Great Expectations eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 554 pages of information about Great Expectations.

When the Sessions came round, Mr. Jaggers caused an application to be made for the postponement of his trial until the following Sessions.  It was obviously made with the assurance that he could not live so long, and was refused.  The trial came on at once, and, when he was put to the bar, he was seated in a chair.  No objection was made to my getting close to the dock, on the outside of it, and holding the hand that he stretched forth to me.

The trial was very short and very clear.  Such things as could be said for him, were said — how he had taken to industrious habits, and had thriven lawfully and reputably.  But, nothing could unsay the fact that he had returned, and was there in presence of the Judge and Jury.  It was impossible to try him for that, and do otherwise than find him guilty.

At that time, it was the custom (as I learnt from my terrible experience of that Sessions) to devote a concluding day to the passing of Sentences, and to make a finishing effect with the Sentence of Death.  But for the indelible picture that my remembrance now holds before me, I could scarcely believe, even as I write these words, that I saw two-and-thirty men and women put before the Judge to receive that sentence together.  Foremost among the two-and-thirty, was he; seated, that he might get breath enough to keep life in him.

The whole scene starts out again in the vivid colours of the moment, down to the drops of April rain on the windows of the court, glittering in the rays of April sun.  Penned in the dock, as I again stood outside it at the corner with his hand in mine, were the two-and-thirty men and women; some defiant, some stricken with terror, some sobbing and weeping, some covering their faces, some staring gloomily about.  There had been shrieks from among the women convicts, but they had been stilled, a hush had succeeded.  The sheriffs with their great chains and nosegays, other civic gewgaws and monsters, criers, ushers, a great gallery full of people — a large theatrical audience — looked on, as the two-and-thirty and the Judge were solemnly confronted.  Then, the Judge addressed them.  Among the wretched creatures before him whom he must single out for special address, was one who almost from his infancy had been an offender against the laws; who, after repeated imprisonments and punishments, had been at length sentenced to exile for a term of years; and who, under circumstances of great violence and daring had made his escape and been re-sentenced to exile for life.  That miserable man would seem for a time to have become convinced of his errors, when far removed from the scenes of his old offences, and to have lived a peaceable and honest life.  But in a fatal moment, yielding to those propensities and passions, the indulgence of which had so long rendered him a scourge to society, he had quitted his haven of rest and repentance, and had come back to the country where he was proscribed. 

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Great Expectations from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.