Happily his surgical and medicinal functions claim only a portion of his time. He is in charge of the district gaol, a large and comfortable retreat for criminals. Here he is admirable. To some eight or nine hundred murderers, robbers, and inferior delinquents he plays the part of maitre d’hotel with infinite success. In the whole country side you will not find a community so well bathed, dressed, exercised, fed and lodged as that over which the Doctor presides. You observe on every face a quiet, Quakerish air of contentment. Every inmate of the gaol seems to think that he has now found a haven of rest.
If the sea-horse
on the ocean
Own no dear domestic cave,
Yet he slumbers without motion
On the still and halcyon wave;
If on rainy days the loafer
Gamble when he cannot roam,
The police will help him so far
As to find him here a home.
This is indeed a quiet refuge for world-wearied men; a sanctuary undisturbed by the fears of the weak or the passions of the strong. All reasonable wants are gratified here; nothing is hoped for any more. The poor burglar burdened with unsaleable “grab” and the reproaches of a venal world sorrowfully seeks an asylum here. He brings nothing in his hand; he seeks nothing but rest. He whispers through the key-hole—
Nudus castra peto.
Look at this prisoner slumbering peacefully beside his huqqa under the suggestive bottle tree (there is something touching in his selecting the shade of a bottle tree: Horace clearly had no bottle tree; or he would never have lain under a strawberry (and cream) tree). You can see that he has been softly nurtured. What a sleek, sturdy fellow he is! He is a covenanted servant here, having passed an examination in gang robbery accompanied by violence and prevarication. He cannot be discharged under a long term of years. Uncovenanted pilferers, in for a week, regard him with respect and envy. And certainly his lot is enviable; he has no cares, no anxieties. Famine and the depreciation of silver are nothing to him. Rain or sunshine, he lives in plenty. His days are spent in an innocent round of duties, relieved by sleep and contemplation of [Greek: to on]. In the long heats of summer he whiles away the time with carpet-making; between the showers of autumn he digs, like our first parents, in the Doctor’s garden; and in winter, as there is no billiard-table, he takes a turn on the treadmill with his mates. Perhaps, as he does so, he recites Charles Lamb’s Pindaric ode:—
That by thy motion proper
(No thanks to wind or sail, or toiling rill)
Grinding that stubborn-corn, the human will,
Turn’st out men’s consciences,
That were begrimed before, as clean and sweet
As flour from purest wheat,
Into thy hopper.