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Chapter 56

HE lay in prison very ill, during the whole interval between his committal for trial, and the coming round of the Sessions. He had broken two ribs, they had wounded one of his lungs, and he breathed with great pain and difficulty, which increased daily. It was a consequence of his hurt, that he spoke so low as to be scarcely audible; therefore, he spoke very little. But, he was ever ready to listen to me, and it became the first duty of my life to say to him, and read to him, what I knew he ought to hear.
Being far too ill to remain in the common prison, he was removed, after the first day or so, into the infirmary. This gave me opportunities of being with him that I could not otherwise have had. And but for his illness he would have been put in irons, for he was regarded as a determined prison-breaker, and I know not what else.

Although I saw him every day, it was for only a short time; hence, the regularly recurring spaces of our separation were long enough to record on his face any slight changes that occurred in his physical state. I do not recollect that I once saw any change in it for the better; he wasted, and became slowly weaker and worse, day by day, from the day when the prison door closed upon him.

The kind of submission or resignation that he showed, was that of a man who was tired out. I sometimes derived an impression, from his manner or from a whispered word or two which escaped him, that he pondered over the question whether he might have been a better man under better circumstances. But, he never justified himself by a hint tending that way, or tried to bend the past out of its eternal shape.

It happened or two or three occasions in my presence, that his desperate reputation was alluded to by one or other of the people in attendance on him. A smile crossed his face then, and he turned his eyes on me with a trustful look, as if he were confident that I had see some small redeeming touch in him, even so long ago as when I was a little child. As to all the rest, he was humble and contrite, and I never knew him complain.

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. Being here presently denounced, he had for a time succeeded in evading the officers of Justice, but being at length seized while in the act of flight, he had resisted them, and had - he best knew whether by express design, or in the blindness of his hardihood - caused the death of his denouncer, to whom his whole career was known. The appointed punishment for his return to the land that had cast him out, being Death, and his case being this aggravated case, he must prepare himself to Die.

The sun was striking in at the great windows of the court, through the glittering drops of rain upon the glass, and it made a broad shaft of light between the two-and-thirty and the Judge, linking both together, and perhaps reminding some among the audience, how both were passing on, with absolute equality, to the greater Judgment that knoweth all things and cannot err. Rising for a moment, a distinct speck of face in this way of light, the prisoner said, `My Lord, I have received my sentence of Death from the Almighty, but I bow to yours,' and sat down again. There was some hushing, and the Judge went on with what he had to say to the rest. Then, they were all formally doomed, and some of them were supported out, and some of them sauntered out with a haggard look of bravery, and a few nodded to the gallery, and two or three shook hands, and others went out chewing the fragments of herb they had taken from the sweet herbs lying about. He went last of all, because of having to be helped from his chair and to go very slowly; and he held my hand while all the others were removed, and while the audience got up (putting their dresses right, as they might at church or elsewhere) and pointed down at this criminal or at that, and most of all at him and me.

I earnestly hoped and prayed that he might die before the Recorder's Report was made, but, in the dread of his lingering on, I began that night to write out a petition to the Home Secretary of State, setting forth my knowledge of him, and how it was that he had come back for my sake. I wrote it as fervently and pathetically as I could, and when I had finished it and sent it in, I wrote out other petitions to such men in authority as I hoped were the most merciful, and drew up one to the Crown itself. For several days and nights after he was sentenced I took no rest except when I fell asleep in my chair, but was wholly absorbed in these appeals. And after I had sent them in, I could not keep away from the places where they were, but felt as if they were more hopeful and less desperate when I was near them. In this unreasonable restlessness and pain of mind, I would roam the streets of an evening, wandering by those offices and houses where I had left the petitions. To the present hour, the weary western streets of London on a cold dusty spring night, with their ranges of stern shut-up mansions and their long rows of lamps, are melancholy to me from this association.

The daily visits I could make him were shortened now, and he was more strictly kept. Seeing, or fancying, that I was suspected of an intention of carrying poison to him, I asked to be searched before I sat down at his bedside, and told the officer who was always there, that I was willing to do anything that would assure him of the singleness of my designs. Nobody was hard with him, or with me. There was duty to be done, and it was done, but not harshly. The officer always gave me the assurance that he was worse, and some other sick prisoners in the room, and some other prisoners who attended on them as sick nurses (malefactors, but not incapable of kindness,GODbe thanked!), always joined in the same report.

As the days went on, I noticed more and more that he would lie placidly looking at the white ceiling, with an absence of light in his face, until some word of mine brightened it for an instant, and then it would subside again. Sometimes he was almost, or quite, unable to speak; then, he would answer me with slight pressures on my hand, and I grew to understand his meaning very well.

The number of the days had risen to ten, when I saw a greater change in him than I had seen yet. His eyes were turned towards the door, and lighted up as I entered.

