shivering at
an unfortunate man's door like me. I am not quite good for nothing,
sir, and this will disgrace me in my own eyes."
"I am on the best side of the door; don't trouble your head about me."
"I shouldn't, sir, if you had not about me--but kindness begets
kindness. Go to your comfortable bed."
Mr. Eden hesitated.
"You will make me more unhappy than I am, if you stay here in the
Now, at the beginning of this argument Mr. Eden was determined not to
go; but on reflection he made up his mind to, for this reason: "This,"
said he to himself, "is an act of uncommon virtue and self-denial in
this poor fellow. I must not balk it, for it will be good for his
soul; it is a step on the right road. This good and, I might say,
noble act is a foundation-stone on which I ought to try and build an
honest man and a Christian."
"Well, then, as you are so considerate I will go."
"Can I do nothing for you before I go?"
"No, sir; you have done all a man can; yes, you can do something--you
spoke a word to me when you came; it is a word I am not worthy of, but
still if you could leave me that word it would be a companion for me."
When he heard Mr. Eden's steps grow fainter and fainter, and at last
inaudible, Robinson groaned; the darkness turned blacker and the
solitude more desolate than ever.
Mr. Eden paced the corridors in meditation. "It is never too late to
mend!" he said. "This man seemed an unredeemable brute, yet his heart
was to be touched by persevering kindness; and once touched, how much
of goodness left in his fallen nature--genuine gratitude, and even the
embers of self-respect. 'I hate myself for my conduct in the cell; it
would disgrace me in my own eyes if I let you shiver at my door.' Poor
fellow, my heart yearns toward him for that. 'Go, or you will make me
more unhappy.' Why, that was real delicacy. I must not let him suffer
for it. In an hour I will go back to him. If he is asleep, well and
good; if not, there I stay till morning."
He went to his room and worked. The hour soon glided by to him; not so
to the poor prisoner. At two in the morning Mr. Eden came softly back
to the dark cell to see whether Robinson was asleep. He scratched the
door with a key. A loud, unsteady voice cried out, "What is that?"
"It is I, brother."
"Why are you not in your bed?"
"I couldn't sleep for anxiety. Come, chat with me till you feel
sleepy. How did you color those cards?"
"I found a coal and a bit of brick in the yard. I pounded them and
mixed them with water and laid them on with a brush I had made and
"Very ingenious! Are you cold?"
"Because your voice trembles."
"What is the matter?"
"Can't you guess?"
"No! But I remember you used to tremble when I spoke to you in the
cell. Why was that? Have your nerves been shaken by ill-usage, my poor
"Oh, no! it is not that."
"Tell me, then!"
"Oh, sir! you know all a poor fellow feels. You can guess what made me
tremble, and makes me tremble now, like an aspen I do."
"No, indeed! pray tell me! Are we not friends?"
"The best ever I had, or ever shall."
"Then tell me."
I'll try; but it is a long story, and the door is so thick."
"Ah! but I hear you better now. I have got used to your voice.
"Well, sir; but I've no words to speak to you as I ought. Why did I
use to tremble when you used to speak kind to me? Sir, when I first
came here I hadn't a bad heart. I was a felon, but I was a man. They
turned me to a brute by cruelty and wrong. You came too late, sir. It
wasn't Tom Robinson you found in that cell. I had got to think all men
were devils They poisoned my soul! I hated God and man!
"The very chaplain before you said good, kind words in church, but out
of it he was Hawes' tool! Then you came and spoke good, kind words. My
heart ran to meet them; then it drew back all shivering and said, this
is a hypocrite, too! I was a fool and a villain to think so for a
moment, and perhaps I didn't at bottom, but I was turned to gall.
"Oh, sir! you don't know what it is to lose hope, to find out that do
what you will you can't be right, can't escape abuse and hatred and
torture. Treat a man like a dog and you make him one!
"But you came. Your voice, your face, your eye were all pity and
kindness. I hoped, but I was afraid to hope! I had seen but two
things--butchers and hypocrites. Then I had sworn in my despair never
to speak again, and I wouldn't speak to you. Fool! How kind and
patient you were. Sir, once when you left me you sighed as you closed
the cell door. I came after you to beg your pardon, when it was too
late; indeed I did, upon my honor. And when you would rub the ointment
on my throat in spite of my ingratitude, I could have worshipped you;
but my pride held me back like an iron hand. Why did I tremble? that
was the devil and my better part fighting inside me for the upper
hand. And another thing, I did not dare speak to you. I felt that if I
did I should give way altogether, like a woman or a child. I feel so
now. For, oh! can't you guess what it must be to a poor fellow when
all the rest are savage as wolves and one is kind as a woman? Oh! you
have been a friend to me. You don't know all you have done. You have
saved my life. When you came here a stocking was knotted round my
throat; a minute later the man you call your brother--God bless
you--would have been no more. There, I never meant you should know
that, and now it has slipped out. My benefactor! my kind friend! my
angel! for you are an angel and not a man. What can I do to show you
what I feel? What can I say? There, I tremble all over now as I did
then. I'm choking for words, and the cruel, thick door keeps me from
you. I want to put my neck under your foot, for I can't speak. All I
say isn't worth a button. Words! words! words! give me words that mean
something. They shan't keep me from you, they shan't! they shan't! My
stubborn heart was between us once, now there is only a door. Give me
your hand! give me your hand before my heart bursts."
"Hold it there!"
"My lips are here close opposite it. I am kissing your dear hand.
There! there! there! I bless you! I love you! I adore you! I am
kissing your hand, and I am on my knees blessing you and kissing. Oh,
my heart! my heart! my heart!"
There was a long silence, disturbed only by sobs that broke upon the
night from the black cell. Mr. Eden leaned against the door with his
hand in the same place; the prisoner kissed the spot from time to
"Your reverence is crying, too!" was the first word spoken, very
"How do you know?"
"You don't speak, and my heart tells me you are shedding a tear for
me; there was only that left to do for me."
Then there was another silence, and true it was that the good man and
the bad man mingled some tears through the massy door. These two
hearts pierced it, and went to and fro through it, and melted in spite
of it, and defied and utterly defeated it.
"Did you speak, dear sir?"
"No! not for the world! Weep on, my poor sinning, suffering brother.
Heaven sends you this blessed rain; let it drop quietly on your
parched soul, refresh you, and shed peace on your troubled heart.
Drop, gentle dew from heaven, upon his spirit; prepare the dry soul
for the good seed!"
And so the bad man wept abundantly; to him old long-dried sources of
tender feeling were now unlocked by Christian love and pity.
The good man shed a gentle tear or two of sympathy--of sorrow, too, to
find so much goodness had been shut up, driven in and wellnigh
quenched forever in the poor thief.
To both these holy drops were as the dew of Hermon on their souls.
O lacryrnarum fons tenero sacros
Ducentium ortus ex animo; quater
Felix in imo qui scatentem
Pectore te pia Nynmpha sensit.
Robinson was the first to break silence.
"Go home, sir, now; you have done your work, you have saved me. I feel
at peace. I could sleep. You need not fear to leave me now."
"I shall sit here until you are asleep, and then I will go. Do you
hear this?" and he scratched the door with his key.
"Well, when I do so and you do not tap in reply I shall know you are
Robinson, whose heart was now so calmed, felt his eyes get heavier and
heavier. After a while he spoke to Mr. Eden but received no reply.
"Perhaps he is dozing," thought Robinson. "I won't disturb him."
Then he composed himself, lying close to the door to be near his
After a while Mr. Eden scratched the door with his key. There was no
answer; then he rose softly and went to his own room.
Robinson slept--slept like an infant after this feverish day. His body
lay still in a hole dark and almost as narrow as the grave, but his
spirit had broken prison. Tired nature's sweet restorer descended like
a dove upon his wet eyelids, and fanned him with her downy wings, and
bedewed the hot heart and smarting limbs with her soothing, vivifying
At six o'clock Evans went and opened Robinson's cell door. He was on
the ground sleeping, with a placid smile on his face. Evans looked
down at him with a puzzled air. While contemplating him he was joined
"Ugh!" grunted that worthy, "seems to agree with him." And he went off
and told Hawes.
Directly after chapel, which he was not allowed to attend, came an
order to take Robinson out of the dark cell and put him on the crank.
The disciplinarian, defeated in his attempt on Robinson, was
compensated by a rare stroke of good fortune--a case of real
refractoriness even this was not perfect, but it answered every
In one of the labor cells they found a prisoner seated with the utmost
coolness across the handle of his crank. He welcomed his visitants
with a smile, and volunteered a piece of information--"It is all
Now it couldn't be all right, for it was impossible he could have done
his work in the time. Hawes looked at the face of the crank to see how
much had been done, and lo! the face was broken and the index had
disappeared. As Mr. Hawes examined the face of the crank, the prisoner
leered at him with a mighty silly cunning.
