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seemed to have been a rather worthless nate beings; the judge he looked upon creature, about fifty years old, barm- not as a man, but as a claw of some unless enough, but possessed of no quali- shapely monster within whose reach he ties which made him very vehement had been thrown. So he turned round friends. The sailors, who were dazzled and walked quietly down the steps to by a court of Justice, gave their evi- the cells, much as a fly shuts its eyes dence as fairly as their intelligence en- (let us hope) when the spider begins to abled them, and the captain, who testi- wrap it in its noisome coils. fied to Gibson's excellence as a seaman, Gibson was not a clever boy; bis life sealed the boy's fate when he explained had been a rough and simple one; but his reasons for putting Gibson under he was wise enough to know that when arrest. He evidently had no doubt as a man, without money and with humto the prisoner's guilt, though he was ble relations, is judged by the law to rather surprised at the fuss the court have done wrong, whether he has or was making about it.
not, he has got to bear it,-and grin if "Lale was not of much consequence," he can. Hanging indeed seemed to him he explained to the judge.
rather dreadful, and no one wants to "He was a living soul,” said his Lord. die at nineteen; but he would not ship.
have minded being hanged so very So Gibson was found guilty, with a much if he was to get the Victorian strong recommendation to mercy on Cross for it,-only he knew that he account of his youth, the latter part of would not. the verdict causing the counsel for the If Gibson was a little downcast at defence to smile bitterly, for he knew the result of the trial and the knowlthe judge, and he knew how little at- edge that he was to be banged in a tention he paid to such recommenda- month, the newspapers were delighted. tions.
Several of the daily papers had leadHis Lordship had only lately been ing articles congratulating the public raised to the Bench, but had already on the verdict, and one went so far as shown that, although he prated a good to say that if Gibson had been acdeal about the mercy of God, he did quitted no one would have dared to not think it was a quality which cross the Atlantic. Of course, the usual should be exercised by man. On the paper, in its usual contradictory way, present occasion, in sentencing the pretended to see a possible miscarriage young sailor to death, he told him to of justice, pointed out the danger of expect no mercy from man, and to en- convicting on purely circumstantial tertain no hope of reprieve, but he evidence, and commented on the harsh urged him to try to obtain from man's summing-up of the judge. For the Creator what man refused him, and first two or three days after the verdict so to make sure of life eternal in ex- the ordinary papers gave dramatic acchange for the temporal existence counts of murders on the high seas, which was to be cut short so suddenly. while the contradictory paper gave in
The boy in the dock heard the sen- stances of notorious miscarriages of tence quietly, not much surprised, only justice. a little confused in his head. The only However, the affair was soon altosorrow and indignation he felt was gether forgotten, and young Gibson was against his captain. He could not feel left alone in his cell, waiting quietly anger at the law, for it seemed to him for death, and trying in an awkward simply a hideous and cruel net which way to comfort his poor little was thrown over the heads of unfortu- mother who took the atrair most extravagantly to heart. To hear her and John Gibson ought to have risen talk and see her distress one would with the lark, dressed himself, and have thought that the world and its stepped out to be hanged, the unfortulaws had been made to pivot round her nate fellow was unable to put his foot son. Even with the most tremendous to the ground. He whose thoughts events in the air, such as a serious com- should that morning have been fixed plication with a foreign Power, which on the solemnities of death, was pratmight involve thousands of lives and tling deliriously about his early childmillions of money, this bumble little hood and his adventures at sea. woman thought of nothing but a sailor. Billington, the executioner, who had boy; just one among-of whom England fully expected to be sitting down to bas as we know-So many.
lunch with the satisfactory feeling of But suddenly the public interest in having done a good morning's work, John Gibson was revived. It was about was wandering about disconsolately, four days before the date fixed for his with a kind of empty feeling, and execution. The papers had just printed vaguely calling to mind the words a small paragraph (of the size and type about “Satan finding some mischief which served to record the fact that still for idle hands to do." Lady So-and-so had returned to town But certain it was that it would be from the Riviera and taken up her resi. long before Gibson would be in a fit dence in Belgravia) announcing that state of health to be hanged, for the "The execution of Gibson, the high-sea doctor had diagnosed typhoid fever. murderer, had been fixed for Tuesday He added also that no doubt it had been next, and would take place at nine contracted in the insanitary building o'clock precisely''; some of the more of the Old Bailey. fashionable papers went so far as to Then commenced one of those discusadd that “Billington would be the ex- sions in the newspapers which make ecutioner.”