`Dear boy,' he said, as I sat down by his bed: `I thought you was late. But I knowed you couldn't be that.'

`It is just the time,' said I. `I waited for it at the gate.'

`You always waits at the gate; don't you, dear boy?'

`Yes. Not to lose a moment of the time.'

`Thank'ee dear boy, thank'ee. God bless you! You've never deserted me, dear boy.'

I pressed his hand in silence, for I could not forget that I had once meant to desert him.

`And what's the best of all,' he said, `you've been more comfortable alonger me, since I was under a dark cloud, than when the sun shone. That's best of all.'

He lay on his back, breathing with great difficulty. Do what he would, and love me though he did, the light left his face ever and again, and a film came over the placid look at the white ceiling.

`Are you in much pain to-day?'

`I don't complain of none, dear boy.'

`You never do complain.'

He had spoken his last words. He smiled, and I understood his touch to mean that he wished to lift my hand, and lay it on his breast. I laid it there, and he smiled again, and put both his hands upon it.

The allotted time ran out, while we were thus; but, looking round, I found the governor of the prison standing near me, and he whispered, `You needn't go yet.' I thanked him gratefully, and asked, `Might I speak to him, if he can hear me?'

The governor stepped aside, and beckoned the officer away. The change, though it was made without noise, drew back the film from the placid look at the white ceiling, and he looked most affectionately at me.

`Dear Magwitch, I must tell you, now at last. You understand what I say?'

A gentle pressure on my hand.

`You had a child once, whom you loved and lost.'

A stronger pressure on my hand.

`She lived and found powerful friends. She is living now. She is a lady and very beautiful. And I love her!'

With a last faint effort, which would have been powerless but for my yielding to it and assisting it, he raised my hand to his lips. Then, he gently let it sink upon his breast again, with his own hands lying on it. The placid look at the white ceiling came back, and passed away, and his head dropped quietly on his breast.

Mindful, then, of what we had read together, I thought of the two men who went up into the Temple to pray, and I knew there were no better words that I could say beside his bed, than `O Lord, be merciful to him, a sinner!'

 

马格韦契在监狱里病得很厉害。自从他收监待审一直到开庭审理,整个这段期间他都在生病。因为他有两根肋骨折断,有一侧的肺叶受了伤,连呼吸都感到困难和痛苦,而且病情每况愈下。由于病痛使他话讲得都很低声,甚至听不清楚,所以他干脆少讲话,但是他特别喜欢听我讲话,所以我的首要任务就是给他讲,给他读,凡是我觉得他应该听的我便为他讲,为他读。

因为他的病实在太重,不宜于住在普通牢房中,所以一两天之后,他便给搬到了监狱的病房中去。这就给了我一个机会伴在他身边,否则我是不能与他相伴的。如果不是因为重病,他必得戴上手铐脚镣,大家都认为他是一个死心塌地的越狱犯,还有许多我不知道的坏话。

虽然每天我都见到他,毕竟相见的时间较短,分开的时间比较长。回想起来,当时无论他精神状态方面有什么变化,哪怕一丁点儿变化,从他的面容上都能反映出来。我真记不起来他有过哪一次变得好一些。监狱之门又把他锁上之后,他越来越瘦下去,越来越虚弱,病情越来越糟。

他的性格已变得十分温顺,对于前途也就听之任之,对一切都已疲倦了。有时候,从他的行为态度上,或者从他忽然脱口而出的一两句话中,我会得到一种印象,好像他在思考着一个问题,如果他处于一个良好的环境,是否他就能成为一个好人呢。不过他并没有表示出他的这种看法,也没有表示对已经铸成事实的往事有什么懊悔屈服。

偶尔有两三次我在监狱里时,有一两个派来照料他的犯人暗示说,他是个有名的挺而走险不顾一切的人。他听了别人的暗示,嘴边露出一丝微笑,并且转过眼睛以信任的神态望着我,仿佛他相信很久之前还当我是孩子时就曾经见到过他身上的这些小小特点。在其他时间里,他是那么谦恭自卑,蕴含着懊悔的心情,但我没有见到过他抱怨。

开庭日期将到时,贾格斯先生提出一个申请,要求延期审理他的案子,到下一次开庭时再审理。十分明显,因为马格韦契肯定活的时间不长了,但法庭对他的申请作了否决。审理立刻按时进行,马格韦契被带到法庭,坐在一张椅子里。法庭允许我坐在靠近被告席的地方,仅有一栅栏之隔。我握着他从栅栏中伸过来的手。

审判进行得非常简短,问题谈得又很清楚。凡能为他讲的话也已说尽,比如他已经养成了勤劳的习惯,他的勤劳致富符合法律,而且值得尊敬。不过,无论怎样,事实还是事实,他从流放中潜逃回国,现在正坐在法官和陪审团的面前。如果说这样还不能定罪,说他无罪,当然是不可能的。

