Imágenes de páginas

needed all George Layton's faith, and all the encouragements which could be presented, to enable him to hope for mercy. AVhen I first saw him, he was a rosy-cheeked boy of fourteen, in my Sunday-school, and I had great hopes that his intelligence, candour, and perseverance would, though a poor factory lad, enable him to make his way in the world. I lost sight of him for some years, and when next I saw him, he was

in N jail, and was undergoing a term of two years'


I received one morning, from the governor of the jail, who was an old friend of mine, a letter, which occasioned me the gravest anxiety. It stated that George, whom he had known as a Sunday-school lad, had been consigned to jail for poaching, and that the marvel was that he had not been transported for fifteen years. With three or four others, he had been engaged in a murderous affray with the keepers, one of whom had been killed. It was proved that he was the least guilty of the gang, and had even attempted, at the risk of his life, to save an aged keeper's head from the fearful blow aimed at it with the butt end of a gun. He appeared in court with a broken arm, and his case excited considerable sympathy. Poaching, however, was so on the increase, that the judge thought it necessary to visit every case that came before him with severe penalties. Although the jury strongly recommended the young man to mercy, the judge felt that he could do no other than make an example of him, and he was accordingly sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour.

To the governor's regret, he recognised in the prisoner the lad whom he had known in the Sunday-school many years before. He spoke kindly to him, and offered what encouragement he could under the miserable circumstances. If he submitted himself patiently to the discipline of the prison, and profited by the instructions of the chaplain, something might be done for him when his term had expired; and by a good life in the future he might wipe out the disgrace of the past. To all this George listened in sullen silence. His spirit had been completely crushed, and no human sympathy could stir it. He felt that he was disgraced for life; that the girl to whom he was about to be married would never speak to him again; and that his life now could never be what it might have been.

From a civil, frank, and gentle-hearted young man, he sank into a fierce and wolfish condition; he set the rules of the prison at defiance, and led others to do the like. But for the governor's kindness, his conduct would have been severely punished; unwilling, however, to break a bruised reed, he bore with it, hoping that in a few weeks, when he found that he must submit, George Layton would come to himself.

No change for the better took place, and one morning the misguided young man struck one of the warders. He was immediately taken into cell, and heavily ironed.

"Now, Layton," said the governor, sternly, "listen to me; you are liable to be severely flogged for this, and I know what will happen after that."

"What?" said George, fiercely.

"You will never hold up your head again; it will hang upon your breast all your life; the marks on your back will never die out; you will feel them to the day of your death." . "What do I care?" said George, with a bitter laugh. "Death is the best thing that can happen to any of us here. I have nothing left to live for now."

"How would you like Mary Wainwright to hear you talking like that, you wicked young man? How would you like to see your old minister in the temper in which you are now?"

A convulsive sob was the only reply to these queries, and at this moment the warder who had been struck, and not lightly, entered the cell to which George had been conducted. Touching his hat respectfully to the governor, he said, "I have a great favour to ask, sir."

"What is it, Walters?"

"You see, sir," said Walters, who spoke in the curious dialect of his county, "this poor lad is not himself; I knew him years ago, when sooner than have done what he has done to-day, he would have lay down and died, sir; I want you to forgive him, sir, as freely as I have done already. The thing was only witnessed by two or three, and not much harm will be done."

"I will think of it," said the governor, and then he wrote to me, detailing the above particulars. Upon the receipt of his letter, my first business was to see Mary Wainwright. She was a simple, pretty factory girl of nineteen, living with, and to a great extent supporting her widowed mother. Since George's imprisonment the roses had faded from her cheeks, and grief and shame did more than hard work to take all hope from her life. Her mother was constantly upbraiding George, and after a long, monotonous day's work in the mill, where, though her fingers worked rapidly, her mind was with one who was in durance vile, she would return home at night to hear the miserable story she had heard for weeks, of George's wickedness, and his well-merited punishment.

"Mary," I said, the day I received the governor's letter, "I have bad news of George." She gave a shuddering cry. "But I think it is not all bad," I went on : "he has cried for the first time since he has been in prison; and it was at the mention of your name and mine. Don't let us give him up, Mary; because it is the thought that no one will ever speak to him or care for him again that is driving him out of his senses."

"I give him up!" said Mary, with a look that was more eloquent than words could have been; "he never meant to' do any one any harm; if he had followed my advice, and kept away on Saturdays from the 'Seven Stars,' he would never have met those thieves who have got him into trouble."

"But you see, Mary, my child, he did not follow your

advice, and he is in trouble; now the governor has written

to me to say I may see him; I am going directly: will

you come with me?"

"Oh, thank God! and thank you, sir," was- the fervent response; "may I come with you just as I am?"

We were soon on our way to N jail. Nearly, all the

way Mary's face was buried in her hands, and distressing sobs escaped her. In her humble, hard-working life, George had been her cherished and dearest idol; but now she was to see that idol shattered and disgraced. We entered the prison, and were kindly received by the governor. Walters happened to be in conversation with him. When we had been seated a little, while my friend.said, "This- is the man whom Layton struck."

Immediately, Marv was on her knees: "Oh, sir! ha-didn't mean to do it—he didn't mean to do it; he never lifted a hand in his life except to help somebody; do forgive him, sir—do forgive him!"

"Dear heart!" said Walters, wiping away a tear, "I have forgiven him long ago, and I only want the governor to do the same; he has been trying to find out a bruise on my fsice, but he can't—now can you see one ?" he added, gently raising her up, and his face beamed with a fatherly gentleness as he did so. She did see a somewhat ugly bruise, which, although carefully concealed by the hair combed, over it, might have been seen without spectacles. In perfect simplicity, and with a grateful heart, she kissed it .

"Bring in Layton, Walters," said the governor, "and don't tell him who are here; you may take off his irons." Presently a faltering step, accompanied by a sturdy one; was heard outside.

"You have nothing to fear I tell you," the voice of Walters was heard saying.

"I won't be flogged," George responded; " I will die first!"

"You must, if it is the governor's orders. Come now, meet your punishment like a man."

There was a momentary pause, and then the door opened. George Layton seemed like one in a dream from whioh there was no awaking. His whole frame quivered with emotion, but his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth.. Mary, too, was speechless, but held out her work-worn hands to him with undiminished confidence and affection. The governor looked upon him with a gentleness in which there was not the remotest threat of a cat-o'-nine-tails. Walters had his arm around him, but only to support him. With a great cry, he rushed into Mary's arms, and then, kneeling down before her, he piteously sobbed, " Can you forgive me?"

"Long ago have I done that, George."

"Will God forgive me?" he wildly exclaimed.

"He is able to save unto the uttermost, George; remember one of the first texts you repeated in the Sunday-school: what was it?"

There was silence for a time, and then George said, in a broken voice, "' Him that cometh unto me, I will in no cast out.'"

"True, my boy; true when it was spoken, more than eighteen centuries ago, and just as true now."

It was a long time before George Layton could believe the promise; but it was not a long time before he became one of the most orderly, quiet, and obedient persons that my friend the governor ever had under his control. When his term had expired, such had been his good conduct, that a comfortable place was found for him abroad. He did not go out alone. The faithful girl who had trusted and loved him when he did not hope for himself, and when he thought himself shut out from all human sympathy, went with him, and is his faithful and loving wife still.

loto ^tttx ffelson tamiatttis {lis gmriit

Iallo, George, my man, is that you? What's the matter? Has the world come to an end? Have you shut up shop? or are wife and children all dead? or what?" Let it be admitted that this was a somewhat abrupt saluta

« AnteriorContinuar »