An angry frown pervades the prisoner’s face. He has nothing to say. Burning tears course down his cheeks; but they are not tears of contrition,—Oh, no! he has no such tears to shed. Firmly and resolutely he says, “Guilty! guilty! yes, I am guilty-guilty by the guilty laws of a guilty land. You are powerful-I am weak; you have might-I have right. Mine is not a chosen part. Guilty on earth, my soul will be innocent in heaven; and before a just judge will my cause be proclaimed, before a holy tribunal my verdict received, and by angels my soul be enrolled among the righteous. Your earthly law seals my lips; your black judgment-enough to make heaven frown and earth tremble, fearing justice-crushes the man; but you cannot judge the spirit. In fear and trembling your wrongs will travel broken paths-give no man rest. I am guilty with you; I am innocent in heaven. He who judgeth all things right, receives the innocent soul into his bosom; and He will offer repentance to him who takes the innocent life.” He pauses, as his eye, with intense stare, rests upon his honour.
“You are through?” enquires his honour, raising his eyebrows.
“In this court of justice,” firmly replies the prisoner.
“Order in the court!” is echoed from several voices.
“Nicholas-Nicholas Grabguy! the offence for which you stand convicted is one for which I might, according to the laws of the land, pronounce a more awful sentence than the one now resolved upon. But the advanced and enlightened spirit of the age calls for a more humane manner of taking life and inflicting punishments. Never before has it been my lot to pass sentence-although I have pronounced the awful benediction on very many-on so valuable and intelligent a slave. I regret your master’s loss as much as I sympathise with your condition; and yet I deplore the hardened and defiant spirit you yet evince. And permit me here to say, that while you manifest such an unyielding spirit there is no hope of pardon. Nicholas! you have been tried before a tribunal of the land, by the laws of your state, and found guilty by a tribunal of competent men. Nothing is now left for me but to pass sentence upon you in accordance with the law. The sentence of the court is, that you be taken hence to the prison from whence you came, and on this day week, at twelve o’clock, from thence to the gallows erected in the yard thereof, and there and then be hanged by the neck until you are dead; and may the Lord have mercy on your soul!”
His honour, concluding nervously, orders the jury to be dismissed, and the court adjourned.
How burns the inward hate of the oppressed culprit, as mutely, his hands pinioned, and the heavy chain about his neck, he is led away to his prison-house, followed by a deriding crowd. “Come that happy day, when men will cease to make their wrong fire my very blood!” he says, firmly marching to the place of death.