Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

oners.

man, although he had given way to judgment of their moral and intemperance and he did undoubt- spiritual condition is enhanced by edly spend most of his time in the fact that so many of them are prayer and in attending tɔ the in- systematic hypocrites, wonderfully structions of those who ministered skilful in rendering their counteto him. He was generally calm nances absolute masks to their real and resigned, but he broke down characters. helplessly during his last interview Nevertheless the work is not with his children, when his young- hopeless : even when it has to be est little girl produced her great- carried on in connection with the est treasure, a penny which had most aggravated guilt, there are been bestowed upon her, and said many cases which are singularly she had brought it to "give to receptive of good influences. father," and she wished him to go It is necessary for the elucidaout to the shops and buy what tion of the subject that we should ever he liked with it. His brother distinguish between two distinct went to see him a day or two be classes of delinquents, who come fore his execution, anxious like all alike under the heading of prisevery one else that he should ad

There are first those who mit the crime; but Wheeler held appear to be criminals of deepest out his hand to him saying, “It is dye-charged with murder, man28 clear from it as it ever was—it slaughter, and other deeds of viohad not a finger to do with it;.it lence, or of living in continual is hard to die like this.” Even in villany and fraud; and secondly, the closing moments of his life, à those, for the most part simple last appeal was made to him. The country people, who are sent in executioner said to him while he under short sentences for very pinioned him, "Have you anything venial offences. Some of these to say Isay these five words and latter cases are often most pitinothing more," --meaning of course able, and would rouse a strong that he should confess to the mur- feeling of exasperation against the der Wheeler answered that he “ Justices' justice” which is so had said all he had to say to the often denounced in the newspapers, chaplain, which simply was that were it not that the period of inthe fatal evening had been from carceration can generally be made first to last completely blotted morally beneficial to them. írom his mind, and that he knew We will deal first with the work nothing whatever of the deed for which may be done among these which he was condemned. The comparatively harmless offenders, man only lived four minutes after as it is undoubtedly the most pleamaking this last declaration,—and sant and hopeful, and becomes so departed. It is to be hoped that often a lasting power for good to he woke from the painful dream of those it would benefit. It is life to a brighter reality.

generally found-even in the case This singular history seems to

of a first offence—that persons do us to illustrate forcibly the uncer not soil their hands with theft or tainty which must always attend other malpractices, unless they the attempts of workers in a prison have been living in much carelessto estimate justly the guilt of its ness and indifference to the claims inmates with a view to their per of religion and morals upon them. manent reform; and the primary In their compulsory exile from all difficulty of forming a correct the interests and occupations of

a

their home lives, they can often be stole a small piece of meat from led to consider seriously their posi- & shop. wherewith to feed her tion in the sight of God and man.

hungry children.

She had never They can be brought to feel that been dishonest before : but from their first offence against the law the monient when she comunitted has placed them on the tlıreshold this first theft, and passed the of a career of crime, from which boundary-line between innocence it is but too likely that they may and guilt, she becanie entirely be drawn down step by step to reckless. She told the prison graver deeds, till they sink in visitor afterwards that had she depths of eril litler undreant of not been checked at the very and unknown. If in that crisis of outset of a potential course of their lives they can be awakened crime, she was prepared to fling to the claims of the great unerring all considerations of equity to the Judge upon them. they are often winds, and seek a living for her led to iurn back of their own will family by any nefarious means that from the fatal briuk, and reso- night be within her reach. Forlutely climb the steep ascent to the tunately for herself, the theft was higher righteousness. whereby a at once discovered, and she was lasting regeneration of their whole sent to prison for a sufficiently moral being is practically effected. long period to allow of a strong

