Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

98

THE SIXPENNY TRIAL.

heathen deity Proteus, to throw dust in your eyes, and to change his form into snuff, or to darken your soul by the fumes of tobacco, how can you expect to resist the big devils, or the more terrible temptations of the world ?

The convict is fairly nonplussed. He had never viewed the thing in this way before. He thought, as the sixpence was left at his disposal, it was no harm to buy snuff or tobacco with it.

No harm! Do you know that that sixpence was intended to test and tempt you, to see if you had the right ring of metal in you ?

He did not know that. He did not think the Chairman would tempt him to do what was wrong, nor did he think the purchase of six penny-worth of snuff or tobacco a sin. He felt like the Jew who said, when he heard the thunder, and saw the lightning, “What a fuss apout a pit of bacon !"

“Well, that you may know it for the future, I must now assure you,” said the Chairman, “that some months will elapse before you can be fitted to withstand the temptations of the world."

[ocr errors]

THE STRUGGLE AND THE CONQUEST.

99

“The bread cast upon the waters,” writes the author of the Purgatory of Prisoners, was found after many days. The convicts' book was by-andby examined, and a desperate strife for the mastery was shown to have taken place, leaving, by God's grace, the prisoner's better nature in possession of the field.”

The desperate strife described in this heroic and absurd language-which borders on blasphemyconsisted in the convict's decreasing his expenditure on tobacco, at the rate of a penny a week, till he left it off altogether, induced, evidently, by the threat of a lengthened detention, and not by God's grace, which has nothing to do with the consumption, or non-consumption, of six pennyworth of snuff or tobacco.

In this sixpenny temptation of which the author of the Purgatory of Prisoners makes such an awfully grand parade—and in the ability to run away from their nice bread and butter, which would be punished by making them serve out their whole term, and twelve months additional, under

100

THE TEMPTATIONS OF LUSK.

severer discipline-consist the TEMPTATIONS OF Lusk. The Labours of Hercules were nothing to them!

CHAPTER VIII.

TICKET-OF-LEAVE AND POLICE SUPERVISION.

A FOOLISH outcry has been raised against enlarging prisoners, on licence or ticket-of-leave, by those who understand nothing of the working or arrangement of the system.

The newspapers have done their best, for want of better game, to increase the alarm, and keep up the cry of Stop thief !at the heels of every poor convict who has endeavoured, by exemplary conduct, to decrease, to a small extent, the term of his detention in a convict depôt.

A few cases of garotting have been sufficient to raise this insane outcry, not only

102

A FOOLISH PANIC.

our

a

against the English convict system, but against the spirit of enlightened humanity, with which we have hitherto dealt with criminals. Lengthened and unmitigated sentences, the lash, the brand, the crank, hard work, and low diet, have been the rage for the last five or six months, and may continue so for a few months longer, till the nation—too deeply imbued with the spirit of John Howard, to sanction a cruel and vindictive treatment of our convicts,-comes round again to its usual calm and Christian state.

To the Times we reply in the language of the Times. “ The British public has taken the alarm, and every offender who turns out to be a ticket-of-leave man is multiplied into legion. This is not the only case in which the imagination can play tricks with numbers.

It would be just as rational to protest against the whole system of railways and railway travelling on account of the accidents which are now of almost daily occurrence; but if we compare these with the number of persons travelling, and the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »