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SCENES FROM A SILENT WORLD.-IV.

BY A PRISON VISITOR,

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The many singular phases of borne pain of existence—the ceshuman life with which the sation of consciousness, which in visitor to a prison is naturally their experience is mainly suffermade acquainted, do not cousti- ing—the triumphant release from tute by any means the strangest bonds and punishment and the iron spectacle to be witnessed withir power of the law, against which, those silent walls. A much more living, they must ever struggle in remarkable phenomenon may be vain. It is, however, the mere studied there, in the peculiar aspect fact of death in its freedom and which death assumes in that region rest, wholly unconnected with any of sin and sorrow and remorse. idea of a future state, which shines In the outside world, as we all like a star of hope before their know only too well, not even the eager eyes. Seldom indeed does it brightness of immortal hopes can occur to them to look in any sense altogether dispel the gloom and beyond it. “To die, to sleep,” sadness which surround that in- -thus far they go with Hamexorable mystery. Should the let; but they never follow him to tyranny of life strip it of all ter- the deeper issue—“In that sleep rors for ourselves, still nothing can of death, what dreams may come! assuage the anguish of surrender. If

If the teaching and efforts of ing the objects of our helpless love others force upon their knowledge to its stern demand ; and habitu- some possibility of a conscious life ated as we thus are, to see it ever beyond the grave which lures them hanging like a menacing shadow with its untroubled rest, the visions over the fairest joys existence has thus evoked are all too dim and to offer us, it strikes on the con- shadowy to carry their gaze past sciousness with a weird sense of that reality of death itself which wonder and awe to meet it in the seeins to them so blissful. They attractive guise it wears within the know its outward aspect, they prisoner's cell. Not for themselves, have beheld it often; they have or for any whom they love, do these seen a fellow-prisoner carried out erring wayworn men and women from those impregnable walls, dread the last mysterious change; “free among the dead”; they its poetical name—the "angel of have looked on the tormented, death”—is to them a blest reality. storm-tossed frame sunk in proIt has for them no gloom, no re- found

repose-eyes that were wont pulsion; it is their hope, their de- to weep scalding tears, closed in sire-always their best, often their tranquil slumber - hands that only friend. What must life have toiled in vain to win the bread been to them when the thought which at last they snatched by of escape from it is so dear and crime, folded in calm'inaction on sweet—that death is most eager- the quiet breast. This is enough; ly sought, and ever welcome! it is real, it is tangible; and to thet They look forward to it as the haven of peace, when the fever and gracious termination of the long- struggle of life are over, they look

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with inexpressible desire that often his only companion. He had but cannot wait the legitiniate hour one child-a daughter

and she for its gratification.

lived at a distance, entirely sepCertain true histories which have arated from hinı by her inarriage come within the range of our ex with a man who had treated her perience will sufficiently show that wrongly, and with whoun, therewe are not trusting to any vague fore, Hodson had a deadly quartheories, in thus describing the bę rel. It would have been hard to neticent and alluring aspect which say whether he or his wife were death wears within the Silent the most thoroughly ill-tempered. World, and these are not by any They often passed days aud oveu ineans confined to cases of actual weeks together in their small cotsuicide. The passionate belief in tage without addressing a single the last dread change, as the great- syllable to each other. It was not est boon life can offer, bas been a cheerful abode under the cirseen by us to take action in forms cumstances; and certainly Richmuch more singular than nere ard Hodsou's life was altogether self-destruction. One of the

the so bopelessly unattractive that he strangest instances of man might be forgiven for not caring enamoured of death that ever particularly to prolong it. came under our notice was that One beautiful evening in the of an old agricultural labourer, month of May the whom we will call Richard Hod hoine after having been hard at

He was about sixty years work from early daylight. There of age, absolutely illiterate, of a sinall kitchen-garden atsound mind so far as his intelli tached to his cottage, on which he gence went, but without an idea and his wife depended entirely for beyond his daily work and the

a supply of vegetables with which circumstances of his domestic life. to eke out their scanty ineals. He had apparently no religious Sowe piece of work within its narbelief. If any dim recollections re row limits required to be finished mained with him of the Sunday at ouce if they were not to lose school teaching of his childish the benefit of the uncertain fine days, it never seemed to occur weather; but the man was tired, to him that they could have any and he felt that he must havo personal reference to his own des efficient help if he was to get the tiny here or hereafter. There was necessary task done that night. a church in his native village, but He asked his wife if she would go he never entered it; and the only with him to the garden and give mode of "saying his prayers," of