We can recall several instances religious impression being inade where this was enphatically the on her mind. case. One was a poor womai) The puvishment was to a person whose existence fronher marriage of her loving sensitive temperain early girlhood bad been a ment exceptionally severe, as she continual struggle to obtain the was parted not only from her means of living for herself and elder children, but also from a her children, of which her hus- young infant, whom it pierced her band's intemperate labits per- mother's heart to leave. Neverpetually deprived them. Her life theless, before she passed out during all these years, though in from the prison walls she was no sense actively guilty, had been filled with the deepest gratitude absolutely godless. She had ac- for the blessings which her resiknowledged no higher law than dence within them had brought the animal instinct of providing to her. for her daily wants. She had She had known little of care never raised her eyes from the or kindness in the outside world, earth to seek in heavenly regions and the knowledge which gradually for a better and a purer hope dawned upon her of an than it could ever afford her, and undying Love that was not only no true words of prayer passed ever round' her, but would liave her lips, either for herself or for its fullest revelation in an eternal those she loved. At length, on future, seemned to flood her whole one occasion, when her liusband being with a uew and rapturous had been longer than usual lost life. She hung ou the words that to her in a low public-house were spoken to her on this subject where he speut every penny that with eager delight. She spent lier should have provided food for whole time when her Jabour tasks his fanıily, the woman was driven were done in reading the Gospels by actual starration to her first and in fervent supplications. offence against the law. She Finally, as a result, no doubt, of

unseen

many hours

some

her intense preoccupation with her fit of desperation they started one new - found hopes. she had a winter's day to walk to a far-disvision one night as she lay asleep tant town in search of work. on her plank- bed which illumin. After toiling on

for ated her whole being with a light without food or shelter, sleeping, that never more faded from it. we believe, half frozen under a She related this strange experience hedge all night, they rose to purnext day to her visitor. with a sue their way next morning in trembling awe and ecstasy that spite of the weather. which, if we were too real to be mistaken. She remember right, had culminated had seen the Divine Redeeiner, in a heavy snowstorm. They she said. clad in robes of dazzling plodded on wearily through that whiteness-glorious in majesty, day, while the gnawing hunger yet looking down on her with which had taken possession of them compassion and tenderness. She alone prevented them from letting had heard Him speaking to her themselves fall down on in words of consolation as to snow-heap and yield to the drowsiJerusalenı of old. telling her that ness that would have ended in the her miquity was pardoned. and sleep of death, Darkness had her sins for ever washed away, and closed in upon them, and they henceforth she was to follow Him were almost in despair when they in paths of righteousness, treading saw a light in the distance, and in His shining footsteps whereso- made for it eagerly, in the hope ever they led her, through the that it might be shining from a dust and mire of this world's tor- house where it would be possible

That mystic com for them to obtain a little food. mand. however inuch it night It proved to proceed from a have been the effect of pure im- candle placed in the window of a agination, she obeyed with in- farmhouse, to which they could domitable perseverance. She went approach very near in the snow out from the prison a totally without being overheard. They changed woman. We heard of looked through the panes of glass her afterwards leading a most con into a room quite untenanted, and sistent and alınost saintly life, on a table close to then reposed a striving to induce her husband to Christmas plum-pudding of most reform. and resolutely bringing up fascinating appearance and proher chillren in the fear of God. portions. They had never been

In the case of prisoners con dishonest boy's before, but this victed like this poor wonian of sight was too much for them. first offences, involving 10 great They found it quite easy to raise criminality, it is almost always the window, gently seize the sepossible not only to influence ductive pudding, and scud away them for goorl but also to benefit through the snow without being them materially by placing them seen. They were too ravenously in a position to gain an lionest hungry to go very far before they living for themselves. We had proceeded to devour their prize, a pleasant instance of this once which they did crouching down in the case of two lads, sons of in the first sheltered spot they country labourers, wlio, in conse could find. There, however, venquence of the agricultural depres- geance was speedily upon them,sion, could no longer obtain even a the empty dish which had once scauty subsistence at honie. In a .contained the special Christmas

tuous ways.

dainty was quickly perceived by to be the property of a man who
the inmates of the farmhouse. was utilising the stream as a means
the open window and the foot of transit for his wood. and poor
prints 10 the snow led to the Mrs Merry was indicted for receive
swift detection of the thieves, anul ing and nppropriating stolen goods,
before they had almost tinished her son having left the town.
the delectable pudding, they found The name we have given her
themselves on their way to the best expresses her real designation,
lock-up for the night.

which had a most bilarious sound. As soon as possible they were Nothing could exceed her unresbrought before the nearest justice soning horror and fear when she of the peace,-a country gentleman found herself actually within the

, not, it is to be presumed, very prison walls. What secret tortures learned in the law as it affects she expected to be inflicted on her gradations in crime,—and by him cannot be guessed; but she seemed they were summarily sent to prison to look on all connected with the for six months – a very severe place as terrible agents of justice, sentence under the circumstances, whom it was necessary to propitibut one that the two lads are now ate by every possible means. When most thankful to have undergone. she was for the first time brought During the whole period of their before the prison visitor according detention they were systematically to custom, she suddenly, to the instructed in good principles, and great dismay of that individual, at the close of it they were pro- dropped prone on her knees in the vided with an outfit and an intro- middle of the floor, and joined her duction to an employer of labour hands in mute supplication to be in Canada, to which their passage spared the unknown agonies she was paid; and when we last heard expected to undergo. It was in of them they were doing extremely vain that the visitor implored her well, with excellent prospects be- to rise : she persisted in remaining fore them.

in the attitude of a victim preMost of the simple people who pared for the sacrifice, and when come to prison under short sen- an attempt was made to lift her tences can generally be led to bodily from the ground, it was make use of their brief retirement found that the enormous weight of from the world as a time of quiet her portly person rendered the reflection, which is very advantag- effort quite abortive. At length, eous to them ; but the form which however, by dint of strong insisttheir newly developed piety takes ence, she was induced to creep up is sometimes rather embarrassing from the ground and sit on the to their instructors.

edge of a chair in presence of the A good homely woman, who was formidable being with whom she prospering as the keeper of a small had been left alone. After this shop in a country town, was sent concession it did not take long to to our jail once under circum- win her simple confidence, and the stances certainly of considerable flood-gates of her speech being unhardship. Her sole offence con- loosed, she poured out a complete sisted in having received from her history of all her delinquencies son some pieces of timber, which from infancy upwards. From that he had taken from the river where day Mrs Merry became the absothey were floating, and used them lutely devoted slave of the person as fuel for her fire. They proved she had so inuch dreaded, and she

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

devised

every means she could a middle-aged woman, well known think of to win favour in the eyes to the officials, for those iron doors of her new friend. Some of her ex had closed upon her many a time pedients were decidedly appalling. before. She was considered to be On one occasion she appeared an absolutely hopeless case with a beaming countenance, and coarse depraved woman, repulsive triumphantly announced that she in appearance, blasphemous in lanhad learned by heart the whole guage. She was brought to the of the first seven chapters of the visitor, as all the prisoners were Book of Genesis, and intended to in rotation, and as a matter of recite them aloud then and there. duty some words of counsel were Without leaving time for any re- spoken, without the least hope monstrance, she proceeded to de- that they would make any impresclaim them in a high-pitched tone síon upon her; but she seemed in a of voice with wonderfully glib strange state of mental excitement, utterance, and marginal readings and suddenly plunged into an acof her own which slightly impaired count of her life since she had last the solemnity of the proceeding, been within those walls. It was Now the serpent was the most plain as she related it, that her. suitable of the beasts of the field,thoughts were engrossed with one and so on.

Mrs Merry departed tragic incident, which stood out from the prison a 'much-sobered dark and terrible from all minor woman, and has led an exemplary events. The man-not. her huslife, we believe, ever since.

band-with whom she had lived With these comparatively harm- for many years, had hung himself less prisoners the work is easy in the one room where they had enough; but it is of course far dwelt together, in the practice of otherwise in the case of men and all manner of evil deeds. women stained with the deepest “Yes," she seemed ready to say guilt. Yet even with such crim -“ he put an end to it all for inals there are often remarkable himself-he had been a cruel man instances of reform, which ought to me—he has knocked me down effectually to dispel any doubt as and trampled on me scores of to the value of prison visitation, times, but when I came and saw and the possibility of a perman- him hanging stone dead I forgot it ent good work being accomplished all, and now" amongst the more hardened pris- sion of her uncouth features seemoners, We will give two typi- ed to indicate a terrible thought in cal instances, the one of success her mind —"Now I suppose he is and the other of failure, which in hell—in he!l!” She looked up, are genuine illustrations of our as if to put her dark doubt in the position.

form of a question; but it was one It has been truly said that when to which no answer was returned, a woman is thoroughly bad and only after a few minutes the visitor unscrupulous, she is radically began to speak to her on that worse than any man can succeed theme which rings for ever sweet in being with his best endeavour, and true within the prison walls. and we shall therefore select our The quality of mercy is not cases from that which can-scarce, strained,.

mercy, to which all in prison latitudes, be termed the must be left who have passed to gentler sex.

the secrets of eternity – mercy, There came to the jail one day still full of wondrous possibilities

The expres

« НазадПродовжити »