|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
THE-KING. OF, NO-LAND. -e BY B. L.^FAEJEON. CHAPTE XI-.-continued. Sassafras went to the door of the cell, and threw it open. 'My interview is not yet at an end,' he said to the attendants. 'Where is the gaoler ? Remove that man's chains. Unclasp his hands.' They hesitated to obey him ; but he would not be denied. The prisoner's limbs were set free; the door of the cell was closed again, and only they two were within the four walls. 'Now,' said Sassafras, stepping close to the prisoner, 'as man to man I' The prisoner turned deathly white, and his form trembled ; thus he stood before Sassafras, uncertain how to act, uncertain what to say. 'Have you a wife ?' asked Sassafras. The prisoner suppressed a spas modic cry. 'I had ; she is dead, thank God I' 'Children?' asked Sassafras, ins a soft and pitying tone. 'I had one-he is dead, thank God I' 'You thank God for those afflictions?' 'Ay, most sincerely ! You appeal to me, as man to man. You want me to tell you what wrong you have done me. Be it so. I will tell you. Not long since I was a married man, with a wife whom I loved, and who, I believe, loved me. Two years after our mar riage she bore a child. I was a work man on the estate ofa certain noble man whose name would blister my tongue, were I to utter it ; if you ask the police-to whom I am well known -they will tell you his name. He holds high rank in your court; his name is mentioned in the papers fre quently with credit. What wonder ? he is a nobleman. His son came of age ; there were great feasts on the estate. My wife and I were present, with every other person who was con nected in any way with this nobleman's property. My wife was a pretty woman. I have never seen a prettier. This nobleman's son spoke to me, to her-he did us greater honor; he danced with her in the evening at the ball given to the tenants and the work people. See you now ; no word of sentiment or passion shall pass my lips ; I will tell you my story reason ably and coldly. It is fair that I should say that I never cared for kings and queens; but having my work to do, and being fairly happy, I did not enter deeply into the question ; it is no business of mine, thought I. Well, then, so it was, untilthis young cub came of age, and courted my wife by stealth, and turned her head. At the end of twelve months she left me, secretly; I was not allowed to remain long in doubt as to the man. I went to the father ; he received me civilly enough. "What do you want?" he asked, when he had heard my complaint. "Justice," I replied. What other reply could I give? I can see now that it was not a practical demand; but I was blind at that time. I asked him to tell me where I could find his son ; he refused. I spoke hotly, and he, not recrgnising that I had justifi cation for my passion in the wrong his s n had inflicted upon me, turned me from his doors. I forget now whether I threatened him ; I think I must have done so, for not only was I dismissed from my employment, but from that day I was conscious that I was being watched by the police as a dangerous person. I had saved a little money, and I went to the lawyers for justice. What kind of justice ? Well, I could expose this viper, and disgrace him. I was mistaken. Where I spent one pound, the other side spent a hundred. Where I had one lawyer, they hzd ten. You couldn't see justice through their black gowns. My money was soon spent, and my lawyer said he could not proceed without means. I don't blame the lawyer; I blame the machinery. And yet the lawyers are the manu facturers. ''Thle road to justice should be smooth to rich and poor alike. It is not. It is a rocky road, and a rich man can pay for the removal or the placing of obstacles, while a poor man's heart is broken before he walks a dozen yards towards the Shadow of Justice that stands in the distance. "Fight for me," says this shadow. But the odds should be equal. What occurs when twelve armed men fight one? I wrote to the papers; they took no notice. I wrote to persons in authority; I received no answer. My heart was turning bitter, and I was beginning to starve, for I could obtain no employ ment. While in this condition I met the young viper, smiling, well-dressed, enjoying life. Inflamed-justly in flamed-I struck him, not lightly. I was dragged to the police-court, and imprisoned for three months. I saw the case in the papers afterwards, with the heading, "Savage assault on a young gentleman." I came out of prison, and I made the acquaintance of an old man, a Republican. Still did I think I might obtain justice. He laughed at me, and taunted me with the holes in my pockets. "Be a scoundrel and rich," he said, "and yon shall eat of the best. Be a scoundrel