him her assistance for an hour, so which his wife sometimes spoke, that they night provide against was simply by his usu of language

the chance of rain on the morrow. more undesirably forcible than She answered that she would see usual. Hodson's life had been him far enough, before she lifted a singularly devoid of any element finger to help hiin in that or in of pleasure or happiness. It had anything else. Thereafter a fit of been spent in ceaseless grinding desperation seemed to take possestoil to procure the bare means of sion of the man. A frantic desire subsistence, and the home to which seized him to make an end of the he returned after his day's labour weary intolerable business of existwas readored distasteful to him byence altogether, both for himself tko sul en operament of his wife, and the woman who so ingeniously

managed to intensify its bitterness. judge to give him any chance of If he obeyed this strong impulse escape that might be justitied by without delay, the proceeding the law. Nothing could exceed would have the additional advan- the kindness and consideration tage of enabling him to taste the shown by Sir — to this unhapsweets of revenge, which at that py criminal, in marked contrast moment appeared to him peculiarly to what occurred with regard to delectable; and, in short, the whole a case we have already had an transaction assumed so bewitching opportunity of describing in these an aspect to his mind that he did pages. Had there been any posnot hesitate in accomplishing it sible ground on which his crime fully then and there. Within an could have been reduced to manhour from the time when his wife slaughter, the high-minded judge refused to work with him in their would gladly have arailed himlittle garden, he had most effec- self of it; but Richard Hodson tually made an end of her, and rendered any idea of the kind was himself in the safe custody of abortive, by insisting, in defiance the police on his way to the county of all the advice given him, on jail. He surrendered himself to pleading guilty to wilful murder. them with the utmost cheerful- It is extremely rare in the anness when they approached with nals of our courts of justice that the handcuffs, and inade but this such a plea should be recorded — one remark—"Now I'll go to the not more than once, we believe, gallows like a prince."

in a century ; and of course, if acThese same words he repeated cepted, it could only, according to at intervals during the few weeks the existing law, be followed by which elapsed before he took his an immediate sentence of death. trial; and there can be no ques- The man's words, firm and detion that they embodied the feeling cided, “I am guilty,” were heard which was uppermost in his mind. with dismay by all in the court;

Hodson could neither read nor but the judge was resolved, if poswrite, so that the time hung some- sible, not to allow his self-condemwhat heavy on his hands, while nation to be received as final, and waiting till his fate should be the conversation which ensued besettled at the Assizes. He there- tween him and the prisoner was so fore welcomed the present writer singular, that we give it verbatim eagerly to his cell as an opportu- as it was taken down by the shortnity for a little conversation ; but land writer at the time, omitting it was all on one theme,-how only some irrelevant remarks. ready and anxious he was to die. Before I accept that plea," Nothing could be said to give him said the judge, “I wish you thorthe least idea that his wish would oughly to understand that you are not be gratified. The cruel deed charged with wilful murder-that he had so strangely committed is to say, causing the death of seemed to have been completely your wife, meaning to murder motiveless and inexcusable, and her. If that is what you mean to no steps could be taken by any say, you plead guilty to an offence one to avert the consequences. for which you will be sentenced In fact, when the day of his trial to be hanged by the neck till you arrived, the man's absoluto deter- be dead, within a fortnight of the mination to die frustrated the present time. Do you mean that humane and anxious efforts of his you desire to plead guilty to that,

?"

and undergo the consequences-do and done with it," answered the you inean that?"

prisoner. “I don't want anybody “I done the deed, sir; I killed to plead anything for me, sirher dead."

nothing at all." “That is not murder,” replied “ You do not wish me to assign the judge. “ The offence you are

counsel for

you charged with, is that of killing her “No, sir !" intending to kill her dead. That "As you are going to be tried, is murder; the other would be I offer that there should be some manslaughter. Do you wish to

Do you wish to counsel to see that you have fairplead guilty to the

the offence of play--do you wish that?” murder, for which you will have “I would sooner have it settled, to be hanged in about a fortnight, and done away with, over and or do you wish to be tried ? Pris- done with.” oner, do you wish to be tried, or “It cannot be settled now," redo you wish to be hanged ?” plied the judge ; "you will have to

“I wish to be hanged, sir- be tried to-morrow : all I ask is, out of it-yes!"