This personage's name was Carter; it may be as well to explain him. Go
into any large English jail on any day in any year you like, you shall
find there two or three prisoners who have no business to be in such a
place at all--half-witted, half-responsible creatures, missent to jail
by shallow judges contentedly executing those shallow laws they ought
to modify and stigmatize until civilization shall come and correct
These imbeciles, if the nation itself was not both half-witted and a
thoughtless, ignorant dunce in all matters relating to such a trifle
(Heaven forgive us!) as its prisons, would be taken to the light not
plunged into darkness; would not be shut up alone with their no-minds
to accumulate the stupidity that has undone them, but forced into
collision with better understandings; would not be closeted in a jail,
but in a mild asylum with a school attached.
The offenses of these creatures is seldom theft, hardly ever violence.
This idiot was sentenced to two years' separate confinement for being
the handle with which two knaves had passed base coin. The same day
the same tribunal sentenced a scoundrel who was not an idiot, and had
beaten and kicked his wife to the edge of the grave--to fourteen
years' imprisonment? no--to four months.
Mr. Carter had observed that Fry looked at a long iron needle on the
face of the crank and that when he had been lazy somehow this needle
pointed out the fact to Fry. He could not understand it, but then the
world was brimful of things he could not understand one bit. It was no
use standing idle till he could comprehend rerum naturam--bother it.
In short, Mr. Carter did what is a dangerous thing for people in his
condition to do, he cogitated, and the result of this unfamiliar
process was that he broke the glass of the crank face, took out the
index, shied the pieces of glass carefully over the wall, secreted the
needle, took about ten turns of the crank, and then left off and sat
down, exulting secretly.
When they came, as usual, and went to consult the accusing needle, he
chuckled and leered with foolish cunning. But his chuckle died away
into a most doleful quaver when he found himself surrounded, jacketed,
strapped and collared. He struggled furiously at first, like some wild
animal in a net; and when resistance was hopeless the poor,
half-witted creature lifted up his voice and uttered loud, wild-beast
cries of pain and terror that rang through the vast prison.
These horrible cries brought all the warders to the spot, and Mr.
Eden. There he found Carter howling, and Hawes in front of him,
cursing and threatening him with destruction if he did not hold his
He might as well have suspended a dog from a branch by the hind leg
and told him he mustn't howl.
This sight drove a knife through Mr. Eden's heart. He stood among them
white as a sheet. He could not speak; but his pale face was a silent
protest against this enormity. His look of horror and righteous
indignation chilled and made uneasy the inquisitors, all but Hawes.
"Hold your noise, ye howling brute, or I'll"--and he clapped his hand
before Carter's mouth.
Carter seized his thumb with his teeth and bit it to the bone. Hawes
yelled with pain and strove furiously to get his hand away, but Carter
held it like a tiger. Hawes capered with agony and yelled again. The
first to come to his relief was Mr. Eden. He was at the biped's side
in a moment, and pinched his nose. Now, as his lungs were puffing like
a blacksmith's bellows, his mouth flew open the moment the other
breathing-hole was stopped, and Hawes got his bleeding hand away.
He held it with the other and shook it, and moaned dismally, like a
great girl; but suddenly looking up he saw a half grin upon the faces
of his myrmidons.
For the contrast of a man telling another who was in pain not to make
a row, and the next moment making an abominable row himself for no
better reason, was funny.
For all this occurred ten times quicker in action than in relation.
Mr. Hawes's conversion to noise came rapidly in a single sentence,
after this fashion:
"---- you! hold your infernal noise. Oh! Augh! Ah! E E! E E! Aah! Oh!
Oh!; E E!E E! O O!O O! O O! O O! O O!O O!"
So Fry and Hodges and Evans and Davis grinned.
For all these men had learned from Hawes to laugh at pain--(another's).
One man alone did not even smile. He was an observer, and did not expect
any one to be great at bearing pain who was rash in inflicting it;
moreover, he suffered with all who suffer. He was sorry for the
pilloried biped, and sorry for the bitten brute.
He then gave them another lesson. "All you want the poor thing to do
is to suffer in silence. Withdraw twenty yards from him." He set the
example by retreating; the others, Hawes included, being off their
guard, obeyed mechanically the superior spirit.
Carter's cries died away into a whimpering moan. The turnkeys looked
at one another, and with a sort of commencement of respect at Mr.
"Parson knows more than we do."
Hawes interrupted this savagely.
"Ye fools! couldn't you see it was the sight of your ugly faces made
him roar, not the jacket? Keep him there till further orders;" and he
went off to plaster his wounded hand.
Mr. Eden sat down and covered his face. He was as miserable as this
vile world can make a man who lives for a better. The good work he was
upon was so difficult in itself, and those who ought to have helped
fought against him.
When with intelligence, pain and labor he had built up a little good,
Hawes was sure to come and knock it down again; and this was the way
to break his heart.
He had been taking such pains with this poor biped; he had played
round his feeble understanding to find by what door a little wisdom
and goodness could be made to enter him. At last he had found that
pictures pleased him and excited him, and awakened all the
intelligence he had.
Mr. Eden had a vast collection of engravings and photographs. His plan
with Carter was to show him some engraving presenting a fact or
anecdote. First he would put under his eyes a cruel or unjust action.
He would point out the signs of suffering in one of the figures.
Carter would understand this because he saw it. Then Mr. Eden would
excite his sympathy. "Poor so and so!" would Mr. Eden say in a pitying
voice. "Poor so and so!" would biped Carter echo. After several easy
lessons he would find him a picture of some more moderate injustice,
and so raise the shadow of a difficulty and draw a little upon
Carter's understanding as well as sympathy. Then would come pictures
of charity, of benevolence and other good actions. These and their
effects upon the several figures Carter was invited to admire, and so
on to a score of topics. The first thing was to make Carter think and
talk, which he did in the happy-go-lucky way of his class, uttering
nine mighty simple remarks, and then a bit of superlative wisdom, or
something that sounded like it. And when he had shot his random bolts,
Mr. Eden would begin and treat each picture as a text, and utter much
wisdom on it in simple words.
He found Carter's mind in a state of actual lethargy. He got it out of
that; he created an excitement and kept it up. He got at his little
bit of mind through his senses. Honor to all the great arts! The limit
to their beauty and their usefulness has never yet been found and
never will. Painting was the golden key this thinker held to the
Bramah lock of an imbecile's understanding the ponderous wards were
beginning to revolve--when a blockhead came and did his best to hamper
In English, Eden was gradually making the biped a man: comes Hawes and
turns him a brute. The whimpering moans of Carter were thoroughly
animal, and the poor biped's degradation as well as his suffering made
Mr. Eden wretched.
To-day for the first time the chaplain saw a prisoner crucified
without suffering that peculiar physical weakness which I have more
than once noticed. Poor soul, he was so pleased at this that he
thanked Heaven for curing him of that contemptible infirmity, so he
called it. But he had to pay for this victory. He never felt so sick
at heart as now. He turned for relief to the duties he had in his zeal
added to a chaplain's acknowledged routine. He visited his rooms and
all his rational work-people.
The sight of all the good he was doing by teaching the sweets of
anti-theft was always a cordial to him.
Almost the last cell he visited was Thomas Robinson's. The man had
been fretting and worrying himself to know why he did not come before.
As soon as the door was opened he took an eager step to meet him, then
stopped irresolutely, and blushed and beamed with pleasure mixed with
a certain confusion. He looked volumes but waited out of respect for
his reverence to address him.
Mr. Eden held out his hand to him with a frank manner and kind smile.
At this Robinson tried to speak but could only stammer; something
seemed to rise in his throat and block up the exit of words.
"Come," said Mr. Eden, "no more of that; be composed, and I will sit
down, for I am tired."
Robinson brought him his stool, and Mr. Eden sat down.
They conversed, and after some kind inquiries, Mr. Eden came to the
grand purport of this visit, which, to the surprise and annoyance of
Robinson, was to reprobate severely the curses and blasphemies he had
uttered as they were dragging him to the dark cell. And so threatening
and severe was Mr. Eden, that at last poor Robinson whined out:
"Sir, you will make me wish I was in the dark cell again, for then you
took my part; now you are against me."
"There is a time for everything under the sun. When you were in the
dark cell, consolation and indulgence were the best things for your
soul, and I gave them you as well as I could. You are not in the dark
cell now, and, out of the same love for you, I tell you that if God
took you this night the curses you uttered yesterday would destroy you
to all eternity."
"I hope not, your reverence!"
"Away with delusive hopes, they war against the soul. I tell you those
curses that came from a tongue set on fire of hell have placed you
under the ban of Heaven. Are you not this Hawes's brother, his brother
every way--two unforgiven sinners?"
"Yes, sir," said Robinson, truckling, "of course I know I am a great
sinner, a desperate sinner, not worthy to be in your reverence's
company. But I hope," he added, with sudden sincerity and spirit, "you
don't think I am such an out-and-out scoundrel as that Hawes."
"Mr. Hawes would tell me you are the scoundrel and he a zealous
servant of morality and order; but these comparisons are out of place.
I am now deferring not to the world's judgment but to a higher, in
whose eye Mr. Hawes and you stand on a level--two unforgiven sinners;
if not forgiven you will both perish everlastingly, and to be forgiven
you must forgive. God is very forgiving--He forgives the best of us a
thousand vile offenses. But He never forgives unconditionally. His
terms are our repentance and our forgiveness of those who offend us
one-millionth part as deeply as we offend Him. Therefore in praying
against Hawes you have prayed against yourself. Give me your slate.