and poor, and you shall live on prison fare." I was now a suspected person. The eyes of the police werer neve off me; yet I did not relax my efforts. I wrote again and again to judges, to law-officers, to noblemen, asking for justice, asking that the man who had ruined me should be punished. Silence was my answer. "Will you never believe," said my friend, "that there is one law for the poor and another for the rich, in No-land ?" Then he showed me, in plain print, how the complex machinery of the law was made to defeat justice when two men appeared before the tribunal, one with a full, the other with an empty purse ;. he showed me how, after a case ap-. peared to be settled and a decision was giveo, rules for. new motions, new trials, injunctions, arguments, and G6? knows what all, were set in motion. until the weakest went to the wall! "And, observe," he said, "these ob stacles to justice are not open to the poor man, for they are so beautifully framed as to ost much money." He showed me n6i" than this: he showed i.'. ith. j':dges in one const upset the decisions of the judges in another; how ithey .all sat together again, and .agreed upon a second judgment ; and
how a judge in a higher court reversed their judgement, and so complicated the case that it would cost thousands of pounds before the matter could be got out of its desperate tangle. But I weary myself with these details. My heart was sore; my soul was sick ; my body was enfeebled by want. I was brought to the police-court again for writing what they called threatening letters. The magistrate paid me a compliment.. He said, "I am sorry to see a man who can express himself so well conduct himself so disgracefully; but society must be protected-three months." You see what a misfortune it was to me that my parents had given me an education. Can you tell me, up to this point of my career, of what crime I had been guilty? "What will you do now ?" asked my friend, at -the end of three months. "There is but one source to appeal to now," I answered ; "I will appeal to the head of all; I will appeal to the King." I sat down, and wrote a fair statement of my case, and sent it to the King of No-land. Silence. I wrote again. Silence. Again, again, again! Silence, silence, silence ! I might as well have asked the stars to answer me. The King was as far removed from his people as they are. "Well ?" said my friend. I could not answer him; I was almost choked with rage. "So," he said scornfully, "you ap pealed to the King in the cause of virtue and morality I You thought that in that general cause he would take up your case. You fool! Do you think he is a respecter of women ?" And then he related incidents in the King's licentious life, which proved to me how vain it was for me to appeal for justice there. My friend worked upon this theme until, looking upon the King as the head of these evils, I grew to hate him with a deep un quenchable hate. My child died liter ally of starvation. I thanked the King for it. My wife died. I thanked the King for it. Want was my portion; sleep deserted me. I thanked the King for it. "Shall I die," I asked of myself, "and end my pain ?" Yes, I decided that I would. But I would first rid the world of a monster, and avenge myself. I made the attempt, and failed; I am more than satisfied now to say Good-by to the world and its monstrous cruelties. And if there be a Judgment Seat in the Here after, I will appear before it, and tell my story there.' He ceased, and silence reigned for many moments; the hearts of both these men were sorely agitated-one with passion and despair, the other with grief and commiseration. 'The stories you heard about me are false,' said Sassafras, very sadly, when he was able to control his emotion; 'I never saw one of your letters. I pity you from my heart.' The man turned his face doggedly to the wall, and rested his head upon his arm. Sassafras waited for the man to speak, but he waited in vain. He continued then, scarce knowing what he said, but his words were very gentle, and were such as one might have spoken to a brother. Still the man remained obdurate, and hid his face. 'Can I do nothing for you ?' asked Sassafras. 'You can,' then replied the man, turning his haggard face to the King; 'two things.' 'Tell me what they are.' 'You will do them ?' 'If it is in my power.' 'It is in your power. First-let the judges condemn me to instant death. I want to die. Let no false clemency be shown to me, and do not allow me in my condition to be condemned to a worse torture than death-to a life imprisonment, where I may eat my heart away. I am not mad-I am sane as they or you are. Second-re move yourself from my presence, and mock me no longer with your pitying words. They-come too late!'