在那个年代里法庭保留了一种惯例(我因为这次到法庭旁听,在惊心动魄的个人体验中才了解到),开庭的过程中要留下最后一天宣判死刑。这样可以起到最好的效果。一口想起这件事,我脑海中便出现一幅难以忘怀的图画。否则,即使在我书写这件事时,我也很难相信那次有三十二名男女犯人被置于法官之前,听候死刑的判决。三十二人之中的第一个就是马格韦契,他坐在那里,是为了让他留下一口气再活着被处死。

整个的这一幕现在又栩栩如生地出现在我的眼前。当时法庭的窗户上闪耀着四月的阳光,同时四月的雨点也打在上面。我站在被告席旁边,仅一栅栏之隔,我从一个角上抓住他从栅栏中伸过来的手。站在栅栏里的是三十二位男女犯人,他们当中有的藐视法庭,有的全身恐惧,有的低低啜泣,有的号啕大哭,有的捂住面孔,还有的阴郁地茫然四顾。在女犯人中发出了尖叫声,法庭上要她们肃静,她们便静下来,一点声息都没有。法官们身上挂着表链,佩戴着花束,法庭里其他的小官们、法警们、庭丁们,以及来旁听案件审理的所有的人,就像拥挤戏院里的观众一样,都在盯着对峙中的大法官和三十二位犯人,面部严肃。接着大法官开始对犯人演说。他说站在他面前的这批可怜的犯人中,其中有一个人特别值得在这里提及,因为他从孩提开始就行为不轨,触犯法律,屡次被捕人监进行惩罚,而又屡次不改,终于被判长期监禁。可是他仍旧旧性不改,胆大妄为,进行施暴手段,越狱而逃,因此改判终身流放。这一位不幸的人离开犯案之地,在流放期间曾一度对自己所犯错误有所认识,生活安分守己,待人忠实可靠,但是在至关重要的时刻,他又耽于情感,旧病复发,重蹈昔日对社会危害之路,离开他重新做人终身忏悔的地方,擅自潜回祖国。须知他终身流放后是不能回国的,祖国不是他的法律保护地,他一回祖国便受到指控。在一个阶段内他逃避了官府的追查,最后在企图逃亡国外的途中事发。他抗拒官府行使逮捕令,又使对他了如指掌的告发人在协助追捕时死去,这究竟是因为他设计谋害,还是在粗鲁忙碌中误杀,只有他本人知道得最为清楚。根据法律,凡终身流放而私自返国者处以死刑,而此人所犯符合此条,必罪上加罪,处死无疑。

法庭的几扇大玻璃窗上虽然布满了雨点,而阳光却透过滴满雨点的窗户照射了进来。有一大片阳光正照射在三十二名犯人和大法官之间的空地上,由阳光把双方连在了一起,这样也许会提醒观众席中的某些人,使他们想到这双方都将受到新的审判,那是绝对平等的、全知全能的、绝不会有错的,最伟大的法官(上帝)将对他们进行审判。大法官提到的这位犯人这时站了起来,一张带有清楚斑痕的面孔映照在一片明亮的阳光之中,他说:“在天之主早就对我判了死刑,法官老爷,我现在恭领你的判决。”说毕又坐了下去。此时法庭要大家肃静,大法官又开始对其余的犯人讲演。再接下去,对犯人进行正式的宣判。宣判结束,有的犯人被扶着走了出去;有的虽面孔憔悴,却装出一副勇敢的神气,毫不在乎地大步而出;也有几个对旁听席点点头;还有两三个相互握手以示告别;还有的走出去时,在地上拾起几片散落的香草叶放进嘴里嚼了起来。而他是最后一位出去的,因为他必须有人把他从椅子中扶起来,步子慢慢吞吞。等全部犯人走了出去后,他握着我的手。这时旁听席上的听众也站了起来(整理一下他们的衣帽,就好像在教堂做完礼拜或在其他什么场合的情况一样),对这个或那个罪人指指划划。我看多半是指着他和我。

我诚心地希望并暗地祈求,他最好在法庭的审判记录公布之前悄然逝世,但是我担心他的生命还会延长下去,于是我决定当夜就向内务大臣上书请求对他宽恕,把自己所知的一切情况都写明,特别说明他是为了我而回国的。我在信中流露出急切而又伤感的情绪,尽一切可能表明自已心情,写完后又递呈上去。另外我又写了几封信给当局权威人士,我认为这些人具有慈悲的菩萨心肠。此外,我还写了一封信直接给国王陛下。在他判决之后好几个日夜我无法休息,天天为这些请求的信件伤神,有时累得竟然在椅子中便睡着了。自从递呈了那些请求的信件后,我经常不离那些投信的地方,心中自忖,只要我经常在这些地方走动,就会大有希望,不会遇到凶险。每遇黄昏时分,我在这些街上荡来荡去时,总要去到每一处投递请求信的官府或宅第,徘徊于周围,而心中却怀着莫名的不安和痛苦。一直到今天,只要在一个春日的夜晚,尘灰飘扬于空中,经过伦敦的西街区时,我就会感到一阵厌烦,会望着那一排排威严无比、大门紧闭的高门宅第,以及外面一行行明亮的街灯,回想起昔日情景,顿时一片愁云便会浮上心头。

