Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

a

Frier said, he could go over and talk with her, but he did n't think it would be the least use, for she loved Jerry, ugly as he was, and he did n't believe she would be willing to have him punished by the court.

However, after due consultation, he concluded to go over and have a talk with Mrs. Guttridge about the matter. Accordingly he took his hat, and walked over. He found the door open, as usual, and walked in without ceremony. Here he beheld the whole family, including Jerry himself, seated at their little pine table, doing ample justice to the basket of provisions which he had just before sent them. He observed the pie had been cut into two pieces, and one half of it, and he thought rather the largest half, was laid on Jerry's plate, the rest being cut up into small bits, and divided among the children. Mrs. Guttridge had reserved none to herself, except a small spoonful of the soft part, with which she was trying to feed the baby. The other eatables seemed to be distributed very much in the same proportion.

Mr. Frier was a cool, considerate man, whose passions were always under the most perfect control ; but he always confessed, for years afterward, 'that for a minute or two, he thought he felt a little something like anger rising up in his stomach!'

He sat and looked on, until they had finished their meal, and Jerry had eaten bread, and meat, and vegetables, enough for two common men's dinners, and swallowed his half of the pie, and a large slice of cheese, by way of dessert ; and then rose, took his hat, and, without saying a word, marched deliberately out of the house, directing his course again to the grog-shop.

Mr. Frier now broached the subject of his errand to Mrs. Guttridge. He told her the neighbors could not afford to support her family much longer, and unless her husband went to work, he did n't see but they would have to starve.

Mrs. Guttridge began to cry. She said she did n't know what they should do; she had talked as long as talking would do any good; but somehow, Mr. Guttridge did n't seem to love to work. She believed it was n't his natur to work.'

*Well, Mrs. Guttridge, do you believe the scriptures ?' said Mr. Frier, solemnly.

'I'm sure I do,' said Mrs. Guttridge; • I believe all there is in the Bible.'

And do n't you know,' said Mr. Frier, the Bible says, 'He that will not work, neither shall he eat ?'

I know there's something in the Bible like that,' said Mrs. Guttridge, with a very serious look.

• Then do you think it right,' added Mr. Frier, 'when your neighbors send you in a basket of provisions, do you think it right, that Mr. Guttridge, who wont work and 'arn a mouthful himself, should sit down and eat more than all the rest of you, and pick out the best part of it, too ? •Well

, I do n't s'pose it 's right,' said Mrs. Guttridge, thoughtfully; but somehow, Mr. Guttridge is so hearty, it seems as if he would faint away,

if he did n't have more than the rest of us to eat.' Well, are you willing to go on in this way,' continued Mr. Frier, 'in

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

and go

6

open violation of the scriptures, and keep yourself and children every day in danger of starving ?'

What can I do, Mr. Frier?' said Mrs. Guttridge, bursting into a flood of tears; I've talked, and talked, and it's no use ; Mr. GutIridge wont work; it do n't seem to be in him. May be if you should talk to him, Mr. Frier, he might do better.'

· No, that would be no use,' said Mr. Frier. When I was over here before, you see how he took it, jest because I spoke to him about going over to the shop, when he ought to be to work, to get something for his family to eat; you see how mad he was, and how provoking he talked to me. It 's no use for me to say any thing to him; but I think, Mrs. Guttridge, if somebody should complain to the grand jury about him, the court would make him go to work. And if you are willing for it, I think I should feel it my duty to go and complain of him.'

· Well, I do n't know but it would be best,' said Mrs. Guttridge, and if you

think it would make him go to work, I'm willing you should. When will the court set ?' • To-morrow,' said Mr. Frier; ‘and I 'll give up all other business,

and attend to it.' • But what will the court do to him, Mr. Frier ? said Mrs. Guttridge.

• Well, I don't know,' said Mr. Frier .but I expect they 'll punish him; and I know they 'll make him go to work.'

• Punish him!' exclaimed Mrs. Guttridge, with a troubled air. Seems to me I do n't want to have him punished. But do you think, Mr. Frier, they will hurt him any ?'

Well, I think it's likely,' said Mr. Frier, they will hurt him some; but you must remember, Mrs. Guttridge, it is better once to smart than always to ache. Remember, too, you 'll be out of provisions again by to-morrow. Your neighbors can't support your family all the time; and if your husband don't go to work, you 'll be starving again. Still, if you do n't feel willing, and do n't think it 's best, I wont go near the grand jury, nor do nothin' about it.'

Oh dear ! — well, I do n't know !' said Mrs. Guttridge, with tears in her eyes.

You

may do jest as you think best about it, Mr. Frier; that is, if you do n't think they 'll hurt him much.'

Mr. Frier returned home; but the afternoon was so far spent, that he was able to get in only one ton of his hay, leaving the other three tons out, to take the chance of the weather. He and his wife spent the evening in discussing what course it was best to pursue with regard to the complaint against Mr. Guttridge; but notwithstanding his wife was decidedly in favor of his going the next morning and entering the complaint, since Mrs. Guttridge had consented, yet Mr. Frier was undecided. He did not like to do it ; Mr. Guttridge was a neighbor, and it was an unpleasant business. But when he arose the next morning, looked out, and beheld his three tons of hay drenched with a heavy rain, and a prospect of a continued storm, he was not long in making up his mind.

• Here,' said he, 'I spent a good part of the day, yesterday, in looking after Guttridge's family, to keep them from starving; and now, VOL. XIII.

55

6

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

by his means, I've nigh about as good as lost three tons of hay. I do n't think it's my duty to put up with it any longer.'

Accordingly, as soon as breakfast was over, Mr. Frier was out, spattering along in the mud and rain, with his old great-coat thrown over his shoulders, the sleeves flapping loosely down by his side, and his drooping hat twisted awry, wending his way to court, to appear before the grand jury.

• Well, Mr. Frier, what do you want ? asked the foreman, as the complainant entered the room.

• I come to complain of Jerry Guttridge to the grand jury,' replied Mr. Frier, taking off his hat, and shaking the rain from off it.

•Why, what has Jerry Guttridge done !' said the foreman. “I did n't think he had life enough to do any thing worth complaining of to the grand jury.'

• It's because he has n't got life enough to do any thing,' said Mr. Frier, 'that I 've come to complain of him. The fact is, Mr. Foreman, he's a lazy, idle fellow, and wont work, nor provide nothin' for his family to eat; and they've been half starving this long time ; and the neighbors have had to keep sending in something, all the time, to keep 'em alive.'

* But,' said the foreman, Jerry's a peaceable kind of a chap, Mr. Frier; has any body ever talked to him about it, in a neighborly way, and advised him to do differently? And may be he has no chance to work, where he could get any thing for it.'

*I am sorry to say,' replied Mr. Frier, that he's been talked to a good deal, and it do n't do no good; and I tried hard to get him to work for me, yesterday afternoon, and offered to give him victuals enough to last his family 'most a week, but I could n't get him to, and he went off to the grog-shop, to see some jockeys swap horses. And when I told him, calmly, I did n't think he was in the way of his duty, he flew in a passion, and called me an old, miserable, dirty, meddling vagabond, and a scoundrel, and a scape-gallows, and an infernal small piece of a man!'

Abominable !' exclaimed one of the jury ; 'who ever heard of such outrageous conduct ?'

• What a vile, blasphemous wretch !' exclaimed another; I should n't 'a wondered if he 'd ’a fell dead on the spot !' The foreman asked Mr. Frier if Jerry had ' used them very

words.' • Exactly them words, every one of 'em,' said Mr. Frier.

• Well,' said the foreman, 'then there is no more to be said. Jerry certainly deserves to be indicted, if any body in this world ever did.'

Accordingly the indictment was drawn up, a warrant was issued, and the next day Jerry was brought before the court, to answer to the charges preferred against him. Mrs. Sally Guttridge and Mr. Nat. Frier were summoned as witnesses. When the honorable court was ready to hear the case, the clerk called Jerry Guttridge, and bade bim hearken to an indictment found against him by the grand inquest for the district of Maine, now sitting at Saco, in the words following, viz : We present Jerry Guttridge for an idle person, and not providing for his family; and giving reproachful language to Mr. Nat. Frier, when he reproved him for his idleness.' Jerry Guttridge,

[ocr errors]

6

6

6

6

6

well as

6

6

what say you to this indictment ? Are you guilty thereof, or not guilty ?'

*Not guilty,' said Jerry ; 'and here's my wife can tell you the same, any day. Sally, have n't I always provided for my family?'

Why, yes,' said Mrs. Guttridge, I do n't know but you have as

"Stop, stop!' said the judge, looking down over the top of his spectacles at the witness, 'stop, Mrs. Guttridge; you must not answer questions until you have been sworn.'

The court then directed the clerk to swear the witnesses; whereupon, he called Nat. Frier and Sally Guttridge to step forward, and hold up their right hands. Mr. Frier advanced, with a ready, honest air, and held up his hand. Mrs. Guttridge lingered a little behind ; but when at last she faltered along, with feeble and hesitating step, and held up her thin, trembling hand, and raised her pale blue eyes, half swimming in tears, toward the court, and exhibited her careworn features, which, though sun-burnt, were pale and sickly, the judge had in his own mind more than half decided the case against Jerry. The witnesses having been sworn, Mrs. Guttridge was called to the stand.