honest people regret the advance of Alas for human arrangements! The education. The papers themselves benext announcement that the papers gan and encouraged the correspondence made with regard to Gibson was that by violent articles proclaiming against he was ill. The evening prints pro- the crying scandal which Londoners claimed in large letters that he was suffer in their midst. In the largest very ill, and the public began to get city in the world, reputed also to be the seriously concerned. However, the richest and the most wicked, which papers at first took an optimistic view. produced criminals second to none, they One said that no doubt the indisposi- apparently could not afford a better tion would prove to be of a trifling place in which to try offenders against character, and was due to the strain lat. the laws than an insanitary, old-fashterly put upon his nerves. Another ioned hole. For long this had been expressed its conviction that Gibson's pointed out, but nothing had been done. illness was merely a temporary one, Time after time fever had stalked and "hoped that he would be all right round the gloomy court claiming a vicon the day.” Another, a model of pro- tim. Sometimes it was a judge, somepriety, said that "for the sake of the times a juryman, sometimes an obpublic morals and the safety of the scure member of the bar, or even a community, we must hope against well-known advocate; sometimes it hope that Tuesday's ceremony may picked out a solicitor or his clerk, sometake place."
times a member of the curious public; But when Tuesday morning came it had even been known to select one of the jurors in waiting. And now that her boy might never awake to conthe inevitable had happened; it had sciousness and sorrow. attacked a man in the dock, and not a The one bright spot at this dark mere person sentenced to three months' time was the devotion of the prison dochard labor, but a murderer lying un- tor. Never for once, while the life of der sentence of death. Perhaps now his patient was hovering near the valat last the public would rise in their ley, did that devoted man leave the might and insist that London should bedside, save at the most urgent sumhave a criminal court befitting its size mons. Indeed it may be mentioned and morals.
in confidence, and not for the purposes As the news of Gibson's illness grew of a newspaper controversy, that the more and more serious, letters and lead health of the other prisoners was someing articles on the subject filled the what neglected. Day and night he columns of the papers. A question as watched by that bedside; he even took to the sanitary condition of the old notes of Gibson's ravings, and sent on Bailey was put in the House of Com the assertions of innocence which fell mons; and one of the Irish Members from the fevered lips to the judge who said that it was only another example had sentenced the boy. That impartial of British hypocrisy to hide away the man, who was strong enough to read Central Criminal Court in a little back the papers without being influenced by street, just to make foreigners believe them, sent back a polite note to the doc. that there was no crime in the country. tor, remarking that he would be the last
Gibson became a public hero; one al person to take advantage of a delirious most expected prayers to be offered for man's ravings; he was never influenced his recovery; many people left cards at by any statement which was not made the prison where the precious life was on oath. He also highly commended trembling in the balance, Business the doctor's devotion to the patient, and men laid odds on the result of the ill- expressed a hope, under Providence, ness, and unbusinesslike business men for Gibson's recovery. took them. For a few days everybody At last came the happy day when shared Gibson's fever; they all caught Gibson, to the delight of the world and it, and took part in his delirium.
the joy of the entire Press, was proThe headlines in the papers showed nounced out of danger. The doctor the hold the subject had on the public. had indeed, if we may use the phrase Gibson Gone, Gibson a Shade Better, The in connection with one under sentence Passing of Gibson, Trembling in the Bal to be hanged, pulled him through. ance, Still Life Still Hope, and so forth. Naturally Gibson was weak and ill The letters also bore witness to the yet, but the tide had turned. The concern of all classes. One warm- youthful blood came surging up, hearted English woman wrote to The cleansed and refreshed; and, as was Daily Gale (a paper which was always natural, the public forgot both Gibson trying to raise the wind by making and also their plans for building a new storms in teacups) asking whether Eng. Old Bailey. land was at last roused from its leth- In due time Gibson, convalescent, argy; was it possible that in a Christian was sent to one of our brightest and country so promising a young life most cheerful country prisons, there to should be snatched from the gallows by grow strong and well and fill his weak. a fever-ridden dock?
ened body with God's blessed sun and Only in one small cottage in Bermond. air. Under the genial influences of a sey did a poor widow cry, and pray healthy and quiet prison the sailorboy soon regained his strength. His people, having looked through one of his blue eyes grew bright and clear again; newspapers to make sure there was his young limbs were full of joyful ac- nothing interesting in it, handed it to tivity. Had his convalescence lasted the sailor. a little longer he would have been “No, thank you, sir," said the man; twenty in three weeks.
