Sivut kuvina

York, except one Aunt, who is, indeed, very rich; she is also very religious and very charitable, but makes it a rule never to give assistance to any who are not of her own

sect.” “Then,” cried Severan, with unusual

warmth, “whatever are her professions, she is a stranger to the religion of Jesus Christ : But you have not told me the amount of the debt for which your husband is confined ; is it not considerable 7” “Alas! yes,” returned the Lady. “It is more than forty pounds, and what with the bailiff’s and the jailor's fees, will I dare say, arise to little less than fifty t” Fifty pounds !” repeated the philosopher. “And fifty pounds would release your husband from a jail. Fifty pounds would restore a father to his infant family, and make the heart of a virtuous woman rejoice. It is the noblest of all experiments —And detested be the pursuit that would stand in the way of the happiness of a fellow-creature. My good Madam,” continued he, addressing himself to the Lady, who looked astonished at the incoherence of his expressions, “you must know, that I this morning made a mistake; I thought that Providence had sent me fifty pounds to enable me to pursue a philosophical discovery, on which I had vainly set my heart; but I now find it was for a nobler purpose; it was to contribute to the happiness of an unfortunate family; here it is ; and all I desire is, that you would consider me only as the agent, and keep your thanks for him who sent it.” The various emotions of astonishment, doubt, gratitude, and joy, which took possession of the poor Lady's bosom, struggled for utterance, and at length found vent in tears. The effect upon my feelings was too powerful to be supported. I left the room, and when I returned found my friend advising with the Lady on the steps necessary to be taken for her husband's release. I had from the commencement of our acquaint

ance regarded the philosopher as the first of WOL. II. 12 *

human beings. I now looked up to him as something more. To help a fellow-creature in distress, is the instinctive impulse of benevolence; but to sacrifice for the good of others the darling pursuit of one's life! to give up on that account the favourite, the cherished object of one's mind this belongs only to the philosophy of Jesus. It was now that I understood what cutting off the right hand, and plucking out the right eye truly meant. But ah! my friend, if this is really the religion of Christ, how falsely are people often called Christians !

On the arrival of the man of the law, whom the Doctor had sent for to conduct the business, we all set out with the Lady for the place of her husband's confinement.

When we arrived at the great, gloomy mansion, Doctor Severan, thinking it indeli. cate to go immediately into the presence of his friend, sent his lawyer with the lady to inform her husband of his liberation, and in the mean time indulged my curiosity with a sight of the prison.

You have seen the dungeons in which the Mussulmans confine their malefactors, and in which their prisoners of war are often doomed to suffer the lingering torture of despair; to inhale the noxious vapours of pestilence, and to pine in all the miseries of disease and famine. But after what I have said of Christian charity, you will, no doubt, think it impossible that in a Christian country similar places should be found. This, indeed, at first sight, appears very inexplicable ; but it only serves to confirm me in the truth of my former conjecture, respecting a new revelation, a supplementary code of Christian laws and Christian precepts, which, in many respects, must very essentially differ from the old one.

In this new gospel, I have every reason to believe from all that I have observed since my abode in England, that poverty is considered as one of the most heinous of crimes. It is accordingly by the Christians of the new system, not only stigmatised with a degree of infamy, but by their very laws and under the immediate inspection of their sage magistrates, it is punished in the most examplary manner. The abhorrence in which this crime is held by those Christian legislators is, indeed, evident throughout the tenor of their laws. Can a person contrive by villany to possess himself of the estate of another, provided it can be clearly proved that poverty had no share in instigating him to the offence, the law is satisfied with simple restitution. But should a poor starving wretch put forth his audacious hand to satisfy the calls of hunger or still the clamourous demands of an infant family, he is condemned to death, or doomed to everlasting wretchedness. You who are prejudiced in favour of the mild ordinances of our revered Pundits, will perhaps, think it unjust, that to the miserable mortal who steals the value of twenty rupees, and to him who boldly ventures on plundering the wealth of a family, adding murder to the crime of robbery, the same punishment should be allotted; but you will

« EdellinenJatka »