No; take it yourself. Write--"
Robinson took his pencil with alacrity. He wrote a beautiful hand, and
wanted to show off this accomplishment to his reverence.
"Forgive us our sins as we forgive them that trespass against us.'"
"It is down, sir."
"Particularize, your reverence?"
"Write under 'us' 'our' and 'we,' 'me',' my' and 'I'; respectively."
"All right, sir."
"Now under 'them' write 'Mr. Hawes.'"
"Ugh! Yes, your reverence, 'Mr. Hawes.'"
"And under the last four words write, 'his cruelty to me.'"
This was wormwood to Mr. Robinson. "'His cruelty to me!'"
"Now read your work out."
"'Forgive me my sins as I forgive Mr. Hawes his cruelty to me.'"
"Now ponder over those words. Keep them before your eye here, and try
at least and bow your stubborn heart to them. Fall on them and be
broken, or they will fall on you and grind you to powder." He
concluded in a terrible tone; then, seeing Robinson abashed, more from
a notion he was in a rage with him than from any deeper sentiment, he
bade him farewell kindly as ever.
"I know," said he, "I have given you a hard task. We can all gabble
the Lord's Prayer, but how few have ever prayed it! But at least try,
my poor soul, and I will set you an example. I will pray for my
brother Robinson and my brother Hawes, and I shall pray for them all
the more warmly that at present one is a blaspheming thief and the
other a pitiless blockhead."
The next day being Sunday, Mr. Eden preached two sermons that many
will remember all their lives. The first was against theft and all the
shades of dishonesty. I give a few of his topics. The dry bones he
covered with flesh and blood and beauty. The tendency of theft was to
destroy all moral and social good. For were it once to prevail so far
as to make property insecure, industry would lose heart, enterprise
and frugality be crushed, and at last the honest turn thieves in
self-defense. Nearly every act of theft had a baneful influence on the
Here he quoted by name instances of industrious, frugal persons, whose
savings having been stolen, they had lost courage and good habits of
years' standing, and had ended ill. Then he gave them a simile. These
great crimes are like great trunk railways. They create many smaller
ones. Some flow into them, some out of them. Drunkenness generally
precedes an act of theft; drunkenness always follows it; lies flow
from it in streams, and perjury rushes to its defense.
It breeds, too, other vices that punish it, but never cure
it--prodigality and general loose living. The thief is never the
richer by this vile act which impoverishes his victim; for the money
obtained by this crime is wasted in others. The folly of theft; its
ill economy. What high qualities are laid out to their greatest
disadvantage by the thief; acuteness, watchfulness, sagacity,
determination, tact. These virtues, coupled with integrity, enrich
thousands every year. How many thieves do they enrich? How many
thieves are a shilling a year the better for the hundreds of pounds
that come dishonestly into their hands.
"In ---- Jail (Mr. Lepel's), there is now a family that have stolen,
first and last, property worth eighteen thousand pounds. The entire
possessions of this family are now two pair of shoes. The clothes they
stand in belong to Government; their own had to be burned, so foul
were they. Eighteen thousand pounds had they stolen--to be beggars;
and this is the rule, not the exception, as you all know. Why is this
your fate and your end? Because a mightier power than man's has
determined that thieving shall not thrive. The curse of God is upon
Then came life-like pictures of the honest man and the thief. The one
with an eye that faced you, with a conscious dignity and often a
cheerful countenance; the other with a shrinking eye, a conscious
meanness, and never with a smile from the heart; sordid, sly and
unhappy--for theft is misery. No wonder this crime degrades a man when
it degrades the very animals; Look at a dog who has stolen. Before
this, when he met his master or any human friend he used to run up to
greet them with wagging tail and sparkling eye. Now see him. At sight
of any man he crawls meanly away, with cowering figure and eye askant,
the living image of the filthy sin he has committed. He feels he has
no longer a right to greet a man, for he is a thief.
And here the preacher gathered images, facts and satire, and hurled a
crushing hailstorm of scorn upon the sordid sin. Then he attacked the
present situation (his invariable custom).
"Not all the inmates of a jail were equally guilty on their arrival
there. A large proportion of felons were orphans or illegitimate
children; others, still more unfortunate, were the children of
criminals who had taught them crime from their cradles. Great excuses
were to be made for the general mass of criminals; excuses that the
ignorant, shallow world could not be expected to make; but the balance
of the Sanctuary is not like the world's clumsy balance; it weighs all
men to a hair. Excuses will be made for many of you in heaven up to a
certain point. And what is that point? The day of your entrance into
prison. But now plead no more the ill example of parents and friends,
for here you are cut off from it.
"Plead no more that you cannot read, for here you have been taught to
"Plead no more the dreadful power of vicious habits that began when
you were unguarded, for those habits have now been cut away from you
by force and better habits substituted.
"Plead no more ignorance of God's Word, for here day by day it is
poured into your ears.
"Your situation has other less obvious advantages. Here you are little
exposed to the soul's most dangerous enemy--self-deception. The world
destroys thousands of sinners by flattery. Half the great sinners upon
earth are what is called respectable. The world tells them they are
good--they believe it, and so die as they have lived, and are lost
eternally. The world, intending to be more unkind to you, is far more
kind; it tells _you_ the truth--that you are desperate sinners.
Here, then, where everything opens your eyes, oh! fight not against
yourselves. Repent, or fearful will be the fresh guilt heaped upon
your heads! Even these words of mine must do you good or do you harm.
I tremble when I tell you so. It is an awful thing to think." The
preacher paused. "You know that I love you--that I would give my life
to save one soul of all those I see before me now! Have pity on me and
on yourselves! Let me not be so unfortunate as to add to your
guilt--I, whose heart yearns to do you good! Oh, my poor brothers and
sisters, do not pity yourselves so much less than I pity you--do not
love yourselves so much less than I love you! Why will ye die! Repent,
and be forgiven!
"Some of you profess attachment to me--some talk of gratitude. There
are some of my poor brothers and sisters in this jail that say to me,
'Oh, I wish I could do something for you, sir!' Perhaps you have
noticed that I have never answered these professions. Well, I will
answer them now once for all."
While the preacher paused there was a movement observed among the
"Would you make me very--very sad? Remain impenitent! Would you make
me happy? Repent, and turn to God! Not to-morrow, or next day, but on
your knees in your own cells the moment you go hence. You don't know,
you can't dream what happiness you will confer on me if you do this!"
Then, suddenly opening his arms with wonderful grace and warmth and
energy, he cried, "My poor wandering sheep, come--come to the heavenly
fold! Let me gather you as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing.
You are my anxiety, my terror--be my joy, my consolation here, and
hereafter the brightest jewels in my heavenly crown."
In this strain he soared higher than my poor earth-clogged wings can
follow him. He had lashed sin severely, so he had earned a right to
show his love for the sinner. Gracious words of entreaty and
encouragement gushed from him in a crystal stream with looks and tones
of more than mortal charity. Men might well doubt was this a man, or
was it Christianity speaking? Christianity, born in a stable, was she
there, illuminating a jail? For now for a moment or two the sacred
orator was more than mortal; so high above earth was his theme, so
great his swelling words. He rose, he dilated to heroic size, he
flamed with sacred fire. His face shone like an angel's, and no silver
trumpet or deep-toned organ could compare with his thundering,
pealing, melting voice, that poured the soul of love and charity and
heaven upon friend and foe. Then seemed it as though a sudden blaze of
music and light broke into that dark abode. Each sinful form stretched
wildly forth to meet them--each ear hung aching on them--each
glistening eye lived on them, and every heart panted and quivered as
this great Christian swept his immortal harp--among thieves and
homicides and oppressors--in that sad house of God.
"What did you think of the sermon, Fry?"
Fry. Liked the first part, sir, where he walked into thieving. Don't
like his telling 'em he loves 'em. 'Tisn't to be supposed a gentleman
could really love such rubbish as that. Sounds like palaver.
Hawes. Now I liked it all, though it spoiled my nap.
Fry. Well, sir, it is very good of you to like it, for I don't think
you like the man.
Hawes. The man is all very well in his place. He ought to be bottled
up in one of the dark cells all the week, and then brought up and
uncorked in chapel o' Sundays. It is as good as a romance is a sermon
Fry. That it is, sir. Comes next after the Newgate Calendar, don't it
now? But there's one thing about all his sermons I can't get over.
Hawes. And what is that?
Fry. Preaches at 'em so.
Hawes. Why, ye fool, that is the beauty of him. How is he to hit 'em
if he doesn't hit at 'em?
Fry. Mr. Jones usen't.
Hawes. Oh, Jones! He shot his arrow up in the air and let it fall
wherever the wind chose to blow it, and then, if it came down on the
wrong man's head he'd say, never mind, my boy, accident!--pure
accident! No! give me a chap that hits out straight from the shoulder.
Can't you see this is worth a hundred Joneses beating about the bush
and droning us all asleep.