"I don't read the papers.” But one glad day he was pronounced With an effort the tradesman handed to be in perfect health once more, and over one of his illustrated magazines his execution was duly fixed for the with a remark that the pictures might following Tuesday.
amuse the man. The poor mother cried a little,-most “I don't like pictures," said the sailor. of her tears had been used up; even the What did the sailor like? He neither bank of crying will not stand against looked out of the window nor went to too long a run-when she found that sleep, but sat with his eyes open, doing her boy was to die the day before his nothing, seeing nothing, thinking nothbirthday, a day she had always spent ing. with him when he was on shore, and After his rebuff the other man very thinking about him when he was at naturally gave up any further advance sea. The newspapers merely an- to the sailor. But as the train drew nounced that "Gibson, the high-sea nearer London they got into a thick fog murderer, who had recently been com- and the pace became slower than walkpletely restored to health, was to be ex- ing, almost marking time. The tradesecuted on Tuesday next at nine in the man, who had read all his papers and morning."
could not see out of the window, turned
again to the only other object of disOn the very Tuesday morning on traction, the sailor. “What time are which John Gibson was to be hanged, we due in London, sir?” he asked. an early train was dragging its dreary “Half-past eight,” said the sailor. way from Harwich to London. Most "We shall be late, I fear." . of the carriages, it is nice for unselfish The tradesman's fear seemed likely people to know, were empty, but in to be realized, for at that moment the one third-class compartment sat two train stopped altogether, and the rest travellers. One was a gentlemanlike of its journey to London was accomsort of person, evidently a substantial plished by a series of little jerks. Harwich tradesman, who had provided "I see you're a sailor," persisted the himself with various newspapers and man. illustrated magazines; the other was a “Ay." sailor who had provided himself with "They're hanging one of your profes. nothing at all.
sion in London this morning." The train was one of those which are “Ay?” called express, not because they travel “And hard luck it is. If any one ever fast, but because they do not stop at had hard lines its John Gibson." many stations. If it had gone faster F or the first time the old sailor beand stopped longer, or more fre trayed some interest. quently, at stations, the journey would "John Gibson, a sailor?" he said: have been a pleasanter one. As it was, “what ship might he belong to, and the progress towards London was very what age might he be?” tedious indeed, and before they bad “Well, all the papers have been talkgone very far, the tradesman, who ing enough about him," said the tradesliked to do little kindnesses to other man. He himself had written several
letters at the time of the excitement "Not much dashing in this fog," reand signed his name.
turned the sailor. "I don't read the papers,” said the “The train's stopping again; we shall sailor; "and I've only just been landed be late, and I've forgotten to bring my in this country. I've been roaming watch. Have you got one?" The about in a foreign ship these last tradesman looked at Lale with a kind months."
of horror. "John Gibson's nineteen, he was on "Not now, sir," said the man; "I the Saucy Lass, and they're hanging swopped mine with poor Johnny for a him this morning.”
knife." “Poor little Johnny Gibson,” said “How can you sit there, knowing the sailor; "so they're hanging him. what's going to happen?" Well, it's a rum world."
“Well, I shouldn't do much good "Did you know him?" asked the walking about in this cabin. Johnny's tradesman.
in a tight place with the landsbarks I "I did," said the sailor, "seeing that admit, but a sailor's life is full of danhe was standing by me when I fell gers, as you've heard, no doubt. It's overboard, apologizing as nice as might hard luck on him if he has to slip his be for a little bit of a tiff we'd had the cable at nineteen, but fate's fate." day before."
"And to think that we should have "What," shouted the tradesman ex- been in London by now if it hadn't citedly, "you're not James Lale?"
been for the fog! This is the worst 'I am, though,” said the sailor; "and line in England. Damn the fog!" and I shall be very glad to know how you the tradesman mopped his forehead. guessed it."
"Fogs was always dangerous to "But, man, they're hanging Gibson sailors," remarked Lale. for having murdered you!"
But the most terrible journey comes "Rather previous of them,” said the to an end at last, and as the train drew old salt with a humorous smile, "seeing in to the platform the tradesman I'm here talking to you about my ship- grasped the sailor by the hand and mate. And a dear little chap he was. dragged him out of the carriage up the So they're hanging him, and for mur- platform within sight of the clock. Its dering me too. Well, I never under- pale face seen through the fog told stood the law and I never shall."
them that it was ten minutes past nine. But the tradesman had risen to his “Is the station-clock right?" gasped feet, beads of perspiration on his fore the tradesman to a passing ticket-colhead. “You don't understand," he lector. cried. “I'm not joking, God forbid!- "Three minutes slow, sir, by GreenGibson is to be hanged at nine this wich time," said the official. morning for murdering you. You don't The tradesman looked at the sailor want to cause his death?”
who was watching him with an expres"Hold hard,” said the sailor good- sion of slight but not unkindly curihumoredly; "I must argue with you osity. “I don't fancy we need bother," there, I couldn't cause poor Johnny's said the man quietly. "They're pretty death. I didn't mean to fall overboard, punctual at Newgate, I expect." you can lay your last shirt. And if "Brandy," said the tradesman other folks say he murdered me,-well, hoarsely, as he staggered towards the they're liars, but don't blame me.” refreshment-room, "brandy, for God's
"But we must telegraph at the sta- sake!" tion, and dash to Newgate," said the “Well, I don't mind if I join you," tradesman.
said the sailor; "it's a nippy morning." Macmillan's Magazine.