The judge sentenced him with much solemn admonition. It was a grievous thing for one so young to commit such a crime. He warned Albert that he must not regard any consideration as a justification for such an offense. He had betrayed his trust and been guilty of theft. The judge expressed his regret that the sentence was so severe. It was a sad thing to send a young man of education and refinement to be the companion of criminals for so many years. But the law recognized the difference between a theft by a sworn and trusted officer and an ordinary larceny. He hoped that Albert would profit by this terrible experience, and that he would so improve the time of his confinement with meditation, that what would remain to him of life when he should come out of the walls of his prison might be spent as an honorable and law-abiding citizen. He sentenced him to serve the shortest term permitted by the statute, namely, ten years.
The first deep snow of the winter was falling outside the court-house, and as Charlton stood in the prisoners’ box, he could hear the jingling of sleigh-bells, the sounds that usher in the happy social life of winter in these northern latitudes. He heard the judge, and he listened to the sleigh-bells as a man who dreams—the world was so far off from him now—ten weary years, and the load of a great disgrace measured the gulf fixed between him and all human joy and sympathy. And when, a few minutes afterward, the jail-lock clicked behind him, it seemed to have shut out life. For burial alive is no fable. Many a man has heard the closing of the vault as Albert Charlton did.
It was a cold morning. The snow had fallen heavily the day before, and the Stillwater stage was on runners. The four horses rushed round the street-corners with eagerness as the driver, at a little past five o’clock in the morning, moved about collecting passengers. From the up-town hotels he drove in the light of the gas-lamps to the jail where the deputy marshal, with his prisoner securely handcuffed, took his seat and wrapped the robes about them both. Then at the down-town hotels they took on other passengers. The Fuller House was the last call of all.
“Haven’t you a back-seat?” The passenger partly spoke and partly coughed out his inquiry.
“The back-seat is occupied by ladies,” said the agent, “you will have to take the front one.”
“It will kill me to ride backwards,” whined the desponding voice of Minorkey, but as there were only two vacant seats he had no choice. He put his daughter in the middle while he took the end of the seat and resigned himself to death by retrograde motion. Miss Helen Minorkey was thus placed exactly vis-a-vis with her old lover Albert Charlton, but in the darkness of six o’clock on a winter’s morning in Minnesota, she could not know it. The gentleman who occupied the other end of the seat