Fry. So he is, sir. So he is. But then I think he didn't ought to be
quite so personal. Fancy his requesting such a lot as ours to repent
their sins and go to heaven just to oblige him. There's a inducement!
I call that himper dig from the pulpit.
"What d'ye call it?" growled Hawes snappishly.
"Himper dig!" replied Fry stoutly.
In the afternoon Mr. Eden preached against cruelty.
"No crime is so thoroughly without excuse as this. Other crimes have
sometimes an adequate temptation, this never. The path to other crimes
is down-hill; to cruelty is up-hill. In the very act, Nature, who is
on the side of some crimes, cries out within us against this monstrous
sin. The blood of our victim flowing from our blows, its groans and
sighs and pallor, stay the uplifted arm and appeal to the furious
heart. Wonderful they should ever appeal in vain. Cruelty is not one
of our pleasant vices, and the opposite virtues are a garden of
delights: 'Mercy is twice blessed, it blesseth him that gives and him
that takes.' God has written His abhorrence of this monstrous sin in
letters of fire and blood on every page of history."
Here he ransacked history, and gave them some thirty remarkable
instances of human cruelty, and of its being punished in kind so
strangely, and with such an exactness of retribution, that the finger
of God seemed visible writing on the world--"God hates cruelty."
At the end of his examples he instanced two that happened under his
own eye--a favorite custom of this preacher.
"A man was tried in London for cruelty to animals; he was acquitted by
a legal flaw, though the evidence was clear against him. This man
returned homeward triumphant. The train in which he sat was drawn up
by the side of a station. An express-train passed on the up-line at
full speed. At the moment of passing the fly-wheel of the engine
broke; a large fragment was driven into the air and fell upon the
stationary train. It burst through one of the carriages and killed a
man upon the spot. That man was seated between two other men, neither
of whom received the slightest injury. The man so singled out was the
cruel man who had evaded man's justice, but could not escape His hand
who created the beasts as well as man, and who abhors all men who are
cruel to any creature He has formed.
"A man and his wife conspired to rob and murder their friend and
constant guest. Determined to escape detection, they coldly prepared
for the deed of blood. Long before the murder they dug a hole in the
passage leading from their parlor to their dining-room, and this hole
was to receive the corpse of the man with whom meantime these
heartless wretches eat bread day after day and drank his health at
their own board. Several times the unfortunate man walked with his
host and hostess over this concealed hole, his destined tomb, before
the time came to sacrifice him. At last they murdered him and buried
him in the grave they had prepared for him. The deed done, spite of
all their precaution fear fell on them and hatred, and they fled from
the house where the corpse was and from each other, one to the north,
one to the south. Fled they ever so fast, or so far apart, justice
followed to the north, justice followed to the south, and dragged the
miscreants together again and flung them into one prison. They were
convicted and condemned to death. There came a fatal morning to this
guilty pair, when the sun rose upon them and found them full of health
and strength, yet in one short hour they must be dead. They were taken
into the prison chapel according to custom, and from the chapel they
must pass at once to the gallows. Now it so happened that the direct
path from the chapel to the gallows was blocked up by some repairs
that were going on in the prison, so the condemned were obliged to
make a long circuit. It was one of the largest of our old prisons, a
huge, irregular building, constructed with no simplicity of design,
and one set of officers did not always know at once what was going on
in a distant department. Hence it befell that in a certain passage of
the jail the condemned and their attendants came suddenly upon a
new-made grave! Stones had been taken up, and a grave dug in this
passage. The workmen had but just completed it. The grave filled up
the passage, which was narrow and but little used. The men who
accompanied the murderers paused, abashed and chilled. The murderers
paused and looked at one another; no words can describe that look!
Planks were put down, and they walked over their own grave to their
death. Is there a skeptic who tells me this was chance? Then I tell
him he is a credulous fool to believe that chance can imitate
omniscience, omnipotence and holiness so inimitably. In this
astounding fact of exact retribution I see nothing that resembles
chance. I see the arm of God and the finger of God. His arm dragged
the murderers to the gallows, His finger thrust the heartless, cruel
miscreants across the grave that was yawning for their doomed bodies!
Tremble, ye cruel, God hates ye! Men speak of a murder--and sometimes,
by way of distinction, they say 'a cruel murder.' See, now, what a
crime cruelty must be, since it can aggravate murder, the crime before
which all other sins dwindle into nothing."
Of minor cruelties that do not attack life itself the most horrible he
thought was cruelty to women. Here the man must trample on every manly
feeling, on the instinct and the traditions of sex, on the opinion of
mankind, on the generosity that goes with superior strength and
courage. A man who is cruel to a woman is called a brute, but if the
brutes could speak they would appeal against this phrase as unjust to
them. What animal but man did you ever see maltreat a female of his
species? The brutes are not such beasts as bad, cruel men are. Or if
you ever saw such a monstrosity the animal that did it was some
notorious coward, such as the deer, which I believe is now and then
guilty in a trifling degree of this dirty sin, being a rank coward.
But who ever saw a lion or a dog or any courageous animal let himself
down to the level of a cowardly man so far as this?
Here sprang from his lips a true and tender picture of a wife. The
narrow and virtuous circle of her joys, her many sufferings, great and
little--no need of being cruel to her; she must suffer so much without
that. The claims to pity and uncommon consideration every woman builds
up during a few years of marriage! Her inestimable value in the house!
How true to the hearth she is unless her husband corrupts her or
drives her to despair! How often she is good in spite of his example!
How rarely she is evil but by his example! God made her weaker that
man might have the honest satisfaction and superior joy of protecting
and supporting her. To torture her with the strength so intrusted him
for her good is to rebel against heaven's design--it is to be a
monster, a coward, and a fool!
"There was one more kind of cruelty it was his duty to touch
upon--harsh treatment of those unhappy persons to whom it has not
pleased God to give a full measure of reason.
"This is a sacred calamity to which the intelligent and the good in
all ages and places have been tender and pitiful. In some countries
these unfortunates are venerated, and being little able to guard
themselves are held to be under Heaven's especial protection. This is
a beautiful belief and honors our fallen nature. Yet in Christian
England, I grieve and blush to say, cruelty often falls on their
unprotected heads. Who has not seen the village boys follow and mock
these afflicted persons? Youth is cruel because the great parent of
cruelty is general ignorance and inexperience of the class of
suffering we inflict. Men who have come to their full reason have not
this excuse. What! persecute those whom God hath smitten, but whom He
still loves, and will take vengeance on all who maltreat them. On such
and on all of you who are cruel, shame and contempt will fall sooner
or later even in this world, and at that solemn day when the cruel and
their victims shall meet the Judge of the quick and the dead, He on
whose mercy hangs your eternal fate will say to you, 'Have ye shown
mercy?' Oh! these words will crush your souls. Madmen! know ye not
that the most righteous man on earth can only be saved by God's mercy,
not by His justice? Would you forfeit all hope, all chance, all
possibility of that mercy, by merciless cruelty to your brothers and
sisters of the race of Adam? Does the day of judgment seem to you
uncertain or so distant that you dare be cruel here during the few
brief days you have to prepare yourself for eternity? If you are under
this delusion here I tear it from your souls. That day is at hand, at
Then, in a moment, by the magic of eloquence, the great day of
retribution was no longer faint and distant, but upon them in all its
terrors; and they who in the morning had leaned forward eagerly to
catch the message of mercy now shrank and cowered from the thunder
that pealed over their heads, and the lightning of awful words that
showed them by flashes the earth quaking and casting forth her dead--
the sea trembling and casting forth her dead--the terrible trumpet
pealing from pole to pole-the books opened--the dread Judge
seated--and. hell yawning for the guilty.
"Well, sir, how did you like this sermon?" said Fry, respectfully.
"He won't preach many more such, (imperative mood) him. I'll teach him
to preach at people from the pulpit."
"Well, that is what I say, sir, but you said you liked to hear him
preach at folk."
"So I do," replied Hawes angrily, "but not at me, ye fool!"
This afternoon two of the prisoners rang their bells, and on the
warder coming to them begged in much agitation to see the chaplain.
Mr. Eden was always at the prisoners' orders and came to both of
these; one was a man about thirty, the other a mere boy. The same
evening Mr. Hawes sat down, his features working wrathfully, and
dispatched a note to Mr. Locock, one of the visiting justices and a
particular admirer of his.
Meeting Mr. Eden in the prison, he did not return that gentleman's
salute. This was his way of implying war; events were thickening, a
storm was brewing. This same evening there was a tap at Mr. Eden's
private door and Evans entered the room. The man's manner was
peculiar. He wore outside a dogged look, as if fighting against some
inward feeling; he entered looking down most perniciously at the
floor. "Well, Evans?"
Evans approached, his eyes still glued upon the floor. He shoved a
printed paper roughly into Mr. Eden's hand, and said in a tone of
sulky reproach, "Saw ye fret because ye could not get it, and couldn't
bear to see ye fret."
"Thank you, Evans, thank you!"
"You are very welcome, sir," said Evans, with momentary deference and
kindness. Then turning suddenly at the door in great wrath, with a
tendency to whimper, he roared out, "Ye'll get me turned out of my
place, that's what ye'll do!" and went off apparently in tremendous
dudgeon. The printed paper contained "the rules of the prison," a copy
of which Mr. Eden had asked from Hawes and been refused. Evans had
watched his opportunity, got them from another warder in return for
two glasses of grog outside the jail.
Mr. Eden fell to and studied the paper carefully till bed-time. As he
read it his eye more than once flashed with satisfaction in spite of a
great despondency that had now for a day or two been creeping upon
This depression dated from biped Carter's crucifixion or soon after.
He struggled gallantly against it; it appeared in none of his public
acts. But when alone his heart seemed to have turned to lead. A cold,
languid hopelessness most foreign to his high, sanguine nature weighed
him to the earth, and the Dead Sea rolled over his spirit.
Earnest Mr. Hawes hated good Mr. Eden; one comfort, by means of his
influence with the justices he could get him turned out of the prison.
Meantime what could he do to spite him? Begin by punishing a
prisoner--that is the only thing that stings him. With these good
intentions earnest Hawes turned out and looked about for a prisoner to
punish; unfortunately for poor Josephs the governor's eye fell upon
him as he came out of the chapel. The next minute he was put on a
stiff crank, which led in due course to the pillory. When he had been
in about an hour and a half, Hawes winked to Fry, and said to him
under his breath, "Let the parson know."
Fry strolled into the prison. He met Mr. Eden at a cell door. "Josephs
refractory again, sir," said he, with mock civility.
Mr. Eden looked him in the face, but said nothing. He went to his own
room, took a paper off the table, and came into the yard. Josephs was
beginning to sham and a bucket had just been thrown over him amid the
coarse laughter of Messrs. Fry, Hodges and Hawes. Evans, who happened
to be in attendance, stood aloof with his eyes fixed on the ground.
As soon as he saw Mr. Eden coming Hawes gave a vindictive chuckle.
"Another bucket," cried he, and taking it himself, he contrived to
sprinkle Mr. Eden as well as to sluice his immediate victim.
Mr. Eden took no notice of this impertinence, but to the surprise of
all there he strode between the victim and his tormentors, and said
sternly, "Do you know that you are committing an illegal assault upon
"No, I don't," said Hawes, with a cold sneer.
"Then I shall show you. Here are the printed rules of the prison; you
have no authority over a prisoner but what these rules give you. Now
show me where they permit you to pillory a prisoner?"
"They don't forbid it, that is enough."
"No! it is not. They don't forbid you to hang him, or to sear him with
a hot iron, but they tell you in this paragraph what punishments you
may inflict, and that excludes all punishments of your own invention.
You may neither hang him nor burn him nor famish him nor crucify him,
all these acts are equally illegal. So take warning, all of you
here--you are all servants of the law--don't let me catch you
assaulting a prisoner contrary to the law, or you shall smart to the
uttermost. Evans, I command you, in the name of the law, release that
Evans, thus appealed to, fidgeted and turned color, and his hands
worked by his side. "Your reverence!" cried he, in an imploring tone,
and stayed where he was. On this Mr. Eden made no more ado, but darted
to Josephs' side and began to unfasten him with nimble fingers.
Hawes stood dumfounded for a minute or two, then recovering himself he
"Officers, do your duty!"
Fry and Hodges advanced upon Mr. Eden, but before they could get at
him the huge body of Evans interposed itself. The man was pale but
"Mustn't lay a finger on his reverence," said he, almost in a whisper,
but between his clinched teeth and with the look of a bulldog over a
"What, do you rebel against me, Evans?"
"No, sir," answered Evans softening his tone, "but nobody must affront
his reverence. Look here, sir, his reverence knows a great deal more
than I do, and he says this is against the law. He showed you the Act,
and you couldn't answer him except by violence, which ain't no answer
at all. Now I am the servant of the law, and I know better than go
against the law."
"There, I want no more of your chat. Loose the prisoner."
"Seems to me he is loosed," said Fry.
"Go to the 5-lb. crank, Josephs, and let me see how much you can do in
half an hour."
"That I will, your reverence," and off he ran.
"Now, sir," said Hawes sternly, "I put up with this now because it
must end next week. I have written to the visiting justices, and they
will settle whether you are to be master in the jail or I."
"Neither, Mr. Hawes. The law shall be your master and mine."
"Very good! but there's a hole in your coat; for, as clever as you
are, every jail has its customs as well as its rules."
"Which customs, if illegal, are abuses, and shall be swept out of it."
"I'll promise you one thing--the justices shall sweep you out of the
"How can you promise that?"
"Because they only see with my eyes, and, hear with my ears; they
would do a great deal more for me than kick out a refractory chaplain."
Mr. Eden's eye flashed, he took out his note-book.
"Present Fry, Hodges, Evans. Mr. Hawes asserts that the visiting
justices see only with his eyes and hear with his ears."
Hawes laughed insolently, but a little uneasily.
"In spite of your statement that the magistrates are unworthy of their
office, I venture to hope, for the credit of the county, there will
not be found three magistrates to countenance your illegal cruelties.
But should there be--"
"Ay; what then?"
"I shall go higher and appeal to the Home Secretary."
"Ha! ha! He won't take any notice of you."
"Then I shall appeal to the sovereign."
"And if she takes you for a madman?"
"I shall appeal to the people. Oh! Mr. Hawes, I give you my honor this
great question whether or not the law can penetrate a prison shall be
sifted to the bottom. Pending my appeals to the Home Office, the
sovereign and the people, I have placed a thousand pounds in my
"A thousand pounds! have you, sir? What for, if I am not too curious?"
"For this, sir. Each prisoner whom you have pilloried and starved and
assaulted contrary to law shall bring an action of assault against you
the moment he leaves prison. He shall have counsel, and the turnkeys
and myself shall be subpoenaed as evidence. When once we get you into
court you will find that a prison is the stronghold of law, not a den
He then turned sharp on the warders.
"I warn you against all your illegal practices. Mr. Hawes's orders
shall neither excuse nor protect you. You owe your first obedience to
the crown and the law. Here are your powers and your duties; you can
all read. Here it is ruled that a prisoner shall receive four visits a
day from the governor, chaplain and two turnkeys; these four visits
are to keep the man from breaking down under the separate and silent
system. You have all been breaking this rule, but you shall not. I
shall report you Evans, you Fry, and you Hodges, and you Mr. Hawes, to
the authorities, if after this warning you leave a single prisoner
unvisited and unspoken with."
"Have you done preaching, parson?"
"Not quite, jailer."
He tapped the printed paper.
"Here is a distinct order that sick prisoners shall be taken out of
their cells into the infirmary, a vast room where they have a much
better chance of recovering than in those stinking cells ventilated
scientifically, i.e., not ventilated at all. Now there are seven
prisoners dangerously ill at this moment; yet you smother these
unfortunates in their solitary cells, instead of giving them the
infirmary and nurses according to the law. Let these seven persons be
in the infirmary before post-time this evening, or to-morrow I report
you to the Secretary of State."
With these words he went off leaving them all looking at one another.
"He is coming back again," said Fry.
He did come back again with heightened color and flashing eyes.
"Here is the prisoners' diet," cried he, tapping the printed rules;
"it is settled to an ounce by law, and I see no authority given to the
jailer to tamper with it under any circumstances. Yet I find you
perpetually robbing prisoners of their food. Don't let me catch either
jailer or turnkeys at this again. Jailers and turnkeys have no more
right to steal a prisoner's food than to rob the till of the Bank of
England. He receives it defined in bulk and quality from the law's own
hand, and the wretch who will rob him of an ounce of it is a felon
without a felon's excuse; and as a felon I will proceed against him by
the dog-whip of the criminal law, by the gibbet of the public press,
and by every weapon that wit and honesty have ever found to scourge
cruelty and theft since civilization dawned upon the earth."
He was gone and left them all turned to statues. A righteous man's
wrath is far more terrible than the short-lived passion of the
unprincipled. It is rarer, and springs from a deeper source than
temper. Even Hawes staggered under this mortal defiance so fierce and
unexpected. For a moment he regretted having pushed matters so far.
This scene let daylight in upon shallow, earnest Hawes, and showed him
a certain shallow error he had fallen into. Because insolence had no
earthly effect on the great man's temper he had concluded that nothing
could make him boil over. A shade of fear was now added to rage,
hatred and a desire for vengeance.
"Fry, come to my house."
Evans had a wife and children, and these hostages to fortune weighed
down his manly spirit. He came to Hawes as he was going out and said
submissively, though not graciously:
"Very sorry, sir, to think I should disobey you, but when his
reverence said it was against the law--"
"That is enough, my man," replied Hawes quietly; "he has bewitched
you, it seems. When he is kicked out you will be my servant again, I
The words and the tone were not ill-humored. It was not Hawes's cue to
quarrel with a turnkey.
Evans looked suddenly up, for his mind was relieved by Mr. Hawes's
moderation; he looked up and saw a cold, stern eye dwelling on him
with a meaning that had nothing to do with the words spoken.
Small natures read one another.
Evans saw his fate inscribed in Hawes's eye.
HAWES and Fry sat in council. A copy of the prison rules was before
them, and the more they looked at them after Mr. Eden's
interpretation, the less they liked them: they were severe and simple;
stringent against the prisoners on certain points; stringent in their
favor on others.
"The sick-list must go to the infirmary, I believe," said Hawes,
thoughtfully. "He'd beat us there. The justices will support me on
every other point, because they must contradict themselves else. I'll
have that fellow out of the jail, Fry, before a month is out, and
meantime what can I do to be revenged on him?"
"Punish 'em all the more," suggested the simple-minded Fry.
"No, that won't do; better keep a little quiet now till he is out of
the jail. Fine it would look if he was really to bribe these vermin to
bring actions against me, and subpoena himself and that sneaking dog,
"Well, sir, but if you turn him out he will do it all the more."
"You fool, can't you see the difference? If he comes into court a
servant of the crown every lie he tells will go for gospel. But if he
comes a disgraced servant, cashiered for refractory conduct, why then
we could tell the jury it is all his spite at being turned off."
"You know a thing or two, sir," whined the doleful Fry.
Hawes passed him a fresh tumbler of grog, and pondered deeply and
anxiously. But suddenly an idea flashed on him that extinguished his
other meditations. "Give me the rules." He ran his eye rapidly over
them. "Why, no! of course not, what a fool I was not to see that half
an hour ago."
"What is it, sir?"
"Finish your grog first, and then I have a job for you." He sat down
and wrote two lines on a slip of paper.
"Have you done?"
"Then take this order."
"And the printed rules in your hand--here, take 'em."
"And take Hodges and Evans with you, and tell me every word that
sneaking dog, Evans, says and everything he does."
"Yes, sir. But what are we all three to do?"
"Execute this order!"
An ebullition of wrath was as rare with Mr. Eden as an eruption of
Vesuvius. His deep-rooted indignation against cruelty remained; it was
a part of his nature. But his ruffled feathers smoothed themselves the
moment little Hawes & Co. were out of his eye. He even said to
himself, "What is the matter with me? one moment so despondent, the
next irascible. I hardly know myself. I must take a little of my
antidote." So saying he proceeded to visit some of those cells into
which he had introduced rational labor (anti-theft he called it). Here
he found cheerful looks as well as busy hands. Here industry was
relished with a gusto inconceivable to those who have never stagnated
body and soul in enforced solitude and silence. Here for the time at
least were honest converts to anti-theft. He had seen them dull and
stupid, brutalized, drifting like inanimate bodies on the heavy waters
of the Dead Sea. He had drawn them ashore and put life into them. He
had taught their glazed eyes to sparkle with the stimulus of rational
and interesting work, and those same eyes rewarded him by beaming on
him with pleasure and gratitude whenever he came. This soothed and
cheered his weary spirit vexed by the wickedness and stupidity that
surrounded him and obstructed the good work.
His female artisans gave him a keen pleasure, for here he benefited a
sex as well as a prisoner. He had long been saying that women are as
capable as men of a multitude of handicrafts, from which they are
excluded by man's jealousy and grandmamma's imbecility. And this wise
man hoped to raise a few Englishwomen to the industrial level of
Frenchwomen and Englishmen; not by writing and prattling that the sex
are at present men's equals in intelligence and energy, which is a
stupid falsehood calculated to keep them forever our inferiors by
persuading them they need climb no higher than they have climbed.
His line was very different. "At present you are infinitely man's
inferior in various energy," said he. "Dependents are inferiors
throughout the world."
If they were not so at first starting such a relation would make them
so in two months.
"Try and be more than mere dependents on men," was his axiom. "Don't
_talk_ that you are his equal, and then open that eloquent mouth to
be fed by his hand--do something! It is by doing fifty useful and
therefore lucrative things to your one that man becomes your creditor,
and a creditor will be a superior to the world's end. Out of these
fifty things you might have done twenty as well as he can do them, and
ten much better; and those thirty, added to the domestic duties in
which you do so much more than your share, would go far to balance the
account and equalize the sexes."
Thus he would sometimes talk to the more intelligent of his hussies;
but he did a great deal more than talk. He supplied from himself that
deficiency of inventive power and enterprise which is woman's weak
point; and he tilled those wide powers of masterly execution which
they possess unknown to grandpapa Cant and grandmamma Precedent. As
this clear head had foreseen, his women came out artisans. The eye
that could thread a needle proved accurate enough for anything. Their
supple, taper fingers soon learned to pick up type and place it quite
as quick as even the stiff digits of the male, all one size from
knuckle to nail. The same with watch-making and other trades reputed
masculine; they beat the men's heads off at learning many kinds of
fingerwork new to both; their singular patience stood them in good
stead here; they undermined difficulties that the males tried to jump
over and fell prostrate.
A great treat was in store; one of the fruit-trees he had planted in
the huge fallow of ---- Jail was to be shaken this afternoon. Two or
three well-disposed prisoners had been set to review their past lives
candidly, and to relate them simply, with reflections. Of these Mr.
Eden cut out every one which had been put in to please him, retaining
such as were sober and seemed. genuine to his lynx eye.
Mr. Eden knew that some men and women listen more to their fellows
than their superiors--to the experiences and sentiments of those who
are in their own situation, than to those who stand higher but farther
away. He had found out that a bad man's life honestly told is a
beacon. So he set "roguery teaching by examples."
There were three male narratives in the press and two female. For a
day or two past the printers (all women) had been setting up the type
and now the sheets were to be struck off.
There was no little expectation among the prisoners. They were curious
to see their compeers in print, and to learn their stories, and see
how they would tell them; and as for the writers, their bodies were
immured, but their minds fluttered about on tip-toe round the great
engine of publicity, as the author of the "Novum Organon" fluttered
when he first went into print, and as the future authoress of "Lives
and Careers of Infants in Arms" will flutter.
The press stood in the female-governor's room. One she-artisan, duly
taught before, inked the type and put in a blank sheet.
No. 2 pulled the bar of the press toward her, and at the moment of
contact threw herself back with sudden vigor and gave the telling
knip; the types were again covered with ink, the sheet reversed, and
No. 3 (one of the writers) drew out a printed sheet--two copies of two
"Oh! oh! oh!" cried No. 3, flushing with surprise and admiration, "how
beautiful! See, your reverence, here is mine--'Life of an Unfortunate
"Yes, I see it. And pray what do you mean by an unfortunate girl?"
"Oh, sir! you know."
"Unfortunate means one whom we are bound to respect as well as pity.
Has that been your character?"
"No," was the mournful reply.
"Then why print a falsehood? Falsehoods lurk in adjectives as well as
substantives. Misapplied terms are strongholds of self-deception.
Nobody says, 'I am unfortunate, therefore I abhor myself and repent in
dust and ashes.' Such words are fortifications to keep self-knowledge
and its brother repentance from the soul."
"Oh, sir! what am I to call myself?" She hid her face in her hands.
"My dear, you told me a week ago you were--a penitent."
"So I am, indeed I am. Sir, may I change it to 'a penitent girl?'"
"You would make me very happy if you could do it with truth."
"Then I can, indeed I can." And she took out "an unfortunate," and put
in "a penitent."
"There," said she, glowing with exultation and satisfaction, "'Life of
a Penitent Girl.'"
Oh; it was a pretty sight. Their little hearts were all in it. Their
little spirits rose visibly as the work went on--such beaming
eyes--such glowing cheeks and innocent looks of sparkling triumph to
their friend and father, who smiled back like Jupiter, and quizzings
of each other to stimulate to greater speed.
In went the sheets, on went the press, out came the tales, up grew the
pile, amid quips and cranks and rays of silver-toned laughter, social
labor's natural music. They were all so innocent and so happy, when
the door was unceremoniously opened, and in burst Fry and Hodges,
followed by Evans crawling with his eyes on the ground.
The work-women looked astonished, but did not interrupt their work.
Fry came up to Mr. Eden and gave him a slip of paper on which Hawes
had written an order that all work not expressly authorized by the law
should be expelled from the jail on the instant.
Mr. Eden perused the order, and the color rose to the roots of his
hair. By way of comment Fry put the prison-rules under his eye.
"Anything about printing, or weaving, or watchmaking in these rules,
Mr. Eden was silent.
"Perhaps you will cast your eye over 'em and see, sir," continued Fry
slyly. "Shouldn't like to offend the law again."
Mr. Eden took the paper, but not to read it--he knew it by heart. It
was to hide his anguish from the enemy. Hawes had felled him with his
own weapon. He put down the paper and showed his face, which was now
stern and composed.
"What we are doing is against the letter of the law, as your pillory
and your starvation of prisoners are against both letter and spirit.
Mr. Hawes shall find no excuse for his illegal practices in any act of
He then turned to the artisans. "Girls, you must leave off."
"Leave off, sir?" cried No. 3 faintly.
"Yes, no words; obey the prison-rules; they do not allow it."
"Come, my birds," shouted Hodges roughly to the women. "Stand clear,
we want this gear."
"What do you want of it, Mr. Hodges?"
"Only to put it outside the prison-gate, sir. That is the order."
The printing-press, representative of knowledge, enemy of darkness,
stupidity, cruelty; organ of civilization--was ignominiously thrust
to the door.
This feat performed, they went to attack anti-theft.
"Will you come along with us, sir, to see it is all legal?" sneered
"I will come to see that insolence is not added to cruelty."
At the door of Mary Baker's cell Mr. Eden hung back as Hodges and Fry
passed in. At last, after a struggle, he entered the cell. The
turnkeys had gathered up the girl's work and tools, and were coming
out with them, while the artisan stood desolate in the middle of the
"Oh, sir," cried she to Mr. Eden, "I am glad you are here. These
blackguards have broke into my cell, and they are robbing it."
"Hush, Mary; what they are doing is the law, and we were acting
against the law."
"Were we, sir?"
"Yes. It is a bad law, and will be changed; but till it is changed we
must obey it. You are only one victim among many. Be patient, and pray
for help to bear it."
"Yes, your reverence. Are they all to be robbed of their tools?"
"Poor things!" said Mary Baker.
"Evans, it is beyond my strength--I am but a man; I can bear even
this, but I can't bear to see it done. I can't bear it! I can't bear
And his reverence turned his back on the moral butchers, and crept
away to his own room. There he sank into a chair and laid his brow
upon the table with his hands stretched out before him and his whole
frame trembling most piteously.
Eden and Hawes are not level antagonists--one takes things to heart,
the other to temper.
In this bitter hour it seemed to him impossible that he could ever
counteract the pernicious Hawes.
"There is but one chance left for these poor souls. I shall try it,
and it will fail. Well! let it fail! Were there a thousand more
chances against me than there are I must battle to the last. Let me
mature my plan;" and he fell into a sad but stern reverie.
He lay thus crushed, though not defeated, more than two hours in
silence. Had Hawes seen him he would have exulted at his appearance.
"A man from the jail to speak to you, sir."
A heavy rap at the parlor door, and Evans came in sheepishly smoothing
down his hair. Mr. Eden turned his head as he lay on the sofa and
motioned him to a seat.
"I couldn't sleep till I had spoken to you. I obeyed your orders, sir.
We have undone your work."
"How did the poor souls bear it?"
"Some cried, some abused us, one or two showed they were better than
"They prayed Heaven to forgive us and hoped we might never come to
know what they felt. I wish I'd never seen the inside of a jail. Fry
got a scratched face in one cell, sir."
"I am sorry to hear that. I shall have to scold her; who was it?"
"You won't scold her; you won't have the heart."
"I will scold her whether I have the heart or not. Who was it?"
"No. 57, a gal that had some caterpillars."
"Yes, sir, silkworms, and it seems she has got to be uncommon fond of
them, calls 'em her children, poor soul. When we came in and went to
take them away she stood up for 'em and said we had no right--his
reverence gave them her."
"Well, sir, of course they made short work and took them away by
force. Then I saw the girl turn white and her eye getting wildish;
however, I don't know as it would have come to anything, but with them
snatching away the leaves and the grubs one of them fell on the
ground. The poor girl she goes to lift it up and Fry he sees her and
put his foot on it before she could get to it."
"I dare say he didn't stop to think, you know; but I don't envy him
having done it. Well, sir, he paid for it. The girl just gave one sort
of a yell--you could not call it anything else--and she went right at
his head, both claws going and as quick one after another as a cat.
The blood squirted like a fountain--I never saw anything like it.
She'd have killed him if it hadn't been for Hodges and me."
"Killed him? nonsense--a great strong fellow!"
"No nonsense at all, sir. She was stronger than he was for a moment or
two and that moment would have done his business. She meant killing.
Sir," said Evans, lowering his voice, "her teeth were making for his
jugular when I wrenched her away, and it was like tearing soul from
body to get her off him, and she snarling and her teeth gnashing for
him all the time."
Mr. Eden winced.
"The wretched creature! I was putting her on the way to heaven, and in
one moment they made a fiend of her. Evans, you are not the same man
you were a month ago."
"No, sir, that I am not. When I think of what a brute I used to be to
them poor creatures, I don't seem to know myself."
"What has changed you?"
"Oh, you know very well."
"Do I? No; I have a guess; but--"
"Why your sermons, to be sure."
"Yes, sir. Why, how could I hear them and my heart be as hard as it
used? They would soften a stone."
A faint streak of surprise and simple satisfaction crossed Mr. Eden's
"But it isn't your sermons only--it is your life, as the saying is. I
was no better than Hawes and Fry and the rest. I used to look on a
prisoner as so much dirt. But when I saw a gentleman like you respect
them, and say openly you loved them, I began to take a thought, and
says I, Hallo! if his reverence respects them so, an ignorant brute
like Jack Evans isn't to look down on them."
"Ah! confess, too, that half hour in the jacket opened your eyes and
so your heart."
"It did, sir; it did. I was like a good many more that misuse
prisoners. I didn't know how cruel I was."
"You are on my side, then?"
"Yes, I am on your side, and I am come here mainly to speak my mind to
you. Sir, it goes to my heart to see you lost and wasted in such a
place as this."
"You think I do no good here?"
"No! no! sir. Why I am a proof the other way. But you would do more
good anywhere else. Everybody says you are a bright and a shining
light, sir. Then why stay where there is dirty water thrown over you
every day? Besides, it is killing you! I don't want to frighten you,
sir; but if you could only see how you are changed since you came
"I do feel very ill."
"Of course you do; you are ill, and you will be worse if you don't get
out of this dreadful place. If you are so fond of prisons, sir, you
can go from here to another prison. There is more than one easy-going
chaplain as would be glad to change with you.
"Do you think so?" said Mr. Eden faintly, lying on his back on the
"Not a doubt of it. If it warn't for Hawes you would convert half this
prison; but you see, the governor is against you, and he is stronger
than you. So it is no good to go wasting yourself. Now, what will be
the upshot? Why, you'll break your heart to begin, and lose your
health; and when all is done, at a word from Hawes the justices will
turn you out of the jail--and send me after you for taking your part."
"What do you advise?"
"Why, cut it."
"Turn your back on the whole ignorant lot, and save yourself for
better things. Why, you will win many a battle yet, your reverence, if
you don't fling yourself away this time," said Evans in tones of
homely cheerfulness and encouragement.
There was a deal of good sense in the rough fellow's words and a
homely sympathy not intruded but rather, as it were, forcing its way
against the speaker's intention. All this co-operated powerfully with
Mr. Eden's present inclination and feeling as he lay sick and
despondent upon the couch.
"So that is really your advice?" inquired Mr. Eden, feebly and
"Yes, your reverence, that is my advice."
Mr. Eden rose in a moment like an elastic spring, and whirled round in
front of Evans. "And this is my answer--RETRO SATANAS!" shouted he,
with two eyes flashing like a pair of sabers in the sun.
"Mercy on us," roared Evans, recoiling so hastily that he rolled over
a chair, "what is that?" and he sat upon the floor a long way off,
with eyes like saucers, and repeated in a whisper, "what is that?"
"A quotation," replied the other grimly.
"A quotation! now only think of that" said Evans, much relieved.
"Sounded like cussing and swearing in Latin."
"Come here, my good friend, and sit beside me."
Evans came gingerly.
"Well, but ye mustn't thunder at me in Latin any more."
"Well, I won't."
"It isn't fair; how can I stand up against Latin?"
"Well, come here and I'll have at you in the vulgar tongue. Aha! So
you come in robust health and spirits and tempt a poor, broken, sick
creature to mount the white feather; to show his soldierly qualities
by running from the foe to some cool spot where there are no enemies,
and there fighting the good fight in peace. Evans, you are a good
creature, but you are a poor creature. Yes, Hawes is strong, yet I
will resist him. And I am weak--yet I will resist. He will get the
justices on his side--yet I will resist. I am sick and dispirited--yet
I will resist. The representative of humanity and Christianity in a
stronghold of darkness and cruelty and wrong must never sag with doubt
nor shake with fear. I will fight with pen and hand and tongue against
these outlaws, so long as there is a puff of wind in my body, and a
drop of indomitable blood in my veins."
"No doubt you are game enough," mourned Evans; "I wish you wern't."
"And as for you, you came here to seduce a sick, broken creature from
his Master's service; you shall remain to be enlisted in it yourself
Evans shuffled uneasily on his chair at these words. "I think I am on
your side," said he.
"Half! but it is no use being half anything; your hour is come to
choose between all right and all wrong."
"I wouldn't be long choosing if it warn't for one thing."
"And what is that one thing which can outweigh the one thing needful?"
"My wife and my four children; if I get myself turned out of this jail
how am I to find bread for that small lot?"
"And do you think shilly-shallying between two stools will secure your
seat? You have gone too far with me to retract; don't you see that the
jailer means to get you dismissed the next time the justices visit the
jail for business? Can't you read your fate in the man's eye?"
Evans groaned. "I read it, I read it, but I didn't want to believe
"He set a trap for you half an hour after you had defended me."
"He did! I told my wife I was a gone coon, but she overpersuaded me;
'Keep quiet,' said she, 'and 'twill blow over.' But you see it in the
same light as I did, don't you, sir?"
Mr. Eden smiled grimly in assent.