whether on your trial you wish to “Whether you are guilty or conduct your own case, or whether not?” asked the judge.

you would like some counsel to “I am guilty, sir."

speak for you?" "I think it a little doubtful “I don't want anybody to talk whether you really do understand for ine-I will take it in my own the law which is applicable in this hands.” case-and if there is any doubt, it There was nothing more to be is better that the offence should said, and the prisoner was removed, be investigated by a jury so that but the judge did not desist from the exact truth may be known.” his efforts to induce the man to

“I have nothing more to say,” allow a counsel to be assigned to said the prisoner; "I done the him next day, and this was done. deed, and must put up with the Hodson was fairly driven into consequences.”

giving a very unwilling consent. Some discussion ensued between The counsel did his best ; he made the judge, the counsel, and others a very eloquent speech, in which as to whether the man understood he attempted to set up a plea of the difference between murder and insanity, but, as might have been manslaughter.

expected, it failed completely; not The judge then again addressed only did all the persons called to give the prisoner : “I think this is evidence bear witness to the prisonreally a case in which one ought er's previous soundness of mind, but to have the matter investigated. it was impossible for any one to look I must enter a plea of not guilty, at the quiet self-controlled man, that you may be tried.” The neces who listened with imperturbable sary formality was gone through, composure to the history of his and then the judge continued : own deed of violence, without feel. You will have to be tried, be- ing satisfied that he was in perfect cause I have entered a plea of not possession of his faculties and reaguilty. Do you wish to conduct The trial ended with the inyour own case, or would you like evitable result, and Richard Hodsome counsel to appear

for you

and son heard his sentence of death make the best case he can for you ?”

with as calm and cheerful a coun“I would sooner havit now, tenance as if it had been the an

son,

nouncement of some unwonted as these, “Hold Thou Thy cross piece of good fortune. He main- before my closing eyes,” knowing tained the same unmoved content- that his own undimmed eyes would ed demeanour during the interval be closed in death within a few which elapsed between his trial and hours : under these circumstances execution. He was very willing the writer involuntarily looked up to listen to the chaplain's instruc- at Richard Hodson, and was surtions, if only pour passer le temps; prised to see him suddenly turn and it seemed quite an agree- his head away and burst into tears. able surprise to him to discover He had always been so cheerful that when he had got rid of this that it could only be supposed the extremely unsatisfactory existence, full horror of his position had sudit was possible that a different denly revealed itself to him; and form of life, somewhat better and under that impression the chaplain, brighter, might then open out be- on being told after service of the fore him. He was quite docile in man's unusual agitation, went at accomplishing all that he was told once to his cell to offer such consoto do in the way of religious pre- lation as might be possible. He paration with a view to that con- found, however, to his surprise, , tingency, but it is doubtful whe- that the condemned criminal's ther the pleasant certainty that he emotion had not been in the least was about “to be hanged, and out on his own account. He had obof it-yes !” did not loom so large served, he said, that when the in his mind as the sum of his de- visitor glanced at him during the sires, that little space was left for singing of the mournful hymn it any less tangible hope. Yet there had been with a look of pain and were many indications that this distress, and the idea that he ad strange complacency, in prospect thus caused a person wholly unof a dreadful doom, was not the connected with his crime to suffer mere brutish indifference of a low grief for his sake, as well as sevorder of intelligence. Hodson eral others who were, he knew, showed feeling in many ways, and greatly troubled at his fate, had a strong sense of gratitude, tinc- suddenly overcome him with a sort tured with astonishment, for the of remorse—it had gone to his sympathy and kindness manifested heart, he said, and forced from his towards him in the jail. This was eyes the tears he would not have shown in a touching little incident shed for himself. on the Sunday before his death. Hodson's indomitable cheerfulThe chaplain was wont on these ness on the fateful morning was sad occasions to let the condemned such as the prison officials had man choose the hymns himself for never before witnessed in any case. the last service in which he would He was to die at eight o'clock. At join with his fellow-prisoners, and seven he went through a private naturally those selected were al- religious service in the chapel. At ways such as were suitable to the half-past seven his breakfast was dying.

brought to him in his cell: he It is one of the experiences of a drew a chair to the table and sat prison visitor, which is certainly down to it with an excellent appenot enviable, to have to meet the tite; he proceeded to go through wistful

gaze of a man standing up, all the little processes necessary strong and healthful in full vigour for making the best of the food set of life, while he sings such words before him, in the most leisurely

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