Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

shall go to see the children, and perhaps, if they will promise never to touch my books, perhaps they may come to see her sometimes—when I am out.'

So he thought as he walked slowly home, more slowly than usual; the scene of the morning had shaken him, and he had gone without his midday meal, too. He felt feebler in mind and body than he had done since the first days of his convalescence, and longed for the quiet rest of his snug little room and comfortable chair, a pinch of his favourite snuff and a volume of his favourite bard. All was darkness in the sitting-room. He struck

He struck a match and frowned at the discovery that the disorder of the morning had been only partially remedied. The door of the bedroom stood partly open, but that room also was dark. Where was his wife? He lit a candle and carried it into the bedroom. Disorder here too, the bed disarranged, the quilt in a heap on the floor. He stooped and picked it up; something dropped from its folds and rolled away underneath the bed. Something that glittered in the rays of the candle, and clinked as it struck the floor. Money! His eyes instinctively turned to the corner where lay his hidden treasure. He held the candle aloft ; it shone upon a black chasm.

Trembling, he staggered to the corner. Yes, the board had been pulled up, the biding-place revealed and it was empty! The hand with which he grasped the dressing-table, as he stooped to throw the light of the candle to the furthermost limits of his ransacked treasury, touched something that felt like a letter.

He looked at it as he drew himself erect. A note addressed in Hannah's sprawling hieroglyphics to himself. He sat down on the bed and tore it open. One sheet of ruled paper taken from a school exercise book was enclosed; inscribed upon it was Hannah's farewell message to the husband she had robbed and deserted.

'I have gone with my children, it ran, 'to a place where you will never find us. And perhaps you will be glad I am gone when you hear this. I have never been married before. I am what you would call a bad woman. But I love my children though their father treated me so ill. I have taken your money for us. I am sorry, but the children must be happy and you are an old man. I suppose I shall go to hell for it; but I shall not be minding that. I shall have had my bit of heaven here.

HANNAH. Gwilym Rhys read the ill-spelt, ill-written document over two or three times ere its full meaning dawned upon him. Then a sudden fury seized him. He leaped to his feet with a wild idea of pursuit and vengeance.

But an overpowering giddiness seized him, and, after reeling a few steps, he fell heavily.

In the sick-ward of the Llan Awstin workhouse dwell a strange old pair who are known as “David and Jonathan ’ among the inmates, because of the faithful friendship that has existed between them ever since their advent there, some three years since. David' is the ruling spirit of the two, a shrunken cripple, who has yet a youthful heart and soul in his twisted body.

'Jonathan,' his friend and brother,' is also his admiring and willing slave. He is a bent, but still handsome old man, with weird grey eyes that stare unblinkingly at everyone and everything. He seldom speaks and never reads, his mind is quite gone. But he is perfectly happy, for he has always by day food and warmth, a pinch of snuff, a friend to follow and admire, and sometimes at night come visions of a once halfcomprehended joy. For though he remembers nothing of his past life, now and then when David has been talking to him overnight of his own adventures, Gwilym, waking from slumber on the following morning, will say with a happy smile :

I slept well, David, and had sweet dreams of beautiful ladies.'

JEANNIE S. POPHAM.

CRIMINALS AND THE CRIMINAL CLASS

The subject to which I am about to address myself is one of very painful interest and of very pressing importance. In dealing with it I will begin with the beginning and state what I mean by criminals. There is a multitude of evildoers who are not technically criminals, and of these not a few are more culpable morally than some who are commonly so called : ‘Il y a des infamies cachées qui sont pires que des crimes au grand jour.' But the law does not reach the perpetrators of these concealed infamies.' Nay, they often pass for respectable members of society. Like certain persons mentioned in the Gospels, they devour widows' houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They appreciate the truth of Clough's assertion in 'The Latest Decalogue' ; 'At church on Sunday to attend, will serve to keep the world thy friend.' They are zealous, publicly, for the suppression of vice and the cause of civil and religious liberty all over the world': and they are occupied, privately, in 'making their pile' by methods which really deserve the pillory. Conspicuous among these are the speculative, or rather predatory financiers who purchase a thing with no intention of getting possession of it, but merely to derive a profit from its changes in price : who by 'operating' with stocks, shares, bonds, cotton, wheat and other commodities-of what use to continue the list? -obtain wealth without earning it: wealth which, in fact, belongs to some one else. Let us hear on this subject the late Sir George Lewis, who spoke regarding it with an authority possessed by few : Many of the large fortunes which have been amassed by mushroom financiers and promoters during the last few decades have been built upon foundations of trickery, deceit and fraud, and if we examine the means employed we find them little different from those of the racecourse thimblerigger.' Unquestionably, this way of heaping up riches is morally wrong. As unquestionably, those who pursue it ought legally to be accounted criminals. But no: 'Have the misfortune to take some trifle off a book, and you are set on high in the dock as a curiosity : steal a million, and you are pointed out in the salons as a virtue,' Vautrin says, in Le Père Goriot. The words are just as true now as when Balzac wrote them, nearly a century ago.

