45.In the Prison
NEAR sunset that evening an elderly gentleman was standing with his back
against the smaller entrance-door of Stoniton jail, saying a few last words to the
departing chaplain. The chaplain walked away, but the elderly gentleman stood
still, looking down on the pavement and stroking his chin with a ruminating air,
when he was roused by a sweet clear woman's voice, saying, "Can I get into the
prison, if you please?"
He turned his head and looked fixedly at the speaker for a few moments without
"I have seen you before," he said at last. "Do you remember preaching on the
village green at Hayslope in Loamshire?"
"Yes, sir, surely. Are you the gentleman that stayed to listen on horseback?"
"Yes. Why do you want to go into the prison?"
"I want to go to Hetty Sorrel, the young woman who has been condemned to
death--and to stay with her, if I may be permitted. Have you power in the prison,
"Yes; I am a magistrate, and can get admittance for you. But did you know this
criminal, Hetty Sorrel?"
"Yes, we are kin. My own aunt married her uncle, Martin Poyser. But I was away
at Leeds, and didn't know of this great trouble in time to get here before to-day. I
entreat you, sir, for the love of our heavenly Father, to let me go to her and stay
"How did you know she was condemned to death, if you are only just come from
"I have seen my uncle since the trial, sir. He is gone back to his home now, and
the poor sinner is forsaken of all. I beseech you to get leave for me to be with
"What! Have you courage to stay all night in the prison? She is very sullen, and
will scarcely make answer when she is spoken to."
"Oh, sir, it may please God to open her heart still. Don't let us delay."
"Come, then," said the elderly gentleman, ringing and gaining admission, "I know
you have a key to unlock hearts."