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JANUARY, 1874.





Julian.-How fresh, how cool, how bracing, comes the breeze !
'Tis life again!

Victor.- True : it is life indeed
As fresh as sorrow, and as cold as hearts,
And hungry as the winds of Liberty.


HE great gate closed behind him, and he was a free man.

Though he stood on English soil, and though it was English air he drew, freedom was none the less a dis

tinction in that especial corner of English soil and in that especial quarter of sea-blown English air. There, men born in Africa or in Virginia might become free, but men born in Britain became slaves.

It was a bleak and barren headland, almost but not quite an island, held to the mainland by a long and slender isthmus like a vast ship at her moorings. In olden times it might have been selected for the site of a monastery as appropriately as Mount Athos ; in these later days it so far resembled the site of a monastery that the bulk of its inhabitants lived in a huge building of stone apart from their fellow creatures, wore a distinctive dress, submitted to a strict discipline, underwent frequent penance, continual mortification, and regular religious exercise, and practically observed the vows of obedience, poverty, and abstinence from all the pleasures of the world. Only their ruler

, instead of being called Abbot, was VOL. XII., N.S. 1874.




entitled Governor, and the rule they followed was neither of Bernard nor of Benedict, but of the statute law of England.

The man behind whose back the great gate swung and clanged had just been released from his vows. He was no longer a slave of the State, and could call his hands his own. He no longer wore the hideous conventual garb of parti-coloured flannel—that sorriest of motley—but an old suit of grey cloth which, though ancient and worn, might once have fitted any man of any class whom choice or necessity had led to dress carelessly and with a view to comfort or convenience rather than fashion. The wearer of the clothes for some instants stood and looked round vaguely, as though he had forgotten how to use his eyes and feet except under the control of a prison warder. To be suddenly discharged from gaol in the gloom of a chill and raw October morning may not always imply an elation of spirits any more than the sudden waking from a nightmare. The elasticity of youth is needed when a man has to take up life's story from a point where it left off years ago, and to throw off in a moment the feel of fetters and the corroding rust that such a parenthesis leaves far below the skin. And this man was no longer young-he looked almost as old as his clothes.

He was thin and meagre, without an ounce of spare Alesh on his bones, which, during his season of retirement from the world, appeared to have grown at the same time too small and too large. His wrists projected from the sleeves of his jacket, while his shoulders did not fill them. He was about the middle height, but lost stature by a stoop that might indeed be natural, but was more probably the result of some invisible weight, seeing that there was no farther evidence of original deformity. At first sight, his meagre figure, his stoop, his grizzled hairs cut close to the scalp and just showing themselves beneath the brim of his cap, the harsh outline of the thin, sallow, and clean-shaved face, and the stamp of the crow under the temples, suggested the burden of sixty years, if not of more. But a closer inspection might reduce the calculation by ten or twelve years, or even by fifteen. Though the dried skin was no longer fair, the grey eyes belonged to one of those fair complexions that age easily and prematurely. Moreover the thin lips spoke of habits of chronic reserve, which are as fatal to the endurance of youth as the hand of Time himself. No one expects to find anything amiable or agreeable in the features or expression of a convict, nor, in the present case, would such want of expectation be disappointed. The face itself, with its irregular and strongly marked projections, its small and

feebly coloured eyes, its cold mouth and its pervading pallor, was like a mere mask from which all expression had been studiously removed. It was not indeed the mask of a burglar or highwayman, but many a monk found his way into that convent by other paths than by the barred window or by the highway.

The old gaol-bird whose cage had at last been set open-in one way or other, whether by years or by crime or by punishment, he certainly had earned the title of old-drew in the cold, damp seamist, and then looked round at the circle of rolling grey fog where the panorama should have been. Then, with another deep breath, he turned his back to the yet gloomier gate, and set out to descend the hill with the pace of a snail.

He passed through a small cluster of cottages, avoiding the rough quarries where gangs of his late companions were doing as little as men can contrive to do under the controlling influence of chains and loaded muskets, until he arrived at the long bank of smooth pebbles, or natural breakwater, which keeps the headland from becoming a true island by drifting out to sea. He walked on as if instinctively, rather like an atom drawn back to the mainland by the natural force of attraction than like a man moving his feet by the exercise of his own free will. Had there been any other road he might have taken it by the preference of accident; as it was, any other

, direction would have led him, not back towards the rocks and shoals of human life, but straight to those of the sea. As he descended, the salt mist thickened, until the rising sun hung like a crimson ball low down in the sky, and until the vanishing walls of the gaol that crowned the headland rose like a phantom castle of air out of a black cloud.

At last he reached the yet more barren bank of pebbles, and stood, in utter solitude, between the splashing waves of two seas, bounded with mist and edged with foam, on an isthmus that parted his gaol from the mainland of liberty ; that divided punishment from the freedom of choice between right and wrong. He looked round again. No living creature but himself jarred with the solitude of this dismal border-land. He turned, and looked behind and before. Which looked the blacker, the prison or the road that led therefrom?

He sat down, and looked out into the mist that hung over the waves, and that blotted out the horizon. It was not till after a good half-hour that his eyes moved as if waking from sleep, and fell on a piece of plank, the sole relic, perhaps, of some ship that had gone to pieces on a shore fatal to ships and lives, now tossed and torn, played with and mocked at, by the smallest wavelet that curled. Moved by

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