每天我都到狱中探监,而探望的时间却一天比一天缩短,牢房对他的管理也越来越严。我看得出,也许只是我的幻想,我已经引起怀疑,担心我带进毒药把他毒死,所以我每次去都请求他们检查,然后再坐在他的身旁。我对那位总是守在那里的看守说,只要他相信我只为探监而来,别无其他用意,我就甘愿为他效劳。所有的人对他都不找麻烦,也不找我的麻烦。他们只是忠于职守,待人并不粗暴。看守几乎每一次都告诉我他的身体更坏了,住在同一四室的其他病犯,以及派来照顾病犯的犯人们(他们虽都是罪大恶极的人,噢,感谢在天之主,他们却也有慈爱之心),也都告诉我同样的信息,他的身体每况愈下。

随着时间的过去,我越来越看得清楚,他总是平静地躺在床上,眼睛直瞪瞪地望着白色的天花板,脸孔上密布着茫然的神情。我的话有时使他的面色闪过一道色彩,也不过一霎时,然后就又阴沉下去。有时他几乎或完全不能讲话,只能用手轻微地在我手上一按就作为回答,慢慢地我也便了解了他按一下的意思。

当时间到了第十天的时候,我看到在他身上起了一种巨大的变化,这是前所未见的。在我走进国室时他的眼睛正望着门口,一看见我他的面色就显得活跃起来。

“亲爱的孩子,”他说道,这时我已坐在他的床旁,“我想你今天来晚了。不过我知道你是不会来晚的。”

“我来的正准时,”我答道,“我在大门口等了一会儿。”

“你在大门口总是要等一下的,亲爱的孩子,对吗?”

“是的。我要抓紧每一分钟的时间。”

“谢谢你,亲爱的孩子,谢谢你。上帝保佑你!亲爱的孩子,你不会抛弃我的。”

我无言地把手放在他的手上,因为我心中还记忆犹新,我的确曾经想过抛弃他。

“最美好的事情是,”他对我说道,“自从乌云在我的上空浮游以来,你总是在我身边,安慰着我,比红日在我的上空高照时对我更加尽心尽力。这就是最美好的事情。”

他仰躺在床上,每一次呼吸都十分困难。虽然他很爱我,也很尽力想支撑住病体,但他面孔上的光彩总是不时消逝,在他凝望着白色天花板的宁静的面容上已经出现了一层薄薄的阴影。

“今天你感到很疼吗?”

“亲爱的孩子,我不疼。”

“你是不会抱怨叫苦的。”

他说完了最后的话语,微笑着,用手碰了一下我。我懂得他的意思,是要我抬起手放到他的胸口。我便把手放在他的胸口,他又微笑了,把他的双手放在我的手上。

就在这个时候,探监的规定时间已到,我掉头一望,看到典狱官正站在离我很近的地方。他对我低语道:“你先不要走。”我谢过他的好意,并且问道:“如果他能够听我的说话,我可以和他说几句吗?”

典狱官走开了,并且对看守也打了个招呼,要他也离开。这些变化都是在没有声息的情况下进行的,然而他凝望着白色天花板的宁静面容上的薄薄的阴影却顿时消失,充满柔情地望着我。

“亲爱的马格韦契,现在我有一件事不得不问你。你能听懂我的话吗?”

他轻轻地在我手上按了一下。

“你有过一个孩子,你爱她,但是你又失去了她。”

他在我手上略微按得重了一些。

“她还活着,和有权有势的人们来往。她现在还留在世上,生得非常美丽,已是一个贵妇人了。我很爱她。”

他使了最后的一点微弱气力,想把我的手送到他的嘴唇上,可是他再没有力量了。我看到这点,便顺着他把手放到他的嘴唇上,然后他轻微地让我的手又滑向他的胸口,又把他的双手放在我的手上面。这时他那凝望着白色天花板的宁静的目光暗淡了,消褪了,他的头安静地垂到了胸前。

这时我想起了曾给他读过的书,想到《圣经》中所说的有两个人到殿里去祷告。我知道我站在他的床边再不可能说些更好的话,只能说:“噢,主啊,对于他这个罪人大发慈悲吧!”



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