"You are a doomed man," said he coolly; "half measures can't save you,
but whole measures may--perhaps."
"What is to be done, sir?" asked Evans helplessly.
"Your only chance is to go heart and hand with me in the project which
occupies me now."
"I will, sir," cried Fluctuans, with a sudden burst of resolution,
"for I'm druv in a corner. So please tell me what is your project?"
"To get Mr. Hawes dismissed from this jail."
As he uttered these words the reverend gentleman had a severe spasm
which forced him to lie back and draw his breath hard. Evans uttered
something between a cry of dismay and a groan of despair, and stared
down upon this audacious invalid with wonder and ire at his
supernatural but absurd cool courage.
"Turn our governor out of this jail? Now hark to that. You might as
well try to move a mountain; and look at you lying there scarce able
to move yourself, and talking like that."
"Pour me out a cup of tea, Mr. Faintheart; I am in great pain--thank
He took the cup, and as he stirred it he said coolly, "Did you ever
read of Marshal Saxe, Mr. Faintheart? He fought the battle of Fontenoy
as he lay a dying. He had himself carried on his bed of death from one
part of the field to another; at first the fight went against him, but
he spurned craven counsels with his expiring heart; he saw the enemy's
blunder with his dying eye, and waved his troops on to victory with
his dying hand. This is one of the great feats of earth. But the
soldiers of Christ are as stout-hearted as any man that ever carried a
marshal's baton or a sergeant's pike. Yes! I am ill, and I feel as if
I were dying, Evans; but living or dying I am the Lord's. I will fight
for Him to the last gasp, and I will thrust this malefactor from his
high office with the last action of my hand--Will you help me, or will
"I will, sir! I will! What on earth can I do?"
"You can turn the balanced scale and win the day!"
"Can I, sir?" cried Evans, greatly puzzled.
"You will find some wine in that cupboard, my man; fill yourself a
tumbler. I will sip my tea, and explain myself. You think this Hawes
is a mountain;--no! he is a large pumpkin hollow at the core. You
think him strong;--no! he but seems so, because some of the many at
whose mercy he is are so weak. There is a flaw in Hawes, which must
break him sooner or later. He is a felon. The law hangs over his head
by a single hair; he has forfeited his office, and will be turned out
of it the moment we can find among his many superiors one man with one
grain either of honesty or intelligence."
"But how shall we find that, sir?"
"By looking for it everywhere, till we find it somewhere. Mr. Hawes
tells me, in other words, that the visiting justices do not possess
the one grain we require. I profit by the intelligence the enemy was
weak enough to give me, and I go--not to the visiting justices.
To-morrow, if my case is ready, I send a memorial to the Home-Office,
accuse Hawes of felonious practices, and demand an inquiry."
Evans's eye sparkled; he began to gather strength from the broken man.
"But now comes the difficulty. A man should never strike a feeble
blow. My appeal will be read by half-educated clerks. If I don't
advance something that the small official mind can take in, I shall
never reach the heads of the office. It would be madness to begin by
attacking national prejudices, by combating a notion so stupid, and
therefore so deep-rooted, as that prisoners have no legal rights. No!
the pivot of my assault must be something that a boy can afford to be
able to comprehend for eighty pounds a year and a clerk's desk in a
Government office. Now, Mr. Hawes has, for many months past, furnished
false reports to the justices and to the Home-Office. Here is the true
stepping-stone to an inquiry, here is the fact to tell on the official
mind; for the man's cruelty and felonious practices are only offenses
against God and the law; but a false report is an offense against the
office. And here I need your help."
"You shall have it, sir."
"I want to be able to prove this man's reports to be lies. I think
such a proof exists," said Mr. Eden, very thoughtfully. "Now, if it
does, you alone can get hold of it for me. One of the turnkeys notes
down every punishment of a prisoner in a small pocket-book, for I have
"Yes, sir; Fry does--never misses!"
"What becomes of those notes?"
"I don't know."
"What if he keeps a book and enters everything in it?"
"But if he had, shouldn't we have caught a glimpse of it?"
"Humph! A man does not take notes constantly and destroy them. Fry,
too, is an enthusiast in his way. I am sure he keeps a record, and if
he does it is a true one, for he has no object in tampering with his
own facts. Bring me such a book or any record kept by Fry; let me have
it for twelve hours and Hawes shall be turned out of the jail and you
stay in it."
"Sir!" cried Evans, in great excitement, "if there is such a thing you
shall see it to-morrow morning."
"No! to-night! come, you have an hour before you. Do you want the
sinews of war? here, take this five pounds with you; you may have to
buy a sight of it; but if you ask him whether I am right in telling
you it is not the custom of jails to crucify prisoners in the present
century, perhaps the barbarian will produce his record of abuses to
prove to you that it is. Work how you please; but be wary--be
intelligent, and bring me Fry's ledger--or never look me in the face
He waved his hand, and Evans strode out of the room animated with a
spirit not his own. He who had animated him lay back on the sofa
prostrated. Half an hour elapsed, no Evans; a quarter of an hour more,
still no Evans; but just before the hour struck, in he burst out of
breath but red with triumph.
"Your reverence is a witch--you can see in the dark--look here, sir!"
and he flung a dirty ledger on the table. "Here's all the money, sir.
He did not get a farthing of it. I flattered the creature's pride, and
he dropped the cheese into my hand like the old carrion crow when they
asked him for one of his charming songs. But he had no notion it was
going out of the jail; so you'll bring it in and give it me back the
first thing to-morrow, sir. I must run back, time's up!--Good-night,
your reverence. Am I on your side or whose?"
"Good-night, my fine fellow; you shan't be turned out of the jail now.
He wanted him gone. He went to a drawer and took out his own book, a
copy of Hawes's public log-book, which he had made as soon as he came
into the jail, with the simple view of guiding himself by the
respectable precedents he innocently expected to find there. He
lighted candles, placed his sheets by the side of Fry's well-thumbed
ledger, and plunged into a comparison.
It was as he expected. On one side lay the bare, simple, brutal truth
in Fry's hand, on the other the same set of facts colored, molded and
cooked in every imaginable way to bear inspection, with occasional
suppressions where the deed and consequences were too frightful to
bear coloring, molding, extenuating or cooking.
The book was a thick quarto, containing a strict record of the prison
for four years; two years of Captain O'Connor, and two of Hawes, the
worthy who had supplanted him.
Mr. Eden was a rapid penman; he set to, and by half-past eleven
o'clock he had copied the first part; for under O'Connor there were
comparatively few punishments. Then he attacked Hawes's reign. Sheet
after sheet was filled and numbered. He threw them on another table as
each was filled. Three o'clock; still he wrote with all his might.
Four o'clock; black spots danced before his eyes, and his fingers
ached, and his brow burned, and his feet were ice. Still the light,
indefatigable pen galloped along the paper. Meantime the writer's
feelings were of the most mixed and extraordinary character. Often his
eye flashed with triumph, as Fry exposed the dishonesty and utter
mendacity of Hawes. Oftener still it dilated with horror at the
frightful nature of the very revelations. At six o'clock Fry's record
was all copied out.
Mr. Eden shaved and took his bath, and ran into the town. He knocked
up a solicitor, with whom he was acquainted.
"I want you to make my will, while your son attests this copy of this
"But my son is in bed."
"Well! he can read in bed. Which is his room?"
"That one."--Rap! (Come in.)
"Here, Mr. Edward, compare these two, and correct or attest this as a
true copy--Twenty minutes' work--Two guineas; here they are on your
drawers;" and he chucked the documents on the bed, opened the
shutters, and drew the bed-curtains; and passing his arm under the
father's, he drew him into his own office, opened the shutters, put
paper before him, and dictated a will. Three bequests (one to Evans),
and his mother residuary legatee. The will written, he ran upstairs,
made father and son execute it, and then darted out, caught a fly that
was going to the railway, engaged it; upstairs again. The work was
done, copy attested.
"Half a crown if you are at the jail in five minutes."
Galloped off with his two documents-entered the jail--went to his own
room--sent for Evans--gave him Fry's book, and ordered himself the
same breakfast the prisoners had.
"I am bilious, and no wonder. I have been living too luxuriously; if I
had been content with the diet my poor brothers live on, I should be
in better health. It serves me just right."
Then he sat down and wrote a short memorial to the Secretary for the
Home Department, claiming an inquiry into the jailer's conduct.
"I have evidence on the spot to show that for two years he has been
guilty of illegal practices. That he has introduced into the prison an
unlawful instrument of torture. That during his whole period of office
he has fabricated partial, colored and false reports of his actions in
the prison, and also of their consequences; that he has suppressed all
mention of no less than seven attempts at suicide, and has given a
false color, both with respect to the place of death, the manner of
death and the cause of death of some twenty prisoners besides. That
his day-book, kept in the prison for the inspection and guide of the
magistrates, is a tissue of frauds, equivocations, exaggerations,
diminutions and direct falsehoods; that his periodical reports to the
Home Office are a tissue of the same frauds, suppressions, inventions,
and direct falsehoods.
"The truth, therefore, is inaccessible to you, except by a severe
inquiry conducted on the spot. That inquiry I pray for on public
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