The Hermit Convict

The Hermit Convict

by William Draper

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Overview

"NOT GUILTY! My lord, not guilty, I assure you!"

The speaker was a young man, respectably dressed, with a countenance
somewhat pale, but giving evidence of a determined will, and a general
demeanor which indicated intelligence and good breeding. Standing in the
dock, arraigned before the judge of assize at Winchester, in a crowded
court, with the serious charge of forgery against him, James Stewart in
a firm tone of voice pleaded thus, and, the plea being recorded, the
trial commenced. The Crown Court in that ancient assize hall is very
commodious, and the galleries are sufficiently capacious to hold several
hundred spectators, but upon this occasion every nook and corner was
occupied.

The circumstances of the case were very peculiar. The young man was well
known; his employer was a citizen in the town of Southampton, and it was
rumored that the prosecution was without his sanction, and in opposition
to his judgment. The prisoner had been apprenticed to this gentleman,
whose name was Hartlop, and had served his time with honor and credit to
the complete satisfaction of his employer, who made him an advantageous
offer of continued employment which Stewart accepted, and death having
soon after removed the managing clerk, the prisoner was promoted to the
vacant post. To the young man it was no small gratification to be, at so
early a period of his history, thus taken into the confidence of one who
was well able to administer to the success of his future life. His
father had been a shipping agent in Southampton, at that time noted as
one of the prettiest places of seaside resort in all the South of
England. Its quaint and interesting Bargate, the old walls and towers
with several other gates, and many remnants of ancient fortification;
the broad and beautiful High-street, terminating at one end in very
spacious quays, and at the other with an avenue of lofty elms, forming
as beautiful an entrance to the town as it is possible to conceive; its
many walks of surpassing excellence and romantic interest; the near
vicinity of the New Forest, with its pretty villages; all these, and
many other attractions, made the ancient sea-port of Southampton a very
desirable place of residence. Then the Isle of Wight, that beautiful
garden of England, and the splendid ruin of Netley Abbey, proved
sufficiently attractive to induce many to visit the place, as indeed is
the case to this day. Southampton has now lost, only by report, all, or
nearly all, of this old-fashioned excellence, but it has gained
something instead of it, which has made the name a world-renowned word
in postal and commercial phraseology. Well, they who traded in the place
in the childhood of our good Queen, have for the most part passed away.
Peace be to their memory! One of these was the very respectable citizen
with whom James Stewart claimed a sort of relationship, which one of
those old laws, given some three thousand years ago, most impressively
commands us all to honor, but which in these very matter of fact days is
frequently debased from the high and mighty excellence of 'father' to
the very foreign and repelling epithet of 'governor.' Stewart, however,
was not the son to conceive such a thought of him whom he ever regarded
as a dear good father. In a playful mood, he would sometimes ring out
merrily the familiar 'dad,' but the word meant volumes of affection, and
the fond father knew it. Mr. Stewart had for many years carried on a
very lucrative business; he had been, in a word, a successful speculator
in shipping ventures. It was a common household word in the family, that
the period was fast approaching when the son, released from his
apprenticeship, was to become the acting-partner in the business of
James Stewart and Co., and the father and mother had mentally arranged
most of the preliminaries which were to be associated with the
retirement of the former from active business. But man proposes, and
there is One who frequently, for the wisest purposes, turns the nest
upside down. 'This is my rest,' many a good man says, and he nestles
down in it, and finds such an elysium of happiness, that, looking around
with the complacency of satisfaction, he breathes out the words, 'I
shall die here.'

'No,' says the unerring voice of wisdom, and forthwith the storm begins
to beat, the rain of sorrow descends, the winds of life's bitter
blasting influence howl around the traveller. He may have the Rock of
Ages to shelter him, a good substantial hiding-place in all seasons, but
under this secure dwelling-place he sees all his earthly treasures swept
away, the tempter whispering all the while, 'curse God, and die.' Such
was the experience of the prisoner's father. The son had only


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Product Details

BN ID: 2940013760301
Publisher: WDS Publishing
Publication date: 01/14/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 300 KB

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