Now, Mrs. Guttridge,' said the judge,‘you are not obliged to testify against your husband any thing more than you choose ; your testimony must be voluntary. The court will ask you questions touching the case, and you can answer them or not, as you may think best. And in the first place, I will ask you

whether

your husband neglects to provide for the necessary wants of his family; and whether you do, or do not, have comfortable food and clothing for yourself and children ?'

• Well, we go pretty hungry, a good deal of the time,' said Mrs. Guttridge, trembling; but I do n't know but Mr. Guttridge does the best he can about it. There do n't seem to be any victuals that he can get, a good deal of the time.'

Well, is he, or is he nut, in the habit of spending his time idly, when he might be at work, and earning something for his family to

?? · Why, as to that,' replied the witness, Mr. Guttridge do n't work much; but I do n't know as he can help it; it does n't seem to be his natur' to work. Somehow, he do n't seem to be made like other folks; for if he tries ever so much, he can't never work but a few minutes at a time; the natur' do n't seem to be in him.'

* Well, well,' said the judge, casting a dignified and judicial glance at the culprit, who stood with mouth wide

open,

and
eyes

fixed on the court with an intentness that showed he began to take some interest in the matter ; 'well, well, perhaps the court will be able to put the natur' in him.'

Mrs. Guttridge was directed to step aside, and Mr. Nat. Frier was called to the stand. His testimony was very much to the point; clear, and conclusive. But as the reader is already in possession of the substance of it, it is unnecessary to recapitulate it. Suffice it to say, that when he was called upon to repeat the reproachful language which Jerry had bestowed upon the witness, there was much shuddering, and an awful rolling of eyes, throughout the court room.

[ocr errors]

6

live upon

6

6

6

:

[ocr errors]

Even the prisoner's face kindled up almost to a blaze, and thick drops of sweat were seen to start from his forehead. The judge, to be sure, retained a dignified self-possession, and settling back in his chair, said it was not necessary to question the witness any farther; the case was clearly made out; Jerry Guttridge was unquestionably guilty of the charges preferred against him.

The court, out of delicacy toward the feelings of his wife, refrained from pronouncing sentence, until she had retired; which she did, on an intimation being given her that the case was closed, and she could return home. Jerry was then called, and ordered to hearken to his sentence, as the court had recorded it.

Jerry stood up and faced the court, with fixed eyes and gaping mouth, and the clerk repeated as follows:

Jerry Guttridge! you having been found guilty of being an idle and lazy person, and not providing for your family, and giving reproachful language to Mr. Nat. Frier, when he reproved you for your idleness, the court orders that you receive twenty smart lashes, with the cat-o'-nine-tails, upon your naked back, and that this sentence be executed forth with, by the constables, at the whipping-post in the yard, adjoining the court-house.'

Jerry dropped his head, and his face assumed divers deep colors, sometimes red, and sometimes shading upon the blue. He tried to glauce round upon the assembled multitude, but his look was very sheepish; and, unable to stand the gaze of the hundreds of eyes that were turned upon him, he settled back on a bench, leaned his head on his hand, and looked steadily upon the floor. The constables having been directed by the court to proceed forthwith to execute the sentence, they led him out into the yard, put his arms round the whipping-post, and tied his hands together. He submitted without resistance; but when they commenced tying his hands round the post, he began to cry and beg, and promise better fashions, if they would only let him go this time. But the constables told him it was too late now; the sentence of the court had been passed, and the punishment must he inflicted. The whole throng of spectators had issued from the court-house, and stood round in a large ring, to see the sentence enforced. The judge himself had stepped to a side window, which commanded a view of the yard, and stood peering solemnly through his spectacles, to see that the ceremony was duly performed. All things being in readiness, the stoutest constable took the cat-o'-nine-tails, and laid the blows heavily across the naked back of the victim. Nearly every blow brought blood, and as they successively fell, Jerry jumped and screamed, so that he might have been heard well nigh a mile. When the twenty blows were counted, and the ceremony was ended, he was loosed from his confinement, and told that he might go. He put on his garments, with a sullen but subdued air, and without stopping to pay his respects to the court, or even to bid any one good-bye, he straightened for home, as fast as he could go.'

Mrs. Guttridge met him at the door, with a kind and piteous look, and asked him if they had hurt him. He made no reply, but pushed along into the house. There he found the table set, and well supplied, for dinner; for Mrs. Guttridge, partly through the kindness of

a

« PoprzedniaDalej »