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Southern literary gazette. (Charleston, S.C.) 1850-1852, January 03, 1852, Page 3, Image 5

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1852.] prison, how he had been so humble and penitent from the first; and he had writ ten me a beautiful letter to beg my for giveness for bringing me to poverty, though he does not know how poor we really are now. Oh ! it has been a wea ry, weary time these two long years, but if he is free to-morrow morning, he can begin life anew man.” “ And why to-morrow V ’ asked the Jud ge kindly, smoothing back Ada’s hair, as she looked up into the speaker’s face. “It is the New Year, sir, you know, and his birth-day, when he will be of age. That is what I kept in mind. And the governor told me, oh, so kind as he was to me! that he could be a citizen yet, if he was free before he was of age, and stand up among other men. My poor boy ! Oh, sir, it was so hard to get so near to night, and be told I was too late, and then —1 suppose I must have grieved bitterly—for some gentle men told me to come to you, for you could help me, if any one could.” The Judge was silent for a little time; he did not remember the young man dis tinctly, for he had come from the interior of the State, and had never been directly under his notice. He feared, lest the poor woman had built too much on her hopes—that though her son had not been guilty of the forgery, his downward ca reer had been only stayed by the inter position of the law. He had seen much of forced and feigned repentance, —per- haps he had become too distrustful. James Murray, that was his name, and his mother spoke it hesitatingly, as if she felt how much it had been disgraced. She did not speak alter she had finished her simple recital, but leaned anxiously towards the window, watching through the darkness for the first glimpse of the grey towers of the prison, which seemed very far off. Little Ada almost began to repent of her choice, when they came at last to the heavy portal, and she heard the crash of the key, and the jar of the opening gates. It was so dark, too; no light save that which the porter carried; but her papa was with her, and in the faith of childhood, she was certain he would let no harm come to her, while she clung very tightly to his Hand, as they all entered the enclo sure. They were not in the prison itself, only in the tower in which the public rooms SOUTHERN LITERARY GAZETTE. were, but they waited there while the porter went for the superintendent, and Ada watched the tall shadows stealing over the high wall, with a half formed, nameless terror. Poor Mrs. Murray !—she was so near her son, and had brought him such hope ful news, how could they delay her from him so long ! It seemed as if hours passed while she walked up and down the hall, with a quick, unsteady step. But the officer came at length, a benevolent, gray haired Quaker, fit guardian for such troubled spirits, and Ada was lifted in her father’s arms, and carried across the broad court to the long corridors of cells that stretched away on every side. The snow', driving so coldly, made her shut her eyes, and bend her head down to her father’s shoulder, and when she unclosed * them again, she was alone with her fa ther, in the low white corridor, and near them a cell door stood ajar. She heard a wild cry, as if someone was in pain, and then sobs, of “ mother —mother— mother!” half stifled, but so full of mean ing, The child could not understand it o all, but she, too, began to sob bitterly, and there were tears in her father’s eyes, as after a little time the kind old gentle o man came out,and motioned to her tocome near the door. She did not like at first to go through that thick wall. She could see the narrow grating in the door, just as she had read in stories of prisons; but the room beyond looked very nice, and so she went on, holding still by her fa ther’s hand. There were two rooms, and from the inner one came the light and the voices. She could see, standing in the shade with her father and the superintendant, a low bed, and Mrs. Murray kneeling beside it, with her arms thrown around her son, and his head on her breast. She was 1 smoothing back his hair—cut, alas, so ; closely to the high forehead —that mark of his punishment! and looking into his eyes with a wild, longing, passionate gaze, as the widow of Nain might have studied the face of her son given back from the dead. He tried to cover his j face with his hands, as if in shame, but j she drew them away, and held them the ‘ more closely to her breast, while she 1 raised up his head again. It was then Ada looked up to her fa ther, and saw tears standing in his eyes, and so he motioned her away, as if the scene was too sacred even for her to wit ness ; but she never forgot that strange New Year’s Eve. James Murray did not go forth from the prison walls until the morning—his good old friend and guardian prevented that. “It was too bleak a world to enter into,” he said, “wait for the sunshine.” So he carried them to his own cheerful apart ments, cheering the mother’s heart with the confirmation of all she had heard of James, and then he left them together, for thanks, and tears, and prayer. It was a strange sight—the two enter ing the world on that dark New Year’s morning. There was no festival bright ness in the sunsine, only the wind was not so chill, and the broken clouds drifted heavily across the sky. Yet it was the first breath of freedom to James Murray, and his mother forgot his shame in the joy of that thought. Thre was no home open for them in all that great city, where a thousand household gatherings were celebrating the coming of the glad New Year ; but they were going home, and the mission of weary months w r as ended. Mrs. Murray had provided a shelter though, and thev came to it at last; a lodging house in the old part of the town, where the houses were low and crowded together, but it was neat and clean, and all her slender purse could afford. There they passed the day, so bright to all the world, save those who “lack and suffer hunger” —be it of mind or body—and to them mingled wdth the sadness of recol lection. Mrs. Murray sat very near her son, for hour after hour, holding his hand and looking up into his face which even the dull prison life had not altered. Ilis frame had developed since they had part ed ; the boy was not a strong powerful man, but his face was the same ; features too noble to suggest a thought of evil, and eyes so like his mothers! They had lost the quick merry glances she so well remembered, and had won instead her ow n humble, wistful look. Tie said very little after that first torrent of speech, in which he had told her all his penitence and his shame. The contact with others than himself during the morning, seemed to bring a hard moodiness, or, perhaps, it was that the daylight had revealed to him, how much she must have suffered 3