THE TABLES TURNED
The agony of mind that Jasper suffered in leaving his cabin and meeting the people of Creekdale on their return from old David’s funeral was only a part of the trial he endured on his journey to the county jail. On the wharf, while waiting for the arrival of the steamer, he was subjected to the pitiless stares and gibes of men, women and children. News of the arrest had spread from house to house, and people had flocked to the wharf to have a last look upon the suspected man. Jasper stood with his face to the river watching the steamer off in the distance, which was rapidly approaching. The actions of the crowd disgusted him. There was not one friendly voice lifted up on his behalf. Jim Goban strutted up and down keeping close watch upon his prisoner, and gloating over his task. He was having his revenge now for the blows he had received on the day of David’s release.
When once on the steamer Jasper believed that he would be free from all curious eyes. In this, however, he was mistaken. There were many on board and all soon learned that the “terrible murderer” was in their midst. Jasper was kept down below near the engine room and it was remarkable how most of the people on that boat found it necessary to pass him quite often. He could hear some of their comments as they moved away.
“What a bad face he has,” a woman remarked.
“Yes,” her companion replied, “he surely does look like a desperate character. Wasn’t it awful for him to kill that poor old man?”
Jasper’s face was really hard and stern; how could it have been otherwise? Where was all their Christian charity? he asked himself. Where was the spirit of justice? Those people knew that he had not yet received a fair trial, and why were they so willing and eager to believe him guilty?
Old Simon Squabbles was on board, and though he said nothing to Jasper, he expressed his views to several men a short distance away.
“It’s nothin’ more than I expected,” he boasted. “I knew he would soon reach the end of his tether after the experience I had with him. I had him workin’ fer me, an’ when I wouldn’t pay him fer loafin’ in the potato patch, he got as mad as blazes an’ said things I wouldn’t like to repeat.”
Jasper endured such remarks without a word. He did not feel like making any reply. In fact, he realised how useless it would be, and the less said the better.
The limit of his bitterness was reached when a woman approached and began to speak to him about his soul, and the danger of hell fire. She dilated glibly upon the awfulness of sin, and even offered to pray for him.
“Keep your prayers for yourself,” Jasper retorted, stung almost to fury by her impudence. “You’ll do more good if you pray for these snivelling hypocrites,” and he motioned to those standing around him.