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lawyer is only selected for the more striking illustration of it; and as the profession, generally speaking, has been as free in its way of life as most others, however admirable for the final wisdom and virtue in which its many-thoughted experience tends to settle it, the dreadful circumstances imagined in this story are but too possible-perhaps have often occurred in spirit, though not in letter. The exclamation "Oh, not from you!” may rank with the finest bursts of emotion in the tragic poets; and it comes more dreadfully home to the bosom of
THE day at length is come on which Agnes shall have
a sight of her beloved William ! She who has watched for hours near his door, to procure a glimpse of him going out or returning home; who has walked miles to see his chariot pass; she now will behold him, and he will see her, by command of the laws of his country. Those laws, which will deal with rigour towards her, are in this one instance still indulgent.
The time of the assizes at the county town in which she is imprisoned, is arrived—the prisoners are demanded at the shire-hall--the jail doors are opened-they go in sad procession. The trumpet sounds-it speaks the arrival of the judge—and that judge is William
The day previous to her trial, Agnes had read, in the printed calendar of the prisoners, his name as the learned judge before whom she was to appear.
For a moment she forgot her perilous state in the excess of joy which the still unconquerable love she bore to him permitted her to taste, even on the brink of the grave! After reflection made her check these worldly transports, as unfit for the present solemn occasion. But, alas ! to her, earth and William were so closely united, that, till she forsook the one, she could never cease to think, without the contending passions of hope, of fear, of love, of shame, and of despair, on the other.
Now fear took place of her first immoderate joy ; she feared that, although much changed in person since he had seen her, and her real name now added to many an aliasyet she feared that some well-known glance of the eye,
turn of the action, or accent of speech, might recall her to his remembrance; and at that idea, shame overcame all her other sensations—for still she retained pride, in respect to his opinion, to wish him not to know Agnes was that wretch she felt she was ! Once a ray of hope beamed on her, that if he knew her-if he recognised her—he might possibly befriend her cause; and life, bestowed through William's friendship, seemed a precious object! But, again, that rigorous honour she had often heard him boast, that firmness to his word, of whieh she had fatal experience, taught her to know he would not, for any improper compassion, any unmanly weakness, forfeit his oath of impartial justice.
In meditations such as these she passed the sleepless night.
When, in the morning, she was brought to the bar, and her guilty hand held up before the righteous judgment-seat of William, imagination could not form two figures, or two situations more incompatible with the existence of former familiarity than the judge and the culprit; and yet, these very persons had passed together the most blissful moments that either ever tasted! Those hours of tender dalliance were now present to her mind-his thoughts were more nobly employed in his high office; nor could the haggard face, hollow eye, desponding countenance, and meagre person of the poor prisoner, once call to his memory, though her name was uttered among a list of others which she had assumed, his former youthful, lovely Agnes !
She heard herself arraigned, with trembling limbs and downcast looks, and many witnesses had appeared against
her, before she ventured to lift her eyes up to her awful judge; she then gave one fearful glance, and discovered William, unpitying but beloved William, in every feature ! It was a face she had been used to look on with delight, and a kind of absent smile of gladness now beamed on her poor wan visage.
When every witness on the part of the prosecutor had been examined, the judge addressed himself to her
“ What defence have you to make ?"
It was William spoke to Agnes! The sound was sweet; the voice was mild, was soft, compassionate, encouraging. It almost charmed her to a love of life ! Not such a voice as when William last addressed her; when he left her undone and pregnant, vowing never to see or speak to her
She would have hung upon the present word for ever. She did not call to mind that this gentleness was the effect of practice, the art of his occupation; which, at times, is but a copy, by the unfeeling, of the benevolent brethren of the bench. In the present judge, tenderness was not designed for consolation of the culprit, but for the approbation of the auditors.
There were no spectators, Agnes, by your side when last he parted from you ;-if there had, the awful William would have been awed to marks of pity.
Stunned with the enchantment of that well-known tongue directed to her, she stood like one just petrified—all vital power seemed suspended.
Again he put the question, and with these additional sentences, tenderly and emphatically delivered : " Recol. lect yourself; have you no witnesses? no proof on your behalf ?"
A dead silence followed these questions.
He then mildly but forcibly added—“What have you to say ?"
Here a flood of tears burst from her eyes, which she fixed earnestly upon him, as if pleading for mercy, while she faintly articulated
“ Nothing, my lord.”
he asked her in the same forcible, but benevolent tone
“ Have you no one to speak to your character ?"
A second gush of tears followed this reply, for she called to mind by whom her character had first been blasted.
He summed up the evidence, and every time he was obliged to press hard upon the proofs against her, she shrunk, and seemed to stagger with the deadly blowwrithed under the weight of his minute justice, more than from the prospect of a shameful death.
The jury consulted but a few minutes, the verdict was— “Guilty."
She heard it with composure.
But when William placed the fatal velvet on his head, and rose to pronounce the fatal sentence, she started with a kind of convulsive motion, retreated a step or two back, and lifting up her hands, with a scream exclaimed
Oh, not from you !"
The piercing shriek which accompanied these words, prevented their being heard by part of the audience; and those who heard them thought little of their meaning, more than that they expressed her fear of dying.
Serene and dignified, as if no such exclamation had been uttered, William delivered the final speech ending with"Dead, dead, dead."
She fainted as he closed the period, and was carried back to prison in a swoon; while he adjourned the court to go to dinner.
If, unaffected by the scene he had witnessed, William sat down to dinner with an appetite, let not the reader conceive that the most distant suspicion had struck his mind of his ever having seen, much less familiarly known, the poor offender whom he had just condemned. Still this forgetfulness did not proceed from the want of memory for Agnes. In every peevish or heavy hour passed with his wife, he was sure to think of her; yet it was self-love, rather than love of her, that gave rise to these thoughts. He felt the lack of female sympathy and tenderness to soften the fatigue of studious labour, to soothe a sullen, a morose disposition—he felt he wanted comfort for himself, but never once considered what were the wants of Agnes.
In the chagrin of a barren bed he sometimes thought, too, even on the child that Agnes bore him ; but whether it were male or female, whether a beggar in the streets or dead, various and important public occupation forbade him to inquire. Yet the poor, the widow, and the orphan frequently shared William's ostentatious bounty. He was the president of many excellent charities, gave largely, and sometimes instituted benevolent societies for the unhappy ; for he delighted to load the poor with obligation, and the rich with praise.
There are persons like him who love to do every thing good but that which their immediate duty requires. There are servants that will serve every one more cheerfully than their masters; there are men who will distribute money liberally to all except their creditors; and there are wives who will love all mankind better than their own husbands. Duty is a familiar word which has little effect upon an ordi