It is not, then, these speculative financiers, or the equally nefarious usurers and sweaters, that I have in view when I speak of criminals. Great as is their moral delinquency, they contrive, as a rule, to keep the windy side of the law.' I mean by a criminal a man who has been tried in a Court of Justice for some act or omission which the law has made penal, and who has been convicted thereof : one who has outraged society, and upon whom the law has taken vengeance. I am afraid this will strike a jarring note in the minds of some. “Vengeance !' they will say : ‘We don't like the word.' I must, however, keep it, because I am satisfied that it is the right word. I will explain why later on.

Let us consider what civil society really is. It is not something artificial. It is a natural institution, the outcome of the being of man. That is what the old Greek philosopher meant when he spoke of man as ' a political animal.' And so a philosopher of our own, and no mean philosopher, Hooker, “the Judicious,' amplifying this dictum of Aristotle : Nature herself teacheth laws and statutes to live by [which] do bind men absolutely, even as they are men, although they have never had any settled fellowship, never any solemn agreement among themselves, what to do or not to do.' 'The law of a commonwealth [is] the very soul of a political body, the parts of which are by law animated, held together, and set to work, in such actions as the common good requireth.' That is the true account of human society, in which human freedom is rooted and grounded. Man has never lived as a lawless savage. We hear much, in these days, regarding his far-off prehistoric ancestors. We are told, more or less confidently, about their habits and pursuits in the Paleolithic, in the Neolithic age. Nay, 'the Ape-Man of Java’ is, by some, relegated to the Eolithic age, the date of which may possibly be a million of years ago. I seldom read a book in which such speculations are presented without saying to myself of its author, ‘Most ignorant of what he's most assured.' But, at all events, these beings who are described for us as our remote progenitors, 'roaming our planet with animal companions in the dark night of prehistory' were not men at all. They were as truly animals as their companions : troglodytes with half a brain, with the appetites and habits of a wild beast, with inarticulate cries for language; gregarious, doubtless, but not rational, even if possessing energies whence reason germinated. For myself, the hypothesis presents no difficulty to me that the rational faculty may have been evolved : that it existed in our tertiary and quarternary ancestors, if we

are to accept those terms, dormant as sunlight in coal, but really there. Anyhow, it is in virtue of the endowment of reason, whenever and however he may have acquired it, that man is emancipated from the yoke of instinct, as no other animal is emancipated; that he is ' man, and master of his fate.' Reason is the basis of ethics as of jurisprudence and politics. “Man alone,' to go back again to the Greek philosopher, rightly called the master of those who know,' 'is an ethical animal having perception of right and wrong, justice and injustice and the like,' a perception which is the outcome of reason. It is precisely because man is an ethical animal that civil society is possible. And the true conception of human law is that it is a function of reason : it is the recognition, by the State, of a portion of that system of relative rights and duties which reason itself reveals. It is the bond of civil society. And the end of the State, which is civil society in its corporate capacity, is to preserve that bond : to maintain the rights which law recognises.

For this end Courts of Justice exist. It is their function to attend continually upon this very thing. They enforce rights by actions arising from contract or quasi contract : from delict or quasi delict. They visit with punishment certain gross infringements of right, violating the public order and branded as crimes. But what is a crime? I do not think we can better Kant's account of it: 'an act threatened by the law with punishment.' And what is a criminal? One who wilfully commits that act, and who therefore rightly incurs the punishment. The whole criminal jurisprudence of the world rests upon this conception of crime and criminals. I use these words advisedly. I had occasion not long ago to study carefully the Penal Codes with which most countries have, of late years, provided themselves. And on this matter they are unanimous. They all agree that a man can be held criminally responsible for a nefarious deed only when he was at liberty to do or to abstain from it : that crime has its root in volition.

I wish to dwell upon this point for a moment, because there is a tendency at the present day to deny the conception of crime upon which I have been insisting, and which has been universally accepted among men from the dawn of civilisation until now-a tendency, and more than a tendency. Crime, it has been always held, is a voluntary act : by which we mean an act which a man was free to commit or not to commit. But there is a well-known school among us which denies that any act of man is really voluntary, which insists that his every deed is necessitated : that he could not help himself when he did it. I remember a verse of a song, much esteemed when I was an undergraduate-happily it is all I remember of the ditty-in

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »