Imagens das páginas

know but he might welcome death as a friend. He would have liked to know why he was to die; but why was he born? He could answer neither the one question nor the other; all was mystery. Although he was attentive and courteous to the chaplain, his bewilderment was such at the fate which had befallen him, that religious truths did not impress him so much as could have been desired. "He was not sulky," the chaplain said," but seemed to be in perplexity and stupor." He took his meals willingly, and though he was sleepless for a night or two after his sentence, his rest quite returned to him, and he slept latterly as quiet as an infant. There is not a rumour even that he expressed the least remorse for his behaviour to Patty Maine, or that she was at all in the thoughts of his last days.

While he was waiting in his cell for death, the man for whose deed he was condemned to suffer, was suffering more than he. George Bateman, unfortunately, at the time when he heard of Eoberts's conviction and sentence, heard also of the efforts that were being made to procure his pardon.

He still persuaded himself that Eoberts's luck would bring him through; and, under this idea, he deferred his confession. But he carried about an appalling burden without having sufficient resolution to get rid of it. The shop-girl with whom he had been so friendly at Gritvale, and whom he had not now failed to seek out, exercised a soothing influence over him. She was very clear in her views, and very earnest, and her words seemed often to go straight to the seat of George's difficulties and doubts, which were again perplexing and troubling him. On the first Sunday after he left home, which was the Sunday before the assizes, she entreated him to go to chapel, saying that the worship would be good for both his body and mind; for she, or indeed anybody, could see how ill and excited he was. He, however, refused to go, saying that preaching was very unsatisfactory, and never half examined the questions with which it professed to deal. All that week through he was in a feverish condition, examining the newspapers, starting and turning colour whenever he received a letter, but never asking a question concerning the trial which was causing him such anxiety. He purchased and took off to his own chamber a newspaper which, he felt sure, must contain the trial and sentence. No human eye was watching him when he read of Koberts's condemnation, but the effect of the intelligence was apparent in his appearance and manner, which had become more pitiable than ever. He is known to have received at this time a letter informing him of the efforts which were being made in Koberts's behalf, and that letter afterwards accounted for the half-frantic way in which he was daily asking his female friend for news from Gritvale. He was expecting to hear every day that Eoberts had been respited. But after some days when this intelligence did not arrive, his state became one of extreme distress. It is supposed that Mrs Parkins, while he was yet in Gritvale, discerned that something was preying on George's mind, although she did not guess what it was. It is also thought that she communicated her belief on this subject to George's friend, begging her to find out what was amiss, and to comfort him if she could. This the friend faithfully endeavoured to do; but, as one may suppose, the task was not easy. For a fortnight or so, he had been almost hourly demanding news; while his sunk eyes, hectic cheek, and shaking hand showed what a fever was consuming him.




"For pity's sake, George Bateman," said the girl to him one fine summer evening, "come to chapel and join in worship: it will ease your mind to go into the house of the Lord."

"Nay, I don't think so. I have never patience to sit through a discourse now. They make things more complicated in the pulpit; they don't clear one's mind."

"Don't say that. The Word, if duly attended to, will always tend to clear the mind, no matter who the preacher may be."

"I've been listening a long time now, and thinking too; and I have never had a glimmer of light as to the reason why one man from his cradle to his grave is prosperous and happy, no matter how vicious he may be; while another is followed by misfortune with such pertinacity, that even what seems to others like a stroke of luck operates like an affliction."

"I don't know, of course, whether you are alluding to any particular case, but I do know that in the Scriptures is found the true and only explanation of these worldly perplexities. Preaching is only the exposition of the Scriptures."

"Yes," answered George; "the preacher will tell me, no doubt, that there is another and better world where these inequalities will be set right. Now, I say, it is no satisfaction to me, when I see a rogue prospering and getting honour in this world, to think that he will be tortured hereafter by way of compensation; neither does it comfort me much when I see those who try to do well persecuted and disappointed till they are made wretched, and—perhaps—perhaps driven to crime; it is small comfort, I say, to be told they will be rewarded by-and-by."

"The importance or unimportance of these worldly things depends very much on the light in which we regard them. If we set our affections upon them we sin, and cannot complain if we are punished. If we withdraw our affections from these

« AnteriorContinuar »